Mid-summer Productivity, Fun and Fascination

Several significant rainstorms in August, maybe 4″ total, with remnants of hurricane Nora on the way. Extra rain means better, faster grown and productivity. As well as higher humidity, more blossom set, and more bugs. Still, the local city council just passed an ordinance that severely restricts water use for gardens, enforceable with a $1,500 fine and up to six months in jail. You don’t want me to articulate the tirade in my brain…

Most pepper seedlings were finally transplanted between August 2nd and August 18th – super late… Most went in to the garlic bed shortly after the garlic was harvested.

Peppers and Sweet Potatoes Replace Garlic

Some went into growbags and were placed in the aborted greenhouse.

They are all growing and producing SO much better than they did in the 3-1/2″ pots!

There were so many delays, and I moved seedlings at least six times before finally getting them transplanted. About 100 pepper seedlings were set aside as “extras” and are still in 3.5″ pots.

I’ve now saved seeds from about 220 varieties of tomatoes. Unfortunately, for the most part, I’m getting only 1 to 3 tomatoes per vine so far.

Tomato Seeds Drying

Obstacles during the past four months (see earlier blog posts) have contributed to delays and low production. For now (since I have a couple of thousand photos still to name from this season’s tomato harvest), I’ll just highlight a couple of interesting varieties.

Phuket Egg – quite a unique variety, with young tomatoes ripening from Ivory to Pink, then finally to red. About the size of a robin’s egg. Nice flavor, one of the more productive varieties so far.

Galapagos Wild: 93 days from seed sowing to first ripe fruits.

Galapagos Wild

Vernisazh Chernyi: Artistic and very tasty

The Musketeers

Bosque Blue Bumblebee

This Bigzarro specimen appears to have developed from a megabloom composed of at least 8 fused ovaries. I’ve had my eye on it for weeks.

Alas, because of my benign neglect, it reached only 0.710 lbs. I will have a few tomatoes bigger than this, but likely nothing over 2 lbs. this year.

One of my tomato plants appears to have a remarkable mutation – beautiful purple flowers!

Just kidding. This is the fairly common weed, Solanum dulcamara (Bittersweet Nightshade), which produces tiny red berries that are mildly toxic.

Tomato exclosures have turned into a veritable jungle, and harvesting is, well, challenging. Especially with my sore shoulders.

Swimming in tomato vines is about as close as I get to swimming in water. It’s almost as much fun, but a solo activity that often knocks off my headphones, leading to some frustration (I would just die of bordom and anxiety if I could not constantly engage my mind by listening to podcasts, audiobooks, and lectures while engaged in mostly mindless manual labor).

August has meant lots of covering blossoms and hand pollinating squash and some melons.

One of the more interesting varieties of squash I’m growing this year is Guatemalan Green-Fleshed Ayote, a butternut relative (Cucurbita moschata). The plant is very healthy, but only this morning (8-31-2021) did the first female blossom open.

I’ve been saving and refrigerating male blossoms for months in anticipation of this event. Unfortunately, it’s highly unlikely that there is time for full maturation of seeds before hard frost.

Last year I saw not a single squash bug. This year – dozens, including several egg masses, and this cluster of nymphs:

Squash bugs have killed three vines and are working hard on four more. I’m just not keeping up…

One interesting melon variety that’s doing well is Hithadhoo Maldives.

Melon, Hithadhoo Maldives

Fruits are not ripe yet, but I’m salivating… My seriously sweet tooth just cannot get enough of melons, sweet tomatoes, and other sugar-rush types of fruits.

This is also my first time growing Natsu Suzumi cucumber:

Cucumber, Natsu Suzumi

Really tasty when young; but as with all cucumbers, fruits must ripen fully and stay on the vine until frost to have any hope of producing mature, viable seeds. Translates to something like, “Cool Summer”.

Lemon cucumber has become a mainstay, in part because it produces enough that I can eat a few of them, as well as saving several for seed production.

