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August 31st, 2010

Test Garden Update: Kathy Shaw, Neenah, WI

kathyshawOne of my garden goals was realized this year. Due to the varieties grown and our above-average rain and warmth this year, we have achieved “Squash-henge,” the name our family has given to the pergola completely covered with squash and gourd vines. Surprisingly, most of the upright-growing squashes don’t have any powdery mildew even though we had over 12 inches of rain in July. The exception is the ‘Kumi Kumi’ squash we are testing this year—a bit of it is visible on the upper left foreground of the photo below.

squash
I also am posting a picture of one night’s harvest a couple of weeks ago, below. Included in the picture are some of this year’s test varieties: green ‘Cajun Belle’ peppers, ‘Pinot Noir’ peppers, and ‘Midnight Lightning’ zucchini. We love to make “no-fry stir-fry” for supper. Make some couscous, cut up all the veggies like you would to stir-fry them, add the swelled couscous, and dress the mixture with a blend of olive oil, toasted sesame oil, garlic, ginger, soy, and lemon juice or whatever seasonings you like in your stir-fry. Let it sit and marinate for a half hour then eat. Yum! And no standing over a hot stove in the summer.

veggies

The ‘Cajun Belle’ peppers are a winner here. Good size for use at the green or lightly colored stage in a single serving salad, and when they get red and hot, they are a great addition to our salsas and other recipes where heat is welcome. They are not as hot as a jalapeño and the burn goes away quite quickly. They are prolific enough that we may try drying some red ones and making some chili powder out of them. The ‘Pinot Noir’ bells were very quick to take off, however they slowed way down after their first flush of fruit. I will probably grow these again since they were earlier than the other varieties I grow.

The ‘Midnight Lightning’ zucchini is another winner. This plant started producing earlier than any of our others and is still pumping out several zukes a week. The plant itself has stayed pretty compact for a summer squash too.

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August 24th, 2010

Test Garden Update: Michelle Zettel, Challis, ID

zettel It has been a cool summer for us and I have not had much to report. The only red tomatoes so far have been in the greenhouse. Lots of green ones though.

I have had good luck with the lettuces we’re trialing. In fact, they are all still in and producing well. The ‘Sweetie Baby Romaine’ has been very good. Same with the ‘Sea of Red’ looseleaf lettuce. I liked the ‘Okame’ spinach but have others that were slower to bolt, so I probably would not grow it again.
cuke-for-webOther stuff is coming on. The ‘Lime Crisp’ cucumber plants out in the garden are just starting to produce, but the one I planted in the greenhouse has been amazing! I like the flavor. Nothing bitter about it. And the color is great.

pickles-for-webI have already pickled 4 quarts off the one plant and there are many more cucumbers—it is truly prolific. I used the refrigerator pickle recipe in the August/September issue of Organic Gardening magazine and they turned out really good. As a bonus they are super easy!

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August 9th, 2010

Test Garden Update: Barbara Miller, Boulder, CO

barbara_tnWhat a nice summer we’re having here. Not enough rain, of course, but July did give us an inch above normal. The weather is hot (90’s) but not too hot and fresh organic food is in abundance just outside the  door.

Bitonto-crop‘Bitonto’ is such a cute little cherry tomato and it is holding its own against those aggressive marigolds—they’re sharing a pot in the photo at left. Good flavor and decorative—what more could you ask?

The  peppers are ripening well. Some of my ‘Cajun Belle’ peppers are red  already.

The ‘Apollo’ broccoli is amazing and we give away bags and bags. The chickens like it when it begins to bloom too.

melons-cropI experimented with growing my melons in pots on top of 55-gallon water drums this year. So far, so good. The barrels are filled with water and were installed to store the sun’s heat in the winter. But I just thought they might serve a useful purpose in other seasons too—and the melons seem to like having warm soil when our nighttime temperatures dip into the low sixties, as they often do, even after a day in the nineties. Melons are almost ready to eat, earlier than I’ve ever had them.

Lime-Crisp-cropLime Crisp’ cucumber, shown at left, is not to our liking due to its bland taste, and all our friends who try it concur. We much prefer the crisp Oriental cukes we also grow. ‘Lime Crisp’ is a beautiful color; it grows like the dickens and churns out tons of cukes, so I’ve taken to pickling them when quite small to keep some measure of control.

All in all, it’s been a good garden year so far.


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August 6th, 2010

Test Garden Update: Bill Nunes, Gustine, CA

billnunes I just read Nan’s report in the previous post, so I’m inspired to share some of my results. We’re still staying fairly cool here, though not as cool as San Diego. Very few days over 100 so far this summer and we probably should have had 15-20 so far. No complaints, mind you.

I think the only cool-weather crop I tried in spring was the ‘Magnolia Blossom’ snap peas. They didn’t get a very fair test, having much competition from volunteer sunflowers, which they climbed on nicely. I didn’t get much production, which I’ll credit to the competition. But they are a delicious edible-pod pea. I give them thumbs up!

‘Aton’ basil went in early and started fairly quickly. I didn’t get my usual open-pollinated ‘Genovese’ basil in, so I don’t have a side-by-side comparison. ‘Aton’ makes an excellent pesto, which is par for a ‘Genovese’-type. I will also vouch for long shelf life. It can stay in the kitchen in a vase for 10 days or more. It re-grows to cutting stage pretty quickly, possibly because it is smaller. All in all: an excellent basil. But I see no reason to switch. For a small garden or for container growing there might be an advantage.

On cucumbers I’m very much in agreement with Nan. ‘Little Potato’ looks strangely cool. They’re viciously productive so far. But I (and two of my customers who’ve responded) find them to be too soft and seedy in the middle. Flesh is too thin. Taste like any cucumber. I’ve let some go to about baseball size hoping the flesh would thicken. It didn’t.

I’ve peeled them and scooped out the seeds to form a bowl. Once stuffed them with tuna salad. Tonight filled them with a kind of Caprese salad: chopped onions, crushed garlic, yellow pear and ‘Black Prince’ tomatoes, chopped pieces of ‘Lime Crisp’ cucumbers, fresh mozzarella, seasoned salt. So, the only benefit I see is the novelty of the shape for presentation. Otherwise, if I want a round cuke, I’ll stick with old-fashioned lemon cucumbers.

August 5th, 2010

Test Garden Update: Nan Sterman, Encinitas, CA

nanstermanIt has been a really cool summer. Skies have been mostly overcast. Temperatures have barely topped 70, and then on only a few days. We’ve all been asking each other when November is going to end! The upshot for the garden is that things are coming along slowly. Lots of foliage, but fruits are barely ripening—other than peppers, for some reason.

The peppers are coming along a bit earlier than usual this year. I picked a handful of ‘Gusto Purple’ peppers. They are pretty little things—rich deep purple. I absentmindedly nibbled on one as I harvested some tomatoes and what a surprise! They have a bite!

This year’s zinnia ‘Double Zahara Fire’ is fantastic—fiery orange for sure! Though honestly, nothing compares to ‘Giant Lime’.  We grew these back in 2004 and they stay on my top ten list, along with zinnia ‘Magellan Coral’. Those two really rekindled my interest in zinnias.

The ‘Little Potato’ cukes are gone, and I have to say I’m not disappointed. They were ugly, but honestly, there just wasn’t much to them. The ‘Lime Crisp’ on the other hand were really good though produced only a few fruits. I’m gonna seed these again and see what happens.

‘Strawberry Crown’ winter squash are incredible! I’ll take a photo of them because they are too amazing looking to try to describe.

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