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Posts Tagged ‘corn’

Vegetable Seeds Choose Life in a Small Kitchen Garden

I don’t think this is natural… and it’s even a little creepy. In real life, corn seeds dry out on the cob; get eaten by rodents, birds, and deer; and end up back in (or on) the soil before they sprout. Even if you don’t treat corn right, it wants to grow; it wants to make its own corn seeds.

The whole point of being a mature vegetable is to make more vegetables. Once you’re all grown up, you have only to spread your seeds so they can take root and produce new plants. As a vegetable seed, you do everything you know how to do to succeed; to grow into a mature plant so you can spread seeds.

To illustrate my point, the photo to the right shows an ear of sweet corn which, when I husked it, simply looked too old to cook and serve at a meal. Instead, I set the ear—along with husks from the night’s meal—into a compost bucket and set it on the deck rail. Then I kind of overlooked that compost bucket for a week or two. When I finally got around to dumping it, I found that the corn on the cob was growing.

I had not treated these corn seeds well. I hadn’t dried them. I hadn’t removed them from the cob. I hadn’t stored them in a moisture-free environment. I hadn’t planted them in well-nourished soil. I hadn’t kept them uniformly moist. Still, they did their best in the environment they had available.

I won’t make a habit of sprouting seeds in dishrags for my small kitchen garden. This was a complete fluke and it will never happen again (maybe).

A Tomato Seed Shows Pluck

Poor housekeeping in my kitchen should further make my point: I prepared a tomato salad during the summer, and used a Handi-Wipe towel to clean up the counter. When I finished, I rinsed out the towel and tossed it against the backsplash of the sink.

Apparently, I didn’t use the towel for a few days, but when next I picked it up, I found it had a passenger: a young tomato sprout had emerged from among the towel’s fibers. This was not the tomato seed’s natural environment, but still it managed to set out on its mission to grow up and produce seeds of its own.

Starting Vegetable Plants is Easy

Why am I telling you about my horrible housekeeping? To emphasize just how easy it is to start a garden: when you follow instructions in a “how to plant vegetables” article, you’re pampering seeds with an ideal environment; you’re bound to succeed! So… try it! Even if you mess up in extreme ways, your seeds will try very hard to make you successful.

Do you have examples of seeds sprouting—or vegetable plants succeeding—in unlikely environments? Please share your story in a comment!

 

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Small Kitchen Garden Bloom Day, August 2011

There are three pots of basil on the handrail of my deck. I put far too many seeds in the pots, and the poor plants grew up stunted. Still, the flowers are delicate and beautiful.

My small kitchen garden, like so many gardens in the US, has struggled through the season. Happily, things are finally moving along, though I’m afraid there is a fungus trying to kill my tomato plants.

But today isn’t about the problems, it’s about the bling! The 15th of every month is Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. You can learn more about it over at May Dreams Gardens. I failed to capture decent shots of the flowering mint and cilantro. Also, I neglected to photograph corn silk. Still, there were a lot of blossoms today. Please enjoy the photos of what’s abloom in my kitchen garden.

There are two windowsill planters of cucumber plants under the handrail on my deck. This flower snuggles beneath the handrail, and it is one of dozens that have popped in the last week or so.

A bell pepper flower appears healthy and robust. Oddly, my bell pepper plants are thriving while my jalapeno, banana, and poblano pepper plants are struggling.

Despite the appearance of something blighty on some of my tomato plants, they continue produce flowers. I don’t suspect late blight because all the lesions are on lower stems and some lower leaves. I’ve seen no signs of sporulation, so it doesn’t seem likely to move from plant-to-plant. Still, I fear for my tomato crop: it may be quite limited this season.

How’s this? I understand it’s the male flower on a corn plant. My sweet corn is growing ears, and the silk on those is, technically, the female flower. This corn tassel is red and the corn lower down on the plant is also supposed to be red. I’ve never tried red sweet corn, but I suspect it will taste a lot like yellow sweet corn.

That’s a cosmos trying to hide behind a corn leaf. I planted cosmos with my corn because I heard from an online acquaintance that this would keep away corn ear worms. The first ears are nearly ready to harvest. I don’t see evidence of worms, but they can be pretty sneaky, so I won’t know for sure if the cosmos helped until I start shucking.