Cucumber, Lemon

A few varieties of watermelon have fruits growing on them, such as this Carolina Cross from a championship line (327 Kent 2018):

Watermelon, Carolina Cross (327 Kent 2018)

This is one time I would bet money (if I were the betting sort) that the offspring will be far smaller than the parent. Regrettably, I really, seriously do not have the time (or $) to pamper and mollycoddle watermelons, pumpkins, squash, or even tomatoes to produce the really huge, competitive specimens. Someday, hopefully…

Bottle Gourd vines have producing male blossoms for at least three weeks. Now (today, August 31st), finally two female blossoms have opened, with three males available for pollen. I sacrified one of those to try my luck with hand-pollinating. But there were several moths flying around, so there is a good chance that both will pollinate. Female flower is the third one here.

Some intriguing bean blossoms –

Cherokee Wax is the only bean variety producing much yet. Someday I hope to be able to grow and save seeds from 100+ bean varieties every year. Packed with nutrition…

Figs (variety Black Manzanita) are starting to ripen, but will there be enough heat left this season to get them to fully ripen?

Fig, Black Manzanita

Small Dwarf Pomegranate (only 10″ tall) has put out 20 or so blossoms. It looks like two of them have actually set fruit!

Dwarf Pomegranate

Perhaps I will have a few mint seeds by October –

Mint

I’ve been keeping an eye on a volunteer morning glory vine, and it has finally started to put out a few blossoms –

Morning Glory

Gooseberry Leaf Globemallow (Sphaeralcea grossulariifolia) have done well this year – quite distinctive color.

I found a few patches of Hollyhocks alongside the road with a variety of colors, including a striking, deep burgundy color:

Predictions? Yup: I’m obviously an addict, so of course I saved hundreds of hollyhock seeds! (I can think of worse addictions, but let’s not go there just now…)

Then there is the Golden Raintree (Koelreuteria paniculata), a tree species that has fascinated me since I first encountered one at about the age of 11. Yes, again, seeds saved last fall!

Could it be that very low pollination rates are a result of predators on bees, such as this robber fly?

Robber Fly Devouring a Bee

This one apparantly hangs out around the squash blossoms. I see robber flies every day, but it’s not likely that they have a major impact on the pollinators – just an educated guess based upon some training in ecology and predator-prey interactions.

Maybe this explains how these bees met their demise –

Another interesting predator that I captured and kept as a pet for a few days was a Common Desert Centipede, Scolopendra polymorpha. These nocturnal, slightly venomous predators feed primarily upon insects, but have been known to eat lizards, frogs, and even small rodents.

This critter was so interesting that I kept it as a pet for a few days, feeding it grasshoppers, flies and moths. But I don’t have time for a pet (or human relationships…), so I released it back to where I captured it after a few days.

If it’s not obvious, I have been fascinated by the natural world for as long as I can recall. No surprise then, that I was an endangered species biologist for 25 years and taught college courses, part-time, in the biological sciences for many of those years.

Please note: I have seeds of over 2,300 varieties of tomatoes (plus seeds of >1,000 varieties of other types) available now at:

Delectation of Tomatoes, Seeds

But it takes me several hundred hours of work to harvest tomatoes of well over 500 varieties, take photographs, record field notes, extract and ferment seeds, separate and dry seeds, package and inventory seeds, enter what I have available into databases, then publish the new stock on the website. This is a process that will take me at least until Thanksgiving, more likely Christmas. Regrettably, this process means that I am always several months behind expectations (mostly those that I impose upon myself).

I am very grateful for all of those who support this massive project, despite the patience that is imposed upon us all because of the frustrating combination of my excessive ambition and very limited abilities and resources.

Plus a quick follow-up on health status — Virtually all pain is now focused in shoulders. It’s manageable, and mobility is up to about 70% compared to 15% or so a couple of months ago. Chronic, almost debilitating fatigue is a major issue I’m still working on. Still waiting on results of detailed blood work to get an official diagnosis. Thanks to the many people who have expressed concern and well wishes!

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