Category Archives: Instructional Activities

Guidelines for Summer Harvest


The height of summer is upon us and so is the height of the summer harvest. This week alone we picked about a pound of basil, 3 pounds of cucumbers, 5 pounds of squash, 5 pounds of tomatoes, 2 watermelons totaling about 30 pounds, and 65 ears of corn. One trombone zucchini was NOT picked in order to see how big it gets. At this size it is no longer edible but it will keep for some time as a decorative gourd.

Some guidelines you should follow for harvesting your summer produce:

Corn – Silks begin to turn brown and dry out as the corn cob matures, approximately 3 weeks after first appearing. You can check a few ears for maturity by peeling back the tops and pressing the top kernels with your thumbnail. If the liquid exuded is milky rather than clear the corn is ready to be picked.

Cucumbers – Harvest when fruits are a deep green color before any yellowing appears. Pick the fruits regularly to encourage more fruiting. Mature cucumbers left on the vine will signal the plant to stop producing.

Squash – Same as cucumbers, harvest often to encourage production.

Tomatoes – Tomatoes are best when ripened on the vine. Harvest when the fruits are uniformly red (or yellow, purple, etc.) The fruits should be beginning to lose their firmness just slightly soft.

Watermelon – Watermelons will be nearing maturity when the tendril across from the fruit turns brown and dry. Look for a yellowing underneath where the watermelon touches the ground and for the surface color to turn from shiny to dull.

How to Harvest Fennel Pollen

Fennel pollen is a gourmet spice collected from a flowering fennel plant. Use it on such dishes as sauteed string beans or grilled chicken.

Eat Your Thinnings

My summer lettuce patch is partially shaded by large squash leaves. This keeps the lettuce from bolting during the long, hot summer.

I originally broadcast my seeds rather than sowing in rows to maximize the amount of produce grown in such a small space.

Using this approach it is necessary to periodically thin out the plants to give them enough room to grow and allow for adequate sunlight and nutrients.

As you can see in the photo above I got a bagful of lettuce and one of basil by thinning out the lettuce patch. You could hardly tell that i made a dent.

Bottom-line: periodic thinning will keep you in lettuce (and basil) all summer.

Growing Corn

Corn is currently 7 ft tall and just began flowering last week. It is one of the best crops of corn we’ve had…ever. Secret to our success?

Picture of corn crop at Hamilton High School

In the fall we planted fava beans. Fava beans are known for fixating nitrogen from the air and turning it into a usable form in the soil. Following fava beans with corn allows the corn to take advantage of all that extra nitrogen in the soil.

We also fed the corn twice with additional fertilizer, once with worm tea and another time with fish emulsion.

How to Make a Keyhole Garden – African Style

Set in Lesotho, this video shows a group of schoolchildren making a keyhole garden. The charity Send a Cow showed them how to make it and the children can now make their own at home and have more food.

Grow LA Victory Garden Classes 2011

Once again I am delighted to be teaching the Grow LA Victory Garden Classes in 2011. Please see details below for registration.

The Grow LA Victory Garden Initiative helps new gardeners start their own gardens quickly and easily in a container, the backyard or at a community garden. Participants are able to turn their interest in gardening into successful, productive gardens that will generate positive changes in their homes by lowering grocery bills and enhancing opportunities for a healthier lifestyle.

The Grow LA Victory Garden classes are organized and led by UC California Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners. Those who complete the 4-week training will become UC-Certified Victory Gardeners.

Place:
Hami Garden, Hamilton High School
2955 South Robertson Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90034
Entrance on S. Canfield Ave (Between Cattaraugus and Kramerwood Pl)

The 4-week session is every Sunday for 3 hours.
Dates: May 1, May 8, May 15, May 22
Time: 1:00PM – 4:00PM

List of topics include the following:
Week 1: Planning, tools, containers, building raised beds, seed starting, plant selection

Week 2: Soil preparation, soil properties, transplanting, irrigation, and mulching

Week 3: Composting, pest management (weeds, diseases, insects), beneficial insects, organic pesticides and fertilizers.

Week 4: Harvesting, pollination, seed saving, fruit trees, recipes, review, graduation

The cost is $15 per class or $50 for the entire session. Only those taking all 4 sessions will be eligible for certificates. Please note, half of all proceeds go towards the Hamilton High School Garden Program.

Payment is available through Paypal or by check. My paypal account email address is gp305@yahoo.com or request invoice and I will forward one by email. You will be confirmed registration once payment is received.

Contact:
LA County Master Gardener George Pessin
Tel: 310-779-8816
Email: gp305@yahoo.com

Mailing Address:
834 Huntley Dr #4
Los Angeles, CA 90069

How to Grow Chayote

Chayote (pronounced: chah-YOH-teh) is in the Cucurbitaceae family, same as melons, cucumber, gourds, and squash. Its fruit can be eaten raw or cooked and the leaves and shoots are edible as well.

Here in Southern California it grows as a perennial. It has a vigorous vine that can grow to 30 ft making it perfect for chained link fences or some other form of trellis

To grow chayote in your garden the first thing you want to do is go to the market and purchase a few. Here in Los Angeles they can be found at many Hispanic markets (chayotes are native to Mexico). Leave them in a warm sunny place like a windowsill or countertop and wait for the seed to germinate, which can take approximately 4 weeks.

Once the stem appears, which will be from the larger fat end, plant it in a container (or in the ground) covering the entire fruit.

For more information see Chayote (Sechium edule) from hort.purdue.edu

For Chayote recipes see this nice collection from cdkitchen.com