Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hawaii Garden – Second Effort

The first year we were in Hawaii, we lived in a region that was essentially rain forest. It was cool and damp year-round, and I had a very difficult time growing anything in my garden. The bugs here are a year-round problem, unlike in Texas where I could grow broccoli worry-free through the winter. In Hawaii, the cabbage butterflies decimate the broccoli unless you spray for them. Nematodes destroyed my carrots, and mold, mildew, and cutworms were a constant problem with seedlings. Snails and slugs fed on everything.

Needless to say, it was not a productive year of gardening. I got a handful of tomatoes, a few snow peas, and not much else. I couldn’t get okra, cilantro, or squash to grow at all, and birds ate my lettuce as soon as it sprouted.

After a year, we moved about 4 miles from where we had lived before, and the climate is quite different. It is much drier and sunnier than our previous location. Further, the family who lived in the house before us built raised beds in an isolated location that is surrounded by rocks. The man was an avid gardener, and took good care of the soil. So, I moved in, planted seeds (I actually planted them before we moved in), and waited.

What a difference the change made. In just a little over a month, I was harvesting zucchinis, yellow squash, lettuce, and tomatoes in large volume. The cilantro is growing quickly, and it looks like I will actually have okra to harvest. Because the garden is isolated from the surrounding vegetation, I have almost no problem with bugs. Birds will get into the tomatoes, but that’s about it. I haven’t tried my luck with broccoli yet; I have heard that you simply can’t grow them without taking special measures.

I have even planted some pineapples; too early to tell how that will turn out. Interestingly, we planted some pumpkins that have grown and spread like mad. But despite lots of blooms, there are no pumpkins. I don’t believe it can be a pollination issue; the yellow squash and zucchini are being pollinated just fine.

Despite my pumpkin puzzle, I was pleased to learn that Hawaii didn’t prove to be too great of a challenge for my gardening skills.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Planting on Christmas Eve

I continue to experiment in Hawaii. On Christmas Eve, I planted about 50 snow peas in a raised bed, and transplanted a small okra plant outside. I spoke with someone who farms here, and he said he thought it would be too cold for okra (which I thought as well, but figured I would try anyway). He thought it might do OK here in the summer.

At the moment, I have a pumpkin plant that is doing pretty well, a broccoli that the bugs are eating alive, a jalapeno that is slowly coming along, and I just transplanted some oregano.

I am having trouble getting tomatoes and basil started. Once basil does get started, I have been told that it does very well here. Tomatoes are succumbing to fungus because of the very wet weather. The farmer said that I need to have them in greenhouses.

In the cool weather right now, I need to focus on carrots, broccoli, and cilantro.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Hawaii Update

I have not updated this for a while, but I am settled in Hawaii and experimenting with what will grow here. I have some pumpkins, zuchinni, summer squash, snow peas, broccoli, jalapenos, and tomatoes that are in the ground outside. The tomatoes look pitiful, but the pumpkins and broccoli seem to like the weather. Inside I have planted okra, basil, cilantro, and oregano for transplanting outside later. I want to get some carrot seeds in the ground as well, but the soil I am working has a lot of rocks in it - not good for carrots.

It has turned cool here, but it never freezes. I suspect that most things will do well right through the winter, but don't know if it will get warm enough for things like okra. At this point I am more or less experimenting.

I do have several fruit trees in the yard, and can enjoy a fresh-squeezed lemonade pretty much every day.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

World's Largest Zucchini

8 Pounds and 20 Inches Long

I just spotted the monster above hidden away in my garden yesterday. OK, maybe there are bigger zucchinis, but I have never seen one. It is also bigger than several others I have seen that people had affectionately named "world's largest zucchini." I did read that the actual world record is 69.5 inches long, and that the record weight is 65 pounds. However I have yet to find a picture of one bigger than the one I pulled out of my garden.

Had I spotted this one earlier, I would have picked it before it got so large. In hindsight, since it was already so large maybe I should have let it keep growing to see how big it would get. It wouldn't have been edible, but I don't know how large they can actually grow. As it stands, it weighed 8 pounds and was 20 inches long.

My carrots were getting out of control, so I pulled up the rest of them. The ones that had gone to seed were no good, as their interiors had become the consistency of wood. I also learned a lesson about thinning them out. All of the carrots below were planted at the same time, and some were 10 times the size of others. Those that had room to grow were a foot long or so. The ones that were crowded were only an inch long. As you can see from the picture below, I also got everything in between. Oh, and you can see a bit of my zucchini (not the one pictured above), some yellow squash, and a little okra.

Some of My Harvest

And this is what the garden looks like now, with my dogs looking on in the background.

My Garden and My Miniature Schnauzers

It got so hot so quickly that I have pulled only one tomato out of the garden, and that one had been nibbled on by bugs. Right now I think it is just too hot. It has been consistently over 100 degrees. Overall I am pretty pleased with the harvest, though. I looked as this year as a learning experience for North Texas. Now I will have to go through this again, as next month I will be moving to the Big Island of Hawaii.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Birds Destroyed My Broccoli

Got back from Europe to discover that my broccoli heads were demolished. They looked like they had been shot with a shotgun. The second time I went out, I saw the culprits. Birds. At first I thought it had probably been insects (or maybe the birds were eating the insects?) but it appeared as if the birds were feasting on the broccoli. Thus ends my experimentation with spring broccoli. From now on, it is a winter crop for me.

The carrots are still coming on great. In pulling them from the ground, the tops kept snapping off, leaving the carrot in the ground. I decided I better water the soil first and soften it up a bit, otherwise I am going to have to dig the carrots up.

Tomatoes have really exploded, although no fruit yet. Yellow squash and zucchini continue the pattern of rotting after the blooms drop. Although it looks like I now have a couple of zucchini that are going to develop.

Finally, jalapenos and okra are both about to bloom. Looking forward to that, although I don't have enough of either planted. Actually, I planted quite a few of each (from seed) but only had 1 jalapeno and 2 okra plants survive.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day Update

Time to catch up a bit. The garden has had mixed results so far. My snow peas got pretty out of control, and the pods had swelled quite a bit when I got around to picking them. They weren't really snow peas any longer, but more like English peas that had to be shelled. They were too tough to eat without doing this. So, in the future I need to do a few things for a better snow pea success. First, I need to plant them farther apart. By planting them too close together, I ended up with a jungle of snow peas that became hard to manage. In fact, when I picked them I had to just pull them all up (they had stopped blooming anyway) and pull the peas out that way. Second, I need to make sure I pick them before the pods start to swell. Finally, they are supposed to be pretty cold tolerant, so I think I will try a winter crop this year.

I had about decided that my broccoli was ruined. The bugs have been all over it, which wasn't a problem for my winter broccoli. But now I have heads developing quickly. They have some yellow spots, but I think they will be OK. But the bugs have really eaten on the leaves (and I haven't put anything on the garden to control the bugs). I think winter broccoli was a lot easier to grow.

I made the mistake of sowing my carrots thick and not thinning them. Like the peas, I have a jungle of carrot tops, and I have to wade in and just pull a handful. It is funny to see them, because some are still not much more than an orange string, and some are pretty large. Next time, I need to spread the seeds out more (although carrot seeds are so small that this is hard) or at least thin them out.

My crookneck squash is still rotting as soon as the blooms fall off. Not sure how to combat this. I have zucchinis now that are looking pretty good, though.

Tomatoes are getting really tall and blooming. My new fig trees, only a couple of feet tall, also have tiny figs on them. The grape vines are all growing quickly, and as soon as they are large enough I am going to train them to climb the back fence.

Finally, my cilantro has really become a jungle. It threatened to take over the garden until I cut it way back. I think it will wilt in the heat, but it really thrived through the winter and spring.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Spring Update

It has been a while since I updated, but the garden is coming along nicely. I have a few new learnings to document.

First, the wind in my area has been pretty strong this spring, and two different times I went out to find one of my broccoli plants snapped off and laying in the yard. Broccoli tend to be very top heavy early in their growth. Eventually, the stem becomes very thick and difficult to break, but it is probably a good idea to pile up dirt around the stems until the stem thickens. Had I done this, I wouldn't have lost those two plants.

Second, I have been harvesting snow peas, but I made a big mistake by planting them so close together. I followed the guidelines for intensive planting and put them 3 inches apart. What I have now is a virtual jungle of peas, and it is very difficult to find peas to harvest. In the future, I probably need to space them 6 inches apart. I plan to try another crop in the fall.

I have been occasionally pulling up a carrot to see how big they are. The first couple of times, the root still looked like a thick hair. This time, the top of the carrot was about as big as my pinkie. So, it won't be long before I can start pulling a few to eat.

