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Home » Organic Gardening, The Homestead Life

Busy Summer Days. Gardening and More.

Submitted by on July 3, 2015 – 10:25 am 12 Comments
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Garden

It’s the time of year when I don’t get around to posting much on the blog. Too much to do outside! (Not to mention I’m now writing full time for The Prepper Project!)

dying peas

I’m kinda disappointed that none of the vines I planted have covered the arch trellises we installed. The garden has been somewhat pitiful this year. I’m not sure if it’s the heat or a soil issue, but the harvest has been meager.

I do know what I did wrong with the peas. A was flipping through my copy of Carrots Love Tomatoes when I came upon a section that says peas should never be planted with onions. See how pitiful my pea vines look? Apparently planting them together was a big no-no. (I should have consulted the book at planting time.) Remember our pea harvest last year? That’s what the peas should have looked like. Lesson learned. I’ve replanted bush peas with a fresh crop of carrots in a newly turned over raised bed for a fall harvest. Peas and carrots grow well together… “like peas and carrots”… easy to remember.

blossom end rot tomato

I can’t tell you how many dozens of tomatoes I’ve thrown out due to blossom end rot. I planted them with lots of crushed eggshells, and I’ve added Epsom salt to the soil around the plants, but so far I’m still having a lot of loss. Maybe I planted too many too closely?

ripening tomato

Fortunately, not all have been bad. I’ve been picking the good looking ones before they’re fully vine ripened to finish ripening indoors, trying to avoid more rot.

2015 onion harvest spring

Our onion harvest was decent. To cure the onions I let them sit in the hot sun for about three days. Now they’re sitting under the cover of our back porch to finish drying for another week or so- until the outer skins are papery and have lost their moisture.

onion harvest

I’ll braid the biggest sets to hang in our kitchen until I’m ready to use them. The smaller bulbs will probably be frozen. I tried pickling them last year, but found we weren’t fond of pickled onions.

squash

Handpicking squash bugs and their eggs seems to have done the trick. Our plants are looking healthy, and have been producing a nice little crop for us.

squash

What we haven’t eaten fresh, I’ve frozen to enjoy down the road.

onion and carrots

The carrots did okay, though I didn’t plant nearly enough. At least the kids enjoyed them straight out of the garden. I still have a lot canned from last year. I just planted more carrot seeds yesterday for a fall crop, so maybe we’ll get more.

Foraging

blackberries

I’ve been trying to stay on top of picking our raspberries as they’ve ripened on our bushes. We’ve also been foraging lots of blackberries to eat fresh and to freeze for later. I haven’t made any raspberry jelly or jam because I still have so much from previous years of canning.

Pests

japanese beetles

The Japanese Beetles have been awful this year. They’ve almost completely defoliated our fruit trees and rose bushes, and are now devouring our raspberries and grapevines. I’ve spent a lot of time handpicking them from our plants, dropping them into a jar of water to feed to the chickens (which love them, by the way). I finally purchased a couple of Japanese Beetle Traps, which have definitely helped. Next year I’ll put them out in early June to catch the bugs before they have time to reproduce. I’ve also read that sprinkling your yard with Organic Milky Spore Powder will kill the grub stage of Japanese Beetles.

grapes

Fortunately, Japanese Beetles don’t eat grapes… only the leaves. So far, anyways. I wish I could say the same for the raspberries.

Chickens

mama hen and chicks

On June 18th we had more chicks hatch out. Mama hen hatched 6 out of 8 eggs… 3 yellow and 3 black chicks. Watching babies hatch and grow never gets old! They’re still small enough to fit through the fencing, but the hen calls them back when she wants them closer. We also let them out to free range so she can teach them how to scratch and forage.

Staying Cool

kids swimming in pool

Summers are hot and extremely humid here in the southeast. Spending time at the creek and in the pool definitely helps! I love that these silly kiddos are learning to swim well also, a skill we should all have.

We’ve also decided to stay partially connected to the grid in order to use our air conditioner. I’d like to write more in depth on this at some point, but since we’ve learned that it is possible to switch our home between grid power and being 100% off grid, we’ve decided to stay connected as a backup to our solar system and for severe heat. Our A/C is set to come on when it gets 81* inside, which is surprisingly comfortable once you’re used to it. But once it gets much higher than that we all begin to suffer. I don’t like suffering, especially knowing we can avoid it. After trying to go without for as long as possible, I’m extremely grateful for air conditioning!!

Speaking Engagements

prepper expo

My family has also been traveling to Prepper Expos and other events where I’m teaching canning seminars and selling my At Home Canning DVD. I’ll be a keynote speaker at the next RK Prepper Expo in Raleigh, NC, July 11-12th. We’re still debating on the Atlanta show in August. We’ll also be in Saluda, NC for Rick Austin’s Prepper Camp, Sept. 18-20th. I always love talking to you guys at my booth, so come on out and say hello if you’re in the area!

I guess that pretty much catches you up on what I’ve been doing for the past few weeks, in a nutshell. I hope you’re all enjoying your summers!!

