Thursday, July 21, 2011

Waiting and Sweating... and sweating some more.

Well the heat has really taken a toll on the garden... especially the tomatoes.  All the plants still appear to be healthy but their production of fruit has slowed, but the tomatoes are all but dormant.  Some fruit is beginning to ripen, but no new fruit is forming with any regularity. The bad part about this is that the existing tomatoes haven't grown real well and are slowly starting to be taken by worms and other pests.  I've refused to use chemicals so far, and my goal is to continue to raise them naturally.  I have a few tricks left to employ, but I think I will wait out this heat and hopefully have healthy plants to deal with when the weather starts to cool.  I'll just have tomatoes later than everyone else, and that's ok.  Meanwhile I've been spending money at the farmer's markets around and supporting other tomato growers.

The cucumbers have been doing great, And Amy is trying some pickling for the first time.  I am really excited about trying the first batch.  With the help of a generous donation of cucumbers from my good friend Kory she was able to try two different pickling methods. The first involves placing the whole cucumbers in a 21 day brine followed by a hot water bath while canning.  These pickles would then be ready to eat.

Get your pickle on

The second method involves cutting the cucumbers into spears and then placing them and other seasonings directly into the jar, placing them into the hot water bath for about 10-15 minutes, and then sealing them and waiting for 3-4 weeks.

Amy conjuring some pickles from cucmbers
The waiting has proved to actually be the hardest part because I am very excited about trying these.  I hope they turn out as awesome as I imagine them.  And I plan on shipping these out to some of my closest homies under the Cactus Jack brand name.  Where our quality refuses to change!

Other good news involves the watermelon.  These have all but taken over the eastern third of the garden.  They have probably quadrupled in size since the last post.  I've noticed a few striped beauties on the ground recently, and this one is about as big as a softball now.

Awwww.... it's so cute.

Meanwhile, this is what I took from the garden today.  Not too bad.  I hope that the tomatoes come around and I have much more to show.

Such a meager feast... but very much appreciated

Sorry the delay in this post.  I will try to get back to the 1-2 times a week status real soon. Especially if we get some relief from this heat.  TASTE THE HEAT!!!

Meanwhile enjoy this if you are tired of being inside.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Picklin' and a Grinnin'

The sky finally opened up this morning and we got some much needed rain!!!  We've been missing every little popup shower that has come around so there was much rejoicing.

Red sky in the morning, sailers take out the garbage... wait...

Even with the heat the plants have been doing fine and are even starting to produce some fruit now.  We enjoyed our first cucumbers on July 2nd and many more have followed suit.  I am starting to get a little concerned with being completely run over by my cucumber crop because if the existing blooms are any indication of what's in store we could have a very busy couple of weeks approaching.

Insert weird phallic comments here_____

We have decided to practice some sorcery and turn some of these cukes into pickles, and by we I mean Amy.  She has been busy with recipes and getting some canning supplies, so I am eagerly anticipating the results of her effort.

Nice title overpaid magazine writer.

Concerning tomatoes, I've always heard... yep Dad, talking about you here... that when the temperature gets over 90 degrees that the plants have trouble blooming.  I haven't found that to be entirely true because I've had some new blooms appear and make fruit during the hot spell... not many... but a few.  So maybe I'm lucky.  The existing fruit hasn't split or anything so I hope I've avoided any crazy heat related problems.

New tomatoes when it's over 90 degrees... who knew?
Lastly, the watermelon are doing great!  Can't wait to eat one of these things late this summer.

Get Big and tasty!

Enjoy this song that I've recently been playing with my good pal Rick here.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

FRUITS of Labor

TASTE THE HEAT! - Ryan Lynch

We are bracing for the heatwave at Johnson Farms by giving the garden a good drink in the morning hours every other day.  It seems to be working because we now have Cucumbers! I noticed these bad boys last night, and I'm very excited about making some pickles with a portion of the crop.  The vines seem to be covered with them, so I hope that production will continue to be high and last throughout the summer months.

Ahhh snap.

The tomatoes are still doing great.  I did some pretty heavy pruning last night, so I hope that I didn't disrupt them too much.  Cutting them back always makes me nervous, but it hasn't failed me yet... gulp.  Here are some close-ups of the Early Gils and the Yellow Pear tomatoes.

You look marvelous  darlings.

The rest of the bunch also seem to be doing their thing.  This process has been real fun to watch, and I am giddy thinking about what this garden might look like in a month!

