Thursday, November 5, 2009

Season's End

On October 30th, Toquerville got some frost, and pretty much ended my gardening. I picked the last of my green beans the night before, and picked the rest of my tomatoes. I still have beets, carrots and spinach we continue to enjoy. Though we have not had a freeze yet, my garden has pretty much stopped growing. Last year, our first freeze came on October 12th, but after that, it didn't freeze again until December 5th. But length of day, and soil temperatures are such that plants will no longer do much growing. This spring, temperatures did not warm until about mid-April.

I have tilled up my garden, tilled in a few leaves, grass clippings, and some manure I brought in. I also tilled in a large bale of straw in an area of my garden which is heavier and has more clay. Now is the time to get compost working in your garden. Come planting time in the spring, your straw, leaves, and other material will all be broken down and fully composted.

Season Summary
It was a wet winter and spring, so the beet leaf hopper was particularly bad and affected everyone's tomatoes, potatoes, and nearly all vines. The leaf hopper population is dependent on the weather, the wetter the winter and spring, the higher the leaf hopper population; the drier the winter and spring, the lower the leaf hopper population. Still, even a low leaf hopper population can wreak havoc with your garden. I avoid using pesticides, but may have to do more next year to fight the leaf hopper.

I felt I had a successful garden, but some crops were better than others. My corn was great, cantaloupes, crenshaw, and watermelon were all good, but diseases hurt quality and production. Beets, carrots, broccoli, onions, and squash were all very good for me.

My observations are these: I will plant a bit later in the spring than in the past, to try to avoid the beet leafhopper, hard winds, and cold temperatures. I probably won't do much before April 1st. I put in a drip watering system this spring. I like it, conserves water, works off my timer, and allows me to work in the garden while I am watering.

Varieties of Preference
I believe in planting the right varieties, varieties with the best flavor, that do well in this climate, and that provide good production. Here are my preferences
1. Corn = Miracle Corn (great flavor, 70 day maturity, doesn't blow over
2. Tomato = Celebrity, Better Boy, Floramerica (hard to find), great slicing tomato. I may have to consider varieties resistant to the blight.
3. Cantalooupe = Ambrosia, by far the best flavored cantaloupe on the market. This variety has a poor shelf life, so you will never find it in the grocery store, so you must grow your own.
4. Beets = Ruby Queen, or Detroit Dark. Both varieties do well.
5. Onions = Sweet Spanish. I grown onions to last through the winter, Sweet Spanish is a good flavored onion, and will last through the winter. Sweeter varieties like Walla Walla, and Texas, will not last through the winter.
6. Watermelon = I had good success with the Crimson Sweet, but haven't really tried other varieties. Melons were flavorful, good size, and disease resistant.
7. Squash = I grew zucchini, crookneck, spaghetti, and Toquer Squash with good success

Garden Basics
1. Your garden success is only as good as your soil, add humus, compost, fertilizer, and other soil conditioners now until the ground freezes.
2. Determine the varieties you want to plant next year, and make sure you can find those varieties come planting time. 2009 was perhaps one of the most active gardening seasons in years--and nurseries and garden centers ran out of a lot of seeds, so buy early.
3. Weeds, even winter weeds, harbor pests, sap nutrients from your soil, and multiply faster than you can say Jack Sprat. So keep weeds out of your entire yard.
4. Fall and winter is a good time to service your tiller, lawnmower, weed eater, and other equipment; clean air filters, check oil levels, and do general cleaning of the equipment.
5. Pruning can be done at anytime, but pruning in the spring, just before fruit trees bloom, is the ideal time. Allow the trees to take the strength from the leaves and branches, down into the roots, then prune in the spring.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Fall Garden

My summer garden is about done. I just finished my second crop of sweet corn. Again, I've never grown better corn, and yes, I'm still sold on Miracle Corn, my new variety of choice. The corn's flavor is superb, large ears, and matures in about 70 days. The corn grows only about 6ft tall, thus resists lodging during strong winds. And it pollinates very successfully, even on the edges of the crop. I'm also sold on placing a couple of drops of vegetable oil on the silk, shortly after it appears--this prevents worms and bugs from entering the ear of corn. It is 100% successful, if applied in a timely manner. The result? perfect ears of corn with no worms or bugs.

