Yellow Squash Because I am a Really Slow Learner

Yellow squash: Before. Way way before.

Yellow squash: Before.
Way way before.
And turtle.

I planted yellow squash this afternoon because (a) it’s August, (b) I’m a slow learner, (c) tomorrow’s my birthday, and (d) I was in the mood to plant something edible and happened to have some yellow squash seeds and not much else except scary climbing spinach (or poison ivy).

I’ve sworn off planting yellow squash twice before – yes, twice. Maybe three times.

The last few times I’ve planted yellow squash, the results have ranged from ‘meh’ to a resounding ‘wow, those plants are HUGE! – where’s the squash?’

Since I don’t allow bees in the house, any blossoms that do show up have to be pollinated by hand with q-tips. I figured that out after the first time planting yellow squash, and getting plenty of flowers —and no squash. Shortly thereafter, I learned how to tell which blossoms are female, which saved a lot of time and frustration.

By the time I did figure everything out, there were no more blossoms to pollinate, I’d wasted 10% of a box of q-tips, and I’d ditched the whole mess onto the patio (and from there to the compost heap) and sworn I would never ever EVER again plant yellow squash. That swearing lasted a whole four months or so.

Not that we’re starving, but the garden is (Mostly) inedible

However, since there’s nothing edible growing in my dining room besides ginger root, basil, peppers I won’t eat because they taste like bell peppers (ew), and that stuff that might be spinach or poison ivy, I hereby take back my swearing never ever again to plant yellow squash, and am giving it another try – again.

This time I followed the planting instructions to the letter. The package says to plant one to two seeds per hole, one inch down, 36 inches apart, and water well. Ok, not to the letter then… to get them 36 inches apart, I’d have to plant them in the hallway or kitchen or garage or someone else’s garden.

One thing I’m learning about this gardening stuff is that it doesn’t have to make sense to anyone but the plant.

So I invoked the rules of New-Gardener Creativity, folded time-space slightly, and planted one seed one inch down on at 3:00 and 9:00 along the side of a 12″ pot. Then planted two more at 12:00 and 6:00 respectively, just for good measure.

I suppose, if I can bring myself to do so, I can always yank out the extras and put them in the infamous spinning compost monster on the patio.

At least I watered well.

To your garden success!
Casey – the Garden Lass

Patio and Deck Vegetable Gardening Ideas

We haven’t had a good vegetable gardening video for quite some time, so here’s an excellent little intro to Paul Beaudette’s deck and patio vegetable garden. Take a moment and have a tour of the vegetable gardening containers all over his deck. Lovely and light, nothing major to think about. A perfect few minutes for a Saturday afternoon when reading is too much work.

Vegetable gardening is easy if we let it be

I think we new gardeners tend to overthink a vegetable garden if we’re not careful. If it’s too much work, it’s a lot more satisfying to do our harvesting in the Produce department of the local supermarket. If it’s too little work, it’s easier to forget it’s out there on the patio and ignore it completely. I, for one, don’t want to turn into a vegetable farmer and compete with Green Giant.

This, of course, is coming from the gal who’s an expert at slaying Roma tomato plants (or ‘vines’, as they’re called by some) and who is still glaring at the upstart green onions that would do much better if planted outdoors a few hundred miles to the west in a fertile valley.

To your garden success!
Casey – the Garden Lass

Growing Green Onions Like I Know What I’m Doing

Looking suspiciously like a pepper plant, innit?

New onion crop disguised as a pepper plant?

I’ve just planted the equivalent of four rows of White Lisbon Bunching green onions. In the wide open space in my underutilized pepper plant’s planter. By accident.

Why on earth do I keep doing this? “WHY!?” I hear you scream. Oh wait… that’s still me.

The instructions say, and I quote:

Onion seed of both white and yellow varieties, can be sown indoors in flats, early in the spring. When the seedlings grow to 4 inches in height, they can then be carefully lifted from the flats and transplanted to their permanent places … The onion transplants should stand at least 2-3 inches apart.

Great emphasis is placed on the “care should be taken” bits. So I took great care to make sure the seeds accidentally landed inside the pot instead of outside on the coffee table.

Why? Because I am in love with the idea of having a lovely little garden of herbs and wee veggies that I can harvest whenever I need a few green onions, a handful of basil, a pinch of sage, a few jalapeños.

Little Green Onions: Grow Where You Land

However, while reaching for the soil bags, and stretching for a trowel and old spoon, my back went into spasms.

When my back cramped up and my hand raced to my lower spine, the seeds that were IN that hand went flying and landed in the pot where the pepper grows. They’re dinky and dark brown, just like the soil. It’d take me a week with a flashlight and tweezers to retrieve them all, even if I could stay bent over that long.

