Copyright © 1997-2009 Demand Media. All rights reserved.
Hello friends and readers,
I've planted all of my rhambutans (4), longan berries (10) and pomegranate seeds (53), now it's up to them. The coconut still has another couple of days of soaking before I pop it in a pot.
We had a pretty good frost this morning, but it only froze on my car - the plants in the beds were fine. :-) Thank you micro-climates! So when I got home from work this afternoon I put the plastic on my little green house/row cover/cold frame, call it what you like. Pictures are in my album if you would like to take a look. A couple of people seemed interested in what I did with the greenhouse after seeing the pictures, so I'll be posting a materials list, dimensions and some basic instructions. I'm actually going to be covering another one of my beds, so I'll take some pictures as I go, too.
My son took one of the pumpkins with him to his mother's house. Boy was he proud! We didn't get a chance to carve one here at our house this weekend. My niece and nephew didn't come down as planned, so I have some extras. And I let the neighbors know about the pumpkins in the pumpkin patch so they can bring their grand kids over. They seemed pretty excited about it. :-)
A new friend sent me some osage oranges that I have been craving ever since I came across them while trying to identify a plant that Meska had posted in the Mystery Plant forum. I opened the box with my son this weekend. They did sort of look like "green brains". I have to take some time this week and figure out the best way to get the seeds out. I'm thinking of trying a couple of different methods. 1) brute force - cut them open and pick the seeds out. 2) leave one outside under a pot to see what it looks like in the spring, since they will need to be stratified (exposed to cold for a period of time to mimic the change of seasons and allow the seeds to germinate). 3) Put one in the ground and see what happens. I'll spend some time researching it online, too. Of course, if anyone has any additional info I would love to hear about it.
On a down note, when I brought in my plants, I had some hitchhikers - spider mites. They were positively feasting on my bananas and elephant ears. They don't seem to like anything else. I picked up some pyrethrum spray for houseplants at the local Agway. It seems to do a good job against the spider mites and the fungus gnats that also come in this time of year. I tried watering less frequently to get rid of the fungus gnats by just keeping the soil drier, but all I got was thirsty fungus gnats. ;-) I had also tried using one of those clove oil sprays, but my plants didn't like it, and it didn't seem to be effective. It didn't bother the gnats at all. So pyrethrum spray it is.
Also, thanks to everyone who is reading my blog. I saw that it's now ranked second. :-) If there are any gardening magazine editors reading this, I'm also willing to write articles for money, too.
It's 70+ degrees, on October 25th? What's going on? That's right! Here in Eastern Massachusetts we are still enjoying the warm weather that's been pumped into our area from the south, and it's been great, if a little wet. I have to say that it's been a joy to take down my summer garden so far this year. I've taken down all my tomato plants and pumpkin vines in the front and already laid down my winter greens and put up my first greenhouse frame. I think I'm going to try covering two beds this year and put in some potatoes (no, not in the same bed that had the tomatoes, don't worry) so that they'll be in the ground when the ground warms up in the spring. Voila! No slogging through wet ground, turning it over, etc. when I'm going to be busy enough trying to do other things. I'm planting white fingerlings that I bought at the produce store this past weekend.
Speaking of which, I
really like this produce store that's in my town. They have lots of
tropical fruit and vegetables that you simply won't find in the big
chain stores. Like what you ask? Well, they have the usual mangoes
and pomogranates, but they also have guavas, rhambutans, longan berries, green coconuts and a host of other root vegetables the names of which I'd never even heard before! I bought some
pomogranates, rhambutans, longan berries, a guava and a green coconut.
I would have bought more, but I only had so
much time on my hands, money in my wallet and room in my house. :-) Two years ago this store was actually able to get me a durian! If you are wondering why this is a big deal, look up "durian smell" online. I wonder how
many people held their nose to get that to me. Man, did that thing
reek! I'm sorry to say that I couldn't bring myself to keep it much
less try it. It cost a bit of money, too. Maybe I'll try it again sometime.
