The Yellow Farmhouse Garden

June 30, 2007

Red Currants

Filed under: Uncategorized — bob @ 7:42 pm

Late last week we picked our red currants… it was a disappointing harvest. A large percentage of the berries failed to form.

The photo clearly shows small, dried spheres where the berries were supposed to be.

Red Currants
Something must have happened around the time the bushes were flowering causing a disruption in fruit set.

We did have a very warm spell that initiated early flowering. That was followed by a cold snap, which may have killed some of the flower buds. All of this is just a guess on my part.

The final count?…about 1/4 of our usual yield.


June 27, 2007

Potential Tomato Problem

Filed under: Uncategorized — bob @ 7:11 pm

This season’s warm temperatures have caused our tomato plants to grow like “crazy”. We have relatively high fertility in our garden beds and the tomatoes are regularly watered, hence all the growth.

All of these factors are setting us up for the potential of Blossom End Rot in our tomatoes.

Tomato Blossom End Rot

The rapid growth causes the plants to have difficulty in taking up calcium from the soil. The lack of calcium in the plant during the time the tomato’s fruits are growing will cause Blossom End Rot.

It’s pretty disappointing to have grown all those beautiful plants with all those tomatoes on them and then have them start to rot right on the vine.

Sometimes even an experienced tomato farmer can lose nearly all of his crop to this problem.

What we are doing right now, is spraying a soluble form of calcium right on the leaves to ensure the plants get some supplemental calcium. You can find these sprays in most any garden center. We have been spraying about once or twice a week.

Calcium imbalance can also be caused by:

  • Too much nitrogen in your garden soil (use low nitrogen fertilizer instead)
  • Soggy soil, which causes root stress (plant in a well drained area)
  • Cultivating too close to the plants, which destroys needed feeder roots
  • Sudden lack of water after a period of plentiful water (irrigate evenly, mulching helps too)
  • Low soil calcium levels occurring naturally (supplement your soil with lime,a common name for calcium, next fall)

Keep in mind that foliar sprays will not help Blossom End Rot once it starts.

June 26, 2007

A Calming Influence

Filed under: Uncategorized — bob @ 6:36 am

One crop that is new to our herb garden this year is Valerian. Many of you probably have seen Valerian in capsule form in the vitamin and health supplement department.

Valerian is widely used as a very effective natural sleep aid. I use it myself on occasion, especially if I have had too much coffee to drink late in the day.

We planted our crop last year into trays from seed and moved the seedlings into the garden last summer. They over-wintered and grew to what you see here:

Valerian in full flower

We decided to cut down these plants before they formed seed. We were concerned that with all of that seed producing potential, we could easily end up with a Valerian weed problem.

There was a lot of plant material as you can well imagine. Unfortunately, only the roots are used for their herbal value. So the 6′ tops went into the compost.

Those flowers by the way, have been out for weeks. They gave off an unusual fragrance, smelling sweet and bitter at the same time.

The jury seems to be out on the optimum time for harvesting the roots. Farmers in Europe have one theory, while farmers in other parts of the world have theirs. I think I’ll just harvest them when I get some time later this fall.

In the meanwhile, their tops should grow back and put more energy into root production rather than seed production.


June 20, 2007


Filed under: Uncategorized — bob @ 8:35 pm

Last year we planted a new (for us) perennial; Geum “Blazing Sunset”, with seed purchased from Thompson and Morgan.

Geum is a relatively easy plant to grow if you follow the instructions on the seed packet. Ours are quite happy planted in a dry garden that gets some irrigation and full sun.

The plant bears interesting flowers on rather spindly stalks. When planted in a mass, as are ours, the effect is pretty striking with red flowers almost floating in an airy space.

When cut, these flowers make an arrangement that is a real conversation starter. They seem to hold up very well in a vase too. The Geum I cut last week are still going strong.

Here they are, right from the garden, ready to go into that vase to be enjoyed by workers in an office:

Geum 'Blazing Sunset'

As I mentioned in earlier postings, all of our late spring flowers are fading fast due to the above normal temperatures, our Geum are no exception. Fortunately, we were able to share them with others before they fade. I hope you enjoyed the photo as well.


June 16, 2007

Hank n' Me

Filed under: Uncategorized — bob @ 7:43 pm

Actually, it’s Henry, Henry Kelsey Climbing Roses.

Every year, without fail, these roses have put on a great show, as you can see by this photo taken a couple of days ago:

Henry Kelsey Climbing Roses (and me)

These roses are part of the “Explorer Series” of climbing roses developed in Canada, I think.

Apparently, Henry Kelsey was a famous individual who explored Canada, I don’t know the whole story.

The flowers are semi-double, deep red with yellow centers. They have a little fragrance, but not much.

Close-up Henry Kelsey Roses

They are described as “continuous bloomers” in some catalogs. Ours, however, after this first flush of blossoms, re-blooms very little…just a blossom here and there.

They also are resistant to powdery mildew and seem to be able to handle light infections of black spot (a fungus that infects rose leaves). I hardly ever spray these roses for fungus… once, maybe twice a season.

The catalogs describe them as growing to 6′ wide and 10′ feet high. The width sounds about right, but I measured ours and they were over 14′ tall and drooping at the top.

I used to wrap these roses for winter protection, but since they have gotten so large, I just let the fend for themselves for the winter. Henry Kelseys are plenty hardy, they can be planted as far north as zone 4.

This variety of rose doesn’t like a lot of pruning, so I tend to just let it go. I plan on doing a little pruning later on this fall or spring to stimulate some new growth which will help fill in the lower portion of the arbor.

We always de-head the roses after flowering, let me tell you that is a BIG job! We have to snip off each flower before it starts to form “hips” (small berry-like fruit). That is no easy task with the canes 14′ high and 50′ + feet of arbor! (the thorns are pretty picky too) Some folks will leave the hips on for the birds to eat. A lot of energy is expended by the plant in making all those hips, energy that may be used to produce more canes and flowers for next time.
I started these from tiny cuttings, not too much bigger than a pencil with a little bit of root on the end. Of course, I could have simply went to the nursery and bought them already growing in gallon pots. That would have saved me a season’s worth of growing, but we had such a large space to fill and we saved a few bucks doing it that way. It was a whole lot of fun for me too! :)

This excessive heat we have been having will hurry the blossoming along, it won’t be long until the roses are gone until next year.


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