Saturday, September 23, 2017

More Than I Can Chew


I've had some less than stellar years in the garden but this summer has been right up their on the stress scale.

It wasn't because of one culprit in particular, but rather a combination of:  the never-ending pest/disease issues, the weeds that grew like weeds 😉, three trips over the course of the summer (fun but I fell WAY behind as a result), helping my mom in her transition from married to widowed,  the current (BIG) garden project, and, to top it off, finding it hard to say no to my volunteering.

I'm finally going to admit it - I've bitten off more than I can chew.  Even the harvests are often an obligation rather than a joy.  I usually take on a little more than I can handle - I just want to do it all! - but I think this year I've learned my lesson.  Hopefully.

It's been a while since I've done a garden update, so I thought it high time I do a quick stroll through the garden and point out some of the highlights.

The most exciting thing that's happening is a harvest - our first ever apples!

The first ever ripe Haralson apple

Since this was our first harvest, we weren't sure when the apples would ripen nor what they would taste like.  When I chose the apple varieties, I relied primarily on catalogue and internet descriptions.

A couple of apples fell off the Haralson tree in early September but they were not fully ripe - they were very tart, dry and the flesh turned brown within seconds of cutting.  Having never tasted a Haralson apple before, I was hoping this wasn't an indicator of how this variety was when mature - and lucky for us it wasn't.

We've harvested several mature apples since then and they are deliciously sweet/tart, crisp and juicy - the perfect apple!  The flesh does not brown overly quickly either - probably at the same rate as a Gala.  My daughter said it best when she described the taste as a mixture of red and green apple.


When I bagged the apples earlier in the season, I'm sure my neighbours thought I was nuts.  That's ok - I don't mind being the kooky lady on the street - the rewards are worth it. 

Haralson Apples

You can see above that the apple leaves have been hit with what appears to be rust, likely from all our wet weather over the summer, but this doesn't seem to have affected the apples themselves.  In honour of this very special first harvest, I'm linking up with Dave at Our Happy Acres for Harvest Monday.

The mulching in the west border area is moving along - I'm over 3/4 of the way there.


My plan is to go as far as I can this fall with the mulch that I already have, which may or may not be enough - I only have about 10 yards left.  I may have to wait until next spring to finish up as I'm not ordering more mulch at this late date.


The tomato plants are pitiful but I'm surprised they are still going at all considering how early they were stricken with blight.  I'm sure our dry weather lately has helped:

Still lots to pick but it won't be long before this bed will be cleared

The carrot bed is looking lush and lovely.


I've been picking carrots from the earlier sowing at the back of the bed while the front 2/3 of the bed are still sizing up and will be used for storage.

I didn't pull the fava bean plants this summer, which ended up being a good thing as I have another small crop coming in on a few of the plants.  And this time, no aphids!


Last year, I sowed a succession of dried beans after I pulled the shelling peas and it worked out really well.  The only thing was, we had an unusually warm fall so I wasn't sure whether I should take the chance this year, especially as my time was at a premium.

Well, I decided to give it a go anyhow and now I'm glad that I did as we are, once again, having a warmer than usual fall where temperatures feel more like July than late September.  This is the forecast for the coming week:

Image:  The Weather Network

I don't let the beans dry on the vine but pick them when fully mature and bring them inside to dry on newspaper. This cuts down on the time outside but whether or not they will mature enough to pick before the 1st hard freeze is still up in the air.

Arikara and Calypso
Fingers crossed that they will reach maturity

The onion beds have been cleared with the exception of the leeks, which still occupy a spot in two beds.  The other day, I noticed that many of the leeks in bed #1 were missing and those that remained were chewed down to the ground and are now regrowing.  Did I mention it's been a busy summer?  I can't believe I didn't notice this until now!

The majority of the leeks are gone in this bed and I believe the dry leaves near the top of the photo
are remnants of what was chewed off.  Notice the ragged edges on the leeks that remain.

Bed #12 contains another grouping of leeks which are virtually untouched (other than those dang onion maggots, that is):

Leeks in Bed #12

I tried, not very successfully obviously, to keep on top of pinching off the basil flowers:

The bees love the flowers, so that's always a plus!