I currently have tomatoes, green beans, beets, carrots, and spinach in my garden. We ate our first green beans yesterday, are enjoying a late tomato crop, and have harvested some spinach. The beans were planted July 18th, the spinach and beans were planted on August 10th. I should have beets ready later in October. Other falls crops can also be planted; broccoli, lettuce, cabbage, and other cool weather crops.

I have applied a load of manure on the greater part of the, now unused, garden soil, and tilled it in. I will also till in large quantities of leaves as soon as they come down. Fall is the time to prepare the garden for spring planting. You took a lot out of your garden, you need to put a lot back. Manure, leaves, compost, sawdust, any biodegradable material should be tilled into your garden.

I tend not to want to pay for the manure I put in my garden, so I ask around and find horse owners, or other folks with animals, and ask if I can relieve them of some of their manure (they are always anxious to get rid of some of that stuff). Some with tractors and loaders will even load my truck for me, so all I have to do is empty the truck and place it in my garden. Chicken and Turkey manure is too hot for the garden, but if mixed with other material (leaves, sawdust, etc) it becomes a great garden fertilizer. I prefer horse manure, it isn't too hot (nitrogen content), and horse owners tend to buy the best hay, with few weeds, so I "import" fewer weeds than with cow manure.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Squash Bugs

Nothing is quite as ugly, smelly and destructive as squash bugs. Squash bugs, Anasa tristis, are a difficult garden pest to control, but there are options. Squash bugs prefer yellow crookneck summer squash, and they prefer this variety over zucchini and other squashes, although I don't find them very discriminating. They also favor pumpkins, and spaghetti squash. Squash bugs will thrive in, on, under, and around all squash plants, melons, pumpkins, cucumbers, and all cucurbits.

In my garden they seemed to favor the squash (crookneck and spaghetti), and avoided watermelon. Since my watermelons turned out quite good, I may plant more watermelon next year.

Sylvan Wittwer suggested to me, to use drip lines, and as the plants grow, move the lines further away from the plant base. Squash bugs like moist areas around the base of the plants, so removing the moisture from that area greatly reduces the attractiveness of the plant base. So this year, with a drip system installed, I tested this theory. My first row of garden, next to the lawn, had a Toquer Squash, a pumpkin, and a spaghetti squash. This was my control because it got overspray from the lawn sprinklers and the base of the plants were usually damp.

The remaining rows of cantaloupe, crenshaw melons, crookneck, zucchini, watermelon, and spaghetti squash, received the benefit of my moving the drip lines away from the base of the plants, as the plants grew. The drip lines ended up about 1 ft away from the base of the plants.

Clearly, the squash bugs preferred the first row of vines that tended to remain damp from the lawn overspray. Some of the other rows of melons, etc, where the base remained dry and open to the sun, squash bugs were much less prominent. So this does help--but the bugs will still come, they just won't be as "happy" and don't seem to reproduce nearly as fast in the dry conditions.

In addition to the above cultural practice, I also did the following:

1. Each day, I would scour the vine leaves for the eggs of the squash bugs, and squish these with my fingers. I was interested that the bugs laid eggs both under the leaves, and on top of the leaves. As the garden got bigger (quite a few melons), examining all the leaves became a bit of a chore, but I still tried to spend a few minutes each day looking for eggs, and eliminating them before they hatched.

2. I would also lift up the ends of the squash plants, every morning, and look for bugs, and squish them on the spot. This works well with the crookneck because you can lift up each vine all the way back to the base and see the bugs, and get rid of them. If you're squeamish, wear gloves.

3. Later in the summer, the squash bugs will accumulate under and on the fruit of the plants. As the foliage of the plants deteriorates through the summer, they will begin eating the squash, melons or pumpkins, etc. So I would lift or turn each squash (spaghetti), melon (cantaloupe and crenshaw) and expose the bugs, and squish them enmasse.

Historically, pesticides are not effective against adult squash bugs, and sprays or powders must be sprayed on the under side of plants and leaves to get to where the bugs are, and this is difficult to do. I do not even attempt to spray for squash bugs, and I tend to avoid using pesticides generally.

