A Melon Comparison

Melon comparison 8-14-17

Last year, I grew “Golden Crown” watermelon (78 days) which was a 1991 AAS winner.  Because I grow in raised beds, and I don’t want vines spilling across the paths, so a compact melon works best.  And, there are only 2 of us, so I don’t want a large melon that fills up the refrigerator and is too much for us to eat.  As you can see, on the right, this melon is a lovely golden yellow on the outside, and a “personal-sized” melon at only about 4-5 lbs.  The flavor was sweet, and although it only produced 1-2 melons per vine for me, I was happy with the flavor, and the fairly small space it required.  However, my 91 yr. old mother said, “Can’t you find a small melon with fewer seeds next time?”  So, the search was on…..

I’d heard about a new AAS winner for 2017 called “Mini Love,” (80 days) which is also a “personal-sized” melon.  Described as 7-9 lbs. with a deep red flesh that is super-sweet, “Mini Love” is touted as being semi-seedless and much easier to germinate than the seedless varieties on the market.  In addition, it is said to be somewhat resistant to powdery mildew, with 3-4′ vines, and produces 6 fruits per plant.  Although 5 seeds were $2.00, I thought is was worth a try.  Once again, I duplicated the planting, location, and growing conditions of both varieties in order to get a good comparison (as in the tomato comparison post.) Melon comparison cut compressed I picked both melons on the same day (Aug. 12) because they both sounded “hollow” when thumped.  The “Golden Crown” weighed 4 1/2 lbs, the “Mini Love” (on the left) weighed 4 lbs.  As you can see, they both have nice thin rinds, so there is not a lot of waste.  The “Mini Love” has a slightly finer texture, and was just a bit sweeter.  However, I may have picked the “Golden Crown” a bit early.  Although it was lusciously sweet as well, as you can see, the seeds were a light brown, not black as they should be when fully ripe.  Flavor-wise, we were happy with both.  Now the down-side…..Seeds 8-14-17  I cut a 1″ center slice of each melon and removed the seeds from each slice.  If you look carefully, you’ll see that basically, the “Mini Love” has 41 seeds.  Its rival had only 28, even including the  very immature ones which were still white.  Also, the “Mini Love” was the only melon on that vine, while the “Golden Crown” vine is producing two.  We’ve had a lot of rain, which may have impeded pollination, but I’m pretty sure there will be no more “Mini Love” melons on that vine because it is wilting.  We’ll see if production improves on other vines planted slightly later, with less weather interference.

My space is valuable, as is my time and energy, so I want the most productive, best quality produce I can grow.  I’ll grow “Mini Love” again next year, because I received 60 free seeds from a recent GWA event, but I must say that at this point, I am a bit disappointed that the expectations set have not been met.




