Sunday, January 23, 2011


On the garden front:
-I planted the fennel.
-I transplanted most of the tomato seedling starts into 4" pots. I have one left to do.
-I bought marigolds at Home Depot for $0.50/6-pack. I will plant these in the garden in the area where I had the tomato with nematode problems.

On the experiment front:
-I want to try growing ginger (Zingiber officinale). I figure I can use the pot from the avocado tree...once I get the avocado planted either in a different pot or in the yard.
-I also want to try growing saffron (crocus sativus)
-Plus I still need to do potatoes and quinoa again...Maybe I just need to build a whole new "experiment garden". hmmm....

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Foliage Follow-Up: Jan 2011

On the 16th of every month, Pam at Digging asks us to look at the foliage in our yard as opposed to the flowers. And let me tell you, in January, foliage is about all you have.

I moved my two passion vines I had bought to a different location, but then this has popped up in the old location. I've read that passion vine can also spread via runners and so this is likely an offshoot from the old plant. I'll be moving this to the new location at some point in the near future.

My potted succulents and cacti. I haven't babied any of them this year (last year I pulled in the ghost plant every time the temperature dropped below 40). These plants all came from Bob at Draco Gardens.

Here's my avocado tree that I grew from a pit. It's almost 6-years-old and is obviously way too big for the pot. The husband has stated that we are to plant it rather than re-pot it. I've been covering this plant with a sheet every time it might possibly freeze, plus it's in a VERY protected area right next to the house.

And here are all my freeze sensitive plants - Plumeria and Lemon Balm in the very front, agaves and succulents in the low green pot (the largest is from Jenny at Rock Rose while the small ones are from the plant that died at my office), and I have garlic chives, lemon balm, and a yellow hot pepper plant that I'm trying to save through the winter so I can get some peppers off of it in the background.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Veggie Gardening

I'm a little behind in getting this guy into the ground, but I hope it will do fine once I plant it.


GBBD: January 2011

Not much blooming around these parts, what with the weather being all cold and everything. The only plant actively blooming is the Shrimp Plant, and I don't know how it does it since I don't provide ANY care for this plant. Chalk one up for the natives.

Shrimp Plant, Cast Iron plant on the left

Nandina (the invasive kind), Cast Iron plant in the background.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Spring Garden Growing Season 2010: Season Roundup

Here is my semi-official list of everything I'm growing this year in the garden. This ought to be fun since I didn't really buy plants from garden stores or sales that gave out fliers of information. Also, I don't have prices with the seeds because almost all of them were either purchased with a discount online, or were purchased for previous growing seasons.

Jewel Toned Bell Peppers: Crimson, Gold, & Orange. Renee's Garden.
Description: Our mixed seed packet offers you an easy way to grow three different colored sweet bell peppers. Vidi ripens up deep crimson red, Admiral turns glossy golden yellow and Valencia matures glowing orange. These plump vigorous varieties combine mouth-watering rich flavor and juicy texture with high yields and excellent disease resistance. Days to Maturity: approx 75. Year Opened: 2009. Number Planted: 1 of each variety
Experience: All varieties have sprouted as of Jan 22. I gave the red bell pepper variety to Jen at Rebar and Roses.
Experience Update 07-26-10: The two I kept have flowered, but have not produced any peppers. I think the temperatures were too hot (not surprising since these are non-recommended varieties for Austin). I have high hopes for the fall.
Experience Update 10-16-10: The plants are HUGE but they still haven't been flowering. grrr...
End result: I got about 10 peppers off of the plants before they were killed by frost. all the peppers, however, were green and not at their full potential. Also, sadly, they did not taste as good as the store-bought ones so i'm saving some to wait for them to fully ripen to see if they taste any better. UPDATE: They never got better, in fact, they got worse. The peppers were too bitter to ever even eat.

Heirloom Tomatoes: Rainbow's End. Renee's Garden.
Description: Our mixed seed packet delivers mouth watering heirloom varieties saved and savored for generations. Luscious Brandywine's tender skinned fruits burts with quintessential rich tomato flavor. Big bi-colored Marvel Stripe is rosy-red marbled in gold with meltingly smooth, mild tasting, sweet flesh. Unique Green Zebra's smaller fruits are a wonderful emerald overlaid in golden-amber stripes with a zesty sweet/tart flavor balance to make you smile. Days to Maturity: Approx 80. Year Opened: 2008. Number Planted: 1 Brandywine and Marvel, 2 Zebra
Experience: All varieties have sprouted as of Jan 22. The Brandywine variety died, the two zebras made it, the Marvel died too. I did plant another green zebra in it's place. You know, I hope I like green zebras since I've got 3 plants...
Experience Update 07-26-10: I had one producing Green Zebra in the spring. I got maybe 10 tomatoes off of it. They turn an orangish-yellow color with green stripes when ripe. They are tart and lime green on the inside. I added them to tomato sauces, and it did seem to sweeten the sauce some. I never did have a green zebra sliced and on a sandwich. The husband did, but he said he doesn't like it as much as regular tomato.
Experience Update 08-08-10: I ended up deciding that I didn't want to have the seeds around for another year so I went ahead and planted all of them in an old blueberry container. When they were about 3" tall, I transplanted them to individual 4" pots. I then gave all of these away--2 brandywine and 2 of the green zebra went to Cynthia, a green zebra and a brandywine went to my friend/coworker, Pam, I think I gave 1 green zebra and a cutting from the Lemon Boy to my friend/coworker, Ross, and then I believe WabiSabi took the remaining 2 green zebras. This year was a great experience as it taught me that I can indeed grow my own tomatoes from seed.
End Result: I was very glad to be able to prove to myself that I can, in fact, start tomatoes from seeds. So, while I will not buy this variety again, I did buy some Roma Tomato seeds and Black Krim seeds for this next growing seasons (planted on Jan 5)