I've already eaten the guava, rhambutans and longan berries and one of the pomogranates. The guava wasn't really ripe enough, so I wound up just eating some of the fruit and sending most of it to the compost pile. I didn't get the impression that the seeds were mature. Don't ask me why, maybe I'm picking up some skills from my son. (See my first post for this reference.) Anyway, I took all of the juice out of one handful of the little pomogranate jewels and put the seeds into a cup of water to soak. I also peeled all of the rhambutans and longan berries, picked out the seeds, ate the fruit, and am soaking those seeds in water, too. I'll have my son with me this weekend to help me get them all into into some moist coconut coir and set them on a seed mat to germinate. From what I've read, if the fruit has been refrigerated the seeds of the rhambutan won't germinate. I'm going to try anyway and see what happens. Both the rhambutans and longan berries had a similar, interesting texture once I got the rind off of them. They were very round, and firm, and translucent. I think they would make great "eyballs" in a Halloween fruit cup if I could get the large seeds out from the middle without messing the flesh up too much.
coconut is still in the husk. The description on the label said "green
coconut", but it looked pretty brown to me. So I bought one for $3 and
brought it home and stuck it in a pail of water. After all, it's just
another seed, right? And what do you do with seeds before you plant
them? You soak them, that's right. So regardless of whether they're
the size of a pinhead like the dragonfruit seeds, a kernel of corn like
the pomogranate seeds, a small marble like the longan berries, a large
almond like the rhambutan, or a childs head like the coconut, I like
to soak them first. I'll soak the coconut for at least a week and then
put it in some soil. In all likelihood, the coconut seed isn't mature
enough to actually germinate, but if it doesn't work, I've only lost $3
and some time.
My camera doesn't handle macro shots too well, but I'll post some pics of everything if I can take some good ones.
In case you couldn't tell, I'm sort of a sucker for growing
unusual plants, especially from seed, and especially tropical plants,
and really especially ones that bear stuff to eat, like fruit. I'm
already growing some dragonfruit plants, passionfruit vines, lemon
trees, apple trees, and avocado trees, all of which I started from the
seeds of fruit I bought at the store. So these rhambutan, longan berry,
coconut and pomogranate plants would be nice additions to my collection.
I have several dwarf cavendish banana trees that all came from dividing one little banana tree I bought at the garden store about two years ago for short money because it was half dead. I need to divide at least two of them again. I don't know what I'm going to do with 7 or eight banana trees! But I don't have the hear to just kill them.
I also have a cardamom plant that is doing fantastic! From what I've read, it doesn't get hot enough for long enough in my neck of the woods for it to actually flower and give me any cardamom pods, but the leaves reportedly have a great flavor all their own and can be used to cook with, doing things like steaming fish, etc. So I'll be able to do that.
on my list of food to grow, are pineapples from the pineapple tops,
ginger from ginger root, and shiitake mushrooms. I've tried all three
several times, and can't seem to get the right set of materials and
conditions. I've been doing research, though and am ready to give them
Now for my catch phrase......"Keep those thumbs green!"
Hmmmm.... Maybe not, sounds kinda gross.
There two big reasons I grow tomatoes in my garden. The first is my son - he likes the tiny grape tomatoes because they're sweet and he can pick them himself and pop them into his mouth like candy pretty much whenever he wants. Reason number 2 is my dad. He LOVES a good tomato. The last couple of years I've been growing only the cherry and grape and cherry tomatoes for my son, and salads, but next year I'm going to get some of that concrete reinforcing wire and build the big honkin' tomato cages that will hold up the big heirlooms like the brandywines. Those I'll be growing for my dad.
Yesterday my dad came by and noticed that several (okay a couple dozen) tomatoes had fallen off the vine because I'd been too busy to pick them. So he offered to come buy and "help me out" by picking some. I figured that he just wanted to "help himself" to my tomatoes, but he really did help. After he picked all of the tomatoes off the vines he cut them down and stacked them on the side of the bed. Now he's talking about getting a small bed at the local community garden in our town and he asked me if I'd be willing to give him a hand. Of course I said I would.
Meska asked me what I will do with all my nine pumpkins my son and I grew this year. They're not very big, but...
