Hand pollinated watermelons

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I haven’t seen a lot of bees in the garden lately and the watermelon buds weren’t growing so I’ve taken pollination into my own hands. These watermelons were hand pollinated two weeks ago. It was simple to do, I used the following video as a guide:

And here’s a video on pruning watermelon vines to optimize growth:

Too bad I wasn’t able to catch the rest of the watermelon buds before their flowers closed up…I missed hand pollinating at least four other buds. And one of the reasons I don’t have many pollinators in the garden is the lack of bee-friendly flowers. Right now I only have one borage plant and that gets attention from one bee at a time. Next season I’ll start a surplus of seeds from the Save the Bees wildflower mix and make room for other plants that attract pollinators. I also suspect that my backyard has oleander trees, whose nectar is poisonous to bees. I’ll have to confirm with a plant expert.

In the other garden bed, I finally transplanted tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and basil. I’m really hoping these will yield some produce before our “cold” season hits.

Summer 2017 garden update

The plants have been getting a good dose of home-brewed worm compost tea every couple weeks. Weeding has been easy, since only a few pop up every now then, making them easy to nip in the bud.

IMG_20170716_132220Watermelons are butternut squash are climbing up the PVC arch trellis and the corn plants are thriving. However, it seems the squirrels were still able to nibble on the squash leaves closest to the perimeter….grrr!!! I guess the fencing and netting aren’t completely squirrel proof. In the far future, the plan is to build a garden enclosure to house all the future raised beds.

One of the cucumber plants that got attacked by squirrels is starting to come back and put up a little fight. The seedlings in this bed (sweet peppers and eggplants) are slow to grow. My tomato plants are still small…they’re growing well, but I haven’t transplanted them yet for fear of losing them to seedling-eating bugs and what not. I think I really pushed the limit in starting peppers, eggplants and tomatoes late this year. Live and learn.

I’ve also had to cage my container-grown plants. On the left is borage + marigolds. On the right is the herb garden (cages were taken off for the photo). I split my mint plant into two larger pots (the brown pots in the background and foreground) to increase my mint yield. We use a considerable amount of mint in our dishes.

Lastly, I doubled the size of my outdoor compost bin. I opened the side that served as the door to make it one of the new walls, closed up the rectangle with two more 3 ft x 3 ft welded wire panels and zip-tied the corners to U-post stakes.

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The left side contains the remaining old compost that needs to be harvested. The uncomposted/unsifted pieces were transferred to the right side and I’ve been layering new yard waste on top, making a compost parfait. I covered the top with burlap cloth so that less moisture will escape. I weighed the new compost side with a large planter to help it compact.

Raised bed #2 (plus late seed starting)

I’ve had the second raised bed installed for a few months already, but it wasn’t until this weekend that I finally made the time to prepare it for planting. After mixing in compost with native yard soil, keeping the bed watered and putting up trellises, here’s the result:

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The arch trellis was made using painted 10-foot-long PVC pipes, with the ends of the pipes placed over rebar stakes for stability. Welded wire was zip-tied to the pipes. My plan is to have watermelon and butternut squash grow up this arch. To the left is a standard vertical trellis made from two 6-foot-long stakes woven through welded wire. This one’s going to be for cucumbers. Plans for the rest of the bed include corn, nasturtium, tansy, sweet peppers, carrots and green onions.

Meanwhile, lettuce, carrots and green onions have been harvested from the first raised bed. Green onions are still growing, and I expect that the garlic won’t be ready for harvest until the summer. The rest of the bed is saved for tomatoes, Thai basil, chili peppers, marigold and nasturtium.

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The group of planter pots in the background are saved for okra, borage, tansy and eggplant. A group of smaller planter pots is set up at the side of the house which gets afternoon shade. These pots are saved for herbs and more flowers (in particular, Save the Bees wildflower mix). Right now I have mint, parsley and Genovese basil growing:

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Lastly, I’m experimenting to see how late I can push it with the San Diego growing season. All the plants I mentioned above (which I’ve reserved space in the pots and beds for) were just started from seed this weekend…yup…pretty late in the game. I started a batch of seeds in the winter, but life got in the way and those seedlings never got the chance to grow their first set of true leaves. So here’s the new batch to make up for the original seed starts. Let’s see if they’ll grow and yield anything before the warm season ends!

