Tuesday, January 27, 2009

January 28, 2009 - Anniversary post!

Well folks, today celebrates one year of documenting my garden antics.  Judy convinced me to start a blahg exactly one year ago.   A year ago, I had just finished reading Mel's book and was frantically doing research online to learn all I could about vegetable gardening.  I've learned a ton, but still have a lot to learn.  You can learn a ton just by heading back to re-read my earliest posts.  Oh, I would definitely recommend it. It's a great way to avoid the mistakes I made.  Some of the posts over the last year are even funny, if I do say so myself.  But if you're like me and that doesn't sound fun to you, I thought I would put together a year-in-review post. 

Enjoy my garden...

Building a new garden

Planting a garden with my garden helper

Spring is in the air

Summer, what summer?

Potato bins sweeping nation, who knew?

Who knew the fall veggies were planted late and wouldn't survive December under hoop covers?

So, there's a snap shot of a year.  And along the way, I've met countless gardeners, many of whom have become garden buddies of mine.  I'd like to thank the following folks (in random order)...

Jen (for introducing me to Mel's book), Judy (for my blog and seeds galore), M0J0D (for his funny stories), Toasty (for SWCs and Seeds), Christy (for garden emails), EG (for just about everything), Granny (for her quick wit), Carolynp (seed swaps), DoubleD (for her vast local knowledge and friendship), GardenGirl (for videos and publishing little old me), Dan (for your photos), Cynthia (for seeds and EQ memories), all my readers (for your loyalty) and the Dervaes (for all you do).  Forgive me if I forgot you, it's late.

All, in all, it's been a great ride this last year, but I'm not stopping now.  There's to much fun to be had.

Enjoy your garden!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

January 25, 2009

Well, as predicted, I got nothing done this weekend.  I had fun, but nothing garden related got done.  Nor did I go shopping for anything.  About the only garden things that happened was that I got some seeds from a garden buddy of mine, and I had some good conversation time with my garden muse. 

After the show on Saturday, we statyed up way too late eating fresh baked brownies and ice cream and chatting.  I had mentioned SWC's to her over dinner and so I called up Judy's instruction page (follow the link to her site on the blogroll), and Raybo's videos on Tomatofest's site (google Earthtainer (TM) it's easier).  She decided that they would be perfect for her concrete patio in the back yard.  I agree completely.  So we're going to make an evening of it.  She wants 5 built and I need 3, so we'll do dinner and chat while we do an assembly line.  So I've got to look for sales and make it to Wally World to see what I can pick up.  I would really like to cut down on the costs a bit.

We also decided to combine our Territorial orders to save on shipping.  Could be a doosey.  While we were at the show, it started snowing.  By the time we left our friend's house we had about an inch on the ground.  They commented that every time we get together it snows these days.  Hehe they're right.  Good thing I've got nothing growing in the garden right now (except stalled succession lettuce). 

Today was a bunch of hurry up and wait surrounding the kids.  But since it was snowing all day, I didn't get out into the garden, and my wife was gone all day so I couldn't shop.  Lazy day.  Well, except when I was babysitting 4 toddlers, hehe.

Well, I've got a ton to do before I head out on a business trip later this week, so I'd better cut this short.  But before I go, I'd like to direct folks to Judy's blog.  She recently celebrated her first anniversary of her garden blog.  And since she's the one that twisted my arm to get me to write this drivel, I owe her one!

Enjoy your garden!

Friday, January 23, 2009

January 23, 2009

I wanted to post my to-do list for the weekend yesterday, but the evening got away from me.  Now I'm thinking about all I'd like to do in the garden or for the garden this weekend, but alas, I am fearful that the weekend will do the same.  So I get to list my wish list.  

I'd really like to find the components for my SWCs at a reasonable price.  I mean, I got my Rubbermaid bins for cheap last year, but they don't seem to exist anymore.  Now all Rubbermaid sells is the $9 Roughneck model.  Now I realize that Raybo uses them exclusively, and they're tough, sure.  But mine works awesome.  It's all I need.  Well, maybe for the 30 gallon one I would go heavier grade because even that is improssible to empty the big ones at the end of the season.  Note to Raybo, make a video of THAT! 

I also need to buy the lights and some wood to finish my light system.  On that note, I am really leaning toward the soil block maker as a long-term investment.  But so close after the Christmas bills, ouch, hehe.

And of course my hoop covers won't fix themselves.  But what can you do.

Instead, I'm going to Beauty and the Beast (again) with my SFG muse and good friends, and then on Sunday I'm watching 4 kids run around our house while my wife and our preschool friends go acquiring for the annual auction.  As fun as that is, I'm not sure I'll get anything done, hehe.

On a garden note, you know how I said nothing survived from the garden?  Well I was supposed to surprise you shortly after my last garden tour, but I got busy.  So here is what I managed to salvage for my son.

I pulled about a half dozen in total baby carrots.  My son was very pleased.  So not all was lost this winter.  And I definitely think I'll be tucking carrots into every nook and cranny in the yard for my son.  He could eat a carrot a day, and then there's the rest of the family.

I also didn't share this shot of the blank canvas where I've got to cram two Build-As-You-Grow Bins, my cantaloupe bin and maybe a tomato SWC. 

I'm thinking that I could use the BAYG Bins as bookends for a trellis for my cantaloupe and tomatoes.  Doesn't that sound nice?  And this year will be the first year I let a few apples grow on that tree in the middle.  Last year I plucked off the apples before they got bigger than cherries so the tree would grow big and strong.  Didn't happen, so forget it.  This year I'll allow a few apples per branch to mature and cover them with plastic bags.  I have no idea how the coupling moths found my little tree last year, but they did.

So anyway, I sure hope you're exicted about spring and are busy getting ready for it!

Enjoy your garden.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

January 21, 2008

Not much to post about today.  It's been a pretty slow week gardening wise.  Seeds are coming in, that's excellent news, but I still am working on my brother to put together our Territorial Seed order.  We hope to do that this weekend.

The biggest news is the weather.  No, it's not shocking that it's hovered around freezing at night and hasn't gotten to 50 during the days.  What is odd is the fog.  I think we've had fog for 48 hours straigtht this week, and three of the last four days.  Fog isn't unusual for us, but it always burns off by noon.  Not recently though.  Good thing I don't have plants trying to grow right now.  There is no sun when there's thick fog. 

