Wednesday, January 30, 2013

January snow drop


I found a little snow drop blooming in my garden today. We are having a January thaw with temps up to 60*F (!!!) today. I opened my cold frame all day to give the plants some air. Our temperatures are like a roller coaster.

planning early for late blight

We had such a bad time with late blight at our community garden last year.  This year we will be distributing late blight resistant tomatoes to any of our gardeners who want to give them a try.  We have contracted to have 500 seedlings grown for us.  They will be grown locally by Sandra at Underwood Greenhouses, a old greenhouse (circa 1905) in Belmont.

Sandra has purchased all of the seeds and is planning to begin planting in March (I think).  I am looking forward to photographing the process.  I can't wait to see all those little tomato plants growing.

Here is our late blight resistant variety list:
Defiant PhR (Johnny's Seed)
Mountain Magic (Johnny's Seed)
Plum Regal (Johnny's Seed)
Legend (Reimer Seeds)
Old Brooks (Reimer Seeds)
Sun Gold (Johnny's Seed)

I tried to find a source for Ferline (Thompson and Morgan) that will ship to the US, but haven't been able to.

Sandra will also grow some heirloom tomatoes for us.  The Brandywine variety is one she and her father have saved for 50 years.  These varieties will not be resistant to late blight.  For them, I am thinking of trying a plastic.tunnel.  I suppose it would need to be about 5 feet tall.  I am just beginning to look into where I would buy one of these. A tunnel would keep moisture off of the plant's leaves.

Here is the list of heirlooms being grown for us:
Brandywine (saved seeds)
Cherokee Purple (Johnny's)
Gold Medal (Reimer)
Cosmonaut Volkov (Territorial)
San Marzano Gigante (Territorial)
Prudens Purple (Johnny's)
Mortgage Lifter (Reimer)
Tiffen Mennonite (Reimer)
Purple Calabash (Territorial)
Moskvich (Johnny's)

I have also been reading about grafted tomatoes (article on grafted tomatoes at  It seems if you graft a nice delicate heirloom onto a tough resistant root stock, the heirloom will take on some characteristics of the root stock.  You still get heirloom tomatoes but the plant is more vigorous and has more disease resistance. Territorial is selling some grafted Brandywines.  I might try this too, just to compare. And, if I get time, I'd like to look into what is involved in grafting my own plants.
I am sure Sandra will be growing extra plants, so these varieties should be available for other gardeners too. I think you can contact her through her website, Underwood Greenhouses,, if you ant to make sure.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

frozen whiskers

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The little creek by the gardens is freezing over. Skippy loves to drink the icy water. He ends up with icicles hanging from his whiskers that stay there for the rest of our walk.

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frozen garden plot

frozen garden plot 005

I haven't even opened the gate in a couple months now. Everything is frozen and drab.

I'm glad I was able to put a good layer of hay down as this winter has been brutal for the overwintering plants. We've had wide swing in temperatures and very little snow cover.

Somewhere under the hay is 100 garlic shoots, a 4 year old bed of asparagus, a clump of Egyptian walking onions, a big crown of rhubarb, a few strawberry and raspberry plants, roots from my two espaliered pear trees, and a bunch of perennial flowers.

Amazingly enough, the walking onions still look green.

walking onions

Monday, January 28, 2013

seed catalogs

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I have a stack of catalogs and have been reading through them all. They're as good as a nice novel! Its exciting that there is so much to plan.

I've been reading the pages on organic pest control in Johnny's catalog. I've circled a bunch of onion and leek varieties the Fedco catalog. And I've circled eggplants, peppers and a lovely pink sweet pea in the Cook's catalog.

The first seeds I plant are always onions, leeks and celeries. I used my planting calendar tool to print out a list of the dates to start these. It says I should start planting on Feb 22. I am thinking I will start a few 6-packs a bit early. I bought the last 3 planting trays from last season at my local hardware store this weekend, as well as some 6-pack inserts, so I am all set. Maybe today? Why not.....

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new ad

I have a new ad posted from Mike the Gardener. You may want to check out his site. Here's the link: Seeds of the Month Club .