Patio gardening for the weary

The dog days of summer have arrived in the Tri-Cities. We just survived a week with temperatures lingering past 100 F. While the garden has indeed exploded with lush greens and harvests, the intense heat has made it difficult to work outside. Additionally, my garden plot has become conquered by weeds despite my (and the stirrup hoe’s) best efforts to keep them at bay. So to continue enjoying a garden, I succumbed and purchased some planters, dug up several plants, and started a mini garden on my patio. Funny that the planters were more costly than an entire 15′ x 15′ plot at the community garden. Yet, I do find having the plants right outside my doorstep immensely more enjoyable. This also gives me a chance to grow the plants that got attacked by rabbits and voles.

South-facing patio garden: 2 chili pepper plants flanked by 2 brown planters containing Casper eggplants (front), Bountiful Beans in the rectangular planter, Dragon carrots (back).
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Chili pepper (my seed starts didn’t fare well, so I inherited these)
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Casper eggplant, transplanted from the garden plot
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Bountiful green beans (direct seeded in the planter)
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Dragon carrots (direct seeded in the planter with sowing markers)
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North-facing patio garden: fall seed starts and herbs (front), cilantro, lettuce, trellised peas (middle), worm compost bin (back)
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Fall seed starts (plus a late second attempt at watermelons)
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Thai basil (left), Sage (middle), Lemongrass (right), Thyme (not visible), transplanted from the garden plot
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Cilantro (front left), Speckled lettuce (front right), Golden Sweet peas (back), all direct seeded
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Absence makes the plants grow greener

I had to take a hiatus from gardening due to travel and, I must admit, sheer heartache from seeing some of my plants undergo transplant shock. Turns out this break did us all some good (it also helped that the community garden has automatic sprinklers, which allowed me to leave the garden unattended). The leafy green plants that appeared to be suffering without protection had bounced back.

Bok choy and Speckled Lettuce
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Another view of the bok choy
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Russian Red Kale
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Other crops that appeared unresponsive to any previous TLC have flourished.

Early Snowball Cauliflower
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Mammoth Red Rock Cabbage
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Some root crops look ready for harvest.

Radishes
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I should thin out the greens of these Detroit Dark Red Beets soon.
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And finally, my peppers, eggplants, and large tomatoes have sprouted. This required coaxing via the combined warmth and humidity from both the heating mat and grow lights. I sowed the rest of the summer seeds: beans, corn, cucumbers, melons, and squash. I heard from some fellow gardeners that peas can still be started at this time, so I figured I’d give these another go.

Spring transplants and summer seed starts (part 2)

Some of the spring starts have begun to look a bit claustrophobic within their cloches. An unveiling was in order.

Bok choy:
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Speckled lettuce:
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Golden Sweet peas:
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Progress of the Music and Samarkand Persian Star garlic:
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A week of spring warmth, sunshine, and compost tea served them well so far. I started the second batch of summer starts (beans, corn, cucumber, melons, and squash) since the weather has stayed quite warm lately. The eggplant, hot peppers, and big tomatoes haven’t germinated yet, so I started another set of these seeds.

Spring transplants and summer seed starts (part 1)

It’s easy to fall behind when tending to a big garden. Several spring starts already grew rootbound and were overdue for potting up.

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Note to self: check the bottoms of the seed trays more frequently. I was able to re-pot the rootbound plants without tearing too much of the overgrown roots in the process. Within a week the plants grew reestablished in their new containers with the help of vermicompost.

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After the spring starts were re-potted and hardened off, they were finally transplanted into the garden. The cloches have been working well for the first set of spring transplants thus far (see previous post), so I acquired bags full of two-liter soda bottles through the local Freecycle group and used these (with the bottoms cut out) to shelter the new transplants.

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I wouldn’t recommend this recycling center look for a front lawn. This setup would probably provide more visual appeal with row covers or hoop tunnels, but I’ll save that purchase for a future growing season. Anyway, I digress. Hopefully the next batch of peas will survive this time around:

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Now that I’ve cleared space in the seed trays, I sowed the first set of summer seeds (herbs, flowers, eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes) to raise indoors. The fun continues!