Strong, healthy, vigorous plants will withstand the effects of squash bugs better than weak or less thriving plants, so this should always be strived for. My experience is, doing nothing is not a good option--the bugs will win, your plants will lose, and you won't get much production.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Mid-Summer Report

The Miracle Corn I planted in May was a huge success. It was easily the best corn crop I've ever grown. I really liked the variety, large stalks, large leaves, not too tall (6 ft), two large ears per stalk, full rows of kernels, great flavor.

You'll notice in this picture there are no worms. I treat the newly emerged silk with two drops of vegetable oil, which prevents worms and other bugs from entering the growing ears. This is an easy, non-pesticide method that works 100%.

This crop is finished, but I have a fall crop of Miracle Corn on the way.

I have never had success growing watermelon, but thought I'd give it another try in Toquerville. I planted Crimson Sweet, and this melon was the first one I harvested, about 20 lbs, the flavor was very good, juicy, and I'll probably grow watermelon again, although I think I'll try the seedless variety next year.

I harvested my Sweet Spanish onions, had an excellent crop, with nice medium sized onions. I'm not satisfied with my drying methods yet. I have tried laying them on the ground, in the shade. This worked pretty well, but you have to keep turning and moving the onions until the tops are completely dried. I have tried tying the leaves together over a line, in the shade. This worked pretty well too, but they would sometimes fall down, or blow down if there was a strong wind, and squirrels or animals would take them. This year I tried pulling them and just leaving them on the ground (dry ground). This worked ok for some of the onions, but too high a percentage "cooked" and were spoiled by the sun.

We have been eating cantaloupes for a month. I plant only Ambrosia cantaloupes, by far the best flavor of any cantaloupe, but they have a very short shelf life (which is why you won't find them in any grocery store). The cantaloupes are not as large this year, as last, but still of normal size and excellent flavor. Curly Top killed about a third of my cantaloupe plants.

Summer Squash
My zucchini, crookneck and spaghetti squash all produced well. The curly top took both my zucchini plants, and both my crookneck plants, but I replanted both and have not been without summer squash yet. Quality has been excellent.

Curly Top killed my one pumpkin plant, but we still got three pumpkins off it before it was gone.

The Curly Top eventually got to all my potato plants, but I still got a fair harvest, the potatoes just did not get as large as they should. The red potatoes did much better than the white "gold" variety. We've been enjoying the potatoes, and the flavor is very good, potatoes are just small.

Toquer Squash
I have a Toquer Squash vine growing in my garden that has become very large, spreading far and wide (I was warned it would do this). It contains several large, maturing bell shaped squash, and does not appear to be affected by Curly Top. When mature, this squash weighs 20-30 pounds. I got these seeds from my neighbor who grows the squash also. I'm impressed with the sweetness and flavor of this squash, plus it being a winter squash, should store well for some time.

Curly Top
Curly Top has damaged my tomatoes, potatoes, spinach, squash, pumpkin, cantaloupe, crenshaw melons, pumpkin, and cucumbers. Harris Seed is sending me a sample bottle of "GreenCure" which is effective against all blights (Curly Top is a blight), but they don't guarantee it. I am going to try it next spring. I am unwilling to give into the widespread damage of Curly Top. If anyone has experience with "GreenCure," I'd love to hear about it.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Summer Corn

On May 9th, I planted four rows of Miracle Corn, on July 13th (70 days), I harvested the first ears...and was it ever tasty.

Miracle Corn is a hybrid derived from Golden Jubilee, my previous favorite corn, that has twice the lysine and tryptophan (proteins) of other corn varieties. Miracle was developed to fight malnutrition in third world countries. It's a relatively new corn, being available for only the past few years.

I have had difficulty the past few years getting two, large, full ears of corn on each stalk; Miracle corn delivered for me this year, however. Frankly, I was impressed. I have never seen better corn in the field, and its flavor is impressive. Miracle is supposed to hold its sugar longer before turning to starch, than other varieties, as well.

Beginning early last fall, I tilled in large amounts of mulch and leaves, then applied mono-ammoniumphosphate every two to three weeks through my drip system. At 30 days from planting, I "turned" the furrow against the young corn and applied a side dressing of 16-16-16.

When the silk appeared, I applied two drops of vegetable oil to the silk, using an eyedropper. This prevents worms and bugs from entering the ear of corn, giving full, clean, worm free, ears, without using pesticides. Stalks grow about 6 ft high.

