Tag Archives: squash

Summer Weather Pattern Settling In For A long Hot Dry Period

After receiving almost 3 inches of rain over the past 5 days, long term weather forecast is for many rainless days with day time temperatures ranging from 95F(35C) to 105F(40.5C). Nights will be at or above 75F(24C).

Tomato’s and Peppers stop pollinating and blooms drop occur when:
Daytime temperatures greater than 32° C (90° ) Pollen sterility occurs, flowers may drop.
35° C (95° F) Much reduced fruit set .
Night time temperatures less than 15.5° C (60° F) or greater than 24° C (75° F) will result in poor fruit set.

Take extra time to check your garden. Cucumbers, squash, zucchini and okra may need to be harvested every morning. A good rule is harvest while young, smallish and still tender.

It is the time of the year tomato horn worms are hatching and are active eating your tomato vines. Check your vines very carefully.
Late evening is a good time to find and remove horn worms as they come out of hiding from the days sunshine and heat and began feeding on your tomato vines.

As temperatures rise and rains are less frequent, observe you garden for signs of drought stress. If plants look stressed, drooping leafs in the early morning you may need to increase your irrigation schedule to 2 or even 3 times a week to your plants healthy.

Heavy mulching around your plants will help in weed control, reduce moisture loss and keep soil in your plants root zone cool.

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10 Easy to grow garden crops

The Old Farmers Almanac Has a lot of Useful as well as fun information for farmers and Gardeners no matter how big or small your farm / garden or your age.

Mother Earth News What mother earth news about says the 10 Best Garden Crops for Beginners.

If you’re a beginner, consider starting with the 10 crops discussed below. All are easy to grow, and this combination offers lots of possibilities for cooking. Some of these crops are best grown by setting out started seedlings, but most are easy to grow from a packet of seed planted directly in your garden soil.

1. Radishes. Radishes do well even in not so great garden soil and are ready to harvest in only a few weeks(3-5). Plant the seeds anytime the air temperatures remain above freezing.

2. Salad greens (beet and turnip tops, lettuce, spinach, arugula and corn salad). Pick your favorite, or try a mix. Many companies sell mixed packets for summer and winter gardening. Plant the seeds in spring and fall, and you can pick salads almost year round.

3. Green beans. Easy to grow and prolific. If you get a big crop, they freeze well, and they’re also delicious when pickled with dill as dilly beans. Start with seeds after all danger of frost has passed.

4. Onions. Start with small plants, and if they do well, you can harvest bulb onions. If not, you can always eat the greens.

5. Strawberries. Perfectly ripe strawberries are unbelievably sweet, and the plants are surprisingly hardy. Buy bare root plants in early spring. Put this perennial in a sunny spot and keep it well watered and weed free.

6. Peppers. Both hot peppers and bell peppers are easy to grow. Start with plants and let peppers from the same plant ripen for different lengths of time to get a range of colors and flavors.

7. Bush zucchini. This squash won’t take up as much room in your garden as many other types, and it’s very prolific. Start from seeds or transplants. You won’t need more than a few plants for a bumper crop.

8. Tomatoes. There’s just no substitute for a perfectly ripe homegrown tomato, and it’s hard to go wrong when you start with strong plants. If you get a big crop, consider canning or freezing your excess tomato’s.

9. Basil. Many herbs are easy to grow, but basil is a good choice because it’s a nice complement to tomatoes or any tomato dish. Basil is easy to grow from seeds or from transplants.

10. Potatoes. An easy-to-grow staple that stores well when kept cool. A simple and low maintenance approach is to plant potatoes in straw rather than soil. ‘Seeds’ are whole or cut sections of potatoes, sold in early spring.

Lifehacker has a lot of good useful information for the novice gardener, even if some of it is a bit on the wacky side of gardening.

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Mama And Doctors

Eat Your Vegetables – Mama Said and Mama was right ‘again’.

