Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Cucumber Pretzel

While trying to de-hybridize the light Carosello Polisello cucumber variety, I came across this off-type light cucumber. Enjoy!
 

A Carosello Pretzel!



Fuzzy Cucumber Pretzel fun!



Now hairless, the cucumber meets its demise.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Super Composters

Adult Black Soldier Fly
Previous to this year, I had barely heard about Black Soldier flies. I had already purchased some from The Reptile Specialist in Tucson several years ago as reptile feed, but had a difficult time keeping them alive. Unfortunately, I did not know, at the time, how to properly care for these beasts. Fast forward to this winter when I’m out checking on the table scraps in my compost and notice the compost moving along with a noise of critters moving around. So, I take a nearby short hoe and turn them over only to find – black soldier fly larvae by the hundreds.


My food scraps bucket before black soldier flies.


With an especially wet winter, it became quite difficult to keep my black soldier fly larvae in the wooden barrel that is my table scraps compost bin. They would crawl out and leave me having to scoop out their bodies and throw them into the garden. From time to time they became a little bit of a nuisance, but then I just forgot about them. That is until a couple weeks ago when I went outside to throw the inside food scrap bucket into the barrel. I was expecting to see the compost pile at least 8 inches higher and wondered what had happened. I noticed that the regular fruit fly colony that hovered above the bin had completely disappeared and, as I put my hand above the compost area I could feel, on an already warm day, a noticeable heat emanating from the pile. I pulled the first layer of the pile up only to discover thousands of black soldier flies writhing around in mass along the surface.


A Black Soldier Fly resting on a zucchini leaf


Though this may sound disgusting, I have found Black Soldier fly larvae to be the piranhas of the larvae world. It is not that they eat other larvae (such as fruit fly larvae) but rather it is that they out-compete every other fly in relation to all the food scraps that humans produce as well as a host of other things that I will not mention in this blog post. But I will say how cool it is to throw old slices of pizza, fat, bones and other scraps (that you wouldn’t do in a conventional compost situation) into a bin in which they are (within hours) recycled into high quality compost. There is a very good illustration of this in a youtube video with black soldier flies and a hamburger. It is amazing how much heat they produce when they are in mass. This heat does seem to be a factor in helping them to break down things such as whole pieces of rotten fruit or bones.


Black Soldier Flies laying eggs in the food scraps compost bin


So now, I am able to supply each of my nearby gardening friends who have both chickens and compost piles with a great supply of both composters and feed. Should you find any of these friends in a compost bin near you, be sure to welcome them in and enjoy the benefits that result.




Black Soldier Fly Larvae with resulting composted material



About 2-3 minutes of Black Soldier Fly activity - Enjoy!


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Springing to Life

Although spring has been late in coming, it is finally warm enough to have my garden truly blossom. My garlic and onions are continuing to grow, though I did have to push my garlic over to keep it from heading. Temperatures here in Fairfield are fluctuating between the low 70s and the 90s during the day and between the 50s to 60s at night. The 90 degree temperatures have caused my lettuce to begin bolting, though my Jericho Lettuce never became bitter even when it began to bolt – a wonderful quality about the Jericho Lettuce cultivar. My Spanish round radishes have begun to bolt. I am really not a fan of these plants, but for the sake of keeping a wall of spicy plants I have kept them around to seed. Perhaps I can grow them again next fall for the same purpose.



Carosello and Jericho lettuce with onions in the background


Even next to my new Greenhouse, my Oregon Sugar Pod II peas have done exceptionally well. Though the creator of Oregon Sugar Pod II has created some vegetable varieties that still need improvement, such as the tomato cultivar Siletz, Jim Baggett did a fantastic job with the Sugar Pod II.


Oregon Sugar Pod II Peas



Sugar Pod II Peas still producing


My tomatoes have grown a lot faster that I have anticipated, when compared with my carosello plants. The majority of my tomato plants are much larger than I would prefer. Although I planted all determinate plants this year, determinate does not necessarily mean short. Next year, I will most likely opt for all dwarf varieties, much like my Redhouse Freestanding and Hahms Gelbe tomatoes. The most amazing producer so far has been my Taxi tomato. This variety is developing its flowers and fruits so much faster than my other tomato varieties, even in the presence of minimal light. I’m hoping the taste is as good as people say it is.


Red House Freestanding Tomato



Redhouse Freestanding surrounded by Hahms Gelbe



Taxi Tomato Variety


At last, the carosello have finally taken off. The cold wet weather made it difficult for the plants to grow. For a while, though the leaves were light green, they have become darker as the temperature has increased. I wonder if melon plants metabolize nutrients more effectively when the soil temperature warms up. Female fruits are finally beginning to emerge. As the Carosello Polisello varieties I have are not completely stable, I am still planning on self-pollinating them with each plant’s own pollen until the fruit matures enough to be able to determine which plant produces a lighter base skin color.