True Thai Chiles: Orange Fogo and Red Dragon. Renee's Garden.
Description: We import these brilliantly colored, authentic Thai chiles direct from the source! Vigorous Fogo ripens bright orange with delicious medium hot/sweet pungency, perfect minced in sauces and salads. Red Demon's fiery little fruits point up like flames, with that nutty, incendiary pungency just right for stirfries. Use fresh or air dry for tantalizing Asian-style dishes. Days to Maturity: Approx 85. Year Opened: 2008. Number Planted: 1 Orange Fogo
Experience: All varieties have sprouted as of Jan 22. All varieties died this year, too.
Experience Update 07-26-10: not much to say, they all died. Sad really, I like them. I went and got a Cayenne pepper plant as a replacement. It is doing well, it did produce a pepper in the spring but it touched the ground and was eaten by a caterpillar. It currently has a pepper or two on it, now we're just waiting for them to turn red. Also, in June, my coworker did give me 3 pepper plants, cayenne, red hot (probably chile pequin) and the yellow hot pepper that he was originally trying to give me when he gave me the tomato plant. The cayenne that Charlie gave me did die, the other two are doing well. The pequin has a pepper or two on it.
End Result: I will be trying these again this year as I had left over seed (planted on Jan 5)

Habanero Chile: Red Savina. Renee's Garden.
Description: Bred exclusively by Frank Garcias at GNS Spices, incendiary Red Savina is the hottest habanero known, tipping the scale at 380,000 to 500,000 Scoville units which put it in the Guinness Book of World Records. Along with brilliant red color and intense heat, Red Savina's flesh has that special tantalizing fiery fruitiness that characterizes habanero chiles from the Yucatan. The Chinese lantern-shaped fruits grow on sturdy 3 to 3.5 foot plants that do best in long hot summer areas. Days to Maturity: Approx 90. Year Opened: 2009. Number Planted: 2
Experience: Both pots have sprouted as of Jan 27. Both pots died. As did the one that I started after the fact. I ended up buying a habanero plant from Red Barn for about $3.
Experience Update 07-26-10: As mentioned above, the Red Savina all died, so I broke down and bought a habanero plant. The plant is growing quite well, but never really flowered in the spring. I have hopes for the fall as the plant has a bunch of flower buds on it.
Experience Update 10-16-10: We got two orange habaneros off of this plant, it has a bunch of flower buds on it so hopefully it will produce some more this fall.
End Result: I was able to get one more habanero off of the plant before the cold weather really set in. I will be trying the red savina again since I still have seeds (just started on Jan 5).

Specialty Eggplants: Italian Trio. Renee's Garden
Description: Our trio of delicious Italian eggplants combines teardrop-shaped, purple-black "Nadia," gorgeous, oval-shaped magenta "Beatrice" and heirloom rose and white, globe-shaped "Rosa Bianca." The strong plants with velvety leaves and lavender blossoms bear abundant crops of curvaceous glossy fruits with tender skins and succulent flesh that is never bitter or seedy. Enjoy in recipes from all Mediterranean cuisines. Days to Maturity: Approx 80. Year opened: 2009. Number Planted: 1 of the Nadia and Beatrice.
Experience: Nadia sprouted by Jan 22, Beatrice finally sprouted on Jan 29. Beatrice was "emergency planted", and is the only one that's still alive. Nadia was killed off shortly after planting in the garden.
Experience Update 07-26-10: The Beatrice is doing quite well with 2 eggplants on it right now. I think it will perk back up soon and will start flowering again. Maybe I can force it to flower again when I cut off the current eggplants...
Experience Update 10-16-10: Beatrice did flower again, but it didn't set. This doesn't surprise me since that was in August. The problem now is that it's starting too look good, but it's probably much too late for it to actually really produce anything. damn.
End Result: The plant never set anymore fruit. The Cloud 9 was much more prolific. I will end up with more of this variety since I have seeds left over and I just started them on Wednesday (Jan 5).

