Herbs (From Seed) 2018

April 8th. We had another bout of snow. It is getting really old at this point. I really hope that Mother Nature has a beautiful Summer and long warm fall in store for us this year.

With the snow outside, I was in the mood to sow some more seeds. So this time around, is Herbs.

A few years ago, I made my own “Italian Seasoning” and it was one of my favourite things that I did that  year. Herbs kind of take care of themselves once they are in a spot they like, so they can be a great beginner project. Additionally, there are quite a few that can be perennial so you don’t need to start fresh every single year. Last year, a bunch of my herbs all survived the winter (which was pretty mild – unlike this year), and I’m hoping they survive again.

I’m going to type out each description from the seed packets, Same as I have done for most seed sowing I’ve done this year.

  • Stevia
    • West Coast Seeds (2018)
    • “This amazing plant’s leaves have extracts said to be 200 times sweeter than sugar. The plant, which does well in the border or in containers, grows to 60 cm (24″) tall with clusters of tiny, but attractive white flowers emerging from every stem”
    • I tried growing Stevia from seed last year (or the year before) and they just fizzled out before it was even warm enough to go outside. I’m hoping this year will be better.
  • Catnip
    • McKenzie Seeds (2018)
    • “Cats love the minty aroma. Dry leaves can be used in cat toys or sprinkled sparingly on cat food. Prefers well drained soil. Harvest flowers before seeds set and dry in a dark, well ventilated place. Can also be grown indoors. Perennial. Zone 3”
    • If you want to grow cat nip too, I recommend having a strong cover on it to protect it from all the neighbourhood cats (or your own cat). The last 2 years, the catnip I had was growing well, and then was ravaged and killed early because of all the cat activity.
  • Lemon Balm
    • McKenzie Seeds (2015)
    • “Bushy perennial plant with light green leaves that has a lemon scent and lemon-mint flavored leaves. Use with soups, meats, fish, sauces and salads. Transplants well. Harvest leaves anytime. For drying, harvest leaves in the early morning. Dry quickly to retain flavour. Heirloom. Perennial. Zone 4.”
    • Lemon Balm is one of my favourites to grow, just to pinch the leaves and smell them. I don’t particularly love tea, but just the scent of this plant fills me with so much joy.
  • Oregano (‘Origanum vulgare hirtum’)
    • Burpee Seeds (2014)
    • “Use as a spicy flavouring in tomato sauces, egg and cheese dishes, vegetable stews, meat and chicken dishes and pizza. Annual”
    • I only sowed one peat pellet of the Oregano, but I figured that I can just buy a quick plant in the spring to supplement my herb garden if this one doesn’t take off.
  • Sweet Marjoram (‘Origanum marjorana’)
    • Burpee Seeds (2014)
    • “Leaves add flavour, fresh or dry to soups, dressings, beans and meat dishes. Annual”
  • Thyme
    • McKenzie Seeds (2014)
    • “Ideal for flavouring meats, fish, stuffing, stews and soups. Sow indoors 4-6 weeks before the last frost. Transplant to a well-drained area in the garden. Ready to harvest in 85 days”
    • The Thyme I started in 2016, survived winter and I enjoyed using it fresh all summer. I started one peat pellet of this as a back-up in-case the Survivor-Thyme doesn’t make it through this much harsher winter.
  • Summer Savory
    • McKenzie Seeds (2014)
    • “The leaves have a sharp, peppery thyme flavor that is well suited for bean dishes, meat pies, poultry dressings, salads, soups and caseroles. Prefers well drained soil. Keep moist. Pack soil around stem to prevent plants from falling. Pick leaves anytime after plant is established. For drying, cut off entire plant just before flowering and hang to dry. Annual”
    • My Summer Savory also survived winter last year, despite it saying that it is an annual. I don’t expect it to survive again this year, and finding this herb as a plant can be hit or miss. I’ve found it at the walmart garden centre one year, and then never again.
  • ‘Cinnamon’ Basil
    • McKenzie Seeds (2015)
    • “A native to Mexico, the leaves have a spicy cinnamon flavor; flowers are deep pink with purple bracts. Add to hot beverages for added taste. Start seeds at anytime for indoor use. Plants require an organically rich, well drained soil. Expect your first harvest 5-6 weeks after sowing. Sensitive to frost. Annual”
    • While I have a collection of a few different varieties of basil, I picked this one out of the bunch, for the same reason as the Lemon Balm… Just to sniff the leaves. It also has beautiful little flowers that the bees loved the year that I grew this before.
  • ‘Champion Moss Curled’ Parsley
    • McKenzie Seeds (2014)
    • “Dense fine foliage, closely curled, very dark green. Excellent for flavouring soups, salads, stews or as a garnish and very good for freezing. Hasten germination by soaking seeds for 24 hours in luke-warm water. Biennial. Prefers partial shade.”
    • Parsley is one of my favourite herbs to grow and then dry for use in the Kitchen. It stays a beautiful green through the drying and keeps wonderfully.
  • ‘Plain Leaved’ Parsley
    • Mr. Fothergills’s Seeds (2013)
    • “Flat leaves superior in flavour. Cold hardy. Use in salads, soups, on fish and poultry.”
    • Like I said above, Parsley is a favourite. And this flat leaf type does dry for kitchen use much better than the curled type, but I do like having both types in the garden.

