Sunday, December 31, 2017

Returning to the Scene of the Crime

The holiday season might mean winter for most of America, but here at the Shandy Dandy we're still waiting for fall.

Wishing you a Merry 77 & Sunny, and a Happy 76 w/ Clouds!
December is traditionally one of the coldest and wettest part of the year in my area. Our average rainfall in December should be around 2.75 inches. Unfortunately, this year it's been exactly nope
Ditto for November.

Which leads me to the real topic of this post -- Because although our weather has been lovely... I haven't been here to enjoy it.  Much to my shame, my garden rap sheet now includes abandoning my vegetables for the last 5 weeks.

The person who was going to water/check on it had to back out last minute. So my poor garden has spent the last 40 days enduring the following all on its lonesome:
  • zero rain/irrigation
  • warm temps
  • 25-45mph Santa Ana winds
  • ash from the huge Thomas fire, and two smaller nearby fires


Stumbling around the garden in the dark, fully expecting to be arrested by mother nature for criminal garden abuse, tripping over fallen branches fatter than my arm, camera flashlight my only guide, desperately seeking out any signs of life...

Truthfully, I was expecting to find nothing more than what I found this spring when I moved in -- an empty sandlot pocked with a few scattered weeds, poking up their plump seed heads like middle fingers, crows guffawing at my stupidity from the trees. She's going grow stuff, here? Ha! Hey Lou, check out this joker...

(Truthfully, when I moved in last March it was actually a not-quite-so-empty sandlot... unfortunately.)

However, an empty sandlot is not what I found that night. 
And... well, I'm still confused about it.

BEHOLD! The stubbornness of life.

So, without further ado, may I introduce you to my new friend, dry farmed.... lettuce?

(top) Mixed Lettuce Blend (bottom) Paradicsom Alaku Sarga Szentes Peppers
I know, I should have flipped the photo. But this post has so many pics... I got lazy.

Um, what.

Seeing as peppers are planted nearby, I assure you this is not a shady part of my garden. I planted the lettuce here with the intent of putting up a shade cloth before leaving (and having someone here to water it, clearly) but in my rush I completely forgot to cover it.

So... not only did the lettuce survive in +/-10 hours of daily sunlight and warm-to-hot temps, but it did so in sandy soil with no rain/irrigation for over a month. But... doesn't lettuce have shallow roots? Need constant moisture? Hate high temps? I'm confused. 

But wait, there's more --

Here's the second bed, in a far SHADIER part of the garden and with NO competition from pepper roots for what little moisture there was.
Mixed Lettuce Blend
It did worse than the other bed. >?? Both were seeded from the same seed packet at the same planting density on the same day and watered the same amount (then abandoned the same amount.)
This makes no sense. 

And that's just the lettuce. 

As for carrots...

Mixed Carrot Varieties
Sorry for the crappy photo, I was losing light and moving fast.

Also seeded right before I left. Also... sprouted?

Now, the picture below was taken the day before I left. Carrots were seeded that same day on the bottom of the right bed, below the flags (which don't mean anything, they were re-used). Above them, elephant garlic seeded a few days previous. In the left bed, onions (no survivors - at least one thing I expected!) 

Everything was deeply watered that day, then abandoned, blah blah, you know the drill.

(left) Onion (Right top) Elephant Garlic (Right bottom) Mixed Carrots

Fast forward 5 weeks of summer weather and no water, yadda yadda, and here we have:

(Top) Elephant Garlic (Bottom) Mixed Carrots

Ok... so I don't know about you, but everything I've ever read about carrots says they take 3 weeks to germinate and must be kept evenly moist. Meanwhile, these guys are living in dirt dryer than my sense of humor.

While germination was clearly spotty, the fact that there was germination at all truly perplexes me. The carrots were a mix of several varieties sown together, and now I really wish I'd differentiated. Was it a single variety that did well? Or did one side of the bed just have a magical water gnome kingdom nestled below it? 

Dry lettuce? Dry carrots? What is going on here?
On the other side of the spectrum -- 

Brassica bed before I left:

Mixed Brassica seeded in ground; misc squash project dying in 'planter'


No Brassica
the glory

 ...fine, don't like kale anyway.

Onto the legumes, which I figured would survive, if anything would. Boy, was that a mixed bag. As far as the fava beans went, the young sprouts survived the drought and heat much better than my more established plants (huh?) even though they did grow very slow.

