Thursday, March 26, 2009

Way cool new planning tool to play with

I just found this garden planner on the Gardener's Supply site.
It features pre-planned kitchen gardens, and a design feature. What a great little tool.

First choose the type of garden you want.

View the detailed planning info with planting and care instructions per variety.

Then make whatever edits you would like adding or changing vegetables. Plan is printable. Wow! This not only appeals to my organised side, but my artistic side as well.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

More about this White House Garden thing.

Ground has been broken on the new White House Garden. I got to get me a gardening skirt!
And the Obama's got to get themselves a tiller!

I am all for gardening in any form, and I realise that everyone has their own tastes. But, my first thought when I looked at the White House garden plan was "There's no food in there!" I wonder if this is just the spring version and we have more summer and fall crops to look forward to.

Let's see, what do we have in there.... lettuce. Lots of lettuce. At least six kinds, with two spaces reserved for additional late plantings. Obviously all the state dinners will now start with an organic green salad. We're going to have to do something with all that lettuce. And I'm thinking Obama is going to have to learn to eat his peas. There are a lot of those. Which is great, I love peas. And Spinach. Three beds of Spinach in case Popeye comes to visit. And some chard, which, lets face it, is basically prettier spinach.

There's Broccoli... which President wouldn't eat his broccoli? The elder Bush I believe. Well, this one doesn't like beets So they will not be planting beets. Of course, the beet lovers are up in arms and crying descrimination. Not as loudly as the Special Olymbic bowlers though. I can't say I blame him. I'm not very fond of beets myself. And they aren't fond of me. They refuse to grow in my garden, so we get along just fine from a distance. Instead of beets, we do have another popular root crop.... carrots. I wonder what kind of carrots? They're probably going to try to make "Baby Carrots" or some pretty long slender ones. Doubtfully the big ugly kind that I end up with.

Then there is a nice array of herbs, onions, shallots, fennel, kale and look... Collard greens. I sure wouldn't want to be at a state dinner and be served Collard greens. I love them. Butt...they smell awful when you cook them, and awfuller after you eat them. I simply can't imagine. No wait, I can. I would love to see the media coverage after that event.

It's a good sized garden. About 25 x 50. They have a nice meandering walking path bordered by our old standbys Marigolds and Nasturtiums. I'm sure the Zinnias will look nice as cut flowers, but in late August after a few rains and heavy winds they will be lounging in the walkways. She'll just have to learn that the hard way. Like I did.

One thing I've noticed, is that most of these crops are fairly low growing and can be kept looking neat. I don't see any tall crops like corn or pole beans, and no wild wandering stuff like watermelons or squash. We wouldn't want anything ruining the view or providing cover for veggie-terrorists. And, of course, you have to think ahead with media control. I doubt anyone on the White House staff wants to manage the backlash of a press photo of the Obamas with their champion watermelon, and I can only imagine the social unrest if the zucchinis over produced! No one leaves the White House without a zucchini!

I guess I am just over critical of other people's garden plan. Lord knows I'm critical of my own. Everyone has to start somewhere, and this is Mrs. Obama's first try at it, so she should start simple. Nonetheless, their plan has given me wonderful food for thought. And I can't wait to watch this grow!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Oh Deer!

I have been getting plenty of target practice as the deer begin to encroach on my gardens. Right now the only thing of interest to them would be the tender shoots of Tulips, but I know from experience that they won't eat those until the day before they flower.
So I continue to wage war on the herd with my single pump bee-bee gun. Each evening, as dusk falls, they creep closer and closer until they are only 10 feet from the window. I move quietly and drop the top of the double hung. They snort and jump a few feet, watching curiously as I take careful aim, than leap in renewed suprise at the sharp zing as the bee-bee pings them in the furry butt. I think my husband has hidden the one that I can pump up a dozen times because he's afraid I'll start putting holes in their worthless hides!
Right now I am training last year's fawns to stay away from the house. They're pretty bold, and there are 8-10 deer or more each evening. In June when the new fawns are old enough to play, I become deer-friendly again. The does are pretty skittish at that point, and won't come near the house. I will enjoy their antics for a few weeks, as 1 to 4 tiny fawns caper along the back edge of the woods. As they get bigger, they get more fearless, and renew their assult on my garden. The training starts all over again.

Old Apple Trees

The house we live in now was once my husband's grandparent's home. They survived the Great Depression by farming. Now, the barn and chicken coop are long gone, and the pasture has grown up with 50 year old trees. The only things left are the ancient apple trees visible through the woods to the east, some horse radish, a migrating berry patch with blackberries and red and black raspberries and random perennials lying dormant and hidden that pop up in weird places whenever we cut trees or remove brush.

Originally, there must have been two or three dozen apple trees in the orchard. Three or four still remain, "survive" would be too generous a term. There are three newer apple trees planted by the last occupants, and the Mulberry trees that I planted to replace the one my husband had to cut some 15 years ago. On the very edge of the woods, next to the garage, there is one old apple tree raging against the dying of the light. Only the top two or three feet show any signs of life, but each year it manages to put out half a dozen apples.

