Tag Archives: seeds

Garden 2017: the seed order

It’s 38 degrees F and raining steadily, all the more reason to stay indoors with the Fedco seed catalog reading about late season tomatoes and South American grain crops. This year, with tax and shipping, I spent about $75 on seeds – which should allow me to just break even with the cost of shopping for the same stuff at the grocery store. That’s not including any price break for quality or the convenience of picking dinner just outside the door, but equally does not allow for the sweat equity of labor, management, and cursing the inevitable August drought.

I have a weakness for odd plants that are shy and difficult to grow and every year Fedco lists new challenges. Ramps, for instance, are so fascinating I’m including the entire description from the catalog:

Allium tricoccum (6-18 months) Open-pollinated. Sometimes called Wild Leeks. Their delectable pungent flavor, a mix of garlic and onion, speaks to their wild nature, and satisfies our long wait. Not a good germinator; expect less than 50%. The name Chicago was probably derived from shikaakwa, the native Miami-Illinois people’s word for ramps, which grew in profusion along the rivers in that area. Ramps are a native perennial of deciduous forests, growing best in cool shady areas with damp rich soil high in organic matter and calcium. Because this is a wild plant, seed planted in the spring will germinate that spring if conditions are right; if not, it may germinate the next spring. Mark your patches well and provide protection from predation. Once a bulb is formed, the new leaves emerge in early spring, before the tree canopy develops; by late spring leaves die back and a flower stalk emerges. Photosynthetic period and the harvest window is limited to these few weeks. Once established, ramps grow in close communities, strongly rooted just beneath the soil surface. Harvest carefully with a sharp knife, cutting plants just above the roots. Disturb the roots as little as possible and your ramps will likely come back. Chefs who demand the roots attached are contributing to the over-harvesting problem.

Be sure to check out the links to Sea Kale and Tarwi, and patronize your local seed-saving organization or agricultural co-op – they’re doing the good work for all of us.

210A – Strike Bush Green Beans ( A=2oz ) 1 x $1.50 = $1.50
658A – Silver Queen White Sweet Corn ( A=2oz ) 1 x $2.60 = $2.60
818A – Oregon Giant Snow Peas ( A=2oz ) 1 x $1.60 = $1.60
927A – Mayor Canary Melon ( A=0.4g ) 1 x $3.40 = $3.40
1047A – Verona Watermelons ( A=1/16oz ) 1 x $1.80 = $1.80
1234A – Cross Country Pickling Cucumbers ( A=1/16oz ) 1 x $1.60 = $1.60
1411A – Black Zucchini Zucchini ( A=1/8oz ) 1 x $0.90 = $0.90
1504A – Saffron Yellow Summer Squash ( A=1/8oz ) 1 x $1.00 = $1.00
1630A – Uncle Davids Dakota Dessert OG Buttercup/Kabocha Winter Squash ( A=1/4oz ) 1 x $2.00 = $2.00
1718A – Winter Luxury OG Pumpkins ( A=1/8oz ) 1 x $1.80 = $1.80
2028A – Coral Carrots ( A=1/8oz ) 1 x $1.40 = $1.40
2073A – Shin Kuroda 5" Carrots ( A=1/8oz ) 1 x $1.10 = $1.10
2156A – Cylindra Beets ( A=1/8oz ) 1 x $0.90 = $0.90
2182A – Detroit Dark Red Short Top Beets ( A=1/8oz ) 1 x $0.90 = $0.90
2433A – Ramps Onions and Leeks ( A=1g ) 1 x $3.50 = $3.50
2719A – Bronze Arrowhead OG Leaf Lettuce ( A=1g ) 1 x $1.40 = $1.40
2786A – Red Tinged Winter OG Leaf Lettuce ( A=1g ) 1 x $1.60 = $1.60
2787A – De Morges Braun OG Leaf Lettuce ( A=1g ) 1 x $1.50 = $1.50
2803A – Tom Thumb Butterhead Lettuce ( A=2g ) 1 x $1.00 = $1.00
2879A – Parris Island Cos Romaine Lettuce ( A=2g ) 1 x $0.90 = $0.90
3021A – Ice-Bred OG Arugula ( A=1/16oz ) 1 x $2.00 = $2.00
3099A – Sea Kale Sea Kale ( A=1g ) 1 x $2.30 = $2.30
3204A – Green Lance Green Lance ( A=2g ) 1 x $1.80 = $1.80
3223A – Yokatta-Na Yokatta-Na ( A=1/16oz ) 1 x $1.50 = $1.50
3260A – Shuko Pac Choy ( A=1/16oz ) 1 x $1.30 = $1.30
3311A – Green King Broccoli ( A=0.5g ) 1 x $1.70 = $1.70
3313A – Bay Meadows Broccoli ( A=0.5g ) 1 x $1.90 = $1.90
3380A – Frigga Cabbages ( A=2g ) 1 x $1.60 = $1.60
3451A – Beedys Camden OG Kale ( A=1g ) 1 x $1.50 = $1.50
3469A – Kale Mix Kale ( A=2g ) 2 x $1.70 = $3.40
4083A – Weisnichts Ukrainian OG Tomatoes ( A=0.2g ) 1 x $1.50 = $1.50
4117A – Principe Borghese Cherry Tomatoes ( A=0.2g ) 1 x $1.20 = $1.20
4296A – Pasta Paste Tomatoes ( A=0.1g ) 1 x $2.20 = $2.20
4314A – Tarwi Lupinus ( A=2g ) 1 x $2.60 = $2.60
4414A – Sweet Basil Basil ( A=4g ) 1 x $1.30 = $1.30
4588A – Lemon Balm Lemon Balm ( A=0.3g ) 1 x $1.30 = $1.30
4692A – Blue Vervain OG Blue Vervain ( A=0.1g ) 1 x $1.50 = $1.50
4836A – Carnival Amaranths ( A=0.2g ) 1 x $1.50 = $1.50
5351A – Ziar Breadseed OG Poppies ( A=0.1g ) 1 x $1.30 = $1.30
5411B – Gentian Sage Salvias ( B=0.3g ) 1 x $3.30 = $3.30
5611A – Perennial Sweet Pea Sweet Peas ( A=1g ) 1 x $1.40 = $1.40

Soon!

Garden 2016 – the seed order

I’ve held off on ordering seeds this year in hopes it will keep me from starting the tomatoes too soon and having them grow into hedges under the lights down cellar. Looking back at 20 years of records this is my latest order to date and the earliest was in November of 2002, back in the bad old days when we filled out the complex Fedco orders in the cheap newsprint catalog. The ink bled through the pages and I got my maths wrong every year.

Now the order form is online and does all the sums automagically. After some judicious editing for costs and allowing for a few indulgences, behold the 2016 seed order, below. Indulgences include:

Good King Henry, an open-pollinated perennial used as a pot-herb. I had always assumed it was named for an actual monarch, but no: Henry comes from the germanic haganrich which is literally ‘king of the hedge,’ a gremlin with goose’s feet that helps around the house and puts things where they belong. I’ll be able

Balady Aswan Celtuce, I feel like this would make a good band name, or an unbreakable password in a sci-fi movie. It’s actually a variety of Egyptian lettuce that is “customarily allowed to bolt and enjoyed for its 12–14″ crunchy stems with creamy flavor”. This is just the sort of thing that should growing in my garden.

By Downtowngal - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10526787

230A – Jade Bush Green Beans ( A=2oz ) 1 x $2.30 = $2.30
298A – Windsor Fava Beans ( A=2oz ) 1 x $1.60 = $1.60
658A – Silver Queen White Sweet Corn ( A=2oz ) 1 x $2.50 = $2.50
818A – Oregon Giant Snow Peas ( A=2oz ) 1 x $1.60 = $1.60
916A – Dove Ananas Type ( A=1g ) 1 x $2.40 = $2.40
1312A – Marketmore 76 Slicing Cucumbers ( A=1/16oz ) 1 x $1.00 = $1.00
2058A – Red Cored Chantenay Carrots ( A=1/8oz ) 1 x $1.00 = $1.00
2093A – Yaya OG Carrots ( A=1g ) 1 x $2.20 = $2.20
2149A – Touchstone Gold OG Beets ( A=1/8oz ) 1 x $2.00 = $2.00
2425A – Bleu de Solaize Leeks ( A=1/16oz ) 1 x $1.50 = $1.50
2538A – Avon Spinach ( A=1/4oz ) 1 x $1.50 = $1.50
2715A – Balady Aswan OG Celtuce ( A=1g ) 1 x $2.30 = $2.30
2764A – Blushed Butter Oaks OG Leaf Lettuce ( A=1g ) 1 x $1.80 = $1.80
2768A – Lingua di Canarino (Canary Tongue) OG Leaf Lettuce ( A=1g ) 1 x $1.40 = $1.40
2773A – Hyper Red Rumple Waved OG Leaf Lettuce ( A=1g ) 1 x $1.70 = $1.70
2921A – Anuenue OG Batavian Lettuce ( A=1g ) 1 x $1.40 = $1.40
2985A – Red Carpet Lettuce Mix OG Lettuce Mix ( A=1g ) 1 x $1.80 = $1.80
3096A – Good King Henry Good King Henry ( A=0.5g ) 1 x $1.50 = $1.50
3218A – Senposai Senposai ( A=1/16oz ) 1 x $1.40 = $1.40
3223A – Yokatta-Na Yokatta-Na ( A=1/16oz ) 1 x $1.40 = $1.40
3226A – Early Mizuna OG Mizuna ( A=1/16oz ) 1 x $1.30 = $1.30
3309A – Green Super Broccoli ( A=0.5g ) 1 x $1.50 = $1.50
3327A – Piracicaba Broccoli ( A=2g ) 1 x $1.30 = $1.30
3339A – Gustus Brussels Sprouts ( A=0.5g ) 1 x $2.80 = $2.80
3397A – Wirosa Savoy Cabbages ( A=0.1g ) 1 x $2.00 = $2.00
3459A – Darkibor Kale ( A=0.5g ) 1 x $2.20 = $2.20
3461A – Red Russian Kale ( A=2g ) 1 x $1.00 = $1.00
3776A – Feher Ozon OG Sweet Peppers ( A=0.2g ) 1 x $1.50 = $1.50
4038A – Cosmonaut Volkov OG Tomatoes ( A=0.2g ) 1 x $1.40 = $1.40
4059A – Cherokee Purple OG Tomatoes ( A=0.2g ) 1 x $1.40 = $1.40
4146A – Blue Beech OG Paste Tomatoes ( A=0.2g ) 1 x $1.60 = $1.60
4253A – Jasper OG Cherry Tomatoes ( A=0.02g ) 1 x $3.60 = $3.60
4414A – Sweet Basil Basil ( A=4g ) 1 x $1.30 = $1.30
4510A – Bodegold Chamomile Chamomile ( A=1g ) 1 x $1.50 = $1.50
4588A – Lemon Balm Lemon Balm ( A=0.3g ) 1 x $1.30 = $1.30
4668A – Silver Sagebrush White Sage ( A=0.02g ) 1 x $1.40 = $1.40
4836A – Carnival Amaranths ( A=0.2g ) 1 x $1.50 = $1.50
5350A – Elka OG Poppies ( A=0.1g ) 1 x $1.30 = $1.30
5351A – Ziar Breadseed OG Poppies ( A=0.1g ) 1 x $1.30 = $1.30
5611A – Perennial Sweet Pea Sweet Peas ( A=1g ) 1 x $1.40 = $1.40

Total for seeds this year = $66.90, plus $4.00 USD that I’m spending on Heirloom Black Sea Samsun Turkish tobacco seed from Hart’s because I think the bees are going to go crazy over tobacco blossoms.

Seed order 2014, new directions

Every winter I try to take a snow day off from work and spend the morning finalizing my seed order to Fedco. There’s something very satisfying about glancing up from long, detailed descriptions of luscious tomatoes and tender green beans to see the snow pelting down outside. (Seeds for bush beans and alyssm “Carpet of Snow” are already on order, as they were in 2013 below.)

beanies beans

My seed order for the coming year will be an experiment; an acknowledgement of suspicions and assumptions that I’ve been resisting for several seasons. My new guidelines, In no particular order, are:

  • I don’t need to grow boatloads of everything. That goes double for tomatoes
  • I should grow more of what we actually eat, regardless of whether it appeals to my Yankee nature and stores well in the pantry or root cellar
  • I love flowers, I paint flowers, and although we can’t eat flowers, I should step all over that Yankee nature and give serious consideration to creating a huge cutting garden.

And maybe give in to the occasional impulse buy that turns out to be really cool – like Dutch Butter popcorn!

dutch popcorn

Well, no, growing popcorn is an indulgence in space that we could be taking up by growing 9′ stalks of Silver Queen (the finest white sweet corn of all time), so popcorn didn’t make the 2014 list. I am easily swayed to excess when I’m reading seed catalogs but I think I managed to hold closely to my New Rules. FEDCO seeds just emailed me my order confirmation:

214 – Greencrop Bush Green Bean ( A=2oz ) 1 x $1.40 = $1.40
658 – Silver Queen White Sweet Corn ( A=2oz ) 1 x $2.20 = $2.20
818 – Oregon Giant Snow Pea ( A=2oz ) 1 x $1.50 = $1.50
2073 – Shin Kuroda 5" Carrot ( A=1/8oz ) 1 x $0.90 = $0.90
2186 – Bulls Blood Beet ( A=1/8oz ) 1 x $1.00 = $1.00
2425 – Bleu de Solaize Leek ( A=1/16oz ) 1 x $1.50 = $1.50
2510 – Space Spinach ( A=1/4oz ) 1 x $1.40 = $1.40
2555 – Giant Winter Spinach ( A=1/4oz ) 1 x $1.40 = $1.40
2766 – Australian Yellow Lettuce OG ( A=1g ) 1 x $1.60 = $1.60
3209 – Maruba Santoh ( A=1/16oz ) 1 x $1.10 = $1.10
3222 – Tokyo Bekana ( A=1/16oz ) 1 x $1.10 = $1.10
3230 – Mizspoona Salad Selects Gene Pool OG ( A=1/16oz ) 1 x $1.50 = $1.50
3273 – Joi Choi Pac Choi ( A=1g ) 1 x $1.80 = $1.80
3315 – Gypsy Broccoli ( A=0.5g ) 1 x $1.70 = $1.70
3316 – Purple Peacock Gene Pool Broccoli OG ( A=0.5g ) 1 x $1.20 = $1.20
3322 – Arcadia Broccoli ( A=0.5g ) 1 x $1.80 = $1.80
4441 – Aromato Basil OG ( A=0.5g ) 1 x $1.30 = $1.30
4481 – Wild Bergamot OG ( A=0.1g ) 1 x $1.20 = $1.20
5113 – Sunburst Heliopsis ( A=0.1g ) 1 x $2.50 = $2.50
5168 – Giant Imperial Mixed Larkspur ( A=1g ) 1 x $1.00 = $1.00
5171 – Lavatera Mix ( A=1g ) 1 x $1.00 = $1.00
5291 – Tall Climbing Mix Nasturtium ( A=4g ) 1 x $1.10 = $1.10
5350 – Elka Poppy OG ( A=0.1g ) 1 x $1.20 = $1.20
5351 – Ziar Breadseed Poppy OG ( A=0.1g ) 1 x $1.20 = $1.20
5731 – State Fair Mix Zinnia ( B=2g ) 1 x $2.80 = $2.80

This order and what I’ve saved from previous years will probably still grow more that we can eat, but perhaps I won’t feel quite as compelled to spend the entire harvest season canning tomatoes. Perhaps. The baby in this photo is now 22 – obviously I have a long history of growing too much produce!

tomatoes, everywhere

A day in the garden

I have Wednesdays off from my day job in the summer. This week was the first time it’s been warm enough out to work without bundling up in longjohns and canvas gloves. Here’s what got done: looking south, planted Fedco’s beneficials mix next to the path (under the white Agro row cover), and moved some logs around down in the main garden.

looking south Planted Arava Cantaloupe and Athena Muskmelons in the newly re-covered hoop house. My min/max thermometer showed a range of 128 – minus 15 degrees through last fall and winter.

hoop house

april-garden-interior

Planted Giant Winter and Bordeaux spinach, tatsoi, and radishes in the bed under the pear tree. The green leaves are sorrel, ready to be picked for Saturday dinner with haddock and rice.

sorrel

Moving more (big, heavy, not getting any lighter as time goes on) spruce logs around as garden bed borders.

Moving logs around, again.

Fedco Seed Order for 2013

I finished my 2013 seed order today. I’ve been working on it since Thanksgiving, but with three separate plots projected for this summer I had some special concerns to work out. More on that later – here’s the full list with prices (OMG I spent over $100 on seeds this year!) and the occasional reference paragraph from the Fedco catalog.
seedling trays

204 – Provider Bush Green Bean ( A=2oz) 1 x $1.30 = $1.30
285 – Kentucky Wonder Pole Bean ( A=2oz) 1 x $1.40 = $1.40
323 – Jackson Wonder Bush Lima Bean ( A=2oz) 1 x $1.40 = $1.40
658 – Silver Queen White Sweet Corn ( B=8oz) 1 x $7.50 = $7.50

Silver Queen 2012

675 – Dakota Black Popcorn OG ( B=8oz) 1 x $10.00 = $10.00

677 – Pennsylvania Dutch Butter Flavored Popcorn OG ( B=8oz) 1 x $11.50 This open-pollinated popcorn is so good on its own that you won’t need to add any nutritional yeast. Our trialers agreed that it was the best they’d ever tasted: creamy, buttery and delicious. Incredibly green and healthy 8′ plants with very long dark green leaves set two 4–6″ ears per stalk, with 26–28 rows (occasionally 22) of fat creamy white kernels. Thanks to our friends at Southern Exposure Seed Exchange for enabling us to offer this pre-1885 Pennsylvania Dutch heirloom. SESE was the first to bring this variety to commerce, in 1988

818 – Oregon Giant Snow Pea ( B=8oz) 1 x $4.50 = $4.50

896 – Opal Creek Snap Pea OG ( A=2oz) 1 x $2.50 = $2.50
953 – Blacktail Mountain Watermelon ( A=1/16oz) 1 x $2.20 = $2.20
1046 – Athena Muskmelon ( A=1g) 1 x $2.80 = $2.80
1059 – Arava Galia-Type Melon OG ( A=1g) 1 x $1.50 = $1.50
1114 – Petite Yellow Watermelon ( A=1g) 1 x $2.00 = $2.00
1372 – Lemon Slicing Cucumber ( A=1/16oz) 1 x $0.90 = $0.90
1375 – Richmond Green Apple Slicing Cucumber OG ( A=1/16oz) 1 x $1.60 = $1.60
1434 – Cocozelle Zucchini ( A=1/8oz) 1 x $0.80 = $0.80
1719 – New England Pie Pumpkin ( A=1/4oz) 1 x $0.80 = $0.80
2073 – Shin Kuroda 5" Carrot ( B=1/2oz) 1 x $2.50 = $2.50
2093 – Yaya Carrot OG ( A=1g) 1 x $2.00 = $2.00
2099 – Over the Rainbow Carrot Mix ( B=3g) 1 x $6.50 = $6.50
2149 – Touchstone Gold Beet OG ( B=1/2oz) 1 x $6.20 = $6.20 Open-pollinated. The most refined and reliable golden beet. Much more dependable germination and uniformly round roots than others we’ve tried. Resists zoning. Like other golden beets, retains its color when cooked with the sweet flavor prized by aficionadoes. Performed well even when overcrowded in my trial. Takes the guesswork out of growing golden beets, “The first gold beet that’s ever done well for us,” reports Janine Welsby.
2186 – Bulls Blood Beet ( B=1/2oz) 1 x $2.20 = $2.20
2224 – Easter Egg Radish ( B=1/2oz) 1 x $2.10 = $2.10
2310 – Harris Model Parsnip ( A=1/8oz) 1 x $0.80 = $0.80
2425 – Bleu de Solaize Leek ( B=1/8oz) 1 x $2.50 = $2.50
2426 – Siegfried Leek ( A=1/16oz) 1 x $1.70 = $1.70
2766 – Australian Yellow Lettuce OG ( A=1g) 1 x $1.60 = $1.60 (50 days) Open-pollinated. We are hoping this new color in the lettuce palette will catch on. In our 2011 trial the opalescent yellow-green leaves burst out of the gate with rapid growth yet were still holding their quality on July 19 when Waldmann’s had bolted. Glossy yellow in the early stages, seedlings take on more green pigmentation as they mature, with the crinkly quality of a spinach and a sweet taste augmented by the barest hint of bitter. Frank Morton’s strain is the best we have found. Though Australia is more famous for its squashes, this is another worthy émigré from Down Under
2767 – Les Oreilles du Diable Lettuce OG (Devils Ears) ( A=1g) 1 x $1.30 = $1.30
2803 – Tom Thumb Lettuce ( A=2g) 1 x $0.80 = $0.80