Some vegetables, flavors intensify as the plant matures, which is why the so called baby versions have a wide taste appeal with just as many health benefits.
Experiment with baby artichokes, beans, beets, cucumbers(2-4 inches long), okra(small is better), peppers, turnips and squashes(4-5 inches long) and carrots (the ones sold in bunches, with greens still attached not those sold in plastic bags, which are simply regular carrots, trimmed down.

You can find the babies at larger supermarkets, specialty grocers, and farmers’ markets such as younger brussels sprouts, can even be bought frozen. Not only do many people find baby vegetables more flavorful and less bitter, but they prefer the texture, too. Young vegetables are tender and require less cooking time.

Brussels sprout salad:
Slice vert thin, add a small amount of vinegarette dressing, toss well and let set for 20-30 minutes. Toss again to coat sprouts with dressing and add a few roasted pine nuts just before serving.

Oil them up judiciously using fats especially heart healthy ones like olive oil can go far in helping you love your veggies. When fat binds with seasonings and spices, it can transform vegetables from a duty diet item to something downright yummy. The link between vegetable avoidance and certain cancers is strong enough to justify a few oil added calories.

Raw veggies probably aren’t the first thing you crave when a snack attack strikes, but you’ll be much more tempted to eat them when they’re dunked in hummus, low fat dip, or your favorite salad dressing. Try munching at work, in front of the TV or when surfing the internet. Snacking on veggies away from the dinner table makes eating them feel like less of a health chore.

The poor lonely onion family, which includes leeks, shallots, and garlic, is rich in compounds suspected to fight cancer, says nutritionist Valerie Green, MPH. But for onion haters, the sharp flavors and strong smells can be almost nauseating. Try slow roasting plants in the onion family, which brings out the sweetness and cuts the sharpness. Brush leeks, shallots, garlic or thick sliced onions with a little olive oil(or ‘real’ butter) wrap in foil packets, and toss on the grill to mild down take the sting.

Tomato’s little secret is making sure you buy those that are vine ripened which eliminates almost all the bitter flavors, says Autar Mattoo, PhD, a molecular biologist with the USDA.

Over mature eggplants are bitter, but the size of this fiber and potassium packed vegetable isn’t your best clue. If your thumb leaves an indent that doesn’t bounce back, the eggplant will be spongy, tough, and bad tasting, even if it’s a little one. To further improve taste, check out its “belly button” at the blossom end, eggplants have either an oval or round dimple. Buy only the ovals.

To reduce eggplant’s bitter tendencies even more, after you slice it, sprinkle it with salt, then wait about half hour, rinse, pat dry and proceed with your recipe. Salt draws out water which contains the bitter tasting compounds.
Eggplants are worth the trouble. The insides of these veggies are high in polyphenols the same chemicals that make apples so good for you.

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Vertical Gardening – More Vegetables Using Less Space

pole bean tepee

Gardening on a Trellis is a great way to save space, whether it be in your garden, porch or container grown vegetables.

Trellis grown plants still need about the same number of square square feet for your vines, but, now they are taking up vertical space and not sprawling over valuable garden space.

Many crops require little effort and only light supporting materials to hold them up. Beans and peas for example.
Other vine plants like tomato’s, squash, cucumbers, melons require a strong trellis secured well to your containers or post in your garden. Keep in mind that a free standing trellis covered with vines catches a lot of wind during storms and required substantial attachments to poles deep in the ground.

Trellis materials can be anything from twine secured between two or more bamboo sticks {small wood post}. They can be free standing or secured to your house, garden shed or fence. Larger decorative trellis can be made from lattes purchased from your local hardware store. Lattes commonly comes in 2ft X 4ft, 4ft X 4ft or 4ft X 8ft sizes.

wall mounted trellis

They are made of light weight wood or now days more commonly will be plastic and comes in many colors, white or green being the most common colors. Being light weight wood or plastic they are easy to work with cutting them to any size or special shape you may need.

