The Yellow Farmhouse Garden

August 14, 2014

Time to let heirloom beans make seeds

Filed under: Seeds,Vegetables — bob @ 2:42 pm

Earlier in the season I mentioned that we were growing a few heirloom bean varieties.

The results are in. It turns out that the differences between varieties were pretty dramatic. ‘Chabarowsky’ beans out-performed all the rest of the varieties by a wide margin.

The seeds germinated and grew vigorously in the dry sandy soil in that part of the garden.

Chabarowsky has a climbing habit which makes it a pole bean type. I grew ours on a length of farm fencing so they were very easy to pick.

The beans themselves, when I picked them at the optimum time for green beans had no strings in the pods. They were simple to prepare for cooking. The rest of the varieties all needed to be “stringed” first. To be fair though, all of these varieties are grown primarily for dry beans, so picking them for green beans was not the best use for them.

On the other hand Chabarowsky beans have an excellent taste when cooked green.

I’ve picked quite a few green beans from the vines, now it’s time to let them grow and mature into dry beans. It takes about six weeks from the time the beans are in the edible stage until they will be mature enough to harvest for seed or dry beans.

Chabarowsky bean pods can grow to a foot or more.

Chabarowsky bean pods can grow to a foot or more.

Chabarowsky will eventually produce white beans that look kind of like over-sized navy beans. Even though the vines are loaded with pods, there’s no way they will produce enough to make more than one batch of bean soup. Most of the beans will be used for seed. I’ll save some for planting next year and share the rest. I am curious however, how the dry beans taste.

Even though the Chabarowsky variety did well in my garden with its sand and low pH, it may not perform well in someone else’s garden. That’s why there were so many different seeds saved and passed down by generations of gardeners. The best performers in specific locations eventually became heirloom varieties.

Bob

August 6, 2014

Keep an eye out for apple maggot fly

Filed under: Insects — bob @ 10:58 am

I’ve seen noticeably fewer insects in my garden this year. It’s probably due to the relatively cool temperatures we’ve been having this summer, especially at night.

While looking at my apple trees this week I noticed some funny little insects flitting around the leaves and fruit — they were apple maggot flies. It is the larval stage of this fly that causes brown streaks inside infested apples.

Apple maggot flies have a distinct pattern on their wings. You may not recognize it as a fly at first glance.

Apple maggot flies have a distinct pattern on their wings. You may not recognize it as a fly at first glance.

Normally, the early varieties are the ones that really get hammered by apple maggots. However this year, my early apples were free of those pests. My guess is that the flies took a little longer than usual to develop and were not around around in sufficient numbers to cause any noticeable damage.

Now that I’ve picked all of my very early summer apples, the maggots have moved over to the other later varieties that have apples still developing. The adult flies are looking for apples on which to lay eggs. The eggs will hatch into those pesky maggots that ruin so many apples.

The storm front moved through yesterday and the rain has ended. That gave me a chance to spray my trees this morning to knock back those apple maggot flies. I like to spray early in the morning when the air is calm and spray material is not being blown back in my face by wind.

There are other ways of controlling apple maggot flies that take more time such as trapping adult flies, or wrapping each individual apple to protect it from egg laying flies.

I suggest you spend some quiet time with your trees soon and look for apple maggot flies. If you find them, use your control method of choice. Your trees will reward you with pest free apples.

Bob

 

 

August 5, 2014

Monarchs and milkweeds

Filed under: Insects,Weeds — bob @ 9:13 am

Back when I was a kid, it seemed like milkweeds were everywhere. We used to play with the ripe pods by breaking them open and letting the seeds blow away in the wind. I remember asking my Grandfather why they were called milkweed. He told me it was because when you cut the stem, it oozes out sap that looks sweet and milky. He also told me not to try the sap because it didn’t taste good. Of course, later, when he wasn’t looking, I decided to taste the sap, yuk!