Carosello finally taking off! (=







Finally, a female flower


It is incredibly wonderful how well my garden has grown. Despite pruning and removing the occasional tomato plant, everything has been growing to become beautiful.



carosello flowers are beautiful



Wishing all of you a spectacular spring!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Moderate-Climate Perennials

Now that I no longer live in Tucson, I am able to really enjoy an opportunity to grow vegetable varieties that I have never grown before. Perrenials that my father grows such as Yacon, Oca, Rasberries and Strawberries are now within my reach. Alas, the problem of unlimited wants and limited resources is not just consigned to the discipline of economics. My little 10x20’ garden bed has a large Cyprus tree on the South side and is still lacking in sufficient amounts bacteria that establish the foundation of a healthy garden. However, the temperatures are perfect for perennial veggies.


Garlic and Onions border my garden as a slight deterrent for slugs
 
I will probably limit my perennial vegetable beds to mainly veggies such as perennial leeks, potato onions and garlic along with lemongrass and perennial kale or tree chard. The first three require yearly digging while the last two, not so much. I have yet to try potato onions and I am just starting on seedlings of perennial leeks - but my garlic, lemongrass and kale are doing very well.


Morning Dew on Perennial Kale or Tree Chardy


One of the real benefits of perennials is either not having to replant every year or having the plants adjust to your climate. Not having to purchase new seed or plants each year can also save a lot of money. Even when leafing and fruiting perennials do not require replanting each year, they can suffer from disease or nutrient deficiencies if left in the same place for too long, without adequate care. Meanwhile, rooting perennials must be kept clean and disease free - but by keeping the healthiest roots year after year the gardener is selecting the strongest most well-adapted varieties.


Lemon Grass in my garden

In gardening, I have quickly learned that it helps to get to know people. I purchased my garlic and lemongrass from a friend who runs a nursery in American Canyon called Midcities Nursery. A friend from the Solano County Master Gardeners provided me with the tree chard and I happened to find a place online that sells perennial leeks (I will definitely write more about this later).



Sprouting Perennial Leeks


The Kale/Chard is really good in soups, though I don’t think my body has adjusted to eating it raw yet. There is apparently a lot of information out there about how to care for Tree Kale, though it does seem to do really well in my garden so far.


As a gardener, I must decide what is most important to me, and focus on what I need to do in order to achieve that in my garden. Though perennial vegetables are fun, interesting, do not require purchasing new seed or plants, they are heavily outweighed by my Carosello cucumber varieties. However, it is nice to have a few plants that can grow most of the year when little else in my garden is green.


Perennial Kale or Tree Chard grow quickly

Monday, April 3, 2017

Happy Spring

So, gardening in California is quite a bit different than gardening back in Tucson. For one, if I were to have left the ground the way it was (just dirt) it would have been completely unworkable because of all the rain we have been having. Unlike Tucson dirt (which has a high amount of sand in addition to its mineral content) the dirt around here is mostly clay. This means that the dirt compacts a lot more and is not workable as early in the season as sandy soil. Though the clay does have a lot of good nutrients, its structure does not make an ideal soil in an intensive garden bed.


My Garden in January



The Peach Tree in my front yard


Apple Blossom


Then, we have been blessed with so much rain. Because of the rain, I have been having difficulty with slugs and cool weather. The cool weather is always something I can find a work-around with but the slugs have been pretty difficult to combat. Because of all the rain we received over the winter, the spring pollen has been so intense that I have to use my windshield wipers to remove it in the morning – and my car is not under a tree!


My Early March Garden


Perennial Kale or Tree Chard


Finally, because I did mostly replace the native dirt with compost, the soil I am using in my garden is taking a while to develop. This means that the plants and seeds I put into the ground are slow to grow and require nutrients as well as native dirt to be tilled back in, along with time for the soil bacteria to take over the garden. It usually takes a while for a garden’s digestive flora to take hold, so I will be happy if I am here in a few years to see how wonderful the plants uptake nutrients.


Garden Mid-March



Lettuce and Marigolds - post slug


So, that is my update for now. I am truly grateful for the beautiful climate I now live in. At times, we are blessed a little too much. With all the blossoms my plants are putting on, if even 1/4 of them develop I will most likely have to pick a lot of fruit off my trees to keep the trees from breaking branches! In the near term, I am planning on trialing some determinate tomato varieties as well as growing the light Carosello Polisello variety this spring.


