Zucchini

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Zucchini is the exemplary summer squash.

Zucchini, Cucurbita pepo, is the epitome of summer squash. Because it is so easy to grow, it is the primary choice for gardens that can accommodate only one set of summer squash plants. The fruits can be yellow, dark green or dark green with a lacy gray pattern, Yet, the common medium green variety is still the most popular. It is likely the most vigorous and most productive of them all.

Like all summer squash, zucchini wants good warm exposure, rich soil and regular watering. Powdery mildew can be a problem if the foliage gets wet from watering late in the day. Foliage that is ruined by powdery mildew should be removed. Plants are easiest to grow from seed sown directly where they are desired, after the last frost. Two or three plants should grow together in each set.

Fruits are best before they get longer than eight inches or so, although they are edible at any stage. They can eventually grow as big as baseball bats. However, plants that produce such big fruits produce almost nothing else. Regular harvest promotes prolific production. Male flowers are more abundant than females flowers that produce the fruits. All flowers are edible before they shrivel.

Summer Squash Excel All Summer

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Tender young summer squash are best.

Summer is for warm season vegetables like tomatoes, beans, corn, okra, and of course, summer squash. The name says it all. Summer squash are the sort of squash that develop and are ready for harvest through summertime. The season continues until the plants succumb to cooling autumn weather. The abundant squash fruits are best while young and tender, before they actually ripen.

Related winter squash grow through summer too. However, they ripen completely through the growing season before harvest in autumn. By the time they are ripe, their foliage will be succumbing to frost. They are much less perishable than summer squash are, so last for months if stored properly. Instead of producing abundant small fruits, winter squash plants produce only a few big fruits.

Summer squash plants can produce big fruits too, but at the expense of preferred tender juvenile fruits. They simply will not divert resources to new small fruits while concentrating their effort into a big fruit full of viable seed. After all, seed production is their priority. Regular harvest of juvenile fruits actually stimulates the production of more fruits. It forces the plants to redirect their resources.

There is certainly nothing wrong with summer squash fruits that have matured a bit more than they should. Stuffed zucchini is merely medium sized zucchini sliced in half lengthwise, hollowed out, stuffed and baked. Some people actually prefer to leave the last summer squash fruits of the season out in the garden to get as big as they can before frost. Such fruits are tough, but not too bad.

Common zucchini and its varieties are the most poplar of the summer squash. They are generally the most reliable and most productive. Crookneck squash are likely the second most popular of summer squash locally. They are slightly less productive, but provide variation of flavor. Pattypan squash have good flavor, and a slightly firmer texture that is an advantage for soups and freezing.

Other interesting varieties of summer squash are too numerous to list. Each exhibits its own distinct characteristics.

Six on Saturday: Kitchen Scraps

 

The first of our compost piles will not die. Some of the scraps of vegetables from the kitchens grow to produce more of the same. As this first pile of pre-compost gets turned over to the next pile, we commonly find potatoes and onions. Tomatoes, squash and sometimes cucumbers grow around and on top of the pile. Without watering, their season is limited, but just long enough.

It is actually frustrating that some of the vegetables that are not so productive where tended in the vegetable garden perform better, although likely briefly, on the random compost pile.

1. Vegetable scraps and rotten vegetables are common in the compost pile, even while the kitchens here are not presently operating. These do not seem to have been rotten when discarded.P00620-1

2. Summer squash is common here, even though scrap from the kitchens should be from juvenile squash, which should contain no viable seed. This might produce yellow crookneck squash.P00620-2

3. Cucumber is not so common, and will not likely last as long as other vegetable plants. The area is warm and dry. Cucumber prefers sunny but not so warm exposure, and regular watering.P00620-3

4. Determinate tomato looks just like what grew here last year. If so, it makes small cherry tomatoes that are shaped like ‘Roma’ tomatoes; and all the fruit will ripen at about the same time.P00620-4

5. Pumpkin vine should be sprawling more than this. It could be just another type of squash. The round fruits with stout stems resemble baby pumpkins. However, the leaves are not right.P00620-5

6. Bearded iris is no vegetable, but naturalized similarly next to the compost piles. It is perennial rather than annual. Although shabby here, it can be recycled into landscapes. Bloom is gold.P00620-6

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:

https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/

Horridculture – Bucket of Bolts

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They started out nicely.

Radishes seemed like a good idea back when I sowed the seed in the garden. I had not grown any in many years. I thought that the particular location would be cool enough to inhibit bolting, even though it was starting to get close to the end of their season here. They are definitely a cool season vegetable here, with brief seasons in spring and autumn. Some linger through winter.