I have made some regular and lemon basil oil so far and I'm planning on a mass pesto session before the 1st frost.

The cucumbers have really picked up in the past few weeks, although the vines are in rapid decline, as is usually the case this late in the season:

Cucumber with Tromboncino on the far right
I think that one of the cucumber vines may have contracted wilt
while the others are dealing with powdery mildew

The tromboncino squash (you can see one on the right amongst the foliage in the above photo) was the only success in an otherwise dismal squash year.

While squash and cucumber plants always end up with powdery mildew (PM) in the fall, one newcomer to the battle this year was kale.


Normally, I have one issue with kale - cabbage worms - which I deal with by netting the bed.  This year, in addition to PM, we also had aphids and slugs.  I actually took the netting off the bed to see if this would help with the aphids.  It did, sort of, but then PM hit.  Bottom line, kale has been in short supply this year.

This has been an incredibly frustrating year when it came to the peppers as well.  First the rabbits got to them and I lost about 25% of the plants, then the slugs moved in on both the pepper plants and many of the peppers themselves.


I've already pulled out at least 10 pepper plants as they were not going to produce anything harvestable before the first frost.  There are still some peppers to harvest but we'll see if I'm able to get to them before the slugs do:

Slug damage on a Pepperoncino pepper


Let's finish on a couple of high notes.  The broccoli is once again a star in the garden:

All the main heads were harvested some time ago,
so now it's all about the side shoots

With a frustrating start to the season where the bunnies ate most of the lettuce, we are finally able to enjoy salads every day:

Tropicana Lettuce

And we are harvesting more raspberries than ever before:

Heritage raspberries

My clean up of the run really paid off.  Now if I only had time to finish up the Fall Gold raspberry run beside it!

So that's my not-so-quick rundown of what is happening in the garden.  By this time next month, most of the beds will have been cleared and cleaned up, which is something I love to see.  All the spent and/or diseased plants and weeds are put into the compost or burn pile and the beds are once again pristine - full of promise for next season.

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

33 comments:

  1. I can certainly empathize with you about pest and disease problems. Rabbits, rats, mice and now I can add voles to the furry pest list. Powdery mildew, downy mildew, rust.... Sowbugs, earwigs, slugs....Wilt, blight, damping off.... Sometimes, actually oftentimes I wonder why I do it. But enough of that! Congrats on your first apple and enjoy the successes. What we do manage to keep for ourselves is always far superior to anything we can buy which I guess is why we do it.

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    1. Sometimes, I think we are gluttons for punishment! More likely, though, I'm going with eternal optimists. We may say "I've had enough", but then we see those glorious tomatoes or taste the tender beans and we are right back at it. Then there is the seasonal amnesia - by February, all the frustrations of the previous summer don't seem nearly as bad and will all be "fixed" because we know that this will be THE perfect year ;)

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    2. I swear that when I have THE perfect year that I will quit gardening. Rest assured, it will never happen.

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  2. The reason I gave up my allotment was because of time issues, gardening takes not only effort but a lot of time too otherwise things start to slip. I think you've done really well though in what seems to me to be a challenging year and still definitely worth the effort you've put in. Your apples look fabulous, it's a variety I haven't heard of before, they sound delicious.

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    1. I will definitely not be adding anything to my plate next year - maintaining what I have and finishing what I've already started will be the goals. When I was looking into which apple trees to purchase, it was astounding how many varieties there were out there - much like tomatoes!

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  3. That's terrible about the leeks being eaten, I wonder who the culprit was. The rabbits always seemed to prefer our beans to anything else. And that's crazy about the slugs going after the pepper plants. Well hopefully the warm weather will keep things going for awhile.

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    1. I was surprised when I saw the leeks - and even more surprised that I hadn't noticed it before. Since pulling the onions, I knew the leeks wouldn't be pulled for a while so I didn't really pay much attention, I guess.

      Many of our bean plants suffered due to the rabbits this year, but some regrew - I harvested a bunch of golden Romanos last week and it was such a surprise because their vines were literally nubs at one point.

