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What do you have started for the 2010 garden?

Each year we try to start more of our own seeds rather than buy transplants from the nursery. We're also moving away from hybrids towards more open pollinated and heritage varieties. It wasn't intentional, it just seems to be happening that way. This year we're going to try seedsaving those varieties we particularly like. We're in zone 6b, sw VA, Blue Ridge Mountains.

So far we have started:
Imperial and Violetta Artichokes: 1st time in the garden and an experiment. The imperials are bred for annual production, the Violettas supposedly are hardy enough to overwinter in our zone with protection.
Onions from seed: Never have done that before. The seedlings are doing great with the added bonus of snipping the tips to add to salads.
Lettuce: head only, we direct seed leaf
Marconi Peppers
Savoy Cabbage

Next weekend (3/13) the plastic goes on the garden to warm up the soil. Two weeks from now (3/20) we'll seed the tomatoes and eggplants indoors, and in three weeks (3/27) we'll be direct seeding the peas and spinach outdoors.

It snowed again yesterday....*sigh*

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  1. I meant to try some winter sowing (mostly flowers) but haven't started a thing yet. I did remember to buy some Pro Mix and last night, finally, ordered seeds from 3 different companies. I plan to try some onion and shallots from seed.

    Last year I started a variety of things except for tomatoes and peppers. We can get heirloom plants from a local grower. I'm not sure how much of a head start I got since we had a late frost here in NH. This year it looks like we might have an early spring. The snow is disappearing quickly. I'd like to get some spinach direct seeded ASAP since it is day length sensitive. My best crops have been when I can get it in the ground very early.

    Do you use lights indoors?

    2 Replies
    1. re: dfrostnh

      I'm using my old desk lamp from college as my "grow" light since it's been grey and rainy here in Norcal. I've started:
      Several varities of tomatoes and chilies
      butternut squash
      spaghetti squash
      carving pumpkins
      cooking pumpkins

      I'll be directaly planting beets, carrorts, leeks, leetuce, and whatever fun transplants
      I have room leftover for

      1. re: dfrostnh

        We use lights but not grow lights. We follow Nancy Bubel's suggestion and use one high and one low spectrum florescent tube in each of our fixtures. And like Miss G, I use my ancient, heavy desk lamp for my indoor pot of winter mixed greens. It accommodates 2 18" florescents.

      2. Tomato's...
        Cherokee Purple, Sicilian Giant saucer, Black KRim, Omars Lebanese, Voyager {"smart tomato" looks like small cluster of brains}, Sausage tomato {looks like Annehiem pepper} .... and as soon as I get the next seed shipment, Purple Calabash, White something or other, Green Zebra, and Brandywine

        Bhut Jolokia {the hottest pepper on the planet you are standing on}, Peter Pepper {most unique looking XXX rated pepper}, Purple Tiger, Chinese Giant Bells, Hungarian Paprika, and Alma Paprika.

        Purple Artichoke, Peanuts for the dog, cannabis vine {Hops}, Giant Sunflower, Elephant Head Amaranth, Black Mammoth Wrapper leaf tobacco, Havana filler tobacco, and some Kenaf {looks like Hemp}

        Indoors, I am trying a dwarf Banana. In the Aerogarden I am trying Piper Nigrum {black pepper}

        3 Replies
        1. re: Rojellio

          I live in Toronto, Ontario. Too much snow & too cold. Too early to start seeds inside.

          1. re: Rojellio

            Here is my set-up. I am trying "Sure to grow" cubes, the white stuff in the flat with the large dome. Hydroponic stores have both. So far I like the cubes. The wine jug is my CO2 enrichment system. Its just water, sugar and yeast.

            1. re: Rojellio

              I see you have an air lock on the jug. Is it venting into the room in general or do you have it running somehow to the seed dome? I'm curious because I just happen to have a jug of mead fermenting next to my starter shelves. It was the only place I had to stash it.

          2. So far, sugar snap peas, and potatoes. On trees. pluots, apricots, nectarines, figs are flowering/budding. And two grape vines, two meyer lemons, two blood orabge trees,but no flowers on those yet. Just laid a lasagna bed; not sure what's going in it. Something that doesn't mind 100 degree temps.

            2 Replies
              1. re: Shrinkrap

                Woohoo! Ours just started blooming. I'm jonesin' !

            1. Here in Zone 5, I've started spinach, rainbow swiss chard, and dwarf kale indoors to be transplanted in ~ two weeks. My strawberries from last year are peaking up.

              As for tomatoes and peppers I will start the seeds in April for late May planting. While we are having unseasonably warm weather, it's still Ohio. (Drastic changes in weather without notice.) Will probably plant snake beans and squash as well.

              1. I have five varietes of tomatoes in the green house, they have just started to come up in the seed mix. Also peas are coming up, basil, thyme, got some beets started and cabbage. Also have 2 flats of sun flowers and 12 flats of annuals that are starting to grow.

                Planted potatoes today in some mounds that I prepared last fall, two blue varieties, a yukon and some fingerlings.

                trying to propagate some more fig trees, no roots yet so I will leave them wrapped up in the plastic and wet paper towels until they get ready to pot.

                Nice having a gas heated green house this time of year, I can be growing things early and get a jump on the season.

                1. Update: The plastic is on the garden hoops warming the soil. The artichokes are growing like crazy and were transferred into bigger pots. The overwintered herbs are putting on new growth and the strawberries are greening up. Planted cilantro seeds and "Zavoy" pepper seeds. Spinach seeds are up.
                  Didn't get much more than that accomplished this weekend because while the snow is gone, the snowmelt and rain on top of that has turned us from snowbound to knee deep in muck. *bleh.* Plus we went to the VA. Highlands this weekend for the Maple Festival and scored two gallons of Maple Syrup! And some really cool maple candies for the grandkids' Easter baskets!
                  Oh yeah, pruned the apple trees and sprayed them with dormant oil last week. Noticed buds on the seckel pear and the baby stone pines are greening up. I'm worried about our kiwis, blueberries and raspberries which just went in last fall. Not looking so good. Paw Paws and Josta berries seem fine.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: morwen

                    Just for fun here in Boston (zone 6a) I planted some swiss chard seeds outside, in large self-watering planters. The day was so beautiful, and the recent weather so horrible, that I couldn't resist! It was only about 12 seeds, no big whoop if they don't come up. But what delight if they do............

                    Thanks morwen for mentioning the plastic to warm the soil. I may try that on a couple of my planters before putting the peas and other greens in. Happy gardening, all!

                    1. re: morwen

                      Morwen, could you elaborate on your garden hoops and plastic. I have been researching row tunnels and cold frames but I'm confused. Do you use plastic in the spring to warm things up and Agribon or similar in the fall to keep things warm?
                      Last weekend started some hardy annuals and perennials with the winter sowing method. Also started some onion and shallot seeds with the same method. Busy weekend coming up but I'm itching here near Concord NH (zone 5) to plant sugar snap peas, spinach etc outside. My husband dug parsnips yesterday and said about 6" down the ground was still frozen. Although there are puddles in the yard we are much drier than southern NH and MA which had more rain and some serious flooding.

                      1. re: dfrostnh

                        Here's some photos of our set up: http://www.chow.com/photos/378904 The hoops are electrical conduit inserted over rebar stuck in the ground. The greenhouse plastic goes on in the fall to extend the harvest and remains on through to late spring. It's then replaced with netting to keep out critters. We attach the netting with loose zip ties so it can be pushed up the hoops to work the beds. The plastic is clipped to the hoops with those giant metal paper clips with arms, and the bottom weighted with rocks in both cases. On the flat beds we just spread the plastic (same plastic in all uses) flat and weight it with rocks to warm the beds in the spring. Elliot Coleman's book, "The Winter Harvest Handbook" is all about cold hoop houses/tunnels and lists cold hardy varieties that work well for him in NE.
                        We're experimenting with floating row covers this year to hopefully limit damage from flea beetles and other insects that have been attacking our seedlings and transplants. Coleman says that the use of floating row covers in conjunction with the hoop tunnels will extend the harvest even further through the winters.

                        1. re: morwen

                          thanks. I opened Eliot Coleman's book this morning. Obviously, too much time has passed since I read it last. I lost a late planting of beans last fall from an early frost in mid-September while I was away. Two more weeks and we would have been eating beans. Last spring we had a late frost but we covered things. Row tunnels to have an extra month of veggies from the garden seem like a good investment. It looks like you have a nice set up.

                          I know the success rate is better for cold hardy vegetables in the fall but I sure would like to have fresh beans until the end of September. In some years we don't get a frost until early October.

                          1. re: dfrostnh

                            We had fresh green beans, cherry tomatoes, eggplant, and broccoli on the T-day table, and greens, carrots, radishes, turnips and beets through December until an ice load brought the plastic down. The hoops shed the snow easily but a night time ice storm did us in. The hoops didn't break, they bent. We may break down and buy a conduit bender from Johnny's Selected Seeds and change to metal conduit or try doubling the number of hoops per bed which would be a lot cheaper than the conduit bender.
                            We're also going to try putting plastic over some of our trellis crops this year. We're lucky to have the garden on a south face slope protected by a steep hill behind it that cuts the prevailing winds so everything is in sun from dawn to dusk. We may not get as extended a harvest as we do out of the hooped beds but I'm thinking I can keep the indeterminate tomatoes going a good deal longer this way.

                    2. Whoa, haven't started much yet, though within the next two weeks I'll be beginning tomatoes and such. I have started:

                      genovese basil
                      lemon basil
                      lemon balm

                      Weather as been amazing the past few days. *Right this second* Dad is out rototilling my garden. He's so awesome. I'm seriously considering putting in peas, kohlrabi, kale, lettuces, and cabbage out tomorrow. I've never tried direct-seeding cabbage, but hey, if it's not up by the end of May (our last frost date) I can get plants to put in.

                      1. I was just watering in the greenhouse, it is over 90 degrees in there.

                        Basil is up, tomatoes are sprouted, sunflowers, fig cuttings are in plastic bags and about to sprout, 15 flats of annuals, peas are just sprouting. Potatoes planted in the mounds I made last October.

                        Darn nice sunny day today in Oregon :)

                        1. I just started peas and beans inside. I want to put in some arugula and mache in this weekend. Just got the seeds I ordered for the year: 4 cherry tomato varieties, buran peppers and bushy cukes.

                          1. Hot peppers (three asian varieties), tomatillos, and tomatoes (cherry and brandywine) are indoors under lights, for transplanting in mid May. Wintersown kale, mustards, bunching onion, gai lan, and kohlrabi just germinated on my porch yesterday, in time for today's foot of snow. Snow peas will be direct seeded the last weekend of March, weather permitting. I have a community garden plot, and our water isn't turned on until some unknown time, usually in April - could be April 1, could be April 20. I am reluctant to plant much until the water is turned on, and May snows are not uncommon anyway (Colorado 5a).

                            I have a hoop and row cover setup that I use on my asian brassicas, pvc hoops set with rebar. In spring (until early June) and fall (starting early Sept), I use the heaviest weight agribon polyspun row cover. In summer, I use a cotton gauze which acts to keep out insects and also to raise humidities and moderate nighttime temperatures. We always have cool nights, low humidity (single digit relative humidity is not uncommon), and brutal sun, and the plants seem happy under the gauze even on 100+F days. The warm season brassicas will be direct seeded in May, squash will also be direct seeded in late May under water walls.

                            One of my artichokes seems to have survived winter so far, under a layer of straw and double thickness of the heavy agribon. I have hopes of actually getting artichokes for once, we usually get snow before first-year artichokes have a chance to send up the flower spike.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: lotuseedpaste

                              lotuseedpaste, thanks for your experience with hoops. The covering has confused me but as you pointed out, it needs to change with the temperature/sun conditions.

                              Morwen, fresh veggies for T-day is now a goal I will aim for. Thanks for your examples. My garden is just north of Concord NH. Thanks to hills and valleys, I know we get frost a bit earlier than neighbors less than a mile away. The house should give some wind protection.

                            2. We've had a run of glorious weather and the raised beds have warmed nicely so we're upping our schedule by a week.
                              Peas, onions, lettuce, spinach, shallots, garlic, broccoli, cabbage are going in the beds this week. The plastic will still stay on since we're still getting frosts. We've tilled another 800 sq. ft or so of new beds (and gathered plenty of rock out of them for rubble walls). The apple, fig and pear trees are budding as is the Josta berry. We bought a little Stanly Plum today. Seeds for Currant, Principe Borghese, and Amish Paste tomatoes, Japanese eggplants, Genovese, Cinnamon, Lime, and Lemon Basil, Cilantro, Marjoram, Zavoy Peppers, Mini-Bells, Carnival bells, were all planted today indoors. The potted perennial herbs are breaking dormancy and soon I can move them to their permanent home in the new herb garden. We laid out tarps and old carpeting on the very steep and weedy hillside below the house to kill off the vegetation there in hopes of replanting it in the future with ground covers, wild flowers and lilies. Too steep to mow safely, hoping to convert it to something carefree that will compete with the weeds. Suggestions welcome!

                              1. jfood going full hog this year, he's building 10 4*8' raised beds with irrigation.

                                tomatoes, lettuce, melon, watermelons, broccoli, brussel sprouts cucs, peppers in the plans. Seeds get started tomorrow (~150) under 80 watts of gro lights plus sun when applicable.

                                Oh boy he hopes no blight this year.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: jfood

                                  YAY jfood! I'm with you on the whole blight thing. Luckily we had lots of tomatoes last year before it hit. Had enough to make enough sauce and roasted 'maters to get us through the winter. But no salsa, and no canned plain tomatoes. We picked everything off and pulled and burned the plants as soon as we discovered it. If it hits this year I'll be seriously bummed.

                                2. I put tomatoes in the yard in Sept (South Fl) but with our stinking winter (don't laugh northerners) the plants took an age to get going. I was supposed to see fruit after 3 -4 months but finally my plants are cropping and I have had about half a dozen tomatoes so far. I am looking forward to having a number ripen in the next week or 2 and with any luck the plants should keep going for some months still.

                                  1. Arugula, butter crunch lettuce, onions, rosemary. I'm new to outdoor gardening (Aside from "helping" mom when I was a kid (mostly messing it up)

                                    Here's what I've built:


                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: tzakiel

                                      What a great start! We've been using the square foot method for a couple of decades now and subscribe to training vertical every crop we can. In addition, we use market garden strategies of interplanting. For example, in the photo on your blog, you could have planted multiple onions (honestly, you can never have too many onions. Pick varieties with good storage qualities) in the spaces around the lettuces because the lettuce will mature and be gone by the time the onions get big enough to crowd the lettuces. Or, you can still seed lots radishes around the lettuces because they are a quick crop (28 days). I would suggest a separate bed for your strawberries because they have a 4 year lifespan and you shouldn't allow them to fruit the first year, pick off all the blossoms. Then next year you'll have well established plants and a bumper crop. They'll also put out new runners which will root. As the mother plants get tired and produce less, you cut the runners to the younger plants and remove the old ones. With the regular addition of compost and mulch your strawberry bed will produce for years. I also highly suggest netting over the bed to keep critters and birds off your berries! Also, keep your sweet and hot peppers well separated (some sources recommend a distance of 50 feet) because they can pollinate each other and you'll end up with a spicy bell pepper. Peppers do well in pots so you may want to consider growing your hots in pots a good distance away from the sweets. Plant basil around your tomatoes and nasturtiums or marigolds around the edges of your beds. They attract bad bugs away from your other plants. I like using nasturtiums because I can pickle the pods to make faux capers. Tomatoes are space eaters. Choose determinate varieties so they don't overwhelm your bed, or alternatively, put indeterminate tomatoes all on the end, erect a trellis and train them upwards. Ours are conduit stuck on rebar, cheap, easy, durable. http://www.chow.com/photos/378918 Have a great time in your garden!

                                    2. I'm in the Dallas area, on the cusp of zones 7 and 8. I purchased a few herbs and a couple of tomato plants 2 weekends ago and will be planting them within the week. Last year, on a whim, I successfully started and harvested a bell pepper plant from the seed of a grocery story pepper. I plan to do that again this year.

                                      1. I'm near San Diego, and was lucky enough to get a great gardening yard. The previous owner had been an avid gardener. A lot of my plants overwintered this year, so I have eggplants and peppers from last season. This year, I added 6 artichokes and 8 tomatoes. This weekend I'll add the carrots, parsnips, and cucumbers on large containers.

                                        1. Update: Zone 6b, sw VA, Blue Ridge Mts.
                                          In the garden: bush peas, spinach transplants and direct seeded, broccoli, cabbage, onions, scallions, head lettuce transplants, direct seeded leaf lettuce, turnips, pak choi, beets, fava beans, kohlrabi, chard, vining peas, artichokes.

                                          In the herb garden: tarragon, three mints, oregano, winter savory, two thymes, two sages, rosemary, all up. Lost a number of perennial herbs to bad winter. Dill, four kinds of basil, and cilantro are just waiting for last frost to go out.

                                          In the orchard: apples, pears, josta berry, peaches, plum all in bloom or ready to bloom. Still being protected against frost. Kiwis, cane berries, blueberries all budding, strawberries beginning to bloom.

                                          We're keeping up with our schedule but barely. Neighbor just dropped off a truckload of daylillies for our hill. We are so unready to plant those!

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: morwen

                                            Good job! How much time do you think you spend in the garden weekly? Since I last posted, I "lasagna'ed" another neglected raised bed. These have had root knot nematodes in years past.

                                            1. re: Shrinkrap

                                              Right now we're sort of frenzied. We bought this house a year and a half ago and started the gardens last year. We've moved 6 times in the past 17 years (work related) and started gardens at each house. Wish I could have moved them with us although I have brought various starts from each move. This house is permanent. So we're putting in more hours than we would if the gardens were established. Right now on a daily basis we're probably putting in 2 hours each on the weekdays and 6-8 hours each daily on the weekends. My husband's on a roll and far be it from me to discourage him! All the spring veg is in as of today. We have a few fruit trees and berry bushes to put in, and we'll slow a few days and then the beans go in, and then the warmer weather stuff - eggplants, tomatoes, etc.
                                              We started onion and artichoke seeds back in Jan, followed by the spring veg, and then the summer veg but that only required a few minutes each day.
                                              Our goal is to wean ourselves off of the supermarket as much as possible, and buy local in our county as much as possible. Since reading "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle", "The Omnivore's Dilemma", watching "Food, Inc.", and visiting Joel Salatin's family at Polyface Farms, my husband's on board with me and we're on a mission!

                                                1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                  Wow morwen, keep us posted. I admire your mission.

                                          2. New, dog proof, water system. Also have enhanced the beds with compost and (sterilized) steer manure. Heirloom tomato plants from Gurneys are on order (still way too cold to plant here). A new bean tower installed in one of the beds. Blueberry bushes on order and several herbs already underway in pots in the kitchen window. I also ordered some seeds that I couldn't find around here (ie, French breakfast radishes). I am SOOO ready for winter to finally be over. Forgot to add that the apple, pear, cherry and peach trees all got pruned a few months ago and are all heavily (but still tighly) budded up. Late frost last year really hurt and I only got enough peaches for 2 pies. Keeping my fingers crossed.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: nvcook

                                              We have a semi-dwarf Red Haven that we put in last year (need to get it a pollination friend) that is showing it's first blooms. We got a Meader patio peach last week and I think that's the way we're going to go with peaches. The patio peaches only grow waist high, are heavy bearers for their size at maturity and the Meaders are self-pollinating. We have the first one in a large wheeled pot so we can roll it into the garage if frost threatens its blooms. The plan is to acquire 8 of them so we can create an allee approach to either the house or the pergola. Peaches are my absolute favorite fruit and I hate it when there's a bad peach year!

                                            2. Zone 6a, Boston, MA area

                                              I have a container garden on my balcony, and this is my first year. I'm excited!

                                              Seeds sown today: Arugula, wild arugula, tom thumb lettuce, de morges braun lettuce, bloomsdale long standing spinach
                                              I'll be putting in the pink beauty & purple plum radishes tomorrow along with little finger carrots.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: tazia

                                                I so love container gardening! We had one house where the deer and the soil were so bad that containers were the way to go. Depending on the size and weight load your balcony can carry you might want to consider planting some crops directly in the bags the soil comes in. Works great for all greens, scallions and cippolli (Sp?) onions, and root crops like short carrots, radishes, beets, turnips. Also did potatoes in large trash bags by placing 3" soil in the bottom of the bag, laying in the potato eyes and covering with another 3" of soil. As the green tops poked through I added another layer of soil and continued doing this through the season, effectively growing the potatoes vertically in the bag. There are so many great veggies out there scaled down for containers and small spaces that with a little creativity you can have a petite farm on your balcony. Remember to go vertical with as much as you can for more efficiency. Squash, zucchini, cukes, watermelon, cantalope, most anything that vines can grow vertically. Have fun and let us know how your garden progresses!

                                              2. I planted my herbs: 2 kinds of basil, sage, chives, dill, cilantro and thyme and bell peppers, romaine, green leaf lettuce, snow peas, ancho chiles, collards, green peas, zucchini, yellow tomatoes and jalapenos on the 6th/7th.

                                                On 13th/14th I planted more zucchini, yellow squash, okra, green beans, yellow wax beans, casabel peppers and more bell peppers. Today, I'm going to plant marigolds, cucumbers, tomatillos and cherry tomatoes, maybe watermelon and canteloupe.

                                                I have seedlings from my lettuce sprouting up I noticed yesterday...

                                                9 Replies
                                                1. re: Cherylptw

                                                  Wow! What zone are you in? Do you know your nightime lows?

                                                  1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                    I'm in zone 8. Tonight it's 60F. degrees; according to a chart, my last frost date was early April so I'm on schedule.

                                                    1. re: Cherylptw

                                                      I envy your growing season!
                                                      We left our warm weather transplants (tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, etc) outside last night for the first time. I'm sure we're going to get a least one more hard frost here. Our hooped raised beds are all full at this point and the new trellised terraces intended for the 'maters aren't quite done yet. I intend to hoop and cover the terraces in the fall to extend the tomatoes into winter. That is, if we can avoid the blight this year.

                                                      1. re: morwen

                                                        I'd love to be able to have a raised bed (my mom has a raised bed) and to have something covered but I'm not sure how to go about doing it (the hoop covers); seems expensive, no? I live in a little town where they don't sell that kind of stuff. I noticed my collards have sprouted up and the first zucchini I planted has popped up.

                                                        On another note, I killed a baby snake this evening when going to turn the dirt over in an unoccupied part of the garden. This is one of the things I hate about gardening as I don't do snakes!

                                                        1. re: Cherylptw

                                                          You can do the hoop covers whether you have a raised bed or not and they're inexpensive. We get 2' lengths of rebar and electrical PVC conduit at the local big box hardware store. Pound the rebar pieces a foot into the ground on either side of the bed, then insert one end of the conduit over the rebar, bend it over and insert on to the other rebar. When all the hoops are in place lay another piece of conduit across the center top of the hoops and fasten to the hoops where it crosses each one. We use ball bungees for this because we have lots but anything will do. Cover with either plastic or netting (netting available in the garden dept) depending on the season. Photo with netting here: http://www.chow.com/photos/378904?tag...

                                                          1. re: morwen

                                                            Thanks for that info; I'll look into it for my fall garden

                                                      2. re: Cherylptw

                                                        Cool! I am in N. Cal zone 9 ( 14 Sunset), and I don't "put out" until May 1st. Very small window of nights above 55 before days above 90.

                                                        1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                          Do you have any seedlings started? I wish I'd have started some this year but I was planning to move so was not going to do a garden this year but plans changed at the end so I just started from seed like last year.

                                                          1. re: Cherylptw

                                                            Not this year. I used to raise dozens, and have suite a set up in my garage. Then my raised beds where invaded with root knot nematode and fig tree roots. I greatly downsized my tomato ambitions, and buy what I want from morningsun herb farm nearby.


                                                            I use stacking plastic corners with redwood that is not too expensive in these parts. You can get a lot of supplies mail order from territorial seed, gardeners supply company, or "groworganic':

                                                  2. In Eugene, Oregon. We got a really nice sunny day, tilled the garden plots, put out peas, artichokes, herbs. Spuds are coming up in the mounds I planted them in last month. Greenhouse is full of vegi starts and annuals, 30 flats or so in total. Most annuals will probably not go out until Mother's day, unless the 7-10 forcast looks promising and then maybe on May day. Tomatoes are growing like crazy in the greenhouse, I will have enough plants for the neighborhood!

