State of the Garden 2016

Picked my first tomato of the year! A 6.5oz Big Beef.

A photo posted by sarah (@braisinhussy) on

I didn’t do a blog-along this year documenting my garden progress, so now, at the end of the growing season, I shall attempt to recount all of it.

February 2016: started 25 seedlings. They are pretty successful.

March 2016: seedlings go in the ground. I leave on a 3-week trip.

April 2016: return to find everything got eaten by snails except for some San Marzano tomato plants and nasturtiums. The survivors are straggly. I buy four tomato plants (Green Zebra, Black from Tula, Sunset Falls, and Big Beef), a six-pack of cherry tomatoes, a six-pack of bell peppers, one chili pepper, and some chives and basil. I make seven hanging baskets and four pots. Two of the tomato plants go in the ground.

June 2016: tomatoes start to have ripe fruit! Basket and pot tomatoes, that is. Ground tomatoes are doing nothing. Peppers being slowpokes. Lydia gives me some shiso seedlings.

July 2016: more tomatoes! Still nothing from the ground. Peppers getting with the program.

August 2016: more tomatoes! Basket peppers are finished. Potted peppers begin going nuts. I start some cucumber seedlings for the hell of it. I rip out the San Marzanos because I am over watching them do NOTHING.

September 2016: the Sunset Falls tomatoes, which were marked “determinate,” start producing more fruit. Cucumber plants start producing flowers. I leave for two weeks.

October 2016: the cucumber plants are going crazy! The peppers are giant! The tomatoes are giving everything they can in a last hurrah!

Gosh I’m looking forward to pickling season! Hopefully the first frost is still a ways off (last year it didn’t come until Thanksgiving) so I have time for more ripe veggies.

So what have I learned this year? Mostly that the soil/sun situation in our backyard is TERRIBLE and if I want to grow anything it’s going to have to be in pots or beds. The baskets are nice, but doing the top+bottom load means that neither one gets enough soil or resources.

I’m thinking about joining the community garden next year. I have a LOT of seeds from the Hudson Valley Seed Library—Lydia and I both bought a ton from their overstock sale, and then we shared them with each other. I have at least ten different kinds of tomatoes as well as a bunch of other stuff. The community garden has a lot more sunlight than my backyard, and hopefully more bees as well. And hey, community! Maybe I’ll make friends.

First #cucumber off my plant! Got another dozen or so on their way. #nationalpicklingcucumber #gardening

A photo posted by sarah (@braisinhussy) on

Garden Update: November 7, 2015

[image: november 7th tomatoes]
[image: november 7th tomatoes]

Look at all those wee tomatoes! Look at all those flowers! IT IS NOVEMBER.

We’ve had a little bit of rain, and temperatures have generally started to fall, but my plants are continuing their weird “it’s still summer!” behavior. It’s dipped down into the upper 30s a couple nights this week, but the only thing that seems affected is my Casper eggplants. The leaves get kind of limp, but they perk right back up once the sunlight hits them.

I’m just waiting. I still want all the blossoms on my plants to turn into fruits. But… I don’t really want them to ripen, actually? I have plans for pickling! Pickled green tomatoes and pickled green bell peppers and pickled eggplants (okay, these’ll be mostly ripe) and pickled green chili peppers. (Actually I haven’t really decided what to do with those if/when frost hits—if they’ll be pickled or if I’ll make a green chili sauce.) I just want to make pickles! Refrigerator pickles, I should point out. Canning still frightens me.

I have given up entirely on the kabochas. The female bud I was so excited about last month withered and fell off before it had a chance to bloom. It was a sad day in the Hussy House.


[image: a male kabocha squash blossom]
[image: a male kabocha squash blossom, leaning against my sewing machine]

I realized I haven’t talked much about my kabocha squash plants here yet. Back at the beginning of August, Lydia gave me four seedlings. I planted them in the ground, not in baskets like the rest of my vegetable experiment. Here are some photos I tweeted soon after I planted them.

After I got back from Amsterdam, I immediately killed one, thinking that it had severed its stem when it went from vertical to flopping down and growing along the ground. However, I took a cutting from the DeathPlant, in the hope that I could maybe somehow regenerate some roots? (I’m not really sure how plants work.) Anyway, that cutting has been on my desk for three weeks, and it’s grown a blossom! So nice. The outdoor plants have also been generating blossoms, but those generally aren’t quite as photogenic (there are some exceptions, of course—that was the morning I left on my trip).

However, the problem is that squashes are monoecious, meaning they have separate male and female flowers on the same plant. In order to get fruit, you have to get a male flower to pollinate a female flower. And, sadly, I have been lacking in female flowers. It’s been a complete kabocha sausage party up in here.

[image: an unopened female kabocha squash bud]
[image: an unopened female kabocha squash bud]

Until now! I have one, yes ONE, female bud on the vine. I hope dearly that it will grow and eventually blossom. Unfortunately our bee population around here is sort of lacking, so I’ll be pollinating by hand. (Before I had done research into how male and female flowers differed, I definitely made my plants have gay sex.) I keep checking, but this is the only one so far. I was hoping she’d have a gal pal to grow together with.

