Friday, January 20, 2017

FLASH SALE ON CULINARY GARLIC!
When its gone... its DONE!


Got Garlic?

Garlic can help you power through the cold and flu season! AND we are offering a FLASH SALE on our culinary garlic!  For a limited time you can stock your pantry at a special price of $10 a pound.

Garlic is a natural immune system booster that helps the body fight infection and viral attacks. In addition garlic provides a long list of health benefits due to its powerful antioxidant properties. Garlic contains a compound known as allicin, which helps lower cholesterol levels, prevent blood clotting, and has been shown to have anti-microbial and anti-cancer properties. Garlic is low in calories and high in nutrients, containing manganese, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, selenium, and fiber.

The best way to enjoy garlic's health benefits is to eat it raw, or close to raw. Temperatures above 140
°F destroy allicin. Add garlic at the very end of the cooking process, after you’ve removed the heat source, to best preserve and enjoy its flavor and health benefits.  Eat well!

Our best to you, 

Theresa, Dan & Neil

SALE:Culinary Garlic!

Bogatyr, Purple Stripe Garlic
(Click to order! )

(Marbled Purple Stripe/Hardneck)  5-7 cloves per bulb.  Bogatyr garlic originated in Moscow and is relatively rare. Beautiful marbled purple bulbs with easy to peel brown clove wrappers. It provides an initial spicy bite when raw but does not linger on the palate, making it ideal for recipes using raw cloves, such as pesto or hummus.  Fat cloves are well-suited to roasting with a pleasing garlic flavor. Also, well-suited to fresh eating, sauteing, stir-fries, pickling, and soup. This is a consistent and productive garlic that holds well in long-term storage. This variety will grow well in most regions of the United States.

SALE:Culinary Garlic!

Georgian Crystal, Porcelain Garlic
(Click to order!)

(Porcelain/Hardneck) 4-6 cloves per bulb. Great for salsas and pesto; just the right amount of bite, but not too spicy raw. White bulbs consist of big, easily-peeled cloves in pink and yellow wrappers. Classic roasting garlic, with a smooth buttery flavor and texture. Georgian Crystal is an extra oily garlic making it a healthy choice for its high allicin content: allicin is known to lower cholesterol and increase circulation, boosting the immune system. Well-suited to fresh eating, sauteing, stir-fries, pickling, and for inclusion in soups, pestos, hummus and any recipe calling for a clove of your favorite garlic.

Click here to visit our website!


Copyright ©  2017 Prairie Road Organic Seed. All rights reserved.
Prairie Road Organic Seed

[th]e-Seed
 
Contact Us:
9824 79th ST SE, Fullerton, ND 58441
701-883-4416
dtpodoll@drtel.net


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Open Source Seed Initiative

...and you can help FREE THE SEED! READ ON!

FREE THE SEED!

We are celebrating the Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI)! OSSI was created to "free the seed!" Inspired by the free and open source software movement, which provided alternatives to proprietary software, the goal of OSSI is ensuring that the genes contained by Open Source seeds can never be locked away by intellectual property rights.

THE PROBLEM...

So many varieties have been patented or otherwise protected by intellectual property rights, making them proprietary and off-limits.  This means all the genes they contain have been removed from the pool of breeding stock open to public plant breeders. Only a handful of companies control the vast majority of seed. Patenting and restrictive contracts are used to enhance the companies' power and control over seeds and in turn, the farmers and gardeners producing food. Add in the rapid corporate consolidation taking place in the seed industry...  Patented seed + consolidation = corporate control of seed.

Seed Industry Structure, 1996 - 2013 Dr. Phil Howard, Michigan State University

COMMITTED TO OPEN SOURCE 

Seed Security = Food Security. By pledging the varieties we have bred on our farm as Open Source varieties, we, at Prairie Road Organic Seed, have committed them to a protected public commons, freed from enslavement to corporate interests and control. Learn more about OSSI, here!

 





DECLARING SEED INDEPENDENCE!

