Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A New Year's Resolution

I don't usually do resolutions for the new year. For me trying to succeed in a goal can happen at anytime and the new year is not special. But for the first time in decades, I'm making a New Year's resolution and since it is on this blog, you just know it is going to be related to my garden.

I've actually been thinking about this since last July, but it was too late then. The new year is a perfect time to start it. I want to see how much I spend on my garden and how much I harvest. Last summer there was talk about the $64 tomato. Surely I don't spend that much. Surely I make more in the produce I harvest than I spend on my garden. Or do I?

I do feel like I'm cheating however. Previous years I've bought seedlings at the garden center. This year I'm not - well maybe a couple of tomato plants or random things to fill in if my seedlings die, but mostly I'm working from seed. Also last year I made a ton of compost, so this year I need to buy no bags. My style will remind me more of my early labor intensive days gardening as opposed to my more recent years when I've been lazier busier.

To keep track of this I will have to start now. I've already put my first order into Pinetree. Or tried to. I have two credit cards to my name. I use one and pay it off each month. The other is my backup card, the one I can use if the first one is canceled. Well indeed the first one had fraudulent charges on it. Chase called up Saturday morning. Our number had been taken on Friday. There were several charges that weren't ours. They are exceedingly good about picking up on fraud, however they also call us all the time thinking there is fraud where there is none. I've taken to calling them when I travel so they don't cancel it on me. Well they said they would FedEx a new one to us on Monday and we would get it on Tuesday. Monday I blithly put in an order to Pinetree with my other card. Then when we went out to eat that night, it was rejected. Oh no. I figured they though there was fraud since I was actually using it and I don't usually. I called them. They had canceled it in September. They didn't even tell us or give us any warning at all. Geez. Pinetree called wanting a real credit card, but I had none to give them. I finally got back to them today with my new card in hand. And though it was put in before the new year, it really belongs to next year's total. So $35.85 in seed, $13.95 for the oriental gardening tool that one of the blogs raved about (I forgot who, or I'd link) and $6.95 for shipping. The total: $56.75.

I am wondering how to count how much I harvest. I'll do it by weight, but how much is a pound of lettuce worth? Should I go to Whole Foods, Wilson's Farm or the Farmer's Market to find my price? My produce is organic, but hardly certified (my seed and bought seedlings usually aren't organic). Do I use the higher organic price or the lowest price I find? Do I average prices or just take the median? Do I count the food I give away or just the food I eat myself? And the most telling question: am I going to still be in this house to harvest my veggies or will I move this spring? It wouldn't be quite an appropriate count if I have to move.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

More Greens for the Garden

The plans for the next year's garden have been going along just fine. I've figured out what plants I'm not going to grow any more. I've taken stock of all the seeds I still have. The three sisters garden has all been planned out. My next problem was figuring out what new greens I wanted. I love salads and cooked greens. Last year I grew a handful of new Asian greens. I want to grow many of them again. I also missed growing regular cabbage so that is on the list. I'm getting Gonzolas since it is a mini cabbage and doesn't need as much space. I'm the only one in my family eating it so small is good.

Pinetree has so many greens. My list of new greens to try started with: Miner's Lettuce, Mache, Holland Greens Tyfon, Malabar spinach, New Zealand Spinach, Strawberry Spinach, Mustard Spinach. I don't have space for all of those. I still want to grow most of the Asian greens from last year. In addition I want two rows of chard instead of one. One really isn't enough. I love chard. Oh and lots of lettuce. I've decided to try two new lettuces - New Red Fire and Merveille de Quatre Seasons. I love red lettuce. I actually had four new lettuces on the list, but really I don't need that much. I must have control and only buy what I can actually plant. Last year I bought kale and never had room to plant it. Maybe it will make the garden this year. It is so hard to pare down the list. The garden is only so big. And the reality of it is that I can only eat so much. My eyes are bigger than my stomach.

I finally did pare it down. Just three new greens. Mustard Spinach was the first on my list. I picked it because it was described as "the most bolt resistant Asian brassica". Plus it is good cooked and raw. How can I resist. All summer long and it is versatile.