True Thai Basil: Queenette. Renee's Garden
Description: This tropical-looking ornamental basil has dense .5" leaves that grow in clusters around distinctive purple stems. Imported directly from our best Thai seed producer, Queenette's exotic flavor combines aromatic mild sweet spices with clove/mint basil flavor. It is a critical ingredient in Southeast Asian dishes and marvellous in stirfries, chutneys and marinades. An eye-catching herb to interplant with flowers for "edible landscaping." Plant Queenette basil to enjoy growing and cooking with authentic Thai ingredients. Days to Maturity: NA. Year opened: 2009. Number Planted: 1
Experience: This has sprouted as of Jan 27. I ended up starting 2 more containers of the basil (I have a lot of seed). I planted 2 containers in the garden, and the other is still sitting by my porch.
Experience Update 07-26-10: I finally gave the one container sitting on my porch to my Mother In Law. I ended up with about 8 plants since one of my coworkers started the same variety from seed and brought them in to the office for everyone. I've got 6 plants in the garden and one in my flower beds. I've been drying basil since the middle of June non-stop. Even though it's a Thai variety, I have been using it in Spaghetti sauce with no mention from the husband that it tastes off so I guess that's a good sign.
Experience Update 10-16-10: This was a bumper crop year of the basil. I made a bunch of basil icecubes with the plants when I pulled them out, I also air dried a couple, and the remaining 2 ended up being chopped up and added to the garden directly to decompose.
End Result: VERY prolific and the best basil I've gotten since growing basil. I will try this again, but am also trying another variety (Botanical Interests, Custom Blend)

Ananas Noire Tomato: Given to me by Jen at Rebar and Roses
Description: The skin has shades of green, purple, orange, and yellow. Bright green flesh has bursts of red streaks that will definitely add intrigue to your vegetable platter. The lip smacking flavor starts out sweet and ends with the perfect amount of tang. What's more, the sprawling indeterminate plant yields a tremendous amount of 1 1/2 pound fruits.
Experience: This plant seemed to be doing pretty poorly until very recently. It looks more like a tree too (the bottom leaves kept being attacked by something so I cut them off, thus leaving a bunch of leaves at the top. Thus a tomato tree). No flowers yet either. Hopefully it will make it through the summer and do well in the fall.
Experience Update 07-26-10: The plant quickly outgrew the small tomato cage I had for it and started falling over on the habanero plant. Since I want habaneros, I decided I'd better tie it to the other taller and more sturdy tomato cage with twine. Since I did that, it flowered and even produced one tomato. I took a cutting of this plant back in June and will be planting the cutting sometime during the week. Hopefully it will do well. Of the tomatoes I've taste tested this year, this is my favorite so far - it's definitely on the sweet side, but it's still tart, which is what I like about tomatoes in the first place.
Experience Update 10-16-10: The original plant has put on some great growth recently and is flowering prolifically. As such, I've been going out and flicking the flowers to get them to fertilize. The plant finally started setting fruit recently and I've noticed 2 tiny tomatoes thus far. The cutting plant has taken off in the last few weeks and has started flowering as well (no fruit set yet though)
End Result: The original plant produced a handful of tomatoes before the cold weather (of course I did have to pull them off and let them ripen inside). The cutting ended up producing 2 tomatoes before I got tired of covering the plant every time the weather was going to drop below 40 degrees. When I pulled out the cutting, it was totally overrun with nematodes (which is the reason why I planted the Lemon Boy tomato--which I remembered right after I pulled out the Ananas Noire). If I see this variety, I might try it again, but I'll choose Black Krim first.

Black Krim Tomato: Given to me by Jen at Rebar and Roses, also purchased at Allandale Plant Sale for $1
Description: Large brown-red fruit with rich sweet flavor. Sets well in heat. Heirloom from Crimea. (from the Sunshine Gardens info sheet) Dark-brown, red fruit, large (10-12 oz), Russian. Heavy Producer, prone to cracking. Likes hot weather. Rich complex flavor, sweet-tasting fruit. Indeterminate. 75-90 days. Status: Heirloom
Experience: As I mentioned last year, THIS TOMATO IS AWESOME. And I totally have Annie in Austin to thank for this since it was because of her that I even tried this variety last year. Considering that I bought a fairly puny plant at the Allandale Plant Sale (and I bought it at the end of April), I am very impressed with the growth it's put on. It's flowering and there are even a few small tomatoes on the plant.
Experience Update 07-26-10: I posted to Twitter that I was pretty sure this tomato was not what it said it was. The tomatoes were turning a gold color and never turned red. After being told by Yard Fanatic that it looked more like "Yellow Taxi" I decided to go out and look around for a tag of some sort. Yes, I found the tag. No, I didn't buy this plant from the Allandale plant sale. I bought it at Red Barn for half price. I did think it was a Krim because it was in the Krim section, but it was actually tagged as a Lemon Boy. Though based on the fact that the tomatoes were gold (not lemon yellow) and didn't taste like how I remember Lemon Boys, I figure it was mis labeled anyhow. In any case, it's a gold tomato, it produced fairly well (15 - 20 tomatoes in the spring season). It is a tomato that has the tomato flavor, but not the acid bite...which means the husband and I were both disappointed by it. He likes acid, and I like tang (which is probably acid). So back to the regular red tomatoes for us. I did end up trying this tomato again when it was the lemon yellow color instead of the orange/gold color and I liked it a heck of a lot better.
End Result: The plant wasn't looking so hot at the end of summer so I pulled it out. I will likely choose many other tomatoes over this one.

