Gardens don't happen by themselves...

They don't come about by accident. A garden is a human creation. It has to be thought of first. It has to be wished into being, planned for, like a wanted child.

~~~~~Amy Stewart: From The Ground Up

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Spring Progress

The eggplants are looking luscious.  The Purple Beauty Bell peppers are doing well and I ended up with two extra spares to give away.

From the tomatoes, the Blue Beauty seeds all germinated, and I have at least one out of three from all the other varieties with old or saved seeds. The Dr. Wyche is the last to try to live, but those seeds are the oldest.  Time for new ones next year. I filled my extra seeding spaces with Barlow Jap seeds and as usual, every single one sprouted.  The last one I tried to ignore but it tried so hard to live I felt guilty and transplanted it too.  So everyone in the family can have more than one this year.  Next week these two flats are moving out to the cold frame.

In the garden on Good Friday I planted peas, carrots, and more lettuce.  I have Nasturtium and Zinnias germinating in the cold frame and the cold frame lettuce had to be moved outside to cooler climes.  The asparagus is beginning to sprout.

Next week it's time to start squash and melons on the cold frame.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Spring Fever


I brought the potted catnip out of the garden shed and there were just enough fresh green leaves to get a kitty with cabin fever really excited.

22 days later... the eggplant seeds are still slowly coming to life.  One.  By.  One.   3 of the 5 varieties have produced teeny tiny little seedlings.  Eggplants are so sluggish at this stage.  This morning I started my tomato seeds and I'll bet in two weeks they will have out grown the eggplants.

The weather is beautiful now and I'm tempted to plant peas.  I think I will wait until Good Friday which is my general rule of thumb.  I haven't seen a single forsythia bloom which is another good benchmark.  My lettuce seeds in the cold frame are popping out with cheery little green leaves.  So Tiny!  Hard to believe how many salads they will produce.

I've done a cursory exploration of the perennial beds.  I lost one primrose and maybe a holly hock but everything else seems to have made it through that brutal winter.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Lettuce look forward to warmer weather

This is the sort of cold frame I would expect Tim to build
Today was a beautiful Marchish day.  No matter that it is April.  I spent some time getting into shape with some light gardening: filling pots, a little mulching, a little composting.  We turned the compost pile in preparation for a new load of horse manure.

I have some eggplants up and the peppers are just showing some green loops in the soil.  I planted lettuce in flats in the cold frame to be transplanted outside.  This year's varieties are Crispino which is a head lettuce (I tried a pack of Burpee Iceberg last year and they were NOT head lettuce) Baby Romaine, Ruby & Emerald Duet which is a butterhead and my favorite leaf lettuce blend from Renee's seeds which has Speckled Troutback, Blush Butter Cos, Red Ruffled Oak and Devil's Tongue.  I think my favorite from that blend is the Speckled Troutback which you would like if your taste's lean towards the butterhead type.  The overall blend is mild but colorful and not as challenging to the taste buds as some heirloom greens can be.

I'm looking forward to loads of lettuce and will be direct sowing some seeds very soon.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Waiting Game - Seed Germination

The best crop of a garden, year after year, is hope.

And never is that more true than at seed starting time.  Some seeds require more patience than others.  Peas and beans may spring forth within a couple of days with a stout green cotyledon that promises shapely leaves almost immediately.  Onions and potatoes will put out roots and shoots while sitting on your pantry shelf.  Tiny seeds, eggplants for instance, are a waiting game...

I found this chart of what seeds to plant when on Pinterest and because the dates so closely match my own schedule I've kept it handy to keep me on track.  I start eggplants, peppers and tomatoes in the house.  The egg plants and peppers grow at a similar rate and will stay shorter than the tomatoes.  They get their own flat so I can adjust the grow lights to their height.  The leggy tomatoes will need the grow lights placed higher at a much earlier date.

I'm always hesitant to set up the grow lights because they take over a lot of space in our tiny house.  I have an old pine table that is the perfect size for two flats.  A vinyl table cloth protects the table.  I have a power strip with a built in timer so the lights and heating pads are on for 12 hours and off for twelve.

I started the eggplants on wet paper towels for two reasons.  Firstly, the seeds are quite old and I know they will not all germinate.  Starting them on the towels lets me easily spot the ones that are viable.  And secondly... eggplant seeds take FOREVER to germinate.  I have had to wait as long as two weeks for an eggplant seed to sprout.  Today is day seven and I have 3 out of 40 sprouting.  I only plan on planting 15 plants and of those I will keep 5 and give away whatever is left.

