Posts Tagged With: heirloom gardening

Pollinating Pumpkins (and some other vines) by Hand with Pictures

Hello, all! I know it’s been a while, but I haven’t forgotten about this blog!  Today I want to talk about pollinating your pumpkins!  This is a very important topic for anyone growing pumpkins because without pollination you won’t have any pumpkins!  So, of course Mr. Bee is out there helping to get the job done, but do you really want to rely solely on those little fuzzy guys?  They can be a bit flaky.  Sometimes the most reliable pollinator is yourself.

Alright, quite often plants reproduce in a similar way to humans; the male and female parts of the flowers  (or the male and female flowers) need to interact to produce the fruit that will bear its seed and grow new plants.  Your job is to make sure the pollen from the male flower gets to the female flower.  With pumpkins (and some other vines) the female flower is pretty easy to identify:

Female Pumpkin Flower

An Unopened Female Pumpkin Flower (click picture for seeds)

This is a picture of an unopened female flower.  You can clearly see the tiny future pumpkin at the base of the flower.  All female pumpkin flowers will have this tiny pumpkin, but if the flower is not pollinated it will simply wilt and the tiny pumpkin will shrivel up.  The flower must be pollinated for it to become a pumpkin.  (Sorry to be so repetitive, I just want to be clear).  So when the flower has opened up, it’ll be a beautiful hibiscus-esque blossom with creamy yellow-orange petals.

Male Pumpkin Flowers

Male Pumpkin Flowers (click picture for seeds)

This is the time to pollinate.  Do it as soon as the female flower has bloomed.  Just for further clarity, the male flowers will be identifiable by their lack of a tiny pumpkin at their base, and all female flowers will have the tiny future pumpkin.  Simply pull off one of the male flowers, as shown in the picture above, and feel like a perv by rubbing the male flowers’ pollen-y stamen into the female flowers.  Or, if you don’t want to pull any of the males off the vine, simply use a paintbrush to collect the pollen and place it into the female flower.  That’s really all there is to it!

Oh, and it’s best to use males from a separate vine from the females (to avoid a sort of inbreeding haha).  Good luck and happy growing!

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Planting for March: Beans, Eggplants, and Cucumbers [Photos and Information]

That’s right!  I’ve planted more seeds!  I would have done it a few days ago but we had some unseasonably cold (to me!) and surprisingly rainy days.  Anywho, today I planted Royal Burgundy Beans, Easter Egg Plants, Rosa Bianca Eggplants, and Straight Eight Cucumbers.

The Royal Burgundy Beans are a compact bush variety (good for small places) and need no staking for support.  As you can guess they’re purple!  But they do turn green when cooked.  They’re also stringless (sounds good to me).  Plant them directly in the ground when the soil reaches 65-75F at an 1 inch down.  Because the beans mature all at once, it can be a good idea to plant your seeds in 3 or so week intervals so you can keep harvesting all summer long.

Royal Burgundy Beans

The Rosa Bianca is and Italian Eggplant with a sweet and mild flavor that’s great for cooking (can’t wait!).  Eggplants need to be started indoors (unless you live in the Southwest or the Deep South, I’ve heard) and transplanted once the soil’s reached 60F at least.  Eggplants are from India and China originally so they love the heat!  These eggplants are round with creamy ivory and purple flesh, and can grow to 2-3 lbs.  I’m practically salivating!

Rosa Bianca Eggplant

Easter Egg Plants are an ornamental eggplant, but they can be eaten.  The person I bought my seeds from (Sophie’s Seeds and Swine I mentioned in another post) says her variety was given to her by a friend and they’ve got a lot of flavor, but I can’t vouch for all Easter Egg Plants.  Some people say they’re bland.  We’ll have to wait and see!  Either way, the skin is thin and soft so it doesn’t need to be peeled.  Anyway, the Easter Egg Plants, like the Burgundy Beans, don’t need a stake for support.  Since they are eggplants, they need to be started indoors and transplanted, just like the Rosa Bianca.  If left to ripen on the vine, the eggplants shrink and turn yellow like an egg yolk!

Easter Egg Plant

Straight Eight Cucumbers are an American variety introduced in 1935 and are great slicing cucumbers (I didn’t really know some were better to slice than others, but I suppose it makes sense) and pickles.  Said to be a prolific and disease-resistant plant, they produce dark green 7-8″ cucumbers.  Plant them in late spring or start them ahead of time indoors.

Straight Eight Cucumbers

Let’s hope I have some sprouts in a couple weeks!  Happy planting!

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Some Tips on Heirloom Gardening

Hey, everyone!  As you may have gathered, I’m a beginning gardener, but this is a good thing because I can share some of the resources I’m using!

First of all, I’m a huge lover of books (hey, that’s my family’s livelihood), and I think they can be a lot more physically convenient than the internet and hopefully more reliable.  (Of course, I’m always using the internet for research too).  Anywho, here are a couple books I really like for beginning heirloom gardening:

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Heirloom Vegetables by Chris McLaughlin

Talking Dirt: The Dirt Diva’s Down-to-Earth Guide to Organic Gardening by Annie Spiegelman

Also, knowing when to plant vegetables in the Phoenix area can be challenging, we’re in a very distinct zone: 13 (it really says a lot, unfortunately).  I like to go by the planting calendar for my zip code that I found on The Urban Farm’s Tidbits page.

And of course, actually getting those precious seeds to plant is super important (and exciting).  I like to support my local nurseries, but I also like supporting fellow Etsy shop owners, so I get a lot of my seeds from my favorite gardening store: Sophie’s Seeds and Swine.  They’re very affordable, have a wide variety, great customer service, and everything is shipped ASAP.  Check it out!