Even then, the level of 'success and survival' I'm talking about here is pretty helter-skelter.

On the left, Ianto's Yellow and Extra Precoce a Grano Violetto were barely sprouted when I left, and seem to have done ok. On the right, Robin Hood and Windsor were about six inches tall when I left, and were mostly destroyed.

All peas, on the other hand, were as cheerful as ever, even for being 1/4 their normal size. All varieties were seeds in the ground when I left. I did have a few dead sprouts here and there, but those that lived show no damage from heat/water deprivation. 

I gotta say, I love peas... both to eat and for their endearing, childish nature. They always look like they're reaching for you to pick them up. And they're nosy, touching everything. What's this... i grab this? mine... what's that? --

Cascadia Pea

One of my other Cascadia plots has even given me flowers!
Cascadia Pea flower
I want to draw eyes on it so bad you don't understand

And this overachiever even gave me one whole pea, huzzah.
Cascadia Pea Pod, young

OH. Another big surprise... elephant garlic! I feel like a proud mother, and I didn't even do anything. The cloves were hardly two days in the ground when I left (remember the carrot picture?) 

But boy oh boy, look at my babies now...

Elephant Garlic
another crappy, losing the light pic

100% germination. And, yes, turns out even the slacker in the bottom left was present and accounted for, albeit tiny and drowning under tree crap. 

And you know what's even MORE interesting? All these elephant garlic sprouts came from grocery store! (except the three closest to the flags) Yep, plain old elephant garlic, $3 a head (I think?) with tons of huge cloves per head. And those three topmost cloves? Um, the entire contents of a $4 bag at Green Thumb.

I know, right. Garden hack win.

Here's the grocery brand. Definitely no sprout inhibitors in these. Hard to tell from the picture, but all grocery store clove plants (excluding poor drowned bob) are taller than the three from Green Thumb. 

Melissa's Elephant Garlic

Oh, and I almost forgot.

Remember when I posted about growing eggplant for the first time and being really 'blah' about eating it and all the plants being covered in spider mites and finally just saying fuck it and ripping them all out?
yeaaah, about that...

Meet the Moriarty, the un-killable eggplant.

Moriarty the Mitoyo Eggplant
You should see him in a crown.
In my defense - I did rip up all the Casper, and three of the Mitoyo plants. But instead of ripping out this last Mitoyo, I cut it down to a wee stick, snipped every leaf, then left it in our August heat. A spur of the moment, curious and casual experiment. Would it live? How long? Did I care? Pass or fail, I was ripping it out later anyway.


Clearly, I got attached. 

But I mean -- its recovery was astounding. It went from a dumb stick to a fully leafed dandy producing flowers like crazy, all in a few weeks. Three plump, grapefruit sized fruit in it's first reborn flush, no problem. 

Right before I left, it was working on ripening this masterpiece:
Mitoyo Eggplant, twin - young
And when I got back:

Mitoyo Eggplant, twin - old

A bit dirtier, no bigger, but ultimately no worse for the wear. If this little dingle-berry has seeds, I'm saving them. 

I mean, look at it! It's like a perfect little purple... anatomy. I love it.

A few more before and afters:
(excuse the constant switching between photo angles; I don't think that far ahead when I take them)

BEETS - before
... and after.
Mixed Beets

 They don't look much bigger in the picture, but I assure you they got huuuge while I was gone.

Red Mammoth Mangel Beet

 Here's another shot of the beets, but instead of the beets, take note of the volunteer mystery tomato on the right.
Mixed Beets (right) volunteer mystery tomato "stoner"

That thing... is the slowest growing, least needy tomato I have ever encountered. It's like a stoner tomato. It showed up, maybe, five months ago? Hardly grows, lives happily with only 3 to 4 hours morning sun. In fact, it had its biggest growth spurt this past month while I was gone, and had zero crispy/dead leaves after five weeks no water.

It was even putting out it's first flower the day I got back. 
Who are you...
Stoner Tomato, the mystery volunteer -  first flower
so dark, so fast

In other volunteer tomato news --

I dunno who this dude is either, or how he got all the way back into my pea/bean patch, but hey, keep on keeping on little slugger. I wanna taste those green ones on the bottom once they ripen up.

