Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Last Pumpkin

We had frost the weekend before Christmas and that killed the Chinese Pumpkin vine.  This is a picture of the largest pumpkin (~20 lbs).

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Kishu Mandarin

I planted a Kishu Mandarin this past weekend.  The tree has loads of sweet fruit the size of golf balls.  

This picture only shows a third of the fruit that was on the tree when I first got it.  I took a lot of the fruit off because I was afraid the branches would break off when the tree was removed from the container.  The container was 2 feet tall and quite heavy.  I later found out that the roots of the tree only went half way down the container.

I think the nursery purposely kept a lot of fruit on the trees they sell to make it more attractive to buyers.   November is a great time to buy a Mandarin tree as the fruits are just becoming ripe.   Certainly, the fruit from this tree is a winner.  The skin is thin, easy to peal, and the whole fruit fits easily into your mouth. My 10 year old son ate his first one in one bite.    One of the best tasting Mandarins I have ever tried.

Next year, I hope to pick a lot of fruit from this tree.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Hanging Chinese Pumpkin Update

The Hanging Chinese Pumpkin did not make it.  It was the lack of sun rather than the weight of the fruit that did it in.

The fruit started turning yellow, then black and finally fell off.    This area of the garden gets sun only a couple of hours during the day.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Chinese Pumpkins Still Growing Strong

In contrast to the Winter Melon plants, my Chinese Pumpkins plants are still growing strong.  

Chinese Pumpkin vines have a tendency to take over the garden.  They grow very fast, in all directions and will swamp out the rest of the plants.  I think one reason my Winter Melon yield was low this year is because the Chinese Pumpkin vines blocked out the sun for the Winter Melon vines.

I planted two Chinese Pumpkin vines this year.   One got a lot of sun and grew to be over 60 feet long (see picture below)

The other vine grew mostly in the shade.  The one in the sun has fifteen fruits of various sizes currently growing.  This does not include the approximiately eight fruits that I have already picked from the plant. The one in the shade has only 3 fruits growing and had a several fruits abort and turn black.  Next year, I am only going to grow Chinese Pumpkins in full sun.

The fruits from my Chinese Pumpkin vines are quite large (~15 lb). The fruits start out green and if I leave them on the vine long enough they turn orange.  

One of the ripe orange Chinese Pumpkins looked like a regular Western pumpkin.  So I cut the fruit off of the vine and put it in front of my house for Halloween.

The Chinese Pumpkin vines will climb, similar to Winter Melon vines.  However, I find that the Chinese Pumpkin vines are much less flexible than Winter Melon vines.  The Winter Melon vines, I can pick up, move and train them to take advantage of supports and trellis that I have built.  If I move the Chinese Pumpkin vines, the vine will break off or get damaged.  That is why I try to keep the Chinese Pumpkins low to the ground, so that the fruit rests on the floor.

However, the Chinese Pumpkin vine that is growing in the shade has reached the limits of my property and is starting to grow up the retaining wall seperating my property from  my neighboor's property.  So now I have a fruit that is dangling about 4 feet off the ground.  Hopefully, the plant can support the weight and the fruit won't come crashing down.

As long as the Chinese Pumpkin vine looks healthy and the fruits are growing, I plan to keep it growing as long as possible.  With luck, the plants my last until Christmas.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Winter Melon Harvest

It's time to take all of the Winter Melons off the vine. The vines have been fading the last few weeks.

See the dried and shriveled leaves in the pictures to the right.

The vines have been like that for several weeks, but I delayed picking the melons in the hope that the plants would be able to recover. The evening temperatures have been in the 40 to 50 degree range and the Sun only shines on this part of the garden in the morning. Not the best weather for growing Winter Melons.

This year I strung one of the vinest between the branches of a tree to see if the tree could support some melons.

Sure enough, I was able to get two melons to grow. Next year, I will try to see if I can get the vines to wrap around the tree and get a second
layer of melons to grow.

This year, my harvest was 9 large melons, 7 medium sized melons, and 4 small melons. I had picked around 10 melons of various sizes (mostly small to medium) throughout the Summer and early Fall to give away or to eat. So these 20 melons represent the last crop.

Next year, I want to grow fewer vines to see if I can increase my yield. This year, I grew 15 plants and the vines ended up competing for sun. I think, I will try 8 plants next time.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What, Where, When, How

This is the start of my blog for my Vegetable Garden.

I live in a suburb of Los Angeles. 

What do I grow?

Winter Melons (several different types),  Chinese Pumpkins,  Cherry Tomatoes (many different varieties) and next year I hope to grow Okinawan (Purple) Sweet Potatoes.

I have also tried Zucchini, Bak Choy, and Napa Cabbage.  The Zucchini only last a couple of months before I pulled them out.  The Zucchini grew way too fast and took up a lot of space.  They were crowding out my Winter Melons and I rather eat Winter Melons than Zucchini.  The Bak Choy and Napa got eaten by the caterpillars.  Since I grow organically, there was nothing too protect the plants from the insects.

Where do I grow?