It was my original hope to have squashes (well, A Squash) by Thanksgiving… now the estimate seems to be New Year’s, once you take into account the fact that the kabocha, like other winter squashes, needs to “cure” for several weeks after it is picked. I’m getting way far ahead of myself here, though. The bud hasn’t even opened yet. There is still a long time where it can be attacked by squirrels or deer or turkeys or whatever other wildlife we have in the neighborhood. Ah, the perils of non-basket gardening!

Garden Update: October 6, 2015

[image: new growth on my cherry tomato plant]
[image: new growth on my cherry tomato plant]

It’s October, shouldn’t my plants be winding down by now? Apparently not in California! To be fair, it’s still supposed to be in the 80s this week, I can understand why my plants are a little confused.

My cherry tomato plant has been putting out ridiculous new growth. There are still a few tomatoes from the original crop that are finally starting to ripen, but the plant itself has decided it’s time for more flowering and more fruit. I’m looking forward to the first round being over so I can cut the damn plant back a bunch. It really grew all over the place.

I’m also getting more flowers and nascent fruit on my bell pepper plant, which I thought had been eaten to death by bugs (it has very sad, chewed up leaves).

The chile pepper plant is well into its second round of fruit. I’ve been getting so many chile peppers I’ve just started chucking them into the freezer. When I get enough (I think they’ll be like 50 per ounce, they are so small) I’ll make hot sauce or some very, very fiery pepper jelly.

I think the Indigo Rose tomato plant is nearing its end, although I’ve seen some new growth on it, too. But no new flowers. YET.

Both eggplants are putting out a lot of flowers, as well as a decent number of fruits. They’re on the small side—maybe because there are so many?

Bugs attacked the basil, but I think I’ve course-corrected there. The thyme is still ridiculous. Is it odd that I like to run my fingers through it? It’s sort of like brushing a doll’s hair. I like to work out the tangles. It’s oddly soothing. And you smell like thyme afterward!

Really, the only major disappointment has been the kabocha squashes. They’ve been growing well, but I haven’t gotten any female flowers yet. Just male. So no squashes. I’ve been calling it a “kabocha sausage party,” which SHOULD be delicious, and yet it’s just depressing. I’m going to keep trying, though.

Garden Update – June 26, 2015

4baskets 3baskets

My little hanging garden is coming along nicely. I’ve added a couple more baskets! First up is the upper-basil, lower-sweet 100 cherry tomatoes. The cherry tomato plant has exploded, it’s huge! Unfortunately it’s only put forth one fruit so far. There are a bunch of flowers though, so I’m hoping more are on the way. Basil is doing fine.

[image: indigo rose tomatoes]
[image: indigo rose tomatoes]

Second is upper-thyme, lower-Indigo Rose tomatoes. Although this bush isn’t as big as the cherry tomatoes, it’s putting out a lot more fruit. I’ve got one good-sized tomato and four smaller ones growing. And there are a bunch of flowers on this plant as well. I’ve heard these take a while to ripen. They will be dark purple when they’re done. Thyme is going great guns.

[image: super chili peppers]
[image: super chili peppers]

The third is upper-super chili peppers, lower-ichiban eggplants. The chili peppers are looking great! There are SEVEN chilis and a ton of blossoms! Salsa is in my future. The eggplants are frustrating me. This one has a bud, but it hasn’t blossomed yet. I’m thinking maybe a week out?

[image: sweet gypsy bell pepper]
[image: sweet gypsy bell pepper]

The last basket is upper-sweet gypsy bell peppers, lower-Casper eggplants. These eggplants are even more annoying than the Ichibans. I’ve had three blossoms, but each one has withered and fallen off. I’m hoping the current blossom makes it. I had a problem with some aphids on this plant in particular, but I was able to get rid of them. The bell pepper is so cute! I think another one is starting to form.


[Image: two hanging wire baskets with coconut fiber liners, containing herbs growing up and tomatoes growing down.]

I am not a gardener, but I want to learn. I have friends who have amazing vegetable gardens and I get so jealous thinking about their tomatoes! So this year I am trying my hand at upside-down tomato growing. I read about it on Instructables and thought it didn’t look too hard for a beginner.

(I saw a lot of tutorials using 5-gallon plastic buckets as well, but I wanted them to look… not like they were in plastic buckets.)

In the left basket are indigo rose tomatoes growing down, and a couple thyme plants on top. In the right basket are sweet 100 cherry tomatoes growing down with basil on top.

It’s been a couple days (and hey! we actually got rain the day after I planted! amazing!), and they haven’t died yet, which is frankly amazing. Also amazing is the tomato plants’ determination to grow upwards. Already I am seeing heliotropism as they try and stretch up towards the sun.

I really hope this works.