Stronger larger trellis can be erected using livestock {cattle or hog] panels. Cattle panels are 52in tall X 16ft long and hog panels are 34in tall X 16ft long. They are constructed from heavy steel 6 or 4 gauge welded wire. These panels are not as pleasing to look at but will last 20 years or more, are easy to erect and to store at the end of your gardening season.
An easy way to erect these panels is using three T-Post driven into the ground. One on each end and one in the middle of a long panel. Secure to the post using steel wire or strong plastic wire ties.

general use trellis

Securing you vines to your trellis can be accomplished using many different materials. Old bread bag wire ties, string{twine}, loosely secured plastic wire ties. My choice is to cut up old pantyhose into 2 inch wide strips. It’s easy to work with, cheap, strong and seldom will it damage your vines. Don’t skimp on using vine ties, you need more than you may think you need. As vines get larger and when fruit appears, there is a lot of weight that must be secured to your trellis.

What and how you build your trellis is only limited by your imagination. Recycle chain link fencing, old field fence. Small light weight trellis can be made using limbs you prune from trees, bamboo, twine, wire. Anyway your getting this picture in your mind, right?

As a side note: I don’t know why, but, it is easier to get your vines to climb a trellis when it is located on the east side of your north/south rows or on the south side of plants in east/west rows.

University of Vermont Extension Department of Plant and Soil Science “said” Growing vegetables upright not only saves space, but makes harvesting easier. You don’t have to stoop to cut fruit from the vines.

Upright vegetables can also be grown on fences to hide ugly chain link ones, or to screen undesirable views.

Pole beans (make sure you don’t get the bush varieties) will climb up just about anything, even other plants. Native Americans used these in their traditional “three sisters” plantings of beans, corn, and squash or pumpkins. The corn stalks provided support for the beans, and the pumpkins (or other squash) provided a ground cover or living mulch. Just make sure if using this method to give the corn a head start, or the fast growing beans won’t have anything to climb!

Pole beans can be grown on bamboo teepees, trellises, or over an arbor. The scarlet runner bean is old fashioned, and has attractive red flowers. There is even a variety of this bean with yellow leaves. Pole beans add a vertical accent, and they keep producing longer than bush beans.

Gourds, melons, pumpkins and winter squash have very long vines up to 25 feet for the gourds and up to 10 feet for squash.
Heavy fruits of winter squash, such as butternut, should be individually supported by cloth twine (strips of used panty hose works great) tied to the trellis or fence on which the vines are trained. For tying these and other vertical crops to their supports, avoid string which can cut into stems.

Melons and pumpkins can be grown similar to winter squash, and their fruit similarly supported with cloth twine or even slings made of old towels, sheets, or rags.

Cucumbers (the traditional vining types, not the bush types) can also be grown up a trellis or A-frame structure. You can also make a cage of the heavy wire used to reinforce concrete. This will be quite strong, stand up on its own, and support the weight of the vines. You can also use cages of wide mesh fencing, only this will need additional support such as wooden stakes or iron rods.

If using bamboo stakes, decorative rods, or the rusty colored iron rods, make sure and purchase “cane toppers”. These can be plastic or ceramic function to protect your eyes when working around poles ans stakes.

Peas are a favorite early season, upright crop suitable for the vertical garden. Choose the edible pod or snow peas that produce longer vines than most shelling, or English peas. And since they produce early in the season during cooler weather, combine them with later maturing vines such as beans or cucumbers. Or you may sow peas again in late summer for a fall harvest.

Tomatoes that have stems that keep growing, the indeterminate varieties (check the seed packet or description for this feature) perform much better grown upright than sprawling over the ground where the fruits can be damaged by disease and insects.

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Vegetables That Take Over Your Garden

Cucumber vines can spread 8 feet in every direction.
They are a warm weather vegetable that loves full sun.
Conserve space by training your vines to climb your fence or better yet build a decorative trellis.

Cucumber plants make two basic types of fruit, those for slicing and those for pickling. Pickling varieties seem to reach their peak faster than slicing varieties.
Depending on your variety, planting to your first harvest will be about 65 to 100 days.

Plant four or five cucumber seeds in 1 foot diameter circles(small hills) with hills 5 to 6 feet apart.
Keep soil evenly moist to prevent the fruit from becoming bitter.
Side dress cucumber plants about 4 weeks after planting. Use about one tablespoon of 5-10-10 or similar fertilizer per plant in a narrow band along each row or around hills.

