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June 30th, 2010

Test Garden Update: Leslie Doyle, Las Vegas, NV

leslie_d_tnIt’s sizzling HOT in the desert. 108 degrees yesterday in the shade on the porch and 110 today. It is much hotter in the sun out in the garden, probably 130 or more on the crushed granite paths. My vegetables are green and lush and growing fast in the heat and I am still putting transplants into the garden.

I’ll go out in the garden about 11 pm tonight, turn on the floodlights, and make sure the soil in the beds is still moist. Then I’ll look at the backsides of the veggie leaves for insects and put in a couple more veggie plants. So far I haven’t see any whiteflies, aphids, or squash bugs. This may be due to my June planting.

In past years I’ve started transplanting my seedlings in April. This year it was very windy and I decided to wait for the spring weather to settle down. This was a good decision, because the spring insect pests hatched before there was anything in the garden for them to attack, and I think they must have starved to death or left my garden. Maybe they went to your garden? Sorry.

Because we have a long growing season in Las Vegas it is not important for me to transplant veggies into the garden in the warm days of late winter and early spring. But this has been the practice in Las Vegas and is widely taught. Not just because the farmers practice this, but because the weather has warmed and gardeners are anxious to plant, and for the most part, they can. But I am not convinced that early planting is the best thing to do, or the easiest for the home gardener, given the insect and disease issues that accompany zillions of hungry hatching insects.

So, I am watching my plants to see if I can determine if there are less insect problems this year, with my June transplanting, as opposed to last year with an April and mostly May transplanting. 

Four varieties of test beans in my garden.

Four varieties of test beans in my garden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tomatoes growing in my new front-yard bed over silver reflective mulch.

Tomatoes growing in my new front-yard bed over silver reflective mulch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watermelons transplanted three weeks ago between the gusty winds. The white powder is horticultural grade diatomaceous earth for cockroach and fire ant control.

Watermelons transplanted three weeks ago between the gusty winds. The white powder is horticultural grade diatomaceous earth for cockroach and fire ant control.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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June 29th, 2010

Test Garden Update: Nan Sterman, Encinitas, CA

My garden got planted a little later in the year than usual—early May rather than mid-April. Honestly, I think I may do that again. The plants just took off! It’s been amazing, really. The curcurbits are flowering and producing, the tomatoes are growing bushier every day and starting to flower, the flowers are budding, the peppers are growing tall, and the basil is close to being ready to sample, but not quite yet.

This week, I cut the first ‘Lime Crisp’ cukes, which are delicious! Slender, crisp, slightly sweet. A real winner. I hope it produces well.

I picked the first ‘Little Potato’ cukes tonight and I gotta say, this thing is so ugly that I can’t imagine anyone wanting to plant it other than for its odd appearance. The fruits were not quite ripe—the skin still a bit thick and the flavor not quite developed. I’ll let the next set get larger before picking.

Does anyone still have ‘Delfino’ cilantro coming up in their garden? I have a patch that has reseeded for years now. We still like the feathery texture and slightly mild flavor.

I miss eggplant this year—there are no eggplants among the vegetables we’re trialing—so I think I’ll start some from the past. I still have seed for ‘Opal’ and ‘Twinkle’, two winners in my garden from 2006. I’m teaching a class this coming week on starting plants from seeds so I’ll start those and use them as demonstration.

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June 17th, 2010

Test Garden Update, Barbara Jane Miller, Boulder, CO

barbara_tnOur garden on the eastern slope of the Rockies is having an unusual spring: lots of wind, tornado warnings, massive thunderstorms and extremes of hot and then frigid nights. We’ve had three hail attacks, chewing up leaves, and that has done the most damage.

Right now, peppers and eggplants are growing in the ground inside the greenhouse. That became a slight problem after four days of rain plus heavy melting snow in the mountains resulted in standing water about 3″ deep in the greenhouse! Happily the water has receded and the soil is now sticky muck, the kind that sucks your shoes off. Within days it will bake into hardened clay again, I suppose.  We live right by South Boulder Creek, which is in flood now, and the greenhouse is built in the rich alluvial soil of the floodplain—but usually there is no problem with flooding. I don’t think the water was there long enough to damage roots.

The ‘Shiny Boy’ watermelon is also in the greenhouse. I’m experimenting with growing it in huge black plastic pots on top of 55-gallon drums, so it stayed safe from the high water. Outside, the ‘Apollo’ broccoli is growing beautifully and I am so impressed with the ‘Lime Crisp’ cukes. All five seeds were amazing in germination and growth and took to transplant much better than my favorite ‘Orient Express’ cukes, planted at the same time but now only half the size of ‘Lime Crisp’. Can’t wait to taste them.

The ‘Magnolia Blossom’ snap peas are the funniest peas I’ve ever encountered. They put out a myriad of tendrils but will not grasp the trellis, just wave around in the breeze. My beans planted at the same time are over 6 feet high. The peas are looking pretty with their blooms and although I read that they grow to 6 feet, mine are still at 3 feet. 

Funny to be wishing for no more rain as we’re usually way too dry, but what a crazy year all over the U.S.!

June 15th, 2010

Test Garden Update, Michelle Zettel, Challis, ID

With my short growing season here in Idaho, I am, as usual, the last of the Test Gardeners to have much to report. Two weekends ago we had 6 inches of snow! It had melted by the late afternoon, but still, with the cool weather, nothing wants to grow. The broccolli and fennel are out as well as the lettuce and spinach. The rest of our test vegetables are in the greenhouse, ready to transplant out if the sun ever shines and it warms up. Next week we should be past our last frost. 

I had pretty good luck with most items germinating. One exception was the ‘Pinot Noir’ pepper—I tried three times to get it started with no luck. I still have seeds, so maybe I will try one more time and see if it will do something in the greenhouse as at this point it will not make it outdoors—our season is too short.

When the weather turns I will have more to report!

June 14th, 2010

Test Garden Update, Jackie Smith, Belle Plaine, MN

Believe it or not, our season has been relatively normal so far. Oh, we had a beautiful April with way above normal temperatures, but when we jumped the gun and planted early, a quick dip toward frost in early May took care of that. Some early potatoes froze (but of course, they came back promptly). So that put us back on track into the usual timing for gardening. 

We had a lot of problems in the greenhouse that were entirely my fault. I tried to get by with cooler temperatures, but failed to adjust my watering practices accordingly. The result was rampant damping off, root rots, and an invasion of fungus gnats that wouldn’t go away no matter what I did. Fortunately enough of everything survived that we’ll still have a bountiful harvest. 

spinach-okame,-fiorana,-lavewaIn the garden, the radishes, spinach and lettuce have produced well, but it’s starting to get too hot for them now. Pac choi has bolted, along with the earliest radishes and the ‘Okame’ spinach. At first I really enjoyed the ‘Okame’ because the elongated leaf petioles allowed easier access to snip off just the leaves. But the plants bolted after one cutting. In the spinach photo above, you’ll see the ‘Okame’ on the left, with two spinach varieties we tested last year next to it. The ‘Fiorana’ and ‘Lavewa’ still look good and are producing well, but the ‘Okame’ is past redemption. 

lettucesearedfront,-sweetie,midnight-behindThe lettuce photo at left gives you a good idea of the beautiful color and shiny finish to the ‘Sea of Red’ leaf lettuce (front). The green lettuce just behind it is ‘Sweetie Baby Romaine’ and to the right of that is ‘Midnight Ruffles’. ‘Sweetie’ has yet to head up, so I’m reserving judgement, but so far the ‘Sea of Red’ is a definite winner with great color and nice crisp texture.


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