... growing and hybridizing all kinds of plants in zone 6b Maryland since the 1980's.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Happy sight

These are peppers I'd saved through the winter last year. I didn't get them back into the ground until so late in the summer 2016, that they didn't really fruit much in this second year. So I dug them up and planned on keeping them around a year longer. Sadly, I forgot to wheel them back in the basement one evening and we got a hard frost that night. I figured they were all goners but I hoped that maybe some roots had survived the freeze. I'm glad to report that at least one of the four is re-sprouting. It's an advanced generation mild from about 1/4 Habanero ancestry. I'm still holding out hope that my favorite will re-sprout. It's a little yellow bullet shaped mild with furry stems from about 1/4 ancestry from a hybrid I called "Serranobanero" [Serrano X Habanero]. If not, I've still got seeds from it, but there was one hot pepper growing nearby when they set, so there's no guarantee the seeds will produce milds.

Fairy Tale Pumpkin

My wife picked up this 15 pound pumpkin from a place in Lancaster County PA. She said it was labeled 'Fairy Tale Pumpkin'. After Halloween and Thanksgiving were over, she let me butcher it for eating purposes. It was impressively dark orange inside - see the candy corn for color comparison in the third picture. Unfortunately, it was fairly watery and not nearly as sweet as the neck pumpkins. I think it's supposed to be a moschata type so we might use it to add some more genetic diversity to our neck/butternut/cheese population. I don't care for the deep ribbing either, but the size and nice coloring could be useful. Maybe we ought to cross it with 'Seminole' first before adding it to the mix. The two might balance out each other's shortcomings.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Trying some intentional mum crosses

This fragrant big yellow seedling is one of my favorites. So I decided I should try some intentional crosses on it. 
From what I've read, you can keep the flowers in water and pollinate them this way, They're supposed to mature seeds just like this. So I'm using the red single in front right on the cut flowers of "Big Yellow", hoping for shades of red and orange in the offspring.

Fall pollinator magnet

Every Fall, I am amazed at the sheer number (and diversity) of pollinator insects visiting our volunteer daisy type mums. Besides just being pretty, it's nice to know that they're serving as a food source at a time when those might be scarce.
I don't know what this little black winged one is: 
 Some sort of bumblebee I think:
 Another pretty little mystery insect:
 Syrphid flies? Lots of these:
 A semi-double white with bees, flies and butterflies:

A small green bee:
Big carpenter bee: 
 An assortment of butterflies, moths and skippers:

Bumblebee? Or is a different kind of bee:
Another kind of bee-mimic hoverfly:
 The remaining five pictures sure looked like a honeybee to me. I was especially happy to see that, considering how the honeybee populations have suffered in recent years.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

INCREDIBLE{!!!} Neck Pumpkin harvest

I could hardly believe how well this one volunteer plant of 'Neck Pumpkin' performed. It sure is humbling, considering that I actually planted three different kinds of squash earlier in April and all of those failed completely. I noticed this little squash seedling coming up under the lilac bush and decided to leave it, since the garden "wasn't happening" this year. When it started flowering I could tell it was a neck pumpkin by the tiny squash at the bases of the female flowers. I was totally impressed by the first wave of harvested fruit, 8 of them, that weighed 71 pounds combined. But there were still 13 more on the way and when they were harvested and added to the total, the final yield was a whopping 165 pounds!!! All from a single plant that I didn't even plant.
The squash range from 7-11 pounds generally. See the roll of masking tape in the one picture for scale.
 Here's how I've been preparing them. I cut the seed cavity off, kind of low so that there's a hole to get the seeds and slop out. Then I put that hollowed out end on a cookie sheet (preferably with edges so the juice doesn't run anywhere) and poke some "steam escape holes" in the top. I then covered the cut edges with foil and baked for two (or two and a half) hours at 350 degrees F.
 Here it is after baking.

And see how the skin is just sloughing off. Otherwise you can easily scoop out the soft pulp now with a spoon. Then it's into the food processor to puree. And put into two cup portions (a standard can amount) into zip lock sandwich bags for freezing.
 In our house, most of this puree has been getting made into pumpkin cake.
Here's a link to an old post with the recipe, which I haven't changed except for to add a Tablespoon or two of lemon juice to the "wet ingredients". Pumpkin cake recipe

Hibiscus seed pod fur

Shelling out seeds from some hibiscus crosses this season, I was intrigued by just how furry this particular one is - it's the F1 hybrid, 'Blue River II' X grandiflorus. I realize that these hairs are on the pod and unlike cotton, the seeds are hairless. But the thought still crossed my mind that somehow this trait could be exaggerated to the point that hibiscus could become a fiber crop, like a perennial version of cotton...

Jewelweed variation

A quick sampling showing the cool variation in the small population of jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) growing in the ditch at the end of the driveway. The pale variant (with reduced orange/yellow background color) had first caught my eye several years ago, but my favorites are the ones where the red dots are expanded to completely cover the petals. 

