Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Growing Season Spring 2011: Season Roundup

Icebox Watermelons: Rainbow Sherbet. Renee's Garden.
Description: Grow three varieties of early maturing "icebox" watermelons with delicious pastel yellow, orange, or pink flesh. These extra fancy beauties weigh in at only 4-7 pounds with thing, green-striped rinds and dense, crisp flesh. Their party colors and refreshing sweet, sherbet-like taste make them wonderful everyday treats or gorgeous summer desserts. Pick melons when the tendril closest to the fruit turns brown, and the light pathc on the bottom o fthe melon changes from cream to tan. Days to Maturity: approx 75. Year Opened: 2009. Number Planted: remainder of packet (about 6) on 3/20. Sprouted 3/27. Seeds always stored in the fridge.
Experience in the Past: In the past, the damn varmints have always gotten the watermelons - either because they actually bit into the watermelon, or because the watermelon split due to too much water.
Experience this year: 3 total - one eaten by Timmy the possum, 2 eaten by me. And while I've had better from the store, I've also had much worse. I saved seeds from the bigger one so I'll try planting them again in the future. Unfortunately, all three were of the regular pink variety (the packet contained yellow and orange fleshed watermelons in addition to the pink)

: Casper - White. Page's Seeds.
Description: Casper, a white skinned ornamental pumpkin with thick orange flesh o fexcellent eating quality. Grows 8"-12" in diameter, 10-16 lbs. Casper's skin has less bluing than many other whites. the handle is tan with a corky texture. Days to Maturity: 100. Year Opened: 2011 (packed for 2009). Number Planted: 4 (entire packet). Seeds stored at room temperature.
Notes: Kept forgetting I had these seeds until I found them again this morning (3/20). Sprouted (1) on 4/1. Go 25% success rate!
Experience this year: Dead, Dead, Dead.  Complete failure.

True Thai Chiles: Orange Fogo and Red Dragon. Renee's Garden.
Description: We import these brilliantly colored, authentic Thai chiles direct from the source! Vigorous Fogo ripens bright orange with delicious medium hot/sweet pungency, perfect minced in sauces and salads. Red Demon's fiery little fruits point up like flames, with that nutty, incendiary pungency just right for stirfries. Use fresh or air dry for tantalizing Asian-style dishes. Days to Maturity: Approx 85. Year Opened: 2008. Number Planted: 4 Red Demon, 6 Orange Fogo (planted 1/5/11, sprouted 1/18/11). Seeds stored at room temperature in 2008, stored in the fridge since 2009.
Experience in the past: The plants never really produced peppers.  The Red Demon is the only one we've ever gotten peppers from.  NOTE:  Gave away all but 1 Red Demon this year.
Experience this year:  Holy Schamoly, Batman!  A grand total of 149 peppers from ONE plant.

Habanero Chile: Red Savina. Renee's Garden.
Description: Bred exclusively by Frank Garcias at GNS Spices, incendiary Red Savina is the hottest habanero known, tipping the scale at 380,000 to 500,000 Scoville units which put it in the Guinness Book of World Records. Along with brilliant red color and intense heat, Red Savina's flesh has that special tantalizing fiery fruitiness that characterizes habanero chiles from the Yucatan. The Chinese lantern-shaped fruits grow on sturdy 3 to 3.5 foot plants that do best in long hot summer areas. Days to Maturity: Approx 90. Year Opened: 2009. Number Planted: 5, Took a while for them to sprout - I planted on 1/5 and by 1/18, only 1 had sprouted. Seeds always stored in the fridge
Notes: As I posted earlier, they all came up and then a squirrel went and dug in the box I was growing the seeds and ripped up all of the habanero seedlings (leaving the other ones alone, naturally). I tried to save 3 of them (2 were obviously goners). Of those, only 1 made it. I just transplanted it into a 4" pot yesterday (3/19). The remaining plant was killed off by varmints on 3/31. Planted 1 lone seed in the 4" pot on 4/1
Experience this year:  No peppers this year.  I've pulled the plant in for the winter to see if it will overwinter...

