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!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Harvest Monday: 8/14/2017

Harvest Monday! The day when all you amazing gardeners post all your gorgeous harvests in all your gorgeous baskets and then cook gorgeous meals with them.

Also the day when I plop a bunch of over-ripe / under-ripe / butt-rotted / bug-bitten veggie rejects onto a dirty old board and then make hand-guns at the camera.  


The Spread: 

left to right, top to bottom: Golden Jenny Melons, Corbaci Peppers, PASS Peppers, Rainbow Swiss Chard, Ajvarksi Peppers, Georgescu Chocolate Peppers, Giant Scissors.

I tried to include me and the hand guns in the pic, but it was kinda hard since I was also the one holding the camera. Merp.

The Breakdown

We're jerks.
These two Golden Jenny melons are a late crop from the pre-heatwave melons. Or an early crop from the post-heatwave melons? Either way, they're little bastards because they started to ripen in the beginning of July and then just... stopped. Ever since then they've just been hanging out together, half ripe, getting sunburns and just, ya know, bonding. In melon years, these guys are ancient.

Their seeds were supposed to be contributing their DNA in the new mixed breed melon bed on the other side of the yard. But noooo... they refuse to ripen. And they've been taking up half a bed of real dirt prime real estate while I've been waiting.

So today I was just like, fuck it, and picked them. Cleared the bed. Feel so much better. Tasted ok, but definitely not that delectable, oh so sweet, perfectly ripe taste of glory that home grown melons can be.

I'll just dramatically over seed to compensate for the likely low fertility from the early harvest. Gardener's version of throwing money at the problem, right?

These guys, seriously. They mean business. Look at this plant:

He's not messing around.
Truth be told, I have no idea what to do with these Corbaci peppers in the kitchen,  and I find the taste decent, but ultimately shruggy. Damn though... not a single case of blossom end rot (even when all the other varieties were plagued with it) and just pumping out these peppers like there's no tomorrow.

I might have a crush. Just a little one.

One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn't...

...fuck off.
I'm not the only one excited to have ripe PASS peppers apparently. My first taste last week was thumbs up, and I've been waiting for these three to ripen up with excitement.

BUT SEE -- the PASS pepper does this annoying thing where it sticks the pepper butts straight up into the air. And since they're so plump and curvy, it makes it really hard to see what's going on on the other side.

I swear we're still talking about peppers.

Point being -- I've yet again picked these suckers before they were completely, perfectly ripe. I've also had more difficulty grub huntin' on these plants, as you can see by mr. caterpillar and all the webbing crap.


And here, just pretend I said something witty and insightful.

  (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

Ajvarski! I just... can't I... seriously all I want is... ONE. 
One ripe, un-poopy pants Ajvarksi pepper. 

But to avoid going on a a repeat rant like last Harvest Monday, I'll just leave this here and walk away, shaking my fist dramatically as I go.

I got my eye on you, lefty.
Despite the worrisome diaper-pepper on the left, Georgescu Chocolate peppers are just starting to come into their own and have been relatively unplagued by pests and blossom end rot. This is the first example I've seen on Georgescu. And, alas, the one on the right got a bit too sunny on the bottom. 

As for taste, these peppers have a very distinct flavor profile that only really emerges when very ripe. It's hard to describe, not unlike trying to describe the difference between, say, a black tomato and a red one. It's mostly sweet pepper taste, with a little hint of... something else.

I'm going to sample a few more before I pass a final flavor judgement, but so far... I quite like them.

Sorry for the quick report, my life is like a Rihanna song right now: work, work, work, work, work, and the rest I don't really understand.

So while I'm not harvesting much, I'm doing a lot of breeding projects, new plantings, and general garden overhaul this week, so check back for more posts on that if you're interested. 

However, if you're still craving more harvest goodness (and who could blame you), head on over to Our Happy Acres and check out what everyone else harvested this week. Happy Monday!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Friday Rogue Round-up: Wonky Corn

It was originally called "Friday Rogue Roll Call," but then I said it aloud and it sounded like I'd choked on a golf ball. So we'll stick to Round-up, despite the word's somewhat chemical and weedy connotations.

So welcome! This is the first Friday Rogue Round-up: my new tradition where I highlight one (or a few) of the weirdos that've popped up in my garden recently. It's also where I try not to type rouge every time by mistake.

This week, I'd like to introduce you to a very interesting chorus line. Or should I say... corn-us line
(no, no I shouldn't.)

IN THE BEGINNING -- there was mom.

