Question: Why is my cucumber yellow?
Answer: It depends on the type of cucumber you have. Although they are usually green, some varieties are actually supposed to be yellow. One type that we love is the Salt and Pepper cucumber, which is one of the first modern vegetables bred for organic production. It’s a great choice because while bred for disease resistance it still has an heirloom taste. Other yellow cucumbers include lemon and Chinese yellow cucumbers.
However, if your variety of cucumber isn’t supposed to be yellow, this could be the sign of something else. Usually this is the result of your cucumber being overly ripe. Cucumbers should be harvested before they turn yellow, otherwise they will be too bitter to eat. Also, keep in mind that even cucumbers that are suppose to be yellow can become too yellow if not harvested in time. Other reasons for yellow cucumbers could be overwatering, a virus, or nutrient imbalances.
Question: When’s the best watering time?
Answer: The morning. Watering in the morning will give ample time for leaves to dry. Dry leaves make it more difficult for disease and fungi to proliferate. If you have to water in the evening, make sure you water at the base so the leaves aren’t wet overnight. Watering midday is the worst time because water will evaporate before the plants can soak it up. Still, it’s better than never watering.
But remember that it is possible to overwater. Be conscious of how much it has rained; if the ground is still wet from the other day’s storm then you probably don’t need to water. Also, giving the roots a good, long soak is better than a shallow watering that only penetrates the first few inches of soil because it helps the roots to develop a strong root structure.
Question: When and how should I harvest?
How: Hold the vine with one hand and pinch the pod off with your free thumb and index finger.
When: At height of the season harvest every two to three days.
Good to Know: Beans usually start to ripen from the bottom of the plant up.
How: Grab the stem with one hand and the tomato fruit firmly and gently with the other. Pull the fruit off. Try to break the stalk above the calyx to protect the bud.
When: Look for color, smell, and firmness.
- Color: The butt, or bottom of the fruit, starts to change color.
- Smell: Has a strong, sweet smell as opposed to no smell
- Firmness: Gently press fruit with thumb. If it’s hard its too early. If you can squish it a bit and the thumbprint bounces back its good. If the thumbprint doesn’t bounce back its over ripe.
Good to Know: Don’t refrigerate. They can be picked before ripening. Wrapping tomatoes in newspaper will quicken the ripening process.
How: Generally you can snip the plant on the stem above two branching leaves leaving at least two thirds of the stem intact. This will encourage branching and new growth for bushier plants. Some herbs, such as parsley and chives, should be cut at ground level so they can send up new shoots.
When: Harvest early in the day, after morning dew has evaporated but before the sun bakes the plant’s essential oils. Other than that harvest throughout the season as needed.
Good to Know: Remove buds and flowers to preserve the flavor.
How: Cut the cucumber off the vine with a sharp knife or pruners, leaving about an inch of stem on to prevent the end from rotting. The spiky protrusions will come right off when you rub them with your fingers.
When: For pickling harvest when about three to four inches long. For fresh eating harvest when about seven to nine inches long and bright, dark green.
Good to Know: Pick before they turn yellow (unless your variety is supposed to be yellow) otherwise they’ll be bitter.
How: Use pruning shears to cut off the okra pod, keep a little bit of the stem intact.
When: Pick okra pods when they’re two to three inches long. Any longer and they’ll be too woody.
Good to Know: Wear gloves because the hairs on the okra can be itchy.
How: Cut the gourds off the vine with scissors rather than breaking them off.
When: Pick summer squash when they’re around six inches long. Any longer and the squash will be bitter and have a thick skin.
Good to Know: Squash flowers are edible. The early flowers are male so picking them won’t hamper squash production.
Contributed by Ian Whittington
When it comes to organic gardening, using insecticides might be the last thing on your mind. For the most part yes, insecticides and organic gardening don’t mix. That’s because most pesticides you’ll find will be chemical-based and have harmful affects on not just the environment but you as well. Some pesticides, however, can be considered organic because they’re derived from natural substances instead of man made chemicals. There are three in particular that Love and Carrots uses: Neem Oil, Bt and Pyrethrum.
