Thursday, May 31, 2007

I Yam What I Yam; I Yam a Sweet Potato!

One of the things I included on my 2007 Garden To Do List that I compiled in late February was to grow some "new vegetables and fruits that I haven't grown before." I have accomplished this by planting Blueberries, Horseradish and Sweet Potatoes.

I didn't start my own Sweet Potato slips, but I was able to find some "Beauregard" plants at the garden center.

Beauregard is the common orange flesh variety that we find at the grocery store. Some people call it the Louisiana Sweet Potato.

In researching how to plant sweet potatoes, I kept reading that you should plant them in high ridges 12 inches apart and in rows 3 feet apart. I plant in raised beds instead of rows. Mel Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening doesn't mention sweet potatoes, but his principle would suggest that I could plant them 12 inches apart in all directions, so that is what I did.

I planted them in one of my 4 X 4 beds. I don't really know what their growth habit is so maybe this isn't enough space. I added sand to the bed when I planted them so the roots could have loose soil to grow in, and I think I should mulch this bed as well.

This is a new vegetable for me, so we'll see how it goes. Have you grown sweet potatoes before? I would love any advice that you are willing to share.

Oh yeah, one more thing brought on by my trying to be clever with the title - Is a Sweet Potato different from a Yam? When I research that question I get very conflicting answers. Some say they are distinctly different and some say they are the same but the term "yam" should be reserved for the orange fleshed sweet potatoes. What do you think? If you have a strong opinion either way, I'd love to hear from you. Maybe by harvest time, we can get this straightened out.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Come on Early Tomatoes, Ripen Up!

Part of Wordless Wednesday

These are my extra early Early Girl Tomatoes that I'm trying to get a month or two early!

For the rest of the story, Click Here!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

A Child's Garden for Green Thumb Sunday!

I haven't been very good at displaying a green thumb this spring, but my 10-year-old daughter has! I am very proud of how well she has done with her cool season garden bed. This year we built two 12x3 garden beds exclusively for her and her sister to work with. She decided that one bed would be for cool season veggies and the other for the warm season crops. Here is her beautiful cool-season bed:

On one end she planted broccoli and several kinds of leaf lettuce.

In the middle, she planted more leaf lettuce, head lettuce, spinach and garlic.

On the other end, she planted onions and more spinach and lettuce.

Also notice the two potato plants on the top right of the above picture. When we built the new raised bed for her, we dug some dirt out of the existing garden. The most fertile soil was from where we planted potatoes last year. While digging, my daughter found two of last year's potatoes, so she decided to stick them in her garden to see if they would grow. Of course with her green thumb, they are growing like crazy! Now we know where Sammy, her Guinea Pig gets her green thumb from!

We have already enjoyed eating salads from her garden. It has been great because she has at least five different types of lettuce and spinach. I am so glad that she planted this cool-season garden, because I didn't plant any spring lettuce or broccoli. I was much too busy working on building our deck. By the way, it is getting closer to being finished. The floor is done, so we were able to put the furniture out.

But this post is NOT about the deck, it is about my 10-year-old Green Thumb Daughter. My other daughter has a pretty good green thumb too. She planted a whole bed of flowers in the main garden but they are all still very small. I'm sure I will have beautiful pictures of it to post in about a month. It's nice having good gardeners for daughters to pick up the slack for ol' dad.

Happy Green Thumb Sunday, and have a great Memorial Day!

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Official Garden Desk Weight Loss Tools!

Part of Wordless Wednesday

Okay, I can't really leave this completely wordless. For the past month or so, I have been redesigning the vegetable garden and building a deck. Because of all of the hard work, I have lost almost 10 pounds! I could stand to lose 5 or 10 more, so I guess I'll just have to garden MORE, which is not a problem for me.

The re-design of the garden was a lot of physical work because I wanted raised beds but didn't have much extra soil. My solution was to till the entire area, build the garden beds from untreated lumber, place the new beds where I wanted them and shovel all of the surrounding dirt into the beds. In essence I obtained "raised beds" by lowering the areas around the beds by about a foot. That is quite a bit of digging and shoveling. I am not all the way finished, but here are a couple of pictures that I took before I planted anything (except the extra-early tomatoes):

As for building the deck, I've posted several times before about it's progress. I now have the entire floor on but I still need to build some railings and the overhead shade trellis. Here is a picture taken when the floor was about 3/4 done:

It has been nice losing weight because of these two projects, but they have delayed my garden plantings and I haven't been able to write as much as I would like in my blogs. Soon both projects will be done and I can hopefully get back to daily updates here.

