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Thinning Seedlings

I think one of the hardest gardening tasks is thinning out seedlings. It is too easy to just let it go, because you are so excited to see the plants growing, and then everything is an overgrown, tangled mess that you can’t thin out. That’s one of the reasons that I try really hard to space things out when I plant the seeds. However, that doesn’t always work out.

On our trellises for growing vining vegetables, we usually want no more than 2-3 plants per side of the trellis. It seems like so little when you are planting just a few seeds, but planting too many can be a disaster later on!

You can see that there are at least 5 plants along this trellis, and I think there may have been another one or two that I didn’t get in the picture. Even though these plants will be growing up the trellis, if we left all of the plants in place, they would be so thick that we could have problems with diseases – especially if this hot, humid weather keeps on.

We removed all but 3 plants from each of the trellises, which will still be plenty thick by the time the plants are full grown.

Friday PhotoEssay – May 23rd

Rain! Our rain gauge here measured about 3/4″ even though supposedly the airport (just a couple miles south) measured 1 3/4.” I’m not going to complain!

Here’s a look at the garden this morning after our bit of rain. The potatoes have really come on strong, and we removed some of the spinach this week. I know things are going to change rapidly from here on out.

Speaking of changes, several of the tomato plants are starting to bloom. Even the some of the later heirlooms have one or two flowers on them. Fun fact – Tomato Day is 81 days after we transplanted, which means that we would expect the earliest tomatoes to have fruit by then and the mid-season tomatoes should be at their first harvest.

When we were harvesting the spinach this week, we found this mass of eggs on the underside of one of the leaves. We put our Master Gardener hotline crew to work trying to identify what the insect might be, and they came up with Mexican Bean Beetle. I’m not quite sure if that is right, since these are very round rather than slightly oblong. Anyway, we erred on the side of getting rid of the eggs. In hindsight, I could have put them in my insect cage to hatch out.

The second time is the charm on the Quinoa seeds. The ‘Brightest Brilliant’ variety is looking pretty good. The ‘Colorado’ quinoa is still pretty sparse.

Bah. Some of our beans are starting to show herbicide injury, like they did in 2012 after we renovated the garden. I think that it is probably residual in the soil from the manure-based compost we added. If our experience from before holds true, everything should be fine by next year. But I’m about done adding compost to our beds if we can help it!

On the plus side, we are having much better luck getting our vining vegetables to germinate this year. We’re still waiting on the gourds and cucumbers in the Taste of India garden, but the pumpkins and melons in the vertical garden are looking good.

Have a great (long) weekend!

2014 Garden Plans: Bed 1

We had the first of our subcommittee meetings yesterday to work on the planning for Bed 1. I don’t know what I’m going to call this garden, because it is really three different parts all in one. One end is the Vertical Garden, the middle part is Quinoa, and the other end is a Spring/Fall Italian Garden. Maybe I’ll have to nickname it the Conglomerate Garden? The Motley Mixed Garden? The Heterogeneous Garden? The Italicalnoa Garden? The Quinicalian Garden? I’ll take nominations!

Bed 1If you recall, this is the raised bed that has the two, 4’x4′ more raised areas in the center. Those two sections are where we will plant the quinoa.

Italian Garden  

The Italian section of the garden features spring and fall vegetables, with the intention of exploring what there is beyond tomatoes and basil, the quintessential Italian foods. We had a lot of fun perusing the Seeds from Italy catalog and website and trying to find the best choices for different types of vegetables. As you can see, the spring plantings include  several types of greens, beans, and cippolini onions. The beans are a shelling type called ‘Lingua di Fuoco’ which translates to ‘Tongue of Fire.’ The pods have bright pink streaks!

There are lots of types of chicories to choose from, including plain chicory, endive, escarole, and radicchio. We chose a couple “Italian Dandelion” varieties of chicory to try, an endive/escarole mesclun mix, and a red radicchio/chicory for the fall.

We also will have Tuscan Kale growing all year. Sometimes the Tuscan type is called Dinosaur Kale, Nero di Toscano, or similar names.

We are going to try a bulbing variety of fennel in the fall to see if it will produce, as well as some purple bunching onions.

Vertical Garden

We are continuing to demonstrate some of the vertical gardening techniques, and the trellis/arbor over one of the walkways was such a hit last year that we decided to try it again.

‘Tonda Liscia Manduria’ Cucumber is an Italian cucumber melon that is fairly small, round, and has fuzzy skin. It tastes like a cucumber when young and ripens to taste more like a melon.

‘Escorial’ Melon is a Charentais-type melon. It is earlier maturing and hopefully will be less crack-prone than the heirloom Charentais melon.

