Friday, April 1, 2016

Moving to California

Waiting a whole year since having much of a garden has been very difficult for me. Uprooting an established family can be very difficult, but giving up a garden has been very hard on me. Although I felt forced to move from Arizona, because of health problems, the lack of therapy that a garden provides has weighed on me for a while. So, it is time that I provide an update on my family and gardening experience.

After getting our old house fixed up, I moved to Fairfield California, without my family, for six weeks. The housing market here is very tight, and even with very good credit my family had to get on a waiting list to get into a rental home. Once we finally moved into the rental home, it still took quite a while to adjust. As our family is still reconciling our feelings about moving to California, I was grateful to recently dig out two small garden plots in our new home.

The two available plots where I knew I could replace the soil and replant grass seed were in the front next to the roses and in the back, on the south side of the house.

In front of the rose bushes, I transplanted some tomato plants and lowered my sweet potato pot into the ground. I have already transplanted some Purple Dingess slips into another part of the yard, but the Alabama Purple has yet to come up yet.

On the south side of the house, I planted some cucumbers. Though I would like to try out a new Carosello variety sent to me by my Italian friends Guiseppe and Angelo, I first need to get some better quality seeds of the Long Dark Green Armenian. Additionally, I want to get seed of the Arkansas Little Leaf cucumber, so I planted some of this small cucumber variety as well. Hopefully, I can get seeds of this variety as well. Because cucumbers and melons do not interbreed, I should be able to get pure seed from both cucumber varieties.

My only Purple Dingess Sweet Potato Slips
While moving to a beautiful place like California is nice, having a little garden will definitely help me to feel whole on the inside. Although uprooting a family can be difficult, planting a garden is definitely a way to start reestablishing a connection with our new home.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Still Growing

Despite spending time looking for other places to live, we still had a small winter garden this year consisting of lots of Jerico lettuce, snap beans, green onions (Texas Bunching) and carrots. Most of the carrots I grew this year were Purple Dragon. We have been enjoying those a lot. However, there were some of my purple Turkish, including this small one, that ended up on our dinner plates.

Turkish Black Carrot - Yummy!

Cut up and ready to be lightly steamed for dinner.


Monday, February 23, 2015

Sweet Potato Update

So, back in mid-January I finished harvesting my purple sweet potatoes. Despite this being the first time that my children helped with the harvest, they did a great job. All told, by January we had harvested 278 pounds. Each variety did very well. I harvested plenty Dingess Purple, Alabama Purple (or Purple Delight) and All-Purple. Even a friend's pink variety did well.

The kids helped harvest these Sweet Potatoes

Though I had hoped to sell some on Craigslist, we may be eating a lot of them. That’s alright because my kids don’t mind eating lots of sweet potatoes. (=

Purple Sweet Potato Fries (=


Friday, January 9, 2015

Arkansas Little Leaf Cucumber

Though I have been wanting to grow Arkansas Little Leaf Cucumber, ever since growing it in my first summer garden, it was not until I recently had access to a greenhouse when I finally made the time and room to grow this incredible cucumber variety.

The Arkansas Little Leaf Cucumber

At the time when I last grew this variety I had not experienced any amount of success with other cucumbers and was highly impressed with the results. Thanks to the University of Arkansas developing and releasing this variety (initially a patented variety) gardeners are able to grow a very prolific cucumber in any climate. One of the ways in which this variety can grow in various climates has to do with its parthenocarpic fruit. When a plant exhibits Parthenocarpy (literally meaning “virgin fruit”) this means that the vines will produce female fruit without pollination.

Male Flowers of the Arkansas Little Leaf

Though plants that are parthenocarpic will produce fruit without pollination, any fruit produced in this manner will be completely sterile. The fruit will simply produce without seeds. Bees or industrious gardeners are required to pollinate fruit if there is to be seed for future generations. As there are generally plenty of male flowers, pollination does not become an issue unless the temperatures outside are over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. In this case, the gardener must wait until the temperatures cool down so that the male and female flower blossoms do not wilt in the heat. 

The Immature Female Blossom at the perfect time for Pollination

Because they are parthenocarpic, the fruit can keep its flower for a while
The vines of the Arkansas Little Leaf cucumber are generally very disease resistant and hardy. The cucumbers themselves are a bit thick-skinned (much unlike the Carosello I am used to growing). This is an incredibly prolific variety that will produce and produce until the plant itself dies. With the fruit exhibiting a very consistent size, Arkansas Little Leaf makes the perfect cucumber for pickling in or out of a greenhouse. 
Arkansas Little Leaf Cucumbers are prolific despite any outside stresses.
In summary, when presented with a pretty prolific parthenocarpic pickler, promptly pick the Arkansas Little Leaf to pack into your next pickling pints.

Arkansas Little Leaf is a consistent pickling Cucumber

Monday, December 1, 2014

The beginning of the 2014 Sweet Potato Harvest

Shriveled up leaves are evidence of the first slight frost
To reassure those of you who think I may be done with this blog, I am continuing to garden as time permits. Near the beginning of November, Tucson received its first light frost. I did my very best to harvest as much as possible, but I am so busy with the needs of everything else that I have had very little time to harvest. This is one of the main concerns I have with growing sweet potatoes. The harvest needs to be done all at once, but I have very little time to do so.

What could be making the ground to crack?
The Gardener found a surprise!
The other main concern I have with growing sweet potatoes is how dirty I get. The sap that comes from the vines of this relative of the Morning Glory family is incredibly difficult to remove. Often, I will go to work with people looking at my hands wondering why I did not wash them after multiple times of nearly scrubbing my skin off with soap.

Several Hours of Hard work outside the garden.

Sweet Potato Sap is VERY difficult to get off. I wear grubby clothes.

A look at one of the many Purple Sweet Potatoes after being washed.

Other than the two concerns I have mentioned above, I really love to grow sweet potatoes and still generally enjoy gardening. I just need more time to do it. So far I have managed to harvest quite a bit of sweet potatoes outside of my garden. Now, if I can only make time to harvest the other 4/5 of the crop!

A view of Several Hours of harvesting Purple Sweet Potatoes