Corn - Watermelons - Sunflowers gettin' busy

Here is some classic Big Smith to cool you off!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Progress, Problems, Possibilities and a Python

Things continue to go pretty good in the garden.  The caterpillar threat has seemed to diminish while another has risen... but more on that later.  I counted 15 tomatoes that have formed on the plants which doesn't include the horde of the yellow pear tomatoes that have also set.  I need to trim some of the plants back a little in hopes to get more energy toward making fruit and less to making leaves, but other than that the tomato crop is looking real good.  Here's a shot of one of the Black Krims that have formed.

From Russia with love... yep... this plant comes from Crimea, an island peninsula in the Black Sea
I just can't say enough about how useful the trellis and cucumber cages are.  Cucumbers have a reputation of really taking over a lot of garden space, but I've been able to contain them in a small area with the use of these cages and the trellis.  This is simply the way to go.  It makes the harvest easier and the plants are thriving.  I hope some cukes set on the vines soon.

Cage/Trellis 2012
I also have a bit of a problem and another concern now.  The problem isn't huge and it stems from an experiment that I tried so I guess it's a good thing.  I didn't put newspaper down before my straw when I was mulching the first part of the garden, but I decided to later just to see if you could tell a difference.  Wow! It might not make that much of a difference in a garden that has existed for a while, but on gardens newly made from prairie grassland it makes a huge difference.  So lesson learned.  If you don't want to weed your mulched areas use a barrier, or better yet get some newspapers that people are going to throw away and use them before you put your mulching material down.

Without Newspaper              -                   With Newspaper  
My concern is with the Japanese Beetle.  They have already made a mess of my basil plant and I noticed that they are taking up residence in the tree next to my garden.  I'm worried that some afternoon, while on a sake bender, they might all decide to fly down to the garden and start a munchathon.  I'm thinking about getting one of those bags that I've seen around, but I'm worried about attracting more to my area than are already there.  If anyone has any ideas chime in... I'd love to hear them.

There is a possibility of rain this week and the plants could use some good ol' fashion sky water.  I often wonder why rain water seems to have a much more positive effect on plants than well water.  I might save that question for another post.  Below is a pic of the tiniest green pepper I've ever seen, as well as the progress of a watermelon vine.  Both peppers and melons have really made positive advances this past week.  Good job team.

Dear Sky, please bring rain for the melons and the peppers.  Thanks.

For those that remember Scout the Mockingbird he's doing fine and has a doppleganger that's been hanging around as well.  But, the newest member of the family is a Black Ratsnake that measures somewhere in the 6-7 foot range.  Yeah... it's that big.  Saturday marked the 3rd time he's been spotted in the yard, so I figure he's here to stay.  I noticed him coming down out of a tree while I was mowing, and by noticed I mean screamed while atop a riding mower towards his direction like a frightened child when he caught my eye. I've decided to name him Lucious and I hope to get a picture of him soon, but not too soon.

So in honor of Lucious enjoy a song by Black Prairie.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Field Trip to a Magic Plant

By the suggestion of my mother and father I decided to take Jeffrey's Garden Blog on a field trip to another garden and report on the mysterious plant that inhabits it.  Dan & Wanda Westfall of Northern Greene County have found themselves entertaining a handful of people for about a week now during the sunset hours with their Evening Primrose.  Folks seem to just wander over to their backyard, or pull up the drive, grab a lawn chair and commence to sitting in front of this bush to watch the show.  Sometimes it starts right at sunset... sometimes it takes a little longer, but the waiting and anticipation seems to feed the anxiety and wonder about what they are about to witness.  The flowers of this plant begin to pull their outer shell back and bloom in a very quick fashion right in front of your eyes.  The blooming process can take anywhere from 10-45 seconds.

So I went, with camera in hand to see for myself.  I was amazed.  To see something like the blooming of a flower happen so quickly was awe inspiring, but my mind quickly turned to the others in the crowd and what we were doing there.  I was standing in a yard with my parents, the Westfalls, and 4 other people who I did not know and watching this take place, pointing and excitedly laughing about what we were witnessing.  No television, no radio, just the sound of a rural ozarks night, and a handful of natures pilgrims gathered together. It was a very rewarding experience.

Below is a video of different shots collected throughout the night set to some fine music I borrowed from Steve Martin and The Fleet Foxes.  If you want to see this in HD click on the YouTube icon and play it full screen from YouTube's site.

I hope you enjoy watching this as much as I enjoyed being there.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Some good news... and some bad news.

