March 22/2014 Garden Update

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It was feeling a lot like Spring around here. Gophers have started to wake up and are chirping away out in the fields. The Geese are making their pit stops here, en masse. The snowbank/drift in our back yard from the storms at the beginning of December was down to about 3 feet tall at its highest point… We could see our patio again. And at work… MUD… So much mud! Then the first day of Spring happened and Mother Nature decided we were getting too used to this “Spring” thing, and hammered us with a winter storm again. Lucky for me, I have Spring in my windowsill. Everything is doing amazing. Now if Mother Nature would co-operate, I can start putting the plants for the Greenhouse garden out there. (We are hopefully getting our soil preparations done later next week over there)

But, without anymore chatter, Here is the updates on my little seedlings. (Tomorrow I’ll cover the Herbs and flowers, just like last week)

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TOMATOES

I may have developed an inability to control myself around seeds. I bought more. But only because I saw the Yellow Pear ones that looked so amazing on the many gardening blogs I read, and I just really wanted them. Right next to them in the display were some Marglobe ones that are an Heirloom determinate variety that I think would be great for my mom. Right next to those were some “Green Envy” cherry tomatoes, and I said to myself “why not”. There may have also been an heirloom pepper in there too, but we’ll cover that in the Pepper section. Then I may have allowed myself to trade some Heirloom seeds… “Boxcar Willie”, “Golden Cherry” and “Black Russian” should be here any day now.  I can stop anytime, I swear (she said unconvincingly).

It took 5 days for the Yellow Pear and Marglobe to start sprouting. Pretty excited for both of these. Green Envy should be up by Monday. 5 days seems to be the general length of time it takes for my tomatoes to sprout.

The Cherry Tomatoes (Hybrid Mix of yellow, orange and red) took a little longer to sprout than I expected (more than 7 days), but once they broke through the soil, they took off! They are very leggy, but I can just plant them deeper when they get potted up.

The Pink and Red Brandywine’s I sowed last weekend, Sprouted on March 20. The Pink ones were a day earlier. Black Krim and Bonny Best are also sprouted. The Black Krim had some spotty germination, but I have 4 solid little seedlings out of the 6 that I sowed.

The Rainbow blend and Roma’s that I had potted up last week, are doing AMAZING. I am experimenting a little with using 1L containers that the coffee cream comes in, so my seedlings can have a very developed deep root system, but I’ll tell you more about that later in its very own post. Also… the Rainbow blend may not be just Brandywine tomatoes… Some have standard leaves and not potato leaves. Weird.

Needless to say I am very-much looking forward to my tomatoes this year!

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Tomato seedlings

PEPPERS

My Cayenne Peppers are doing amazing. They all look like little pepper plants now. I should have a great crop of peppers from them if I do everything right, since I have about 10 plants… AFTER thinning and downsizing to only the healthiest ones.

My Jalapenos are a little slower than the Cayenne, but still great. They were started a little after the Cayenne’s so they have that excuse. I have 4 still in the peat pellet starters and I will be potting them up this weekend.

And since I have minimal self control around a seed display, I have some heirloom Hungarian Wax hot peppers. I started 2x 3″ pots of these on March 20th. Since its been a little colder around the window because of the snow, I wont be too surprised if these take a little longer to germinate.

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Cayenne Peppers in 4″ pots

LEEKS

Amazing as ever! I may need to think about thinning them again soon… REALLY need to not sow the entire package of seeds next year.

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Leeks – almost need thinning again

STRAWBERRIES

Super slow. Not much new to report from last week. The few that have true leaves are getting stronger though. I will be sowing more of these in the Fall, so that they are stronger healthy plants by the time Spring comes around.

EGGPLANT

Did I tell you I found some Italian Eggplant? “Violetta Lunga di Napoli” is sprouting!

My Asian Eggplant “Ping Tung Long” has sprouted and is slowly moving along. I’m down to 4 of those rather than 6. Two of them couldn’t break out of their seed shell and were not looking good, so I put them out of their misery.

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“Violetta Lunga di Napoli” Eggplant sprouting

GROUND CHERRIES

These are working on their true leaves. I am looking forward to them. They are definitely not something you can find in the grocery store around here.

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Cayenne on Left x3
Ground Cherries on Right x6

SWEET POTATO

The sweet potato experiment from last year, is getting a do-over this year. I have a sprouting potato on my fridge, so I should get some good slips from it. The question will be whether I can keep them warm and happy enough to produce some potatoes.

