Friday, June 29, 2012

Carosello Polisello

As may be inferred from previous posts, I love cucumber-melons. Melon plants grow incredibly well (and fast) in Tucson's warm climate. My melon plants tend to grow slowly during the cool temperatures but really tend to take off when the thermometer exceeds 95 degrees Fahrenheit. One cucumber-melon (Carosello) variety I have grown recently is called Carosello Polisello.
Polisello Early April

Carosello Polisello Mid April

Carosello Polisello Late April

The Carosello cucumbers from Italy have many different characteristics that make them interesting, beautiful, and tasty. Though my family does not care to eat everything that comes out of my garden, they are happy to eat the carosello fruit I grow.

Carosello developing fruit in Early May

Another Polisello plant in Early May

Carosello Polisello plants in early June

The Polisello is a light-colored cucumber with dark splotching along the length of the fruit. Though I grew both longer and shorter types I will be saving the shorter fruit that is more true to the variety, for seed.

Carosello Beginning to fruit

Carosello Polisello is quite tasty.

It is very fun to design arrangements with this variety!

Carosello Polisello slices ready to eat!

Polisello fruit ready to harvest

Another Carosello Polisello ready to harvest
Harvested fruit of Carosello Polisello

Yet another Harvested Polisello fruit

In the future I hope to see more cucumber-melon varieties become available to the public. 

Carosello are both beautiful and delicious

I would like to thank Angelo and Paulo of amicidellortodue for the opportunity to learn about - and grow - this wonderful variety of Carosello.

Update: After saving plenty of seed of this Carosello I would like to offer this variety to others in sample seed packets at Cucumbershop.com

Homecoming Harvest

One thing I always have to keep in mind when planning out my summer garden is summer vacation. Since I began gardening it has always helped our family to be able to come home after a long trip and have fresh food to eat while trying to unpack and make time to go grocery shopping.

I was extremely Grateful that my garden was doing well

With this in mind I would like to present the idea of dual-purpose long-lasting food crops. Two of these food crops are butternut squash and melon-cucumbers. Butternut squash can be used as a summer squash when immature or grown to become a hard winter squash. Likewise, some cucumber-melons can be either grown as a cucumber or left to grow into a melon. Other plants, like beans, can continue to produce a bountiful harvest over time. 

Part of June Harvest and a lovely welcome home to my garden

By planning to have one or two types of plants that will continue to grow food during the duration of their lifecycle, a gardener can plan to harvest the crop when he is ready to eat instead of waiting until a specific day to harvest.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

My Neighbor’s Garden

Despite my many setbacks, one of my neighbors must have been inspired by my perspiration in my garden because they decided to start a garden of their own. The only place in their yard that has a good place for a garden is on the north side of the house. This enables them to grow things that would grow in a little bit cooler climate. However, growing in Tucson is always a challenge in the summer. 

My neighbor's garden with peppers, sweet potato, potato, carrots and onion

They are currently growing some onion, some regular potatoes and a few pepper plants. I gave them a sweet potato. 

I'm hoping these regular potatoes produce well

Hopefully everything grows well through the summer – perhaps they’ll have a little more luck than I do with some of these varieties.

Carrots in Tucson's Summer do alright

Onions in Tucson's Summer - I'm hoping they do well

Friday, June 8, 2012

Rouging the Carosello

Over the last few years I have been growing different varieties of cucumber-melons. For the most part, I have been growing each new variety in isolation. That is until now. I planted one friend’s carosello variety only to later learn that the variety was not pure. Some cucumber plants produced small long dark-green fruit, others produced short light-green fruit, some produced long light-green fruit with dark green blotches, while a few produced short light-green fruit with dark-green splotches.

Off-Type Long Carosello (Cucumber-Melon)

Light-green Short Carosello

Long Carosello with Splotches

When I had initially planted this variety I thought that the majority of the cucumber plants would be producing the short light-green fruit with dark-green splotches. As soon as I found that the seed was not pure I began “selfing” the plants (pollinating the female flowers using male pollen from the same plant). Selfing is usually considered a negative thing for outbreeding plants (plants that do not have a flower that can pollinate itself). This is because there is little genetic variability in the offspring. However, when one specific cucumber variety has been bred with another variety, its genetic variability is pretty high.

More Long Carosello with Splotches

So now I am getting rid of all the unwanted fruit and plants to make room for the cucumber variety with the traits I desire. This process of getting rid of the plants with undesirable traits is called “rouging”. It will probably take a few generations of rouging and selfing before my plants produce a uniform cucumber variety. Then I’ll need to grow it out for a few more generations before it becomes a completely stable variety. I will know that I have a stable variety when most of the plants I grow produce few off types (cucumbers that do not match the type I am seeking for).

Unwanted Plants going into the compost pit

In the meantime, I am saving a few of the interesting cucumber types, eating a lot of immature cucumbers, and adding a lot of cucumber vines to my compost pile. Even when things don’t go right the first time it’s nice to know you can eat or compost your failures.

Some off-type cucumber-melons ready to eat

Monday, June 4, 2012

Squash Vine Borer (SVB)

The Beautiful yet menacing Squash Vine Borer
For those living in the South, the appearance of these beautiful moths means only one thing – dead squash plants. These creatures are the reason why I am limited in the type of squash I can grow. The moth lays little brown or red eggs along the stem or near the blossom of any squash or pumpkin plant. The shape of the eggs resembles a human blood cell. If any egg stays on the vine for a few days it will hatch and a small caterpillar will bore straight into the squash vine. As the caterpillar grows it prefers to travel to the thicker parts of the vine.

Squash Vine Borer Eggs on a Zucchini Vine

Occasionally the caterpillar will make a hole to remove its waste, or frass. If you walk around your squash and notice small piles of yellow-orange material coming from the vine you may be encountering the results of squash vine borer (SVB) damage. 

Borer damage will destroy the bottom of the plant

To remove the caterpillars I usually use a razor blade, a needle, and a metal twist tie (the same kind that are used in produce departments to keep bags closed. I find the place with the frass, I cut it open along the grain of the vine, I quickly extract the caterpillar with the needle, then I tie the vine back together with the metal twist tie. 

Squash Vine Borer Larva
Squash Vine Borer Larva destroy the Squash Vine

Zucchini is very prone to immediate death from the Squash Vine Borer, as there is usually only one stem and one root system. Rounde De Nice is the only zucchini variety I have found that is resistant to the squash vine borer because it roots along the stem. Should you know of any zucchini varieties that re-root along the stem like Rounde De Nice please let me know.

This newly hatched borer was still lethargic