Thursday, September 20, 2012

Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce

       Sustainable Seed Company writes of this lettuce:

Lactuca Sativa
Black Seeded Simpson (45 days)

An old reliable lettuce that is heat resistant, slow to bolt and very dependable. Leaves are large, but lightly crispy and ruffled.  Excellent for spring, early summer and fall planting.  I remember my grandmother growing this variety.  She was a practical German woman, so it was one of her favorite for its consistent yields...when the rabbits didn't find it!

1885 James J.H. Seed Co. says..
"An improvement on the Simpson, being finer in many respects."

      Luckily for me, it is Lou Gallo's favorite lettuce, so he often over plants when starting his fall crop.  And I often benefit, as Lou is quite willing to share.

Lou's Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce,  September 20,  2012
      This is a picture of Lou's seed bed of Black Seeded Simpson.  He seeded it heavily in August, and transplants it to other areas of his garden.  I dug out some plants this morning, leaving some space between the newly created rows.  The left side of this picture illustrates the current stocking of his bed.

My box of transplants

      I had started some Black Seeded Simpson earlier, but only a few came up in the middle of this bed.  The arugula to the right did much better, and the Four Seasons Lettuce with the coppery color to the left did passably.  I took some of the new transplants, and filled in the Black Seeded Simpson swath.

Four Seasons, Black Seeded, and Arugula,  September 20,  2012
      Although the transplants looked great in the photo above, they had some major wilt by the time I left the park.  They should show pretty good recovery in two or three days.  With that wilt in mind, I took the rest of the transplants home to plant them in cell packs and put them in the shade.  They should develop a decent root system in a week.  Then they will go in the ground as needed.

Sitting in the shade

A Tale of Two Susans

      A few years ago, I noticed a black eyed susan in our yard that bloomed maybe a month later than the other black eyed susans.  It came back the next year and the next.  I took to calling the different flowers the "late" black eyed susan. 

Brown Eyed Susan, September 18,  2012
      A search of the internet provided a name for the "late" susan.  It is actually called brown eyed susan!   The flowers are smaller than black eyes, and three to four weeks later.  The leaves are more rounded than black eyes.  Both are very hardy perennials, self seed in different areas of the yard, and are loved by the gold finches for the seed.

Another clump of Brown Eyed Susan, September 18,  2012
Spent Black Eyed Susan, September 18,  2012

Friday, September 14, 2012

Orange Canna

Finally canna,  September 14, 2012
      Why does it have to take so long?  In another month, the cold will stop it in its tracks.  But much better late than never.

Smoked Goodies

      A neighbor called two days ago to ask if we had anything we wanted to put on his grill/smoker.  We had a nice big pork roast in the freezer that would do just fine.

Rick's Smoker,  September 13,  2012
      Our pork roast was at the top next to the roasting chicken, with a huge slab of beef filling out the meat candidates.  I wanted to try a total experiment of smoking vegetables, so I made a trip to both gardens.  There was a small harvest of parsnips, as the voles took way more than their allowable portion.  Peppers picked were poblanos, sweet bananas, jalapenos, and cayennes.  Some peppers were halved and seeded, others were roasted whole.  A patty pan squash was cut into two inch chunks, as was a butternut squash. All the veggies were covered with some olive oil.
      The beef cooked in a couple of hours, as did the veggies.  The pork and chicken took about six hours.  Although this picture looks like a standard grill, the charcoal fire and wood pieces are actually in the drum at the right side of the photo.  That fire exhausts its smoke into the section you see here, so the food is cooked or smoked from the hot gases, rather than a fire directly under the food.  That is nice because you don't get flames lapping at the meats.
      The veggies turned out to taste good, but not exceptional.  Some of the peppers had a nice crispness, almost akin to bacon.  The patty pan was good, but the butternut was better.  My conclusion though was that the long smoking process was probably no better than grilling vegetables with olive oil over an open flame grill.  The pork was DELICIOUS, and some is left over for lunch.  Makes my stomach rumble just thinking about it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Butterflies and Caterpillars

      One fun thing about gardening is observing the various kinds of wildlife that visit vegetable and flower gardens.  I purposefully mix flowers in with the vegetables to attract beneficial insects or ornamental insects like butterflies.

Monarch Butterfly on sunflower

Yellow Swallowtail on pink phlox

Unknown butterfly on Black Eyed Susan
Black Swallowtail resting on pepper leaf
      These butterflies are attracted to the garden by flowers such as phlox, zinnias, butterfly weed, butterfly bush, and Joe Pye Weed.

Joe Pye Weed
Butterfly weed

      This butterfly weed, is attractive to butterflies as both a nectar source and as food for the caterpillars who munch on the leaves.  I grew these plants from seed I had collected from two plants that I had previously purchased.  The plants now have nice seed pods that will allow me to repeat the process for next year's caterpillar food supply.
      Plants such as milk weed, dill, and fennel serve as food sources for various caterpillars.  Growing some of these will also increase your chances for attracting butterflies.

My park garden Bronze Fennel
Bronze Fennel with black swallowtail caterpillar
Black swallowtail to be

Bronze fennel flowers
      The bronze fennel is putting out more and more volunteers at the park.  I should be able to harvest some seed as well if anyone is interested.  Yesterday I counted seven caterpillars munching on the bronze fennel.  Maybe next year will be a particularly good black swallowtail year.
      After I posted this blog this morning, a painted lady visited my garden.  That is a painted lady butterfly.

Painted Lady Butterfly,  September 11,  2012
Same Lady, September 11,  2012

Sugar Baby Watermelon

      I have had a vegetable garden in some form or another for 38 years.  In that time, I had never grown an edible watermelon during the few times that I had ever planted them.  But I had some seed for Bush Sugar Baby watermelons, so I gave it a try.  Of the three different "hills" I put in, only one produced a watermelon.  The vine had died back, so yesterday I picked the melon.  This morning I cut it in half, expecting a bleached out pink tasteless melon.  I was pleasantly surprised to see a nice deep pink

and was even more pleasantly surprised to discover that it had great flavor too.  Yes seeds, but that is the way that all melons were in the good old days.  So after all these years, I have grown my first decent watermelon.  I will get more seed for next year.  And I will probably try one more time to grow my first successful cantaloupe.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Happily Twisted

      Yes Eileen, I still have the picture of your happily twisted carrots.  The photo has been hiding on the camera, but I found it this morning.  This picture was taken June 7, 2012, long before the summer got hot and muggy, then hotter and hotter still.  Good carrot weather should be right around the corner, but alas, it has been too hot to have started them.

How did she braid them like that?