                                                    1. In Phoenix (Sunset Zone 13), we're already through our winter and spring crops (kale, collards, carrots, beets, favas) and onto planting our summer crops. We have black eyed pea and okra seedlings coming up along with new chile (serrano, jalapeno, NM Big Jim, Anaheim, yellow marconi), tomato (Black Krim, Valencia), cucumber (Japanese & Armenian), and summer squash transplants.

                                                      We even have some chiles, tomatoes, and eggplants that lived through the winter--the tomatoes are thriving; chiles and eggplants are coming along more gradually. The I'itoi onions just keep on growing (and multiplying) as does "Methuselah", our 4-year old containerized jalapeno plant.

                                                      This is all in addition to the various herbs that overwintered successfully (Mexican oregano, Greek oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage, sweet bay) or that we have replaced or supplemented with new transplants (sweet basil, Thai basil, mint).

                                                      1. I have definitely gone overboard with the seed starting and planting. I'm going to have enough produce to supply a road stand at this rate. I live just outside of Philadelphia in New Jersey, land of the clay soil. Need to add a fair amount of compost to everything except blueberries which seem to like this soil as is.

                                                        I scavenged a few deep covered aluminum roaster trays with covers, those make great greenhouses, and they're super cheap at Wal Mart. I made a boat load of newspaper pots to hold the dirt, also from scavenged source. I didn't use a heat mat, instead I rested the pans on top of my cable DVR unit because it kicks out some serious heat. That worked great, highly recommended.

                                                        After germination I moved the plants to a sunny window, now they're under a flourescent grow light for about 8 hours at a time.. Everything is cranking, can't wait to get them in the ground. I think another week and they can go out.

                                                        Here's what I've started so far from seed sown indoors:

                                                        six varieties of tomatoes - beefsteak, roma, tommy toe, campbell's 1327, cherry, Rutgers
                                                        five varieties of pepper - marconi, yolo wonder, cayenne, Nardello, habanero,
                                                        Eggplant, Zucchini, Gherkins Cucumbers, and Roma Artichokes. Everyone is amazed that you can grow artichokes here but they're good for my zone so it should be a fun experiment.

                                                        I planted a bunch of cold hardy stuff outside: Broccoli, Cauliflower, Red Cabbage, Peas, Swiss Chard, Beets, Carrots, Parsnips, French Radishes and Spinach. They're all doing exceptionally well, the Spinach can start being harvested in another week and a half I think. Next weekend the beans get planted, a nice thin gourmet variety from France.

                                                        I also planted a bunch of onions and garlic last Fall, that stuff has just been idling along though a pretty nasty Winter. Curious to see how those turn out, never tried growing them this way before.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: md_massimino

                                                          That's a good tip for the aluminum roaster trays; I'll have to try those some time..

                                                          All but two of my squash & zucchini plants have sprouted; green beans, yellow waxes, are standing up. Okra, arugula have peeked up out the ground and english peas & snow peas are growing right along. I don't know what happened but I had to replant my herbs over the weekend..I had to delay planting the watermelon & canteloupe until yesterday but finally got those in the ground.

                                                          1. re: Cherylptw

                                                            Rotisserie chicken packaging makes great mini seed domes and the plastic cake packaging make good domes for seed starting if you're using newspaper pots or peat pots. My neighbors save theirs for me but sometimes if I need more I can talk the deli at the local store into slipping me a few.

                                                        2. We're moving the Giant Marconi, Carnival, and Mini-Bell peppers into one of the covered beds today. We had a hard frost 2 nights back and it killed the marigolds and nasturtiums I had set out in the uncovered terraces (*sigh*), so I have to reseed those. I admit it, I got over eager and in the back of my mind I knew those were in danger. But the nightime temps in the covered beds have been holding steady around 65F so I figure the sweet peppers will be fine. Besides, the damn things are starting to bud! The little spicy Zavory peppers are still too small, they were started later, and they're going in pots anyway away from the sweets so they don't cross pollinate.
                                                          The Violetta Artichokes went in the ground yesterday as well.
                                                          The Diva and Alibi (gherkin-sized) cucumber seedlings appeared this week and are making fine progress as have the Snack Face and Rouge Vif De'Etampes pumpkin seedlings. Time to plant the Patty Pan seeds too!
                                                          We've had two harvests of spinach and the head lettuces are heading up. The leaf lettuces are still too small to start harvesting. All the cole crops are doing great, The kohlrabis are starting to bulge, peas and favas are vining, and the strawberries are full of flowers and green berries. Most of the babies in the orchard have put out their first blossoms.
                                                          The perennial herbs are all in their new beds and doing fine. I still need to dig the annual herb beds but it's too early to put out the annual herbs yet. I won't leave them to the fate of the marigolds!

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: morwen

                                                            ...and some more photos:

                                                              1. re: morwen

                                                                Your photos are great. I'm planning to try cucumbers under plastic since the bed is against the south side of the house. Noticed the stones/brick around the beds. These must help keep the heat in.

                                                                Keep posting - you're an inspiration.

                                                                1. re: dfrostnh

                                                                  We adapted a lot of what we do from Eliot Coleman who is up in your neck of the woods. If you haven't read any of his books, check them out. We estimate we get the equivalent of 2 zones further south worth of growing season, late fall to late winter, using his methods.

                                                                  That block around the beds is the same block our house is built out of
                                                                  http://www.chow.com/photos/451515?tag... It's composed of byproduct from the lumber industry mixed into a ceramic substrate, hand formed and then air dried. No kiln needed. It's called Auz-Block in Australia and Builderscrete here. Our neighbor who manufactures the block learned the technique while living in Australia, bought a franchise and brought it back here. Our home was formerly his model home and since we moved in we've been taking his flawed blocks and pavers to build the gardens and terraces. The block does a terrific job of helping to heat and cool the house (our exterior walls are also our interior walls) and it seems to have the same effect on the beds.

                                                            1. Noob gardener here, first off wow, you are starting early, I'm just thinking about planting my seeds now. Second, I have no idea what the following code entails: "We're in zone 6b, sw VA, Blue Ridge Mountains."

                                                              zone 6b? sw VA means south west Vermont or Virginia I'm pretty sure. Blue Ridge Mountains corresponds to the mountains where you live.

                                                              zone 6b is what really confuses me.

                                                              8 Replies
                                                              1. re: Bottomless_Pit

                                                                Zone 6b refers to the plant hardiness area I live in. If you look at a seed or nursery catalog, in the plant description you'll see a recommendation for a plant being able to be grown in, for example, zones 4-7. It has to do with frost dates, typical temperatures/climates, etc. You can find your zone here: http://www.usna.usda.gov/Hardzone/ush...

                                                                I'm in southwest Virginia and our zones can vary here depending on whether one lives in the mountains, valleys, or the edge of the Piedmont. Since I'm up on the Blue Ridge Mountains in Floyd our temps range 5F-10F lower than Roanoke, 30 minutes away and several hundred feet lower in altitude. Floyd County is Zone 6 in general, 6b indicates where my house is located is slightly warmer but not zone 7. Roanoke is zone 7 and 8 in some areas. They are usually 2 weeks or so ahead of us when it comes to the first signs of spring. Being in 6b means I sometimes push limits by placing plants recommended for zone 7 in protected areas of my property.

                                                                We are ahead of the curve with our garden in Floyd County because we extend the season on both ends with the use of hoops and plastic in our gardens. While most folks here have just planted their cool weather crops we're moving summer crops into the beds because we protect them at night by pulling the plastic over the hoops. We're still expecting one final hard frost.

                                                                1. re: morwen

                                                                  I'm looking at the usna site now. Wouldn't covering the garden with plastic smother the garden? Seems like a lot of working covering and uncovering the garden every day.

                                                                  I was looking at the map. Looks like I'm a 5b, 6a, or 6b. Not sure exactly where I am lol. I thought I could just enter my zip code or something and I would get my hardiness zone.

                                                                  After looking more at a map of pennsylavnia, I'd say I'm in south east PA or zones 6a-6b. Funny, that the map only lists PA as 5b and 6a.

                                                                  1. re: Bottomless_Pit

                                                                    What town are you in or near? I grew up in central PA myself, Lewisburg

                                                                    If you were to leave the plastic on through the summer you'd definitely smother the bed. The plastic is on the garden only until the last frost has passed. The bullfrogs are starting to sing here and that's a pretty good sign that we're near or past the last frost in our area. We take the cover off in the morning before work, a 5 minute job for one person for all 3 beds combined, and pull it back over before the sun goes down, a 10 minute job tops. We've switched out to the netting already except for one bed which has peppers in it. With the netting in place we only lift it to work the beds, which amounts to unclipping the giant paper clips and tossing the netting to the top of the hoops. Otherwise, it rains or we water right through the netting. The netting stays in place until fall when night time temps start dropping into the upper 40's-low 50's on a regular basis. Then the plastic comes back out and extends our harvest into January with the more cold hardy crops. However, using this method I've had eggplant, peppers and tomatoes into December.

                                                                    The plant hardiness zones are more like guidelines. They'll give you a good general idea of what will thrive in your area. Within your own property you'll find little micro-climates that may allow you to grow something that shouldn't work in your area. We have a very sunny southerly brick corner of our house protected from the prevailing winds that allows us to grow a couple of tender varieties of figs that wouldn't survive anywhere else on the property. We're also taking advantage of that situation to see if we can overwinter artichokes. As you get more familiar with what happens weather/temp wise on your property, you'll find all kinds of places where things will thrive, and also spots to steer clear of.

                                                                    1. re: morwen

                                                                      I'm in the suburbs of Philadelphia. I asked a salesperson at a local nursery and he said we are in zone 7, My yard is full of trees, lots and lots of trees. Might be why there is so much wildlife. Most plants require 4-5 hours of full sun right? So, there won't be many places I can plant without, yelling timber right?

                                                                      I have lots of walnut trees, I wonder if its worth the effort to harvest the walnuts.

                                                                      1. re: Bottomless_Pit

                                                                        If they are black walnuts, you might be in trouble. Great nuts but the trees are poisonous to lots of other plants. Check into it.
                                                                        We had lots of trees around our old house. I could grow cherry tomatoes in a large container but they weren't as prolific as they would have been with more sun. Peppers weren't happy but beans, lettuce, etc can do pretty well.

                                                                        morwen, yes, I have one of Eliot Coleman's books. It's amazing what they accomplish. Last year I lost a late crop of bush beans to an early frost. They might have survived if I had thrown Agribon over them. It was Sept 18 and I was away for the weekend. The plants had blossomed and we don't usually get a frost until early October.

                                                                        1. re: Bottomless_Pit

                                                                          You can find out exactly where your zone is here: http://www.garden.org/zipzone/. Key in your zip code

                                                                    2. re: morwen

                                                                      Hello from a former Blue Ridge Mountains gal (Roanoke) who's been out on the prairie for 30 years, now. Still have those mountains in my heart, though....and still miss gardening somewhere OTHER than annoying Zone 4b!

                                                                  2. Back in March, I started my usual assortment of heirloom tomatoes (Brandywine, Black Krim, Prudens Purple, a few others that are new this year--like Mortgage Lifter--and some grape tomatoes)...about four different eggplants (we love it in this family), red, orange, and yellow sweet bell peppers, cabbage, broccoli, napa cabbage, lancinato kale, and brussels sprouts. A couple of melons--a charantais variety and a honeydew type--and a few annual flowers.

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Beckyleach

                                                                      We love eggplant too but it's a persistent battle with the flea beetles to get any. Last year we lost. This year I'm thinking about leaving them in pots since the seedlings are doing so great.

                                                                      1. re: morwen

                                                                        Wood ash and a companion planting of catnip will help keep away the flea beetles from your eggplant.

                                                                        As for my garden...it will feature Cherokee Purple, Rose Beauty, Yellow Pear, Black Cherry, Roma and Rutgers toms plus a slew of other 'maters.

                                                                        We grow a pole bean, cut short bush bean, eggplants, okra, corn, cukes, zukes, watermelons, and winter squash especially cushaws.

                                                                        Experimenting with amaranth this year.

                                                                        Enjoy all kinds of herbs as well.

