Wild Men on the North Fork
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Peppers - Squash | Tomato - Watermelon
January 25, 2006
Well the folks at Johnny's have done it again, they have bred yet another AAS winner. That makes three out of the last four years for them, and six altogether. My hat is off to them.
A Glenrock gardener writes that she has found a good alternative to Packman Broccoli. She gardens up in the Rolling Hills, where the altitude is 5,300 feet and it is windy. She reports that Packman sometimes gets bitter for her. She found a Broccoli named Belstar in the Parks catalog (organic section) that never gets bitter, and is good fresh or frozen. It forms a big central head, but not a lot of side shoots.
My garden partners Mark McAtee and Paul Combe and I are busy planning and ordering for the 2006 season. One item that is eluding us is a good short-seasoned hull-less seeded pumpkin. The search goes on.
April 14, 2006
This weekend we begin starting tomatoes. Next, we start peppers and brassicas. If you are wondering when to start what, we offer a planting guide at the bottom of this page. So far April has not been very wet here in Wyoming. So you may want to think about watering your fruiting trees soon. It will help them get a start with blossoms.
May 3, 2006
Well the starts are doing nicely. It is still very cool so far. The daffodils here in Casper have been snowed on three times and may well get a fourth dose of the white stuff. Then it will truely be spring. Our tulips are beginning to bloom and the crab apples are wonderful. I notice that the lilacs are holding back and the native chokecherry is also very reluctant to bloom, smart. Most big deciduous trees are threatening to leaf out, but it has been too cool.
June 9, 2006
Good and warm it has been lately. That has warmed up our soils. We are now finished with all our planting, with today's addition of melons to the plots. In 2004 our last frost was on June 1. Given that, and the cool weather we had this spring, we were in no rush to plant. We got the corn in on June 3 and also the 60 tomato plants. This June 1 the evening temperature was a balmy 33 degrees. But on the second the whole climate changed as if someone had flipped a switch. The high on June 2 was 91 degrees, some 11 degrees warmer than on June 1, and 20 degrees warmer than May 31. Wow.
You can see which varieties we are using in the planting guide chart at the bottom of this page. The varieties in yellow are new to us, with the exception of Lakota Squash, which we have not planted for 4 or 5 years.
There are some phenomena that surprise me when they really should not. I was surprised by the amount of root shock the onions exhibited this year. We order in live plants and put them into our home gardens in March. Then in late May we move them into tires in the plots. They are strong plants when we move them. But the move is a great shock to them. They are just now recovering from the move and growing again. This happens each year, and each year I am surprised.
Another thing that surprised me was how the Sweet Success Cucumbers got bleached in the sun, and got attacked by beetles at night. We plant these in short tubes. The solution each year is to cover each tube with mosquito netting keeping both sun and bugs off the plants. By the time each plant is big enough to touch the netting, it is time to remove the netting. By then the plant has its second or third set of leaves, can tolerate our Ultra Violet rays, and the beetles are not as interested in the leaves.
June 23, 2006
This is the warmest and driest June I can remember. We are on track to having a great year for Tomatoes, Corn, Cucumbers, Squash and Pumpkin.
Notes to myself:
*Start slicer cucumbers in peat pellets and in heat box, then plant in tubes and cover with netting right away to keep bugs off.
*Soak beans 12 hours before planting.
*Start corn in peat pellets and in hot box about May 21.
*Top crop is best germinating bean. Find a way to germinate beans better.
June 29, 2006
Notes to myself:
*The first tomato to set on fruit this month was Cold Set, followed by Orange Blossom and Giant Valentine. Cold Set and Orange Blossom are new varieties for us this year.
*In the home gardens we are trying Totem tomato. It is a true patio tomato, and we are all impressed with it thus far.
*Plant lettuce, carrots and beans by May 21 next year.
July 21, 2006
Tomatoes. If you click here you will find a guide on how to trim tomatoes. Tis the season. Some few of our tomatoes are yellowing in preparation to ripening. I notice that some of the Giant Valentine Tomaotes are showing blossom end rot. Earlier in the season I applied powdered milk to all our tomatoes and that seemed to help most. But Giant Valentine is a plum, and as such is more susceptable to blossom end rot. I will apply more powdered milk to those plants tomorrow.
Blossom end rot occurs when tomatoes are processing too much water too quickly for the plants to replenish their supplies of calcium. This happens in extreme heat conditions. Since, in extreme heat, we can not slow down the plants' use of water, additional calcium will help the tomato plants. All tomatoes love bone meal and it is a great souce of calcium. But powdered milk is also a good source of calcium. I have used both.
One other consideration you should make concerning blossom end rot is this: the larger the tomato plant is, the more water it is processing, and therefore the more calcium it requires.
