It's already autumn and much has passed since our last blog entry. The past few weeks have been dedicated to harvestings the remaining fruits and veggies growing around the farm. With our various trials and experiments, it has also been a time to reflect on what has worked and not worked this year.
One of our pleasant surprises has been the Armenian Cucumber. These rather large fruits (they grow 2-3ft in length) were prolific and could be very large (some of our cucumbers exceeded 2 kg). Their skin is no thicker than that of a conventional cucumber. Although the skin is ridged, it is easy to peel. The seeds are similar, although they can be much thicker and larger as the fruit matures. These can be easily removed from the core of the fruit.
The bottom line is the taste. It turns out, it is identical to the normal English cucumber. Perhaps it has a very slight difference in texture, and extremely juicy. In any case, it can be used in salads and any recipes calling for cucumber.
The most interesting aspect of the fruit is that it does not cause indigestion (for those susceptible to it, when eating conventional cucumbers). There is a good reason for this. The Armenian Cucumber is technically not a cucumber at all, but a Melon!
For us, this is a "keeper"! We're now simply saving seeds.
Not everything has worked out so well.
In our raised beds, our tomato plants were hit with "brown spots". This is a fungal disease that attacks the leaves. Within a few weeks are plants looked terrible and eventually most withered away.
This did not prevent the plants from producing a good batch of tomatoes (over 75 kg to date), however, it greatly limited their growth and overall production. Of 16 plants, only 3 eventually survived.
This type of fungus typically resides in the soil and we're quite certain that if we were to plant again next year the same thing would now happen. We may have to rotate our beds, but we're not certain this would solve the problem.
The best way to tackle this next Spring, will be by using heavy mulch (to prevent spore transfer from the soil to the plant) and removing low leafy branches to avoid contact with the soil or any fungus. Once attacked, affected branches can be removed and the plant can be sprayed with a combination of water and baking powder.
We also encountered issues in our dome with our Kratky (hydroponic) buckets. The greenhouse dome temperatures were extreme this summer. The greatest casualty were our tomato plants which rapidly wilted. The amount of water consumed was so high, it turns out we would have been better off using a "fill and drain" hydroponic set-up.
Other problems included lack of pollination (the plants did not generate as many fruits); and limited development of the fruit (probably due to the fertilizer solution used and the amount applied). Our eggplants survived the heat beast and fruited nicely, but the fruits have failed to develop as well as those of the plants in our raised beds.
The only plants doing relatively well in this set up, were the peppers.
In the end, we've determined that the most suitable hydroponic vegetable for us is Lettuce. The rest will be better grown in our raised beds.
Nevertheless, we harvested a lot of veggies.
In the end, we were quite thankful for the steam jacket kettle; it certainly made it easy to process our tomato sauces for the winter!