As long as I’m confessing about planting flowers, here’s an even bigger sin: My wife ceded an ornamental bed to me so I could grow more climbing beans. I set about ten beans across the back of the bed, and then planted five or six types of flower seeds through the rest of the bed. From the looks of things, only two types of flower plants survived, and the first to bloom is a zinnia. The leaves way back against the wall of the house on the left are Kentucky Wonder bean leaves.

On the subject of beans, here’s a flower on one of my bush wax bean plants. The plants suffered heavy chewing by insects until I treated them with insecticidal soap. With new leaves, the plants show more vigor toward reproduction. I’ve harvested a serving of wax beans and anticipate being able to preserve about a gallon of them before the season is over.

Weed. There’s quite a bit of it near my small kitchen garden, and just a few stems actually in the garden. The flowers are pretty so it’s hard to go all anti-weed on them.

I had to finish with a winter squash blossom because it’s all that! This is the biggest squash blossom in my small kitchen garden. It belongs to a neck pumpkin plant and was one of about a dozen gorgeous blossoms peaking out from rain-soaked leaves this morning. Oddly, my blue Hubbard plants have produced about 8 female flowers and only one male flower. I’ve pollinated the blue Hubbards using male flowers from the neck pumpkin plants. So far, they seem to accept this hybrid pollination, but I can’t predict whether the seeds will be viable next year (and if they are, what the squashes might be like). Perhaps I’ll find out next summer?

 

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Small Kitchen Garden Bloom Day, July 2011

This onion barely qualifies as “in bloom” on this Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. A few petals remain, and I assume the white bud-looking things are future onion seeds. If these grow anything like wild onions, I expect to see sprouts emerge all over this ball within a month or so… assuming I can continue to work around it—at this point, it’s kind of in the way in my small kitchen garden.

It’s Garden Bloggers Bloom Day and my Small Kitchen Garden actually has something to offer! My vegetables are a few weeks behind compared to past years, but things are finally shaping up. (Understand that I had virtually no spring crops this season because my planting bed was underwater until the end of MAY.) Tomatoes have formed (seedlings went into the garden in early June) and I’m projecting the first will ripen in mid August… which is just a bit later than usual.

Peppers are the hold outs this year. While my bell pepper plants are lush and growing, my jalapeno, banana pepper, and poblano plants have stood for weeks with no apparent growth. Now that the soil is seasonably dry, I hope these struggling plants finally get it in gear.

For long-time readers of Your Small Kitchen Garden, the cilantro and dill pairing should seem familiar; it has starred in many a Bloom Day post. The dill (right) is poised to blossom, while the cilantro (left) is about to produce coriander—seeds from the cilantro plant are, in and of themselves, a popular seasoning.

My herb bed helped me through the wet spring; it was never as wet at the main planting bed so I was able to start annuals alongside the perennials I’d set in in the fall. The purple flowers—clearly in bloom—are on a volunteer that I recognized when it first sprouted; it had snuck in from my wife’s ornamental plantings. The modest blossoms stand out against the lush greens of sage, cilantro, dill, and basil.

Mint blossoms! I don’t know what type of mint it is… it started growing two years ago in a planter containing tarragon plants. I’m OK with it as long as it stays in the container. But if it escapes, I will almost certainly eradicate it; mint is aggressive about colonizing planting beds.

The broccoli was a joke this year. Because of rain, I left seedlings in their starting pots about a month too long. When I finally set them in the garden, the soil was too wet—and then it rained. When the plants finally sent up florets, each would have filled about a tablespoon. The side shoots have been even less impressive. I’ve pulled all but three of the plants, and a rabbit recently pruned two of them. Climbing beans are now emerging from the decimated broccoli area. Pretty yellow flowers will not save the last broccoli plants from a move to the compost heap.

Happiness is a tomato blossom presaging the coming harvest. (I said “presaging” because it has “sage” in it.) I’m growing 10 varieties of tomatoes this year if you don’t count the Cherokee Purples that have sprung up in the compost heap.

