Posted by: ssorrrell | August 22, 2007

Dwarf Gray Sugar Pea

I ordered packets of other seeds and a pound of peas. Why? Oh yeah, they looked really good. 3′ tall, 66 days to harvest, plant spring or fall.

Pea is a frost-hardy, cool-season vegetable that can be grown throughout most of the United States, wherever a cool season of sufficient duration exists. For gardening purposes, peas may be classified as garden peas (English peas), snap peas and snow peas (sugar peas). Garden pea varieties have smooth or wrinkled seeds. The smooth-seeded varieties tend to have more starch than the wrinkled-seeded varieties. The wrinkled-seeded varieties are generally sweeter and usually preferred for home use. The smooth-seeded types are used more often to produce ripe seeds that are used like dry beans and to make split-pea soup. Snap peas have been developed from garden peas to have low-fiber pods that can be snapped and eaten along with the immature peas inside. Snow peas are meant to be harvested as flat, tender pods before the peas inside develop at all. The Southern pea (cowpea) is an entirely different warm-season vegetable that is planted and grown in the same manner as beans.
U. of Illinois


Ed Hume Seed

Posted by: ssorrrell | August 20, 2007


When a field is allowed to fallow this helps crop production in subsequent seasons. Why? The answer is very clear. In forcing certain plants to grow we shift the balance of the land in ways the we are not aware of. When a field goes fallow nature seeks to restore the balance. Plants that consume excess nutrients and restore marginal nutrients will grow in the fallow plot.

We start farming by observing. What is the natural state of the land? What grows given the rainfall, soil, and nutrients available? As the season shifts how does the plant variety? Then to balance the needs of humans and the needs of the ecosystem; What can we grow that will fit within that balance with the least impact and preferably a long term benefit?

In order to grow the best crops for us and the land we should observe what grows on the fallow plot. Test the plants and test the soil to see what imbalances the money crop introduces. Our technology could be of great us here. Then we seek to reduce the swings or perhaps to induce them. This may mean that certain varieties grown today create too much imbalance for one season to address. We can use technology to observe and understand the complex interactions taking place in the field at many levels.

Our use of technology and knowledge today satifies our needs for the land w/o regard for the land. As the land seeks balance through an excess of disease or pests we create crops that resist those problems.

What is the difference in these two sentences? Which one are you more likely to hear? The corn was attacked by earworms. The corn attracted earworms. They are both correct, but the first one implies corn is a victim and earworms are enemies.

I started an article about this earlier and foundered. But I understand the disparate thoughts now.

Posted by: ssorrrell | August 20, 2007

Night Scented Tobacco

I ordered some Night Scented Tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris) from Seed Savers Exchange.

Nicotiana, also referred to as Night-scented Tobacco or Flowering Tobacco, is usually grown as an annual for its sweet-scented, white flowers that open only in the evening or during the cooler parts of the day. A native of Brazil, Flowering Tobacco was introduced into garden cultivation in England in 1829. Sow the seeds after the last spring frost and thin the seedlings so they are two to three feet apart. Nicotiana plants appreciate a deep, rich soil; they thrive in full sun or partial shade.
Monticello Home

Flowering Tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris): Sometimes great things come in simple packages, and so is the case with this South American native. What this simple plant lacks in beauty, it more than makes up for in the overwhelming power of its honey sweet fragrance. The tiny tubular white flowers form large clusters on the plant and send forth their pleasurable aroma from Summer straight into fall. To minimize the monotony of this interesting plant’s leaves, try planting a moonflower or two at its base. Annual. Full sun.
Creating a Night Blooming Garden

Moosey’s Country Garden

Dave’s Garden

GardenWeb Forum

Posted by: ssorrrell | August 19, 2007

Soil Test Kit Results

I did a simple soil test on a few spots of soil very near the surface. This is the first time I used a soil test kit. So, the results may be skewed. I don’t understand the high phosphorus, but that test is based on cloudiness of the water and mine didn’t hardly register. The other tests are color based and hard to mess up.

The samples are from the sunflower bed, under the trio of pecan trees and under the pair of pecan trees. Taken at 1-4 inches.

Nitrogen = Medium

Phosphorus = Low-Medium

Potassium = High

pH ~7-7.5

Posted by: ssorrrell | August 3, 2007

Tomato Problems

The tomatoes have been struck with a disease, bacterial or wilt, that kills leaves and stems from the bottom up.  The top of plant continues to grow strong and bloom, sprawling all over everything.  The older heart of the plant, once dense with foliage is bare and the visibly straining stalks look more stressed every day.  In addition, other flowers and plants that the tomato was leaning on and covered have died.  Leaving a rather baren, dry ground.

I’ll throw some new seed in here to help create a microclimate again.  A surprise are that the basils seem unaffected and are thriving in the holes created in the tomato canopy.  I once worried they the toms would kill them and they are now growing wild shielding the tom fruit.  This may be a useful technique again.  Plant some annuals that may get covered and die for lack of sun, because the main plant may die or get damaged and the disposable annual covers for the damaged areas.

Posted by: ssorrrell | August 3, 2007

Watermelon Bed Update

The Watermelon bed is going very well.  I noticed the first watermelon, about softball size, today.  the vines are starting to grow very everywhere.  The small yellow flowers are pretty.  The watermelon vines are very, very furry.  Some of them have climbed up the sunflowers.  I don’t think they will grow a melon up there, but it gives them some more height and some more sun.  Giving them something tall to grow on is a good idea in the future.  An easy way to increase biodiversity and appearance.  The sweet potato vine in this bed is doing fantastic.  It doesn’t grow up or climb.  Makes a great ground cover.

There is a purple sweet potato next to one of the raised beds that is also very heathly and yellow one in the flower bed.  The affect on the ground is similar to henbit and bindweed?  One central plant grows out in all directions and covers the ground, but does not sprout along the way like bermuda grass.  The dry, desicated ground underneath is cooler and holds more moisture.  I don’t know if it is healthier.  Weeds don’t grow through it.  This action could be useful for rehabing a spot, but I don’t fully understand the process going on.  It must have an affect on the ground that improves it.  Perhaps when the leaves die they leave biomass in soil without any?

Posted by: ssorrrell | August 3, 2007

Pulling Up the Sunflower Bed

Yesterday, I pulled up the Sunflower bed. Once the heads formed and opened the rest of the plant seemed to get ignored by itself. Constant bug attacks and lack of general maintenance left me with some very tall, very drooping, battle scarred sunflowers. Caterpillar infestation became an almost daily event.

The corn was not doing really well and the lower plants like cucumbers and beans were very bleached looking from the disease. So, I pulled up everything, except the corn. Which I’ll pull up tomorrow. There’s not enough time today to pluck, pull, shuck, boil, and freeze the corn.

For most of the sunflowers I put them in the compost bin. Weeds and other plants got tossed into the blank space. A few sunflowers stayed, because the heads were ripe or the plant wasn’t about to fall over.

One surprise I noticed a few weeks ago is a white fungus growing in the bed. I think it is an explosion of the fungi eating the tree roots that are under the bed. It doesn’t seem harmful. Nothing on the live plants.

Posted by: ssorrrell | July 28, 2007

Green Manures

Several packages of green manure came in the other day and I’m trying to decide what to put down. There’s about 2 months left until first frost; August and September. The sunflower bed could have green manure sown in while the sunflowers, corn, and other maturing crops ripen and provide shade for the seedlings.

The US SAREP Online Cover Crop Database seems very knowledgeable and is a good place to start about learning about a specific cover crop.