Friday, January 25, 2013

cold cold frame

cold greens 003 My cold frame temperature is getting up to 27*F (-3*C) or so with the midday sun on it, but it goes back down to bitter cold at night. It hasn't gotten above freezing in several days now. The greens are wilted. I have broccoli, escarole, bok choi spinach, lettuce, parsley and rosemary growing inside it. I don't know if anything will survive. It hasn't gotten this cold since we built the cold frame.

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

bitter cold

The remote thermometer inside my cold frame says 6*F (-14*C). Brrr! I've never seen such a low reading. I suppose the greens will not survive.

Inside my house it is warmer. I just made pumpkin bread (my pumpkin bread recipe link) using buttercup squash. Such amazing flavor. I am thinking I should compare pumpkin and squash side-by-side in this recipe someday. I think pumpkin is sweeter and milder and squash is very squashy and rich.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

saving seeds

BUTTERCUP SQUASH SEEDS 081 Today I roasted one of my delicious buttercup squash and I'm saving these seeds from it.

Each year I try to save one or two more types of seeds. For a few years now, I've saved Chinese pole beans, cayenne and Thai hot peppers. I sprouted my own sweet potatoes and garlic. For this year, I have also saved seeds from red runner beans, buttercup squash, and a mix of nasturtiums.

Saving seeds is Free! You to gradually improve the variety so that it becomes adapted to your garden conditions. And you save all the resources that would have gone into the packaging, shipping and selling of the seeds.

It's easiest to save seeds from fruit-producing crops that tend not to cross pollinate. This includes beans, peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes. Squashes will cross pollinate if different varieties they are grown close by each other. (I grow buttercup and butternut squashes together, but I got such fantastic sweet squash from a volunteer buttercup last year that I am saving its seeds this year. Maybe I will end up with a crossed variety someday.)

I've never saved seeds from a crop that doesn't produce fruit. Maybe this year would be a good time to try. This would include broccoli, kale, cabbages, lettuces and other greens, herbs like cilantro and basil, and roots like beets, carrots and onions. We don't usually let the crops flower and go to seeds, but it's quite easy to get lettuce and cabbages to bolt in mid summer. They make pretty yellow or white flowers that will eventually hold the seeds. I think the root vegetables are usually biennial and will go to seed if they are left in the ground a second year. Parsley is a biennial too. I always let my parsley grow two years, but I cut off the flower stalks. This is a seed I could start to save.

I'm still going over my crops from last year and recording how they did. When I finish I will pick a couple of my favorites and put them on my seed saving list for next year.

Last fall I made a video on how to save seeds for E-How. Here's the link.

Friday, January 04, 2013

format changes

I am adding a new bar at the far right of this blog, an "adbar", that will include garden advertizing. Please bear with me as I work on this. It seems like it is gradually getting there, though I am still trying to adjust the spacing. I will soon also update the header. Seems like I should add a new picture of Skippy!

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

happy new year

new year harvest martinis 041

Jacob's Cattle bean chili

chili 057 I bought some beautiful dried beans at the Farmer's Market this past fall. The variety: Jacob's Cattle bean. They are big red, white and maroon beans that I plan to try growing myself next year. I cooked them up, with some of my canned garden tomatoes, into a rich chili today.


1.5 cup dried Jacobs Cattle beans (or any other type of dried bean)

1 onion
5 large cloves garlic
1 shallot
1 sweet red chili pepper, fresh
2 large dried chili peppers, crumbled, with seeds
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp crushed coriander seeds
2 tsp dried thyme
Salt to taste
3 Tbs bacon fat and/or olive oil

1 lb beef sirloin tips
1 qt canned tomatoes

Grated cheese (cheddar or Jack)
Chopped green onions

Rinse beans, then soak in water 2 hours. Transfer beans (and soaking water) to a Dutch oven, adding water if necessary to cover with an inch of water. Place covered Dutch oven in 250*F oven (or on low heat on stove top) and simmer 2 hours.

Chop onion, garlic, shallot and pepper. Add to large skillet with dried chilis, spices and fat/oil. Saute a few minutes to brown the onions, then add this mixture to the simmering beans.

Chop beef into 1/2 inch pieces, brown in large skillet, then add to the simmering beans. Add tomatoes then continue to simmer the chili for 2 hours, adding water if needed.

Serve topped with cheese and green onions. Or, make chili burritos by serving with tortillas, rice, sliced avocado, pickled Hatch jalapenos and sour cream.