Well, I'm writing this early in the morning so I'd better shuffle off to work, but today I'll be thinking about my weekend to-do list.  I like to do that on Thursdays throughout the growing season so I can get a jump start on the weekend by tackling some of the really fun stuff on Friday if I can.  So, what's on your list for this weekend?

Enjoy your garden!

Monday, January 19, 2009

January 19, 2008

Today's post is about my latest tour around the garden.  But after a long day of mostly nothing, I am going to jump right in to save time.

Here is where my neglected garden is hanging out these days.  The twist ties deflintely don't hold up to winter storms, so I have stopped bothering to fix the top bar.  Until the weather improves and I have a good hour to kill outdoors, I won't drill the holes and afix the bolts.

And the reason why it's neglected is shown in the pictures below.  I had hoped that several of the plants would have bounced back from the sub freezing temperatures before Christmas, but this is the cauliflower in bed #3.

Yeah, I don't see anything either.  If I'm not mistaken, the stalks are actually nibbled on.  Now let's move on to bed #2.

These translucent leaves used to be my radish bed.

And this is the back of the bed.  Sure I need to clean out the freezer burned leaves, but the new growth on the top doesn't look so good either.  But wait, look close...

Yep, those leaves are munched something fierce.  It looks like those coons came back for seconds.  And I thought they'd eaten all there was to eat last year.  Apparently not.  Note to self, buy more deterrant next time you're at the store.

Ok, final bed.  Let's hope the lettuce is holding out.

Nope, more carnage here too.  Look at the mature lettuce that I'd hoped would bounce back in the 45-50 degree weather we've been having.

Nada.  Well, at least the succession lettuce didn't look too bad.

Of course it hasn't grown at all in two months.  I had hoped it would be ready for February harvest.  It's not looking good Mr. Solomon. hehe

Also note the green all over the dirt.  It's moss, I know.  But over at my buddy EG's blog (see the blogroll for a link), he notes today that he's got some in his propogation chamber and it's caused by condensation. Ok, I buy that, it's likely the same reason inside my hoop covers. Though I've got pretty good ventilation out the front and back since the wind disturbed the loosly bunched plastic under bricks.  I just hope that like he says, the sun will kill it once I take the hoop covers off sometime in Aprilish. hehe

Well, I hope this clears up what's happened to my first foray into four season gardening.

Enjoy your garden or your garden plans for spring...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

January 18, 2008

First off, quick update on my son. He's a real trooper.  You have to drill down to get him to tell you it hurts.  He's even great at using only his left hand to do everything when he's right handed.  Tomorrow he gets the stitches out, then it's only regular band aids from here on out.  Boy kids heal fast.  Oh, why not, here's a shot of him waiting to be treated in the ER.

Now where was I?  Well, last night was a really late night.  I had slept in so it was easy to stay up, especially when I was watching a movie and cutting 1" PVC pipes into little pieces.  The first several were bad, jagged edges and broken pieces, but once I got the hang of the cutting tool, it worked well.  Besides, it doesn't have to be perfect, just solid.  At 2 am I finally finished the movie and the cutting, but silly me, I didn't think to take a picture until I had put everything away.  You'll note though, that it stores nicely so I can take it down and put it away when I don't need it anymore, if that happens, not sure.

When I woke up I had to take this picture out my office window at all the frost on the ground.

Anyway, I didn't get a chance to go out and buy the lights today.  During breakfast I got a call saying the demo was starting at my folk's old house, so off I went.  On the way back I swung by Target to check out the Sterilite 18 gallon totes, only to find them all gone.  Oh, sure, they had plenty of the Rubbermaid Roughnecks for $9 each.  I'm not even sure those will work well for a SWC.  I'll have to think on that.  Thank goodness I don't need to plant my SWCs until May if last year is any indication (I was going through my pictures last night and found the ones from the day I planted, May 3rd).  Wow, that's a long time from now.

At least after we did demo, we took an entire truck load of transplanted plants my Aunt wanted to save and move to the new house.  I'm sure she'll miss the wonderful flower garden she created over 40 years at my folks' house, but at least now she has a clean slate to work with.  On that note, I tried again to convince her to follow through with her thought to take Master Gardener classes now that she's retired.  Why not, she's got the time and probably could teach most of the classes already.

Lastly, I took a pic of each blueberry plant to put next to the description in yesterday's post, but grrr, WordPress had an error loading the page so I can't edit that post, even to put a title on it. hehe.  So I thought I'd at least put them here so you can see what my bushes look like in the dead of winter.

Legacy: My favorite part of this bush is that it's an evergreen here.

Blueray: I love the big clusters of berries.



Lastly, a word on planting blueberries.  I know you can plant them in either fall or spring, but for my money, I like fall planting.  That gives them all winter to get used to the new environment and start growing healthy root systems.  At lest it worked last year, so I hope it works just as well with these last two that I planted last October.

Enjoy your garden!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Well, today was a beautiful day, we almost hit 50 degrees and the sun was out.  But I didn't get out to the garden to work because I was watching my youngest today.  You see, yesterday his older brother closed the heavy wooden door on his pinky.  Then my 2 year old pulled his hand out.  Ouch!  Not only was his finger tip flattened and mangled, but he lost most of his finger nail.  No problem I thought, they grow back.  Of course I was at work and didn't see it.  So, a trip to the pediatrition, then Children's Hospital ER later, and we had his nail bed stiched back in place.  /sigh  When it rains it pours.  Of course he's such a trooper that he was sitting there being polite and complimenting the stream of doctors and nurses that came through the room over the 4 hour ordeal.  He's really an amazing kid.  Even now he's great about not using his hurt hand, using his inconvenient left instead.  Incredible.

So, after taking him to music class, we went to Lowes to shop.  I checked out the light systems, but got enough information to be confused before I moved on.  I think I'm going to go the cheap T8 plug-in lights rather than the T12s, because the employee there said it's likely that T12s are going away, maybe next year.  Not conservationalist and environmentalist friendly I suspect.  Then I figured for the bulbs, instead of getting a $10 per bulb grow light, I'd get one cool and one daylight bulb.  That way, I span both ends of the light spectrum, providing red for initial growth and blue for growth, or something like that.  Basically it's back from the days last year when I did some research on the GW grow light forum.  OMG those folks have strong opinions and they're all right and everyone else is wrong.  Oh, and you need to spend hundreds on the lights alone. 