The second was Tyfon Holland Greens. You have to love the description. "If you'd like to feed an army from an area the size of a coffee table, this may be the vegetable for you." So I'm guessing it is prolific. I'm good with that. Also it does not have any mustard oil in it so it will stay mild in the summer.

The last was Strawberry Spinach. I picked it because it is a heat lover that is good in salads and when it does bolt, it produces little strawberry like fruit. So it stays productive.

So now I have three new greens to try, that will all do well in my summer heat. Last summer was very sad when all the lettuce stopped producing and the Asian greens went a little mustardy. I'm crossing my fingers for salads all the way through the summer. New Red Fire Lettuce is supposed to be slow bolting too.

Thinking about what to grow is so much fun. So many plants are dancing in my head. The hardest part is to pick the few to try this year. However I know if they don't work out that next year I can always try more. That is the fun of winter gardening. Dreaming of gardens to come.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Seeds in Need of a Good Home

So when I start planning next years garden, the first thing I do is take stock of what I currently have. Then I take out the ones I'm not growing anymore. If they interest you please send me an email with your address and what you would like. I'd be happy to mail them out to you (US only), if you want just a couple of seeds and not the whole pack let me know. Seeds are a terrible thing to throw away. All the seed is from 2008. So what am I not growing this year?

  1. Pumpkin, Early Sweet Sugar Pie (Burpee). If you read my blog, you know the angst that accompanied my pumpkin growing last year. It will be a couple of years before I challenge the vine borers again.
  2. Summer Squash, Early Prolific Straightneck (NK). I liked it well enough. It wasn't as prolific (despite its name) as a zucchini and I'm gong to try a borer resistant squash this year.
  3. Diakon Radish, Minowase (Pinetree), Turnip, Tokyo Cross F1 (Pinetree), Radish, Pinetree Radish Mix (Pinetree). These root crops don't grow well in my garden unless under a row cover. They aren't worth the effort of a row cover to me except the radish and I'm trying "Reggae" this year which has some insect resistance.
  4. Arugula, Rocket (Burpeee). I HATE arugula, though I'm sure a lot of you out there would disagree with me.
  5. Beans, Yard Long Bean (PineTree). Didn't grow well here. I might try it again some year since I love them, but not anytime soon.
  6. Carrot, Danvers (Blotanical Interests). Grew fine. Tasted fine. But Big Top was better here. I'm going to try different varieties this year. BTW this is a good section for clay soil.
  7. Mustard, Red Giant Indian Mustard (Pinetree). Didn't grow well in my garden.

In additon I still have seed collected from my garden I'm willing to ship out. Dill, flat leafed parsley, and pink mallow (yes a flower, really I do grow them, warning self seeds like lemon balm).

I don't require any trades. I'm just saving the seeds from the compost pile.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Seeds for a Three Sister's Garden

Well it is after Christmas, so it is time to start looking at what I'm going to grow next year. Some years I don't plan and just grab whatever is available at the local nursery. Since my favorite one (with the best seed selection AND plant selection) closed down, I've decided I have to start growing from my transplants from seed again. So I need a lot more seed that usual. When I really plan things out, I tend to order from a couple of seed houses. My favorite is Pinetree. It is a New England (Maine) company, so fairly local to me. Plus it has seed packets for about a dollar each, so I can get more varieties.

This year (I suppose it is really next year, but in my mind the gardening new year has already begun) I've decided to do more companion planting to try to eek out more veggies from my garden. The first step to this is a three sisters garden. This will take up one of the three main rows in the garden.

I've been wanted to do a three sisters garden for most of last year. I've never done one before, and I always love trying new things. So first off I need corn. Tall corn. Since I haven't grown corn is YEARS, I haven't a clue as to what might do well here. I read the descriptions and picked out "Bon Appetit". My husband doesn't each much from the garden, but he will eat corn and he loves the really sweet corn. I like bicolor corn because it looks pretty. This one matched both requirements. It grows to 80" or just over 6 1/2' tall so it ought to be tall enough to support the beans.