As of yesterday I have about 5 tomatoes that have made themselves known.  The Early Girls have proved to be early... and... girls, but that's another story.  It's nice to see something actually bearing fruit in the garden and it makes me wonder what things will look like in a month.  I hope I have copious amounts of veggies to share with everyone.
Look at you... you sexy fruit.
In other good news, the cucumbers are thriving and reaching the bottom section of the trellis.  They are preparing their assent toward the top of The Arch de Cucumb.  Spirits have continued to be high with the morale meter reaching approximately 8.5 and their bar to man ratio is still well within operating range.

Prenez la colline!

Now... the bad news.  Caterpillars have waged an assault on members of the alliance, wiping out several green pepper plants and threatening to make their way toward the tomatoes.  Currently we have elevated the status of the garden to Defcon 2 in order to squash (garden humor) the threat and return peace to the the land of the straw and mocking bird.  How to do this exactly is still in question because with much power comes much responsibility.  Wiping out the threat of the intruders with chemical weapons remains on the table but the allied command is researching options to eliminate this threat while still retaining the organic moniker it currently holds.

It's a dark time in the rebellion.

We have currently dispatched peace keeping teams to find a solution to this problem and now WE NEED YOU!  If you have a solution to this problem you are urged to share your ideas in the most hastily of fashions before the situation escalates and the need to use excessive force is granted.  Help me dear readers... you are my only hope.

And with that... a pearly war jam.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


As I was quietly trying to sleep last night I kept noticing how bright it was outside.  After deciding that it just wasn't time for me to shut down I got up, grabbed a camera and headed ou t to my garden.  The moon was unbelievable bright and the reflection off the neighbors pond in the distant made the ground look like a circular, wiggly LCD screen in the middle of the field.  I hadn't spent much time at night in the new garden, and it was an interesting change.  The ground crawled with peculiar insects, and the leaves glistened with dampness in the humid air.  I could see everything.  It was truly like standing there just before dawn only it was shortly before midnight.

Night Trellis

After spending 30 minutes or so I decided to turn in, but this might be the beginning of a regular routine.  This morning I noticed that several beans are breaking the surface of the ground after a week, so I'm excited to see the newest members of the garden.

Emergence... looks like fun.

If you are looking to see Mumford and Sons cover The National's song "England" THIS.

If not please reconsider now that you are aware of it's existence.
I giving props to Wes "Wubbie" Lankford for posting it last night... well done sir.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Blooms, Blight and Brethren

Things have really turned a corner for the better in the Tomato department.  All of the "Early Girl" plants and the "Yellow Pears" have blooms on, and the "Black Krim's" have budded but no actual blooms were open this morning.  The "Beefsteak" tomatoes make up the rest of the crop, and they are somewhat behind the rest of these but have doubled in size in a week.  I suspect they will be blooming in two weeks.
All I wanna do is bloom-a-bloom, bloom bloom, in a zoom-zoom...

While the tomatoes are going crazy the corn has decided to be very cantankerous.  You know how corn is... all starchy and independent... stupid corn.  Anyway... only 3 out of 15 plants decided to come up in one of my rows so I decided to start over.  I worked up the soil real good and replanted two of the 5 rows of corn.  I left the plants that have already come up, but still need to fill in some bare spots on the other 3 rows.  It's important to get these close to the same schedule so they will pollinate each other correctly... sounds dirty huh?  I mean you don't want old plants pollinating young plants or vice versa do you... I didn't think so.  Well that kind of behavior will not be stood for in this garden.  You keep your pollen to yourself or at least with some other plant of the appropriate age.  Stop reading, here's a picture:

Hey Ladies....?

One of my favorite things about watering in the morning is listening to this particular mocking bird.  He always comes to hang out by the garden and sing while I'm out there, so it's like seeing a friend now.  I've been unable to get a shot of him because he is so fast, but today I was able to take a terrible picture of him after he followed me back to the porch.

Watermelon and wonder bird.

I'll be taking considerations for names, so if you have a good one feel free to leave a comment on what we should call this guy.  Oh and lastly, my watermelon has had a rough time, and it finally started to come around this weekend.  Good job watermelon... I find that the leaves of a watermelon plant look eerily familiar to the markings on the melons themselves... coincidence... I think not.