No thanks. I think I'll spend less than $50 on the entire set-up.  Well maybe a bit more.  You see, I'll need to get some seedling trays to fit on my light stand.  Plus, I would kinda like to buy a Peddler's Wagon Soil Block Maker to plant my seedlings in.  Both my brother and I want it, so it would be good to have for the "family".  Of course, I kind of want one of these too hehe. You see, since I lost a ton of weight a few years ago, I've been on the lookout for unique T-shirts to replace my XL wardrobe. This would qualify!

Anyway, back to gardening. Sorry that this post is less about garden stuff, but today was all about family.  Tomorrow I'll go out and work in the garden.

So, back at Lowes.  I didn't buy the stuff to build my SWCs, but I did do some checking for prices and options.  Can I say ouch?  Lowes now only carries the Roughneck variety of 18 gallon bin, unless I want a flimsy (yet good idea) recycled plastic bins that wouldn't hold dirt to save their souls.  The Rubbermaid Roughnecks look sturdy enough to do the job, in fact, they look more sturdy than the one I'm using now.  Unfortuantely they cost $9 each.  Do the math, I need 3 new SWCs, so that's $54 just for the bins, and I would be demolishing half of them, hehe.  I'll wait until they go on sale.  I seem to recall once a year big box stores get loads of bins in and blow them out.  I think it's sometime in spring , like for spring cleaning.  That would be perfect timing if it's early spring.  I could build them and plant my tomatoes right away.  Anyone else remember this?  My wife doesn't.

Ok, so I am not leaving you high and dry as far as garden photos and such.  I did take a brief spin around the yard today and took a couple of pics to share.  What I wanted to share was my garlic.  If you recall, it was showing a few inches of growth prior to the deep freeze and snows of winter '08.  What you haven't seen is the scene I've witnessed from my office window since then.  Look at what they look like now, here's one of the two patches I planted last fall.

The glove is one of my winter gardening gloves for perspective.  But here is a good shot of how tall the greens are.

Certainly not as tall as some around the country, but for my first time growing garlic, I'm pretty happy.  Sure I won't be eating the greens like chives (yummy sounding to me) anytime soon, but it's a start.

And it's a great use of the space between my blueberry bushes until they fill in with growth over the next decade.  Speaking of blueberry bushes, I finally took down the names of the varieties for posterity.  Over time the labels wear down and I want to have record of what I'm growing.  So I'll end with a list of the blueberries I'm growing, along with a blurb about each.

Legacy: Mid-Late season harvest, this variety tends to be a little slower to produce in the first couple of years, but then responds with very high yields once established. Legacy has received top ranking reviews for its fruit quality, superior scar and flavor.

Blueray: Mid season harvest, it excels in marginal Northern Highbush blueberry growing areas where winters are more severe. It’s large berry size with medium to large scar and superior flavor makes Blueray a good choice. Blueray produces best in intensive plantings with severe pruning and has tight clusters.

Northblue: Mid season harvest, it is quite productive for its size (semi-dwarf).  Northblue has produced between 3 and 7 pounds per bush in Minnesota tests. Initial observations in Oregon indicate a high yield potential in milder climates. Very little pruning is needed for Northblue the first few years, then regular thinning of old wood is recommended.

Jersey: Late season, it is one of the oldest and most dependable varieties. It grows well in most types of soil, producing consistent yields of very sweet fruit. The loose clusters and upright bush with a small to medium sized berry.

Overall, I think those are great choices, and I can say so myself because I didn't know any of this when I got them.  The first two were recommended by the nursery in Arlington where we bought them, and the second two were a gift from my garden buddy Sandy over in Woodinville.  I guess the only thing I'm missing is an early variety, but given our climate, I doubt an early variety would be such here.   Though if I could find room for another, I think I'd go with something like the Patriot, which is ultra early with cluster berries.  Not that I have any room for another unless I removed some bushes or huge stumps. 

I hope you got out and enjoyed your garden this weekend and if you're in the east, I hope you are staying warm and have the pipes wrapped tight. /brrrr

Thursday, January 15, 2009

January 15, 2008

Late night at work, so short post...

Well, it's Thursday, and the weather's improving a bit.  Supposed to be in the mid 50s this weekend, so I thought I would talk about a to-do list.  Kinda like spring already huh?  Hehe.

Let's see, I've got to clean up some of the damage that the deep freeze left and assess what I should keep and what may grow again.  I'd also like to plant some succession lettuce, radishes and maybe even some carrots (I wonder if I can plant those this early, think winter sowing, hehe).  Then I should really secure my hoop covers together with bolts.  Twist ties just don't work in our windy winters.  I guess I was just being lazy.

Oh, and I want to shop for some materials for several new SWCs and a light system.  That means PVC (I'm going to try the one a reader left the plans for in a comment THANKS!), light fixtures, a timer, 18 gallon bins, dollar store baskets, etc.  Quite the shopping trip.

Lastly, I hope to finally place some seed orders so I can start planting the early stuff.  I'm getting the gardening bug and I get to garden (sort of).  Hehe, funny thing... my good buddy Granny got the gardening bug, and finally built a real garden at her home in Arizona.  Head on over to her blog to see her plants race the clock to beat her leaving back to Washington State so she can enjoy the produce. http://annieskitchengarden.blogspot.com/

Enjoy your garden!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

January 14, 2008

Well folks, this economy isn't getting much better anytime soon.  So while it's not time to panic and start hording food, it is time to start saving money, paying off debt, and above all, become more self sustainable.  I'm not going to run out and get chickens (though I would someday like to raise some layers), nor tear up my yard to plant enough food to feed an army, I am going to grow more food than we can eat in the hopes of feeding my family nutritious food.  Oh, and in the short term, don't worry too much about prices skyrocketing, deflation is more likely (prices dropping), but in the mid-term, the government is going to have trouble pulling out of all it's entered and that will raise prices.  Just enough time to grow a killer spring/summer garden.

To that end, I have decided on the tomatoes I'm growing this year.  Yes, most of you have not only decided, but you've ordered and received your orders.  So I'm slow.  The reason is, if I pick the "right" tomatoes, I'll never be buying tomato seed again!  The way I see it, I want to get it right the first time.  So I obsessed.  Sorry you had to witness it.  Anyway, here are the winners of the let's grow a tomato contest (along with where I'm getting them from, note that I've got amazing friends out there!)...

