Friday, February 27, 2009

Winter Escape

After today's nearly 6 inch snowfall, Susan and I have decided to check out how the palm trees are growing in Florida. We will be at the Tropical Beach Club in Holmes Beach, Florida for a while. The garden blog will have to wait until I return and then I hope to include materials and information on how to construct a cold frame for this season's garden.

In the interim, check out the Florida fun at our trip blog:

Happy Gardening

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Tomato Dreams

One can only dream of tomatoes when Mother Nature piles six inches of new snow on the garden. But there are always those wonderful catalog pictures and descriptions of the possibilities that fresh seed holds. All the tomato seed is in and today I counted back to see when my seed start date will be. I have to adjust for the fact that the first week of June I will be in Canada fishing so that could make my earliest plant date the last week in May. This date is historically too early to expect that my cold garden soil will be warm enough for the tomatoes. I think I will plan on planting as soon as I get home from Canada with hopes that this spring will not be as wet as last year.

I will count back eight to ten weeks for the tomatoes and add a few weeks more for the peppers especially the hot varieties. Peppers did not like the wet weather last year and the crop will definitely be moved to a new place in the garden as last year disease took a heavy toll on the fruits.

The following varieties will be the tomato patch this season:
Sweet Chelsea/ Sugary/ Japanese Black Trifele/ Golden Rave/ Big Beef/ Wapsipinicon Peach
Green Pineapple/ Camp Joy/ Grubs Mystery/ Earl of Edgecombe/ Valencia
Persimmion and Red Garden Peach ( seed that I saved myself from last year)

I would like to thank Alyssa Kimmel of Johnny's Selected Seeds and Tom Johns, President of Territorial Seed Company for the candid remarks they shared with me this week about their
companies. I asked them for some help with information about vegetable garden seed companies for a presentation that I will give at Fox Valley Technical School this week. Both of them were most helpful with information about their market niche and the excellent growth of home vegetable seed sales. I was most happy to hear that their economic outlook was very good. Thanks again to them both.

Happy Gardening

Monday, February 16, 2009

Another Winter Harvest

With the warm days last week, the snow really melted and made checking in the cold frames possible at last. Just as the parsnips were insulated with a snow blanket, so too were the cold frames. I have three frames that were planted and at least two of them have nice lettuce that survived our very cold January. These frames were planted last October. One frame had napa type cabbage and two others had a variety of lettuce transplants and ornamental kale in them. The napa is good thru about November but can't take the real cold. The lettuce was some of the last seed in packets and other mixed seed that I use for micro greens. I will need to keep much better records of the lettuce varieties this year; but as you can see in the pictures the plants survived the snow and cold nicely. Cold frames are an excellent season extender. Look for plans on how I make mine in a March blog entry. Then you will have time to build cold frames and use them this spring.

This year there are 10 varieties of lettuce to go in the garden. As you can see I really enjoy planting lettuce and find my best success with seeding flats of lettuce that I transplant into any open space in the garden all season long. Here are the varieties for 2009:

Delta Dawn/ Continuity/ Petite Rouge/ Crisp Mint/ Flashy Butter Oak/ Bullet Romaine
Truckee/ Breen/ Red Cross / Red Summer Crisp/ Australe
Odyssy (This seed is pelleted so it is very easy to plant in celpacks)/
Matina Sweet/ Tom Thumb ( a favorite small butterhead lettuce)/ Cimmaron

The first lettuce and Arugula will be planted in the greenhouse sometime in March. Now that the plastic is up, the space is really warming nicely. However, we are still getting cold nights. This morning the temperature was only 6 degrees - too cold even for tough mustard and mesclun to get started in trays so I will have to wait.