I grow in the backyard of my house.  I am lucky that I have a relatively large backyard (for Southern California).  I have two large raised beds. One raised bed (38 sq feet) I used solely for Cherry Tomatoes and there other raised bed (20 sq feet) I used for the Chinese Pumpkins and the Winter Melons.  The raised bed for the Chinese Pumpkins and the Winter Melons is smaller but I let the Chinese Pumpkins and Winter Melons sprawl all of the backyard, so the total area taken up by them is much larger. I have also grown Cherry Tomatoes in containers, but I was unhappy with the results. Next year, I plan to exclusively use raised beds for my Cherry Tomatoes.

I just added (this past weekend) a third raised bed (9 sq feet) and plan to add a fourth raised bed (8 sq feet) in the next couple of months.  I plan to grow Cherry Tomatoes in these two new raised beds.  This will allow me to get rid of the containers completely.

The containers won't go to waste. I plan to try to grow the Okinawan Sweet Potatoes in them next year.

When do I grow?

I am very fortunate to live in Southern California where the weather is almost perfect.  I usually start at the end of December planting seeds.  I have a grow light in a storage room that I use to start the seeds.  In March/April, I transplant the seedlings outdoors into the garden.  The Tomatoes usually last until September.  The Winter Melons and Chinese Pumpkins last until Thanksgiving. 

This year, I am experimenting with a 2nd crop of Cherry Tomatoes. I started the seeds in August and transplanted them in October.  Already, I see a few little cherry tomatoes growing on the vines. 

How do I grow?

Organic!  No Miracle Gro in this garden.

My primary organic fertilizer is Alfalfa Meal. I can get it at the local feed store for $18 per 50 lb bag.  I also use Fish Bone Meal (available for $30 per 25 lb bag at the local nursery) and composted Steer Manure ($1 per 1 cu feet at the local Home Depot).

I typically layer the Alfalfa Meal into the raised bed and sprinkle Fish Bone Meal over the Alfalfa Meal .  I then add the Steeer Manure on top and let the earthworms go to town.

When I first started, I used Soybean Meal ($26 per 50 lb bag), Peruvian Bat Guano ($30 per 11 lb bag), Seaweed Kelp ($30 per 25lb bag) and Earthworm Castings ($17 per 25 lb bag) but I found that they were too expensive and I saw no difference in yield.

Alfalfa Meal is a good well balanced fertilizer (N-P-K of 3-1-2). Before I was combining the Soybean  (7-1-2),  Lime, Guano (10-10-3),  and Kelp (0-0-1) in a ratio of 4 to 1 to 1 to 1 .  That was way too complicated and expensive.  

I have also tried regular Bone Meal. I switched over to Fish Bone Meal because of safety concerns on Bone Meal.  I know there is no scientific proof, but I decided to play it safe and use Fish Bone Meal instead.  I don't use that much Fish Bone Meal so the added cost of the Fish Bone Meal is not too much.  The only problem is the fishy smell.

Next year I plan to try composted Chicken Manure ($7 per 50 lb bag at the local nursery).  I have already put 5 bags of Chicken Manure into the 38 sq feet raised bed and 6 bags of Chicken Manure into the new 9 sq feet raised bed.  Later on, I will put in Alfafa Meal on the top.  I want to save the Fish Bone meal until I transplant the seedlings into the beds.  One  scoop of Fish Bone Meal into the hole before I drop the seedlings in.  I read that phosporus (the primary purpose of using Fish Bone Meal) travels very slowly in the soil (only a few inches per year),  so it is better to put it directly where the roots can get to it. This plan will hopefully reduce my fertilzer cost even further.

If nothing else, my earthworms seem to love the stuff.  In my raised bed, I just have to shift the soil a lit bit and I see several worms.

How do I water?

I use drip irrigation.  I have setup a drip irrigation system all around my backyard.  I even use drip irrigation to water my containers.  I have used emitters and "pot misters".  I like the pot misters a lot better. I get better coverage with the misters than I can with the emitters. I had to put in 25 emitters to cover my 38 sq feet raised bed adequately.  I just switched over and I can cover the same area with just 7 pot misters.

In the summer, I water every day for 2 hrs per day. I find the Chinese Pumpkins and the Winter Melons require a lot of water.  When I water less, the vines show signs of stress.  Unfortunately, the Cherry Tomatoes are on the same drip line as the Chinese Pumpkins and Winter Melons, so they get too much water.  Short of creating two drip irrigation lines (which I do not want to do), I need to find a compromise.   I think I will try watering 3 times a week at 3 hrs per day and see how the plants do.

How long have I been doing this?

This is the end of my second year as a vegetable gardener.  The first year, I only grew regular tomatoes and 1 type of winter melon.  This year, I dropped the regular tomatoes and added the Cherry Tomatoes,  Chinese Pumpkins, and 3 more types of Winter Melon.  

What do I plan to put in this blog?

I plan to document the various stages of my garden from planting seeds, to transplanting seedlings, through the growth, flowering, fruit development and finally harvest.  I plan to have lots of pictures to show what I do at each step of the way.  

How often will I update this blog?

I'll try to update the blog once a weekend.  We'll see how that goes.