Playing in the dirt.

Tomato and Herbs

Just a quick post today, to show off the most recent arrivals.  Today brought a Mexico midget tomato sprout, and yesterday brought the herb sprouts (rows from top to bottom: Genovese basil, lemon mint, lime basil).  The herbs doubled in size over the course of my workday today.  Two herb peats have no-shows, and I’ll replant those Friday if they haven’t arrived by then.

Genovese basil, lemon mint, and lime basil sprouts in starter peats.

Herbs, herbs, herbs.

Mexico midget is an indeterminate cherry variety.  “Indeterminate” means that it’s a vine type that grows continuously and produces fruit over the course of a season, as opposed to the “determinate” bush varieties that grow to a pre-determined size and set their fruit all at once.  Indeterminates are good for fresh eating all summer and need trellised to support their long vines, while determinates are good for canning and freezing, because the whole crop is usually ready at one time, making for more efficient processing.

A Mexico midget tomato sprout in a starter peat.

Mexico midget tomato sprout.

Peppers and Onions

Peppers have sprouted!  Three little Anaheims greeted me this morning, pushing their tiny cotyledons against the damp plastic lid of the starter tray as if to say, “Let us out!”  So I did.

Anaheim pepper seedling

I’m a pepper! Wouldn’t you like to be a pepper, too?

The lone surviving Pasilla Bajio from the first planting is starting to peek out a bit, and might stand up by tomorrow.  Four replacement onions are also starting to sprout, little green-white loops not yet strong enough to lift the seed casing.

Three more onions collapsed past the point of recovery when the tray dried out too much over the weekend–hazards of starting things at work.  I pulled them and re-started them, but those will likely be the last that I re-start.  I’ve got a lot of other things to start and supplies to shop for and new beds to build!

Anaheim pepper and Yellow of Parma onion seedlings.

Peppers and Onions

Next Up!

Fortunately, I don’t expect perfection in my garden, because unfortunately, three of my eight Anaheim starter peats and a whopping seven of my eight Pasilla Bajio starter peats went moldy and had to be discarded.  In better news, two of the Anaheims are starting to poke up, though I hesitate to call them sprouts until I see some cotyledons.

(Weirdly, last year’s efforts included cucumbers, one of which sprouted cotyledons, which hung about for quite a long time just barely above the soil.  When I decided they were never going to become a cucumber plant and pulled them up, there was no evidence of there ever having been roots of any kind!)

Today, in addition to planting four more Pasillas, I started four kinds of tomato, eggplant, two kinds of basil, and some lemon mint.

I succumbed to “just one more” and bought two packets of marigold seeds (Brocade Mix and Petite Mix) and a packet of Yellow Canary Creeper nasturtium from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, who kindly sent me another free packet of Red Romaine lettuce.  I’ll be finding someone to give that to, since they already sent me one with my first order of the season.

The only other news for now is that none of the indoor salad has sprouted yet, which is not terribly surprising considering that I did not cover the planters to help warm things up, and I’ve marked out my new beds for the year with little stone cairns, so I can start clearing ground, now that we’re having some occasional warm days.  Hopefully my next post will include a picture of some tiny pepper sprouts!

Dream Garden

Grow Write Guild writing prompt #2 is “Describe your fantasy garden.”  I spend a lot of time in my fantasy garden, so please allow me to invite you to join me there today.

A stone path leads to an arch draped with flowering vines.  Two hummingbirds dance around and through, visiting tiny red trumpets.  Long rows of hedges meander away to either side, dotted here and there with flowers or fruit, and the low hum of bees floats warmly on a lazy afternoon breeze.  Benches tuck themselves into corners and cul-de-sacs to offer respite from the walking and the weeding.

Stepping through the arch, a five acre patch of vibrant life is bounded on all sides with hedges of various flowering and fruiting shrubs, broken in places by more festooned archways, mismatched in material and vines alike.  In the center, a grove of nut trees shades a sweet spring that trickles over small boulders to fill a small pond stocked with fish and water-loving plants.  Small green frogs plop into the water or catch bugs on the shore.  An enamel cup hangs from a nearby branch, and a trick of the light shows its fellows tucked about on handy twigs, inviting those who enter to partake.