  • Black Cherry (Thanks Carolynp!)

  • Yellow Pear (Thanks Judy!)

  • Bloody Butcher (Thanks Carolyn!)

  • Sunset Horizon Redota (Tomatofest)

  • Legend (Tomatofest)

  • San Marzano Romas (Thanks Carolynp!)

  • Gardener's Delight (Thanks Cynthia!)

Ok, you may notice that that's seven varieties, and I've got room for 6.  Well, I have too many tomatoes to plant, so I may not grow Legend myself.  My brother's going to grow it and I was going to use the extra space for more big slicers/saucers.  However, due to the generosity of all my wonderful garden buddies, I may grow Gardener's Delight cherry tomatoes in it's place.  Can you imagine how colorful a salad would be with GD, YP and BC all mixed together!?!  I'm drooling already.

As you can see however, I'm only needing to buy two varieties.  That's $7 or so of my $15 minimum order.  I'm afraid I'm striking out on getting my gardening buddies to go in with me on an order (see above... they already have their orders, hehe you snooze you loose).  If I can't get an order split, my brother convinced me to buy extras of the Sunset since that's a proprietary seed.  That way I can use it to trade (read give away) or even grow and sell seedlings like my buddy EG may do next year.  Hehe, I'd give the person a few blocks away a run for their money (someone down the street sells tomato seedlings every year).

Anyway, I'm excited to get out to the store and look into SWC and light set-up materials.  Tomorrow's a late night for work, but maybe Friday.

Enjoy your garden and become more self sufficient... you just may need it.

Monday, January 12, 2009

January 12, 2008

Sorry I haven't posted in a few days.  I took a lazy day on Sunday and played with the kids inside.  The weather was not good all weekend so I didn't make it out to the garden even to take pictures. 

However, next chance I get, DoubleD suggested that I prune back the dead leaves of my spinach (and I'll do the lettuce also) to give the new growth a chance to grow.  I think I could have some decent growth since the weather's been around 50 during the day and in the upper 40s at night. 

My real reason for posting tonight is I made my decisions on my tomatoes.  I planted two slicers last year and they did great in my one SWC.  This year, I'll make two more to plant a total of 6 tomato plants.  They'll be the ones I was debating over.  Yellow Pear and Black Cherry in one, Bloody Butcher and Sunset Red Horizon in another, and Legend and Heinz in the third.  I'd love to plant another cherry variety that I hope to get in trade, so I may drop the Legend if my brother's doing that one and plant a third cherry.  Insane I know, but I love salads, and this year I vow to get the succesion plantings right so I can have lettuce all year round.

Ok, now I'm frustrated. As great as Tomatofest seems to be (folks like it and it's heirloom, so sounds good to me), why they need a $15 minimum order is beyond me.  Even robbing my entire order from Territorial and switching it to Tomatofest doesn't get me to $15.  Grrr.  Maybe I'll call and they'll let me donate the rest. hehe  I've been searching their site for a Heinz alternative for cool season areas.  I'm not married to Heinz.  I just want a good paste tomato that's good for here.  Hrumpf.

Changing the subject, you know I just LOVE getting comments, and for some reason I'm writing about them.  Last time it was from a co-op and seed company owner, today it was from a local gardener.  Very local.  Seems Moondancer and Bear live about 20 miles away near the city of Snohomish (I live in south Snohomish County).  What's more, they have spent the season beating me at my own game.  Read their post from the 10th.  They did everything I did, but bigger and better.  How cool is that!?!  They're eating potatoes like mad from BAYG bins, they planted 28 tomatos, mostly in SWCs, they've got raised beds galore.  They're me on acreage, hehe.  What's more, they've got chickens and goats.  I'm not sure that's a dream come true, but darn close!

Now, to answer Carolyn's question that she posted while I write.  Uprising Seeds can be found on the web at http://www.skagitfoodcoop.com/Uprising%20Seeds.html If I'm ever up that way I'll be sure to stop by.

Well, back to checking out Tomatofest.

Enjoy your garden, and feel free to tell me just how lousy or funny my blog is, or whatever.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

January 10, 2008

Well, today is more like our winter here.  Rain, rain and more rain.  Too much rain for the garden, but thankfully my hoop covers are holding up nicely, even if there probably isn't much to save living under them.

I wanted to post today, mostly because I got a great comment from a surprise reader.  It seems the owner of Uprising Seeds was reading my posts on Monsanto and wanted to comment on a clarification.  Technically you can't own Open Polinated varieties.  I'm no lawyer, but for all practical purposes Plant Variety Patents (PVPs) generate property rights to a seed, to me are close enough to owning it during the patent period.  And when it ends, knowing Monsanto, they will tweek something in it and own it again.  But as I said, I'm no lawyer, nor have I read the PVP rules.  I'm still going to go from Yellow Pear from alternative sources rather than the store where I'm fairly certain they got it from Seminis.

What's more, he shared the major problem of organic hybrid seeds that you know didn't come from Monsanto or GMO stock, that can be contaminated by GMO varieties via cross pollination.  Very scary is right!  Something has to be done about this.  Who knows if we're dealing with another Agent Orange, Sacharine or rBST.  They certainly aren't known for their safe products.

But I'm just excited that the owner of a local seed company, an organic co-op, and CSA in Skagit Valley read my blog and posted.  I am so impressed by CSAs and co-ops.  My muse belongs to a local CSA and she gets all sorts of great, beautiful, organic veggies there it's unreal.  That and I took a moment or two to check out Uprising Seeds, and the facility and co-op looks amazing.  Very impressive.  Kind of a shame I'm not exactly local to Mt. Vernon, hehe.

Speaking of local folks, I just traded messages with Dan in Everett.  I'm not sure if he is the other Dan that's been posting recently to my blog, but it's great.  He's got 5 acres east of Everett, which is 15 miles north of me, and he grows pumpkins.  I saw a picture and they were all shapes, colors and sizes.  Very cool.  He's also got horses, so he has his own source of HS, or HM if you prefer, hehe.