Lettuce beds 20122918 – Pablo Lettuce ( A=1g) 1 x $1.20 = $1.20
2988 – Winter Lettuce Mix ( A=1g) 1 x $1.30 = $1.30
3209 – Maruba Santoh ( B=1/8oz) 1 x $2.00 = $2.00
3218 – Senposai ( B=1/8oz) 1 x $2.20 = $2.20
3220 – Tatsoi ( B=1/8oz) 1 x $2.00 = $2.00
3378 – Melissa Savoy Cabbage ( A=0.5g) 1 x $2.40 = $2.40
3467 – Nero di Tuscana or Lacinato Kale ( A=2g) 1 x $1.20 = $1.20
4053 – Black Prince Tomato OG ( A=0.2g) 1 x $1.30 = $1.30
4056 – Green Zebra Tomato OG ( A=0.2g) 1 x $1.30 = $1.30
4123 – Mr. Fumarole Paste Tomato OG ( A=0.2g) 1 x $1.30 = $1.30
4134 – Opalka Paste Tomato ( A=0.2g) 1 x $1.30 = $1.30
4218 – Bobcat Tomato ( A=0.1g) 1 x $2.50 = $2.50 (65 days) F-1 hybrid. Det. This cat is a perfect replacement for Seminis/Monsanto’s Big Beef. Has the same impeccable looks, disease resistance, slightly flattened round shape, 6–10 oz. maincrop size, thin skins, midseason maturity and excellent taste. Flavor mild with a spicy sweet accent and slightly acidic complexity, color medium red. A massive plant with huge leaves, thick strong stems and big fruit set. From an Apr. 4 start and Jun. 11 transplanting, our trialer harvested her first ripe fruit on Aug. 15. Resists F1, F2, GLS and N.
4266 – Honey Bunch Red Grape Tomato ( A=0.1g) 1 x $3.80 = $3.80
4418 – Genovese Basil ( A=2g) 1 x $1.00 = $1.00
4422 – Mammoth Basil ( A=1g) 1 x $1.10 = $1.10
4449 – Sweet Dani Lemon Basil ( A=0.5g) 1 x $1.50 = $1.50
4467 – Sacred Basil OG ( A=0.1g) 1 x $1.20 = $1.20
4522 – Cumin ( A=0.5g) 1 x $1.00 = $1.00
4530 – Bouquet Dill ( A=4g) 1 x $1.00 = $1.00
4680 – Red Shiso ( A=1g) 1 x $1.30 = $1.30
4684 – Stevia ( B=0.04g) 1 x $5.50 = $5.50
4831 – Love-Lies-Bleeding ( A=1g) 1 x $0.90 = $0.90
5282 – Empress of India Nasturtium ( A=3g) 1 x $1.00 = $1.00
5351 – Ziar Breadseed Poppy OG ( A=0.1g) 1 x $1.20 = $1.20
5545 – Summer Sensation Sunflower ( A=2g) 1 x $1.10 = $1.10
5611 – Perennial Sweet Pea ( A=1g) 1 x $1.10 = $1.10
5614 – America Sweet Pea ( A=2g) 1 x $1.10 = $1.10
5731 – State Fair Mix Zinnia ( A=0.5g) 1 x $1.10 = $1.10
5913 – Madder ( A=0.25g) 1 x $2.30 = $2.30

Seedling inventory

under the lights

Started under lights down cellar so far: broccoli rapa, regular stem broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage mix, 2 varieties of zinnia, Lavatera (mallow), rice, 4 tomato varieties, “Minutia” salad greens, chard, kale, 2 lettuce varieties, sunflowers (1 of 3 varieties), 2 varieties peppers

Started in raised beds outside: Oregon Giant snow peas, winter spinach, kale, chard, winter lettuce. The fall-planted garlic is almost 3″ tall in the same beds.

