Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Spring Get Away April Fool!

I'm usually much better at keeping up with posting entries. My goal is at least one per month, yet it's been almost three months since my last one.

I blame the weather...

We've had an incredible winter. It's been super mild which isn't great for our snow pack and water supply. But, it's been great for gardening. I even took the risk of seeding my lawn a few weeks ago. A bit of seasonal denial. I am fully aware at any moment we could enter a cold snap as we haven't passed our frost free date yet. And if we do freeze, I worry about every plant out there that is blooming or finished and leafing out as though it's May!

I found my invoice and letter from CR Lawn of Fedco Seeds, one of my favorite seed companies. His letter analyzed seed orders as of January 19, 2015. While seed orders have been slow, they had an increase of their tree orders (sorry, you have to be local in Maine to take advantage) by 20%. His reasoning is that people think long term and there is an increase in permaculture resulting in more tree sales.

Their biggest seller is Swiss Chard 'Bright Lights' followed by cilantro 'Caribe'. CR Lawn can't but help make a political jab connecting a poor selling spinach 'Donkey' to the GOP's motives.

This is the first year Fedco designated codes for their seed sources. It was too early to tell at the time of the letter, but it will be interesting to see if the codes affect the seed sales.

I realized today, it being the last day of March, I better get on to sowing! And...oh...wait! I forgot to place my order with Kitazawa! Argh! Maybe this is a good thing given my eyes are always bigger than my garden. It will help me narrow down my choices. Do I want to try again with winged beans and edamame? Probably not. Should I try something new like corn? Go back to growing kohlrabi? Yes and yes! I love broccoli raab but have struggled with bolting so I'm thinking of trying 'Zamboni'. Oh and of course our beloved 'Odoriko' tomato.

Hope you're all taking advantage of this weather...seasonal denial or otherwise!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Seed Catalog Time!

Nothing like being gone over the holidays and having a mail dump of seed catalogs waiting for me when I got home!


My usual suspects of John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds, Baker Creek, Fedco, Territorial, Jung Seeds (who signed me up for that one?) arrived along with a new one for me this year: R.H. Shumway's.  

Usually late in the game, John Scheepers was early. In past years, I have received this one long after I've placed my orders.

Baker Creek is a usual favorite, but I have to be careful not to get carried away zonal denial given they are based in Missouri and California. It's easy to do with their lovely pictures tempting me with seeds they've collected around the world in much hotter places.

I'll get back to Fedco in a bit, and I'm going to skip Territorial since they have a reputation already in this region.

Jung Seeds looks like a combo of your usual seed offerings plus other edibles from vine, tree and shrub. Plus perennials and even ornamental colocasia and allocasia--which are not hardy here.

R.H.Shumway's is a new one I requested for this year. It's got an "old timey" catalog look to it so much so I'm expecting to find offers for soap or men's shave cream and brushes. I'm not sure I'll actually order from them unless there is something I must have and can't find elsewhere. They are offering a selection of new annuals like the African Sunset petunia and Candy Showers trailing snapdragon.

I left my favorite for last--Fedco. I have always been impressed with their quality and since they are based in Maine, their growing season is on par with Seattle. I also appreciate their conscientious, mindful outlook on where their seeds are coming from. Over the past several years, CR Lawn has expressed the company's dilemma of calling themselves sustainable while offering seeds from Bayer and Syngenta. While the seed is not treated, these two companies produce neonicotinoids ("neonics" for short) and Atrazine. Neonics have recently been linked as a possible cause in bee colony collapse and are being banned in Europe and the US. CR Lawn went to great lengths designating the seeds source leaving it up to the consumer to make the choice. There is also the reality if they don't offer these varieties, their customers will find them elsewhere. I know I can't imagine my small garden without Sungolds or Masai haricot vert. A dilemma indeed.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Baby Veggies

I just picked a handful of "baby veggies" reminiscent of spring veggies. They are small but since it's officially fall fall (hello, rain!), calling them "spring veggies" is totally wrong and "fall veggies" conjures up visions of kale and acorn squash; so "baby veggies" will have to do.

I was lucky my 'Spineless Beauty' zucchini crop didn't get out of hand--yay me for my laziness and procrastination! I had a manageable amount with my five plants that went into the ground in early July. The vines are done, but I wouldn't say I'm cutting my loses. I had the perfect amount of snappy, crisp young zukes to go along side with my pesto the other night. "Spineless" refers to the lack of hairs on the zucchini, not a reference to it lacking a backbone or being like jello (gross).

