Monday, January 24, 2011

We Have A Winner!!!

Wow, now that is fast. The seed order made on the phone Friday morning is here already and Johnny's Select Seeds is the winner as the just delivered box indicates. Now on to the garden planning.
Happy Gardening

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Zinnia Summer 2011

Exploration of the zinnia

Most of the seed orders were made on Friday, with one going via USPS tomorrow. Territorial Seed Company had some tempting lettuce but spinach and some interesting peppers were the top choices. Johnny's Selected Seeds got the arugula picks but also the lettuces. The reason was simple - pellitized seed. Because transplants are an important process in my lettuces; pellitized seed makes for ease of planting. I am going with as many pellitized seeds as possible. This company also has carrot seed pellitized and basil too. I feel that the increased cost is negated at plating time because of the ease with which one can position seed into flats. This would be true even with direct seeding in the garden - think of no more thinning in the carrot row. I am sold on pellitized seed and would suggest you try some. Also a neat find was a seed trademarked as 'simply salad' from Stokes Seeds. They have multi-seeded mini pellets with multi-species salad mixes. I am going to try both the 'alfresco mixture' and the 'global gourmet' mix. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds provided me with some of my zinnia choices . This Summer is 'The Year of the Zinnia', according to the National Garden Bureau - so we are ready with some selections of old time zinnias. Baker Creek also had a luffa gourd and a few tomatoes of interest. Pinetree Garden Seeds will supply the yellow tomato 'Nebraska wedding'. I have seen this variety labled as determinate and indeterminate so growing it will tell the tale. sand hill preservation center is the source for my cubits grafting seed.

I want to continue the experiment with tomato grafting but also want to try grafting some melons and cucumbers. The literature suggest using 'cucurbita ficiolia' and 'cucumis metuliferus' both of which Sand Hill has - great. plus I like the seed packet size of this supplier. They are a small company with a great catalog - no pictures so you will have to read their descriptions. They are also a catalog of rare poultry. So if you are going to experiment with chickens you might get their catalog. Chickens are a dream here but maybe not practical yet. One concern with Sand Hill is their 25 chick minimum order - way too many birds for a 4 hen ordinance here in Green Bay.

Besides the grafting I am using the summer green house space to grow our cucumber crop so I ordered varieties that will produce fruits without pollination. This is rather noteworthy because I want to work on learning more about native bees as pollinators. After the success of getting the ban on residential bee hives lifted here in Green Bay. knowledge of native bees which are just as efficient, maybe more so, than honey bees, would help in spreading the word about these species that could be encouraged in back yards maybe more easily and definitely cheaper than honey bee set-up. 'Farming for Bees' guidelines for providing native bee habitat on farms, from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation - ISBN 9780974447513, is a good introduction to this idea. Go to the society web page to read about pollinators and get publications.
Happy Gardening

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Seed Order Season

We no longer heat this greenhouse space in winter - too costly
'Cocktail' is the variety name.
This red blotch ( S. curtisii )means this bulb will not stay in my collection - it MUST go!
Grafted tomatoes are available at Territorial - not a bad price either.

Making decisions is always difficult - making the seed order at 9 degrees with drifts of snow at the back door leading out to the garden is just that. But the anticipation of what the garden could contain is what these seed wish books are all about. Those perfect pictures of what might be only fuel the desire to fill every inch of the garden with those plants and hopefully one's plate with the same delicious produce. So decision time is upon me so that several months from now I can harvest those dreams.

Today I sorted through the seed boxes to remove the very oldest packets (I will make a few rag dolls with some to test the germination) and to get an idea of just what I have - too many cucumber packets and a nice selection of pellitzed lettuce seed. The plan this year is to very selective with cucumbers as last year's greenhouse cucumber growing was successful and could possibly replace any field grown cukes. I was also going to try to buy only pelitized lettuce as it is so easy to seed into flats. Melons were not as successful as I had hoped and so this year we will work with only a few (trying to keep the choices two types and one of those for the greenhouse)

The seed catalogs have been highlighted with a wish list and now the work will be to finalize the list down to the best choices. Once I have got the list done I will share. But don't expect total rational thinking on my part for I too can be fooled by tempting pictures and mesmerizing catalog copy.

I was especially pleased to see that grafted tomato plants are available to the American gardener this season thanks to Territoal Seeds. Grafted plants have been available to the English home gardener for a few years already. A few internet threads show gardeners who are still surprised and new with the concept of grafted vegetables. I have been looking for a tomato grafting workshop that I might attend this spring, but as yet nothing real close has shown up. If anyone hears of one let me know - nothing like some hands-on training to help in my experimentation. I have been told that grafting melons and cucumbers is a bit easier than tomatoes so I will have to look into some tough gourd seeds for that experiment.
Happy gardening

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year - New Tool

A look back at the 2010 garden
Crocus naturalized in the yard - I planted 90 more bulbs this past fall.
Wild ramps - a great spring tonic
Jack in the Pulpit
French Sorrel - a wonderful green for every garden
These copper bands were not too successful.
Our front yard living sculpture.
Mother's day is pink roses.
The fig tree and the 'Earthbox" planters - good idea- excellent harvests.
Who can resist sunflowers.
Potato flowers - the beauty of nightshade flowers.
Grafted tomatoes - a fun experiment.
Tomatoberry - good little variety
Green Doctors - sweet fruits.
We just like zinnias.
A Monarch beauty.
The greenhouse cucumbers were a success worth repeating.
The makings for Mango jam.
Mother Nature's way of recycling.
The garlic harvest.
Footies were not too effective against apple pests.
So we will continue to use plastic bags.
A delicious pepper harvest from the 'Earthbox' planters.

Oh, those zinnias, they were a favorite of my grandmother.
Harvested cardoons ready for cleaning and cooking.
Our new hoop house.

Welcome to 2011 and another year to experiment in our Wisconsin backyard garden.

I got a new shoulder for Christmas - rotator cuff surgery on 12/22 - and am happy to be on the mend. The recent rain and spell of warm weather was going to make a parsnip harvest possible but not after my surgery - oh well, we will just have more when we dig them in spring.

I went back to the pictures of last year's garden and those are the choices you see. This past season had some good experimentation and a few successes of note - the grafted tomatoes worked but will need more efforts this next season; the apple bagging was again successful; and some of the tomatoes new this year will get as repeat this year especially the 'Tomatoberry'; the 'Earthbox' plantings were wildly successful for peppers so much so that I will add a third box and grow all our peppers in them with none in the garden; and lastly the fig tree was very productive and I intend to buy another small variety mail order this spring.
We won't be using footie's for organic apple production next year because of expense and the fact that did not succeed against coddling moth. The copper bands around the peppers were not too successful and with all the peppers in containers that eliminates the slug problem for good so
I will just have to fend off the earwigs.

Maybe the most successful endeavor of 2010 was our successful work to get the ban lifted prohibiting bee hives in the city of Green Bay. Now that one can legally have a hive, I think I will look into the class about bee keeping that is scheduled this month - my wife has always wanted bees - they might be what we get instead of the chickens that I have always wanted (they too are legal in the city limits now too).

I hope you both learned and enjoyed our garden this past season and will join us again this season.
Happy Gardening