Hi mom.

Mom was a very, um... interesting ear of corn. So unusual, in fact, she earned herself the name "Jaberwocky." She came from the first batch of Painted Mountain I planted April 24th. This ear was harvested around July 17th. She was a tiller ear, not a main ear, and silked after most plants had already tasseled (hence the very poor pollination).

Painted Mountain corn is a notoriously early corn; for me it silks approximately 40 days after sowing.
When I harvested this ear, the stalks had not yet dried down. I had only sown a small bed, and any weak/slow to mature plants were culled. I ended up with fourteen ears.
SIDE NOTE: Corn seed has very early viability as long as care is taken to dry the kernels well after harvest. No attempt to remove kernels from the cob should be made until fully dry though, to avoid damaging them. Viable corn seed can be obtained from ears as little as 20 days after silking. Commercial sweet corn seed is harvested around this time.  

While seed savers are usually encouraged to fully dry down the corn until the husks are brown to obtain the best most viable seed, I decided to test this -- I've now planted 50 seeds of my second generation. Some ears were relatively dry when harvested, others were still in the milk stage and the kernels easily punctured.

I dried the ears in mesh bags in front of a fan for about a week. Then I shelled several  of the driest kernels (mostly from the tip or end) from each ear and planted them. Many of the kernels were tiny, misshapen or shriveled. However, I've thus far sown 50 of these seeds and achieved a 96% germination rate (48/50 sprouts). There was, however, a wide sprouting period - the earliest seeds came up in four days, while others took around two weeks. END SIDE NOTE   

For the 2nd generation (not to be confused with the F1, as this was a Painted X Painted cross, not a hybrid breeding) I used 30 gallon tubs and planted 4 kernels from each mother ear, each in their own row, with several rows per tub. They will undeniably be overcrowded, but the goal here is to get an idea of the  characteristics of each mother ear's offspring, not necessarily to produce the most ample harvest.

Which, after all my above yammering, brings us to --

(I can't stop)

Jabberwocky Baby 1:
"Hi, I'm Baby 1. We're actually all the same age, but since I'm the biggest that makes me number 1."

Jabberwocky Baby 2:

"I'm Baby 2, and Baby 1 is full of shit. She's only Baby 1 because godzilla planted us left to right, so since she's leftmost that makes her 1-most. And I just... wait, where's my middle poker..."

Jabberwocky Baby 3:
"I'm Baby 3 and I thoroughly resent this numerical system. Also, I was buried too deep. And my dirt feels, I dunno... crusty.
AND this a terrible photograph. Look at that angle. What am I, a lawn clipping?"

Jabberwocky Baby 4:
Clearly, genetics are having some fun here.

After conferring with Greyweiner the cat and the Mantis army, we've named her Cthulhu. And while her sisters, thus far, seem to be obeying the laws of physics and normality, I'm suspecting that all four not only share the same mother (Jabberwocky) but also have the same father (whoever). 

Since it was a late setting tiller ear, and the pollination was so poor, I'll venture a guess that only one plant was still capable of puffing out a last little bit of man dust. And while the pericarp (outer layer) of the kernel is always maternal, there is a striking degree of similarity between the planted kernels, as well as the few still remaining on the ear.

But Jaberwocky wasn't the only strange ear in the first gathering of fourteen. That said, she was definitely the wonkiest, and is the only one so far to spawn a child of equal or greater wonkery. 

So, what does the future hold for Cthulhu?
Will she make it to adulthood unscathed? 
Will she produce little wonksters of her own?
*dramatic TV music*

That's it for this week's Rogue Round-up! I hope you've enjoyed meeting one of our newest unstable celebrities. And if you've encountered (or posted about) any of your own rogues recently, do share!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Harvest Monday - August 7th, 2017

It's Monday! That means I've scavenged, scrounged, and scraped through my veg-lab to find something edible to share with you all this week for Harvest Monday, hosted by Dave over at Our Happy Acres.

And since learning that our Harvests don't technically have to be from just Monday, the main spread below was actually picked yesterday. Because I sit on a throne of lies.

Tally ho!

left to right, top to bottom: Corbaci Peppers, Mitoyo Eggplant, Mary Robinson's German Bi-color Tomato, Black Vernissage Tomatoes, Blush Tomatoes, Ajvarski Peppers, PASS Pepper, Georgescu Pappers.
Like my table? You might have seen it last week. It's actually my newest work of art, entitled: board held up by two blue buckets, 2017. It's high concept. You wouldn't understand.

