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.
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

Saturday, January 4, 2014

New Year Planning

With the horrible cold weather over a good portion of the U.S. I'm sure many people are finding this an opportune time to settle in, catch up on indoor projects, read a good book, make some soup with their stored harvest, dream about Spring....  I have a small collection of glossy coffee table books and a ring binder full of torn out magazine pages that I like to look through for gardening inspiration.  But the new millemia of Social Media has given us a a fabulous new tool to inspire us through the winter months. Pinterest!

If you don't know what that is or don't understand the concept, Pinterest is the computerized version of your scrap book or cork board hoard.  See a photo on the internet you'd love to save?  Don't print it.  Don't even  bother to download it.  Just Pin It.  How about a great article?  A post from a gardening blog? A product you'd like to try, or even recommend.  A recipe to save for later?  Pin it. Pin it. Pin it.Pin it.

You can organize these items into separate "bulletin boards".  And even better, you can look through everyone else's boards.  If you begin following a person's board, every time they pin something to their board, it comes up on your "newsfeed" so you can peruse it and pin it if you like.  You can even find similar pins and find other boards where it has been pinned so you can begin following those boards of like minded pinners.  And sometimes, most fun of all, you will find where someone has pinned something you did.

And so without further adieu, I give you January Garden Inspiration compliments of Pinterest:

Isn't this a great design for a tomato support?

I wonder what this beautiful set up cost

A stylish was to keep those pesky critters out

10 Easy Ways to Preserve Herbs

Grow Your Own Sweet Potatoes

Thrifty Storage Solutions

Great ideas for storing harvest

Follow my gardening board on Pinterest: