Sunday Garden Chat: Ready for Their Closeups

marvel 14 jul 1stClematis

From faithful commentor Marvel:

Here’s a rather large sip from the Summer garden hose: a quick still-life of the garden today. Above, the first pale clematis — so delicate.

marvel 14 july Blueberries

The blueberry plants are at least five years old now — putting on a lovely bunch of fruit this year.

marvel 14 july PotatoFlowers

A raft of bed-planted potatoes are just now flowering, their lovely ‘tell’ that new potatoes are developing belowground.

marvel 14 july Strawberries

We added some fresh plants to our years-old strawberry patch — they’ve been delivering sweet berries for over a month now.

marvel 14 july Tomatoes

These marzanos (San Marzano? Super Marzano? Can’t remember) are coming in pretty early. The rest of the tomtoes are just getting jungle-bushy with plenty of of yellow flowers.

marvel 14 july Zukes

And so it begins: the first yellow zuke. Only planted three zukes this year, so that works out to, what?, six-hundred pounds or something???

How are things going in your gardens this week?

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53 replies
  1. 1
    raven says:

    Great photo’s of a great garden! We’re going to finish off a drip irrigation system toady.

  2. 2
    Botsplainer says:

    David Brooks doesn’t leave his bubble to read criticism of himself or his ideas.

  3. 3
    Amir Khalid says:

    It would be nice if his smug, shallow and mediocre writing didn’t leave his bubble either.

  4. 4
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Botsplainer: “I’ve never had a performance review.”

    I know, I KNOW.

  5. 5
    JPL says:

    The garden is beautiful. I’ve been composting but my garden will never reach great heights.

    It’s to early in the morning to listen to David Brooks. In fact I’m not sure the right time is.

  6. 6
    JPL says:

    Face The Nation will have John McCain and his little follower, Lindsay on, just in case any one was wondering. I imagine John has his aides call the networks to see who wants his coveted interview this week.

  7. 7
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    The garden, for the most part anyway, looks good. The squash have begun producing. The wife (me too) has fallen in love with Romanesco. I lost the top of one of them but I still have 3 more. Yellow crookneck are producing well too. I have one more summer squash new to me, trombetta di albenga. It is not yet producing but growing well. All the winter squash is coming along and setting fruit. And still no squash bugs!!!

    Tomatoes have plenty of fruit, but only yellow cherry have ripened, which are a real tease. Tomatillos are doing better than ever before for me, lots of fruit has set, and I have real hope for salsa verde this year. All my peppers are doing well, sweet bananas and Jalapenos running ahead of the rest, but most all have set at least some fruit.

    Beans are growing well and flowering. I planted 4 types of pole: Rattlesnake, Purple, Emerite green, and French Gold. 2 types of bush beans: Italian Rose and Painted Pony, both heirlooms. The IRs are doing well, the PP… we’ll come back to them. I prefer pole beans cause they set beans all season long. Plenty for canning and freezing. I will dry the bush beans.

    Broccoli is done (well too, I might add). Onions are dug up and curing, same with garlic. My potatoes flowered and now seem to be collapsing. Still mostly green but definitely in decline. Don’t know what is up with that. The sweet potatoes are doing just fine this year. Amazing what a little tender loving care can do. Brussels sprouts also progressing well.

    Now to the bad: Corn, bleachhh. I planted the corn with the painted pony beans in alternating rows. The first corn did not germinate worth a damn (30%??) and the PP were about 50%. I “cooked” that section under some plastic for most of spring to rid it of virus and fungal stuff and I must have cooked out the good stuff too. Anyway, that part of the garden has now gone fallow and I am just letting it rest this year.

    Eggplant- Still struggling, the pyrethrin knocks the flea beetles back, but does not eliminate them. They must have a refuge nearby to hide out in. I think next year I will dug up a plot just for them quite a ways off from the main garden. I like eggplant too much to just give up.

    One last thing: My sunflowers grow just fine, all to their varying proper heights, then just before or just after flowering something comes along and cuts the head off. Any ideas what it might be? Been having this problem since moving out here, and really getting tired of it.

  8. 8
    mzrad says:

    Nice garden photos!