I plan on a second planting towards the end of July, same variety, different location in the garden.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


I have updated my June 23rd post with additional information regarding curly top and tomatoes. But curly top also infects potatoes as well as other garden plants. Indeed, variety seems to be important in fighting curly top.

I have two rows of potatoes, planted from seed potatoes. I have observed that the red potatoes are virtually unaffected by curly top, but the white (actually gold) potatoes are largely infected and dying. I am harvesting some nice "new" potatoes from these dying plants, but fear I will not get many mature ones.

It is also my observation, to date, that Crenshaw Melons are not affected by curly top, but Ambrosia Cantaloupes are, somewhat. The effect on Ambrosia is not significant, but has taken two of my plants.

In my garden, this year, my Crookneck Summer Squash was completely taken by curly top, but my Zucchini is unaffected.

My Spaghetti Squash, Big Max Pumpkin, and Toquer Squash are, so far, unaffected by curly top.

The cucumber I planted early, all died, presumably from curly top, but cucumber I planted later, are so far unaffected, and are thriving.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Curly Top and the Beet Leafhopper

Because of the seriousness of the curly top blight in local gardens (actually throughout the Western United States), I have researched the subject and provide the following information.

This top picture is of a healthy tomato plant from my garden.

The second picture is of a Curly Top infected tomato from my garden

General Information
Causal Agent: Beet Curly Top Virus (BCTV) Hosts: Tomatoes, beans, pepper, spinach, beets, and cucumbers.
Symptoms: Leaves of infested plants are dwarfed, crinkled, rolled inward, and cupped upward. Veins on the underside of leaves usually have a purple discoloration, may be roughened, and often produce swellings or spine-like outgrowths. Roots are stunted and may exhibit a proliferation of secondary rootlets.
BCTV is transmitted to/from plant to plant by the beet leafhopper, Circulifer tenellus. Both the virus and the beet leafhopper have very wide host ranges. Once acquired by the leafhopper, BCTV is carried for the rest of the leafhopper's life, and thus long distance spread is common. Infected plants are usually scattered in a field. The beet leafhopper acquires the virus from infected crop plants or weeds such as wild mustard and Russian thistle. Only brief feeding periods (minutes) are required for the leafhopper to acquire the virus and transmit it to new plants. Plants begin to show symptoms about 7 to 14 days after they are first infected by a leafhopper. Tomato is not a preferred host for the beet leafhopper; however the leafhoppers transmit the virus to tomatoes while sampling it.

Curly Top facts
a. Curly Top is a blight transmitted by the Beet Leafhopper. Although tomatoes are not its preferred host, leafhoppers are fairly indiscriminate, and tomatoes get infected along with beets, beans, melons, squash, potatoes, spinach, peppers, cucumbers and other garden plants. Even Pumpkins have been infected in some states.

b. When humidity is above 50%, Curly Top is nonexistent; thus the desert southwest is very susceptible to this disease.

c. There is no cure, once infected, the plant fails to thrive, will not set additional fruit, and will usually die. Remaining fruit will be of low quality, underdeveloped, and of poor quality and flavor.

What Doesn’t Work

a. Spraying for the Beet Leafhopper is ineffective since the Leafhopper migrates, usually coming down from hillsides as the weather warms. And although spraying will kill the leafhopper, the damage is done before the leafhopper dies.

b. Commercially, there are some insecticide spraying programs, and soil treatments that are effective, but for the home gardener, they are either not available or impractical.

c. Some of the cultural practices of commercial farmers, are also impractical or irrelevant to the home gardener. For example, planting large, thick fields of tomatoes seems to repel the Leafhopper, but gardeners can’t do this.

d. The State of California is investigating the introduction of predators and parasites for control of Beet Leafhopper, but to date, no solution has been found.

e. Covering tomatoes with a mesh or screen to keep the leafhoppers out. Most mesh is not tight enough to keep the leafhopper out, and if it is tight enough, the mesh will also keep out sunlight and create too much shading, and stunt plant growth.

