Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Goldenberry Delicious

When you grow your own fruits and vegetables, there's a certain excitement that comes with picking out a new variety of seed or transplant.  Scanning the seed catalogs especially makes you realize that the abundance of nature is so much more than the sparse offerings that you'll find at the grocery store.

This year I grew a plant that I've never heard of, let alone seen in my local grocery store.  The seed packet I bought called the plant by the name Goldenberry, but I've since learned that Goldenberry is synonymous with Cape Gooseberry and Peruvian Ground Cherry.  Are any of these names familiar to you? 

The Goldenberry is a relative of the tomato and needs very similar growing conditions.  The plants grow in a mounded 2-3 foot tall shrub, which later spreads and sprawls a bit as the plant gets weighed down by fruit and foliage.

Goldenberry produces numerous paper lanterns each containing a juicy berry.

I was very surprised by the prolific nature of this plant.  Production didn't slow down even when the foliage was being feasted on by flea beetles and other leaf munchers.  

When the paper lanterns begin to dry out, the fruit is ready to pick. 

The berries have a taste all their own.  There's a faint tomato flavor, but there is also something distinctly tropical and exotic about them.  I bet they would make excellent jam, but they're good for just popping in your mouth too.  If you're looking for something new for next year's veggie garden, consider giving Goldenberry a try.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Bloom Day July 2012

As I started taking pictures this morning, plants were still wet with the previous nights rainfall, and as I publish this blog another storm is rolling through.  This is one crazy July, but I'm thoroughly enjoying all this unexpected  rain.

Despite the rain, not everything is looking it's best.  Some plants like these canna lilies are looking a little weather worn and I had to search for a few photo worthy blooms.

Luckily, I have these morning glories to set a good example for the other plants.  They keep blooming in dry or wet conditions, and what a glorious way to start the day!  

These butterflies don't seem to mind that the Gregg's mistflower is not looking it's best.

The Mexican orchid tree is always a favorite with butterflies and hummingbirds no matter what the weather.

Okra is one of those vegetables that is pretty enough for an ornamental bed.  The attractive flowers of the okra plant are very comparable to other plants in the mallow family like the pavonia pictured below.
Burgundy Okra
Pale Pavonia
Fall obedient plant blooming in July.  Yep, that's right, it's going to have to change it's name.

My mum's and other fall bloomers like this spider lily are blooming early this year.  I hope something is left to bloom in September.

This is my first year growing cleome, but I love this plant.  It hasn't stopped blooming since I planted it in the spring.

This little red climbing rose has really amazed me.  A friend gave me some cuttings last fall, and I grew them over the winter.  In the spring I planted them in pots and they have really taken off.  Today they are about 6 feet tall and covered in blooms.  Incredible.  What a great plant! 

I grew these burgundy castor beans from seeds during the winter and planted them around the garden when temperatures warmed up.  These plants grow so fast and they're so interesting.  I love having them in the garden. 

There are so many plants that I enjoy growing.  It's not summer without basil, and look how pretty it is.

I tried strawberry field gomphrena last year for the first time.  I've grown gomphrena's before and they're great plants.  This year I started these from seeds, which is a very rewarding and economical way to create plants for the garden.

Salvia coccinea 'Coral Nymph' is a non-stop bloomer.  There are lots of great salvia's out there, but I love the color and drought tolerance of this plant.

I hope you enjoyed Garden Blogger's Bloom Day.  Please check in with May Dreams for other great Bloom Day posts.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Summer of the Mite

In my mind, the summer of 2012 will long be remembered as the summer of the spider mite.  If this sounds a little melodramatic to you, wait till you see the photos and then, let me know what you think.

Spider mites have never been a huge problem for me.  I usually spray them with a little water and move on.  Never again will I ignore these nearly invisible, but highly destructive pests.

I think the problem first began in the greenhouse back in March.  I noticed a serious spider mite infestation only after the problem was well-advanced.  The weather was warming up quickly and the greenhouse was hot and dry, which created perfect conditions for the spider mites to breed.  

As I moved the plants out of the greenhouse, I forcefully sprayed the infected plants with water and relocated them to an isolated spot.  The regular water sprays seemed to help, so I kept up the sprays and even bought a special misting device called a Bug Blaster.  I honestly thought that would be the end of it.

When the spider mites made their appearance on my green beans, I wasn't terribly concerned.  I had several excellent green bean harvests and the plants were pretty well played out.  I stopped watering the beans and let the plants die thinking that would put an end to those rascally mites.

The mite infestation on the tomato plants took me completely by surprise.  I've never had spider mites attack my tomato plants, so I wasn't looking for the signs.  That was a mistake.  When I finally noticed the speckled, washed out and dusted appearance of the leaves, the mites had already grown to fantastic numbers.

I knew my plants were in trouble when I noticed visible webbing.  This was a serious infestation.  I was completely amazed and just a little creeped out looking at these pests through my garden magnifying glass.  I wasn't sure what to do next.  I had 12 tomato plants and they were all covered in mites.

Staring at the masses of tomato foliage on plants that stood over 6 feet tall, I somehow knew I wasn't going to get this problem under control.  I decided to pull out my Bug Blaster and try to bring in the remainder of my tomato harvest.

I spent the week trying to decide what to do.  I considered spraying various products such a insecticidal soap, neem oil, or pyrethrum, but the amount of foliage made this seem an impossible task.  Spider mites live under the leaves.  If I sprayed anything on the plants, I would need to get under every leaf surface.  With this much foliage, anything short of a power washer was just not going to be effective.

What I really needed was a flame thrower!  Did I mention spider mites induce insanity?  Not to worry, after  some careful consideration, I came to my senses.  In reality, I'd probably end up hurting myself or burning down something important, so I knew a flame thrower wasn't a good idea.  Besides, I'm partial to my eyebrows.

So, what did I do?  Well, I was definitely on to something with the fire idea, but I needed to approach the problem safely.  I painstakingly cut the plants into small pieces being as careful as I could not to disturb the mites.  I loaded them into the wheelbarrow and dumped them into a small backyard bonfire.

Bye bye mites.  I'll be watching for you.