Finally, the crookneck squash are showing some tendencies that I have often encountered with my squash. The tiny squash look perfect until the bloom falls off. Then, after a few days the squash starts to rot from the tip. I have heard that this happens when the female flower does not get fertilized, but I am not certain. I have also been advised by a couple of people that I should be harvesting and eating the male flowers - but that seems like it would make the rotting problem even worse by preventing fertilization.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Harvesting Broccoli and Tomato Troubles

Harvesting Broccoli

Near the end of last summer, I planted some broccoli because I thought I might get in a harvest before cold weather set in. I didn't, but the broccoli thrived throughout the winter. In January, I started harvesting the broccoli.

Since I have never grown broccoli before, I wasn't quite sure when to harvest. I figured it was better to do it too early than too late, so I cut off the central heads when they were about 5 or 6 inches in diameter. I had read that if you let the broccoli continue to grow, it will put out lots of side shoots that will provide as much broccoli as the central head did.

This was definitely the case. A couple of weeks after I removed the central head, I had another harvest. So, I wondered if I could just keep doing this. I harvested a 3rd time on several of my plants, but when the heads were cooked the flavor was not quite right. Further, the heads are no longer compact as they were; the individual flowers are beginning to separate. So I have learned two things from my broccoli experiment. Put in a big crop in the fall, and get ready to harvest in mid-winter. Second, after two harvests, cut them down.

I have a number of small plants in the ground right now, and I am racing against time to see if I can get a harvest in before it gets too hot.

Tomato Troubles

No matter what, I always try to plant tomatoes. It seems like no matter how little preparation I do, I always get a big harvest. But I have always bought plants for transplanting. This year I decided to plant seeds and make my own transplants.

I bought a package of Big Boy seeds, and planted in a bunch of small containers back in January (in my garage). None of them sprouted. I replanted 6 containers in mid-February, and only 3 of them sprouted. A week ago, despite their small size, I decided to go ahead and put them in the garden.

The first one died on Day 2. The second and third seemed to be doing OK, but then we got 3 days of cold rain. Today, the second plant is dead, and the third is looking pretty poor. Looks like I will have to buy transplants again this year. (I also had one of my zucchinis die for no apparent reason).

The lesson learned is to plant in somewhat larger pots, inside, in about mid-January. Transplant them outside in mid-March when they are sturdy. Weak tomato plants don't last very long in the garden.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Phase I is Complete

I came back from my European trip on March 5th to find that some of the squash had died. The temperature got down to 26 degrees twice while I was gone, and while my wife covered them up, the cold got the weaker ones.

Still, there were 5 or 6 that survived, and while they don't look good, I am hoping they come back now that temperatures are in the 70's and 80's. The 10-day forecast has no freezing weather, which probably means we are out of the woods.

Carrots have broken ground, and the peas are coming on strongly. It's been a month today since I planted them, and the carrots look like they are only a week old. I guess they only sprouted when it warmed up a bit more. I would guess that 80% of the peas sprouted, but their stems are very weak right at the ground. It looks possible that something has been chewing on them. The cilantro has really exploded; we have far more than we can use and I had only put out two plants last fall. We also had a lot of broccoli heads ready for harvest.

Of the seeds I had planted, I recognize a couple of jalapenos, a couple of crookneck squash, and a couple of okra coming up. There are some other plants coming up, but I can't tell if they are weeds or something I planted.

Today I also went ahead and put all inside plants in the garden. This included 3 tomato plants I grew from seeds (they are really small; I am not sure they will survive), 4 jalapenos, 2 okra plants, and a zucchini. In addition I put out a basil plant I had been growing since last summer (it looks like a small tree) and some oregano.

Phase I of the garden is in. Once I pull up all of the carrots, and the peas and broccoli are done, I will plant more warm weather plants.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Risking the Freeze

I went ahead and put out my zucchini and crookneck squash transplants on Sunday, despite the risk of freezing. The Weather Channel predicts 31 degrees on Saturday night, but the days will be sunny and several will be in the 70's. The prediction on Sunday had been 28 degrees on Thursday night, but that has now been revised to 33 degrees. If the forecast remains like that, I will ask my wife to cover them with something (I am in the Netherlands for 2.5 weeks, which is why I went ahead and put the transplants out; they were already crowding the containers).

Besides the transplants, I planted a variety of seeds in the garden. Again, just experimenting, but I put a couple of tomato, a couple of jalapeno, some marigolds, okra, and some squash in the ground. I know it is still early, but I figure if I get lucky and we don't have another freeze, I will really have a good head start.

But, hedging my bets, I also planted the same variety of seeds indoors in pots. Even if they don't survive outside, when I return to Texas on March 5th I should have some decent transplants to put out. That is, if my wife remembers to water them.

Besides the broccoli that is really growing quickly, the cilantro has really taken off as the weather has started to warm. I planted a few seeds as an experiment, and while they started out looking not too impressive, now they look really healthy.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Broccoli Seedlings are Planted

I finished double-digging my 5x25 foot bed today, working in several cubic feet of compost and about a pound of all-purpose fertilizer. I fly to Europe on Monday, and I will be there for 3 weeks, so it is important to get plants out before I leave. I put out 16 broccoli seedlings, but they are really tiny. I would have liked for them to have been a little bigger, but I think they would have outgrown the flats by the time I get back. It was difficult to plant them, because the topsoil in the flats kept falling apart when I would try to get the seedlings out. I have to remember to put my broccoli in bigger containers next year before I transplant them. There is a chance of freezing tonight, and I am afraid some of them will go into shock and I will lose them. I did plant them deep; up to their tiny leaves. I think if it doesn't freeze tonight and they can take root, they will be OK.

If they make it past this first week or two, I expect them to take off. The plants that I put in back in August have really started growing. I am harvesting heads every couple of days now. In the fall I am going to put in quite a few plants and just let them go through the winter. I know that come February, I will have broccoli to harvest.

I have a dilemma on my other plants. The 10-day forecast shows 1 night below freezing. We are nearly past freezing weather here, and up until today there were no days of really cold weather in the 10-day forecast. I have a number of other transplants that have really outgrown their flats. There are some tomatoes, some jalapenos, yellow squash and zucchinis. I am afraid if I put them out, the freeze will get them all and I will have to replant in March. But, I will probably go ahead and put them out, and just remember to not use those flats next year. Plants just outgrow them too quickly. I may put some clear plastic containers over the top of them for a miniature greenhouse.

The peas that I transplanted are doing OK, but neither the carrots nor the pea seeds that I put in the ground have sprouted. I expect that when I get back from Europe, they will be coming on strong.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

First Bed is Planted

I am recovering from the flu, but decided to spend the day working on the garden. To start off, I planted rosemary in one of the beds in front of the house, two more Flame Seedless Grapes on the back fence, and put in one more Celeste Fig. I spread a little dog poop around each planting (except for the rosemary), because that keeps the dogs from digging them up. I then double-dug a 5x6 foot area in the garden, working in 1 cubic foot of composted manure and 2 cubic feet of compost.

I checked the 10-day forecast, and freezing weather is not predicted. So I decided to go ahead and put out some of my more cold-tolerant plants. The 20 sugar snap peas that I had planted in flats had only produced 3 nice looking plants, so I went ahead and transplanted them. Then, I directly planted in the ground around 70 more pea seeds - all 3 inches apart. I was nicking each one with a hacksaw blade, but about halfway through I stopped doing that as it was really slow. Besides, I will have some with nicks, and some without, so I can see if it really made a difference.

I was only planting the seeds about a half inch deep, but when I had planted about 50 seeds I looked at the directions and it said to plant 2 inches deep. Oops. The last 20 went in much deeper. I had been punching holes in the dirt with a really large nail. In hindsight, it would have been much easier to dig rows.

I also planted about 4 rows of carrots (but not over the spot where I worked in the manure). It is very difficult to control placement of carrot seeds, because they are so small. I was trying to plant a seed every 2-3 inches, but sometimes I ended up dumping 5 seeds in one spot. I was first dropping them by hand, but found it much easier to control by dropping them directly out of the packet. I did plant these in rows, at about half an inch deep.

I finished off by sprinkling about a quarter pound of general purpose fertilizer over the bed, and then watered it. I head back to Europe in 8 days, and I don't expect the peas to have come up by then. Hopefully the carrots will be sprouting so I can thin them out. I am in Europe for 3 weeks this next trip, and the carrots really need to be thinned out before then.

Next up will be the broccoli transplants. I have about 15 that will be ready to plant before I travel. The broccoli plants that I planted last August are really starting to produce; hopefully these transplants can get a crop in before it gets hot. But next year, I know I can plant broccoli at any time during the winter and have a crop coming in during the first couple of months of the year.