    Do any Balloon Juice readers/writers pursue any biodynamic gardening practices? We’ve just started a short weekly podcast to learn more about this most ancient of agricultural practices (I have a blog and a radio show on our community radio station out of Morro Bay, California). Most of the popular media discussions of biodynamics make it sound too flakey or don’t explain it very clearly, so were trying to rectify those issues here. I record our conversation in one take at the Thursday Morro Bay Farmer’s Market on my iPhone, clean it up as needed in Garage Band, and then finalize it with some Sublime bumper music for Friday’s radio show “X Marks the Spot with Central Coast Foodie” where listeners can tune in around the world via our online stream.

    Gardeners, what do you think of our Biodynamic Gardening Report? Interesting? Too weird? While we are always talking about growing food in coastal California, the celestial info applies to everyone (from the Farmers Almanac). No clip longer than 7 minutes: have a listen: you’re our target demographic. ; 0

  9. 9
    Keith P says:

    I saw some San Marzanos at the grocery store last week. I was surprised at how small they were. I had expected large, long plums, but these were like cherry-sized plum tomatoes.

  10. 10
    tybee says:


    something comes along and cuts the head off


  11. 11
    Botsplainer says:


    “I’ve never had a performance review.”

    Those are for the untermenschen, not for such that share his lofty perch.

    Were I to occasion on him in person, I’d be happy to deliver actual criticism, quite possibly by a fist delivered to his face, repeatedly.

  12. 12
    tybee says:


    require the farmer’s attention to moon phases and constellations…the role of the manure-filled cow horn—Preparation 500—that serves to bring the cosmos into your field…the moon moves into Pisces which is an excellent time for planting…


  13. 13
    Raven says:

    @tybee: you’re killin me over here!

  14. 14
    Raven says:

    Anyone try the Warner Archive Direct?

  15. 15
    TheMightyTrowel says:

    Cold but sunny down here – still way above average temps for midwinter. The tomato plant we left out because it kept producing fruit into the autumn (on a nw facing sheltered brick wall in full sun) has just flowered again. My lavender is in bloom. Global warming freaks me out, tbh.

  16. 16
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @tybee: Not. Whatever it is, it does the same to my coneflowers. A squirrel would damage those to the point of never standing up again. I should also mention that the culprit does not remove the head. Leaves it hanging there by a thread. Which makes the behavior even stranger, to me at least.

  17. 17
    J. says:

    Dear Marvel,

    I am soo jealous! Your fruits and veggies look beautiful — and delicious. I have only a container box of weeds.

    Thank you for sharing your bounty (if only visually).


  18. 18
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @tybee: Heh. I would say you are being overly polite here.

  19. 19
    OzarkHillbilly says:


    I have only a container box of weeds.

    You want more? I got a garden full I can share.

  20. 20
    Botsplainer says:

    “I used to read them, but it was just too psychologically damaging,” Brooks said in an interview with Yahoo News’ Katie Couric at the Aspen Ideas Festival on Tuesday. “So then I would ask my assistant to read them.”

    The more I read this, the angrier I get. The delicate hothouse flower that routinely demands that policymakers adopt policies that make things manifestly worse for tens of millions (“tough choices”) who aren’t in a position to deal with it (all so he and the vanishingly small number of people he plays courtesan for can save a few bucks on taxes can’t be bothered to self correct or to even read criticism because it hurts him.

    Bring on the FEMA camps.

  21. 21
    mzrad says:

    @tybee: I know! Sounds whack but he says he’s doubled his yields by employing these practices in his fields. After using Preparation 500—the burying of a cow horn full of manure in one’s field for 6 months of winter and later processing it for application to the fields—he said his yields doubled. What do you do with that information, even if it doesn’t make rational sense with the whole cosmic thing? Please to listen to some of the podcasts to see what you think.

  22. 22
    Mary G says:

    Lovely photos, Marvel! My green beans were a major disappointment, yellow leaves, few beans, so I just pulled them up. Nice to hear an expert like you doesn’t have a perfect record either.

  23. 23
    tybee says:


    yeah, there is manure involved in that agronomy, it’s just not all in the cow horn.

