Friday, August 30, 2019

Greenhouse Update

Zucchini squash.....
      Growing zucchini in a protected greenhouse actually works for me. Wow. Pickleworm has been the number one problem before, and the screened greenhouse solved that by blocking the moth. Powdery mildew was the other crop destroyer, but spraying the foliage with a sulfur spray controlled it. Being in a greenhouse meant that the sulfur didn't get washed off by rain, so it was very effective in preventing mildew. And squash borer also couldn't get past the screening to destroy the plants. 
     I tried 3 varieties and found one that far out preformed the other two. "Desert" produced and grew the best. I plan to try another variety with parthenocarpic traits and see how it compares to Desert. 
     I initially planted the seedlings too close together. Over time the plants trailed, developing 2 1/2 to 3 foot stems, interfering with one another and making it difficult to harvest and care for them. Plus I planted them all at the same time, rather than spacing the timing out. So in the future I plan to plant two seedlings, wait a month and plant two more, and repeat. The goal will be to have a total of 6 zucchini plants producing on different time schedules. I know this could work during the summer half of the year here. We shall see if this plan works during the winter half. If it does work, then I potentially could have a supply of zucchini for our table year around. 
     This experiment yielded 57 zucchini. Plus I still have one plant still producing, with three little squashes soon to be ready for picking. 

     I've learned that growing greenhouse cukes could work on my farm, but I need to dramatically improve the growing conditions. I need to learn more. Some of the varieties I tried did better than others, and only one did really good. But I suspect that's because I don't have the soil and nutrients right for cukes. And I don't have the watering timed well enough. Powdery mildew became a problem before I got a handle on it, thus it effected the plants. 
     All the varieties I tried were worthy of growing, so I don't plan to discard any of the leftover seed. I'll grow them all again. 
     This experiment yielded 53 cucumbers and I kept the Saber variety plants, thus I'll be getting more for the next week or two. But the plants are looking old, so I don't know how long they will hang in there. And as I said, I don't have the growing conditions right yet. 

     All the tomatoes are doing great in the greenhouse. And I'm just now starting to get large tomatoes. So I'd deem this a total success. I might be picking my first tomato next week. 

     Just as with the tomatoes, the peppers are doing very well. The plants are a lot taller than when grown out in the main garden, which may have to do with reduce light intensity. They are just starting to produce peppers, so it looks successful. Being that the plants are tall, I may need to provide some support stakes for them when the peppers start developing. The weight may cause the plants to lean. 

Lima beans.....
     Since I've been harvesting lima beans, I declare this experiment a success.  It's the first time I've been able to harvest enough limas to eat. The next step in this experiment will be to test varieties, to find ones that do better than others and that I like to grow. 
     Succotash variety produced earlier than the others, but it is not nearly as productive in the long run. The vines appear to have stopped growing now. I can't say that for certain yet, but I'm not seeing fresh new growth. Being that it isn't very productive this first time trying it, I'm thinking I need to give it a second chance. Perhaps the soil isn't quite right. I like the colorful beans, but I find a lot of duds in the pods. I don't know if this a variety trait or a deficit in the growing conditions. I'll try growing this again to see how it does the second time around. 
     Dixie Speckled Butterpea is a winner! It's growing well and producing tons of limas. It's easier to shell than Succotash and doesn't have the problem with duds in the pods. It's out producing Succotash by a mile. I'll definitely grow this one on a regular basis.
    Jackson Wonder - the verdict is still out. The plants are growing well but it is a later bloomer than the others. Time will tell if it can produce under these greenhouse conditions. 
     Yield to date is 3 1/2 cupfuls of shelled beans. I'm thrilled just by the fact that I'm getting my our homegrown limas to eat. I'll be getting a lot more because the Dixie Speckled Butterpea plants are still loaded with pods. So are the Jackson Wonder beans, although I can't confirm yet that there are maturing beans in those pods. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Pig Trap

Trying to catch half wild pigs in my homemade cobbled together contraptions has given me new insights into pig catching. Once cornered, the buggers are like mini tanks and ramming machines, and they don't give up. Bam. Bam. Bam. They even tried jumping out, managing to hook their front feet over the top of the 4 foot high fence. And after many minutes of ramming, they actually busted a hole right through the fencing.

I decided that a trap needs to be either small or very large....and extremely tough. With an intermediate sized trap the piglets just keep ramming the sides. It's too large to stop them from getting a run start before they ram, and too small for them to settle down and hide in a corner.

