by Tammy Taylor
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WHEW, the temps & humidity have really spiked here in NE Texas. My veggie garden is still trucking along just fine but for some reason it’s been hampered in providing me with very many edible veggies. Oh yeah sure I’ve picked a few jalapenos and a shriveled banana pepper for our pizza one night, but it’s June & I should be up to my eyebrows in fresh produce. Still I’m pretty excited about some of the happenings in the garden, c’mon through the garden gate and check it out!
Well, we knew it was coming but one day last week it happened – every grasshopper in the state of Texas apparently descended upon our ranch. I’m not kiddin’ here – walking across the pasture will disturb a massive cloud of them in front of you – it’s surreal.
I asked around to make sure no horror movies depicting the destruction of grasshoppers were being filmed in our area, but alas – no. I know nature will tilt the balance back with the birds coming to eat the excess grasshoppers but you know how the old-timers will tell you “Well at least a bad winter involving several occurrences of consecutive days below freezing will kill off many of the pests for the summer”?
Well I’m calling old wives tale on that one – I’ve never seen such grasshopper pressure, even with the record-breaking cold & icy winter we endured! Those grasshoppers descended upon my garden with a vengeance, damaging each & every plant in it. For some reason they focused on my dulce peppers & and ate them all the way to the stems. Thankfully the plants are trying to recover and adding back some new leaves.
I’m not sure why the grasshoppers have for the most part bypassed my bell pepper plants but I’m grateful for it. I’ve not been successful with bell pepper transplants for several years in a row and for some reason the plants have really taken off this year which I’m thrilled about, although in June I’m just now getting some marble-sized peppers on the plants. Hopefully soon I’ll be harvesting a basketful of those peppers that I crave.
My onions are certainly ready to harvest now. Up until now I’ve held off harvesting any onions that I wasn’t using right away but I think the time has come to go ahead & pull these babies, chop ’em up and either dehydrate or freeze them for later use. That should free up some garden space for planting other veggies. Hummm… Wonder what would be a good thing to plant this late in the growing season?
I have harvested quite a few garlic bulbs recently. When I pulled them out of the garden to cure I set them aside & will allow them to dry on the back porch for several days before hanging them up in my pantry for dry storage. (I wrote last year about how I preserve garlic.) I’ll typically save the largest bulbs to replant this fall for next year’s crop.
Compost Volunteer Plant
My compost volunteer plant this year is still a mystery. Judging by the size & shape of the leaves I’m pretty sure it’s going to be cantaloupe again but whatever it is there’s certainly a large crop of it growing from my compost use. As a matter of fact, about everywhere I dropped a handful of compost in the ground before planting a seedling, these vines popped up.
And they’re EVEN IN MY COMPOST ITSELF! Although those vines are going crazy I’ve decided not to pull them up just yet from my compost area. Sometimes it’s just fun seeing these hardy plants making a run for it, don’t ya think?
Pumpkins, Squashes & Luffas
Let’s see, what else? My pumpkins are vining away and blooming prolifically but no pumpkins started yet. And my spaghetti squash is doing about the same, vining away but as of yet no veggies produced. My luffa plants are finally producing a couple of luffas which I’m pretty excited about
And the oregano – oh my, I’ve never been quite so successful as this huge mound of oregano that’s grown from the tiny plant that I planted last year. It even survived our brutal winter. I’ve been harvesting and drying loads of it for future use and now it’s blooming, which I hope means it’s happy right where it is.
My heirloom tomatoes (San Marzano paste tomatoes) are of course going crazy. I’ll never plant another type of tomato than my ole trusty San Marzanos. I use the tomatoes in so many ways such as blender salsa, tomato sauce and even pasta sauce .
I’ll be sure to preserve some for future use by using my * Excalibur Dehydrator to dehydrate the excess, and by canning or freezing some of course for future use. San Marzanos are such a prolific producer that the few plants I have will produce all we can eat and all I can preserve – I can’t say enough about them. This year’s garden plants were grown from seeds I saved from last year’s crop and since they’re heirlooms they always come back true.
Using Leaves For Mulch
And this year I’ve changed up my mulching procedure. Recently our church did a complete clean-out of their landscaping beds and there were bags and bags of leaves from their huge Live Oak trees. I
begged offered to take the bags home with me so the church wouldn’t be left wondering how to dispose of these mammoth bags of leaves.
I left some of the leaves in the bags for a few weeks in that hot Texas sun and the leaves are breaking down beautifully right there in those black bags. The rest of the leaves I went ahead & poured thickly on my raised beds. They work perfectly to keep the soil cooler and to preserve the moisture.
Grass and weeds are easier to pull by the roots through this thick layer of leaves, and as the leaves decompose they’ll further enrich my garden soil. I’ll be sure to
beg help the church out every spring by taking these huge bags of leaves off their hands.
Another ground cover I’m allowing in the garden has been identified by our extension agent as purslane, a very hardy and edible, nutritious plant. I happen to love the way it looks too so I’m letting it cover the ground between plants.
And of course there’s the star of the show – my cucuzza plant, a squash-like plant that grows amazingly fast & produces excessively a veggie similar to a curved zucchini. I planted one on either side of the garden entryway gate and they’ve grown up the metal and even over the top, which of course I expected.
