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Monday PhotoEssay

We got so busy setting up for Tomato Day that I didn’t get a PhotoEssay up! Here are some of the pictures from last week.

The garden still looks great from a distance. There’s a benefit to not always getting too close to things!

These two melons are growing in the “Yellow Mini Tiger” area. That means that one of them is the pollinator and one is the “eater” melon. Hmm…Any guesses?

One of my coworkers reported seeing a thief in the garden this week, and he followed them and snapped this picture of the crime with his phone. I guess everyone had a happy Tomato Day!

The first of the ‘Limmony’ tomatoes started ripening just in time for Tomato Day!

I get the sense that while we may have semi-outsmarted the squash vine borers, the onslaught of squash bugs is just about ready to begin. Ugh. On so many different levels.

Here’s a nice honeydew melon that is growing on the vine. It’s nowhere close to ready, but it looks really nice!

This is one of the Teddy Bear sunflowers in the Kids’ Snack Garden. They just started blooming this week. They are definitely a fun twist on sunflowers.

Friday PhotoEssay

After a cooler week, it looks like we are going to climb back into our more seasonable hot temperatures in the mid-90s for next week. Happily, I think everyone has had good tomato set and all the plants are off to a really good start before we get to that point.

You can see that we now have a big open hole in the center of the garden with the garlic and shallots completely gone. We’ll be planting some buckwheat next week. Meanwhile, the tomatoes, eggplant, and vine crops are increasingly looking like a jungle! The eggplant are particularly dense.

The eggplant are starting to produce like crazy. I know that a picture of 4 eggplants may not convince you, but there are dozens more eggplant fruit set on our plants. The white with lavender streaks is the ‘Orient Charm’ and the dark purple is ‘Millionaire.’

I noticed these tomato flowers on my morning walk through the garden, probably because they were right at eye level and the yellow stood out amongst the green leaves and stems. When the stems of the flowers turn that bright yellow, you can be sure they are going to drop off because there wasn’t any fruit set. There are still a couple green ones, so we’ll have to wait and see if there is any set from this cluster. So why are the flowers dropping when it hasn’t been too hot? Well, what I didn’t tell you is that this is the heirloom variety ‘Limmony,’ which is supposed to have fruit up to 1 lb in size. I know there are a couple tomatoes set already, and I suspect that the plant knows that it can’t handle too many fruit of that size, hence dropping so many flowers. It would be interesting to know if this is a chicken or the egg scenario. Does the fruit get huge because the plant only sets a few fruit or does the plant only set a few fruit because it knows the fruit get huge?

Except for the basils and thyme, all the other herbs are in containers this year. This container is looking great right now! I think the location, where it is getting a bit of afternoon shade, is agreeing with it. The variegated plant in the front is Pineapple Mint. The container also has Stevia, Scented Geranium, and a Cinnamon? Basil.

We are starting to see a lot of flowers on the melon plants in the Vertical Garden area. Unfortunately, as is typical, they are virtually all male flowers, especially on the non-watermelon types. I’ve seen a few female flowers on the watermelon. This flower is very clearly a male, as there is no baby melon behind the flower.

This flower is so pink, it kinda seems fake! This is the center of a huge bloom on the ‘Pink Clouds’ hibiscus that we have planted in a couple of the containers by the classroom area.

Have a great weekend!

2013 Garden Plans: Vertical & Eggplant Garden

We decided not to do a full bed of “vertical” gardening this year, so we are going Bed 4 with half vertical gardening and half eggplant trial. We are going to have some fun trying eggplant recipes this year! (Or something like that…)

Vertical & Eggplant GardenSo the first part of this bed will be the vegetable arbor stretched over the the Kids’ Snack Garden with a tomato and a cucumber planted.

Then we will have 2 of the cattle panel trellises we’ve used in the past. We are going to be growing 2 watermelons, a honeydew, and an Asian melon.

Both of the watermelons are personal-sized, and the yellow fleshed one (‘Yellow Mini Tiger’) is seedless. This will be something different for us, because to grow a seedless watermelon you need to plant the variety seeds and a pollinator seed. The seed packet will have 10 regular seeds and 1 pollinator. So we will have to make sure we have the right plants growing to get the melons!

The other two melons are kind of interesting too. The ‘Snow Leopard’ honeydew has white and green streaked skin and a white interior. The Asian melon is an interesting variety as well. I don’t quite know how to describe it…the fruit is oblong with yellow and white stripes. The flesh white and fairly delicately flavored.

Then there’s all that eggplant. Yum. Err…not so much. (If you’ve ever been to one of my classes on eggplant you know that I find it to be a beautiful plant, just not very tasty. And breading and frying it doesn’t count.) Since we are going to have so many varieties this year, we almost have to try a number of recipes just to see if I can find some way to fix eggplant that is tolerable to eat. Anyway, varieties!

‘Clara’ is a white, Italian type (traditional size and shape) and ‘Traviata’ is a dark purple/black Italian type. ‘Millionaire,’ ‘Orient Charm,’ and ‘Green Goddess’ are all long, skinny, Japanese types. ‘Millionaire’ is dark purple, ‘Orient Charm’ is lavender, and ‘Green Goddess’ is, well, green. ‘Calliope’ is purple and white striped, and it is smaller. It can be harvested for “baby” eggplant (2″ x 1.5″) or mature size (3-4″ x 2.5″). ‘Rosa Bianca’ is an Italian heirloom that is white with a pink-lavender blush. It is a little more round and ruffled in shape.

You can leave links for eggplant recipes in the comments! I’m sure this will be an ongoing story this year. And I hope to have lots of GORGEOUS photos to show from this garden. (The plants, not the food. The food mostly looks like grey mush.)

Video Wednesday

Knowing the right time to harvest melons can be a challenge, so here’s a video to help you out with that.


More Melon Mania

What can I say? Sometimes alliteration just gets the best of me.

So I was out wandering around the garden this morning, when I noticed that our ‘Honey Bun’ cantaloupe was looking decidedly riper than it had just 2 days ago. After another loop around the garden, I went closer to see how the stem looked – if it was ready to “slip” or not. To my surprise, I found the melon already completely detached from the vine! Sure enough, the stem had pulled off completely. That makes this melon literally “falling off the vine ripe.” Since a melon doesn’t take kindly to sitting out in the hot sun, boiling from the inside out, it has now been added to the menu for Lunch in the Garden tomorrow, along with the Roasted Tomatillo Salsa. Yum! (By the way, I think Lunch in the Garden will actually be Lunch in the Ingle Room tomorrow. Even I have limits of what I’ll tolerate!)

Here’s the stem end of the melon. You can see that there is a well defined dish where the stem was attached, showing that it really was ripe and not just pulled off early. The spot in the center is actually a little cavity into the melon itself, which is rather strange. I don’t know if that is an abnormality of this particular variety or something else weird happening. It definitely isn’t normal.

From the inside, you can see that it is thoroughly ripe. The rind is narrow, which is good. The seed cavity is a little bit bigger than ideal, but not terrible. Of course, what really counts is the flavor. I would call it good, but not great. It doesn’t lack flavor, but it isn’t as sweet as I think a really good melon should be. It is entirely possible that we have been watering too much, preventing the development of the best possible flavor.