The OSSI Pledge is a Declaration of Independence for the seed! Open Source seed is a critical tool, ensuring that public plant breeders have the genetic resources to continue developing new varieties. The OSSI Pledge asks breeders and stewards of crop varieties, like Prairie Road Organic Seed, to pledge to make their seeds available without restrictions on use, and to ask recipients of those seeds to make the same commitment.  The Pledge:
You have the freedom to use these OSSI-Pledged seeds in any way you choose. In return, you pledge not to restrict others’ use of these seeds or their derivatives by patents or other means, and to include this pledge with any transfer of these seeds or their derivatives.

We have been a proud partner of OSSI, participating in the development of the framework for Open Source seed. We strongly support the creation of a collection of Open Source varieties, connecting farmers and gardeners to seed companies and suppliers of Open Source seed, and informing, educating, engaging, and empowering citizens to make a difference and and to help FREE THE SEED!​

In support of OSSI, Prairie Road Organic Seed is proud to showcase our NEW Open Source Seed Collection! A portion of all sales of our Open Source seed varieties will be donated to the Open Source Seed Initiative to continue to expand the Open Source Seed Collection. ​

TAKE ACTION

IT TAKES A COMMUNITY TO FREE THE SEED! By purchasing these or any other Open Source seeds from over 40 independent seed companies, you are supporting the OSSI Pledge and taking an active stand AGAINST corporate control of seed and FOR seed as a public commons.

In his book, "Where Our Food Comes From," ethnobotanist, Gary Nahban, states, “It is the social, economic and political access to seed diversity at critical moments that can make or break a community’s means of achieving food security.” Now is a critical moment! And you have the power to make a difference!

​You can join us in supporting the Open Source Seed Initiative. You can FREE THE SEED by purchasing seed from the OSSI collection and by CLICKING HERE to make a tax-deductible donation! On behalf of the seed, we "THANK YOU!"

Click here to download a printable mail order form of all of our seed offerings!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Got Garlic?

Neil's Garlic
at Prairie Road Organic Seed

Got Garlic?
Garlic, the perfect choice for adding flavor to a savory recipe, is also GOOD for you!  It provides a long list of health benefits due to its powerful antioxidant properties. Garlic contains a compound known as allicin, which helps lower cholesterol levels, prevent blood clotting, and has been shown to have anti-microbial and anti-cancer properties.

The best way to enjoy garlic's health benefits is to eat it raw, or close to raw. Temperatures above 140F destroy allicin. Add garlic at the very end of the cooking process, after you’ve removed the heat source, to best preserve and enjoy its flavor and health benefits.

Garlic is low in calories and high in nutrients, containing manganese, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, selenium, and fiber. It’s a natural immune system booster that helps the body fight infection and viral attacks.

Garlic is in the Amaryllidaceae family, which includes leeks, onions, scallions, and chives. Softneck varieties (Allium sativum var. sativum) have two rings of cloves around a soft stem, which can be braided. Examples of this type are Silverskin and Artichoke garlic. Hardneck varieties (Allium sativum var. ophioscorodon), like the varieties we sell, have a single ring of cloves around a hard stem that sends up a flower stalk. Purple Striped, Porcelain, and Rocambole are of this type of garlic.

Hardneck varieties are generally a bit milder than softneck.  Purple Striped, including Russian Giant and Bogatyr, store about 6 months, while Porcelain varieties, like Georgian Crystal, can store 8-10 months. 

 Bogatyr, Purple Striped (Click to order! Takes you to our Etsy Store.)
(Marbled Purple Stripe/Hardneck)  5-7 cloves per bulb.  Bogatyr garlic originated in Moscow and is relatively rare. Beautiful marbled purple bulbs with easy to peel brown clove wrappers. It provides an initial spicy bite when raw but does not linger on the palate, making it ideal for recipes using raw cloves, such as pesto or hummus.  Fat cloves are well-suited to roasting with a pleasing garlic flavor. Also, well-suited to fresh eating, sauteing, stir-fries, pickling, and soup. This is a consistent and productive garlic that holds well in long-term storage. This variety will grow well in most regions of the United States.

Purchasing garlic strictly for the health and culinary benefits is certainly valuable and you are very welcome to do just that!  But you can greatly increase those benefits by using some of your garlic bulbs as seed... planting and growing your own garlic!  Here are some tips for doing so!

Soil and Nutrient Requirements
Garlic will tolerate many soil types and textures but ideally likes rich, well-drained soils with high organic content and a soil pH of 6.5. It is difficult to grow garlic without rot problems in heavy, wet soils. Garlic likes to be well fertilized, using high-quality compost. Rotate allium crops, including onions, leeks, and garlic, at least every two years to prevent disease issues.

Planting
Garlic is best should be planted in a sunny location during the fall for a mid-summer crop the following year. It can be planted in spring, but doing so is not recommended, as it will lower yields; the garlic may not form bulbs if the cloves are not exposed to cold temperatures over winter. Garlic is usually planted October-November in the north and November-January in the south. Northern growers should plant two to four weeks before the ground freezes to ensure adequate root growth prior to winter.

To prepare separate bulbs into individual cloves right before planting, being careful not to break off the basal scar (where the clove attaches to the bulbs basal roots). Larger cloves will produce the larger bulbs. Eat the small cloves!

Plant each clove with the basal root end down and the pointed tip up, at a depth of 2” if mulching; 3-4” if not mulched. Space the cloves about 6” apart with row spacing of at least 18” or wider, if accommodating tillage equipment. 

If growing in raised beds, a good general rule is to plant each clove 5-9" apart, no matter how you lay out your rows or beds. For example, plant 5” apart with row spacing of 9” or plant 9” apart with row spacing of 5”. 

How much should you plant?  1-5 pounds of seed garlic will produce enough garlic for the culinary needs of most families, more if there are garlic lovers among you! The amount of garlic that your seed will produce usually ranges between 4-6 times the amount that you plant for our hardneck varieties. For example, 1 lb of garlic seed should produce an average of 5 lbs of garlic.  Hardneck varieties, like ours, have an average of 4-7 cloves per bulb.  Bulbs weigh about  2oz/bulb, averaging 8 bulbs/lb x 5 cloves/bulb, providing 40 seed cloves per pound of garlic. 

To determine how much space your seed garlic will take up in your garden, consider this example:  You have 4 pounds of seed garlic that contain 160 plantable cloves.  Your garden rows are 20 ft long.  If you plant your cloves 6 inches apart in a row, you will plant 40 cloves per row and will need 4 rows of space.

(Porcelain/Hardneck) 4-6 cloves per bulb. Great for salsas and pesto; just the right amount of bite, but not too spicy raw. White bulbs consist of big, easily-peeled cloves in pink and yellow wrappers. Classic roasting garlic, with a smooth buttery flavor and texture. Georgian Crystal is an extra oily garlic making it a healthy choice for its high allicin content: allicin is known to lower cholesterol and increase circulation, boosting the immune system. Well-suited to fresh eating, sauteing, stir-fries, pickling, and for inclusion in soups, pestos, hummus and any recipe calling for a clove of your favorite garlic. 

(Click to order! Takes you to our Etsy Store.)


Growth 
Garlic grows during the cool spring season, finishing just as the summer is heating up. In the spring as the plants come up and put on their vegetative growth, water like any garden green. Nitrogen is appreciated at this stage of growth. As the days lengthen and the temperatures increase, garlic will finish growing green leaves and is ready to direct energy to its bulb.

Hardneck varieties produce flower stalks called “scapes” in early June in northern climates and as early as March or April in warm climates; these should be removed so that the plant continues to put its energy into its bulb, not the flower. Hardneck garlic sends up a flower stalk. Before the stalk begins to turn woody, starts to uncoil, and begins to stand up straight, the stalk should be cut off 1/2 inch above the top plant leaf.  Clipping the scape about 1/2” above the top leaf will increase the size of the bulb and yields. Garlic scapes are often used for cooking and pesto. (See our June 23 post!)
(Marbled Purple-Stripe/Hardneck) 5-7 cloves per bulb. Large, beautiful dark purple-striped bulbs with brilliant color that catches the eye. Better than average keeping ability with brown clove wrappers; plump, easy-to-peel cloves! Initial bite mellows to a pleasant garlicky flavor. Fat cloves are well-suited to roasting with a pleasing garlic flavor. Well suited to fresh eating, sauteing, stir-frying, pickling, and in soups, pesto and hummus. A consistent and productive garlic that holds well in long-term storage. This variety will grow well in most regions of the United States, including northern climates.

