Monthly Archives: August 2012

Taste Testing Melons

We had quite a collection of melons to taste test this week, which was a lot of fun!

We actually had one of each of the 4 different melons in the garden to taste test. You can see that we’ve got quite a selection of cut up melons here on our demo table.

The first one up to try was the ‘Lambkin’ melon. This one got huge! Much bigger than it is supposed to get. The top was still pretty green, but the bottom was quite yellow. Time to give it a try! (Remember, we tried one a few weeks back and it wasn’t quite ripe.)

You can see the pure white flesh and the tiny bit of color showing up around the seeds. It was still perhaps a week under-ripe, but it was much sweeter and more flavorful than last time we tried it.

Next up was the honeydew melon. We also tried one of these a few weeks back that wasn’t quite ripe. This one we made sure had changed color and also had a more waxy feel to the skin.

There’s the inside. Definitely a better orange color than before. Like the Lambkin Melon, this Honey Orange honeydew melon could maybe have stood 1 more week on the vine. However, it was much sweeter and more flavorful than before. Unfortunately, the only other melons still on that vine look like they are infected with some sort of virus, as the leaves are mottled and the fruit are deformed.

The third melon was the Kazakh melon, which is an heirloom. I had grown in when I worked in Ohio, and it was a super sweet, very floral tasting melon. This one wasn’t as yellow as I remembered it being, but it has kind of been sitting and not getting more yellow for a week or more, and there was some insect that looked to have taken up residence in the bottom of it. (Do you see the hole?) Time to cut it open!

Here’s what it looks like from the inside. You can see the darker ring towards the rind, indicating that it maybe isn’t as ripe as would be ideal. The other thing you might notice, if you compare it to some of the previous pictures, is that the seed cavity is much larger and the flesh is thinner. This is very typical of an heirloom melon. Again, not quite as sweet as I remembered it, perhaps under-ripe. However, it was one that almost everyone really liked when trying it! It is still a little crunchy and has a very unique flavor.

The other melon we tried was the ‘Tasty Bites’ cantaloupe, which we’ve tried before and is always very tasty! It is also far and away the most productive melon in the garden, although the vine is pretty much done producing at this point. It does have 3-4 very young melons that are not anywhere near mature yet at the very top of the trellis. Most of the others seem to have set some melons early on but have not continued attempting to produce.

Family of 4 Garden Harvest Report + Other Harvests

The Family of 4 Garden is slowing down a bit, since we pulled all the zucchini last week. This week all we got were cucumbers. There are still a couple pepper and tomato plants, but they are pretty wimpy. The plan is to plant a bunch of lettuce next week.

This week’s harvest:

2.75 lbs cucumbers @ $1.00/lb = $2.75

Weekly Total = $2.75

Year to Date = $117.80

Thanks to the sharp eyes of one of the Master Gardeners, we also found a few pods from the Black Sesame plants that were ready to pick.

The Black Sesame plants have been some of the most impressive in the garden this summer. The heat really hasn’t seemed to phase them a bit. Even if the harvest turns out to be negligible (although I think the yield looks pretty good considering the number of pods we harvested), they are attractive, quick growing plants that could make a really nice back border plant or screen plant in a flower bed.

Friday PhotoEssay

It’s Friday again! I hope you all enjoyed the mostly cooler week! I know that I did.

Even though zucchini aren’t as good once they get big, the white stripes on the ‘Sunstripe’ zucchini really pop once they get bigger (left side of picture). We picked 3 more of the ‘Fairy’ squash that were more orange than last time we tried them. Hopefully they are riper than last time for those that took them home.

For some reason I always have this idea that tomatillos are smallish, bushy, well-behaved plants, kind of like peppers. It always surprises me then, when they end up outgrowing their cages and sprawling all over everything. This tomatillo branch is even growing up through the melon trellis!

All of a sudden, the jicama suddenly seems ready to grow more. It is going to have to fight its way through the melon vines for space on the trellis. I’m afraid it is too little too late for anything productive to come of it, but we’ll see!

Look at this! We got a few fruit off the Litchi Tomato plants! They are smaller that I’ve seen in the past (the plants aren’t as productive either), but I guess that given the summer we’ve had, I can’t complain too much.

We do have a couple tomatoes set on the Indigo Rose plants. They are still green, but you can already see the fun purple sheen to them. The purple intensifies with exposure to the sun, and the fruit will be kind of an orange color underneath as they ripen.

I know I posted a picture much like this last week, but I really like the combo of the purple tomatillos and red serrano peppers.

Have a great weekend!

Troubles in Vine-Land

As I mentioned in passing on Tuesday, we have several different things going on with our vining vegetables – cucumbers, squash, etc. Actually, the melon plants are all still in good shape, so the problems are restricted to the cucumbers and various squashes.

Here’s the first one:

The cucumbers in the Family of 4 Garden are coated with these…any ideas? I’ve seen numerous samples of vine plants come in this month with the same signs and symptoms. I think what tricks folks is all of the white flecks. This is actually a severe aphid infestation. If you look closely, especially in the upper left corner of the picture, you can see the green buggers. In the middle of this picture is an ant…and ants like to “farm” aphids and protect them from predators so the ants can feed on the sticky honeydew that the aphids excrete as they feed. The white flecks? Those are the aphid “skins” as they grow and mature they “molt” and leave those white skins behind. I’m sure there’s a technical term, but I can’t remember off the top of my head.

To make matters worse, the cucumbers also have these terrible looking insects on them! Can it get any worse? Well, actually, you might recognize the one as a ladybug, and the black and orange lizard-like bug…that’s the larvae of the ladybug! These are the good guys that are enjoying quite a feast of aphids!

So, what are we doing about the aphids on the cucumbers? Well, honestly, the answer is nothing. We’ve gotten quite a bounty of cucumbers, and the plants are still doing pretty well overall. The ladybugs aren’t controlling the aphids at this point, although given a couple of weeks they might get there. Spraying would kill the ladybugs and may not do much to prolong the life of the cucumber vines. We’ll probably let them go and pull the plants out in a few weeks if they become completely unproductive.

On to the next problem… An observant Master Gardeners saw this on the underside of one of the squash leaves on Tuesday. Theses are squash bug eggs. I’ve gotten several questions about why we aren’t having problems with squash bugs in the garden this year. The answer has pretty much been that we’ve been lucky. The renovated garden may have helped that situation too. At this point, we aren’t going to bother spraying, since most of the squash will be leaving the garden soon due to the third problem we’re seeing…

Ugh…powdery mildew. This is a disease that we often see on zinnias and other common garden plants about this time of year. Usually you start out seeing round, powdery white spots on the leaves. It seems like most of our squash went from 0 to 60 in almost no time flat, because the leaves are pretty well coated on several different varieties of squash. There are treatment options, but they are most effective as preventatives or very early in the infection period. These plants just aren’t worth saving at this point. Besides, we’re tired of zucchini! There are powdery mildew resistant varieties, but they can still get the disease in a bad year.

As you can see, a lot of things are starting to go downhill fast in the garden this year. Luckily we’ve got some seeds started inside and garlic on order for later this fall!

Video Wednesday

Yes, I know I promised a post about insects and diseases on vine crops, but I guess that will have to wait until tomorrow. I’d rather cover something more fun…planting a fall garden! Here’s a video I did a couple years ago on Colorful Fall Veggies.