Granny Smith Apples

I took some photos back on the 30th of August and am just having a chance to post now.

This year – our Granny Smith apple tree seemed to be ‘loaded’ with little apples.  I was hoping that they were going to get larger, but they never did.  That makes sense though – because the apple tree that I bought was put on a “semi-dwarf” rootstock.  That means that they took the main plant when it was growing and spliced it in with a root that was small.  That effectively limits the growth of the tree.  That is good though – because there are power lines directly overhead the tree.  And the semi-dwarf rootstock will allow for up to around 15 feet of growth.

But the sad consequence is that we are going to have apples that are maybe half (or smaller) than the size of a regular apple.

It is free fruit though!  I picked about a dozen apples from the tree.  Because I don’t spray or use any pesticides, some of them did have holes and chunks taken out of them.

Granny Smith Apple Tree

On the same day, I also picked a decent amount of tomatoes.  So they are side by side:

Tomatoes and Apples

There isn’t much left of the garden – essentially only tomatoes and green beans.  The green beans I have let loose – and they are now going to seed.  This way I’ll have seed to plant next year without going to the store and buying it.

Green Beans

You can see that the pods are all turning brown and drying out – then I can open them and harvest the seeds.

The four Best Boy tomato plants have done pretty good this year.  Considering we haven’t had tomatoes for the past two years due to deer, it has been great.  There are lots of green tomatoes on the plants and we’ve picked probably three or four dozen tomatoes so far.  The weather significantly cooled off the past few weeks so I am not sure how many more tomatoes are going to fully ripen.

Best Boy Tomatoes

Another just another picture of the front garden:

Front Garden

The last picture is from the onions.  A couple weeks back, I spent a good amount of time cutting the tops off the onions outside.  They have all been sitting on the outside table for several weeks to allow them to dry.  So it was time to clean the table up.

Walla Walla Onions

Overall, the Walla Walla Onions did very good this year with over 100+ harvested.  A good handful were very large but the majority were smaller.

Lots of Green Beans / Onions Harvested / Planter Box Restored

Yet another several weeks have passed.  At this point, we are almost at the end of the growing season for what I’ve planted.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve spent countless hours in the garden picking green beans!  There were two weekends where it took about an hour and a half each weekend to pick green beans.  This past Friday, I picked another good helping – but maybe spent 45 minutes.

Then – after the green beans are picked, they all have to be snapped.  There was another good hour and a half each time too!

Overall, we now have seven gallon-sized bags of green beans in the freezer.  I’ve also cooked some up to put in some dishes lately too.  The green beans are just about ‘pooped out’ with the height of the pickings now done.

Bush Blue Lake Green Beans

I don’t have an updated picture of the front garden, but the tomato plants are really putting on a lot of tomatoes!  Unfortunately…. there is a problem.  Almost all of the tomatoes that have ripened so far have blossom end rot.  The bottom of the tomatoes are rotted out.  I did pick four or five tomatoes on Friday that had some rot, but was able to cut it out and use at least 3/4 of the tomato.  Some of the others have been really bad and they were a loss.  I’m wondering if it is because I put the green beans next to the tomatoes, which I’ve heard nitrogen can ‘seal up’ the calcium in the ground.  And a calcium deficiency or improper watering is known to cause blossom end rot.  I would like to think I’ve watered the plants regularly, so I don’t believe it is a watering problem.

Onions – what a fantastic year for them.  Almost every one of the onions were in good shape.  In year’s past, at least half or more of the onions would be rotted out before they were even ready to harvest.  Because of that, I planted a significant amount more to make up for it.  Well, nature surprised me by having plenty of onions!  The Walla Walla onion variety seems to do well – but I think it is also because they were planted in the raised bed on the driveway.  I did plant a few of the onions in the front garden – and some of those did rot.

Walla Walla Onions

The entire patio table is full of onions.  The onions started getting picked about four weeks ago and the last of them were picked this weekend.  They still didn’t have the tops drooped over, but I didn’t want them to rot so they got pulled.

There were two really huge, good-sized onions.  The rest were about ‘average’ size of a few ounces each.

Walla Walla Onions

And lastly… I got myself into a job yesterday (Sunday).  The raised beds are now quite a few years old.  When I made them, I cheapened up on the wood that was used and purchased one-inch thick pieces.  Well, being in wet soil all the time, they were rotting out.  So the bed on the driveway needed some work.

This time, I purchased a 4×4 that was eight foot tall – and it was chopped into 10 inch sections to be used around the four corners of the bed to provide a good fastening joint.  Two 2×10 boards that were eight foot long were purchased to repair the front side of the garden bed.  The original bed was 12 inches tall – so I am losing a little bit of depth.  But just those three boards were about $30 for pressure treated lumber!  Cedar is way too expensive to make it worthwhile.

About three hours in the hot sun and the work was done.  At least when I took the old boards off, the majority of the dirt stayed in it’s same position and didn’t cave in.  I still had to remove some dirt for the new 4×4 posts in the corner.

Raised Bed Repair

I still need to get the PVC pieces back on but otherwise it is ready for next year.  The opposite side of the planter will need replaced soon too, maybe next year.

Onions Almost Done / First Picking of Green Beans

Several weeks have passed again since the last garden update.  We had a really great crop of lettuce this year and it lasted a while in the fridge.  Matter of fact – there is still one gallon-sized bag of lettuce left in the fridge to be used. While it turned off very hot again this year (and then has cooled down since), the lettuce has all bolted and is no longer looking great.

Bolting Lettuce

The lettuce bed was full and overflowing – now it is sparse and growing upwards.

There are two celery plants left.  I’ve been cutting them down as I use them on salads.  The celery is still holding up very well – just have to ensure they are watered regularly!

Ventura Celery

The celery pictured above was a bit dry and started to sag a bit.  Took the pictures just after I watered them again.  But, the one picture above was also cut down and used this week too.

Ventura Celery

Onions look to almost be done!  Some of the onions have already bent over – which means they are ready to be harvested.  Here is a view of the full onion bed:

Walla Walla Onions

A view of the onions planted first:

Walla Walla Onions

A view of the onions planted last:

Walla Walla Onions

Hard to see the difference, but the onions planted first are larger and some have bent over.

What else….

Hmm, well, I did get to pick a small handful of peas.  Very, very few – just enough to spread over two salads.  I did not take any pictures of this but the peas were also picked at least two or more weeks ago.

So, that leaves us with the front garden!

Front Garden

The green beans are doing very well.  And so far, I’ve had great success with keeping the deer out this year!  By this point, everything would have been chewed up.  Before taking all of the pictures, I got out in the garden and picked some green beans for the first time.


Green Beans

Tomatoes are also growing well.  Really hoped that all six would have taken off, but two of the tomatoes I transplanted did not work.  We do have some tomatoes on the vines, although I looked a little closer afterwards and some of them seem to have blossom end rot on them.

Best Boy Tomatoes

And finally – a stroll through the fruit section of the front yard.  First – the grapes.  We’ve never harvested any grapes off the vine, not even sure what variety they are.  I ordered two grape vines and the nursery didn’t send us the correct vines.  One of the grape vines has since died.

Grape Vines

The grape vines are not nearly as loaded this year as they were last.  There were dozens of bunches everywhere on the vines.  This year, the bunches seem to be smaller with only a dozen or so.

And – the Granny Smith apple tree.  It is loaded with apples this year too!  Last year, we had quite a few but it seemed like many of them never matured and dropped off.  So far this year, they are staying on the tree.

Granny Smith Apples

That is all for this garden post!

Plenty of Lettuce!

Several weeks have passed since the last garden update.  It seems that we’ve been getting busier with weekend activities.

I took a few minutes on Tuesday to go out and get some pictures taken of the garden.  This has been a fantastic year for lettuce.  Usually by this time, the lettuce is bitter and bolting – which means it is no longer good to eat.

But since it has been steady with temperatures in the high 60’s or through the 70’s, the lettuce is growing abundantly and is still good.  I’ve been taking salads to work and also having chicken salads for dinner.  Healthy and when you load it up with everything, it tastes good!

Lettuce Garden

Here is a ‘tour’ of the lettuce garden:

Buttercrunch Lettuce

It had been a few years since I grew buttercrunch lettuce.  Not too much of a fan of it.  Compared to the other leaf lettuce varieties below, buttercrunch is not a good plant to take a few leaves and let it grow.  In addition, one of the plants seemed to grow very rapidly and has already died.