Purple Cherokee Tomato: Bought at the Allandale Plant Sale for $1
Description: 80 days, indeterminate Given to heirloom tomato collector Craig LeHoullier by J. D. Green of Tennessee, it is at least 100 years old and was reported as originally grown by the Cherokee Indians. The fruits are large (twelve to sixteen ounces), dark pink with darker purple shoulders. Excellent complex flavor, slight sweet aftertaste, perfect slicer for tomato sandwiches!
Experience: Not as good of a grower as the Krim. I planted them the same day, so there really is no excuse. Not flowering yet. I hope it does well through the summer, and produces in the fall. I would like to do a taste test between the Krim and the Cherokee.
Experience Update 07-26-10: Cherokee has grown, and flowered, but it hasn't produced fruit. Hopefully it does well in the fall.
Experience Update 10-16-10: This plant was looking pretty bad by the end of the summer but it's starting to come around and has started flowering. I've been flicking flowers left and right but no fruit set yet. It should be noted that we've been having cooler nights since mid September so too high of temperatures shouldn't be a problem for fruit set now.
End Result: I ended up getting one whopping tomato of this plant. It was a small tomato and it did have to ripen in the house. I didn't care for it and much prefer the Black Krim...of course it could be because of the fact that it had to ripen inside...

Kentucky Wonder Bean: Bought at the Allandale Plant Sale for $1
Description: Popular, heavy producing Pole Bean. Excellent for eating fresh, freezing or canning when pods are young. Makes a good shell bean when left to mature fully. Approximately 66 days to maturity.
Experience: This bean plant has easily climbed the 5' tomato cage and keeps wanting to go up. It does have a problem with spider mites.
Experience Update 07-26-10: I pulled this plant out at the beginning of July/end of June. It did produce a bunch of beans, but never enough for us to be able to pick them and eat them the same night (I'm sure if I had a couple plants it would be fine). Considering that I planted it for nitrogen fixing purposes more than the vegetable purposes, I think it did well.
End Result: I never did eat any of these I guess I'd be willing to try it again.

Watermelon: Crimson Sweet (Walmart Gardens)
Description: Exceptionally sweet, deep red flesh with a dark green rind. High in vitamins A, B and C. A main-season favorite. Days to Maturity: 85 days. Year opened: 2007. Number Planted: remainder of packet (maybe 10 seeds)
Experience: The best that my watermelon has ever done. Maybe this year I'll actually get one to grow!
Experience Update 07-26-10: I FINALLY had a watermelon. And then the opposums and/or raccoons got to it. So now I'm back to NO WATERMELONS! sigh. The plants did all start blooming again which makes me think that if I can keep the watermelon on the INSIDE of the bed instead of hanging over the edge all right in their line of sight and stuff it might work out better.
Experience Update 08-08-10: Oh goody! another watermelon! fingers crossed!
Experience Update 10-16-10: FIE! the watermelon was doing well until we had TS Hermine blow through town. Too much water and watermelons tend to split. I ate some anyhow, and it was good.
End Result: I will try this again (seeds left over). One of these years I'll get a watermelon!

Cantaloupe: Hearts of Gold (America's Choice)
Description: This popular heirloom variety produces large fruits with firm, fine-grained salmon-orange flesh and a small seed cavity. The flesh has a delicious spicy flavor. The round fruits average 3-4 pounds each and have finely netted rinds. Days to Maturity: 90 days. Year opened: 2007. Number Planted: remainder of the packet (maybe 8 seeds)
Experience: I haven't noticed any cantaloupe plants, only watermelon. The seeds were old after all.
Experience Update 07-26-10: There was a cantaloupe plant after all. and it even has a cantaloupe on it. A sad, misshapen cantaloupe, but still, a cantaloupe. The only problem is that it's in the way back of the garden, right by the fence, where I can't get to it. oh well, it has a while before it's ripe anyway.
Experience Update 08-08-10: I forgot to check on the sad, misshapen cantaloupe for 3 days this week and it was apparently ripe at some point during that time. I went out today to check on it and it was obviously overripe. I pulled it off the plant and found out that earwigs had taken up residence inside. Ick. I cut the 'loupe and tasted a small piece (in the non-buggy section, thankyouverymuch), it wasn't very good. It at least tasted like cantaloupe, but it wasn't very sweet.
End Result: I may try cantaloupe at some time in the future, but I currently don't have any seeds.

Black Eyed Peas: Free from my friend, Ross
Description: Cowpeas, also called Black Eyed Peas, are a favorite southern bean. Although the young leaves are edible, most gardeners grow them for the bean inside. Cowpeas are native to Africa, where it is an important food crop. The plant thrives in warmer climates. There are vining and non-vining varieties. Maturity in 80-90 days.
Experience: I planted these mostly for the legume soil factor and not so much for food. About half have survived at this point.
Experience Update 07-26-10: I have started collecting the pods, allowing them to dry and then breaking out the peas inside. I currently have them stored in a glass jar on the kitchen counter. I think the hope is to have enough to make one serving.
Experience Update 10-16-10: There's only one plant left and it has one pod on it. Once that pod is ready to be pulled, I'll pull the plant out. I think I'll have gotten about a quarter cup of peas.
End Result: I got about twice the number of peas than what I planted. If I plant all of them again, then I'll get even more! I don't know if I will though since the husband and I are yankees and don't understand these black eyed peas things.

