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December 9th, 2010

Test Garden Update: Bill Nunes, Gustine, CA

bill_tnI’ve never gone much for pumpkins solely for decoration—no surprise to those who know I haven’t much patience for flowers. But I do appreciate FOOD that is pretty, and the ‘Kumi Kumi’ squash we trialed this year (below) fits my criteria. It’s a beautiful ribbed flattish pumpkin. I suppose I’ll eventually eat it, but for now it’s lovely to look at. I do like to use seasonal produce as table or outdoor decorations. I just like to make sure I eat them before they go bad.

1Our average first frost date is nominally November 4. We were about two weeks later than that this year. Still haven’t made it below 30F as far as I know, although the east side of the valley probably has. We had a series of storms right about the time we hit freezing that brought 1″ of rain, depending on exact location. Then some beautiful end-of-November days that had me out in the garden in a T-shirt. About 1/2″ of rain last week kept me from having to water anything and the winter veggies are all happy as can be.

My season for lettuce is just ramping up right now. I’ve been harvesting one bed of cutting lettuce for a few weeks. There are tried-and-true varieties ‘Red Salad Bowl’ and ‘Tango’. Plus ‘Kweik’, which I haven’t decided if I will harvest for a salad mix or allow to grow for heads (or both). The bed of Organic Gardening test varieties is a bit behind, and I’ve just started cutting them this week.

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September 28th, 2010

Test Garden Update: Barbara Miller, Boulder, CO

squashI  came back from vacation at the end of August to find— surprise!—just a  few overgrown pattypan squash, as you can see in the photo at left. Whew, those pattypans breed overnight and grow huge while you’re not looking. For a while I just begged everyone who came by to take some, but then inspiration struck and “Mrs. Scarecrow” was born. She’s a bit lazy, but she loves to chat to all the kids..

scarecrowNow I have only 27 more overgrown squash left.

What a wonderful autumn we’re having (but I just have to add that it is too dry).

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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 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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