New Red Fire Lettuce

New Red Fire Lettuce is one of my favorites – maybe more so than Simpson Elite.  It has nice coloration to it and seems to be one of the last to get bitter and bolt.

Red Salad Bowl Lettuce

Red Salad Bowl lettuce is also a leaf lettuce – but the leaves are definitely different than the other two.  The other two varieties have large, fan-like leaves.  Red Salad Bowl has leaves somewhat like a maple tree leaf.  When I went to pick more lettuce yesterday evening, I noticed that the Red Salad Bowl lettuce appears to be getting bitter now and is starting to bolt underneath.  So it doesn’t last as long.

Simpson Elite Lettuce

Simpson Elite is a great variety.  Fully green in color but it does resist bolting and getting bitter.  At least until temperatures get really hot.

Ventura Celery

I harvested one of the Ventury Celery plants last week and cut it up.  Put it in with the salads.  I just used the last of the celery the other evening so I’ll need to harvest another.  A total of eight were planted.  When I arrived home from work last night, three of the celery plants were drooping over.  It got to around 80 – 82 degrees yesterday and I probably failed to water the plants lately – so that is a bad combination for celery.  So right as I arrived home from work, I gave the celery, lettuce, and onions a good watering.

Walla Walla Onions

The onions are growing up.  Those toward the back (picture below) are definitely further along than those in the front (picture above).  What a difference a month made with planting them inside earlier than usual.

Walla Walla Onions

The peas – remember in one of the last posts I mentioned that only a very small section of peas came up?  Yep – and they are still growing.  Not going to get many peas this year from this little spot.  Amazing that all of them are right next to each other – not even one for the entire length of the garden bed.

Cascadia Snap Peas

Moving to the front yard – remember how I re-shaped the area by the road?  Originally it was used for potatoes but I decided to no longer do potatoes.  Wasn’t worth the time and effort for the cost that you can buy potatoes in the store.  Sure, the organic potatoes you produce yourself might taste a bit better and you know where they come from, but having boards up against the curb of the road definitely stood out in the neighborhood too.  Well heck – I stand out in the neighborhood with the grape arbor and garden in the front yard still.  Anyways, the grass is all grown up and doing very well.  This was also a great year for getting grass seed to start with the temperatures and rain that was fairly steady.

Grass Seeding

Green beans in the front garden are doing quite well.  I did go through and re-plant in a few spots where seed didn’t come up, but otherwise we probably will see green beans in the next few weeks – just so long as the fencing stands up and keeps the deer out.  So far, so good with the fencing though.  Oh, and a few onions are right in the front in the overflow 🙂

Green Beans

Tomato plants – unfortunately it looks like I’ve lost two tomato plants.  The two plants that were transplanted inside are the ones that didn’t make it.  One is completely gone and the other is very stunted and doesn’t seem to be growing much.

Tomato Plants

That is all for this garden update!

Peas Sprouting / Onions Planted

Well, I am a week late again with posting this!  Pictures were taken on April 24th (well, a week and a half) and just as the last post, there has been significant growth in the lettuce and celery since the photos were taken.

Just getting very busy and haven’t had much time to make posts on time.

Let’s jump in to the garden!

Lettuce and celery as they were a week and a half ago.  And actually, we might be able to start picking leaves of lettuce off this week since they have at least doubled in size again.

Lettuce Plants

As mentioned, work was going on in the front.  The old potato area that was by the road is now gone and removed.  Here is how the grass seed is progressing, although it is almost filled in at this point (with exceptions of some spots):

Grass Seeding

And the front garden – I put up the heavy duty deer netting that is thicker than the prior netting.  The prior netting would get rips in it – so hopefully this stuff won’t.  I also used rebar from taking the garden behind the garage down and am using the rebar for the posts/supports now instead of wood.

Front Garden

The front garden doesn’t show much of anything – although there are three rows of green beans that are now up and sprouted.  I need to get a few spots filled in where the seeds didn’t germinate – and potentially another row on the other side of the front garden.

