Oh my, where to start!

It's now been, what? Almost a month and maybe even a week since I've written.  I kept having the best intentions to write and then.....something always got in my way.
First I injured my left foot while walking through the garden, next, was my laptop which decided right now was a perfect time for an epic fail.  Then next hubby having yet another TDY, while my son and I were sick. Nice, real nice.
Hell, as it stands right now we're in the middle of a Severe Thunderstorm Warning and watch (thank God it's not a T---ado watch or warning!).  Thunder is rumbling outside and the sky is lighting up as if someone has thrown fireworks up into the clouds.
So with all that happening I still rush to hurry and write.
My God, where do I start?

First, we had a few successes.  Our battle with the slugs is going well, thanks to about 4 beer traps we set weekly. My hope is that when I put in our second seeding of mesclun, arugula, romaine, and other mixed greens the slugs will be far gone.  And by the way, drat, the rain is started outside, not much time before I lose power!
Thank goodness that the plants are getting some much needed rain though!  Plus I won't have to water as thoroughly now.  However that doesn't make me feel much better currently as our lights are flickering. Damn Military Housing and it's power supply always going out.
We've had some other battles.
Hornworms were the second issue of the season (slugs being the first).  We found the first few on our Heirloom Rutger and a few on some of the other miscellaneous Heirlooms. Darn things.  They hide so well.  However they do have a tell tale signs that they are present. Their poop and the branches that are left behind.
Now I have to say, these pictures are NOT mine, they're borrowed.

I tend to find that the poops/feces of a hornworm look mostly like the bottom photo but I have found some leaves feces like the top photo. This is your FIRST clue that you have hornworms, and actually I like to think this is the most important clue.  Next step, look up a branch.  You'll find damage that looks like this.........
You'll notice that all that is left is leafless stem.  This is your surefire sign that you have hornworms.  They will happily munch along your tomato plant till there is nothing left and then move along to the next plant.  That is, until you catch them!
Best way after an infestation is to simply look for the poop, look for the stripped branches, and then grab yourself your favorite glass of wine, bottle of beer or cup of tea and start hunting.  They're VERY hard to spot sometimes as they blend right into the foliage of your tomato plant.
Once you find them, you can dispatch them in a number of ways. Smoosh them under your shoe, (my sons personal favorite), drown them in water, feed them to your chickens if you have any (I so wish I could do that one!), or last but not least, just let the hornworm be, let it munch merrily along and then hope that a Parasitic wasp comes to visit.  The last option is NEVER an option for me.  The wasps come along WAYYY to late in the season to stop the massive destruction that the hornworms create.  Still though if you get weirded out or grossed out by picking off a soft worm with a very strong grip off your tomato plants its still out there.  Now of course you're going to have to watch the hornworm be eaten by the parasites on it's back. This is a slow process indeed. Imagine a bunch of hungry babies with straws sucking on a living thing.  Ewwww.  I'd say squashing is the way to go.  The Parasitic wasp is just so slow, so agonizing and personally I've found hornworms in my garden that have gone this way and well, if the hornworm could show an expression I'd say it was sadness and extreme gratitude that I found it and put it out of it's misery with a nice firm shoe.  I can't think of a worse way to go then to have the life sucked slowly out of me.  EWWW.
Our next battle, and COMPLETELY new to me. Cabbage Worms.
Wiki describes them as: The imported cabbage worm is the green larva of the cabbage butterfly or cabbage white, any of several largely white butterflies (familyPieridae, type genus Pierisgarden whites). The Small White (P. rapae) is a small, common, cosmopolitan butterfly whose caterpillar has fine, short fuzz and is bright green; it prefers cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. A larger Old World form (P. brassicae) is called Large White. A common North American form (P. protodice) is known as the southern cabbage butterfly. The green-veined white (P. napi) occurs in Europe and North America. In all of these species the larvae eat the leaves, which then become toxic to animals that consume the infested foliage.
We only noticed these as of recently. Well no, actually we noticed the DAMAGE about 3 weeks ago but had no idea other than slugs of what was causing it.  That is until this past weekend after coming back from Ocean City for a quick camping trip.
I found green worms all over my budding brussel sprouts, eating everything in their path.  I cannot tell you how ANGRY I was! This was MY food dang it all!  I'm not growing everything to feed a bunch of ..hungry...friggin ....BUGS!  So once again to the computer to research. What the hell was eating my brussel sprouts?! I was planning on harvesting these during the winter months since brussel sprouts do so well (supposedly) in the cold months. They supposedly lose bitterness and become more sweet!  Goodness I love brussel sprouts and I can only imagine how tasty they would be in December, growing in our cold frame!
Well today, hubby and I took our first step towards battle.  I've read if I use pantyhose to cover the sprout area the moths cannot leave their eggs.
I've never tried this, heck, I've never tried growing almost anything in the brassica family but I figured "what the hell" it's worth a shot.
First we cut the bottoms of some old pantyhose I had laying around. I found this is the best length for the job.