Bush Cucumber: Free via Master Gardeners of Travis County
Experience: I didn't plant these until pretty late, and they're no where as dark a green color as they were when I first got them, but they are doing okay. One even has a baby cucumber on it.
Experience Update 07-26-10: One of these plants produced the freak watermelon/cucumber baby that I had a picture of on my blog. That same plant has gone on to create another freak of nature cucumber. I'll have to pick it soon...and then I'll have to figure what do to with it since the husband won't eat cucumbers and I'm not THAT fond of them myself. Oh, and the watermelon/cucumber baby? it was so large that when I made myself a bowl of salad, i would put three slices on, and the slices would completely cover the bowl.
End Result: These were quite good and I may have to hunt a plant down for growing this year.

Basil (unknown variety): Free from my coworker, Charlie
Description: Apparently a Thai Basil (but it doesn't look like my Thai basil). It does have purple flowers though.
Experience: Most of these sat in their little pots for weeks before I planted them. I finally planted them and half promptly bolted. Which is fine. I'm content with collecting seeds, or pulling out seedlings when they sprout.
Experience Update 07-26-10: These must be real Thai Basil (same as mine at least) since I can't tell a difference between the plants anymore...and the leaves all taste the same.
End Result: It must have been the same thai basil because it was impossible to tell the difference between them. See entry above about Thai Basil.

Basil (purple variety): $1 from Allandale Plant Sale
Description: mild purple variety
Experience: The plant itself is doing well, I just think I like the stronger flavored basils more.
Experience Update 07-26-10: The plant has continued to do well and i have been pulling branches off and drying them just like I ought to. It does add color and variety. But I do like the stronger flavored basils more.
End Result: I much prefer the other basils I have grown to this one. That's not to say that I wouldn't like to grow more varieties of basil...

Cherry Tomato (unknown variety): Free from my coworker, Charlie
Description: Charlie brought in some seedlings for my friend, Bond, and me. He was positive they were some of the hot yellow peppers he has in his yard because he had taken a whole pepper and just threw it in this pot and about 4 months later, all these little seedlings were growing in the pot. So he separated them, and gave them to Bond and me. A few weeks later, we were pretty sure they were not pepper plants (they had the fjord-like tomato leaf). And when the plants bloomed, it was confirmed. Cherry tomato of some sort. Sprouted from seeds that were put in a pot 8 months ago and forgotten (or something like that). Charlie says he thinks they might be sun gold tomatoes. I'm not sure, I guess I'll know when they fruit.
Experience: One plant has done amazingly well, the other, not so much. They both have flowered, and the larger one has tomatoes on it.
Experience Update 07-26-10: These tomato plants have been prolific. I've been HAVING to make a tomato sauce based meal at least once a week to use up the tomatoes (the husband and I don't like raw tomatoes unless they're on burgers/sandwiches).
Experience Update 10-16-10: I pulled all the cherry tomato plants out of the fall garden because they weren't looking very good, I needed the space, and I don't care for cherry tomatoes.
End Result: I still prefer regular sized tomatoes.

Random Squash Plant: $1 at the Allandale Plant Sale.
Description: I have no idea what this is. The tag was marked W.B. and the one lady said "oh, that means Wonder Bean!" I didn't bother pointing out that it was obviously a squash plant and not a bean plant. But I still bought it (I didn't want to get change so I needed 5 plants).
Experience: Not so great. I don't know if this will make it. It's in front of the lemon balm, and next to the cherry tomato. And I only put this because if it dies, at least I know that I did actually plant something there.
Experience Update 07-26-10: It's still there. It's still flowering. It still hasn't produced fruit. Not as attacked by the Squash Vine Borer as the Delicata was.
Experience Update 10-16-10: I pulled this out of the fall garden because if it was a winter squash variety it wasn't going to be able to produce anything this year anyhow.

Strawberry Popcorn: Botanical Interests
Description: The diminutive strawberry-shaped ruby red ears on these compact 4' stalks are an eye-catching unique addition to the back of the flower border or vegetable garden. Planting them behind flowers is a creative way to add height and architectural structure to the back of your flower border. Then, you can save the ears for fall decor or harvest the kernels for a delicious popcorn. Each Strawberry Corn stalk grows 2 or more 2-3' long ruby red strawberry-shaped ears., maturing in 100-105 days. Kids love to watch the ruby red kernels magically turn white when popped! (Instructions for making stovetop popcorn inside packet.) Days to Maturity: 105 days. Year opened: 2010. Number Planted: 16
Experience: only about 3' tall (give or take half a foot), but considering it's supposed to only be 4' tall, it's probably doing good. It's the best that corn has ever done down here (for me at least). I think it mostly has to do with the fact that it's actually getting full sun.
Experience Update 07-26-10: I finally pulled out the plants yesterday. I planted like 8 plants and got 4 good ears of popcorn off of them. Not great--Some of it is my fault. The plants started looking dried out and I stopped watering them figuring I'd let the ears dry out, I didn't realize that all the plants were starting to produce more ears. Now that I know that I know to continue to water them.
End Result: I still need to actually POP the popcorn. But the important part is that the husband was amazed and astounded at how much i got (in a good way). This only surprises me because it's only enough for one serving...which, considering I planted 8 kernels, I suppose that's a good thing.

