Thursday, January 31, 2013

"How To" Organic Gardening: WATERMELON

"How To" Organic Gardening: WATERMELON: HOW TO WATERMELON WEB SITE: DIY ORGANIC GARDEN Compliments of Illinois University Extension   Watermelon is a tender, warm-seas...



Compliments of Illinois University Extension
Watermelon is a tender, warm-season vegetable. Watermelons can be grown in all parts of the country, but the warmer temperatures and longer growing season of southern areas especially favor this vegetable. Gardeners in northern areas should choose early varieties and use transplants. Floating row covers moderate temperatures around the young plants, providing some frost protection in unseasonable cold spells.
Seedless watermelons are self-sterile hybrids that develop normal-looking fruits but no fully developed seeds. The seeds for growing them are produced by crossing a normal diploid watermelon with one that has been changed genetically into the tetraploid state. The seeds from this cross produce plants that, when pollinated by normal plants, produce seedless melons.
In seedless watermelons (genetic triploids), rudimentary seed structures form but remain small, soft, white, tasteless and undeveloped tiny seedcoats that are eaten virtually undetected along with the flesh of the melon. Seed production for these seedless types is an extremely labor intensive process that makes the seeds relatively expensive. Because germination of these types is often less vigorous than normal types, it is recommended that they be started in peat pots or other transplantable containers, where the germinating conditions can be closely controlled Once transplanted, cultivation is similar to that for regular watermelons.
For pollination necessary to set fruit, normal seed types must be interplanted with seedless watermelons. The pollinator should be distinct from the seedless cultivar in color, shape or type so that the seedless and seeded melons in the patch can be separated at harvest. Because seedless types do not put energy into seed production, the flesh is often sweeter than normal types and the vines are noticeably more vigorous as the season progresses.

Recommended watermelon Varieties

Early (70 to 75 days to harvest)
Golden Crown (red flesh, green skin; skin turns yellow when ripe)
Sugar Baby (red flesh, 6 to 10 pounds), this watermelon if very easy for anyone to grow and is not real picky, but very small.

Yellow Baby (hybrid-yellow flesh, 6 to 10 pounds)
Yellow Doll (hybrid-yellow flesh, 6 to 10 pounds)
Main Season (80 to 85 days)These watermelons have a longer growing season and not good for far northern areas above 5 growing area

Charleston Gray (red, 20 to 25 pounds)
Crimson Sweet (red, 20 to 25 pounds)
Madera (hybrid-red, 14 to 22 pounds)
Parker (hybrid-red, 22 to 25 pounds)
Sangria (hybrid-red, 22 to 26 pounds)
Sunny's Pride (hybrid-red, 20 to 22 pounds)
Sweet Favorite (hybrid-red, 20 pounds).
Seedless (all are triploid hybrids, 80 to 85 days)
Cotton Candy (red, 15 to 20 pounds)
Crimson Trio (red, 14 to 16 pounds)
Honey Heart (yellow flesh, 8 to 10 pounds)
Jack of Hearts (red, 14 to 18 pounds)
Nova (red, 15 to 17 pounds)
Queen of Hearts (red, 12 to 16 pounds)
Tiffany (red, 14 to 22 pounds).

When to Plant watermelons

Plant after the soil is warm and when all danger of frost is past. Watermelons grow best on a sandy loam soil, although yields on clay soils can be increased significantly by mulching raised planting rows with black plastic film.

Spacing & Depth for watermelons

Watermelon vines require considerable space. Plant seed one inch deep in hills spaced 6 feet apart. Allow 7 to 10 feet between rows. After the seedlings are established, thin to the best three plants per hill. Plant single transplants 2 to 3 feet apart or double transplants 4 to 5 feet apart in the rows.
Start the seeds inside 3 weeks before they are to be set out in the garden. Plant 2 or 3 seeds per pot, then select the best one ofr two plants. For expensive seedless types, plant one seed to a pot or cell and discard those that do not germinate. Do not start too early - large watermelon seedlings transplant poorly. Growing transplants inside requires a warm temperature, ideally between 80 and 85°F. Place black plastic film over the row before planting.  If you grow seedless melons, you must plant a standard seeded variety alongside. The seedless melon varieties do not have the fertile pollen necessary to pollinate and set the fruit.

