Saturday, June 7, 2008

Failed Attempts at Growing Corn & 1 Yellow Tomato

I’ve heard that corn always tastes best right after it is harvested. But I think it’s hard to grow because of how it pollinates. You need lots of sun and lots of corn plants. I’d love to think the square foot garden method works for every vegetable and fruit, but it probably doesn’t. For success at growing corn, I would need to fill each square with corn. Unfortunately, I don’t have that luxury. Cam and I had planned to build more SFG boxes, but with the arrival of Luca, we don’t currently have the time.

To compensate, I tried another experiment. (Yep, I love experimenting). This time, however, I think this will be a failed experiment. I had a few small stalks of corn, so I transplanted them into the same SFG box. Two stalks per divided square. My hope was that this was close enough for the pollination to work.

Below: The corn after it was first transplanted. See how healthy and happy it looks! So green!

Unfortunately, this experiment is doomed. A week later, the corn isn’t getting any taller and its leaves are beginning to yellow. It’s rather sad to see my corn slowly die… (See below)

This time, I won't pull it out like I did the cucumbers. I'm going to let it die on its own. And if it miraculously survives, I'll be ecstatic. But I'm not going to get my hopes up. I'll continue to water, but I'm going to think it's a lost cause.

Another rather depressing fact: I had planted seeds in empty squares in box # 2, and the corn seedlings are also yellowing. They aren't getting any bigger, and I have no idea what to do. I was planning to transplant them after Cam builds a new box, but I doubt that they will survive much longer.

Below: The baby corn seedlings

Well on the bright side, I planted two rows of corn at my parents’ house. Since my dad has a green thumb, I’m hoping that I can harvest fresh corn by the end of the summer. Let’s cross our fingers! He’s using a raised bed, but the beds are long enough for rows. I’ll keep you updated on that development as it comes! (I believe corn is traditionally grown in rows.)

I’ll end on a positive note. After impatiently waiting, one of my cherry tomatoes has started to turn yellow! I’m hoping that more tomatoes will follow its path and start turning. What joy it will be when I can pick cherry and grape tomatoes for my salads!

Above: The new yellow tomato! Sorry for the blurriness. It was a windy day!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Kitten Update & Zucchini and Cucumber Flowers

For regular readers of my blog, I wanted to give an update on the kitten that Cam saved last week. (Check out the initial post about her). You’ll be happy to know that I have adopted the kitten. Her full name is Foxy Luka Nguyen-Cornelius, but we call her Luka. She’s an American short hair and only about 2 months old, possibly younger than that. No one knows her history, but she is the sweetest little thing ever. The vet thinks that she was weaned from her mother too soon, so this has caused her to be extra clingy to Cam and me.

Currently, she’s living in the very spacious sun room and she just loves being around us. She is incredibly vocal, meowing constantly, and she’s very playful. She hates it when we leave the room, and she meows until we come back. It’s hard to resist her because she is so lovable and cute!

The vet said that she will become less clingy as she gets older, but I really don’t want her to grow up and be a regular old cat. To me, she’s almost a dog trapped in a cat’s body. She follows me everywhere, likes to sit in my lap and nap. Once she gets big enough to fit into a harness, I’m going to try to leash train her. We’ll see. For now, I’m really enjoying her kitty-hood.

Now onto gardening fun! I have to correct myself. I’ve been incorrectly telling you that I have squash plants. I actually have zucchini plants. And the one in SFG box # 1 has started to flower (below).

The flowers haven’t opened up yet, and I don’t know if they are male or female, but they look promising! Little zucchinis are about to be born! I love the yellow color in the flowers. That’s the beauty of vegetable gardening—you get the flavorful fruit as well as the pretty flowers.

Below: A close look at the big, pretty soon-to-be flower

It's hard to believe that that zucchini plant used to be a seed that we planted inside. When we first transplanted it, it flopped over and didn't stand up straight for weeks! And now look at it! Getting nice and big!

