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master pollinator
Posts: 10366
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Last year I planted some tomato seeds before the last frost and some of the babies survived a light frost -  probably just around 32F.  I planted them February 20 according to my garden log.  The last frost I have recorded was March 20.
 
gardener
Posts: 1870
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
226
forest garden urban
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I don't keep great records on my plants. My garden's small enough that I can keep everything in my head. But this week I had an interesting demonstration of microclimates. One of the places I planted fava beans is in a slightly raised bed which has a mounded top. It's not more than two inches difference from the highest to the lowest point. Several days after the other two rows sprouted the last row of favas started poking up in the row that is lowest and so most shaded. It took me a couple of days to remember that there were other people who just might find that interesting.

Also, if you remember two days ago, I took five pistachios out of the fridge. Part of the impulse of that was seeing a couple tiny spots of mold on the surface of the seeds that I didn't want spreading. I figured if the seeds sprouted fast enough they might out grow the mold. This was not a success as both seeds were getting softer with no signs of sprouting, they've been disposed of. One of the other three is already sprouting and will be transferred to a pot today. Considering I had one lone parsnip sprout a week before all the others, I'm going to wait on the other sprouting before I decide to remove the remaining pistachios from the fridge.

edit: When I pull the chilling seeds out of the fridge to inspect them there are two kinds of seeds in the bag, now. I tossed six of them for showing signs of mold. All of the seven remaining have noticeable swelling where a root is ready to sprout from the end. I'm pulling the whole bag out today. I'm still waiting for the seeds from Amazon. I've now got a delivery date set for Feb 6. It seems possible that all these seeds will be planted before I get the first ones.
 
Casie Becker
gardener
Posts: 1870
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
226
forest garden urban
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I've got my sprouting seeds bagged together. When I pulled them to look at the parsnips, I saw that another pistachio sprouted a root and grew a quarter of an inch since I'd been in the bag a couple hours before.
 
Casie Becker
gardener
Posts: 1870
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
226
forest garden urban
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The last pistachio from the initial batch sprouted today and when I looked in the bag I pulled from the fridge yesterday, half of those have sprouted. I've run out of rootmaker pots (One of the local nursery sells plants in these pots) so I'm now using the deep pots that some bare root plants get shipped in. I'm tempted to order root maker pots online because I definitely can tell with trees and shrubs from this nursery that they do help develop strong root systems. I'm down to four unsprouted pistachios.

 
Casie Becker
gardener
Posts: 1870
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
226
forest garden urban
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I've found the seed that two years ago I saved from a delicious roma tomato variety called Rio Grande. I'm starting germination tests on them I'm direct seeding some in the garden right now, but if they don't come up I want to be sure it's not just caused by bad seed. The weather forecast for next week predicts a high in the eighties next Tuesday. Even with that forecast I wouldn't risk it if Tyler hadn't reported good results last year. I'm saving seed to replant if necessary.

Oh yeah, I keep forgetting to mention a couple of exciting to me events that happened in my garden this year. One of them is that our stevia has come back. Both of them are sprouting up from the mulch where we planted them. I'll try to better about harvesting this year. The other is I have a volunteer bean sprouting already. It showed up in late January. Where it's planted I had tepary beans this year and noodle beans the year before. It's also close enough to where the Kentucky wonder beans were planted that it could easily be from that plant also. I'm going to be watching it with interest. Luckily for the sake of identification it will be easy to tell from how the bean forms which one it is, unless it's a hybrid.
 
Casie Becker
gardener
Posts: 1870
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
226
forest garden urban
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I know I'm posting a lot, but this spring like weather is so exciting. I've even taken a few pictures.

The peas are about three inches apart to give you an idea of scale where they poke through the mulch. Last year I finally figured out the key to good germination of peas for me was to presprout them. Prior to last year I was lucky if I had 5 percent germinate. There are a couple of spots where they haven't poked leaves above the mulch yet but I'm already doing more than ten times better than usual this year.

The bed frame in the back ground of the apple blossoms is usually inside a garden bed as a great trellis. I picked it up for a few dollars at a Goodwill several years ago. I was trying to capture a bee to show you how many are covering the tree, but none of them wanted to get close to me. Last year we let one apple mature. This year we'll try for at least a full dozen.

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Casie Becker
gardener
Posts: 1870
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
226
forest garden urban
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So now I'm down to one unsprouted pistachio. I've planted most of them in the specialized planters I get with plants from a local plant nursery. Because I was so impressed with the roots on plants I bought in these pots https://rootmaker.com/retail/21 I really felt like the seeds grown in other pots were starting at a disadvantage. I ordered a whole stack of more Rootmaker pots online.