If the predictions are correct I’ll also be able to grow it along the fence that is on either side of the entry. AND I’ve read that the leaves are edible too, chopped & boiled & eaten like spinach. Oh yeah, now that’s a great way to enjoy more greens in our diet since this baby grows FAST!
I’ve been beyond anxious to see those cucuzza veggies produce but until now it’s always been those tiny startlings at the end of a blossom that fall off in a few days and never really make a viable vegetable. But it looks like the tide is changing and I should have some cucuzza growing soon – I can’t wait!
Oh there’s so much more to tell but I’m running out of room! The Reader’s Digest version: I’ve been tying up my blackberry vines so they’ll grow along the fence and not touch the ground to root to become a nuisance. And my Concord grapevine is putting on more grapes than it ever has. I’m hopeful I’ll be able to harvest enough to make my own grape jelly, as the flavor of these grapes is very powerful. The jalapeno plant that RancherMan & I dug up last fall before the first frost has taken off and produced a few jalapenos, although the plant is now loaded and I’ll have jalapenos coming out of my ears in no time. The leeks are about done and I’m not really sure how to harvest/store/preserve them since I’ve never grown them before. Does anyone have any suggestions? And the edible landscape at my front ‘flower bed’ is doing great. I’ve also heaped on those leaves for a great mulch in that area and there are many different herbs growing very well there – more oregano (what can I say, I love the look of it) and basil, sage and thyme. Oh how I love it!
OK, I’ll hush up now. WHEW! Can you tell I get excited about my garden? So now it’s your turn – how’s your garden growing these days?
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You such a nice garden and you’re so lucky to have it. My youngest dd loves to garden and I showed her your onions and now she wants to grow some too. Thanks for sharing at Merry Monday.
Gardening is addictive – what a great hobby though! ~TxH~
Your garden looks like it is doing great! Each year ours gets better and better. When we moved here 4 years ago the ground had not been worked in 20 years, so nothing had grown in it but lots of weeds. We live in the “sandhills” of South Carolina so our soil is mostly sand. Each year we have been adding to the soil to make it better and each year is does a bit better. This year was our year for green beans! We finally found an heirloom variety that works here. I am going to have to try your tomato variety since you live where it is hot maybe it would work good for us. I am writing it in my seed notebook to look for that seed next year. Thanks for sharing your garden with us!
Tracy, I’ve not been happy with the heirloom green beans I’ve tried – our soil is moderately sandy. What variety did you settle on? I’d like to give them a try. ~TxH~
Living in a cosmopolitan in an equatorial country and I have no exposure to vegetable gardening and also the 4 seasons. Love reading your post on the transformation of lives in these few months. Thanks for sharing with 4 seasons blog hop. Cheers and have a nice day.
What a great garden! Ours has been a little slower this year than in previous years also – I wonder if it’s because we had such a cool spring? I’m going to plant some of those San Marzano tomatoes next year; they look wonderful. We also use leaves for much and have been very happy with them. Sometimes we dump some bags in the chicken run and let the chickens have a run through them first. Thanks for sharing at Simple Lives Thursday!
Angi, it’s a great idea to let the chickens have a run through the leaves before putting them in your garden. ~TxH~
Thanks for sharing your wonderful garden with us at the Four Seasons Blog Hop! I have been wanting to buy an Excalibur for some time now! Lynn
Everything look good in spite of the grasshoppers. I love San Marzano and grow a bunch each year as well. I also make grape jelly from our Concord grapes and hope you have a good harvest. Lucky you to have snagged those leaves. Thanks for sharing at Green Thumb Thursday!
Don’t you just LOVE San Marzano?? I can only plant 2 San Marzanos in my garden because any more I wouldn’t even be able to preserve the excess if I planted more than that! ~TxH~
Looks fantastic! Here in WV we are currently getting rain. And I need to check into purslane. We have a ground cover starting in our garden and it looks really similar to yours. Cheers!
From what I understand there are other plants that look similar to purslane that are not edible, that’s why I had my extension agent ID for sure. Be sure to do your research, but it’s a very common plant that grows easily in droughty or poor soils and readily reproduces. PLUS it’s pretty nutritious too. ~TxH~
I am so impressed with the size of your onions. I add leaves, compost and manure each year to the raised beds where I grow the onions. Each year they are bigger than the year before, but nothing like yours. Would you please tell me what you do to grow big onions? Thank you, Sue
Some years are better than others Sue. We have pretty sandy-loam soil here so it’s easier for the onion to push outward as it grows than clay-type soils. I pile straw or leaf mulch high on the onions to keep the soil moist enough to continue to allow the onions (and garlic) to push outward. If the soil is hard the onion can’t push out but the mulch keeps everything soft enough to allow it to happen. Some years if I don’t mulch heavily enough the onions are much smaller. I didn’t buy any onions this gardening year, they started sprouting up from last year’s garden. Health problems prevented me from gardening properly last year so they just died but sprouted up again last fall. I transferred them to this bed, mulched them heavily, split them as they doubled and let them go and they provided quite well for me – what a blessing. ~TxH~
Love it! Thank you for joining us on the Wake Up Wednesday Link Party! Have a great day!