  24. 24
    rikyrah says:

    The pictures are so beautiful. I look forward to seeing them every week.

  25. 25
    WaterGirl says:

    I have been watching a friend’s garden while she is away for 3 weeks. She has 5 mature blueberry bushes, so I thought I would get a ton of berries, but somebody or something is mostly getting there before me, or maybe just a few ripen at a time?

    It’s so fun seeing the ripe blueberries and getting to pick them and eat them. I am inspired and plan to plant 5 blueberry bushes of my own in the spring. Will I get blueberries the year I plant? How long before the bushes get to their full size? (4-5 feet, I think)

  26. 26
    currants says:

    @ Marvel top:

    Only planted three zukes this year, so that works out to, what?, six-hundred pounds or something???

    Hah. That’s what I’ve expected every year, but squash vine borers = maybe one or two zukes before the plants collapse.

    This year, I’m taking a tip from one of my brothers (in a different state) and injecting the stems with Bt. Or at least I think I will. Anybody here have experience with/strategies for/opinions on that?

  27. 27
    currants says:

    @Botsplainer: Talk about a) tone-deaf, b) CLUELESS, c) surrounding yourself with yes-men. With you all the way on the ‘the more the angrier.’

  28. 28
    WaterGirl says:

    @currants: I did the tin foil thing that was suggested here last year. So far, so good.

  29. 29
    currants says:


    pursue any biodynamic gardening practices

    No, but…some of the principles in the Farmers Almanac work along those lines. I got to know a vinegrower/winemaker in France whose vineyards are entirely biodynamique. Among other things I learned, the top 10 cm of the soil in most conventional vineyards by this time is dead–no microbes, no biome to speak of. It’s also the case that if your vines are side by side with a conventional vineyard it’s hard to maintain, but at the time we were there (2008-2009) he was pulling more and more growers to his point of view (the more neighbors who go along, the easier it is to maintain bio/organic production, no matter what you’re growing).

  30. 30
    muddy says:

    @WaterGirl: What was the tin foil thing?

  31. 31
    Marvel says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Re your collapsing potato vines: They’re doing just fine. After flowering, the plants should turn yellow & die back — all the while pumping energy into the potatoes below. If you want big, storable taters, wait until they’ve given up the ghost good & well, before harvesting the spuds. You’ll find lovely, but small, “new” potatoes if you dig ’em up while the foliage is still standing.

  32. 32
    WaterGirl says:

    @muddy: Wrapping the stems of the plants with foil – apparently the squash bugs do not like foil! A master gardener I know told me you don’t have to wrap all the stems individually, so instead I made a ring of foil around the plant where it comes out of the ground. I guess the bugs don’t want to walk over the foil to get to the stems, either. I’m new at this, and you could check with violet about whether the foil has to be around each stem or just around the bottom of the plant, but so far, so good for me with the foil ring.

    I also planted dill in each of my raised beds – apparently they don’t care for dill, either.

    I found the garden chat from last year where nancydarling asked about the squash beetles and there were several replies.

  33. 33
    currants says:

    @WaterGirl: Thank you! (And thanks to muddy for asking. ) I’ve got dill…am gonna go plant it STAT.

  34. 34
    Gretchen says:

    Marvel: How do you keep the birds from eating the blueberries before you get to pick them? I’m listening to the audiobook of Michelle Obama’s American Grown, about the White House garden and community gardens in general – it’s pretty good. She had the same problem I do: Loads of fruit, but the birds get it the minute it’s ripe. She got exactly one berry off her the first year.

  35. 35
    muddy says:

    @WaterGirl: Thanks! I have my squash in straw bales this year. They seem happy enough but aren’t making a lot of leaves. They have a ton of flowers and fruit though.

  36. 36
    WaterGirl says:

    @muddy: I have the opposite problem! The leaves are crazy-huge, but I am not getting as much zucchini as I want!

  37. 37
    currants says:

    @muddy: ummm how’d you do that? Any dirt at all?

  38. 38
    muddy says:

    @currants: Sorry so late to reply, I’ve been in and out of the house.

