15 January 2017

Bring Out Your Red

It started in October, a little later than normal this year. The 2016 poinsettia began its journey to red for 2017. The poinsettia holiday blooms are not really blooms but red leaves and flower bracts.

This one was purchased last Christmas and was not repotted.

The color change began a little late this year. It begins when the leaf petioles begin turning red. After seeing this, we expect the red coloring to continue moving up to the leaves to change them, but that's not how the process works.

After the petioles, the new leaves that are not yet fully grown begin changing. A little chartreuse at first, then a little light beige, then some red tinge begin to appear in them as they continue to mature.


At this time, I give it some regular low doses of nitrogen fertilizer. I want those leaves to grow big, since they will be the red 'petals'.

The light green leaves have matured. All new leaves the plant produces are now solid red. Over time, these mature into the poinsettia in time for the holiday.

The journey to red is not easy. It means coming home from work, fumbling in the dark to find the plant on the east window, taking it to the basement in the dark and putting it to bed until the next morning. Darkness for 12-14 hours is necessary in order for the poinsettia to bloom again.


Somewhat smallish blooms this winter are telling me to repot the plant for next year's holiday season.

30 December 2016

The Great White

The garden slugs of spring ate most of my multicolored carrots this year before I could. Most of the packet of orange, yellow, white, and purple carrot seeds were planted and the seedlings scarfed up by the garden beasties by late spring. I planted the remaining seeds and provided some protection. They were also mixed in with the 3-year old Nantes carrot seeds. Everything went into the ground in hopes of a fall crop.

Carrots were lifted before Thanksgiving and then again before Christmas to enjoy for dinners. Most ended up being orange, no purples, and a few whites. The whopper pictured here was taken out in early November.

This began taking over the small vegetable plot, growing almost 3-feet high (1 m) and flowering like Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota). I actually thought it was just that but was afraid to eat it, knowing that the look-alike Poison Hemlock is, well, poisonous. But I have had neither Queen Anne nor Poison Hemlock in the vegetable garden in 30 years.

The flavor was a bit spicy, having a peppery kick to it and not like carrots we are used to. I put this one into a Minestrone soup, and found it not to my liking.

There was only one other white carrot out of the bunch that was eventually harvested. It was not a carrot-zilla and did not flower. I diced it up for a beef stew where its wacky flavor could add to the recipe and could be drowned out a bit.

20 November 2016

Midget Marigold Mystery Solved

I often grow the dwarf French marigolds as infill border plants never growing more than 8 inches tall (20 cm). One of my favorites is "Tiger Eyes" with the red bottom petals and orange-yellow pom poms. But near the end of each growing season, the red color and the orange tint goes away. The blooms become uniformly yellow.

I thought it might be the cooler weather affecting the coloring as it does some plants. Or, it might be the shorter day length that was causing the change, much like a poinsettia depends on longer nights for its red blooms. I discovered the reason my marigold change color this year by accident.

It is neither the day length nor the temperature that causes the loss of red. The plant simply gets tired. This marigold seed blooms true to its parent. As summer progresses I deadhead the spent blooms, leaving them around the ground near the plant. Some of the seed heads sprouted and grew new plants. Since we had a long growing season this year, getting our first killing frost only last week, these volunteer spouts had enough time to bloom.

The blooms were as colorful as a day in spring, despite the cooler fall temperatures and the shorter days. While the older plants nearby were haggard and blooming uniformly yellow, the new plants were red, robust, and orange-yellow as they were planted in spring. This tells me that as the plant gets old, its bloom colors simply change, like we do.

There is nothing I can do other than to sow successive plantings throughout the summer, something that is not going to happen. We will accept the change as a natural pattern.

15 November 2016

Springing From The Compost

In mid summer, a few vines emerged at the base of the side garden tomato plants. The new plants looked like late sprouts of the zucchini seeds I planted but lost track of when they did not germinate. The seedlings were no problem since one can never have too much zucchini with the evil squash vine borer lurking.

I let these grow, and about a month later realized that they were not zucchini. The two looked more like watermelon or cantaloupe vines. As the season turned to fall, a few fuzzy green balls appeared, about the size of baseballs. The wrinkled netting on the surface identified them as cantaloupe. Strangely, the netting surface covered only one half of the small fruit.

Last month near Halloween, the tops began to show signs of rot, so the fruit was picked and cut open. Each looked like a cantaloupe inside with a saturated orange flesh. It tasted like one too, but unfortunately not as sweet as the store bought.

Some seeds from the compost that I used around the tomato plants sprouted, and the compost did have cantaloupe. I have had tomato seeds sprout from compost, but never cantaloupe. The plants were most likely some parent of a hybrid bred for the stores.