And THIS is all the bigger the sprout is on day 7.  If it were in a pot of soil I would still be waiting for visible proof.  Oh the suspense!  I just couldn't take it.  The wet towels are the only way to go.  Today I also planted pepper seeds (directly into pots) and next week I will start thinking about tomato seeds.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

March Madness

So there I was... bent over the soil tub in the cold frame in 28 degree weather with snowflakes landing in my ear... wishing I had a potting bench... especially if it were in a warm greenhouse.  Gardening just isn't fun when the weather is unseasonably cold.  Plans are easy to put off just one more week.  I think the planting season is going to be a little late this year anyway.  But I have two flats of pots filled and ready.  The dirt in the tub somehow managed to be warm and welcoming despite the brutal winter.

Eggplant seeds start first, followed by peppers then tomatoes two weeks after the eggplants.  Even though I've sworn I'm going to start tomato seeds in the cold frame, I think I am going to do one flat in the house anyway since the grow op is going to be set up.   My eggplant seeds are old and I've put them on damp paper towels in the warm spot on top of the freezer.  Whatever germinates this week will be planted in pots under lights.  The Purple Beauty pepper seeds are new so they go directly into pots next week.  The week after that tomatoes get started in egg carton trays then transplanted deeper into pots.  And then... weather willing, it will be time for lettuce and nasturtiums in the cold frame and peas in the raised beds.

This is how dirt days should be enjoyed....

Me (2 yrs old) sitting on the steam pipes under a bench in the geranium house with English ivy above.

I was always playing in the dirt.  There were dirt bins in every green house and they were always full of my toys.  Usually tractors and shovels, but I had a large Marx farm set handed down from my mother and if there was so much as a wheelbarrow full of dirt to be had, I began farming.  Maybe this would be more fun if I got some farm animals out and scattered them in my dirt tub?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

How to grow extra long carrots

These are the fascinating things you find while hibernating in wicked cold weather, surfing through Facebook and Pinterest.  This was just too fun not to share.  I think this would be a great Mad Scientist gardening experiment to keep the adventure alive.

The carrot tube experiment.  http://www.allotment-diary.co.uk/Exhibition-long-show-carrot.html
I wonder if the guy ever got the giant carrots extracted from the tubes?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Seed Order

From my very earliest memories of the pattern of the seasons, January has been seed ordering time.  In our family greenhouse, the seed salesman would arrive with a glossy new catalog and tales of new improved varieties.  Back then, in the early 1970s, The Ball Seed Company stands out foremost in my mind.  That was before the Ball's got involved in my long time favorite Burpee Seeds.  Imagine, besides the temptations of a deluge of catalogs, a door to door seeds salesman?  Oh the temptations!

There are so many seed companies to choose from and over the years I've migrated towards and away from them.  Historically, there have always been many mail order options to choose from, for instance, the Three Seedswomen which I've spoken of before.  Many gardeners make it a hobby to study and collect historical memorabilia such as vintage seed packs or catalogs

I spend weeks, if not months, with my spreadsheets, grids and lists planning next year's garden and trying to optimize my seed orders so I can get the most seeds for the least cost.  I add, I subtract, I get wild, fantastic ambitions and then I pare them down to the more realistic.  At some point I inevitably feel like this....

So with all this planning to do, how do we choose?  In the internet age, a useable website is of primary importance.  I love the ones that give you a wish list.  On Burpee, for instance, I save things first to my wish list and then each year I can order from that saving time looking up each variety. Secondary to a wish list, customer reviews are the most useful.  You can scan through the reviews looking for ones from a similar zones and then read other gardener's experiences.

Also important of course, is their selection.  Renee's Garden has a more limited selection, but she has great varieties, useful information, and if you buy a pack of mixed varieties, the seeds are clearly marked.  If you are looking for sheer variety, Baker Creek has varieties from all over the world.  Often a variety can be gotten from more than one place.  I keep a chart with my basics listed, and then a note as to which companies carry them.  That way if I am ordering an exclusive offering, I can add some of my standard seeds to it and get the most for my shipping cost.

Another good idea is to combine orders with your neighbors.  Bob and Trish down the road always order live onion plants from Dixondale, and with that company, the more you order, the lower your per item cost, so we all combine our orders.  Some catalogs offer coupons for orders over $50, and if I'm a bit short, I will call my mother and see if she needs anything from that catalog.

This year's gardening resolution is to continue to simplify.  However, what fun is it if you grow the same old beans over and over?  This year I plan to make another try at growing cantalope.  Last year the plants never amounted to anything (should have paid closer attention to those reviews) so I'm trying another variety.  And I think its time for another novelty tomato.  I've grown just about every color in the rainbow, so this year I'm trying the Blue Beauty Tomato.  And finally, I remember once my mother had two purple bell pepper plants which grew dozens of the most beautiful purple peppers so I'm going to try the Purple Beauty pepper as well.

Here are my current top five favorite seed companies which I will be ordering from this year.  And for those politically minded readers, they all claim to be Monsanto free.
Johnny's Seeds
Renee's Garden
Baker Creek
Botanical Interests