I will also be growing Dill and if I can find a plant, some Chocolate Mint.

 

 

 

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Oops I did it again…

Just when I had resolved to stick to the seeds I already had… I went to the garden centre unsupervised.

I found some seeds that have been on my list of things I want to try for a while, and I couldn’t miss out on the opportunity to finally have them.

First of all, I found Cucamelon seeds. These have been on my wish list for a long time.  I’ll write more about them when I sow them (a little closer to the last frost date), but I wanted to let everyone know how excited I am that I finally found them in-person!

All the other splurge-seeds are tomatoes. But are you surprised?

And I sowed 2 peat pellets of each of  the following on April 4 when I got home from the garden centre.

  • ‘Old German’
    • West Coast Seeds
    • “This delicious heirloom was first bred in a Virginia Mennonite community, circa 1850. The sweet fruits, with their rich red and gold skins and flesh, are produced generously on tall indeterminate plants from mid summer to frost.”
  • ‘Green Zebra’
    • West Coast Seeds
    • “This popular tomato matures by mid-season, producing 60g (3oz) fruits that are lime green streaked with yellow. The flavour is sweet and slightly tart, so it’s perfect for salsa or sandwiches. Provide support for the indeterminate vines. 75 days. F1.”
      • I thought that ‘Green Zebra’ was OP (Open Pollinated) but I guess I was wrong, as this packet says F1, and the website says hybrid. Can anyone share any known Green Zebra history with me in the comments at all?
  • ‘Oregon Spring’
    • Livingston Seed
    • “Finally a tomato that combines large size and good flavor with earliness! The medium to large fruit of Oregon Spring is tender, juicy and full of flavor. A determinate variety that is nearly seedless.”
      • A quick google search let me know these are Open Pollinated seeds. Which is what I want for my seed collection so I can save my own seed
  • ‘Oxheart’
    • Wildrose heritage Seed (Local Alberta Company!)
    • “Oxheart Tomato has an indeterminate plant habit. These vines can grow as high as 2.4m (8′) high. They continuously produce until the first frost. Tomatoes are huge, uniform fruits that are 280-454g (10oz-1lb). Often heart shaped and pinkish-red. Very meaty with a mild, sweet flavor. We use t hem for tomato sauces and salsa. We have had some very good production rates from the Oxheart tomato”
      • I was so excited to see one of my “wish-list” tomatoes available from a pretty local company. They had a few other tomatoes that I don’t have in my collection, and I may have to sneak back and grab them (for next year) next time I get a chance to go to the garden centres.

 

Quick edit for today (April 7):

I also snuck in one more…  2 peat pellets, I sowed them April 7. I promise this will be the last variety this year.

  • ‘Czech’s Bush’
    • Wildrose Heritage Seed
    • “Originated from Czechoslovakia. Czech’s bush is an extremely productive tomato that produces a terrific amount of tomatoes on a short, sturdy bush. Although a determinate variety, you may need to stake or tomato cage the plant due to the sheer amount of fruit that is produced. Tomatoes are born in clusters and weigh anywhere from 113-227g (4-8oz). The tomatoes come on early and produces steady all through the season.”

 

 

Tomatoes (2018)

April 2nd, I sowed my tomatoes. Late for me, but to be honest, It is probably perfect timing in terms of the weather around here.