The seed germinated efficiently. The seedlings started out well. Radishes are small roots that mature in only about three weeks. Technically, they were right on schedule. I happened to get a few tiny radishes from the batch. However, after the seed were sown, but before the radish roots developed, the formerly cool spring weather warmed suddenly enough to stimulate bolting.

The elongation of floral stalks was visible within the foliar rosettes of most of the individual radishes while they were still quite dinky. Initially, I thought it would be no problem. There were a few good radish roots, which was all I needed to brag to my colleague down South about. Those that bolted would sort of be palatable as radish greens. Bitterness does not bother me much.

Now, because so few of the radishes were pulled for their roots, too many are growing as greens, and they evolved from merely bolting to blooming. The flavor evolved from normal bitter to almost icky bitter. I will not be sharing these with anyone. I can not leave them in the garden to get shabby either. Besides, I want the space for something else. I suppose I will freeze some.

After all the effort, I got only a few small radishes, some decent greens, and mostly bitter greens. Perhaps I will try radishes again in autumn. This radish trial was a ‘FAIL’.

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Yes, we have no radishes.

Summer Vegetables Like Warming Weather

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Summer Vegetables Like Warming Weather

Tomato, pepper and eggplant plants should be out in the garden by now. They typically get planted only a few weeks after the last threat of frost, so that they can start to disperse their roots early. Growth above ground accelerates as the weather gets warmer. Fruit develops and ripens through summer.

These three types of vegetable plants get planted as seedlings for two main reasons. First, when they go into the garden, seedlings are bigger and more established than seeds that need to take time to grow are. Secondly, the cost of the few plants needed for an average garden is not much more than the cost of seeds.

Now, zucchini, melon and summer squash can be done either way. Not many plants are needed, so the expense of seedlings is minimal. However, seedlings are a bit more fragile than those of tomato, pepper and eggplant. Seeds grow so efficiently that they get established almost as readily as seedlings do, so are just as practical.

Regardless of how they get planted, the weather has been so odd this year that there has been only minimal advantage to planting seedlings and sowing seed on time. Tomato, pepper and eggplant plants that were planted early may not be much more mature than what could be planted now. Harvest will be delayed either way.

Bean, cucumber and corn all grow best from seed. Seedlings take more time to recover from transplant than seed take to germinate and grow. Besides, so many plants of each type are needed that seedlings would be expensive. A single package of seed is cheap and goes a long way, so is probably sufficient for an average garden.

Corn is one of those vegetables that produces on a rather tight schedule. Seed that gets sown at any particular time matures at the same rate, so that all the fruit finishes at about the same time. This is why corn gets sown in phases. If timed properly, a subsequent phase begins to produce as the preceding phase gets depleted.

Winter squash, including pumpkin, are similar to summer squash, although they are more tolerant of unusually cool spring weather. They too can either get planted as seedlings or sown as seed. They take their time to produce fruit that ripens by autumn, so have more time to catch up.

When It Rains, It Pours

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Mudslide!

The only reason we developed a small vegetable garden here this year is that we have been unable to go to work for about a month. Without my second most time consuming employment, I had time to clear a small unused space (which was not nearly as simple as that sounds) and sow seed for vegetables. It was a late start a month ago, but not too late.

In fact, there was still time to do it before the last storm to go through. I know that sounds trivial, but as a Californian who is accustomed to gardening in a chaparral climate, and sometimes where there is no water available, planting prior to a storm ‘seems’ to be rather important. I know it is not. Water is available here. Otherwise, I would not grow vegetables.

Not only was there a storm, but there was a second storm later! Of course, it is not really that simple. The first light duty storm was nice, and soaked things sufficiently. Then the weather stayed strangely cool for this time of year. Nothing germinated. Then the second storm was brief but torrential enough to erode all of the recently sown seed right out of the new garden!

It was too comical for me to be too annoyed by it. I only needed to see what survived the erosion so that I could replace what did not. I almost replaced everything anyway, just because I was that certain that nothing survived.

Well, as it turned out, not much was missing! The garden got a slow start, and was delayed again by cool weather, but somehow seems to be recovering nicely. Even some of the very old seed that I did not expect to be viable has germinated.

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A late batch of radish somehow survived.

Now, I must go work in the garden.

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Late but ready to go.

Six on Saturday: Greens

 

There are no vegetables in the garden yet. It is so shameful. Work had been so overwhelming that I am only now renovating a small vacant space into a new vegetable garden, and only because I am unable to go to work at my most time consuming job. I needed to remove our berry canes to do it!

Until the garden becomes productive, and perhaps to avoid the supermarket, I have been getting much of my produce from the surrounding forest and landscapes.