This is the best garden I had since moving to So. Calif. 2 1/2 yrs ago. I have not bought vegetables (except potatoes) since Sept.
Last year it was snails that caused massive damage.
Year before that it was the awful soil (not enough time for making the amount of compost needed).
The first 1/2 year (we get year round garden opportunity here) I planted the wrong crops for the season and the soil was awful.
Our fruit trees however are not doing well, nor the blueberries.
But we love our gardens, no matter what & always look forward to next season and seed catalogs 🙂
Ahhhh, there’s just something that touches the soul when standing in a beautiful productive garden, huh?? Glad your garden is rockin’ this year! ~TxH~
All I have is herbs this year, but they are doing well after being moved off the deck and into the flowerbeds. I really haven’t seen many grasshoppers, but I don’t have all the good stuff that they like to eat. My brother uses DE in his garden, but out on the road and in the yard we shoot the grasshoppers with paintball guns. Their grasshoppers in West Texas are about 3-4 inches long and bigger around than a man’s thumb. Shooting them isn’t near as creepy as stepping on one.
In my ancient gardening book Suzanne’s Garden Secrets she says “Grasshoppers sleep at night, so wait until dark and go hunting with a flashlight, a jar and tongs to pick them off plants. They are light sleepers so don’t shake the bushes.” She also says “Be kind to skunks, possums and raccoons… they LOVE grasshoppers.” And then there’s this, “cut half-gallon milk cartons in half (long way, from top to bottom) and fill the bottom half with a 10% molasses solution. Grasshoppers love molasses, so put the cartons where the infestation is at its worst. Then charm the birds with seed or bread crumbs. Once the birds get there you’ll see the feast of all time!”
She also has a morbid way to get rid of squash beetles that really works…. I tried it. Let me know if you need it.
OMGosh Judith – I love the milk carton idea the most – wondering if you could take the resulting carnage the next morning to the chickens, let them feast, then place the trap back in the garden? Hummm… and yes, yes, YES – I wanna know squash-bug misery! Spill it! ~TxH~
You sure do have your share of adventures. Thought of you the other day when I experienced seeing a snake climb a tree. He was being harassed by a bird and I think he was just trying to get away. 🙂 While searching the internet for tomato soup recipes I came across this one that uses leeks and many of the other groceries you have growing in your garden… http://oruntilgoldenbrown.com/lunch/creamy-tomato-leek-soup/ . It sounds yummy. Really enjoyed reading about your garden. Best of luck with the grasshopper plague. 🙁 I’d probably be in tears!
Thanks for the recipe Karen, I’ll be sure to check it out. Regarding the grasshoppers, wow, sometimes you’ve just got to shake your head… ~TxH~
I was wondering if you had been bombarded by the grasshoppers as well. I noticed a few weeks back that they were still small. But my husband was up last week to mow and said they were bigger. I used to be afraid of them, but I have learned they jump away from you when you walk by. I hope this doesn’t become an every year event because it does take away from the enjoyment of the farm.
Oh man, Shari – I’ve seen lots of grasshoppers before but never in waves like this before. They are devouring everything in their path. I know the birds will come through and restore the balance and they’ve already made a dent in the populations but wow! ~TxH~
I live on the other side of your county, and have been “blessed” with the grasshoppers for about a month now. They are eating everything, including garlic, which I always thought was pest resistant. Cilantro, thyme, oregano, basil, they have eaten it all. Except rosemary. They don’t like it. Yesterday we noticed they have started on the cukes. Of course there are millions of them in the pastures!
They’re just crazy this year Ken! They ate all the leaves off my garlic to, and there’s nothing but stems left on my thyme, sage & oregano. They’ve now begun hitting the peppers hard again and even squashes. I’m hoping the birds come & restore their numbers to normal. ~TxH~
Right now we are getting one heck of a down pour along of course the thunder. At least I don’t have to worry about doing any watering today. In fact, we have water standing in a couple small places. Yard is like walking on a soaked sponge.
Well, time for me to feed my 3 little orphan kittens (4-6 weeks old)
Colleen, you know as well as I that this much rain this late in June is full-on gettin’ away with somethin’ – enjoy it my friend! (still waiting on our rain… Fingers crossed) ~TxH~
Looks and sounds like your garden is coming along nicely.
Seeing them onions I’m thinking onion rings :}Bring em on and lots of em :}
You may need to sprinkle some DE on your plants to keep them grasshoppers from eating them or train your chickens to gobble up them darn hoppers.
I sprinkled some DE on my peppers the other day but with the 3 inches of rain we had yesterday I’m going have to reapply once the rain clears off.
“3 inches of rain”?? #jealous I hadn’t thought about DE – DUH! Our chickens love to gobble grasshoppers but they’re fenced out of the garden area so no help from them there. I need to DE those bad boys into oblivion! We do have a high chance of rain today so I’ll need to wait (yeah, yeah, but we had 100% chance of rain yesterday and it missed us!) Thanks for the reminder Colleen. ~TxH~