Specialty Eggplants: Italian Trio. Renee's Garden
Description: Our trio of delicious Italian eggplants combines teardrop-shaped, purple-black "Nadia," gorgeous, oval-shaped magenta "Beatrice" and heirloom rose and white, globe-shaped "Rosa Bianca." The strong plants with velvety leaves and lavender blossoms bear abundant crops of curvaceous glossy fruits with tender skins and succulent flesh that is never bitter or seedy. Enjoy in recipes from all Mediterranean cuisines. Days to Maturity: Approx 80. Year opened: 2009. Number Planted: 6. Two of each variety. Seeds always stored in the fridge.
Notes: 5 of the plants sprouted by 1/18 (planted on 1/5). 2 made it to transplanting time (3/19). Both are the Beatrice variety (same variety that survived last year).
Experience this year:  Both plants survived, but only produced a total of 3 eggplants.  meh.  The Cloud 9 from last year ended up producing a lot more...

True Thai Basil: Queenette. Renee's Garden
Description: This tropical-looking ornamental basil has dense .5" leaves that grow in clusters around distinctive purple stems. Imported directly from our best Thai seed producer, Queenette's exotic flavor combines aromatic mild sweet spices with clove/mint basil flavor. It is a critical ingredient in Southeast Asian dishes and marvellous in stirfries, chutneys and marinades. An eye-catching herb to interplant with flowers for "edible landscaping." Plant Queenette basil to enjoy growing and cooking with authentic Thai ingredients. Days to Maturity: NA. Year opened: 2009. Number Planted: A crap-load. Seeds always stored in the fridge
Notes: 19 Thai basils as of 1/19 (planted 1/5). I don't know how many I have left because they're all in one flowerpot at work. I just "planted" all the seeds I saved from last year's plants (3/19). Obviously, when I say "planted" I mean "throw the seeds to the wind in a couple areas where basil may grow in the back yard." As an added bonus, I still have 2 full jars of dried basil and about one quart of frozen basil cubes from last year. As the combo basil has Thai Basil in it, I've decided that I'm not going to plant any of the Thai Basil in the normal garden bed.
Experience this year:  The Thai basil does pretty well in Austin.  It will reseed itself aggressively, though...good thing frost kills it off...

Long Red Cayenne Pepper: Free from the Allandale plant sale in 2010. Heirloom Seeds Company. packed for 2009, opened in 2011. Seeds stored in the fridge since I obtained them in 2010.
Description: No description on seed packet.
Notes: I planted 3 seeds, all three did germinate. just transplanted into a 6-pack on 3/19. Transplanted into 4" pots on 3/26. gave two to Janna and Pam. Kept 1 for myself.  7/21/11: the plant is half the size of the Red Demon pepper which is in the same pot.
Experience this year:  A grand total of 14 peppers were pulled off this plant.

Black Krim Tomato: Planted 9 (planted 1/5, sprouted by 1/18), 3 are still alive, but tiny (Botanical Interests Organic, opened 2011). Bought 1 at the Sunshine Community Garden sale and planted on 3/19. Seeds always stored in the fridge.
Description: Large brown-red fruit with rich sweet flavor. Sets well in heat. Heirloom from Crimea. (from the Sunshine Gardens info sheet) Dark-brown, red fruit, large (10-12 oz), Russian. Heavy Producer, prone to cracking. Likes hot weather. Rich complex flavor, sweet-tasting fruit. Indeterminate. 75-90 days. Status: Heirloom
Notes: Growing these from seed isn't going so well...perhaps I'll have better luck in the summer when the squirrels aren't trying to dig up all my plants. And it's a bit too early to make a call on the one that I planted.
04/02/11 - I had 3 Krims in little pots - 2 are piddly, and the 3rd looks pretty good. I'm keeping it in a pot until fall though. The one I planted in the garden is already flowering.
Update 07/21/11: Pulled out the plant in the garden (it was looking pitiful) and planted two of the plants I grew from seed in the garden - replacing the Krim and one Roma. Also took a cutting from the plant I bought and planted in a pot. Will be giving away the cutting and one from seed. The plant in the garden produced 5 tomatoes, but 3 were marred by birds. I put up bird netting and also set out bowls of water for the animals.