What Might Work
a. There are possibly two or three resistant varieties, but all tomato varieties are susceptible. Ropac and Columbia seem to be resistant, but no immune, to curly top. Floramerica is another variety reported to be resistant, though it's not been confirmed in our area. Bruce Church in Hurricane experiences about 80% success with Ropac and Columbia.

b. Planting tomatoes later in the season, for the Hurricane Valley this would be mid-May to mid-June. Leafhoppers seem to be less prevalent by this date, and moved on to their more favored plants like Russian Thistle, Mustard, and other weeds.

c. Creating dense stands of tomatoes seems to repel the leafhopper, but for most home gardeners, this is impractical. Still, if you can plant in a square instead of a row, you will probably create some protection against the leafhopper.

d. Eliminating Russian Thistle, plantain, and other weeds is also somewhat effective, since the Leafhopper prefers weeds, particularly the Russian Thistle.

e. Creating an enclosed, clear plastic “greenhouse” over the tomatoes, for the early growing period, in theory, should protect the tomatoes from the Leafhopper, but the “greenhouse” must be tight as to make it impenetrable by the Leafhopper. If this can be maintained until mid-May, when it would probably be impracticable and inadvisable to keep the tomatoes inside the “greenhouse.”

f. Shading, which lowers light intensity and retards evaporation, probably delays leafhopper visits, decreases the infection rate, and reduces symptom expression. However, tomatoes do not like being shaded (they prefer full sun), so there is an adverse affect to this practice.

g. New Mexico State University has tested the use of applying a white kaolin mineral product (3% kaolin suspension) on tomatoes and peppers, and the treatment has proven effective against curly top. But row irrigation or drip irrigation must be used since sprinklers and rain will wash the kaolin off the plant and eliminate its effectiveness. Kaolin is a soft, earthy, usually white mineral...and don't ask me where you get Kaolin. It is probably available someplace.

h. Bruce Church in Hurricane says a spray of reconstituted dry milk is effective (From Utah State info), and he uses it. Dr. Sylvan Wittwer confirmed to me that milk is effective as both a repellent of the leafhopper and as an infection preventative. I tried this only one year and it was effective.

A Few Mid-Season Observations

With the warmer weather my corn, tomatoes, cantaloupes and other vines, have all really taken off. Following, are a few mid season observations:

1. In Toquerville, there is little or no advantage to planting early. The ground is too cold, the winds too strong, and plants tend to not grow much until April or May.

2. All vines (cantaloupes, crenshaw melons, cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, etc) seem to do really well in this area. Plant them in early May, and you still have plenty of time for them to mature.

3. The tomato curly top disease is very bad, and very frustrating to try to overcome. There is essentially no effective prevention, and no cure, so the leafhoppers just infect the tomatoes, and there isn't a whole lot you can do about it; except to pull out the plant and replace it. The six plants I replaced are all doing well, setting on tomatoes, and none of them have become infected with the curly top blight. Unless I learn differently, I'm assuming planting tomatoes later is better than planting early, because you avoid the curly top blight.

4. The cool May and June this year was ideal weather for broccoli, but I planted broccoli in early March, and have had nearly 8 weeks of broccoli harvest so far. Also, I've not been bothered by aphid or leaf worms--so far.

5. We had a huge pecan harvest last year, but I have very few pecans this year. Pecans do altenate between heavy and light harvests, but I didn't expect it to be this thin. Also, I've observed that last year, my pecan trees did not have sap on them, nothing observable anyway. This year, however, with hardly any pecans on the trees, the sap is very heavy in all trees. Is there a connection between the "off year" and heavy sap?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

June Report

I have had success and failure in my garden so far this year. Beets, Onions, Peas, Carrots, Broccoli and Summer Squash have been very successful.

Cauliflower was mostly a failure. I'm not sure why, but the plants did not grow for a long time, when they did grow, they looked good, but the heads were strange, an odd color, and the flavor was poor.

Tomatoes continue to suffer from "Curlytop" brought by the Beet Leafhopper. About half my plants were infected and I have taken them out. I have replaced the plants, mostly as an experiment to see how they do being planted this late. I have never planted tomatoes this late in the season, but in Toquerville, I suspect they may still be productive. Time will tell. In researching this devastating disease, it appears the only real solution is to cover the tomatoes in a greenhouse structure until about this time of year when the leafhoppers appear to be gone. Apparently, no pesticide or cultural practices are very effective.

