Saturday, July 30, 2011

Working for the Weekend

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Around this time of year, things get kind of routine and boring in the garden during the work week. I come home from work, pick whatever squash and peas that are ready, do a little watering if needed, and then go back in the house to get away from the heat and the mosquitoes.

The weekend brings an opportunity to catch up on some needed chores. It was really hot today and we have not gotten much rain in the last week so I decided to water everything thoroughly. I then took a trip to my local nursery and picked up some 3ft and 6ft bamboo poles to support my pepper and tomato plants.

I tried to get some aerial shots of the garden.  You can see the purple hull peas are just all over the place. I probably won't grow these in beds anymore because they just sprawl all over the place.   The second set of corn is a few weeks from harvesting and the third set it about six inches tall.  All in all it was a good day despite the heat.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Monarch Butterfly

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In a post last week I had incorrectly identified a butterfly as a Monarch butterfly, but Ed over at Tales From the Mountainside correctly identified it as a Tiger Swallowtail butterfly.

Tonight I checked the mail and this time I think I have it right, a real Monarch butterfly.  My mailbox zinnias are popular it seems.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Best Peas of All Time

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Cow peas, field peas, butter peas, southern peas, zipper peas: I don't care what you call them they are all just the same name for southern style peas.  They grow in pods that look like beans and you shell the peas that are inside the pods.  People have their particular favorite too: black eyes, purple hulls, crowder peas, you name it.

For me without a doubt, my favorite pea of this type is the White Acre pea.  In my opinion, nothing comes close to the taste and texture of White Acre peas.  Tonight I made a batch for dinner to go with some left over baby back ribs.  My favorite way to make these peas is to boil them for 45 minutes to an hour on low heat.  I boil them with salt, butter, and sliced up kielbasa sausage.  The peas absorb the salt, butter, and sausage flavors and they taste great this way.  I don't know what it is about the texture, but these taste so much better than black eyes or purple hulls to me.

I didn't have any seeds this year to plant so I had to buy a couple of bushels from the local farmers market.  I am drying some of them, so hopefully I can grow my own next year.

If you have never tried them, give them a shot.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hand Pollinating Corn 101

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For some folks this may be common knowledge, but I have decided to post some general information on how corn pollinates. I also wanted to include some tips on how I assure proper corn pollination for my home garden.

Corn has a male and a female part and both are needed during pollination just like any plant. The tassel (male) forms at the top of the corn plant, and the silk (female) forms in the middle to lower portion of the plant. The pollen forms on the male tassel in what looks like grains of rice.  The grains of rice are what contain the actual pollen inside them and they are called anthers. Mother Nature uses wind to blow the pollen from the anthers on the tassel and hopefully it lands on a corn silk to complete pollination.  This is why it is preferable to plant corn in blocks in a home garden rather than one long row.  With one row plantings of corn, there is a good chance the wind would just blow your pollen away from the plants.  Each silk on an ear of corn is connected to one corn kernel on the ear and all must be pollinated for the kernel to fully form.

Some people hand pollinate their corn by shaking the stalks, but I prefer actually running my hand across the tassel to collect some pollen anthers in my hand. I then sprinkle them into the silk on the lower portion of the plant. This works great for small gardens assuming you have the time and are tall enough to reach the pollen on the tassel of the corn stalk. I am 6' 2'' so this is not a problem for me. I like this method better than just shaking the plants because I have found the wind will blow the grains of pollen away from the plant while shaking.

For an even more detailed description on corn pollination, see the link below.

Up close view of pollen anthers on tassel

To self pollinate, run hands across tassel to grab some pollen anthers

Then sprinkle them in your corn silks to aid in pollination

Close up of corn silk after hand pollinating

Here is a shot of my corn, 4x8 bed of Peaches and Cream, 72 plants

Friday, July 22, 2011

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly

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A couple of days this week there was a colorful Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly that was hanging out in in my zinnias. My daughter spotted it first one day when we were checking the mail, and I spotted it a few days after that.

I have been in this house 10 years and I can't recall ever seeing butterflies, much less a beautiful one like this. I tried to get a picture with its wings flattened out to show how big it was, but these two were the best I got.
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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Garden Update - July 16th

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It was a great weekend to work in the garden.  It was overcast and the temperatures were in the low 80's, a rarity for Georgia this time of year.  I took full advantage of it to get some tasks done in the garden.

I pulled the last zucchini plant and prepped that bed for my third and final planting of corn.  I added cow manure and mushroom compost to the soil and while mixing the soil I saw many earthworms.  I guess I am doing something right because I have always heard that it is a good sign if you have earthworms in your garden soil.  I planted the bed with more Peaches and Cream corn and then ran out of seeds, so I had to plant the remaining two blocks with Silver Queen.