Lemon Balm: $2.99 at Red Barn
Description: Lemon balm (Melissa officianlis L.) is a lemon scented member of the mint family. A native to southern Europe, it is a perennial which will over-winter in hardiness zones 4 to 5. The plant develops many branches and grows to a height of about 2 feet. The leaves are 2-3 inches long, oval to almost heart shaped, shiny and wrinkled with scalloped edges. Small light blue to white flowers appear in late spring through midsummer.
Experience: Going ballistic. But I like it. I'll go out there and make sure I run my hands through it just so they end up smelling all lemony. I got this (and nasturtiums) to combat that dreaded squash vine borer. It's all a grand science experience!
Experience Update 07-26-10: I still like this stuff. The SVB experiment seemed to work somewhat--I still got them, but it was about a month after everyone else started complaining about the SVB. I also had a fraction of the eggs that others were finding. I started using this in teas and even took some to work a couple of times to get rid of it. It worked well with hot tea, lemonade and decently with iced tea. Shawn and I started using it as a mosquito repellent (crush a couple of leaves, rub on exposed skin), which, like the SVB experiment, seemed to work somewhat--better than nothing and it didn't require us to take a shower to get DEET off of us right after being outside for a few minutes. I gave some to my Mother In Law, expecting them to use it as mosquito repellent as well, but they ended up eating it in their salads, they liked it enough that I keep being asked to bring more to their house for the salads.
Experience Update 10-16-10: I cut the plants WAY back for the fall garden (and may have to do so again to give the seedlings a fighting chance). I did decide to start a new experiment (you know how I love experiments). The experiment was to take a cutting and overwinter the plant (I've heard that they don't make it through the winter). I opted to try 2 different methods: Method 1) cut growing tip, pull off all but 2 leaves at the tip and plant in growing medium, water well until roots are established. Method 2) cut growing tip, pull off bottom leaves, set in glass of water, change water every couple of days until new roots form, plant in planting medium. And guys? both methods totally worked! Now I just have to keep them alive until next spring.
End Result: I have been able to keep all the cuttings alive and am thinking of creating some more to give away at work...though I guess that depends on if the plants I planted stay alive through the rest of the winter.

Delicata and Early Butternut Squash: Compact Winter Squash, Renee's Garden
Description: "All-America" winning duo of the best space-saving varieties: super productive Early Butternut Bush with creamy-orange flesh and Bush Delicata with striped rinds and delicious flavor. Days to Maturity: 45 days. Year opened: NA. Number Planted: half packet
Experience: They're there, but they haven't taken off like the Watermelon.
Experience Update 07-26-10: As I said, I think the Delicata was decimated by the SVB, which doesn't surprise me as it was the furthest away from the nasturium/lemon balm combo. The Butternut, being the closest to the nasturium/lemon balm, did better, though it did end up with one in the vine. the vine seems to be essentially dead, but there is one butternut on it still (I'm leaving it on until I'm sure the vine is dead or the outer shell hardens, whichever happens first).
End Result: YAY! one whole tiny butternut which is STILL sitting on our kitchen counter...which is probably where it will sit until I finally throw it out...or buy another bigger one to make something and add the little one.

Late Summer plants:
Zucchini: Dark Green, Hart's Seeds (free from Allandale plant sale)
This variety of summer squash is very popular, easy to grow and fast maturing, producing a generous crop of delicious and delicately flavored fruits. Plants are compact bush type bearing handsome oblong dark green fruits. Plants continue to produce tender, vitamin rich fruit until frost if all fruit are picked before they mature. Fruits are best picked when they are 6-8 inches long. Cooked like summer squash, used fresh or fried in butter. Days to Maturity: 50 days. Year opened: NA. Number Planted: whole packet
Experience 08-08-10: Planted on July 27, 2010. I have squash plants coming up, but I don't know if they're zucchini or yellow squash. I did plant the entire packet of the zucchini and only maybe half of the yellow squash. I planted so much because both packets were for summer 2008 and were stored in deplorable conditions (outside in a greenhouse which eventually broke during a rainstorm and all the seed packs got wet and then were dried out...thus the reason why they were free).
Experience Update 10-16-10: I pulled these out to make room for the fall garden. Tiny pidly things they were.
End Result: I will try more again, but I'd have to buy more seed.

Yellow Squash: Early Summer Crookneck, Hart's Seeds (free from Allandale plant sale)
The standard variety for many years. Summer Crookneck has been improved to have a smoother, less waterd skin and more compact bush type plant. This variety is very popular, easy to grow and fast maturing. Many gardeners feel that this variety is more flavorful than the straight-neck types. Delicious baked, fried, steamed, boiled or served raw. Squash freezes well. Plants will continue to produce tender, vitamin rich fruit until frost if all fruit are picked before tehy mature. Fruits are best picked when harvested young, 5-6 inches long. Days to Maturity: 45 days. Year opened: NA. Number Planted: half packet
Experience 08-08-10: Planted on July 27, 2010. I have squash plants coming up, but I don't know if they're zucchini or yellow squash. I did plant half the packet of the yellow squash while I planted the full packet of the zucchini. I planted so much because both packets were for summer 2008 and were stored in deplorable conditions (outside in a greenhouse which eventually broke during a rainstorm and all the seed packs got wet and then dried out...thus the reason why they were free).
Experience Update 10-16-10: I pulled these to make room for the fall garden. Pidly little things they were.
End Result: I'll plant more as I still have some of the ancient seed left over.