Neem oil is derived from the seeds of the neem tree. Once inside an insect it mimics the insect’s own hormones, which blocks its actual hormones from working. This changes the insect’s behavior, making it “forget” to carry out vital life functions such as eating and mating. If you don’t see a massive die off right away don’t panic. Unlike toxic insecticides that are essentially indiscriminate poisons, neem oil’s affects work over time. Besides being environmentally friendly, the advantage of neem oil is that because it has to be ingested to work, it only affects chewing and sucking insects. In other words, it doesn’t cause any harm to beneficial insects. Although many people report an unpleasant aroma, the one Love and Carrots uses smells just fine. In fact, it smells kind of nice.
Bt is derived from Bacillus thuringiensis, a natural occurring bacterial disease of insects. It works by paralyzing an affected insect’s digestive system, essentially causing them to starve. Like neem oil its impact is not instantaneous but happens over time. Like neem oil it has to be eaten to be affective, meaning it also won’t harm beneficial insects. Strains have been developed to target specific insects, making it a very targeted method. Love and Carrots uses Bt Kurstaki, which controls caterpillars, loopers, cabbageworms, hornworms, leaf folders and leaf rollers. One drawback with Bt though is that because it is susceptible to sunlight it degrades quickly, anywhere from a week to under 24 hours depending on the strain. Still, because it is nontoxic to humans its a great choice to use on foods.
Pyrethrum is derived from the flower head of the Pyrethrum daisy, also known as Dalmatian chrysanthemum, and is the strongest insecticide allowed under National Organic Standards guidelines. It works by shutting down an insect’s nervous system, ultimately leading to the insect’s death. Unlike the other insecticides we mentioned it affects insects upon contact, meaning beneficial insects will be harmed as well. Because of this pyrethrum should only be used conservatively. This involves only spraying plants that are heavily infested with insects that can actually be reached and only at times when beneficial insects, such as bees, are not active. Also, since pyrethrum can be harmful to fish and amphibians you’ll want to avoid getting it into any waterways. Despite this disclaimer, pyrethrum has a low toxicity to humans and degrades quickly in the environment, making it a relatively safe insecticide.
Even though theses substances don’t really pose any harm to humans, it’s best to wait a few days after application before harvesting. And remember, these are still insecticides so wash your hands after using and read labels to make sure you’re using them properly. One thing to keep in mind is that sometimes these insecticides can be mixed with other substances to increase efficacy. Because of this, looking at the lists of ingredients used is vital in making sure the overall product you’re using is indeed organic.
Need Love and Carrot’s help with organic pesticides? Email email@example.com to sign up for Garden Care today!
Contributed by Ian Whittington
Can you guess what’s growing here? If you said grass you’d technically be right. But hidden beneath this jungle of weed is something far more appetizing.
The asparagus that you’re used to eating is actually the plant’s shoot when it first emerges. When allowed to grow asparagus ends up looking more like a fern, which proved challenging when tackling this bed. In a well-weeded asparagus patch this wouldn’t be a problem. But when you’re trying to pull a clump of grass while avoiding the asparagus, patience is definitely a virtue.
It took six hours over two days for one person to weed this portion of an asparagus patch. Because it had been months since this area was weeded the weeds were not only dense but had strong root systems as well. That’s why regular weeding is paramount. The more often you weed, the less you’ll have to pull. Doing it as a family is a great way to make the task go by quickly. Of course you could avoid it all together by having your friends at Love and Carrots do it instead!
Weeding will not only keep your plants identifiable, it’ll also help reduce competition for water and allow full access to sunlight. A mass of weeds suffocating your asparagus could result in stunted plants, which means less to harvest at the start of spring the next year.
Why the next year? Asparagus has a very short harvesting season at the start of spring. If your plants are young it could only be a couple weeks. If your plants are established it could be as much as 8. Use your asparagus’s diameter as a guide. Once it’s about the size of a pencil it’s done for the year and needs to be allowed to grow to prepare for the next winter. This asparagus was done months ago.
Even if it isn’t harvestable for long, asparagus is still a great addition to your garden. It’s a perennial, which means it’ll come back year after year. Although you do need to wait two to three years before you can even think about harvesting, your plants could end up lasting you more than twenty years. That’s a lot of asparagus. With Love and Carrots taking care of your plots, all you’ll have to do is cook and eat.
Contributed by Ian Whittington