January 25, 2009

Gardeners helping gardeners

It's good to have friends. It's at least good to have fellow established gardeners help out a novice by sending samples of their prized tomato seed collections.

I joined a new gardening forum last week. The people there are not only fantastic gardeners from all over the country (world?), but they are funny, political, and most importantly - generous.

After asking what kind of tomato they would plant if they only had ONE choice - for taste and high yield - I received many differing opinions. One choice that did stand out was Black Krim. Another was Big Beef for main crop consistency. Two members sent me seeds they had on hand. I think the majority of people there collect their own seeds, something that is very daunting and intimidating to me. I was ecstatic when I received two packages in the mail yesterday. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I've narrowed my tomato choices down to the following:

1. Big Beef Beefsteak (order from Kitchen Garden Seeds)(4)
2. Black Krim (1)
3. Husky Gold (1)
4. Black Cherry (1)
5. Opalka (4)
6. Pink Berkeley Tie-Dye or Indian Stripe (1)

Thoughts? Suggestions?

I've also put together a list of seeds of buying from Kitchen Garden Seeds for my other plants.

1. Blue Lake Pole Beans 55-65 days
2. Beaumont Broccoli 75-80 days
3. Royal Chantenay Carrots 60-70 days
4. Early Dawn Cauliflower 50-60 days
5. Sweet Slice Burpless Cucumbers 40-50 days
6. Alibi Pickling Cucumbers 45-55 days
7. Jericho Romaine Lettuce 55-65 days
8. Matina Sweet Butterhead Lettuce 50-70 days
9. Yellow Granex Sweet Onions 150 days
10. Dakota Shelling Peas 55-60 days

So much planning to do. I need to figure out how I want to start the seeds (I want to limit transplanting to bigger pots). My husband has agreed to install a big grow light above the refrigerator that will be on chains so we can adjust the height as necessary. I also want to start some herbs in small clay pots in my kitchen window.

January 17, 2009

So many tomatoes, so little space

What is a gardener to do? I know I only have room for roughly 10-12 tomato plants. I have some seeds from last year, but I know I would like to purchase a few new varieties.

What will yield the most yet taste the best? I've heard the coveted Brandywine tomato will set only one or two fruits in a season. If I had more space, I would give up one of my precious spots. I don't see that happening this year. So what else? Celebrity? Beefsteak? What about plum tomatoes for tomato sauce?

1 cherry tomato
2-3 heirloom
3-4 main crop
3-4 plum/paste

What I have on hand:

Husky Gold
Super Sweet 100s
Sweet Cluster

What would I like to buy:

From John Scheepers
#4285 San Marzano 2 Plum Tomatoes: 80-90 days
Originating in the volcanic fields near Mount Vesuvius, this acclaimed variety comes to us from the foremost Italian seed house. Known as the best cooking tomato in the world, we can not sing its praises loudly enough. San Marsano 2 is disease-resistant and grows in bunches of five to six, large fruits on indeterminate vines, ripening to a brilliant red with lustrous green shoulders. Producing over a long period of time, the crack-resistant fruit holds well on the vine. San Marzano 2 has a wonderful, delicate taste and a solid, meaty texture and is easy to use in the kitchen. It has an elongated, plum-shape, only two, small seed pockets that are easily scooped out and an easy-to-peel skin. San Marzano 2’s high sugar content helps create its big tomato taste and rich consistency. You had better plant loads since you will want to make vats of herbed tomato sauce for coveted use throughout the year. It is the only plum tomato that great Italian chefs use in their prized recipes. It will soon be your exclusive choice too. (VF) (OP.)

From The Cook's Garden

Tomato Matina (pictured above, from Cook's Garden)
Our Best Selling Tomato
Medium size German heirloom with great flavor

Heirloom. This tried-and-true heirloom from Germany is one of the few early fruiting kinds that has the kind of flavor normally associated with beefsteak tomatoes. Huge plants, with abundant potato-leaf foliage that is resistant to diseases like Early Blight and protects the fruits from sunscald. The globular red, quarter pound fruits are borne in large clusters and free from the green shoulders often seen on others of this type, such as the Czech heirloom Stupice. Indeterminate.

I have yet to receive Johnny's seed catalog, so I'm sure my final decisions will be modified.

January 16, 2009

Snow Garden

Posted by Picasa

This is the current state of our garden. A frozen tundra buried under snow and, yes, dog poo. We plan on building a fence at the edge of the deck thereby sectioning off the dogs from the garden. That is the only way we will be able to grow anything. The dogs are famous for destroying plants in a matter of seconds. I know you shouldn't use animal waste on your garden as fertilizer, but I'm hoping it will be well rotted by the time we begin tilling the ground. I am concerned about the shadows the fencing will cast on the garden. I'm trying to figure out placement of plants.

This is a design I created using a free trial at GrowVeg. Very useful in figuring out where to put plants and how many you can fit.

N <-------

Fences run along the right and bottom sides

Each row is 4' x 17' with a 1' walkway in between and 3' along each border

Row 1: Tomatoes & Peppers
Row 2: Carrots, Pole Beans, and Lettuce
Row 3: Onions, Broccoli, Cauliflower
Row 4: Cucumbers, Peas, Potatoes

January 15, 2009

The Beginning

Hello. My name is Kim, and this is my new gardening blog.

I'm not completely new to gardening. When I was younger, I insisted on planting vegetable plants in the flowerbed along the west side of the house. Not exactly the greatest soil - more like a rock garden, really. Nonetheless, somehow I managed to produce one very small green pepper and a small eggplant. Prized treasures!

Last year, I started several vegetables from seed. Most of them sprouted, but I was very late transplanting them to the large bins I had placed along the south side of the house. I ended up with three Sweet 100 cherry tomato plants, a Sweet Cluster tomato plant, two basil plants, three jalepenos, and one bell pepper. I had a bountiful harvest, in my opinion. I ended up making a jar of the best salsa ever, tomato sauce, and lots of cherry tomatoes that were eaten straight off the vine.

After the end of the season, my husband and I had a serious discussion about what our gardening plans were for the upcoming year. We expressed much interest in growing a large amount of vegetables that could not only be utilized during the year, but also canned or frozen for future use. We had come to the conclusion that our lives will become more healthful if we reduce our dependency on large grocery store produce and renew our appreciation of slow foods. It was decided that we would section off half of our back yard and create a large vegetable garden.

As it stands right now, it is unamended soil covered in snow. In the following posts, I will describe and photograph our progress towards creating our very own victory garden.