2017 Harvest

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Our brajda

My neighborhood isn't very crowded. Near me there are only 3 houses and all of them are vacation houses. One of my neighbors is here almost every day but other two neighbors are rarely or almost never here. Both houses have grapevine in front of the house and my family takes care of them while our neighbors are away.
Croats, especially in eastern parts of Croatia grow as we call them "brajda" in front of our houses.
Brajda is grapevine grown on wire trellis and it's usually grown out of just one or two trunks. My grandfather in Slavonija had a brajda that was made out of only one grapevine and was almost 10 meters long providing shade through whole porch.  Here in western Croatia brajda is made the similar way, but people plant more trunks to make them. Also vines are usually just a decorative wall and aren't used for shade but only to grow grapes. Brajda is made over the years and usually in 5th year it grows to full length and it's maintained in that way.

The advantage of having a brajda is that they take very little space and give more grapes out of one vine.
Our neighbors brajda is a perfect example of crowded brajda which is grown in western Croatia.
On 5 meters of wire there are 3 vines that grow up and cover the wires. Once they cover the last wire vines are chopped to the wire length to induce growth of side branches.

Our other neighbor has a more typical brajda with only 2 vines that cover the same length of wire that our other neighbor has.

This one is less thick, also since our neighbor hasn't been coming much brajda has now become a home to little birds.

Our brajda is very young. This is the second year we have it. Previous vine froze during one very strong winter so we had to get another vine.  Although it's still young and most branches are still new grown ones we still got a nice amount of grapes on it. In a month we should have our first grapes.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Pepper world

Saturday brought us some much needed rain. Temperatures have dropped from suffocation 38°C to 16°C. As much as that worries me because my tomatoes will most likely get blight, it's nice to finally be able to breathe fresh air.

Today's rain has messed up my gardening plans so I decided to sort out my front yard peppers. Since I had only few seeds from each new chili pepper variety in spring I decided to plant them in pots instead of garden. That way I was sure I will have fruits and my seedlings won't get eaten by bugs. That's why now I have a small pepper jungle in my front yard.

I've separated my peppers to extremely hot ones, hot ones and milder ones. Extremely hot ones are located on the left side in back row. There I've hidden my Naga peppers, Bhut Jolokia, Black Cuban and Trinidad Moruga.

The front row contains peppers which reach from 100 000shu to 1 000 000shu. Here I have my Habaneros, Piri piri, 7 pot white, Zimbabwe black and  Hungarian pepper. Here is also my Peter pepper to keep it from direct sun.

On the other side I have my milder chili peppers, the ones that have from 2000 to 100 000shu. This peppers will be used for pickled peppers and for stuffing. On this side I keep my Explosive ember, Jalpeño, Red basket, Rawit red, Aji Lemon, Cayene purple and Bishop's crown.

Some of these peppers already have fruits which I'm waiting to turn red and be harvested, and others still have just flowers. The ones with flowers are mostly the extreme hot ones.

Peppers with dark leaves had to be moved to my balcony because the strong sun in front yard, where temperatures reach 50°C, badly burned their leaves. So now my Black Namaqualand and Filius blue are hidden behind Fuchsias and tomatoes.

They seem to like it here, colour of the leaves has turned into dark green/black back again and they have started growing better and forming flowers.

As you could see on one of the previous photos Gizmo is still here, and he's staying.

He has become another member of the family. Nero and him now get along ok, except when they are nervous and jump on eachothers throats. But they are never left alone so every fight is solved in 2 seconds and they act like nothing happened.

The only problem that they have now is the rain. Both Nero and Gizmo are angry at the fact they can't be outside because of the rain. The fact that we went on their morning walk even though it has been raining didn't help much. Both are moping around with their sad faces. And people say that animals don't get depressed :)

The look of despair No.1
The look of despair no. 2

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Tiny Tim not so tiny anymore

For years I've been planting a Balcony yellow dwarf tomato on my balcony and it was always one of the earliest, delicious, most healthy tomatoes in my yard. That's why last year I decided to acquire red balcony tomatoes. After searching I've decided to get Tiny Tim.

Last year it was a good tomato and since I didn't have enough I took seeds for this year. This year I've sown some of the old seeds and most new Tiny Tim seeds. I've noticed something strange about it even when I had only seedlings. Seedlings were longer and leaves much bigger than the Balcony yellow ones. I thought maybe it was this years freaky cold spring that got them this way. But when seedlings grew to a full length plant it was clear it wasn't just the cold.
My Tiny Tim wasn't tiny anymore.

