Tuesday, October 25, 2016

October Plants Growing!

October is a great growing month in Mesa. The weather has cooled just enough to allow the plants some relief and more rapid growth before the cold comes later in the year.
I wish I had more time to record things I am learning and observing, but I will try to sum up a few of the most important progress that has been happening.

Pumpkins: I have two beautiful pumpkin plants that survived (some didn't grow fast enough so I plucked them out to make room for the others and one got attacked by white flies.) The two survivors have sprawled themselves out and provide a lot of green to my garden area. I have been watching as the male flowers came, followed by the female flowers and then I pollinated female flowers in the early morning when they opened. The first several flowers that I pollinated shriveled and fell off, but then I stopped using a small paint brush to get the male pollen to the female flower and started removing the male flowers, pulling off the yellow petals and placing the male stamens into the female flower directly, which has had success. Although we won't have our pumpkins by Halloween like I was hoping, we have 2-3 pumpkins from one plant that are growing currently. I will plan to try again with pumpkins earlier next year. June/July are the best times to plant them from seed and I was a little late.

male pumpkin flower

Female pumpkin flower barely opened
Pumpkin growing several days after pollination, mid-Oct
Corn: My corn grew very short this season, which I learned that it is normal for fall corn to be shorter than spring corn. But, my corn is definitely shorter and less developed than it should be and I have blamed that on the poor soil (herbicides in our backyard dirt from an application before we purchased the home). Many of the corn stalks grew in a twisted way that would cause the leaves to trap the new growth and tassels until I broke it free. Basically, the growth was either stunted or deformed in most of the corn. Although a decent crop of corn looks unlikely, I have still done my best helping the pollen from the tassels reach the silks on the developing corn. It will be interesting to see in the next few weeks what has grown.

Early October 2016
Pole Green Beans: Shortly after my green bean plants sprouted, I discovered that my Russian tortoises like to eat the leaves and entire plants. I opted for a free way to keep them away by using firewood we had in our shed to create a garden barrier. The tortoises still manage to get into this area when they are especially hungry, so most of my green bean plants perished, but I still have several, one of which has grown very large. My grand plan of using my corn stalks to support my pole beans didn't work out as expected since my corn stalks stopped growing at about 3-4 feet tall. I found some bamboo support sticks that go up to 6 feet and are supporting 2 of the larger pole green bean plants. One plant has gotten so large that it is using 2 stalks of corn, the pole and is now reaching up to neighbor's tree nearby the garden for further support. The white flowers on the green bean plant are so beautiful and delicate and the bees are very active on them. Next year I would like to plant beans again because they are so easy to grow and I love how they look. I also like that, as legumes, they fix the balance of nitrogen in the soil for the surrounding plants.

Green Bean flower, growing up corn
Celery: I live on the same street as a local farmer (Brother Garcia). He has given me a lot of advice on gardening and he came by with many celery starts last week, so I planted as many as I could make room for in my garden bed by the carrots and sweet peas and also in a large pot and then shared some with a gardening friend. He says they will be ready for harvest in January and that they are heavy feeders once the roots are visibly established, and no blanching is needed for this variety.

Eggplant: My eggplant bushes have really taken off in the last week. They are beautiful and gaining strength to support fruit soon. I hope they are able to produce before the cold hits.

I also have cilantro, spinach, lettuce varieties, carrots, sweet peas all growing from seeds and have not harvested yet.
The basil plant has been flowering and very attractive to the bees and I have been sharing basil with anyone who will take some. I am going to try and dry some basil leaves before the cold of the winter. Then, I will attempt to keep the beautiful plant alive during the winter, but have been told by another gardener that basil will not live through the winter.

My marigolds are looking beautiful and hopefully helping reduce the garden bugs.
I was having an ant problem in my garden beds a few weeks ago, so I tried creating a borax/sugar ant bait and it seemed to reduce/eliminate the problem in the bed that I placed it in. I used a grape tomato container since it had perfect holes for them to access the bait. I learned how to make it from this youtube video.

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