A quick glance at the chart below tells us that June 2006 was very hot indeed, and July is very warm too.
August 10, 2006
Tomatoes are coming on now faster than we can eat them. The excess is being frozen for salsa. Thus far we have put up 33 quarts of pickles from our cucumbers. Two days ago I picked our first pumpkin, an Autumn Gold. Our corn is tassled and setting on ears. Broccoli has been slow producing and the Cauliflower shows no signs of heading yet. Onions and dill from our plots go into our pickles. We have gotten some lettuce, though this is a lousy year for it and carrots. Peppers are beginning to produce. Squash is doing nicely. Pole beans are a mess this year. We will not plant them again. The bush beans we plant produce nicely.
August 16, 2006
The air is thick with smoke right now as firefighters battle the blazes on our beloved Casper Mountain. The newsroom is humming along after a huge effort yesterday. In the garden we see much progress. We have now put up 51 quarts of pickles and are ready to do more. We have harvested some winter squash (Sunshine) and a couple of pumpkin (Autumn Gold). The rest of the garden is growing nicely with the exception of a few tomatoes. I will talk about them in the end-ot-the-season review. No corn harvested yet...but soon!
September 4, 2006
This has been a record production year for Cucumbers for us. We have put up 96 quarts so far. But the heat we thought would help, has hurt other areas of the garden. We are currently in the cool spell we often experience along about September 3rd. If you can nurse a garden through this period you can usually keep growing until the first hard frost between September 21 and September 28.
September 5, 2006
End of Season Review - Part One
HEAT - While the extreme heat of this season helped some varieties, it also hurt some others. The varieties harmed by the heat generally grew slower early in the season, and came on slower with their production later in the season.
Cucumber - Slicers - We grew some McAtee Guess What in one bed and they performed well early in the season and then faded at mid season. We grew Sweet Success in the other two beds and they came on later but produced later too.
Cucumber - Pickling - Our National Pickling did not perform well in this hot season, it did better last year. The production from the Cool Breeze was spectacular. The more I grow this variety, the more impressed I am. Our previous record for pickles was 60 quarts. This year, so far, we have put up some 96 quarts. Wow. In addition we put up a 'garden mix' with cucumber, cauliflower and carrots. We have 6 quarts of that put up so far. One note I would make is that the cucumbers seemed to need some shade...particularly on the west side and to a lesser extent on the south side too. That is for action next season.
Chard - Chard grew slower than in a cooler year. Once it got going though it was fine.
Beans - Overall, bean production has been average in this hot year. But this was our last year for pole beans. Next season we will only grow bush beans. Also, we will drop Top Crop and just go with three varieties: a Improved Wax Bean, Roma II, and Early Contender.
Carrots - A terrible year. Too hot. We tried one row of Envy Carrot and its germination rate was better than the other three kinds we grew.
Celery - A great year.
Pepper - Pepper production has been so-so to fair, not great in this hot year.
Corn - We finally figured out how to plant corn and we have been rewarded with a reasonable production so far.
Garden Huckleberry - Our starts were disappointing, but every plant we set out produced heavily and early...they must like it hot.
Onion - A big surprise in this hot season...and a disappointment. Last year's harvest was definitely better than this year's.
Broccoli - Definitely harmed by the heat, plants not as big as in past years and production slow to come on. Nice production now...but it is the end of the season.
Yet to be Reviewed: Tomatoes, Pumpkin, Squash, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Melons.
September 30, 2006
Don't toss those small green tomatoes. I just made a green salsa with them. It is probably the best salsa I ever made.
On Fertilizer and Shade:
We think many of our plants would have benefitted from more fertilizer this summer, particularly the squash and pumpkin. We will remedy this next season.
We think many plants would benefit from some shade and we will make a major effort to prodide that shade next season. We will place canvas on the west side of beds to shade taller plants and then place shorter plants to the east side of beds to let the taller plants shade them. This will be done for Tomatoes, Peppers, Cucumbers, and Carrots.
End of Season Review - Part Two
Main Tomatoes - Goliath - good production on a big plant. Giant Valentine - nearly all tomatoes suffered blossom end rot, will not plant again. Old German - lousy production, will not plant again. Black Krim - moderate production but great taste. Corona - less than moderate production, diseased, will not grow again. Orange Blossom - good production with few blossom end rots, light on flavor, too mild. Bush Champion - wonderful production, nice big fruit, almost no blossom end rot. Sun King - yellow and red spotted and striped, moderate production, great taste, nearly all meat and almost no seeds, some blossom end rot. Cold Set - Earliest to set fruit, smaller tomatoes, absolutely no blossom end rot.
Small Tomatoes - Black Plum, Red Pear, Yellow Pear, and Sweet Baby Girl were all excellent again this season. We tried Totem in the home gardens. It is a true patio tomato, stays small, and performs well in containers.
