Monday, January 29, 2007

Carrots Still in the Garden!

It is very cold today in Kentucky. It was only 14 degrees when I woke up this morning. This weekend was much warmer though. On Saturday it was in the 50's, so the whole family got outside for some much needed sunshine and fresh air. We cleaned up fallen branches and moved some lumber that we use for our garden beds. We also measured out the spots where we will enlarge the garden this year.

While inspecting the existing garden area, my daughter found several carrots left over from last summer still in the ground. There were no tops left and we had weeded the entire bed when we pulled up the existing plants last fall. I'm not sure how they were missed, but there they were. We pulled them up and they looked okay - no insect damage or signs of rot.

I have been reading Eliot Coleman’s Four-Season Harvest, and in it he writes about planting carrots in the fall and leaving them "stored" right there in the ground ready for harvest all winter long. Our carrots were planted in early summer, so we weren't sure if they would still taste good. We were curious if they would taste alright but nobody wanted to try them. What we needed was a guinea pig or two to be the first to eat them.

So we fed some to our resident guinea pigs, Fizzy and Sammy who loved them! I then tried one and it wasn't bad. It wasn't at peak flavor, but it tasted good enough for me to believe Eliot Coleman is right about planting late carrots for winter eating.

As for Fizzy and Sammy, they actually acted more excited eating these carrots than they do when we give them store-bought carrots. It has been a while now since they got to eat any fresh produce actually grown in our garden. Come to think of it, it has been too long now since WE have eaten fresh from the garden.

I am going to try to implement some of Eliot Coleman's ideas this year to keep us eating from the garden longer. According to Eliot, we should be able to Harvest year round! That sounds good, doesn't it?!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Secret Fortune: Money Money Money!!!

My secret fortune has been revealed, and I like the sound of it - $ Money, Money, Money! What am I talking about? My kids bought their dear old gardening dad a little present. It was a small aluminum can called "Magic Sproutz Secret Fortunes".

I think they bought it at the Dollar General store. All you're supposed to do is pop the lid, add water and wait for a plant to grow and reveal your secret message! We didn't really believe anything would happen and nothing did for over a week. Then all of a sudden a large sprout pushed its way up and out and grew in to some kind of large bean plant!

The secret fortune was revealed even before the plant grew leaves however. As soon as the plant sprouted, it pushed up what was the largest seed I think I've ever seen which revealed the fortune in writing!

Each side was different. Money Money Money on one side and a dollar sign on the other. Here is a picture with me holding a quarter up to it for size reference.

This was a fun little novelty which I recommend if you can find one. It would be great for you gardeners who are itching to watch something grow. I wonder if there are different fortunes written on different ones. I just hope your secret fortune is as good as mine!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Heirloom Tomatoes - Brandywine, Prudens Purple & More!

Last year, I grew a lot of wonderful tomatoes!

As I told you before, my favorite was the Amish heirloom variety "Brandywine".The look of the plant and the fruit was quite different from the hybrid tomatoes that I was used to, and the taste was magnificent! Because of the success from last season's Brandywine plants, I have decided to experiment with growing many more heirloom tomatoes this year!

The ones on my A-list that I have ordered so far are more Brandywine, Prudens Purple, Kelloggs Breakfast and Aunt Ruby's German Green.

These pictures are taken from the Pinetree Seeds website, which is where I'm ordering them from. I'm also ordering Dixie Golden Giant, Black from Tula, Big Rainbow, and Cherokee Purple - all heirlooms.

I never used to grow heirlooms because I believed that it was too hard and I was unaware that there were so many different varieties. They are more difficult because they do not have any disease resistance bred into them. They have not been altered at all in fact. Heirlooms are true open-pollinated seed plants. You can actually save the seeds from heirlooms and grow them again year after year (which I do not do because I worry about cross-pollination). If you try to save the seeds of hybrids, they will not reproduce true to the parent plant, but hybrids are usually very resistant to diseases. The other draw back with heirlooms is that not as many tomatos grow on each plant as do the hybrids. Usually the heirloom plants are much larger even hence taking up more room. Last year I had a bit of a problem here because I did not stake or cage my Brandywine plants. I grew over 40 tomato plants and didn't get around to supporting all of them. I tried many different kinds of support as I discussed in "Tomato Cage Alternatives". (This was the post that had the most comments on, but unfortunately I lost them all when I had to re-do my blogs)

I plan to use the Florida "Stake and Weave" method this year to support the heirlooms. I will discuss that in greater detail later. As for now, I have to decide if I will try any other heirloom tomatoes this year. I welcome any suggestions or comments about heirloom varieties that anyone likes or dislikes. Last year I grew 20 different tomato varieties. This year I may top that mark with at least a third of them being heirlooms. I am very excited to find out what each one is like. Of course I will report back to you each step of the way!

