Sunday, November 29, 2009

Preparing Strawberry Tower for Winter

The weather is getting cold in Southern California (temperatures dropping to the lower 40 degrees at night).

It is time to prune away all of the leaves from my Albion Strawberry plants and let the plants rest until February, when the weather will turn warmer.

The Albion Strawberry plants are still flowering and producing a lot of Strawberries (see picture to the right).

I have been picking Strawberries every week for the past month and a half (see this blog entry).

But the Strawberries are not as big as before as the amount of sunlight is decreasing.

The picture to the right shows all of the ripe Strawberries that I picked from the Albion Strawberry plants. I filled up about half of a 32 oz container.

I then pruned away all of the leaves, flowers and runners from the Albion Strawberry plants.

The picture to the right shows how the Strawberry Tower looks after I was done.

The Strawberry Tower looks very similar to what it looked like about 9 months ago, when I first planted the Albion Strawberry plants (see this blog entry)

However, when you look up close at the Albion Strawberry Plants you can see that plants look much different than they did at the beginning.

Compare the picture below with the same view from 9 months ago (see this blog entry).

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Last Okinawan Sweet Potato Harvest of the Year

Today, I harvested my last group of Okinawan Sweet Potatoes.

I had planted Okinawan Sweet Potato cuttings (see this blog entry) in 3 areas of my garden.

I had already harvested Okinawan Sweet Potatoes from a Raised Bed about 6 weeks ago (see this blog entry) and from a container (see this blog entry).

In this part of my garden, I planted Okinawan Sweet Potato cuttings under the trellis that I use to support my Winter Melon plants.

Last week, I harvested all of my Winter Melons (see this blog entry). You can see dead vines from the Winter Melon plants hanging in the midsts of the Okinawan Sweet Potato Vines in the picture at the top right.

With the Winter Melon plants gone, I could cut off the Okinawan Sweet Potato vines and harvest the Okinawan Sweet Potatoes.

The picture to the right shows the Raised Bed with the Okinawan Sweet Potato plants. This blog entry shows how the Raised Bed looked like when I first planted the cuttings.

This picture shows two Okinawan Sweet Potatoes in the ground. I carefully removed all of the soil around the Okinawan Sweet Potatoes. You can also see the drip tubing that I use to water my plants in the background of the picture.

The two Okinawan Sweet Potatoes separated very easily. They were not really attached together.

This picture shows the Okinawan Sweet Potatoes that I harvested from the Raised Bed, about 7 pounds worth.

This is less than I harvested from my container (see this blog entry). I think this is because this part of the garden does not get as much sun as the container did. There is a lot of shade from my Neighbor's trees behind the Raised Bed, so this part of the garden only gets sun in the morning.

Still, I got more Okinawan Sweet Potatoes and with a lot less work from the Container, so I am going to plant more Okinawan Sweet Potato cuttings in containers next year.

Since I have the Winter Melon Trellis in this part of the Raised bed, there is not much that I can grow in this area. The Okinawan Sweet Potato vines grow fast enough that it can compete with the Winter Melon vines for space. So, I will continue to plant Okinawan Sweet Potatoes here.

The picture to the right shows new Okinawan Sweet Potato cuttings that I planted in the Raised Bed after I had completed the harvest.

The brown stuff around the plants is Coconut Coir. I use this to mulch the Raised Bed and warm up the soil. With the cold temperatures we have been having, it has been hard to root Okinawan Sweet Potato cuttings (see this blog entry).

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Rooting Okinawan Sweet Potato Vines

With the cold temperatures we now have in Southern California (below 50 degrees), it is getting a little hard to to get the Okinawan Sweet Potato cuttings to root.

The picture below shows my Circular Raised Bed where I had planted several Okinawan Sweet Potato cuttings a month ago (see this blog entry).

I believe the cold weather is hampering growth. I have had to replace a couple of the cuttings because they had shriveled up.