One is for my son to take to his mother's house (maybe one for her, too, if he wants to give one to her. we'll see.)
Two are for our house - one for me and one for my son
One each for my niece and nephew
The remaining 3 or 4 will probably go to the neighbor's grandkids. I'll let them pick them from the pumpkin patch. My neighbor was telling me that her daughter's husband had tried to grow them, but all the vines died. I guess he has an Agent Orange thumb or something. He planted corn last year - one long row. lol For those who know even less about corn than I do, this is pretty funny. Corn needs to be grown together in multiple rows so that the pollen can fall on it's own and neighboring cornstalks. If you plant it in one long row, the pollen just gets blown away and rarely lands on the silk and you get little or no corn! I forget what my neighbor said he did or didn't do with the pumpkin vines that they died, but he didn't get a single pumpkin either.
If the kids don't want them then I'll probably just cook them. I know they're not the super sweet pumpkins used for pumpkin pie, but if you roast them like an acorn or butternut squash, they're still mighty good. I had bought a few of the real small pumpkins (Jack be Littles ,or something like that) last year for decorations. I didn't cut into them or paint them or anything. And after Halloween I cooked them up - I cut them in half, scooped out the seeds, oiled a cookie sheet and roasted them in a medium oven with a little brown sugar. They got a little caramelized and the aroma was terrific. They came out of the oven hot, sweet and tasty. I put someething else on them, too , but I forget now what it was. It was like clove, allspice, nutmeg, or something like that.
I want to come up with a catch phrase to end my blog (no help please, I need to do this on my own.)
How about, "Until next time, keep those hands dirty!"
Nah, too corny. I'll keep trying.
Wow, it's been almost two weeks since my last post. Time flies when you're having fun. I think I mentioned that I love the fall; it's my favorite time in the garden.
Before I start with what I wanted to enjoy talking about, I would like to apologize to the several folks that have not received the seeds they requested for the sunflower and the datura. My white and yellow datura seeds got mixed together on the kitchen table while I was sorting and packaging them up, so I wanted to wait until I got another batch of each so I could be sure of what I was sending folks. And I quite honestly just haven't gotten around to pulling all of the seeds off of the sunflower head and mailing them out. Sorry all. Please rest assured that this was not some elaborate scam to get 41 cents from you all. I'll get them all out to you before Spring - I promise!
Now that I've gotten that out of the way, on to fun stuff....
Early this week, Monday (Oct.15th) I cleared out the bed in which I'd grown my corn and over which I had let my pumpkin vines ramble. I turned over the soil, raked it smooth and picked out more rocks that always seem to come to the surface from the center of the earth, just north of he11. I then put down four rows of different lettuces: butter crunch, salad bowl, mesclun mix, and something else the name of which I can't recall now. I also put down seeds for some baby bok choy and a few large head cabbages. We have had a warm snap here in the Northeast. It's the remnants of all that terrible weather that spawned tornadoes in the midsouth and midwest this week. It's positively balmy here now - 70+ today, 75-80 tomorrow. That's pretty nice for the middle of October. As a result, all of the seeds have already sprouted!
What's that you say? I'm crazy to be starting lettuce, bok choy and cabbages in the middle of October? Well, crazy like a fox, maybe, because over the bed I've also set up my rowcover/mini-greenhouse frame that I designed and built out of PVC . I've posted pics in my album, "Garden and Row Cover".
I enjoyed reading two books that gave me ideas about what I wanted for my garden. The first is The 12-Month Gardener: Simple Strategies for Extending Your Growing Season by Jeff Ashton. He discusses several ways of extending the growing season starting out with very simple and very inexpensive floating row covers, all the way through to building your own permanent greenhouses complete with electricity and automatic venting and fans. The second book that I also recommend is Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long by Eliot Coleman. Both of these together gave me enough information to understand the requirements of being able to extend my growing season, choose appropriate crops, and design and build something that was genuinely my own.
