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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fritillary Caterpillar and Butterfly

One of the fun side events caused by the gardening habit is the witnessing of nature's amazing works. Lately I've been seeing quite a bit of the fritillary butterfly in its various stages of growth.  It's probably the gulf fritillary butterfly but there are several different kinds in our area and even though I'm a plant person I'm not necessarily an insect person!  I found the orange with black spiked caterpillars on a passion flower vine in the back near our shed. The passion flower vine is one of several possible host plants for the fritillary butterflies.

I saw this next caterpillar hanging out on a wild white eupatorium that decided to plant itself in my self-sowing garden. It's a pretty wildflower but needs removed before it goes to seed or else it will be everywhere! (which it already is).

Then I found this cool display near my corner shade garden. This fritillary butterfly was just beginning to spread its wings.

It won't be long before this butterfly is flitting among the cosmos!

Dry, Dry, Dry

The dry season is well upon us. Here in Tennessee we haven't seen a drop of rain in two weeks and even that was only .12 inches (at least in our garden). I'm not sure how long the plants can hang on without a good dose of liquid from the sky. And despite my repeated waterings the plants are suffering. My poor 'Shasta' Viburnum has foliage that looks much more like a contorted filbert.

In times like these it's good to have a foundation of plants set that are drought tolerant. Fortunately I have a few! Here's a short list of the plants in my garden that so far have not been stressed by a month of Tennessee drought conditions. Their performance may vary depending on the quality of the soil.

My Drought Tolerant Shrubs and Trees

Caryopteris 'Longwood Blue'

There are many kinds of drought tolerant trees and shrubs available and in many cases going native is the best option.  Although you can see from my list above several plants that are doing well are not even from our area at all but are fairly adaptable to the Tennessee garden climate.

How has drought or water effected your garden this year?


Monday, August 29, 2011

John and Bob's Organic Soil Amendments

Late this winter (or early this spring) I was contacted to try out some of John and Bob's Organic Soil Amendments.  They have a variety of different formulations that contain humus, beneficial minerals, and microbes that help the soil do what it does best - feed the plants!  They sent me several things to test and I fully intended to run a comparison evaluation of John and Bob's products by utilizing my vegetable garden beds as testing beds. I was going to have a bed with the amendments and one without then compare the same variety of tomatoes.  Unfortunately life hasn't been too kind to us this year and many of my best intentions have fallen woefully short of my expectations. But I did end up spreading the amendments on most of my garden beds and can pass on a few observations.

My first observation was that blossom end rot on my tomatoes was almost nonexistent. Blossom end rot happens because of  nutrient deficiency (calcium).  Either the soil doesn't have enough calcium for the plant, drought conditions don't allow for the uptake of nutrients, or excessive nitrogen in the soil causes the poor cell formation in the fruit. In any case there is an imbalance in the soil and I only saw a couple tomatoes at the beginning of the season that had blossom end rot.

Secondly the garden grew like mad!  The tomatoes grew fast and furious as did the melons.  In almost all cases the vegetables grew faster than I had time to control. Obviously there are many factors that promote rapid growth but a majority of them have to do with the health of the soil.

Disease issues were minimal. Most of the typical diseases I see from year to year like the various blights, verticulum wilts, and such were minimal.  My cucumbers looked great until I accidentally removed their shallow roots from the soil with no signs of wilt.  The tomatoes did see some signs of blight but have continued to produce edible and delicious tomatoes. The melon vines grew like kudzu!  OK maybe not quite that extreme but they grew fast and strong until the vine borer decided to rear its ugly head.  Next year I'll be wrapping the base of my cucurbits with foil to prevent the borer from laying its eggs in my squash and melons.

While I can't officially verify the effectiveness of John and Bob's Organic Soil Amendments I do believe they helped. What I think is great about these products is that they feed the soil.  They aren't a fertilizer that gives the plants a quick burst of growth then quickly subsides but rather they add long lasting nutrients and organisms to the soil to improve its quality. They are extremely easy to apply too, just sprinkle the amount on top of the soil and water them in.  It really doesn't get much simpler than that!

This fall I'll apply some to the lawn in the front yard to try to improve the soil quality there.  It needs a lot of help!

