Saturday, February 28, 2009

Shovel-ready blog

Well, there's been a flurry of activity over in my backyard, thanks in large part to an open weekend and lovely weather. I finally got to go out to enrich one swath of the back garden that's been neglected for a while - three bags of compost and three bags of manure, graciously spread for me by my awesome husband. Thanks, babe!

Add to that the planting of 150 sweet yellow onion sets, weeding approximately 225 square feet, deep-feeding the overwintered vegetables (which are doing great! more in another post soon), and planting radishes, daikons, shallots, leeks, Brussels sprouts, hamburg rooted parsley, and parnsips, and I'd call it a very productive afternoon in the garden.

BUT...I'm already seeing harlequin bugs, which frustrates me.

Seems a bit early...Also spotted two of the dreaded white "butterflies" that indicate cabbage worms to come. Perhaps our relatively mild winter was too mild!

In any case, I'll have to watch out for them this year. Last year they pretty much devastated my cole crops. The snails were also a problem and I've been saving and crushing my egg shells all winter to make a homegrown version of diatomaceous earth. Don't know if it will work, but it's worth a shot!

I am very pleased with how everything has overwintered so I'm excited to write more about that and include pictures...soon!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Sweet little sleeping seedies!

Well, all the little pepper-fellas but the red savinas from 2003 (which I predicted wouldn't sprout and so far haven't) are up and awake and stretching their little leaf hands up to the lights.

They're back! Peppers planted 1/23/09

I have a few that are still trying to outgrow their seed shell. You can see that in the picture above. If the shell is just hanging on to the edge of a leaf, it's not that big of a deal, but there are two that are mostly still contained in the seed shell, on top of a relatively long stalk. This is a problem because the seed leaves are pivotal to get the whole plant off the ground (so to speak). The first two leaves make enough plant juice for the rest to grow forth. If they break off, the plant is dead, nothing-doing. And it's sad to watch it go from a green, headless stalk to a withered up brown thing...In the past when I've tried to worry these off I've usually ended up messing up the plant, either breaking off the leaves all together or seriously clipping them. So I'm trying to resist doing that this year (like not picking at a sunburn!). I'm trying to keep the seed shell damp so that it'll be easier to outgrow and split.

You can also see my super-awesome, massively high-tech approach to lights. They're located on top of my refrigerator. On one side I put tacks in the wall and propped the lights on top of them. The other side balances on phone books. This way I can keep the lights as close to the plants as possible and move them up as needed. I've seen ingenious ways of doing this that involve carpentry and chains. This is my low-fi version! And hey, it works for one flat, so why not?

Today I planted my tomatoes. I want them to be a bit bigger than last year's by the time I plant them out (1st or 2nd week of April in these parts). After my super-fun seed swap with the Frau, I ended up with a variety of tomatoes for this year. I double planted each cell pack and will hopefully end up with the following:

Green Zebra (seed saved from last year; hugely, hugely productive!)
Pink Paul Robeson (I saved seed from a plant that went more pink than the rest and so tasty!)
Paul Robeson (ditto - last year's purchase from Baker Creek)
Black Zebra (New to me - THANK YOU, FRAU!)
Great White (New to me - THANK YOU, FRAU!)
Thessaloniki (free gift seed pack from BC)
Cuor di Bue (picked these up in Greece!)
Pink Israel (free gift seed pack from BC)
Big Month roma (this year's purchase from BC)
Opalka (last year's purchase from Pinetree)
Golden Queen (last year's purchase from Pintree)
Banana Legs (on clearance at Pinetree last year)
Cherokee Purple (I grew these five years ago and LOVED THEM - THANK YOU, FRAU!)

I also planted ground cherries due to the enthusiastic recommendations of my co-local gardener and oklavore. I'm excited to see what happens with them! I've never tried anything like them (fruit, berries, tomatillos, nada!). Hopefully I will get to make jam, too!

Happy planting!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Why choosing where you buy your seeds matters

Hello, hello!

It's garden-dreaming, seed-buying, row-sketching, and early planting time! If you haven't already bought your seeds, let me encourage you to read this article. It's very important to support the good guys when it comes to where your seed dollars go. Our food supply has been forced into exponential reduction in richness, quality, and diversity by a few, huge, deep-pocketed members of the agribusiness industry. At one point there were thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of varieties of vegetables and flowers. Now, most people are offered a few types which are largely specialized and barren hybrids, incapable of reproducing on their own. Instead of being able to save the seeds from these plants growers have to buy new seeds and plants each year. It makes great fiscal sense for the devious minds and moneyholders involved. It gives the average farmer the shaft, not to mention the dangerous ramifications involved when some of these seeds are genetically modified to produce their own pesticide or resist certain herbicides (which we're subsidizing, by the way). If you buy your seeds at your local garden center, chances are you're supporting that ecological genocide.

Diversity = complexity = richness = safety. You can find a treasure trove of gorgeous, safe, open-pollinated (ie "savable") seed stock from such modern seed heroes as Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, The Seed Savers Exchange, Seeds of Change, Native Seeds, Pinetree, and the Sand Hill Preservation Center. Do you know of other good companies you'd recommend?

Please read the article and be thoughtful when you make your purchases. There are waaaaaaaaayyyyyyy better tomatoes than Better Boy and Early Girl. Go grow some heirlooms or open-pollinated varities and give Monsanto et al. the big, fat financial finger!