Lastly, I'm getting close on a decision on my tomatoes.  I'm fairly certain I'll be building an extra SWC this year and finding a place to put it (maybe next to my cantaloupes and potatoes.  I should have room.  Anyway, I'm thinking seriously at planting yellow pear, black cherry, Bloody Butcher, Sunset Red Horizon, Heinz and Legend.  All are open pollinated, early season, cool weather varieties, so if we get a crappy summer like we had last year, I'm ready for it. 

I wonder if it would be too wierd to plant the two cherries, the two slicers and the two determinates together in the three SWCs.  To me that makes sense.

If the weather improves, I'll get out and take some pics tomorrow. I'd really like to drill some holes and bolt together my hoop cover top pipes so they stop falling down in the massive wind storms we get here.  Who'd have figured that a south east corner garden, sheltered to the west and north and partially to the south, would get that much wind since the coast is to the west.  Odd.

Well, enjoy your garden!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

January 8, 2008

I wasn't certain I was going to have anything to talk about in a post tonight, but thanks to all the comments, I figure I'll post some comments in response.  So this will be my second tomato post.  Kind of fitting since I'm still not certain on what my slicer is going to be.

Dan, you're right, Bloody Butcher is comparable to Early Girl with about a 2-3 inch fruit.  Definitely not the optimal slicer, but it worked for me last year, so I could make do.  Besides, hehe CarolynP is kind enough to offer me seeds.  Can't beat free for an experiment.  Of course that's not the reason I'd grow them if I find something better.

I too think Brandywine is a good slicer to grow.  Unfortunately I value DoubleD's experience and would rather have small tomatoes all season than burgers when the weather's waning.  Legend was recommended by DoubleD a while back.  It's a decent sized early variety.  Unfortunately it's a determinate, so not good for my needs.  That said, I think I convinced my brother to grow it, so hopefully it will compliment my sauce tomato for making salsa.

That said, DoubleD likes romas for canning, that seems odd to me due to their size and moisture content.  Then again, CarolynP mentioned to me that paste tomatoes taste bad, not something I want to use for salsa.  I don't know anyone that grows Heinz, but it sounds like a good variety for my salsa contribution.  Such tough choices when there are SO many tomatoes to choose from and only 4 slots open in my garden.

That said, I happened on the EarthTainer (TM) videos on Tomatofest's site, and I like how they linked together the cages and secured them to the reservoir to firm up the cage system.  I can easily see how they could be used without trellises if you had a compact determinate, but even if I go through the trouble of modifying my SWCs (Self Watering Containers) to be more like the EarthTainer (TM), I think I'll use the trellis, at least for my indeterminates.  Hmm, while I am composing this, it dawned on me that if I built a THIRD (fourth really since I have to make one for my cantaloupe) SWC, I could put it somewhere else in my yard and grow two more plants.  If I did that, I know I would do a Legend and another Heinz.  That would give me two Heinz and a Legend for canning, and maybe even for slicing if I staggered the planting a bit.  Of course, I probably have to remind folks that I am the only one in my immediate family that likes tomatoes.  So although I know I can offload some to my family, my brother will be doing the same and we're sure to inundate them with generosity, hehe.

Anyway, back to tomatoes (I'll think on the potential for further expansion later).  Thanks to Dan again for the suggestion of checking out Tomatofest.  I know Judy likes them, but I was glad to hear they're heirloom vendors on the west coast.  That makes me interested.  So I went there.  I must say I was not pleased.  It's a pet peeve of mine, but anytime you are describing a tomato variety, you must include days to maturity and whether it is a determinate or indeterminate.  Tomatofest was horrible at that.  Shame on them.  For instance, I was particularly interested in the Sunset Red Horizon that Dan suggested.  It's all well and good that it came over (illegally) from Russia back in '99 and was named for Sunset Magazine because it's so good.  Great.  But what does that tell me about the TOMATO!  If I can't answer those two simple questions about a variety, it's not on my list.  Ok, rant over, and eventually I navigated to find that Sunset days to maturity is 72, compared to 60 days for Bloody butcher.  Of course I could easily start it earlier inside and let it grow more inside before hardening off after the last frost.  Drat, more dilemmas. So, it's safe to say Brandywine is out.  But Sunset is a possibility, because two weeks isn't horrible to wait.  Ouch, I just noticed you have to buy $15 worth of seeds from Tomatofest.  Even if I get my Legend from them instead of Territorial, that's not enough. Hmm, maybe I go searching for an alternative source for Sunset...

Now to Cynthia's comment.  I'm glad that I could answer your questions, but I don't even know exactly what I'll be growing in my SWCs this year.  All I know is that I'll grow at least two SWC's worth (a far cry from the dozens that Judy grows or the dozen or so EG's growing... what's with Alabamans and their tomatoes?).  Two cherry varieties, likely Black Cherry from CarolynP and Yellow Pear from Judy (thanks you two!), and two larger varieties, likely Heinz 2653 from Territorial for a determinate sauce tomato and the dilemma tomato slicer I've been vacillating over for two days (Sunset and Bloody Butcher getting the most thought now), hehe. Oh and I MAY add a Legend to the mix if I decide to add a third bin.  Oooh, here's an idea, do both Sunset and Bloody butcher with Legend and only do one Hinez,  hehe. I can be so greedy sometimes.  Where would I stick them all and what would I do with them when they all start maturing.  I know, canning party!  Oh yeah, and Cynthia, I'm not so nuts over catalogs since I've limited myself to reading Territorial and maybe Baker Creek for pleasure reading, but I got bug-eyed over Tomatofest's options for cool weather climates.  SHEESH, who knew there were so many varieties.

Sorry for all my ramblings, but writing this post made me think about everything folks have said compared to what I'm trying to accomplish.

So much for not having anything to say huh?  Well, tomorrow I get off work early, so I may stop by Lowes and check out lights, bulbs, PVC and maybe SWC construction materials.  Guess that's all for now folks.

Thanks for commenting and by all means, continue to help me decide.  I love gardeners and their generocity of time, experience and even seeds!  Thank you and enjoy your garden!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

January 7, 2008

Wow, Noah, where's your ark?!?  Boy is it ever coming down out there.  I heard a forecast for over 5 inches tonight.  Flooding is happening to the north and south of us.  Good thing we don't need to go out tonight.  Yikes. 

