Thursday, January 20, 2011

garden planning

Garden planning is an activity that I can get lost in because of all the choices. Because I live in a suburban area and am currently converting my front yard into beds, until I can take down trees on the back of the property, I have found that using the square foot method is really helpful to make the most of my space and to help me plan accurately for the coming year. I grew up with traditional spring and summer row gardens that took up lots of space and so learning to garden in beds has been a transition. This year I have 2 main goals. 1.) work to keep my garden productive year round. I'll post later on a brassica experiment I have been running this winter. I've also overwintered shallots and garlic. 2.) add trellises to do more vertical gardening. This year I have beans, squash, zuchinni, pumpkins, cucumbers planned for vertical gardening. I don't count tomatoes, because I've always grown those with supports, in beds and containers. Each year I try to add something to my permaculture efforts. I have asparagus, peach tree, grapes, blackberry and raspberries. This year I'll add artichoke and I'm looking at grafted fruit trees with multiple varieties (some people call these fruit cocktail or fruit salad trees). I'd like to get one each of apples, stone fruit like peach, apricot, plum and finally one with varieties of pears. I've been doing some research on grafting and may make one of my own. We'll see.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

seed starting

Well, I managed to get some of my seed starting done this past weekend. This only a portion of my seeds. I'm just so organized. Not! Maybe I can work on a more refined system in the next couple of weeks.

I also use the most sophisticated tools. A plastic spoon for seed sorting and holding. A permanent marker for labeling. 

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Then laid out after I've finished sowing the seeds in the cups. The tray gets covered w/ plastic wrap to hold in moisture and set in a sunny window. The way things have been going with the weather, I may have to turn on the grow light.
 Today we started onions a three of different varieties, celery, celeriac, hollyhocks, parsley, leeks, spring peas and delphiniums. I use the square foot gardening method and so while each cup looks small, it will start enough seeds for our early planting of each of these varieties. As soon as the seeds are up and have their ears, they will be transplanted into individual blocks in the tray underneath. While it may look like soil. This is a seedless seed starting mix of peat moss and perlite.
Also we started several sweet potatoes for slips, Ga Jet and another variety that I'm trying to identify.  When the slips start to develop, I'll update on the process.

Catching Up

O.k. so I've written a post in about 10 days. We've had what amounts to a significant amount of winter weather here and it has thrown my schedule into a state of chaos. I work for the county/state and we were trying to play catch up for days closed. Between that, catching a stomach virus and trying to do the things I want to post about, I've been as busy as the proverbial one-legged in man. So here's an update w/ pics.
This hawk was just looking for a quiet place to rest out front.

This is the second day after the snow fell. We received about 6 inches. The roads were all down due to ice.
My son and grandson had a wonderful time making a snowman. That's a rare occurrence around here. It hard to make a snowman with just a dusting.
This neighbor was just happy to make it to our street. It took 4 days for him to get the car in his drive.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Seed exchange

As I read over the many posts about plans for this year's garden, I am struck by how many people have seed for varieties of fruits and vegetables that didn't perform well in the area, that they didn't like because of taste or texture or some other reason. I am already an admitted seed addict and this has gotten me to thinking about a local seed exchange. Why not exchange seeds your are not going to use for whatever reason among a group of gardeners to get something else to try? Locally, I know of seed exchanges, where you take what you have to sell to others, but I don't see why a straight forward exchange can't be just as useful. When I was growing up, my grandparents rarely bought seeds. They saved seed from their garden each year. My great grandparents gave seed to my grandparents to start their first gardens. When my grandmother would buy a seed packet or family in the neighborhood would, then seed would be shared and at the end of the growing season, if it was something they liked, then they would continue their seed saving into the next year. My grandparents gave seed to my father, although he was an avid gardener and I loved looking through catalogs with him to pick new things that he would try. Still, this were tried a few each year with seed saving and exchanging creating the bulk of his seed. Like my profile says, there was a period of time that I only kept ornamental plants or lawns like most in urban or suburban environments so one of the things that has been lost to me is the heritage of handing down seeds. My grandparents grew gardens until they were in their 70's. Both have passed away in the last year. I have been going to my mother's and going through things to see if they held on to seed to test them for viability. Of course, none of them are marked with any kind of label. They grew the tomato they grew their whole lives, the same with every other vegetable they grew. So I think that seed exchange is a proper homage to their thriftyness and foresight to use what they needed and trade what they didn't for something they did.

What do you think of a seed exchange and would you participate in one if it were available to you?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Tomato in Bloom in January


You can see the little yellow bloom in the center of the photo behind the dead leaves that I need to prune. Oops. I'll set up a detailed page on how to do this for yourself, as I think it a great project helps to offer a bit of fresh summer in the middle of winter.  

Well I finally did get find a way to get this done. As my grandmother always said "There's more than one way to skin a cat". Not that I would skin a cat, I have one and they are find animals. As I'm still working on the technology. I'll post the pic of the bloom in another post. As you can see I shot this photo this morning before leaving for work and it was still dark. Please excuse the reflection. But you can see the legginess. Still all in all, not bad for January and still going strong.
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Overwintering Tomatoes

O.k. so I'm struggling with blogger to allow me to upload the pics of my tomato plant, but I will do that as soon as I get the problem figured out. The plant is a Marzano plum tomato, which I particularly like for canning for use in cooking. The plant is getting a little leggy as I have been remiss in turning on the grow light to supplement the light in the sunroom. It has several small yellow blooms on it, which I will hand pollinate this weekend. I'll also be taking cuttings off of the plant at the end of next month to start next year's plants with. What I have learned is that you can successfully overwinter a tomato inside wish sufficient sunlight, warmth water and fertilizer. The plant needs to receive these things consistently in order to keep producing. I have kept my plant in a sunroom that has an overnight temp of 68 as I keep tender or subtropical plants in there in the winter. The daytime time may rise by as much as 15 degrees due to the numerous windows and the amount of sunlight, but the heater makes sure that the room is never below 68. I use a manure tea or sometimes a 10-10-10 organic water soluable fertilizer every couple of weeks. The plant gets about 8 hours a day of winter sunlight, which as I said earlier I should have been supplementing as a result, production has fallen off. I think if I had used the grow light and continued to use it through the rest of the winter, I would not have seen the slow down. Also, I'll need to do a little pruning to get rid of some of the legginess that has developed. I have used the tomatoes in pasta sauces and they taste like tomatoes and not the cardboard you get at the market pretending to be tomatoes. Hope to have those pics up soon.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Getting in the habit of posting is something that I'm working on . While I have good intentions, the recent birth of second grandson and helping care for him sometimes derails my best intentions. Like everyone else, I'm going through seed catalogs and trying to keep my wants within my budget. I'm not one for New Year's Resolutions, but I do like to set goals. One of my gardening goals this year, is to save more of my own seed so that I can slowly reduce the amount of seed that I have to purchase. I have about 33 varieties of tomatoes, who needs 33 varieties of tomatoes? So, this year the goal with tomatoes is to do several things. Begin reducing the number by selecting those that perform the best and to try grafting to determine whether I can increase productivity on a few of my favorites that may not perform the best in my hot, hot, hot summers. This year was my first to attempt overwintering. I'll post a detailed post with pictures on that process shortly. In the meantime, happy gardening and good luck with your seed choices.