Experience this year:  5 tomatoes total from 2 plants.  I really wish these plants would produce more...I do so like their toms...

Provider Bush Bean: Free from the Master Gardeners. High Mowing Organic Seeds Company. Packed for 2010, opened 2011. Seeds stored at room temperature for 2010. Stored in fridge since 2011.
Description: Standard green bean, always reliable even in poor weather. Comes through every year with early, heavy yields of attractive stringless beans. Concentrated sets. Days to Maturity: 50
Notes: Surprised me that the seeds are purple. direct sowed 3/20. Noticed plants on 3/27
Experience this year:  Epic fail.

Black Eyed Peas: Free from my friend, Ross. Seeds stored at room temperature.
Description: Cowpeas, also called Black Eyed Peas, are a favorite southern bean. Although the young leaves are edible, most gardeners grow them for the bean inside. Cowpeas are native to Africa, where it is an important food crop. The plant thrives in warmer climates. There are vining and non-vining varieties. Maturity in 80-90 days.
Notes: planted for the nitrogen fixing properties.
Experience this year:  Managed to get a small crop which I will save for future nitrogen fixing purposes since I don't like black eyed peas.

Basil (Custom Blend): Bontanical Interests. Packed for 2010. opened 2011. Seeds always stored in the fridge.
Description: This unique blend of basils will provide you with exquisite culinary delights for your kitchen, texture and scent for your flower arrangements, color and form for you flower beds. Includes: Lemon Basil, Anise Basil, Cinnamon Basil, Red Rubin Basil, Dark Opal Basil, Thai Basil, and Genovese Basil.
Notes: I had a ton of these at work, but then a bunch of them died. just planted some seeds in a 6-pack thingy on 3/19.
04/2/11 - I don't feel that they came up quite as quick as they did at work (I guess they really do like warmer temperatures). But they have all come up as far as I can tell. Just waiting for them to get bigger so I can transplant them.
Update 07/21/11: The only two to make it were a Thai Basil and a Cinnamon Basil.
Experience this year:  While the cinnamon basil smells good, I still haven't figured out what to do with it...at least the Thai basil I'll use in sauces...

Roma Tomato: Botanical Interests Organic. Opened 2011. Seeds always stored in the fridge.
Description: An absolutely excellent, old heirloom tomato used for sauce or canning. Very firm, meaty 3 inche oblong fruits with very few seeds. Very productive - up to 200 fruits per plant!
Notes: planted on 1/5, 7 plants by 1/18. All have since died. Ended up buying a plant a the Sunshine Community Gardens plant sale (transplanted to garden on 3/19).
04-02-11 - Ross gave me a Roma tomato seedling (from Red Barn) in exchange for a pepper plant and some lemon balm.
Update 07/21/11: Pulled the plant I had bought as it looked pitiful (only produced maybe 5 tomatoes). The plant I got from Ross has flowered, but not until after the night-time temps were too hot to set fruit.
Experience this year: 7 tomatoes total from 2 plants - the one from Ross bloomed prolifically at the end, but it never did set fruit.  Again, another bummer since really the only way we eat tomatoes is in sauce and Romas are great for sauce.