Unfortunately I was overeager... those red ones were, um, severely overripe.... *retches quietly in the background* 

As for my intentionally planted tomatoes...I'll just let the 'after' pictures speak for themselves:
If you know anyone in need of a few spiders mites, I might have a couple I could spare...

Riesentraube Tomatoes, decimated by wind and spider mites
The wind completely snapped this brand new bamboo stake. Touché, Santa Ana, ya jerk face.

And, go figure, the Ajvarski Peppers that I've been talking smack about ALL summer because of their blossom end rot issues (due to inconsistent watering, I thought) decided to be cheeky and produce some of the most flawless, huge, tasty, non-butt-rotted fruits ever... after being consistently not-watered for more than a month.

Regardless, I won't complain about having a ripe, sweet peppers a few days before new years.

Ajvarski Pepper

In cucumber news, this hastily constructed trellis made from early season Sunflower stalks was home to a few Suyo Long plants I was trying out (and one dead pickling type, rip). The plants were already succumbing to powdery mildew when I left.

Suyo Long Cucumber on sunflower stalk teepee
... and now it just looks like the cucumber monster took a shit in my planter. 

Suyo Long Cucumber monster poop

This Tetsukabuto squash plant was also dying from powdery mildew when I left. It was a late season start, kindly made possible by Dave @ Our Happy Acres who sent me the seed. Thanks Dave! This poor plant was over crowded and poorly treated from the start, seeing as it was my test subject and not part of my original garden plan. In turn, it produced only one fruit, which was still growing when I left.

Tetsukabuto Squash

 After I returned:

Tetsukabuto Squash

Not too shabby, all things considered. I look forward to growing more of these in much better conditions this coming season.

I'll finish with a personal squash project picture -- this is my nicknamed 'Bourbon' F1 (Buttercup x Turban) that colored up nicely while I was gone. I was an 'out of curiosity' cross made early last year, so I was able to grow out the offspring later the same season. This spring I'll plant seeds from this baby, mostly to enjoy watching how the different colors/shapes/sizes segregate in the F2. I probably won't continue the project beyond there, unless something unusual, tasty, or interesting pops up.
Bourbon F1 - (Buttercup x Mini Red Turban)
Bourbon F1 - (Buttercup x Mini Red Turban)

In conclusion - what a strange, fascinating homecoming!

I need a beer. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Blog Re-boot *busy robot noises*

It's been months and months since my last post, but it's felt like weeks. Time is cheeky like that, isn't it?

As the dust settles, all is mostly well, and though I'm currently out of state and far, far from my garden (and will continue to be for a few more weeks) I look forward to revving back up for an awesome 2018 planting season. Which, luckily for me and our mild climate, can begin just about as soon as the champagne classes clink.

But for now, I'll just sit back with my coffee and enjoy catching up on all the posts I've missed from you guys!

So until I'm home again, I wish you all a joyful (and hopefully not too chilly) holiday season. And, as always:

Happy Planting ~

Monday, September 4, 2017

Fire, water, air... don't say it.

Non-vegetable post

Fire update: Containment now to 30% and fire crews are getting the upper hand. Acreage burned is 7,000.  Freeways opened and all mandatory and voluntary evacuations have been lifted. A total of three structures have been lost (2 structures were on one property) and four non-life-threatening injuries of firefighters have been sustained (dehydration, exhaustion, etc.)

Some news reports state that this is the 'worst' fire in LA history: but like all newsy-news reports, *terms and conditions may apply. Whether they are basing this on firefighter involvement (1,061 personnel assigned), or just fires in LA county, or just in terms of acreage burned (vs. structures burned and/or lives lost) is not made clear. As it wouldn't be. The point isn't to impart information, it's to get ooh-aws and oh-nos and have you stick around through the commercial break.

Seriously though, although I prefer guaranteed primary sources like the LA Fire Department Alerts page, I do try not to base all my info on a single source unless it is the only source. However, one of the news websites (which I will leave unnamed) was so ad heavy it crashed my browser this morning. I hadn't even had my coffee yet.

I mean, it's not like we're trying to get the facts on a potentially life threatening fire here. So by all means, show me the unprompted, half screen shoe advertisement video pop-up first. Maybe I'll pick up a pair on my way to the evac center. For fucks's sake.
But, Day, tell us how you really feel.

Media rants aside, a cool thing happened last night -- it rained!

