Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tuesday This and That

Today's post really is a hodge-podge of ideas, inspired by Monica's Mish-Mash Mondays and their sundry offshoots, but I realized last week that in all my posts this summer, I have neglected saying much at all about the vegetable garden.  So let's remedy that omission first of all, before getting to the fun stuff. Here is an overview of the season so far:

April:  Planted spinach and a lettuce mix from Renee's Garden.  Intended to plant some sugar peas and start an asparagus bed, but didn't get to it.  Probably the earliest start I've ever had in planting veggies, thanks to the unusually warm spring. 

May:  Harvested lots of spinach and lettuce and ate a salad nearly every day.  Planted the rest of the seeds and seedlings--green beans (bush beans), kohlrabi, beets, kale, cucumbers, tomatoes, green bell peppers and pimento peppers (red), fennel, and a squash seed mix that included zucchini and yellow straightneck summer squash.

June:  Continued to pick some spinach and lettuce until it finally bolted with the heat.  By the end of the month the first green beans were ready to pick.

July:  The constant rainfall of June meant a bountiful harvest in July, and the veggie garden needed to be checked nearly every day.  The green beans were excellent, and though I didn't intend to, I even froze several pints from the excess. A manageable amount of summer squash and zucchini were harvested ( no zucchini explosion this year!). But cucumbers were another story. The two hills of cucumbers I planted threatened to smother half the rest of the garden, despite a belated attempt at a makeshift trellis for them.  The main problem, however, with the cucumbers is that they tended to hide beneath the dense foliage, and by the time I spotted them they were often over a foot long!   I gave away several to my sons, who both have always enjoyed them, but most of the overgrown cukes found themselves in the compost pile.

August: A lack of rainfall in July and the laziness of the gardener here have contributed to a slowing down in production.  Two lessons learned here: 1.) squash and cucumbers need water to produce 2.) Do not leave a section of garden hose lying in the grass unless it is completely visible to the Lawnmowing Man:)  Nevertheless, this squash blossom and a squash I found today suggest both it and the cucumbers may not be done. 

August, though, is the main reason we plant a vegetable garden at all, because it is the height of tomato season! This is the only time of year the Lawnmowing Man, aka Mr. Procrastinator, shows any interest in the garden at all.  Each night finds him searching for any signs of red in the veggie garden.  The first ripe tomatoes were early this year, as I expected after such a warm season, but all of the first ones, other than the grape tomatoes,  were inedible, suffering from blossom end rot. I've never had this problem with tomatoes before, and Mr. P. and I were both worried what this might mean for the tomato harvest this year.  But after doing a little research, I found out that this is due to a calcium deficiency caused by fluctuations in moisture.  (No wonder--soggy June and arid July!) It also tends to affect the first fruits only, so the past two weeks we have finally been able to pick some tasty fruit to eat.

Four varieties of tomatoes were planted-- two four-pack seedlings purchased from a local garden center, Better Boy and Supersteak (the large one ripening in the top photo); and two types I planted from seed--a grape tomato (name forgotten right now) and a new hybrid 'Razzleberry.' The 'Razzleberry' seeds were a freebie with my order from a catalog.  They have a pinkish cast and are very firm.  They would be a great tomato for a commercial grower, because they have a nice uniform shape and would ship well.  But for me...well, so far I haven't been impressed with their taste.  The grape tomatoes, however, are delicious and perfect for salads.  No problems with blossom end rot here, although if you look closely at the stems of the photo above, there may be another problem . . .

On the cucumber foliage nearby, there is some disturbing evidence.  Thanks to Carol, I now know that this is called frass.  I love to expand my vocabulary, so you might be hearing me use this new word a lot.  As in, "Oh frass!  I hope this didn't come from a tomato hornworm!"

Let's hope the frass came from this guy instead. He was absolutely devouring the fennel this morning, so I wouldn't be surprised if he produces a lot of frass.  Much to the delight of my grandchildren, there have been quite a few swallowtail catt sightings on the fennel lately.