Harvest
As harvest nears, plants will begin to dry down from the lowest leaf up and from the leaf tips stem-ward, a leaf at a time. Harvest when the top 4-7 leaves are still mostly green. (Earlier, if conditions are wetter to prevent water staining to the wrappers; later, if conditions are mostly dry with little risk of water stains.) Use a spade or fork to loosen the soil and lift the garlic; holding the plant stem close to the soil line, gently pull from the loosened soil, being careful not to bruise the garlic. Commercial growers or those with larger fields use an undercutting bar attachment to loosen prior to hand-digging and gathering.

Cure in a dimly lit area with ample airflow for 3-4 weeks, longer, if you live in a wet climate. Check the clove wrappers inside the bulb to make sure they are dry. After curing is complete, clip off the dried tops about ½-1inch above the bulb, trim the roots, and store in a netted onion bag or ventilated crate.

Storage
Store your garlic crop in a dark, cool part of the house, such as a basement, a seldom used closet, or a semi-heated garage.  Never store garlic in a refrigerator; this will induce sprouting. Most garlic stores well at room temperature.  For longer term storage 40-55 degrees is optimal. Humidity between 60%-70% is preferable to prevent dehydration of the bulbs. 

Learn more!
If you find the thought of growing your own garlic intriguing, I highly recommend the book, "Growing Great Garlic," by Ron L. Engeland. Find it at your local bookstore.  It is a great resource and will help ensure a successful garlic crop!  

Happy Garlic Growing! Eat well, Dear Friends!

Our best to you, 
Theresa, Dan & Neil

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Garlic Scapes Are NOW In Season!


Garlic Scapes Are NOW In Season!

Garlic scapes are the flower bud of a hardneck garlic plant. The bud is removed in late June to encourage the garlic bulbs to bulk up. Scapes are surprisingly tasty and versatile to use in the kitchen; they are delicious to eat! Scapes taste like garlic and can be used in any recipe that calls for garlic. You can chop them into salads or use them as a topping, as you would use scallions. They can be sauteed lightly and used over pasta or served as a side dish. Excellent in salsa, stir fry, and as a pizza topping. They can also be pickled! An all-time favorite is garlic scape pesto. Super easy recipes below!

Basic Garlic Pesto

1 cup garlic scapes
1/2 to 3/4 cup almonds, cashews, pine nuts, or sunflower meats
3/4 cup olive oil or sunflower oil
1/4 to 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Grind scapes and nuts in a food processor while slowly pouring in the oil. Add salt, pepper and parmesan cheese.  Process until well blended.  You can blend to your desired consistency. Eat fresh or freeze for a special winter treat. Freeze into smaller portions for ease of use.  Serve with chips, crackers, or use pesto as a pasta sauce or in stir fries.

Basil Garlic Pesto

1 cup garlic scapes
1/2 to 3/4 cup almonds, cashews, pine nuts, or sunflower meats
3/4 cup olive oil or sunflower oil
1/4 cup basil leaves
1/4 to 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Follow directions for basic pesto but add basil with scapes and nuts.

We are offering garlic scapes for a limited time!  We ship by priority mail.  Order by visiting our Local Harvest storefront at: http://www.localharvest.org/garlic-scapes-C31951?ul



Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Buckwheat Has You Covered!

Manor Buckwheat

Buckwheat Has You Covered!

Need a summer cover crop in the garden? A fast-growing summer cover crop, buckwheat is a succulent that can be grown as a green manure adding nutrients and organic matter to the soil. It improves soil tilth, preparing the garden bed for transplants. It is very efficient at taking up phosphorus from the soil and storing it in its tissues, making it more bio-available for subsequent crops. 