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Six on Saturday-Aug. 12

Can it be Saturday already?  Apparently it is, so here are my six selections for this week.  Having been away at the Garden Writers’ conference for a week, the garden was unsupervised, but behaved surprisingly well!  I was delighted to see that the “fall” planting of Wando peas have germinated well, forming a broad band on either side of the bed.  Brussel 8-12-17 compressed  And, the brussel sprouts down the center have made considerable growth during my absence.  Even better, no weeds sprouted.  They wouldn’t dare!!!  Also spurting in growth were the Mad Hatter peppers which were recently transplanted as tiny babies but are beginning to get some size.  Mad Hatter pepper 8-12-17 compressed  Having seen them full-sized and filled with fruit at the conference in the New Introductions Showcase however, I now know they have a long way to go to reach their 2-3′ height.  Will they make it before frost?  Crossing my fingers, toes, and eyes!  And the kohlrabi on the right is beginning to grow nicely.  Not so thrilling is the lack of whatever crop was seeded on the left.  I’ll need to check my direct seeded journal to see what failed to germinate.  I also need to investigate these peppers Paprika pepper compressed which were supposed to be “Paprika” peppers but look nothing like the photograph in the Pinetree catalog from whence they came.  I’m not complaining, as they are quite large, extremely prolific, nicely flavored (sweet, not hot) and there are hundreds of them.  But, they don’t turn red before they spoil, and I’ve never seen yellow paprika.  I think I’d like to order them again next year, if I can figure out what variety they really are!  Blight peppers compressed And speaking of peppers, this is just part of the harvest from 2 “Blight Buster” pepper plants!  I only picked about 1/3 of the peppers from each plant, becausing the weight was causing the plants to lean over. (Definitely not tidy, so we can’t have that!) The largest one weighed a hefty 8.3 oz!!  These were free seeds from Seeds ‘n Such for placing an early order, and they are outstanding. Thick, thick walls and blocky bottoms that will stand up to stuffing.  Will definitely order them again next year, as they are making my former favorite, “New Ace” look pitiful by comparison.  I was relieved to see that D did a fabulous job watering while I was away.  I really should have moved this “Aussie Sweetie” basil into a larger pot before I left.  Aussie Sweetie compressed  It’s knee-high, and won’t be happy much longer in so small a pot.  If you haven’t grown “Aussie Sweetie,” give it a try.  It rarely, rarely flowers, so does not produce seed, which means no deadheading.  I’ve kept one in a pot for three years and it never did bolt.  Smaller leaves than Genovese, but a nice flavor and very productive.  Another potted plant, although Brent & Becky (from Brent & Becky’s Bulbs) assure me they should be hardy even here in Zone 5, if I can find a slightly protected site with good drainage, are these Eucomis, or Pineapple Lily bulbs. Pineapple lily compressed  It is easy to see how they got their name.  All the attendees at a recent Regional GWA meeting in Indianapolis received several free eucomis bulbs.  I wasn’t even sure I was interested, but I brought them home and planted them in pots in full sun.  Almost immediately the leaves pushed through and began to unfurl, showing interesting black freckles on the undersides.  I saw several eucomis in bloom in gardens we visited during the conference last week, some with deep purple flowers, and was hoping some of my new plants might be the same, but so far they’ve all been green.  Still pretty interesting though, and there are still some to bloom so hope remains.  So, that’s my Six for this Saturday.  Thanks to The Propagator for suggesting and hosting this meme.

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Early Tomato Comparison

After an exciting Garden Writers of America conference, I’m back at the helm.  Needless to say, there has been lots of picking and preserving after a week’s absence, and now the deadheading needs completing but I wanted to get this posted before my feeble brain forgets.  This season, I planted two early varieties of tomatoes:  “Polbig” and “Park’s Season Starter.”  I’ve grown and loved “Park’s Whopper” for years and years, but I’d never noticed “Season Starter” before.  So, I planted 6 plants of each.

Conditions were as identical as possible.  Seeds were started in the same medium, place, temperature, date, etc.  Transplanting was also identical, and the beds they went into on the same date in the potager are aligned, and contain the same soil.  All were watered equally, etc. as well.  Both sets of plants seem equally healthy and are similar in size, and both began blooming within two days of one another, although “Season Starter” bloomed first.

Despite the bloom time, the first “Polbigs” were picked on July 19 (l lb.) and an additional pound on July 23, two pounds on July 24, two pounds on July 25, 1 1/2 lb. on Aug. 2, which is the date I picked the first “Season Starter.”  Finally we could conduct a taste comparison!  Tomato comparison 8-17  As you can see, the tomatoes are relatively the same in size and color.  D is the tomato lover in our family, so I called upon him to do the tasting.  While he thought both were “fine” when pressed for details, he declared that the “Season Starter” had tougher skin and lacked the full flavor of “Polbig,”  which was also slightly sweeter.

The clincher for me, however, is that at this point I’ve harvested 7.5 pounds of fruit from “Polbig” and only 1 pound from “Season Starter.”  There are an additional 28 tomatoes on the “Polbig” plants, and 20 on the “Season Starter” to be harvested as they ripen.  Next year, only the “Polbig” will have a place in my potager for early crop tomatoes.  FYI, “Polbig” seeds came from Pinetree Seeds, and “Park’s Season Starter” were from “Seeds N Such.”

