How to tell which zucchini flowers are “female”

Lots of people ask me how to tell which zucchini flowers are the female ones.   As the old saying goes, “a picture is worth 1000 words”.

The picture below shows a flower that is clearly attached to what looks to be a baby zucchini. That is a clear sign that you are looking at a female flower. Also notice that the stamen of the female flower is different from a male stamen.

If you look real close you can see there is actually a broken off male stamen inside the female flower. I did that to help bring the pollen from the male flower into the female flower. We have lots of pollinators, but why take chances!

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4 Things You Can Do Now For a Great Edible Garden in 2017

It’s the time of year for lists. In the last 7 days I have seen lists about:

  • top ways to lose weight
  • saving money
  • getting organized
  • etc.

Seeing such lists got me thinking about the top things an edible gardener can do today to prepare for their best vegetable, fruit and herb gardening season. Come to think of it, if you have a productive edible garden then you will eat healthier, probably lose weight, surely save money and maybe even learn some new recipes. Talk about a life hack!

OK, without further delay, here you go:

  1. Review your notes from the previous season(s). What would you improve upon? What went right in the past? Did you jot down any ideas for new plantings in upcoming seasons? That brings me to #2…
  2. Get inspired. Start browsing those seed catalogs and find some new and exciting plants to grow this season. Before you know it the time will be right to begin starting indoor seeds.
  3. Do an inventory of your seeds and other supplies. It helps to do this before ordering any seeds because we gardeners tend to forget about that end of season discount purchase of seeds and potting mix.
  4. Start sketching out your garden plans.Have some fun here and don’t be too rigid. Your first sketch likely will not be the final one. It helps to see your mental garden plan on paper to ensure it makes sense for your space. I have included garden planning worksheets in the back of my latest book on getting started in edible gardening. I hope you will check it out and maybe purchase it too.

Before starting these activities be sure to include anyone who will be a part of your gardening endeavors. Your group will be more engaged if they had a hand in the planning of the garden.

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Grandma’s garden sketch

 

 

Companion Planting For Longer Lettuce Season

image It’s July and nearly 100° here on the DIY Backyard Farm. Lots of people who stop by ask how we still have lettuce, arugula, spinach  and other heat sensitive greens.

Our secret is all about choosing the right neighbors.  True, we do have great neighbors living near our DIY Backyard Farm, but in this case I am talking about plant neighbors!

As you can see in the picture above, we have our own living adjustable umbrella shading a new crop of lettuce.  The large kale plant is acting as a sun shade for the very heat sensitive lettuce below it.  The really cool part (no pun intended) is you can pick off some of the kale leaves in case there is not enough sun. Conversely, if you need more shade the kale plant grows so fast it won’t be long before the umbrella opens up wider.

This is not exactly an example of companion planting in the more traditional sense that you might read about in gardening books. However, it works for us!

 

 

The Trick to Growing Better Peas & Beans

Check out the video below for a can’t miss tip that will work for peas, beans, cucumbers and other “climbers”.

No pea left behind…everyone of them can now climb!

 

How and When to Pick Garlic Scapes

Garlic scapes are an amazingly tasty gift from the garlic gods who deemed the waiting period for garlic bulbs to be too long. Enough with the edible gardening mythology. Let’s move on to the tips.

The video below offers up the basics on how and when to harvest garlic scapes.

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Parting Shot…Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

 

Don’t “Mess” With Me

Are you suffering from spontaneous bursts of flavor across your taste buds? Having dreams of being engulfed by the smell of freshly picked tomatoes? Maybe you can’t stop thinking about the satisfying crunch of the season’s first asparagus?

Relax, unless you have a greenhouse or geodesic dome you’re likely just suffering from edible gardening withdrawal. I know we are! Why else would we take turns dutifully carting out our remaining boxes of culinary herbs each day?

 

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Herbs On Wheels

Depending on where you live, you might have experienced a recent warming in the weather. The soil might even look workable. Stop!

The whole point of this message just hit home! Your soil is trying to trick you into playing with it. Resist young grasshopper. For if you don’t you might be toiling in the mud and setting yourself and your garden back by days and maybe weeks.

Your soil is lonely. Little to nothing has been actively growing in weeks. It wants to play! However, just like a young child, it needs a little guidance. In this case gardener guidance. If you start playing with the soil too soon in the season you will likely just turn over a top inch or two of brownie mix-looking mud. The next few inches down might be frozen solid or totally water logged from rain and snow melt. Trying to work the soil too soon will potentially disturb the structure of your soil and create more work for you later on.