Can you see it, can you see it! yeah i can't really either. But I swear it's a puddle.
oh, and it's also labor day... in case any of you got up super early to move your car for street sweeping and spent fifteen minutes in the dark before coffee at the butt crack of dawn hunting for left side parking just to realize they're not street sweeping today because it's labor day.

Ya know, in case that was your morning. 

And though we did get rain and it was super awesome, unfortunately it didn't rain on the area that was burning. At least as far as I can gather from friends living near the burn zone. But this makes two rains in five weeks, that's pretty astounding for our summer weather. I'll take it.

Admittedly, it was a little odd to be under fire watch, heat advisory, and a flash flood warning all at the same time. I kept thinking to myself: Fire, air, water... we're missing one.

Whatever you do, don't say it. Cuss all you want, but don't ever state the nature of the 'the big one.' LA is not a superstitious town really, except in this one way. Want to not make friends in LA? Go to a bar and say the ten letter word that starts with e- and rhymes with shmurthshmake. I dare you.


More coming later this week, and much more vegetable oriented content. Until then, I look forward to checking out everyone else's hauls for Harvest Monday.

Happy Planting!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Children of Fire

So if you've read my right hand sidebar, you might have seen the little line that goes 'Summers here are hot with a chance of we're literally on fire...'

Yes, I was trying to be funny. But I was also being serious.

Photo © LA Times
Yesterday afternoon, La Tuna Canyon started smoldering. By this morning we have a 5,000 acre, 10% contained blaze heading in four different directions, with daily temperatures expected in the 110-115° range. Sections of the 210 freeway are shut down until further notice and some neighborhoods in the Burbank hills are being evacuated.

Here is the 'official fire map' provided by the Burbank Fire department via twitter (which I 'borrowed' from the LAPost-Examiner):

No masterpiece, but they're kinda busy fighting fires here.

They say that when the world ends, only people and cockroaches will be left.
I'd like to add Microsoft Paint to that list.

The above map, while very specific in the "what's currently on fire" category, doesn't help anyone who's not familiar with the LA area. LA County is extremely confusing to non-locals, so I took the liberty of hacking apart a google earth screenshot and labeling it as I saw fit. Hopefully this gives you an idea of how the La Tuna Fire fits into the greater LA area.

Click to enlarge. Also, "AIRPORT" should be right above "Noho Arts District," not humping it.
For the record, this is not all of LA, just a good chunk of it. To give you a sense of scale, the Shandy Dandy (far left, beige) is approximately 18 miles from the La Tuna Canyon Fire as the crow flies. If I were to drive the same way (surface streets, as straight as possible) my commute time on this saturday late morning would be about 55 minutes. Using freeways would bring that down to about 35 minutes.

Keeping that distance in mind -- here's how my morning went:

When I got out into the garden today most of the plants were sprinkled with ash, flakes about the size of pencil shavings, if you crushed a handful in your fist. I figured the neighbors used their fire pit last night, maybe had a labor day BBQ. So I shrugged it off and I went about my morning garden chores. 

It was 8:30am and already in the 90°s, but thankfully it was also partially overcast. That took the edge off the heat while I did the morning watering. Awesome. While watering the peppers, I let my eyes wander. 

Even with the heat, it was actually a pretty gorgeous out. Despite it being the height of our summer, it smelled like autumn, that warm and comforting smell of fallen leaves and fireplaces. The sun was mild, hazed by clouds. And the sky was a beautiful shade of...  


No matter how many years I live in the LA area, it always sneaks up on me. Ash. Smell. Dim sky. Warm glow. You think I'd know by now that 1+1+1+1=fire.

My garden and I are in no immediate danger, apart from poor air quality and a minor ash-induced boost in soil pH. The flames would have to battle across nearly twenty miles of densely populated city to reach my doorstep. And while I'm skeptical of many things in life, the determination and skill of the LA, Burbank and adjoining Fire Departments is not one of them. These men and woman are absolutely the toughest, most badass people out there, as far as I'm concerned. Perhaps that's a bias of living so many years in LA (where cops are despised like dogs {unfairly} and firefighters revered like gods). 

Side story:

One summer years ago, when I was in high school, I nearly watched my own house burn down. The short version of the story is that I sneaked back into the evacuation zone to try to locate a missing pet. And I will never forget the feeling of standing with my toes at the edge of my driveway, house behind me, and staring into the face of red flames licking the hillside in front of me. 