This has been a banner year for butterflies, and I hope all the caterpillars in the garden mean even more to come through the fall.  While early summer saw flocks of Red Admirals, more and more species have come to visit in the last month, including this Tiger Swallowtail enjoying the lantana.

And a sure sign that fall is on the way . . . I spotted the first woolly worm this morning climbing the garage door.  Like Lisa's first woolly worm, this one is a rusty brown, which, according to Midwestern lore, suggests we'll have a typical winter, not too mild but not too harsh.  If you'd like to know more about how these woolly prognosticators can predict the weather, click here.

One look at my garden these days, and you'll know it's definitely the dog days of summer.  Summer blooms are fading, and fall color is still at least a month away.  It will be hard to find much new to show for Sunday's monthly Bloom Day post.  These surprise lilies were a pleasant ....um....surprise at the end of July, but of course, all that remains now are a few tattered petals. 

What I do wish I had in my garden right now are some summer phlox.  This beauty is in the MG Idea Garden and is nearly six feet tall!  'Elizabeth' is a cultivar of phlox I'd definitely recommend.

Another phlox in the Idea Garden that caught my eye was this shorter, but just as pretty 'Miss Holland.'  Phlox is definitely on my "must plant" list for next year to liven up the garden during these "dog days."

Speaking of dogs . . . we have a visitor this month!  Accompanying Youngest Daughter home from Oregon two weeks ago was Coconut.  Coconut loves to travel by car, but this was his first flight.  He did very well, despite having to be crammed into a small little carrier stowed under the seat on the plane.  Although pets are supposed to be in carriers the moment their owners enter the airport, Daughter kept Coco on a leash until it was time to board the plane and let him out as soon as they landed.  I think he charmed everyone with his good behavior so that no one had the heart to tell him he needed to be confined:)

It's hard to believe that YD has been home for two weeks already.  She "lost" a few days to the stomach flu, thanks to me, but otherwise we have been doing lots of catching up, and she has enjoyed having the luxury of being able to sleep as long as she wants--as has Coconut:)

She's been putting lots of miles on my car meeting up with old friends who were just as eager to have her come home for the first time in nearly a year, as I was.  Coconut and Sophie have enjoyed getting re-acquainted as well.

This past weekend was a whirlwind of activity as my Older Daughter arrived from Arizona for a long weekend, and the two girls were able to re-connect after not seeing each other in nearly two years.  Since they didn't know if they would be able to both come home again at the same time before older Daughter's wedding next May, YD and the sisters-in-law threw her a shower on Sunday.  Youngest granddaughter enjoyed being an assistant hostess and checks out the cake table.

All my "girls"--Older Daughter center, Youngest Daughter to her right, Daughters-in-law on each end, and Granddaughters second from left and in front.

All the "boys" (sons and grandsons) along with my parents came over in the evening for pizza, and the house was filled with more talk and laughter than it has heard in years.   The time was all too short, as Older Daughter had to go back home yesterday.  I was exhausted after she left, but it was worth every sleepless hour to have all my family together once again.


  1. How very wonderful to have family all together. It gets tough sometimes to get the children all under one roof for sure. They look most happy to be together-great shot of the girls!

    It is fantastic how many veggies you are harvesting. Super yummy! I wouldn't worry overly much about the frass. You'll be able to see the pests soon enough if they aren't desirable-perhaps hornworms. I agree with you on the cukes. It is so hard to find those guys! We need to put our brains together and try to fix that issue. Maybe a florescent orange cuke would help?:)

  2. Oh Frass! It looks like Tomato Hornworms at work on your tomatoes. You will have to go on hormworm patrol and pick them off the plants. Yuck! But your tomato harvest looks wonderful--as well as your other veggies.

    Sophie looks very happy to have Coconut home for a visit. It is always worth being sleep-deprived to have the family together for a time. I had to laugh at your youngest granddaughters expression. She looks like Charlotte would at a shower...having to stand still for a photo...having to wear a dress...and worse of all--a hair bow!

  3. How nice you got to have your girls home Rose. I know you enjoyed that.

    Looks like you have had a great garden this year. I'm envious!!!

    Sorry to hear about the water hose. Oh well I guess that is what wal-mart is for.

