No, There Are No Blue Watermelons! Avoid Seed Hoaxers!


A reader wrote me this last week sharing a site that sold blue watermelon seeds.

These watermelons are a long-time internet hoax, yet seed scammers are still taking advantage of gardeners and their love for interesting varieties.

On ebay right now are listings for blue watermelon seeds:


Note where these so-called “blue watermelon” seeds are coming from.

It ain’t the good old U.S. of A.

But you can bet that’s where the money is flowing from. Out of a gardener’s pocket and into the pocket of a scammer.

When you buy seeds from overseas, your chances of being scammed are much, much higher. How do you know that you’re going to get what you order?

You don’t.

And how will you take recourse if you plant the seeds and get something different than advertised? Or if they don’t come up at all?

You can’t.

Caveat emptor is the phrase of the eon when you’re dealing with overseas seeds. Of course, if you’re dumb enough to fall for something like this:

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 8.27.29 AM

Then maybe the scammers deserve your $1.39 + $0.28 shipping.

Here’s another batch of bizarre seeds, this time in the world of flowers:


Seeds for a RAINBOW ROSE!

I need that!



If it looks too weird to be true, avoid it. And if it’s coming from China, avoid it.

The Chinese are well-known for scamming.

They have elaborate dating scams:

“A new study, “Quit Playing Games With My Heart: Understanding Online Dating Scams,” a collaboration between University College London and Jiayuan, China’s largest dating site, revealed the unbelievably creative and involved cons that plague online dating there.

The authors of the study analyzed more than 500,000 profiles, drawn from Jiayuan’s 100 million users, which the site’s employees had flagged as scam accounts. And while by far the most popular of these scams — fake profiles promoting escort services — will be familiar to anyone who uses Tinder in the U.S., the remaining scams could be drawn straight from The Sting or The Grifters.

The most ingenious of the Jiayuan scams starts when the owner of a fancy restaurant hires an attractive woman, who then makes a dating profile. The woman then contacts a lonely heart over Jiayuan and convinces him to take her on a date to the expensive restaurant, where she runs up an enormous tab. According to the study, these dates can cost anywhere from $100 to $2,000. Afterward, of course, the bilked bachelor never hears from his date again.”

And who could forget Chinese drywall?

Or deadly Chinese pet treats:

“When Kevin and Candace Thaxton’s 10-year-old pug Chansey got sick late last year, the couple assumed at first it was simply old age. The small dog started showing symptoms of kidney failure — drinking water excessively and urinating in the house. By the time the Thaxtons got her to a veterinarian, Chansey’s kidneys had shut down and she was in extreme pain. She died two days later.

“It was so hard. It was just devastating,” Kevin Thaxton told ABC News.

But the Thaxtons would go through the ordeal again just weeks later — leading them to a new theory behind Chansey’s death — when their new Pekingese-mix puppy Penny exhibited the same symptoms, finally resulting in kidney failure. When Candace Thaxton stumbled on a Food and Drug Administration warning that there’d been an increase in complaints about chicken jerky dog treats made in China, she says she knew immediately what had happened to her beloved dogs.

“I grabbed the bag of treats and turned it over,” Candace said. “At first I saw it said ‘Manufactured in South Carolina’ so I thought I was safe. Then I looked harder and it said ‘Made in China’ and I just said ‘Oh no.’ “


Of course, it’s not just China. There are hoaxes coming from other places. Nigeria has a reputation for fraud which is legendary. Instead of a few bucks for seeds, they’re stealing people’s entire retirements:

“Spears, who is a nursing administrator and CPR teacher, said she mortgaged the house and took a lien out on the family car, and ran through her husband’s retirement account.

“The retirement he was dreaming of — cruising and going around and seeing America — is pretty much gone for him right now,” she said.

She estimates it will take two years to clear the debt that accumulated in the more than two years she spent sending money to con artists.

Her family and bank officials told her it was all a scam, she said, and begged her to stop, but she persisted because she became obsessed with getting paid.”