If you want to listen to something cool check out the Avett Brothers... wow... just wow.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Early Riser

I've never been one to get up immediately when the alarm goes off.  To tell you the truth... if Amy wouldn't physically wake me up I probably wouldn't hear the alarm 8 out of 10 times. However, it's been a little easier to rise lately because of my new early morning watering ritual.  since the heat index has been in the mid-90's for a week, and the plants are new to the ground I've been giving them a pretty good drink most mornings.  They seem to appreciate it.  It's been nice to get outside first thing and experience a little peace before going to the mill, and I can honestly say I'm in a better mood when I arrive than I used to be. Not sure why...

Good morning garden... you thirsty?
Here's some photographic evidence of the cukes in the ground.  I'm using a trellis method on some and some cages on the others.  I've never tried either way, but it seems like it will make training the vines and harvesting much easier.

Arch de Cucumb
Lastly it looks like we are finally going to get some rain this weekend.  Not the kind that washes away plans, but instead makes plants happy.  The southern sky looked busier this morning than it has in a while.  Oh... and bonus find in the old milk barn.  I found some pieces of metal perfect for pole beans, so I am planting those this afternoon.

Hello rain clouds.. hello pole bean accoutrements.

If you are struggling to get to quitin' time I recommend THIS!!!
Have a great weekend.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Helping Hands

I've come to realize that it's a lot of work putting in a garden, but I've enjoyed the time spent in the dirt.  But one thing I didn't think about when I set out to do this was just how much time it takes.  It's not that I mind spending the time doing this, instead it's the time that I'm away from the house and leave Amy to look after a very energetic 3 year old and an almost crawling 9 month old.  Without her understanding and patience with me and this project it wouldn't be half of what it has become.  Thanks babe.

I did get some very needed assistance installing the cucumber trellis last night, and below is a short video showing the Johnson family in action.  Maggie was sitting just outside the shot, and you can hear a squeal of approval from her toward the end of the video.  Macklen was very found of the trellis because he thought it looked like a tunnel... just wait until those cucumbers start growing around that thing Mack... you're gonna love it.  I can imagine days in the future where the whole family can participate in this and it makes me smile.

I left the camera at work last night so no new shots today, but 3 more tomato plants are in as well as 11 cucumber plants and 5 watermelon hills.  I had room for some pole beans so I'll plant them tomorrow.  Then a little more mulching with straw and we start weeding, watering and waiting.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Restless Cukes, Rows of Corn, Sunflowers and a Stud Terrapin

Please excuse the absence.  I've been very flattered by folks asking me what's been going on with the blog and why I hadn't posted anything in 4 days.  It's nice to know some people are looking at this, and the reason for the delay was a short bout with the temperature/sweaty/achy/sore throat virusbacteriainfection.  I have no idea what I had, but it took me out of the garden game for a while.  Enough of this...

Cucumbers.  I have several cucumbers in 4 inch pots that still need to go in the ground. This is WAY overdue, but tonight I think I'm going to finally get them in the earth.  I even have a few with some buds on them, so I hope the transplanting doesn't totally freak them out.

Please give us a home!
The corn is starting to pop out of the ground.  I made a rookie mistake by planting individual seeds in particular spots instead of sowing an entire row and then removing some of them for space purposes after the plants come up.  It's silly, but I always feel bad when I remove the plants that are starting to just come alive for reasons like spacing.  It's like I didn't give them a fair shake or their chance to grow tall and stand in the sun for a summer.  Maybe I won't change what I do... maybe I'll continue to the next topic.

Sweet corn is here to party

Real quick.  If your growing tomatoes you should start some basil.  Tomatoes and basil are something that I could eat everyday, and fresh basil at the store is expensive.  Plus basil is super easy to grow and you can grow it in a planter on the porch or in the garden.

I'm going to put you with some tomatoes and fresh mozzarella... you sexy herb.

I also started some sunflowers in starter pots for fun.  After some reading and some personal experience I would suggest against this because of the nature of these plants. However, I think these are going to work out ok.  I don't know why I'm growing these... I think it's just because they look pretty.

Soon to be 6 foot tall... weird.

Lastly, I saw this super cool guy on the dirt road I live on while driving to work.

My Aunt Terry has always used the term "stud terrapin" and I think that I have finally found the stud terrapin of the box turtle world.  This guy's shell was a little over a foot long and nine inches across.  It wasn't a snapper,  just a box turtle... a true stud terrapin.  I marveled at the symmetry of his markings and his super awesome face.  I wonder how old he is?  I should've asked him.

Tomorrow will hopefully bring news of cukes in the ground.  Until then enjoy this song by a Portland Oregon band called The Builders and the Butchers.