Early Summer Crookneck Squash: Free from the Allandale plant sale in 2010. packed for 2009, opened 2010. Seeds stored in the fridge since I got them in 2010.
Description: the standard variety for many years. Summer Crookneck has been improved to have a smoother, less waterd skin and a more compact bush type plant. This variety is very popular, easy to grow and fast maturing. Many gardeners feel that this variety is more flavorful than the straight-neck types.
Notes: Previously planted some of this in the fall, but they never sprouted (likely because of my lackluster watering skills). planted on 3/20. Sprouted on 3/27
Update 07/21/11: A few of the plants have finally taken off and I noticed my first female flower the other day (now I'm just waiting for it to bloom....). The bees visit the garden specifically for the crookneck pollen...which is plentiful.
Experience this year:  3 squash total - 2 eaten by squirrels, 1 picked too late to eat.

Sweet Corn, Sugar Dots: Unknown Variety (likely from Lowe's or Walmart)
Description: Yellow kernels that are sweet and tender. Mid to late season. Ears are 8 inches long with 16-18 rows. Seeds always stored in the fridge.
Notes: I opened this packet years ago, so they may not even sprout. In fact, I think I have a picture of the corn last time I grew it - I never did get any ears from it, but it sure did look nice for the first couple of months it was growing. direct sow 3/20, sprouted 3/25
Update 07/21/11: It seemed like all the seeds sprouted, and I even thinned them. But they were in a part of the garden that didn't get much sun and so they were stunted. The ears produced were maybe only 2" long and I never even bothered pulling them off the plants.
Experience this year:  HAHAHAHA

Lemon Balm: Originally paid $2.99 for each plant at Red Barn in 2010. Plant survived the winter so I did not purchase in 2011.
Description: Lemon balm (Melissa officianlis L.) is a lemon scented member of the mint family. A native to southern Europe, it is a perennial which will over-winter in hardiness zones 4 to 5. The plant develops many branches and grows to a height of about 2 feet. The leaves are 2-3 inches long, oval to almost heart shaped, shiny and wrinkled with scalloped edges. Small light blue to white flowers appear in late spring through midsummer.
Notes: I didn't buy this - it managed to survive the winter. That's one hardy plant, yo. I already can foresee that I'll have to do some major cutting back of the plants as they're starting to spread everywhere (which for now is okay since it acts as a ground cover).
04-02-11 - Took some cuttings for coworkers (3-27). Currently the cuttings are sitting in some water on my windowsill.
Update 07/21/11: The lemon balm is looking a little pitiful--like crispy. but it's still alive and it's only the top that's crispy.
 Experience this year:  My in laws love this plant.  Every time they come over, they harvest a bunch to take home and add to salads.  Too bad Shawn and I don't really care for it (Shawn's not a lemon fan to begin with).  I'll still use it for the mosquitos, but that's about it.  I really probably should remove it from the garden...now I just need to create an herb garden somewhere...

Delicata and Early Butternut Squash: Compact Winter Squash, Renee's Garden. Opened 2009. Seeds always stored in the fridge.
Description: This duo of All-America winners are the best space-saving varieties of nutty, sweet-tasting, vitamin-rich winter squash. the compact vines of productive Early Butternut Bush produce fruits with tan rinds that have moist, smooth, creamy-orange flesh. Compact Bush Delicata has oblong fruits with handsome striped rinds and rich golden flesh with a delicious sweet potato-like texture.
Notes: direct sow planted on 3/20. Used up the rest of the pack - 3 butternut, 2 delicata. Sprouted on 3/27
Update 07/21/11: Dead.
Experience this year:  Epic Fail.

Brightest Brilliant Rainbow, Botanical Interest Organic. Opened 2010. Seeds always stored in the fridge.
Description: Our Quinoa (pronounced "keen-wa") has striking colors of hot pink, burgundy, red, orange, yellow, white and green. Harvest the young leaves to eat raw or cooked. Colorful seed heads appear in 90-120 days. Their nutty and deliciuos grains have as much protein as milk!
Notes: planted in the fall, but they didn't do very well. I planted again in the early spring, but they never germinated (because of my lack of watering). Planted again in a 6-pack container 3/19. All seeds have sprouted as of 04-02-11
Update 07/21/11: Only 3 plants ever looked like they were doing okay. Grew to a maximum height of 6". May get a tiny itty bitty harvest from one plant...assuming the birds don't eat all the seed (which, which the year we're having, I wouldn't fault them for it at all).
Experience this year:  Epic Fail.  Again. Which, considering other amaranths do fine, it's getting annoying.