In other news, this week's harvest is sponsored by: Spider Mites! Spider mites everywhere. But that's a story for another post. For now, here's the breakdown:

Like shootin eels in a barrel.
I have such mixed feelings about these Corbaci peppers. I'll save my full list of feels for the end of season review, but basically while I'm not the biggest fan of them, it sure is nice to have one variety that's actually producing ripe and plentiful peppers without kicking and screaming. (*coughAjvarksi).  Despite some claims that they're really seedy, there haven't been many seeds at all inside most of mine. They're just a little difficult to get out because these peppers be all long and noodley. I've found that if you slice them in half all the way down, the seeds and flappy peel out with very little fuss.

...and then there were none.
Oh Mitoyo. Sad to see you go. Sorta.

I'm pulling the plants. Before this season, I'd only ever eaten eggplant at restaurants where they had chefs who knew what they were doing. So it's been a fun experience to grow and cook my own this year! But, alas, I'm just not that passionate about them: neither for veggie-hack nor culinary purposes. So tomorrow these spiney sponges will be cleared out, both to help get the spider mite population back under control, and to free up prime garden real estate.

While the child in me keeps screaming 'gotta catch 'em all!' in regards to growing as many varieties as possible, I've got to be more diligent about culling less inspiring plants and only keeping those that really excite me. We have enough tolerated baggage in our daily lives, nay? I must be careful not allow my garden to become a dusty museum of spring sown misadventures.

P.S. Any clever advice on how to cook those two extra pokey, rock hard, green ping-pong balls would much appreciated. 

...basically, unripe tomatoes.
Oh gawd, don't look. Just, look somewhere else. You don't see these. These rocks. These green, Frankenstein stitched loser stones. Ugh.

I got exactly one partially ripe fruit off Mary Robinson's German Bi-color Tomato plant this year. That's a mouthful. Both literally and linguistically. This is another variety that I have a lot to say about, and will be saving most of for the main review later this year. At the moment, Mary is engaged in all out war with the spider mites and is losing, badly. Lost, really. I'll be cutting her web covered mass down to about 8 inches, washing what's left with soapy water, and seeing if she's got a second wind left. She was never particularly vigorous. Still, the one not-even-completely-ripe fruit I did get was pretty good... so I'll give her a second shot.

we're not ripe either
Ah yes, the Black Vernissage Tomato. This was a free gift from Baker Creek because I ordered a metric stupid ton of seeds and they must have thought I'd be crazy enough to plant more.

They were right.

About these tomatoes... these are... well... they're kinda... they're really bad tasting, actually. Quite mealy. Vague flavor. 

HOWEVER, this plant can take a beating. I started one dinky seed out of a weird obligation complex. Germinated super quick. Almost mad, I left it in four inch pot forever because now I didn't know where to put it. Didn't care, kept growing. Finally, I gave up caring and planted it in a 5 gallon bucket. Happy as a clam, branches everywhere. Even in un-ammended native dirt  (which is to say, sand) it hasn't so much as whimpered all season

It even held out the longest against the spider mites. This is one of only two tomato plants that won't be required to undergo the dramatic haircut treatment. So despite the fruit being super blah, I'm pretty excited to do a few crosses with "Vern" and one of his tastier neighbors.

And in case you were wondering, the tomatoes never actually turn black. They just get a little darker red, with burnt orange/dark green streaking.

Blush, with a Corbaci photobomb
Blush! Everyone loves Blush tomatoes. And they are pretty good. I've talked too much about Vern, so we'll keep it short and sweet for blush. Get it, short and sweet... like the fruit? Ha! Well, actually they're sorta long... but not the point. Point!

I disgust myself.

Though tasty, Blush will also be getting a sever haircut to deal with the mite issue, since mites also seem to find her delicious. Which is why the above are not the prettiest specimens.

With friends like these, who needs enemies. Dammit Corbaci, keep your noodle to yourself.

 I'm watching you Ajvarski... always watching. 

They really do look like something out of Monsters, Inc. I just need some googly eyes to stick on them. I was really excited to try a ripe Ajvarksi pepper at the start of the season. And now... well, I'm still really excited about it SEEING AS I STILL HAVEN'T GOTTEN ONE. Tantrum.

As I've mentioned previously, my garden had some serious issues early in the season with blossom end rot. Even in things I didn't know could get blossom end rot, like watermelon. But while everyone else seems to have grown up and gotten over it, Ajvarksi is still sniveling in a corner and wetting his pants. Between that and the sunburning, the left pepper is the closest I've gotten to ripe.