Peppers - Red Start did not produce enough to repeat the experience. We will replace it with Better Bell and/or another thick walled pepper. Fat N Sassy continues to be a great producer, as do Cherry Pic, Jalapeno, and Thai Hot.
Cauliflower - We planted Fremont. It comes on late and then produces heavily.
Cabbage - We continue to be pleased with Savoy Express.
Pumpkin - Sorcerer continues to produce well. Production from Autumn Gold was not adequate, nor was production from Kakai. Some of this lack of production could be from a lack of fertilizer. We did experiment with Howden this season. It did not produce a single pumpkin.
Summer Squash - We continue to do well with Sunburst Patty Pan, Super Zuc, and Goldrush.
Winter Squash - Heart of Gold produced only moderately. Bon Bon (Buttercup) had lousy production. Lakota produced fairly well. Table Ace production was moderate with small fruit. Sunshine was moderate. Confection produced fairly well. Some of this lack of production could be from a lack of fertilizer.
Watermelon - We will stop trying to grow watermelon.
Melon - Sun Jewel produced moderately well. It could probably stand more fertilizer.
Corn - We are pleased with the production from Incredible.
Lettuce - A terrible season. We had a terrible time trying to germinate this. We need to plant earlier and take measures to keep moisture on the seeds as they germinate.
Basil - Grew very well. So did dill.
October 10, 2006
Here is a link to our Bill Simpson page. I will expand this page in future weeks as I get more information from Bill on his 2006 season.
October 11, 2006
Some varieties really outdid themselves this season. Here are the big successes:
MORE ON WIND AND SHADE
One of my partners grows in his home garden the biggest and best tomatoes I have ever seen in Casper. He does this consistently every year. He grows the same varieties that we grow together in the plots. I think his location plays a great role in his success.
My partner grows his tomatoes in his backyard. He has terraced his slope back there and grows his tomatoes on the terraces. His L-shaped house is to the north and west of his terraces. He has a high fence completely around his back yard. His soil is naturally sandy, and with the hill and all, his drainage is superb...a factor that tomatoes love.
WIND: His tomatoes are in the ideal spot to be out of Casper's famous southwest wind. They literally get almost no wind at all.
SHADE: His tomatoes get good morning sun, but then as the day heats up, the shade from the house creeps over them, so that they get only about half a day of direct sun.
It is important to note that my partner's tomato plants still get the full heat of summer, which they love. But they also get some relief from direct sunlight for a major portion of the day. I know of another gardener whose backyard is shady all day long. He grows great peppers there. Again, his plants are definitely not avoiding the heat, but they are avoiding sunlight.
We know that these two nightshades (tomatoes and peppers) probably developed in Central America. I think the wild versions of these plants evolved at the edge of the rainforest. They got plenty of heat, but they also got some shade. Their descendents still crave that combination. I strongly suspect that other plants do too.
I first noticed that cucumbers, particularly slicers, did much better when I gave them some shade when they were very young plants.
Now we plant slicers and picklers in tubes. The slicers seem to be particularly susceptible to attack by insects when they are young. So we we place mosquito netting over their tubes. When the plant can touch the netting it is big enough to withstand the onslaught of the bugs, and we remove the netting. But the tube by itself is providing a lot of shade for both types of cucumber. Ever notice that cucumbers don't produce until they shade their own ground completely? I think they want hot days but cool soil. Maybe they need shade even beyond the 'young plant' stage.
Ever notice that carrots don't really grow bigger in diameter until they have established really good shade for their roots? This may be the same phenomena as the cucumbers above. They may need hot tops but cool roots. Please note that I am not recomending total shade. But a half day of shade may be beneficial. Carrots and cucumbers may both benefit from some partial shade.
October 13, 2006
ABOUT DETERMINATE TOMATOES:
Bill Simpson is the gardener who really turned me onto Determinate tomatoes. He invited me out to his place to see what he was doing in his garden. I was surprised by the fact that he planted nothing but Determinate tomatoes, and also by how heavily those plants produced.
Determinate tomatoes reach a point in their growth when they stop growing vines and leaves and put all their efforts into growing and ripening fruit. Indeterminate tomatoes (which is mostly what is sold by greenhouses) keep growing their vines until they are stopped by hard frost. Indeterminate plants usually grow taller and require staking and support. Determinate plants usually stay quite short (there are exceptions) and need no staking and no trimming at all.
We started growing Determinate tomatoes last season (2005) with 10 plants. This 2006 season we grew 26 Determinate plants. Our only regrets are that we did not grow more Determinates and fewer Indeterminates. Be assured that next year the count on our Determinate plants will rise again.