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  4. Yeah, we sometimes are a bit over-amibitious as gardeners :-), aren't we! Here in eastern Ontario, it rained every single week (every 2 - 3 days) for 10 weeks, with sometimes massive downpours. We have a very large & old Macintosh apple tree and it was taken over by fireblight, rust and other diseases. No harvest either. However, the wild apple trees (golden coloured skin, white flesh) on our property and in the empty field behind us produced enormous amounts of apples, of a quality that you could use for applesauce (no, I didn't have time this year, although I do have a new Ball sauce maker which would be perfect). Originally, I had planned on using #6 paper lunch bags on the MacIntosh tree this summer, but the diseases started so early that I gave up on the idea. I hadn't thought of using plastic bags, but I think it's a great idea. I think also that it is time to put this tree out of it's misery and replace with a couple of disease resistant varieties (I really hate spraying and would rather avoid). Just curious about your source for your trees and what your research suggested as the best trees given the many diseases that have spread over Ontario these past 7-10 years?

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    1. Hi Stu - Some years are worse than others, that's for sure! It's always good to keep that in mind, especially during the particularly rough ones.

      The baggies on the apples worked well - the only thing that you need to remember is to cut a tiny hole in each bottom corner to let out moisture and condensation.

      As for apple tree varieties, when I was doing research, my primary focus was on four things: hardiness, taste, storage and pollination group. Since I have no idea which, if any, diseases are prevalent in my area, I didn't choose varieties based on disease resistance. I figure if a particular disease does become an issue, I'll look into purchasing one or two additional trees with that in mind. Our plum tree, for example, is exhibiting signs of canker so I'm hoping to purchase a resistant variety in the near future. Once the current tree eventually succumbs, the new one should be producing. I'm hoping to do a post on the apple trees this spring where I will get into the what and why specifics of the varieties I chose.

      I purchased my trees in 2015 from a nursery near Niagara - Mori Essex. Unfortunately, it seems that they no longer sell to the public but only commercially (a shame as they were reasonably priced, had a good variety and the trees I received have done well). I do have some sources for future reference as I would eventually like to get a few more fruit trees and berry bushes: Siloam Orchards in Uxbridge (http://siloamorchards.com/), Hardy Fruit Trees in Quebec (http://www.hardyfruittrees.ca/) and Whiffletree Farm in Elora (https://www.whiffletreefarmandnursery.ca/). I've not dealt with any of these sources, but they seem promising. In fact, I'm hoping to check out Whiffletree in person next spring.

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    2. Thanks so much for your thoughtful reply. I will definitely check out those sources.

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  5. I sorted our All Gold ( as they are called here) and they have responded really well like your Heritage. Brassicas are a real trial with all the potential pests and we have club root to deal with too!

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    1. I wonder if your All Gold is the same as our Fall Gold? I'm hoping that I'll get to clean up that run this fall...how apropos ;)

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  6. Maybe not a great year in the garden but you are making a lot of landscaping progress. The Haralson apple is a good looking apple. My trees set too early and the fruits were mostly killed by a late frost. The Fuji tree set about 20 apples and then a June hailstorm knocked all but one out of the trees. I don't know how commercial growers make it.

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    1. I often ask myself the same question - they must save up during the good years so that they can keep going during the bad. We have a new apple orchard opening this year just down the road from us. With the erratic weather these days, it's a wonder anyone is willing to give it a go.

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  7. Congrats on first-ever apples! At this stage they are precious, but I'm having fun picturing how much work it will be to protect each apple when your tree gets 25 ft. tall!

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    1. Ha! These are semi-dwarf trees and my plan is to keep them fairly low - maybe around 10'. But we all know how it goes with best laid plans...

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  8. First let me say congrats on that first apple! The Haralson sounds like my kind of apple too, sweet/tart and crisp. At my old place I had one called Mutsu that I really liked, though I bought some this year at the farmer's market and they weren't as tasty as I recalled they were when I grew them.

    It's always amazing to me that one crops can have so many problems while another one is doing so well! Your broccoli and lettuce do look lovely. You would think the kale wouldn't be so problematic, since it is usually more dependable for me than broccoli. I've never seen it get hit with PM, and I'm sorry you had it on top of everything else.