How to grow watermelons

Watermelons should be kept free from weeds by shallow hoeing and cultivation. The plants have moderately deep roots and watering is seldom necessary unless the weather turns dry for a prolonged period. In cooler areas, experienced gardeners may find floating row covers, drip irrigation and black plastic mulch advantageous in producing a good crop in a short season.
As it's name implies watermelons like water, but they don't like their feet to stand in water.  The best soil is sandy soil, soil than allows plenty of water to run through it but not just set there.

Harvesting watermelons
Many home gardeners experience difficulty in determining when watermelons are ripe. Use a combination of the following indicators: (1) light green, curly tendrils on the stem near the point of attachment of the melon usually turn brown and dry; (2) the surface color of the fruit turns dull; (3) the skin becomes resistant to penetration by the thumbnail and is rough to the touch; and (4) the bottom of the melon (where it lies on the soil) turns from light green to a yellowish color. These indicators for choosing a ripe watermelon are much more reliable than "thumping" the melon with a knuckle. Many watermelons do not emit the proverbial "dull thud"when ripe. For these, the dull thud may indicate an over-ripe, mushy melon.  One of the absolute best indicators that the watermelon is ripe is the stem of the watermelon starts to turn brown, first with small brown spots that grow larger.

Common Problems

Cucumber beetles attack watermelon plants. Apply a suggested insecticide for control. If row covers are used in the early season for temperature moderation, early-season insect pests may also be excluded if the covers are applied so that the pests cannot penetrate to the crop below. These covers may be left in place until the plants start to bloom, at which time pollinating insects must be allowed to reach the flowers.

Questions & Answers

Q. My watermelons are not very sweet or flavorful. Is the low sugar content caused by the watermelons crossing with other vine crops in the garden?
A. No. Although watermelon varieties cross with one another, cross-pollination is not apparent unless seeds are saved and planted the following year. Watermelons do not cross with muskmelons, squash, pumpkins or cucumbers. The poor quality of your melons may result from wilting vines, high rainfall, cool weather or a short growing season in extreme northern areas.
Q. What can I do to prevent my watermelons from developing poorly and rotting on the ends?
A. This condition is probably caused by an extended period of extremely dry weather when the melons were maturing. It may be aggravated by continued deep hoeing or close cultivation. Mulching the plants with black plastic film helps to reduce this problem.
Q. What causes deep holes in the tops of my watermelons?
A. The holes were probably made by pheasants or other wildlife searching for water during dry weather.

Selection & Storage

Watermelon is truly one of summertime's sweetest treats. It is fun to eat, and good for you. Watermelon seeds were brought to this country by African slaves. Today there are more than 100 different varieties of watermelons. The flesh may be red, pink, orange or yellow. There are seedless varieties and super-sweet round ones that fit nicely into the refrigerator.
Producing a good watermelon is a bit tricky in the short northern season. The sweetest watermelons grow during long hot summers. Harvesting is particularly critical because watermelons do not continue to ripen after they have been removed from the vine. They should be picked at full maturity. No amount of thumping, taping, sniffing, or shaking can actually give a clue to ripeness.
Look for melons that are very heavy and have a hard rind. Ninety percent of watermelon is water. The rind color should be right for the variety with a waxy bloom. Probably the most important indicator of ripeness is the underside which sets on the ground. Turn the melon over. It should be yellow or creamy colored on the underside. If it is white or pale green the melon is not ready to harvest.
The flesh should be deep colored with mature seeds. Most watermelons have dark brown or black seeds. The seedless variety produces a few white seeds. Once picked, uncut watermelon can be stored for about 2 weeks at room temperature especially if the temperature is about 45 to 50°. Uncut watermelons have a shorter refrigerator life, so store at room temperature until ready to chill and eat. Tightly cover cut pieces in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.