I haven't had to cover it in plastic yet because it's been so warm; I'll do that next week, probably. I'll be happy to post a material list and layout if anyone is interested. It was real easy. It uses more PVC than the standard half-hoop row covers made by just pushing the two ends of a length of PVC pipe into the ground, but it not only looks MUCH nicer, but is also MUCH stronger. I think you'll agree. This is my third year extending the season this way. Last year my nephew helped me harvest three shopping bags full of lettuces and other greens for salads well into December. One of the coolest things about my frame is that I designed it to be expandable. it starts out being sort of triangular in cross section, but you can screw in legs of whatever length you desire to raise the height if you want to make it look more like a "house". Maybe I'll swap out the short feet with the long feet and a post a pic of that, too, so you can what I mean about the design.
Right now all of the parts are just held together by friction. At some point I'm going to be cementing many of the parts together, not only to make it stronger, but to make set up even easier. I don't want to cement everything together because then I wouldn't be able to take it apart. Currently I can break it down in 15 minutes and store all the parts in a box about 6" x 6" x 46" and it's out of the way during the summer when I don't need it, and I don't have these 10' obnoxiously long PVC pipes laying around. I don't want that to change.
This year my son will be old enough to help me harvest the greens. He's like me - we both love a good salad with some blue cheese dressing. Mmmmmmm.....
Oh, and a boxwood update - I have it home. A picture of that is coming soon, too.
My mother was telling me about all of the changes she wants to make in her yard, plant this, mulch that, etc., and she says she wants to get rid of this one boxwood that she had planted to hide the oil inlet pipe used by the oil man to deliver the home heating oil. One whole side of the shrub had died, probably for two reasons. First, that side of the shrub was repeatedly exposed to the elements after shoveling all of the snow from around the oil pipe in the wintertime. Second, theoilman dragging the oil hose across the shrub to get the oilpipe would continually remove leaves and small twigs from the little bush. I asked her if she was throwing it away and when she said yes I asked her if I could have it. She said sure. So I'll now have a free plant to kill, er....I mean....try bonsaiing on. Cool! I'll post pics when I start.
So I've been tossing the idea around in my head of starting a blog, and finally decided to give it a try. I'm not sure that I have all that much to write about, and I definitely don't think that I have that much to write about that other people will want to read, but I'm going to try it anyway.
First entry: My son! What better place to start than there? (I won't be posting his name or picture just because there are so many crazies in the world, but that's a subject for another day.) Anyway, I consider myself a decent gardener. I can grow things pretty well, handle the occasional pests and diseases organically, etc. But I'm convinced that my son's thumb is even greener than mine.
A week ago, I'm at a restaurant with my son, having some iced tea with a wedge of lemon. My 5 year old son looks at my iced tea and the lemon wedge, sees some seeds in the lemon, and pipes up with, "Hey Dad, we could plant these!" Wanting to encourage his curiosity and interest, I say, "We sure could," and promptly remove the seeds, wrap them in a napkin and take them home. I popped them into some moist coconut coir and they've already sprouted and are showing their first set of true leaves! I have to repot them into some real potting soil this week. Now I have tried this several times with lemon seeds and they have never sprouted for me, I mean EVER. But I'll be darned if I can figure out any difference between these seeds and the ones I've tried before.
He must be a plant "sensitive" or something, because, now that I think about, a month ago something else happened that surprised me. He looked at my half dozen little date palm seedlings, that to me mind you all looked the same, pointed at one of them and says, "Awww...that ones dead." I said, "You think so? It looks alright to me." The leaves looked fine, 7 inches long, green and firm. But to humor him, I gave it a little tug and up it came, dead as a doornail, shriveled rotten brown root and all. It was weird. Kind of like, "I see dead plants." (A reference to The Sixth Sense in case you didn't catch it. :smile: ) I'm not going to say that he's psychic or anything, because I think that's a load of cr@p, right down there with astrology, but maybe kids can see more different light wavelengths than adults and this plant looked different to him or something. Who knows?
Okay, that's enough for now, I think. Comments are welcome. Hopefully I won't put anything in my blog that will get it silently deleted (Ron). (hee hee, couldn't resist.)
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