                                                                        1. re: friendsdriftinn

                                                                          Does wood ash have the same effect as lime? I grew great eggplants in NY and there I was throwing our ashes in the garden beds over the winter. Here a local nurseryman said to sprinkle hydrated lime around the plants. He also said flea beetles, unlike fleas, can't attain the same altitudes when they jump so if I grow some stuff in pots using a bagged potting soil (so the beetles aren't already in the soil) on tables they can't get to it. Also, if I place pots of catnip in the garden will that work? I keep my mints limited to their designated beds because of their habit of taking over and am leery of actually planting it in the veg garden. Marigolds I know have to be planted directly in the ground because they release a substance into the soil that drives pests away.

                                                                    2. Mid-May check-in:

                                                                      - harvested some mesclun for dinner last night...outstanding
                                                                      - iceberg is doing fair, may abandon and use space for more mesclun
                                                                      - lost a few tomatoes, cucs and pepper plants from the near frost last week. some just collapsed, others developing some brown leafs, this weekend will decide which to DNR. does not look too bad though. Not too concerned since there are still 55-60 tomato plants in play. Tomatoes are approaching 15" so needed to give them their first staking. With raised beds, jfood using the intertwining cord method, looks like it has some good things going for it.
                                                                      - Broccoli are growing quickly
                                                                      - itty bitty cauliflower heads beginning to form
                                                                      - brussel sprouts approaching 10"
                                                                      - romaine and crenshaw seeds sprouting
                                                                      - sugar snaps starting to gain some ground and looking to move up the string lattice
                                                                      - strawberries have some buds on some and are very happy to be out of the container
                                                                      - eggplant and red cabbage moving more slowly than jfood thought, but no concern
                                                                      - celery also >12"
                                                                      - watermelon...nadda sprouting from the seeds, jfood thinks it was a good try-for, planting some sugar snaps in same bed as a hedge

                                                                      He keeps telling himself that it is only mid-May and to relax. Little jfood could not believe how many vegetables she'll have this summer (insert fingers crossed)

                                                                      1. Here's the update on what's going on in my garden: I had to replant all of my herbs (originally planted on 4/6) as they didn't do anything, which is odd because some of the other things I planted on the same day is doing well. Dill, thyme & two varieties of basil are coming up. My english peas and snow peas should begin harvesting on or about 2-3 weeks. Cilantro is ready.

                                                                        The zucchini I planted in my front garden is big and should be getting flowers on it soon. My yellow tomato plants are getting up there; I got about 12 plants coming up but I'm going to pot some when they get a little bigger. The collards I planted in April didn't do anything with the exception of 5 seedlings. I dug those up and planted mixed greens which should begin harvesting in a couple or three weeks; they look good! Lettuces are looking good, another couple of weeks for one variety and a week or two later, I can begin on the romaine. Spot where I planted lettuce has cherry tomato plants coming up from last summer even though I tilled it and used it for fall gardening. An unexpected surprise! My bells are a bust. Planted those a few times and nothing; had the same issue last year so I bought a couple plants so I'll be doing that again.

                                                                        In the back garden: Arugula is ready. Two zucchini plants didn't sprout so I replaced with some cucumber seeds harvested from last years crop. The seedlings are coming up. The remainder of the zucchini & yellow squash plants are coming along slowly. The bugs are bad in my back yard and I've had to dust, but not so much in my front garden. Also the soil in my back garden is clay so it's hard to work with which is why the garden progresses slowly back there.

                                                                        Anyway, okra, tomatoes, tomatillos, cukes, onions, watermelon & cantaloupe are coming along. Green beans are showing signs of flowers. I planted eggplant in a couple of hills originally used for cukes. Waiting for signs they'll do something. I planted some more mixed greens & leeks in part of a row originally used for bells. Waiting on that.

                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Cherylptw

                                                                          You can grow cool weather and warm weather stuff at the same time? What zone?

                                                                          1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                            It really depends on the whether in your area...I'm in zone 8. Our area does not get alot of cold weather or frost and typically don't get snow but this spring we got two snow falls.

                                                                            1. re: Cherylptw

                                                                              I see. where I live, it doesn't get cold, but it gets REALLY hot. So I do cool weather things like peas, lettuce, parsley in late winter, garlic, fava beans, collards in late fall, then tomatoes, basil, peppers, melons etc, from May to October. Usually by May it's getting to hot for peas, but so far it's still in the sixties!

                                                                              1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                That's about the temps we get here...for the last few years, we've gone from winter to summer but not much spring so technically, I should have planted my peas earlier than April but we had those two snow storms unexpectedly which delayed planting. However, collards and other greens, lettuce & parsley can be planted early in spring as well as in fall. After about April here, it's too late & you have to wait until fall again.

                                                                                According to my notes,english peas & snow peas will be ready in about 2-3 weeks, maybe earlier as I saw some flowers on the english peas a couple of days ago. Just in time before the temps stay above 90 everyday, then, I'll turn over the soil and plant more heat loving plants...now it's between 70's to 90's because of rain. Nightime is in 60's, low 70's

                                                                        2. I buy one weird thing every spring, and this year it was cardoon. The lady who worked at the nursery told me that she grows that and rhubarb as ornamentals, she never thought to eat them. How weird! But she gave me the idea to put it in my flower garden, near my rhubarb, so we'll see. Otherwise I have the usual culprits up on the wrap around porch: parsley, chocolate mint and chives came up by themselves (yay!), I bought lemon thyme, basil, Sicilian oregano, lemon verbena, catnip for my cats and Vietnamese cilantro. After last year with the blight and my heirloom tomatoes, I just got a San Marzano Roma plant and we'll see if I get much of anything, it's just in a big pot. Oh and a fig tree that I started from a cutting, I babysit dogs and my one client has two pups that think the potted tree is a chew toy, so I took a couple of branches they bit off and they're growing very nicely. How cool is that?

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: coll

                                                                            "How cool is that?"

                                                                            It's VERY cool!

                                                                          2. Rain. rainrainrainrainrain. At first I was pleased. We needed it and it was a nice cool overcast day, perfect for transplanting sweet potatoes, the Smokey, Amish Paste, Principe Borghese, and Currant tomatoes, and Diva cukes with a promise of a gentle shower in the evening to help them along. That was Thursday, a week ago. Since then it's been nothing but rain, more rain - oh yeah, don't forget that bit of hail - and more rain. Until today. Nothing seems to have suffered, in fact the garden's burgeoning, but the ground's too wet to till up the last annual herb bed and we still have fruit trees and berry bushes to put in. The forecast says we're gonna get a 2 day reprieve and then it's gonna *sigh* rain. It also means the handymen won't be here to install the pergola where the Kiwis are intended to vine. I don't know whether to repot them now or stick it out until the pergola's up. Besides the rain, handymen around here tend to run on what's known as "Floyd Time".
                                                                            But everything's looking good and we've been having bumper harvests of strawberries, lettuce, and spinach. We planted baby bok choy for the first time and found out it's rather finicky. It got about 2" high and started to bolt. So we pulled it for salad greens and will retry planting it in the fall. Artichokes are a first for us as well and they seem to be moving along. As soon as we can till again the Patti Pan, Delicata, Acorn, and Spaghetti squash are going in. The Snack Face and Rouge Vif D'Etampse pumpkins are being grown in containers this year and are out in place. Same with Carnival and Mini-Bell Peppers and Zavory Peppers. We're doing Muskmelons in containers as well. Window boxes are trailing Alibi Cukes, Scarlet Nasturtiums, and Currant Tomatoes. There's blueberries on our itty bitty bushes and the Jostaberry has berries too. And our baby Arkansas Black has it's first tiny apple!
                                                                            My husband recently attended a grafting class and came home with 3 grafted semi-dwarf apples and a semi-dwarf asian pear. The Jonagold graft is now leafing and has been planted in a pot for further growth.

                                                                            1. Most all our veg beds are entering the harvesting stage. We're pulling turnips, kohlrabi, cutting lettuce, chard and spinach, and the first head of savoy cabbage. More of those will soon be ready and one of my plans is to pressure can cabbage rolls with them. I discovered kohlrabi leaves make a great substitute for grape leaves when making dolma. Has anyone tried pressure canning stuffed grape leaves? The head lettuce is done, out, and replanted. We had a handful of peas last week but this week they're really starting to come on. The shell peas are plumping, and the snap peas are full of blooms and tiny pods. Fava beans are all in bloom. This is our first year growing them and the flowers look like tiny orchids! I'm thinking next year of planting them about in flower borders for looks and taste! The scarlet runners and kentucky blues are beginning to vine and I need to get out and tie them up. A number of the marconi peppers are approaching full size, the carnival and mini-bells are blossoming, and the spicy zavories are still putting on growth. They have a very compact habit compared to the other peppers. The diva cucumbers in the garden are looking beautiful and healthy, the alibi cucumbers that are growing in window boxes are starting to spill over the edges. The scarlet nasturtiums (also in a window box) are spilling over and coming into bloom (they're my future capers). The snack face and rouge vif d'estampe pumpkins are doing well in their pots and are budded up as are the potted muskmelons. All of the tomatoes are growing like crazy and starting to flower. The beets, they're not doing so well. They didn't last year either. Something's not happening for them and we need to figure it out. Carrots are all ferny looking tops and pencil sized in diameter. The eggplants aren't doing so well either. It's a constant battle with flea beetles with them. However the ones I have in pots aren't being attacked. Scallions, white onions, garlic and shallots are just zipping along on their own, all carefree-like. The strawberries are done :-( but we have bags of frozen, a couple of jars of whole berries preserved in vanilla syrup, and a quart jar dried. The sweet potato bed is vigorously growing, very pretty. Squash are flowering and vining. The herbs are all doing their thing. I love the herb beds; so little work, so great a return! We discovered a baby peach on our baby peach tree! Michael's got leaves on his honeycrisp graft and the asian pear graft's leaf buds are swelling. Planted 5 blueberry bushes this week. We'll be picking blueberries this year at the neighbors pick-your-own orchard but next year we may get a few from our own bushes. Inside, we have some seeds planted for July/August transplanting and will soon need to start more. We have a few fruit trees and shrubs in pots that we absolutely must get in the ground this weekend.

                                                                              I love this time of year! Eating, putting up our extra produce, spending the cool mornings in the gardens.... Ask me in August if I'm still feeling that way ;-)

                                                                              What's happening in your gardens?

                                                                              7 Replies
                                                                              1. re: morwen

                                                                                Wow! I think you mentioned your zone(edit; yes, 6b), and it's not N. Cal, but that's pretty amazing by back yard N. California standards! How many hoers a week now?

                                                                                PS Some people eat for bean leaves.

                                                                                1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                  Using the hoops and plastic made all the difference in how early we got planting/growing, and finally growing really good seedlings into transplants indoors. I don't know how many hours a week I'm putting in now because some days I'm just out there a few minutes to pick some stuff and check on things and other days I'll have a task that needs doing like staking up the tomatoes. That probably took a total of two hours. It'll probably take that long to trellis and tie up the beans and cukes. Yesterday I cultivated and weeded the terraces and that took less than an hour. The raised beds don't sprout many weeds so I do them as I'm picking. I'd say this week I've roughly done maybe four hours of maintenance work and harvesting and Michael did two hours putting in the blueberries (the bed was already prepared) for a total of 6 hours. Does washing and spinning the greens count? That seems to take forever. I hate that job but I hate squishing down on a cabbage looper even more!

                                                                                  We are definitely ahead of the local curve here except for the pros doing the CSA and farmers market stuff and it appears that we're harvesting the same things as they are. Except for kohlrabi and turnips. Haven't seen them bring those to market yet.

                                                                                  Bean leaves? As greens or how?

                                                                                  1. re: morwen

                                                                                    Here's a link or two.I've never tried it, although I've grown fava beans fall/winter for several years, and often contemplated it.



                                                                                    1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                      Huh. Interesting. Maybe if we grow a bigger crop sometime I'll try it. This year we did a small patch for the first time.

                                                                                      1. re: morwen

                                                                                        I first started out with favas' as a beneficial winter ground cover, then started focusing on those best to eat, but I've always grown raised beds full, since they are growing during a season when half my beds are usually fallow. (Wow! I've never worked THAT word into a conversation before!)