Buckwheat seed germinates within days of planting, especially when the soil temperature is warmer than 55 degrees. Buckwheat is fast growing broadleaf. It's quick germination and vigorous growth canopy make it an excellent smother crop for weeds.

Buckwheat provides a protective canopy over the garden’s soil surface between early spring harvests and fall planted crops. Its fast growth makes it ideal for planting in places that might otherwise be left bare over the summer.

Buckwheat will flower after five weeks when it reaches two to four feet high and will set seed two to three weeks after flowering. Mowing will prevent the seeds from maturing. Mature seeds will result in buckwheat volunteers next year.  However, they are easy to kill, compete with problematic weeds, provides green manure benefits, and pollinators love it. Buckwheat is frost-sensitive and will winter-kill naturally.

Pollinator Pasture!
Abundant flowers and nectar make buckwheat very attractive to pollinators and other beneficial insects. It provides excellent habitat; a “pollinator pasture” for honeybees! It will continue to flower profusely until frost.

Planting buckwheat 
In the spring or early summer scatter the seed over the garden bed at about one pound per 500 square feet or three ounces per 100 square feet. Rake and water it in to get good soil-to-seed contact for quick germination. 

Buckwheat tolerates poor fertility and doesn't require much water. It is drought tolerant; plants may appear wilted on hot summer afternoons but should recover overnight. Buckwheat succeeds in many less-than-ideal places in the garden but does not do well if shaded or when planted in wet, saturated soils. Buckwheat prefers a soil pH of 5.0-7.0.

Turning in
To avoid setting mature seed, mow or cut down buckwheat within two weeks of first flowering. Turning buckwheat plants into the soil will begin decomposition.  Allow three weeks for decomposition before planting a subsequent vegetable crop.  

To order buckwheat cover crop seed in 14 oz, 3 lb or 5 lb quantities,  visit our Etsy storefront
(Clicking the link will open our Esty page in a new window.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

To Start Or Not To Start?

Dakota Sisters muskmelon

To Start Or Not To Start?

A delightfully flavorful, sweet, and aromatic melon! Bred by David Podoll, our family has been selecting Dakota Sisters muskmelon for smooth texture, great melon flavor, juicy sweetness, deep orange color, and thick flesh since 1980. This easy growing specialty melon can be direct sown in full sun after all danger of frost has passed.  We direct seed our muskmelons the last week of May and recommend direct seeding. You could start your muskmelon plants indoors 3-4 weeks before setting out, however, we have found little advantage to doing so. Bred and selected in North Dakota, this muskmelon is especially suited to areas with a shorter growing season. 

Muskmelons take some space to grow and vine, so leave enough room for muskmelon vines to spread. Plant 1/2” deep and space 1 foot between plants in the row and 3-6 feet between rows. Emergence is 5-10 days. Muskmelons can be trained on a trellis or fence to save space. 




Insect Pests
It's best to rotate your melon crops each year, ensuring that you are not planting in the same spot each year. Striped and spotted cucumber beetles can be a serious pest. They can damage young leaves so extensively that plants either die or are stunted in growth. In our experience these insects often appear in our cucurbits after a strong south wind. If the plants are in the two to four leaf stage, they are particularly vulnerable.  The insects target weakened plants first and can literally suck the plant dry, destroying all of its leaf area. In addition to the feeding damage, these insects can transport diseases, such as bacterial wilt as they feed. Prevention strategies include crop rotation and removal of crop debris to discourage overwintering of these pests. Tents can be constructed of fine netting, cheesecloth, or floating row cover to protect young plants.  (Remove before flowering to allow pollinators to do their job.)

If the cucumber beetles are detected, hand picking is one strategy, if the bugs are few and far between. Trap crops or companion crops, such as tansy, may be planted to lure pests away from the production areas long enough for your muskmelon to get established. Another strategy is the use of sticky traps and pheromones to lure beetles away from main crop and to the trap them, impeding mating, which will breed a more serious invasion as the season progresses. Sticky traps are also a good pest monitoring strategy, helping you ascertain their numbers.

If pest numbers climb, another strategy is to dip or spray seedlings with kaolin clay to deter the insects from feeding on young plants. You can also combine clay with insecticidal soap, such as Safer BrandTM, or neem oil, such as Ahimsa Neem Oil. You can also use a hand-held vacuum cleaner to remove beetles from the plants.  Dump the collected beetles into soapy water to kill them.

If pest numbers become a serious threat for crop loss, you can spray a pyrethrin product, such as PyGanic. This should be used as a last resort to provide immediate knockdown. PyGanic contains botanical pyrethrum (derived from chrysanthemum) and is OMRI listed for use in organic production. These interventions should only be used if absolutely necessary.

For more information on control strategies, see the ATTRA publication, Cucumber Beetles:
Organic and Biorational Integrated Pest Management, available for download here at: https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=133

Squash vine borer is another potential pest in muskmelon.  As the borer boroughs its way inside the vine, it will cause plants to look wilted, even when moisture is plentiful. If you see wilting, check for signs of disease and look for signs of damage along the vine.  If it appears to be vine borer damage, slice open the stem, remove the borers and destroy them, being careful to do as little damage to the vine as possible to aid in healing.

Diseases
Downy and powdery mildew are common in wet weather. Downy mildew produces yellow spots on leaf surfaces, with purplish areas on the underside of the leaf. Powdery mildew causes powdery white areas on leaves and stems. Even a small amount of mildew can affect the sweetness of melons because the fungus will fuel its own growth by siphoning off the vine’s sugars. Sprays of potassium bicarbonate (or baking soda) can help prevent powdery mildew. Cut off, remove, and destroy any affected branches.

Bacterial wilt produces limp leaves and stems that secrete a white sticky substance when cut. Controlling cucumber beetles and aphids, and remove and destroy any affected plants to reduce the chances of it spreading. 

Harvest
Melons need to ripen fully on the vine. They do not ripen well after they are harvested. We normally have ripe melons around August 5-10th.  Muskmelons develop a wonderful fragrance when they are ready to pick. The aroma is unmistakable. The vine will begin to ooze where the stem connects to the fruit. At this point the fruit should slip easily from the vine and the blossom end should feel soft to the touch.

Muskmelon last for a week or more in the refrigerator.  They make a delicious and refreshing summer snack, a gourmet breakfast, or a dessert specialty!



Sunday, February 14, 2016

Select Seed. Select Produce.  From our Garden to yours!  

Happy Valentines Day!  Something SWEET!

Sweet Dakota Rose Watermelon Patch

Sweet, juicy, homegrown watermelons-- the essence of summer magic with run-down-your-chin refreshment and explosive taste!! The perfect dessert or afternoon refreshment to quench that hot summer thirst and sweet cravings. No guilt here… these abundant fruits satisfy your sweet tooth with health boosting vitamin A and C, flavonoids, and anti-oxidants, such as beta-cartotene and lycopene, in every slurpy bite. No cholesterol and fat. Perfect!

Run-down-your-chin, juicy refreshment!

Growing Notes

Watermelons (Citrullus lanatus) are warm season tender annuals in the Cucurbitiacea family, which includes cucumbers, melons, summer squash and winter squash, and gourds. Like their cantaloupe cousins and the cucurbit family, watermelons like heat.

Growing watermelons requires warm soil, above 70 degree F. We typically direct seed our watermelon the end of May; we are on the 46th parallel in what used to be Zone 3 but is now rated Zone 4. Our last frost date averages around May 10th. We have found no advantage to starting watermelon ahead of time, due to transplant shock, which erases any growth gained by starting them ahead of time. We usually have ripe melons by about August 20th.  That varies by the number of heat units during the growing season but we have never had to go to any extra lengths to ensure a good harvest. We plant at a ¼ to ½ inch depth, 9 inches apart, in rows 5-6 feet apart. Germination is 6-10 days and days-to-maturity is 80-90 days.

If you are further north, or if you would like to go the extra mile to ensure a good harvest, you can utilize black plastic, which will speed soil warming for earlier planting. Floating row covers can help by trapping warm air near plants, providing more heat units early on.  Floating row covers can also protect young seedlings from insect pressure.  However, you have to be sure to remove the covers prior to flowering so that your pollinators can do their job of ensuring a good fruit set.
The plants need loose, fertile, well-drained soil with sufficient organic matter, a good supply of nitrogen and a pH 5.8-6.8.  Watermelon is heat tolerant and should be planted in full sun. Good drainage is key! You can kill a watermelon with too much water.  These plants originate in Africa; they are storing water, much like a cactus.  They like it hot and relatively dry. Watermelon plants have moderately deep roots and watering is seldom necessary unless the weather turns dry for a prolonged period. Remember this is a desert plant.  You can kill watermelon by overwatering!

All of our varieties are bred and selected for dry-land farming; we do not irrigate our watermelon or any of our other seed crops.  Our annual rainfall is 18-20 inches. However, there have been many years that our rainfall has been far short of that. Even in our worst droughts, we have never seen Sweet Dakota Rose watermelon wilt.

 If you find it necessary to water, do so early in the day so that leaves can fully dry, quelling the growth of disease organisms. Avoid overhead watering. Soaker hoses or drip irrigation deliver water directly to soil, helping prevent possible spread of fungal diseases among wet foliage. Watering during ripening is said to dilute the sugar content of your fruit.



Diseases in Watermelon

Carefully inspect any wilt you see in your watermelon patch; make sure you do not dismiss wilting as a water or drought related issue without ensuring that it is not disease related. Fusarium Wilt in watermelon is caused by fungi (Fusarium oxysporum) and can be seed and/or soil borne. Other possible diseases are Powdery mildew (Sphaerotheca fuliginea and Erysiphe cichoracearum), Root rot (Pythium and Phytophthora spp.), Verticillium wilt (Verticillium dahliae), Bacterial Fruit Blotch (BFB) (Acidovorax avenae subsp. citrulli) and Cucumber mosaic virus; remove, identify, and destroy any infected plants.

Wet conditions encourage diseases. Prevention strategies are to provide plants with space to avoid a dense, airless canopy, and avoid wetting the foliage. As stated above, if the vines and leaves do not fully recover from drought or heat stress overnight and you find it necessary to water, do so early in the day so that leaves can fully dry, quelling the growth of these disease organisms. Powdery mildew can also be reduced by avoiding overhead watering and providing good air circulation. Give plants plenty of space and keep weeds in check to maintain air circulation in the canopy.

Pests

Striped Cucumber beetle feeding can damage young leaves so extensively that plants either die or are stunted in growth. In our experience these insects often appear in our cucurbits after a strong south wind. If the plants are in the two to four leaf stage, they are particularly vulnerable.  The insects target weakened plants first and can literally suck the plant dry, destroying all of its leaf area. In addition to the feeding damage, these insects can transport diseases. Prevention strategies include crop rotation and removal of crop debris to discourage overwintering of these pests. Tents can be constructed of fine netting, cheesecloth, or floating row cover to protect young plants.  (Remove before flowering to allow pollinators to do their job.)

If the cucumber beetles are detected, hand picking is one strategy, if the bugs are few and far between. Trap crops or companion crops, such as tansy, may be planted to lure pests away from the production areas long enough for your watermelon to get established. Another strategy is the use of sticky traps and pheromones to lure beetles away from main crop and to the trap them, impeding mating, which will breed a more serious invasion as the season progresses. Sticky traps are also a good pest monitoring strategy, helping you ascertain their numbers.

If pest numbers climb, another strategy is to dip or spray seedlings with kaolin clay to deter the insects from feeding on young plants. You can also combine clay with insecticidal soap, such as Safer BrandTM, or neem oil, such as Ahimsa Neem Oil.

If pest numbers become a serious threat for crop loss, PyGanic can be used as a last resort to provide immediate knockdown.  PyGanic contains botanical pyrethrum (derived from chrysanthemum) and is OMRI listed for use in organic production. These interventions should only be used if absolutely necessary.