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Corn That Everyone's Talking About!

"The Corn That Everyone's Talking About!" That's what Park Seed Co. says about its Bicolor Mirai 301BC seed. Park claims that this is the sweetest tasting and most tender corn EVER grown. So I ask you, has anyone heard of this before?

I know, I know, every seed company claims that every variety is the best. I've even seen some companies claim that two or more varieties of a certain vegetable that they offer are the best. We all know there can only be one "best". We also know that nobody can prove that a variety is truly the best, so it is a pretty loose claim. Nonetheless, the discription of Mirai 301 originally from Japan intrigued me enough that I bought some. Look at some of the quotes below, taken from their description:

"This gourmet corn is requested by 5-star restaurants . . . as well as by anyone who has ever tasted it!"

"These ears are 7 to 8 inches long, with good "tip fill" (meaning that the kernels stay plump and delicious all the way to the end of the ear instead of petering out!) and excellent coverage by dark green husks. Once picked, the ears last up to 6 weeks if refrigerated! (But you'll eat every last one LONG before then!) The 7-foot plants are very, very heavy-yielding, quite tolerant of stress, and show good resistance to Stewart's Wilt and common rust."

Park's Director of Seeds, Stephanie Turner, is quoted as saying "I have never tasted anything like it in my life" and "I sampled it raw in the field, and it was all I could do not to eat the entire cob!"

So, will it live up to the hype? I was sold on it so much that I plan to put up an 8 foot fence around it to hopefully keep the Deer and Racoons out. If nothing else, it will give me plenty of material to blog about this spring/summer.

The seeds arrived in the mail the other day. Anxiously I opened the envelope to see this miracle corn and here it is:

Could this be the beginning of a new "favorite"? Is everyone really talking about it? If not, will they be after I grow it this season?! Stay tuned and find out! Same Bat Blog, Same Bat Garden!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

A Snow Day in the Garden!

After a week of planning this summer's garden on paper and ordering seeds and seed starting supplies, I was treated to a bit of reality today. We got our first snow of the winter, so this is what the garden currently looks like.

Since it was Sunday I got to enjoy the snow with my daughters. We had a lot of fun building a snowman and sledding.

Since there are no plants blooming outside, we have to get our natural color and energy from the birds.

So I guess it doesn't bother me that nothing is growing in the garden right now. For this season, all is as it should be. Besides, we are still making compost that will go into the garden this spring.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

My blogs were broken... Now fixed.

I apologize if you have had trouble reading this blog or my others in the past couple of days. They have been having some technical difficulties. I upgraded to the new blogger account and my account got merged with another!

Long story short, I had to create a new account and move everything from the old one to the new one bit by bit. Now that it is done, the only real causality has been the comments that you have left on the posts. I'm sorry if you were one of the people that had commented and are now gone. I like comments, and encourage you to comment whenever you have something to say. Looking back through these posts now, they seem a little lonely.

That's okay though, because moving forward I plan to post a lot about many different gardening topics. There will be plenty for us to converse about. Thank you for your continued support, and happy gardening!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

I have too many seeds...but want more!

I recently went through all of my seed packets from previous years. Look at this mess!

Even though it looks like I have a lot of seeds, a gardener never has enough! Actually my "seed tool box" was in desperate need of a good cleaning. I had many packets from as far back as 1998. I decided too... gulp... throw some out. That is really hard to do as a gardener. I threw out only seeds that I sow directly in the garden. Things like corn, beans, pumpkins and squash had to go. I kept old seeds for crops like lettuce, spinach, tomatoes and cucumbers. The difference here is that I plant these indoors under florescent light. I will just plant double of these to compensate for a possible poor germination rate. I can not afford poor germination when it comes to the crops that are planted directly in the soil.

Another good reason to get rid of some old seed is to make room for new seed! I have placed orders with Park Seed and Pinetree Garden Seed already, and plan to get some things from Johnny's Selected Seeds and probably more from Pinetree.

Pinetree has always been my favorite seed company because they offer good quality seeds at about half the price of most other companies! I like Park and Johnny's because they both offer many unique varieties. I am getting some crazy tomato and corn cultivars! I will tell you more about that in future posts.

As for now, it is time to dig out my florescent shop lights and seed starting supplies and take over the corner of my basement family room once again. As soon as my new seeds come in the mail it will be time to get my fingers dirty and plant some lettuce and onions! I can hardly wait!

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