An Undersung Herb - Sage (Salvia officinalis)

I think I've failed to fully express my appreciation for my culinary sage. So let's fix that!  Sage (or Salvia officinalis) is one of those herbs that I use in all kinds of culinary concoctions from soup to seasonings.  Almost any kind of meat tastes better with fresh sage. Chicken, meatloaf, turkey, just about everything...it's almost like the bacon of the herb world...anything goes better with bacon right?

Sage is easy to grow.  The plant I harvest from (and you probably only need one unless you are cooking in a commercial kitchen operation) I planted over three years ago from seed. This sage is now about 3 ft. by 3 ft. even after getting cut back each year.  The soil where my sage is planted is fairly well drained and sits slightly above grade in a raised bed created by concrete retaining wall blocks. The foliage has a silver/grey color which is pretty nifty next to my Japanese maple. My sage is in need of a late August trim which would be a great opportunity to dry some sage for winter use.

What is your favorite use for sage?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

From the Vegetable Garden

The heat and lack of rain are taking their toll on the vegetable garden here in late August but there is always something to talk about!  The tomatoes are still producing but really could use some good irrigation from the sky.  The garden is ready for some cleaning up and soon I will need to start the fall garden. I'll talk more in depth on the fall garden soon but this year I'll be starting my seeds indoors then transplant them into the garden.  That should help be get around any heat germination issues.

The basil is ready for cutting back to trigger some new growth. I took the trimmings/cuttings and dropped them in a jar of water to root them. This way I can have some potted plants growing with my Italian basil for winter use.  Basil roots easy and fast!

The 'Tigger' Melons are covered now in powdery mildew.  They lasted quite a while before getting any type of ailment. I could control this with a baking soda solution but at this point in the season I'm also weighing the time and effort to yield factor - I think I'll just take a cue from Paul McCartney and "Let It Be".  For those who are getting 'Tigger Melon' seeds from me they should be sent out this week, sorry for the delay!

My tomatillos are starting to produce! Now I have to figure out what to do with them.  Salsa verde anyone? They were included in the seed pack from the Greenland gardener product I reviewed earlier in the year.  The Greenland gardener raised beds are a neat idea for a beginning gardener or someone who doesn't have much time to construct a raised bed. The seeds all germinated but I never managed to get my irrigation setup in this bed and they were forced to rely solely on Mother Nature for moisture.  The tomatillos have done great without any supplemental watering and the cucumbers produced quite a few cucumbers before succumbing to wilt.

Here are some of our pole beans just hanging out. I need to get out there soon a do some picking!  Today we have other plans - it's one special little girl's 6 year old birthday.  I think the garden can wait a day or two!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Blessed By Beans

Beans are simply the best vegetable in the garden. I know, all you people out there who hate eating your greens disagree, but really when you compare factors like the ease of growing, pests, and diseases beans really win out.  In many cases beans will just continue to grow when other plants halt in the tracks due to dry weather conditions like we're experiencing now. While the tomato production is shutting down (hopefully that is just temporary) the beans are putting on flowers and pods in complete defiance of the weather.

I've planted a few types of beans in the garden this year. I always plant bush beans because of their space saving size.  I pretty much can plant them anywhere in the vegetable garden where there is 6 inches of space or more. This year I added some heirloom beans like Cherokee Trail of Tears and a Purple Podded Pole Bean.  The Trail of Tears has done well and is climbing on a tripod trellis in my little circle raised bed. Unfortunately the tripod keeps falling down but that hasn't stopped the beans from growing. I planted the Purple Podded Pole Beans among the corn. The corn is a lost cause at this point due to worms but the beans are climbing all over the corn using it as a trellis. This idea came from the 'Three Sisters' idea. 'Three Sisters' refers to a method the indians used to grow their crops.  They would use the corn as a trellis for beans and plant squash at the base of the corn as a ground cover. The squash would help the corn retain moisture, the corn would help the beans get light and energy from the sun, and the beans would fix nitrogen in the soil for the following season.

Earlier in the year I planted cowpeas which my girls had a great time shelling! They volunteered to remove the peas from the pods and spent a few minutes after dinner pulling out the dried peas to store in a jar. I hope that their enthusiasm translates to eating them this winter! We ended up with at least enough for a meal, I'll definitely have to plant more than that next year.

