Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I caved in to a hollyhock

Sad, but true.

Apparently I don't actually have a spine (see, a little book pun there).  Or maybe it was just meant to be.

I was looking for balloon flower seeds the other day--once again thwarted in my efforts by the fact that I couldn't actually find any for sale.  One more item to order ahead next year.

But while I was there, I happened to glance at every single other seed they had, just to see what wonders were available in the direction of the "H" flowers and saw my old love, the hollyhock.

If you read back far enough into the archives, you'll see that this isn't event the first time I've been sucked in by hollyhocks--last year I started some way too late in the season, but lost them to a heavy wind that knocked over the flat and let the survivors dry out before I found them.  

Maybe it just wasn't meant to be--or maybe the powers that be were just saving me from missing out on these ones! (I know, denial this bad has got to be a bad sign)

Look what I got, not just any hollyhocks but these beautifully lovely Thompson and Morgan Crème de Cassis ones!
from the Thompson and Morgan website

All kinds of Victorian old fashioned vibe from these babies, I'm so excited!--now if I can keep them out of harm's way...

Friday, March 25, 2011

My once and future Marigolds

Snowdrift Marigolds
(from the Burpee website)
In 2009, at Rose's request, we planted some Snowdrift Marigolds in the back garden.
I believe they were newly introduced at the time (but don't quote me, I couldn't find any back-up so it could just be one of those strange wrong impressions) and, unlike most marigolds, the packaging said that these guys really like a little afternoon shade--at the same time we were newbies looking for some cottagey-looking things to try in our afternoon shady back garden.  Perfect!
And really, in my humble opinion, they were perfect.  The color was a really sweet, creamy shade--not the usual vibrancy of yellow marigolds.  And unlike the small marigolds I was used to, these were giants, much more like the zinnias my grandmother grew than the marigolds I was used to (which probably tells you more about the narrowness of my experiences with marigolds than anything else, but there you have it...)

I like marigolds, but I loved these!

In 2009 with Rose
Last year, however, I was not able to plant any seeds until the end of April and didn't even try to buy any, for that matter.  When I was feeling a bit better, I did try to pick up a pack of these at my local big greenhouse (they have lots of varieties you don't get at most places) but with no luck at all.  Either they were sold out completely or they never were around to begin with.  And I assumed it was the latter.

I even tried to find them on the Burpee site, but either I was missing them or they weren't there in May.

I have no idea why I didn't save seeds in 2009, but by the time I hit 2010, I figured these were no longer available and wouldn't be in our garden again.

Fast forward to today--I was at our smaller really local garden center, trying to pick up some tall Stock seeds on a whim to give those a go this year.  No luck with those at all (note to self: next year order some) but guess what I found?  That's right--welcome home Snowdrift Marigolds!

It's probably still too early to be time to plant these--they did great direct sowing in 2009--but I confess, I did put a few in some dirt inside to see how they do.  I figure I've waited long enough!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Guess I shouldn't have worried - 1st sprouts of 2011!

I mentioned a couple of days ago that I was planting some older seeds - I was a bit concerned and put one more seed in each cell than I would normally do to make up for the fact that they probably wouldn't all be viable after a couple of years.
Turns out I shouldn't have worried; here we have them--my first sprouts of 2011 - ta-da!

brand new best boy tomato sprouts
The moonflowers and my hybrid best boy tomatoes (both from 2009) are both coming up, and at least for those tomatoes, I'm seeing 3 sprouts for 3 seeds in almost every cell.  Don't know if viability is more in line with my grandparents thinking or keeping the seeds in a ziplock freezer bag in the freezer for years is just the way to go?  But either way, I'll take it!

Slightly humorous side note: Not only did I wake up with moonflowers  and tomatoes, but also snow!  

Moonflowers, tomatoes, and snow!

Rose is pretty unhappy to have the snow back again (it's been a long sort of winter around here), and I'm looking at the lawn furniture we set up last weekend and having a hard time wrapping my brain around still more of the white stuff...but, at least I have these lovely little sprouts to wish me well and hint very strongly that winter is really nearing it's end.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Things that like broccoli

One of the worst things about my garden last year had to be the slugs and worms.  Hadn't had much of a problem with them they year before, but in 2010 I decided to mix it up a bit and plant some broccoli and beets in with my flowers in the back garden.
The beets (bulls blood, golden, and chioggia)  were awesome (even if I enjoyed them lots more than Rose or my dear husband did, both of them did eat some, and I got a kick out of them, at any rate).

The broccoli (Waltham 29) tasted really good (more tender and sweet than store bought heads) the one and only time I actually ate it, but jeez was it trouble with pests!

Broccoli, mid-summer 2010--see the beginnings of slug munching?
or maybe this was the cabbage worms after slug recovery?
at any rate, see my broccoli being eaten, and not by me?

First off were the slugs (ick, slugs!)...honestly, at first I had no idea why the leaves were looking like Swiss cheese, until one day Rose and I were out in the rain and noticed some orangy brown things stuck on the wall behind the garden.  Looked a bit closer and found they were clearly and unmistakeably slugs.  Looked more and more and noticed more and more--on the walls, on the ground, on the leaves of just about everything--just about everywhere.

Rose and I plucked an killed slugs for an hour or so until we couldn't find more.  In the process we learned that they are slimy, stick hard, and stain your hands a nasty orange yellow.

That very day I made some slug traps* out of soda bottles bated with yeast-sugar-water.  Also, my husband bought us some rubber gloves for slug picking.

Maybe this was enough to scare them away, or maybe it was just the dry sunny weather that followed, but after the great slug massacre of '10, we rarely saw them again (outside of our nightmares, of course).