And I hate green peppers.

In other news...

it's ripe!
Well, mostly at least. The PASS pepper (hover for birth certificate) really likes to stick its fruit ass up into the air. And so it wasn't until I cut this bad boy off that I saw his green shoulders and realized he probably could have used a few more days with mom. Oh well. Though a hint of dreaded green-taste still remained, it was still pretty tasty! Thick walled, few seeds - a bit funky to cut, and kinda small, but ultimately a tasty raw bite-and-a-half while I chopped up his neighbors for the pan.

 nnnce nnnce nnnce

I dunno what techno-color rave these two went to last night, but they were certainly out past their bed time. Similar to Ajvarksi, I've been waiting for a taste of a ripe Georgescu pepper for far too long now. Last week I got a wee nibble on one the size of a bouncy ball. I've been watching these two sizeable gents for a while now, waiting for them to ripen.

They were fine yesterday... So I dunno what shenanigans they get up to last night, or in the hot afternoon before, but it must have a been a doozy. I'm kinda jealous, actually.

Though I was moving some metal objects around near the pepper bed. Perhaps I left one sitting at the perfect angle to the sun. Pre-cooked peppers, anyone?


That's it for this week! If you haven't already, head over to Dave's and see what everyone else harvested this week. I mean, you don't want to hang out here all day, do you?

Happy Planting!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Rogue! In the Garden!

...thought you out to know.

Magical movie quotes aside, this has definitely been a good year for rogues. While many will end up with their own space on the "Current Projects" page, until now they've existed only in my garden and as pictures on my phone.

So today I'll highlight one of them, which has become something of a personal favorite:

(aka: Purple Peacock Pole Bean Rogue)

This dude appeared in my first trial sowing of eight Magpie beans in late April. The trial wasn't to test out the variety, but rather to see if this particular location in the garden would be suitable for summer bean growing.
It wasn't.
Palm-in-Bucket contraption attempting to keep the Rogue from cooking
Once our first 110°+ heat wave hit, the beans were toast. The trial bed turned into an oven. None of the varieties (Meraviglia Di Venezia, Calima, Red Swan, Magpie, and Purple Teepee) were happy, with most dropping blossoms and ceasing their growth. About half of the plants died outright.

The eight Magpie (small bush bean with white flowers) exhibited a wide degree of diversity, more so than any of the other varieties. Some plants were very tall bush, some short bush, some covered in jungle-thick foliage (and producing no beans) while others put out scarcely a leaf.  However, the few dry beans I was able to collect looked true to type.  So despite their differences, seven of those eights plants I would qualify as Magpie.

This guy, however:

Not exactly bush.
Almost immediately after putting on his first set of leaves, he sent out a long tendril and started grappling for a hold on anything nearby. When all his bush buddies started setting blossoms, he showed no interest, instead sending out more vines and attempting to conquer as much of the Monopoly board as possible.

I figured he was just a "pole rogue" of the common Magpie. Cool, sure. But I often find bush and pole rogues on varieties claimed to be stable. However, the day before our second 110°+ heatwave hit, he put out his first flower:

Though the blossom quickly crisped and dropped, the color was worth it.

Now I was paying attention. I quickly pulled the rest of his half-dead trial buddies and erected the stupid looking palm awning to try to keep him alive. I also removed all the bricks from the bed wall to help keep the ambient temperature as low as possible during the hottest hours.

Then I bit my nails, and waited.

For the rest of June and most of July, he pumped out blossoms - and they all fried. Or they were aborted just as the tip of the baby bean emerged. The ground was a graveyard of crispy purple petals. But he kept on keeping on - putting out more vines, more leaves. More suicidal blossoms.

And finally, when we had a week of temperatures never cresting 100°, he did the thing.

Though we're still a long way from viable seed, and even that isn't guaranteed, I'm letting cautious optimism reign. Magpie was actually one of varieties that inspired me to begin this garden in the first place. I'd always found beans fascinating, and something about the look of those dried, B&W filet beans really appealed to me.

Apart from any practical purpose, I liked their aesthetic. Which is to say... i thought they were purdy. Which is also to say (since it's me we're talking about) I immediately began to wonder what I could cross them with.

It seems happy coincidence did the work for me. Because although I keep referring to Mr. Peacock as a "Rogue," odds are he's probably accidental F1 cross.

After Mr. Peacock's discovery, I poured out my remaining Magpie beans and examined them. The differences between beans were astounding. In my haste to get the first trial bed planted, I hadn't even noticed. Alas, I did not take a picture.

