Friday, July 10, 2020

Black Soldier Flies vs Chickens

If you happen to live in a warmer part of the world, you may have seen some weird scaled dark caterpillar larvae thing crawling around your compost. These are the larvae of a very interesting fly. The black soldier fly is a long dark fly that looks very much like a wasp. The flies are rarely seen buzzing around and instead prefer to sit around near piles of food waste. The majority of the time, I will find them just sitting on the leaves of my cucumber-melon plants.

Though they are unassuming as adults, these little critters are power-composters as larvae. Over the summer, I have utilized these critters to get rid of several large catfish and a whole rotten turkey (my freezer died). They digest every kind of food waste that people can eat such as fat, dairy and more. Though I have not seen them eat Styrofoam, like mealworms can, they can definitely eat much more than humans would even think of eating. The results of their digesting so much is a waste product that is very high in nitrogen. Each winter I mix the leftover content of their digestion with autumn leaves as a compost starter.

Most of the time, the adult black soldier flies rest on leaves

If you ever try raising black soldier flies there are a couple things to keep in mind.

My beautiful black soldier fly container.

First: they require a certain amount of heat to be able to digest well. This heat can either be from the surrounding area, or can be produced by having a high quantity of larvae. Before giving them a ton to eat, make sure that you have enough juveniles. They require a critical mass (thousands) to be effective in consuming large amounts of food. I have been told if they are given too much food proportional to their population, they can suffer adverse consequences. On the other hand, once they establish themselves they can handle a large amount of food. They will easily outcompete fruit flies and, if fed regularly, will consume all the waste food that a family can produce.

Second: They require ventilation. Though black soldier flies can survive several inches below their food, the container that they are in does need to be aired out.

Third: The mature juveniles will want to pupate. At this point, they will want to leave their foodsource and burrow into regular soil. If they are in a container, they will try to get out by climbing up and out of the container. Although I do not have my container set up properly for this, I have a friend who made a container that has a ramp for the black soldier flies to climb into a feeding tray for his chickens.

Speaking of chickens, I had such a large population of larvae over the summer that I decided to share my wealth with my friend who owns the chicken garden. More specifically, with his chickens.

I hope you enjoy the video.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Fermenting Melon Seeds

One interesting thing about The Carosello Spuredda Tarantino is that, partially because of the powdery mildew attack, the majority of the fruit became ripe at the same time. This was not really what I had in mind in harvesting seed from this variety. Once I had begun harvesting the seed, another issue arose. The pulp, which with other melon varieties is very soft, had large quantities of hard pieces in them. This made the whole process of harvesting seed very difficult.

My Carosello Spuredda Tarantino Harvest

Looking closer.

If I was to going to be able to harvest the seed properly, I would either have to ferment the whole batch or I would have to pick out each little piece after drying them. Partially because of how hard this specific type of seed was, I chose to ferment.

What my family room looks like in the fall

Within general literature, I cannot find much evidence to support my decision. However, most texts that outline how to process melon seed are viewing mature melons as soft fruit, without any more firm pulp. I started at six days (when most of the pulp had softened), then fermented a couple more after that. I germinated both the 6 day and the 10 day batch and would have to say that the 6 day batch germinated much better.

Very occasionally, fermenting melon seeds is essential for seed processing

5 gallon bucket almost full of fermenting seed (yum!)

The germinated seed that was harvested after 6 days of fermenting

So, at least for the Carosello Spuredda Tarantino, I would highly suggest that seed savers not go through the work of drying the seeds until all the pulp has fermented.

This is how you dry a lot of seed at once - in 10x20 trays

These sturdy trays with holes on the bottom were a great investment

Don't judge a Cucumber by its Appearance

Though the Carosello Spuredda Tarantino was and continues to be an incredibly beautiful and productive cucumber-melon variety, over the course of my last grow out I found some things to not be up to standard.

Though bitterness is not too common in melons, it can – and sometimes does – occur. Because this is a trait that can be inherited, it is not something that can be remedied by just adding water. Instead, all affected plants need to be culled, or removed from the population in order to not pass on the undesirable trait.

By the time I discovered the bitterness in a few of the Spuredda Tarantino, the bees had pollinated all around. Tasting bitter melon fruit is not too enjoyable and, because I don’t want others to have to go through the same process, I decided that the majority of my Spuredda Tarantino crop would need to be composted.

In order to preserve the fruit that was worth saving, I found one plant that had only all sweeter (non bitter) fruit. The other plants around this one also had mostly non-bitter fruit, but I needed a plant that exhibited all non-bitter fruit to be able to pass down the trait. If I cannot find any better carosello cucumber-melon varieties to work with by spring of 2021, I’ll presprout a large quantity of these carosello (around 3 times what I am wanting) and cull the plants for bitterness prior to planting out transplants, then prior to fruiting as outlined in this article about bitterness in snake melon (C. melo).

Hopefully, by utilizing multiple techniques for selection of desirable traits I will be able to continue offering both beautiful and delicious cucumber-melon cultivars to people throughout the world for many years to come.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Of hermaphrodite and other strange flowers of the Spuredda Tarantino

As those who know me would probably already know, I am always looking for new information and research in the area of cucumber-melons. Of particular interest to me was an article about the crossing of a Mediterranean snake melon with an Indian hermaphrodite melon. The article is entitled, “Impact of Breeding Hermaphroditic Melon on Early Production and Yield: Case of Snake Melon (Cucumismelo var. flexuosus) and Tibish (C. melo var. tibish)”  Though I know this is not the most thrilling thing to all of you, I found it pretty interesting and wondered what it would be like to grow some hermaphrodite carosello fruit. Shortly thereafter, I discovered some strange-looking female flowers growing on one of my Spuredda Tarantino. Could it be? If not a hermaphrodite flower, it is at least a complete or perfect flower (having both male and female parts on the same flower). I was able to self-pollinate each flower, which would lead me to believe that it was capable of self-pollinating if there was ample wind, but I’m not sure if they would have self-pollinated in a greenhouse (without insect pollinators).

A "perfect" melon flower with both male and female parts.

The first time I identified the strange female melon flowers

A closeup of the half-female flowers

The female flower getting ready to set fruit

The perfect melon flower with both anthers and stigma

Despite growing the fruit out and collecting the seed, I’m not exactly sure what to do with the seed now. I’m at a point of thinking “Now what?” Will another generation of this seed produce weird-looking fruit or will it produce something that looks different from the parent fruit? I’m not exactly sure. If someone more knowledgeable than myself knows, please leave a comment below.

Along with the hermaphrodite flowers there were a couple of double flowers. I find it interesting that both the hermaphrodite and double flowers appeared around the same time, early in the season – though not on the same plant. I knew that the double flower may have aborted or not grown fully, so instead of chancing something it, I intervened and pulled it early. Though still – double flowers are kind of interesting to see.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The Spuredda Tarantino Part 2

As mentioned before, the Spuredda Tarantino is one of the most colorful and most prolific carosello varieties that I have ever grown. Though in areas where there was minimal water, the plants produced moderate crops – the areas with plentiful water produced very abundantly.

The Carosello Spuredda Tarantino

September 5th, 2019

September 10th

Something I did forget to mention – which was a little funny. Because I was able to finish off the Carosello Massafrese soon after starting the Spuredda Tarantino, I was able to utilize the fertile garden owner’s square PVC pipe and wire mesh trellis for both crops.


How many do you think are in this picture? (Hint: More than 6) (=

September 12th

Plants are beginning to contract powdery mildew

Out of the many plants that I grew, there were two that produced cucumbers with broken bands of dark. One of the plants did this consistently, while the other only had half of the fruit exhibited irregular bands while the other half of the fruit exhibited solid bands.

September 16th

Near the end of the season, I did notice something interesting. Some of the Spuredda Tarantino began producing initially lighter striping patterns very similar to my Striped Carosello Leccese.

September 17th

By September 25th, all of my plants had succumbed to powdery mildew. I’m afraid that there is a triple combination of preliminary factors that weaken plants and strengthen the fungus. Once the night temperatures drop, the humidity rises and the daylight hours decrease it seems there is little a gardener can do to fight the inevitable.

September 25th - the end is near!

The sad state of plants that have succumb to powdery mildew

Finally, if you haven't already seen this, you can join me as I do a video walk & talk about the Spuredda Tarantino.