18 August 2007

Hershel's Tomato

Hershel is my wonderful gardening neighbor. (I misspelled his name in my sign above. Note the Sharpie pen for size comparison....) He's been gardening in our neighborhood for about twenty years and his garden is fabulous. We often benefit from his ability to produce enormous quantities of the best green beans ever -- Kentucky Wonders. The tomato pictured is Hershel's own development and the one I photographed is not the prettiest or the largest he's ever shown me. I believe the parent tomato is a German Pink type. Hershel's tomato produces a slice for a sandwich that will overhang the bread! Really great flavor, nice firmness. To the left is one of the Cherokee Purple heirloom I grew from a transplant I bought at Old Soul Organics in Fayetteville. It is, hands down, the healthiest, lushest plant I've ever grown, incredibly productive and with a *perfect* tomato flavor in my opinion. Needless to say I'm saving the seeds on that one. It has a near potato type leaf. Here's a sliced one:

The other tomato tip I'll do again next year involves composted cotton burr compost. The bed where I was planting the tomato was too clayey so I added a half bag of the compost right in the end of the bed where the tomato was to go. I guess they LOVE this compost! I'll do this again for each tomato plant next year.

Here's a parting pic of Hershel's wonderfully huge tomato -- this one not completely ripe. I knew I'd lucked out when I moved to the neighborhood and after meeting Hershel he pulled a giant whole tomato out of the freezer to show me! This is my kind of neighbor! The tomato had been so huge and perfect -- indeed, it seemed half as big as my head -- that he'd frozen it so that folks would believe him when he told the story! Because we know that gardening stories and fishing stories can be similar in some ways...

Finally today some RAIN!! It smelled exquisite.

Black Swallowtail Larva on Parsley

This is how gardening with the wild creatures in mind (in addition to the gardeners) can be a little tricky. I planted a whole row of parsley so that there would be plenty for us and for butterflies. But the stand was covered with SO MANY black swallowtail caterpillars that I couldn't bring myself to cut any -- even when I needed a bunch for a special recipe. To Mendy's dismay, I brought storebought parsley home to spare ours for the butterflies. Next year I may have a row of parsley and a dill plant in every raised bed in hopes of having enough for us all.

I heard a country story I like:
A visitor to an old farmer's garden noted that a groundhog was living nearby.
"You gonna shoot that groundhog?"
"Nah," the farmer replied.
"Well maybe you ought too. He'll eat your garden up," the visitor warned.
"Mister," the farmer explained, "If I can't grow enough to feed myself and one little groundhog, I wouldn't be much of a farmer."

Mostly I feel the same. But if you change the critter to a raccoon....hmmmm, all bets are off!

17 August 2007

Larrapin Gardeners Eat Too

Just so you won't think only the wildlife gets fed here at Larrapin Garden... The Hill Country Red Okra gets huge quick -- very good for frying. And the ultimate summer food: Purple Hull Peas!

We eat very well unless we've had a recent visit from the raccoon family....but if they are eating vegetables, at least they aren't eating the chickens! Most recently the raccoons did a midnight raid on the melon patch and left three big ripe Charentais melons completely scooped out through a silver dollar sized hole. I bet they enjoyed that! May have to have a little 'lectric wire next year!

I'm thinking this is why it's called milkweed!

This is one of the Milkweed seedheads as it opens and releases the seeds with their little flyaway equipment. The fluff feels like silk -- no wonder it's called Silky Butterfly weed!

What butterfly is this?

I'm not sure which kind of butterfly this is, but what great colors! Another milkweed fan..

The Tropical Butterfly Weed

This is the tropical milkweed I've mentioned in several posts. Milkweed is the preferred caterpillar food for Monarch butterflies as well as a great nectar source for everything that flies. It was recommended by our wonderful local Monarch garden supporter, Cindi C.

I got the seed from Swallowtail Garden Seeds online. It's called Silky Butterfly Weed (Asclepias curassavica) and comes in red and gold (yellow). The Red has produced more seeds but the yellow was the initial preference of the Monarchs in my yard. Since then, both kinds are popular, with a handful of Monarch caterpillars on every plant.

Apple Tree Eater

Our apple tree eater wasn't too happy to find those little (super
strong) hotel soaps tied in her favorite snack branches! So far it's
working well. This was over a month ago, back when we had green
grass. Not a drop of rain in August so far. First clouds I've seen
all month are in the sky today, but only a 20% chance of rain. Come
on rain!