Inside – the tomato plants are doing well.  Two of them were ‘transplanted’ to their own containers since two seeds came up together (making a total of six).

Best Boy Tomato Seedlings

Back outside – the peas!  I planted a row of peas beside the house and last week, some started to sprout as seen below.  However….. something is really odd here.  About all of the seeds closest to the patio area (closest to the lettuce bed) sprouted.  But, NONE of the others did.  So only about one foot of the 13 feet of peas sprouted.  Pretty well useless.

Pea Seedlings

Now, the most of the work was dealing with the onions.  Previously, I was filling the other raised bed on the driveway to get it filled back up – as about half of the soil eroded.  I filled it enough about a month ago to plant some onions and then stopped.  So that weekend before the 24th of April, I finished screening all of the soil and got it filled up.

Onion Raised Bed

So all of these Walla Walla onions were just waiting to get in the ground:

Walla Walla Onion Seedlings

After over an hour, I finally got all of the onions planted – and had to also plant about 20 in the front garden.

Walla Walla Onion Plants

Well, that is all for the garden update for this week… or should I say for last week!

Late Post – Garden Work & Tomatoes

I took all of these pictures back on April 15th and am just having an opportunity to post!  It has been an exceptionally busy week so I haven’t had any time to get this shared.

First – the biggest work was along the road.  In the past few years, I’ve put potatoes in along the road.  But, with the cost of potatoes being so cheap, it just wasn’t worth continuing to spend hours digging potatoes.  In addition, we have Zoysia grass in our yard and it was beginning to take over the area.  So one way or another, this area was going to need an overhaul.

Old Potato Area Work

Because our yard goes downhill towards the road, it took a lot of time to slope the area, re-plant grass seed, cover the grass seed with soil, then cover it with some yard clippings (from when I mowed the week prior).  While the picture above is now outdated, there is quite a bit of green grass that has already sprouted so it is coming along!

Quick picture of the granny smith apple tree in the front yard.  It was planted many years ago and sold to us as ‘ready’ to start giving us apples, but it seems that all of the apples have been aborted and fall to the ground before ever reaching maturity.  But the flowers in the spring are nice.

Granny Smith Apple Tree

And by the curb of the road and the driveway, the peony plants are coming up well along with the iris bulbs.  All along the front yard is daffodils (all flowers are gone now).

Peony and Daffodil

Back inside at the germination station, the Best Boy tomatoes have sprouted!  Four of the eight seeds sprouted (at the time of the picture below) but two additional seeds sprouted – so a germination rate of 75%.  I need to get the two seedlings pulled out and put in their own container before they get much larger.

Tomato Seedlings

The onions need to be planted outside – as they are getting long.  Some folks will actually cut the tops of the onions back – as I’ve read on other blogs and forums.  I guess I just let mine continue to grow.

Walla Walla Onion Seedlings

Outside – the celery and variety of lettuce are doing OK.  The lettuce has doubled in size in just a week (compared to what they look like now versus the picture below).

Lettuce and Celery

And the original onions that were planted outside a few weeks ago are still going strong.  Not one has died yet, which is a first!

Walla Walla Onions

What else… well, the peas were all seeded next to the house – I think that was done on Sunday.  I can’t recall with it being so busy this week!  Last year, we had – what appeared to be a beaver – eating away at all the pea plants and we got nothing.  Will see what happens this year!

Oh, and also on Sunday, I put up a new type of deer netting around the front garden.  Again, need to get some updated pictures for the things that have already happened since writing this!  The deer netting seems to be much thicker than the other stuff I was using and it came in a 7-foot by 100-foot roll.  I used rebar that was about six feet high as the posts to hold it up (better than the wood I used in year’s past).  I’m hopeful that with the thicker fencing/netting and better posts that it will keep the deer out this year.  If it doesn’t, there honestly isn’t much of a point to having a garden anymore! One full side of the front garden was seeded with Bush Blue Lake 274 green beans – and the other side will have the six tomato plants.

Until next time!

Planting Outside

I didn’t make a post last week since I was out of town traveling for a bit.  But, I got back last weekend and we had some fairly nice weather!

Looked at the ten day weather report and there isn’t any days where it was under freezing – so I thought – let’s get the garden planted!

