Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Green Beans Out, Purple Hulls In

A couple of weeks ago I decided to cut my green beans out of my garden to replace them with purple hull peas.  The heat ended the green bean production so it was an easy choice.  The timing on this works out great.  The purple hull peas do well in the warmer weather so I hope to get a decent crop.  My green beans were the Derby variety and yielded over 40 pounds out of two 5 x10 areas.  We ate a lot of them, but also canned a bunch.  Here are a few shots.

Derby Green Beans at their peak

Canned Green Beans

Purple Hull Peas Coming Up

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Tomato Sentry

Much to my delight I have at least 3 Garden Spiders in my tomato plot.  They are also known as Argiope aurantia.  I have observed them with Leaf Footed bugs and Stink Bugs in their webs.  The Leaf Footed bugs and Stink bugs are harmful to tomatoes among other fruits, vegetables and nuts.  They use their mouth like parts to inject their saliva into the food material, dissolve the contents and suck in the digesting mixture.  This negatively affects the flavor and causes cosmetic damage to the object they are feeding on.  They are no match for the Garden Spider.  It is fascinating to watch the Garden Spider pounce on their webbed prey and spin them up in their silks so they can't escape.   These spiders are very beneficial to a gardening landscape.

Garden Spider with Brown Stink Bug

Garden Spider with Leaf Footed Bug (right)

I have to admit one thing.  The second picture was a result of my experiment where I caught a Leaf Footed bug and tossed him in my female Garden Spiders web to see what would happen.  Wow .. that was fun!

Until next post.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A New Path

My obsession with "lawn" is officially over.  A green, healthy lawn looks great, but why do we spend so much time and money on it.  I read a statistic that we have 16 million acres of lawn in the U.S.  Like many people, I used to jump through hoops to follow a lawn fertilization schedule.  Is it time to winterize again already?  I discovered the best fertilizer for the springtime and man it worked great.  After spreading this stuff, I got to mow every 3 or 4 days in the hot, humid weather of Houston, Texas.  In July, it was time to fertilize again.  Mowing in July is torture.  I refuse to hire someone to mow my lawn.  That would be totally throwing in the towel on exercise, and so I mow on.  Don't get me wrong, I do get a lot of satisfaction when I am finished mowing, edging, raking, weed eating, blowing, sweeping, bagging, etc.  There is something therapeutic about it.  I do like hard work, but instead of putting that effort into mowing I would rather be pulling some weeds or mulching a raised bed or planting some new variety of cucumber I researched.  Of course, I will keep some lawn and a play area for my kids, but I plan to minimize the lawn.  My new scheme is to add flower, vegetable beds, fruit trees and any other idea I come up with that will add additional biodiversity to my landscape.  Like many endeavours, I don't know where this will end up, but at least I know where I am starting for now.

The first thing I learned when I built my original raised beds is that I needed more space.  As I expanded I realized that mowing and weed eating around the raised beds was a pain.  One day as grass, dirt and dust was flying all over me and my tomato plants from my weed eater, it occurred to me that I was killing my tomatoes with potential airborne fungal diseases and bugs.  If fungal spores weren't on the tomato plants yet, this would certainly accelerate the pace of my tomato demise.  At that moment I realized, I need improved garden pathways around my raised beds.  That will minimize the amount of mowing and weed eating, protect my plants and look a heck of a lot better too.  So after a little research and a couple of phone calls, I bought some weed block, edging, and 3 yards of mulch.  Here are a couple of before and after pictures.



I am pleased with how my pathways turned out.  It was a lot of work to set it up, but in the long run it should reduce my overall maintenance and my garden will be more healthy.

It is time to mow again.  I am several days overdue and it just stopped raining so I doubt it will happen today.  It is interesting that even without fertilize my grass still grows moderately fast and looks great.  I assume this will drop off over time.  When this occurs, I will hit it with some balanced organic fertilizer to maintain it. 

Until next post.