    Also, you reminded me I need to make some more basil oil too. We were at a shop last week that was selling basil infused olive oil for a steep price, also a garlic infused one. I told myself we had lots of basil and garlic, and oil on hand too, so I would do it myself and probably wind up with a better product anyway!

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    1. Thanks Dave! I'm loving the apple harvest, small as it is. That's too bad about the farmers market Mutsu - perhaps it will inspire you to once again have an tree in your backyard ;)

      Yes, the issues with kale have been a surprise, especially the aphids. That's one pest that I can't recall seeing on kale before. Mei Qing Choi, on the other hand, was an aphid magnet, which is why I stopped growing it.

      Oh, I have to get to the basil patch sooner rather than later. The weather is going to be wonderful over the next week (much more comfortable than this scorching heat) but I see some lows only a few degrees above freezing. Don't want to take any chances!

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  9. Hi! I guess we all bite off more than we can chew at times! Your apple tree looks great. Did you just use plastic to wrap them? Wish I had room for an apple tree. Do you think the homeowners association would approve?! Not likely and I don't have room in my courtyard. Oh, well, I will just drool over yours! Nancy

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    1. I used sandwich baggies on the apples - it keeps the critters out, although I did find an earwig in one once which I quicky got out. Thankfully it didn't do any damage.

      Some of those homeowners associations are so strict, it seems. We don't have them in Canada unless you live in a condo or gated community...I can just imagine what they would say about my cardboard mulching ways!

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  10. We just returned home to this crazy hot September and I don't like it! Your apples and raspberries sound and look great. As for doing too much, you can always retire a bed or two.

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    1. You and me both, Jason! It's supposed to cool down in a couple of days and I can't wait. Yes, I suppose I could retire some beds but a lot of what has taken things over the top this year (such as helping my mom adjust) are one shot deals. I'm expecting things to ease up next year (famous last words, I know!)

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  11. Some years t just seems the pests win most of the battles and then some real stars shine though, like your broccoli and you feel there could be better times ahead. You have certainly had a lot to deal with this year and I think you have done well to keep up as much as you have done. Hope the next year gives you time to breathe

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    1. Thank you, Kathy - I'm really hoping that next year is a more relaxing year as well.

      You can never predict how well the garden is going to do, can you? So many variables are just not within our control. Every year is a learning experience and all we can really hope for is that lessons learned will have a positive impact on our garden in the future.

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  12. You've made me hungry for an apple, and I just remembered that I have some new Cortlands in my fridge. When first picked, they're one of my fall favourites. Always fun to see what you're up to, Margaret! Sorry for the bad stuff, happy for the good stuff.

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    1. Yup - every year there is some bad and some good in the garden, even when you don't grow veg. Still have to pick the Granny Smiths - I'm hoping they are ok as we had an unexpected light frost last night.

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  13. Congratulations on the apples. That's an exciting harvest. Between the pests, disease, and more projects than can possibly be finished, I feel like you were describing my summer, too, but you are at least motivated enough to blog about it. I think gardeners understand best the joy of winter - a time to recover and plan for next year.

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    1. Exactly! I have a feeling even if I lived in a warmer climate, I would self-impose a winter season on myself as I really do need the break after going full force all summer. Hopefully next year brings us both a more relaxing gardening season :)

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  14. It looks pretty impressive, but I know what you mean about the frustration of being too busy. Last summer, I was traveling too much; this summer, I just had too much other stuff going on. It's always something, isn't it? We've had such weird weather this summer, from drenchings in July to drought and high heat in September--it was kind of a back-and-forth growing season, and it was hard on some of the plants. I'm so jealous of your apples! We had three apples at our first house, and I always loved the harvest. Yum! Enjoy!

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    1. Yum - we are loving the apples! They apparently store well, so we are taking our time eating them to prolong the enjoyment.

      I'm finally beginning to get a little caught up - it was crazy there for a while! Yes, this strange weather is, well, strange! It's been cooler lately but also rainy - good for the garden that's there but not so good for the plants that are waiting on my driveway to get into the ground.

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  15. Your carrot bed has me envious, we so miss growing carrots maybe next year.

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    1. Oh, thanks Shaheen - fingers crossed you are able to get them into your garden next year!

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