But...just when I thought it was finally safe to enjoy a tasty batch of broccoli, we ran into trouble #2: cabbage worms.  No point telling these nasty things that broccoli isn't cabbage--believe me, they don't care a bit.
The worst part of these is that they refuse to leave--you may think you looked over every inch of the broccoli, soaked it carefully for an hour, cut and picked and carefully examined--doesn't matter a bit.  After that first clean batch that let me know that garden broccoli is very nice, every single time after that, I opened up my pot to find steamed broccoli mixed with, yep, steamed worms.  ick, ick, ick!

I'm sure there is something good and natural I could do to control them, but I never did come up with it.  After a few more attempts all ended with chucking the broccoli and worms together into the trash, I just waived my white flag and left the broccoli alone where it grew.  Truly, I finally yanked up the bent, smelly remains of stalks just last week--bad gardening habit, but I guess that's how much I wanted to just wish the whole mess away.

At the time I was so disgusted I swore I would never grow broccoli again, but the long cold winter has softened me a bit, I guess.  This week I put a few early broccoli seeds in the dirt.  But, I put them in one of my big pots away from the free ground.  And I plan on covering them with netting the instant they show themselves (and if I think too hard about it, I'll probably be tempted to go out and cover them right now before they've even had the chance to sprout under the dirt, just to be on the safe side!).  

And if I have the same troubles again, I guess giving up fresh broccoli is going to seem like a pretty fine deal if it lets me give up on these nasty things.

* I found my slug trap design online somewhere--cut the top 1/3 off a plastic soda bottle, inverted it over the rest of the bottle, buried it nearly to the top in the garden, filled it with bait.  The idea is to lure them in and, once in, they fall into the bottom part and can't slither back up.  Of course, I did find a few hanging out at the cap part dipping their [whatever it is that slugs dip, tongue? toe?] into the bait.  Believe me, I was neither too squeemish nor too tender-hearted to help them all the way in, not after the nastiness that lead to the trap idea, at any rate.

Monday, March 21, 2011

This old seed

For better or for worse, 2011 is starting out as a lean year around here and I'm trying to make good use of the seeds I have left over (ok, or purchased and not used...I admit it!).  
I know they (yes, the big and powerful "they") say to always purchase and use fresh seeds because they (the seeds, not the big and powerful "they") are more reliable and less frustrating.  But, problem is, I actually have these older seeds here with me and, even in more plentiful years, I am pretty cheap.

Also, I have my grandparents to thank for setting a good/bad example for my seed holding on habits--I have fond memories of my Iowa grandparents incredible vegetable garden (and, to be honest, memories of me and my brother griping our way through the daily task of picking rows of bush beans and peas--but even that has turned into a fond memory!).  Really, they were incredible and probably the inspiration for my gardening--not only would they proudly grow all kinds of everything, but my grandma would proceed to can, pickle, and blanch and freeze to feed themselves all through the winter.  Amazing (and absolutely the best pickles ever, bar none)!
And, as I was saying, they set a good/bad example for my seed holding on habits--in addition to the fond garden memories, I have fond memories of them going through the old seed packets they had saved in a coffee can in the outdoor shed and deciding what would or wouldn't be fine to use--10 to 15 years old might be pushing it, maybe, but 1 or 2 years was a no problem no brainer.

So, I figure what's the harm in trying?

But, along with the trying is a bit of trying to evaluate what did or didn't go so well for me last year and make another step or 2 in a different, more hopeful direction.

One of those strange failures was actually my Brandywine tomatoes--weird, huh?  Everything I've read says these are slow but the best tasting tomatoes anyone will ever have the privilege to eat.  Slow was right, but tasty?  No, not the plants we had, anyway--neither Rose nor I were very impressed.  Too bad because I had hoped to be able to save the seeds and have them for this year, but didn't seem worth the effort to us, both with the unimpressive taste, the unimpressive wait, and the impressively small yield we ended up with.

Best Boy from Burpee Website

Now I fully understand that sometimes some plants just don't go true to strain, and I even wonder if these nursery purchases had been mislabeled, but for whatever reason, with high hopes and without much space to spare, it was not the highpoint of our 2010 garden.  This year I've started some Best Boy Hybrid seeds that I had in the freezer from a couple of years ago--I'd like to get my hands on something heirloom to try again and save the seeds, but that may have to wait for another season.
Chocolate Cherry tomatoes
At least I have some 2009 Chocolate Cherry tomatoes started, as well--I had those in 2009 and they grew well and tasted nice--at the time Rose was quite put off by the purple/brown color, but I'm hoping that will go better now that she's an 11 year old and not 9--and one way or the other, those aren't hybrid and the seeds should be just fine to save and grow again for free! Does my frugal heart good.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

This is me waving sheepishly...

It's been a while, hasn't it?

We finally had a springish day around here and I planted some seeds indoors in flats and a few hopeful cold-liking (or at least not cold-hating) things outdoors (some peas, lettuce (lettuces?), broccoli, and spinach)--feels good to be planting things and even better when I remember what shape I was in last year at this time that putting things in flats felt like too much to handle--ahh, this is better!

I do sincerely apologize for being such a terrible blogger.  And a lazy blogger.  And a blogger who got very sidetracked by a one week vacation and didn't find her way back for 9 months--sheesh!

Hope to recap the rest of 2010 here as I go along, and wishing all of you (or any of you who still read this?) a blessed and bountiful 2011 season as it is or will be (I'm extremely jealous of the Southern garden bloggers I'm catching up on--imagethey're predicting snow to rain for us tomorrow and you have actual blooms and sunshine!).