Today I harvested my Winter Melons and dig up all of the Winter Melon vines (see this blog entry), and I noticed that there were Okinawan Sweet Potato vines growing over the area where I had Winter Melon plants (see picture below).

So, after I dug up the Winter Melon plants, I put soil over the Okinawan Sweet Potato vines. I left the Okinawan Sweet Potato vines connected to the rest of the plants. I am hopeful that this will enable the Okinawan Sweet Potato vines to root better than the cutting method. Next week, I will cut the connections and let these vines survive on their own.

The picture below shows how the Okinawan Sweet Potato vines look after I covered part of the vines with soil.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Winter Melon Harvest!

The weather is turning cold in Southern California. The days top out at around 70 degrees and at night it gets down to below 50 degrees.

My Winter Melon plants are starting to die, so it is time to cut down the vines and harvest all of the Winter Melons.

I planted the Winter Melon plants over 8 months ago (see this blog entry).

I harvested some of Winter Melons periodically (see this blog entry), but the bulk of the Melons I left on the vines.

The picture above shows Winter Melons hanging from several vines. I built a trellis using steel garden stakes that I tied with nylon rope to a Metal Fence that I have in my backyard. The vines attached themselves to the stakes. The stakes are strong enough to support several Winter Melons. Each of the Winter Melons in the picture are over 15 pounds each.

The picture below shows all of the Winter Melons that I harvested today.

There were 23 Winter Melons of various shapes and sizes. The ones that are still Green are immature and will need to be eaten quickly. The ones with the white powdery substances will keep for many months.

The Winter Melons in this year's harvest are much bigger than the ones that I harvested last year (see this blog entry). Last year, I grew 15 Winter Melon plants and this year, I only grew 6 plants. This gave the plants more sunlight and space to grow than the plants I grew last year.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

White Mold or Fungus Growing in My Raised Bed

I noticed that there is a white fungus or mold that is growing the Raised Bed that I had fertilized with manure and Soybean meal a few weeks ago (see this blog entry).

From using google on the Internet, I found that this is fungus is not harmful but is a result of having a lot of organic matter decaying in the soil.

I'll keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn't spread.

Growing Okinawan Sweet Potatoes in a Container

6 months ago, I purchased 23 Okinawan Sweet Potato cuttings from Mericlone Labs (see this blog entry).

I planted most of the cuttings in Raised Beds in my garden. Three weeks ago, I harvested my first Okinawan Sweet Potatoes from one of the Raised Beds (see this blog entry)

I had 4 Okinawan Sweet Potato cuttings left over, so I decided to experiment and plant these into a container. I had a fiberglass half barrel planter laying about that I pressed into service.

The picture on the right shows how the cuttings look in the container. They did not look too healthy, as I had planted the better looking ones into the Raised Beds.

Surprisingly, the cuttings took root.

One thing I noticed was that the Okinawan Sweet Potato plants did not produce as many leaves as the ones that I had planted in the Raised Beds. I think this is because there is more nitrogen in the soil of my Raised Beds then there was in the container.

I use Dynamite Controlled Released Fertilizer into the half barrel planter and nothing else. Where as I had put a rich mixture of organic fertilizer in the Raised Bed.

I put the planter next to the east facing part of my house, so the Okinawan Sweet Potato plants only got sunlight in the afternoon.

This picture shows how the Okinawan Sweet Potato plants looked this morning.

This picture shows the half barrel container after I cut away all of the leaves.

I had no idea how many (if any) Okinawan Sweet Potatoes I would have in the container.

So I was very surprised when I flipped the half barrel planter over and found Okinawan Sweet Potatoes all around the edges of the container!!!

The yellow arrows on the picture to the right shows all locations where there are Okinawan Sweet Potatoes.

This picture shows a close up of a large Okinawan Sweet Potato that grew vertically along the edge of the half barrel planter.

There were also Okinawan Sweet Potatoes in the interior of the container.

The picture on the bottom shows all of the Okinawan Sweet Potatoes that I harvested from the container.