On Sunday, I took all of the celery and lettuce and transplanted them outside along with the onions that were initially planted.  The second planting of onions are still inside under the germination station.

Ventura Celery Planting

The celery was planted about a foot apart from one another in the raised bed by the back porch.  Same with all of the lettuce, which can also be seen above and also below.

Lettuce Planting

The onions were planted in the raised bed on the back driveway (close to the bed above).  Usually, carrots are planted in this raised bed.  I have slowly been doing some ‘renourishment’ of the bed because over time, the soil has eroded away and is down about half the height.  The bed was made to be a foot deep – which was good for carrots.

Onion Planting

I used the re-nourished area to plant the onions – but as you can see, it has already settled a bit.  About a month ago is when I had sifted through and filled in the area to the top and it looks to be down about an inch already.

The germination station was only left with the one large tray of onions:

Germination Station

Shortly after the picture was taken, I got started with planting the tomatoes.  Usually I do one container of Red Cherry Tomatoes, a few of Roma Tomatoes, and four or more of Best Boy Tomatoes.  This year, as I have been doing with everything else, that was cut back quite a bit.  I planted two seeds each of Best Boy Tomatoes in four containers.

The front garden may be looking pretty bare this year.  I have at least two gallon-sized bags of peppers from last year – so I don’t intend to put out any peppers this year.  I am hoping that some new fencing will keep the deer completely out this year – and I’ll do a whole side of the front garden with green beans.

That is what is going on this week!

Rain Barrels Leaking / Repairs

This weekend, I got outside and just walked around the yard a little bit.  It still was a cold weekend, getting into the low 50’s. While walking around, I noticed some leaking coming from the rain barrels.  I was a bit in shock, because I didn’t understand why there was water in the rain barrels.  I left the ball valve open at the bottom of the rain barrels so any rain we had would just flow out.

Rain Barrel Leaking
Rain Barrel Leaking

The above picture was the “good” one.  It still had a crack in the “T” joint where the main PVC pipe connected into the rain barrel. But, another barrel – just directly next to it, was much worse:

Rain Barrel Leaking
Rain Barrel Leaking

Pretty nice crack up there! Well, I suspect that the cracked because the water inside may have frozen – at least that is my thoughts.

I hooked a hose up to the ball valve – where the water should have been draining out of – and backwashed it.  Welp, it looks like some leaves and junk got down into it and that is why it wasn’t draining properly!

So then I looked up at the top where the main rain barrel is that has the hole in the top and the gutters all flow into.  The filter was missing!  So, that explains it. I have gutter guards on the entire house and garage (which is where all of the water comes from) but somehow leaves and some small twigs got into the barrels.

Still – the rain barrels were put up in 2010.  Seven years later, they are still doing well and am quite lucky that this is the first time I’ve had to do any maintenance on them.  Considering everything is left out to the elements, it is surprising that with as many fittings and connectors there are, this was the first issue.  But I won’t complain!

Here the rain barrel system still stands (water flowing from one of the unions that I un-screwed to take the barrels down):

Rain Barrel System
Rain Barrel System

So I had to buy a new 5-foot piece of 2-inch PVC pipe, two “T” connectors, two new male-threaded adapters, and four couplers.

I wanted to salvage the PVC unions because those things are expensive! So I cut off the bad pipe, put the couplers in, glued everything together, and put it back up.  Hindsight says I should have taken a couple pictures of that process to post, but I didn’t.

Now the test will be to see if it holds water or if there will be any other leaks.  Probably should close the ball valve since we are expecting a little bit of rain this week – and see if there are any other leaks elsewhere.

OK, moving on from the rain barrel repairs. The lettuce has all sprouted! Very good germination again.  I planted 12 seeds each of four varieties and the majority came up.

There is

Lettuce Seedlings
Lettuce Seedlings

There is one variety (second from the left) that didn’t germinate very well. Only about two of 12 seeds came through.  There were about two others that germinated but didn’t seem to last.  Not fully sure what variety that is, but I am wondering if it is the New Red Fire lettuce.  I’ve always had fairly poor germination out of those seeds. But, I planted some Simpson Elite, Buttercrunch, New Red Fire, and Red Salad Bowl lettuce. Wanted to start this year off with immediately trying to get 12 total lettuce plants in the garden.  In year’s past, I would do one of each variety – and would do that every couple of weeks.  That way they were staggered and would potentially provide a couple weeks more of lettuce.  But that didn’t really pan out – because it starts to get fairly hot in June (too hot for lettuce anyways) and they all bolt / turn bitter right away.