                                                                                        1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                          Thanks to your posts we looked a little deeper into favas and decided that we are going to plant them as a cover crop in the new beds we till this fall. Not only are they great nitrogen fixers but their root systems are the bomb for breaking up harsh sub soil!

                                                                                2. re: morwen

                                                                                  My second-year artichoke has got lots of chokes on it. The first zucchini are ready to be harvested any day; the other summer squashes seem to be lagging. We're getting a few ripe strawberries. The pole and bush beans and the tomatoes are flowering. Some of my peas seem to have survived the snails. The lettuce from the winter is almost over and I need to replant some cilantro, since the late-winter crop is bolting. The basil plants I bought to tide me over until the seeds come up are just sitting there. I have some seedling lettuces and spinach that need to be thinned, which I always hate. What if I pull out the wrong ones?

                                                                                  I think I'm zone 10 (or maybe 11) -- east side of San Francisco Bay. We had a cool, wet spring and the summer veggies really just started to take off a couple of weeks ago -- I swear the zucchini grew a foot over last weekend!

                                                                                3. Gardening update: I'm picking snow pea pods & english peas tomorrow..so excited! My squash is full of blossoms & tiny zucchini. Green leaf lettuce is ready; romaine can be picked now if I want baby greens but I'll give it another couple of weeks. Arugula is still being picked. I cooked some this week for the first time and discovered I really like it this way. I'll be putting some more out in the fall.

                                                                                  Green beans & yellow waxes have flowers & beans on the vines. Tomatillos are getting taller by the day & I noticed tiny buds on them a few days ago where my fruits will set. Cukes, watermelon, cantaloupe & okra are flowering. I planted some eggplant & butternut squash last week; today, I saw sprouts on the butternut squash hills. I also planted bells & cayenne peppers from seed again a week ago...hopefully, I'll have better luck this time but just in case, I bought two plants a couple of weeks ago and they're doing good. My tomato plants are getting big and doing well; onions are coming along...oh, and my mixed greens are ready. I'm already planning my fall garden....

                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: Cherylptw

                                                                                    We can't do anything but container gardens on our deck as our yard does not get any sun. But, we have had so much rain, it's probably a good thing we do pots!. We have been able to pull the pots under the eaves for the most part in the downpours (we are zone 8A). But one pot, apparently had the holes plugged (one of the tomato's) as there was standing water in the pot! Had to widen the holes. Please - make the rain stop! Otherwise, all the herbs are growing fantastic, one of the tomato plants has tripled in size in the last 2 weeks and the peppers are doing fantastic. I gotta love those railing planters. Perfect for herbs!

                                                                                    1. re: boyzoma

                                                                                      My cousin does container gardening and has had success, her yard is like yours..also, if you're interested, check some of the seed companies. There are a variety of seeds these days specifically for container gardening and not limited to just herbs & tomatoes.

                                                                                  2. This morning I had a fox, fearlessly sunning himself on my deck. I see foxes every year around this time. Not technically gardening, but does anyone know anything about them ( in N. Cal). I'll try to add a picture.

                                                                                    12 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                        Wow! He looks like a pretty big boy! We have the classic red fox on our property. One den is in the pine and brush, just above a tiny rivulet on the lower slope, and another den under a huge oak in the cow pasture across the road above us. We see one male often and he is handsome. The female we never see except at dusk when she brings the pups out to play in the pasture. Last year we had herds of rabbits of all ages gathering in clutches on the lane, boldly wandering around the house and gardens. This year I've seen no young'ns, just a couple of good sized adults and only rarely. The fox must be doing their jobs!

                                                                                        1. re: morwen

                                                                                          If this is a grey fox, yes he was big, from what I've read. I also read it is rare to see them in broad daylight, but I do. I hope it doesn't mean something is wrong. I think they have had pups under the deck a season or two.

                                                                                          1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                            He looks pretty healthy in that photo. If he's making regular appearances in broad daylight on your deck you might want to keep an eye on him. Fox are very shy. Our male will slide by quite close to the house sometimes but usually only in the very early morning, shortly after dawn. All other times he makes a wide berth around the house. If they are lairing under your deck you may want to discourage that. Don't store your garbage cans or any other potential food source out there. Fascinating as they are, if they get too comfortable with your presence it could become a problem. Unfortunately fox are one of the species (at least around here) that often carry rabies. Whenever we get the chance we observe the ones here with binoculars to make sure they're still looking healthy and behaving normally. If yours starts acting weird and/or looking ratty don't hesitate to call a game officer or animal control.

                                                                                            1. re: morwen

                                                                                              With regard to food source, aren't they omnivorous? I don't have "garbage can's", but I have a compost heap; no meat, but lots of lizards who are after lots of bugs...Our lot borders essentially open countryside, and there are all manner of creatures out there! We are the only family without a dog, so I think that's why they cut through here. Not willing to get a dog to discourage foxes though!

                                                                                              1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                                We live "between dogs" too. In fact the lower den is level with the whiniest, barkingest, yippingest pack of dachsunds 24/7 we've ever had to put up with. Wouldn't mind if the fox took a few of those out. But they're penned with an invisible fence and the fox seem to know they're no threat. The labs above us are pretty elderly and don't move fast.
                                                                                                As far as I know fox will eat most anything from bugs to berries to meat. If they don't have a den under your deck you probably don't have anything to worry about. If they do or if they make a habit of sunning themselves on your deck, I'd discourage them. That's pretty bold behavior. If you have young children or grandchildren like we do you don't want them to mistake a fox for a doggie.

                                                                                                1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                                  As long as you don't have a dog or (outside) cat, or as morwen pointed out, small children around, a healthy fox is kind of nice to have around your garden. They do eat lizards and may raid your compost heap, but they'll also take care of rabbits, mice, and other garden-y pests. Garden stores sell bottled fox urine to keep critters away.

                                                                                                  Last night as I watched three groundhogs tumble out of the bushes surrounding our community garden and head for the plots, I wished we had a fox nearby. Or a coyote. Even a hawk swooping by would have been nice.

                                                                                                  1. re: harrie

                                                                                                    He stopped by again this evening! I didn't see him, but one of my daughters friends came out to warn me he was heading my way. ( Was cutting among the last of the sweet peas...sniff!) She said he was quite comfortable with her presence.

                                                                                          2. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                            neat photo, thanks. to your point below on daytime sitings, jfood has a red fox (no not fred sanford) who wanders through a few times a week while he and mrs jfood are having dinneron the terrace. He is a much more welcome addition to the 'hood then the coyote that have started to move into town and the bear that walked down jfood's driveway a few years ago.

                                                                                          3. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                            We had a problem with one of our fox last week. My husband spotted it at 7am sitting between the raised beds when he went out to get in the car. The garage door going up didn't spook it and it was staring intently behind the house. Michael looked behind the house and there was nothing there, nor did the fox move when he went to look. Even starting the car and backing up in its direction didn't scare it.
                                                                                            I didn't see it when I left an hour later so it must have moved back into the pines behind the garden. When I got home at 9:30 I got a call from our neighbor asking if I heard the gunshot. Apparently his employee was walking up the road to work when the fox came out of the pines and sat on the road in front of him. He said it wouldn't move when he approached it and didn't run off when he tried to spook it away so he backed off and called animal control. It was still sitting there and twitching when animal control arrived so they shot it and took it off for testing.
                                                                                            Unfortunately, animal control will not inform us what the outcome of the testing is so all the folks on our lane are on the lookout for any more weird fox behavior. We know that there are several more fox in the area and know the location of at least three dens. If more appear behaving strangely we may have to eradicate them. Not something I look forward to since they do a good job of keeping the rabbit population under control.

                                                                                              1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                                Yeah, that's what I said when I heard the description. Terrible as it sounds, I'm hoping it was a case of poisoning and not rabies.

                                                                                          4. SO started plots in bathtubs at his home. The cukes were doing great and took a dump. The squash died. Sigh. However! The tomatoes that he started that were advertised as 'small medium' are doing great! They're ripening at a tune of about four a day - and there lovely little cherry size.

                                                                                            1. Update: I pulled up the snow pea & english pea plants a week ago..wish that season lasted longer but will re-plant the snow peas at the end of the summer. Planted more yellow wax beans in that spot; I also added some beets even though I don't really care for them, but I want to try the greens. I got two huge zucchini off my plant in the front of the house...somehow, I overlooked them so I'll be baking zucchini bread this weekend.
                                                                                              My herbs are doing great and I replanted my thyme & sage, yet again...don't know what's going on with those. I also added some chives to the bed. Still eating the greenleaf & romaine. I noticed two tiny bell peppers on those plants today.

                                                                                              In the back garden, green beans & yellow waxes are being harvested and I'm still eating on the arugula. There are small ball sized watermelons on their vines and flowers but no fruit on the cantaloupe yet. Zucchini & yellow squash has tiny fruit on the plants as do my tomatillos, which by the way, are coming up all over the garden and not just in the row I planted, courtesy of last years planting. I suppose the seeds got rooted when the garden was tilled.

                                                                                              One of my cherry tomato plants has green tomatoes on it; I removed the yellow tomato plants from the front to the back garden and they're rooting ok. Flowers on the cuke plants but no fruit yet. Butternut squash & eggplant seedlings are coming along. I'll be pulling up the green/yellow wax beans within the next week or so and will maybe replant those or I'll find something else to put there.

                                                                                              1. Update: The head lettuce is done as is the first batch of spinach. The second batch of spinach is still producing but some of them are showing signs of bolting. Leaf lettuce is still coming along nicely as is the chard. The purple kohlrabis are out of the garden but the Superschmelz kohlrabis are still doing their thing. I've been making dolmades with the kohlrabi leaves. They're a great substitute for grape leaves. The beets and turnips are done and a second sowing of those will go in soon. We've pulled some young carrots for our salads. Lots of green tomatoes on the vines and I'm really excited about the currant tomatoes. The fruit on those is about the size of my little finger nail at this point. Peas! Lots o' peas! The first bed of shelling peas is almost done and I still haven't frozen any. They've been so tasty that we've been eating huge bowls of them steamed with just butter. Hopefully we'll have sated our gluttony and I'll be able to freeze the second bed that's starting to come in. I'll start picking the sugar snaps today. We've been eating a lot of broccoli. I like broccoli but I'm getting a little tired of it now. Even the side shoots on the plants have been way plentiful this year. The Alibi cucumbers are fruiting and I'm hoping to make the first batch of gherkins soon. The Diva cucumbers are flowering and should be showing cukes soon (bread & butters and garlic dills). Lots of flowers on the pumpkins and musk melons. We got the squash in a little late but they're all growing vigorously. We've picked a few Marconi peppers. The Carnival and mini-bells have small fruits on them. The scarlet runners are full of flowers. This is the first time I've grown them and they are gorgeous! Kentucky Blues aren't flowering yet nor are the Yard Longs but they sure are out growing their trellises! The favas are beginning to bean. Sweet potatoes are sprawling. I've picked four savoy cabbages with more to come. I think there's a sauerkraut experiment in my future. The herbs are going strong. Made pesto yesterday with lime basil. I could definitely smell the lime when I cut it but can't really distinguish it in the pesto as other than citrusy. I think it'll shine better as a garnish. Made tarragon butter too. Will probably have to make some chive butter soon as well. Have started making nasturtium capers. I planted one window box of nasturtiums and they're just spilling all over the railing of the porch. I love showy flowering things that look great and we can eat too! The blueberries are nearly ripe and the raspberries will be close behind so yesterday I made a big batch of bumbleberry ice cream to use up the last two bags of frozen berries. Need to make room in the freezer! We're not growing cherries but I got a bunch from the farmer up the road. Made tipsy cherries and dried cherries from oxhearts, maraschino cherries from Queen Annes, and cherry vanilla pie filling from the tart cherries. My husband's apple grafts are doing well as are our other baby fruit trees. No fruit from them this year although one apple and one peach each have one fruit on them!. The artichokes are big and beautiful. The neighbors keep looking at them and asking why in the world would we want to plant bull thistles in yard!
                                                                                                No pictures this time. I'm waiting until after we get the mowing done.

                                                                                                1. A long lost friend just gave me some woodruff as an ornamental groundcover, but mentioned it being in German wine which is all I know about it previously. Any other uses you know of?

                                                                                                  1. We finally got the pasture- uh, lawn mowed and I took pictures this morning. Row 1: Cukes pumpkins, peppers, melons, eggplants and figs in pots in front of the house. Mint bed in front of the house.
                                                                                                    Row 2: Terraces with beans, peas, scads of tomatoes and a Giant Marconi pepper.
                                                                                                    Row 3: A shortened view of the raised beds and terraces and a colorful harvest from June 1st. Since the turnips, strawberries and kohlrabi are all picked our harvest photos have been mostly green.

                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: morwen

                                                                                                      Gorgeous! On the eve of the solstice I harvested my last artichoke and my first green beans. I love green beans, which is good because we planted enough to feed an army. I'm envisioning many bags of trimmed blanched beans in my freezer! I wish I did as well with peas.

                                                                                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                        I'm growing violetta artichokes for the first time this year. Violettas are supposed to be able to grow in our zone but no gardeners that I've talked to around here have ever tried any variety. I started the seed in January and the plants are now about two feet tall and very bushy. I'm hoping for the best. The neighbors keep asking why we would want to plant bull thistles in our front yard! We love artichokes but at $2.50 a pop we don't eat them very often.

                                                                                                    2. Time to report in (zone 6A):

                                                                                                      Tomatoes - ranging in height from 15-45". Fruits beginning to appear. Some flower drop on cherry varieties
                                                                                                      Mesclun - a 10, have not bought lettuce in almost 2 months
                                                                                                      Iceberg - not forming those cute little balls. some rot on leaves that are in contact with ground
                                                                                                      Romaine (from seed) - about 2"; need thinning
                                                                                                      Spinach - took off like a light. needed major trimming
                                                                                                      Strawberries - jfood thinks he successfully addressed the chipmunk invasion with a screen fence around the perimeter of the raised bed. shooters have rooted, lots of flowers and fruits appearing
                                                                                                      Celery - approaching 24" tall
                                                                                                      Brussel sprouts - 7 of 8 doing nicely, one having a bug issue and sprayed with cinnamon
                                                                                                      Peppers - just starting to fruit
                                                                                                      Eggplants - just starting to flower
                                                                                                      Cucs - flowering nicely
                                                                                                      melons - seedlings ranging from 3" to 6"
                                                                                                      Carrots - just seeded 2 weeks ago in broc/caul beds
                                                                                                      Broccoli, cauliflower - total failure, heat destroyed
                                                                                                      Snap peas - not doing well, never really accepted transplanting

                                                                                                      Herbs -
                                                                                                      Cilantro - hard to keep them from flowering
                                                                                                      Basil - looking good
                                                                                                      Lemon thyme - great going
                                                                                                      Sages - bad part of herb garden, feet too wet, need to address at the end of the season

                                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                                                                        Iceberg - try mulching (I like straw for this) underneath to keep from contact with the ground. I dunno why but I've never gotten solid heads like store bought iceberg either. But it's been good and crunchy.
                                                                                                        Celery - I'm so jealous! Have never had any luck with it so now I plant celeriac and cutting celery.
                                                                                                        Brussel Sprouts - keep an eye on them. They prefer cooler weather just like the broccoli/cauliflower and could bolt on you. A heavy mulch to keep their feet cool might help. We've just seeded ours indoors for the fall garden outdoors later.
                                                                                                        Broccoli, cauliflower - These seem to like cool days and cold nights. We planted them out at the end of March and just pulled up the last one this week. We'll soon start seeds again of these for the fall garden.
                                                                                                        Carrots - keep the little buggers moist, they're a bitch to germinate.
                                                                                                        Peas - Nope, peas, snap, shell or bush, don't like transplanting. But you can direct seed them as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring. Another method is to plant them in a piece of gutter and when ready, dig a matching trench where you want them and slide the peas, soil and all, out one end into it. We're considering doing this with carrots so we can start them in the house where we have more control.

                                                                                                        Cilantro - like dill, basil, and other annual herbs, needs to be succession planted in order to have leaf all season. However once the seed pods form and ripen you have - coriander! I allow my dill, cilantro, and chamomile to go to seed in their beds since they readily reseed themselves and volunteer in following years. The same with parsley. Parsley's a biennial so plant new plants this year and new plants next year, allow them to reseed and you'll always have plenty of parsley. The ones you planted first will bolt and go to seed quickly the second year and the new plants you put in the second year will provide while the first year plants are reseeding.
                                                                                                        Sage - it'll grow great in pots so you could dig them up and pot them until you find a more conducive place to plant them. That way you won't lose your sage to root rot.

                                                                                                        1. re: morwen

                                                                                                          thanks M.

                                                                                                          - Will take some of the iceberg leaves inside and use with the mesclun tomorrow night. the non-brown leaves look great.
                                                                                                          - When should I plant broc and cauli seeds for fall? In 6A.

                                                                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                                                                            We planted seeds indoors last weekend and the seedlings are up. They're scheduled to be transplanted around July 10. We're in 6b so we may be a hair ahead of you but I doubt enough to make a difference.

                                                                                                            BTW, I grew a squat 12" pot of mesclun under a goose neck desk lamp with an 18" gro light all winter long last year. We had a salad out of it about every week to ten days. Nice treat in cold weather!

                                                                                                      2. July update: We have been struggling along in the throes of a drought along with many other people on the east coast. We've been watering the containers a minimum of twice a day and running the soaker hoses twice a day as well. Last year too much rain, this year not enough. The tree fruits have been absolutely amazing though. They did have the perfect spring.

                                                                                                        We're no longer in the spring garden (maybe it's time for a new thread). It's high summer here. Many of our crops intended for fall have been planted and we're reaping a harvest of carrots, peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, onions, shallots, garlic, chard, beans, cukes, and herbs. Alas! It appears we've lost the squash. One day all our curcurbits are all looking glorious, the next we spot a rampant infestation of immature adult squash beetles. Now we're in a running battle with neem oil and handpicking but it looks like we're losing. My dreams of pumpkins, delicatas, acorns, and spaghetti squash stored in piles are withering on the vine.
                                                                                                        But I'm soldiering on. Preserving is in high gear and I'm putting up something every day. My pantry shelves are overflowing and I had to purchase another tall bookcase (which I'm in the process of painting to match my cupboards) to hold the incoming jars. Tomorrow is a tomato day: sauce, roasted herbed tomatoes, and spicy preserved tomatoes (with the little currant tomatoes that are as awesome as I hoped) are on the list. Today was peaches in Earl Grey Tea Syrup and dried peaches. I still have enough left for a peach lavender jam but I'm going to have to pick another bushel because we just can't get through the winter without peach pie filling. And I haven't made peach ice cream yet. Yesterday was blueberries with coriander and lime and 2 quarts frozen, a couple of gallons of frozen green beans and a batch of dilled green beans.

                                                                                                        I haven't had time to do photos, and frankly, with the drought and the beetles everything's looking a little raggedy including our brown crunchy lawn which is pushing a bumper crop of chicory and daisies since we haven't been able to mow it.

                                                                                                        Are you all surviving the drought?

                                                                                                        10 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: morwen

                                                                                                          Great update!

                                                                                                          Our droughts are annual! We DID get a notice that we are among the top ten percent of water guzzlers in my city. Uh-oh.

                                                                                                          Sugar snaps are long gone, just ate my first Sungold tomatoes, I'm about to pick my only two pluots, and I will have LOT's of late summer figs this year. (I already ate the two early summer ones). None of my citrus set and held fruit this year.

                                                                                                          1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                                            Will they fine you for keeping your garden alive? We're on a well and while we've never had any problem with it I do worry about stressing it. We're not water wasters in the rest of our daily routine but the garden is imperative. In past droughts other folks' wells have gone dry and they've had to punch new ones but those were much more severe droughts with dry winters. Lord knows we had plenty of fall and spring rains and winter snows this past year.

                                                                                                            1. re: morwen

                                                                                                              The fine doesn't say "for keeping garden alive", but you pay at higher rates when you are above average. California has promoted water conservation and xeriscaping as long as i can remember. That seems fair. I have a break in my irrigation system, and I don't know how long it was there before I turned that station off. There really is NO excuse for a homeowner ( ok, i'll just speak for myself...). The farmers REALLY have to keep THEIR gardens alive!

                                                                                                              1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                                                I am aware that CA has tough water conservation codes, I didn't know that's where you live. I totally understand conserving water as a way of life, especially where you're at. Our county is located on top of several mountains in southwest Virginia atop a particularly fine collection of aquifers. All our water sources actually originate here and flow out of the county so we have exceptionally pure, clean abundant water. That being said, the people in our county have set up extremely rigid codes to protect the sources and aquifers and have an exceptional education program in place to help people learn how to protect it and why. We are extremely lucky people to have this resource.

                                                                                                                Our pond's water level has dropped very little this year in spite of the drought and has had very little algae formation which we've been happy to see. It maintains itself without any interference from us. We also have a little branch that runs at the foot of our property and it's still running well, hasn't dried up. We really want to install rain barrels, a simple fix, and install a way to divert our gray water for garden use. The latter unfortunately won't be a simple fix since the person who built this house somehow managed to make the outgoing water lines nearly inaccessible. I'd love to retrofit the house with self composting toilets as well but I'm afraid that one's way in the future.

                                                                                                                1. re: morwen

                                                                                                                  That sounds nice! I love the word "aquifer"! One reason we live within the city limits is to not have to worry about wells. My lot sits right on the city line; over my fence is an abandoned orchard.Aside from xeriscaping, raised beds, drip irrigation, and almost no lawn, everything is on timers, I shut them down with the first rains in November, and I collect the drips from the air conditioner in the summer!

                                                                                                                  1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                                                    Ok, folks, my "sauce/paste" tomatoes (Romas/San Marzanos) are ripe... What are you doing with your cooking tomatoes? Sauce? Dried? Canned?

                                                                                                                    1. re: MIss G

                                                                                                                      All of the above plus diced herbed, whole herbed, herb & garlic roasted, spicy preserves, and catsup so far.

                                                                                                                        1. re: MIss G

                                                                                                                          I love an "indian" recipe, a "sambal", that calls for mustard seed, garlic, dried chilis, and tomatoes.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                                                            Will you share that? My tomatoes are coming in like gangbusters!

                                                                                                        2. In trying this with my Sungolds
                                                                                                          Sungold Tomato Salsa



                                                                                                          " -- a tomato raisin, that is, with an additional little explosion of juicy, savory olive oil."

                                                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                                            The second recipe has been a staple in our freezer ever since a single Juliet cherry tomato in a pot went bonkers and covered the 10'x20' side of our carport from top to bottom.

                                                                                                            Instead of putting them in those little jars, I put them in snack size zip-locs and then put all the baggies in a plastic box in the freezer. I use to have a bunch of the little jelly jars in the freezer but they don't stack well and were constantly falling over and then rolling out and breaking.

                                                                                                              1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                                                Tedious? Putting them in bags instead of jars? Not any more than putting them in jars was. Plus I can squish excess air out of the bag while closing it and protect the stuff a little better from freezer burn. What was tedious was cleaning broken glass and tomato splats off the floor and losing a jarful of yummy tomatoes to the bin. Take a look at the photo of the jars in the second recipe link. See how they don't stack?

                                                                                                                1. re: morwen

                                                                                                                  No, I meant slicing dozens of cherry tomatoes, spooning out their seeds, and placing olive oil in their little upturned cavities.

                                                                                                                  I have a feeling not may of mine will make it to storage....

                                                                                                                  1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                                                    Not nearly as tedious as shocking hundreds of currant tomatoes and skinning them to make preserves! Some say I'm anal, I say I'm Zen.

                                                                                                                    My method is to turn on Morning Edition or All Things Considered or an audio book. Then I sit down and slice the batch in half, scoop their innards into a bowl (because the innards go into the stock pot) and place them on the cookie sheet right next to each other. I chop up a big pile of mixed herbs and garlic, salt and pepper the maters, sprinkle on the herbs and garlic, drizzle with oil and go. I'm pretty generous with it because the oil, juices, and herbs that fall to the bottom of the sheet while roasting become my reward when done, along with a slice of crusty bread.