I also have lots of seedlings sprouting in flats. I have summer squash, zucchini, tomatoes, and jalapenos all coming up now. It is going to be a tough call whether to plant them outdoors before I head back to Europe. I probably won't risk it, but then they will be really crowding the containers by the time I get back.

One final note. I put in quite a bit of Giant Liriope in the front beds for landscaping. The rabbits love it, and have munched it down to the ground. I have sprayed them with various rabbit repellants to no avail. So today, I placed some dog poop under the mulch in front of each one. I am hoping this turns them off enough to leave the plants alone.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Wet Seedlings Recovered

Just an update to the previous post, when it looked like my entire broccoli planting had drowned. I got the flats dried out, and the plants all came back. I currently have them indoors near a window. Of the 20 seeds that I planted, I now have 14 decent looking broccoli seedlings. The snap peas didn't fare as well; only 5 of the 20 sprouted. I read somewhere that you should nick pea seeds with a file to let water penetrate. I didn't do that, so I don't know if that's a trick I needed to apply. I have never grown peas before.

I have had some broccoli outside since August, and it is just now really taking off. I have to remember that next year; broccoli can survive some pretty cold temperatures. Next year I will start the plants indoors in late summer, and then transplant them outside just as soon as the weather cools off a bit. If I plant in rich soil, I should be able to get a crop in before the weather turns cold. But even if I don't, as soon as it warms back up it should take off and produce a crop then.

I planted some tomato, jalapeno, marigolds, and (as an experiment) one okra seed in containers about a week ago. Today, the okra and some of the tomatoes have broken ground. I probably should have started the tomatoes earlier, as Home Depot already has decent sized plants for transplanting outdoors. I planted the okra in a big pot and I have it in the garage where it can get some light from a window. It is much too early for okra; it really excels in the heat. But I thought I would get the plant up to a foot or so in height and then try to transplant it.

I have had the flu, so I haven't been able to work the mulch into the soil. I am hoping that I will feel like it this weekend. At the latest, I need to transplant all of the broccoli and peas outside, and plant my carrots, by next weekend. I fly to Europe for 3 weeks the following Monday, so I need to get the cold tolerate plants in the ground.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Wet Seedlings

I am in the process of learning a hard lesson about having the soil too wet around seedlings. Before my last trip to Europe, I soaked some topsoil, and planted 20 broccoli and 20 snow pea seeds in flats. When I returned, the soil was still very wet. I had left the flats in the cold garage, and to be sure they got plenty of water I left them standing in a small amount of water. The problem is that the small amount of water really drenched the soil.

After being in the ground for about 12 days, 11 broccoli and 3 snow peas sprouted. Now, 5 days later the broccoli are all turning yellow and dieing. As far as I can guess, the soil was simply too wet. Not sure if that's what happened to the 17 pea seeds that didn't sprout. I had heard that you need to nick pea seeds because they don't take up water very well otherwise.

If I think I have time, I may try to replant seeds in the flats again, but keep them much drier. I only have until about the first of May to get the broccoli crop in, so I can't afford to lose another two weeks.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

What I Plan to Grow This Year

Eventually I want to start using heirloom seeds, but this year I went with what they had in the seed rack at Home Depot. My garden is laid out in a 5 foot by 25 foot plot. I may have to add some on to that. But here is what I have planned:

20 Green Goliath Broccoli
20 Sugar Daddy Snap Peas
16 Early Prolific Straightneck Summer Squash
10 Big Boy Tomatoes
6 Clemson Spineless Okra
6 Burpee's Hybrid Zucchini
5 Pimiento Jalapenos
Big Top Carrots
Genovese Basil
Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum)
4 Flame Seedless Grapes
2 Celeste Figs

As I have mentioned already, I have been experimenting since August with some of these. Cilantro and the broccoli thrived through the winter, surviving a low temperature of 16°F (Jan 16th, per the Weather Channel's website). I had some jalapenos outside in containers, and they survived until a hard freeze in December. So I am optimistic that I can get in a really good harvest of those until late fall. I have one basil and some oregano in the house. The oregano has thrived and the basil has survived, and I will plant both outdoors in late March.

The temperatures start to regularly get into the 80's in early May, so I hope to have a crop of broccoli, snow peas, and carrots finished by then. I will replant some of the warm weather items like jalapenos and okra in their place.