For more information on control strategies, see the ATTRA publication, Cucumber Beetles:
Organic and Biorational Integrated Pest Management, available for download here.) at: https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=133

Squash vine borer is another potential pest in watermelon.  As the borer boroughs its way inside the vine, it will cause plants to look wilted, even when moisture is plentiful. If you see wilting, check for signs of disease and look for signs of damage along the vine.  If it appears to be vine borer damage, slice open the stem, remove the borers and destroy them, being careful to do as little damage to the vine as possible to aid in healing.

Flowering and Fruit Set

Watermelon vines bear male and female flowers. (Remember, when vines start to bear flowers, remove any row cover.) You can tell the female flowers by the small swelling at the base of the flower; when pollinated this small swelling starts to grow into your fruit. Don’t be alarmed when some of the male flowers, which appear first, fall off shortly after they open.  The female blossoms will begin to appear about a week later. If later fruiting flowers drop in large numbers, it is probably due to insufficient pollination, an increasing problem due to the loss of many of our pollinators, both wild and domestic. Frequent bee visits are needed for adequate pollination and good fruit set. Look for bees between 7 and 8 a.m. If bees are not visiting your plants and there is an insufficient fruit set, hand pollination is possible using an artist's paint brush.

Weeds

Tackle weeds before vines start to run. It will be difficult to move among vines at a later stage without crushing them. Upright weeds are easy to spot; just bend low to the level of the plant canopy and scan for anything above the canopy—likely a weed. Keep a sharp eye out for the ground hugging weeds like purslane and prostate pigweed, as well as vining weeds, like wild buckwheat or bindweed. These love to “hide” in amongst your watermelon vines.  If you find it necessary to pull a weed in the watermelon patch, take off your shoes and tip-toe through the vines, avoiding crushing the vines. If the weeds are already setting seed, put them in a pail and remove the whole plant from the field.

Harvest and Storage

How do you know when the watermelon is ripe?  Where the vine attaches to the melon, there is a little tendril.  When that tendril is completely dried down, the melon is likely ripe.  Look on the underside, the spot where the melon rests on the ground; when a watermelon is ripe, its belly will go from near white to creamy yellow. You can also thump or rap on the rind of the watermelon; experienced gardeners can judge ripeness by listening for a low-pitched thud. Rap on some fruits that show signs of ripeness and ones that don’t to tune your ear.

Watermelons will keep well in a cool basement (<50 degrees F) unrefrigerated for at least two weeks.  We have heard reports from fans of Sweet Dakota Rose that served delicious watermelon at Thanksgiving! After cutting, refrigerate any unused portions. Have more melons than you can eat?  Dice and freeze for off-season smoothies!

How SWEET it is!

Seed Saving Instructions

Watermelon is cross-pollinated AND insect pollinated. Unless hand pollinating, take caution if you are planning to save seed, especially if you or your neighbors are growing different varieties that will cross with each other. If different varieties cross-pollinate, the watermelon itself will still look and taste like Sweet Dakota Rose watermelon; you won’t even know it crossed with anything.  If you save and plant that seed back the next year, you will get completely different watermelon throughout your patch, rather than good production of predictable quality.

Different varieties of watermelon must be isolated by at least 1 mile to keep the seed true to type. In addition to the isolation by distance, physical barriers such as shelter belts, orchards, woods and buildings between the fields can further reduce risks of cross-pollination.

To save seed, harvest the best watermelons from the best plants, free of any disease. Remove and crush the pulp with the seeds and make a juicy slurry. A light fermentation will help in the cleaning process. Simply let the slurry sit in a warm place for 1-2 days, stirring twice daily. Then add water, let the heavy seeds sink to the bottom, decant the water and pulp being careful not to pour off the heavy seeds, and repeat until water runs clean.  Screen seeds; put a fan on them and allow them to dry thoroughly on the screen, stirring occasionally to prevent them from sticking together. Melon seed will remain viable for 4-6 years under cool and dry storage conditions.



Eat well, Dear Friends!