Cayenne Pepper Plant: From my coworker, Charlie
Experience 08-08-10: I planted this a while back (early July maybe). This poor plant wasn't long for this world. I think the planter I put it in wasn't holding water very well by this plant.
End Result: It died. BUT cayenne pepper plants are generally AWESOME.

Red Hot Pepper Plant: From my coworker, Charlie
Experience 08-08-10: I planted this a while back (early July maybe). This plant hasn't grown very much (it's still about 6" tall), but it has flowered and set fruit. I'll probably only get 2 peppers off of the plant, but that's better than the bells and the habanero have been doing...
Experience Update 10-16-10: I LOVE THIS PLANT. I've gotten about 15 peppers off the plant and it has another 15 that are green.
End Result: The plant did so well and I didn't save any seed, so I've gone and dug up the plant, put it in a pot and am trying to keep it alive through the winter. UPDATE: It died.

Yellow Hot Pepper Plant: From my coworker, Charlie
Experience 08-08-10: I planted this a while back (early July maybe). This is the plant that started it all--Charlie brought in some peppers last summer from his garden and I just raved about how much I LOVED the hot yellow peppers. They start out all fruity and then the heat hits you like Emeril throwing garlic in his food, BAM! so the following spring he brought in some plants that he thought were the pepper plants and they ended up being the gold cherry tomatoes so he brought in the REAL pepper plant in June. This hasn't grown much (it's still about 6" tall), but it has flowered before, though no fruit set. I hope to be able to save the seeds from this one and grow my own next year.
Experience Update 10-16-10: Still no fruit, but it's starting to flower.
End Result: The plant never every fruited so I dug it up and potted it and am trying to keep it alive through the winter. So far, so good. UPDATE: I managed to get this to live through the winter and replanted it in the garden on 3/19.

Ananas Noire Cutting: From my plant
Description: The skin has shades of green, purple, orange, and yellow. Bright green flesh has bursts of red streaks that will definitely add intrigue to your vegetable platter. The lip smacking flavor starts out sweet and ends with the perfect amount of tang. What's more, the sprawling indeterminate plant yields a tremendous amount of 1 1/2 pound fruits.
Experience 08-08-10: I cut a small section of stem from the plant in the garden (in June), stuck it in a pot with soil, watered it in, and then placed it in an area that doesn't get direct sun for the next couple of weeks. It eventually started looking decent, which I took to mean that it had finally rooted, and I placed it on the deck where it would get more like 8 hours of direct sun. I finally planted it in the garden on July 26, 2010. So far it hasn't grown noticeably, but it is still dark green and healthy looking.
Experience Update 10-16-10: This plant has taken off in the last couple weeks--it's no where near as tall as the mother plant (3' vs. 6'), but it's healthy looking and it's starting to flower. fingers crossed for fruit set.
End Result: I pulled two tomatoes off of it before I finally let it succumb to the cold weather. When I pulled the plant out a week or so later, I noticed that the roots were completely covered in nematodes. This, of course, was the point where the lightbulb went off in my head and I remembered the reason why I planted the Lemon Boy in that spot in the spring. I have now marked it and I will plant marigolds there for a season or more.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Fall Garden, Growing Season 2011

The fall garden was planted on October 1st and 2nd this year, since most items are repeats from last year, I'll just copy the same blurb as last year. *note* the colors and formatting is all being wonky and I'll just fix it later...famous last words, I know.*

Broccoli: Renee's Garden, All Season Blend; We've mixed equal amounts of seed for these great tasting, high-yielding hybrid varieties with early, mid, and late season maturities for the longest possible harvests. We've chosen cultivars for flavorful, extra-fancy, tightly beaded main heads and abundant side shoots. All three have excellent disease resistance and weather tolerance. Transplant to Harvest: 60.
Notes: I started the seeds in like July or something and transplanted two plants into the garden. They continue to do well. Both planted next to each other in the 'west garden'
Jan 1 update: one of the plants has a tiny itty bitty broccoli head on it so we should be eating broccoli in another month or so.

Chard: Renee's Garden, Italian Silver Rib; A long time favorite of Italian cooks for its flavor and substance, this fine variety has wide, crisp, silvery-white midribs and crinkled, shiny green leaves. The large-framed, handsome plants grow easily and vigorously from spring through late fall. Heirloom Silver Rib produces an abundance of big succulent leaves with sweet crunchy stalks to enjoy as mild, mellow-tasting greens. You'll find it consistently delicious simply steamed with fresh lemon, sautéed with aromatics or added to stir-fries, soups, and casseroles. Days to harvest: 50. Notes: These are the seeds I got for free from the Planning for Spring Gardens Master Gardener seminar.
Notes 2: Planted four in the "east garden"
Jan 1 update: I think 2 maybe came up but were quickly killed off by lack of water/warm weather.

Beets: Renee's Garden, Jewel-Toned Beets (red sangria, golden, and striped chioggia); Our mixture of burgundy, golden, and candy-striped beets yields big harvets with glowing rich colors, succulent texture and sweet earthy flavor. These beets will become an easy to grow, long keeping staple in your garden and kitchen. The smooth roots can be harvested at any size to bake, boil, or steam and enjoy hot and buttered or chilled in an herb vinaigrette. The nutritious young tops are unrivaled as melt-in-your-mouth steamed greens. Days to Harvest: 55.
Notes: I planted six in a specified spot in the 'west garden' and then planted another 6 or so throughout the 'east garden'
Jan 1 Update: same as the chard. I haven't replanted any since Shawn doesn't care for beets.

