DEGREES OF ENGAGEMENT - More
about the Gardener’s Network Program
Now seems a good time for an update on my involvement
in the Gardener’s Network
Program at Native Seed SEARCH. Information gathered by
the Gardener’s Network will help Native Seed SEARCH
determine which varieties are “the best”, which
may be problematic, and which may require specific growing
conditions, etc. Ultimately, they hope to develop this information
into a web-based resource for gardeners. This growing season
has thirty-eight individual gardeners from eighteen states
across the country growing and testing 84 different varieties.
Back in April
I wrote about the varieties I was testing for the program
and now that I am into planting, growing and recording data,
I have additional information. The four varieties that I am
testing this year are Chapolte “Pinole
Maiz”, Minnie’s Apache Hubbard Squash, Hopi
Black Pinto Beans and San Juan Pueblo White Tepary Beans.
To date I have planted the Pinole Maiz and Minnie’s
Apache Hubbard Squash in a two sisters bed– left out
the third sister, climbing beans, this year. I have also planted
the Tepary Beans. I am holding off planting the Hopi Black
Pinto Beans until we get some evidence of a monsoon season,
or at least one good rain.
So how do you measure a variety’s
suitability for home gardens in different growing regions?
What data do you collect to measure suitability for the home
garden? For many years I have kept records of planting dates,
companions and planting sequences, and some notes on results,
but nothing as thoughtful and organized as the data collected
for these test crops.
Their initial questions are the same
for all varieties:
Catalog No/Crop name: ZP 90 Chapalote
Date of planting: 6/22/05
Date transplanted into garden (if applicable):
Date of 1st germination: 6/26/05
No. seeds planted: 48
No. seeds germinated (date) 44 (7/8/05) (92% germination
Did the crop receive full sun, partial sun, or full shade?
Other questions are based on observing
specific varieties - corn:
Date of first tasseling:
Date of first silking:
Length of time that tassels and silks were produced:
What colors were the tassels? silks?
Were stalks/leaves/veins other colors besides green? If so,
estimate the number or percentage of plants and
indicate which plant part was colored.
Were aerial roots produced? If so, on how many nodes?
Did you have any problem with lodging (falling over of the
How tall was the plant at maturity?
Date of harvest:
How many ears, on average, were produced per plant?
Did you hand pollinate? How?
How well-filled were the ears (were there kernels on the entire
Can the corn be eaten as a “sweet” corn when it’s
How does it taste?’
Another set of general questions and
Were there any problems with disease, fungus, insects, or
other pests? How did plants respond? Did you use anything
to treat the problem? How well did it work? Please provide
an overall description of how you grew this crop, including
a brief description of how you watered (hose, drip, rain only,
etc.) and about how often (i.e., did it experience some drought,
weekly soakings), whether it needed trellising, was it intercropped
and with what, did it need extra shade, did the grasshoppers
seem to like it particularly, etc.
Here’s my log for ZP 90 Chapalote
Planted in four clusters (12 seeds to a cluster)
on a 4’ x 16’ bed, following a crop of snap peas/onions
companion planted with Dutch White Clover. The bed was not
tilled and no compost was added, although some of the mature
clover was uprooted and left as mulch (killed-mulch). I also
seeds of Minnie’s Apache Hubbard along one edge of the
same bed – on the west side of the corn. The bed is
Three of the plants died – one
was all white with no chlorophyll, one had partial chlorophyll
and one just remained stunted and died. Germination by cluster
12/12, 10/12, 11/12,11/12 – 41 plants surviving 7/08/05.
Watered with buried drip soaker lines and with additional
surface delivery emitters, kept evenly moist.
Degrees of Engagement
As you can clearly see, growing for this program requires
a high degree of engagement. It means thinking about how and
where to integrate the test plots into an overall garden planting
plan, and it requires closer and more detailed observations
and record keeping. The result is I am more engaged with the
plants and with the subtle relationships in the garden and
I am learning more and enjoying the garden more. Participating
in a gardening program with others is guaranteed to increase
your enjoyment and expand the gardening knowledge of everyone!
Working with native and heritage varieties
(those introduced by early Spanish settlers and grown locally
since then) gives me a sense of being connected to and a part
of local history. Somehow it becomes my heritage too. And
I find working with native varieties always surprising. They
seem a little wilder and less predictable that the commercial
varieties developed for consistency, uniformity and productivity.
However there is one consistent quality about them –
For information about the Gardener’s Network
Suzanne Nelson, Ph.D.
Director of Conservation
526 N. 4th Ave.
Tucson, AZ. 85705
garden well - eat local
Until next month,
Master Gardener Intern
Descriptions from the Native
Seeds SEARCH Catalog
Maiz” – One of the four most
ancient corns, it is small kernelled with slender ears, and
the only brown corn. Makes a sweet meal excellent for pinole.
Originally collected in Sinaloa Mexico.
Hubbard Squash – A blue ribbon winner
at the White Mountain Apache Tribal Fair. Fruits are variable
in sizes and shapes, light to dark orange skin with white
or tan seeds. Bright orange flesh is non-stringy and sweet.
Last offered in the 1991 catalog!
San Felipe Pueblo White Tepary Bean
– Produces large white seeds mixed with enormous
(for a tepary) light tan, flattened seeds. White and lilac
flowers with large leaves. It is a recent grow-out of a 1990
collection from 5200ft in New Mexico.
Hopi Black Pinto Bean –
a striking black and white/beige pinto, dry farmed in Hopi
fields in northeastern Arizona. It is an early maturing bushy-pole
bean with colorful mottled pods. High yielding.