The Yellow Farmhouse Garden

August 31, 2012

Getting Ready to Harvest Watermelon

Filed under: Fruit — bob @ 5:25 pm

I’m always amazed by how little time it takes for a watermelon to grow from a tiny little fruit to full size-melon. They grow so fast that every morning the melons are visually bigger than the day before.

The moment of truth comes at harvest time. I always get a little nervous when deciding when to pick since you can’t look through a watermelon rind to see what’s inside. On the other hand, experienced melon growers and pickers need only a quick look at the rind to tell if a watermelon is ready to go. The rest of us need to rely on clues the plant give us.

The first thing everyone likes to do is take their knuckle and thump the watermelon to see how it sounds. If you thump an unripe melon and compare it with one ready to pick, you can hear a distinct difference in the sound. The green melons have a more ringing sound compared to a ripe melon. Thumping, while fun to do, is not always reliable because some varieties are ready to go before they change sound. A dull thump may mean your melon is over-ripe.

The appearance of the melon and vine can tell us a lot. As a watermelon starts to ripen, the underside, where it rests on the ground, will turn color from white to pale yellow. Also, the curly tendrils growing near the melon turn color too, from green to brown.

After checking the underside of your melon, gently roll it back into place to keep the light colored ground spot from being scalded by the sun.

A few years back I was watching a watermelon grow all season. It was one of the smaller round varieties.  I decided it needed one more day to ripen before picking. The next morning I went out to pick my melon. Everything looked fine until I picked it up — it was completely hollow. During the night a raccoon made a small, round hole in the side of my melon and reached in with its paw to scoop out the whole inside leaving just a shell. He must have been checking that melon every day too.

This year, there are plenty more watermelons in the garden that will ripen later in the season. We’ll have melons now until the end of the season.


August 24, 2012

Gypsy Moth Caught In the Act of Laying Eggs

Filed under: Insects — bob @ 12:08 pm

A couple of weeks ago I spotted a moth on a tree in the yard.  It took me a couple of seconds to  realize it was a female gypsy moth.

That  gypsy moth was in the middle of laying its eggs.  I could have destroyed it right there and then but decided against it.  I thought  maybe a few readers of this blog might want to see what an egg-laying  gypsy moth looks like.

The brown egg mass it deposited contains hundreds of eggs, most of which will survive the winter and hatch out next spring.  Cold winter weather doesn’t bother them at all. Once all of those caterpillars  hatch, they will climb the tree and start devouring leaves.

One female gypsy moth will lay an egg mass containing hundreds of eggs.

The next time you’re outside enjoying your yard, it might not be a bad idea to look at your trees for signs of gypsy moth egg masses. They normally lay eggs on the trunk of a tree or on lower branches. You can also find them on backyard swing-sets, picnic tables, RVs — just about anything that’s left out side.

It’s a good idea to destroy these eggs masses as soon as you find them.  Scrape them off of the tree and throw them in the trash.  Don’t let them lay on the ground thinking that you took care of them. They’re pretty tough and will hatch even if left on the ground all winter.

Now I have a bit of a dilemma, do I take off that egg mass from my tree? Or do I leave it there until spring and take pictures of hatching caterpillars for this blog?


August 10, 2012

Sometimes You Have to Grown Your Own

Filed under: Vegetables — bob @ 6:53 am

One big advantage to having your own vegetable garden is being able to pick what ever varieties you want to grow.

For example, in my garden I always  grow at least one ‘Matt’s Wild Cherry Tomato’ plant.  This plant produces dozens of tiny tomatoes that  are about the size of a blueberry. These little, red pearls  are not overly sweet but have an intense tomato flavor.

You won’t normally find these in a farmer’s market.  Since they are so small, it takes a lot of  tomatoes to make a quart — or even a pint for that matter. So, not many market growers want to fuss with them.  That leaves it up to you to grow your own.

Matt's Wild Cherry tomato.

There are other vegetables that fall into this category — baby corn is another one that comes to mind.

Sometimes, if you want something special, you just have to grow it yourself.


August 2, 2012

Wasp and Hornets Helping in the Garden

Filed under: Insects — bob @ 9:51 am

I’m not the only one busy in the garden. My helpers, wasps and hornets, are out there too.

Most people look at wasp and hornets as enemies, but in the garden they can be a real help by killing insect pests. Yesterday I spotted a wasp on a broccoli leaf holding a cabbage worm caterpillar it had just captured. The wasp had stung the worm to kill it and was getting ready to fly back to its nest.  Wasps and hornets use chewed-up caterpillars and other insects to feed young larvae.

This hornet is gathering wood from my garden shed to use as raw materials for building it's paper nest.

I was happy to see this wasp helping out in my garden. Not only was it harvesting insects from the garden but it also reminded me that there were still plenty of caterpillars around.

I need to do something soon before the cabbage worms do anymore damage my broccoli.  The biological insecticide Bacillus thuringensis is a good choice. It kills caterpillars but is harmless to benificial insects like wasps and hornets.


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