underwhelming potatoes and more

It’s not complaining, I swear to you. Just trying to present reality.

Yesterday was potato harvest day. The spuds were meh. Yukon gold stock bought at the local nursery. They were ok, not rotting or anything like that…just small.

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I can tell you that I honestly don’t have a clue why. And I’m not going to over-analyze. Time to move on to next year.

I also tried a new variety of sweet corn purported to be the rage in Japan, and rated the best-tasting sweet corn by some long-forgotten internet comparison. Mini Mirai.

It was indeed really good. Sweet, tender, crunchy, with tightly-spaced, even kernels. Unfortunately the ears were small. Mini. Disappointed again. My standby sweet corn, Avalon, is still (in my book) as good as it gets, with a lot more to show for each ear. But I believe there’s a non-mini variety of Mirai, and I’ll give that a shot in next year’s garden. (…it looks bigger in the photo than in real life)

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So you take the bad with the good, that little nag in the back of your mind telling you that nature could crush you if she wanted, or make you a king if she’s in a good mood. And sometimes things work out.

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now the good news

After yesterday’s waaahh-fest about pitiful me and the downy mildew slaughter of cucumbers, it seems like a brighter story is in order.

Most gardens turn out to be mixtures of failure, partial successes, and whoopee.

For me the whoopee this year comes from the tomatoes. It’s been work, but so far so good.

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The two shorter plants in the center of the picture aren’t actually that short. They’re my favorites: the Cherokee Purples. Before I had noticed what was happening, the plants had sagged a little more each day in their cages due to the weight of the tomatoes and the fact that I’d trimmed away most of their lower vine support.

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Cherokee Purple dead weight

I could try to pull them back up, but I’ve done that in the past, and only ended up injuring the vines. They’re doing fine as is.

It’s never wise to assert absolutes in gardening, so I’ll just say that this year, in this garden, I believe that religiously trimming off branches with leaves that show discoloration has worked fabulously to keep diseases in check.

Knock wood.

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German Johnsons almost there

And the second planting of sweet corn is in…

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Which means time for the freezer…

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And visions of happy people around the Thanksgiving table.

around the place

What a difference a wheel makes. With a trip to the hardware store for a metal rod to serve as an axle and some bits of hardware for keeping the wheels in place, the chicken tiller was transformed from a clumsy, sort of dangerous PVC rectangle into a smoothly-rolling chicken-moving machine.

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It really made a difference to add wheels. No more bouncing and dragging (possibly over chicken legs). Now it just rolls along and the hens barely notice. I highly recommend that if you have chicken tractor plans in mind, add a set of wheels to them from the start.

The girls got their first shot at the garden. They loved it. Especially dirt bathing.

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Elsewhere, the sunflowers love the sun (me too when it’s reasonable).

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And the tomato plants make me happy. But only a couple of ripe ones so far. I honestly do often think about how badly I wanted this time to be here when it was butt-freezing cold in February.

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And after enjoying fresh corn on the cob a couple of nights in a row, it was time to put some into the freezer, along with the never-ending supply of wax beans.

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out with the cauliflower, in with the corn

The last of the cauliflower came out yesterday. I think the chickens were a little intimidated by the pile of blue-green plopped in their midst. Meanwhile, with the business end of that cauliflower, my wife made an awesome cream-based soup that included carrots from the garden and ham.

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This year’s harvests have been running two to three weeks behind last year’s. I’m not exactly sure why, but I suspect the cool late spring and soggy June. Luckily, sweet corn picked three weeks later than last year tastes exactly the same.

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the corn holer

Yesterday it was time to plant my third succession crop of sweet corn.  The first planting took a hit when I rolled the dice early and the weather turned cold.  I lost a few plants, but enough made it to have a decent stand.  The second batch was planted two weeks ago and is doing fine.

So far the protective netting gizmo I made from PVC and bird netting has kept the young plants safe from freeloading varmints.  Once the corn reaches 5 or 6″ I can move the contraption to the next new planting for a few weeks.
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A couple of years back I made myself another gizmo, this one from boards and a dowel cut into short lengths.  The dowels are spaced every 6″ along a section of 1″x4″.  I use it to help in spacing and planting larger seeds like corn and beans. And I’ve been pre-sprouting all of these larger seeds, which greatly improves the germination rate.
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I till and rake the area smooth, mark a straight line with a string, and then stick the dowel board on the soil. The dowels make 2″ deep indents for the seeds. In the case of corn, I plant in every third hole leaving an 18″ spacing.  In the case of beans, I go along the string twice, filling in the empty spaces and ending up with holes every three inches.
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Pretty nifty, I think.

sweet corn seedlings

Why would a person plant corn when the potatoes aren’t even in yet? Bear with me.

Next to tomatoes, I believe sweet corn is my favorite vegetable crop. And for much the same reason; you simply can’t buy corn anywhere, even at roadside stands, that tastes as good as fresh picked from the garden.

So several years ago I decided to try something that I was convinced was stupid. I started corn seed indoors.

Now you know if you’ve grown corn before that as you plant seeds some won’t germinate, leaving gaps in the row. And you’ve probably tried digging up a stray corn seedling and replanting it in the empty space.

If that’s the case, then you also know that corn sucks at being dug up and moved. If the seedling survives the move, it’s stunted and rarely produces ears.

That’s why I thought starting corn in a flat indoors was a hopeless, desperate venture. Why would it work any better than digging up a garden-grown seedling with a big root ball and transplanting it?

Well, it does. It works fantastically.

Before trying this method my average first ear ripened in the second week of August. Since, the average is the second week of July, adding 3 to 4 weeks of extra fresh sweet corn to our table. That all happens because the tender corn seedlings can get a jump on the weather indoors.

There are risks. Always risks in gardening, which is one reason you’re addicted, right?

You need to be gentle while you’re handling the little guys between the flat and the ground.  They’re still baby corn plants without much root structure.   One year there was a hard frost in the Spring, and I had to scurry to rig up sheets and whojiggits to cover the rows. The corn seedlings wilted a little, turned a little brown around the gills, but in the end they popped back and still gave me corn.

Worth the risk.

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