The professional pig trap (yes you could make one yourself if you know what you're doing and have the  tools) is super sturdy. This one is well welded, completely made of metal, and strong. It weighs 94 lbs, though heavy, I can load, unload, and set it up by myself. And its construction is obviously something that even a cautious pig will accept and eventually walk into. After all, it caught my two suspicious piglets. By the way, they went berserk once trapped. But they couldn't bust out. Believe me, they surely tried. 

This trap uses a guillotine door, which is down (closed) in this photo. 

Now that I've solved my own pig problem, I plan to rent this trap out. I have a few people who already want to use the trap to solve their pig problem.

I transport the trap in the bed of my pick up, but it's a tad longer than the bed. 
I use a bed extender to safely hike the trap in the truck bed when I transport it.  

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Farm Update

I've been kind of bummed out working on the farm these past two weeks. It's been far too wet for my liking. Lots of rainy nights and even a few day long rains. It's resulted in water laying here and there in the gardens due to the sub-rock being pahoehoe lava. I've been working in the rain, which surprisingly I don't really mind all that much. The rain hasn't been cold. But my feet complain about being too wet for too long. And then, there are plenty of things that I want to do that just won't work in the rain, such as till the gardens and mow the grass. 

Some of the plants aren't happy with all the rain either. Several of gardens of green onions came down with rot and died. The potato boxes have stopped giving me big tubers, so I'm ending up with far less than half the anticipated harvest. 

On the plus side, all the rain has meant that most of my cuttings are taking. I planted plenty of chaya, cholesterol spinach, pineapple suckers, and sweet potato cuttings....they all rooted. That was amazing. Normally there will be a percentage that fail. 

Since it appears that the climate change means that the farm gets more consistent rain, I need to think about protecting crops from excess moisture. Surely I could grow most things in greenhouses or high tunnels, but that means a major expense. I'm not ready to do that. In fact, I'm at the point where I want this farm to support itself. So the farm needs to earn money in order to build greenhouses or tunnels, or roofs of some sort over certain gardens. I'm going to have to mull this over. 

On another note, I've captured and sold the pigs. I broke down and purchased a professionally made pig trap. It wasn't cheap, but the sale of all the pigs actually paid for it. On my next post I'll show you this new fancy trap. 

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Coffee Trees Today

Checked on my trees and found most of the green beans in good shape. But many individual branches are blooming, full of flowers. Generally the branches heavy with green bean have zero flowers. Branches with little or no beans are in full bloom. A strange sight. I did find one branch that was a mix -- rather sparse on beans and blooms.

A good crop of beans. It will be beautiful when the turn red. 

White coffee flowers. From a distance it looks like snow on the branches.

A mix of flowers and green beans. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

First Lima Harvest

I was tickled to be able to harvest my first lima beans today. I've never had success with them before. I think that the farm is too cool for successful lima bean growing. Oh the plants grow just fine, but they don't produce much in the way of lima beans. It was frustrating.

Today I picked enough limas in the green shell stage for a taste test. Green shell is when the pods were still turgid but had changed to a lighter color. They were mature. If I left them on the vine, the next step would have been for the pods to dry down. I'll try cooking the beans tonight and see how they are. 

Three beans in each pod. Some pods have more. 

These beans are very pretty. So I might continue to grow them simply because they are beautiful. A crazy reason I know, but what the heck. 

I plan to allow enough beans to mature for seed saving, perhaps a pound. Then we will eat the rest. A pound of lima beans is more seed than I need, but I plan to share some with a friend living in a hotter area. I'm curious if she would be more successful than I in growing them outdoors. 

Oh, I forgot to mention. These are Succotash Limas that I got from Baker Creek seed company. 

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Zebra Banana?

Is this something unique? Is it a zebra banana? Have I discovered something new? 

No, no, and no. 

I've seen these little water suckers have blotchy colored leaves before. I suspect that it caused by some sort of a deficiency. Since they have a weak root system, I'm going to venture a guess and say that they are more susceptible to soil and water deficiencies. I've never seen this leaf blotchiness on sword suckers. I don't know what this particular problem is, but I do know how to correct it. 

Very interesting leaf markings. 

