Monday, September 9, 2013

Lawn Feeding, Soybean Meal

I dropped the third fall feeding today, fifteen pounds per thousand square feet of soybean meal (the first was also soybean meal, the second Milorganite).

That should kick in around the end of September and supply ample nitrogen through October.

The last organic feeding will be around October first, to release toward the middling-end of October and into November.  The remainder of that final feeding will freeze and release small amounts of nitrogen through spring, sufficient to carry me through May and the first of the major yearly feedings.

The absolute final feeding for the year is synthetic, and done whenever top growth ceases.  That's usually around Thanksgiving, give or take a week.  This year, I chose Vigoro Super Green as it was in stock when I went, and the cheapest thing available.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Easter Eggplant--Collecting Seeds

The Easter Eggplant (featured in earlier posts) is maturing beautifully, with "eggs" turning yellow and then a burnished orange that's the perfect color for September.  I can't recommend these plants highly enough, but do recommend putting them in pots where you can more easily enjoy the eggs.  The flowers are also quite pretty, but small and easier to see if they're somewhere closer to eye level.

With the fully mature orange color, it's time to collect seeds!  Although there are plenty of methods that work well for all eggplant, including the blender method, I chose the glass of water method.

Pick an eggplant (be careful, they have small thorns on the stem).  Fill a glass half full of water.

Cut the top stem portion off the eggplant.  You can cut as deeply as about a quarter way through the eggplant without losing too many seeds.

Then quarter the eggplant.  You can pull apart the seed containing areas by peeling back the yellow-white "meat" and exposing the seeds in layers.  Your thumbnail will be sufficient to free the seeds.  Dip your fingers containing the seeds into the water.

Repeat until you have all the seeds you want (it's best to take seeds from several plants to preserve as much genetic diversity as possible).  You may notice a few seeds float to the top, and all the excess eggplant meat and rind will also float.

Carefully pour off the water down to the seed layer but don't lose the seeds!  Then refill with water again and repeat pouring off.  Do this a third time and the water should be completely clear.

Dump the seeds onto a plastic or china plate (seeds will adhere to paper) and spread them out as well as you can. 

They'll tend to stick to each other, so do your best.  Let dry for a day or so, and spread them again.  Then dry for a week in a location out of direct sunlight and store for the winter.

Eggplant seeds tend to do best if they experience vernalization, or the process of simulating winter and then raising temperatures for spring.  I may do an extended entry on this in the future as I now have two species that benefit from vernalization (the other is cleome).

Storm Damage

We had vicious thunderstorms blow through on Labor Day, including more than 3 1/2" of rain and violent winds.  Parts of the garden took some damage, most notably the tallest and most exposed of the cleome.

Most of the shorter plants, including the marigolds, zinnia, ageratum, and so on came through unscathed, as did all the trees and shrubs.  As a general rule, larger and more spread-out annuals will tend to be damaged most easily by winds.

When this happens, there's very little you can do.  Remove any broken branches, re-seat any plants that have been shifted, and hope for the best.

Damage will tend to occur toward the end of the season, so at the very least you don't have long to look at it.  Early season plants are smaller and more flexible.

In my case, much of the mass was chopped and composted, and the damage wasn't terrible.  One cleome that I couldn't re-seat will simply lean a bit for the remainder of the season.