Some beans were exactly on point, just like the photo above. Others were filet shaped, but all black. Others were correctly marked, but shaped almost like cutshort beans. Others were plumper and had a slightly purple gleam. Still others were tiny, jet black Tic-Tacs.
Curiosity not satiated, I picked thirteen of the most differing ones and planted them in a new (slightly shadier) trial bed. Germination was good, but several were devoured by mysterious somethings. I re-seeded the gaps with more off type seeds.

So far, everyone looks pretty normal. 

Except this guy.

Off-color stem.
Meet Peacock Jr.

The picture is terrible, I know, but our morning sun is truly a force to be reckoned with when it comes to photoshoots. What's important to note is the stem. Difficult to see, since it's about the same color as the soil. But to give you some comparison, here's Peacock Jr's neighbor.

Green stem
And here's a photo taken a few days ago, with the two side-by-side:

Curious even before they sprouted, I did a little light digging. Even as infants, I noticed that Peacock Jr.'s coloration was different than the others. 

Purple flushed stem and cotyledons.

Typical green stem and cotyledons.
Though Peacock Jr. hasn't shown a tendency to vine like Mr. Peacock, I'll definitely be watching him closely in the days and weeks to come. A single mutant in a batch would not be unlikely, but two in twenty-one sharing similar characteristics makes me think that there was likely some crossing between Magpie and the neighboring variety. Score.


That's it for today, though I'll be sure to post more Rogue Spotlights soon. Happy Friday!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

a funny thing happened on the way to... OMG IT'S RAINING

You know that feeling when you're standing in a hot shower, washing away the remains of a dirty gardening day? Those times when you crank up the water temp somewhere between hot tub and sterilize, allow the steam to build, and then wallow in that hot, blissfully humid hug.

Yesterday was a lot like that.


A very irresponsibly taken photo while driving to a friend's birthday dinner. It was a strange sensation to have both the air conditioning and the windshield wipers going full blast.

Exactly 100° outside... and pouring.

And OF COURSE... I'd just finished watering the garden.  I didn't even check the weather yesterday. I hardly check the weather in summer, period. It always says the same thing: hot. Hot and dry. Our average monthly temperature in July is 95°. Average rainfall? 0.01 inches. That's basically a single cloud sneezing over a few houses. 

But since yesterday was technically August 1st, I guess all bets were off.

So instead of a sneeze, we got a violent thirty minute pissing downpour accompanied by moderate wind gusts. The wind was nothing compared to what we endured back in April, but it was still enough to snap one of my precious wibbly K'uyu stalks. Consequently, anyone over six feet tall was forced into mason line lockdown.

Which made gathering pollen from the tassels this morning like a scene from a bank heist movie, with me ducking and dodging, trying not to trip any of those laser beam alarms.

The tallest White Nighting points accusatorially at me for not trenching them deeper .

Now for those of you living in monsoonal or southern US climes, such a summer storm is probably no big deal. But here, rain anytime between April and October is a hella big deal. Firstly, because we usually need it -- it greatly reduces our chance of catching on fire that week. Secondly, because our ground has no idea what to do with all that liquid, especially when it comes down fast. Flash flood warnings went into effect immediately basically everywhere.

Sure enough, within five minutes of the downpour starting all curb-sides were gushing with water. Potholes became surprise gysters even at slow speeds. Freeways and surface streets transformed into unsanitary slip 'n slides as months of baked on oil, dirt, motor grease and god knows what else lubricated the asphalt.

Lovely run-off from the brief storm, taken about half an hour after it passed.
And that, combined with the triple digit temperatures, made the entire valley smell very strongly of urine and hot rubber.

Which was just lovely.

IN OTHER NEWS -- The first White Nighting silks emerged:

Silks from the first of five ears forming on this single plant.
Although I don't plan to use any White Nighting mothers in the Misty Mountain project, I decided to go ahead and shmear some K'uyu Chuspi pollen on this wild haired thing anyway, and then left it uncovered. The kernels will be a mix of K'uyu crosses and selfings, since only this one Nighting and several early K'uyu are tasseling right now. If nothing else, it will be interesting to see the visible differences between pure Nighting and Nighting X K'uyu kernels later this season. 

And while there's a lot of garden stuff I still want to update you on, there's also a ton of work I still need to get done today. So until tomorrow, here's a picture of Peter pepper mantis on the Paradicsom Alaku Sarga Szentes Pepper. Ten times fast.