It was almost 10 pounds!!!

This was more than I got the Raised Bed that I had harvested 3 weeks ago (see this blog entry) and harvesting was much much easier!!!

It took me a long time to dig up the soil in the Raised Bed to find the Okinawan Sweet Potatoes. I had to dig under and around the Raised Bed because the roots of the Okinawan Sweet Potatoes went under the Raised Bed.

With the container, I just had to invert the half barrel planter to find the Okinawan Sweet Potatoes.

I make my own potting mix (see this blog entry) and I think it helps that this potting mix is very loose. This not only made it easier for me to separate out the potting mix to find the Okinawan Sweet Potatoes, but it also made it easier for the Okinawan Sweet Potatoes to grow larger.

In my Raised Beds, the soil is dense and there are rocks and other impediments that prevent Okinawan Sweet Potatoes from growing uniform.

So, what did I learn?

I can grow better and more Okinawan Sweet Potatoes in a container than I can in a Raised Bed.

I am still going to grow Okinawan Sweet Potatoes in my Raised Beds, but I going to get some more half barrel planters and grow more Okinawan Sweet Potatoes in containers.

I already recycled the potting mix and my half barrel planter to grow another round of Okinawan Sweet Potatoes.

One interesting thing is the cuttings I put in the planter this time are much healthier looking than the ones I put in 6 months ago.

I hope I get just as good of a harvest with these cuttings.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Starting a Winter Crop of Okinawan Sweet Potatoes

After I posted my blog entry last week on harvesting Okinawan Sweet Potatoes, I was asked whether I planned to save cuttings so that I would not have to buy cuttings again.

The answer is that I plan to continue planting Okinawan Sweet Potatoes year round. The winters in Southern California are mild enough that the plants can survive.

I have already planted cuttings into the circular Raised Bed that I had harvested the Sweet Potatoes from last week.

My plan is to have two Okinawan Sweet Potato crops per year. One every 6 months.

Goto this blog entry to see an update 1 month later.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

End of Tomato Season

Well, this is the end of my Cherry Tomato growing season. My Cherry Tomato plants have withered and I have picked all of the edible fruit from the plants.

It is now time to clean-up and prepare for next year.

One of the best decisions I made this season was to buy a set of 6 Texas Tomato Cages (see this blog entry). Not only have they supported my Cherry Tomato plants well, but they are a snap to take apart and break down. The picture above shows all 6 of the Texas Tomato Cages laying flat.

This makes storage very easy!

The picture above shows my Raised Bed after I had cut away all of the Tomato Plants and took down the Texas Tomato Cages. See all of the weeds that have popped up. Also, the soil level has dropped about 4 to 5 inches in the past 8 months.

I put a layer of newspapers over the soil to kill the weeds and prevent any new weeds from sprouting. The layer of newspapers is thin, only about 3 to 4 pages thick, but this is sufficient to prevent any weeds from poking through.

Next, I put a layer of Soybean Meal over the newspapers. Soybean Meal is a good well balanced natural fertilizer , with a N-P-K ratio of 7-2-1.

This is one of the few times that I need to fertilize my Raised Bed. The only other time is when I plant the Cherry Tomato seedlings. At that time, I put a scoop of Fishbone Meal (see this blog entry) in the planting hole. The Fishbone Meal compensates for the low Phosphorous (P) in Soybean Meal. Phosphorous does not move in the soil, so it works best to put it right where the roots of the Cherry Tomato plants are growing.

This is all of the fertilizer that I use.

My Cherry Tomato Plants grow well over 8 feet tall (see this blog entry) and I have tons of Cherry Tomatoes (see this blog entry).

On top of the Soybean Meal, I put a thick layer of composted Steer Manure that I bought from my local Home Depot. The composted Steer Manure does 2 things. First, it adds organic matter to the soil. Second, it masks the smell of the Soybean Meal, so that animals don't try to dig up the Raised Bed in search of food.

