Thursday, January 18, 2007

Gotta' plant!

Because of the unusually snowy weather we've been enjoying, I've had the luxury of doing more than my usual amount of armchair gardening this month. But there comes a time when browsing the seed catalogs, sorting through the seed stash, and re-reading my favorite garden writers just doesn't cut it. Tuesday evening was one of those times. It didn't help that I was looking at a week-long business trip in the frozen Midwest. I went out to close up the chickens and the greenhouse beckoned to me in the twilight, "Come i-i-i-i-in. You know you want to. . ."

The greenhouse was a chilly 32 degrees when I hauled a bag of seed starting mix out of the barn. The hoses were frozen solid as were the jugs of water I store in the greenhouse for watering the winter beds, so I filled a couple of watering cans at the kitchen sink and when that warm water hit the planting mix I swear it smelled like March in my greenhouse.

I've been looking at the WinterSown website (by the way, check out their free seed offers!) and while I don't see winter sowing as a good way to start tomatoes, it makes sense for onions and peas and other plants that can take a little bit of cold without going into a month-long sulk.
I had some free leek, onion, and shallot seeds from Thompson and Morgan, plus some leftover salad onion seeds from Territorial. And several pinches of Thumbelina carrot seeds, 3 years old but they were still viable last year.

Half an hour later the temperature in the greenhouse had risen to 37 degrees (hmm, those old Christmas lights put out quite a bit of heat!) and the first dirt of the 2007 Planting Season was under my fingernails. Back to the fire, and some more armchair gardening.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A garden meme

From Carol at May Dreams, via Jenn the Garden Djinn:

What kind of a seed buyer are you?

I represent the triumph of hope over experience.

Do you carefully read all of the seed catalogs sent to you and then browse the Internet to compare and contrast all the options, then decide which seeds to buy?

Why, yes. How did you know?

Do you buy seeds from 'bricks and mortar' stores and get whatever appeals to you as you are browsing?

Yes. Much as I try to avoid making eye contact with the seed racks at the nursery and the feed store, there is always something I just have to have.

Do you buy vegetable seeds in bulk where they scoop them out of seed bins, weigh them and put them in hand-marked envelopes?

No. I have to draw the line somewhere, don’t I? Oh, wait, that’s how I buy my seed for winter cover crops. Um, and my garlic starts. And seed potatoes.

Do you buy seeds for just vegetables, or just annual flowers? Do you buy seeds for perennial flowers?

Yes. Oh, yes! And Yes! Actually I’m just getting started with perennials from seed.

Do you know what stratification and scarification are? Have you done either or both with seeds?

But, of course! I have some seeds stratifying right now, as a matter of fact.

Do you order seeds from more than one seed company to save on shipping or buy from whoever has the seeds you want, even if it means paying nearly the same for shipping as you do for the actual seeds?

Heh. Last summer I got so carried away by an order with Thompson and Morgan that they waived all shipping charges. And gave me several packages of seed for free. Otherwise I try to keep it to one seed company a year. I try.

Do you buy more seeds than you could ever sow in one season?

Try “more than I could ever sow in this lifetime.”

Do you only buy seeds to direct sow into the garden or do you end up with flats of seedlings in any window of the house with decent light?

I end up with tubs of seedlings in the furnace room under grow lights, and on all the windowsills on the south side of the house. And did I mention the greenhouse?

Do you save your own seeds from year to year and exchange them with other seed savers?

Sometimes. More with flowers than with vegetables. I had a particularly nice volunteer pumpkin plant this year—no idea where it came from because I hadn’t bought or grown pumpkins in years—and I saved the seeds from that. Otherwise, I have so few vegetable gardening beds right now that I’m loathe to risk getting some weird hybrid crop.

Do you even buy seeds?

Ahem. See above.

Do you have a fear of seeds? Some gardeners don't try seeds, why not?

I used to fear seeds because they never came up. I’ve learned a few tricks along the way, such as covering the seed beds with polyester row covers, and setting mouse traps in the greenhouse. See, the seeds can’t germinate if they’ve been dug up and devoured by field mice or free-ranging chickens. Duh.

Do you understand seeds? I once bought seeds at a Walmart in January (Burpee Seeds) and the cashier asked me, "Do these really work? Yes, they do. "Isn't it too cold to plant them now?" Well, yes, if you are planning to plant them outside. I don't think this cashier grew up around anyone who gardened.

I understand that they can be temperamental little buggers.Thanks to the most excellent catalog put out by Johnny’s Seeds I finally understand what it takes to germinate pepper seeds. I couldn’t provide them with that environment naturally (they want a warmer house than I do), so they never came up.

Do you list all your seeds on a spreadsheet, so you can sort the list by when you should sow them so you have a master seed plan of sorts?

Oh, now that’s just sick!

Do you keep all the old seeds and seed packets from year to year, scattered about in various drawers, boxes, and baskets?

In years past, yes. Now they are pretty well confined to erm, [embarrassed shuffle as she counts them up] a bunch of airtight plastic boxes. Except for the ones in the African market basket. And some in 35 mm film canisters (remember film?) in the greenhouse.

Do you determine germination percentage for old seed?

I have done that. More often I just sow old seeds three to five times as thickly as I would otherwise.

I suspect the answers to the above would tell us a lot about what type of gardener someone was.

I’m afraid Carol is right. My seed habits show me to be impulsive, optimistic, a little greedy, and highly gullible.

I blame it on my ADD

I was doing so well Saturday morning, carefully recording the progress of the kind of meal I make only every few years--elaborate and all from scratch. (I purposely avoided photographing the more grisly aspects of the meal.) And then around the time I started to make the fresh egg noodles, I forgot all about the camera, so the only record of the feast that followed is in the memories of the participants.

However, last night there an encore presentation of the coq au vin au bourguignon, this time with roasted garlic mashed potatoes instead of noodles.
As with most rich, winey stews, it was even tastier on the second round. And, this time I remembered the camera.

Good old Branwell. I shall always remember him fondly.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Something's cooking today

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Water, water

Rainwater catchment is pretty low on my list of gardening priorities because my soil is deep and loamy, our dry season is so short, and we do have our own well. But eventually I expect I'll be living in the city and I'll need to make every drop count. Hopefully when that time comes, these tanks will be available in the US.

"The waterHOG is a slim, rectangular, modular, plastic rainwater tank which is designed to fit into the usually empty cavities of the house, for example between floor joists and wall studs when spaced at 600mm centres.

The waterHOG units can also be installed like conventional rainwater tanks, fixed to the side of the house or to a fence. The narrow profile makes the waterHOG a good water storage solution along sidewalls, down narrow passages and underneath decks and house structures."

Positively brilliant.