Nutritional Value & Health Benefits of watermelons

Watermelons are low in calories and very nutritious. Watermelon is high in lycopene, second only to tomatoes. Recent research suggests that lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, is effective in preventing some forms of cancer and cardiovascular disease. According to research conducted at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, men who consumed a lycopene-rich diet were half as likely to suffer a heart attack as those who had little or no lycopene in their diets.
Watermelon is also high in Vitamin C and Vitamin A, in the form of disease fighting beta-carotene. Research also suggests that the red pigmented foods provide this protection. Lycopene and beta-carotene work in conjunction with other plant chemicals not found in vitamin/mineral supplements. Potassium is also available, which is believed to help control blood pressure and possibly prevent strokes.
Nutrition Facts (1 wedge, or 1/16 of a melon, about 1-2/3 cup)
Calories 91.52
Protein 1.77 grams
Carbohydrates 20.54 grams
Dietary Fiber 1.43 grams
Potassium 331.76 mg
Vitamin C 27.46 mg
Vitamin A 1046.76 IU

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

"How To" Organic Gardening: GARDEN PLANS-PART FOUR Warm weather plants

"How To" Organic Gardening: GARDEN PLANS-PART FOUR: PLANTING VEGETABLE GARDENS WEB SITE: DIY ORGANIC GARDEN This is part four of Planting a Vegetable garden, specifically warm weather vege...


This is part four of Planting a Vegetable garden, specifically warm weather vegetables.
Planning a vegetable garden can be a daunting task but does not have to be. 
Whether you have a raised bed vegetable garden, container vegetable garden, small vegetable garden or large vegetable garden, I think the best way, is to lay out a garden is on paper.
Organic gardening is the same whether it is in a pot, in a raised bed or just tilled up ground.  Soil and plant health are key.  We have already covered the first 5 points below.

In general terms the following information is needed:
  1. Type of vegetable you want to grow (Garden Plan)
  2. How much space does is take (it’s footprint)(Garden Plan, Garden Plans)
  3. How much time to maturity(Garden Plan)
  4. What is the best time to plant (cold weather crop or warm weather crop)
  5. What and when do I plant cover crops
  6. What are the companion plants
  7. What does the soil require for the plant
 Here is a good planting chart by vegetable: at Veseys 
TOMATOES               PEPPERS        BEANS           CORN             SQUASHES   
BROCCOLI    OKRA             EGG PLANT               MELONS
Planting warm weather vegetables is done after the ground is warm, the days of sunshine is longer and ALL danger of frost has past.
I plant nearly all my warm weather plants inside and replant as seedlings.  By starting inside you are eliminating about 6 weeks from the growing time, getting your vegetables faster and sooner in the growing season.  By starting my plants myself I am assured that I am planting organic plants, the soil is organic and that NO artificial fertilizer has been used to start my plants. This is NOT a practical or economical solution for most people.  Starting plants on your own take up space you may not have, requires lighting you may not have and the soil and containers can get costly if you are doing it on a small scale. 

For those of you the want to buy your plants I recommend buying from an organic nursery when possible.  Most large retailer do not make sure they are buying organic and most of the employees won't be able to answer that question.  However, most nurseries should be able to answer that question.  Some retailers will sell one plant of a type.  In that case the container is often times marked that it is grown organically.  One pot vegetable plants is becomeing more and more available as most small gardeners don't want or need 6 beefsteak tomatoes or 6 cayenne peppers, they only want one.

As I said in Vegetable Garden, I have cover crops where I am going to be planting my warm weather crops.  In most cases I can just mow these cover crops down, dig holes for my warm vegetables.  I will mark each row with a string to keep it straight and plant underneath my string to keep my row straight.  The cover crop should provide enough cover to keep the weeds down but it it doesn't then I will add more mulch around each plant and down the rows. 

I will be adding a video of cover cropping and how to plant warm vegetable as I plant my garden then year.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Whether you have a raised bed vegetable garden, container vegetable garden, small vegetable garden or large vegetable garden, I think the best way, is to lay out a garden plan is on paper.  

Organic gardening is the same whether it is in a pot, in a raised bed or just tilled up ground.  Soil and plant health are key.
In Garden Plan and Garden Plans we discussed the first of three points below plus vegetable planning for cool weather crops.  Go back to those topics to learn more.