Butternut squash, yellow summer squash and acorn squash. are warn season, full sun loving plants.
* Yellow summer squash will need 4 feet or more for its vine to spread for your best crop. Plant in hills spaced six feet apart.
* Butternut squash will spread 12 to 15 feet. Plant in hills 8 to 12 feet apart.
* Acorn squash squash will spread 10 to 12 feet. Plant in hills 6 to 10 feet apart.

Plant 5 or 6 seeds 1/2 – 3/4 inch deep in each hill. After seedlings set their first true leaves thin leaving your 3 best plants.
Keep soil evenly moist to produce large fruit.
Side dress plants about 4-6 weeks after planting. Use about one tablespoon of 5-10-10 or similar fertilizer per plant.

Home garden Pumpkin vineClick to enlarge picture Pumpkins come in many sizes and colors, however all of them are garden space hogs.
Pumpkins require a minimum of 50 to 100 square feet per hill. Plant seeds one inch deep, four or five seeds per hill. Allow 8 to 10 feet between hills or spaced in rows 10 to 15 feet apart. When the young plants are well established, thin each hill to the best two or three plants.

Water if a dry period occurs in early summer. Pumpkins tolerate short periods of hot, dry weather pretty well. However, to produce the largest fruits, water by applying at least 1 inch of water weekly.

To grow monster pumpkins that may weigh more than 100 pounds. Select one of the jumbo variety seed.
Plant in early June and allow 150 square feet or more per hill. Thin each hill to the best one or two plants.
Use about one tablespoon of 5-10-10 or similar fertilizer per plant every 4 weeks during your growing season.
High fertility, proper insect control and shallow cultivation are essential to grow monster pumpkins.

Remove the first two or three female flowers after the plants start to bloom so that the plants grow larger with more leaf surface before setting fruit.
Allow a single fruit to develop and pick off all female flowers that develop after this fruit has set on the plant.

Do not allow the vine to root down at the joints, developing fruit on these varieties develop so quickly and grow so large that they may actually break from the vine as they expand on a vine that is anchored to the ground.

Bees, that are necessary for pollinating squash and pumpkins, may be killed by insecticides. New blossoms open each day and bees land inside open blossoms, bees must be safe from contact with any insecticides.

Hint: How to Identify female from male pumpkin flowers.
Click to enlarge picture
pumpkin flowers

Melons like watermelon, cantaloupe, musk melon and honeydew are all space and water hungry plants.
All like full sun locations and warm weather. Soil temperatures should be 70F to 85F at planting time.
Plant 5 or 6 melon seed on hills 1/2 to 3/4 inch deep. Space hills 6 to 8 feet apart. Thin seedlings keeping 2 or 3 of your strongest plants.

Provide 1 inch or more of water weekly and side dress with about 1 tablespoon of NPK 5-10-10 fertilizer at about 40-45 day intervals throughout the growing season to produce an abundant crop of melons.

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Frost On The Pumpkin

Weather man said ” frost warning has been issued for my county in southwest Oklahoma.

Today’s chores include picking the few green tomato’s still clinging to the vines. Harvesting the last of the Italian squash(Grin, some kind of zucchini).

Cleaning the hen house, setting up cold weather water containers, indoor feeders and doing a inspection for any places that need repaired to keep mice and rats out of the hen house. Mice and rats will be looking for warm dry places to live this winter and I don’t want that place to be my hen house.

I’m not a big fan of using insecticides or herbicides, but I have no problem feeding my mice and rats a belly full of ‘Just One Bite’ rat and mouse bait. I like this bait because (1) it works!! (2) it is contained in a solid water resistant bar about 1 inch square and 4 inches long. Making it easy to keep the bait contained in by homemade bait traps that are designed to keep anything larger than a rat gaining access to the poison bait.
FYI, I buy my rat bate at my local Farmers Co-Op store. It can also be found at most Farm and Ranch and livestock Feed Stores.

