Friday, October 27, 2023

Harmony Organics Soil Trial

While I did purchase soil from a local landscape supply company early in the season it turned out that whatever was in the soil was not necessarily appropriate for growing vegetables in. So I looked around for organic soil suppliers until I found Harmony Organics in Benicia, California.









From Harmony, I tried out four different soil mixes. My primary goal of the trial was to find a mix I could use for soil blocks and to directly plant in – for raised bed gardens. A “super compost”, a raised bed mix, “Grower’s Premium” promix and a mix that they called “MoBetta”. To do the trial properly, I used healthy seed with good germination and made sure that they had all sprouted prior to putting them in 2” soil blocks made from each of the 4 different mixes.










While the super compost and the raised bed mix didn’t do that well, the Grower’s premium did extremely well to begin with. By the end of the trial though, only all of the seedlings in the “MoBetta” section had sprouted out. I decided that I really needed fertility in my gardens, so chose the Grower’s premium promix for my raised beds. As the MoBetta had more peat and coir, I decided that I could add these to the Grower’s premium to make my soil blocks.

Friday, October 20, 2023

Green Finger Cucumber

The Green Finger is one of the best tasting Cucumis sativus varieties that I have had. Though it looks somewhat like a Beit Alpha type, its moderately thin skin is not as wrinkly as a Beit Alpha, though its flesh has much more of a Umami-type filling flavor than I have encountered in regular cucumbers.









The production of this variety is not as good as some others I have grown. Compared with a lot of other varieties, the Green Finger definitely puts taste above production. 








Another other thing about this variety that I learned from growing it late into the season is that it had relatively good disease resistance, at least to Powdery Mildew, which was rampant around the rest of the cucumbers and melons in the garden in September.

Friday, October 13, 2023

Miniature White Cucumber

I tried growing out the Miniature white in 2022 just to try it out. They were pretty tasty little white cucumbers. Ideal for snacking. Due to growing them so late into the season, there wasn’t much else to say.

















Friday, October 6, 2023

Invasion of the Creeping Cucumbers!

While I was not able to harvest any native creeping cucumbers from a relative’s home in Louisiana in 2021, I was able to acquire some seeds of the creeping cucumber (Melothria pendula) for a trial growout in the summer of 2022.









After harvesting a couple of pounds of seed of the cucamelon or Sandita (Mexican Sour Gherkin) back in 2020, my wife had me promise to not grow or save seed of another cucamelon for all of 2021. The primary reason was that the time required to save the seed was so great that the time required took from the needs of our family. Being the wise husband that I am and knowing that the creeping cucumber is in the same Melothria family, I decided not to grow any cucamelon for all of 2021. Then in 2022, I decided to only grow a few creeping cucumber plants.








The vines themselves look exactly like the Melothria scabra, or Cucamelon. Additionally, the fruit themselves looked a lot like the light-green cucamelon fruit. While I was tempted to ask the seller about possibly giving me the wrong variety, I decided to be patient.








In a short amount of time, I began seeing the fruit turn from being light to dark green to nearly black. When the skin has fully darkened, consuming the small fruit is supposed to be a highly effective purgative. While this can be helpful (in small quantities) for those of us having difficulty digesting, eating these fruit can be dangerous for dogs or other pets or even young children. In contrast, neither light nor dark fruit deterred the squirrels from consuming them, as they would gladly snack on them on their way across the fence.












The taste and texture of the creeping cucumber are very similar to the regular cucamelon. They have a generally firm texture – from rind to inner pulp, a flavor reminiscent of cucumber rind, and a bit of a intriguing texture with a slightly acidic aftertaste.











One thing that really sets the creeping cucumber apart from the Cucamelon is the vine’s tendency to re-root. The plant readily reroots along the ground at any internode that is low enough to send roots down. While this is a fantastic survival strategy in the wild, the rerooting, along with how easily the seedy fruit drops below the foliage this vegetable can become very invasive. My previous experience with the cucamelons was that they can continue to sprout out of the ground for many years to come. Additionally, I have read that – in areas without frost – these fruiting vines can be perennial.












So – if you experience concerns about your effectiveness as a gardener, growing the creeping cucumber will provide a boost of confidence. Especially in a mild climate, creeping cucumbers are the garden plant that you will not just avoid killing, but – once established – may be difficult to get rid of.











In summary, the Creeping Cucumber is very much like a Mexican Sour Gherkin, but with the purgative effects in the older fruit and increased rooting tendencies.