Tonight we can have "FRESH" lettuce from the garden again. Can't wait for tomatoes!
Happy Gardening

Monday, February 9, 2009

Pruning Weather

With warm weather ( 40 degrees is warm compared to what it has been) comes an urge to get out of doors. A good February activity is to get the apple pruning done for spring. My three trees always benefit from a good pruning. The Fireside tree with its newer grafts needs work to open up the lower branches to more air and light. The Wolf River with its very old grafts needs work to eliminate some of those older grafts that do not seem to produce as well as I would want. And the little "Five on One" in the garden just needs some quick work on the extra grafts that were added to make it a "Seven on One". These three trees contain about 30 different varieties of apples as just having one variety on a tree is not a good use of my growing space even though multiple grafts on one tree presents some bloom and pollination problems. The grafts have been added each year since about 2000. Grafting is great fun and really not that difficult.

My seed orders are arriving daily. With the orders placed on Wed. Feb. 4, the first to arrive was from Territorial Seed Company on Saturday! and Johnny's and Scheeper's arriving in today's mail. They have been listed in the seed journal.

Today, I bought the plastic and staples to cover the inside of the greenhouse. I hope to get that job done this week. My small greenhouse will warm nicely with the March sun so I can get an early start on some greens but I need the inside covered with plastic to collect and store that heat. The cost of heating that space with natural gas is such that I only start the heater in April and by May my heating season is usually over. One month, with the plastic as insulation I can manage. So because the weather guy predicts warm days this week I should be able to get the plastic in place.

Happy Gardening

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Seed Order 2009

Today the 2009 seed order has been completed. Ordering via credit card has made the old way of sending a check and waiting for the funds to clear and then the seeds to be sent a past practice. I ordered from seven seed houses and in some cases the order will be processed and in the mail by tomorrow. Phone ordering allows for quick substitutions, but I had only one case of something not available and a few back orders for March. Once again the average seed packet cost is near $3. However, this cost has historically been on the increase and my gardening cost observations stretch back to the late 70's - and just what does not cost more now?!

New gardeners may experience sticker shock but in most cases the work of the seedsman and the genetics involved to produce a new improved variety is years of trial and investment and in a market economy deserves remuneration - to a degree. However, when working on a seed order, don't neglect the old tried and true varieties that don't cost as much but still deliver a great vegetable. Also, remember that an AAS ( All American Selections) indicator on a seed variety can be a good criteria if you are looking for a vegetable or flower that will be a good all around choice for your garden. Plus, read the descriptions of your seed catalog with an open mind as some of the catalog copy is meant to attract you along with telling you about the vegetable for sale. I for one am a sucker for a great lettuce description; so enjoy the catalog but read critically too.

Most of this years order should be here and cataloged into the garden record book in a few weeks. Then the physical garden plan can start.
This years supply houses are:

John Scheepers - Kitchen Garden Seeds
Johnny's Selected Seeds
Pinetree Garden Seeds
Sand Hill Preservation Center
Stokes Seeds
Territorial Seed Company
Totally Tomatoes

All of these sources have web addresses and I have used them in the past and have been satisfied with product, shipping fees, packaging, and most of all seed amounts and quality.

Happy Gardening

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Aloe Vera Returns

As February makes its welcomed arrival so does the flower spike on the Aloe vera plant make an annual show. This plant has been here at Breezy Acres for over ten years and many a Aloe "pup" has been passed along to others. This year both plants decided to bloom in February. Last year one bloomed indoors and another made its show in July as part of summer flowering. The yellow flowers, although not much to look at, easily remind me that spring is not that far off and someplace much warmer spring has already begun.

Today was the first above freezing day we have had in almost two months. What better time to visit the garden to see how the spinach is doing. Last fall I planted all the remaining seed in several rows in the garden with hopes of an early spring crop. Some of the seedlings, even with the sub zero weather have survived nicely and I am looking forward to a spinach harvest come late March. I watered them today with snow and the bright sun and warm weather should help the crop. There is one cold frame in the garden that does not have anything planted in it, so as soon as the frost is out of that space I will seed with more spinach for a late crop. One can notice that the days are getting longer so I really need to finalize the seed order and get the selections made soon.

Happy Gardening