So, soon as I could stand upright again, I drew out a handful of peat moss and scattered it over the places where I think the seed landed. Watered with my 7-up-bottle-converted-to-watering-can device.  Tamped it down like I know what I’m doing. One quarter inch deep, just like the package says.

In frost free areas, planting should occur in the fall. It’s the desert; there’s no frost; it’s late May, and I’m still a newbie gardener with a very bad back. This should work great.

To your garden success!
Casey – the Garden Lass

 

Care ‘n Encouragement for your Tomato Plants [Video]

Reagenite71 talks about tomato care

Reaganite71 talks about tomato care

I am not a fan of tomatoes in solid form. I confess. In earlier posts I may have alluded to this distaste, and surely some have wondered why I bothered trying to grow them (but not as much as I have, I assure you). But if you’re going to make pasta sauce, some form of tomatoes is pretty much inescapable.

Tomato Plants Come with Excuses

I could say I’m growing them for humanitarian purposes. Growing tomatoes teaches me the humility of growing ones own food, the patience to wait longer than it takes to roll a cart to the produce department at the local grocery, the joy of seeing early and repeatable results in the gardening venture. Given enough time, I could fish out a dozen rationalizations. But wouldn’t it be more fun to watch someone who really enjoys them?

So, without further ado, here’s Reaganite17 via YouTube, talking about spanking your tomato plants, how to prune suckers and get more energy to your productive tomato vines, and how to use apple juice for more than breakfast sippy cups:

Reaganite71 Teaches Tomato Care

Bottom Line

Now that I know more about how the blossoming is supposed to work, maybe I won’t be nearly as discouraged next time I try to grow tomatoes – assuming there IS a next time. I’ll know to spank, blossom set, plant outdoors, prune, stake and (most importantly) keep laughing.

 

Farewell, recalcitrant cauliflower who refuses to flower

seed packets should say which seeds are picky

Picky plant needs exacting care

Wave bye-bye to the nice cauliflower seedlings, all nine of ’em. That’s right, the ones that’re supposed to be eight days from harvest but haven’t yet produced a hint of a flower.

They’re headed to the Great Rabbit Heavenly Field in the Sky, out next to the yellow squash near the puddle under the evergreen, where I’m preparing a bunny smorgasbord, one wilting course at a time.

It turns out that what was not said on the seed packet is that cauliflower is an extremely picky plant. None of this “Stick the seed in the ground and out pops something to eat” stuff. Oh no. Nuh.uh. You’re going to work for that cauliflower ‘n cheese bake, son.

Turns out also that growing cauliflower is not a spur of the moment decision. One guideline I found said that we should begin preparing our cauliflower bed soil “a year before planting” since cauliflower needs very well cultivated grounds. Drat, and I’d already stowed my time machine for the season.

Now if some nice greenhouse manufacturer wants to come set up a 15’x20 prototype in my yard to test for, oh say, 18 to 24 months (free, please), then I will certainly give cauliflower another shot. Please direct inquiries and offers to my admin [@] lassgroup.com email address. Thanks.

From Here to Maturity: Cauliflower needs to morph into cauliflower soon

jade cauliflower compared with seed packet

Doesn’t look all that cauliflower’y for now…

The back of the package says, “Harvest 60 days.” I beam with anticipation. I love cauliflower – steamed, roasted, baked, pan-fried, covered with a tangy low-sodium lemon spray.

Then I do the count of days between when the cauliflower was seeded and when it sprouted, and out 60 days. Cauliflower for dinner on the 26th of June!

Then I look at the package picture as I look at the cauliflower plants. When exactly is this dude going to look like a cauliflower, anyway? By my calculations, it has 13 days to turn into what I see on the package. I’m assuming it’s not going to happen overnight – but no assumption is out of range for the neophyte gardener that I am.

Do you have a good pictorial guide that shows what to expect at the various stages of cauliflower becoming cauliflower? Anyone?

 

Run, darling! Save yourself! Indoor gardening out of control.

yellow squash threatens neighborhood

Yellow squash leans out window and threatens neighborhood horses

When I read Sunset Magazine, it’s the shaded emerald lawns and rock-path back yards and graceful koi ponds that grab my attention. The ones with the ivy-glazed gazebos and hobbit-sized reading benches, and nary a weed in sight.

Nothing in any magazine could have prepared me for the yellow squash that has taken over the dining room.

Seed packages need information for beginning gardeners

Warning, this squash will eat your sofa

Nowhere on the seed packet did it say “When it grows up, this plant will produce leaves bigger than your average domestic cat.”