After I'm done planting pistachios I'll reuse the pots to start tons of citrus seeds. With citrus plants that cheap it will be worth it to keep planting them out as hedges. Theoretically most citrus comes true to type. Even if doesn't, my family likes every type of citrus so any success would be a true success.

So far four out of the ten tomato seeds I'm testing for viability have sprouted. I think that's pretty good after two days. The rest of the seeds still look firm and healthy so I wouldn't be surprised if they all sprout.

For those of you intimidated by the idea of saving seeds, let me give you the history of these seeds. I started out fairly good by squirting the innards of one tomato into a jar with a couple of inches of water. I shook the jar every few days until the seeds fell to the bottom without the gelatinous coating. Then I poured off the water and excess tomato parts from the top and dried the seeds on a plate. I put the dried seeds in an old toothpick jar from a picnic set. No desiccant or special dehydrating equipment. That's where I started to go wrong. I must have carried it with me when I went to check on the computer. I know this because two years later I found it, on it's side where it was sitting in front of the cooling fan. These seeds have definitely been stored dry, but they've also been steadily heated for two years and they're still germinating.

I've decided I want to run around and plant squash seeds everywhere this week. If it turns out to be too early, I still have a couple months in which to start new ones for the early season.

Here's a question, Do sunflowers need some vernalizing to sprout? We have wild sunflowers that we let grow all over the yard and in any corner of the garden where we aren't actively growing something. The only time I've successfully planted a domesticated sunflower it sprouted a year after I planted it. A few days ago I stumbled across the first suggestion I'd ever seen that sunflowers need some cold weather before they'll sprout. I have a packet of free sunflowers that I'd like to grow. Next year I'll know to sow them in early January. If it needs some cold weather, then I think I'll need to start them in the fridge.
 
Casie Becker
gardener
Posts: 1870
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
226
forest garden urban
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Okay, I've been sick this week but I still started more seeds sprouting and planted the first variety of sunflowers in the grass. The giant single headed variety has yet to sprout, so they're still sitting on paper towels.

The squash seeds have started sprouting. Tyler sent me some older squash seeds last year, which I didn't have anywhere to plant because I'd already filled all the gardens with beans. This year I'm planting squash everywhere at close spacing so I can thin down to the fittest survivors. I'm presprouting them also and when I checked at 2 am this morning I have roots on seeds from 2008. So I'm guessing that squash seeds can easily remain viable for ten years. After the sun comes up I'm going to start running around the yard sticking all the sprouting seeds in the ground. One of the varieties I have is supposed to be a land race developed in the Chihuahua desert. All the squash started sprouting on the same day, but these have roots that are three times as long as the others, already.

Curious thing about my carrots. One row of carrots that had sprouted in the front has entirely vanished. It had good germination but the seedlings have slowly been thinning down and now there aren't any left. I have other rows of carrots in the same garden bed and they're doing just fine. I don't know what happened there.

Also, one of the favas from the crimson fava project has started blooming again. In the fall this same plant had crimson flowers. Now it's blooming in white. Since none of the other plants are showing signs of flowers yet, I may allow this one to form beans and then just keep trimming new flower buds till they ripen. I still have time to make up my mind.

And finally, I was starting to worry I'd planted the swiss chard too deep but they're starting to show up now. I always stick my finger in the soil to the depth of my first knuckle and then drop the seed in that hole and then whisk soil back to fill the hole. I space the seeds closer than is recommended and then in the end the plants usually end up a the correct spacing without thinning. Almost every other seed going in the ground at the time is right on the surface so I always start to think I messed something up before I see the colorful sprouts.
 
Casie Becker
gardener
Posts: 1870
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
226
forest garden urban
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I may have spoken to soon about the rest of the carrots in that garden bed. Now the rest of them have disappeared. I still have three other garden beds spaced across both yards where carrots are growing. Hopefully what ever the problem is, it's limited to one bed. My current guess is that there is a pest in the soil that was feeding on the sweet potatoes last year and it likes carrot even more.

I've planted more than thirty squash, so far. I still have several packets of squash from Lofthouse that I haven't even opened yet. I am relying on insects to help me thin the first plants down to the best survivors before I add his to the mix.

Of note is the fact that all the Seminole pumpkin seed is sprouting. The other seeds, including the Chihuahua landrace, haven't been as viable. Those Chihuahua seeds that sprouted did have the fastest growing roots of them all, though. Ever variety has had several seeds sprout, though. Even the ones from 2008. We're probably going to be so sick of squash by the end of the year.

I keep hearing that any squash can be eaten as winter squash when young. Do winter squash varieties taste very different from traditional summer squashes like zucchini and crookneck at that size?
 
Casie Becker
gardener
Posts: 1870
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
226
forest garden urban
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The first ten parsnip have gone into the ground. I called it on the rest of the seeds. 28 total seedlings, which from old seed isn't too bad. I'll try to nurture the first ten for seed saving purposes. Hopefully a decent amount actually survive.

Because something was eating the carrots in the other bed I am reworking my parsnip planting plan. I think until I can grow a cover crop of mustard to help drive out soil pests I'm going to avoid planting any more root crops in that bed. I'll be watching to see if the sweet potatoes come back again.

Over the course of this week I've planted more than seventy squash seeds, one at a time as they sprouted on paper towels. I need to finish clearing the circle around my apple tree, but that's the only unallocated space remaining. I've gone so far as digging little holes at the base of each leg of the girls' trampoline just to have somewhere to put a seed where it won't be lost. If any squash produce around the trampoline I'm going to save every seed because it's going to have survived the absolute worst I ever want to throw at a plant.

I also bought six very large glazed pots this week. I'm going to transplant the sun roots into these larger pots. I'd had my eye on them for a while and they went on clearance this week. Only thing that would have been better would have been if they were also self watering.
 
Casie Becker
gardener
Posts: 1870
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
226
forest garden urban
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I transplanted the sunroot tubers from a smaller pot into larger pots a couple of days ago. I started with four small tubers and three of them had poked up leaves. When I went to transplant I couldn't find the last root at all. Either something dug it out of the pot and ate it or it decomposed completely during the short period of weeks it was in the ground. I've sprinkled flower seeds (cosmos and calendula and marigolds)and basil into older pots, for now.

Eventually I'll probably transplant most of these into the garden proper. These are self watering window boxes that I picked up on clearance years ago and I have great luck using them for seed starting. Someday I may even buy more.

I'm calling an end to my squash seed starting. Some of the earliest are starting to poke their cotyledons above ground. I'm gonna wait for the squash vine borers (my worst pest) to start attacking plants or other damage to kill them and then replace them by direct seeding with the seeds I got from Lofthouse this year. Hopefully this will work for this season similar to those people who plant an early set of seedlings, just to pull and destroy before planting their main crop, while at the same time helping to select for more pest resistant plants.

It's now official. I've lost three trees that I planted last year. While any one of them was supposed to survive the lows we had this winter, none of them could take the rapid swings that accompanied those lows. It can't have helped that both fronts were also dry fronts this year, which I know is harder on plants. The olives I'm am fairly sure would have survived if this wasn't their first winter. I'll try planting olives again the the future, but for citrus I'm going to try starting trees from seed in the future. That's part of why I ordered the rootmaker pots.

Other plants poking up include my tomatoes that I tried direct seeding, a few more bean volunteers, and the wild sunflowers. The daffodils are vigorously growing. The iris have finally started blooming. Byzantine gladiolus have their first plant coming up.

I was digging up a little of my garlic chives today. I didn't realize how dense the root systems are getting in that bed. I wonder, if I dug up the whole bed and divided the plants, if I could use these around other garden beds as a living grass barrier? Maybe I'll try that this year at the worst corner where the rose garden meets the lawn. Not only does the grass seem to like that corner, but pulling it always results in me bleeding from rose thorns.
 
Casie Becker
gardener
Posts: 1870
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
226
forest garden urban
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I just planted (in seedling pots) the lovage from Anne. I asked for some when it looked like my lovage hadn't survived the winter. These are going to be planted in a new location, my original plant is waking up.

I've been planting flowers and am finally trying the Red Russian Kale that I keep hearing about. That will bring us up to three kale varieties in our yard. My lacinato kale seed hasn't done well this spring. Even when it's sprouted they've been eaten to the ground before the form true leaves. Hopefully one of the mature plants will go to seed this year to provide me with a fresh supply.  

I think just barely more than half the squash have made it after they were moved outside. They're just starting to produce their first true leaves. The ones growing the most vigorously are actually some of the last seeds that sprouted. Next week I'm probably going to start putting more seeds in the ground to replace the failures. I'm betting squirrels are a large part of this because in some areas there were very clear signs that tiny paws had been digging in my planting holes.

I put the last of the parnip seedlings in the ground today. Of the 22 total that I planted, three have died from one means or another. I can identify the culprit in two cases. It's going to be a long wait to the harvest on these. With such a small crop to work with, I think most of the plants are going to be preserved for future seed.

I want to plant more carrots, but having identified root weevils in the bed with the most remaining space (remember the disappearing row of carrots from earlier this year) it will have to wait until we obtain and spread another batch of beneficial nematodes. We're really bad about not being consistent on applying these. We have a problem so we spray, then we skip the next year and so develop a new problem. I keep hoping that our soil health will build up enough that the nematodes will persist. I think it's the summer drought that does the most damage but I will not water the grass. I may end up rethinking this in the future, watering the soil micro organisms may be more important than not wasting water on a lawn.
 
