On April 21, 2016, the Snarky Gardener gave a presentation on vegetable gardening for beginners at the Kent (Ohio) Free Library. The audio isn’t the greatest, but hopefully you’ll gain some new information.
The Snarky Gardener was interviewed on the Urban Farm podcast. Listen to him talk about Snarky Acres and his projects.
I had the privilege of being interviewed on the Urban Farm podcast. We discussed my beginnings as a gardener, why I grow food, my favorite book, and my current project (writing my first book “The Snarky Gardener’s Veggie Growing Guide for Ohio and Beyond”). So it was pretty much all about me, someone I know a great deal about. I didn’t mention the Snarky Girlfriend and haven’t heard the end of it by far. There will be other podcasts in my future, so maybe I’ll remember to talk about her then.
It took me a week, but I finally got up the nerve to listen to my own interview. I obviously was there for the recording, but wasn’t sure how my voice would sound. You can tell I was a little nervous at the beginning but really came on strong by the end. It’s easy to talk about something I’m so passionate about. As you can tell by this blog, growing food is very important to me.
What I really like about urbanfarm.org is that they consider anyone who grows food and gives or sells it to others is a farmer. This definition probably expands the number of farmers in the world tenfold. We can all contribute to the local food supply even with a “simple” garden. Those overwhelming zucchinis people complain about every summer? Perfect for donating to those who don’t have enough food. Then you too will be a farmer.
The Snarky Gardener really loves Burpee’s Sure Thing Hybrid Zucchini but only in a platonic way.
I don’t usually get all goo goo over a specific vegetable variety (unless it’s my own like the Snarky Orange Cherry Tomato). As an avid seed saver and swapper, I go with whatever seeds I have at hand. This year, I wanted to grow the rainbow type of Swiss chard, but only had a random red variety. Oh well, it all tastes the same once cooked. I can’t even tell you what kind of cucumbers I grew this year. Had some seeds, stuck them in the ground, waited for them to grow, ate cucumbers. But when it comes to zucchini, I’m very particular.
As I first came into my own as a gardener, I didn’t take failure well. (Actually, now that I think about it, I still don’t). For me, there’s nothing more depressing early in the season than watching tiny little zucchinis start out with the flower on the end, get a bit bigger, and then just shrivel up and die (so sad). The primary reason for this lost is female flowers need insects to pollinate them. No pollination equals no zucchini to eat. Early in the season, a lack of pollination can be problematic especially if it’s rainy, cloudy, windy or below 50 degrees as honey bees don’t go out of the hive on those days (slackers!). If you ever go out and watch your cucurbits (cucumbers, squash, zucchini, pumpkins, watermelons, and the like) on a nice sunny warm morning, it will feel like an airport of bee activity (buzz buzz buzz).
Q: Why do my zucchini fruits just shrivel up and die?
A: Zucchini flowers need to be pollinated. No pollination equals no zucchini to eat.
Here in Northeastern Ohio, with our lake-effect clouds and cruddy spring weather, it seems like this issue is even more pronounced (though that could just be the Seasonal Affective Disorder talking). Fortunately, I did a little, research and came across Burpee’s Sure Thing Hybrid Zucchini. It’s a seedless variety specifically bred for this situation. Seedless means it doesn’t need fertilized. Problem solved!
Normally, I have a no hybrid rule in my garden but I do make exceptions for times like these. I enjoy saving seeds and while you technically can save hybrids, the “experts” don’t recommended it because you don’t know what you are going to get when you plant them (could be a puppy – who really knows?). Of course with this seedless hybrid variety, you can’t save these (thanks Captain Obvious). A few years back I did serendipitously save and grow out some hybrid SunGold cherry tomatoes and ended up with my very own variety (the Snarky Orange Cherry tomato). Little known fact: you can name them whatever you want (I prefer Fred).
What I like about these Sure Things is I don’t get the “My Zucchini Won’t Pollinate Blues”. I can plant them right after the last frost and they will grow well from there. (Hold it, how do you know it’s actually going to be the LAST frost of the year? Don’t worry, if you get another frost, you can just plant again.) These are a bush variety, so they pretty much stay put instead of crawling all over the garden like pumpkins do. The downside of any bush plant (zucchini, bean, pea, tomato) is that they have a limited growth timeline meaning they won’t necessarily fruit all season. That’s the trade off from the pole or indeterminate types though I will say the Sure Things from last season’s cool rainy weather did go from June into September. So how do you fight the lesser production? Simple – plant some once every month until 2 months before the average normal first frost (so for Ohio plant in May, June, July, and August). What to do with all that zucchini? That’s for a different time (hint: zucchini pickles).
Most people take pictures of their family or pets. The Snarky Gardener has professional photos taken of his vegetables.
This fall I took my award winning vegetables to have their pictures taken (say “Cheese!”). I have several projects in the works that need really sharp images of my produce and as you can see, these are dazzling. Many thanks to Kara Whaley http://www.karawhaley.com/ for putting up with my shenanigans and doing such good work.
The Snarky Gardener is expanding his food production area in 2015.
The Snarky Gardener is expanding his growing space by 100% in 2015. He has plenty of room east of his current fenced in primary 50 ft X 30 ft garden. The new area will be approximately 60 ft X 20 ft (1,200 square feet). It won’t be fenced in but instead will be planted with vegetables that groundhogs and rabbits find less desirable (see Groundhog Love for the complete list). Garlic was already planted outside this fence during the fall. The Snarky Gardener doesn’t usually believe in rototilling as it damages the soil so he will be strategically broadforking just what he needs and when he needs it. He might also schedule a “broadforking class” a la Tom Sawyer through Kent Food Not Lawns or the Kent Community Time Bank to get additional assistance.
Potatoes will be planted next to the garlic in April or so. Since potatoes are in the nightshade family, animals normally leave them alone (unless they are really hungry deer). Tomatoes will be planted along 2 fences (50 foot long and 5 foot tall) running east to west. These steel fences will be reused to fence in and protect other crops in future seasons. Added in between these tomato rows will be onions, leeks, peppers, and bush zucchini. Members of the Allium family (onions, garlic, chives, leeks) are generally avoided by animals, especially deer and rabbits. Some gardeners will specifically plant garlic around areas they want protected from unauthorized munching. The bush zucchini will be protected with fencing and/or cover until big enough to have protective spines. Years of groundhog intrusions (and watching the neighbor’s unprotected garden) have taught the Snarky Gardener that they won’t seem to mess with the spinier vegetables. Turnips, mustard, and clover will cover any other bare soil as living mulch. Turnips and mustard have been outside the fence for the years now at Snarky Acres without so much as a bite. Clover could be eaten by herbivores, but there’s plenty already out in the yard, so the SG is not concerned.
The Snarky Gardener will also be adding more hugelkultur mounds to his property. Last fall, there were 4 raised beds built with much sweat and cursing. At least two more will added to the south of these in the spring. The six plus will be filled with plenty of annuals, including tomatoes, peppers, beans, and greens. There are additional plans to build hugelkultur beds north of the garden where big, giant pine logs (2 feet in diameter) have been attracting groundhogs, poison ivy, and brambles. These logs will be cut up and used to create perennial herb, onion, turnip, and rhubarb beds. All these can handle a little shade as this area is in the 4 to 6 hour daily sunlight realm and should be left alone by the aforementioned plant-eating wild animals.
One more thing: the Snarky Gardener may be adding second-hand vegetables (aka livestock) to Snarky Acres in 2015 and will be writing about it in the spring.