Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Spider Mites

Sometime this last year some pest control salesmen came to my door to try to get us to pay their company to spray the bugs in and around our home. One of the salesmen mentioned all the spider webs. Soon after they left I experienced one of those moments when I leave the conversation only to realize what the perfect response would have been. 

The real reason why I love spiders is all about pest control. These helpful arachnids eat mosquitoes, flies and fruit flies. They keep all the other critters that cause disease away from my family and I. Thank you spiders!

As much as I like spiders around me property there are however, another type of web-weaving arachnid that I have zero tolerance for. These little red critters are the one of the vegetable vampires of the garden. Just when you thought your garden was safe, along come Spider Mites!

This last fall, I was visiting one of the schools that I work at and noticed a very sad-looking tomato plant. In fact, it looked pretty much dead. What's more, the tomatoes looked like something had been sucking there juices. In fact, something (or some things) had. The somethings were spider mites.

Spider mites require diligence and a keen eye to control. They tend to like specific plants, but can quickly get out of control if not identified and eradicated. I'm sure that they fill some niche in their native environment, though I work pretty hard to ensure that my garden does not welcome these 8-legged pests.

Coming back to the subject of spider mites, the reason why they are so bad is because they suck the juices out of whatever plant they are making their home. Their size can often make them difficult to spot and they multiply quickly. This is the reason why a gardener should eradicate these pests on sight. There are a number of ways a gardener can do this, but one of the most humane ways seems to be either some kind of insecticidal oil, soap or a good spray of water.

While I was at it, I decided to take a quick little video. Though my phone's camera is not the best, it should give you a good idea of what to look for.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

2018 Greenhouse Carosello Tondo Manduria

The second half of the summer, I decided to try growing the Carosello Tondo Manduria or (as I like to call it) the Mandurian Round. It is a pretty easy carosello to grow.

The seed from my own source grew well, while the home-grown seed from a friend was pretty weak. One really good way to ensure that you continue to preserve seed is to grow your favorite varieties often.

Like many other carosello varieties, the Mandurian Round starts out small and just gets larger throughout its lifetime. This variety is best when between the size of a baseball and softball.

The coloring of this and other carosello varieties becomes lighter as the seed inside matures. At the larger stage (especially with the round carosello) the faded fruit is not as good for salads. Though the Mandurian Round is a C. melo (like cantaloupe) this carosello variety exhibits minimal sweetness and a more grainy texture then a cantaloupe. They can still be eaten when mature, but are so incredibly tasty when eaten immature that unless you are trying to save seed you will probably not grow them to maturity.

The temperature in the greenhouse was perfect for the plants. I am still working to find a better way to water the plants so that they do not wilt. At the time I was growing this variety, I decided to take the time to make a short video about this variety. Hopefully, you enjoy!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

First successful cross of pear with cucumber!

Alas - scientists have finally discovered a way to cross a cucumber and a pear!

Carosello Barese

Honestly, this post is just to make fun of those who propose huge exaggerate tales of crosses in the animal kingdom (such as C. sativus and C. melo) that would never naturally occur in a home garden. 

"It must be true because I read it on the internet!"

Friday, October 26, 2018

The Tondo Tarantino Melone

Just as each child is different, so are the carosello varieties that I grow out in my garden trials. For the second half of this summer, I decided to try growing some seed that originated with Angelo of Amici dell'orto. The seed was a bit darker than some other varieties, but sprouted up alright and began growing some healthy melon plants.

The Carosello Tondo Tarantino Melone

Once the plants began to flower, I started to notice something peculiar. The female flowers would often have one petal that was slightly less developed and smaller than the others. This was not too much of a concern until the flowers began to turn into fruit. At this point, on the side that had the smaller petal, that side of the fruit grew to become more flat, or even concave in comparison with the rest of the fruit. The fruits generally did look more round over time, but the shape of the fruit was often an oblong curve, rather than the preferred sphere shape.

Often times, when gardeners main focus on growing is to increase good taste, texture and productivity - important qualities such as disease resistance, drought tolerance and storage life are overlooked. The Tondo Tarantino excels in powdery mildew resistance, ability to grow with minimal water and the ability to retain eatable quality at room temperature for over a week at a time. These qualities may not seem important right now, but may come in handy in dry gardening or when people need to transport their fruit over long distances.

The texture of the Tondo Tarantino is quite crunchy. As the fruit grows to full size, it becomes quite stiff – enabling it to handle some rough handling without too much damage. The flavor of the immature fruit is pretty similar to an Armenian cucumber. One way in which this variety does not follow the pattern of other carosello varieties that I have grown is that it does not grow bigger after it grows to picking size and it never really develops a tender, yet crisp skin or flesh until the fruit turns a yellow color and begins to slowly deteriorate.

Once the fruit is ready to harvest for seed, the light green flesh of the fruit is only slightly sweet near the center. The seeds are an orange color that is much less like the beige tan color of some other carosello varieties. Overall, I would say that the Carosello Tondo Tarantino Melone is one of the most unique carosello that I have grown. Though It may not make it to my grow-next-year list, it will continue to hold a strong place in the area of genetic diversity for increasing the vigor of other carosello varieties. As I plan out next years’ gardens I will definitely plan to grow powdery-mildew resistant varieties near the end of the summer.

After Harvest (Tondo Tarantino is on the left)

 And last, but not least, here is a little video I made about the Tondo Tarantino.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

School Gardens

As I travel around for my job, I often encounter school and neighborhood gardens along the way. I hope you enjoy a few of the pictures from my travels. The first pictures are ones I took of a wall that is right along where I park next to a school.


Luffas are quite interesting. I have never eaten them personally, but I have heard that they are best eaten immature.

Bitter Melon

Bitter melon is another Asian favorite for what reason I am not sure. They are apparently very helpful in controlling blood sugar, but as I am generally adverse to anything bitter, I have yet to try them.

Hyacinth Beans

I used to grow Purple Hyacinth Bean in Tucson. It was quite good, but a lot of work to prepare.

At another school, I was able to enjoy looking at some light Armenian Cucumbers.

This next garden is pretty fun. The school actually has two garden areas. This is just one of them.


Now that autumn has progressed, the vines of a lot of plants are done growing. I hope you enjoyed a few of the gardens I see as I travel around.