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Archive for June, 2008

I know I’ve been a little bit behind in my posting lately — I’ve just been very, very busy. Before things got too far ahead of me, however, I wanted to mention that a couple of weeks ago I planted some butternut squash from seed I’d saved from an organic squash I got from Whole Foods, and black-eyed peas from some organic dried black-eyed peas I had. I planted a couple seeds each in big containers (esp. the butternut squash, that requires like a 15-gallon container!), watered them, covered them with cardboard during the day to protect the seeds from the harsh Texas summer sun, and waited. I thought I was going to have to wait a week or so, but I was amazed that just about three days later, I had sprouts!

Black-eyed pea seedlingI was very surprised. One morning I carefully placed the cardboard over the seedlings (I’d take the cardboard off in the early evening and leave it off during the night and put it back on in the morning), and there was nothing showing up in the dirt. When I got home from work twelve hours later, I lifted the cardboard from the container with the black-eyed pea seeds and was shocked to find a sprout about two inches high! You can see it to the right, although it is a little out of focus! I was so excited, and just amazed at how quickly Nature popped up the seed. My SFG book said it takes 5-7 days for seeds to sprout, and this was only day 3!

Butternut squash sproutThen I lifted up the cardboard on the butternut squash container. Although it had not shot up like the black-eyed pea had, there was the sprout, peaking up through the dirt! You can see it on the left here, though again, it’s woefully out of focus, but it’s the best pic I’ve got. In the others I took, you can hardly see it, but you can see it a little bit better here, can’t you?

A few days after these guys started sprouting, their siblings decided to pop up too. I’ll have to show you pix of them as well. The black-eyed pea sibling is quite a bit smaller than its brother, but the both butternut squash seedlings look like twins. I’ll try to put up some new pix of them tomorrow or so.

My basil is also sprouting, although not all the seeds in all the concrete block holes of my tiny SFG came up. And some of the sprouts are having a hard time — I don’t know if the sun is just too much for them, or I have watered them too much. But there are others that are very healthy and robust. Not sure what’s up with that. I may have to root out the less healthy ones and move the healthy ones around as they get bigger.

I am sad to say that I lost the tomato plant that had been next to my malabar spinach in the tiny SFG. It had an attack of thripes, which are tiny little spider-like creatures that lay tiny eggs in the leaves of plants and they suck the life out of the leaves, eventually killing the plant if not taken care of. I’d dealt with these with a miniature rose plant I’d had in a container in my apartment a few years ago, and I’ve also had them on herbs as well. You have to be so vigilant in getting rid of the thripes. I have used Garlicin, a natural pest control spray made from garlic, which works well, but is expensive, so I have made garlic tea from garlic cloves that I had, and that works just as well. A teaspoon of soap diluted in a small spray bottle filled with water also works very well. But like I said, you have to be vigilant and persistent in dealing with thripes, or they can take over and kill your plant. I continually battled with them on my rose, and I finally got tired and gave up after a year or so of continually spraying it. Herbs seem to handle it better, but you still need to be vigilant with them and spray them and remove the leaves that are the most infested.

However, I was surprised to see them on my tomato plant, because it’s my understanding that tomato leaves actually repel pests. I also grew a tomato in a container last year and never had a problem. In any case, the thripes didn’t kill it, at least not directly. The only thing I had on hand was dishwashing soap, which had worked well for me before. I wasn’t thinking and didn’t really measure how much I put in my sprayer bottle, which was probably my first mistake. Then I went overboard spraying it. I also sprayed the malabar spinach in case any of these dreadful pests landed on it. In any case, the next day I went back outside, and the tomato plant was brown and dying! I was so mad at myself, because I knew immediately it was because I’d over-sprayed it. I’d hoped maybe it would survive, but I left for the weekend and when I got back it was even more brown and dead. So I pulled it out of the SFG and threw it out. The malabar spinach got a little “pockey” on some of its leaves from the spray, but for the most part it’s OK. It continues to grow like a fiend. I’m trying to get it to grow up a trellis I made for it, since it is, after all, a climbing spinach!

Also, I’m trying to decide what to plant next to it, now that its tomato friend is gone. I’m a little concerned because there seemed to be a lot of soap residue in the soil, and I was afraid that might hurt other plants. I did scoop out the top part of the soil and ran water through the remaining soil, and that seems to help. I could plant either the second black-eyed pea or butternut squash seedlings. If any soap residue hurt it, I’d still have the plants in the containers to grow. I also have another tomato plant in a container, but since it’s the only other one I have, and it seems to be thriving where it is, I will let it be. Because I’d wanted to experiment with planting amaranth and/or chia  this summer, I am thinking about doing that, since it’s not a big deal whether it does OK in the soapy soil or not. I still haven’t decided. I do know that I need to replant the second seedlings of the black-eyed pea and the butternut squash, because I don’t think there will be enough room in the containers for two seedlings, especially the black-eyed pea. But I may plant those in other containers, we’ll just have to see.

Well, I’m getting very tired, and I think I’d best stop and go to bed. Hopefully I’ll be able to report more tomorrow or Monday.

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