Archive for February, 2012

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

Posted in gardening with tags , , on February 27, 2012 by planthoarder

There is so much anticipation as visions of fresh fruits and veggies dance in our heads that each delivery by the postman of an order of seeds feels like Christmas. It’s hard not to order more varieties than our garden can handle (succession planting should help a bit here) and just as hard not to jump the gun and just start planting everything, but we have to have a game plan. When is the last day of frost? How much can we roll that back using “Wall o’ Waters?” How long will it take to get the seedlings to transplantable size? Can we start them now? Please?

This year will be my first to try to grow cauliflower, the yellow to orange ‘Cheddar’ hybrid and the lime green ‘Romanesco.’ ‘Romanesco’ is called a broccoli, but lo and behold it’s more closely related to cauliflower. Well there’s quite a few edible brassica that are the same species, so who am I to argue? Those cold-hardy plants are the ones I’ll start first, since they should be able to take the cold better than my beloved tomatoes, peppers, and melons. I’m trying things I haven’t tried before like kohlrabi ‘Kossak.’ The first time I saw it in a farmers market, the vender wouldn’t tell me what it was, probably for fear of my growing it myself. Well, her fear comes true this year even without her assistance. I mean to try roasted Brussels sprouts as well; I’ve heard they’re delicious. Everything is delicious and fresh and perfect in my mind’s eye, before reality, in the form of cabbage worms and loopers come to share in my harvest. In the past I’ve picked these devils off my plants, but this year I’m thinking floating row cover might do the trick. “Forewarned is forearmed” they say, and gardeners may appear a peaceful bunch, but we can be fierce defenders when it comes to the fruits of our labor. I may mulch quickly to keep things cooler for my cold loving brassicas to counteract the warmth that will be held by the row cover. Game plans are afoot, but how long can they hold me off from the thrilling action of new acquisitions and another season of battle with mother nature’s little scourges? Not long now, not long at all.

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Buying tomato seeds

Posted in gardening with tags on February 20, 2012 by planthoarder

I had good intentions, really I did. The only new tomato I was going to try was ‘Legend’ just in case the blight came back (likely with the warm winter). Unfortunately, I have a stack of catalogs I just can’t seem to stop paging through, dreaming of summer tomatoes this balmy February. Fortunately I have a birthday in March and a few family members have asked me what I’d like.

Catalogs are advertising pure and simple. Some are fabulous at marketing, some are less so, but all want to sell their products. On paper it seems like every tomato is “sweet, juicy, and bursting with tomato flavor!” Certainly somebody liked these tomatoes enough to name them, but not all tomatoes are created equal. How does a person, in the middle of winter, choose the tastiest tomato when we can’t take a bite until July or August? Nothing beats experience. If there’s one in your area, go to an heirloom tomato tasting. Sadly those are only available in season. Your local garden club likely has a few avid tomato buffs who’d be only too happy to share their experiences with their favorite, and a few frustrating tomatoes. The Internet can help, people blog about their personal favorites and can point you in the right direction, but remember, not everyone’s tastes are the same. Some like it meaty, some juicy, some like it sweet, some want “true tomato flavor.” I like ‘Gold Medal,’ but ‘Gold Medal’ doesn’t like me.

When I get a fruit of ‘Gold Medal’ it is large and luscious, but few. ‘Better Boy,’ ‘Celebrity,’ ‘Jet Star,’ and ‘Early Girl’ all get thumbs up from me for good flavor and great productivity, but having tasted ‘Gold Medal,’ I’m now in search of another just as “to-die-for.,” only not as stingy. A few years ago I tried “Japanese Trifele Black,” but while more generous with it’s smaller fruit, it wasn’t the tomato of my fantasies. Seed Savers Exchange is seed packets of their taste test winners from the past six years. It includes ‘Gold Medal,’ so I know I’m on the right track. Now if I can just give a hint to my family….

Why grow houseplants?

Posted in gardening with tags , on February 11, 2012 by planthoarder

At this time of year, when there’s ice and snow all around, you can really appreciate the sanctuary that is our modern house. We don’t have a sunroom, so we don’t have the tropics indoors here, but we have windowsills, and even some plants that can survive away far from the sunlight. Most of my houseplants are the stalwart standard; pothos, snake plant, peace lily, etc., but I have a special love of flowers and for a brief month in winter, nothing beats an orchid. They aren’t especially hard to grow, better to underwater a tad than overwater, you hardly notice them most of the year, but wow, what a miracle in February!

Catalogs

Posted in gardening with tags , , on February 10, 2012 by planthoarder

Catalogs have been piling up since the holidays, marked up with highlighter in the hopes of getting at least a few ordered before spring. Sadly I don’t have hoards of cash and eager servants to do my bidding, so my new acquisitions are modest to say the least. In fact, I hit a big box store for most of my vegetable seed this year from their Burpee rack. Nothing exotic, unless you count daikon radishes, ‘Baby Choi,”Pinton Long’ eggplant, or ‘Genovese’ basil. There’s ‘Green Ice’ lettuce and ‘Burpee’s Rhubarb Chard,’ for greens and ‘Kentucky Wonder’ pole beans, ‘Scarlet Nantes’ carrots, and zucchini, for my other veggies, and flat leafed parsley to add a little extra zing. Where are the tomatoes and sweet corn, you may ask, and I may answer: Most of my tomato seed is saved from last year, and I am surrounded by corn fields that my farmer neighbor allows us to put a tiny dent in come August.

One tomato variety I did get was part of my order to Thompson & Morgan, ‘Legend.’ Supposedly, it is resistant to blight. Early Blight was my bane last year, defoliating the bottoms of the plants as they grew over the concrete reinforcing wire cages meant to contain their exuberance. ‘Gold Medal’ hardly offered a fruit, but ‘Celebrity,’ ‘Jetstar,’ and ‘Early Girl’ made up for it’s stinginess. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to wipe up all this drool from fantasizing about summer tomatoes.

Building a blog

Posted in gardening on February 10, 2012 by planthoarder

Hi, I’m a plant obsessed person trying to build this here blog. Have patience, and maybe advice, and this little seedling may be springing up in no time!