Going face to face with the flames is not something from an action movie. The fire does not see you; it is blind. It cannot be reasoned with or persuaded. It is emotionless. Not alive. And you are flammable. Not a person, just a burnable thing. Like your house, your pets, your photo albums. The fire is neither evil nor smart. In an odd way, it is nothing. The maker of nothing. The thing that turns things into ash, and can only exist while it destroys. You can run, but it can run too. It's legs do not get tired. And it can run at you from all sides. It's truly amazing, terrifying, beautiful and horrific all at the same time.

A little melodramatic, perhaps, but I hope it highlights my feelings on the matter and consequently my feelings about the men and woman willing to step between me and fire, don 75 lbs of gear on a 115° day, and do battle against the flames with hose and shovel for 24hrs or more without rest.

So far, we've had no burned homes and no injuries, firefighters included. I very much hope it remains that way.

From the time I started I writing this post to now the wind has changed. I went outside to snap a picture of the 'golden overcast' I keep talking about, but instead got an eyeful of glaring sun and grey-blue skies. It still smells like a fireplace, but no ash is drifting down. The east horizon is undeniably greyer than normal, but otherwise it's business as usual.

Admittedly, this wasn't a typical Gardening post. But some things in life demand attention, regardless of their nature. Should there be any major updates, I'll post again. For now, it's off to check the blogs of others in the LA area. Hopefully they're faring as well as I am here at the Shandy Dandy.  

Happy Planting ~

EDIT - in the time it took me to type this post, one home was lost do to the La Tuna fire. No injuries.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Man eaters, no spots, and Myself

A quick update from a busy week, so I'll get right to it:

Firstly, there is one big problem with having a mantis army guarding your doorstep. In order to increase your mantis population... must first decrease your mantis population.

Don't see it? Here --

I put my phone so close to her I was sure I was going to get my fingers snipped off. For anyone still confused, google sexual cannibalism. ACTUALLY, definitely put the word 'mantis' in there too.
Just in case.

Apparently female praying mantises (or praying mantids, but which I hear as praying man tits no matter how hard I try) chew of their partner's heads during sex only, like, 13–28% of the time. At least according to the article I read two minutes ago on a sorta scientific website.

All in all, there's been a lot of 'good bug' sex in my garden lately. (As opposed to 'good bug sex,' which reads entirely wrong). And, headless horseman aside, I'm super happy to be the host of a future nursery of beneficials.

Because, seriously, I don't even have the heart to show how terrible the aphids have gotten. And the spider mites. And the white flies, kill me, those white flies. I'm basically just growing bugs, with some plants underneath.

Which is why I'm hella excited to see this little lady as well--

Oddly perturbed that my first lady bug has no spots.

Or dude, I dunno. I didn't ask.

Another fun bug fact, the myth that the number of spots on a lady bug determines its age is exactly that: a myth. Though spot numbers can sometimes help you tell the species of lady bug, as is the case with the Seven-spotted Lady bug. I bet you'll never guess how many spots that one has.

I think I've only seen one other ladybug in my garden since the day I moved in. And the fact that they (or at least one) are/is finally showing up, in my time of great need, gives me all sorts of warm and fuzzy feels.

Something that doesn't give me the warm and fuzzies --

sir, please state your name for the record

Whatever this is. Look familiar? Leave me a comment. I've legitimately never seen this wobble walking grasshoper wanna-be before. I'm pretty sure it wants to eat my shit, but I hesitated squishing him until I know for sure.
 IN OTHER NEWS, remember when I found a mystery seed in a baggie and decided to plant it?

It grew! --

-- really fast

-- like, crack fast. 

 That picture was taken yesterday. To give you some idea of how fast, below is a picture of my Gete Okosomin squash, taken today.

And he's a few days older than Myself. Pretty wild.

So far, I'm thinking Myself is probably a C. pepo squash, based on leaf shape and color. She's yet to form any immature fruit, so until then we can fling around any theory we want. I welcome your thoughts and ideas on the matter. Look like anything you're growing?


Oh, and in the off chance you were thinking "Boy, that headless mantis from the first picture sure looks like Bean Bob..."


Bean bob is alive and well, which was the first thing I checked too when I realized Corn Carl (now Carlita) had nommed someone's head off. He's gotten big, too, and is growing flap flaps on his back like his cannibalistic lady neighbor. And while I love my mantis guardians dearly, I won't lie -- having a bunch of giant flying snipping fingers everywhere gives me the willies.