Thanks for allowing me to be so wordy on Wordless Wednesday! If you want to see other peoples posts that probably are less wordy,Click Here.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Extra Early Tomato Update!

As you may already know, I have a goal to harvest ripe tomatoes from my Early Girl tomato plants by June 24th. I haven't done all that I planned to do in order to help that occur, but the tomatoes are doing pretty well.

There are a dozen or so tomatoes coming on, and the bigger ones are a bit larger than a golf ball. I wrote extensivly about this in some previous posts. If you want to get caught up you can read them HERE and HERE.

Ripe tomatoes in June may not sound very impressive to you southern gardeners, but it is here in northern Kentucky. To put it in the proper perspective, I picked my first ripe tomato last year on August 5th.

I didn't put down the black plastic that I planned to, so I hope these cool nights are not slowing down the tomato growth too much. Keep your fingers crossed for me! I'll let you know how they did in about six weeks!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

No Gardening Today - There's a GIANT in the yard!

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

My Mom's Garden for Green Thumb Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day and Happy Green Thumb Sunday! It promises to be a beautiful day here. The weather will be perfect for going to church and for visiting my wife's mom and family for a cookout!

Last weekend we were treated to a cookout with my mom and family. My mom and step-dad are great gardeners. Their vegetable garden hasn't been planted yet, but their entire yard looks like it belongs in Better Homes and Gardens Magazine!

I thought it would be appropriate to show my mom's gardens for Mother's Day and Green Thumb Sunday.

I just love their water garden with all of the fish. It looks like a natural pond with a great waterfall. The pond is complete with aquatic plants, but many of them will be more visible later in the season. My step-dad will probably say that I should have waited to show pictures of his pond until then, but I think it looks great even now. I don't know how he got to be so good at aquatic gardening. One day he just started digging, and before long he had a great custom built water garden!

It's not just water gardening that he and my mom are good at. Every where you look there are beautiful and unique flowers and plants.

I had fun taking pictures of my mom's gardens and had a great time visiting with her, my step-dad and many other family and friends. Today, we are set to do it again with my wife's family.

Happy Mother's Day Mom!

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Pros and Cons of Heirloom Tomatoes

This year I have decided to grow a number of open-pollinated Heirloom tomatoes.

These are my 2007 selections. The photos came from Totally Tomatoes with the exception of the Homely Homer photo, which may or may not even be an heirloom. Totally Tomatoes is where I bought most of this years seeds.

I am a tomato fanatic. I love the taste of tomatoes! To me, organic garden vine-ripened fresh tomatoes are like candy is to a child. Not just any candy either. Tomatoes are like special Christmas candy that you can only get one time a year. When most people think of tomatoes, they think of plain red tomatoes. Possibly a beefsteak type. Today's "normal" tomatoes are hybrids that have been bred for disease resistance and good looks. I like the "normal" hybrid garden tomato very much. Let's think of it as the Christmas candy cane - special but common and abundant.

I don't know about you, but at Christmas when I was a kid I wanted more than just candy canes. There were always many other "special" candies like creme drops, ribbon candy, chocolate Santas, orange slices and more. By comparison, if you want "special" tomatoes, you need to grow heirloom varieties. There are so many different flavors and colors of heirloom tomatoes.

So what are the pros and con's of growing heirlooms?


  • Exceptional flavor
  • Highly unusual and interesting
  • Sense of heritage and history
  • Cons:

  • Not disease resistant
  • Pests prefer them
  • Lower yields
  • The first pro is what I described above with the candy reference - superior and varied flavor! Last year I grew Brandywine, an Amish variety dating way back to the 1800's. Brandywine was by far the best tasting tomato I'd ever eaten! That's why I'm trying so many heirloom varieties this year. I'm growing another Amish variety, Dixie Golden Giant from the 1930's that is said to have "delicious, fruity flavor with few seeds." I also chose Caspian Pink, originally grown in Russia in the area between the Caspian and Black Seas. According to Totally Tomatoes, it was the only tomato that BEAT Brandywine in taste tests!

