Friday, February 23, 2024

The Girl’s Garden in 2023

I have given my younger daughter plenty of choices concerning what to grow in the girl’s garden plot. We usually grow tomatoes and potatoes as well as some sweet potatoes. She likes sweet peppers, so we almost always include some of those. Additionally, we generally try to do something new each year. This year we tried some butterfly attractants, such as Milkweed and Pipevine. 


























My girl grew peas earlier in the season and, with effort, we got some Milkweed and Pipevine. Unfortunately, not much did really well this year in the girl’s garden. I don’t know if it was due to some overcrowding or if it was just that we didn’t manage it very well. She is the type of gardener who enjoys just sowing seeds and forgetting it. But my daughter did help me with the sweet potato harvest later in the season. 















What didn’t do well in our garden was the new native plants. Perhaps they need a section just for themselves or perhaps we are not providing them the right conditions? The tomatoes, potatoes and sweet potatoes did alright, but the peppers were a little overcrowded by the sweet potato vines. With my  teenage daughter getting older, I only have a few more years before she is no longer around. I’ll definitely have to get more of her input concerning what she would like in her garden plot this year.

Friday, February 16, 2024

2023 Dark Armenian Cucumber

2023 provided me with much joy and excitement, but also much work and disappointment. With gardening, as with life, it seems that joy in one area is somehow interconnected with sorrow in another. In addition to constant pest pressure and disease, I experienced a lot of disappointment with growers this year. Early in 2023, I had asked a group of market growers if any of them was willing to grow specific cucumber varieties for me. Out of this group, I found five or six who were willing to do so. All but one grower backed out before growing out the varieties, either because they planted too late or because they were not ready to seriously try to grow out the variety. Preparing the seed agreements, communicating with growers and the work required to follow-up was so great, that by the end of the season I was feeling quite worn out. For all the work that was invested, I was left with little to no seed of multiple cucumber-melon varieties, including the Dark Armenian or Tortarello Barese.








By late July I found out that I would not be receiving any additional seed of the Tortarello Barese or Dark Armenian Cucumber. So, I talked with my wife and placed a one-yard cubic bin in the only place in our yard that had enough sun to grow the Dark Armenian before the end of the season. Doing this, I had to make sure to pull any male flowers from the Speckled Carosello that was growing nearby. This did not require too much work as the vines of the Speckled Carosello were mostly winding down by the time the Dark Armenian began to flower.











Beginning cucumbers this late in the season is always challenging – but attempting to grow them for seed is even more difficult. Waning daylight, cooler nights and Powdery Mildew all take their toll on the crop. Knowing this, I made sure to fill my planting containers with some professional growing mix. I added a soaker hose and a timer to the one yard cubic bin and then watched the plants grow.









Given that I planted in late July, I was very happy to have been able to harvest anything by early October. While August and September are prime growing months when I gardened in Tucson, they are waning summer months in the Bay Area. Despite high daytime temperatures, Powdery Mildew often comes around in early August. I worked to fight it off with some new techniques, but it was still a bit of work to keep my little plot healthy.











Even with all the work it required, I was grateful that I grew out these Dark Armenian cucumbers. I did get a little bit of seed from the harvest and hopefully I will be able to grow out more this coming year. Growing cucumbers and cucumber-melons is not always easy, but I am always grateful for the opportunity to grow and help others to grow out delicious vegetables.

Friday, February 9, 2024

Fighting Powdery Mildew with Sonata biofungicide

After many years of looking, I was finally able to purchase some Sonata biofungicide for my garden in 2023. This specific fungicide is meant to specifically go after fungus-related diseases such as Downy and Powdery Mildew. It did a fabulous job and I was able to keep my plants relatively free of disease for 4-6 weeks longer than I would have been able to do otherwise. These results were much better than anything else that I have tried and didn’t affect the soil as much as some other products would.







Powdery Mildew can be very difficult to destroy. If the disease has not spread over the whole plant and is still in the beginning stages, Sonata can completely stop and battle the current outbreak, but if the plants are completely white, it is doubtful that anything can help. Powdery Mildew began on my squash in early August. I pulled the squash plants to make room for my speckled carosello, then it started on them too. I sprayed once a week for about four weeks then stopped when I knew that I would be picking the fruit soon. On one last note, I don't receive anything from anyone for making this recommendation. I just hope that someone out there finds Sonata helpful to combating their Powdery Mildew issues too.




Friday, February 2, 2024

The Speckled “Friendship” Carosello

Just to provide some context on the “Speckled Friendship” Carosello, this carosello variety originated from a packet of mixed-up, possibly polymorphic Carosello Spuredda Leccese seed sent to me by my friend Giuseppe. Similar to may other companies that sell seed from Italy, this specific Carosello seed from SeedSelect looked nothing like what was pictured on the seed package. I grew the first one out in the greenhouse in either late 2020 or early 2021 and then in 2022.

Being the third year that I have grown this variety, I already knew that it would not produce early in the season. For this reason, I grew it in my backyard garden. My backyard garden has been becoming less and less fertile due to a high population of some kind of fungus, tree roots invading the garden and year-to-year increased shade cover.

Unlike other years, when I can start in early May, the unseasonably cool and wet May in 2023 made it difficult to start plants when we normally would. I was not able to put my transplants into the ground until early June. Even then, the weather was very similar to at least a month earlier compared to the last five years.

Despite all the challenges, the speckled carosello did pretty well in the backyard garden. They were definitely slow though. I ended up pulling most of them out after the first week of September, though I was able to keep them from developing Powdery Mildew for much longer than I would have otherwise done.

My goal in growing the speckled carosello is to produce a cylindrical carosello variety. While the current population is still mostly oval, I was able to find a plant that only produced cylindrical fruit. In order to promote the trait, the seeds from this plant will become the foundation of my future population.




I decided to call this variety the “Speckled Friendship” carosello because my friend Giuseppe initially sent me the seed and I relied on my friend Giuseppe’s seed in later 2021. He sent the seed to me to begin with, I grew it out and sent it back to him. He then grew it to seed, sent it back to me and I grew out two generations since. Though I have known Giuseppe for over a decade, I have never met him in person. I hope that we will one day meet. Until then, I am very grateful to have such a good friend in Italy.