22 October 2016

Into The Pot

Today was cold and windy -- more normal for autumn than the summer weather we enjoyed during the week. This was a perfect day for staying indoors and cooking, and minestrone soup was on the menu. Out of the freezer and into the pot went a bag of green string beans from my summer garden.

Beans
After harvesting green beans, they were washed and sent whole into the freezer. It was an experiment to determine if they could be successfully frozen and later used as an ingredient in soups. For today's minestrone, a bag of beans was steamed to thaw it but beans were not cooked. They kept their shape after being cut, and best of all, they were tasty -- great as a soup ingredient.

Carrots
The carrots for the soup were pulled from the garden a few minutes before going into the pot. Carrots never grew well in my clay soil despite testing several types. Sand added to the soil didn't seem to help. Organic material eventually did (along with the previously added sand) and as long as carrots are planted in that same hospitable spot each year, they do well. I think the carrot shape represents the growing season like rings in a tree -- wet and pleasant at the spring, dry, wet and normal, hot, then recently unusually warm. Remaining carrots stay in the ground until they are used.

Zucchini
As noted in the previous post, they were diced, blanched in boiling water for up to two minutes, cooled in ice water, then frozen. They appear to have lost their firmness going into the freezer, but they may be fine as a soup ingredient.

10 October 2016

Baseball Bats for the Playoffs

Baseball season starts as our Washington Nationals try to avoid being eliminated in the first round for a third time. This year, I offer late baseball bats in the form of zucchini, or vice versa, at the same time the series begin.

To avoid the dreaded squash vine borer this year, seeds were planted around the Fourth of July, believing there was a good chance to miss the egg-laying time of the pests. Most of the plants turned out good, but one got bit. I cut the plant off from the infected stem and planted it by mounding soil and keeping it moist. Happily, it worked, and the plant set roots and continued to grow.

The zucchini was late however. As usual, the fruit would set on a Monday, and by picking time on Friday, I had zucchini-sauras. For that minestrone soup-making in cold winters, I read that freezing zucchini is possible. To keep it from from turning into a mush in my freezer, I need to first cut into its final sizes and shapes, and blanch before freezing.

For The Record:
  • Average moist soil
  • Full sun
  • Small amount of fertilizer
  • Squash vine borer summer, and powdery mildew in fall


Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: mexican zinnia, zinnia, marigold, acidantra
  • Harvested: 2 zucchini, 1 pepper, 2 cukes

30 September 2016

Google Deleted My Favorite Blogs

Apologies to anyone who was used to seeing their blog on my sidebar to the right. Google (who else?) deleted them sometime in the last two weeks. I don't know if it was an accident or if Google updated something and they disappeared in the update. Some of the sidebar lists remain, but the first four lists of the blogs I read are now gone. Maybe it is now time to switch to Wordpress?

9 October 2016
The lists magically came back this week. I am glad I do not need to rebuild them.

11 September 2016

Red Eyes This Year

I am finding it more difficult to write for my blog. There is a backlog of photos sitting on my computer waiting to be posted once the stories are written. Another online gardening project is taking my time - our Master Gardener web site. I am webmaster for this new project (we see as a new service to the community) that launched last May 2015. It is updated every month, and in addition to producing the layout, graphics, etc. I occasionally dabble with a little writing.

But this post is about the red eyes. Last year, I wrote about the rudbeckia Irish Eyes [posted 2015.06.01] with the green centers that did not stay green as time went on. I also wrote that the eyes did not glow red, but that statement was made too soon.

The Irish Eyes reseeded themselves and this spring, I expected to be singing 'Oh Danny Boy' in a field of Irish babies. Instead I got Rosemary's Babies. A few of the blooms did have green eyes, but most of the eyes were curiously red. These were not a fiery chili pepper red, but more like a Carol Burnett red.

Apparently Irish Eyes, a cultivar like many of the green-eyed rudbeckia, had this unusual red-centered rudbeckia as a parent. The centers are more of a round iridescent red globe that gradually goes black as the bloom matures and the center opens.

A few of the new plants sported some darker rings on the petals near the centers, and thinner petals. I still like the variety produced, and hope they come back in future years as these have done - with red, green, and black eyes.

For The Record:
  • Average soil with organic amendments over time
  • Full sun
  • Little fertilizer
  • Decent drainage
  • A few mites in the spring, otherwise pest free


Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: mexican zinnia, cosmos, rudbeckia, marigold, zinnia, datura
  • Harvested: 1 pepper, 2 zucchini, 3 tomatoes (it been a bad year for them), numerous peperoncinis