I have been working a bit outdoors in an effort to ready my Amateur Radio Antennas for winter so I can enjoy talking to folk almost anywhere world, places like Japan, Russia, Sweden, Europe and even Australia and sometimes New Zealand.

My new 10 meter (28.000 – 29.700 MHZ) antenna will arrive today along with 50 feet of new coax. That will be a weekend project, building and installing a new antenna pole and mounting my new antenna.
If anyone really cares, it(new antenna) is a MFJ-1790 vertical and cost shipped to my front door, $69.95.

Amateur Radio(HAM radio) is a fun hobby especially when it’s to cold, wet or snowy to be in my garden.

Yard, garden and chicken pen needs one last cleaning before the real cold weather arrives. But it has been to dry and many days to windy to burn all the trash, weeds and such that has accumulated this gardening season.
One stray spark can set a fire that burns much more than my trash pile.

Click image to zoom in
mouse bait trap

Happy Holidays

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Okra Is In Bloom – Italian Squash A Plenty

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up..
Sick or dieing? not in Sellia, a small Italian village in Calabria.
Worried about its dwindling population the town leaders have banned its residents from getting ill and dying.

Fall season may be in sight, however Oklahoma’s famous August heat dome has arrived. Temperatures ranging from 100 to 107 this past week and my weather man said we are in for at least another 7 days of 103 to 107 ‘real’ temperatures.
Across my tiny part of Southwest Oklahoma heat index(feel like) temperatures have reached as high as 117 degrees. Those heat index temps are dangerous for both man and beast.

2015 was a cool and unusually wet spring. I didn’t get my okra seed in the ground until early this summer. Okra is waste high, blooming and is starting to set pods. If you are not a pickled and fried okra fan you don’t know what a delightful feast you are missing.

I don’t remember if I posted this, but if I did here it is again. The 3 chicks Michelle L. got me back in February have started laying. In short order me and my daughters family will be over run with eggs. At present I am getting 5 eggs a day, 3 dozen a week! Mmmmm just how many eggs can we eat this week?

Grin … I wish I had saved the seed packet. I planted an Italian variety of squash, … maybe it is a zucchini. At any rate even in our heat 3 vines/bushes is still producing more than we can eat. Hehehe … the pigs love excess squash.

FYI Yes the grasshoppers they are a hatching in the thousands again this year.

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Happy Summer Gardening.

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Happy Days – My Garden Weeds Are Getting Sick

grape vine 2015 In Southwest Oklahoma it mostly stopped raining May of 2008. I think our long running dry spell has been sent into the history books. So far this month my tiny garden has received more than 15 inches(380mm) of rain. Another storm pasted over head last evening dumping 3/4 of an inch in less than 30 minutes.

The garden seed people are loving the thunder storm. Every time I plant squash and cucumbers it comes a hard rain and washes my seed out of the ground. I’m getting a lot of experience in planting / replanting garden seed.

If I can get a full day of sunshine I will re-re-replant squash and cucumbers. Maybe it will dry out enough before the forecast weekend thunder storms arrive to replant my okra patch as well.
It may even get dry enough that I can hoe a few of my unwanted plants like johnson grass!

Grin … one good side benefit of all this May rain is it is killing many of the weeds that have taken up home in my garden plot. It seems that careless weeds(pig weed), bind weed(wild morning glory) and henbit do not like their roots setting in water or really wet soil. However, ragweed doesn’t seem to be effected by the wet soils.

Grape vine update, All three vines have leafed out and are sending out runners. At this rate I will need to get my trellis up this summer to start training my vines.

corn may 2015 Corn is setting ears, but, the rain keeps washing away my fertilizer applications faster than I can apply the fertilized. FYI – I’m using a NPK, 13-13-13 shotgun blast approach. Clay soil is generally low in nitrogen. That’s the reason for the 13 percent nitrogen content approach to amending garden fertility.

Tomato’s are not looking well. Roots have been setting in wet soil and they are beginning to really suffer.
Onions still in the ground have started to rot and I have decided to plant more pumpkins in the area now taken up by my failing onion crop.