Now, as to how long Bean Bob will be alive and well -- it mostly depends on whether he is in fact Bean Bob, or rather Bean Bobbita.

Final fun bug fact of the day -- apparently color is not an indication of mantis sex, as I first thought. Rather, you have to count their abdominal sections. Females have six, males have eight.

Goodie. Looking forward to leaning in close for that one.


That's it for today's speed post; Happy September! And, as always,

Happy Planting!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Everything is an Experiment

A quick aside:

My posting habits have, so far, been rather higgledy-piggledy: One minute I'm crawling around in the dirt hunting for mutants and rogues; the next, I'm cheerfully shoving food at you for Harvest Monday.

Figuring out how to bring this blog up to speed on everything that's happened, happening, or soon to happen in my veg-hack lab (without boring myself to death by simply transcribing hours of things I've already written in my growing notebook) has been the true challenge.

And I have to keep reminding myself that this isn't a scientific journal, nor is it my chicken scratch growing notebook -- it's my blog. Which means I need to give myself permission to record things out of order, skip the boring stuff, and disregard anything I don't personally feel like writing about. 

In this vein, if there's an experiment/project I mentioned previously that I never returned to, don't hesitate to fling a question mark at me. I think addressing the projects people are most interested in is a much more efficient use of time then pouring out every detail of every experiment I run. Regardless, I hope you find something here that inspires you, entertains you, or enlightens you in some way. Questions are always welcome, comments are appreciated, but you should never feel obligated to post either. Feel free to just kick back, grab a coffee, and meander through the pages and pics of my wonky veg life.

There, now I feel better.

So FULL SPEED AHEAD! Everything is an experiment in my garden, so it's about time I update you on some of the projects I've got going. Two of them you've never heard of, and one you may have: Congo Watermelon, Cucumber Crosses, and the infamous Purple Peacock Pole Bean.



Here's the fast forward version. I grew two types of watermelon this season: Sugar Baby Bush and Congo. Or, I should say, I tried to grow. The plan was to cross them. Because when in doubt, that's always my plan. Long story short, all the watermelon plants were like, nah bra, and died before any fruits reached maturity. They were planted in different places, different times, and not a single one of them had a happy life. I have never had such abject and utter failure of a single crop in my entire gardening life. Very humbling. The causes of death were multiple, varying, but mostly spider mites, a strange brown crisping of the leaves (as of yet unidentified) and abrupt and inexplicable shriveling of the vines, despite much molly coddling and special watering.

The strongest, biggest Congo plant got closest -- and gave me this itty bitty guy:

blossom end rot, to boot
 And, as you can see --

-- he was not even close to ripe. Boo. And of course I'd promised to give a friend a watermelon this season, the only crop promise I made. Naturally.

But everything is an experiment, so I scooped out the seeds of the not-mature melon and fermented them for five or so days in an old pickle jar.

Bread and Butter all the way #FightMeDillLovers
Rinsed, laid them out to dry. Guess where?
Pickle jar lid, ftw. 

So the experiment is: How early can we harvest a watermelon and still get viable seed? (Important note: the mature seeds of Congo watermelon are white, not black or red.) Riveting experiment, I know. But waste not want not.

So after a week of drying, today I'm wrapping ten seeds in a wet paper towel and sealing them in a plastic bag. This may be too early, but that's an experiment in of itself: I've found that same-season germination is an art, not a science. It seems seeds need a certain amount of 'drying down' before they're willing to re-hydrate and sprout. Beans planted when the seeds were still green spent several weeks in the dirt before sprouting; melon seeds put in a bag with a wet papertowel germinated 0-20% after one week of drying, while those who had an additional week of drying had germination rates in the 60-100% range. Similar effect with early harvested corn and squash seeds.

Since I didn't know I'd be doing with experiment when I planted the congo, I didn't record the day the plant set this specific melon (as it wasn't one of the ones I hand pollinated). However the seed for the plant was pre-germinated on  a wet paper towel May 1st, and transplanted into the garden a few days later. The first male flower appeared on June 27th, and the fruit was harvested on August 4th. Which means, given bare minimums of a week later for first female flower and immediate first blossom fruit set, this melon was at most one month old. More likely, it was only two or three weeks along.