Casie Becker
gardener
Posts: 1870
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
226
forest garden urban
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It's kind of nice how often my gardening experience consists of deciding something died or failed to come up and then finding it alive after all. I still put a few more tomato seeds in the ground because I want tighter spacing, but some of my direct seeded tomatoes from the beginning of Feb are still alive. I also spread out some more squash seeds, and in the process found a couple more had finally sprouted.

In my planters I've lost one dahlia, but the rest are doing well. Same thing with the three sunroot tubers I planted. None of the flowers from older seed or saved seed are sprouting. If I can figure out where the carrot seeds went, I'm probably going to repurpose at least one pot. I thought marigolds were supposed to be easy to save seed from, but this is my second year attempting it and I'm still not seeing results. My pistachios look good. They're less than six inches high, but all have several leaves and distinct trunks. Such cute little baby trees.

My basil is sprouting. It was a mixed seed blend and only green is showing so I don't know if I'm going to have any purple varieties. All the Siam basil seeds go in the ground instead of pots, but I felt like increasing the variety.

My broad Windsor favas are blooming now. I've been trying to find favas with colorful flowers, but even these white ones are gorgeous. Even if we turn out not to like the flavor of the beans themselves, I think I'm going to save seed. They'll be great for using as an attractive, nitrogen fixing, cover crop for late winter.

Next plants I'm gonna have my eyes on for planting are the beans. After that will be the corn. I should probably wait until I can see the detailed forecast until at least mid March. Right now it looks like ideal growing weather for the foreseeable future.

 
garden master
Posts: 2189
Location: USDA Zone 8a
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I thought marigolds were supposed to be easy to save seed from, but this is my second year attempting it and I'm still not seeing results.



I haven't had any luck growing marigolds from seed I saved.  I buy new seed at the Dollar General for $.50 or $.25 every year for French Marigold.  Then about April or later they come up from seed dropped on the ground.  These are transplanted to where we want them.

I am glad to hear that your lovage is coming back.
 
Casie Becker
gardener
Posts: 1870
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
226
forest garden urban
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There's something reassuring about knowing I'm not the only one. Are you sure it's french marigold and not calendula being called marigolds? I ask because I've been looking for french marigold seeds in particular because those are the ones that are naturally repellent to root knot nematodes. I haven't tried dollar general, but so far this season all I've seen are the 'marigolds' with calendula marked in small print underneath. I'll have to make a trip to buy more seed if they have the real stuff. African marigolds would work, too.
 
Anne Miller
garden master
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What I like about permies is the learning experience.  I learn something new everyday!  I wouldn't know a calendula if I saw one.  They are not listed in either of my plant books on wildflowers.

Wikipedia didn't help either, just confusing. Calendula officinalis on Eden Brothers website doesn't have the right leaf, similar flower.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tagetes_patula Looks like what I call Marigolds or French Marigolds.

The seed packet says "Marigold, French Dwarf Double Mix"  We have consistently bought the same seed from different suppliers since 2007 or earlier.   Distinct leaves and very smelly.

I have heard people talk about eating marigolds but couldn't understand it so they may actually be eating calendula which makes more sense.
 
Casie Becker
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Posts: 1870
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
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The good news is that you have the nematode repellent variety.  I guess I'll be visiting Dollar General soon.  And yes, another name for calendula is pot marigold... The kitchen variety and not anything banned O:-).
 
pollinator
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Location: Western Kenya
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Its been fun following your progress!  Can't wait to see how things grow in the coming year!
 
Casie Becker
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Posts: 1870
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
226
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It'll be hard to be worse than last year. I hurt my knee which made gardening tasks harder and then we went out of town for more than a week during the worst part of summer. Thankfully I was already mentally prepared so I've been remembering it as a good year for selecting the most resilient plants. I even identified a couple of food producing plants that survive no care at all. The only things that really hurt were losing three trees, and that didn't happen till this winter.

 
Casie Becker
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Posts: 1870
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
226
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Last year I let one tatume; on the longest lived vine, which had hardly any care at all during the whole summer mature. It was a small oblong pumpkin colored a mix of zucchini green and school bus yellow. It's been sitting on our counter for more than six months. We finally cut into it today because I need to get the seeds ready for planting.

Instead of the orange pumpkin interior that I expected from a mature squash it's still white fleshed and mild flavored. I guess it makes sense. I think it's closely related to spaghetti squash. If anyone out there has a picky eater who doesn't like pumpkin, here's a winter squash variety that more closely resembles zucchini. I almost think I should wait to plant it until after we harvest all the other squash, just to preserve the separate flavor profile.