This is why I’ve buried all my retirement money in mayonnaise jars where no one can find it.

Seriously though, if you see something like this:




I understand the allure of blue watermelons and exotic seeds, but if it’s really out of the ordinary – and it’s coming from somewhere out of the ordinary – I can almost guarantee you’re going to get scammed. Fortunately, it’s not a huge loss – but every person who sends a couple of bucks to these thieves is just encouraging them.

If this sort of thing makes you mad, feel free to post this article on Facebook in various gardening groups. Also be sure to report nonsense on ebay when you see it.

I don’t like to see scammers making money or my readers losing it. Stick with good companies like Baker Creek for exotic seeds and just say NO to weirdos with weird-colored watermelons.


A Pruned Mulberry Tree


Victor sent pictures of his mulberry tree, post pruning:


In my previous post, it looked like this:


I told him he could hack the living daylights out of it, but in his words:

“Like Moses tapping the stone, however, I hedged about cutting down to 4 feet and it’s more in the range of 5. Reverse of a rule in illustration- it’s always easier to add something to an image than edit it out- I feel like I’m in a position to cut some more if you think I haven’t gone far enough.”

He’s right – if you cut too far, you can’t add back. However, I had to learn that with mulberries (and peaches, incidentally), what seems like severe pruning rarely is. Most of the time, I wish I’d cut farther. By mid-summer I’m always saying “wait! Slow down, tree!”

Look at this peach for example. That sort of low, spreading form happens when you prune the young tree to around ONE FOOT from the ground. That’s severe! But it makes for a very manageable tree.

Victor’s mulberry will grow back and jump for the sky. And there’s always next year to prune more. I would probably take off a lot more of the small branches if it were me, but I didn’t start off pruning that way. I learned how much trees could take over time and had to be encouraged by people like Paul Miller of Rainbow Star Farm in Gainesville to see just how much potential a tree can have when tightly controlled. It feels like you’re going to kill it but you probably won’t.



More on the Dangers of Straw Bale Gardening

joel karsten straw bale gardening

On my controversial article on straw bale gardening, I recently received this comment from Terri of Ladybug Farms:

“I totally concur! I became the first certified organic hay supplier in Georgia in 2015. A lot of people said “why bother”. I wasn’t sure myself but I knew I had really clean hay, I wanted to encourage small herd ruminants to get certified, I wanted to support Georgia Organics 100 Organic Farms campaign and it just felt like the right thing to do. It took me a year or so of schlepping around these heavy hay bales as I searched for customers. I kept hearing stories of peoples gardens getting wiped out – poor seed germination, stunted plants, etc. The common thread was they got horse manure from a neighbor down the way. Hmmmm. Slowly I started to put it together as stories such as these began to surface. I only produce 200 square bales a year on my 7 acres and could sell 5 times the amount of hay if I had it. I hope others will pursue organic certification as there is a large demand. Thanks for posting this article!”

But, that’s not all. Over at my reprinting of the article at The Grow Network, I received this comment yesterday:

“I am a market farmer who lost 1200 potted tomato and pepper seedlings one year due to using worm castings (in my soil mix) that had clopyralid contamination (as I found out later from the local Extension Horticulturist). The person who made the worm castings had used a new source of barley straw for the worms. The clopyralid went through the digestive tract of the worms and was still intact. Apparently, clopyralid (and similar herbicides) can be active for years. I now test my worm castings before using by planting tomato seeds with it. If they grow normally after 3-4 weeks I know there is no contamination. I have since talked with many people who have had terrible herbicide problems from using straw as mulch for their home gardens. The local farmers often do not read the label fully or understand the problems, and sometimes aren’t even aware that their straw has been sprayed with clopyralid.”

People don’t get it. This stuff is wicked. And Joel Karsten attacks those who mention the potential for problems.

Look – I’ve even filmed the issue:

And I’m not alone. Karen Land has shared her story here.

Watch your back.


