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Gardener Jack Hardy

Gardening with Jack: A New Start

November introduces a new phase in our vegetable production season. For many of us it will be a new start because of damage from the tropical storm conditions during Hurricane Matthew. Also our winter residents are returning and many of them produce wonderful gardens during their stay on Abaco. For the rest of us the cooler conditions make gardening more enjoyable.

We are fortunate to have Pinewoods Nursery to cater to all our gardening needs and at this late stage it is often wise to plant established tomato, pepper and herb seedlings from the nursery. It is great to grow your own veggies from seed but it is pleasant to have mature plants available while those raised from seeds are developing.

Those Abaco gardeners who planted tomato seeds in mid-August should have small tomato fruits on their vines by now and will have ripe fruits before Christmas. It is a good idea to grow your young tomatoes individually in 3-gallon pots and allow them to reach two feet tall and have a vigorous root system before transplanting them to the garden. This allows tomatoes to bear before nematode attacks cause problems. Sweet and hot peppers can also be transplanted at a fairly mature stage.

All root vegetables such as carrots and beets should be sown directly into the soil, preferably in blocks rather than rows. Lettuce seeds can also be grown directly in the soil in blocks and be thinned out by transplanting any crowded seedlings. Bush snap beans are fast producers and should be grown in rows while pole beans need tall supports. A tepee made from four 8-foot poles or branches will support 8 to 10 vines and provide for a small family in a compact area.

The first frozen vegetable to go on sale to the public was garden peas and from that time on there was a distinct decline in the use of fresh peas, so much so that many veggie lovers have never tasted one of the supreme delights we can grow in our garden. Peas are easily grown with a little support and some varieties can support themselves. Two-foot long twigs from a post-Matthew pruning exercise make efficient support for the pea tendrils to attach themselves.

A fast crop, peas should be picked when just full and plump, and cooked briefly in seasoned water. The French like to do this with Perrier water and a few shreds of lettuce. Mint leaves can be added once the pot is taken from the stove. Any peas with the name Oregon do double duty as snow peas early in the crop and pod peas a little later. Edible podded peas should be picked early for eating raw, or lightly simmered or steamed.

Cucumbers can also be grown using a net trellis for support. Straight Eight is an old heirloom variety that has no proclaimed disease resistance but has always done well for me. This is a good time to set out winter squash, named not for its growing requirements but because the thick skin allows the fruits to be stored for a long time. I have had the best success with Butternut on Abaco. Crookneck squash and zucchini do really well at this time of year.

Cucumbers and squashes should be grown in what are called ‘hills’, areas about 18-inches in diameter that have had compost added to the soil and are slightly raised above ground level for good drainage. Four cucumbers can be sown in each hill, with three summer or winter squash in their hills. Keep the hills well fertilized. Those of us on the mainland who live in or near the pine forest will certainly be attacked by fungus or mildew during the next few months. The morning draughts wet the broad leaves and spores land and stick. When the sun rises the spores develop and soon the lovely leaves become a skeletal wreck. We can delay the process long enough to be able to harvest most of our cucurbit crops by using a suitable fungicide. I am using Fung-onil in a handy spray bottle (about $9 for 24 ozs) that also serves to treat the soil in seed flats to prevent damping off, also caused by a fungus. A dusting of flowers of sulphur will counteract powdery mildew.

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