As a side note. I have noticed the my hens and pullets have started growing web feet.

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Squash – Summer Or Winter Types Are Easy To Grow

Squash Growing – Do So At Your Own Risk They may over run your garden. You may have so many fruits that you can’t give them to your neighbors as fast as your vines can produce them.

Squash require a moist soil and should be fertilized about every 2 weeks during their growing season with a 1/4 cup NPK 5-10-5 or 10-15-10 fertilizer.

Growing Squash is not for the timid! Whether it be delicious green zucchini, yellow straight or goose neck squash or one of the many hard skin winter type squash, they are all vigorous vine plants. Given ample water and fertilizer they can soon cover everything in sight. One healthy vine may cover 60-75 or more square feet of your garden.

Summer squash do not keep well and should be eaten fresh from your garden. They are best harvested in early morning hours. Leave a inch of so of the stem attached to your squash. This will help keep them fresh longer if your don’t prepare them the same day you pick them.

Winter squash is hard skinned and is a good keeper for long term storage. There are dozens of varieties of winter squash available to the home gardener. I like the Butter Nut types.
They have a pleasant taste are good keepers and can be baked, broiled, boiled and used in making bread’s and soup’s. What ever variety you grow harvest them ‘Before’ night time temperatures fall below 50 degrees. Squash are warm weather loving plants. Plants and fruit are easily damaged by night time temperatures below 50 degrees.

Storing Winter Squash is simple and easy. Butternut squash stored at a temperature around 50 degrees will store well for 2 or 3 months.

Squash market. OSU website has a good information page on when and how to harvest and store your winter squash harvest.

Insect pest and fungus can be a problem. How ever both can be easily treated if caught early and treated with the proper fungicide or insecticide. Giving your plants a mild dish soap bath using a hose end sprayer is helpful in preventing both insect damage as well as any fungus infections.

The ‘Squash bug’ Is Not Your Friend! And can cause a lot of damage or even kill your squash plants if not treated and controlled. This same bug will also attack cucumbers and melon plants. Start your spraying program at the first sign of these vine killing pest.

I have had some success in controlling insects by allowing my chickens, ducks and geese limited time access to my garden plot. Grinning, of course they do from time to time take a bite or two from my plants, but, it is a trade off. I can let the bugs have the garden, spray with harsh insecticides or allow my birds the occasional bit of fresh squash.

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Pumpkin Perfection – The Great Squash We Love To Hate

I have heard it said finding love is better than being wealthy.
However I don’t think there is much truth in that saying.
Have you ever tried paying your electric bill with a hug?

pumpkin seed Pumpkins are thought to have originated in North America. The oldest evidence, pumpkin-related seeds dating to 7000 BC, have been found in Mexico.

What’s in a name? Pumpkin as it applies to winter squash has different meanings depending on variety and vernacular. In North America and the United Kingdom, “pumpkin” traditionally refers to only certain round, orange varieties of winter squash. In Australian “pumpkin” can refer to any variety of winter squash.

Pumpkin has many uses beyond being a Halloween Jack-O-Lantern decoration.
Most parts of the pumpkin are edible, including the fleshy shell, the seeds, the leaves, and their flowers. Pumpkin can be boiled, baked, steamed, or roasted. It is often made into pie. In Canada, Mexico, United States, Europe and China, the seeds are often roasted and eaten as a healthy snack.

In South Asian countries such as India, pumpkin is cooked with butter, sugar, and spices. In Australia and New Zealand, pumpkin is often roasted in conjunction with other vegetables. In Myanmar, pumpkins are used in both cooking and desserts (candied). In Vietnam, pumpkins are commonly cooked in soups with pork or shrimp. In Italy, it can be used with cheeses as a stuffing for ravioli.

In the southwestern United States and Mexico, pumpkin and squash flowers are a popular and widely available food item. They may be used to garnish dishes, and they may be dredged in a batter then deep fried. Commercially canned “pumpkin” puree and pumpkin pie fillings are often made with winter squashes other than the traditionally defined pumpkin, such as butternut squash. Thank you Wikipedia

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