Ok, now is a good time to put in a plug for Mel's Mix.  5 inches of rain in 5 hours will turn most beds into soup.  Not Mel's Mix. It drains like a sink and holds water like a sponge.   If a picture would have taken out outside right now I'd show you the puddle next to my open bed, and my bed just sitting their moist and happy.  Worth every penny!

I know I'm changing topics with little to no segue, but I think I'm zoning in on a replacement for my Early Girl slicer.  I was really hoping for something slightly larger than Early Girl, which didn't cover a bun well for BBQs, but what my good buddy Carolyn suggested may be the best alternative.  She asked if I wanted to try Bloody Butcher. 

Looking it up on the net and it was compared on Baker Creek directly to Early Girl as far as size, time to maturity and yield, but apparently BB is much better tasting.  Interesting.  I was kind of hoping for something bigger though.

Another possiblitiy is a good old Brandywine.  It's not an early variety, maturing a full month after Bloody Butcher, but it's an indeterminate that grows to about a pound each with excellent flavor.  Apparently a friend of my brother's grows these every year and they matured even last year.  If I grew these, I'd want to start them inside ASAP to let them grow as much as possible before I transplanted into the SWC.  Or maybe I could even transplant after two months like normal into an SWC that I keep inside until the last frost date.  That's a pretty good idea, hehe.  Ok, so I am not as close as I thought I was.  Grrr.

Speaking of tomatoes, as I type this post, Kelly asked why Territorial thought Stupice may not be the best slicing tomato.  For this answer, I'll actually quote the representative I've been corresponding with: "Stupice will not be as productive and the fruit will not be as large as Early Girl (at least from my experiences) but
it is a great open-pollinated, early maturing variety that has a good flavor."

Also while I was composing this post, my brother called to say he was going through his catalog and seed bin, figuring out what he's going to grow this year.  He called to bemoan the fact that he only has 80 SF of beds.  I told him the answer was simple, build more beds.  He plans to actually.  I think I've told you that his plan is to rip out 3 junk bush/trees on the side of his driveway against an east-facing fence and double his bed space.  Better do that soon, hehe.

Well, the wind's whipping and the it's raining cats and dogs, so time to curl up under a blanket with a good book, or seed catalog.  Are you getting excited yet?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

January 6, 2009

Well, I've been holding out on you since the weekend when I took these pictures, but EG convinced me not to pain you with one loooong post and then nothing for the rest of the week.  So, today is the day for my garden tour.

But before I do that, a reader suggested rather than starting my seeds under a light system, that I try out wintersown.org and winter sow instead.  I actually fully intend on winter sowing this year.  I love Trudi's site and am a big fan of Verna over in Eastern Washington who is one of Trudi's chosen few, if any such exist.  But for some things I want to give them a head start before Mother Nature would.  Tomatoes are one of them.  If I waited until they sprouted on their own, I would miss out on a month or two of prime growing for my plants.  So I'm going to do both methods, along with direct sowing.  They all have their benefits and I want to experiment with everything I can.

Now for the garden tour, but don't jump to the end for the secret I've been teasing you with for days.

Starting with my tiny bed, here are what's left of my cauliflower plants.

Not looking good are they?  If I needed the space to plant, I'd rip them out, but I think I'll just plant some more someplace else.  Why not, seed's cheap.

Of course, the freezing temps killed my cole crop, but my green onions?

Still looking pretty good.  They'll come out when I have new onions to take their place, which should be early spring.  Until then, we'll keep grazing.  And next year, less onions. hehe

Next is my spinach bed. 

I know it looks bad, but there may very well be something salvagable out of there.  We shall see. 

And behind the spinach, my peas...

Not much hope for those guys huh?  Well, I think beans are going there next year so I've got time to see what happens, though I'd be shocked if these came back.

Now to my bed #1.  My son loves carrots, so I was hopeful.

Ewww... yuck.  Drat.  Ok, how about my lettuce?

Again, like the spinach, I may very well be able to salvage something from that, and I could be wrong, but is that new growth coming out of some of them?  Maybe.  Again, no reason to rip them out yet.

And the best plants that survived fairly unscathed through that mess?  Yep, my succession lettuce.

So, the moral to this story is to harvest sooner, more often, and completly if ever we get long-term freezing temps again.  But wait, let's go back to the carrots for a second.  Scroll up and try to spot any of the candy-sweet carrots that I was soooo hoping to share with my eldest.  You know, let him truly realize just how important it is to grow your own food.  Scroll up, I'll wait...

Couldn't find them?  Well neither could I.  What's more, when I opened up the back of bed #1 to pull from my original patch, this is what I found...

And this...

Those, my friends, are clearly paw prints from the masked bandits of fresh produce everywhere.  My winter garden was raided by raccoons.  Silly me, I stopped putting down Shake Away in the fall thinking they wouldn't bother my garden in the winter.  Oh, how wrong I was.  Double drat!  I was so looking forward to sharing my root crops with my family.  And to add insult to injury, look what I found in my radish patch.

Guess they didn't like the spicy raddish.  Grrrr.  Thankfully my son was fine with not having any more carrots.  Though he did say we should feed the raccoons something sweeter than his carrots so they wouldn't want his carrots.  Ah, the mind of a child, how cute!

So, the moral to the story, in additon to harvesting better, is to continue to use my means to deter the coons year round. /sigh

Well, if I can ever find time to get home at a decent hour I plan on heading out to check on pricing out the pieces for my light system.

Enjoy your garden!

Monday, January 5, 2009

January 5, 2008

Lots to talk about today, so I'll jump right in.  Today was my first day back at work and unfortunately, nothing changed.  I don't know why I expected it to do so, but it didn't.  I'm so far behind that I can't catch up.  That and while I was getting some much needed R&R, nobody else did, so they're nerves are frayed to the point that they were snapping at folks.  I could just feel myself slipping back into my stressful condition.  Boy do I need my garden right about now. /sigh

The day wasn't all bad though.  I was pleasantly surprised by an email I received this morning.  I figured that I hadn't received any communication from Territorial Seed, not because they were tired of my questions, but rather it was the holidays so folks weren't working.  Today, I got a response, but not from the person who was so kind as to wrangle up the information for me from all the various sources.  Instead, I got a message from the Product Development Director.  Well, the title sounded important to me.