One problem with Determinate tomatoes is that, generally speaking, they do not have the great flavor that Indeterminates have. There is a chart in Johnny's Seeds 2006 catalog that clearly illustrates this point. It is for that reason that we probably will never get completely away from planting some Indeterminates. However, careful reading of the catalogs tells me that there are some great tasting Determinates. It may just be a matter of hunting for them.
The best reason to start growing Determinate tomatoes is the fact that their production matches our growing season much better than Indeterminates. Note the chart below. We usually get a cool spell about September 3rd, and our first hard frost about September 22. Most Determinates will have ripened a majority of their fruits on the vine by the time that first cool period hits on the 3rd. But, as you can see, it is a different story with the early Indeterminates. Later Indeterminates will be lucky to have produced very many ripe fruit by the time of our first hard frost.
November 10, 2006
ON ULTRAVIOLET LIGHT:
WHAT IS IT?
Like visible light, ultraviolet is electromagnetic radiation. Visible light forms a spectrum of colors that we see. On either side of this visible spectrum are infrared and ultraviolet light.
KINDS OF ULTRAVIOLET
Ultraviolet apparently comes in three bands, or types: UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVA is not damaging to organisms, UVB and UBC are. UVC coming from the sun or outer space is completely filtered out by our atmosphere. But some UVB light does make it through our filtering atmosphere, and so it is UVB that does most of the damage we associate with Ultraviolet light in general.
DAMAGE BY UVB
DNA absorbs UVB and that absorbed energy can breaks DNA bonds. This is what scientists believe causes skin cancer in humans. Genetic damage to plants by UVB is less well understood than in humans. We know that both land plants and ocean plants are suseptible to this damage. But some species are more susceptible than others, and there is great vaiability even within single species. This would explain the observation by Bill Simpson that 'potato leafed' tomatoes seem to tolerate our high altitude light better than other varieties (although 'potato leafed' tomatoes might actually be more resistant to the ravages of wind than UVB, and that would explain why they do so well in Simpson's garden). Recent reseach suggests that up to two thirds of the plants we rely on for food can be damaged by UVB. And we know that harmful UVB can penetrate up to 9 feet of non-turbulent ocean water.
WHERE IS UVB STRONGEST?
In previous remarks I have said that I think Tomatoes and other plants would benefit from some shade each day. UVB may be the culprit which is harmful to some plants we try to grow in our gardens. It is an idea which is worth pursuing.
November 15, 2006
YET MORE ON SHADE AND WIND
Beginning in the 2007 season we will try to plant beds so that the taller plants are to the west and the shorter plants are to the east. Stair-stepping plants will help both to shade and protect from the ravages of wind.
Beginning in 2007 we will place canvas curtains on the west ends of some of our beds. This will be effective for both wind and shade.
Beginning in 2007 we will place canvas curtains in strategic locations in our double plots to give afternoon shade to those plants that need it, and to break up Casper's southwest prevailing wind for all the plants in both plots. To the left, a depiction of the boxes in one of our double plots. Canvas curtains are drawn in red.
November 20, 2006
So, after reviewing your 2006 season, you want to increase production from your garden. Here are 4 classic methods to do that.
|Elimination of the path between the 3' x 3' boxes gives two additional running feet or six additional square feet of growing area.|
December 4, 2006
"It's rarer than the local Jackalope and some believe is the real reason the dinosaurs became extinct. It took us awhile to dig up a big enough potato so we could make this tick life size." Bill grows a large volume of great potatoes each year, and sells some at the Master Gardener's Farmers Market at the Fair Grounds.
Bill Simpson sent this photo of his son BJ. BJ won a Sony MP3 for his winning creation in the humorous catagory of a vegetable decorating contest held every year at NCHS. This is a dinosaur tick.
"It's rarer than the local Jackalope and some believe is the real reason the dinosaurs became extinct. It took us awhile to dig up a big enough potato so we could make this tick life size."
Bill grows a large volume of great potatoes each year, and sells some at the Master Gardener's Farmers Market at the Fair Grounds.
A quick glance at the chart below tells us that August was a bit cooler than some past Augusts, but 2006 is going to be a record for heat.
Regular readers know that I keep a degree-day chart each year. I have chosen the base temperature of 50 degrees (F.) because I don't think plants do much growing below that temperature.
Degree days are the cumulative average temperatures above the set base (50 in this case). I always begin counting degree days on May 25, Casper's last average day of frost. If on May 25 the average temperature was 62 degrees, that is 12 degrees above 50 and the cumulative total is 12. If on May 26 the average temperature is 64 degrees, that is 14 degrees above 50 . I add that 14 to the 12 I already have and the degree days for May 26 would be 26. Adding the degrees above the base together is what makes degree-days cumulative.
Here is the 2006 degree-day chart.
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