A couple of years ago I began to try to think of a way to save this tree. We believe it to be a Red Astrachan which is described as being second only to Winesap as the most widely sold Southern apple and one of the most widely distributed throughout the world. A very popular American apple first originating in Russia and brought to this country in 1870. Fruit medium sized and distinctly lobed in appearance. The thin, pale yellow skin in nearly covered with bright red and crimson splashes and stripes. White flesh is often tinged with red streaks and is coarse, crisp, moderately juicy and briskly subacid in flavor. Yup, that seems to be it.

If I were going to be casual about it, I could just order a Red Astrachan sapling, but I'm worried that it wouldn't be the same. So, I found Big Horse Creek Farm. They have devoted themselves to renovating old abandoned apple orchards and preserving these old apple varieties so we don't all have to eat Red Delicious (which I don't think are so delicious). What is so neat about them, is that you can send them a cutting from your tree, and they will graft it onto root stock for you, and in the fall send you a sapling to plant. Neat huh?

Last year I missed the deadline. Several times I had to run my husband off as he eyed that poor dead tree sticking out like a sore thumb on our woodline. Next spring, I promised, I will get scions off of it to graft. Well, I darn near missed the deadline this year too, but a quick email and they agreed to try a graft if I could get the scions to them before the end of that week. The next morning, I was standing under that tree wondering how on earth I was going to find anything alive on it. There was no way to reach the top by ladder, the only solution would have been climbing. I went around snapping every water shoot on the trunk up to about 7 feet. All but two were dead. Of the two I cut, only one looked like year old growth. The second already had tiny branches making it at least two years old. Still, I wrapped them both in damp paper towels and a giant Ziploc bag that had conveniently arrived in the mail containing a horse bridle. Recycle, reuse, renew!

Once I got to work, I scavenged a mailing tube from the back room, and took my trophies to the Post Office. I scratched an apologetic note for these two pitiful scions from a long dead tree, and sent them on their way. I was rewarded a couple of days later with an email stating they had gotten three grafts from them, and thought at least two would do OK. They will let me know in September if they have something to ship. Then it's up to me to keep them alive through the winter!

Gardening back in style?

It seems that gardening is going mainstream again. First, I received my May/June issue of Hobby Farms Home with a lovely historical article about the Victory Garden, then yesterday morning on our local ABC news station, they did a story about gardening and Victory Gardening. Now I am reading about the White House organic kitchen garden.

I noticed my husband's AARP magazine sitting on the counter last night, and lo and behold, there was a gardening article mentioned on the cover. It will be interesting to watch the learning curve as America relearns how to garden. But, at least those of us who have been enjoying gardening all along will be treated to many more articles and shows dedicated to our "hobby". I am glad I've got my canning supplies stocked up because I'll bet those will be harder and harder to find too. Now everyone's going to need one of those hard to find jar lifters!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Seed Starting

Time has come to get some seeds in the dirt. I stood out in the freezing pouring rain last weekend to get my two flats of pots scrubbed with bleach and ready to go. Last year I had this done, and the pots stored full of dirt in the autumn. I must remember to do that again this fall. I picked up two bags of potting soil at the hardware store, and everything is ready to go. One flat is for Peppers and Eggplants, and the second flat is for Tomatoes. The Peppers and Eggplants need a two week head start, and they will remain shorter than the tomatoes throughout the entire growing season, so I have learned not to mix them in the same flat.

Here are the varieties I am planting this year.

Prosperosa Eggplant: Small, round and dark. Just the right size for one person.

Rosa Bianca Eggplant: Also small, but a pretty pink on white.
Round Mauve Eggplant: Also small, but a gorgeous violet color.

Sweet Pickle pepper: Short compact plant with 3" peppers suitable for pickling. Peppers change from Yellow through Orange to Red as they ripen, making it a nice ornamental.

Blushing Beauty Bell Pepper: A smallish bell pepper which change from Yellow through Orange to Red as they ripen. I rarely use peppers. I just like to watch them grow. My Dad is the same way (which I think is sort of funny) but his wife has managed to figure out uses for all of the peppers he produces. Would anyone like some Pepper Jelly?

Pineapple tomato: A large yellow/bicolored tomato which is quite crisp and has a great flavor. This is also one of my Mom's favorites.

Ananas Noir: French for "Black Pineapple" created as a cross from the original Pineapple. Tastes musch the same, but just look at the gorgeous color. This one is ripe and ready for a sandwich. It get's it's name from the fact that the skin is a dark, purple blotched with green. Some of them are pretty ugly.. until you cut them open.

Black Krim: One of the most popular black varieties. It has a smokey almost salty taste. You don't even have to put the bacon in your BLT, this tomato has all the flavors.And the the old stand by: PaPaw's Jap. I alsways grow at least one of these, and a couple for Mom and Dad, and to give away.

I may grow one or two others. Mom said the other day she wanted a mid-sized white, and I have just the right seed! You never can tell what I'll grow until the seed gets in the dirt!