My seedling FAQ

  • Those are regular, if eco-friendly, shop lights. I get the brand with the safest disposal protocols, but grow lights are only useful if you like to show off your African violet collection to its best advantage.
  • I use a peat-based growing medium that I recycle year to year with very little loss. I allow the used cells to weather the Maine winter in the hoop house and so far haven’t had any disease or pest transmission. For those in milder climes I’d suggest baking or freezing the loose soil to specs that you can find at your Co-op Ext office.
  • The average temperature in my unheated 20′ x 30′ cellar during Feb/March is 44 degrees F. It’s probably a tiny bit warmer directly under the lights – I should probably check that some day. The tomato and pepper seedlings take a while to get started, but the cooler temperature keeps the moisture levels constant and discourages rot. Tonight the temperature down there is closer to 39 because I didn’t notice that the north casement window had fallen open. I’ve closed it up and should be able to tell by tomorrow if anything was badly afflicted by the drop.
  • The most important thing I’ve learned about starting seeds is to limit how many I plant (with a few exceptions). I’m terrible at editing healthy little green sprouts and that means I have too many to plant in the space available – maybe even too many to care for properly. It’s much easier to plant fewer seeds at the start. The exception would be a crop that needs the whole season to grow (cannot be planted in succession) and should be harvested all at the same time, such as rice.

July garden tour

A few days ago, I posted a photo of the garden in the morning when was still dewy and a little misty around the edges. It was a pretty shot, but quite a few people asked if they could “zoom in” and see the individual beds in more detail. Other people asked if they could get a list of what plants are growing in what area. I’ve just begun the work that will eventually build out “guilds” and “poly-cultures” of plant communities, but it’s not a bad idea to have a list of where I started for my records. This is by no means a complete inventory, but here we go:

This bed is in the “upper” garden, hard by the house. In “Gaia’s Garden“, Toby Hemenway talks about siting often-used vegetables close to the house. He suggests going out to snip a few herbs for an omelet and a side-dish of greens in the early morning in your bedroom slippers and robe. If you come in wet around the edges, the herbs are too far from the house. I can definitely snip greens from this bed without getting damp in the morning. Made of three layers of cinderblock, this bed is fairly deep. Even on the south side of the house it stores enough moisture for mustard, lettuces, radishes, and a few sorrel plants. Around the edges, in the cells of the blocks, grow anise hyssop, Thai basil, forget-me-nots (they’re everywhere), and alpine poppies. All the beds in the upper garden are ringed with strawberry plants, so that they benefit from the moisture and shade.

More in the upper garden: three beds of tomatoes surrounded by calendula and interplanted with bulls blood beets and white globe turnips. One of the tomato choices I made this season was Fedco’s Heirloom Tomato Mix.  I’m looking forward to seeing what comes out of that over the course of the season and possibly picking out some new favorites for next year.

Down in the lower garden this bed contains Provider green beans, haricot verts, and started out with a lot of radishes that provided quick shade for the sensitive bean sprouts. I’ve since picked the radishes and the Carpet of Snow alyssum has grown up enough to provide a living mulch. I sow the alyssum at the same time as the radishes in the very early spring. Purple bread poppies grow wherever they like and provide full seedheads for bread and pastry and resowing in the fall.

This is one of the squash beds, set on the hillside for ease of walking around fragile trailing vines. The deer don’t bother the stouter vines, so these pumpkins and Hubbard squash can clamber up the hill and outside the electric fence. They are interplanted with nasturtiums (just for color – I don’t think these hybrids protect against bugs or nematodes) and green beans. These green beans are planted about two weeks after the beans in the bed mentioned above so that the harvest is staggered.

Corn! Two rows of Silver Queen white sweet corn, potentially growing to 9 feet and producing 3 or 4 ears per stalk in a good year. These are not interplanted with anything. I’d love to try the Three-Sisters method of corn stalks in mounds surrounded by pole beans and squash, but I have yet to convince my partner-gardener of that. This year he allowed mulch, so maybe there’s hope. That said, it’s wonderful corn.

Potato boxes with varieties Ratte, German Butterball, Green Mountain, and All Blue. The potatoes are planted in about a foot of dirt at the bottom of the box and boards and hay are added as the plants grow taller. I had a very poor yield in the 2010 boxes due, I think, to droughty weather and too much hay/too little soil to start. The vines are much healthier as we get into the really hot part of summer this year, so I have hopes for a good harvest. This is certainly a space-effective way to grow potatoes. In the late fall I dump the boxes over and use the soil, mulch and old plants to make a new bed.

Lilies and apple trees seem to go together well. The lilies provide a nice living mulch to cool the roots,  retain moisture, and shade out weeds. These are very old Tiger lilies from my grandmother’s garden in Connecticut growing under “Westfield Seek-no-Further”, which is covered in little green apples this year.

I have another whole group of close-ups for a post this weekend. We’ve had some rain so if I can stop picking green beans for a minute  I’ll make another post this weekend!