Legumes are so easy to grow.  The only issue I have ever had with growing beans is the deer. If they get into my garden the bean foliage is the first target.  I've never had disease issues on my beans but they can get infected with mosaic viruses.  The best solution is not to save seed from the beans that have been infected. That's not foolproof since viruses can be spread by insects too.  (Here is some great information on bean diseases from Cornell) Since legumes fix nitrogen in the soil I'll leave the foliage to decompose in the garden and return as much of the nitrogen back into the ground as possible for next year's garden. 

Are you growing beans this year?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

8 Popular Plant Propagation Posts!

Since so much of the garden right now is suffering from lack of adequate rainfall I thought it might be a good time to look back at a few past plant propagation posts.  Some of these are favorites of mine and hopefully they will be useful for you too!

Propagating Shrubs: Propagating Perennials:

Propagating Grasses:

10 Easy Plants to Propagate!

Propagating in General!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Garden Shed in the Morning (Photo)

Here's a quick look at my garden shed in the morning while a thin layer of fog was resting over the backyard. Two crape myrtles are planted on either side of the pathway but only one has bloomed - maybe next year the crape myrtles will achieve the effect I was hoping for.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Time to Blitz the Bermuda!

Every gardener has an enemy, a nemesis, an evil villain that lurks in the garden that the garden would love to eradicate. I've had an invader this year that has been more aggressive than ever before - Bermuda grass. Once it gets a foothold in the garden it is extremely hard to hold back, let alone eliminate.  Recently I attempted to use an EcoSmart non-selective herbicide on the Bermuda grass. While it browned the leaves it did very little lasting damage and the Bermuda grass came back easily within a few days.  Bermuda grass 1, Dave 0.  This weekend I began a second assault on the Bermuda grass.   It's another extension of my very successful TARP for gardening program from a while back.

I laid the tarp down over the infected area in order to bake the Bermuda to a crisp.  Let's hope this works!

Hopefully the heat and lack of light will weaken the Bermuda and even kill it off.  If any root remains alive I know it could easily come back so after I remove the tarp I'll double dig the area and try to take out any roots I find.

What strategy have you used effectively against Bermuda grass?

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Crape Myrtle Border

Along one side of our property there is a narrow strip of land between the house and our neighbors' properties.  There isn't much room to do a whole lot of gardening (or so I originally thought) and this side of the house felt exposed when we bought our home in 2007.  This is how it looked a couple years ago just after I planted a short row of hemlocks as a privacy screen:

November 2007

And this is how it looks today:

August 2011

You can't even see the hemlocks now.  I planted the crape myrtles in between each hemlock. We later lost two of the hemlocks then I replanted one then promptly lost it.  The two that remain are doing great now.  They get protection from the summer sun by the fast growing crape myrtles. In the winter we'll have evergreen color on the border. I added the stone border a couple years ago and began planting the 'Longwood Blue' caryopteris. With the exception of 4-5 plants (and some of those are in other gardens) most of the caryopteris came from cuttings.

The crape myrtles all came from seedlings or cuttings. The light purple ones were seedlings that sprung up in my parent's yard from their neighbor's crape myrtle trees.  The watermelon colored crape myrtles were from cuttings. Had I been thinking at the time I would have color coordinated the trees better, but they still look good as a mix!  I enjoy crape myrtles for their fast growing abilities and their natural beauty when grown as a tree. Many people lob the tops off the crape myrtles when pruning which will completely eliminate the beauty of the mottled tan and brown bark that appears on older trees (see Crape Murder or How a Crape Myrtle Should Be Pruned). Plant breeders have now developed smaller dwarf crape myrtles for those gardeners who prefer their crape myrtles as shrubs - much better than committing Crape Murder!

It's amazing how fast a garden can transform!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

It's Not Time To Pick Cotton Yet!

