Milkweed


I’m going to attempt to grow some Milkweed for the Butterflies this year.

The seed packet says to start indoors 8-10 weeks before last frost. That is right about now… I mean, our last frost date is very dependant on the year. And there are things that I can do to help protect the little plants if we have a cold spring.

The seed packet description reads: “Asclepias curassavica. Attractive to butterflies! This easy to grow cheerful flower provides large clusters of orange to reddish colored blooms along landscapes. Tolerates dry conditions. Annual”

Days to sprout: 14-21

Bloom Period: June-Frost

Since the seed packet doesn’t usually give a lot of helpful “how to grow” info if you have no idea what you are doing, I did a little googling.

This website suggests that Milkweed needs to go through a period of cold stratification. It is actually the most helpful site that I found in my quick googling so I’m going to follow their suggestions. A few things I learned:

  • Many varieties of Milkweed have a long tap root that should not be disturbed. They suggest using peat pots for this reason.
  • transplant out when plants are still small, less than 3 inches tall (because of that tap root).
  • apparently it is normal for the plant to lose all of its leaves after transplanting. The plant is building roots and will regrow its foliage after a bit. {This is a little concerning, so I’m going to have to keep this in mind, and cross my fingers that it doesn’t happen}
  • You should only have to water these just after transplanting to let them get established, and then after than only in periods of drought.

Okay, so Why grow Milkweed in the first place? For the Monarch Butterflies. According to the website saveourmonarchs.org the Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed. Because of habitat destruction through development and spraying weeds in fields, Milkweed is fast disappearing. Thus Monarchs are fast disappearing.

Adult Monarchs do have a varied diet using other flowers as sources of nectar… It is the caterpillars that are facing the habitat loss.

From a more Canadian Perspective, Here is a link to Animal Facts on Monarchs from Canadian Geographic.

So this is what I’m going to do. I’ve put some seeds into a wet paper towel and I’m putting them in the fridge for a week or so. Then I will put them into seed starting mix in a large peat pot. I’ll start some not ‘cold-stratified’ seeds in the same sized peat pot at that time too. (I sowed/put seeds on paper towel into the fridge, on March 8th)

AND I will also be planting a few other wildflower mixes as well, but I’ll save that for another post.

I have done a little more googling since I first wrote the first part of this post. In some areas Milkweed is considered a noxious weed. So if you live in areas where this could easily self seed itself in areas outside of your growing area, maybe reconsider growing it. Check out information on your area and make your decision based on that. Please don’t blindly follow just one source on the internet. Find more, with different viewpoints and make your own decisions. I am going to still plant this. I don’t for see it escaping my yard. I might reconsider if I lived in a rural area with less containment. It is a choice, and it should be an informed one.

Front: Cold Stratified Seeds;    Back: Straight from the seed packet.


So, since I forgot to hit publish on this post when I first wrote it… As of March 29th, I have not noticed any difference between the cold stratified and the seeds straight out of the seed packet. The cold stratified ones are slightly behind, but there was about 10 days between when each was sowed into dirt. They are a little bit leggy, but I cannot adjust the height of my little grow light, so they are just doing their best.

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Hot Peppers for 2017

On March 6, in the midst of a deep freeze outside, I finally gave in and stuck seeds into dirt. I decided to skip the Habaneros this year. I also cut out the Jalapenos again. They grew so well two years ago, but I found that I did not use them as much as I had planned. So I’m using the space I would have used on Jalapenos and add some more Cayenne, which will be dried and used as spice for food.

I sowed (on March 6th):

  • 6 peat pellets of ‘Long Red Cayenne Slim’
  • 2 peat pellets of ‘Kung Pao Hybrid’
  • 2 peat pellets of ‘Seranno’
  • 2 peat pellets of ‘Hungarian Wax’

The Serrano was the first to poke its head up, followed closely by the Hungarian Wax and Kung Pao…

Then nothing from the Cayenne. I waited until the 15, and still no sign of life. In the meantime, I added some of the seeds from the same packet into a wet paper towel with bottom heat (same as the peppers), and still nothing. Usually you can see the seeds plump up a bit, and start to send out their root within a few days. All of these seeds had nothing.

So I splurged on a new pack of seeds. I sowed them in 6 peat pellets on the 17th (Happy St. Patrick’s Day!). I kept my fingers crossed these new ones will germinate because the Cayenne is my favourite, and ultimately the most useful for me.