  4. What a great mish mash, um, I mean this and that. The tomatoes look so good and I love naked ladies (um, maybe I should have said surprise lilies!). And the cupcakes. The cupcakes look awesome. I leave my hose unrolled up all the time, but I'm also the lawnmower, so I know where to expect it, lol. I'm thinking of heading to Chi around 9/12 (that's the Sat, whatever the dates are from the preceding Thu to following M). Hope we can meet up! And, yes, frass is a good word. Also scat for other animals. :)

  5. Your vegetable garden seems to be going great this year! I am happy with my first tomato harvest, but I'm still mystified by the failure of my squashes (and measly cucumber harvest that so far equals 1). Oh, and definitely look for some 'David' phlox too...its bright white has been a stand-out for weeks now! Glad you got to enjoy great family time!

  6. Your harvest looks great but that bevy of beauties that came together is the best. Isn't it marvelous to get them all under one roof?? You are mightly blessed Rose. Thanks for the link love too. You didn't misspell woolly like I did. Geez. I really should have spell check on this. Try to stay cool.

  7. It must have been wonderful to have a house full of laughter! When they leave, it gets all too quiet doesnt it? Coconut is a little doll and I bet Sophie had a blast with a fur buddy to trott along side...

  8. Rose, what a lovely family you have. I understand the joy when they are all under one roof. Catching up is the best. I am so pleased you had this time. The time will fly and the wedding bells will be ringing...May will come much quicker than you think.

    Cocunut is such a darling.....nice to see Sophie with her old friend.......your daughter is a wonderful dog owner. I wish there were more like her.

    Ha! So funny re tomatoes and Mr P....made me smile anyway....
    They are my favourite summer fruit.......especially when they are red ripe and warm.....better than any sweet, for sure.

    Love to see the caterpillars.......wishing you lots of butterflies in your garden Rose. I know you have worked hard to help these fragile creatures. It warms my heart to see them......

    Hope things cool down a little.....and you can feel some gentle rain, and soft cool breezes......

  9. Your girls are beautiful Rose. Sounds like a wonderful time having the family together, in spite of the flu.

    What a fantastic harvest from your veggie garden! The tomatoes are piling up here - time to make salsa!

  10. What a beautiful, satisfying post, Rose! Your girls are lovely. I think family get-togethers are even better in summer than at holiday time in the winter. I'm amazed that you still had the energy to put this post together in so little time. I would be napping or floating on a raft in the pool after that much activity.

  11. Tina, The only problem with this weekend was that it was too short! A fluorescent cucumber sounds like a great idea:)

    Jenny, Any hornworms found will be promptly dispatched:) Funny you noticed my granddaughter's expression--she wouldn't smile on any of the poses:) Actually, she enjoys dressing up, but I think she was miffed that we took her away from her playmate for pictures.

    Susie, It was wonderful having both my girls home this weekend. The hose was a cheap one--probably from Walmart--and now I know better:)

    Monica, My daughters made the cupcakes themselves and got more compliments on them as they carried them into the restaurant. They might start their own business:) I'll put the 11th/12th on my calendar!

    Rose, I do have squashes and cukes, but I'm wondering what happened to all the beets. 'David' is definitely on my list!

    Lisa, My best "blooms" don't grow in my garden--yes, I do feel blessed indeed. Don't worry about woolly--I think I misspelled prognosticators in my original title:)

    Skeeter, It's been so much fun to see Coco and Sophie together again. I don't know if they remembered each other, but they're now getting along great, though we do have a little sibling rivalry here:)

    Cheryl, This past weekend was wonderful, and it's good to have youngest Daughter still here for awhile. Older Daughter is the real dog lover; Sophie loved playing ball with her. I hope that all the butterflies this year is a positive sign for the future.

    Linda, It is wonderful to have family together, isn't it? The grandkids have enjoyed seeing their favorite aunts, too. I may be making salsa soon, too.

    W2W, I don't have a pool, so sitting at the computer in the A/C yesterday was the next best thing:) I agree summer get-togethers are the best--not nearly as hectic as the holidays.

