Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Seven things to Consider before Purchasing that Seed Packet

Oh, the enticing allure of seed catalogues and seed packets. One of the things I love most about seed packets are the pictures. The pictures many seed packets have are incredible. They either show perfect specimens of a vegetable on the vine or being displayed on some platter or cutting board. There is very little else that appeals to my eye like a well-grown vegetable. But as much as I love looking at beautiful vegetables, I enjoy reading the seed packet description even more. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but when it comes to the varieties I grow – I would actually prefer those 1000 words over the picture. Though others may scoff at the description, sometimes the description can tell a gardener much more about the variety of seed in the packet than the picture does.

Why I have problems trusting seed packets.

At times, the pictures on seed packets can be deceiving. Especially if the company selling them neither grew the vegetables or even took any of the pictures of vegetables that they sell seeds for. Perhaps the best advise for seed buyers is “Caveat emptor”, or "Let the buyer beware" in Latin. In this day in which so many things can be purchased online, it helps to have some additional support in knowing what one is dealing with “the real thing” before purchasing seed. Gardeners who are vigilant should be able to avoid being scammed.

The main reason why I bring all of this up is because I deal with this kind of problem all of the time. The seed I deal with always has a name, a description and a picture. More often than not, the name is the most descriptive thing. However, even the name is sometimes wrong and leads me to feel like I am (at least in part) wasting my time growing out so many cucumber varieties in search of something that actually matches its picture and description.

Misleading Seed Packets from a different angle.

Here are some basic things to consider when purchasing seed:

1. What is the seller’s intent? Is the seller more concerned about making quick money or is the seller attempting to sell a high-quality product.

2. What percentage of the varieties that the seller offer have they grown?

3. What kinds of genetic maintenance has the company done to ensure that the variety that is being offered is both what it is advertised as and continues to exhibit high-quality genetics?

4. Who is the seller’s intended customer? Is the seller more focused on large farm operations that require seed that produces identical vegetables which conform to mechanical picking, shipping and shelf life requirements or does the company care more about genetically variable seed that is grown on biodynamic soils and is valued for beauty and flavor over being completely identical. Note: I have come to find that highly biologically active soils naturally produce more consistently stable fruit. Many problems with variable fruit shape and size may be alleviated as the gardener works to maintain high fertility in within the garden.

5. How long has the seed company been around? Does the seed company have a reputation to maintain?

6. How dialed in are the seeds to the climate that is important to the gardener? If the seeds are from a completely different climate, or have been grown for generations in a completely different climate, they may not do well in the opposite kind of climate.

7. Ratings: Though ratings won’t tell a gardener everything, they will tell them a lot. Do growers generally trust the company? If not, why? Did the company respond appropriately to any complaints? Are there themes that would lead one to trust the company? Though there are many places to view ratings of seed companies, Dave’s garden would probably be a good place to start, as they have a whole section devoted to seed company reviews. Not that I would advocate changing anyone’s seed suppliers, but before purchasing seed from even some larger well-known company it may be a good idea to get “the scoop” on their ratings at "The Garden Watchdog" found at the Dave’s garden site.

"Would you be okay with these results?" Feel free to comment below.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Another Spuredda Leccese Carosello

There’s never a way to know what I am going to get when I grow out any carosello variety that is referred to as a “Spuredda Leccese”. Being that the word “Spuredda” means the same thing as Carosello and that many of the Carosello varieties in Italy come from the Leccese region, it is very much saying “We have no idea what this type of cucumber-melon seed this is, but it is a carosello and it may have come from this one area. So – we’ll sell the seed in packages with a fancy stock photo of a carosello on it”.

As with most carosello varieties, it requires growing the seed out to see if it is both viable and also worth saving. This variety did not look much different from others in its seed package, but from early on, it looked darker than other varieties (a good sign). On further inspection (gently brushing off the fuzz) I recognized that this variety had some real potential. If you cannot tell from how I feel about fancy cucumber varieties, I have a real love of cucumbers with stripes.

So, after I messed up one group of carosello due to some misunderstanding of how to properly water the hydroponic buckets that I had in the greenhouse, I decided to try growing this variety out again. So – this variety is very much like some of the darker Scopattizo Barese carosello varieties that my friend Giuseppe has grown.

So now I am faced with yet dilemma – should I continue this line of Carosello Scopattizo Barese or not? I’m not sure. It is really hard to tell what I want to continue to grow unless I grow it next to another very similar variety. Perhaps in a year or two I will find another garden from which I can do a Scopattizo Barese or Spuredda Leccese grow out.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The Almost Dark Carosello Spuredda Leccese

Sometimes knowledge can be a very good thing. Knowing that fire is hot and knowing the correct color for each wire to connect to an electrical switch are two examples in which knowledge can be very good. However, once someone has knowledge responsibilities soon follow – such as using the fire to cook dinner or fixing the light switches as part of someone else’s to-do list. 

In relation to my garden, the knowledge of what I can grow can sometimes create its own challenge. I can see that others grow a specific cucumber by a specific name or I could have grown a specific cucumber from a previous generation only to not encounter the same cucumber again.

Carosello Spuredda Leccese Dark 7/18/2019

In 2018 I grew a nearly completely dark Spuredda Leccese. However, I did not have as much luck as when I had grown it before. Either because the female flower was crossed with another variety or because the genetics of its mother fruit were not completely dark. The result was a "not quite dark" Spuredda Leccese. 

I’ll keep looking around. Hopefully, during some future carosello grow-out, I’ll find exactly what I’m looking for.

Carosello Spuredda Leccese (almost dark) 8/1.

Friday, May 15, 2020

My sad attempt to grow the Tursuluk Kelek

In Turkish, the term Tursuluk Kelek roughly translates into “unripe melon”. However, the word Kelek or unripe can mean a number of other things, such as without hair or stupid. A doctor I was talking to one day who came from Turkey said that it also means that something is “no good”. The last meaning is what my experience with the Tursuluk Kelek.

March 23rd, 2019

March 26th

April 1st

April 3rd

The seeds that I received from my brother were very good seeds. They sprouted quickly and the plants grew well. Once in the ground, however, it was a different story. As anyone who has grown in a sterile soil can tell you, plants require healthy bacteria to grow well.

April 11th

April 29th

Having healthy bacteria - along with being aware of when the plant was low on water - were two things was just one of the many mistakes I made with this plant. Part of the problem was how I set up my hydroponic buckets. The issue is that I was using tomato cages that were larger than the baskets. This meant that if I wanted to look under the baskets, I had to remove the wire cages from the soil around the buckets.

April 30th

June 11th

By the time in the season that I figured out this trick and began looking at water levels more often, it was too late. I tried my best to add water to the Tursuluk Kelek, but the roots that required air were already growing down toward the bottom of the bucket. This meant that when I added a lot of water, I drowned the plant. If you, as a gardener, have ever experienced how a plant acts when it cannot get air, you will understand what I am talking about. Though I imagine plant roots can live without air longer than people can, the window of time for plants to survive without air is extremely short.

June 14th