There seems always to be at least one interloper at my Bloom Day photo shoots. Here, a fly-looking thingy tries to steal the spotlight from a bell pepper flower. I so hope my peppers have enough growing season remaining to turn red; I’d like to make a batch of red pepper relish using only peppers from my garden.

Yep: weed. At least that’s what my wife says. I think it looks like a morning glory, but my wife assures me it’s not. Still… it really wants to be a morning glory. I suppose I should believe my wife given that these things grow as abundantly as purslane wherever we work the soil.

That’s a cosmos about to burst into song in my vegetable garden. It irks me just a little to have been planting flowers, but I planted corn this year (which I haven’t done since I was a kid). I mentioned one week during #gardenchat (a weekly gathering on Twitter of anyone wishing to discuss gardening) that I was going to plant corn, and someone assured me that if I plant cosmos with it corn ear worms will not visit my crop. I hope this wasn’t just a mean trick to get me to plant flowers… We shall see.

 

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A Large Kitchen Garden

not a small kitchen garden

I just returned from a visit with neighbors whose activity completely fails the criteria for a small kitchen garden: He tills a plot that is 11 yards across, and 33 yards long. He starts spring crops early, plants summer crops in their place as they expire, and goes back for another round of spring crops as summer draws to a close. She spends hours a day from late spring to early fall processing food into jars and freezer packs. In fact, as I approached this morning, they both were shucking their last ears of sweet corn—clearly enough to can or freeze.

We chatted before I began a photo shoot in their garden (click the lead photo in this post to see all the photos on flickr.com), and a chipmunk snuck under the table and tried to grab a kernel of corn from her sandal… it startled us, and we startled it with our reactions.

My neighbor’s garden is extremely traditional. They’ve lived in their house for fifty years, and simply carved a garden plot out of the yard (it’s a very big yard). There’s no transition from yard-to-garden… except that the grass ends and then there’s exposed soil. The garden is large, so you need to walk in it to reach the plants, and the rows are close together.

At the near end of the garden, I found long-necked squash weaving among tall sweet corn stalks. Sunflowers defined the garden’s edge, though they’d faded: their heads dry and drooping ground-ward. There were rows of tomato plants hugging the ground, and other rows of tomatoes staked and upright. Beefsteaks and Italian tomatoes—the first for salads and sauces, the second specifically for sauces.

bean flower

There were huge cabbages, a row of green beans, another of wax beans, and a third of lima beans. The cucumber plants were spent, but tucked next to them was a pocket of young lettuce and flowering bean plants—recent planting. Interestingly, the cucumber plants were withering where peas had grown in the spring. There was a partial row of pretty green-and-purple-leafed plants I mistook for turnips, but it turned out they were beets.

I believe she mentioned that she has already put up 50 pints of tomato sauce, but it was clear there’s another ten pints of sauce on the plants. They didn’t have much luck with beans this year as they rely only on rain for water, and it has been dry. Still, the recent rains have revitalized things, and it looks as though some bean-picking will soon be in order.

All this as the season is winding down. Still, in our hardiness zone 5b, we might not see killing frost until mid October. A lot of new beans can grow in 30 days, and you could even get some decent young lettuce if you started from seed now.

My neighbors have peach and apple trees in their yard. The peaches are all harvested, and the apples will provide enough for the season without creating pressure to preserve them. A small grape trellis holds an awesome crop of what look like concord grapes—I should have asked while I was there, or tasted one. I also failed to ask how they use the grapes, but she did comment that the grapes would be the last of the big chores before the garden is done for the season. My mom used to can a mixture of grapes, sugar, and water; we’d drink the liquid from these jars and toss the grapes. This juice absolutely rocked compared to commercial grape juice.

My neighbor’s compost heap stands about five feet deep, and must be at least 12 feet on a side. No doubt there is a thick layer of rich mulch at the bottom. As he uses no chemical preparations, he must move a lot of compost to till into the garden each year.

Yes, it’s a large kitchen garden, but even with all that space, they get more production by staging crops according to the seasons. This is an important technique especially for the owner of a small kitchen garden who wants to get the most from little space.

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