Rez Zircon

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since May 02, 2015
Brendansport, Sagitta IV
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Recent posts by Rez Zircon

Joseph Lofthouse wrote:Because my experience is that root crops end up tasting like the dirt that they are grown in... Idaho potatoes taste like Idaho dirt... I suspect that something similar happens with above ground portions of the plant. They end up tasting different due to the farmer's habits and ecosystem.

The dirt-to-flavor thing is probably a matter of micronutrients. CA dirt is relatively devoid of same. Occurs to me to wonder what adding a broad-spectrum mineral source (eg bone meal) would do there. How you fertilize, how you cultivate (how deep the roots can go without struggling), water hardness, etc. -- makes sense this affects the plant and therefore the taste.

To the nominal topic, no disease seen as yet on my random assortment of tomatoes. But they've got it good -- rich soil, lots of water, and good drainage.

Also so far nothing chewing on 'em, tho the abundant grasshoppers have been chowing down on the potato vines (which were already yellowing and about done for the year) and holing leaves on the turnips and radishes (both big and crispy). Still green enough here that they're not so hungry as to try less-tasty stuff.

I don't know if tomatoes are like potatoes, but potato flavor-quality is location-sensitive, probably mostly a matter of overall climate.

I'd long ago noticed that regardless of variety, California-grown potatoes are bland, and Idaho-grown potatoes are better but not great, while North Dakota-grown potatoes are especially flavorful. So whilst living in CA, I planted potatoes from some extra-good ND starts. And they tasted exactly like the usual CA potato -- bland and bleh.
I planted both saved and commercial tomato seeds this year, and even from the same parent, some are not the same. Lessee... what do I have here... so far nothing has chewed on any of them, tho the potato leaves are full of holes. No ripe fruit yet, tho plenty in progress

#1 - offspring of last year's pest-proof plant, with the very oily leaves that even starving grasshoppers didn't touch (it was an only child so self-fertilized). Smaller compact upright bush, slow to bloom (no fruit yet) but it's also in the worst spot and doesn't get the deep water the others do. (The large ones are 4-5 feet tall and eat passing children.)

#2 - from super-good storeboughts (the kind that are 5-6 2" fruits set evenly along a stem). Big strong upright plants. One is making round fruit that look like the parent, and the other is making what look like Romas, with a bit over half the flowers setting fruit.

#3 - commercial seed 2004, "Burpee Super Beefsteak" (same seed as last year's pestproof model) large vigorous grower, lot of blooms, few fruit as yet.

#4 - commercial seed 2017, "FerryMorse shish kabob" - smaller strangly-looking plant (trying to grow up the corn like a vine), many small fruit. Initially didn't set well but started doing so once the weather got hot. Accidentally broke off a piece and just stuck it in the ground and it's growing pretty good.

#5 - this space unintentionally left blank, because one of my numbered sticks went missing.

#6 - commercial seed 2017 "Brandywine pink" (heritage supposedly) - very large, upright, and vigorous; world's ugliest tomato plant, big flat leaves (some hand-sized), if I hadn't planted it myself I'd have pulled it up as a weed. Leaves smell like gasoline, but the flowers smell unusually sweet (for a tomato) and are very attractive to bees; I notice they visit it first when they come up the hill in the morning. Stamens are initially completely hidden, then the flower bursts apart and exposes the stamen, which is quite large (not long but thick). Initially poor fruit set but once it got going, setting a bit over half.

#7 commercial seed 2004, "Burpee Heatwave Hybrid" - smaller strangly-looking plant, so far indistinguishable from #4, likewise a slow starter but now setting many small fruit.

Then there are two I bought as started plants:

Bonnie's "Favorite" -- big strong upright plant, probably about 60% fruit set.

Bonnie's "Cherokee Purple" (heritage) -- huge bushy plant, upright center with large strong lateral branches. Started setting fruit by 10" tall, and 100% of blooms set fruit -- it has about 12 pounds on it already. Some are softball-sized and just starting to darken. The biggest fruit are in tight clumps in the middle so despite the weight, don't drag it over. Flowers show a well-exposed stamen, thicker than average, which I expect is why every single blossom sets fruit, so far without exception. (You can tell, because no scars from flowers that fell off.) The earliest 2 or 3 clumps are all self-fertilized (it bloomed weeks ahead of its neighbors). For sheer volume it beats every tomato I've ever seen, so I hope it tastes good!!

And the bees had their way with 'em so other than the early blooms, gods know what hybridized with what. #2's parent was evidently open-pollinated since the offspring don't match at all.


Also planted some spaghetti squash seeds from a random locally-produced fruit (which was a good keeper). Four plants was overkill. ONE would have been overkill. Kudzu has nothing on 'em; they've taken over all the open ground and are now invading the corn. And they make zucchini look inadequate. I read that you could expect 4 or 5 per vine... wrong!! Each has around 30 squash-in-progress (about 80% fruit set) and no end in sight. Planted April 14th and the first fruit reached mature size by July 10th. Two types -- one cream-colored like the parent, the other mottled-green.