Before reading a certain garden blogger's post I had never heard of a cotton plant with dark foliage (Gossypium herbaceum 'Nigra'). Then this spring Nancy Ondra of Hayefield emailed me and asked if I would like to try some seeds. Me being the seed collecting addict I am I said of course! She also sent along some seeds for an ornamental corn called 'Tiger Cub' and a rice called 'Red Dragon'.  All of these plants were fantastic, interesting, and not yet in my garden. So far of the three types of seeds she sent the cotton has done the best. The rice requires more water than my garden can offer - in an ideal garden it really needs a naturally damp location. I do have a surviving rice plant but it isn't as happy as I'd like it to be. The corn has pretty well too and is growing cobs which hopefully will provide more seed. But as I said the cotton has done great.

Here's a look at the nearly black cotton foliage of 'Nigra':

The dark foliage of this gossypium would have look awesome planted enmass next to my 'Powis Castle' artemisia.  Too bad I didn't think of that! I'll collect seed this year and give it a try for next year. I really like the combination of silver and dark foliage.

I planted it next to some of the ornamental corn which you can see in the bottom part of the picture above.  The cotton is somewhere between 18-24 inches tall. The more sun it gets the better it grows. I planted a few seeds in shadier locations and they haven't reached the height of this one yet. If you look real close you can see them beginning to flower.

The bud should open up soon into a beautiful pink-red flower which will eventually turn into the fluffy white seed pods where our clothing come from!  One of the major crops in West Tennessee is cotton and every fall or winter when we visit relatives the fluffy remains of the cotton harvest are seen floating through the fields. Pretty soon we'll be picking cotton! But for now we'll just have to "wait one cotton pickin' minute"...surely you didn't think I could pass up that pun!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sunrise, Plant Propagation, and My Foot

This post is a little bit of a Hodge-podge of topics. A conglomeration of a couple of interesting things and one maybe no so much for you (but something I can whine warn you about!)


This morning we had a gorgeous sunrise that highlighted the early morning clouds.  I snapped I picture from our upstairs bathroom window. It's a small narrow window up high above the tub so I had to be creative with my picture taking but it's what I had to do in order to actually get the sunrise photo from above the neighbor's trees!

Plant Propagation

Today you might say I'm giving you a hand with your plant propagation techniques!  Yes I know that's a bad pun but it was irresistible (and you know the worse the pun is the more irresistible it becomes). What is actually in my hand is a rooted cutting from my winter blooming jasmine.  The cuttings easily grew roots in just a couple weeks with nodal cuttings taken with aerial roots. You can see more by looking at my how to propagate winter jasmine post.  It really doesn't get much easier than this!

Here's a closer look at the roots:

I planted a few winter jasmine cuttings in 4 inch pots along with other cuttings of catmint and hydrangea. The hydrangea was sent as a potted plant from relatives for my father's funeral. I planted the hydrangea for my mom in her garden and took a couple cuttings for myself to add to our garden. 

My Left Foot

Alright, this may be going a little out there for a post about garden but there is a reason for me talking about my left foot. Sunday evening I was finishing up weeding just before I went inside for dinner.  I was back in the shed gardens which was getting choked out by crabgrass, Johnson grass, and all kind of other weeds. I pulled a few weeds from the front of the garden then moved toward the inside areas of the garden where I suddenly felt an extremely intense pain on my ankle.  I looked down and couldn't see anything immediately but I knew what had happened as I heard the buzz of a wasp fly by my head. Apparently I stepped near where a wasp was and unknowingly agitated it, and you know they don't take kindly to agitation. I remembered a similar pain two years ago and raced hobbled inside as fast as possible to get some sort of treatment. I'm not severely allergic to wasps, bees, and other critters but you don't need to be to get this result (please excuse the ugly foot picture you are about to see - farmer's tan and all):

The swelling has gone down considerably after a doctor's treatment and I can walk again without pain.  If I actually was allergic to stings this could have been an awful situation. Just heed this word of warning - watch where you walk in the weeds!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Beautyberry Berries In Color

One of the precursors to fall is the beautyberry. Much like the forsythias harken the arrival of spring the beautyberries are always reliably beautiful beginning this time of year. The blooms of summer gradually have transformed from small white blossoms into clusters of tiny purple gems.  Our beautyberry is now in its third year in the ground and has reached a size of about 4 feet tall with a 6 foot width. It's partially shaded in the morning but gets nearly full sun through the rest of the day. 