Carrot: Renee's Garden, Sunshine Mix (Yellowstone and Nantes Forto); Our novelty mix offers gardeners the fun of growing both sunny yellow and bright orange carrots. You'll have eye catching rich harvests of crisp, smooth, evenly cylindrical roots that reach a full 8 inches in length. Both of these premium European varieties taste sweet and crispy with no soapy off-flavors and you can enjoy them over a long harvest period. Whether fresh sliced into carrot sticks, or quickly cooked, their sunshine bright colors are a kitchen gardener's delight! Days to Harvest: 88.
Notes: planted in 2 areas in the 'west garden' but they only appear to be coming up in one area and that area is severely shaded by the lemon balm. I think this may be because I forgot that carrot seedlings need light to germinate. I'll have to replant some more later. Also, I didn't plant any of the Carnival variety yet.
January 1 update: some came up but not very many, I re-planted in late December.

Carrot: Carnival Blend by Botanical Interests Organic; Colored carrots are unique but not new. Grown, and eaten in Asia and Europe 1,000 years ago, they are becoming available once again. Just like the popular orange carrots, red, purple, white and yellow carrots contain plenty of vitamin A and healthy nutrients. Carnival Blend carrots can also be harvested when only 3" to 4" long for gourmet baby carrots. Days to Harvest: 75.
planted in one area in the west garden.
March 19 update: I completely forgot that I did plant some of these carrots until I went and pulled them up to make room for my spring garden plants. The white ones didn't taste like anything, but the purple one was good.

Peas: Ferry Morse Organic, left over from last year
Notes: planted in 2 areas, one in the 'west garden' and one in the 'east garden' They are sprouted and growing.
January 1 update:
Actually the peas did come up, they were just slow. I also planted more in the locations that used to house tomatoes and pepper plants in late December (Sunday before Christmas).

Spinach: Ferry Morse Organic, left over from last year
Notes: I don't think these have come up at all. I will have to replant later.

January 1 update: I replanted the spinach at the end of December (the weekend before Christmas).

Garlic: Already blogged about that here.
Notes: As noted in the link above, so far 2 varieties have not sprouted but the rest are between 1" and 3".
January 1 update: All varieties have sprouted, and I think all of the ones I planted came up. YAY!

Cauliflower: Botanical Interests, Chef's Choice Blend; This colorful mix of three varieties will give you a long harvest period from 75 to 120 days. The white "Snowball", an heirloom variety from 1947, has tight 6½-7½ heads on dwarf plants. "Green Macerataï" is an Italian heirloom with a delicious taste. "Purple of Sicily" is also an Italian heirloom with bright purple heads and mild flavor. Healthy minerals give it the purple color which turns green when cooked. Cauliflower is a cool season crop, and we recommend a late summer planting with fall harvest for best results. It grows best in temperatures around 60 degrees and does not do well in heat. Areas with long cool springs and where summers stay relatively cool will have better success with a spring planting. Late summer planting is recommended in hot summer areas or short spring areas.
Notes: it's impossible to tell what colors are going to be produced by the seeds, so it's just a big ol' guessing game. I ended up with 3 plants.
January 1 update: The plants are still on the small side--to be expected since they're in the east garden which doesn't get as much sun in the fall/winter as the west garden.

Quinoa: Botanical Interests, Brightest Brilliant Rainbow; Annual. Blooms late summer to fall. Full sun. 4'-6' tall. The Incas called quinoa, 'the mother of all grains'. It was planted with a golden tool and offered to the sun in golden vases during solstice. This tall vegetable/ornamental has seed plumes with dazzling colors of hot pink, royal burgundy, red, pumpkin orange, light yellow, creamy white, and lime green. It may initially look a little mundane as plants are growing (it is related to the weed, Lamb's Quarters), but you will be amazed when it produces a rainbow of bright seed plumes filled with edible grains. Use at the back of the flower border for a textural splash of bright colors or grow for the delicious, nutty, high protein grains and nutritious young foliage. Quinoa grains can be cooked like rice, and the tender young leaves can be eaten raw in salads or cooked like spinach. The plumes take around 90-120 days from sowing to appear and will achieve the most intense color when maturing in cool weather.
January 1 update: 4 of the original 6 plants survived and actually started to flower 4" tall instead of the seed packet indicated 4'. I guess that's what the cold weather will do. Unfortunately the seedlings weren't strong enough to hold up their own heads. I guess this is a plant I should re-plant in the spring to see if it does any better.

Onions: Ross once again gave me a handful of onions he had ordered. Experience: The onion were a little harder hit by this year's cold weather - especially the ones in the flower pots. But they appear to be doing fine now (march)

Need to get:

Mustard Greens--specifically the Red Giant or Osaka Purple that Renee Studebaker wrote about earlier this year.
January 1 update: Okay, so I didn't ever make it to anywhere that would have had the greens. gives me something to get next year.