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July in Review

“Fast and furious” best describes the changing gardens this month.  We’ve had a few hot, humid days that are typical of July here in central Indiana, but for the most part it has been cooler than normal.  Thus, many mornings the potager looks like this: Potager in mist 7-31-17 compressed  A magical hazy mist softens all the edges.  So much has happened this month.  The daylilies came, were glorious, and are quietly departing.  In their place, the black-eyed Susans have pretty much taken over the Deck Garden  Deck garden 7-31-17 compressed  In the background you can see my lovely elder, dark with berry clusters that I have already begun to harvest.  Doesn’t it seem like I was just making elderflower syrup a few days ago?  Time is a blink!  The strawberries are beginning to bear again and the blackberry harvest is in full pick.  Front garden 7-29-17The Front Garden looks different from last month, without the daylilies and tall Oriental lilies, but the ageratum has filled in much of the gaps.  The Lavender Slope looks very different, because the lavender has all been harvested and the plants sheared.  No, I haven’t yet replaced the ones that perished over the winter, but it’s on the list.  Lavender sheared 7-31-17 compressed The lavender bunches are hanging in the Lady Cottage, along with dozens of garlic, shallot, and onion braids that were also harvested this month. Lavender harvest 17 compressed  Last year my total lavender harvest was 5 bunches, this year it increased to 13, so my babies are growing!  Still a far cry from the thousands of bunches we harvested at the farm, but I think I’m glad not to have to work that hard anymore!  In the potager, a whopping 212.5 pounds was harvested in July!  That made room for a lot of succession planting.  Potager succession 7-31-17 compressed  The garlic, shallots and onions created a lot of planting space, but the first two plantings of beans, lots of  lettuces, and the first planting of miniature Gonzales cabbages were also eaten or preserved.  The Royal Burgundy beans won the early contest, with a record 8 pickings before they were finished.  In the space in the two beds lower right in the photo, you can see a row of “Mad Hatter” peppers in the front bed, and a row of Brussel sprouts in the center of the middle bed.  On each side are two seeded rows:  Wando peas on both sides of the bottom bed, carrots on both sides of the other.  In the third bed up, on the right side of the photo are the Park’s “Season Starter” tomatoes.  More on the tomato comparison in another upcoming post.  Left of that bed, where garlic came out is now winter squash.  It’s amazing how much they have growin in just two weeks.  They were just baby plants when I set them in and now they already have baby squash forming!Winter squash 7-31-17 compressed  The “Red Candlesticks” okra seed I got at the Garden Writers’ Regional meeting on June 22nd germinated quickly and the plants are now 10″ tall and forming buds.  Okra Red Candlesticks 7-31-17 compressed  I hope it is more tender than the “Jambalaya” variety I’ve been harvesting, which is tough and stringy at barely 3″.  Two inch pods hardly seem worth the trouble of harvesting but that’s what it takes to be tender.  The celery is looking great Celery 7-31-17 compressed  I think it likes the well-above average rainfall we’ve had in July.  The peppers are changing daily, and I’ve already canned sweet red cherry and pepperoncini.  The “New Ace” are beginning to turn red now New Ace pepper 7-31-17 compressed and the Italian paprika peppers look terrific.  I’m really happy with the “Golden Anniversary” agastache, and the butterflies love it, too.  Gold agastache compressed 7-17  It really brightens up the potager interior border.  And the new Cutting Garden is producing bouquets.  Cutting Garden 7-31-17 compressed  More on that in another post as well.  So that’s July!  I expect August will produce more poundage, because the heavyweights like tomatoes will be coming on in full force.  I just hope August goes a bit more slowly than July did!


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Six on Saturday July 29

The gardens are changing fast as the daylilies fade away, but there are still things that bring a smile today.  This late, double-flowered soft peach daylily is becoming one of my favorites.  Daylily Dbl pink compressed  The bounty from the potager increases daily.   Starting page 6 of my harvest log this week certainly made me smile:Harvest journal 7-29-17  The pounds are adding up quickly, well over 200 already.  A heavy item, this mini-melon was the first of the season and was delicious combined with freshly picked strawberries and blackberries.  Berries & melon 7-29-17 Here’s Friday’s harvest: 4 kinds of tomatoes, 3 varieties of peppers, two mini melons, some cukes and a Ronde d’Nice squash.  (Goes nicely to the 12 Days of Xmas tune!)  I’d picked all the beans and beets canned them on Thursday.  I also canned all the cipollini onions earlier in the week.  One day's harvest 7-29-17 Isn’t that worth a smile?  And, I picked the first bouquet from the new Cutting Garden, which was just planted the end of June, so that’s making me happy.  You know how hard it was for me to cut flowers from the “real” gardens but I have no qualms about cutting from the Cutting Garden out back.  CG first bouquet compressed  However, there was someone else merrily cutting flowers in the Cutting Garden as well.  No arrests yet, but I took this photo for evidence.  Definitely no smiles for this oneGomp critter cut compressed  And that’s six things for this Saturday.  Thanks to The Propagator for suggesting this meme.  It does spur me into taking time to photograph!