I didn’t let myself buy any new varieties. However, last year I did manage to finally save some of my own seed. In the few cases where I had my own seed saved, I also sowed some of the original purchased seed as a bit of a fail-safe.

  • 2x ‘Sub Arctic Plenty’McKenzie Seeds from 2016
    • “Developed in Alberta for Prairie climates, this cultivator is an early, upright tomato. It will set fruit, even under cold conditions! Bountiful yeilds of 56-70g (2-2 1/2 oz) tomatoes. Keep well fed and watered. Determinate. No staking required. Heirloom”
    • img_6508
  • 2x ‘Jubilee’McKenzie Seeds from 2016
    • “These glowing, golden-orange, mild flavoured fruits have been prized by gardeners for years. Plants produce bountiful harvest of 225g (8 oz) fruits throughout the season. Indeterminate. Staking may be required.”
    • img_6371
  • 2x ‘Cherokee Purple’McKenzie Seeds (from 2015) AND My own saved seed from last year (2017)
    • The description of this one on the packet is wrong, and is likely for the ‘Black Krim’ tomato. The plants I grew last year were fantastic, and had an excellent harvest, thus I was able to save a bunch of seed from it.
    • img_6373
  • 2x ‘Beefsteak’ McKenzie Seeds (from 2016) (I would have saved from of these seeds from last year, but we ate all the tomatoes before I thought to save the seeds.
    • “Large, meaty, solid fruit, slightly flattened and globe-shaped. Deep, well-drained moisture retaining soil is best. Mild and flavorful for salads and table use. Keep tomatoes away from all members of the brassica family: cabbage, cauliflower, etc. No staking required. Determinate. Heirloom.”
    • img_6375
  • 2x ‘Manitoba’McKenzie Seeds (from 2014)
    • “Very dependable early variety, excellent for the Prairies. Bright, red, juicy fruit. Deep well-drained soil is best. Eliminate blossom end rot problems by deep watering the plants so that the root system will be less affected by fluctuations in soil moisture. Determinate. No staking required. Heirloom.”
    • img_6505
  • 4 x ‘Tiny Tim’McKenzie Seeds (from 2016. I didn’t write the year on this pack, so I could be wrong)
    • “Extremely early scarlet red, miniature cherry tomato. Deep, well-drained soil is best. Perfect for decorating salads and vegetable trays. Determinate. No staking required. Heirloom.”
    • img_6507
  • 4x ‘San Marzano’McKenzie Seeds (from 2014) AND my own seed (2017). I had a decent harvest with these last year, and had decided to save seed.
    • “Italian tomato perfection! 10-12 ounce plum tomatoes grow on large and vigorous plants. Has excellent tomato flavor and is great to eat fresh, make sauces or for canning and drying. Inderterminate – staking required.”
    • img_6374
  • 3x ‘Black Cherry’
    • McKenzie Seeds (from 2016) AND my own.
      • This was probably my best performing tomato plant of last year. It thrived like I have never seen before, and I can’t wait to try to replicate that success this year.
    • “Early Russian variety. Tall 60cm (2′) plants, with oval/round shaved 2.5 cm (1″) fruit. Deep mahogany to brown color. Black color develops best when hot and sunny. Inderterminate. Requires staking”
      • As a note to this; My plant last year, was over 7 feet tall at the height of summer. I kept it well pruned to two main stems. As mentioned above, the only time I got close to a more black color was on the few really hot says in the summer. But these were an amazing producer, and I am excited to see how they do this year, especially from my own saved seed.
    • img_6372
  • 1x ‘Yellow Pear’
    • Burpee Seeds (from 2014)
    • “Clusters of pear-shaped, yellow fruits with mild, delicious flavour. Indeterminate”

 

img_8069
a Truss of my “Black Cherry” tomatoes from last year (2017)

I’ll try and keep up with the progress of everything this year, but as always… Life has a way of getting in the way of me being a good blogger. So…. now that I’ve kept your expectations low… Are you growing any tomatoes this year? What kinds? Any tips to share with anyone else reading this? Post it in the comments below.

Peppers and other Nightshades I am growing this year (2018)

What? How is it April 2nd already? Actually, its April 3rd for most of the world already. Typically by this point in the year, I have started all of my tomatoes and peppers and they are getting leggy and moving from the small light area to the one window I have available, and fighting for space with my houseplants. (hey look, I still write in run-on sentences)

Today, on my way home from work, I stopped at Canadian Tire and grabbed some new peat pellets and seed starting soil (and a few seed varieties that I’ll mention when I actually sow them… they weren’t tomatoes or peppers so we’ll get there eventually). I soaked some pellets and got to digging out my seed collection and finally deciding what to grow.