Joseph Lofthouse wrote:One year I introduced the "exploding fruits" trait into my watermelons. Ooops. While it's a fun trait, and I'm glad that it played in my garden, I didn't feel inclined to keep it in the population.

I had exploding watermelons this year. They'd get about marble-sized, then BOOM. Turns out it's not the watermelon, it's slugs. Slug chews a hole in the rind, which compromises structural integrity and the whole thing comes apart -- evidently being under internal pressure. Was able to tell on some because I could see the chew marks, and also had chew marks on smaller ones that just cracked instead of going kablooie. And caught some slugs in the act. (What's good for warding off slugs? Read up on all the usual methods and turns out when actually tested, they're mostly myths.) So I lost a few. But the ones the slugs didn't get to are about baseball-sized and are fine, from the same plants

Must be going around. I planted some black-skinned radishes from seed and had one of 'em bolt already at 4-5 weeks old. :(  Didn't have any carrots bolt tho some of the onions did.

Terry Paul Calhoun wrote:Hi, Black Walnut most assuredly does not breed true if you are defining that by measurable qualities of the nut. I have hundreds of these lovely trees and the variations are incredible. Although one tree usually has all nuts the same size, between trees on nut size alone the variation is from marble-sized to two inches across. The trees themselves do look very much alike.

Mature black walnut next door ... from how it's mixed with assorted other trees and crammed up against a building, it's probably a volunteer, tho it's the only one I know of within a couple miles, so no idea where it could have come from. (Have found a couple of its offspring growing in undesirable squirrel-buried spots, but they didn't survive transplanting. What's with that weird swollen taproot?)

Last fall I harvested a bunch of fallen nuts, peeled and dried them, and...

They're slightly smaller than commercial walnuts, and are thin-shelled and crack easily with vise-grips. I thought you had to use a sledge-hammer on these things.

The meat is bitter. I thought black walnuts were supposed to be especially good, but these ain't.

Well, there's a fail...
4 months ago
I've been told that bars of Irish Spring soap do a good job of repelling deer. Punch holes in the box but leave the soap inside so it doesn't rain-wash-away so fast, and hang in the tree. You can get Irish Spring by the case at Costco.

I've been using a strong peppermint/spearmint concoction (bought at Tractor Supply) to repel mice, so far with good success; I think it doesn't so much repel them as confuse their sense of smell so they can't find feed bags to gnaw open.
6 months ago

M. Tok wrote:Can you remember any details how it was possible to build with cardboard.

I'm not sure how he'd done it (was 30 years ago). Might have just ziptied flattened boxes together and left some set up for corners. It was pretty sturdy. The rooms were about 8 feet square.

If you use cardboard, the other reason to treat with borax is to discourage ground termites -- they LOVE cardboard. And it will discourage (not halt) a low-grade fire, but once it gets hot enough won't help much.

6 months ago

Mike Jay wrote:That's an interesting idea.  I can see how it would work on any small shrub that needs a few zones of protection.  I wonder if they get enough CO2 when they're contained in the "greenhouse"?  I don't have easy access to straw but I bet bags of leaves and piles of snow would do the trick.

I just saw somewhere that higher CO2 improves cold tolerance, much as it improves drought tolerance (either way, the plant doesn't need to work so hard to survive). Soil bacteria produce some, so if the dirt doesn't freeze there should be enough leaking upward. But maybe one could put a fermenter, say a jug of leaves-and-yeast, in the barrel with the tree and provide it with a little extra CO2.
6 months ago

Chris Kott wrote:I think that if one could keep the borax-treated cardboard dry, the only downside would be the potential flammability. No matter how airtight the package, as soon as anything starts to burn, that cardboard is a liability.

But if batts of bundled, borax-treated cardboard were to be sealed by thick layers of waterproof natural plaster, that would work, and probably very well.


I knew a technically-homeless guy who lived in a cardboard house he'd built from appliance boxes. It had two full-height rooms and running water, and was stable enough to be reasonably weatherproof. Quite impressive. Also, corrugated cardboard is a terrific insulator.

As you say the downside is flammability, and cardboard burns like nothing else. Get a fire in a mass of corrugated cardboard and ... some years ago in Los Angeles, a warehouse full of baled cardboard boxes caught fire. And that baled cardboard burned so hot that in half an hour it VAPORIZED a steel-framed warehouse, half a block large, down to the concrete. (And we're talking 18 inch truss beams, not just the shell. I picked up boxes there when I worked downtown, so I knew the building.) There was no stopping it; the fire dept. had all they could do to keep the whole neighborhood from bursting into flame.

When I had a trash incinerator made from a chunk of culvert, I'd fuel it with corrugated cardboard, and it'd get so hot the culvert steel would glow white, aluminum cans would go *POOF* (amazing to watch), and it fused the dirt six inches deep.

So while cardboard is wonderful stuff, I'd definitely treat and seal any used inside a structure.
6 months ago