On the 27th, the new Cayenne had started sprouting. Finally! Out of the entire old pack of cayenne (including the germination test), 1 seed sprouted, out of at least 30. So disappointing! I’m glad that I bit the bullet and got the new pack. (This is also why I start my peppers and tomatoes a little early, so I have some time to play catch up with a new attempt)


(Still on the 27th…) The Serrano, Hungarian and Kung Pao are nearly ready to get potted up. They all have their first true leaves, so I will get to potting them up in the next few days. I’ll save that for it’s own update post.

Thank you, as always, for reading. If you have any tips/tricks or helpful advice share it in the comments.

PS. EXTRA Thank you! I just hit 50 likes on my Facebook page for this blog. Which is not that impressive, apart from I put almost zero effort into trying to get anyone to follow over there… I didn’t even send invites to everyone of my friends (just a few who I knew would give me some support). So if you have stumbled to my Facebook page for this blog and liked it… THANK YOU… but if you want to stumble your way over to the Facebook page, and hit “Like” if you haven’t already…I will do a literal happy dance. Every time a new post goes up here, It will be on that Facebook page, so if you don’t want to miss any of my ramblings, head over there, and it will tell you when something new is happening here.

I just made that way more complicated than it actually is.

Tomatoes- Part 1 (2017)

I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm any longer, and started some Tomatoes. There will be more started a little later, which is why this post is labelled Part 1.

As usual, I started these in peat pellets. To add a little more info into this first post, I’ll add in the description of the seed packets here as well. All the seeds in this post are from McKenzie Seeds. I have also included the year I purchased the packs as a note to the germination rate, particularly the older packages. They should all germinate fine, but if they don’t, I would like the notes of which ones did not work out well.

  • Jubilee
    • “These glowing, golden-orange, mild flavoured fruits have been prized by gardeners for years. Plants produce bountiful harvests of 223g (8oz) fruits throughout the season. Indeterminate. Staking may be required.”
    • Days to Maturity (after transplanting out): 80 days
    • Sowed 2 peat pellets on March 18
    • Seed pack is from 2016
  • Black Cherry
    • “Early Russian variety. Tall 60cm (2′) plants, with oval/round shaped 2.5cm (1″) fruit. Deep mahogany to brown color. Black color develops best when hot and sunny. Indeterminate. Requires staking.”
    • Days to Maturity (after transplanting out): 80 days
    • Sowed 2 peat pellets on March 18
    • Seed pack is from 2016
  • Cherokee Purple
    • “Russian tomato names for the Crimean peninsula in the Black Sea. Slightly flattened 8-10com (3/4″) globes with dark greenish black shoulder have excellent full flavor. Indeterminate. Requires staking. Heirloom.”
    • NOTE- Pretty sure someone at the seed company messed up… Because that sounds like the description for the Black Krim tomato not Cherokee Purple… Also 8-10cm is not three quarters of an inch…
    • Days to Maturity (after transplanting out): 80 days
    • Sowed 2 peat pellets on March 18
    • Seed pack is from 2015
  • San Marzano
    • “Italian tomato perfection! 10-12 ounce plus tomatoes grow on large and vigorous plants. Has excellent tomato flavor and is great to eat fresh, make sauces or for canning and drying. Indeterminate – staking required”
    • Days to Maturity (after transplanting out): 76 days
    • Sowed 2 peat pellets on March 18
    • Seed pack is from 2016
  • Beefsteak
    • 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.”
    • Days to Maturity (after transplanting out): 80 days
    • Sowed 2 peat pellets on March 18
    • Seed pack is from 2016
  • Rainbow Blend
    • “A sensational blend of assorted Heirloom tomatoes. Varieties such as Black, Pink, Red and Yellow Brandywine tomatoes. Well known for its size and rich sweet flavor. Indeterminate. Staking may be required.”
    • Days to Maturity (after transplanting out): 70-75 days
    • Sowed 2 peat pellets on March 18
    • Seed pack is from 2014

 

So I took a gamble with the Rainbow Blend. I’ve avoided planting it the last few years, for the specific reason of I like to know what varieties I am growing. I also know that there are more than just Brandywine varieties in that pack despite what the package says. When I grew it in 2014, We had a green variety, and a few other not potato-leaf types. But I figured it was a good year to experiment a little.