Stone walkways wander among various beds, edibles and flowers interspersed.  Here, glass gem corn grows among feathery dill, and low bean bushes follow the curved south edge.  There, bee balm reaches high behind a bed of zucchini dotted with  dwarf nasturtiums.  Standoffish sunflowers pay their respects to Apollo in a bed all their own, and fruit trees cluster in several places, offering shade to beds of lettuce and and shy coralbells and hellebores, watching over hostas and trellised peas.

Shocks of tall green grasses poke up among root vegetables, waiting only time to turn golden and heavy with grain.  Everbearing strawberries offer sweet fruit, and elderberries make a thicket of potential marking time until they become jam or wine.

Beehives sit in opposite corners, as tiny commuters take to their traffic lanes, heading out to work at collecting pollen then back in again to put it up for winter as sticky sweet honey.  Hammocks sway invitingly among the trees near the pond, and it is there, dear reader, that I will leave you to your own devices, and you may feel free to roam about and sample the edibles.  I’m going to climb into that hammock right there and pull my hat over my face for a while.

Patience, Shmatience

One of the trials of gardening at 7200 feet is the short growing season.  We’ve had a couple of shirt-sleeves days, but our last frost date isn’t until June sometime.  I, however, have had entirely enough store-bought produce.  So along with starting my Anaheim and Pasilla Bajio pepper seeds today, I filled a couple of long planters with mushroom compost left over from last year and planted some assorted lettuces and lettuce-like things, and some chives.

Three Jiffy starter boxes and two long, pale green planters filled with mushroom compost join some empty water bottles on a table.

The bottles are to cut down for small pots to put the onions in when they need more space than their tiny   starter peats.

I planted iceberg, red romaine, Lollo Rossa, Bunte Forellenschluss, arugula, spinach, mizuna, lovage, and chives.  The peppers are in the covered Jiffy starter box.  I started the peppers on a Friday, so there would be two days before I see them again, which will hopefully make it feel like less time until the excitement of sprouts.

The onion sprouts are just visible in the front starter box on the left side.  They have had a small haircut to keep them from falling over, so I’ve already had my first harvest this season–I put the trimmings on my tuna sandwich for lunch that day!  I am hoping they didn’t get so tall due to insufficient light…the table is directly under a skylight, but the angle of the sun puts the most direct light about two feet on the other side of that cubical wall to the right for now.  (By midsummer, it will be shining directly onto that table, and I will be considering wearing my sunglasses at my desk.)  I guess I’ll have my answer when I see if my pepper plants get all leggy on me or not.

My First Plant

Gayla at You Grow Girl has started a writing club for gardeners called The Grow Write Guild, and the first writing prompt was posted on the 19th, “My First Plant.”

That’s easy, right?  I mean, I clearly remember my first plant was the tiny start of a Christmas cactus my friend gave me from her sprawling bedroom decor when I was about fourteen, that my obnoxious rabbit ended up eating one day while I was at school and she was occupying a box in my bedroom because she’d kindled on the worst night possible and lost half the litter to freezing temperatures before I got there to feed her breakfast.  I stuffed the two surviving kits into my coat pockets with handsful of straw, and hurried back into the house to put them in a shoebox beside a heater vent, to warm the poor wee things back up.  Then she’d refused them, so I had to hold her down to let them nurse for the three days it took for her to accept that they really were her own kits, and it was still unseasonably cold, so that was just easier to do in the house.  She ate a geranium that day, too, and I’m certain that she dug up the pricklier cactus out of sheer spite that she couldn’t eat that as well.

Except that no, that came after the year when I was about eleven, and we had a plot at the community garden, and I had, among a few other things in my small section, the most adorable and perfectly round jack o-lantern pumpkin you can imagine, and someone stole it right out of my patch the day before I went to pick it.  I was crushed.