Over the next four months, the Soybean Meal and the Steer Manure will compost. By February, when I am ready to plant my first Cherry Tomato seedlings, the soil will be rich in nutrients.

I did the same thing with my other Raised Bed. You can see the final result in the picture below.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Harvesting Okinawan Sweet Potatoes

It's been 23 weeks since I planted my Okinawan Sweet Potato cuttings (see this blog entry).

A couple of months ago, I tried to harvest some Sweet Potatoes (see this blog entry). Unfortunately, it was too soon and the Okinawan Sweet Potatoes were too small.

That is the one problem with growing Sweet Potatoes: you don't know if any are growing or if they are big enough to harvest without cutting away the leaves and digging. Doing this effectively commits you to harvesting even if it is too soon.

The recommended maturity period for Okinawan Sweet Potatoes is 5 to 6 months, which is right about now.

I am growing Okinawan Sweet Potatoes in several different areas in my garden. So, I decided to go ahead and dig up one area and see what's there.

This picture shows the Okinawan Sweet Potato part of the garden that I choose to dig up.

There were a lot of leaves!!

The leaves and stems are edible. My mother-in-law eats them all of the time. She actually used to buy them from an Asian Supermarket before I started growing Sweet Potatoes. I have tried eating Okinawan Sweet Potato leaves myself and they are quite good.

I filled up an entire 30 gallon trash bag with the Okinawan Sweet Potato leaves and stems!

This picture shows what it looks like under all of the leaves. The planting area is a 3 feet in diameter circular Raised Bed. The Raised Bed is about 6 inches off of the ground.

This picture shows what I found after removing the top 4 inches of soil. Sure enough, there were Okinawan Sweet Potatoes!

This picture shows the Okinawan Sweet Potatoes that I harvested from the garden area.

The Okinawan Sweet Potatoes were good size.

But, I was a little disappointed that the yield was not more. I only got around 5 or 6 pounds.

I have another area of my garden that I am also growing Okinawan Sweet Potatoes. I'll dig up that area in about 6 weeks.

Update: See this blog entry for growing Okinawan Sweet Potatoes in a Container

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Pruning Strawberry Plants

Now that Summer's over, it is time to prune the Albion Strawberry plants growing in my Strawberry Tower.

After almost 2 months of intense heat (with temperatures approaching 100 degrees), the temperatures have dropped dramatically. The plants are producing more Strawberries and Strawberry flowers with the drop in temperature.

Albion Strawberry plants are of the day neutral variety, so they are very temperature sensitive. They will not flower if it gets too hot (above 85 degrees).

Unfortunately, it is getting very hard to see the ripe strawberries with all of the strawberry leaves in the Strawberry Tower (see picture to the right). I have had to throw several Strawberries out because they were too ripe by the time I noticed them.

Many of the Strawberry leaves are very old and the branches are turning woody. You can see many of the leaves are turning or have turned brown in the picture. These old leaves also block the sun from reaching the new leaves that are starting to grow from the Strawberry plants.

I grabbed my pruning shears and starting cutting away at all of the dead and old leaves. The picture to the right shows some of the leaves that I cut away.

This picture shows the Strawberry Tower after I finished pruning.

Strawberry Plants Multiplying

After I had removed the dead and old leaves from my Albion Strawberry plants, I noticed that I had more Strawberry plants than I had when I started 7 months ago!

This picture shows one of the Strawberry pockets in my Strawberry Tower. I had planted only 1 Strawberry plant in the pocket, but now there are 3 Strawberry plants in the pocket.

I had been cutting off runners whenever I saw them, but I could not see what was happening behind all of the leaves.

It is too late to try to remove any of the plants. The roots have probably intermingled and it would be a mess to try to separate them.

Despite the crowding, all 3 plants appear to be doing well.

There are several other pockets with more than 1 Strawberry plant, but this is the only pocket with 3.

This picture shows what this pocket looked like in March. Notice that there is only 1 Strawberry plant in there.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Kishu Mandarin Update

The Kishu Mandarin tree that I planted last November (see this blog entry) is growing really well.