Turning Compost and Getting it Hot Again


I need to make some new compost piles like this one:

We’ve been saving kitchen scraps in sealed bucket on the porch until the land is cleared for our gardens. It’s taking longer than you might expect, but we’re on Central America time here. Getting guys out to do stuff takes time.

Soon, soon. Yeah, soon.

I posted this video a year ago and it sure did get hot after turning that pile. We got a good load of humus as well, plus it was filled with enriched biochar. Simple.


Intensive Gardening Introduction


Bruce of Red Gardens has a good video on his experiences with both double-dug and no-dig intensive gardening:

Though I love what he’s doing here and enjoy double-digging, if you have more land go with wide spacing. Intensive beds are very resource intensive compared to spacing widely. If you don’t water a tightly planted bed you lose your plants quickly, whereas widely spaced crops can often subsist on rainfall alone.


Novel Ways to Feed Chickens

I recently joined Marjory Wildcraft on an “Ask Me Anything” podcast and one thing that came up was feeding chickens bugs. We tossed some good ideas around on that topic that you might find useful.
David the Good: What I kind of found was taking all of the kitchen scraps and that kind of thing, and putting it, composting in the chicken run itself, so you’re actually getting bugs to show up there. If you make a big compost pile in one spot, and if you make it a little hard for the chickens to access, like they can jump up top, and they can kick around in it, but they can’t throw it all over the place. We’ve found kind of on accident that they would climb up inside of the bin that we made, which had some hardware cloth around it. They would jump up on top, and they would just wolf it down, whatever was in the compost pile, and turn it. They would dig down, and they would pull the worms out, the mealworms and the maggots, or whatever was inthere. No, not mealworms, black soldier flies. The stuff that was in there, they would come, and they would take it, but they couldn’t kick the compost all over. There was enough cover in that compost bin that the bugs could keep breeding in it, and the chickens could come and help themselves every day without taking out the entire bug population. Plus, we got compost at the end of it, and we had some free labor going on from the chickens. That’s my two cents. If you had a compost pile where they can actually hop in to the top of it, but they can’t throw the compost all over, because you know, if you throw kitchen scraps in the chicken run, they’re going to be spread 20 feet all over the place over the next few days, and the bugs are gone, because the birds will kill every single one.

Marjory: You know, another technique is that you get a pan full of water, and you put a light bulb above it at night. If you put the light bulb like a foot or two above the water, the insects are attracted to that light, and then they’ll fly and accidentally hit the water, and then, they get stuck there, right?
Jimerson: That’s brilliant.
David the Good: Oh, I love it. I love it. Great idea.
Marjory: Yeah. That does work, and I’ve seen it work better than others. It seems to work better in some situations than in other situations, like right outside my daughter’s window seemed to be ideal, interestingly enough. That was another one that I use. Yeah. You get a lot of the nighttime insects. Then, we had free range chickens, so they would just come by in the morning and eat it out of the water pan, so it wasn’t like I even had to feed it to them.
David the Good: Yeah. Anywhere where you have lots of leaf cover, if you have woods near the edge of where you put your chickens, and provided it’s woods where they’re not
going to get eaten by raccoons, because that’s always a problem when you have woods, but they’ll dig through all the leaf litter, and they’ll find tons of protein. We had some jungle fowl that we had here for a period of time, and I mean, they just ate bugs all
day. They would disappear into the jungle, eat bugs all day, and then come back at night. Most of the time, they’d come back.
Marjory: I bet those egg yolks were pretty orange, too. They would probably be gorgeous eggs, will all the Omega-3.
David the Good: Oh, they were awesome. Yes.
Marjory: Yeah. Yeah, they really are naturally jungle fowl, so they’re meant to eat insects. That’s their natural food. I’m trying to think, I know one idea that I’ve had is, for the past I don’t know how many years, I’ve been trying to grow green beans here in Texas. Usually,just by the time they’re really getting up to be good vines is when we’re switching from spring to summer. The plants are healthy, and I’ve got them irrigated, and they’re doing fine, but the main problem is everything else turns brown, and all of a sudden, my garden is a haven for grasshoppers. They love green beans. The grasshoppers just eat it up. I was thinking, “Well, someday, I should just grow a bunch of green beans to attract grasshoppers, for my chickens to eat the grasshoppers,” right?
Jimerson: There you go.
David the Good: Yeah, why not?
Marjory: [crosstalk 00:11:32] that. Yeah.
David the Good: You could always just get dry beans from the grocery store, throw them over a tilled area, let it grow up, and then when the grasshoppers come, release the chickens. Then, you have almost no input into it, at all.
Jimerson: Love it.
Marjory: Right? They’ll eat the green bean greens, too.

