Saturday, June 19, 2010

Leaders and Laggards

The Fourth of July is right around the corner and I can already taste the hot links.  While some of the plants are starting to load up, I don't think we'll see any ripe tomatoes for the Fourth.  I have a couple of laggards in the plot that seem content to soak up the sun and nutrients, but won't give up the fruit. 

Oh, they'll take the healthcare plan and other benefits, but just won't do the work. The culprits are the Zapotec and Virginia Sweets, both heirloom varieties.  The plants look great, but they won't hold their blossoms and the ones that remain dry up with nothing to show.   So far, I've resisted the temptation to relocate them to the compost heap and replace them with a couple of stalwart Celebrity plants I have in reserve.  I have a total of 3 Virginia's: one in the main plot, one in the Earthbox and one in the neglected plot.  The Earthbox plant has a scant ONE.  This is nothing new, heirlooms produce MUCH less than the hybrids, so let's hope that they're late season developers.  If not, we can't have this, off with their heads!  

C'mon Vic, aren't you being a little too hard on them?  

Hey,  I got kids to feed, rats to please, and neighbors to have fruit forced upon.  I need production people.  This isn't Club Med. These plants need to realize that.....wait.  I'm over the line.  Maybe they just need some nice words of encouragement, and a trophy for coming in third.

Speaking of the Earthbox, the Rutgers is finally producing so at least one of those plants is earning their keep.

The Early Wonder and La Roma  are both doing well.

       The eggplant is flush with flowers and it shouldn't be long before the fruit sets.  I switched from the larger Black Beauty variety to a smaller, compact plant which doesn't take up as much room.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Gagoots!! (Zucchini in Italian)

What to do with all that zucchini when it comes in?  One of our favorite dishes handed down from Mom and prominently features one of the staples of Italian peasant food - gagoots, which is the Americanized version of the pronunciation of the Italian word for summer squash,  cucuzza.  Enough with the word derivation trivia, on to the dish!

2 zucchini,  sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs, beaten
1 handful grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbs butter
2 Tbs  olive oil
Fresh ground pepper

We start by melting the butter in the olive oil over medium heat and add the garlic.  Saute for a minute and then add the gagoots.

Saute for about 25-30 minutes, or until the zucchini breaks down.  I like to get a little carmelization on the zucchini - it adds to the sweetness.

In a separate bowl, add the Parmesan cheese to the eggs with a few turns of the pepper grinder and beat.

Next, pour the egg mixture over the zucchini and stir until the eggs firm up.

That's all there is to it.  A very simple dish made better by homegrown gagoots, and you can eat it at any meal.   Now Mangia!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

First harvest

Funny how the last thing to go in is the first to produce.  Usually I get the zucchinis off early in March but for some reason, I overlooked them during the seed start.  I direct-seeded a few plants in late April and here we are.  Four plants are going strong and we'll soon have zooks coming out of our keenies.

In the spirit of report cards (the kids did great by the way,) here's the progress reports for the tomatoes so far:  All of the plants look great and are growing vigorously.  Tomatoes have formed on the SunSugar, Early Wonder, La Roma and the Paul Robeson.  The Zapotec Pleated, Amish Paste, and Virgina Sweets have flowers, but the blossoms are dropping and nothing has formed.  I'm wondering if they're waiting for the heat.  The Rutgers in the Earthbox has formed a few tomatoes, but the one in the main garden has not. It's interesting how this plant is behaving like an heirloom rather than the hybrid it is.

On the side of the house, I planted three of the leftover plants, Amish Paste, Paul Robeson and Virginia Sweets.  I call this section the neglected plot because it doesn't have the fancy drip system, or eight years of  built up organic material in the soil.  The sun shines on that side of the house for maybe 5 hours.  Anyway,  there are 6 tomatoes on the Paul Robeson and 3 on the Amish Paste.  Go figure.   Tomatoes do not like to be babied - there's your proof.

I added the second application of fertilizer to everything that has set fruit and gave them a nice soak.  Now that the weather is warming, I've upped the drip to 90 minutes every few days. 

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Good, the Bad, and the Slimy

It was HOT this weekend and the plants really showed their appreciation as everything is coming along nicely.  The bugs have arrived, and this includes the party crashers in addition to the invited guests.  I've noticed an army of praying mantis "pups" stationed throughout the garden - it seems each plant has its own "beat cop" patrolling  the leaves looking for aphids and other undesirables to devour.

I found several cabbage worms on the cabbage plant as well as on the zucchini.  A few of the cabbage leaves started to look like swiss cheese and it didn't take long to locate the culprit.   You can see how much damage these creeps can cause in such a short period of time.  If you only have a few, and you have the time to go through the plants, you can handpick them off.  If not, you can spray some BT on the plants and that will take care of the caterpillar problem.  BT  (Bacillus Thuringiensis) is safer to use on the plants and you can get it at any garden store.

See how they try to hide in the veins of this leaf?  If you're seeing holes on the leaves of your plants,  look on the underside and see if it's the caterpillars.  If not, the holes are most likely the result of snails, slugs, earwigs or grasshoppers.  They are all bad actors and need to be dealt with severely.  The caterpillars come from the eggs laid by that white moth you see flying around your plants.  I know you've seen them on your tomato plants and they will soon turn into the dreaded Tomato Hornworm.  More on those and how I deal with those buggers in a future post.

While I consider myself a true arachnophobe,  you can't argue the benefit of having them in the garden.  Just don't try and pick them up - they don't like that.

Take a good look at this yellow sticky trap.  Those bugs are aphids, whiteflies, and other nasties that are now stickin' around on an impromptu "most wanted" poster mounted among the peppers.  This appears to work, and given its popularity with the "volunteers,"  I'll  add a few more.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Fruit forming

They're behind schedule, but at least they're here.   Given the crazy cool weather we've had down here in SoCal, I'm thrilled to see the fruit beginning to form on some of the plants.

Early Wonder tomato

Lipstick pepper



I received an early Father's Day present today:  One of those upside down hanging planters.  So I planted it with one of my Celebrity tomato plants in the Whitney Farms organic potting soil, and fertilized it with the FoxFarms tomato food.  Now I've got tomatoes in the ground, in the Earthbox, and one acrobat in the Turvy-thing.  Let's see if it's all a gimmick, or if it really works.   I've come across quite a few blogs out there with folks growing the plants in all sorts of upside down containers, and I must admit, it looks promising.   One immediate drawback:  When I watered it this evening, it dripped all over the patio for quite some time.  While it provided a shower of amusement for my Lab, I'll have to find another place for it.  I'm thinking of hanging off of one of the Queen palms.