 In general terms the following information is needed:
  1. Type of vegetable you want to grow
  2. How much space does is take (it’s footprint)
  3. How much time to maturity
  4. What is the best time to plant (cold weather crop or warm weather crop)
  5. What are the companion plants
  6. What does the soil require for the plant
We have discussed the planting process in three steps thus far:
  • We know what cool weather crops we want to plant
  • which varieties
  • the space they take
  • time to maturity
  • and best time to plant.
Between the time the cool weather vegetables are planted and the warm weather vegetables are ready to plant we can prepare the ground so the warm weather vegetables have plenty to eat (soil health) and have ground cover to keep their roots moist.
STEP FOUR: Plant cover crops.  If you have already planted cover corps last fall mow your crops down.  If you have NOT planted cover crops plant now.
Better Homes and Gardens has a 3 page article on Cover crops that is good reading, simple and to the point.
"Cover crops just might be the hardest-working plants you’ll ever grow. Cover crops (also called green manure) suppress weeds, build productive soil, and help control pests and diseases. Plus, cover crops are easy to plant and require only basic care to thrive. And they grow well in nearly every part of the country." says BHG.
We are going to sow cover crops in the entire area where we want our warm vegetables to grow in about 6 weeks.  I have choosen:  Small quantities of these seed may be difficult to find in your area.  On the right are some sources for small quantities.
Rye. This crop comes in two different types: annual rye and cereal rye. Both have their advantages. Sow cereal rye during the late summer or early fall, and it will grow until late in fall and resume growing in spring. With annual rye, which winterkills in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5 and colder, you’ll be able to plant your garden earlier, since you won’t have to turn the cover crop into the soil and then wait 3 weeks as you would with a perennial cover crop.  We will be using Annual.  Stay away from anything that say perennial rye or it will be like you will be adding grass seed to your garden.
Buckwheat.(pictured right from Amazon) It’s not wheat, and it’s not a Little Rascals character! Buckwheat is a broadleaf plant and an excellent smother crop—it’s effective even against weeds like quackgrass. “Buckwheat is very fast-growing and can provide a quick canopy to shade weeds. Just be careful to not let it go to seed, or you’ll have buckwheat in your next crop," says Creamer. It matures in just 6 to 8 weeks and can be squeezed in between spring and fall vegetable plantings. Buckwheat’s white flowers serve two purposes—they work well as a filler for flower arrangements, and they attract beneficial insects.
and long rooted radishes such as Daikon (pictured left) or white icicle. To break up the soil.  The long roots on this radish penetrate to break it up, thus reducing the need to till.  Mow this radish just as it starts to seed or pull to eat, leaving the radish top for the soil.  Mowing this radish and leaving the root in the ground automatically add organic matter to your soil at the depth of the radish.  Do NOT let any cover crop go to seed.

 Cover cropping for small gardeners is so new that good articles and information are difficult to find.  Cooks Garden has the radish seed pictured to the left but small quantities of Buckwheat and rye and other cover crops are more difficult to find.  A local Farm Supply is your best location.  Find some neighbors to split large bags of these cover crops to make it more economical.
Some good sources of information for cover crops are those produced for farmers. Cornell University Cover Crop guide
Smith seed Cover Crop Seeds .

I will broadcast sow these seeds and use a rake to cover them with soil.  When these crops reach about 6 to 8 inches I will mow the area leaving the mowed debris on the ground as a mulch cover. 

On the left is my garden plan.   In the area where you see 6 Tomatoes is where I will broad cast cover crop seeds.  The circles with Dill and Basil above them are herbs that will be planted in between the tomatoes.  Dill, basil, onions, radishes, beets, turnips and beans are companion plants for tomatoes and each other.

This plot is 20 foot by 50 foot but the same plan could be made by a 5 foot by 5 foot or a 10 foot by 10 foot.  Decide on how many tomato plants you want (2 is usually adequate for most families) and then eliminate the rest of the plans.
EXAMPLE:  In a 5 x 5. One row of three type of lettuce will produce 20 lettuce plants at 3 inch spacing. One row of three types of onions will produce the same 20 onions, one row of radishes or carrots will produce 60 plants, one row beets and turnips 20 plants.  A 5 x 5 plot could have 4 rows of cool weather vegetables leaving enough room for 2 tomatoes and when the cool weather vegetable are pulled enough room for cucumbers or peppers or okra or egg plant.