The tree contains a lot of little green fruit.

I expect to have a lot of fruit ready to eat in a few months.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Clone, Cut back or Seed?

What is better?

To Cut back an existing Cherry Tomato Plant, to Clone a plant from another plant, or to start a new plant from seed?

The picture above shows 4 Cherry Tomato plants in my garden.

The two to the left were started from seed about 2 months ago ( see this blog entry)

The one that is third from the left was cloned (see this blog entry) from another Sun Gold Cherry Tomato plant also about 2 months ago.

The one that is at the right was a Sun Gold Cherry Tomato plant that I cut back (i.e. pruned heavily) (see this blog entry) to remove all of the dead branches about a month ago.

The Clone Cherry Tomato plant is doing the best. It is a foot taller than the Cherry Tomato plants that were started from seed. This is the advantage you get by cloning.

The two Cherry Tomato plants that were started from seed are also doing well.

However, the Sun Gold Cherry Tomato plant that I had cut back is not doing well. I think the plant got damaged when I pruned it so much. Next time, I will just remove the plant instead of trying to prolong it's life by pruning.

First Okinawan Sweet Potato

Today, I found my first Okinawan Sweet Potato.

I started the Okinawan Sweet Potatoes from cuttings about 3 months ago ( see this blog entry).

The cuttings took and produced a lot of leaves.

I was curious as to whether all those leaves produced any Sweet Potatoes.

So, today, I started digging.

I dug and dug.

Finally, at about 8 inches down, I found this Okinawan Sweet Potato.

You can see the purple flesh that is characteristic of the Okinawan Sweet Potato at the bottom right corner of the picture.

You can see the Sweet Potato is starting to produece a shoot (see the green part coming out of one of the roots).

The Sweet Potato is still a little bit small for my taste.

I put the Sweet Potato back in the ground.

I'll check again in another month or two.

10/11/09 Update: See this blog entry

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Cloned Sun Gold Cherry Tomato Plant Update

The Sun Gold Cherry Tomato plant that I cloned is growing really well.

In the month since my previous blog entry , the plant has reached over 3 feet and producing lots of flowers.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Winter Melons Galore!

My Winter Melon plants are starting to produce a lot of fruit. The picture below shows 4 Winter Melons hanging on the vines.

These are closeups of the Winter Melons.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Second Crop of Tomatoes

I have start a second crop of Cherry Tomatoes. This is to replace plants that have either been killed by diseased or were no longer producing much fruit.

The picture below shows the Cherry Tomatoes that I am now growing in my 2 primary Raised Beds. There are 7 Cherry Tomatoes in these Raised Beds.

The three Cherry Tomatoes labeled Mystery come from the mystery seedlings that I discovered growing in my garden a month ago (see this blog entry).

The Clone Sun Gold Cherry Tomato plant is the cloned seedling that I transplanted two weeks ago (see this blog entry). It has tripled in size in the last 2 weeks.

The Clone Sweet Baby Girl is another cloned seedling that I started roughly at the same time as the Clone Sun Gold Cherry Tomato.

The Pruned Cherry Tomato is a Sun Cherry Extra Sweet that is still producing and is still in good shape. I pruned back some of the branches.

The Cut Back Cherry Tomato is the Sun Gold Cherry Tomato that has produced the most fruit this season (see this blog entry). It is still growing, but I have picked almost all of the fruit from the plant. It is also too tall for me to pick easily, so I decided to remove the branches above 4 feet. Hopefully, the Cherry Tomato plant will grow back quickly and start producing fruit.

I also have 4 other Cherry Tomato plants (2 Sweet Baby Girls, 1 Sugar Snack and 1 Super Sweet 100) that are growing in another Raised Bed. These Cherry Tomato plants are still producing abundant fruit.

Hopefully, they will continue to produce fruit until the new Cherry Tomato plants start producing fruit.