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 “Pinole Maiz”
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 rate)
Did the crop receive full sun, partial sun, or full shade? Full sun

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 stalks)?
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 ear)?
Can the corn be eaten as a “sweet” corn when it’s immature?
How does it taste?’

Another set of general questions and observations:
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 “Pinole Maiz”:
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 planted 16
seeds of Minnie’s Apache Hubbard along one edge of the same bed – on the west side of the corn. The bed is oriented N/S.

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 – superior flavor!

For information about the Gardener’s Network contact:
Suzanne Nelson, Ph.D.
Director of Conservation
Native Seeds/SEARCH
526 N. 4th Ave.
Tucson, AZ. 85705
phone: 520-622-5561

website: Native Seed SEARCH

garden well - eat local

Until next month,

Darrol Shillingburg
Master Gardener Intern

Descriptions from the Native Seeds SEARCH Catalog

Chapalote “Pinole 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.

Minnie's Apache 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.

click on the images
for more information

Chapalote "Pinole Maiz"

Chapolte "Pinole Maiz"

Minnie's Apache Hubbard

Minnie's Apache Hubbard

San Felipe Pueblo White Tepary Bean

Hopi Black Pinto Beans

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