Do I expect viable seeds? Not really. But I've been surprised before, mostly with corn and direct seeding still green beans. So now, it's the 'hurry up and wait' game to find out.



Meet Olsen:

If you can guess why she's named Olsen, you get full 80's points.
Olsen is the Rogue I was originally going to do a Friday Rogue Round-up on. Except I realized my work/life schedule doesn't really allow for reliable weekly posts (as I've been learning trying to do Harvest Monday) so instead I just wrapped that post into this one and here we are.

A few weeks later and a week before I harvested her for seed.

Olsen is a fluke twin cucumber from a selfed Minute White pickling cucumber. That plant (called Mother White) was the only one to survive the heat we had back in June, and was also very productive considering it's less than ideal living conditions. Olsen is her last fruit, before she finally gave up and the vines died.

But there's more to this story -- I also harvested Mother White's first fruit. And actually... we should probably talk about him first.

I was about to say "Meet Dwight" but after twenty minutes of rummaging around in my photos, it seems like I never actually took a picture of him... bad Day.

Anyway, Dwight was an F1 Miniature White x Dar cucumber cross, the first fruit to set out of the trial planting of 3 Dar and 3 Miniature White seeds. Dwight was harvested about five weeks after setting. His seeds were wet processed, left to dry for a week or so, then 5 of those seeds direct sown on July 2nd.

All Dwight seeds were strong sprouts, but two of the five were particularly vigorous, shooting off at warp speed. Then aphids attacked, in numbers I haven't seen in ages. All plants were stopped in their tracks, completely infested. Despite the infestation, one of the two vigorous plants gave the aphids the finger and produced a fruit regardless of their sugary vampirism. That fruit set on August 14th.

The time from Dwight sowing to first set fruit was 6 weeks, 1 day. In contrast, the time from sowing Mother White (Dwight's mom) to first fruit set (Dwight) was a little over two months.

So here's Dwight's baby, the boy that lived the fruit that set. It is a Dwight x Dwight cross, as those were the only cucumbers flowering at the time. It may be selfed, or crossed with a sibling. I let the bees do their work naturally, since no other varieties were blooming.

Since nicknames help me keep track of breeding projects and their progeny, Dwight's baby has been named Divine, since, while technically bush, her mother was the most vigorous and vinelike of the siblings.

Divine: a few days old.

Divine, today

Miniature white pickling cucumber is a white fruited cucumber with black spines. Dar is a green skinned, star-burst butt cucumber with white spines. Green skin color is dominant to white skin color, and black spines are dominant to white spines. I'm still working on learning all the curcurbit genes, but the above holds true in most cases.

As you can see, Dwight expresses the dominant genes from both parents: Green skin and black spines. It has ripened to gold, as Mini White does, but there are seperate genes that govern ripe fruit color that I'm still learning about. So, it can be assumed that this offspring is heterozygous for skin color and spines. So Dwight is the F1 generation, and her fruit Divine is technically the expression of the F1 genes.

Divine's seeds, however, are F2. Much in the way that the baby inside the mother's stomach is a mix of the mother and father's DNA, but the mother's uterus and bulging belly are still entirely her. So planting Divine's seeds is when the real fun comes out. The heterozygous genes will segregate, and the fruits will range from greenskin/blackspines, greenskin/whitespines, whiteskin/blackspines, and whiteskin/whitespines.

Ok, now, back to Olsen:

Olsen, if you'll remember, is Dwight's stepsister(s?). They both have the same mother (Mother White) but while Dwight's father was a Dar cucumber, Olsen's father was also her mother. If that makes no sense to you, no worries. Cucumbers are monoecious, meaning each indivual plant produces some flowers that are males, and some flowers that are females. Bees can transfer pollen from one flower to another on the same plant, resulting in a fruit that technically has the same mother and father. In shorter language, this fruit is considered 'selfed.'

Olsen is selfed, as there was only one cucumber plant flowering (Mother White) at the time. All the rest had died, including Dwight's father. So the pollen could not have come from anywhere else, baring an extremely rare pollination from a neighbor's garden (rare because my closest neighbors are only engaged in growing lawns, weeds, and old car parts, respectively.)

Olsen was the last fruit to set on Mother White, while Dwight was the first. Whether this will ultimately result in 'earlier' or 'later' fruit set in their own offspring is the subject of another ongoing experiment.

