This is a journal about one full season of a plot in the Tommy Thompson Community Garden, located down in the Intervale in Burlington, Vermont
In this spot we will attempt to exhibit the whole process - from starting mostly organic, heirloom seeds indoors, to planting and maintenance and finally the harvest and preservation of our labors.
Additionally we plan to try growing potatoes in a trash bin and we will share the lessons we learn about seed saving. We'll finish up by covering fall plantings and putting the garden to bed for the winter.
We encourage readers to leave helpful comments or questions, and hope this will prove to be a source of learning and sharing not only for us, but for fellow gardening enthusiasts everywhere.
Oh my goodness, it has been a busy couple of weeks! So many things have happened...For starters, spring is springing and how!
R and I measured out Zone 2 yesterday and today I painted a sign for the newbies. Of course I couldn't just spray paint a sign, I had to do it up. It was a good excuse to be outside, an avocation I've become quite passionate about these past couple of weeks.
and lest we forget the babies have been a growin' and a growin'....
and the Moon Flowers are a foot tall so we've been training them back on themselves (for now)...
Today, I soaked our Amish Sugar Snaps and Green Arrow Peas. After they germinate, they're going right in the dirt! (better late than never).
I have an appointment with my no-till/perennial garden site coordinator tomorrow morning. It seems the last people to garden my plot didn't clean up and I'm going to have to find someone to till it after I haul all the old stuff out of it (brussels sprouts, sunflowers, a pile of whatsit). Not really what I had expected, but I'll be happy when I have leeks till after the first frost, and kale and herbs that I won't have to take out whether they're ready to give up or not.
Last season, I took one of our Italian Flat Leaf Parsley plants and literally shoved it in a big pot with some soil. I set it on our glassed in but unheated porch and barely watered it, yet it remained mostly green and edible until almost December, still had some green on it as late as March although it finally looked too weary to be appetizing. I'll definitely try that again next season despite that I'll be leaving the herb garden intact until nature kills her herself.
I have been so far behind keeping up with my blogging - apologies! It's simply been so beautiful outside that I haven't been able to force myself to stay indoors and my routine has been shot (in a good way).
I have new pics and new stories about everything that's going on but I saw this video featured on YouTube about the local Junior Iron Chef competition and there's so many nice things said about gardening and eating local in it, that I wanted to put it here if for no other reason, than for me to easily find it again.
There's even a fun little song about gardening in the video....
Gosh, I can't believe it's been a full week since I last posted and my oh my! How much things have changed since then! I apologize to any subscribers who have been left to wonder what has been happening. In a word: LOTS!
For starters, the Moon Flowers are HUGE:
I did not try to start new peppers because I thought it was too late even after doing all that research (which will come in handy next season), but to my delighted surprise, as soon as I gave up they went ahead and germinated themselves.
I think I over watered them. I hadn't quite gotten the wicking system of the APS working correctly (for whatever reason - the wicks may have been upside down?). Anyway, I was watering the heck out of them and as soon as I let them dry out, the little guys poked their heads up.
We now have six Jimmy Nardello's Sweet Italian Frying Peppers growing as twin companions ala TOFA and the Chocolate twins are doing great...
And there is even some hope reserved for this tiny little King of the North who showed up late and weak but at least he showed up so we're giving him some TLC and we'll see what happens.
And OMG the tomatoes! Yesterday we transplanted the do-over seedlings and they're standing up tall and beginning to grow their secondary leaves:
We're up to twenty-three heirloom varieties that I'll list on a separate post so I can give them their due. I can almost taste them already and am desperately trying to figure out a cheap, preferably recycled way to stake them so that we can maximize their yields, as I plan to go restaurant to restaurant to sell them as they come in.
As a former chef, I personally can't imagine refusing a local, organic gardener with her arms full of heirloom tomatoes still warm from the sun....can you?
PEPPER SEEDS need warm soil to germinate.
Experiments by Georgia horticulturists have shown that the highest rate
of germination (80 percent) occurs when the soil temperature is 70° to
80° F. Water seedlings from the top with warm water. I'm planning to dig out the heating pad for this and I hadn't used warm water before.
pepper seeds three to a pot, and thin out the weakest seedling. Let the
remaining two pepper plants spend their entire lives together as one
plant. The leaves of two plants help protect the peppers against
sunscald, and the yield is often half again as good as two segregated
plants. Interesting! I will definitely do this if I ever get some seedlings!
you buy pepper plants at a nursery, use the seed leaves (the first
leaves to emerge) as a "stress barometer." As long as they are strong,
green, and healthy looking, you have a good, healthy plant.
pepper plants bloom, make a solution of Epsom salts in water, and spray
the plants. The NGA asked test gardeners to mix one tablespoon of Epsom
salts in a gallon of water and spray it on the leaves of 'Gypsy'
peppers, once when they bloomed and again ten days later. The results,
attributed to magnesium in the salts, were larger plants and fruit. What's a Gypsy Pepper I wonder?
a book of matches with you when you set pepper plants out in the
garden, and put two or three matches in the hole with each plant. They
give the plants a bit of sulfur, which they like. There's that match head advice I was looking for. Check.
My peppers are not doing well. The only ones that have germinated and grown leaves are the Chocolate Bells. The King of the North grew two tiny green curled over stems and failed to go any further. I tried replanting everything over, thinking that they were all victims of the holocaust, but so far a week later, nothing has shown up, and it's getting late for peppers!
