Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sibling Rivalry in the Three Sisters Garden

Faithful readers may recall the earlier plans I published here for a Three Sisters garden of corn, squash, and beans. With my usual cheerful abandon, I ignored various bits of online advice on when and how to plant it. Consequently, things are now somewhat out of control. A normal day in my garden! W00t!

To begin with, the vines you see creeping along the edge of the garden bed actually belong to the squashes planted about halfway down the bed, not the ones that are 'supposed to' be there. The little Black Futsu winter pumpkins don't tolerate chilly weather as well as the robust kabocha types, so they are still dainty rosettes of fuzzy green leaves with a blossom or two, and haven't really taken off yet. Meanwhile, the Hokkori is coming up in the outside lane to steal their thunder!

In this aptly-titled photo, we see the tomato cage trying to resist the encroachment of vigorous squash vines, kind of like trapped shoppers in a mall in a zombie movie. I came to the rescue, but it wasn't pretty. While looking at the small squashes starting to form on the vines, I noticed that the vine giving the tomato cage the most trouble was also the one which was not breeding true to type.

This should be an ebisu-delicata hybrid "Ebicata 2007" that I saved and am planting out. I had banana squash growing nearby, and clearly some happy-go-lucky bee went to more than one squash party on a crazy summer afternoon. I'm not a huge banana squash fan (too bland) and this is the wildest and wooliest of the vines, as well as the primary instigator in the Tomato Cage Invasion. Part of growing stuff out is knowing what to get rid of and what to keep! I trimmed the vines, and then cautiously took out the whole plant and added it to the compost bin, saving the couple of soap-bar sized squashes to eat as summer squash.

This is what they should look like, and the plant sharing that garden section, grown from the same batch of saved seed, has delivered the goods. These are about baseball and table-tennis ball sized, respectively. More where I'd expect them to be this time of year, instead of the huge one just down the row from them.

I didn't try tracing the vine to see if the big one is from the same plant, though it could well be. This one is already at close to mature size of 8 - 10 inches across. Early adopter! I won't pick it until it is mature, otherwise it won't keep well. The stem will be rock-hard and brown-dry, and the rind of the squash will be tough enough that it doesn't casually dent to a fingernail.

This kabocha is new to me, though I think I've enjoyed it from the farmers' market. It's Hokkori, a dark green kabocha offered by Oakland importer Kitazawa Seeds. They're a great source for all kinds of awesome Asian veggies, especially freaky cool greens like chrysanthemum that I haven't learned to eat yet. These juvenile Hokkori are grapefruit and mandarin-sized. How come nobody describes citrus fruit in kabocha terms? Maybe they do in Japan!

This Hokkori is about softball sized. One thing I did while visiting the garden to water was to wipe the dirt off the bottom of each of the little squashes and put a piece of scrap plastic under it. Otherwise the pill bugs start eating the rind where it touches the dirt. If you don't do this, the rind stays light colored and soft where it touches the dirt. When the pill bugs finish with it, the squash looks like it survived some kind of hideous medieval plague, and at worst they break thru into the main part of the squash and ruin the whole thing.

See you on the flip side: it's two minutes to Blogger maintenance, so I'd better finish up! Oh yeah, the sibling rivalry-- the beans are getting shaded out by the kabochas. They weren't as cold tolerant, and the kabochas went in FIRST, because I started them from seed TOO SOON. Lesson here!

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