The broccoli is some of the best I've ever grown, beautiful heads, and large flowerettes continue to produce wonderful broccoli.

The carrots are probably the best I've ever grown also, very good quality, long, nicely shaped carrots.

The zucchini and crookneck squash has also been very good. I began harvesting the last day of May, and the quality is excellent.

All my vines are thriving, Ambrosia Cantaloupe and Crenshaw Melons look impressive, and the corn (Miracle Corn) also looks excellent.

I have also planted Big Max Pumpkins, Toquer Squash (excellent if you haven't tried it), Spaghetti Squash, and watermelons. All are doing very well.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

May Harvest

I began harvesting beets, spinach and peas on May 5th. My broccoli has heads about four inches across, and the cauliflower has heads about two inches across.

Although my potatoes took longer than expected to emerge, they are now looking very healthy and are about a foot high.

On may 5th, I planted Miracle Corn, Spaghetti Squash, Big Max pumpkins, Crimson Sweet Watermelon, and the Toquerville Squash. The Toquerville Squash is a very large, very sweet, bell shaped winter type of squash. I can't find any other name for the squash, but it is very sweet and tasty. I'm not a big fan of winter squash, but this squash is worth trying in your garden. My neighbor grows the squash and gave me some seeds for this planting.

I now have the entire garden under cultivation, and under drip tape from Ballard's Nursery. I love this system, it waters the entire garden, allows me to fertilize the entire garden with water soluable mono-ammonium phosphate at the same time, and I have it on a timer, so I can turn it on and leave it. What I also like is I can work in the garden while I am watering it, or immediately after watering it because the only place that gets wet is directly under the plants.

I moved my boysenberries and raspberries this spring, and they are doing much better, flowering and setting on berries.

The grapes on this property, that were all but dead when we bought the place in October 2007, are loaded with grapes this year. Last year, I got only a few, but I had to prune back a ton of old wood and canes, but the grapes are setting on quite impressively, so I'm pleased.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Gardening Update

The weather has warmed and the garden shows it. This picture shows strawberries at the lower left, then my beets in the foreground, looking impressive, then Sweet Spanish onions, looking great; then the peas--looking ok. The ground on this end of the garden is too heavy for peas, I will plant peas on the far end of the garden next year.

Behind the peas are the tomatoes, finally starting to grow. I lost two plants to frost, had to cover my tomatoes twice. Beyond the tomatoes is my broccoli, growing very impressively. Beyond the broccoli is the potatoes. The potatoes took a long time to emerge, but they are now all up and doing well. Cauliflower is the last green row, and they are beginning to grow too.

I have installed a drip irrigation system this year, with the ability to distribute water soluable mono-amonium phospate through the drip system via a Miracle Grow, inline feeder. Behind that I have a battery powered timer so I can be sure the garden gets watered the right amount, and watered when I am out of town.

I'm liking the drip system. It puts water only where the plants are, keeps the rest of the garden dry keeping down weeds, and allowing me to work in the garden while I'm watering, or after, without getting mud on my shoes. It's a wonderful system and not expensive.

Today I planted Ambrosia cantaloupes--I plant no other kind of cantaloupe. I also planted a row of Crenshaw melons. Sylvan Wittwer PhD agronomist from Hurricane and Michigan State recommends planting melons (all melons) on hills or ridges, deep watering, then not watering near the plant, but moving the drip lines out as the melons grow. This is supposed to eliminate, or minimize, the squash bugs. So this year I am going to try that and see how it works. I had great melons last year, but the squash bugs did eventually take the plants.

If you have never grown Ambrosia Cantaloupes, you must do so. They are without question the best flavored cantaloupe available. You cannot buy Ambrosia melons in the grocery store because they have a short shelf life (does that tell you something about melons and the grocery stores?) But the flavor is out of this world, and if you grow them once, you will never grow any other variety.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Spring Planting Report

Throughout the fall and winter months, I tilled large amounts of leaves into my garden. I also tilled in some clean grass clippings, and some mulch I got from the fairgrounds. I've tilled my garden often (when it wasn't too wet) throughout the winter and early spring. Nearly all of the material is now decomposed, making a nice, loamy soil.

On January 31st I planted peas, which are up and growing nicely now. On February 3rd I planted beets and onions, all of which are up and beginning to grow, now that the weather has warmed. On February 21st, I planted carrots, which are all up; cauliflower sets, and carrots. The carrots are now all germinated. I also planted seed potatoes on February 21st, they have not yet emerged. I did cover the onions, beets, carrots and spinach with clear plastic to ensure good, quick germination.

On March 3rd, I planted broccoli sets, which are now growing. On March 4th, I planted a few tomatoes, which froze March 8th. On March 14th, I replanted with Better Boy, Big Beef, and Celebrity.

My raspberries and boysenberries put forth leaves the first week of March. My strawberries also began to grow that week and are now flowering.

Last year I watered my garden by sprinkling and had more or less satisfactory results. This year, I determined to put in a drip system, which I have used before, and liked. I have the drip lines connected to a battery powered timer, which ensures watering even when I am out of town.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Winter Pecan Harvest

I began picking up pecans that fell to the ground in early November. Wind, birds, and the ripening process caused enough pecans to fall that I had gathered about 40 gallons of pecans before Christmas. On January 13th the "pecan tree shaker" came and shook my three Mahan trees. I gathered 75 gallons of pecans from this shaking. I estimate another 10 gallons of pecans did not come down with the shaking, and are left to the birds and the squirrels.

In early fall, before the pecans had ripened, a hard wind blew off a good 30 gallons of large, beautiful pecans in the husk. But the pecans had not matured, so there was nothing to harvest. Other pecans have come down, blown down, or been eaten or damaged by the birds. I have calculated that all totaled, I got about 200 gallons of pecans off these three trees. Only about 125 gallons were usable and became part of the harvest.

The ratio of shell to meat on the pecan is about 50/50. So we will get about 60 gallons of shelled pecans from this year's harvest. A gallon of shelled pecans weighs about 3 1/2 pounds. So we will harvest about 210 pounds of pecans.

Crows, ravens, woodpeckers, starlings, doves, and blue birds, all come into the trees and eat the pecans. They do little damage while the pecans are still in the husk, but once the husk opens up, the birds peck into the shell and eat out some of the meat and waste the rest. Many of these nuts fall to the ground and are of no value. The squirrels also harvest pecans that fall to the ground, and are lost. Still, the harvest is so abundant, and I pick them off the ground so quickly, that the birds and squirrels don't actually take a significant number of the nuts.

Pecans are best when picked off the ground as soon as they fall, or harvested as soon as they open up. Commercial growers shake the trees early and place the nuts, in or out of the husk, on concrete floors for a few days to dry. I did this with the early pecans that dropped. Three to four days on the floor and they were ready to crack and extract the meat.

Some locals believe the pecan leaves are too acidic and should not be tilled into garden areas. But according to the National Gardeners Association, only walnut leaves should not be tilled into gardens, Pecan leaves are fine. I also till in the husks and the broken shells after I crack the nuts. Mowed up pecan leaves, husks, shells, and grass make a great mulch for the garden.

Nutritional Composition of One Ounce of Pecans
15 Vitamins, including significant amounts of Vitamin A, Vitamin E, and Folate
10 Minerals, including significant amounts of Potassium, Phosphorus, Calcium and Magnesium
Pecans have no sodium, are cholesterol free, fiber rich, and significant protein

Late Fall Planting Report

In mid-November I planted lettuce, peas, onions, beets, and carrots. I got a good germination for all. In mid-December we got 13 inches of snow, which covered these young sprouts for three weeks. We had temperatures down to 19 degrees this winter, and freezing temperatures almost every night since the snow in December.

Only the peas and lettuce survived the cold and snow cover. The peas did the best, and are actually growing right now (end of January). Not all the lettuce survived, but some did. I suspect that had I planted in October, and these sprouts gotten better established, they would have done better. All should have survived the winter.

I know from past experience that lettuce, peas and carrots will winter over, under snow, in much colder temperatures than we have here. And established onions don't freeze. So it was the tenderness of these young sprouts that was the problem. I knew it was late to plant, but thought I'd try anyway.

I didn't plant any fall spinach, but my neighbor did, and says she has harvested it all winter, and it's the best spinach she's ever had. Fall and Winter is a great time to garden. Many gardeners ignore this time of year, but there are no pests, no diseases, and no weeds.