    The 2nd reason to grow heirloom tomatoes is because some of them are very interesting! Look at the pictures of Aunt Ruby's German Green tomatoes, Kellogg's Breakfast, and Black Krim. Aunt Ruby's German Green is described as an "Heirloom green beefsteak with a deliciously sweet flavor that's enhanced by a spicy undertone." Okay, that's different. Totally tomatoes calls Black Krim "A most unusual novelty that is sweet and tasty".

    The uniqueness doesn't stop at the tomato fruits either. Some heirlooms like Brandywine and Pruden's Purple have old-fashioned leaves that look more like potato leaves and tomato leaves. Here is one of my Pruden's Purple seedlings:

    The third "Pro" is that it is fun to look up the origins of each heirloom variety. Each one has a special heritage of its own. There are varieties available from many different time periods and from all over the world. You may even be able to find a variety that is hundreds of years old from your home town! I am growing Kentucky Beefsteaks which are enormous orange beefsteaks that began right here in my home state.

    Okay, enough of the "fun" talk of how great heirloom tomatoes are. Let's get into the "cons " or drawbacks of growing heirloom tomatoes.

    First of all, true "heirlooms" are more than fifty years old and are still true to their parent plants. That means they have not been altered in any way like hybrids have. So the same thing that makes heirlooms great also make them very susceptible to disease and pests. Hybrid varieties many times have a series of letters after their names, like VFNT. This means the plants are resistant to verticillium and fusarium wilt, nematodes, and tobacco mosaic virus. Many heirlooms can be wiped out by these diseases. Hybrids are not necessarily bred to be resistant to insect or animal pests but it has been my experience that garden pests prefer the heirlooms (that's no surprise). My Brandywines last year were heavily attacked by Blister Beetles, Tomato Hornworms, and all of the low fruits were eaten by turtles.

    The third drawback with heirloom tomatoes is that many of them don't produce as much fruit as a hybrid tomato plant. Mel Bartholomew of Square Foot Gardening" is always saying, "you only need to grow one tomato plant per person in your family". With heirlooms, I don't agree. When growing heirlooms, you should grow several plants as insurance against pests, disease and low yield. This is also why I am still growing 12 kinds of hybrid tomatoes.

    So it comes down to exceptional flavor, being unusual and interesting with a sense of heritage versus being susceptible to disease and pests with possible lower yields. Do the pros outweigh the con's? For me they do. Bring on that yummy "candy-like" flavor! Bring on the strange and interesting qualities. Bring on the rainbow of colors!

    And bring on the pests. I'm ready for a good old-fashioned battle of good versus evil. Heirloom tomatoes are worth fighting for. Wish me luck!

    Wednesday, May 9, 2007

    While Gardening, Wear A Hat - But Which One?

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    Tuesday, May 8, 2007

    Not Enough Gardening Going On; Deck Building Update

    It has been a bit frustrating that I haven't gotten to plant much in the vegetable garden. Every minute of spare time lately has gone to building the deck. Many of you have been encouraging to me by your nice comments and questions concerning the deck's progress. Well, here's a photo update:

    It is all framed in now, and I'm beginning to put on the actual decking! I'm really about twice as far as that last picture because I worked on it again tonight until after dark. My camping lantern puts out pretty much light!

    I do get frustrated with how much time it takes, but my wonderful wife keeps reminding me that I'm building it all by myself. She also reminds me of what it used to look like. Here is the first photo we took back in March when I had just begun removing the old deck boards, followed by a repeat current photo (for comparison):

    The old deck was rotting and wasn't level because it had no support beams under it. The new deck will be level and much larger!

    I can't wait to sit out on it with a nice glass of lemonade and a garden-fresh bacon lettuce and tomato sandwich! As for the tomato, my extra early Early Girls are planted outside now!

    The first official thing that I'm doing with the new deck (even before it is finished) is placing my other 20 tomato varieties out on it to harden off. I don't think I'll be able to wait for the deck commpletion to plant them, but I'm sure the deck will be finished before I get to eat them!

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