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Sweet Potato producing slips

POTATOES

I waited too long to order my Pink Fir Apples. We went to place the order and they were sold out… So sad. Next year I won’t wait so long. Now the potato plan will probably just be regular varieties you can buy at the garden center. My Pink Fir Apple dreams will have to wait until next year I guess. I will console myself with more tomato plants.

ICEBERG LETTUCE

I had an old packet of Iceberg lettuce, and I thought I would challenge myself to try and get an actual head of lettuce from it. We’ll see how it goes. At the very least, I will end up with something green to eat. They have all sprouted. Soon, I’ll try and pinch out a few to grow on and hope for heads. The others I’ll just have as salad leaves.

Check back here tomorrow for the update on all my Herbs and Flowers.

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Left – “Ping Tung Long” Eggplant
Right – Jalapeno Peppers

 

 

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Seed Potatoes – Deciding what to order

I am currently immersed in trying to decide which seed potatoes to order. There are too many options before me, and the more I read their descriptions, the more I want to grow all of them. This decision is much harder than I anticipated. Here are a few that I am the most smitten with:

Pink Fir Apples– This is a heritage variety, that is long, narrow and knobbly. They are so ugly they are beautiful. Their skin is a mixture of white and pink, and their insides are yellow. Apparently they are wonderful for salads, and have a great flavour. According to The European Cultivated Potato Database, Pink fir Apples, have a low ability to resist blight, and a high ability to resist scab. I wanted to grow them myself, after I saw a few of my favourite YouTube gardening shows growing them. I was inspired… Which is how I found out about Eagle Creek Farms (link at the end of this post). I searched for where to buy Pink Fir Apple seed potatoes in Alberta. 

Russian Blue – This is also a heritage variety. The skin is a deep blue/purple, and their insides are purple with white – the purple varies in intensity depending on the potato. We had a lot of scab on our purple potatoes in 2013, but I cannot find much information about this variety in terms of resistance to scab or blight, I just know that I love purple potatoes, so there is no doubt that I will be ordering these.

German Butterball – This is an Heirloom variety, the name alone is what drew me to this one. Some claim it is so delicious and sweet you would be committing a crime by putting butter on it. It apparently it is a heavy producer of potatoes with a long storage ability. 

Alaska Sweetheart – This one was developed in Alaska, so I should hope it does well in our cold climate also. The flesh of this one has red-pink tones in it, So we are excited to try it. Can you tell we like colourful vegetables?

Warba – Another heritage variety. These are round, with colourful red, deep set eyes.

There will also likely be Norland and Yukon Gold, and some kind of Russet Potato, grown in large amounts. And I may just buy Eagle Creek’s Fingerling Variety pack as well.

Have you grown any of these varieties? Do have other suggestions for me to try? Leave a comment, and let me know.

 

Oh, and if you are curious, we will be ordering from Eagle Creek Farms just as soon as I make my mind up. 

Potatoes – Harvest 2013

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We learned a ton of things about growing potatoes this year. Mostly mistakes we made in our ambition to grow ALL the things… And then many injuries and weather conditions changed a lot of our plans…

Here are the top 3 things we learned:

1) Use seed potatoes for a more reliable crop. We just planted regular potatoes from the grocery store that we let sprout. Next year we will be buying proper seed potatoes to prevent some of the issues we had this year. The bonus of this, is that there is a farm a little north of here that sells a wide variety of seed potatoes! Locally grown!

2) Don’t plant so deep. We were really just guessing on depth. I haven’t personally grown potatoes in the ground before, so I had no idea. But when it came to harvest them, we found out the error of our ways.

3) Weed! Don’t skip this because the weeds will use nutrients from the soil and block sunlight that would otherwise be going to your potatoes (and other veggies too). It is also not that fun to search through a forest of weeds to try and find your potato row to harvest. Especially when the primary weed of the bunch is thistles!

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I’m excited to try a bunch of different kinds of potatoes next year. Specifically: Pink Fir Apples! I have read about them and watched a few videos on them on YouTube, so I want to try them myself now!

I also want to educate myself a bit more during the long cold winter on the different varieties and their growing lengths… So I can grow something I like that does well here.  Like perhaps, scab resistant varieties… because our purple potatoes in the high-manure content garden at the Barn were quite scabby.