And another photo of the germination station – shows the older onions, celery, and some of the lettuce.

Germination Station
Germination Station

Ventura Celery Growing Well!

It has been a couple of weeks since the last post.  There hasn’t been anything much to post about – other than the plants growing steadily.

This weekend, I did some combining of the older Walla Walla onion seedlings.  Because over 75% of them perished due to damping off, they were taking up a whole row under the germination station – prime real estate for planting!

Here is a full view of the plants:

Germination Station

You can see that one of the trays of onions is now gone compared to previous pictures. Here is what is left of the original onions planted back in January:

Walla Walla Onion Seedlings

Out of almost 150 original onions planted, about 35 are left.  Amazing what the damping off fungus can do!

How about the other onions planted in February?  They are all doing extremely well.  I’m sure there have been a few that didn’t make it, but it is hard to tell with the shear number of onions left:

Walla Walla Onion Seedlings

What do you see behind the picture in the back?  Why yes, it is the Ventura Celery!

The celery seedlings were separated a couple weeks ago.  I planted four seeds in each of the containers.  Upon closer inspection, every single one of those 16 seeds germinated, although a couple of them were ‘runts’ and didn’t really grow.

Amazingly enough, the seedlings that I transplanted to four new containers are doing better than the original ones that I left untouched!  Not sure how that is possible but it is going very well!

Ventura Celery Seedlings

Lastly, this weekend, it was time to plant some lettuce.  I didn’t take a picture of this (since it would just be seeding cells with soil in them).  But, I used four 3-cell containers.  In each, I planted 12 seeds each of Buttercrunch Lettuce, Simpson Elite Lettuce, New Red Fire Lettuce, and Red Salad Bowl lettuce.  That makes for a great combination of different colors and somewhat different textures for salads when they start producing.

Success With Walla Walla Onions!

Great success with the second batch of Walla Walla onions!  Amazing germation rate from the package of seeds I purchased off a seller on eBay.

The first batch started out fantastic – but most died off because of the damping off fungus.  As noted in one of the prior posts, I saturated the tray with water at the bottom to keep the soil good and wet for the seeds to sprout.  Well, that caused the damping off fungus to grow and take over.

With the new batch of Walla Walla onions, I put about half of the amount of water in the trays – just enough so the soil was saturated and nothing was left in the bottom of the tray.  In addition, my small Dollar General fan provides a nice breeze to the plants when the lights are on (all on a timer).  With using less water and the constant breeze to dry out the top, damping off wasn’t a problem this time!

The two photos below were taken on the 20th of February.  They are doing very well for being about a week past their germination date.

Walla Walla Onion Seedlings

The photo below shows the “old” onion seedlings on the left side.  You can see that there are very few left.  On the right side are the “new” onion seedlines – all doing very well and growing strong.

Walla Walla Onion Seedlings

How about the Ventura celery?  It is doing good too!  In the prior post, I had mentioned that the celery had great germination.  I planted four containers with four seeds each (16 seeds total).  Upon counting, 13 (or 14) of those 16 germinated.  Not bad for seed that was stored in the freezer from 2010!

Storing seeds in the freezer is a great way to ensure your seeds stay viable for much longer.  Be careful to put seeds in a place where they won’t be disturbed very much.  I keep mine at the bottom of the freezer in a ziplock bag.  When I a ready to use them, I will be as quick as possible with opening the ziplock bag, pull out only the seeds needed, and put them back in the freezer.

So the Ventura celery are growing well.  I really dislike thinning out seedlings because I feel it is a waste, but you also have to ensure you plant enough to get at least one good sprout!

Ventura Celery Seedlings

Off to a good start with the seeds now!  Still.. just am not sure what to do with the garden and how to keep the deer and other critters out.  It has been a major disappointment the past few years with the wildlife damaging tomatoes, green beans, and others.