I pulled out the diseased zucchini from the soil because I didn't have the patience to wait and see what it would do. But the ones that were left are doing better now. They are slowly getting larger, and their stems are intact.

Below: The other zucchini plants

The cucumbers that I planted last week are still blooming. This time, they have new flowers! I’m not sure about the sex of the flower, but there are two sets. One yellow, and one white. Either way, I have both sexes. It looks like fuzzy cucumbers are growing behind a few of the flowers. I don't particularly care for the look of these flowers, but at least they produce vegetables.

Below: The cucumber flowers

One of my favorite summer sandwiches is a cucumber and tomato sandwich with mayo and dill. Maybe in July, I can harvest the ripe vegetables for my sandwich. That'll be so exciting!

P.S. For Tina: I'll end up posting more about what square foot gardening is, but I'm going to wait until Cam and I decide to build more boxes to describe our process. We don't follow everything the founder of SFG, Mel Bartholomew, recommends. We probably should, but we don't. I love experiments, as you've probably noticed. :-)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Strawberries, Oregano, and Fruit Trees

My two strawberry plants are doing well. Unfortunately, there are no new strawberries yet. I ate the first and only two strawberries from one of the plants. But as of today, no new growth. They are the ever-bearing variety, so I'm hoping they will fruit later this summer.

Below: The potted strawberry plant.

The potted plant is pretty healthy, and it continues to grow new leaves every day. You can see its new growth at the bottom of its stem. Very green and incredibly promising.

Below: The strawberry plant in the SFG box # 2.

The planted strawberry plant has nice foliage, and the leaves are very green. Even if it doesn't fruit again, it is pretty to look at. I love the leaves--similar to three-leaf clovers.

I'm in need of education from you expert gardeners. I'm not sure how strawberries even form. Do they come from flowers? Or does the fruit just grow off one of the leaves? I'm so clueless. I need to do some research on this.

Above: Oregano from the front vegetable bed. (2 angles of the same plant).

I planted two oregano plants. One is in the front (the photo above), and the other is planted in one of the SFG boxes. The front oregano is flourishing and one sprig is growing very tall. I think I may need to harvest some soon and try my hand at drying. I’d love to make home-made dried oregano for my Italian dishes. Italian food is my absolute fav. (Kinda strange, huh? Since I'm Vietnamese).

I've heard that oregano spreads very quickly, but Cam and I wanted to grow an herb that would come back yearly. At least with oregano, it'll come back for several years and we don't need to replant any.

Below: The nectarine (right) and cherry (left) trees

I absolutely love fruit. I don’t like candies or chocolates that much, but I’ve always had a sweet tooth for fruit. My parents grow delicious apples and pears in their garden, so Cam and I decided to plant a few fruit trees at his home.

In the late April, we planted three trees: (1) cherry (2) nectarine (3) red delicious apple.

Below: The red delicious apple tree
The apple tree (above) had bloomed in early May, and I was expecting to have a small harvest of apples this year. But alas, it was not meant to be. After the flowers "died," we had one small baby apple, and I was so excited. But a bird flew down and carried it away. So sadly, no apples this year. Hopefully, next year.

The cherry tree is still very young, and we didn't have any hope for cherries this year. So hopefully in the next few years, instead of buying cherries from the grocery, I can just go to Cam's house and pick some the tree.

The only tree that we've had any success with is the nectarine tree. I really enjoy eating nectarines, so we bought a tree that already had fruit. We figured we couldn't go wrong!

Below: The nectarine tree

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Adventures in Tomato Gardening: New Roots, Growing Fruit, and Over Pruning

I performed a little experiment a few weeks ago. I read in Mel’s SFG book that you can place a sucker in water, and it will sprout new roots after a week or so. I decided to try this method.

