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.


  1. RR-

    That crookneck squash problem is really weird, especially since you are having no trouble with the zucchini. Have you tried hand-pollinating the crooknecks?

    Everything I've read indicates that rot starting at the blossom end in yellow squash is most likely to be problem with pollination. If the leaves were also affected in some way (odd contortions or brown blotches), then disease would be a more likely cause.

    One of the great things about gardening is there is always something new to learn. However, that same feature can also be annoying if the gardener is really counting on the crops to be successful.

    Hope you get past the problem soon, one way or another. It is great, though, that other parts of your garden are doing well!

    Nice to hear that you will be getting figs. Mine all got knocked off in a hailstorm, so I will have to wait for more to form.

    I do enjoy reading about food gardens. Thanks for the update!


  2. The zucchinis are doing it as well. I was wondering whether it might be a pollination issue. I haven't seen any bees in the garden. I am in Europe right now, but when I get home will try to pollinate by hand. Thanks for the tip.

    Cheers, RR

  3. No bees...holy cow!

    Of course, what I see most often inside our squash blossoms looks more like a hornet than a bee, so you might get good pollination, anyway, if other insects can pick up the slack from the missing bees.

    We don't get many honeybees here, but the bumblebees, little solitary bees, wasps, tiny flies, and beetles do some of the pollination in my garden.

    I hope you have planted plenty of flowers to entice some pollinators to your yard!

  4. benny "reargas" coleJune 3, 2009 at 10:12 AM

    I have a question. Several years back, I pulled up asphalt in a parking lot I own. There was some sort of red sand underneath it. For years, I have dumped old food, wood ashes, dog droppings, and coffee grinds into the soil, with great success. I grow a variety of vegetables, but best success with beans and tomatoes.
    I also weed, and chop the weeds up, and put back into the soil.
    Okay, this is the q: When I weed, and put the weeds back into the soil, am I increasing the mass of the soil? Matter cannot be created or destroyed.
    Where does the vegetable matter come from?
    I assume sunlight cannot be converted into matter.
    Another way of putting it: If I do not recycle the weeds, am I "stripping out" something from the soil?

  5. Benny, I know this is RR's blog, but I hope you won't mind if I try to answer your questions.

    Regarding where vegetable matter comes from: photosynthesis is a fairly amazing process! Carbon dioxide (source of carbon) from the air is combined with water in the cells of green plants, using energy from sunlight, to create organic matter and release oxygen. Plants do also release some carbon dioxide through respiration, but not as much as they "fix" as structural carbon/organic matter.

    If you are very interested in the way plants work, you might consider looking for an old Botany textbook at a used bookstore. Sounds boring, but it isn't!

    Recycling the weeds back into your garden does help the soil by returning not just organic matter (the carbon that was fixed from the air) to the soil but also other kinds of nutrients, essential elements like magnesium and nitrogen, to your garden. If you just tossed the weeds out to the local landfill, you would need to import these elements from somewhere else.

    About the dog droppings--while this is a source of nitrogen, it can also be a source of parasites that can also infect humans, so it is not generally recommended that dog (or cat) droppings be used in gardens that provide human food. In addition to parasites, the droppings may also contain chemicals (flea repellents, worming medicines, etc) that you might not want to have added to your food. It is your choice, of course, but at the very least I hope that you are washing your vegetables Very Well before eating them!

    Hope some of that is helpful--


  6. AgWH-Thank you for your explanation, and warning.
    On the dog droppings: I have a 5'x5' section of my garden that I do not cultivate but rather put all the old food, coffee grinds, mashed up plants and dog dropping into. I always shovel the dirt around and dig all the stuff deep into the soil. Then, about once a year, I spread this soil over over the rest of the garden.
    Is the dog poop still dangerous, when used in this manner?
    Most of the vegetables I steam, such as beans, so I assume (wrongly?) that "cleans" them. Tomatoes no, but they never touch the ground.
    Am I okay with this? Thanks again!

  7. Benjamin,

    Cooking vegetables is always a good idea when the possibility of unsafe bacteria and/or parasites is likely. Glad to hear that you aren't a "raw foods" person!

    I really do not know how long it takes for any problems in the dog droppings to go away. I have read that human waste should be composted two years before using in food gardens. To be safer, two years might also be a better time-frame for dog droppings.

    The Humanure Handbook (google it to find the free version online) also recommends that humanure be "hot" composted, and I am guessing your process does not achieve high temperatures that help to sterilize the product.

    Historically, "humanure" has sometimes been used in food-growing with less time for composting (gathered as "night soil" to use in fields, for example). Some places where that has occurred, though, tended to have problems with illnesses (like cholera) that are spread through untreated human waste.

    Sorry I don't have a more definitive answer, but I would personally be wary of using dog droppings without a lot of safeguards. Again, though, it is your choice.

    Good luck!

    -Amy gwh

  8. agwh:
    Thanks again for your comments. Like you, I googled around, and my hair nearly turned white at all the things that can go wrong with pet poop. If you read enough, you will never own a pet, or allow your children to come near a pet.
    But, when all is aid and down, the real risk seems to be worms, transmitted from feces to vegetables to human.
    Burying the feces, and steaming the vegetables, seems to solve this problem.
    If I wrote a book, I would probably say what everybody else says, and that is "don't do it."
    For a broad audience, with children etc., it is not advisable.
    But, I certainly will monitor the situation much more closely.
    However, I remember growing up in a 1960s suburban neighborhood where everybody had dogs, and there was dog poop everywhere all the time. Somehow, we all survived.