Archive for the ‘heirloom gardening’ Category

Squash Seed Preservation Techniques

There are many ways to keep seed pure. We use caging techniques  in our garden, but it’s so large that caging is sometimes unrealistic or cumbersome with some varieties.
Taping some varieties of plants you intend to self-pollinate (for saving pure seed) may be a good idea for your garden.

Flower Taping

Above is a taped female blossom from a Butternut Squash plant. Notice the ovary (which will later become fruit). Male flowers are on a straight stem that contain no ovary.  Every morning I check for blossoms that will open the following day (You can see them cracking open, exposing a tiny bit of color). I tape these (male and female) to ensure I get to them before Mr. Bee does. The tape is ripped off along with the tip of the flower the following day and pollinated.
To pollinate, pick several male flowers and pick the petals off, exposing the anthers which are covered in pollen. You then rub several male anthers onto the females stigma and then tape the female shut again to ensure insects do not visit, introducing a cross pollen from your neighbor’s garden. This tape falls off with the flower as it dies. I then tie a bright piece of surveyor tape below the ovary. When harvest time rolls around I will only save seed from the marked veggies, as I know they will be pure. Vegetables that are going to be eaten and not saved for seed, do not have to be covered or self pollinated.
Many plants can be eaten and saved for seed (think tomato)  but others require over-ripening on the vine for good seed collection. Most squash seeds benefit from over-ripening (approx. 20 days after fruit is ripe) . It makes them hardier and disease resistant, giving your next years crop a wonderful start. Of course the over-ripening process kind of stinks because many squash (depending on variety) will be squishy at this point and un-edible. Winter squash like Butternut will remain nice and firm allowing you to collect seed and still enjoy the fruit. Other varieties like summer squash saved for seed will generally be mush by this point.
Self pollination should be practiced on the first sets of fruit as these are the best for saving.
What’s in your garden this year?

Insect Barrier

Insect Barrier

I mentioned in the last post about an inexpensive insect barrier from Gardens Alive. Above is a 100′ row I layed down. Use a hoe to quickly cover the edges and your all set!

DIY Veggie Trellis

Many vegetables are climbers and benefit from a trellis, which can  also optimize space in the garden.

We recently had a bean bush which is a semi-vining and it seemingly went from bean sprout to jungle wonder in a matter of 3 weeks. But, that is what beans do best!

  I like to recycle items and use what is available to me so that I can avoid unneccessary purchases.  A couple of  years ago I came up with a quick and inexpensive way to make my own trellis and have used this method ever since.

You will need:

  • 2 PVC pipes (height depending on your needs but figure in 2′ extra to bury to ensure stability
  • Twine or thin braided roping of some sort
  • Darning Needle (large hole to accommodate the twine)
  • Drill
  • Scissors
  • Hammer or sledgehammer
  1. Pound both PVC  firmly 1.5 – 2′ into ground with hammer, one on each side of  the plant row you want to trellis.
  2. Drill holes completely through both PVC where you intend to run string through (spacing does not need to be measured or exact), space accordingly to your needs. Viners will vine wherever they can reach. We space our holes about 4-6″ from one another.
  3. Thread your string through the darning needle
  4. Begin to weave in one PVC hole, stretch to hole on opposite PVC pipe and then back again, ensuring you keep the line fairly tight.
  5. Repeat weaving until you reach the height you desire. Semi-vining plants may only require a 3′ height whereas 6”+ may be more appropriate for full vining varieties. Tie off ends, knotting at beginning and ending PVC hole.

NOTE: It is normal when you pull tightly for the PVC to want to lean in a bit. This is ok. Afterall, we’re not in it for the looks but the functionality.

Ending result should look something like this:

DIY Trellis

DIY Trellis

This particular trellis was strung about 5′ in height. In about 1-2 months it will be completely covered and resemble a wall. PVC pipes can be pulled from ground and stored for next season.

Of course there are other options to trellis if you are not a DIY person or if you don’t already have the tools mentioned above. A great trellis material is available at Gurney’s for a reasonable price. All are 5′ in height and you choose between 15′ to 60′ in width. Note that you will need wood on hand to mount it to.  this material can be re-used for years.

There are so many ways to create a DIY or recycled trellis project.  I have  seen items like old rusty swingsets placed over a patch of peas that made  an extremely functional trellis. Some create hoops on the ground made out of PVC. At harvest time you simply walk through your hoop tunnel and collect your beans or peas. Pods will hang from overhead vines and make picking a cinch. No matter how you trellis, be creative!