But that’s not it, either.  No, that was the one when I was about seven, and we had an acre and a half under the plow, and each of us kids had our own little strung-off section, and I planted radishes and watermelon in mine.  I don’t really remember the radishes, but that watermelon plant grew one beautiful melon.  It was dark green, and it seemed enormous, so much so that I could barely get my arms around it when It Was Time.  I was so proud carrying it all the way back to the house myself (which amounted to little more than across the driveway), and I remember it looked so dark inside after being out in the sun.  We carved it up and ate it for dessert that night.  I don’t remember a thing of how it tasted, but I remember the ungainly size of it, and the heavy potential of it, as I leaned way back to counterbalance it on the short trek from field to fridge.

That one was definitely my first plant.

Hello, world!

I’m starting the second year of my garden.  (I’ll get some more photos of last year’s harvests posted eventually.)  The plans for this year include adding more space in a 4×16 foot bed and some assorted “hills” for some plants that will need more room to spread out.  This year, I’m ordering all heirloom varieties, so I can try to save seed from the plants that do the best in my climate.  Some plants are biennials, so I’ll need to over-winter some and see if they survive to produce seed in their second year.  I ordered my first round of seeds on March 2, so I could get some plants started indoors, and I ordered the rest of my seeds on March 14, after making some final decisions. This year, I’m trying the Jiffy “greenhouses” with the peat pellets, and if they do well, I’ll make my own starter pots next year with more sustainable coir.

From Seed Savers Exchange, I ordered:

  • Blacktail Mountain Watermelon (developed in northern Idaho, where the overnight temperatures are similar to our cool nights)
  • Cheyenne Bush Pumpkin (developed in SE Wyoming)
  • Italian Heirloom Tomato (a red slicing tomato)
  • Opalka Tomato (a red paste tomato)
  • Mexico Midget Tomato (red cherry tomato)
  • Beam’s Yellow Pear Tomato (cherry-sized)
  • Zebrune Shallot
  • Blue Jade Corn (a dwarf sweet corn – I ordered two packets, since this only comes with 25 seeds per packet)
  • Dragon Carrot (bright red skin, I couldn’t resist)
  • Paris Market Carrot (a really thick carrot that I’m thinking will be an excellent roaster)
  • Bountiful Snap Bean (long straight green beans)
  • Sultan’s Golden Crescent Bean (a rare yellow curved bean)
  • Titan Sunflowers (these have a short growing season but grow to enormous size, up to two feet across in ideal climate)
  • Lemon Mint (to feed the bees)
  • Triple Curled Parsley
  • Prize Choy (a dwarf bok choy)
  • Bunte Forellenschluss (a butterhead version of the Forellenschluss I selected last year by virtue of it having freckles)

From Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, I ordered:

  • Dwarf Siberian Kale
  • Yellow of Parma Onion
  • Charentais Melon (a true cantaloupe)
  • Anaheim Chile Pepper
  • Pasilla Bajio Chile Pepper
  • Miyashage Daikon (a Japanese radish that Mr. Teaspoon requested)
  • Henderson’s Bush Lima Bean
  • Bloomsdale Long Standing Spinach
  • Black Beauty Zucchini
  • Lolla Rossa Lettuce (red leaf)
  • Genovese Basil (traditional Italian basil)
  • Lime Basil (basil with a citrus note)
  • Common Chives
  • Bouquet Dill
  • Dwarf Jewel Mix Nasturtiums (smaller than the aggressively vining varieties, these edible flowers will also feed bees)
  • Half Long Guernsey Parnsip (my true long shot for the season, as parsnips usually require a long season)
  • Early Scarlet Globe Radish
  • French Breakfast Radish
  • Arugula (or “rocket” for my British pals, a mildly bitter green that is excellent in salads when young and can be used like spinach in cooking when older)
  • Mizuna (a Japanese green similar to mustard greens)
  • Cilantro
  • Lovage (somewhat like celery, if it just grew leaves instead of long stalks, used similarly)
  • Early White Vienna Kohlrabi (a cabbage relative grown for its bulbous stem)
  • Rossa di Treviso Radicchio (also by Mr. Teaspoon’s specific request)
  • Purple Top White Globe Turnips (they did so well last year)
  • Iceberg Lettuce (for crunch in the salads)

I planted my onion seeds indoors on March 12, and today, I had sprouts!

Onion sprouts in peat pellet starter medium.

These eager onions sprouted in only three and a half days.