The longest keeping Cheese Pumpkin from 2015

 This 4.4 pound cheese pumpkin was harvested last Fall and here it is still in great shape on September 14th of the following year. No special storage needed. It was just stored on a shelf in the basement.
It was still juicy and bright orange inside.
And made a nice puree that we used the next day to make a tasty loaf of bread. [It's essentially just white bread, but with pumpkin puree in place of most of the water]

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

2016 Rose seedlings

A purple foliaged seedling among the open-pollinated seedlings of F1 Rosa carolina X gallica.
My bet is that "3/4 Native" was the pollen donor for this one.  "3/4 Native" is ('Fragrant Cloud' x carolina) X virginiana.
('Fragrant Cloud' x carolina) X 'Basye's Legacy'
The seed parent was infected with RRD, so I was trying to get any seeds I could from it.
Thankfully some have germinated and are looking good.
(moschata x wichuraiana) X OP and various - [used mostly 'Darts Dash' and 'Home Run']
Previous years open-pollinated seedlings had a little variation but in general were fairly uniform in appearance, so I expect any Darts Dash and Home Run offspring to stand out. At least two so far, are looking like they may be from the rugosa.
 "3/4 Native" X OP and various [mostly 'Illusion' and 'Winners Circle']

'Basyes Legacy' X OP and 'Darts Dash'
I figured the most vigorous and rugosa-like seedlings would be easy to tell were from Darts Dash
So far they're looking pretty vigorous, and from what people say Legacy seedlings usually aren't.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Amazing tomato!!!

Almost unbelievable – I picked this little yellow guy back on August 15th! I’m sure it was at a hard green stage when I picked it, so it probably will be very much lacking in flavor, but still… how many home-grown tomatoes will last for half a year without any special storage?!?!

I remember the picking date because our first killing frost came on August 17th . When I heard the weather prediction warnings two days earlier, I went out and picked all tomatoes, ripe and green, and put them down in the basement. The temperature down there is pretty consistent with the rest of the house – 67-68°F year round. So it’s not like some special storage conditions. Basically it’s room temperature. I decided to go ahead and cut it open before it shriveled or rotted (or got eaten) like the rest.

The flesh was very thin and the seed cavities had big air pockets in them, but the seeds themselves looked mostly good and the gel around them was pretty juicy also. Before squeezing the seeds into a little plastic cup, I had to see what kind of flavor this 6 month old tomato would have. Well, I can’t say it would’ve have been the BEST ever salad tomato or slicer for a sandwich, but would you really expect that? Surprisingly…  it did have a nice tangy “umamitomato flavor and was juicy enough that it would have been at least acceptable. Amazing!

Overwintering Peppers

The overwintering “select” peppers are still doing well. I’ve been keeping them in this wagon for easy moving. Most of the time they’re right inside the basement doors where they get some sunlight through the basement door windows. Here they are enjoying a warmer day outside.

I’m hoping to harvest a lot of seed from them in 2016. And because these are all mild peppers, and they will be growing in relative isolation, all of the seeds should produce milds from this point forward. Up until now, I’ve typically had more than 50% hots. It’ll be very nice not having to play “hot pepper roulette” in the future as I taste test down the rows.

Blue Eyed Grass - winter foliage

Here’s a current picture of a dainty little clump of “Blue-eyed Grass” (Sisrynchium angustifolium) that I planted out front a few years ago. I like how this native member of the Iridaceae [the Iris family] has kept relatively green and bushy throughout the winter. It’s not quite as green as something like Mondo grass, but still has decent potential to be explored as a grassy looking groundcover.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

2015 naked seed pumpkin project progress

Lotta pictures and when I uploaded them the blog application decided to rotate a bunch of them willy nilly, so don't be surprised by the weird camera angles. Anyway, I decided it was about time to cut open some of my pumpkins that have been waiting in the basement. I want to get their seeds dried down for 2016 planting. These are from my hull-less seeded pumpkin project so I have to be careful not to leave them too long or I'll have seeds sprouting inside the pumpkins. These are now quite a few generations down the line from an original cross of 'White Scallop' bush squash and 'Styrian Hulless' naked seeded pumpkin. The first five are my favorite picks from the 2015 population - numbered 1 thru 5 with a Sharpie marker. I also cut open 6 and 7 because number 4 had shells on its seeds and I wanted at least one more good seeded one. Glad I did, because number 6 had an unusually thick flesh which was pretty cool.

Here's a comparison of the flesh color and thickness. The lighting wasn't very good so they all look a little bleached out. Note the thick flesh, I'd mentioned on number 6.

 My favorite overall is number 1. Stark white skin (which came from 'White Scallop' squash) and yellowish flesh. High count of plump little hulless seeds. 

 Bummer... number 4 had hulls (hence the white colored seeds).

Number 5 looks a lot like the 'Styrian Hulless' ancestor. It also has a serious flaw. The seeds have a strong tendency to sprout while still inside the pumpkin. This is something I've been selecting against, so I'll most likely never plant any seeds from this one.

Number 6 with its interesting thick flesh. I should've known by how heavy this guy was! This is a trait I'd like to keep in the population. So since it also has a high number of plump seeds, I'll probably use this one in the future plantings.
 Number 7 was another dud - with shells on the seeds.
 When all the seeds were safely drying back down in the basement. I put 1, 2 and 3 in the oven and baked them for almost 2 hours. Then I scooped out the flesh and processed it in the food processor.
I put 8 cups in the freezer (2 cup portions in each sandwich bag) to freeze and still had enough puree to be the base for two loaves of squash bread.

I don't generally follow any recipe anymore when I make bread, but this is essentially just white bread made with pumpkin puree in place of the water.