Crismson Clover
* Cool-season annual legume
* 12-20″ tall
* Biomass 4,500-5,000 lb/a
* N content 2.4%
* Flowers April-May
* Matures May-June
* Taproot
* Hosts pea aphid and blue alfalfa aphid, prey to lady beetles
* Blossoms harbor flower thrips and pirate bugs
* Self-regenerating in North Coast vineyards
* Does not tolerate mowing as well as subclovers or medics
* Green Manure for pecan, peach, and other orchard trees
* Attractive to several beneficial insects

* Cool season annual grass
* 24-60″ tall
* Biomass 8,000-12,000 lb/a
* N content 1.2%
* Flowers April-May
* Matures May-June
* Fibrous root system
* Many cvs; ‘Ogle’ and ‘Swan’ have high biomass
* Not as tolerant of cold or waterlogging as cereal rye
* Harbors bird cherry-oat aphid
* Oat can be used as a nurse crop
* Winter kills, -8 C kills seedlings
* Structural plant, will hold up hairy vetch

Common Vetch
* Winter-annual legume
* Native to the Near East
* Flowers from April to July
* Seed matures from May to July
* Cvs include ‘Languedoc’, ‘Vedoc’, ‘Willamette’, and the hybrids ‘Cahaba White’ and ‘Vantage’
* The close relative blackpod or narrowleaf vetch is termed Vicia anugustifolia or Vicia sativa ssp. nigra. This volunteers in the foothills and valleys of Central and Northern California
* Height is 22″ in monoculture, but 72″ may be attained if supported by tall cereal grain
* N content is about 4%
* Maximum biomass is about 8,000-9,000 lb/acre
* Tolerates many soil types, but needs good drainage
* Performs well as a self-reseeding cover crop in almond, prune, and well-lit walnut orchards and vineyards and in plow-down mixes for vegetable or field operations
* Seedlings apparently establish through dense walnut leaf litter better than do those of woollypod vetch, purple vetch, burr medic, subterranean clover, or crimson clover
* Lygus spp., adult aphidophagous hover flies, various ants (e.g., Formica aerata, Solenopsis xyloni), and various parasitic wasps are found at the extrafloral (stipular) nectaries
* Cowpea aphid often abundant on the terminals during spring
* Honeybees seldom visit the large blooms
* Some cvs (e.g., ‘Cahaba White’) are resistant to rootknot nematodes (Meloidogyne spp.).
* Winter kills in the northern part of the cotton belt; it does well in western Oregon and Washington
* Withstand temperatures as low as 10 F above zero with little or no injury
* Will grow tall if supported

Posted by: ssorrrell | July 24, 2007

Heirloom Tomatos

These are links to Tomato varieties that came in the other day.

Heirloom (List on Wikipedia)
Cherokee Purple
Gold Medal
Mortgage Lifter
Schimmeig Striped Hollow

Posted by: ssorrrell | July 22, 2007

Green Manure as Disease Preventative

The standard advice to disease on tomato plants and plants in general bores me and I started to think it was wrong.  For the most part in America, a diseases plant is hopeless.  Chop it down and remember your lesson (“spray and rotate to prevent”).  this however, is not the case in many places around the world.  Some who can’t afford herbicide, pesticide, and fertilizer.

I started my search looking for a natural way to fight disease in tomatoes; specifically bacterial wilt.  What I found repeatedly were ways to fight wilt in commercially-grown organic potatoes.  Potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants are all in the same nightshade family.  So, a remedy for one is probably a remedy for others.

The process involves rotating mustard then wheat through potato fields.  In fact, there are some specific Italian mustards (from Italy not descriptive) to improve the soil by adding organic matter and preventing common potato pests.  It’s possible to drastically reduce fertilizer and eliminate fumigant.  These reductions are mostly offset by purchasing mustard seed.  The soil is much improved and very resistant to wind erosion.

I’ve seen it suggested that other green manures can provide advantages to other types of crops besides nightshade.  There was less hard info this.  If I find more I’ll post again.

These 3 American links seem based on one potato farmers experience
The New Farm
The yellow revolution

University of Idaho
Management of Oilseed Radish and Yellow Mustard Green Manure Crops

Washington State University
Green Manuring with Mustard; Improving an Old Technology

Australian Links
Tasmanian Rural and Marine Industry Profiles
Emerging and Other Field Crops

Department of Primary Industries
Organic Farming: Which Green Manure Should I Grow?
Lists many green manures and uses

Canadian Links
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food
Frequently asked Questions – Green Manuring with Legumes

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »