Monday, July 26, 2010

Chick Pix!

The Three Musketeers
What're YOU looking at???

Lots of babies perking around the chicken run this past month as the last batch of eggs hatched and the little ones hopped out into the world. Banty chicks enter the world about the size of a quarter, some smaller.  How can anything so small be so inquisitive and brave?  They dash about pecking and peeping and fluttering in amazement.  We are mesmerized by their courage and their joy in everything around them.

Finally got our friend, David Fox, to bring his SLR camera back to the coop to catch the hatchlings in action. (My old digital is nowhere nearly fast enough to stop baby chick action -- all I get is blurs and butts.)

Now - ahem! Should anyone be thinking of taking up chickens and a steady supply of fresh eggs... I do have some banty pairs to give away.....  just so you know.  Can't resist letting the dedicated moms set their eggs occasionally, they are so passionately determined to give life to these little ones.  And the joy of chicks first setting out in the world is contagious - would that we could always see the world as so new!


Friday, July 23, 2010

Local Farmers Markets

Oh, the joy of local farmers markets!  All the stands are just bursting with wonderful, fragrant fruits and fresh-picked veggies.  It makes me wonder why I garden at all -- the offerings I find already grown, picked, cleaned and ready-to-cook are so amazing.  It's not just corn and tomatoes, either. The changing palates of local consumers have encouraged the farms I know to really expand their offerings... unusual, creamy melons, heirloom tomatoes, peppers of all sorts, wild eggplants... wow!

It's wonderful to see all the new local markets that have appeared in the last couple of years. Once the Virginia Beach Farmers Market was the only freshly grown food outlet, save for a few backyard growers with hand-lettered signs in the front yard.  Now there are active, fun, well-supported markets flourishing in almost every community area - I find new ones every week.

Want a quick way to locate all the markets available in your area? Click here for the Market Locator provided by the Virginia Farm Bureau. At the Buy Fresh Buy Local Hampton Roads website I can also find a great listing of local Farm Markets, family farms - with produce, poultry, cheese, eggs and meats, fish and seafood vendors.... everything a bountiful summer table needs - or, if I don't feel like cooking, I can find local restaurants to cook and serve the food to me, far better than I can do it myself. Now that's summer living!


Monday, July 12, 2010

Brandywine is a Champion Tomato

Each season I grow a combination of tomatoes that includes both beloved heirlooms and newer varieties that have been bred for either disease resistance or a specific trait, such as determinate (limited) growth (Better Bush) , higher lycopene and lower acid (Health Kick) or fewer seeds -- just to see, you know?  In the past, I've had serious problems with wilt and disease in the old varieties that were popular before Early Blight and Southern Blight became more common.

I learned some great tomato tricks from our friend, Gil Gillespie - one of the best gardeners in Hampton Roads.  His suggestions include being very strict about watering, keeping to a very close regimen with the same amount of water each day and week.  That, and adding Cal-Mag (calcium-magnesium) supplements, made a huge difference in the number of cracked tomatoes we harvest.  In addition, I've begun removing all sprouts and foliage below the first blossom cluster.  This gives the plant a clean bottom stem and keeps leaves up and away from drops splashing from the ground to the leaves as you water (the main transfer of diseases in tomatoes). In addition, we mulched the raised beds well, both to keep the ground evenly moist and to prevent soil-borne bacteria from splashing up onto the plants.  We eliminated the wave-the-wand watering habits of my loving spouse... all watering is done carefully at the base of the plants unless we are deliberately power-spraying aphids or other intruders.  Well pruned and well-staked, my little tomato patch is starting to crank out some seriously impressive tomatoes!

HOW GOOD is it doing?? Check out the 1 pound 11 ounce Brandywine tomato harvested yesterday - one of several huge tomatoes on the same plant! In past years, Brandywine (an heirloom available from ) was one of the old varieties that didn't make it past June in our raised beds.  Looks like the new tomato care regimen is working well!

FYI - A lot of gardeners ask about all those letters you read on the back of the tomato seed packets, at least on the new hybrids. These are disease resistance identification codes and here are the diseases the plant should be able to resist:

V - Verticillium Wilt
F - Fusarium Wilt
N - Nematodes
T - Tobacco Mosaic Virus
A - Alternaria Stem Canker
St - Stemphylium Gray Leaf Spot
TSWV - Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus

Time for making gazpacho and some BLTs!
Happy harvesting!