The trick here is to not cover the entire plant.  Just the top sprouts.  Oh and by the way, here is what the actual moth that lays the eggs looks like. 
Luckily enough, the Swiss chard has had almost NO pests.  We'll be having some of that sauteed with a bit of candy Onion from
Brad's later this week.   
By the way the open space next to the brussel sprouts USED to be golden purslane but the slugs were eating that down to just the stem and they were also using it to hide under during the heat of the day so we pulled every bit out and fed it to the worms.  I'm going to try growing salsify there instead, just in case we don't get as many potatoes and we were hoping for.
Salsify is one of those veggies that I really had never heard of before gardening here in Maryland.  It's actually a root crop that supposedly tastes either like oysters or artichoke hearts, depending on who you ask.Here's a photo of what it looks like.
 The tops look rather like grass and it takes up very little room.  Another advantage to salsify.  Salsify breaks down extremely quickly once picked.  It's actually suggested to just leave the plants in the ground until you are ready to harvest and eat.  It's very cold tolerant and will even resprout the next season. 
From what I've read most places, once harvested you simply peel the top layer of skin with a potato peeler.  I've found a few sources say to use food grade gloves to handle the salsify as your hands will turn black.  Weird.
Next, place the now peeled roots in water with lemon juice or lime juice to prevent discoloration.  One person has mentioned milk helps with the discoloration too but I'll probably just try the lime juice first. 
I'll have to put the recipe I end up using on my food blog later.  I'll link to it on this one though.

Well we've started harvesting now from our garden.  So far we've gotten about 6 Ichiban Eggplants; about 2 pounds of mixed snow pea and sugar snap peas, a handful of Italian rose beans, about 10 small black cherry tomatoes, 1 golden girl tomato, 1 Cherokee Purple tomato, 3 large white wonder cucumbers, 2 blue hubbard squash (one of which actually fell off the vine unripe), several bunches of onions, numerous containers of nasturtiums for salads (however my Canary bird Nasturtiums have yet to produce a single flower.  Got to look up why we're not seeing more flowers).  Oh and loads and loads of okra.
Now, so far we haven't really harvested enough to be DROWNING in produce but I know that will be coming shortly.  Our Amish Paste has loads and loads of tomatoes as do the Rutger, the Christmas grapes, the Black Cherry, the Brandywine, etc etc. 
Right now since we're getting so little off our plants and so sporadically we're drying most of what we have with our new high speed dehydrator.

We purchased the 5 tray Excalibur and so far I've been really happy with the results.  We've dried everything from tomatoes, green beans, okra, squash and cabbage.  After each bit is dry I let it sit for just about half a day. Then it goes into a large 1 pint mason jar.  Later on come winter we'll be able to take out these dried fruits and vegetables and use them in soups or just rehydrate them and then cook with a bit of butter. 
I plan on dehydrating some of our onions and potatoes later on but that will happen when we have harvested a large amount of them.
Now, last but not least.  This I have to share.  This is a tour of what our garden looks like now.


Peas dying out, lettuce going to seed. Now if it would just fully GO to seed that bed wouldn't look so bad!

Mammoth sized Blue Hubbard Squash growing. Burgundy Okra is now almost as tall as us!

These two tomato plants were "SURPRISE" plants.  They had hitched a ride in one of our beds.  They are now producing!
We think the one farthest from the camera is a Mortgage Lifter and the one closest is a Christmas Grape.  Good thing about the Christmas grape is non of our other seedlings for that variety made it.  We're really happy about this one as we love grape tomatoes!  Now I just can't wait till they're ripe!

This is what happens when you do NOT prepare your soil correctly.  You get plants that fail to thrive.  We actually keep fertilizing now but it's almost too late.  Heck even the Yarrow looks like it's really REALLY sad.
So next year we'll be heavily composting this area and really prepping the soil for a future planting. Good news is I still have more seeds for the Marina di Chioggia. 
 Next to come, status of our worm farm, jams and jellies we've made(and the recipes I used), and more on our fighting the pests.

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