I had finished pruning my tomato plants, and I didn’t have the heart to throw away the suckers/offshoots (I don’t know the correct term). So I filled a plastic, tall cup that I bought at the Renaissance Festival and I filled it with water. I placed the suckers in the water.

Below: The Offshoots/suckers in water

Because I don’t quite know what I’m doing, most of the little suckers died. I did have one that survived through the week. And one day, I was amazed to find all the roots that grew out of it.

Take a look!

I ended up deciding to plant it. The roots seemed to be a good size, so I planted it near one of my mint plants. Here’s what it looked like after it was transplanted.

Surprisingly, it does actually look pretty healthy. My only dilemma now is that I have no idea what kind of tomato plant it is. Because of the different varieties of tomatoes in my garden, I didn’t label any of the branches that I cut off. So this plant could end up being a cherry tomato… or a larger variety. I guess I won’t know until it produces fruit. I’ll be exciting to see if it does end up producing!

Below: The transplanted branch is doing very well two days after being transplanted.

My other tomato plants seem to be producing fruit and flowering very nicely. I think the summer heat is making them grow like crazy. It won’t be long now until a few cherry and grape tomatoes start turn red! I can’t wait. I think the larger varieties will take longer. Maybe late June or early July. (I am just guessing here).

Photos 1 & 2: Grape tomatoes (same plant)

Below: Cherry Tomatoes (2 different plants)

Below: I think this is the Bonnie Original tomato. It will produce regular sized tomato fruit.

When Cam and I visited the nursery last Sunday, we bought three additional tomato plants. We bought two large varieties for us to plant in our square foot garden and we bought a patio tomato plant for my American grandmother. Originally, we had decided against buying any more tomato plants because we have so many. But we saw these very healthy tomato plants at the nursery with nice-sized fruit already growing on them… We couldn’t help ourselves.

Below: One of our new tomato plants: the whopper. I accidentally over did the pruning. . . A bad habit of mine.

Below: another new tomato plant.

Cam and I really need to buy tomato trellises for these plants. I temporarily used the stick to keep the plants standing up straight, but next weekend, Cam and I are off to buy supports for them.

For my American grandmother, who is turning 94 this month, Cam and I purchased a patio tomato plant. You can’t see it in the photo, but the plant is actually a two-in-one. There are two plants growing in the same pot. I guess the nursery staff didn’t spot that or they would have separated the plants.

Below: The Patio Tomato Plant

I potted the tomato plant and pruned back some of the leaves. This plant also already had little tomatoes growing on it. The information card said that it was perfect for people who had limited space. It’s perfect for my grandmother.

Unfortunately, I believe there are a few red aphids on the plant. I’m going to need to buy some spray to keep them away from the plant. So far, she’s really enjoying her tomatoes. She used to garden all the time when she was younger, but due to physical limitations, she can’t anymore. So this is my way to let her continue her garden.

My final thought of today: over pruning tomatoes. I am absolutely horrible at pruning the tomato plant. I over do it… all the time. It’s a horrible habit, but I absolutely don’t know how to do it correctly. I seem to want to cut off all the branches that are not producing flowers. This is probably the wrong way to do it, but it’s the only way I know how. So far, my plants are continuing to produce tomatoes.

My problem is that I don’t know what is considered a sucker and what is not. I’m trying to follow the single-stem method, but what do I prune or not prune? That is my dilemma.

Below: “Before” Pruning

Below: the “After” Pictures

I give you my permission to laugh at me. Maybe next time, I won’t go so crazy with the pruning. I might even leave a few branches. I think Cam is going to have to do the pruning because I am HORRIBLE at it.

But the good news is I’ve been doing this the entire season, and my tomatoes are continuing to fruit. So my awful attempt at pruning isn’t killing the plants. And when I prune, I can never throw away what I cut off. I end up trying to grow new roots for my plants.

I know I am being so silly, but it’s something fun to do. Most of these branches will die within the next week, but wouldn’t it be cool if they actually did root?