Farthest North Melon Mix (Cucumis melo)

This post should have been written a month ago – her it comes anyway 🙂

This year, the melons was grown according to the dogma. Not out of desire, but of necessity. The fact that some melons developed to ripeness are a bit of a miracle in this rainy summer.

The two dogma rules are:
1-Sow directly in the open ground, no indoor start! The melons were sown 5th June. The other years I have sown on 1st May inside the warm house.
2-No cover, no plastic or non-woven fabrics. No black plastic on the ground to heat it up. No plastic or fabric covering the plants at the beginning of their growth or later, when the weather gets cold.

Especially one plant thrived, even grew faster and bigger than my winter squash Turks Turban plants (They did not like the cold weather). It set four fruits, each weighing nearly 250 grammes and and of good taste, though not spectacular. But great taste I can not expect after such a rainy August. The taste was better than most supermarket melons anyway.

I sowed 47 batches of 6 seeds, 41 batches Farthest North Melon Mix, the last 6 batches were Sweet Granite, Pineapple Melon, Streit Freiland Grüngenetz, Rodond, Piel de Sapo and De Bellegarde (12 seeds). Although the last 6 batches all resulted in 1-2 plants, I had no ripe melon from them.
Farthest North Melon Mix had 21 batches not germinated. 14 batches germinated 1-4 plants, but provided no ripe melons. 6 batches germinated 17 plants, many of whom produced ripe melons, but not all. In total I harvested 17 melons growing according to the dogma method – I was too pessimistic in June!

To squeeze in that many melon plants, I provided only 20 cm for 6 seeds.

Some of the melons of the year, still resting on the bed

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The eggplants of reasonable size

Autumn has come, and I don’t think eggplants will develop any further out in the garden. Today I harvested all the plants. Harvest is small, but exceeds my expectations in June, as the small eggplants was transplanted. Honestly, after a cold May, I didn’t expect any eggplants this season.
For comparison I also transplanted two known varieties, Apple Green and Ping Tung Long. Of the four plants of these two varieties, only one Apple Green set an eggplant, as seen in the picture on top.

I’ve kept my records:
15 plants after the largest eggplant last year. No fruit 😦 (It was my favourite)
3 plants after the thick and heavy eggplant gave a single plant with a fair size eggplant.
2 plants after the very small, and very early eggplant gave two plants with a fair size eggplant each 🙂
2 plants after a moderate sized eggplant. No fruit – but should I still grow more of it next year?
2 plants after another moderate sized eggplant. No fruit – but should I also grow more of this next year?

Now the eggplant fruits ripens off inside until November or December. If they contain seeds, I can then extract them for drying.

I have some questions to consider during the winter:
Shall I exclusively follow the line of the very tiny and early eggplant from last year? Should I cross an offspring of the largest eggplant from last year into the line?
How can two plants after such a small eggplant both set fruits about the same size as the offspring of a much larger and heavier eggplant? Will I get the same result, if I grow out 10 plants of each?

Mini eggplants

I had a bonus – mini eggplants. They don’t have a chance to ripen, but are still useful in the kitchen.

Downside is, that most plants had no fruits at all! It can seem a bit pointless to grow eggplants that doesn’t produce any eggplants, but it is necessary if I am to select for hardiness. If I reach to the point where my line is hardy, I’ll be able to both select and eat the not so perfect results. I hope to get there in a few years.

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UPDATE 15 October 2010
There was no seeds in any of the three fruits. It still brings my breeding project ahead, as I have learned which seed bags contain the best seeds for a cold summer. Hopefully this will bring me closer to the easy to grow eggplant I hope to find.

Melon (Cucumis melo) Farthest North Melon Mix

For a while I have seen the delicate yellow male flowers in the melon bed. Today I spotted two tiny melons. Withered female flowers still attached. The dense hair is very good protection at night, when snails and slugs creep close by.

A few melon plants grow very strongly, outranking the squash sown same date. Others are still small plants. This year I sowed directly on 5th of June. It has obviously been good for the most vigorous melon plants.

Melon bed with Farthest North Melon Mix

One and a half month ago the melons germinated in cold weather, hails lying around

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144 TaterMater
Some of Tom Wagners varities of potato
Copyright Anja Egeriis anja.egeriis@gmail.com

Tom Wagner from USA gave a workshop at the organic farm Hegnstrup outside Copenhagen in Denmark.

Tom shared his lifelong fascination in potatoes and tomatoes (tater & mater). For 56 years he has been crossing and selecting on potatoes and tomatoes, and he still has many ideas to improve varieties. Tom is best known for his tomato Green Zebra.

Tom Wagner explains what to watch out for in a tomato flower for breeding
Copyright Anja Egeriis anja.egeriis@gmail.com

It is a pleasure to dive deep in to details with such an experienced breeder as Tom. He showed us how the first flower in a cluster often have a deformed style. The shape makes it more sensitive to later insect pollination, at a point we would think we had control of the pollination. He also recommended looking at the little scar in the flower end of the ripe tomato. Is it a tiny spot, the style was well shaped, a larger irregular brown scar suggest the style was deformed, with an increased risk of unintended crossing.

132 TaterMater
Tom gently tear off the anthers of the tomato flower
Copyright Anja Egeriis anja.egeriis@gmail.com

Tom gently tear off the anthers of a tomato flower. Then he knock it over his thumb nail to release any pollen, to learn if there is any ripe pollen. There was none, meaning this flower can be crossed. He already had noticed the green shine in the yellow anthers, suggesting they were not releasing pollen yet.

