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Hokkaido and Marina di Chioggia vinesThose of you who read the saga of the Hokkaido watermelon last summer may remember this blog post where I joked about the Hokkaido meeting the vine of the Marina di Chioggia I had also planted: and this photo of the moment when they did.

Well, in what was probably the most mind-blowing thing I learned at the organic gardening workshop I did up at Esalen a few weeks ago, I learned that because the vines met, the seeds I harvested from the Hokkaido and the Marina di Chioggia are no longer pure heirloom seeds but hybrids. In other words, there's now a little of the Hokkaido's DNA in the Marina di Chioggia and vice versa.

Ann garden May 16I'll wait a moment while the little explosion goes off in your brain the way it did in mine when you realize that just by touching the two crops essentially had sex and now who KNOWS what their offspring will be like. Okay, so the science is a LITTLE more complicated but still pretty cool, right? To make this year even more interesting, I've planted a seedling I cultivated from a Cantalupo di Charentais seed right next to one from the Hokkaido (see bottom of this photo). They'll all most likely cross vines at some point so, assuming I harvest seeds again (and I will) next year could be even more wacky -- creating a super Japanese-Italian-French melon hybrid. Booohahahahaha. (That's my evil laugh.)

One of the best things about gardening is the sharing that goes on, be it the sharing of information or seeds or vegetables. This poem was shared with us during the workshop I took up at Esalen and the author was kind enough to allow me to share it here as well. I think it's particularly appropriate at this time of year as we spend more time tending our gardens.

Tending the Garden
(from Messages to Me: Words Collected on the Road to Silence)
by Meg Coyle Irsay

And so I tend to my garden, the plot of mind that has been given me to live in, the plot of mind that provides for my only need, to express the One Love.

Ann garden April 24The downside to having a community garden versus having one at home is the inability to see the daily changes. On the flip side, I suppose, are the dramatic changes you witness when you do get there. This past week I didn't make it over to the garden at all -- it was a busy week and, lucky for me (or maybe unlucky because stopping by the garden tends to be very soothing during stressful weeks), it rained in the middle of the week so I didn't need to water. When I did get there I was amazed to see the difference, mostly in the tomato plants, which had grown another foot and had a couple baby tomatoes making their way into the world. Side note: I also found the anti-social gardener (the one with the chain-link fence surrounding his plot) who grows the amazing tomatoes taking out his annual cover crop of fava beans, which means he's about to plant said amazing tomato seedlings. 

April 24 Ann gardenThe plants I have been able to watch everyday are the melon seedlings growing in my kitchen window. The Marina di Chioggia, especially, had grown to a good four times the size of its little starter pot and was ready to be planted. While not quite as dramatic, the Cantalupo di Charentais was also ready to be transplanted. And so, yesterday, they made their way to the garden exactly one month after I planted the seeds. The top photo is the Marina, right is the Cantalupo (the little sprig to the right of the lettuce). The Hokkaido watermelon seed is the slowest starter of the three so I'm going to give it a little more time in the window. After returning from my week of organic gardening edification at Esalen I may even start another one (heck, there may be a lot of other seeds to start!) as this one seems a little gimpy. We'll see.

Marc and Frank in gardenAbout once a month, I catch up with my friend Marc McDowell. As you may recall from previous posts on GardenstoTables, Marc is the executive sous chef out at the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, who put in an extensive kitchen garden last year.

In January, in addition to becoming a father for the second time, Marc was accepted into the 2010 University of Hawaii Maui Master Gardener Training Program. So in our most recent conversation we talked about all he was learning in the program - which is quite a bit. He spends eight hours a week learning about soil and seeds and landscaping and (well, you get the picture). Essentially he's learning the science of gardening and has compiled a "gigantic" binder full of information and notes - but that all that information can be a little daunting if you're not immediately putting it into practice.

And that's where Frank Jamali comes in. On one of Marc's weekly garden tours, Frank introduced himself and asked if he would like any advice. It ends up that Frank is a retired electronic engineer with experience in biodynamic gardening and landscaping who is now living in Kapalua and was not just offering words but has been coming out to work with Marc in the garden (they're pictured above, with Marc on the left and Frank on the right).

Seedlings on March 30I've said it before and I'll say it again: There is something really really cool about putting a seed -- especially if it's a seed you have saved and stored yourself -- in some dirt (with, okay, some compost and vermiculite and a spritz of kelp emulsion) and then watching as the little green heads start sprouting out. On March 23, I planted the first three melon seeds of the season: a Hokkaido watermelon, a Cantulopo di Charentais and Marina di Chioggia. Exactly one week later, they were already peeking their way out of the dirt (pictured, right). Making it even cooler, the Hokkaido and the Marina di Chioggia were both from seeds I harvested, rinsed and dried from last year's fruit. As you can see, at this point, they were all making their way about equally.

Seedlings on April 6Now, a week later,  it's a different story. The Marina di Chioggia (on the right) is making some serious moves, with the Cantulopo in second and the Hokkaido struggling a bit. (Jeff commented that they looked a little like the three bears: papa, mama and baby). I have a feeling the Hokkaido seed is not going to make it so will most likely get another going in the next week or so and move the two that are making it to the community garden. More on melon-mania (not to be confused with tomatopalooza, which refers to the crazy tomato plants I've got going in my garden that volunteered from last year's crop and we'll discuss in another post) to come. Gotta love this time of year. 

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