Milkweeds have had a checkered past. Sometimes they were considered just a weed that needed to be weeded out of farm fields and gardens. Other times they were highly desirable. For example, during World War Two, ripe milkweed pods were collected and processed into filling for life jackets. The weed helped to win the war in the Pacific.

After WWII, they were once again considered a nuisance. Now, milkweed is rapidly becoming everyone’s favorite weed, or should I say native plant. This is because milkweed is the sole source of food for Monarch butterflies. Without milkweed there are no Monarchs.

With the eradication of milkweed, the Monarch population has crashed from one billion individuals down to around 33 million.

There is a huge and growing effort to allow more milkweed to grow for the sake of the butterflies. The easiest thing for gardeners to do is just leave a few milkweed plants grow in the corner of the yard or garden. Since they are a perennial “weed”, they take absolutely no effort to maintain.

There are more than one species of milkweed in Michigan. Here in our yard we have two different types. The first one blossomed early in the summer and has large pods growing on it already. The other is a smaller plant that is just finishing blooming this week.

This milkweed developed pods early in the season

This milkweed developed pods early in the season

The second type has a wonderful fragrance.

 

The other milkweed is just finishing blooming. It also has a different looking growth habit.

The other milkweed is just finishing blooming. It also has a different looking growth habit.

Monarch butterflies are out and about in southern Michigan. These are breeding adults. I’ve only seen two so far at our place but other people I have talked to said they have seen several.

By growing milkweed you not only help the overall Monarch population but you get to enjoy watching the butterflies attracted to your garden.

Bob

 

July 23, 2014

Golden eggs in our garden

Filed under: Insects — bob @ 1:57 pm

We all know the story about the goose that laid golden eggs. Last week in my garden I found golden eggs that were definitely not laid by a goose.

It happened while I was hand weeding. I came across  a blade of grass with tiny, metallic-gold eggs all in a row. They are quite striking when you first see them. The eggs really do look like they’re made of gold but of course they are not. It’s just the way the light reflects off of them that gives the gold appearance.

Even though the eggs are small, their golden color makes them easy to spot.

Even though the eggs are small, their golden color makes them easy to spot.

I kept the leaf in a jar and watched the eggs. What hatched were evil-looking spiny, red-colored nymphs — probably one of the Euthochtha species of stink bugs. Most likely one of the plant eaters.

This is the nymph stage in the lifecycle of a stick bug.

This is the nymph stage in the lifecycle of a stick bug.

It’s not uncommon to find these eggs but it does provide a bit of a diversion from the otherwise tedious job of weeding by hand.

Bob

 

July 22, 2014

Once in a lifetime agave blooming

Filed under: Events,Flowers — bob @ 1:22 pm

A few days ago, I had a chance to see the blooming agave plant at University of Michigan’s Matthaei Botanical Gardens Desert House — the one you’ve been hearing everyone talking about.

It is very rare for an agave to have variegated leaves. It was probably why the plant was originally collected

It is very rare for an agave to have variegated leaves. It was probably why the plant was originally collected

When I first saw this plant over 30 years ago, it was already 50 years old. Through the years it didn’t appear to change much but of course it has been growing and maturing all that time. Now after 80 years, it is finally blossoming.

The agave has produced at tall flower stalk

The agave has produced at tall flower stalk

It has produced a flower stalk so tall that they’ve had to take out some roof glass from the greenhouse in order to give it more room to grow.

The agave flower stalk has grown through the roof.

The agave flower stalk has grown through the roof.

I encourage you to get out to the Botanical Gardens and see it. This type of agave blooms only once in its lifetime so, when it’s over, it’s over.

The agave flowers are producing real agave nectar, not the manufactured stuff you buy in the store.

The agave flowers are producing real agave nectar, not the manufactured stuff you buy in the store.

Matthaei Botanical Gardens is located on Dixboro Road south of Plymouth Road, Ann Arbor, directions and hours are available on their website.

Bob

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