‘Tis the Season for Planting Bare-Root Trees


My sister Stephanie bought a variety of fruit trees and has been busily planting them in her Delaware yard.


Hard work, but she had some help:


Bare-root trees are truly amazing. A lot of fruit trees, including apples, pears, and stone fruit, can be dug during dormancy, have the dirt knocked off their roots, have their roots pruned to almost nothing, be shipped across the country, and re-planted – and they’ll act like nothing happened in the spring, bursting into beautiful growth.

It’s still amazing to me. Trees sleep HARD!

My favorite source for bare root trees is Peaceful Valley in California, AKA Grow Organic. I’ve never had one of their trees fail on me, and I’ve planted at least a dozen. Willis Orchards, TyTy Georgia and Gurneys? Not so much. Avoid.

I have to admit, I’m a little jealous of Steph. I love planting trees. And look at that beautiful soil!


Pruning Mulberry Trees to Keep Them Small


Mulberry trees are one of my very favorite fruit trees, providing a huge amount of berries for very little work.

However, they also grow like mad and can become a tangled, unruly big mess of a tree if you just let them grow.

With this in mind, Victor wrote me to ask about pruning mulberry trees to keep them small:

“I am feeling very fortunate that I came across your YouTube vid on mulberry pruning as I have been reading through a number of Google sites regarding the matter and they are very discouraging regarding pruning. I dare say you are almost at odds with everything I have been reading online. 

I planted a mulberry tree in one of my gardens 2 autumns ago along with a cherry. The mulberry is of the red/purpleish variety. We experienced a warm winter that first year after planting and she went ballistic by the springtime. The fruit was very tasty but the birds managed to get the majority for themselves. I had intended to keep the tree from getting out of control so that picking wouldn’t become a complete hassle and with an eye on keeping it netted somehow to discourage the birds. 
I was hoping to prune it this winter but then started reading the negative info online regarding consequences, etc.. I just need some pointers how to maintain the girl so it doesn’t run away from me and overwhelm the garden. Would it be possible to send you some shots of the tree and you could explain the do’s and don’ts to me? Would really appreciate it.”
Here are some pictures:
Mulberry2 Mulberry1
As you can see from the first photo, that mulberry tree can’t get too big or it will cause some trouble with the gardens.
As it is, it’s not a bad size; however, they’ll grow 6′ in a year, easily.
If it were my tree and I wanted to keep it small, I’d do something like this:
Take it down to 3-4′ and get rid of a lot of the little tangly branches as well. It should still make a decent amount of mulberries on the new growth this spring. Right now, before it wakes up, is the time to prune. It’s easy to see and shape the structure.
And remember – you can chainsaw a mulberry to the ground and you won’t kill it. They’re amazing.
Here’s an article I wrote back in November with some more ideas on pruning mulberries. That covers “festooning” as well. Here’s a mulberry which I treated that way:
That would still be too sprawling for Victor’s garden space, but it’s a good way to keep the trees shorter and the fruit in reach.
Finally, Victor isn’t just your average gardener. He’s also a highly talented illustrator currently working for Rolling Stone. When I saw his portfolio linked in his signature I thought, “hey, I’ve seen that guy’s work before!”
Just attack those mulberries with a little artistic pruning and they’re going to do great. Unlike some other fruit trees, mulberries can take a ridiculous amount of pruning and shaping.
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