Friday, June 3, 2011

What we need is a plan.

Here is my initial concept for he garden.  Although it's not going to turn out exactly like I had planned it's going to be really close.  Luckily, it looks like I'll have a little more room than I thought.  I plan on using the extra space for some climbing variety of green beans.
If you have a Missouri garden I suggest you register it with the State of Missouri Dept. of Agriculture and become part of the 10,000 garden challenge.  This is a great initiative to get Missourians to produce their own local produce.  A quality showing in this could be a great shot in the arm for local farmers markets as well as an easy way for us to tell our state government that this is a subject that matters to us.  Click here to be directed to the AgriMissouri website and become part of this great program.

Cucumbers go in the ground tomorrow.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

You say tomato, I say something different.

It was a monumental night.  The tomatoes are in the ground... I repeat... the tomatoes are in the ground.  I've always wanted to have a big garden (that's what she said) but the reason is because I love tomatoes.  Home grown tomatoes are the best example of how the quality of taste and flavor can sometimes be lost when things are grown on a massive scale, picked too green and shipped across the country to hopefully be eaten at an extremely sub-par condition.  My family has grown tomatoes since I can remember, and this year I hope to supply our family, and a few lucky others, with the joy of eating fresh home grown tomatoes.

My garden is starting to look somewhat like a vegetable prison with everything inside a fence and in cages, but I am super thankful and excited about these tomato cages.  My good buddy Kory Mitchell came through with these for me.  They are big and super awesome.  I plan on using four of them with cucumbers as well.  I was also gifted several circular tomato cages from my good friends Rick and Betsy Todd and my Mom and Dad.  The generosity of friends and family through this process has been amazing.  I hope to repay you in hordes of fresh produce, and Kory... I'm saving the best watermelon in the bunch for you.

Cage Fight - 18 Tomato Plants - 4 varieties

Forward momentum will be lost a little due to spousal excursion, (seems like you could see a doctor for that) but I hope to have the remaining plants/seeds in by the end of next week. Then the waiting and the weeding begins.  Lastly here's the first bloom from the tomatoes that I've seen.  It came from one of the yellow pear tomato plants.

First Tomato Bloom

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Plants in the ground

Plants in the ground, plants in the ground, lookin' like a fool with my plants in the ground.

Well it has finally happened.  After two months of dodging wind and rain I finally have some plants in the soil.  Ten corn plants went in along with the seed for 55 others.  I just experimented with starting corn in a starting pod for fun and it seemed to work.

Hot Corn Action

I was also able to get 16 Green Bell Pepper plants in.  I'm hoping they cross pollinate and produce peppercorns.  Ouch... sorry.

Green Bell Peppers with Straw Mulch 
The blog has been updated to display a Flickr photo-stream, and the overall aesthetic is striving towards something better, so hopefully this will soon be a little nicer venue for me to talk to myself on.  Tonight I am trying to get the tomatoes and cucumbers in the ground too because they feel left out.  More on that tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Why grow home.

I'm not really sure why I decided to start a garden, but I think it has something to do with age and the feeling of being a little more self reliant.  I know that what I hope to produce could in no way sustain my family for any amount of time, but I also know that things grown in ones back yard seem to add something to family dinners.  Since I can remember my family has always enjoyed fresh vegetables from the garden and as a kid I rarely ate canned beans, pickles or tomatoes bought from the store.  All true, but I doubt anyone is reading this lame intro, so lets skip forward to something everyone likes...


This sucker was about 20 feet long and super hot.  I needed to burn this brush pile down, because it was rudely taking up the space of where the garden should be.

After fire it was time to till, but it rained... alot.... then it rained some more.  The ground was super duper mush-house.  So I waited.

Finally After about two weeks of waiting I got my Dad's front tinned tiller and started the process of tilling.  It was kinda like wrestling a gorilla that was being pulled by a mule.  I just didn't have time to rent a nicer rear tinned tiller because of the rain's schedule so I made due with what I had... I'm still sore.

All the while I had started some veggies from seed and things were starting to come along nicely.

I completed a fence, and with the help of my good friend Rick Todd a super sweet John Deere green gate.  This is to keep the teams of rabbits out and the veggies in.  I just hope I don't have a deer problem.

I'm about 15 days behind schedule now, but things are going in the ground this week.  I'm promising to include much better photos in the future, and please feel free to write suggestions or witty comments if you decide to follow this blog.