At the 6 weeks mark or about the middle of May I will start planting my warm weather vegetables.





Monday, January 28, 2013


Vegetable gardens for most of the world can be broken down into two planting types; Cold weather crops or vegetables and Warm weather crops or vegetables.
Planting cold weather vegetables is done twice per year in areas with longer growing seasons (6 months or more).  Planting can be done just as soon as ground is plantable (unfrozen).  Ground is not warm to the tough but is workable (not overly muddy).
To determine Your particular planting zone and the last day of frost or freeze, see Part one of Garden plan

Planting warm weather vegetables is done after the ground is warm, the days of sunshine is longer and ALL danger of frost has past, but are going to concentrate on Cool vegetable first.

If you are planting any of the above vegetables they are the first ones you will plant and the first ones that will finish.  Most cool weather vegetables are mature and out of the garden within about 25 to 45 days; a month to month and one half; which is usually perfect timing for the warm weather vegetables to be planted.
Here in MO, I am in climate zone 5b so my cold weather vegetables get planted in about the second week in April and are done by the end of May.  The middle to end of May is when the warm weather vegetables are planted usually in the form of seedlings.  This is perfect timing!
STEP ONE: We know what we are going to grow, now select variety.
For best varieties in your area do NOT rely on Walmart, Target or your local grocery to select the varieties.  Check with your local extension office and then if the local retail stores carry that variety, buy it.  Even local nurseries will carry seed packages that look inviting but are NOT the best for your area although nurseries are better than the big retail type stores.
Search vegetable planting chart, [your state], book mark this page because you will come back to it often.  After all, your tax dollars pay for this information why not use it for FREE.
We will be planting, lettuces(Black Seed Simpson{shown right}, Gourmet Blend and Paris Island(baby romaine), Radishes(cherry belle, crimson giant, white icicle), Onions (candy white, candy red and big daddy seedlings), Purple Top White Globe Turnips

and Detroit Dark Red beet.  Not only do I know these grow well in my area because I referenced my extension site (see Garden Plan) but I grew these last year (2012) and they were perfect.
STEP TWO: We know how much total space we have, to determine how much space we need for each variety, we can look on the back of the seed package or bring up a vegetable chart.  Remember the book mark for the extension list.  Back to that again or use general planting guide below.
RULE OF THUMB SPACING: Cool weather crops
Radishes are 1 to 2 inches apart in the row with 12 to 18 inch row spacing.
Turnips, Beets and greens (leaf lettuces) or like size vegetable are 2 to 3 inches apart and row spacing 12 to 18 inches apart.
Because I like to walk comfortable down my rows or get a tiller in between my rows regardless of type of vegetable the rows are 2 foot apart or greater.
If I had a small garden my rows would to closer together because I can reach into a 5 x 5 garden easily where as a 25 x 50 the reach get a little more difficult.  Take your garden size into consideration. 

I am using homemade seed tapes this year because I want good spacing with no wasted vegetables.  Most seed packets will give most gardeners plenty of vegetable seeds.  EXAMPLE; my Black Seeded Simpson packet(1 gram) yield 840 plants.  I have a large garden and I won't need 840 plants.
I buy the onions as seedlings.  Last year I bought three bunches one of each big daddies, candy whites and red onions.  They were a big hit at the Farmers Market and they keep for months after maturity so I am tripling my bunches.  I buy them at Stark Bros Nursery and  Garden Center which is in my home town but and excellent nursery with lots of organic stuff.  On line however, they carry fruit and berry plants which they have been known 100 years for.

Variety Pack lettuces like the one shown on the right are really good for small gardens and save money on seeds.

Butternut Crunch like the one shown at the right is an excellent choice for firm, crunchy sweet lettuce.

I will plant two rows of lettuce, one row onions, skip a large place for tomatoes, then one row onions, one row carrots, one row beets,  then ship a large space for tomatoes and repeat until all the cool season crops are planted.  In the large space waiting for warm weather tomatoes I will plant cover crops that will be mowed down to give an organic cover for my tomatoes and food and nourishment as the organic matter decays.

GARDEN PLANS Part II cover crops before warm weather vegetables are planted.

variety lettuce

heatwave blend