My Top 5 Heirloom Melons (of 2013)

This winter, when I received seed catalogs in the mail, I immediately turned to the Melon pages.  After years of struggling to grow melons in conditions that simply were not suitable – partial sun, cool nights – I was determined to grow a few delicious heirloom melons in my tiny garden.

Baker Creed Heirloom Seeds, based in Missouri, has the most incredible selection of melons I have ever seen.  It was incredibly difficult to select only a few, and I ended up with a dozen or so varieties.  Sadly, some of my starts didn’t transplant well, but I was still left with an assortment of eight varieties, of which we are still harvesting several!  Here are my favorites:

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Banana Melon – Looks like a banana, tastes (faintly) like a banana.  A sweet, unique melon that I really enjoyed.  Fun to share with friends because it’s such an interesting shape and color!

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Prescott Fond Blanc – When this melon began taking shape in my garden, I thought I had misplanted a winter squash. Its bumpy, warty appearance and squat shape are very un-melon, but the flavor is rich and sweet.  The photo above does not do this melon justice, as I picked it a bit too early.

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Ananas – A white fleshed melon that is SO sweet and juicy. This melon was Brian’s favorite.

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Piel de Sapo – (In Everett’s arms) We enjoyed this variety in Oregon, purchasing it from the local natural food store.  It is a late ripening melon – today we harvested the first of the four fruits on our vine.

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Charentais – A French melon.  Small, extremely fragrant, and sweet.  We cut one of these open this morning and ate it before breakfast, with no leftovers.

Did you grow melons this year?  I’d love to hear of your favorite varieties. I’m making a wish list for 2014!

Shared with From the Farm Blog Hop and Homestead Bloggers Network.

Piles

Some days I look around the land, and realize that Brian and I are Pile Managers.  I never really thought much about it before we started creating a new homestead from scratch, but the work of building and creating begins with piles. Piles1

A pile of gravel leftover from the driveway we put in this winter.  A pile of wood chip/sawdust mulch that we’re spreading around the base of our fruit trees.  A pile of lumber from a century old barn and outbuildings that are being torn down, and whose wood will become the siding of our tiny home (and has already been integrated into the building of our chicken coop).

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A pile of black walnut wood, ready to bring to a local Amish mill.  The previous owner had taken down several enormous black walnut trees, leaving tops in the forest.  Borrowing our neighbor’s log arch, Brian dragged these sections of trunk up hill, loaded them up, and brought them to the mill, where they were milled into…

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A pile of beautiful, high quality lumber.

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Then there are the piles of materials for future projects, such as this pile of blue metal roofing for our someday composting toilet. Piles4

And of course, the many piles of organic material that went into the creation of my sheet mulched garden, such as this…

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and this…Piles5

…which now, amazingly, look like this:

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Indeed, we Pile Managers sure do create and move a whole bunch of piles!

This post was shared on the Homestead Bloggers Network, Mountain Woman Rendevous, and From the Farm Blog Hop.

In the Garden: Squashing Squash Bugs and Whining over Wilt

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Growing zucchini in Oregon took little more effort than tossing a few seeds over your shoulders and coming back in a month or two to harvest (and harvest, and harvest). Sure, a slug or two might eat your young plants, but if the zucchini plant outgrew the slugs, you were pretty much guaranteed more zucchini than you could possibly eat.

It’s not quite that easy here in Northeast Missouri. In fact, everything garden-wise is proving to be much less intuitive, and much more difficult than I imagined.  Pests can truly impede a home gardener’s ability to grow certain food crops.  Growing summer and winter squash is made challenging by the presence of squash bugs, squash vine borers, and cucumber beetles (which spread bacterial wilt disease) – and these are just the ones I have had personal experience with!  (This website has a great list of common squash pests and the damage they inflict.)

I planted five summer squash plants this season – one yellow crookneck, two yellow straightneck, and two zucchini.  The zucchini and yellow crookneck in particular have been incredibly healthy and prolific for the past month.  Trying to keep pests at bay, I dutifully checked the base of the stem every few days for signs of squash vine borers, and turned over leaves each day to kill any squash bug eggs I might find.

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The copper colored eggs of the squash bug

In the process, I found a few adults and some nymphs, which I promptly squished.  Things seemed to be under control.

Then, one day, I came home in the late afternoon to find my zucchini plant looking like this:

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AHHHHHHHH!

Since I was unable to find any trace of boring activity, my best guess is that my plant was infected with bacterial wilt disease, which is commonly spread by the cucumber beetle.  When the plant did not perk up after a day or two, I removed it from the garden. As you can see, the plant immediately adjacent has not (yet?) been affected.

I had a chance to talk with a Farmer’s Market grower this weekend, and he says that his best success comes from planting in succession.  I’m making a mental note to leave space for this next year. On a positive note, I now have a bit more garden real estate in which to plant fall crops!

How are things growing in your garden?  Share a link, tell a story, or just say hello in the comments below.  I’d love to hear from you!

This post shared with the Homestead Barn Hop, Homestead Bloggers Network, and The Home Acre Hop.