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Gotta love those annuals!

I’ve been away for a bit to eastern Ohio and then immediately on to Wisconsin, so I’ve been playing catch-up with the produce rather than writing since our return.  Immediately upon turning into the driveway, it was obvious that the gardens had changed while I was traveling.  Since those first warm days of spring, the reliable perennials have been carrying the load.  Of course none of them stay on the stage very long.  Most of them have short, but memorable performances and coming one right after another or sometimes overlapping to form an ensemble, they are deserving of applause.  When I left, the daylilies were stealing the show with a strong chorus of colors, heights and forms.  Now the annuals are the star attractions, and I am so thankful for them.

While most people are planting more perennials, I still count on my annuals to carry the show, especially from now until frost (usually early October.)  Oh, they’ve been contributing a lot already as bit players here and there as the perennials had the spotlight, polishing up their acts, gaining in volume and gradually getting bigger parts but now they are the headliners.  They will deserve that top billing and attention for weeks and weeks to come (as long as I keep them deadheaded!)  Here are the stars of the current show: Zinna Prof Dbl compressed Zinnia “Profusion Double Click Deep Salmon.”  These are much, much prettier than my photo.  The leaves weren’t blue when I compressed it!  They are really workhorses in my garden, blooming from May to frost with very little care.  They are almost self-cleaning, so require very little deadheading on my part.  I use them at the front of the border, as they get about 10-12″ tall and form graceful, fully filled mounds.  They come in a variety of colors and are easy from seed.  Next are my beloved snapdragons.  I’ve praised these “Liberty Bronze” snaps before, but they deserve even more!Snap Liberty bronze compressed  This year, with cooler temperatures and abundant rain, they have continued putting on a show since I planted them in late April.  The Liberty series has nearly every color in the rainbow, and are very easy from seed, but start them early (late January for me) for opening acts.  Our current weather has also been good for the nasturtiums, violas and calendulas, all of which areNast Tip Top Apricot compressed everyday bloomers in the potager.  I decided to add bits of blue here and there in the garden, blue being a partner across the color wheel for orange.  I chose this tall “Blue Horizon” ageratum, and it has been a wonder, blooming early and long.  It really is blue-blue, not purplish and makes a great cut flower.  Ageratum tall blue compressed  Just coming onto the stage, and still playing a supporting role is the self-seeded cleome, “Helen Campbell.”  Cleome compressed  As it gets taller and more abundant, cleome will be getting a larger role.  The same applies to the tall zinnias, which are just getting off to a good start.  Zinnia Inca compressed  Before you get the wrong impression, I must add that all annuals are not as talented as those I’ve shown so far.  I was very disappointed in Zinnia “Decor” which was supposed to be a blend of orange zinnias and lime-green zinnias.  Most of them were (horror of horrors!) like thisZinnia tall pink compressed  so they were cut from the act!!!  So were many of the “Pixie Sunshine” which were supposed to be dwarf (they were) and a mixture of white, yellow, and orange but in reality were magenta, red, or (gasp!) Zinnias pink compressed  another horrible pink!  Having failed their audition, I won’t be growing either of those again.  And also disappointing has been the “Perfume Lime” nicotiana which looked good early on, but seems to be getting very tired as the season progresses.  Nicotiana lime compressed  To get star billing in my garden, a plant must have endurance as well as beauty.  So, I’ll be scouring the seed catalogs over the winter, searching for some new talent.  Maybe I’ll find some at the upcoming Garden Writers’ annual conference, a great for talent scouts like me!

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But if you deadhead…..