Also, Olsen is visibly different: she's a 'twin' of sorts. I'm still researching the genetics behind this. Interestingly, Olsen wasn't the only twin Mother White produced. During her growing season, Olsen and Dwight's mother produced several little twin cucumbers, but none of them matured. Most were buried under the leaves and not visited by bees, and others were aborted as Mother White put her energy into ripening Dwight instead. So Olsen is not only special because she's a funny little twin, but her mother seemed predisposed to producing twins. Does this make her chance of producing twins higher? Another experiment.

The result may be that Olsen produces only twins, some twins, no twins, or doesn't even survive to maturity. Which, ultimately, is the Olsen experiment.

Olsen cross section - the figure 8 cucumber slices are kinda nifty

The hardest part of the Olsen harvest was deciding whether or not to save the seeds from each side of the cucumber separately. I chose not to, but I'm sort of regretting that. If Olsen's seeds end up producing any twins, I do intend to do that in the future though. Seeing as they both came from the same flower, they should in theory be identical twins. But with still more research to do on the subject of curcurbit genetics, I cannot yet say that are conclusively.  As a rule, I try to err on the side of saving more, as opposed to less. It's easy to throw seeds in the trash, but not at all easy to grow the genetics again.

So, to sum up:

MOTHER WHITE x DAR = DWIGHT (first fruit)
MOTHER WHITE x MOTHER WHITE = OLSEN (twin, last fruit)

DWIGHT x DWIGHT = DIVINE (first fruit, still growing)
OLSEN (just seeded) x ? = tbd

In all honesty, there's more to the project. I'm actually growing another variety, and hoping to do crosses with that as well, to improve heat tolerance and increase fruit size. But we'll save that for another post.



I've said it before and I'll say it again: this project has a special place in my heart. Since I don't like retyping stuff, my first post on this particular rogue is HERE. Clicking it should open in a new window, for those of you (like me) who hate navigating away from the page.

For those too lazy, here's a poor but swift summary: The Purple Peacock Pole bean was supposed to be a Magpie bush bean, but it started growing tendrils and put on purple flowers instead of white. The location where it was planted turned out to be full sun death by June, so I had to erect a strange palm umbrella (that looked like a peacock tail) to shade it from the worst of two, week-long 115° heat waves in June. It somehow managed to survive, put on some beans, and today, finally...

....I gets a dry one :3

yeah yeah yeah, it's one dinky bean. But there are about a dozen bean bulges in a handful of other still drying pods. I couldn't wait for the rest. I had to know, today. 

(To see what Magpie beans are supposed to look like, click the link above to my other post.) 

So here we have it, the first bean from the Magpie x Unknown F1 rouge, aka, Purple Peacock Pole bean. Please excuse the photo quality, my camera is my phone and it hates close focus.


Color: It was hard to get the purple/blue to show, as in regular lighting the seed looks almost completely black. But once I put it under a lamp, the color and pattern really emerged. Since the original beans came to me as accidental F1s, I have no idea what the father bean might be, as the cross would have occurred at the field of whoever Baker Creek hired for the grow-out.

Shape: Magpie beans are originally long and filet types, but this one definitely is not. It's flattened, not very plump, and the edges are smoothly rounded.

Size: I completely forgot to take a size comparison shot before leaving for work (where I'm typing this, shh) but if I had to give a qualitative size estimate, I'd say imagine a regular store bought kidney bean, then cut it in half. The photos make the bean appear larger than it is. I would say it is bigger than a typical magpie bean, yes, but not as long. It probably weighs slightly more, but not substantially so.

Once I've harvested a few more of the beans, I'll scavenge some garden space to plant the F2. We've currently been hit by another 100+° degree week, and temps haven't dropped below 105° during the day and high seventies at night for the past three days. Not fantastic bean weather. So while I'm dancing to get the F2 in the ground, I'm also keenly aware that I will only have about twelve beans to play with. So I'll probably wait until mid September before getting them in the ground. That should hopefully help avoid the next few weeks of scorcher temps, while still getting the F2 harvested before the temps swing too much the other direction.


That's all I have time for today, but if you've got any ideas on who may have fathered the Peacock bean, let me know! I'd be curious to hear everyone's thoughts. With our bean powers combined, perhaps we can riddle it out.

Happy Planting!