I also bought some of that MiracleGro garden fertilizer and watered all my azaleas and vegetables with it.  I don't normally use this stuff because I can never tell if it is working or how much I am applying, but we will see what it does.  Other than that, just enjoyed the weekend, back to work tomorrow.

Main Square Foot Garden Area

Squash Bed - I hope I can stay ahead of the squash bugs.

Peaches and Cream Corn Bed - Doing great and starting to tassel

Freshly prepared bed of corn.

Another shot of corn with purple hull peas just sprawling all over the place in front

Jalapeno pepper and Eggplant Bed

My three tomato plants are growing, they are almost as tall as the cages so I will have to figure something out.

A few lines of purple hull peas planted near same area as my tomatoes, half of one line didn't come up.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

New Garden Arrivals

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It is funny how sometimes you can walk right by your garden plants day in and day out and not notice new things.  Today that happened to me and here are my new arrivals.

First Jalapeno Peppers - I have forgotten which variety I planted where. I don't know if this is the no heat version or regular jalapeno.  I guess I will be finding out soon.

First watermelon - The watermelon seeds germinated from seeds that accidentally fell on ground last year.  This one is about the size of a baseball.

First tomato - This is a Roma tomato, an egg shaped paste variety.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Pea and Squash Harvest - July 14th

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The garden is growing well with the consistent rain and high temperatures.  Knock on wood, I hope the rain continues.

Tonight I harvested another nice batch of purple hull peas and yellow squash.  The peas weighed about 3/4 lb. and I have almost enough to freeze a serving.  I have not added the peas to my yearly harvest totals because I am going to list them in their shelled weight.

The seven squash gives me enough to freeze another batch.  I freeze my squash in 2lb. quantities because that is the amount my wife uses when making squash casserole.

I want to thank Annie at Annie's Kitchen Garden for the idea of taking my harvest pictures on the top of the washing machine.  The solid white top makes for an excellent background and I am still playing with my camera settings to get better at taking pictures.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Adding Music to Your Blog

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I came across this site and I have been very pleased with it so far.  If you want to add some background music to your blog, this is a good tool to do that.  You just sign up for an account, and then you create a playlist of your favorite songs.  You can then export HTML code to add an embedded player to your blog or website.  It comes in different colors, and you can set it to automatically shuffle your songs.  This will play a different song each time your blog is opened.  If anyone needs help adding the player to their blog, let me know.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Purple Hull Pea Harvest

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The first planting of Pinkeye Purple Hull peas are setting pods and I harvested the first handful tonight.  I like growing purple hulls better than black eye peas, partly because their changing pod color makes it easier for me to tell when to harvest them.  You harvest the pods when they are beginning to change from green to purple.  These are 56 days old, and the seed to harvest date is listed at 85 days.  I will continue harvesting and shelling as I go and I hope to get a few meals out of these.  The pea aphids have been pretty bad so I don't expect much.

Peas are sprawling all out of bed.

Here are some pods that are not quite ready

Here is the batch I picked tonight

Here are the shelled peas

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Thru The Bible Radio

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I have included the information below as a permanent page on my blog.  It is located at the top of the page on its on tab.  I have also included an automatic RSS feed to their daily broadcast on the right side of my blog's navigation.

While this is not specifically related to gardening, I am compelled to devote a page to this on my blog.

Thru the Bible radio is a program that is broadcast all over the world to spread God's word.  It is based on the recordings of Dr. J. Vernon McGee.  He had a radio program for many years where he went thru the entire Bible verse by verse.  He passed away in 1988, but this ministry continues and the program goes through the entire Bible over the course of five years.

I have gained a greater understanding of scripture by listening to his recordings and I am sharing my passion for this with everyone.  Please visit Thru The Bible Radio website for more information.  The website has links to all 5 years worth of recordings as well as all his outline study notes.

I have compiled this information into one DVD and if you are interested in a free copy please email me.  This DVD has the equivalent of 380 CD's worth of audio transcripts of Dr. J. Vernon McGee's broadcasts.  The DVD can be played thru most DVD players, on your computer, or you can upload the files to an mp3 player.

Additional information provided below is from their website:
What Is It?
These zipped MP3 files contain Dr. J. Vernon McGee's entire 5-year Bible study series! Because the mission of Thru the Bible Radio is to take the whole Word to the whole world, we are making these files available to you free of charge for your personal use. 

Why Are We Offering This?
We strongly believe that God is using the Internet to reach people and go places that cannot be touched by radio. So we've stepped by faith into cyberspace, trusting God to provide the means for us to keep Dr. McGee's 5-year program completely free to all who wish to sit under his teaching and learn about God's Word.

If you have any questions about how these free materials may be used, please read our Copyright Policy before contacting us. 