Garden in Late March


Growing Regular Potatoes in the front yard


I hope you get a chance to go outside and enjoy gardening this spring!

-Jay



Puglia’s Horticultural Biodiversity Website


So, for all you Carosello fans out there, I just recently discovered the Network for the biodiversity of Horticulture in Puglia website, found at biodiversitapuglia.it.


This website is continually updating their findings concerning Italian agriculture and, as it turns out, carosello varieties. For those of us who speak English, it does require translation, but if you are looking for Carosello varieties to learn more about – this may be a resource for you!

One of their earliest posts was about the experience individuals have with seeing carosello cucumbers while visiting southern Italy.

There is a general Carosello page, then there are a few pages about specific Carosello, such as the Mandurian Round.
 
One page in particular talks about a Carosello Pilusedda, which looks a lot like a Carosello Polisello – perhaps very similar to my Polisello. Then there is another page about a Spuredda Leccese variety.


Carosello Pilusedda or Perhaps Polisello?


Carosello Spuredda Leccese


I am thrilled to see so much information coming out of the source of some of the fantastic Carosello varieties.

Whenever you want to find more out about Carosello cucumber varieties in Italy, you can always go to Puglia’s biodiversity website.

 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Organic Gardener’s Handbook by Frank Tozer



Of all the gardening guides I have ever found, The Organic Gardener’s Handbook tends to be one of the most broad in its scope and specific in its gardening insights. This book, written by Frank Tozer is a winner in its expansive knowledge, its engaging bouts of humor and its helpful charts and guides. Tozer covers so much general knowledge from experienced gardeners that it is quite amazing that any one person could compile such a book.

A few crop rotation options


Rarely do I renew any of the library books that I check out, but I have already renewed this book twice. It covers when, where, how, how much, why and every other question related to seeds, vegetables, gardens, tools and so forth. It covers intensive and less intensive gardening. It covers the many options in rotating crops and in planning out how to plant a garden. Because each area of the country experiences different weather patterns, Tozer finds ways to give advice while still making it universal. He does not say this works for everything, but instead says if your conditions are dry, hot, wet, cold etc. then you might want to consider doing specific things to ensure a successful garden.


Crops for different situations


Planting by height


Frank is quite funny at times. At one point he states that you can drop off your slugs at a competitor’s garden while in another section he mentions the use of compressed wood as one possible material for composting. He then goes on to say that he doesn’t know why anyone would think of composting compressed wood and doesn’t know why he is even writing it!


Spring Planting guide

The various guides that Tozer includes are quite helpful. He explores many facets of crop rotation, planting by size, direct sowing vs. transplanting, how to prepare transplants and when to plant crops in the spring vs. in the fall. By consulting charts and guides, a gardener can find ways to expand the season and grow things that work well for their climate.


Fall Planting Guide


For those who are new to gardening, as well as those who have established crops, The Organic Gardener’s Handbook provides a wealth of knowledge that can be of benefit to anyone who cares to read.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A deli cup Cloche

While biting at the bit at any opportunity to get my cucumbers off to an early start, I thought about how perfect 16 oz. deli cups are for the size of the cucumber plant within the first month of growth. So I decided to make a deli cup cloche with toothpicks as stakes to ensure they do not blow away in the wind. So, the very next chance I had to go shopping for gardening supplies landed me in my local Smart & Final, which happened to have the 32 oz., the 8 oz. and the 6 oz. sizes, but were out of stock of their 16 oz. containers. Or were they? After about 10 minutes of looking on the shelves, I found a box in the above overstock labeled 16 oz. polypropylene deli cups. I took down the box, opened it up and voilĂ !


The three holes with toothpicks in them.


At first I thought about drilling holes in the bottom, but that did not seem very stable. Then I remembered that we did still posses one hole puncher that had not disappeared yet. I was going to make two holes per toothpick,  but the hole puncher did not have enough clearance, so I just used packaging tape to provide additional support. I think I rely more on packaging tape then duct tape – packaging tape seems like it can be used for nearly anything.


Inserting the deli cup cloche into the ground


The design is simple: A 16 oz deli cup with 3 holes. Insert toothpicks into holes and secure with packaging tape. Not only will this work until the germinated seeds emerge from the soil, but when it finally stops raining this season, I can pull the 3-legged deli cup cloche up a little so that ventilation can occur while still providing heat at night. However, if I do this I will still need to put collars around my seedlings as the slugs have been relentless this year.

Wish me luck!


Radish plant is for demonstration purposes only (=