Anyway, he IS a source, which is great.  The scary part was that he had actually found my blog.  Quick, think of everything I've said about them.  Whew, he was cool with my "objective approach to the Seminis/Monsanto issue."  That's exactly how I characterized it.  I can't expect them to cut off decades old gardener favorites just because the big M owns them now, at least not until suitible replacement varieties are found, AND grown extensively in their Oregon test farms to make sure they produce well west of the Cascades. 

He went on to answer my questions.  For instance, Yellow Pear, since it is open pollinated, they produce their seed on their own farms.  It was listed on their Monsanto list because they MAY buy from Seminis, if demand exceeds their supply.  In fact, they may buy from multiple suppliers, depending on who has available seed if needed.  Makes good business sense to me.  Of course, if they could avoid the big M, that would be just fine by me as well.

Regarding Red Sails and Early Girl, he explained that patents expire on seeds also (duh, why didn't I think of that), and after that, OP varieties like Red Sails, can be produced by anyone (much like ibuprofin after Advil's patent ran out, etc.).  So, Territorial actually grows their own Red Sails organically.  Very cool. I'm hoping they did that last year when I got them, so I can feel comfortable growing it.  Early Girl, being a hybrid is slightly different.  After the patent runs out, Monsanto can allow other companies to grow it.  So technically Territorial buys it from another supplier.  That's why neither is on their list.  Good to know!

He also explained that this year they replaced 14 Monsanto varieties this year and they clearly recognize that Monsanto's business objectives have diverged from Territorials.  Yay, they get it!  It also means a lot to me that they don't want to cut off gardeners from long-time favorites, especially since they have been buying that variety from the company back when it was Peto Seeds (apparently a predecessor company to Seminis).  That doesn't keep them from trying to find alternatives that are bread for the home gardener and solid performers.

Lastly, he informed me that there are unfortunately several sites out there that claim that Territorial Seed is OWNED by Monsanto.  That is completely false.  Even I knew that.  Territorial was founded 30 years ago by Steve Solomon.  After about 5 years, he decided he was a gardener, not a businessman, and sold the company to Tom and Julie Johns.  The Johns have owned and operated Territorial ever since.  Besides, I am fairly certain Monsanto does not own any seed retailers at all. Wholesalers yes, but not retailers.  They would much rather be producers and developers of new products that nobody else can compete with them on than selling to gardeners.

Overall, I was extremely impressed by the knowledge and personal attention given me by my contact, and i learned a ton.  Territorial's a good company that works very hard to provide the best seeds for gardeners in my area.  Oh, and apparently Stupice may not be the best fit for my slicing variety.  I've got a question in to him for an indeterminate early alternative so I can be assured tomatoes come BBQ season.  I'm not seeing one in the catalog, but I'm no seed expert.

Continuing the seed theme, Tina read my last post about a seed propogation system and suggested a PVC set-up I could easily build at home.  I know PVC is cheap, but would it be strong enough.  Apparently it is.  The picture I saw on the site shows a three tier system.  I wouldn't need that much, nor would I want 6 lights.  Instead, if I go with it (I'm still thinking about it), I would go less height and possbily place it on top of my existing cabinet.  Sure it wouldn't roll out, but maybe I could set it up for the seed trays to slide out from under the lights.  Who knows.  Definitely worth checking into.  Thanks Tina!

Ok, I think I've got your attention for a couple of quick pics.  My hoop covers aren't holding up very well to the massive wind storms we get in the fall and winter. 

As you can see in the picture above, the cross pole keeps falling down.  I think drilling a hole and threading a bolt through both pipes at each hoop will solve that, though I didn't get that done on my snowed-in vacation. 

As you can see, the wind also opens up the ends to let out any warm air that may have accumulated during the day.  Other than bricks I don't really have a good solution for that.  Of course after I took these pictures, I fixed all three beds and even took pictures of the insides.  But I'll save that for tomorrow's post.

So check back tomorrow for a garden tour with a shocking surprise.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

January 4, 2009

Well, it's late at night on the last day of my two plus week vacation, and I have just enough time to crank out a post before I hit the sack.  You see, we spent the evening at my SFG muse's house having a great dinner, catching up and playing games.  There I found that she is embarking along a voluntary sustainability (albiet limited) path, just as I am.  Although she is going much farther in some ways than I am, she isn't currently interested in Freedomgardens.org.  Funny, since she is doing exactly what 90% of the folks on there are doing.  To each their own.

As we were dropping off the kids at my in-laws, it started snowing.  Nothing to write about, but snow, which would have been notable if we hadn't had the weather we've had over the past three weeks.  It was still snowing ever so lighlty with no sticking when we got to our friends.  After dinner, while we were talking about everything from gardening to chicken eggs to bread making, we find that is a blizzard out there.  By the time we left at 10:30, there was easily 3 inches on the ground.  We made it home, though we had upwards of 5 inches where we live by 11 pm.  That said, I MAY be going to work tomorrow, especially if the weather forecast is FINALLY right and we change from snow to rain after midnight.  I'm not holding my breath.

So, while I took tons of pictures, I'm going back to my buddy EG's method and will save some topics for another day.  What I would like to talk about is the continued saga of my light system.  If you're a long-time reader of my blog (or go back to the beginning like I suggest to anyone that wants to learn from my mistakes), you know I've been working to find a light system for over a year now.  In my climate with our cloud cover and weak winter sun, it is impossible to start seeds in any window in my home.  However, I think I've found a spot.  Don't ask why I didn't think of this sooner. I can't tell you that. /sigh

Anyway, my temperature experiments were a success.  Right now it's 52 degrees with the door CLOSED, and no heat in the room, or in the garage below it.  With the door open and the house at 70 degrees downstairs, that room peaks at 60 degrees.  That is a great range to grow stocky plants that will hold up well and harden off fast to be planted under my hoop covers in mid February!  Pretty cool huh?

In order to take you through the process of creating my light system step by step, here is the current set-up in that room around the window I'll use to incorporate natural light into the equation.

As you can see, this room is currently used as storage.  Not only is a fair amount of my in-law's stuff in here because they lack a garage where they live, but my wife originally wanted this room to be a library.  She's got more books than most public libraries, hehe.  What she'll do with them all when the kids claim these rooms I have no idea.  But until then, this space will be cleared out to create my seed starting area. Also, you may recognize this place as where I grew my tomatoes last year from the time I got them as seedlings from Territorial, until I could transplant them outside (I potted them up twice).  For grins, I dug out a pic from last year when I was using that window (and that cabinet) for my tomatoes, though they weren't nearly as big as after I potted them up).