I haven't watered it once after its first year in the ground and seems to enjoy my Tennessee garden quite well! That really shouldn't come as a surprise since Callicarpa americana is a native plant here in the southeast. I'm sure we've all heard how important it is to plant native plants for their adaptability to local weather conditions.

The berries tend to last longer than other berry producing plants - at least in our garden. It's good for the birds to have something that lasts late into the season to eat after other plants have been picked clean. Beautyberry can be easily propagated through cuttings if you want more, and who wouldn't?

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Border Garden - with a Border!

This summer heat, humidity, and assorted family issues have kept me behind in most of my goals.  One of which was expanding the side border garden so that the caryopteris wasn't completely absorbing the whole area. I tend to take a more conservative approach to pruning my caryopteris and consequently I didn't prune them back enough this spring. They responded by getting large and stretching their limbs beyond the previous stone border edging. I like their current size - large enough for an awesome impact once the flowers begin to bloom.  I had to compensate for the extra growth somehow which meant reclaiming the hidden border and adding mulch.

I decided to use some pine straw mulch. I've spread pine straw mulch before but generally lean toward the hardwood mulches.  My decision was based on a couple factors: 1) ease of spreading - pine straw mulch goes on fast and is very light and 2) it's cheap! At $4 a bale it only took about $20 to cover this area.  

I wanted a cheap mulch because this area flooded once and washed my mulch completely away - I wasn't happy.  I expanded the border garden by pulling the stone border that was there out about 18-24 inches. I removed as many weeds as possible then covered the areas beneath the stones with a thick layer of newspaper. That should discourage weeds from growing through the stones for a while.

On top of the newspaper went the straw mulch which was laid fairly thick - about 4-5 inches deep.  It will compact over time and a little height keeps the mulch nice and thick.

This weekend I wrote a post called The Long View.  In it I talked about looking at different perspectives in the garden to figure out what improvements to make. I used this area as an example and included a picture of the border garden before my weekend improvements. Take a look back and compare how this garden looks now versus what it looked like before. Then tell me what kinds of improvements you would recommend!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Long View

Have you ever stood back and tried to observe your garden at a different angle? Maybe from up high on a slope? Or down low from the ground looking up at the flowers and trees? Sometimes it's helpful to take a different perspective in order to plan out your garden better.  Here's an example. I took this picture the other day from our side garden.  The side garden is on the eastern side of our house and includes the corner shade garden as well as the border garden. Along the border I have a row of crape myrtles with a hedge of caryopteris planted underneath. This would be an awesome location for some hydrangeas but since more shade isn't present my caryopteris works just fine.  It will begin blooming later this month and should continue to bloom through September. What else do you see in the photo?

Way back off in the distance is my garden shed.  If you click on the picture to enlarge it you will see it better. Immediately to the right is a viburnum and just past that to the right is a second viburnum.  The first viburnum is Viburnum opolus 'Sterile' which blooms with snowball like flowers. The second is an arrowwood viburnum called 'Morton'.  A young red maple tree is planted directly in the center of the picture. It's purpose is to divide the pathway into to sections around it.

What is missing in all this?  A few things could be (none of which are critical or even necessary, just ideas):
  • Garden structures: trellises for climbing plants, a faux bridge, or even an arbor.
  • Evergreen plantings: nearly everything here is deciduous which doesn't leave much to look at in the winter months.
  • Perennial and annual beds: There isn't much here and a few perennials or annials would help to accent the shrubs. 

What do you think?  What would you add to this area?

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Vines Look Sad

But the harvest ain't bad!

Just look at this bunch of tomatoes:

The round orange tomatoes are 'Woodle Orange', the round red ones are volunteers, the small and slightly purple tinted are some 'Cherokee Purple' tomatoes that didn't grow as larges as they should have, and the elongated orange tomatoes are 'Orange Icicle.'  The cherry tomatoes are all from volunteer plants.  I told myself this year I would pull up all the volunteer plants that were in bad locations...I failed!  The result isn't too bad though.  I'm picking a box like this about every 3-4 days.  More than enough to feed our families fresh tomatoes for the summer. Hopefully our harvests will increase and we can get some tomatoes canned before the frosts come in October - oops I said the "F" word!