Yellow Hot Pepper Plant: From my coworker, Charlie in 2010.
Notes: The plant never even fruited last year so I dug it up and potted it and managed to keep it alive through the winter. I just transplanted it into the garden on 3/19.
04-02-11 - This plant is actually looking worse instead of better. GROW PLANT, DAMN YOU!
04-09-11 - I think the plant may have given up the ghost.
Update 07/21/11: Yep...it died. Sad.
Experience this year:  We shall have a moment of silence for the poor dead plant...I was so looking forward to it as well...

Naga Jolokia: $2 from the Sunshine Community Garden plant sale.
Description: No matter what you call it, it's the world's HOTTEST pepper with a record breaking heat of over 1 million Scoville units. That's more than double the old record holder, the Red Savina Habanero. If you like HOT, then this one's for you. Fruits are 2-3" long and 1-1.5" wide. Ripens from light green to orange to red.
Notes: Tis but a tiny thing. Transplanted into the flower pot by the garden on 3/19. I don't really know why we're trying this one (but when you've got Thai chiles at up to 100,000, have had habaneros at 350,000, and have been trying to grow a Red Savina at 577,000, you might as well throw in the Naga Jolokia at 1,040,000 - but the Naga Viper is now the world's hottest pepper as of 2/25/2011 at 1,380,000). We once tried a hot sauce made from this pepper, and while it was delicious, I couldn't handle more than five drops in the tomato sauce we were making. That's right about 5 drops with one can of tomato sauce is enough to give a nice kick.
04-02-11 - The plant looked tiny and piddly and then all of the sudden this last week it seemed like it doubled in size...which isn't saying a whole lot considering how small it was to begin with. But I'm starting to think it might make it.
Update 07/21/11: The plant is quite large, but it hasn't ever flowered and I think the parsley in the same pot is taking all the nutrients and water...I really need to pull it out.
Experience this year:  Nope...No peppers.  I will try to overwinter to see what happens.

Jalapeno M: $2 from the Sunshine Community Garden plant sale
Description: Fiery, thick walled peppers grow 3" with rounded tips. Dark green at first then red. Good for nachos and other Tex-Mex dishes. Days to Maturity: 75
Notes: Best looking pepper of all the ones I have this year. Transplanted into the garden on 3/19.
Update 07/21/11: Has been producing peppers consistently, but only provided a handful. The hotter it's been getting, the smaller the peppers are - they're now almost the size of the red hot peppers that Charlie gave me...
Experience this year:  38 peppers total.  The problem:  They're jalapenos...that's just not spicy enough for this house.

Late Summer planted crops:
White Kennebec Potatoes:
Notes:  4 planted.  Never seemed to do well...Seemed diseased, maybe?
Experience this year:  Yeah...I got 2 small potatoes in return...a 50% return rate = not worth it.

Red LaSoda Potatoes:
Notes:  5 planted.  Always seemed to be doing better and growing faster than the Kennebecs.
Experience this year:  10 potatoes in return.  a 200% return rate = will do again in the future.

Sweet Potatoes:  I let a sweet potato from the store go too long and it started sprouting.  So I pulled off the sprouts and planted them.  Voila! Sweet potato slips!
Notes:  4 slips planted.  Man, they can take the heat like champs...they'll get a little wilty, but nothing that they don't recover from.
Experience this year:  16 edible sized potatoes harvested.  400% return rate means HELLZ YEAH I'm planting more in the future.

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