    No dirt. I got bales of straw (not hay), set them with the wires going around the sides. Put fertilizer on it every other day and water it every day for a couple weeks. I planted squash and tomato starts right in the straw. I put a soaker hose on top of it, but it stays nice and moist inside even when it’s crispy on the outside.

    Best of all, no weeding, and the bed is knee high, so less bending. It’s a lot cheaper than building raised beds and filling them with garden soil. This is my first year doing it, happy so far. Over time they break down to the point that you can use them as compost. I have been getting a bumper crop of mushrooms on them, sadly none I would care to eat.

    You can put them right on top of bad soil, or even pavement.

  39. 39
    Violet says:

    @WaterGirl: Hey there! Glad the tin foil method seems to be working. I was so busy dealing with my parents this year that I missed the planting time for squash so I haven’t tried it. My garden is kind of a mess this year in general–no surprise.

    Did finish the last of the plums yesterday. They were the first plums we’ve harvested on the tree–it’s only three years old–and they were amazing. Blackberries are done too and this was a banner year for them. Still getting a few green beans but plants are mostly done. Cantaloupes are coming on strong–two have “netted” and are on their way to being ready in the next week or so. Very exited about that!

    I got an email from a local garden center boasting “We’ve got fall tomatoes in!” Already? Used to be we planted them in August. Then it got moved up to late July. Then mid-July. Now it’s barely July and they already want me to baby little tomato transplants in this heat? No thank you! I’ll give it a few more weeks. Some growers are a bit too eager.

    I’ve got long beans in–very late, as I just built a new bed and planted them two weeks ago–and they’re up and growing. I’m trying them in a new spot that is much shadier. At the old house they did well in shade/dappled sun so we’ll see here. They’re a staple of the late summer/early fall garden here and they’ve done poorly for me since we’ve moved. Hoping to have better luck this year.

  40. 40
    Marvel says:

    @Gretchen: Gretchen, we’ve put together a lightweight frame (about 4.5 feet tall and a couple of feet wider than the row of bushes) over which we drape bird netting. We use earth staples to tack the netting down in a couple of places to keep birds (and our berry-lovin’ dog, Sally) from crawling under and eating their fill. Usta just drape the netting over the plants, and while that slowed the critters down, we still lost a bunch of berries.

  41. 41
    WaterGirl says:

    @Violet: All that fruit sounds wonderful. This is my first year for fruit – one tart cherry tree (I got about a dozen beautiful cherries) and one strawberry plant (strawberries aren’t big and gorgeous like the ones pictured above, but they do taste yummy!) Next year, it’s blueberry bushes for me!

    On the foil thing, do you literally wrap the foil around each of the stems – what happens as they grow?

    Or do you do what I did, and just make a ring at the bottom of the plant, below the stems? I think of it as kind of an aluminum foil moat. :-)

  42. 42
    currants says:

    @muddy: Okay wait, so you put the fertilizer in and water BEFORE planting, correct? I’m all in favor of the “less bending” + “no weeding.” And I’m not surprised about the moisture retention–I made a couple (3) of these permaculture beds (aka hugelkultur) last fall, but since I made them all by hand they aren’t very big and don’t have HUGE LOGS in them, but smaller logs/wood, straw, mulch, compost, etc. I planted winter squash and pumpkins in one, tomatoes and summer squash in another, and melons in a third, and I haven’t had to water them even once. In the long run, those beds will host more conventional permaculture crops (black currants in one I hope, and the other two which are at my partner’s house may become home to beach plums, which would be pretty cool).

  43. 43
    mzrad says:

    @currants: Interesting: I hope that French winemaker is successful in convincing others to adopt these ancient and effective practices. Even if we don’t understand them doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.

  44. 44
    currants says:

    @Violet: Ah, glad to see you–I’m wondering what resources you use for choosing companion plants and anti-pest plants (I think it was your post that referenced dill for squash bugs?). And by resources I don’t mean where do you buy them, but where do you read about them? I have a very small bit of information about that sort of thing, but not enough to prevent my having planted peas smack next to garlic. (About to pull the garlic anyway, and will put in some late leeks and onions, intermingled with kale.)

