Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Weeds...Glorious Weeds!

At this time of year, weeds are novel. One of the first signs of spring. As daffodils and tulips emerge from the ground, so do shot weed, dandelion, and spurge to name a select few.

The sun actually feels warm as I putter around the garden. It's been several months since I've been able to saunter and see what's going on in my garden. In the winter, it's usually a mad dash to get out, take care of a few pressing tasks, and rush back inside before my fingers fall off! Today I didn't even need to wear liners under my gloves. This last week of sunny days has been luxurious. Forecasts threatened rain, but we managed just a misting here and there.

Early in the season, I don't mind filling up my bucket with weeds. The ground isn't frozen any more. The friable earth gives way to my dandelion weeder as I pluck these green culprits from the ground.

So for now, I don't mind the weeds. I have time to get everything ready for spring planting.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Seed Stash

Admit it. I know you have one. Those seed packets you've saved over the years thinking that you'll plant them next year. Maybe you have a small paper bag in the basement or refrigerator.

I just found a packet of forget-me-nots in my sock drawer. How did that get there?

Seed packets accumulate just like any other clutter around the house. Somehow, I feel less guilty about not cleaning out my seed stash. I could grow something from these seeds. You can grow anything from dust and paper clutter except maybe more dust.

But, being the responsible gardener that I am--or at least try to be--I am going through my seed stash right now. With you!

Packet #1 Haricot verts (green beans in French) collected in fall 2006 from a friend who collected them off a few vines I gave him that summer. We concluded these may actually be Bush Beans. I have a planter box that is mounted to the fence that these can go in. Definitely worth a shot.

Packet #2 Cucumbers from 2005. No idea where I got these. They still look good. Worth a try? Sure!

Packet #3 San Marzano tomatoes. These I grew in the summer of 2005 and 2006. I bought the seed in Venice, Italy from a florist. There aren't any nurseries in Venice like we have here. Instead, you find racks of seed packets outside flower shops. I've been rationing out the seed. They get bottom brown rot if they're not watered enough during the season. But it's worth the extra effort since they make such a great sauce.

Packet #4 Poppy. These are a black, double flowering form that is quite striking. Poppies are easy to just scatter the seed and watch them come up so I'll hold onto these, too.

Packet #5 Beets 'Winter Keeper' from Ed Hume. These I acquired in the "free to a good home" seed pile when I worked at the Center for Urban Horticulture. I'm such a sucker. That was 2004 and I still haven't planted these. I had planned on sowing them late summer, for the last 4 years. But I've either forgetten, or I've run out of room. I promise I'll sow them this year! Promise!

Packet #6 Corn Salad from Ed Hume acquired with the packet of beet seeds. Hmmm...Its germination rate tends to be low according to the directions on the packet. Anything remotely salad-like will get slugs. This one is going in the garbage.

I was given several packets of seeds by way of a friend's mom from Heirloom Seeds in W Elizabeth, PA. They're from 2006.

I meant to plant them out last year, but once again I ran out of time and room. There were 20 packets. I narrowed it down to:

Walla Walla Onion--these take 100-125 days, but I can sow them directly in spring.

Mini Red and Mini Yellow Bell Peppers--I can grow these in containers.

Sweet Banana Pepper--I don’t have high hopes for these, but since I'm growing the minis, I'll give these a try, too

Certified Organic Utah Celery--the cutting celery was a success and these germinate in 21 days; hard to pass up.

'Cherokee Purple' Tomato--these are one of Eldon's favorites. Plus, it's less work than adding another apple tree to the yard.

I need to find my shoehorn before spring arrives. Otherwise, I'm going to have a hard time finding space for all these crops!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Cook's Garden--Where are you?

I'm waiting for my last batch of seed. Sure, it's a couple of months before the last frost, but I still would like them. Then, I can look at them all together and dream about what they will grow into.

I ordered from Cook's Garden with a little regret. I jumped at leafing through Cook's Garden first The cover looked very different from last year's cover--a colorful woodblock print of a gardener painting in her packed veggie garden. Woodblock illustrations instead of photos were used throughout the catalog. This year's was all photos. Then, I looked through Burpee's catalog, which I never requested. I did a double take. Some of the same exact photos I saw in Cook's Garden were in Burpee's catalog. I looked at the return addresses of the catalogs and sure enough, they're the same. I felt like someone was trying to trick me. Especially, since some of the cultivar names are changed in one catalog from the other.

After a little research, I found out that Burpee bought Cook's Garden in 2004, but everything was to remain the same. The Odgens (original owners) were hopeful that not too much would change and it wouldn't expand much. Does this ring a bell with any of you who love(d) Heronswood? I thought so. If you wish, Garden Rant gives a personal account of another Cook's Garden customer.

The main reason why I did order seed from Cook's Garden is because they offer mixes of many different crops. I want to try growing eggplant for the first time this year. Because my space is limited, a mix will let me compare them side by side and evaulate which ones will do best next year. Or, if I'm even able to grow eggplants at all. I really wanted the 'Fingerling Mix' but when I ordered online, they weren't available so I took the mix of what they offered.

'Kaleidoscope Mix' carrots are another item on my list. These carrots come in a range of colors: red, purple, orange, and yellow. I couldn't resist thoughts of how wonderful they would look in summer salads.

Beets are another crop I will try for the first time this year so I opted for the 'Rainbow Mix'. Of course, no seed of 'Bull's Blood' will be included, but that's okay. As I thin out the planting, I can use the leaves for micro-greens in spring salads. I can also sow a batch later in the summer for fall.

'Pistou' basil is the one herb I bought from Cooks. The leaves are supposedly so fine you won't need to chop them. I have many different dishes that call for basil both dried and fresh, including pesto of course.

I am trying a different tomato this year called 'Lady Bug'. The fruits are 1" in diameter which will be a good size for ripening. Last year, the 'Pantano Romanesco' tomatoes (from Baker Creek) were too large that by the time they stopped growing, there wasn't enough sun to ripen them up. I got just a few that were amazingly delicious. So, if we have a summer like we did last year...well, let's just plan on that not happening!

I did purchase one packet of flower seed: 'Matucana' Sweet Pea. Yes, I was suckered in by the bold-looking burgundy and purple flowers. I've got my bamboo poles ready for trellising these vines up against the fence to create a striking background. They will also compliment the allium and Spanish lavender later in the spring.

Think of my order from Cook's as an experiment in figuring out where I should purchase those great performers for next year. I'll let you know who will be invited back next year.

Stay tuned...I tell you what seed I found in the refrigerator. It's only a couple of years old, and may not produce anything. But, it's worth a try, right?

The Cook's Garden Seeds I received a week later. Finally!