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The Russet-type potatoes seemed to like the horse-poo dirt and grew pretty large.  (I feel like I should add a note in here, that it isn’t “fresh-from-the-source” manure worked into the garden… It is pretty well rotted and composted… It is just that since we are a horse barn, with nearly 30 horses on the property… the primary ingredient in the compost piles is horse manure and wood bedding)

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All in all, we had a successful potato year, full of learning experiences, and new knowledge to carry over to next year! I can’t wait.

Also, If you recall, I also grew potatoes in containers… That were decimated by hail… And then I harvested early… I hope to slightly expand my container potato situation and be more diligent in hail protection. It was nice to be able to take about 10 steps out of my house and grab a few potatoes for dinner. So I hope to continue farther into the season with that next year.

Interested in our other vegetables this year? I wrote about the Carrots last week, and you can read all about Goliath the Giant Turnip here. I have to wrap up the rest of the vegetable harvest posts in the next 2 weeks also, so keep your eye out for those.

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Follow Along Friday (March 29, 2013)

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It’s Friday again! Time to update the internet on all the growing things in my house…

Sweet Potatoes:

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These things are GOING OFF (as seems to be the norm these last few weeks) And they seem to be of the climbing/vineing variety too…  Hopefully the weather keeps up this streak of amazing sunshine, and I can start putting these things in real dirt and potentially have them outside!

Apple Seeds:

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The few seedlings that I had left in the paper towel way longer than I intended.. I think that only one or two of them survived… But there is one going strong, and I am going to keep documenting that one as we go.

Seed Potatoes:

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I found some organic blue potatoes at the grocery store and I am dedicating them to grow me some new ones… And they are sprouting wonderfully! All the other varieties that I have been slowly accumulating are also sprouting – I just didn’t think I should upload pictures of every variety… maybe once summer comes and they are all growing.

Herbs:

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Last week, I told you about the Herbs that I started… Well, One of the Parsley seeds is starting to do it’s thing… (so exciting).  Last night I also planted some Lemon Balm and Spearmint. And I have some Dill seeds just waiting for the last frost. I will be buying already started plants of any other herb that I am wanting to grow from here on out. -namely basil to plant with my Tomatoes (which I also buy already started)

Seeds:

I seem to have developed a seed-buying compulsion. I want to grow ALL the things, and sometimes I forget that I have a teeny tiny yard… But so far, I will be growing at least 3 different Carrot varieties, 2 pea varieties, 2 bean varieties, I’ll probably end up with more lettuce seeds, but right now I only have some Iceberg waiting for spring… Well, and spinach and Kale, but those are technically different.. I have some pickling cucumbers, and some Zucchini, Beets, Strawberries… and that is it… for now. I am also attempting onions again… wish me luck..

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Any advice would be great… I trying to figure out a way to be able to cover and protect the sweet potatoes during the season of “sprinter” when Mother Nature doesn’t seem to be able      to decide if it is Spring, or if it is Winter… Tender sweet potatoes probably won’t appreciate a big dump of snow. Any ideas?

Here are all the previous F.A.F. posts:

March 22, 2013

March 15, 2013   

March 8, 2013

March 1, 2013

February 22, 2013

February 15, 2013

Follow Along Friday (March 1, 2013)

What! It’s March already?

So here is what has been up with all my planting experiments this week…

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The Sweet Potatoes are developing Leaves!!! LOTS AND LOTS of leaves! It is kind of intense how fast the thing is growing right now. Soon, I can break off each of these “slips” and plant them and they will all be individual plants. Nature is amazing. Hopefully we have a warm long summer so they can actually do their thing.

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My Apple Seeds are also showing progress… Although much slower. I have at least 2 that are potential trees… a few more that are showing slightly slower  signs of life (whoa, that was quite the alliteration wasn’t it?). I’ll be happy when they are plants and not just germinating seeds in my fridge!

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The Garlic that I showed you last week… INTENSE!  Not really sure what I have planned for this, but its green and that is a nice contrast to when I look outside and everything is brown or snowy.

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And new this week… My potatoes… these probably won’t be continual from week to week, but I was trying to get them organized and off the shelf in the pantry, so I thought I would snap a picture. Ideally, we (myself and my friend Cal) will be planting them out at the Barn we work at, so we can grow a lot more potatoes than if I plant them in my tiny yard in some kind of container… I just need some blue seed  potatoes and my collection will be complete!… And maybe a few more Yukon Golds.

It is almost time to get some seeds started too… So “Follow Along Friday” is getting more and more intense every week!

Here are some links back to the beginning:

FAF#1 (Feb.15, 2013)

FAF#2 (Feb 22, 2013)