Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A deli cup Cloche

While biting at the bit at any opportunity to get my cucumbers off to an early start, I thought about how perfect 16 oz. deli cups are for the size of the cucumber plant within the first month of growth. So I decided to make a deli cup cloche with toothpicks as stakes to ensure they do not blow away in the wind. So, the very next chance I had to go shopping for gardening supplies landed me in my local Smart & Final, which happened to have the 32 oz., the 8 oz. and the 6 oz. sizes, but were out of stock of their 16 oz. containers. Or were they? After about 10 minutes of looking on the shelves, I found a box in the above overstock labeled 16 oz. polypropylene deli cups. I took down the box, opened it up and voilĂ !

The three holes with toothpicks in them.

At first I thought about drilling holes in the bottom, but that did not seem very stable. Then I remembered that we did still posses one hole puncher that had not disappeared yet. I was going to make two holes per toothpick,  but the hole puncher did not have enough clearance, so I just used packaging tape to provide additional support. I think I rely more on packaging tape then duct tape – packaging tape seems like it can be used for nearly anything.

Inserting the deli cup cloche into the ground

The design is simple: A 16 oz deli cup with 3 holes. Insert toothpicks into holes and secure with packaging tape. Not only will this work until the germinated seeds emerge from the soil, but when it finally stops raining this season, I can pull the 3-legged deli cup cloche up a little so that ventilation can occur while still providing heat at night. However, if I do this I will still need to put collars around my seedlings as the slugs have been relentless this year.

Wish me luck!

Radish plant is for demonstration purposes only (=

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

My Italian Friend

Ever since discovering the Armenian cucumber, I knew that there was something more exciting and interesting in the world of cucumbers. After a while, I read up about cucumber varieties called “Carosello”, but knew very little about how to purchase the carosello varieties that I wanted. Then, back in March 2012, an Italian gardener contacted me saying that he grew some Italian cucumbers on his balcony by the name of carosello. Over time, he and I have been able to share our love of the carosello cucumbers with one another. 

My friend, Giuseppe is very modest. Though he has been growing carosello cucumbers on his balcony for some time, he quickly admits that this is just his first time at blogging. His Carosello Pugliese blog is named after the region where many of the carosello cucumber-melons come from. Though I only write my blog posts in English, he writes them in both Italian and English, which I greatly appreciate! 

Giuseppe's balcony is very nicely kept!

To get a better idea of the kind of area that Giuseppe has to work with, you would have to get to know his garden better. In reading his balcony post, I still marvel at how much he is able to produce given the limited space he has allotted for growing. He does a good job detailing how much he is able to grow within the area he has.

Giuseppe grows peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers and yes – the carosello. I highly recommend that you check out his posts on these incredible fuzzy cucumbers that deserve not only a spot on the balcony, but on the dinner plate!

This was some of Giuseppe's harvest from last July

Why I Harden my Transplants

For some strange reason, I have not yet experienced my tomato plants getting burned by the sun’s ultraviolet rays – until now. I grew dozens of tomato plants in soil blocks that were starting to grow out of their indoor lighting area, so I decided to start exposing them to outdoor sun.

Notice the outside leaves are all burned. The outer leaves are done for.

After putting them out for a full day in full sun (which they had never had) I neglected to inspect the plants to see how they had fared. By the end of the second day out in the sun, the results were pretty dramatic. Hopefully, I have not lost too many of my tomato plants. If so, hopefully I have learned something from my lack of hardening off.

This tomato plant looked pretty good before getting burned.

Hardening off is something that individuals do when they start transplants indoors and they want to plant them out in their garden. In order to harden transplants off properly, you are supposed to slowly increase the exposure that the plants receive from the sun from 3 hours to 4 hours, to 5 hours and on – slowly increasing the number of hours that the transplants have out in the sun each day until they can be left outside all day. By doing this, gardeners can keep from having their tomato plants baked like mine were. It seems that those who do not learn from those with experience will be forced to learn from experience themselves.