I definitely like this variety in my garden, though. Not too thirsty, very bug resistant (both squash bugs and squash vine borers are very active here), long lived (this vine went from early spring till early fall when I let a squash mature). After peeling and deseeding one mature squash is just the right size for a generous side dish for the  family dinner. That's without even considering that these are usually marketed as a round zucchini variety for the immature fruit.  
 
Casie Becker
gardener
Posts: 1870
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
226
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I'm cold and wet right now, but an important gardening task for managing fire ants is done. Last year we sprayed our nematodes, at the most, two weeks before the rain stopped for summer. As a result, we had the worst year for fire ants that we've had since we first moved here. When done properly nematodes control everything from fire ants, to root weevils, to lawn grubs, to fleas and hundreds of other insect pests without chemicals or more than one application per year. If we didn't have such hot, dry summers it wouldn't even take the yearly application. In more mild climates the soil has a chance of supporting an ongoing population.

It'll take most of the gardening season for me to convince myself it's worth the frustration of something breaking every time we spray, but I'll be convinced. Anyone who doesn't have fire ants, count yourselves lucky. It's certainly a better use of my time than mowing. Of course, it's probably time to start that, too.

Otherwise, the garden is going well. Some more iris have started blooming, so I can hold out hope for the other beds. Most of my seedlings are thriving. Several of them are getting big enough to be considered plants.

Everywhere I walk in the back yard has wildflowers starting from those that I spread with the Easter eggs last year. I think they'll be just starting to bloom at Easter this year. I need to find the package with the remaining seed so we can do that again this year. I think we're going to need more seed. It really was nice not to have little bits of confetti scattered all over the yard. You can never get all the little pieces and they take so long to disappear.

During the next stretch of dry weather I'm going to be going around getting divisions of herbs for one of my mother's acquaintances who's starting a new garden. We spent a little time walking the garden yesterday to evaluate what plants just might be big enough for this.

Thinking about that, maybe our yarrow is finally big enough to start dividing. It's part of a subshrub hedge that I'm hoping will eventually be dense enough to hold grass back from the garden bed it edges. The key is finding enough useful plants that don't get so big that we can't reach over them to tend the garden bed. I suspect by the end that most of my herb garden will have migrated over there, and I'm still going to be pressured into learning about and planting more medicinal herbs to fill the gaps.
 
Casie Becker
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Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
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Something Joseph posted in another thread made me realize that I haven't been posting growing updates.

Let's start with what I consider the worst, first. My crimson favas look like they're not going to produce any seed at all. They were set back first by the frosts (worse than the white flowering varieties) and then all spring have been the most plagued by insects. Now they've stopped flowering altogether and I don't see any pods going. Right now the most productive have been the Broad Windsor, but they are definitely in a distinctive micro climate. I've only been getting any harvestable favas for a couple weeks, so this is still an ongoing experiment. For some reason, all the favas seem to be a favorite with the stink bugs If I don't get a good harvest I may still look to them as a nitrogen fixing trap crop that can keep stink bugs distracted from the seedlings of other plants.

Next year I'm going to have to start a spraying schedule if I want peaches. Despite clearing all peaches as they fell last year, every peach this year has been bored into by something that leaves a clear gelatin extruding from the hole. I know organic is possible, but I was really hoping for no spray at all.

I presprouted some parsnip seeds that Joseph sent me and planted the first half in the best spot in the yard with the plans to use these to produce seed. I had an animal dig up a couple plants and a couple just disappeared but the last loss was more than a month ago. They're all still small but clearly healthy and putting on size. I know it's a two year long experiment, but I'm happy with where it's at. I had the best survival in this first half only three of the second half have reached this point. I think this supports Joseph's statements that the plants that are early vigorous growers remain the most vigorous.

I started harvesting a few golf ball sized turnips. I didn't like them sauted. It worked well when I used some in soup this winter, so I think we need to experiment with more low temperature cooking methods. We may mix the left overs with mashed potatoes so they're more palatable. They were a very low effort crop that is perfectly timed to succession plant with the warm season crops, so I definitely want to make them a bigger part of our diets.

The squash experiment is going nearly as well as I hoped. It's mostly failing where I expected it to. Tomorrow I'm probably going to be replanting a few spots with the one species that didn't have a single survivor (the summer snake squash). Maybe they just need warmer temperatures than the rest of the squash. All the seeds placed in unprepared soil didn't make it. Most of those planted in the wicking beds died and the one survivor hasn't taken off yet. (Maybe the ground there takes longer to warm due to the steady moisture?) I was actually surprised that I got one survive in the soil where we'd removed all the finished compost. It's flowering under a heavy overstory of sunflowers. I think I may give it priority when I save seed this year, both for growing in minimally amended soil and working well with the sunflowers. So long as they don't suffer from any aleopathic effects, under the sunflowers is a cooler summer microclimate. All the others are now producing at least male flowers, a few are already setting fruit. The biggest surprise for me with these is that the most vigorous plants of all are the store bought, several year old, spaghetti squash that I planted in the hugelbed. No way of knowing if this is due to the hugel or the variety. I purposely separated these because I didn't want half stringy flesh in the next generation.

My runner beans are definitely back for the year. They're happily climbing in the garden, but haven't shown any signs of flowering yet. I've planted a lot of purely decorative flowers (mostly salvias) in the garden bed that divides our yard from the neighbors, this year. I've also bought more varieties or yarrow to continue that subshrub hedge without dividing what I already have.

This week we planted two kinds of popcorn (Josephs and Glass Gem) in different beds in the back and a sweet corn in the front. Musk melons were planted at one edge of one bed. I'll plant the other edge (which still has peas right now) as a succession planting and may move across the yard as things finish their seasons. I also planted lima beans from seed grown last year. I need to move some trellises to the front. We plan to grow long beans in the bed where the potatoes are now. If I can get myself in gear that will happen tomorrow.

The roma tomatoes I planted from seed are starting to pick up steam. No flowering yet, but the plants have no signs of pest or disease. The stand out from seeds planted this year has to be the swish chard. Every spot I planted it in came up with vigorous plants that have been at harvestable size for many weeks. We just need to get better about harvesting.

I think that covers everything.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Looking good, Casie.  Your garden is well ahead of mine.  My apple trees are just now flowering!
 
Anne Miller
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Thanks for the update and congratulations on the new title.

I got the iris and chives planted.  With a chair over the iris and crates over the chives no deer have bothered them.  Two of the iris survived the deer attacks and I am hoping the other three will make it also. Thank you for your generosity.

 
Casie Becker
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It took me a while to actually get them in the ground, but today I planted the new yarrows, the gregg's mist flower, and the perennial flax plants in my subshrub hedge. I think I should have planted the original plants closer together. Where the plants have filled in, they are doing an admirable job keeping our invasive grass from pushing through into my garden. Where there is space between them the grass is still pushing through runners and growing seed heads that lean over the beds. I think If I'd given them half spacing like in a traditional hedge that I would have a good sized portion of my garden completely protected from grass on one side. I'm going to open a new thread asking for suggestions for more plants for this purpose.

All my different corn plots are sprouting now. So far the 'Glass Gem' that my niece saved seed from are several inches ahead of the sweet corn and popcorn varieties from Joseph. It will be interesting to see in a few years if this keeps up, or if it's just the results of the first year of selection after growing in our garden.

Also coming up are the musk melons and lima beans. I think the few peas we've left at one end of the garden are almost at their end, so soon we'll either plant some snake melons or more musk melons.

I've had mixed results with the snake melons. They didn't do much last year, but I basically did nothing for them. The first year I was better about semiregular watering and they produced steadily from late spring through fall. They're like insanely huge cucumbers. We had fruits that were two feet long and three inches thick without any bitterness or woody texture at all. They made fantastic pickles, too. Let's hope we can repeat those results this year.

I planned to plant our purple long beans this week, but when we moved the large trellis into the garden bed against the house, it became obvious that this is another relatively dry area where a mound of fire ant's moved to avoid our nematodes. I'm leaning more and more towards making a second application, just in the front yard. We had good results in the back this year, so I think we just didn't apply them thickly enough in the front this year. For now I've dusted the garden bed with diatomaceous earth. These beans are a true hot season crop, so it won't hurt them any to wait on planting.

Now the big news, We can confirm that both olive trees did survive the winter. The second one has finally shown new growth. Unlike the first one, it's coming from ground level, so only the roots survived. I'm going to leave the deadwood in place until it has some more height, just to help prevent mower accidents. I'm attaching three pictures. There's one of the first olive tree which is sprouting new growth all along it's trunks. A close up of the new growth on the second olive tree and a more distant view so that you can see how bad the damage it's recovering from was. I think this is a good reminder to be patient with your plants. This supposedly evergreen plant (so no dormant period) took four months to show some sign of recovery.
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Casie Becker
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Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
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Squash vine borers have arrived. I haven't actually seen signs of them damaging my squash, but it's going to happen. I have fruit on some of the plants in the front. Since I'm selecting for survival of the fittest this year, we'll see how many actually manage to mature fruit. There are already spaghetti squash that are nearly ready for harvest I still don't know if that's due to the variety or them being planted in the hugel. If anyone knows whether spaghetti squash is usually a very early variety, please let me know.

My fava aren't being particularly productive. Worst are the ones planted in the street side flower bed. They're producing a lot of thick fleshy pods with round lumps that look like they are holding a bean. When we open the pod, there's nothing in it. I think I'm going to let the rest of the plants mature all the beans they can and replant half of them again this fall. Maybe after a few generations I'll get reliable bean formation.

I'm still upset that I didn't get any success with the crimson flowered variety. That one last plant is still holding on, and it's so beautiful when it blooms that I'm going to let go as long as possible. I still think they regular ones are pretty enough to grow as an ornamental. Shape, size, flowers, foliage shape and color, even the cool upward thrust of the maturing pods; every part of this plant is beautiful in the yard.

I have finally planted the noodle beans. Ants had moved the the drier soil in this slightly raised bed, probably to evade the nematodes. Rather than angst about it, I dusted the soil with diatomaceous earth and then used a hoe to make a trench that went right through the middle of their hill. I dropped the seeds into the trench, covered them with dirt and then spend a few days watering once each day. They've all come up just fine. Either the diatomaceous earth worked, the ants moved to get away from the regular watering, or the ants just weren't interested in the beans. After we dig the potatoes in the other half of this bed I'll plant more snake melons here, too. There were a couple of bare patches in my nieces corn plot and she's planted some snake melon there also.

Now, for today's show and tell. This is a picture showing the wild sunflowers coming up around our rose bushes. I've weeded out just enough to let the roses still get some sun. Does anyone notice the one plant that's about three feet taller than the others and already forming flower buds? I tend to have bad luck with commercial sunflowers, but last year one came up a full year after I planted it. Not only is one plant extra tall this year, it's beefier and the flower buds are already as big as the full flowers on most of the wild plants. I think what I have is a hybrid of my wild sunflowers with that one domestic plant from last year. Just thought people might find it interesting.
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Casie Becker
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Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
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Almost every squash plant is gone now, mostly due to the squash vine borer. Those that are surviving are doing well, mostly grown to mammoth proportions much larger than the usually survive to here. I was worrying because they weren't showing any sign of producing, but as I looked at the plants this morning I identified both male and female flower buds. With the length of my growing season it's not big worry if a plant is slow to produce, as long as it can survive long enough to do so. A healthy squash vine is ornamental enough that I don't mind looking at it as it winds its way between my flowers. The only concern is guiding the vines so they don't kill the flowers with their shade.

The fava plants have died down, except for a couple of determined survivors that are growing and flower still from new growth at the base. I'm not shocked that these are from Joseph's seeds. I'm going to give the ripe seeds I've gathered a few days to finish drying in the house before putting them in the freezer to kill any insect larva. I'm trusting the insect damage from this year's epic stink bug population is surface level and will not prevent them from growing in the fall. Really fantastic would be if the few that are still flowering survive through the summer and produce more as I plant the new crop.

I harvested and ate the first ripe tomato, today. To be honest, I wasn't that happy with it. It wasn't much larger than a cherry tomato and was extremely tart, without the full depths of flavor or hint of sweetness I expect from a garden tomato. These are grown from saved seed and the parent plant put it's best harvest on in the fall. With that in mind, I'll wait to see how they end the growing season before I decide whether to save more seed from them.

It looks like all my cole crops that I overwintered and expected to bloom and produce seed are instead dying off. I see no sign of flower stalk on the collards or any of the kale varieties. The most curly of the kale varieties looks like it's trying to start new growth from the stalk, so maybe it will give me a more pleasant surprise.

For now, even my turnip has died back to the bulb. I'm also holding out hope that it is simply going dormant. We don't have the kind of winter to induce dormancy, but many there's an element of time involved. Maybe if it just leave it where it is, it will resprout after a summer dormancy and finally produce some seed for me.      

The sweet corn from Joseph's seeds have just started tasseling. Jazmyn's corn has started also, and is showing the first silk for the ears. It still looks like that saved seed is going to be the best. Of course, his favas looked like they weren't the best and still turned out the most productive. We'll see. Between his two varieties, I had much more germination from the popcorn variety. I think we'll combine see from that patch with Jazmyn's seed for the next planting.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
 
Casie Becker
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Posts: 1870
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Hello again everyone.   I've been offline for quite a while with health issues. It was easy to get back into the garden as things improved but it's taken a lot longer to feel up to socializing.  There was a full year where I didn't plant anything new, so there's not much to update on the garden.  

We did lose satsuma oranges, but three of the seed grown pistachios survived a year in pots. I've planted them in a triangle around where we nade the three attempts at orange trees.

The year of neglect really helped narrow down some good plants and techniques for minimum effort gardens.  Yarrow and "silver mound" artimesia both thrived and created a successful grass proof barrier outside the garden beds. I have started working to multiply both plants to eventually line the outside of all my beds.  Grass is always my worst weed.

