Sunday, January 24, 2010

Catalogs and Contests

Find this book - you'll like it and want it.
All these were my 2009 Photo Contest entries - borrow with credit - Please - as I have no problem sharing but artistic ownership is special with photos
Plants in bud are just as potentially beautiful as fully open flowers
Can't resist an apple bagging picture

Yellow Garden Peach - this variety comes in a Red Peach too - good little tomato- prolific
Burr Oak flowers
Sweet Shrub or Calyconthus floridus

I never did have the name for this Lupine

Amaranthus caudatus
This is one of my favorite sunflower pictures - "Sunrich Lemon"

This zinnia is the May picture for the Gardeners Club of America 2010 calendar

January is dream time. With all the catalogs in hand and a Hi-Liter I have marked the possibilities for the 2010 season. Now I will have to go through and see who has the best seed to price ratio and just what we really want or need in this years garden. Plus, I will have to check last years seed box to see what is left over and still viable for planting this season. We are still working on making the garden space larger and with that in the works we might be able to add some crops that in the past we have not had the room for - vine crops especially. Melons, squash and specialty pumpkins come to mind. Maybe with the seeds in hand the pressure will be on to bring about that enlargement.

In checking the library for books of garden interest I found a excellent and thorough diagnostic book that would be especially good for you to check out (no pun intended). What's Wrong With My Plant? ( And How Do I Fix It?) by David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth ISBN13:978-0-88192-961-4. This is a excellent key to plant ills and has many illustrations, pictures, and a good set of resources in the back of the book. I would recommend the text especially for Garden Clubs and Master Gardener organizations to donate to their local library or Extension office as a diagnostic tool for local residents and as a way for people to self diagnosis their plant issues and arrive at a treatment recommended as "safe, organic solutions". I was really excited to find this book in my local library and I have examined it cover to cover - great text and an easy to follow key structure.

January is also a time for me to enter the national photo contest for the Gardeners of America/Men's Garden Clubs of America. I am pleased to say that I have the May calendar photo in their 2010 calendar. So, this weekend I spent time going through my pictures and collecting the twenty entries that I will send off for the current contest. They have entrants from all over the country and the organization has a great slide show at their annual convention of winning photos. So this year's hopes are soon to be in the mail. The pictures posted this week are some of the photos I sent in for the 2009 content. You are welcome to borrow the images but please remember that photos are artistic property and credit needs to be given to the image owner.

Happy Gardening

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sprouting in Winter

The daylight is getting longer and the countdown to March 1st continues - 44 days. We continue experimenting with sprouts and ways of growing them. My regular method is using a wide mouth Mason jar with a mixture of mung beans and alfalfa. We like this for salads, soups, and eggs. This tried and true method gets one a jar of sprouts in a week and they usually last that long. I like to get them started with a warm water soak for maybe 6-8 hours then I drain them and put them and my favorite new place - in the microwave. That space is dark and I usually keep them in there till they have made a nice root growth and the first set of true leaves are showing. Then they go into the sun to green up with chlorophyll and fill in the jar. When the sprouts are in the sun I try to rinse them twice a day instead of the once they get when they are in the dark. Once we start to use them I still rinse them as I take them from the jar and I also use some plastic wrap to cover the end of the jar while they are in the crisper in the refrigerator.

This week I will also start another tray of sunflower seeds. I am still in an experimental stage with technique but I have been fairly successful so far. I soak the seed for the same amount of time but then I rinse the seed really well after the soak. I have used a very very weak bleach solution for the first rinse because on my first batch I had a problem with fungus growth. Not a problem this second time so think I will try that step again. I use a soil-less mix as a thin base in a plastic seedling tray and then scatter my sunflower seed on top. I cover them very thinly with the soil-less mix and then mist the tray before I cover it with a wet newspaper and a plastic tray lid. The seed tray has drainage holes and I sit that tray in another tray without drainage so I can water from the bottom along with misting. This tray is close to my grow lights. I monitor the sprouts and as soon as they begin to break the seed coat I take off the paper. I keep the clear cover on for a few days as I want as many seed coats to fall off as possible and if they are moist they seem to fall better than if they dry out. Misting is a daily activity and as soon as most of the seed has sprouted I remove the clear lid and get the sprouts close to my light source - 10-12 inches. I turn the tray each day to try to get nice vertical growth and when the tray has sprouted and grown to about 3 - 4 inches I cut my crop with a scissors as close to the soil line as possible, rinse them in cold water and put them in a plastic bag and into the crisper tray. From a regular seed tray I get a plastic bag full or about the same amount one pays about $5 for in the store. The process is a bit longer than the sprouts in the jar but we really like the sunflowers.

We have been exploring out ethnic grocery stores for interesting vegetables and fruits. This week we were at both an Asian and a Mexican market. Both had very interesting produce. In the Asian market we bought some very nice fresh bean sprouts that were used in soup and eggs. We also tried a "Fragrant Pear". We both really like Asian pears but this small fruit was more fragrant and had a wonderful extra flavor that went beyond that of a regular Asian pear. Sorry, I have no picture of that fruit as we ate it before I knew just how good it was but you can Google "fragrant pear" for info and pictures. When we decide to try new foods as these we ask the store owners about the product and they have been most helpful in explaining preparation. A week previous we tried a new kind of sweet potato that was very nice and cooked it as suggested in the microwave. I have never eaten a sweeter potato. We also went to a Mexican market this week on Saturday especially because they have special roast pork available in the store. This is common when one visits Mexico. We made pork tacos and used the bean sprouts purchased at the Asian market as part of the concoction - kind of like a pork taco egg roll all in one. Both the markets we visited had many other interesting vegetables and fruits for later experimentation. I was most fascinated to watch a man with gloved hands slicing the spine off cactus pads in the Mexican market - now that is a vegetable I have never had but might like to try next. I'll keep you posted.
Happy Gardening

Sunday, January 3, 2010

2010's First Garden Harvest

The parsnip at the end of the row
The root came out of the ground nicely
So what happened to the nice soil cone I made in the ground?
Roasted and ready to eat

New Year's Day, with a foot or more of snow on the ground, I made my way out to the garden. The weather was cold but the snow is good insulation so I was pretty confident that I would be successful in the parsnip row. I brushed the snow away from the end of the row and found the ground was not frozen. A set of parsnip leaves showed up with a little more snow removal and I proceeded to dig the root out. The selection was not the best as the root had split during growing and had three roots instead of the nice long single white root I was wishing for. I cleaned the parsnip, cut it into nice chunks and oven roasted it. This was our traditional first harvest for 2010 with ten or more roots out in the garden waiting for later harvest. I think I will keep pulling them for a while; maybe take half the crop and let the rest wait till spring when they are really sweet.

I hope one of your New Year's resolutions is to increase your garden. Having failed to get the new enlarged garden space done last year, I am doubly motivated to make that happen this year. We will soon be making seed selections now that all the seed catalogs are in so I will keep you informed as to what we are deciding to plant this season.

Welcome to the 2010 Vegetable Garden!

Happy Gardening