The Squash that Ate my Raspberries

As I mentioned in my Solo Cucumber post, all the winter and summer squash plants that I planted this year succumbed to disease or insects.  A “volunteer” plant that grew out of my compost bin has had no such problems however.

squash vine growing over black raspberries

To keep the vines from running across my lawn, I moved them so they would grow over my black raspberries.  Eventually, this one plant covered the entire patch.  The main stem is now more than an inch (25 mm) thick at the base.  In its growth habit, the plant resembles a pumpkin or winter squash more than a summer squash such as zucchini.

ripening squash fruit and an immature fruit

We’ve added squash and pumpkin seeds to the compost bin over the years in our kitchen waste, and this plant probably grew from one of those seeds.  The vine has produced a fruit unlike any I’ve seen before.  I expect it’s a hybrid of two plants that grew near each other at the farm belonging to the market where we buy squash.

The fruits that those seeds came from have included butternut squash and a kind of knobbly pumpkin, which this fruit (and all the others on the plant) sort of resembles.  I have no idea if this will be similar to a squash, a gourd, or a pumpkin.  I’m also not sure how to tell if it’s ripe, but eventually I need to pick one, cut it open, and see what nature and chance have produced.

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Cracked Tomato

I’ve had a lot of trouble with cracking of my tomato fruits this year.  I suspect it’s related to the unusually rainy weather we’ve been having.  For more about cracking, and many other tomato fruit problems, see this Missouri Botanical Garden webpage.

dwarf tomato ‘tastywine’ exhibiting cracking

Although the cracks on this tomato appear to have healed to some extent, they still allow diseases and insects to enter the fruit.

This fruit had an odd taste, unlike any other tomato I’m growing.  I’m not sure if that’s a characteristic of the variety or if it’s related to the cracking, perhaps caused by a disease that made its way in through the cracks.

‘Tastywine’ is another of the dwarf tomato varieties that I’m growing in containers this year.  It is one of the varieties developed by the dwarf tomato project (a team that includes Craig LeHoullier, author of Epic Tomatoes; see my Resources page) and the seed is available from Victory Seeds.  It produces “pink” fruit, i.e. when ripe it has red flesh and colorless skin.

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Solo Cucumber

After I planted peas last spring, something came along and dug up many of them before they could sprout and grow.  In their place, I planted some old cucumber seeds, since cucumbers also can grow on a trellis.  Unfortunately, as the seeds were close to a decade old, only one seed of the two different types I planted produced a plant.

cucumber vine (‘homemade pickles’) growing among the pole beans (‘fortex’)

That plant grew a few vines and those vines climbed and spread, even invading the pole beans’ space as you can see in the photo above.

cucumber ‘homemade pickles’

We got a few good fruit off the plant.  There may have been a problem with pollination that limited the number of flowers that produced fruit and the leaves probably didn’t receive enough sunlight.

Most of the plant has withered and died since I took these photos.  I suspect either a disease or an insect such as a squash vine borer caused this.  I have had similar problems growing cucumbers and their relatives for many years.  This year, all of the winter squash and summer squash that I planted died before they produced any usable fruit.

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Dwarf Tomato ‘Perth Pride’

One of the dwarf tomato varieties that I’m growing in containers this year is called ‘Perth pride’.  It is one of the varieties developed by the dwarf tomato project (a team that includes Craig LeHoullier, author of Epic Tomatoes; see my Resources page) and the seed is available from Victory Seeds.

dwarf tomato ‘Perth pride’

These tomatoes are described as purple, but I would characterize the ones that grew in my garden as red with green shoulders.  They have been quite tart lately but were a little less tart earlier in the season.


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Monarch Caterpillar

Several years ago, I planted some seeds of common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) along the side of my house to provide food for caterpillars of the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus).  By “plant” I mean I just spread some seeds that I collected from plants growing in a nearby, undeveloped area.

The area where I planted the milkweed is an approximately two foot (60 cm) wide ribbon of soil between the house and driveway, and as it is on the south side of the house, it resembles a hell strip.  Despite the heat and occasional drought, the plants have thrived and we’ve found caterpillars feeding on the leaves most summers.

This summer has produced the most monarch caterpillars we’ve ever seen.  Caterpillars that we found on the plants in July subsequently pupated and laid their own eggs, leading to the second generation of caterpillars that we are seeing now.  Yesterday, we counted fourteen monarch caterpillars but I suspect there are even more that we missed.

monarch butterfly caterpillar

I took this photo of one of the caterpillars this morning.  It has been chewing on this milkweed and devoured a large portion of the leaf.

My previous posts on milkweed:


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Double Tomato

I picked a ‘Polish dwarf’ tomato the other day that looks like two fruits that grew together.

tomato ‘Polish dwarf’ double fruit

It appears that this happens when multiple blossoms fuse together into what is known as a “megabloom”.  It seems that this usually happens early in the season, probably during a cold spell.  See more in these links:

To me, the funny shape resembles a Minion™ butt, albeit red rather than yellow.

The scar on the top left of the tomato fruit is due to cracking, which happens when the skin can’t grow as fast as the inside of the tomato.  This can be caused by temperature or soil moisture fluctuations, both of which we’ve experienced in the past month.

