Turn your back, and the zucchini have shot up another foot

zucchini flower croppedOK, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it sure feels like it, especially after all the rain we got last night. We even have our first flowers!

We are experimenting this year with growing the plants upright by containing each in a large tomato cage instead of using a “fence” to keep them from sprawling all over the raised bed. It seems like only a week ago they were still pretty tiny. Now the leaves have topped the second of four rings. I try to push the leaves back into the cage before they get too big. So far it’s working.

The idea is that by growing the plants up, it will be easier to see the actual zucchini before they become the size of a baseball bat. I have another incentive to harvest them small — apparently it encourages more flowering.

This is how big one plant looks on the last day of spring. The top leaves are ginormous!

zucchini in cage

The other advantage is that it can be easier to spot the squash vine borers that attack the stem and kill the plant. That’s been our problem in the last few years, of course just as the glut gets going. This video is inspiring me to start checking, to find out what I need to use for dusting — and to start fertilizing since the plants are heavy feeders. Good thing I have some TerraCycle worm poop fertilizer, made in down the road in Trenton. I worked a little bit into the soil, ready for the next rain, which might come Friday.

Keeping leaves off the ground helps fight against bugs. This video says I also need to scatter Sevin Dust carefully around the base. But it does seem like nasty stuff and kills beneficial insects like bees, which we don’t want to do. So I’m googling away for other ideas. This video suggests just spraying dishwater detergent dissolved in water could do the trick too, at least with aphids, and can work on cucumbers. Sounds like that requires some persistence. Maybe we will use some of the aphid-fighting Neem we already have.

Want to weigh in?

We are using the cages the same way we would use them for tomato plants, so the narrowest part is at the bottom and the prongs are in the soil. If we wanted to test it the other way, well, it’s too late. Plus we’d have needed some kind of clip to keep the cage from toppling over in the wind. We have no idea how heavy the plant will be and whether an upside-down cage could support them or would tip over. That first video says we should have bamboo stakes too. One more thing to do…

 

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The newest immigrants in our garden come from Mississippi and Maine

tomato plants from MississippiOnce again, we have used our travels to help stock the vegetable garden.

Four of our 15 (!) tomato plants (and it’s NOT my fault this time) are Brandywines we picked up at a farmers market in Jackson, Miss., in March. Four for $1.50 and the potential to get a jump on the tomato season was just too irresistible. (And for the record, you can take plants on an airplane as carry-on. I have done it several times.) I had expected one of the Brit’s colleagues would have wanted one or two in a trade, but nope. All the better for us.

It’s been a rainy and generally cool May and June, and the plants aren’t the tallest tomato plants we have. (That would be one of the sungolds we grew from seed.) But all four have yellow flowers, compared to just three of the others.

And when we were visiting friends in Maine last weekend, we stopped at a garden center that we had mail-ordered from many, many years ago. The prices were great then and still are attractive. Best of all, we found three varieties of leeks at 16 cents a tiny plug. Not that there was only one leek in each plug! So we have bigger, more established plants than the ones I had bought in Indiana last March that were perhaps as thin as a strand of angel hair pasta and which didn’t fare that well. (OK, I could have watered those more.)

leek seedlings from maineWe bought 18 plugs (six of each variety), so less than $3 before tax; we have more than twice that many plants. There’s the Megaton, which it seems should be harvested in the fall, rather than left to cope with snow; the Gervaria, which a seed company describes as a mid-season harvest; and the Lexton, which that same company describes as very frost-hardy. It will be an interesting experiment and taste test.

We also picked up a robust Canada Red rhubarb plant that looks like it could be three. I decided not to stress it by trying to divide it.

This is to make up for a frustrating experience with a national mail-order company. We ordered eight bare-root plants at the end of March; the lone Canada Red bare root in our order is now out of stock, as is our order of purple potato seedlings, and we’ve been told we won’t get them and had that portion of our order refunded. We’re still waiting on the Glaskin’s Purpetual (two sets of three bareroots — but worryingly, the website lists them as now out of stock, though our order is still listed) and the Crimson Red jumbo bareroot. The shipping date has been pushed back time after time, and I’ve been oh so tempted to cancel the whole thing. We will never use them again.

Our Maine friends also gave us some flowers that they are constantly dividing and moving. If they can survive the deer and the rabbits (and one has already been attacked by something), I’m going to let them fight it out with the Black-Eyed Susans. And I’ll post some photos.