12 Comments »

  • Emily P. says:

    Hi Kendra. Don’t give up! The things you learn along the way will help in the future. I have had blossom end rot on Roma tomatoes in the past. You said that you’re in the southeast, so I’m thinking that you have some clay soil, right? Me, too. Clay has a high pH, and binds calcium atoms. Try applying a fertilizer for acid-loving plants (Hydrangeas, hollies and blueberries). This will bring down the pH and let the clay release the calcium. This is a quick fix while the egg shells break down. Keep enjoying your garden!

  • katrina says:

    I planted one store bought cherry tomato plant in a pot this year and placed a raw un-cracked egg and a tablespoon of Epsom salts in the bottom of the planting hole ( I had read this helps) and also sprinkled egg shells and used coffee grounds on the top as I had some. I had absolutely NO blossom end rot. However my leaves have all shriveled and turned brown…so obviously there is still some kind of deficiency…

    Hope you have better success next time. In your podcast you encouraged us to keep trying and growing even when things go terribly wrong, so that is what I plan on doing. 🙂 If anyone knows what my brown dried leave problem is…please mention it.

    PS: I live in Cali, its been quite overcast and my tomato is not in full sun all day. It’s in a large pot and has not produced much. I bought it in February. My peas, beans and herbs all were pretty much a dry brown failure (I watered 1-2x a week) as well and the squash was totally overrun with aphids! I really hope to get this growing thing down…any tips would rock! Thanks

  • Linda says:

    I had blossom end rot last year…with Black Prince tomatoes…threw away so many more than I got to eat! This year it seems like a lot of my little blooms are drying up! Always something isn’t it?? Ha!

  • Kelly says:

    For the blossom end rot just spray the plants and the ground with powdered milk mixed with water. It will help a lot.

  • kerry frazier says:

    Egg shells are good for long term. They do not readily break down for the calcium to be available. Blossum end rot usually results from a lack of calcium. It could be a simple lack of calcium but more than likely erratic moisture levels are the cause. When moisture levels fluctuate, calcium is locked up and is not available for use. There are calcium sprays that can be used that will solve the issue for the immediate but not the long term. Calcium carbonate (powered lime) or shell meal (natural shell deposits) are good choices to use. Be careful as these will raise the pH of the soil (do a soil test to see if the pH is low-below 7 and toms like 6.0-6.8). If the pH is fine then use calcium sulfate (gypsum) as this will not alter the soil pH. You maybe able to find these at a good garden center. Egg shells needs to be ground up to a fine texture and then should be added to the compost. They must degrade in order to make any of their calcium available. A note: do a soil test every few years to make a determination for soil amendments and use a good reliable lab as you will get what you pay for. Usually your extension agent can make a recommendation for a lab.

  • Ray White says:

    I got some blossom end rot myself this year and I also use eggshells and other goodies to prevent it. I’m wondering if it doesn’t occur when you fail to rotate your tomatoes away from the same bed. I usually do but this year I had so many heirloom volunteers I decided to leave them in and let them grow. It’s really only one or two plants that are giving me fits.

    Ha, I learned the pea vs onion thing the hard was last year too. Peas all withered up and died like they had wilt while the onions flourished.

    Are your plants big enough to let your chickens into the garden? They should make short work of your bugs. Here in AZ we don’t have many bug problems due I think to the large numbers of lizards around. We have ground squirrels and desert pack rats instead.

    • Kendra says:

      Ray,
      I’m afraid the chickens would still scratch up too much to let them into the garden. Plus, they’ll peck the growing squash and melons on the ground. I’ve heard ducks won’t scratch up the garden, but will go around eating the bugs. Maybe we need ducks, lol!

      • Meghan says:

        The ducks will eat the bugs but they also like to root around the stem with their bills and they can damage the roots if you leave them there. The first round they will only eat the bugs so just watch them and as soon as you seem them rooting instead of looking for bugs up high, put them away and do this over and over until no more bugs. Also, NEEM oil is amazing for bug infestations – it’s completely natural (I use it in my toothpaste too), comes from the tree and only uses a tiny bit in a spray bottle with water and no more bugs!

        For right now, until you can get your calcium levels correct in the soil for your tomatoes, buy some spray such as Rot Spot from Bonide to spray calcium directly on each blossom and prevent rot from starting. Also, don’t toss the ones that do get end rot as the top half will develop just fine and you can cut the bottom half off – that’s what I did once when I got a few with end rot due to not tilling my calcium additives well enough at the start of spring – a few plants got blossom end rot but the rest were fine so I’m pretty sure that I missed something.

        I don’t think too close is a problem – at least not according to “square foot gardening” principles. I place my tomatoes fairly close – I put six staggered in a ten foot bed, and they always do well – I get about 20 pounds per plant for regular sized tomatoes and I’m still getting cherry tomatoes in early October here in south Washington.

        Blessings,
        Meg

    • kerry frazier says:

      A rotation program is always a good idea. Tomatoes are heavy feeders due to production of many fruits so the soil may be getting a bit lite on calcium. Putting too many plants close together can cause a burden on available soil moisture and a main cause of end rot is fluctuation in moisture levels. Keep you toms well watered (not soggy, but well watered) at all times. This will also prevent cracking of your toms. As always do a soil test every few years. Contact your local county extension agent for directions and lab recommendations.

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