 

Incontrovertible Proof of Gardening

There goes my month-long experiment with one-word titles.

Yesterday was a beautiful day. I’m not going to bother comparing it to today, because I’m at work and my narrow view of the railroad tracks isn’t that informative. Yesterday, though, yesterday rocked.

I worked on the seed beds first. The far corner cinderblock plot had produced wonderful tomatoes last year, so this year I planted beets, lettuce, and my new favorite green, Maruba Santos.  I have been reading Gaia’s Garden, 2nd Edition: A Guide to Homescale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway on Kindle and learning quite a bit that is directly applicable to this garden. I’m employing the very basic ideas of the book, such as planting three varieties of “depth” together so that nutrients are rotated through the soil structure. Lettuce (surface), a substantial “cabbagey” green (mid-level), and beets (deep), are a standard combination. Some ideas are new to me: Mr. Hemenway mentions cardoon as a good plant for root depth as well as using its huge leaves as mulch. My season is far too short for cardoon to mature, but using it to improve soil vitality would be a good opportunity to have this interesting plant in my garden (without having to eat it).

I put out the leeks in the next bed to the left (Brussels sprouts and cabbage in 2010) and  interplanted it with more lettuce: Pablo, Majestic Red, and Tom Thumb bibb, which is a house favorite. The next bed to the left was squash last year. I’ve planted it with haricot vert and Provider bush beans (mid-level), white alyssum (surface), and daikon radish (deep). I’m probably getting ahead of schedule by planting beans; we’ll see if the row cover mitigates the temperature enough for them to progress. It was 28 F at 5:30 a.m. but predicted to be warmer overnight as we go through the week.

Up closer to the house is a large, old bed that has been peas two years running. This year it will be 3 varieties of carrots in lengths from 5″ – 8″ and heliopsis.

Tomorrow is forecast to be solid rain with 20 knot winds. Maybe sometime next week I can spray dormant oil on the fruit trees and burn last year’s brush, but there’s no telling with the Maine spring.

 

 

 

First planting

Just came in and washed the dirt off my hands from the first seed bed of 2011.

I planted “Pablo” batavian lettuce, Zlata radishes, Maruba Santoh, broad-leaved sorrel and Fedco’s greens mix. This raised bed is quite close to the house and was thawed out to about 6″ deep. I threw a bucket of compost on top as I was closing down the garden last fall and had to fork that in and found a dozen or so rotted packets of loose dirt, about and inch square and perfectly uniform. It took a few minutes to recognize them as PG Tips tea bags. . .compost is such an interesting record of one’s life.

I put down a sheet of Agribon (spun row cover) and scattered some corn snow over the top to keep the top layer from drying out in the sun tomorrow. Some of these seeds are tiny.

It’s going to be a while until the pea bed (the one with the shingles, beyond the apples trees) is thawed enough to plant anything.

Fedco seed order, conclusion

All hail the Fedco seed order, finally. It took forever to work this out for 2011. Sometimes (actually every year since 1986  when we got married, bought a house, and I started gardening for real) I’ve had seeds started in the cellar before the end of February. Working smarter now, not harder? Time will tell, like it always does with gardening.

I held off long enough that Fedco was already out of Hopi Dye Sunflowers, which sound fascinating and will perhaps inspire me to get this done earlier in 2012. Here is the complete list with sporadic descriptions lifted from the Fedco online catalog:

204 – Provider Bush Green Bean ( A=2 oz)
247 – Masai Bush Haricots Verts ( A=1/2oz)
297 – Multicolored Pole Bean Mix ( A=1/2oz)
337 – Maine Sunset Bean ( A=2oz)
658 – Silver Queen White Sweet Corn ( A=2oz)
818 – Oregon Giant Snow Pea ( A=2oz)
916 – Oka Muskmelon ( A=1/16oz)
1059 – Arava Cantaloupe OG ( A=1g)
1388 – Painted Serpent Cucumber ( A=1/16oz)
Cucumis melo var. flexuosus Bite into the snake that doesn’t bite back. Also known as Armenian Cucumber or Snake Melon, native to Armenia and brought to Italy in the fifteenth century. William Woys Weaver says “this is one of the oldest of our heirlooms, yet one of the most neglected by our gardeners,” often relegated to exhibition rather than esculentus. Yet its flavor surpasses that of cucumbers, excelling in salads and stir fries without bitterness or burps. Slender slightly fuzzy flexuous fruits delicately coil like a serpent with alternate light and dark green stripes. Culture like the melon it is, starting indoors in individual pots and transplanting into a low tunnel. Will grow up to 30″ but best eaten at 8–18″. Straighter if trellised. I could never get it to grow well on my Central Maine clay, but it loved my sandy Colrain, MA, soil and was a prolific producer in the hot dry summer. First ripe fruit was July 26.