No. Nobody would buy yellow squash plant seeds if they said “This squash may inhale your dining room chairs.”

I now believe that seed packages need to have warning labels specifically designed for the new gardener: “Warning. This zucchini will hold your Pomeranian hostage until you distract it with buffalo bones and harness it with razor wire.”

Telling little-boy squash blossoms about the bees and the birds

squash blossoms

Lots of squash blossoms but no squash

It struck me as strange that the dining room is awash with huge orange squash blossoms and yet there’s nary a sign of a squash in sight. This could have a lot to do with the fact that there’s nary a sign of a bee in sight.

If there WERE signs of a bee in the house, I would be writing this missive from the safety of my car, windows up and AC blasting, driving as fast and as far from our house as I can possibly get. I would also be frantically screaming for a certain tall, dark and handsome someone (specifically the one I’ve been blissfully married to for 21+ years who puts up with my occasional nutty hobbies like obsessive indoor amateur gardening and mozzarella-cheese-making-attempting) to please be so kind as to remove the bee from our house so I can come back home with my sanity intact.

I don’t do bees or wasps. Or bugs or worms, or spiders or ants. Or snakes. Especially snakes. Gad, why am I gardening? I must be out of my skull.

To Bee or Not to Bee

Acting on some past-life-as-a-gardener instincts , I grabbed a handful of q-tips and carefully dabbed from one flower to another, swapping out q-tips each time to prevent – something, I don’t know.

squash blossoms, males on right

Females on left; males on right

I was feeling very proud of myself in my new role as Indoor Queen Bee and thought I’d write about this breakthrough. In preparation, I searched for an authoritative site covering indoor gardening and pollination issues- and found a very nice one in the University of Florida IFAS Extension, crammed full of Latin terminology (a dead giveaway), complete with very clear illustrations (one of which I’m borrowing to demonstrate my – well, you’ll see).

Imagine my chagrin when I learned that I’d very carefully carried squash powder from four male flowers to four other male flowers.

Go ahead and laugh. You’re safe from a surprise squash-bag-in-the-back-of-your-car – for NOW.

On an Entirely Unrelated(?) Bee Pollen Note

So what’s the big deal about bee pollen? Apparently quite a bit of a big deal. According to this Bee Pollen Benefits report I found, bee pollen can

  1. facilitate weight loss,
  2. reduce cholesterol,
  3. help fight cancer,
  4. help build up immunities to allergens,
  5. increase your energy and endurance,
  6. boost your immune system,
  7. lower stress,
  8. boost metabolism,
  9. lower blood pressure,
  10. balance hormones,
  11. alleviate arthritis inflammation,
  12. stave off premature aging,
  13. reduce insomnia and
  14. manage your online banking.

Ok, kidding about the online banking part, but the others are serious. So, in the interest of keeping us all healthy and stress free, I’ve also included some bee pollen sources below this post. (Fine print in footer.)

The Edible Exodus Part 2: The Great Potato Migration of 2012

Enough vine action to hide a careful cat!

The potato vine formerly known as dead is now quite alive. What I’d previously thought was dearly departed seems to have revived itself to the point that its vines have taken over about 15% of the dining room.

However, said potato vine has helped highlight one of the downsides of indoor gardening: Indoor bugs.

Last week I mentioned having to exile a rather large flat of starter seeds and seedlings nestled in cardboard rolls due to a cloud of little gnats. Well, multiply that by a few gazillion (ok, dozen) and you’ll see the effect of this potato plant on our indoor peace of mind.

At least these gnats are small and not very energetic. They work up enough power to buzz around feebly before sitting down to rest for a few minutes. They can’t get far. I sympathize – that’s about how I feel most days.

But that minor buzzing-around (and the fact that two of them landed too close to my coffee cup this morning) is enough to exile them to the outer realms of gardenville. So this morning, the newly energetic potato plant got introduced to the Front Porch.

Last I looked, near dusk, the newly exiled still energetic potato vine was winding its limbs around the pots containing the Evecheria and Cousin Bob, having a grand old time trading tall tales about amateur gardeners, and waiting for the rabbits to show up for dinner.

Squash blossoms over long weekend

Big flowers are almost bigger than pot

This is the second sign of actual food production so far. The first was a gathering of barely visible tomato blossoms on the Roma hanging upside down on the patio.

These two showed up curled and looking like any of the leaf buds but then turned into a flower about midway through the day. By this morning (5/29) they had curled up and were looking pretty dang sad. This might have a lot to do with the fact that these very large plants are still living in peat seed starter pots about as big around as one of their leaves.

Which brings up a critical question: I had read that one should never transplant anything in bloom. Is that correct? What transplant guidelines apply to vegetables vs flowering plants?