                                                                                                          2. Wow! I think I missed August! Well, didn't miss it but spent it running between the garden and the kitchen, the u-pick and the kitchen, the hardware store for jars and lids and the kitchen, well, you get the picture. Then suddenly, it all slowed down. Sort of. During all that running, DH was planting the fall/winter crops: broccoli, bush beans, kale, collards, lettuce, carrots, parsnips, brussels sprouts, celeriac, cutting celery, and I'm not sure what else. We're closely watching the sweet potatoes because they should be ready to dig soon. This last week or so the night temps have dropped and I need to pick the 'maters that are still on the vines and bring them in to wrap in newspaper and store for ripening. The shucky beans have all been shucked and jarred and I harvested and froze the Be Sweet edamame yesterday. The Beer Friend edamame will be done on Sunday along with jam from the wild autumn olive berries we discovered on the property. The swiss chard outgrew our ability to consume it fresh so I pressure canned a good bit of that in chicken stock for soups and casseroles this winter.
                                                                                                            We've still got a small window to get a few more trees into the ground and we need to plant the garlic and shallots soon. But I think we're at the point where it's mostly just maintainence from here on out. That and digging some new beds as soon as the day time temps cool just a bit more. The artichokes grew well but didn't produce any chokes. Since they're perennial and this was their first year, I'm hoping I can baby them through the winter and maybe get some next year. I'll soon set up tubs for growing spinach, lettuce, and basil indoors under lights along with bringing in a few pots of perennial herbs. January is starting to look pretty good - oh, wait - that's when the cycle starts all over again.
                                                                                                            Tomorrow is the local county fair and harvest festival. I put in 16 entries this afternoon. Wish me luck!

                                                                                                            11 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: morwen


                                                                                                              And good luck! Hope you will post pictures.

                                                                                                              I am mostly harvesting figs and green beans right now, and planning to put in shallots, garlic and fava beans in November. I'd love to do kale too, but I say that every year, and never do!

                                                                                                              1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                                                The competition was really succesful! Out of 16 entries I had 12 first places, 3 second places, 1 third place, 1 grand champion, and 1 reserve champion!

                                                                                                                Thank you CH'ers for your inspiration and encouragement! I learn so much from all of you!

                                                                                                                Pictures here: http://www.chow.com/photos/499795?tag...

                                                                                                                  1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                                                    1st place & grand champion: Bread & Butter Pickles
                                                                                                                    1st place & reserve champion: Sweet & Spicy Zavory & Mini-Bell Peppers
                                                                                                                    1st place: Blueberry Lime Jam with Coriander, Cinnamon Spiced Crab Apples, Cornichons, Peach Salsa, Peach Slices in Earl Grey Tea Syrup, Poached Seckel Pears in White Wine & Spices, Spicy Currant Tomato Preserves, Strawberry Honey Butter with Vanilla Bean, Whole Strawberries in Vanilla Syrup
                                                                                                                    2nd place: Whole Herbed Currant Tomatoes, Rhubarb Lime Jam, Sweet Gherkins
                                                                                                                    3rd place: Cider, Sage & Cracked Mixed Peppercorns Jelly

                                                                                                                    We went to our favorite pub for dinner tonight and took all the open jars. The owner spread out baskets of fresh warm biscuits and chicken tenders on the bar and everyone bellied up and demolished everything! I think next year we'll do the same thing but pre-competition so I can get everyone's input on what to enter!

                                                                                                                    1. re: morwen

                                                                                                                      Wow! Congratulations! You SO deserve it!

                                                                                                                      Were those original recipes? Where they all "canned" for unrefrigerated storage? How about the whole strawberries in Vanilla syrup? How about the strawberry honey butter? With all due respect; those bread and butter pickles must have ROCKED...how good can they be???

                                                                                                                      1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                                                        The Blueberry Lime jam with Coriander and the Earl Grey Tea Peaches are Kevin West recipes (savingtheseason.com), the Bread & Butter Pickles are from Marilyn Kluger's book "Preserving Summer's Bounty" (I've been making that recipe nearly every year since the early 80's. I knew it was good because of repeated requests but I didn't know it was that special), and the Rhubarb Lime Jam is from Gloria Nicol's book, "Fruits of the Earth". I've been corresponding a little with Gloria and discussing things like bread & butter pickles. She just competed in her first fair and walked away with her first red ribbon (the British equivalent to our blue ribbon) for her scones! The rest of the recipes are mine.
                                                                                                                        They were all canned to be shelf-stable, and when you read rules for competitions, there's all sorts of criteria to be met but most of those happen during the course of canning anyway (proper head space, floating fruit/veg, sparkling clean jars, proper labeling, etc.), and WAY too much paperwork. DH says the paperwork is meant to winnow out the pikers.
                                                                                                                        The woman who was overseeing the exhibit table told us (not knowing the pickles were mine) that when they were judging the bread & butter category the judge that first tasted my jar rolled his eyes and moaned and then yelled "Guys, guys! C'mere, ya gotta taste this!" Which would explain why, when we got the jar back, it was 3/4 empty. She said every judge in the hall, including the ones that were judging home/decorative/fine arts had a fork in the jar!
                                                                                                                        The strawberries in vanilla syrup came about because I was kinda bored with making straight whole strawberry preserves. So before the final heating I strained the strawberries out of the liquid, split a vanilla bean and threw it in, then reduced the liquid to a syrup, threw in the berries to heat, and then canned it. The vanilla seemed to give a nice rounding off to the flavor of the strawberries. I canned the leftover syrup (did the same with the peach Earl Grey syrup) and a few tablespoons mixed in a tall glass of seltzer makes a nice "soda".
                                                                                                                        The strawberry honey butter came about because I had a batch of strawberries that were just too ripe for canning and more than we could eat fresh before they'd spoil. So I crushed them and cooked them down with a bit of honey and a vanilla bean, a little lemon juice, until it was the consistency of a butter and canned it.
                                                                                                                        I got into competing last year simply because I thought it would help promote our bed & breakfast to have "award winning jams and jellies" on the breakfast page of the website when we launch it. I thought I could probably win a ribbon or two here and there, once in awhile, because our county is loaded with literally generations of talented home canners and lots of them enter the fair. This year, while I entered more items, I did it because competing is just plain fun. You meet lots of great people (seems everybody is each other's cheering squad), swap recipes, get tips and tricks, you even find folks to swap your excess produce with for theirs. All in all, it's a great atmosphere and my husband and I enjoy it immensely.

                                                                                                                        1. re: morwen

                                                                                                                          Nice! You have a B&B?? I'm swooning!

                                                                                                                          1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                                                            Yeah, and I'm working longer, harder hours than I did at any job except in pro kitchens. It ain't all flouncy dresses effortlessly serving gourmet breakfasts with a smile to appreciative, considerate guests. Some days I think a toilet brush has become my new annoying best friend ;-p But, I wouldn't have it any other way!

                                                                                                                            1. re: morwen

                                                                                                                              Well done, morwen! I loved reading your report and follow-up. The tasting session afterwards sounds like a lot of fun. Best wishes for a successful b&b. Maybe you should offer cooking/canning lessons as well if you have a slow season. Your garden sounds wonderful. Now I have to google autumn olives to see if we might have some around here.

                                                                                                                              1. re: dfrostnh

                                                                                                                                Thank you!
                                                                                                                                IIRC, autumn olives are pretty much all over the east coast although I can't remember if they go as far north as you are. Supposedly they're tastier after the first frost but the birds would have them all if I waited that long.

                                                                                                                                My husband's been urging me for awhile to start offering classes as well as a lodging/class package. I'll have master preserver certification by the end of January and I've started informally outlining possible class offerings.

                                                                                                                                The September garden is finally slowing down. Today I'm going to harvest the green tomatoes, wrap them in newspaper to slowly ripen and pull the vines. The late broccoli is heading up, lettuce is picking size, green beans are ready to pick, brussels sprouts are heading up. There's tons of green marconi peppers ready to be picked and frozen. I think I'm going to pull them too. Carrots, parsnips, celeriac are coming along nicely as is the black kale. We're inundated with swiss chard so I've been canning that with chicken broth for soups and casseroles later this winter. We're waiting for the ground to dry out a little to dig up the sweet potatoes. I'm still mourning the loss of all our winter squash to the bugs but a local farmers collective is offering 25# boxes of mixed winter squash for $25 so I put in an order for one of those. Apples, concord grapes, and pears have been showing up on our doorstep so I've been busy saucing and juicing those. Our area had a great spring and summer for tree and vine fruits and those things have been showing up around here in much the same way that zucchini magically appear in your unlocked car!

                                                                                                                                We've started tilling new beds for next year. Michael found a source for llama poo which is a great fertilizer. It's considered "cold" so you can put it directly into your garden without having to compost it. It's not smelly either (fortunately) because it seems lately I'm always driving around with the remnants of a load in my truck!

                                                                                                                                We also have a chance to purchase the property below us. I've been lusting after it for quite awhile because we're tight here for space and I want to add small livestock. The new property is flat, near 3 acres, and we'd be able to extend our chickens as well as add a couple of dexter cows for meat and milk. There's already a very nice, large chicken coop with fencing, and a shed, that with a little work, would serve to provide weather protection for the cows. I'm very excited!

                                                                                                            2. The garden's starting to look bare. The peppers, tomatoes, beans, eggplants, sweet potatoes, carrots have all been harvested and the beds tilled up. Some have been sown with cover crops. The garlic and shallots are planted. The lettuce is being picked and the greens are coming along. Parsnips are getting big and the celeriac is plumping up. We've given up on bok choy. Both the spring and the fall planting sprouted, put on a couple of leaves and then immediately bolted. Something happened to our broccoli too. It started putting on nice heads but then the heads turned yellow before they were picking size. Bummer. We're having an Indian summer right now and I think the warm nights have confused the plants.
                                                                                                              I'm hoping this is the last big preserving push. I've got 3 bushels of apples to juice, sauce, dry, turn into pie filling and brandied rings. There's 2 gallons of apple sauce in the fridge waiting to be canned but I may just turn that into leather. About half a bushel of green beans to snap, blanch, and freeze. Sweet potatoes are curing. Half a winter's worth of carrots to layer into damp sand. Herbs to be dried and/or salt-preserved.
                                                                                                              I noticed this past summer that there were literally no herbs to be bought at our local farmers market. When I asked the vendors about this they said that every herb they grow is being snapped up by the local restaurants and never reach the market. I think I'm going to expand our herb gardens next spring and fill that gap, refusing to sell to the chefs, so regular people can have some. There were some really sad bunches of basil, once, that I spotted. I had (and still have) an overabundance of herbs this year, so I think expansion should be easy. The beds are overcrowded now and crying out for division. Plus it's that much less lawn to mow (yay).
                                                                                                              We've succeeded in purchasing the property below ours (closing in November) and are already drawing up diagrams for orchards and more beds while leaving areas that can be rotated for the chicken tractors and grazing for the future pair of milk cows. We also want to leave space to set up our 20'x20' pavilion for events and occasions tying in with the B&B. Maybe I should landscape that area with herb and edible flower beds to set it off from the rest of the property. Any suggestions?

                                                                                                              8 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                                                  Some days I wish I was living vicariously through me too! I will not be able to carry this off next year without an employee/intern/apprentice/gopher/farmhand-type person who will work for food!

                                                                                                                  1. re: morwen

                                                                                                                    morwen, I hope you are keeping notes for a future book or at least a magazine article or three! This is the life some people only dream about but I know it's a lot of work which most people don't even think about. I don't know if I am becoming a fresh food/garden snob or not but I think there are lots of things in addition to better taste that non-gardeners or people without a very good farmers market know about. This year I grew a couple of varieties of choy sum which I can only get if I travel to an Asian grocery. Also have two types of long beans which I didn't care for but some people rave about. I thought they would just be long green beans but I guess they aren't that closely related. The lady at a new Chinese restaurant said they would cook them for me but alas I wasn't able to return before the beans got too big. Food can be a wonderful adventure. The first time I grew basil I didn't know what to do with it. A few years later a friend's husband suggested we visit an herb garden/shop he noticed nearby and that led us to a great adventure. In the 70s we didn't know how to cook with herbs and finding recipes was difficult. We searched used book shops for books.

                                                                                                                    I think landscaping the new area with herbs and edible flowers is a wonderful idea. You could give all sorts of events perhaps even inviting local chefs to give cooking demonstrations. Let them promote their restaurant at your location. I've noticed the local gourmet food shop invites in people who make their own cheese, wine, beer, etc. It gets more customers to the shop and helps food growers/artisans promote their wares.