After talking to my dad last night, he came up with a simple, functional design for the system.  The problem was not the seed table. Heck, I could easily use the cabinet that is in the photo above, it's got shelves that go in it and everything.  It's not 4 feet wide, but it's not far off.  Anyway, the challenge was to figure out a way to hang the light(s) (I'm still thinking about one or two light fixtures).  I didn't want to hang them from the ceiling because the drywall on the ceiling is about the only part of that room that is going to remain unchanged when we finally renovate to make this a kid's room. 

So he came up with a simple design out of cheap 1x4s.  If you made a 4 foot wide "n" out with feet and 45 degree brackets for stability, you could hang the light(s) by chains from it over the seedling table.  Then he had a great idea to access the seedlings.  It wouldn't be easy to get at them if they lights are only an inch or two above the tops of the plants, and you'd have to get at them to water regularly.  So his thought was not to constantly move the lights, but to put the seed table on wheels so it could be moved out from under the light to access the plants.  Pretty good idea huh?  So far I am thinking so. 

What's more, this is a cheap set-up.  Of course I could go to Costco and pay $100 for a wire shelving system like the big boy's (and girls) have, but I'm hoping this is cheap, though that would be a good long-term investment.  We'll see.

So now you know where it's going.  Come back to see how it progresses.

Lastly, my brother and I talked seeds before dinner last night.  It was fun.  We had already decided to combine our orders so we could save on shipping.  We're both fans of Territorial, though he's no-where near as passionate as I against the big M hehe.  Anyway, he looked through his extensive seed collection and then through the catalog (much as I had done), and came up with a handful of seeds to order.  Together we've got a decent order, which should make Territorial not so upset at all my pestering over email, hehe. 

The big discussion was on tomatoes.  Both of us love yellow pear, and we can both thank Judy, my mentor from Ft2Garden.com for sending me her yellow pear seeds.  You can bet I'll be planting them under my light system when it goes up!  For the other varieties, I am leaning toward Stupice (because DoubleD likes them and they grow well here) for slicers, black cherries (from my buddy Carolynp, THANKS!) and Heinz 2653, which is a sauce tomato for salsa.  My brother is going to grow some cherry variety he's got seeds for, and possibly Legend, which is a good producing determinate that DoubleD also likes for here.  We figure the combination of Heinz and Legend, with maybe some other varieties thrown in for flavor, will make a great salsa next year.  Yum!

Well, stay tuned next time for a garden tour with a plot twist.

Enjoy your garden!

Friday, January 2, 2009

January 2, 2009

Well, the catalogs keep rolling in.  Today I got RH Shumway's, Johnny's and Select Seeds, which is a flower catalog, no clue how I got that one.  Actually I only bought some trellis netting from Johnny's and nothing from Shumway's, so they'll send catalogs to just about anyone. hehe

Anyway, it seems Patti the Garden Girl has set up a website where she posts her ezine monthly.  Right now you can check out last month's edition with my first intro article in it.  Soon I expect she'll update her site with this month's ezine.  Of course you can always sign up for it, it's an email that comes once a month.  No biggie. And she's cool to boot.  Gotta love that.

http://www.urbansustainableliving.com/  (If that doesn't take you directly there, click on Patti's Ezine in the green bar under her top graphic.)

Lastly, I think I've found the spot in my house where I can easily set up a rudamentary seed starting system. No, not like my buddy EG's contraption, but a simple shelf system.  As a test I moved my second wireless thermometer upstairs into one of my non-heated spare rooms.  For grins I left the door open, allowing the heat from the main living area to migrate upstairs.  Sure enough, when it's 70 degrees downstairs, it's 60 degrees upstairs.  I figure I can keep it between 50 and 60 degrees up there, maybe warmer directly under one or two four-foot shop lights.  Having that set-up will go a long way in allowing me to start my tomato plants from seed rather than purchase plants.

That reminds me. I just left a post over on Freedomgardens.org about growing 4 open polintated tomatoes in two SWCs 4 feet apart from each other.  That is, 2 plants would be 12 inches from each other and intertwine, while the other two would be 4 feet away between my other two beds.  My questions were, would the close proximity inhibit polination, and would it mess up my ability to save true seed for next year?

If any of those answers is you're up a creek, then I would need to make 3 more SWCs and try to issolate them from each other, not easy to do.  Tis a conundrum, as Alan Greenspan used to say.

Enjoy your garden.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

January 1, 2009

Happy New year again all.

I for one spent the day watching the Rose Bowl (I was about $10,000 a year in scholarships short of going to USC for college), so I was rooting for them. Oh and they were the Pac 10 school playing.  Glad they won, other than that it was no biggie.  Mostly, I spent the day playing with the kids, and keeping them from their mother, who has that 24/48 hour stomach flu that is NASTY stuff.  I sure hope none of us get it (yeah right).

I wasn’t even planning on posting today, but Patti the Garden Girl made me.  You see, her monthly ezine came out.  Again, I was asked to contribute.  Personally I think this is a better article than my first, which was basically a repeat of what I’ve posted here and elsewhere countless times.  It’s on SFGardening.  So if you already get Patti’s newsletter sent to you, let me know what you think.  If you don’t, and would like to read the story, let me know and I’ll forward it to you (assuming I’ve got your email address).  You can either comment here or send me an email (sinfonian_barelytone(at)yahoo.com). 

If you haven’t visited Patti’s forum, or seen her countless videos on YouTube and elsewhere, they’re all amazing, and she’s gathered experts on areas of soil and chickens to help answer questions.  Gotta hand it to her, she’s on her toes!  Check her out.

Lastly, Marion went a step farther than I on my December 29th post about Monsanto.  She commented, leaving every Seminis variety listed on their site.  Thank you Marion!  Check it out if you're interested in not-supporting Monsanto.  Two odd things about it.  One is that I've been to the Seminis site and can't find the list she pasted.  The second is that I don't find Yellow Pear on her list, yet it's on Territorial's list of Seminis purchases (also I think the only open polinated one).  Oh, and yes, I'd be honored to plant a yellow pear tomato plant if I've received the seed in trade or purchase from a gardener rather than Monsanto.  Let's see them sue backyard gardeners RIA style.  That would be laughable.

Enjoy 2009!