134 TaterMater
Tom pollinate a tomato flower
Copyright Anja Egeriis anja.egeriis@gmail.com

Then he pick a well developed flower of an other tomato variety, knock it gently over a brown clay tray and we can all see the pollen collected on the tray. With the tip of a brush he transfer the pollen from the tray to the stigma. Then he removes the petals, so insects will not be attracted, and add a tag to remember what he did to the flower (later tomato). Last he pick the older flowers, not letting them take any energy from his pollinated flower.

137 TaterMater
We gather closely to see every detail
Copyright Anja Egeriis anja.egeriis@gmail.com

Tom Wagner thinks in combining good genes. For both potato and tomato this include resistance to late blight. He also want hairy plants, as insect find the plant fur unattractive. In this way both insect damage and insect transfer of disease by their bites are reduced.

He has developed potato varieties that can stay in ground all winter for eating or replanting in April, without any sprouting. They do need a mulch in case of severe frost.

He has also develop a potato I think of as a CO2-reduced potato. It is tasty, yellow fleshed and only take a 5 minute boil before eating. A 75% reduction of CO2 in the boiling process.

For the tiny garden he developed a series of potatoes with huge flamboyant flowers, the photos made me think of Dahlias, with more usefull tubers.

As Tom has no land of his own, he is totally dependent of others cooperating with him. Tom sends out a lot of not yet stabilised hybrids to others, for them to select on according to his guidance for some generations. He find that they usually stabilise in the 5th. or 6th. generation.

One of Toms interesting techniques is the preselection. He has gained the capacity to read the phenotype already at the seedling stage, allowing him to sort out most of the unattractive seedlings before transplant. This saves a lot of space in the gardens. In the shape of the young leaves he read the shape of the tubers to come later, round or elongated. When he wish a potato resistant to late frosts, he look for seedlings that will be first in afternoon to gather their leaves on top of the growing tip, thus protecting it from frost. These techniques show how deep he understand these crops.

At transplant of potato seedlings, it is very important to bury 1 or 2 of the normal leaves in the ground, otherwise you won’t get a proper tuber production.

Tom believe we ordinary people should take responsibility to maintain and improve the heritage form our ancestors. He believe we should do the F1 hybrids bottom up (by ourselves), and share them generously, keeping hybrids fertile in future generations and maintain the inherited gene pool. We can afford the longterm investment, whereas the few remaining multinational seed companies breed for the next ten years only, and for shareholders that’s a very long perspective compared to the normal 5 year perspective.

To ease our work on potatoes, he also breed to improve fruit setting in potatoes. Most modern potatoes set no fruits at all. To grow new and better varieties we need the seeds!

Ps. At Bifurcated Carrots you can read the plan for Tom Wagners tour in Europe

Typical sweet peppers from 12 plants of 2. generation from a cross

This year I have grown 13 plants of my unintended pepper cross. One plant quickly got diseased after transplant, lots of brown spot on the leaves, that soon dropped to the ground. I discarded this plant late, to ensure a heavy disease pressure on the other plants, to reveal any others with the same tendency. No other plants was infected, except for a few minor spots of no importance.

Plant #2 also has problems showing now late in the season. All the small unripe fruits are rotting away. No other plants are affected. I will not continue this breeding line !

I transplanted in a row, according to the development of the plants at transplant. First plant was also first to get ripe red peppers. But for the rest there seems to be no connection between development at transplant and days to harvest. Plants # 5 and 6 didn’t even make a single ripe pepper. Plant # 11 as a contrast have given a rich harvest, and still have a lot of green peppers to harvest before first frost within the next two weeks.

It started as a secret love affair between german ‘Roter Augsburger’ and croatian ‘Zlatni Medal’, who in summer 2007 stood close, rubbing their flowers in the summer wind. Next year it showed up in the row of ‘Roter Augsburg’, where a single plant look in between the parents. It can be seen in a post from last year.

As ‘Roter Augsburger’ and ‘Zlatni Medal’ are very early varieties, suitable for open ground in Denmark, I understood this could become a happy ending love affair, if given some attention in the next years, until one or more varieties has become true breeding.

Several plants with chocolate colored fruits was a surprise, as granny is red and grandpa is orange red (not easily distinguished in my photos). They look like ‘Sweet Chocolate’ in color, I might grow that for comparison.

Eggplant (Solanum melongena) in open ground, ready for seed harvest

Today I noticed, that the first set eggplant in open ground was dry and wrinkled. Half dehydrated, half rotten, and it has happened in a few days. Luckily this means the seeds are mature and ready for harvest. Honestly, the plant is small, as the fruit was also small, but extremely early to be ready for picking for the kitchen.

Same fruit 17 juli

Same fruit 10 juli

This F2 generation has a great variability. I would definitely like to grow larger aubergines in my garden. Fortunately there are many plants with larger fruits, although not as early. Before I have created a stabile variety I must expect selecting for the best over a decade. Many a lousy eggplant can be expected to show up in my garden under those years. But the process is exciting, making it all worthwhile.

This size eggplants is what I dream about. I succeeded with this plant, but can I harvest mature seeds from it? Can I then stabilize the type, harvesting large eggplant from open ground year after year?

Fourth melon in 2008

Today I harvested 4 melons in one day. Two complete ripe, two had slippe from the plant, but still ned a day or two to reach perfect ripeness.

The fourth melon is typical for the larger (still small) outdoor melons, weight 262 gram. Surface nettet, flesh orange, sweet and aromatic. Excellent size for two persons.

Fifth melon in 2008

The fifth melon is suitable for a single person. Weight 130 gram, nettet surface, flesh orange, sweet and aromatic. Most of the seeds have not developed, but there are a few that looks excellent.

I clean the seeds in a glas of water overnight, a tiny pinch of enzyme washing powder added. Next day the good seeds have sunk to the bottom, and the floating bad seeds and debris can be discarded. After a last washing in a strainer, they dry on a little plate.