                                                                                                                    You could have classes/events about gardening. Starting seeds, composting, building chicken tractors. We went on a cookie tour one December that went from inn to inn. I noticed one inn catered to families and they were having a gingerbread house building weekend.

                                                                                                                    My husband grew up on an apple farm but they didn't grow the incredible variety of apples that some of the nearby orchards do now. Still he had the advantage of growing up in the country that I, the suburbanite, did not. A local farm has their own garlic festival and invites others to set up tents, play music, etc. I have to learn everything from scratch since I didn't learn anything about gardening or cooking at home. I'm happy our grandchildren will grow up in the country. They are interested in the garden but one is a fussy eater and one is not. The good eater seems esp interested in what is going on in the garden. This past weekend she helped pick the last of the beans (the 4 yo really didn't like boring picking) and pulled some red onions to take home. She likes the yellow cherry tomatoes best ... and I bet a lot of children never taste a yellow tomato.

                                                                                                                    As for us, DH is happy to keep everything looking nice and leave all the vegetable gardening to me. He'll help with the heavy stuff and manure fetching but I'm chief weeder and planter. He has complimented me many times on how great it is to have a garden. We are fortunate to be the newest owners of the family homestead and willing to do the work that is required. Also fortunate that a local farmer needs more acreage and has been willing to renovate two of our fields that had been sadly neglected.

                                                                                                                    I bet you can find some helpers who will work for food. Good luck to you and don't forget to rest when you can.

                                                                                                                    1. re: dfrostnh

                                                                                                                      DH has been telling me I should be blogging this but I dunno.... all this stuff is already out there on other people's blogs. But this thread has been a great record keeper for me along with the great input and insights from everyone else that's been participating. I've learned a lot from folks here that I don't think I would have in blog form. Besides, I like it here!

                                                                                                                      We grew yard-long beans this year but I think we were expecting the same as you - long green beans. I think we left them go too long as well. DH liked them, me, not so much. Talking to some other local growers they reinforced our perception that bok choy is difficult to grow here.

                                                                                                                      We definitely now have the space to do some events in the future. I use to do the Highland Games/Celtic/Irish festival circuit and we have a 20x20 pavilion from those days so I have in mind getting in touch with some of my old music contacts and doing a Celtic music festival. It would be in keeping with our B&B which is based on the ones we stayed at in Ireland as well as with the Scots/Irish ancestry of the area we live in. But mostly I'm thinking of family reunions, wedding receptions, things along that line. Maybe a killer outdoor kitchen would be a good add-on. But not next year...

                                                                                                                      There's a good bit of agritourism going on around here: festivals, farmstays, there's wineries, a brewery growing it's own ingredients, a meadery with their own bees, and a cidery (cidery?) with their own orchard. There's several organic farms doing internships. But there's no one offering cooking classes so I'm already outlining a course of cooking classes called "How Simple is That!" covering different ways of preserving foods from canning to curing to cellaring, fermenting and brining, dairying and poultry, and nose-to-tail butchering, following the seasons. I figure I'm already doing this stuff so helping others to learn would help me and get more folks on the path to making their own. DH is already involved with the local community garden helping folks there and it seemed like the natural thing to be able to help them put up what they're learning to grow.

                                                                                                                      Our granddaughters love it here when they come to visit. Especially since they live in an urban area where they can't play in their own yard unsupervised. They love being able to roam back and forth with the other kids between our properties and they mustmustmust! look at the stars and listen to the bullfrogs before they go to bed at night! The garden fascinates them and they've become very adept at picking blackberries without getting stuck on the brambles. Even better than eating straight from the garden is eating foraged berries straight from the woods and hedgerows. Inside they mustmustmust! help with the preserving especially with spicing the jams and making sure spoons are licked clean! We keep lobbying their parents to move down here but they are definitely urbanites. Our son-in-law prefers not knowing his neighbors. He thinks people are too friendly and considerate here. Go figure....

                                                                                                                      DH has been lobbying for a small real tractor for awhile now. The lawn tractor just doesn't do it for him anymore. I think he's finally found a way to justify it!

                                                                                                                      1. re: morwen

                                                                                                                        Another frosty morning here. I think blogging is a great idea. Think of it as marketing your own B&B. It doesn't matter if the info is elsewhere, the purpose is the build a relationship with your customers and future customers. I would also suggest email marketing. I use Constant Contact but I've heard Mail Chimp is good and it's free if you have less than 500 subscribers.

                                                                                                                        I have to laugh about the bok choy. I never get my Asian greens harvested on time so a lot goes into the compost pile. (last night we had some choy sum that was already blooming and making seed pods but I picked the tender parts.) We planted a crab apple in the perennial bed in late August and filled the hole with compost. I now have a patch of bok choy growing around the base of the tree. I'm trying to learn the trick to growing cilantro and last year decided it did better if planted as a fall crop. So I have some of that growing in the perennial bed, too. I started neglecting the bed (it's not fully planted so there's big patches of soil.) and discovered a volunteer tomato plant just starting to make tomatoes last week. I did let a volunteer tomato grow this year but the taste wasn't that great to save seeds.

                                                                                                                        Your class ideas sound great. Extension is starting more canning classes but they seem to be generic. Something specific like what to do with too many cherry tomatoes would be great. Or aimed at canning for Christmas gifts.

                                                                                                                        Since DH grew up on an apple farm he loves tractors. He ended up with his dad's John Deere but he restored it and only uses it for shows. But when we had our first home he started off with a used snowblower for our long driveway and eventually got a 4 wheel drive tractor with a snowblower attachment. The bucket loader part is terrific whether it's ferrying dirt/compost/manure or taking away rocks and roots we pick out of a new bed. Last year he got me my own used riding lawn mower but not to mow lawns. I've got a cart for hauling. I don't do lawns. He doesn't do hand weeding.

                                                                                                                        Still don't have a cold frame or low tunnel. Guess that will be on next year's list again. Even here in NH people are claiming salad greens and spinach into November with a low tunnel.

                                                                                                                2. re: morwen

                                                                                                                  If you don't mind my asking, how do you cure your sweet potatoes? Everything we've read says to keep them at 90% humidity, 80-85F for two weeks; and we just can't do that in our place. Have you rigged up a special area for this, or do the tubers cure okay without one's making the home into a rain forest?

                                                                                                                  Congratulations on your expansion, by the way - sounds very exciting.

                                                                                                                  1. re: harrie

                                                                                                                    I follow Mike and Nancy Bubel's book, "Root Cellaring" for non-refrigerated storage and have great success with their recommendations.

                                                                                                                    For sweet potatoes they agree with the 90% humidity and 80-85F, 2 week curing period. The way they say they do it is to spread out the sweets somewhere warm (they do it behind their wood stove) and cover them with a damp towel. Our temps are below that now even inside the house so what I did was to place them in front of the south facing window in the garage and then covered them with the damp towel. I have to keep redampening the towel because it dries out fairly quickly. About every other day.
                                                                                                                    After the curing period, wrap the individual sweet potatoes in newspaper and gently pile them in a basket. Use the smallest ones first as they don't keep as well as the larger ones. All bruised or cut ones should be set aside for immediate eating. Store the basket where temps are between 50-60F during the day. I use my garage mostly but if temps are really cold they go on my unheated enclosed porch.

                                                                                                                    Oh, and don't wash them until you're ready to use them. Just gently brush the worst of the dirt from them before wrapping.

                                                                                                                    1. re: morwen

                                                                                                                      Thank you for the advice, morwen - this is our third year of growing them but the first year with any real success, so we were caught off guard.

                                                                                                                3. November-
                                                                                                                  The tunnels are all up over the raised beds permanently for the winter now. We've had a couple of hard frosts. On warm days we've been opening the ends for ventilation but the past few days it's been cold enough to keep them closed all the time. We've started harvesting parsnips, celeraic, brussel sprouts, root veggies and greens as we need them for meals. The lettuce has slowed down a little but the chard is still going great guns. The garlic is poking up and it's time to mulch that in for the winter. The artichokes are loving this weather! Hard frosts haven't fazed them. I know at some point I need to cut them back and mulch them in but I don't know when the right time for that is. Any clues? Do you think that putting them under tunnels might work in lieu of cutting back and mulching? The beds with the fava beans for cover crop are all sprouting.
                                                                                                                  We're pushing our luck getting new beds dug. We lent out our big rototiller back in the early summer and when it came back didn't have a need to start it until this fall. Now it won't start. The thing is still under warranty but the warranty won't cover it because the repair guy says the problem is the carb is all clogged up from dirty gas. We used high test in it as was recommended and told the borrowers to use high test as well but we don't know if they did and repair guy says even high test will clog it up. $35 for a new carb, $100 for labor, seems like a built in moneymaker to me. Funny, our little tiller has the same make of motor and carb and always starts right up first try no matter what. I don't get it.
                                                                                                                  Apples. I'm still processing apples. Have all the perfect ones wrapped and stored. Have made 3 gallons dried, several quarts of pie filling, apple sauce, more apple sauce, apple leather, apple crack for hub's lunch box, apple cider, brandied apple rings and there's still about a bushel out in the garage. Guess I'll dry, pie, and crack some more....

                                                                                                                  Another month and the new seed catalogs will start coming! Have you thought about the 2011 garden yet?

                                                                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                                                                  1. re: morwen

                                                                                                                    Arghh....The rains have started, a little early this year, so the ground is finally soft. I keep saying I'm going to put out new parsley plants, collards, sweet peas, gaarlic and shallots.....but so far it's just sayin'. And NOT doing tomatoes next year....I say that every year....

                                                                                                                    1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                                                      No tomatoes? How can that be? ;-)

                                                                                                                      1. re: morwen

                                                                                                                        Sigh. I have been growing tomatoes from seed for at least fifteen years, but reaping less and less in the last five years. I think it's because of tree roots in my raised beds. On the other hand, I also subscribe to a CSA, and shop my farmers market weekly, and since I only eat about three slicers and ten plums a week, I'm not sure they are worth the space. Peppers seem to do WAY better, are WAY more expensive, and between me and my guinea pig ( a real guinea pig), we eat more ripe peppers.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                                                          Do you rotate your beds? I ask only because a new friend of mine who is an experienced gardener had a similar problem and while we were talking it turned out she'd been growing her tomatoes in the same bed for years. The soil was depleted of the nutrients tomatoes like.

                                                                                                                          Also, tomatoes are huge calcium lovers. Try adding calcium to the bed when you work it up and, believe it or not, a big double handful of dried instant milk in each hole when you plant. Cheapest you can find, outdated and about to be tossed (free) is best.

                                                                                                                          1. re: morwen

                                                                                                                            My yard is on a fairly steep slope, and I am fairly limited in terms of places I can plant. I'm sure poor nutrition could be a problem. I was thinking it was poor because of the fig tree roots though. On the other hand, my peppers seem to do okay. Anyway, if I try again, and I know I will, I will try the nutrient idea.

                                                                                                                  2. Proud to report my pumpkins, zucchinis, and spaghetti sqaushes are coming in. I haven't pulled up the tomatoes yet....using them as cheap "cover" since it's starting to get cold at night here

                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                    1. I think we can declare our 2010 garden officially done. We've been in single digits two times already for a week each and had a nuisance snow. Unusual for our area, we usually don't see single digits or snow until January. We still have greens, lettuce and parsnips under cover but we pulled everything else last weekend. Which, coincidentally was when the seed catalogs started to arrive. By Monday evening Michael and I couldn't stand it anymore and had to go inventory our seed stash. Then he had to pull up Excel and start plotting out the 2011 garden. Whatever gets you through the winter, right?

                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: morwen

                                                                                                                        "Whatever gets you through the winter,"

                                                                                                                        Seed catalogs!

                                                                                                                        1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                                                          I'm glad I started an Excel sheet but I didn't keep it updated. I know my husband raved over the filet beans and I was disappointed with one variety of winter squash (like a long necked butternut, too watery and lacking in flavor). We had the last of the fresh beets the other night and I need to make a much better effort at beet growing next year. And I really really want to have a low tunnel next year. Will check with a neighbor who is trying one but it sounded like he planted his too late.

                                                                                                                          Wonder if my husband can pry a few parsnips out of the garden for a Christmas vegetable dish. I had people surprised we were still eating out of the garden in October here in NH. Too many people think vegetable gardens end in September.