You Have Blooms And No Squash, What Gives?

This time of year the squash is blooming away, but what if that's all you get? What if all you see on the plant are blooms? The plant is perfectly healthy with no signs of any issues but still isn't setting fruit. If you have blooms but no squash the answer may be as simple as the flowers on the plant! Why Might Your Squash Plants Not Have Female Flowers Yet? Squash blossoms are either male or female. Often what blooms first are the male flowers. The female flowers typically form later. The female flowers have oval like shapes beneath the flower on the stem. These shapes are the ovaries and what eventually turns into the squash. It makes sense when you think about it. The male flowers produce first to make sure pollen is available then the female flowers form. Sometimes though you can get a ton of male…

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How to Save Okra Seeds

It's time to put up the summer harvests and begin preparing for winter and next spring. One way to prepare for spring is to save seeds from plants you grew this year that you enjoyed so that you can grow it again next year. Okra is a southern garden favorite that is very easy to collect and save seeds from. There are only a couple steps to saving seeds from okra. First A Little About Okra Okra is botanically known as Hibiscus esculentus or Abelmoschus esculentus but we'll just keep it easy and call it okra. In it's most common culinary form here in the south okra is fried, but it can also be pickled or used in a variety of dishes. I grew two types of okra this year 'Bowling Red' and 'Star of David'. Both germinated great but neither of which grew well due to the grazing deer.…

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Organic Removal of Bermuda Grass

Last weekend I pulled out the tomato plants (all but three) and did the yearly Bermuda grass removal. Bermuda grass is one of the two most frustrating parts of my vegetable garden, the other being the deer. Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon) grows and spreads through rhizomes (under the soil) and stolons (above the soil). Any piece of the roots or stolons left behind will regrow which makes removing Bermuda grass very difficult. To remove the Bermuda grass I use a trimmer and cut back all the grass to the ground. Then I till up the soil multiple times. After each run with the tiller I rake up the roots and stolons for collection and dump them. The remains never go in the compost bin as all it takes is one little piece of uncomposted Bermuda grass to wreak havoc later. I repeat the process until as much of the grass…

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Growing Heirloom Hot Peppers

I love heirloom plants and hot peppers are no exception. The fact that the genetic makeup of a vegetable or fruit can be traced back in time many years makes the special. In some cases they have a historical context, but the main reason I like them is that they usually have a better flavor than those that are commercially produced. In my garden there is no plant easier to grow than a hot pepper. I grow several different varieties of hot peppers which range in spiciness from mildly hot to extremely hot. I love a nice hot jalapeno pepper on a sandwich but generally shy away from partaking of those that might require hospitalization! Hot peppers (and other peppers) are fairly carefree once established. Early on in their growth cycle it is a good idea to give them a little nitrogen fertilizer to encourage some green growth and lots…

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Growing Broccoli in the Garden

Last weekend we went to a family wedding in West TN. While out there we stopped by and visited my wife's Uncle Joe in Jackson who loves to garden. He has a variety of plants ranging from broccoli, radishes, and spring greens to tomatoes and peppers. Since I don't grow broccoli in my garden (I like it but my family doesn't eat it for some odd reason) I thought I would share a few photos and tips on how Joe grows his broccoli. The portion of the broccoli plant that we eat is the flowering part. Broccoli will form a flower head with multiple florets which should be harvested before they mature and turn into flowers. It helps to keep the plants cool on hot days since they are very prone to bolting (flowering) like many other spring grown plants. To help prevent the broccoli from premature bolting Joe covers…

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Vegetable Garden Checklist for the End of March

Everyone is thinking about the garden right now, if not they should be!  The vegetable garden is where you can really reap the rewards of your backyard.  Sometimes though you do't know what you should be doing and when or (if you're like me) forget a few things every now and then!  So here is a little garden checklist for you for things that you should be doing at the end of March.  This list is catered to a zone 6-7 garden with an approximate last frost date of mid-April so if you live in different zones you will need to adjust the list by a couple weeks. Vegetable Garden Checklist for the End of March Plant Potatoes and Onions  March is a great time to plant these in the garden.  We go through a lot of potatoes and onions through the year and can be some of the most…

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Growing Mustard in the Home Vegetable Garden

I'm a huge fan of mustard.  There are few snacks I enjoy more than pretzels dipped in a delicious honey mustard.  I love it on sandwiches and as an ingredient in all sorts of things from chicken dishes to potato salad. Mustard is simply awesome.  That's my opinion anyway.  It's also extremely easy to grow. A couple weeks ago I planted a row of 'Giant Red' Mustard from seeds in one of my raised beds.  There are several types of mustard which give you various colors depending on the variety.  Giant Red Mustard has the botanical name Brassica juncea which will make a spicy mustard if harvested for the seeds.  Mustard leaves are great to eat and have a sweet, tangy flavor.  The leaves are great in fall garden salads mixed with lettuce, spinach, and kale.  Mustard matures in about 40 days but can be eaten at any point. Planting…

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A Garden in Waiting

I'm waiting on my garden.  Everything is growing nicely (except for plants that got eaten by the deer but taht's another story).  Tomatoes are hanging on the plants, peppers are growing profusely, eggplants are putting on flowers, but everything has been slow to ripen!  It's frustrating but that is just part of the art of gardening.  We have to wait. We have to pick at the most opportune time for the best flavor for our fruit.  After all that's why we garden.  I don't buy tomatoes from the grocery store unless I am in dire need.  The flavor isn't in those out of season grocery store tomatoes, but it is in my garden fresh tomatoes... when they are finally ripe.   The wet and cooler summer has delayed the process for my garden.  Usually by now we would have had a ripe tomato or two.  The trade off has been…

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Growing Peppers in the Home Garden

Peppers aren't as massively planted as the tomato plant in the vegetable garden but those who do plant peppers have a passion that rivals any other fruit or vegetable from the garden.  Some gardeners love the heat and grow the spiciest peppers they can find, while others love the flavor of a sweet red bell pepper.  I find myself somewhere in the middle.  I like the flavor and taste of a spicy Jalapeno pepper on a juicy hamburger but I also love the flavor of a sauteed red bell pepper with garlic.  Raw peppers are good too. A red pepper dipped in humus is delicious! Either type of pepper is worth growing and there is a pepper variety for everyone in the garden. Jalapeno peppers forming I've found peppers to be very trouble free vegetables in my garden. The pests and diseases that other plants seem susceptible to don't bother…

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A Garden Update: The Tomatoes

We have tomato weather but no tomatoes! That's not surprising for June here in TN as most tomatoes don't produce ripe fruit until July.  Knowing that fact though doesn't diminish the desire for that first fresh from the garden homegrown tomato! Our plants are doing very well so far, healthy and strong with stout stems and trunks.  At this point in the season that is all you can ask for!  We have flowers forming with the promise of fruit to come. Most of my tomatoes are in cages.  There are a few that will need tied to stakes to keep them up.  I'll be weaving some to stakes in another area.  The raised bed in the next picture has about 10 tomato plants in it. I companion planted marigolds between a few of the tomato plants but they are not large enough yet to show up nicely in the picture.…

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