Wait unti the soil is defrosted enough to be worked. An easy test is to grab a handful of soil and form it into a ball with your hand. Next, try breaking the soil ball apart with your hand or dropping it to the ground from a few feet up. Does the ball break up into small pieces when dropped or tapped with your hand? If your soil ball remains intact or only breaks into a few large clumps than it is probably too wet to work with. The soil should be more crumbly. Is crumbly a word?

So, be patient while you wait for your soil to be ready. It will come along soon enough. Spend the extra time and newly found gardening energy planning your garden, organizing your seeds, buying seeds, starting seeds and cleaning your tools. You could also read our book!

You see, there is plenty to do right now!

The Best Way To Improve at Edible Gardening

Even experienced farmers and edible gardeners need to take notes. Growing seasons can be long and the observations a gardener or farmer makes or the tips and tricks one learns can easily be forgotten.
I was reminded of this tip yet again as I reminisced on our 2015 cilantro season. Tomorrow is Taco Tuesday and there is no cilantro to be found! As a result, I headed to the local farmers market yesterday to pick some up. $3 a bunch! Ouch!

At that price I had to get some extra value out of my trip. I asked the local farmer for some tips on growing cilantro. He seemed to enjoy sharing his wealth of knowledge with me and spent a few minutes away from his busy market table explaining some of his best cilantro growing practices.

First, the wise farmer told me to harvest the whole plant instead of just picking off the sprigs the way I was doing it. Apparently, Cilantro is best harvested all at once for best results. I was doing it sprig by sprig and always wondered why the stubborn plants would still bolt!

Next, he explained that I need to be planting all season long on a weekly basis. I already knew this tip, but a few weeks into the spring I started to miss a week here and there.

Lastly, the farmer told me to make sure the plant is not getting too much heat in the summer months. Cilantro will bolt early and taste better if the soil gets too hot.

I have also heard that it sometimes helps germination if you split the seed husks and then soak them in water for a day before planting. I will be trying out that tip in 2016.
My edible garden planning guide is a great book for beginner and intermediate edible gardeners. The included notes pages are very valuable for even the most experienced edible gardeners!

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2016 will be the best cilantro season ever!

 

How We Grow Better Zucchini

In years past we lost many zucchini plants to various types of rot. I believe the rot was often caused by wilting and rotting leaves that created an environment of wet, mushy mess. Wet, mushy mess is a breeding ground for plant ailments. A couple of years ago I began to carefully experiment with trimming off single leaves and their stems from the main stem of the plant. This can be a risky move because pruning a zucchini plant leaves the plant vulnerable at the spot where you made a cut.

In my experience the risk was worth taking. The video below shows how I prune my zucchini and what they look like in late September.

You Really Can Grow Buckets of Potatoes

Back in April we began an experiment to see if growing potatoes in buckets was as easy and foolproof as so many Pinterest pins and blog posts have made it sound.

The suspense was killing us all here on the DIY Backyard Farm!

After just 3 weeks the plants were looking green and vibrant. Every couple of weeks we added a few inches of soil to cover up more of the plants. In no time at all the bucket was filled to the top with soil and green plants were spilling out over the top.

Then it got boring. Yes boring! Plant growth slowed and we wondered when we would get to dump the bucket and see the results. Most articles I read said to wait until the plants turned yellow before picking the potatoes. Our plants did not begin to yellow until late July. They also did not yellow evenly.

By the second week of August the kids were bugging me to, “DUMP THE BUCKET!”. So we did!

The video below is proof that growing your own potatoes in a bucket is not only possible, but positively potato pleasing too! If we had waited a bit longer I am betting some of those “small fries” would have gotten much larger. No worries, we still have two pots full of our “ketchup and fries” potatoes to go!

I apologize for the shaky video work. My 9 year-old videographer was feeling a bit too energetic with all the anticipation of mini red potatoes slathered in homemade chive butter.

A Few Simple Ways to Grow Great Onions

Growing opnions is not hard and certainly not magic. However, I see very few backyard edible gardeners growing these pungeunt pals of the soil.

Watch this quick video for tips and be sure to read past blog posts to learn to get started.

Happy Growing!