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You Just Can’t Beat Mother Nature

But You Can Competeoutdoor bucket Broccoli

It’s hard to believe it’s been 2 months since I posted, but it has been a seriously busy 2 months. Besides gardening, I also help my 83 year old mother through her latter years. She has a sneaky type of dementia and shouldn’t be left alone for large amounts of time. I quit my job last May in order to stay close and to drive her around town whenever and where ever she needs to go. So, that means at times, it can be very difficult to fit all my daily tasks in. Anyway, I’ll try to make a more friendly schedule soon so I can post more often.

One thing I’ve tried this year is several different ways to grow several different vegetables and fruit. I have a few growing inside and a few growing outside. I’m using Zip grow towers to grow lettuce, spinach and collards. I’m also using different kinds of lighting. I said in a previous article that I had not seen a significant difference in various lighting types, but I’m certainly seeing the difference this year.

In the above right picture, you can see a Broccoli plant I’ve grown outside. No soil, just water with soluble nutrients mixed in. I put enough water in the bucket to just touch the bottom of the plant, and that was it. I left it alone for 2 months, and there you have it.

Indoor Broccoli

Now, to the left is some Broccoli I planted indoors in soil. It too is a fairly robust plant, but failed to produce the large floret in the middle which is, of course, characteristic of Broccoli. I’ve tried different lighting, both LED White and red/blue combination LED lights, and while the plant continued to flourish, it didn’t ever grow that center floret. Crazy, huh.

All is not lost, though, because the Broccoli leaves on their own are still very nutritious. Cut the center vein out of the leaf, and cook it the same way you would spinach, but maybe a little longer, as it is  tougher. Throw a pound of ground beef in the skillet with a mess of different veggies, including Broccoli leaves, and let it simmer for 15 minutes and your good to go. Effortless and healthy.

The Zip Grow towers are inside, as well as several buckets, each with air being fed in from a small pump. In the buckets, I’ve been growing, Winter Squash, Spinach, Lettuce and Collards. What I noticed about both techniques, is the different results of lighting. The leafy vegetables didn’t thicken up until I put red and blue LED lights on them. The leaves were growing, but thin with stringy looking stems. Putting even the cheapest combination of red/blue led bulb over them made some serious improvement within a week. In most cases, I was using CFL bulbs before that and in two cases I was using white led bulbs. None of the white bulbs were comparable.

I’m also growing some veggies in soil inside, such as Cannellini (white kidney beans), bush beans and broccoli. I prefer growing indoor because I never have as much trouble with critters. I have 3 Yellow Squash plants. Two of them grow really well, but the worms got into every one of the fruits. They would begin to grow, but before they got up to size, they would start to fade. On each, I found these perfectly round holes and inside, a worm eating all the insides.

My biggest problem this year is pollination. Last year I had many, many butterflies. They seem really sparse this year. I’m going to plant some butterfly friendly flowers, such as Purple Cone Flower, Milkweed or Asters. Even when there are a lot of butterflies, it’s difficult to get them to come into the shed or grow house to help out.

We have next to no bees, but the bees we do have are not shy about coming in to check out what we have in the way of blooms.

I think the pollination problem is indicative of my Winter Squash situation. Originally, I planted two Acorn Squash plants outside in pots with soil, and three squash plants inside hydroponically. Two of the ones inside were beside each other, and one of those grew to about 14 inches and the other about half that. The other squash plant inside grew to about 20 inches. It was several feet away from the other two. They all have been blooming well, but all the blooms are male-no fruit.

The two outside also grew to around 20 inches or slightly more and bloomed quite a bit, but had much fruit. The problem is the acorn squash it has produced so far has yet to grow to full size. Each squash that has appeared has grown to about an inch in diameter and then fizzled out. There is one on a plant that seems to be growing past that point, though. We shall see.

The biggest squash plant inside, I transplanted into soil last week and put outside. I did this for two reasons. The plant was getting so wide (not tall) it’s hard to keep it up right in the netty pot in the bucket. Another reason is because it has so many male blooms, I wanted to see if it would equal out in the real world. So far not so good. I can’t even tell if it will survive outside. Update on this: it fizzled out in 2 weeks, and is no longer with us.

So far, everything I’ve planted, with the exception of my watermelon and canteloupe plants, has produced or is producing. The watermelon and canteloupe look awesome, and shouldn’t actually Watermelon growingproduce for another couple of weeks. Update on this: As you can see, the Watermelon is coming in just fine. There are 3 that are of similar size (about 3 inches in diameter), and many tiny little orbs just starting out. Supposedly, this one on the right should get up to around 20 lbs. We shall see.

My bush beans inside and outside have green beans hanging on them. The kidney beans are showing and the cucumber are just starting to show underneath their blooms. The Collards are tall and thick. The spinach is a little slow, but I’ve already harvested 3 heads of lettuce and I have to harvest at least 4 more today.

One I forgot is my Sugar Snap Peas. They are growing fair-not as thick as in the past. They haven’t produced yet.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s still early in my mind. I’l be attempting to grow much more this year, hopefully even through the winter. I’m just really happy with the start. To me, it means I have a good chance of achieving my goal this year of having every vegetable and fruit on the table this year at Thanksgiving and Christmas having been grown in my gardens, inside and out. Of course I’ll also invite my sister from up in Georgia to contribute. She has brought us 30 eggs twice this spring, not to mention huge sweet potatoes and sweet onions, and a sack full of those tiny little red potatoes, all grown at her house. It’s actually getting kind of fun and instills a feeling of accomplishment. Like maybe I can contribute something to this old world after all. Who knew?

Don’t forget-any living I make, comes from this blog. That’s funny! I don’t care who you are. Anyway, don’t be bashful about shopping from here. As always your comments, good or bad are welcome. Let me know if I got it wrong, praise me if I got it right. I can take it. Thanks for stopping by.

Broderick Snow

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