  45. 45
    currants says:

    @mzrad: I think he has been pretty successful. Everyone in the region knows it’s a problem–after all, Burgundy is where escargot originated (or reached its highest garlic-parsley-buttered form), but there are no escargot there anymore. And the frogs legs come from Turkey or someplace. (That might be a different topic altogether, though, esp. if you’ve read The Sixth Extinction.)

  46. 46
    currants says:

    @mzrad: Also, I learned about this place which is practicing permaculture and biodynamics from the Maine Organic Farmers Assoc–if it’s of interest to you (wrong coast, I know, but whatevs).

    In France, the go-to guy is Pierre Masson, and I think he’s in Cluny but don’t recall for sure. Here’s a page in English that talks a little bit more about the vineyards and Tripoz’s conversion to biodynamic. It’s pretty interesting.

  47. 47
    Bubblegum Tate says:

    Now that I have successfully gotten rid of a big-ass juniper bush, built and installed raised beds, and put some plants in, I finally have reason to participate in garden chat. Huzzah!

    So my first question is: Soaker hose or drip irrigation?

    I have one bed up and running as of yesterday. I put drip irrigation in this one, with the drippers going right to each plant. It wasn’t all that hard to put together, but it was a bit annoying, so my lovely wife suggested running soaker hose in the other bed and being done with it.

    For context: These are 4×8 beds, both quite close to the water source, and with no real slope to speak of. Soaker hoses appeal to the laziness factor, but I wonder about durability plus efficiency of water use. The soil in the beds is sandy loam–how far will moisture travel from the hoses in such soil?

  48. 48
    Violet says:

    @WaterGirl: I don’t know for sure as it’s something I was told about. However, the woman who told me said to wrap the foil at the beginning of the stem–the thickest part where it comes out of the ground. After that I don’t think you have to wrap every bit of it. I think the squash borers go in there and that’s what kills the plant.

    I’ll be interested to hear if your aluminum foil moat works!

  49. 49
    currants says:

    @Bubblegum Tate: you mean durability for wintering over (and in what climate)? Or … ? I’ve got 6 4x8s, plus some extraneous beds, and I use soaker hose from rain barrels (on the extraneous–flat–beds) and soaker hose on a timer (30 min, every third day unless we get rain) on the raised beds. I’ve changed systems a couple times–had set up a drip which was really insufficient for those beds, and which was cheap (a plus when I bought it, but drove me nuts after 2 yrs). The soakers I’ve set up I intend to leave out over the winter (with green manure and salt marsh hay), because I’m tired of putting them together every year. So I don’t know about durability (New England), but I’m guessing I’ll get at least 2 yrs, and for now, that’s about as far ahead as I can see anyway.

  50. 50
    Violet says:

    @currants: It wasn’t me who suggested the dill. I learned about it here! Personally I guess it’s just stuff learned over time. I got my Permaculture certification so some information I got from that, along with things I learned in some other gardening courses. I met people along the way and learned from them. I read gardening books and websites and pick things up there. If I’ve got a specific question I’ll google around and see what I can learn.

    Some things are specific to my area. Like it’s really difficult to grow squash here because of our warm, humid climate that the squash borers love. That’s why that woman who swears by the foil really stuck with me because she actually does have success that way–it’s unusual.

    In general, I’m working to create a diverse landscape that supports all sorts of things so there’s always something out there to attract or repel good bugs or pests and keep the balance. That’s one of the tenets of permaculture–it’s not about a companion plant as much as the surrounding landscape. I know someone who has massively huge tomato plants in the spring–like ten feet tall–and no birds or squirrels bother them. Because she’s got other things the birds and squirrels like better than tomatoes. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes–loads or ripe tomatoes just sitting on plants completely undisturbed. Properly implemented, that’s how permaculture can work for you.

  51. 51
    mzrad says:

    @currants: Nice! Thanks.

  52. 52
    Bubblegum Tate says:


    Thanks, good to know. There’s no real wintering over where I am, I was more concerned with stuff I’ve read about soaker hoses deteriorating quickly.

  53. 53
    Manyakitty says:

    It might be late for this thread, but I started some potatoes yesterday. I put them in a chicken wire frame and I’m trying the “grow ’em in hay” method. We shall see–comments and suggestions are encouraged!

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