1457 – Costata Romanesca Zucchini OG ( A=1/8oz)
1605 – Carnival Acorn Winter Squash ( A=1/8oz)
1719 – New England Pie Pumpkin ( A=1/4oz)
2073 – Shin Kuroda 5" Carrot ( A=1/8oz)
2092 – Nelson Carrot ( A=1g)
2093 – Yaya Carrot OG ( A=1g)
2186 – Bulls Blood Beet ( A=1/8oz)
2257 – Zlata Radish ( A=1g) A new color in summer radishes! These shimmery yellow medium-sized beauties from Poland starred in our MA trial. Crunchy and crispy white interiors, spicy but not overwhelming, good fresh and even better braised. Did not bolt or split and held quality even in all the June 2009 rains. Perfect for bunching.
2376 – Gold Ball Turnip ( A=1/8oz)
2411 – King Sieg Leek OG ( A=1/16oz)
2512 – Olympia Spinach ( A=1/4oz)
2803 – Tom Thumb Lettuce ( A=2g)
2805 – Bronze Mignonette Lettuce ( A=2g)
2859 – Majestic Red Lettuce ( A=1g)
2919 – Pablo Lettuce ( A=1g) Open-pollinated. Pablo bears a superficial resemblance to a red iceberg with much the same allure, but is a batavian, not a crisphead. Its larger plants form loose heads of beautiful upright rosettes surrounded by wide wavy-edged flat leaves. Bronze coloration on the outside leaves contrasts strongly with the green interiors lending a striking metallic sheen. Very sweet and mild with some bitterness in the ribs, slow-growing and extremely heat resistant.
2983 – DeLuxe Lettuce Mix ( A=1g)
2992 – Mesclun ( A=1g)
2993 – Greens Mix OG ( A=1g)
3192 – Broad-Leaved Sorrel ( A=1/16 oz)
3209 – Maruba Santoh ( A=1/16oz) Open-pollinated. Brassica rapa (pekinensis group) With Maruba you get four vegetables in one. The loose round vibrant chartreuse leaves provide a mild piquant mustardy flavor while the flat white stems impart a juicy crisp pac choy taste. High-end chefs like to use the blossoms. Market grower Scott Howell finds the flavor more subtle and complex than that of other greens and cuts Maruba small for his mesclun. Fairly bolt tolerant, so plant after the early spring flea beetle invasion subsides.
3221 – Tatsoi ( A=1/16oz)
3326 – Broccoli Blend ( A=0.5g)
3327 – Piracicaba ( A=2g)
3380 – Frigga Savoy Cabbage
3466 – Rainbow Lacinato Kale OG
4060 – Paul Robeson Tomato OG ( A=0.2g) Open-pollinated. Ind. This Russian heirloom was named in honor of Paul Robeson (1898-1976) who befriended the Soviet Union. Athlete (15 varsity letters at Rutgers!), actor (played Othello in the longest-running Shakespearian production in Broadway history!), singer (world famous for his vibrant baritone renditions of Negro spirituals), orator, cultural scholar and linguist (fluent in at least 15 languages!), Robeson was an outspoken crusader for racial equality and social justice. Revered by the left, reviled by the right, he was blacklisted during the McCarthy Era and beyond, harassed by the FBI, his passport revoked for eight years, his career stifled. He died broken and almost forgotten, his life a testament to lost opportunities in twentieth-century American history. His namesake tomato has developed almost a cult following among seed savers, 12 of whom are listed in the Yearbook. The maroon-brick 6–12 oz. oblate often bi-lobed fruits with dark green shoulders come closest in flavor to Black Krim, but can claim their own distinctive sweet smoky taste. A sandwich tomato with a tang, an extraordinary tomato for an extraordinary man.
4119 – Peacevine Cherry Tomato OG ( A=0.2g)
4149 – Heirloom Tomato Mix OG ( A=0.2g) You’d love to be adventurous and try them all but you haven’t space for that many tomato plants? Or can’t make up your mind which ones to select? Here’s the solution: Skip the fuss and leave the choosing to us! We’ll mix together a bunch of varieties (all organically grown seed) in one packet. You’ll get different colors, sizes, shapes and flavors. All you’ll need is an open mind, a good sense of observation, unjaded taste buds and acute deductive faculties. Then you can figure out which ones you like and order them by name next year.
4207 – Juliet Tomato ( A=0.2g)
4418 – Genovese Basil ( A=2g)
4470 – Thai Basil ( A=0.5g)
5005 – Carpet of Snow Alyssum ( A=0.5g)
5141 – Sensation Mix Cosmos ( A=1.4g)
5460 – Torch Mexican Sunflower ( A=0.2g)
5467 – Benarys Giants Scarlet Coated Zinnia ( A=0.2g)
5470 – Cactus Bright Jewel Mix Zinnia ( A=1g)
5491 – State Fair Mix Zinnia ( A=0.5g)
5502 – Dyers Broom ( A=0.2g)
5504 – Dyers Coreopsis Mix ( A=0.3g)
6137 – Summer Sun Heliopsis ( A=1g)
6333 – Beneficials Mix ( B=7g)

It is snowing, sleeting and occasionally pouring rain with thunder and lightening out there right now, but soon, this –