1. mustard greens – are the most abundant of the greens growing wild around the perimeter of the abandoned baseball field. Similar wild radish and turnip greens are even better, but not abundant.P00328-1

2. dandelion – grows in the outfield of the same abandoned baseball field, mostly past third base. They are not my favorite, but are an alternative to the other greens. These are dirty from heavy rain.P00328-2

3. dock – is more randomly sporadic. It grows amongst the other greens and elsewhere, although not in significant colonies. The tough midribs are supposed to be removed. I just chop them up fine.P00328-3

4. miners’ lettuce – is the only native of these greens. Most leaves are circular with tiny white flowers in the center. These vegetative leaves are supposedly better. Like lettuce, they do not get cooked.P00328-4

5. stinging nettle – must be cooked to stop stinging. This is my favorite of the greens. It is like spinach that I do not need to tend to. I get it from along the trails where it should be eradicated anyway.P00328-5

6. Rhody – is not even remotely relevant to greens; but everyone wants to see him. Someone suggested that I write exclusively about Rhody, as if my horticultural topics are insufficiently interesting.P00328-6

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:

https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/

Poppy And Periwinkle

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Even though I know they are slightly purplish, periwinkle look blue to me.

Clearing space for a new small vegetable garden is more work than it will be worth. It took more than a day to remove the thicket of bramble from a triangular area that is only about forty feet from front to back, and not much more than twenty feet wide. After so many years of getting trash dumped on top of them, the brambles were unusually prolific with gnarly root burls.

There is still significant work to do. I still need to condition the soil and groom the adjacent junipers before sowing seed for the warm season vegetables for this summer. Now that I can see that the junipers that were formerly concealed by brambles are worthy of salvage and grooming, I will need to clear a bit more garden space across the road, and cut back a few trees above.

When finished and producing, the garden will not produce enough. The four hundred or so square feet in the main part of the garden should supply enough for two people; but realistically, it would more likely produce enough for me alone, with a bit extra to can for when it is not producing much. There are about a dozen on our crew. They all have families. I need a quarter acre!

The math of it all is frustrating. So is all the work to get it started. It all seems so futile. I know we will appreciate the little bit that we get. I will still get plenty from the weeds that grow wild around the baseball field, so will not take much from the garden.

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As simple as they are, poppies are still my favorite native wildflower.

For now, I try to visualize what the small vegetable garden will look like in production this summer, even if all that I see blooming are the poppies and periwinkle on the outskirts.

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My illustrations are more technical than artistic. It looks like someone else took this one. Ignore the pickup in the background.

Horridculture – Red Hot Chili Peppers

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Sweet bell peppers are actually more of a challenge to grow.

This illustration is relevant neither to the topic, nor to that really creepy rock band of the same name. Even though the band has been popular since I was in high school, all that I know about them is that I am none too keen on their music. Embarrassingly, I do not know much more about the topic, and it has been a hot topic much longer than I have been growing my vegetables.

Vegetables make no music of course. I just mean that I am no more familiar with contemporary cultivars of hot pepper than I am with music that I do not appreciate. I happen to appreciate some types of peppers, and some of them happen to be hot peppers. However, I have not bothered to get acquainted with those that are so ridiculously hot that I do not want to grow them.

Why should I? What are they good for? Why waste my time, limited garden space and other resources on something that no one wants to eat or add to any recipe? They are not particularly productive. If they were, they would only make more of something that is just as useless as the few that each plant produces. I can not even justify putting effort into finding a picture of one.

Those who indulge in this fad brag about it profusely. They post pictures of their few tiny hot peppers online, with sensational claims that there is nothing hotter. Some post selfies with their free hand dangling one of their weird peppers over their extended Gene Simmons tongue. Some even post videos of their drunken friends tasting their peppers, as if it can not be done sober.

I suppose that, regardless of how pointless it seems to me, it is one way to enjoy gardening.

Onion

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Onions are weirdly bulbous foliar vegetables.

Although it is the most cultivated species of its genus, no one knows the origins of domestic onion, Allium cepa. Leek, shallot, garlic, chive, and a few other species are also popular vegetables. Most common bulbing onions produce familiar distended bulbs that are ready for harvest after defoliating and initiating dormancy in autumn. Green onions are leaves and attached juvenile bulbs.

Onions are probably easiest to grow locally from small juvenile onions known as ‘sets’, that grew from seed during the previous summer. Alternatively, seed sown during summer grows into small plants that go dormant to overwinter, and then resume growth the following spring. Mature onions should go completely dormant in autumn before storage, but are usable directly from the garden.

Yellow or brown onions are the most popular for cooking. Red or purple onions are milder and more colorful for fresh use, and are also popular for stir fry. White onions, whether fresh or cooked, are even milder, and are the traditional onions for salsa. All onions produce distinctively bluish foliage that stands about a foot high. The hollow leaves flop over and shrivel for dormancy in autumn.