‘Small Sugar’ Pumpkin is a pie pumpkin that produces sweet, 4-6 lb pumpkins. I’m looking forward to pie this fall!


Quinoa is a Chenopodium, which means that it is going to look a lot like lambsquarter/goosefoot when it starts growing. The flowers/seed heads are supposed to be beautiful colors, which we are all looking forward to. Depending on how hot it gets for how long this summer, we may or may not get a seed crop, but it should be interesting to try growing it! We chose the ‘Brightest Brilliant’ mix and ‘Colorado’ and the two varieties to try.

Garden Plans for 2012: Vertical Garden

Except for the annual & perennial herb gardens and the areas with flowers, this is the end of our garden plans for 2012. As I am writing this post, the Ditch Witch is making quite a racket outside my window digging out where the drain lines will go.

This is our second year of doing a “vertical” garden of trellises. We will be using the same cattle panel trellises that we used last year. While we probably could have fit 6 trellises into the garden, we decided to stick with only 5 so that there is more space to get between the trellises to work.

We also originally planned that this garden would be to trial a bunch of different cucumbers. However, we decided that a whole garden of cucumbers was likely to be a little much. So, we ended up with half the garden planted to cucumbers and the other half to a mixture of squashes, melons, and pumpkin.


We chose to grow 2 types of long, slicing cucumbers, 2 types of mini snack cucumbers, and 1 pickling type. (The Family of 4 Garden is also trying another type of pickling cucumber, so we decided that would be our comparison with our pickler.)

The two slicing types are ‘Suhyo Cross’ and ‘Sweet Success.’ If you’ve been following the blog for a couple years, you might remember that we grew ‘Suhyo Cross’ in the Asian Garden 2 years ago. It was extremely productive, but the fruit were a bit ugly because we didn’t use a trellis that year. ‘Sweet Success’ is an older All America Selection that has an excellent flavor, although the cucumbers aren’t always the most beautiful, uniform shape. I’ve grown it before, but we haven’t had it in the garden here.

The two mini snack cucumbers are ‘Cucino’ and ‘Rocky.’ Both produce cucumbers that are 3-6″ long at maturity with thin skins. Both varieties are new to the garden and to me. ‘Rocky’ is seedless and doesn’t need pollination. It is also supposed to be an early and prolific producer.

Our pickling cucumber is ‘Salt & Pepper,’ which is a white cucumber with black spines. It is definitely our “novelty” cucumber for the year. We will be comparing it to ‘Homemade Pickles’ in the Family of 4 Garden.


We chose two winter squashes for the garden, ‘Pinnacle’ Spaghetti Squash and ‘Sunshine’ Kabocha Squash. The spaghetti squash variety is supposed to be a “personal sized” squash, weighing in at about 3 lbs. The kabocha squash is a bright orange-red that almost looks like a pumpkin. It will be a little larger at 3-5 lbs each. The vine is supposedly a “short vine” compared to some squash, but it should still do well on the trellis.


Neither of the two melons are average cantaloupe this year. (We will be reprising the ‘Tasty Bites’ cantaloupe in the Mexican Garden.) The Kazakh melon is an heirloom that I have grown in the past. It is a small, yellow-skinned melon that has very sweet, floral, white flesh. The ‘Honey Orange’ Honeydew Melon is an orange-fleshed honeydew that I have tasted in the past, and it is also very sweet and flavorful.


We decided to try a pumpkin this year, since they don’t have to be any larger than squashes or melons. (No, we’re not going to try a giant pumpkin on a trellis!) ‘Lil’ Pump-ke-mon’ is a small novelty pumpkin that could be used for decorating or eating. The pumpkins are about 5″ in diameter and 3″ high, with white and orange stripes.


Pumpkin Love

No, we didn’t have pumpkins in the Demo Garden this year. Did you really think we could have something in the garden that I haven’t showed you at least 3 times already? However, I did buy a cute 8″ sugar pie pumpkin at the Farmers’ Market here last Saturday. I wasn’t going to, but my husband convinced me. Something about Pumpkin Custard…

I found this really simple recipe for roasting a whole pumpkin, and decided to try it out. Basically, wash your pumpkin, rub it with oil, then put it in the oven for about 1-1 1/2 hours at 400 degrees.

Roasted PumpkingHere’s the pumpkin after roasting. The peel literally fell right off with a little encouragement.

Halved PumpkinI scooped all the seeds out and rinsed them, then cleaned off the pulp. I roasted them with butter, salt, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Yum!

Mashed PumpkinHere’s the mashed pumpkin. I smashed it with a spoon, the ran it through our little food processor. We ended up with enough pumpkin to equal 2 15-oz cans of canned pumpkin plus a little leftover. We ate the leftover for dinner, and I even ate it without any additional seasoning. Yum!