After expounding upon the merits of deadheading in a recent post, it occurs to me that I need to also present another side of the issue.  Deadheading does produce more flowers overall, and does keep the plants and the gardens looking tidier and fresher, but there is one thing deadheading does not produce….SEEDS!  Yes, if you deadhead every flower as it fades, then there will be no seeds.  With many plants this is not a problem, because if they are hybrids, they won’t come true from seed anyway.  If there are more than one variety of peppers, or tomatoes, or squash, or zinnias or daylilies blooming at the same time, they won’t come true to variety either, but will be cross-pollinated and produce seeds that produce mystery varieties.  Often gardeners complain that after growing only one heirloom variety of tomato so they could save the seed, the harvest from those seeds the following year doesn’t resemble the original at all.  If one has neighbors within a bee’s flying distance, who might be growing a different variety of tomato, then very likely the tomatoes will be cross-pollinated and create a mixed result.  It’s not easy to save seed if you have near neighbors who grow similar crops, but not the exact same varieties.

So, I hear you asking….”What’s her point?  Isn’t she still arguing for deadheading?” My response is “Yes, but….!”  Overall, deadheading is the rule in my gardens, but with a few exceptions.  The first plant that is not always deadheaded is the lovely nasturtium.Nast Tip Top Apricot compressed  I grow lots of nasturtiums in various shades of apricot, orange and yellow.  They are just too gorgeous and reliable not to have in abundance in the potager.  I love to stuff their blossoms with a cheese mixture for a colorful appetizer, or make confetti of the petals to sprinkle over canapes.  (For recipes using nasturtiums, go to my website http://www.caroleesherbfarm.com and use the search feature.)  The flowers make a wonderful, flavorful herbal vinegar, and the flowers and leaves can be added to salads.  I do deadhead them periodically so they keep flowering all summer, but I skip a few plants so I can harvest these:  Nasturtium seeds compressed  Beautiful, crunchy, peppery nasturtium seeds that can be added to salads, marinades, stir fry, or pickled as a caper substitute.  One of my favorite recipes is this chicken dish with potatoes and nasturtium seeds, a one-skillet wonder that is quick and easy.  Chicken with potatoes & nasturtium seeds compressed Simply heat a bit of olive oil in a cast iron (or other oven safe) skillet.  Add 6 chicken legs or thighs that you’ve seasoned with salt and pepper, and brown on all sides.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees while chicken browns.  Make a sauce by combining 1/3 c. olive oil, 2 smashed cloves garlic; 2 T. lemon juice; 2 T. coarsely chopped fresh nasturtium seeds; 1/2 tsp. pepper; 1 tsp. salt.  When chicken is browned, add 3-4 medium potatoes, cut into quarters.  Pour the sauce over and place in oven for 30-40 min., until chicken is done.  I wouldn’t want to be without nasturtium seeds, so various plants are rotated in the deadheading schedule.  I also often dry extra seeds to plant next year, and also to use as a pepper substitute.  Another plant that is allowed to produce seeds, and is also sometimes used as a pepper substitute is nigella.  Nigella compressed  Once the flower disappears it is replaced by a striking purple-streaked pod that is filled with black seeds.

Nigella pod compressed  They are welcome to self-seed throughout the potager interior borders, but I always harvest some of the seeds for culinary purposes, and I like the dried pods for winter floral arrangements.  Poppies are also allowed to self-seed in the potager borders, as are dill, calendula, borage, and cilantro because any surplus can easily be removed.   I do deadhead all the violas, which are great self-seeders because I’ve found that the orange ones I want for my edges rarely come back orange, and if I allow them to self-seed then my paths are filled with seedlings that must be removed.  I deadhead chives and garlic chives for the same reason.

In the flower gardens, deadheading is generally the rule until a few weeks before frost.  Then, the last blooms of cleome are allowed to set and drop seed.  I only grow the pristine white “Helen Campbell” variety, so I don’t have to worry about cross-pollinating, and none of my neighbors grow it.  The tall verbena on a stick can also self seed because it seems to always come true.  Because I use a fairly narrow color palette and prefer specific varieties, I’d rather start the other annuals each season with fresh seed, rather than risk ending up with a lot of muddy pinks or magentas.  However, if you want self-seeding annuals like larkspur and bachelor buttons, don’t deadhead all the flowers, but allow some to make seed.  And that, I hope, is the end of that!

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