How's your harvest coming?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

August Garden: My Things To Do

I'm a little late on this list since we're already over a week into August but over weekend I've come up with a list of things that I need to accomplish in the garden this month. As is very easy to do the garden has gotten away from me and with the start of football season coming soon it's time for a garden blitz!

  1. Weed all the gardens and rediscover my lost plants!  The other day while weeding in the corner shade garden I almost pulled up a young hydrangea by mistake. I could have kicked myself (I'm not sure how that is physically possible) for not being more careful but that is one of the hazards of letting things go so wild. Be careful that you don't do the same but I guarantee that one day you'll pull something out of the garden you didn't want removed!
  2. Mulch.  Some garden areas are cleaned up enough to put down a good layer of mulch for fall, yes I said fall. It's coming faster than you think. Fall is one of my favorite times of the year, I just wish it lasted all the way to my other favorite time of the year - spring! Be on the lookout for the Fall Color Project which is my yearly tribute to the Autumn changes. Bloggers get ready to join in!  I bought 6 bales of pine straw for our side border garden that I hope to put down very soon. I use the newspaper mulch method to help keep the weeds down.
  3. Prune.  My dappled willows are getting a out of control and need trimmed back a little. I'm planning on using the cuttings to make more dappled willows.  I also have a sycamore tree and a birch tree that need limbed up. Too many low branches block usable garden areas.
  4. Garden Shed projects. I have some ideas for a potting bench setup. I also need to get some painting done. I have a more extensive list on the garden shed page.
  5. Clean up the vegetable garden! I need to clean out some areas for fall planting. It's that time of year! I'll be starting my seeds indoors for lettuce, spinach, and a few others. Most fall vegetables seem to enjoy temperatures closer to the low 70's for germination and our 90 degree August days are far away from that!  I'll have to harden them off to the heat but I'll have a better germination rate than direct sowing outdoors.
  6. Prep for my daughter's 6th birthday party!  Time flies.  Time to get the yard cleaned up for crowd of cake hungry little first graders - also time to make sure we have plenty of ibuprofen!

My Daughter Going To School 2011
My Daughter in 2008

If you commented on the 'Tigger' Melon post for seeds last week please read my comment!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Another Episode of Dealing with Deer

For while I thought the deer were gone.  Then this spring we saw the telltale signs of the whitetail deer.  The hoof prints, the nibbles and the um...other signs. Then came the sightings. A single doe came strolling through the backyard taking nibbles of various plants.  Fortunately most of the plants in our garden are deer resistant so the deer stayed away from those. Eventually she found the vegetable garden. In one evening most of the remaining spring greens were gone and a small sample of strawberry leaves was taken. This is where I became wise, or maybe just determined, and I found a solution - animal netting. I posted posts around the garden and hooked 7 foot mesh all around the garden. There were a few stretches I ran short of mesh and substituted strands of garden twine in between the posts to give the illusion of an obstacle. I'm not foolish enough to think this solution is 100% deer proof but when easier pickings are available elsewhere (like a neighbor's vegetable garden down the road)  it seems to work out just fine!

Now there are three deer to worry about. A doe and two fauns, just take a peak at the video as they wander through our backyard.

A while back when I was looking into deer-in-the-garden solutions I contacted the Havahart company who specializes in animal safe repellents. I found a really interesting device and requested it to try out in my garden. It's a sprayer that is hooked up to a motion sensor. When the animal is in range it sets off the sprinkler the animal gets a surprise bath! The idea is that they won't like the bath, will get scared off and will avoid the area in the future. I received the spray device about 6 weeks ago but haven't been able to test it yet due to the unpredictable events of life. I'll set it up this week and see how it functions - I'm sure my kids will enjoy giving it a test in the hot and humid days of summer.  After that I'll arrange it to see if I can spray and repel the wandering deer.

Have you ever tried Spray Away? If so how did it work for you?

Friday, August 5, 2011

'Old Time Tennessee' Melon

This was definitely the year for trying new melons, at least here at The Home Garden. Yesterday I showed you the 'Tigger' melon we grew and tasted, today let's welcome 'Old Time Tennessee' to the blog! Where the 'Tigger' melon is small, compact, and tasty 'Old Time Tennessee' is large, football shaped (perfect for football season), and tasty.  You will notice that both of these have one thing in common - tasty! 'Old Time Tennessee' is much more like the traditional musk melon (what most people call cantaloupe) in taste than little 'Tigger'.