I was so looking forward to Jimmy Nardello's Sweet Italian Frying Peppers, and the colorful Fish Peppers from my native Chesapeake Bay area...I feel I can't just give up so I went searching for more information (the only thing you can do).
What I found is this comprehensive website on starting chilis at:
Excerpted from there are the following things I did not do but am going to today. Better late than never right?
Before planting, we recommend soaking the seeds in a mixed solution
of 3 Teaspoon of 5% Chlorine Bleach and 1 Tablespoon of TSP
(Trisodium Phosphate) into one quart of warm water for 15-25
minutes and then rinse for 5-10 minutes under cold running water.
This does two things, kills most seed born disease and helps soften
the seed hull. An easy way to soak the seed is done by placing the
seeds in a small sieve and dipping into a cup or bowl of the mixed
solution. Dab the floaters with a finger to brake the surface
tension. Any seed that will not sink remove. We have found that
floaters generally do not germinate as well and/or produce stunted
plants. After rinsing place seeds on several layers of paper towels
to absorb the extra moisture (Seeds will not clump together and are
easier to handle).
Also, I think this is what happened to the King of the Norths!
A day or two after the seeds germinate, a "hook" emerges from the
soil, and soon afterwards the seed leaves unfold. If
your seedlings are hull
bound (seed leaves can not emerge from the seed hull) it helps
to leave the dome on, thereby keeping everything moist. Do not pry
or pick the seed hull off until the leaves have fully developed and
have extended, otherwise you will damage or kill the seedling. At
this point seedlings should have as much light as possible to
produce strong stocky plants.
and then I think this was a problem as well (see holocaust):
Do not set a domed flat in direct sun! It can cook
the seeds. Remove the dome once to every other day to let fresh air
get to the seeds and mist spray soil if needed.
Uncle Steve also recommends using a heating pad which I have and will use this time.
Other problems we've had so far are a fuzzy mold and what appear to be mites on the marigolds. I hate to destroy the young flowers as they've done so well so far, but I can't have them messing up the other seedlings - which would be a most un-beneficial thing for a companion plant to do. Before I head to the garden store today I'm going to look up organic remedies before I take any drastic measures.
I also read that adding match heads to the pepper trays adds the sulfur they need, but it's not mentioned on Uncle Steves. Back to the net for further investigation.
In the meantime, I noticed that the alliums closest to the front of the table seemed thinner than the ones behind and that some were pulled up by their roots and fallen over.
I immediately suspected my adult male cat, GIR, who has a notorious appetite for salad bar of the houseplant variety.
I can't always be home and in the room, and I can't kill him, and I already have my female kitty (GIRL) sequestered for other reasons, so I had to come up with a cat proof plan.
I remembered an old mosquito net in storage and although at first, I feared it's flammability near the hot lights, after setting it up, I feel safe enough. The outside of the light isn't that hot, and it's easy enough to keep it pulled back from actually touching the fixture. Most importantly, after an overnight test, it appears to have worked!!
It's kind of romantic really. I pull it aside and work close to the bright light, which as it turns out, is stimulating not only the seedlings, but myself as well.
Today I put some more seeds in to germinate in the seedling tray to replace the ones that didn't make it. Rather than cover it with the germination lid, I lightly placed plastic wrap over the newly seeded compartments and we're going to see what happens.
I had planted five cracked Moon Flower seeds yesterday in a big yogurt container, and added two strong rooted ones into the germination tray under the plastic wrap today. We'll see which does better.
Also today, I realized that keeping the germination mix out on the cold porch probably isn't very practical and brought it in to store next to the radiator under the plant table. I have a big bowl of mix warming up, and later today plan to plant another full germination tray with the new tomato seeds and a few more peppers in order to hedge our bets - neither the Fish Peppers nor the Jimmy Nardello's Sweet Italian Frying Peps germinated, even with the soaking beforehand. I'm going to be very disappointed if either of them fail. On the other hand, three Chocolate Peppers came up strong and three King of the North are waking up (finally!).
It felt so good to get my hands dirty and stand near that light. It's eighty-two days until summer solstice and counting...and oh boy am I counting...
...or in this case "women who are afraid of the light.."
Today I learned several things...
First, that I most likely planted my tomatoes way too early and that I probably should have started a few weeks from now (screw the two weeks hardening off etc. I was just making excuses to get started).
Be careful what you wish for, because today, in less than two hours, I lost all the sage, and all the Pink Ladies, Striped German and Brandywine, Tommy Toes and one of Joanna's Plum tomato seedlings. They fried like they'd reached the end of the Green Mile (Oh John Coffey, I'm so sorry!)
So much for "can't get the lights close enough." Apparently, seedlings need to harden to the light as well as the cold.
The other thing I learned today was that it's a good idea to plant way more than you need, and be prepared to exterminate the weaklings.
Sound harsh? Well, for some of us, it is; but that's what this boils down to. Survival of the fittest, with a little help from The Goddess in You Form.
Next round, I'll plant six seeds in the hopes of getting two plants, and I will get the light on them as soon as they break ground, and I will not ease them into the light.
Always happy to end on a high note, I have two:
At least now, I get a do-over without having to intentionally destroy viable plant matter.
We grew them last year and they did well early on but got powdery mildew about mid summer, so we pulled them out because they were an ugly spot in the front of our otherwise pristine oasis of community garden space.
Somewhere along the intensive self study course of the past few weeks, I read about a homemade mixture of baking soda and water...now that I have them anyway... I guess that'll be another fun learning experience to look forward to.