First of all, these little water suckers need help if they are to develop into productive, vigorous trees. So I often will transplant them to a better location where I have tilled in a generous amount of compost. I will then pay particular attention to making sure they get adequate moisture and fertilizer for the next several months. This generally means keeping them well mulched with compost, adding more as needed. Given time and attention, they grow into normal trees. 

I have seen these water suckers being sold at farmers markets as Zebra Bananas. The sellers ask high prices. But I've done a little research and found out that these sellers are either mistaken or simply fraudulent. These blotchy marked suckers aren't Zebrina/Zebra/Blood bananas. They're simply a starving water sucker. 

This particular water sucker I've photographed is at the base of a bamboo patch, where it struggles to get nutrients. It came up off of an old banana corm I had dumped there a couple years ago as fill. So I know exactly what the parent plant looked like, and it was a normal green tree. With adequate nutrition, this little guy will become green and thriving. 

Friday, August 9, 2019

Watering The Greenhouses

Several folks have asked about how I'm watering in the greenhouses. I'm using a rather low tech approach......a hose. 

Ok, it's not completely simple, like turning on the outdoor faucet and letting the water do its thing. The greenhouses are about 500 feet from the nearest water faucet. Plus the house pump is small, not strong enough to drive the water that far. Nor do I have 500 foot of hose just lying around not being used. So I do something a bit different. 

Right now I'm using the truck to transport water in trashcans down to the greenhouse area. Then using the portable generator, I use an electric sump pump to apply the water via hose. This works, but it takes time. 

While there are lots of cons to this method, there are a couple pros. 1- I can add a liquid nutrient to the water to provide the plants with a fertilizer boost. 2- I can apply the water directly to the soil, thus keeping the foliage dry. 3- rather than "one size fits all" watering, I can apply extra water to spots that need it.

I figure that in the future I'll develop a better method. Not sure at this point what I'll do. Water storage directly in the greenhouse area? Some sort of gravity feed drip irrigation? 

Before y'all run it and start doing all your garden watering with a hand held hose, be aware that almost all gardeners severely underwater their plants when using a hose. People think a lot more water gets into the ground than it does in truth. The easiest way to check is to use a finger to scratch the soil when your done. Visually check to see how far down the soil is wet. Your results may surprise you. In my case I know that I'm applying 100 gallons to a 100 square foot garden bed. So that's 1 gallon per square foot. I've already tested the soil and found that it wets the soil deep enough to satisfy both me and the plants. 

One more note...... I never let the soil completely dry out. I apply water while it is still a bit moist. The reason being, dry soil on my farm is very difficult to re-wet. The water runs through it in channels, leaving behind 95% dry soil. If the soil is damp, then it takes the water with no problem. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

More Yard Art -- Lantern

I found this really cool decorative lantern-thingy at the dump thrift store. It just begged to go home with me, so of course I obliged. Now, what to do with it? Why not hang it down by the gate? Ah-ha, an opportunity for more yard art!

Now there are lots of different ways one could hang a lantern. But living by the philosophy of having this farm be somewhat self reliant, I looked around for a suitable post......tree, that is. And I found one that could be sacrificed and not more than a dozen feet from easy access. It had to be trimmed a bit more than I liked because of the weight (less tree = less weight). Afterall, David and I had to manhandle it into the truck bed, then from the truck to the hole. Surprisingly, this tree weighed a lot more than it looked. 

Happily we were able to dig a hole down two feet before hitting solid rock. Using a bag of quikcrete and lava rocks, the pole got securely anchored outside the gate entrance. On one arm I hung the lantern-thingy. The other arm will eventually hold a plaque with the street number. I was going to hang the old sign that's been sitting on the rock wall, but David thought it needed something classier. So he's making a new sign for me. 

One more step to go.....capping the ends of the branches. I plan to pick up some copper to make copper caps. If not copper, then lead. All depends upon what I can find in the stores. 

Adding a vase and yellow flowers seemed like a nice touch. Yup, it's sort of like putting lipstick on a pig, but I like the look of this new lantern & post.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Colorful Potatoes

Growing weird potatoes is fun. Yes! I grew up knowing only two types of potatoes -- white russet bakers and red skinned boilers. I was long since into my adult years when I discovered that potatoes came in all sorts of sizes, shapes, and color combinations. 

To date this year I've harvested 3 potato varieties. 

La Ratte. This one is a yellowish-white fleshed fingerling. Great for frying or boiling. Just don't try to mash it. It has a delightful nutty flavor. 