See more about cracking, and many more tomato fruit problems, at this Missouri Botanical Garden webpage.

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Monday Morning Harvest

This is what we harvested this morning.  We last picked vegetables Saturday afternoon, so the garden is producing pretty well, as it should be by mid-summer.

beans, tomatoes, peppers, and blackberries

I grow pole beans on a trellis.  Most of these are large ‘fortex’ beans that I first planted last year, but a few are the smaller ‘Kentucky blue’ variety.

There are one each of ‘Takiis ace’ (green bell) and ‘sweet banana’ (yellow) peppers.  I am growing these in containers this year, like I did with dwarf tomatoes and eggplant last year, but I think they would do better planted in the regular garden.  Both the plants and the fruit seem to be smaller than they should be, and I’m getting what appears to be blossom end rot on some of the ‘Takiis ace’ peppers, which hasn’t been much of a problem in the past.

My thornless blackberry bramble fruits have just started to ripen this week.

We started picking ripe ‘sungold’ cherry tomatoes (in the bowl at the top of the photo) in mid-July, about 2 months after they were transplanted.  They are very tasty but they will split if you let them ripen much past the yellow stage.  The ‘garden gem’ tomatoes (the five smaller, pointy tomatoes at the bottom middle of the photo) began to ripen soon after the ‘sungold’ tomatoes.

The two largest tomatoes are ‘garden treasure’, and they have just started to ripen.  The medium-sized tomato on the right is ‘gardener VF‘, a variety from Cornell University that I am trying for the first time.  Finally, the small tomato on the bottom left is ‘Polish Dwarf‘, a variety that I started growing last year and whose tart taste I really like.

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Spring Flowers 2018

I planted some more spring-flowering bulbs two years ago.  These photos were taken on May 5th; the flowers have finished blooming now, except for the grape hyacinths.  The bulbs were all purchased from Van Engelen (see Resources).

First up are some daffodils, Narcissus ‘Professor Einstein’.

daffodil (Narcissus ‘Professor Einstein’)

I planted some ‘Persian pearl’ tulips on a hillside many years ago.  Those are species tulips and as such are expected to naturalize and increase, but in my yard they have diminished each year.  You can see them in my post Spring Flowers.  I decided to supplement them with a different species tulip, Tulipa clusiana var. Chrysantha, that is supposed to naturalize well.

Tulipa clusiana var. Chrysantha on the hillside

These flowers are yellow on the inside and reddish on the outside of the petals.

Tulipa clusiana var. Chrysantha closeup

A few of the tulips that I planted all the way back in 2001 still bloom every year.  This is one of them.

long-lived tulip

I also planted some grape hyacinths (Muscari armeniacum) that have grown very well and may have increased in number already.  Last year, after blooming, the foliage died back in the same way as other spring-flowering bulbs; but to my surprise, they started growing again in the fall and kept that foliage all through the winter.

According to the Van Engelen website, this is considered to be the original blue-flowered grape hyacinth and it originated in Turkey around 1878.

grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum) with pollinator

Here, you can see the grape hyacinth with one of the little pollinators that were busy visiting these flowers.  I think this is a fly, as I can only see a single pair of wings, but I’m not sure.

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Containers for Growing Vegetables

Last summer, I decided to try growing some vegetables in containers.  I selected some 5 gallon (19 l) buckets because they are labeled as food-safe and they are relatively inexpensive.  These buckets had three ring-like features on the bottom (a result of the molding process) and I drilled holes in the middle of the rings as I thought the buckets would be stronger there and they’d be less likely to crack.

The holes were for drainage but also for strips of capillary matting that transported water from a saucer below the bucket into the soil.  I bought a large piece of capillary matting and cut it into strips about 1 by 21 inches (2.5 by 53 cm).

bottom view of bucket showing holes for strips of capillary matting

I put two strips of matting through each hole; one wound around the bottom of the bucket while the other ran up the side and was temporarily secured at the top with some tape.  I intended to remove the tape after adding soil, but it didn’t seem to make any difference when I forgot it on a couple of buckets.

top view of bucket with strips of capillary matting taped to the sides and positioned around the bottom

The black landscape fabric was used to cover the holes in the bottom of the bucket so soil wouldn’t fall out.  The large, green saucer was used as the water reservoir.  I placed two bricks in the saucer and rested the bucket on top of the bricks so the soil wouldn’t get waterlogged.

I planted eggplant and dwarf tomatoes in these containers last year.  You can read about them in my Container Vegetables post.  It worked well enough that I decided to double my number of buckets this year, from five to ten, and try planting additional vegetables.

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Eggplant With Three Seed Leaves

One of my eggplant seedlings has three cotyledons or seed leaves.  I’ve found extra seed leaves on my vegetable plants before, but only on cabbage family seedlings (see previous posts Seed Coats, Seed Leaves, True Leaves, & Mutant Kale and Mutant Mustard).

eggplant ‘ichiban’ seedling with three cotyledons (seed leaves)

The first post linked to above has additional information about seed leaves and tricotyledons.

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