  12. Rose, What a delight to read about your summer doings! The girls are all beautiful and the pups too cute. I treasure visits from my son, so I know you have been filled with love to have family all around you. Your garden bounty is fantastic~and I hardly envy you the rain at all;) I leave my house on the paths~it's just too heavy to drag about when I need to Zen Water twice a day. gail

  13. Rose, it is so wonderful that you had your handsome family together. I am hoping we can make a visit back east this fall to see some of ours.

    Your garden has been bountiful, and I am a bit jealous of all those large ripe tomatoes! ;) We finally picked a small container of some Sungold's this past week, and with the mid 90's forecast over the next several days, a few of my larger green tomatoes may ripen. We have never experienced a garden such as this.

    Have a great rest of the week.

  14. Your girls are the most beautiful flowers in your garden Rose. I have also seem multitudes of butterflies this year, and I attribute it to all the host plants I planted. So many. I love the word frass, and am glad Carol came up with it. Hang in there through the dog days and get ready for autumn splendor.~~Dee

  15. Glad you enjoyed the family getting together.
    I just love that photo of the little dog asleep on the cushion.
    Beautiful butterfly picture.
    Not sure about that frass...... never heard of that before. hope it is nothing too serious.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  16. What a great looking family you have Rose. Love how great all that produce looks, my summer veggies have slowed down a bit, that heat wave we had last month hit them hard. :(

  17. Our tomatoes are disappointing taste-wise so far. I think they need more sun.

    How wonderful to have your family all together. But I can't follow the line-up of girls; is it Oldest daughter in the white top and navy skirt?

  18. beautiful veggies! love caterpillars :) lovely family as well <3

  19. Thank you for sharing your bountiful garden and beautiful life, Rose.

  20. Great abundance in your garden and in your family. What beautiful girls you have although little left granddaughter looks less than amused. I know you gave her big hugs right after the photo.

  21. Such beauty and abundance, both in and out of the garden, are to be celebrated! I'm glad you had so much time to visit with the younger (and Coconut, who is just adorable).

  22. Gail, we're definitely in need of rain, too. Hope you are enjoying your time with your son!

    Di, the time with all my family together has been much too infrequent the last few years. It's hard to have them so scattered. The tomatoes are really starting to produce!

    Dee, Thank you--I think my girls are pretty beautiful, too. Leave it to Carol to come up with a word we can all use:)

    Maggie, I should have included the definition of frass--insect poop:) We're enjoying have Coconut here for the month so much.

    Racquel, Thank you; I'm pretty proud of them all. Right now tomatoes are the main harvest in the garden.

    Liz, Yes, Older Daughter is the one with the white top and navy skirt. Tomatoes do like sun and heat, both of which I have in plentiful supply:)

    Rachel, Thank you! I'm going to try some dried tomatoes as you suggested.

    Joey, Thank you! Hope you are enjoying these last days of summer, too.

    Layanee, I think we interrupted Granddaughter's play time:)

    Cindy, I looked forward to having Coconut back home almost as much as having Daughter here:)

  23. Hi, Rose!
    What fun pics. Little Coconut is a cutie. Congrats on the nice harvest and - long live the summer Phlox! I gotta say... without that I wouldn't have much to be showing off right now. Here's to a fun weekend. - kate

  24. Hi Rose,
    I enjoyed your mishing and mashing. My tomatoes are just starting to ripen. I have to pick them just before they ripen or else the birds will take bites out of them. I haven't posted on my veggie garden lately, either. I take photos thinking I'm going to, then don't get them posted.

    It sounds like you all had fun with your kids in town at the same time. Our two kids live in town, but their work schedules don't allow them to come over at the same time very often.

    Many of my flowers are stressed from all the heat, too. I got an email 2 days ago from a newspaper reporter who is doing an article on plants that attract hummingbirds, and wanted to know if I ever see them. She also said she likes my blog and wonders if I would mind if she does an article about it in the future. I just hope they don't want to come take photos in the yard, because it's not looking so great right now.

    I'd like to try some more kinds of phlox, too. Oh, and thanks for teaching us the new vocabulary word. LOL


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