That was when I decided I should dust off this poor blog and write something.

So Peppers (chillies) and “others” is up today. Tomatoes will be up soon, because I also sowed them today too.

Given my small space, and desire to step away from having a ton of containers, I didn’t start any sweet peppers. Maybe next year.

Here is what I sowed this year:

  • 2x ‘Kung Pao Hybrid’
    •  Burpee Seeds (this pack is from 2015)
    • “Vigorous plants produce 11cm thin-walled, dark green fruits that ripen to a bright red”
  • 2x ‘Seranno’ 
    • McKenzie Seeds (this pack is from 2015 or 2016)
    • “Serrano is a small, fiery hot Chilli pepper with a delayed fuse. It is one of the hottest peppers available. It is smaller and hotter than a jalapeno. The fruit measuring 5-7.5cm (2-3″ long) and 1.25cm (1/2″) in diameter are glossy green turning orange-red at maturity with medium thin walls. A favourite in sizzling hot salsas and sauces and Asian dishes.”
  • 4x ‘Long Red Cayenne Slim’
    • McKenzie Seeds (this pack is from 2017)
      • Last year I sowed these from a 2016 pack and had zero germination, so I splurged on a new pack. However, by the time they really got going, the summer was over and I only got maybe one pepper from 6 plants. Here is hoping that I can make up for it this year, as I need some fresh Cayenne Pepper in my spice cupboard
    • ‘These 13-15 cm (5-6″) long hot peppers can be eaten while green or red. Plant in sunny location with adequate moisture.”
  • 2x ‘Purple Tomatillo’
    • McKenzie Seeds (this pack is from 2014) {keep your fingers crossed these seeds are still viable}
    • “This uniquely coloured tomatillo is enjoyed for its sweet, yet tart flavor. The vigorous and highly productive plant provides a visual flare with its striking purple-veined leaves. The fruit forms inside papery husks that begin green then ripen to a deep rich purple. The fruits are great grilled, in salsa, or as a taco topping.”
  • 2x ‘Violetta Lunga di Napoli’ Eggplant
    • McKenzie Seeds (this pack is from 2014)
    • “Dark violet, cylindrical and smooth 20cm (8″) long, rustic, fruits are grown all over Italy. Classic rich eggplant taste. A good, reliable producer.”

As you can see, some of the seeds are getting quite old. I was very generous in the amount of seeds I set to germinate in the peat pellets. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that they decide to spring to life, and also that we have a nice warm summer with plenty of rain to keep things nice and watered.

The “featured image” of this post are some of the Serrano peppers from last year which grew fantastic. I had a decent harvest from the 2 plants I grew. I dried all the chillies from last year and then ground them into a pepper blend that I gave to my father in law for Christmas. Here is the photo I am speaking of if you can’t see it in the header above.

img_7634

 

2018

I’m a little behind on getting some kind of ‘New Years’ post written. So here I am with some brain/word vomit.

2016 was terrible for me, we don’t need to rehash it.

So 2017 was about recovering from the devastation that was 2016.

That is kind of the reason I didn’t post here much. I didn’t post anywhere much except for Instagram, or if the mood/inspiration struck. I tried to take as much of the pressure off myself in anything. I wanted to remove any fake. I didn’t want to pretend that I was ok when I wasn’t. Because I wasn’t. But I also didn’t want my not-ok-ness to be enshrined on the internet forever, just because the day I promised to post something was a bad day. I wanted (and still want) to keep highlighting the positive and happy things. ESPECIALLY for posterity. I don’t want to remember how sad I was… I want to remember the good things that happened DESPITE how sad I was. I want to be able to focus on those happy things. Because sad and shit and devastation are always going to be there, and they are so easy to focus on and just keep delving deeper and deeper into them. But focusing on the positive side is so much harder, but so much more worth it.

“Do something today that will make tomorrow better than yesterday”

2017 was kind of a mental reset, and kind of learning a new normal. Kind of building up to what I hope will be a fantastic 2018.

So rather than lay out my plans for this year, I’m just going to say that I will try and write when I can.