La Ratte

Dark Red Norland. The potato of my childhood. Red skinned, white fleshed. Mom used this one for everything but baking. 

Just like the label says.....Dark Red Norland

Purple Majesty. Purple skinned, purple fleshed. It's a beauty. Makes great fried potatoes. We like the flavor of this one. 

Purple Majesty

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Observations on my Greenhouse Experiment

I've only had the greenhouses operating full scale for the past two months. But already I've been able to make several observations. 

..... Covering. Plastic film vs greenhouse tarp. The plastic film allows more light into the greenhouse than the tarp. But the plants don't seem to be having severe problems with that. I have zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and lima beans growing and none seem slow growing or stunted in any way. None appear to be abnormally stretching, trying for more sunlight. But then, tropical sun is quite intense here. Apparently enough sunlight is getting through the tarp. 
       The tarp is definitely a lot stronger and tear resistant compared to 6 mil poly film. I accidently dropped a 2x4 against the tarp and there was no damage that I could detect. Wonderful! 

..... The veggies I opted to grow are growing faster and larger than they did when I grew them in my standard garden plots. I'm guessing that the higher daytime temperature and protection from wind contribute to that. High humidity is normal here, but it is probably higher inside the greenhouses. 

..... Less pest problems. I'm finding a few grasshoppers that managed to sneak in, but not much else. Most importantly, no pickleworm moths! 

..... Watering. Since rain can't water the plants for me, I need to provide the water that they need. By trial and error, I've determined that each greenhouse needs close to 100 gallons of water weekly. 

..... Lima beans. The limas look great! Best I've ever grown. The extra heat seems to suit them just fine. And I'm seeing lots of pods that appear to be developing beans inside them. Time will tell if I actually get a crop of lima beans.  

..... Cucumbers. I'm growing only parthenocarpic greenhouse varieties. Some are doing better for me than others, though all have produced some cukes. The best ones so far are Saber, Nokya, and Socrates. 

..... Zucchini. In the past I've never been able to produce a single harvestable zucchini. To date I've harvested 28. Yes, 28. Yikes! I'd call that a success. I'm trying 3 varieties : Desert, Golden Glory, Black Beauty. Desert has been doing fantastic. Golden Glory is so-so. Black Beauty isn't worth growing again. Initially I let nature take its course, and without much fuss, the plants produced some zucchini. But as the plants aged, I saw more aborting. So these past 10 days I've been hand pollinating, resulting in more squash consistently setting on the plants. 

..... Powdery mildew. This is a real common problem where I am, so I've been expecting it to rear its ugly head. It's been 2 months since I started this experiment, and I'm just now seeing some powdery mildew on the zucchini. I haven't done anything to try to prevent it because I wanted to see what would happen and what I would be up against. And I needed a baseline to work from in order to develop some prevention methods that actually work. Plus I wanted to know which varieties had the best resistance to it. 
      Now that I'm seeing powdery mildew, I'm instantly removing any leaf that shows the beginning dots. This will only forestall the inevitable, but should allow me to harvest some more squash before the plants succumb. I haven't seen mildew on the cucumbers yet, but I fully expect to see it soon. 

Friday, August 2, 2019

Bracing for a Hurricane

Hawaii just had a hurricane pass south of the islands -- Hurricane Erick. With all the storm warnings, I did indeed take a few precautions. I filled the truck up with gas, plus I refilled all our gasoline storage cans. And other than bracing the greenhouses, that was it. We already keep plenty of drinking water and food on hand. Our in-house pharmacy is well stocked. We always keep extra propane on hand. And there's plenty of ammo in case I'd have to dispatch any injured livestock. The generator and chainsaw are always kept in repair. So I think we're covered.

Bracing the greenhouses is the only unusual step I take. Not that this simple method would be adequate for really high winds, but it's fine for the storms that usually hit us. I discovered from previous storms that the central hoop of the greenhouse is the weak point. So if I install a single cross brace, it saves the hoop from being overly torqued and thus breaking, 

Cross braces installed. 

I guess I could make this more complicated, but this set up works. It's easy and quick to install and take down. And it only requires two 2x4s, two metal spikes, and a few screws.

The metal stake is one used for concrete forms. It has holes th can put a screw through. 

As I've said, this is only a solution for a small hurricane. Perhaps I should work on a more substantial solution in the event of a stronger storm.