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May 24th, 2011

Volunteer Vigor

bill_tnGreat discussion question, Andres! At one time I would get a little miffed when volunteer seedlings would outdo my best efforts. I’ve learned to take advantage of it and consider it a blessing. I figure, if God plants something in my garden, who am I to resent it?

Most of things that come up on their own are ones that are finicky. Arugula is one such for me. When I sow arugula for harvest, it will turn serrated and old-looking if it’s too cold or too hot. Too much rain makes spots on the leaves. The volunteers seem to generally be happy.

Over the years I’ve grown fava beans in every area of the garden. They’re likely to pop up even before I start sowing. Sometimes the volunteers give me the first crop of the spring. Other times they just make a little nitrogen generator wherever they are. I don’t argue!

In winter and spring I like to leave mustards and other greens to flower for beneficial insect habitat. Some plants go to seed, so the next year I find myself wandering the garden and harvesting “strays.”

A few weeks ago I moved about 20 squash plants from where they volunteered in the potato bed to a row where I’d run short of melon plants. The relocated plants are looking good and just beginning to set fruit—ahead of most of my carefully sown squash. Most of the crossbred summer squash will make big, healthy plants, probably the result of hybrid vigor. So I grow these out and harvest them much like I would with a purchased hybrid. I just don’t save seed from the crossbreds—too many torpedo-shaped or other very odd gourd-like fruits happened when I did that.

If I was to give a short answer, I’ve learned to accept my own shortcomings and take advantage of the help I get along the way.  —Bill Nunes, Gustine, California

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May 20th, 2011

High-Achieving Volunteers

I harvested the black-eyed peas today, the Italian heirloom variety ‘Fagiolino Dolico de Veneto’. They suffered badly in the heat. Guess they’ve been away from the South way too long. Ill try again in fall, but they may be a winter crop here. The beans are really small—the biggest was only 1/4 inch. I hope that means they’ll be tender.

Here’s a weird thing: I have a window planter box outside the kitchen window where I often grow greens and herbs, etc. Well, there is the absolutely most beautiful popcorn plant in it now, just starting to tassel. I doubt if it will “ear.” There probably isn’t another corn plant south of Orlando! Why is it that something that came up on its own outperforms what you bust a gut over?  —Andres Mejides, Homestead, Florida

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May 19th, 2011

Popcorn Update

leslie_d_tnThe popcorn is thriving! I started the popcorn inside on April 9 and the seedlings had rooted well enough to transplant in 2 weeks. The photo below was taken on May 18, 2011. Three weeks after transplanting, the popcorn is about 2 feet tall and looking good. Compare this with the photo in my April 25 blog entry.

popcorn2

This year reminds me of our cooler spring weather back in the early 1990’s. This week the temperatures have been down in the high 40’s at night and in the 60’s or 70’s during the day. For the last decade-plus I have learned to cope with hot May daytime temperatures in the 100’s. I am welcoming the return of this cooler weather cycle.

It was very windy and gusty last night and I laid in bed listening to the apricots hitting the roof all night long—like Chinese water torture. I think an emergency nap will be in order this afternoon.  —Leslie Doyle, Las Vegas, Nevada

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May 12th, 2011

Noodle Beans, Drought, and Aphids

I harvested our first ‘Chinese Red Noodle’ beans last week, after direct-seeding them on March 4. I picked all the ones that were about 12 inches or longer. Some were over 18 inches and should have been harvested a few days earlier, but I wanted to do it all at once. Warning: After they hit 12 inches, they seem to grow an inch per hour! The taste of the Red Noodle beans is VERY good. Cindy did a stir-fry with toasted sesame seeds and garlic—outstanding!

We are in the midst of a horrible drought. Thanks to drip irrigation and organic production, we’re using much less water than conventional growers. Even so, this is the time of year that legumes like row-crop and vining beans get ravaged by aphids. The cowpea in our variety trials is also decimated with aphids. In a normal year, I would have planted it in January to avoid the problem period, but our unusual winter temperatures didn’t allow that this year. I’ll try again in fall. Still, we should be able to harvest enough pods to get a taste in a week or two.

The aphids don’t seem to bother the leguminous trees; the poincianas are putting on a great show, and our pigeon pea trees are covered with pods.

Well, that’s it for now. Will gladly trade some heat for some cool!  —Andres Mejides, Homestead, Florida

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May 5th, 2011

Impatient for Spring

linda_tnWell, my popcorn is NOT planted! Nor actually anything else. We have just gone through the wettest March and April on record. The word from farmers and the wineries here in Niagara is that we are about 3 or 4 weeks behind.

I have some beautiful transplants that would love to be getting in the ground, but my ground is so wet and cold still. Yes, yesterday the sun shone and hope springs eternal!

I have been transplanting tomatoes for 2-1/2 weeks now, and the hoop houses are seas of green. I’m hoping for a warm spell so the plants surge and look magnificent for my “Tomato Days” event on the Canadian holiday weekend, May 21-22 (Victoria Day).

All my Organic Gardening variety trial plants look great. The tomatoes and peppers have been very vigorous growers in their little pots. Can you warm-weather folks send a little heat this way? Much appreciated!  —Linda Crago, Wellandport, Ontario

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