Next are the beans. I will continue to grown Kentucky Wonder beans. I love the taste. They grow like crazy and best of all I still have seed left over. I may plant some left over Fortex beans, but maybe not. Even with those, I can only eat so many green beans. I will have four hills of four corn plants. Each hill will have 6-8 bean plants. One or two hills will meet my green bean needs. The other two hills I will plant dried beans. But which ones? Pinetree doesn't have any good dried pole beans. Nor does Johnnys (another of my favorite places to buy from - but expensive). Seed Saver's Exchange is perfect for dried beans. They have so many wonderful varieties. I love black beans, so Cherokee Trail of Tears seems very appropriately historical. But is my second going to be Brockton Horticultural or True Red Cranberry? Both are historically New England seeds. I've chosen True Red Cranberry because of my love of kidney beans. In a way it seems silly to me to only order two different seeds from a company. The shipping costs almost equal the cost of the seed, but I really really want Cherokee Trail of Tears, so I'm just going to have to put up with the shippng cost. Luckily beans are mostly self pollinating so in future years I can just save seed without much issue.

The third sister is squash. I'm actually going to have some cucumbers on the side, the same cucumbers that did so stellar in my garden last year - Diamant. I'm ordering it from Johnnys. I'm hoping for tons of pickles again. They will grow up and along the fence. The squash I'm growing are two zucchinis and neck pumpkin (really a butternut variety). The first zucchini "Dark Green Zucchini" is left over seed from last year. It was very prolific. The next zucchini is Costata Romanesco. It and the neck pumpkin are supposed to be resistant to the vine borers that are so problematic in my garden. The neck pumpkin I can get from Pinetree, but Costata Romanesco comes from Johnnys. So again I'm ordering just two seed packets from a company. Sigh. At least I'll have a large order from Pinetree. But I'll get to the rest of what I'm planning in a later post.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Well Friday we got 10" of snow. Saturday just 3". Sunday we got 8" before we quit shoveling (above photo is from Sunday). When we woke up Monday we had another 5" on the ground. All in all that would be 26" of snow. Not far from us they had a lot less. I think our micro climate on the top of the hill added maybe 8" to our totals. Right now I'm grumbling about it, but I'll love the micro climate in the spring when our spring frosts end so much earlier than the rest of the area - provided of course that I can find the soil in the spring under all this snow.

Today it is all packed down on the ground to about a foot and a half except where it drifted. The worst of the "drifting" was in my garden. We decided it was prudent to shovel our roof. A lot of that ends up in my garden. So on my herb garden is a 3' pile of snow. I can't figure out if that is good for it or not. I know the snow cover is good. But throwing the snow off the roof compacts the snow terribly. I wonder if the poor plants will suffocate under there. Time will tell. Maybe this will be the year that my Hill Hardy rosemary survives.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Preparing for the Storm

I've been sitting in my family room working in front of the TV. The weatherman keeps telling me about the "wall" of snow that is just about to hit us. It so makes me want soup for lunch. And, lucky me, I have some leeks left from my harvest in November. So Potato and Leek Soup is on the menu. I can smell it simmering from here. Yummy.

That is about as close as I've been getting to the garden recently. It is the busy time for work (don't lecture me about taking vacation in the middle of the season), so I've been just glancing at my seed catalogs. But food is always important and I still have some fresh produce left. Ok I confess, now I just have carrots and a couple of sad green onions left in the fridge. They have been used recently in a Thai fish dish. Most of it was from the store, but the carrots, onions and frozen basil all came from the garden. Whoo hoo.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

On Why I Missed GBBD or Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad

SunsetWow I missed GBBD, not that there are any flowers actually blooming here. My excuse is a good one though.

Ever since my mother figured she missed out on an exciting 25th wedding anniversary, which I think passed by with just a dinner out, she has been telling me that I must do something for her 50th. She was thinking something like a party. My husband and I thought it would be fun if the family took a trip - maybe sailing together. My brother nixed that. His wife gets very seasick. But my mother found out about the idea and latched onto it. She must have read the journal of our trip to the Grenadines, because that is where she wanted to go.

TrunkfishSo Joel and I took my folks to the Grenadines to sail for a little over a week. Though there was a computer on the boat, I stayed away from it. For my entertainment I swam in the warm waters and saw all the fish. In some places schools upon schools of them glittering in the sun. I saw rays gliding over the sand and cute little trunk fish coming up to my mask to check me out. I walked the beaches and felt the sand between my toes. And every evening we sat at the back of the boat watching the sunset and drinking cocktails.

Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad.