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Friday PhotoEssay

Hurray for cooler weather! I was ready for some more fall-like temperatures.

Our “whole garden” view for this week clearly shows the increased brown coloration of the tomatoes. If you get close, you can see that we’ve had a resurgence in spider mites. There’s also lots of browning foliage in the trellis plants too. I’m afraid this is going to turn out to be a little bit of a “death & destruction” edition of the Friday PhotoEssay, as I look through my pictures.

The honeydew melon is showing the beginning of powdery mildew on the leaves. The mildew is that slight greyish cast to the leaves in spots and splotches. It almost looks like there is a weird glare to the picture. If I wanted to treat, I would have to do it right now. By next week it will probably be so widespread that we can’t get it back under control. We could spray sulfur, neem oil, or potassium bicarbonate if we wanted to.  We often see powdery mildew starting in mid-August, but this year it was cool and wet then. The hot, dry weather the past couple weeks is ideal for powdery mildew to develop. We will probably remove these plants next week.

Although we see the fruitworm holes often enough, we don’t always see the caterpillar eating its way through the whole tomato. You can tell this one has been hungry!

I found this melon sitting on the ground under one of the pepper plants yesterday afternoon. Not wanting to let it go to waste, I decided to check it out. Once again, the ‘Yellow Mini Tiger’ watermelon fell off the vine before it was fully ripe. The flavor was okay, but still fairly bland. I’m afraid this one is going to be a “not recommended” for using on a trellis, since they seem to fall off the vines too easily.

The cabbages are getting a little crazy. The caterpillar damage isn’t so bad at the moment, and they’ve grown a huge amount. They are perhaps a little close together, but only 2 across might have been a little far apart. We will just have slightly smaller heads of cabbage.

There are those pesky spider mites. One of the Master Gardeners asked if we were going to treat. What do you think? My thought was, no way! With the weather cooling off and the tomato plants declining already, it isn’t worth it to try fighting spider mites right now, at least not in my book.

Have a great weekend!

How To Tell if a Trellised Watermelon is Ripe

After my post last week about harvesting and tasting a couple of melons, I emailed with a reader who was wondering how to tell if her trellised watermelons were ripe and ready to pick.

The real challenge is that the typical “first sign” is to look for the yellow spot on the bottom where it is sitting on the ground…except that there is no spot on trellised melons! The next guideline (which can vary with variety) is to look for the tendril closest to the melon to see if it is dying and drying to brown. The other guideline is to feel the rind for “sugar bumps,” tiny bumps that develop when there is a high sugar concentration, signalling ripeness.

Now in my book, the yellow spot is most reliable, and the options become increasingly unreliable. Sugar bumps? Really? Of course, lots of people use the “thumping” method, but that isn’t very reliable either. I think some people are better at it than others, but you still sometimes get a dud.

Anyway, long story short, I decided to go out and take a look at the vine to see if there was any sign of the tendrils browning – either where we had picked a couple melons earlier this week or next to some of the other melons on the vine. And what do you know? There were brown tendrils!

So now the next step is to correlate the brown tendrils with actual ripe, tasty watermelons.

UPDATE: I picked 3 watermelons on Friday that we tried at the Saturday Sampler this weekend. One was actually overripe and decaying, (which I thought had a still green tendril, but maybe not…) The one that had a fully dried tendril was perfect, and the one that was still drying down was good, but not as good as the other one. So in this case, the tendrils are a good guide!

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.

Friday PhotoEssay

Oh my goodness, rain! We had 6.5 inches of rain last week, another 2.65 inches early this week, and another 0.3-0.4 just this morning. Things are getting a little soggy around here, and we’re starting to see some diseases that are spread by rain, including some less common ones. I checked the US Drought Monitor this morning, and even with all the rain we are still considered to be in Moderate Drought here in Sedgwick County. Of course, western Kansas is still in severe to exceptional drought!

Here’s the garden after our morning shower today. The buckwheat has doubled in size again this week and the sweet potatoes are starting to go a little bit crazy!

The ‘Limmony’ tomato was this deep gold color by Tuesday. Isn’t it gorgeous?

We harvested the carrots from the Kids’ Snack Garden this week so the spot can have a little rest before we plant something for this fall. The orange carrots are a variety called ‘Mokum,’ and they were pretty nice carrots!

The buckwheat is starting to bud and flower. We actually terminated the buckwheat in Bed 2 to prepare for planting the broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage in another week. I’ll share that with you in a separate post next week, I hope. The remaining buckwheat will grow for another week or two before we turn it under.

Look at those sweet potatoes grow! I know that last week I was looking at this garden and wondering why the plants were taking so much time to fill in the last center part of the bed. Well…they took care of that pretty quick! Now to see how crazy the vines get outside the bed…

The amount of rain we’ve had isn’t always ideal. This poor Asian melon was ripening nicely, but when I checked it this morning it had cracked badly. It was not a fan of the rain, apparently.

Speaking of melons, the big watermelon fell off the vine on Tuesday when we were working with them. Ugh! I cut into it, and obviously the seedlessness worked out, but the ripeness didn’t. I didn’t think it was ripe yet, and clearly I was right on that count. The rest of our melons got some additional support this week…

It would seem that even the small watermelons are not as well adapted to growing on the trellises and cantaloupes and winter squashes. We’ve got the other watermelons all tied up with some extra support for the time being.

Have a great weekend!

Friday PhotoEssay

I have two options for this week’s PhotoEssay…I can share all the pretty or interesting things in the garden or I can share all of the pests and bugs and problems we’re starting to see. Any votes?

I’ll be honest that I was leaning towards the pests, bugs, and problems, but then I decided it would get rather lengthy and that I should save that for one or two posts next week. If you want a quick preview: spider mites, caterpillars, squirrels, blight, holey leaves, stinkbugs, and more!

You can see from our Whole Garden picture this week that we mulched the sweet potatoes on Tuesday and that we have a couple sunflowers blooming. You can’t see that the tomatoes are looking increasingly beset by a variety of problems and pests. Oh well. Such is tomato growing in Kansas! We’ll have some great examples for the Tomato Pests & Diseases talk at Tomato Day!

Look at this! We have buckwheat seedlings starting to grow. (Sorry about the poor focus on the seedling. Still learning the new camera. But the soil particles are in great focus!) This is very quick germination, probably aided by the warm temperatures and the nice shower we had yesterday morning. These seedlings are in the Pizza Garden. I haven’t seen any in the other beds yet…Hmm…

Earlier this week I was talking to someone about the tomatoes we had growing in the Demo Garden, and I said that there must be nothing spectacular about the ‘Bella Rosa’ variety because I had to look it up to remember we had it planted. Then I went out to the garden to take a look at the plant. I’m not going to forget about it again, that’s for sure! It has a cluster of 6 or more HUGE tomatoes on it, as well as more set higher up in the plant. It is supposed to have 10 oz fruit, and these are well on their way.

I commented last week about the ‘Limmony’ flowers that were aborting rather than setting, and I was wondering how many tomatoes we would actually get from this plant, since they are supposed to grow into huge tomatoes. Well, I may be changing my tune about that! I looked the plant over this week and again saw the big one shown here, but also found at least a dozen small green tomatoes that were set in the last couple weeks. Twelve beefsteak tomatoes may not be quite as many as you would get from a hybrid, but it is a pretty exemplary showing from an heirloom in my experience! (To put that in perspective, I just counted 17 tomatoes from the hybrid Jetsetter plant, including the 2 we’ve already harvested.)

This ‘Little Baby Flower’ watermelon has been growing like crazy this week. (Note to melon thieves: This melon is NOT anywhere close to ripe. Please leave it alone. Thanks!)

The squash under the row cover are also growing fast. Our hoops are shorter than sometimes, so I think we are going to have to take the row cover off before the plants have reached the blooming stage and hope the Squash Vine Borers have already found fodder somewhere else this year. I haven’t seen any of the moths flying around in the last couple weeks, so maybe we are safe?

I haven’t really been checking the pepper plants for production because they are often a little bit later than the tomatoes, especially the snack pepper types. I was walking by the Kids Snack Garden on Tuesday morning during our work time and notice a flash of red! We had a couple of peppers ripe. Then yesterday there were a couple more. I haven’t tried any of them yet, but it seems like the ‘Lunchbox’ variety are an improvement over the ‘Yummy’ variety in earliness and production at least. We’ll see how they taste.

Have a great weekend!