You Can Help Us Keep It Free!
There are four things you can do to help defray our costs and keep these downloads completely free:

1. Support Thru the Bible Radio financially. When you make a gift to the ministry, be sure and check the box to designate your gift for "web broadcasting and operations." You can make a gift to the ministry now by clicking here. 

2. File Share. If you download these files and have the means to file share them on your system, please do so! Help us spread the Word while at the same time relieving our server of some of the load. The recorded messages remain the sole property of Thru the Bible Radio Network, but they may be saved to your computer and shared as long as the material is distributed free of charge and is kept in its original, unedited form. 

3. Buy an MP3 Album. Instead of making copies of the free downloaded files for your friends, family, and neighbors, why not get them an attractive album of the Complete 5-Year Series in MP3 Format with Notes and Outlines in PDF? It's available for only $35 each, and proceeds from the sale of the album go toward funding the free online downloads! Click here for more information or to place your online order. 

4. Pray. We praise God for the great response so far, and we are trusting Him to provide the funds that will enable us to continue. Please join us in praying that He will bless this endeavor, that many people around the world will be exposed to the gospel through the online ministry, that believers will be brought closer to Him, and that lost souls will come to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Coca Cola Cooler Planter Box

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This morning I had to get up early to get a front end alignment done on my wife's car.  On the way I noticed one of my neighbors having a yard sale, and they had an older Coca Cola ice chest for sale.  As I drove by I thought what a neat planter box that would make.  I didn't have time to stop and I figured it would be gone by the time I got back.

It was still there when I got home so I stopped and bought it for $40 bucks.  I did research on it online and it appears to be made sometime during the 1940's to early 1950's.  This model was made by Westinghouse, Style Number is 128399 and Model Number is WE-6.  This was used at retailers and is a cooler that is filled with water and ice and there was some sort of refrigerant system that kept the water cold.

It is really large, 3 feet wide by 4 feet long.  The interior is 28 inches deep and is some sort of stainless steel / galvanized metal.  It's really rough looking with surface rust, but I think that makes it perfect for a planter.  I am going to fill it with soil and put it out on my gravel patio.

Of course I want to plant veggies in it, but my wife told me I have to put flowers in it.  She wins...this year :)  I know I couldn't build a planter box of this size for $40 dollars, so I think it was a good deal and it will look neat.  I will post something when I get it all set up.

Side Shot

Front shot

The bottom is open where the cooling system used to be, I am thinking about putting some storage under there for garden supplies.

Here is what it looked like new

Friday, July 8, 2011

Look who decided to show up

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Last year I planted watermelons and they did pretty well. I don't remember the particular variety, but I was still getting watermelons in October. This year I decided not to plant them because they just take up too much space. This year I planted squash in that area and they haven't done so well.

Well last year I had a few melons that split before I harvested them and I am sure this transplant is from some of those seeds. Since the squash aren't doing well, I think I am going to pull those up and see if this vine will bear any fruit.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Yellow Crookneck Squash Harvest

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Tonight I harvested the first batch of yellow crookneck squash from my second planting of the season.  I planted four plants in one of my 4X4 raised beds.  This variety is called Dixie Hybrid and although I was disappointed in my first planting, this second planting in better soil looks promising.  The total days from planting the seed to first harvest was only 31 days! 

There are few vegetables that are going to give you such a bountiful harvest in such a short time.  My wife is going to make these into her delicious squash casserole tonight.  I hope these continue to produce so I can put some away in the freezer.

This is much better than you will ever see in the grocery store

This variety is supposed to grow on compact plants, I am pushing it by having four so close.

One of the plants loaded with flowers and buds

Squash Casserole Recipe
2lbs. squash
1 egg
1/2 cup shredded cheese
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup mayo
ritz crackers and melted butter.

Boil squash till soft and drain.
Mix all ingredients together and bake at 350 for 30 min. 10 min before being done add crushed ritz crackers and melted butter as topping.  

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Eggplant and Jalapeno Plantings

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Tonight I decided to pull one of my zucchini plants and replant the bed with eggplant and jalapeno peppers. The zucchini plant was still growing, but its stem was pretty hollowed out from squash vine borers. I picked the remaining two zukes on the plant and then out it went.

I refurbished the bed with a bag of cow manure and a bag of mushroom compost that I picked up at Lowes. I also bought the plants there: 2 Black Beauty Eggplants, 2 Regular Jalapenos, and 2 No Heat Jalapenos. The plants were three bucks a piece and it made me appreciate how much I prefer planting from seeds. Maybe next year I will be able to seed my own plants indoors. After working the soil I covered with black weed fabric and planted everything. I hope the plants do well.

Here is the zucchini plant I removed

Here is the soil after adding compost

Finished product