'Old Time Tennessee' melon

The flesh is orange (also good for football time in Tennessee) and the rind is a soft brown color. Don't pick 'OTT' when green, it tastes like a cucumber (I accidentally did that, my eagerness got the best of me).  The rind is thin and easy to cut through which can be dangerous if you are competing with critters (like rabbits) for your garden produce. Frequent monitoring of the garden will result in a bounty of fruit. While I have one 'Old Time Tennessee' melon in my custody there are at least four others soon to be ripe on the vine.

As far as pests go, I did have trouble this year with the squash vine borer on my squash plants but they have completely avoided my 'Old Time Tennessee' melons. You can't count that as an official study in vine borer resistance for these melons but you can at least take comfort that if there are other things available for the borers to get maybe they will attack them first and spare the melons! I also planted zinnias and nasturtium as companion plants which may have had a significant impact. (Don't forget to consider companion planting when planning your vegetable garden.)

I'm saving seed for these melons too so those who wanted 'Tigger' melons will find themselves with bonus melon seeds in the mail!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

'Tigger' Melon - Light and Sweet

Every year I try something new in the vegetable garden. When I was selecting seeds back in the dormant season I ran across this small melon called 'Tigger'.  Of course as a parent with three children anything with the name 'Tigger' catches my attention. The 'Tigger' melon was described in the Baker Creek catalog as "vibrant yellow with brilliant fire-red, zigzag stripes."  It's appearance is a little less fancy than hyped in the catalog but that could be due to different growing conditions or a variety of other factors. But it is an orange and yellowish (or maybe orange-yellow) striped melon.  According to the description the seed was found in an Armenian Market.  It's always neat to learn a little about the history around the seeds.

I have my 'Tigger' melons growing on one of our cucumber and melon trellises. When the fruit is ripe the melons simply drop from the vine into the raised bed below.  The small melons rapidly grow to form the green striped melon in the picture below.

After a few days the skin begins to change color into a ruddy orange-green color hinting at the final stages of the fruit.

And when it is ripe it falls to the ground ready to be eaten by a hungry family!  I put this melon in the refrigerator right away to begin chilling.

When sliced open it reveals a while flesh with a thin outer skin. The center has lots of seed perfect for saving (or sharing, more on that in a minute!) The melon's flesh has a light and sweet taste perfect for breakfast!  

I will definitely plant this melon in my garden again. It's flavor may not be the strongest but I kind of like the light sweetness of the fruit. It's not overpowering and would delicious to eat just about any time of the day.

Would you like some seeds?  If so comment below!  I'm sure I can have enough seed for 5 participants to win and maybe more, I'll see what I can do.  Comment by the end of the day on Monday August 8th if you want some 'Tigger' Melon seeds.

I wouldn't recommend that this 'Tigger' bounce!

Original Seeds were purchased from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and have been grown organically in my garden.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

August 2011 GROW Project Update

Marigold 'Yellow Splash'
It's the second day of August which means it's time to see how the GROW project seeds have fared since our July Update

'Yellow Splash' Marigolds
As you can see in the picture to the right we're starting to get a few flowers on the 'Yellow Splash' marigolds in the vegetable garden.  I started more seeds a while back but haven't gotten them planted in the garden yet. Here's a look from July:

And here are the same seeds now (in the same container):

They've grown a little but since they are still in a relatively nutrient deficient soil mix they haven't grown much.

'Garden Babies' lettuce
 The 'Garden Babies' lettuce has come a long way since July.  It's too hot to grow lettuce outside but with a couple grow lights indoors you can grow lettuce nearly any time of the year.

From July:


'Italian Cameo' Basil
Basil is certainly one of my favorite herbs to grow. It's easy to care for and is a prolific grower! Two awesome traits of an edible don't you think?

Here's a look from July:

and now:

There will be pesto in our future!

I'm growing with the SeedGROW project. Thanks to Renee's Garden for the seeds.