None of my Mediterranean herbs died.  They are planted in a slightly raised bed, on top of a trench of wood chips, on a small slope.  I think this combination has let that bed capture and store rain water for the plants.  

I have a single carrot in the front yard producing a whole bush of white flowers.  It is so beautiful that I will be planting more in the future just to use as cut flowers.  Depending on how much seed it produces,  I may use it with other crops to bring beneficial insects.  I've never seen so many hover flies, not to be confused with all the different species of bee. This plant is a second generation selfseeded from one of Lofthouse's varieties.  We have many more of the same generation in the back.

I'll come back later to tell you how amazing Lofthouse's squash turned out.
 
Anne Miller
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I am so glad to hear from you and am looking forward to hearing more from you.  

You have been missed. I think of you almost every time I am out in the garden.
 
Tyler Ludens
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So glad you're back, Casie!  
 
Casie Becker
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One of the things I've been waiting to see results from are the wildflowers I planted on one half of the back "lawn". It's been nearly two and a half years of carefully mowing around every seedling and defending them from premature mowing as they mature new seeds. I've sworn that this (year three) would be the year that we could expect great things.  If it doesn't pan out that half of the lawn will be forfeited back to our traditional version of lawn, with more mowing than the flowers could survive.

Here we are now going into June. Smack dabb in ghe middle of our rainy season following a very dry winter. We've had only one real rain event all year and everything in the forecast says dry with highs near or over 100. That one rain sprouted and woke up more plants than the year before,  but they're stunted and struggling.  Some of them are already trying to go to seed under 6 inches. This is their last shot at survival and if they don't make an impressive showing the whole field is lost.

I give up.  I'm gonna treat my flower field like a more traditional garden. This morning I dragged the hose around to give each plant and seedling it's own shower and tomorrow I'm going to start dead heading the stunted bloomers until they finish reaching their proper height. I really want to keep the meadow.
 
Casie Becker
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I feel like I should mention this is more practical than just pretty flowers.  I'm hoping that getting some deep roots from perrenials, and extra shade from taller plants will start to change the soil conditions in area of the yard that is so barren even our notorious grass struggles. Most of the year you can see bare dirt between dormant grass runners.  Eventually a couple trees will be within this area.  I want them to have more chance of survival.
 
Casie Becker
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Picture time. Please ignore overgrown grass in the backgrounds.   Lawnmower is broken, again.

The large plant covered in flowers is a volunteer second generation carrot from Joseph Lofthouse's varieties.   We gathered most of the seed and used it in the back garden.

In the other two pictures I was trying to give you a good angle to see how the frogfruit is spreading as a living mulch.  Other plants do very well in the middle of it.  When I need to add a new plant I pull just enough to make room. I like that it cascades over the concrete curb.  I think the way it keeps that edge cool is part of why that half of the bed is the healthiest.  Mixed in that picture are spring iris, parsley,  day lilies, dahlia, echinacea, the bottom of that carrot, geraniums, liatris, stevia and just the edges of some swiss chard.  Too small to see at this angle are common and antelope horn milkweed plugs.

The close up shows a three year old stevia (looking happier than ever) and a zonal geranium that just finished a heavy flush of blooming.

This plant can handle being walked on, needs little water, and no fertilizer.   Whatever it's doing in the ground it creates a wonderful soil wherever I've pulled it up. Per the Ladybird Wildflower Center it can take years to recover if you mow during flowering. In practice this means you can easily keep it from smother other plants, but after several years I've only half covered the bed in this picture.  Next spring,  or maybe late next year after it stops flowering,  I think I will start digging up chunks see if I can speed up the process. It really does make the best mulch.
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Casie Becker wrote:
The close up shows a three year old stevia (looking happier than ever) and a zonal geranium that just finished a heavy flush of blooming.

This plant can handle being walked on, needs little water, and no fertilizer.   Whatever it's doing in the ground it creates a wonderful soil wherever I've pulled it up. Per the Ladybird Wildflower Center it can take years to recover if you mow during flowering. In practice this means you can easily keep it from smother other plants, but after several years I've only half covered the bed in this picture.  Next spring,  or maybe late next year after it stops flowering,  I think I will start digging up chunks see if I can speed up the process. It really does make the best mulch.



When you talk about the plant being walked on and needing little water, is that the stevia or the geranium?
 
Casie Becker
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Sorry,  it's the frogfruit.  People actually grow it as a lawn replacement and I have seen it growing on the side of roads where people park cars.

I meant to show how happily other plants grow when planted in it.
 
Popeye has his spinach. I have this tiny ad:
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