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Photo Update: Heirloom Tomatoes, Carrots, and Radishes

I’ve got a photo update on my Spring Heirloom garden.  Unfortunately, not everything I planted in January sprouted (see Spring Heirloom Garden blog post) which may be due to a number of factors; maybe planting too early, missing some waterings, too much watering(?), who knows?  Anyway, if you’ve read some of my other garden posts (see posts tagged ‘heirloom gardening’), you’ll know that my Russian Malakhitovaya Shkatulka Tomatoes, Black Spanish Radishes, and Patriot’s Carrots have all sprouted, and they seem to be doing quite well!

Heirloom Black Spanish Radishes

Heirloom Patriot's Carrots (sorry the ground is more in focus than the plants)

Heirloom Malakhitovaya Shkatulka Tomatoes

I know that my radishes and carrots need to be “thinned out,” but I just don’t have the heart to do it.  I’m hoping once they get a little bigger I’ll be able to move them easily, instead of just pulling them out and tossing them.

In the next few days I’ll be planting some heirloom Royal Burgundy Beans and some  heirloom Straight Eight Cucumbers (if I can find what I did with the seeds!) so check back!


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Pictures of Heirloom Tomato, Radish and Carrot Sprouts

Hey, everyone!  Here are some photo updates on my sprouts.  If you’re growing tomatoes, carrots, or radishes these photos can help you identify your sprouts (especially if, like me, you’re a little unorganized and some tiny weeds have invited themselves into your garden and you’re afraid you might confuse them with your sprouts and pull out the wrong seedlings!).

A small carrot sprout (Patriot's Carrots blend)

This is a small carrot sprout.  When it’s a little bit younger than the one pictured here it will only have the two long, thin cotyledons (embryonic leaves that are not true leaves).


Tomato Sprout (Malakhitovaya Shkatulka Tomatoes)

This is one of my  Malakhitovaya Shkatulka tomato sprouts.  It’s a Russian green tomato whose name means malachite box!


Radish Sprouts (Black Spanish Radishes)

Here are two squished together Black Spanish radish sprouts.  These are a week or two old, so I’ll include a picture of them from when they were a little younger.

Younger Radish Sprouts (Black Spanish Radishes)

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Great Mulch and Compost: Decomposed Leaves!

Alright, so you know you’re becoming a gardening geek when you get excited about some crusty old leaves.  This past weekend we did quite a bit of yard work (and we’re still not done!).  While we were cutting and pulling massive amounts of vines off the house some big clumps of started falling on my boyfriend and me.  At first they looked like big clumps of dirt, but that didn’t really make sense, and upon closer inspection we found that they were chunks of partially decomposed leaves from the vines!  How exciting!

The Leaves!

I don’t have a compost pile (because in my friends’ experiences they seem to attract roaches in Phoenix), so I just kind of crumbled these up into my garden as we found more and more chunks.  According to  Annie Spiegelman in Talking Dirt, composted leaves work as a great mulch, especially in summer and winter, because they insulate and provide nutrients (she also says it’s best to put a 1-inch layer around your plants and have a layer of wood chips on top).  So I’m not doing this the best way I could, but I’m working with what I’ve got for now.

A close-up of those leaves

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Are These Radishes?

Just a short update on my garden:  Last week, on the 27th, I noticed I have some new little sprouts!  They are either Black Spanish Radishes or one of the Patriot’s Carrots.  I’m sure I could look it up and find out, but that’d take the fun out of it.

One of My New Little Sprouts

On a less positive note… Nothing else has sprouted and it’s been about two weeks, so I’m worried they won’t grow!  We’ll see…

*Update!: I cheated and googled, and those definitely are the sprouts of my Black Spanish Radishes.

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Spring Heirloom Garden

Last Saturday (the 14th) and Sunday (15th) I planted a variety of exciting heirloom plants!  I purchased some seeds from a great Etsy shop, I have to admit, I went a little crazy (if one can be crazy while buying seeds), and ordered some things that I don’t even normally like to eat.  Anywho, last weekend I planted Black Spanish Radishes, a blend of Patriot’s Carrots, Listada de Gandia Eggplant, Rosemary, a blend of Basil, and some green, Russian Malakhitovaya Shkatulka Tomatoes (because I’m 3rd generation and I wanted to give a tip of the hat to the old country haha).  I also ordered some seeds to plant later: Bloody Butcher Corn, Royal Burgundy Beans, and Merlin’s Magic Cauliflower.

The heirlooms I ordered (images from Sophie's Seeds and Swine and HeirloomsRUsSeeds on Etsy)

I live in Phoenix, so I planted everything directly into the soil of my raised beds instead of starting them inside.  Also, I have to admit I squished things together a bit; they only have about half as much space between them as they’re supposed to.  I still have hope though, and I’ve been checking for sprouts every day!  We’ll see how it goes!

Radish and Carrot Seeds

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Summer Heirloom Garden

Over the past summer I started an heirloom garden in a couple of homemade raised garden beds.  I grew Cinderella’s Carriage (or Rouge vif d’Etampes) pumpkins and Moon and Stars watermelons.

My Cinderella Pumpkins

The pumpkins did pretty well!  Unfortunately, the watermelon vines only yielded two small watermelons (one of which I didn’t even know about!).  Of course, the watermelons may have had a chance to grow larger, but I accidentally broke the fruit off the vine.

The Tiny Moon and Stars Watermelon, Last Seen Alive

Overall, I’m happy with the results.  I’ve never tried vegetable gardening before, but I think it turned out pretty well!

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