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Three garden surprises

Moldy seedsI had three surprises Thursday --- one unpleasant, one pleasant, and one interesting.  Mark always takes his surprises from worst to best, so I'll write this post that way too.

The unpleasant surprise came when I pulled out the kale seeds I'd saved this spring in preparation for planting our fall crop.  The seeds had rotted in the container!  I'm usually pretty good about harvesting seeds when they're as dry as possible, then letting them sit out for another week or two in an open container to finish dehydrating (especially if I'm going to seal them in plastic instead of paper), but I clearly missed a step somewhere along the way.  Luckily, I have some 2012 seeds still kicking around for one kale variety, and have time to order more of the second variety since the whole month of August works for kale planting around here.  (I also snuck in a packet of Laciniato kale into my seed order to try yet another variety.)

New tomato variety

Another hybrid tomato varietyThe interesting surprise came in the tomato patch, where one of my yellow romas turned into an orangish roma instead.  Last year, a totally new tomato variety popped up in my garden (shown to the right), and I assumed the seed had come in with the manure.  But now that I've seen this happen two years in a row, I think I'm seeing the unusual-but-possible effects of tomato hybridization.  (Tomatoes are usually self-pollinating, so you can grow several varieties in the same patch even when saving seeds, but nature doesn't always play by the rules.)  I'm guessing this year's hybrid is probably a Yellow Roma mixed with a Japanese Black Trifele, and I like the way I get the indeterminate, vigorous nature of the Yellow Roma along with a heavier fruit set and a reddish fruit.  Last year's little red roma bred true, so I'll save some seeds of the new hybrid too and will start pondering names for my newly created tomato varieties.

Summer broccoliThe final surprise was a spring broccoli plant that produced a delicious head in August!  Usually, I rip out any spring broccoli that doesn't mature in a timely manner since summer's heat prompts the plants to produce measly heads that aren't worth the garden space.  But this broccoli was tucked away in the forest garden, so I forgot about it.  And the cool wet summer resulted in beautiful head after all!  I guess I should have been more serious about planting broccoli during this wet summer to take the place of our ailing tomatoes.  I did have an extra dozen brussels sprouts sets, though, which are now getting their feet under them between the soon-to-be-gone tomatoes:

Brussels sprout
seedling

Any surprises lately in your garden?

Our chicken waterer keeps coops dry and manure out of the water.


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Can you explain that? I thought, with a hybrid, that you might not get the hybrid, but more, one of the parents with saved seed?

A surprise in my garden is that my mulching with that good earth you got for me seems to have strengthened my tomatoes so that their leaves don't seem to be blighting, the way they had been, in all the rain (I carefrully took off those leaves, on each plant, earlier, actually the way Onie used to care for her African violets).

Another discovery has been that a few Blue Lake bean seeds that had gotten dropped near the sage, have turned into lush plants, draped over 1/2 of that sage, and then all over the asparagus...so that I have a real tangle, but somehow they are not killing either support plant, and I guess are different from when morning-glory takes over. Probably all the rain has been enough for all three kinds of plants. Have to side-dress that sturdy sage, tho!

btw--I really like that book you lent me, Making Home, by Sharon Astryk--it's inspiring me to once more "red up" my gardening supplies in the basement, and to visit neighbor's gardens!

Comment by aadrianne@kitenet.net Sat Aug 10 08:28:00 2013
Its been between 95 and 110 here in Austin TX since May with very little rain. I'm still eating curly kale from the sunniest patch of my garden. Little tougher but still plenty good to eat.
Comment by eric Sat Aug 10 10:16:11 2013
I always get a few volunteers of squash and tomatoes from the compost, too. Last year I grew Principe Borghese [grape tomato] and got a bunch of volunteers this year that have done very well with the much damper cooler season. Very little blight. They're a bit slow to set, but once they get going, they'll be prolific until frost. They're a nice tasty variety, too. I did a Black Cherry grape tomato this year and they are very tasty!
Comment by Robin E. Sat Aug 10 14:10:48 2013

We grow enough mustard to have all the greens we want, but not enough to have seeds to make a decent batch of mustard sauce. After three years, I'd finally saved up enough to make some. I'd been keeping them all in a spice jar in the spice drawer. I took out the jar only to find I hadn't dried this years seeds fully. The whole batch - all three years' worth - had molded.

In surprising news - our rainbow chard is still producing quite happily. This is August in Portland, OR. Not your summers in Virginia, true, but still quite surprising. In fact, I spotted a couple of ripe strawberries in the berry patch. WTF?

In the meantime, I'm working on getting my yard certified by the Backyard Habitat Certification Program through the local Audubon chapter, and sorting through how much of their approved "native plant" list is edible. More than I'd initially thought! Plus some of the list will also bring in pollinators for the food plants, so it's going to be a big win all around.

Comment by WendP Sat Aug 10 20:42:22 2013

Mom --- Hybrids are like your kids --- every one different, and showing some traits of each parent. I'm not actually 100% clear on why a hybrid would breed true the next year, though, as our little red romas seem to have. Even self-pollinating, there should be enough genetic variability that they'd have differing offspring. Crop genetics is pretty complicated, and I clearly don't know it as well as I should!

(Fun to hear everyone's surprises!)

Comment by anna Sun Aug 11 17:47:20 2013
My surprise isn't in the garden but in the compost. The whole big pile is covered with a huge winter squash plant, even climbing into the pine tree next to it. Don't yet know what it will be, and I imagine it won't have time to ripen, even if it's not an inedible cross since last year we planted a Jarrahdale and Oregan homestead Sweet meat (both c. maxima) and Candy stick delicata and costata romanesca (both c. pepo), because it's a bit shady there. Sure is pretty though! And, interestingly, the myriad of squash bugs that I'm battling in the garden don't seem to have found it.
Comment by Julie Mon Aug 12 08:50:38 2013

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