My Tim is now 110cm tall with big leaves and bigger fruits than they were supposed to be. Also on two plants I've got two completely different shaped tomatoes. My guess is I got mum and dad of the Tiny Tim so now I've got a whole family. I'm only not sure which one is mum and which is dad. One plant has irregular shaped bigger tomatoes. And the other has smaller stripped tomatoes.

The round stripped ones have slightly thicker skin than the irregular ones, both have fresh, sour taste, perfect for salads. I like them both so this year I'm planing to leave some seeds of the stripped ones, only because they look more exotic.
one thing is sure, they won't go to waste, tomatoes are tomatoes. Small, big, round, black or yellow they are all delicious and will eat them all.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Playing garden detective

This year is full of unpleasant surprises, besides the suffocating heat and lack of rain I've encountered a new problem this summer. Few weeks ago when my lettuce started forming nice flower stems(no heads this year because of the heat) I noticed that my stems were starting to disappear. First one then each day more. It looked like they were cut off so I confronted my family about cutting my stems off.

Of course after unnecessary fight we came to the conclusion that none of us cut them off and we had to search for a guilty person elsewhere. Since the garden is basically surrounded with woods, has no easy access unless it's from the yard and my 2 little pests would shout at any moving thing, there was no one other to blame than the animals.

My first thought were the slugs, they could easily eat my lettuce. But, I've never seen any of them in my garden, if there was an infestation of slugs I'd see at least one of them somewhere.
The next hint about the species were my beans. Young bean leaves were starting to disappear leaving us only with naked stems. If slugs were responsible then there would be more leaves missing and whole plant eaten, not just baby leaves.

 Ruling out the slugs I was left with 4 possible perpetrators: deer, rabbits, squirrels and birds.
Deer and rabbit were soon ruled out because my fence around the garden was completely intact and there was no entry point where rabbits could enter(deer even less).
That left me with birds and squirrels.
Garden is always full of birds and squirrels always hang around my orchard stealing walnuts. With the lack of water this year both could easily eat my leaves and lettuce.
The most surprising fact about my little eater was that nothing else was touched. All my other vegetables were intact. Including cabbages which I assumed would also get eaten. Only beans and lettuce were missing and eaten.
Until I visited my orchard. There I noticed that my apple leaves were also eaten off. That didn't bring me any closer to the response.

Then I noticed something else. I have a small blackbird colony near my house. They are present here for the past 10 years, usually gobbling my cherries but not touching anything else. After the cherries would get eaten they would relocate to my neighbors yard and not hang around my garden. This year was different. Past summer we got new residences in our bird family. A couple of wood pigeons started making their nest in the big tree in front of our house. They returned this year also, but at the same time blackbirds never returned to my neighbors yard. They relocated to my garden. Now my fence is full of blackbirds in the morning and evening, they bust my manure pit and jump happily around the garden.
So now I assume my guilty gang is the blackbird gang. That's why now they got as scarecrow, shiny old cd's that should keep them away, but also small pots of water to keep them hydrated. I'm hoping that will prevent them from destroying my plants. Although judging from what I saw, they pretty much like my scarecrow and rest on it :D

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Struggling gardener

This gardening year has been a struggle since the beginning and it's continuing to be a difficult task.
Spring and beginning of the summer were colder than average. Most of the plants suffered from too low temperatures preventing them to grow the optimal amount of foliage. In beginning of July things changed very drastically. Heat waves begun 3 weeks ago and are still continuing. This past 3 weeks we had no rain and temperatures are constantly over 35°C. This high temperatures have made our nights warm so now there's no dew in the mornings. Mulch doesn't help much to keep plants moist.

Cucumbers haven't grown enough

High temperatures have also devastated our harvests. Zucchinis don't ripe, after forming fruits they dry off without reaching size bigger than thumb. Beans have stopped flowering and potatoes are staying small.
The only thing growing in the garden is grass which is hard to remove because of the prolonged drought. In the end I gave up removing them, I'm just waiting for the first rain to do some cleaning.

Drying potatoes

Devastated beans
The bad gardening year is greatly shown on my Amaranth plants. Last year they were 1,5m tall with beautiful big flowers. This year garden plants are hardly reaching 50cm without flowers. The plants in front yard which are watered every day are looking a bit better, around 1m tall and slowly forming flower stems.

garden amaranth
front yard amaranth

The only thing that is enjoying this heat is tomatoes. They started having first red fruits on July 15th. So far the fruits that ripe are Koralik, Black cherry,  Black Seaman, Glacier and Stupice.