Growing Okra

This is the first year I’ve grown okra, and I started small. I have just one okra plant, and here it is! This is a ‘Clemson Spineless,’ which is your basic, garden variety okra. Since I only have one plant, so far I’ve been harvesting one okra pod at a time. At first I wasn’t sure what to do with it, but then someone reminded me I like pickling vegetables. It’s also nice sliced up and added to rice and beans.




Amaranth From Every Angle

I have so much to say about amaranth that I hardly know where to start. So take a look at these pictures.


Amaranth 2.jpg

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Isn’t it pretty? Amaranth is sometimes grown as an ornamental, sometimes for greens, and sometimes for grain, but probably most often by accident, because it’s also a common weed. This is a variety called ‘Elena’s Rojo,’ and it’s a variety that is supposed to be good for growing as a grain,  but is also an amazing looking plant. It’s been competing with the sunflowers all summer for the title of tallest plant in my garden, and of course, it’s that deep red.

Just one more.


Come On Malabar Spinach!

We’re at that point in the year where it’s time to start thinking about fall frosts. Not because it’s likely we’ll get one anytime soon (typical for this area would be the end of October), but because there aren’t that many days left in the growing season. For anything that was just planted, or that has been up for awhile, but still isn’t close to full size, it’s starting to feel like a countdown. Will I be able to harvest much of anything from this plant before the frost comes? That’s where I’ve been with my Malabar spinach plants this year, which got off to a very slow start.

Malabar spinach is a heat-loving vine that is a different species than spinach, but with leaves that look and taste similar when eaten raw. I grew it last year, and it was amazingly prolific, taking over a whole corner of my garden. I was hoping for similar results this year, but so far have not had great success.

The first planting I did failed to come up at all. I did a second, later planting, which took almost two months to be big enough to need the trellis. (It’s supposed to be 70 days to harvest, so maybe that’s not unusually slow, but I’m not very patient.) Now, as we’re getting to the end of the summer, the plants are finally starting to take off, and I’m hoping I might actually get a decent harvest between now and our first frost. So come on Malabar spinach, you can do it!




Winter Squash Watch 2016

I made an unpleasant discovery yesterday while checking on my ‘White Cushaw’ winter squash plants.

Squash 2 Powdery Milden.jpg

Oh no! I haven’t encountered this before, but based on appearance, I think it must be powdery mildew. From what I’ve read so far, it will most likely cause leaves to die, and may also reduce yields and affect flavor, but there’s not much I can do at this point- apparently it’s easier to prevent than to treat.We’ll see what happens.

Meanwhile the one fruit on this plant is still growing rapidly. In just a few days it has gone from this:

Winter Squash

To this! It’s now larger than the average watermelon. Stay tuned squash fans.

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Remarkably Red

Here are a few recent photos of plants that all happen to be eye-poppingly red.

Lunchbox peppers

Above are lunchbox peppers, a small sweet pepper, very nice for snacking.


I also have a few red zinnias. This is a ‘Will Rogers’ zinnia.

Red Tomatoes

And of course, red cherry tomatoes. These are ‘Jasper.’

Questions About Winter Squash

My winter squash are still alive, which is exciting! But since I’ve never made it this far with winter squash before, I’m starting to have a few questions. Here’s the plant that’s making me turn to the internet for answers, and a few notes on what I’ve learned so far.

This is a ‘White Cushaw’ squash, also sometimes called a ‘Jonathan Pumpkin.’ Just a little over a week ago it looked like this:

White Cushaw 2.jpg

And then, a week later, we had this:

Winter Squash

Notice that the squash is on the ground now. The trellis supporting it collapsed. (Who knew it would grow so fast?)

And that made me start wondering: How do you know when the squash is ripe? It’s already huge. Is it possibly ready now? Because after all, with summer squash, you can pick them at any point, and preferably you harvest them before they get too big.

I turned to the internet, and the collective wisdom of various gardening sites all said: “NOT YET.” Apparently, you wait for any of a number of signals: the color develops, the rind is hard, and/or the vines die back. So, not there yet.

But while I was on the subject, I also started looking for answers to another question: How many squash can I hope to get from each plant? So far, I have two plants, with one squash each. Is that normal?

I read a little about the squash in general, but for specifics on yield, I went to the customer reviews posted on, where I bought the seeds. What I took away is that one squash per plant is not uncommon, although some people do get a lot more than that. And the final size? While some people are harvesting 20 pound fruits, others report getting up to 40 lb squash!

That’s all great, but I would settle for one ripe winter squash of any size. Knocking on wood and hoping the squash plants continue to thrive!

Sunflower Update

I’m really enjoying having sunflowers in my garden this year. These flowers are over 10 feet tall, and I hope we’re eventually able to harvest some seeds. Here are a few recent photos of what’s happening with these huge flowers.

Bee and Sunflower 3.jpg

For about a week, bees were all over the flowers. This looks like it was taken at eye level, but only because of the angle and the fact that the photo was taken with a telephoto lens: The actual bee was way over my head.


Sunflower 3.jpg

Also, during that time, I think the sunflowers had some oddly human expressions. I look at this photo and think “Gasp!” Doesn’t it look surprised?


Sideways Sunflower.jpg

But, we’re now past that stage, with the sunflower petals withering and the heads all flopping over, so that they face the ground. This development is not especially attractive in an ornamental plant, but exciting if you’re growing sunflowers for the seeds. They’re not ready yet, but even here you can get a sense of the seeds forming under each little yellow flower.