Sautéed with garlic--YUM!
'Tromboncino' was the other summer squash I tried this season. They germinated quickly but then sat around for awhile until a few weeks ago with the last blasts of summer heat. It climbed up the spent cardoon flower stalks. Had I known it was going to take off, I would have trellised them earlier. According to Fedco Seeds, they are great as both a summer and winter squash. I harvested them at 4-6" rather than the 8-10" they recommend. They also can be left to grow longer and change color to greenish-tan as a winter squash. 60 days to maturity for summer harvest and 90 days for winter harvest.
I'm leaving my vines in for a bit longer (can we say "seasonal denial"?) to see if I can get anything else out of them. Regardless, they were great combined with the Spineless Beauty zukes with my pasta. But next year, I will plant them in as starts in June rather than sowing directly in July. In the meantime, I'll be dreaming of the wonderful dishes I'll use them in next year: gnocchi, ravioli, sliced fresh in salads...Mangia! Mangia!

Monday, September 22, 2014

My Garden is a Mess

I could feel my garden getting away from me in August. I blame the "summer crush" where we Seattle-ites double and triple booked ourselves with end-of-summer activities. All I could manage was collect zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, Shishitos, and Asian pears. Not exactly a bad problem to have, but really I needed to at least pull a few weeds once in awhile. And not neglect the beans which seems to happen every year as well.

My vines were taking over. I had grown Delicata winter squash before, but not Jack-be-Little pumpkins. I was skeptical if I'd even get one single jack-o-lantern out of the 8 or so starts I planted. They were super stressed so I more or less wrote them off. Boy did they take off! They climbed over everything and anything--my roses, the fence, the echinacea.

A crazy mess
I evaluate everything I grow as to whether it's worth growing again. Sometimes I'm willing to wait a year or two before repeating a variety like with tomatoes since there are so many out there to try. With other varieties that fail, I feel the challenge to try again. And for those that do really well and need some refining, like with these oh-so-cute little pumpkins. I'm going to try half the number of starts and a more extensive trellis that keep them from running away from me.
I'm a sucker for these little pumpkins
Finally, this last weekend I decided to pull the plug on the vines. Real estate is scarce in my garden and I needed room for my winter veggie starts. I'm hoping I'm on time getting them into the ground! More on those later...

Monday, September 8, 2014

Tomatoes: 2 out of 3

Out of the three varieties of tomatoes I grew this season, two will make a return appearance next summer: Sungold and Odoriko.

I don't have to say much for those who have grown Sungolds before. After several years' resistance for not growing them--in general I avoid jumping on the bandwagon-- I caved last year and will never look back. Sungolds will always have a spot in my garden. They easily ripen and continue ripening even while temperatures drop as fall approaches.

Tasty Sungold!

I generally stick with varieties with 65 days to maturity. I was skeptical of the Odoriko since they were quite large and very green. But then they turned a slight red-orange color and quickly ripened with a pink tinge. They are super flavorful and great for slicing on burgers or tossing into pasta dishes. I just made a eggplant dip that called for diced tomatoes and used the Odorikos. Their sweet yet tangy flavor were a great balance to the garlic and eggplant's earthiness.

Odoriko: technically a "pink-fleshed tomato"
The one tomato that I was super excited to grow and was such a bust was the Indigo Blueberry. I had the regular Indigo Blue which are deep purple to almost black with a true red underside that carries over inside the fruit. First disappointment was they take forever to ripen. The Sungolds were in full swing as the Indigos were just starting to redden. Second disappointment, it lacked the concentrated flavor that cherry tomatoes should have. Overall the flavor was "meh." The third disappointment was their texture. The fruits were watery and combined with a watered-down flavor; leaving a lot to be desired. I removed a robust plant, full of fruit, from my backyard because it just wasn't worth the space it was taking.
 Bummer...those fruits should be red!
Next season, I'm going to stick with the "tried-and-true-two": Sungold and Odoriko. And I'll add one more variety to mix it up and try something new.


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Persimmon update

My mom texted me a couple weeks ago asking me how my persimmon tree was doing.

After a month of trying to revive my persimmon tree, I faced the reality it wasn't going to make it. Disappointed, I gave it a proper burial in the yard waste bin.

I learned two lessons. One is to re-evaluate where I plant larger specimen trees. While I like the look of espalier, against the house isn't ideal. I still want to try growing persimmons. I think they have great looking foliage. And their orange fruit would brighten up the garden in the fall as it enters winter dormancy.

The second lesson is more of humbling truth. I have been able to salvage many plants over the years; rehabilitating them back to life. It's moments like this that show me I can't save everything, especially when I'm deliberately taking a chance moving it under the worst conditions: actively growing and on the first hottest day of the season.

When I told my mom the tree died. She said "Oh, too bad," but I admitted it was to be expected.

So I start again. Looking for a new persimmon this winter and scoping out the best place for it in my garden.


And so it begins...the great zucchini harvest!

Zucchini #1
Zucchini #2...and more on the way!