Garden Journal: Week of 10/17

As we march steadily toward November, the garden faces dropping temperatures and strange rainfall that may possibly turn to snow.

However, the garden remains a beautiful and interesting place. We’ve removed the gators from the paw paws, giving them some independence to see if they can make it on their own. We cut the clover and turned it under to improve the soil and weeded a lot, as the rains have encouraged some (unwanted) growth.

The clover needed some work to improve the soil…

But our diligent workers did the job!

The rye has sprouted quite wonderfully and faster than expected. Rye, as it turns out, is not only a great cover crop but is also used as an environmentally-friendly way to suppress weeds or create manure. It’s well-known for its quick growth and ability to tolerate low-quality soil, making it an essential crop for gardeners and farmers. It should grow three to six feet tall and develop spikes that branch off into spikelets, which hold the florets that bear the seeds, or grains. It will be interesting to see how the rye further develops as the rest of the garden is put to rest.

The rye is battling the elements but growing away!

We’ve been having a bit of a squirrel problem recently, the little buggers! They rummaged through the garlic and dug through the rest of the peanut bed and stole what was left, suspiciously leaving us only a few holey peanuts to harvest and plant next year. (We’ve also collected sesame, cowpea, and flax for later use.)

These are the types of holes that squirrels leave in our beds!

Because they have few natural enemies, the squirrels are free to traverse the garden looking for a treat—even though for us this time, it turns out to be a trick! It must be said that they are hard workers, however. Squirrels work diligently all through the fall to forage and “scatter hoard,” which involves hiding stashes of food in hundreds of places for later use. I’m sure some students would wish for the same work ethic! In the end, all we could do was rake over the beds again to cover up their suspicious holes and hope they don’t come back. So far, it seems promising.

The cotton, surprisingly, continues to produce! In fact, there are more flowers blooming on the plant with each week. In the normal growing season, flowers drop after three days to leave behind the boll. A song for children used to go:

“First day white, next day red,
third day from my birth – I’m dead.”

A bit morbid, so it seems, but appropriate for this holiday time!

According to one site, ten weeks after flowering, the boll splits open and is ready to be picked; however, I can only imagine these poor flowers will not end up as bolls with winter impeding their journey. Well, at least we have already harvested lots of cotton bolls, which we have enjoyed seeding and spinning into thread! In case you were wondering, here are the final figures for our fall cotton harvest:

Area

Total Bolls Harvested

Section One

55

Section Two

89

Section Three

44

This is the tray from Section One that was collected last Saturday.

And these are the bolls from Section Two!

A few fun facts: did you know that U.S. currency is seventy-five percent cotton? That’s why when you wash money with your clothes on accident, it doesn’t fall to shreds. Thank goodness! Also, the Burton Cotton Gin and Museum states that cotton seed is used in “Ivory soap, Crisco, mayonnaise, margarine, lotions, lipstick, shampoos and conditioners, hairspray, toothpaste, colognes” and many more products. I guess we can do more with this plant than just cotton spinning!

I’ve noticed, though have not counted exactly, that a great number of the cotton bolls are developing a purplish hue on the outside when they should be about ready to split open. This seems a direct effect of the stinkbug, our enemy now matched by the squirrel. We are lucky that we don’t have boll weevil problems like many farmers have had to combat; those tiny evildoers have suction-like mouths that can insert easily into the cotton boll. The larvae develop from the inside of the boll and once ready, eat their way out, thus ruining the cotton completely!

The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) studied cotton infection in 2009 in regard to the southern green stinkbug, a relative of our pest. With research, they found that “Bolls infected three weeks after flowering are resistant and undamaged” but bolls at an earlier development than that “remain susceptible.” Also, certain stinkbugs carry the “pathogens that cause seed/boll to rot.” Hopefully next year we will find a way to protect the bolls until they are mature enough to be on their own!

Finally, I tried my first maypop and was delighted with the taste. Finding something so tart, sugary, sweet, and slightly sour was like finding a pack of Nerds or Smarties in your desk drawer while studying. Just in time for Halloween, the garden gave us a trick-or-treat exchange!

Emert, the HRC principal family's dog and TJDG mascot, joined in on the garden fun!

Enjoy your week, everyone!

~Emily

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One Response to Garden Journal: Week of 10/17

  1. Pingback: Garden Assessment: Season I | Thomas Jefferson Demonstration Garden

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