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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 2nd

My best intentions to post more than once a week keep being thwarted by various and sundry other things going on. I guess the most positive way to look at it is that when it stays colder, things don’t grow fast enough to get ahead of me and my sketchy posting schedule. That looks like it is going to change here this weekend. I just wish the rain in the forecast wouldn’t keep getting moved further out with lower percentage chances!

Here’s a look at the whole garden. Yes, we have the trellises up! Nothing is planted, but we wanted the trellises up as a display for Herb Day.

Speaking of Herb Day, I think I forgot to mention it with my dearth of posts in the past few weeks. The French Tarragon is looking great in the garden. It must know that it is the featured herb tomorrow!

On the other hand, the beets aren’t looking particularly spectacular, but I don’t think it is their fault. It looks as though something is enjoying them as a snack, and I can’t see any sign of the culprit. I feel like it almost has to be an insect, since the nearby lettuce and carrots look okay, and the beets are in the middle of the bed. I guess we’ll just have to keep watching!

After shivering underground for more than a month, the potatoes finally decided to put in an appearance this last week. I think that only one of the nine seed pieces hasn’t come up, which isn’t too bad considering how cold it has been several times in the last month.

Putting the trellises up this week helps the garden literally take shape, and it’s getting me excited to get everything else planted and growing. We plant to plant tomatoes and peppers this week, and we’ll probably plant all the vine crops the week after that.

Have a great weekend! Don’t forget to come check out Herb Day!

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.

Vertical Garden Year in Review

Our Vertical Garden area was much smaller this year than the past couple years, but it still yielded some very interesting results. We focused mostly on melons and for the first time found a melon that seems to not adapt to the trellising.

We tried two watermelons, the ‘Little Baby Flower’ red, seeded watermelon and the ‘Yellow Mini Tiger’ seedless watermelon. The ‘Little Baby Flower’ did very well, with lots of melons set that grew well and tasted great. They did crack when we had the rainy spell mid-summer, but that isn’t abnormal. The melons were okay on the trellis, although it was better to tie them up somewhat. It was also easy to identify ripe melons by looking at the nearest tendrils.

The ‘Yellow Mini Tiger’ had problems from the outset. As a seedless variety, we needed to plant the variety seeds and the pollinator seed. The pollinator grew readily, but we had to plant all 10 of the variety seeds to get a single plant growing. That wasn’t an auspicious start! We finally had one plant growing, after a few weeks. As the summer wore on, we had melons set on both the pollinator and the variety vines. Unfortunately, the melons were just large enough and the vines just brittle enough that they kept falling off the vine before they were completely ripe. Maybe we waited too long to try tying them up, but we lost a number of melons to breakage. The vine didn’t set nearly as many melons as the ‘Little Baby Flower’ and we never got a fully ripe melon. So…not so much a winner, at least on the trellis!

The other melon trellis was some more specialty melons, with the ‘Sun Jewel’ Asian melon and the ‘Snow Leopard’ honeydew melon. Both of these melons did relatively well. The honeydew was fairly productive, especially once we got the hang of knowing when they were ripe. It wasn’t as productive as some of the cantaloupe varieties we’ve grown in other years, but was still good. (The ‘Snow Leopard’ honeydew was a white fleshed melon.) The ‘Sun Jewel’ Asian melon was very productive, although it cracked in the rain and then slowed down a lot later in the summer. The thing with the ‘Sun Jewel’ melon is that it is different from what we expect of a melon. I was telling everyone that if you thought of it as a melon, you would be disappointed in the flavor, but that if you expected it to taste like a sweet cucumber it would be enjoyable.

The last part of the Vertical Garden is the vegetable arbor. I’m only going to talk about the two varieties that were on the Vertical Garden side in this post. I’ll save the other two varieties for my discussion of the Kids’ Snack Garden. The ‘Golden Honey Bunch’ cherry tomato and the cucumber were on the Vertical Garden side of the trellis. The cucumber – well, I doubt it was the fault of the individual variety. We just didn’t get it up and growing in a timely fashion. We ended up trying a couple different varieties and still struggled with germination. Not that it mattered…the tomato completely filled the trellis all on its own! The ‘Golden Honey Bunch’ was a real star in the garden this year! The tomatoes tasted great and the production was spectacular.

Melon Harvest

I happened to notice on Monday that one of the ‘Little Baby Flower’ Watermelons was cracked, and it looked nice and ripe (from what I could see through the nylon stocking). Yesterday, we picked the cracked melon and after some thought and thumping (which is not the recommended way to gauge ripeness), I decided to pick the largest watermelon as well and see if it was ripe. We also ended up picking one of the ‘Snow Leopard’ Honeydew Melons.

This is obviously the cracked watermelon. It was a pretty fresh crack Monday morning, but by yesterday the ants had swarmed like crazy. You can see the bigger one in the background, still in its stocking.

This is the bigger melon. It was fairly good sized…maybe 10″ long?

Yum! I could tell from the way it cut open that it was really ripe. Luckily, it wasn’t overripe. This is a seeded variety, obviously. The rind is very thin, which is probably one of the reasons the other one cracked. It was very sweet and delicious!

This is the ‘Snow Leopard’ Honeydew Melon. Yes, the green spots and flecks are supposed to be there. The skin has clearly changed from being more green hued to more creamy hued.

Yes, the flesh is supposed to be white. We apparently have an aversion to choosing green fleshed honeydew melon varieties. (Last year we had an orange fleshed honeydew.) The flavor was good, but I wouldn’t call it spectacular. I think the sweetness was probably diluted by all the rain and that it may not have been perfectly ripe. Or maybe the variety is just not super sweet?

We have harvested at least one of all the melons now, except for the ‘Honey Bun’ cantaloupes, which were planted late. The ‘Yellow Mini Tiger’ melons we haven’t gotten a ripe one yet, but they seem to fall off the vine early. They are probably too heavy to be suited for the trellis system, especially if they don’t get supported early.