The goal is to keep any squirrels and possibly birds away so I can actually enjoy my own tomatoes this year. I will also for-sure be sowing Sub Arctic Plenty and Tiny Tim… and more 😉

 

A Note if anyone from McKenzie seeds is reading this… It would be a nice addition in the information on all the tomato/pepper seed packets, if they said that the variety was distinctly Heirloom/Open Pollinated, or Hybrid.

Sweet Potato Experiment Update (2017)


Before I get started, here is the link back to the first post on the Sweet Potatoes. I did try this a few years ago, and I never got to the part of putting them outside. I did have some really beautiful flowers in my kitchen window though. If you didn’t know, Sweet Potatoes are related to Morning Glories and are not part of the Nightshade family like regular potatoes. So in all actuality, I may only be able to produce pretty little flowers and tiny little tubers not worth all this effort. That is the beauty of an experiment. These are FAR outside my zone, but I am banking on the heat of my patio to hopefully get a little harvest. I don’t have aspirations of becoming a sweet potato farmer, this is just a fun little thing to try out.


I left the last post at “wait for sprouts to arrive”…

Well boy did they ever. Within a week, I had some sprouts that were almost 6 inches tall. Keep in mind that these are vines, so they will grow fast.


Once these sprouts get a decent size, gently snap them off. This takes a little bit of the tuber away with it. (Just be gentle and don’t be alarmed. It is just a sweet potato and we are just experimenting. The fun is in the learning and its ok to screw up.)  Leave the smaller sprouts on the tuber to develop some more.


Take the sprouts you removed, and snip off their lower leaves with scissors or a pinch of your nails. Put these in a separate jar. Soon we will see some little roots sprouting off the stem.


Now the trick will be to keep them growing slowly until we can get them into their final home. I’ll update again at the next steps. Or if anything exciting happens.

A few points to remember:

  • Keep the jars topped up with water. As the sprouts start growing more vigorously, the water will go down faster. Just keep an eye on it and don’t let it dry out. I have to top the tuber jar up every couple days now because of the amount of sprouts/roots happening. As the slips start producing more roots, that jar will need water added more frequently as well.
  • If you notice the water is getting smelly, growing algae, or turning a weird colour, dump it out and add some fresh water.
  • I don’t know if I clarified to put these in a sunny window or not. If I didn’t then I am now… Keep both jars in a sunny window. Plants need light. 😉
Tuber roots before I topped it up with clean water

Cobaea ‘Cathedral Bells’

With the piles of snow outside, I thought it might be nice to go back to some things I grew last year (or even previous to that) and recount the experience.

Pronounced  Ko-Bee-Uh, it is also sometimes referred to as Cup & Saucer Vine or  Monastery Vine.

Some quick googling tells me that this is only hardy to Zone 9-10. I figured it was worth the risk last year, since we started the year off so warm. And usually, if something is impossible to grow here, then they don’t sell it here.

img_4123

I started them inside early because whether it was warm or not, we are still only a zone 3/4 (or 5-ish on a good year).

Since the seedlings were much larger than I anticipated, I ended up potting them up much sooner than I normally would. (3 into party cups on April 11, and the remaining 6 into party cups on April 17th… would have been sooner, but I needed to buy more potting soil and cups)

These things grew fantastic… They cling onto nearly anything. I had one climbing up a bare 4×4 fence post. It did not need any trellising to climb. They did not seem to like the teepee of smooth bamboo canes.

While they grew fantastic. I didn’t get any flowers… Our summer was cool and dry when it is normally warm and wet… and then hot and wet, when it is normally starting to cool. And then the cold just kind of came in with a bang. 2016 was weird. I had these planted in 4 different areas. They definitely need as much sun as possible. Morning shade with hot afternoon sun was great for them. The 2 plants I put into the area that gets morning sun and evening shade did not fare well. This may be partly due to soil, but I think they just need the heat (being that they are from a hot climate).

Will I try these again? Possibly. They were pretty tenacious and I like that. But I might wait for a different year when I’m feeling more ambitious to try new and different things.

I didn’t keep any pictures I may have taken of them growing to share with you now. If they had flowered, there probably would have been tons of photos.

Have you grown these? Share your experiences in the comments below.