Tag Archives: seeds

An Update on the Garden and Seeds!

Today was finally the kind of day I’ve been waiting for.  It was beautiful, the sun was shining, the temperature was in the mid-60s, the grass was turning green, and everything outside seemed to be green and growing.  It finally feels like spring, so I took the opportunity to check things out in the yard.  I also wanted to provide some updates on the seeds I planted a few weeks ago.

Bearded IrisAs I wander through the yard, it’s always nice to see mother nature in action, sending up new shoots.  I spotted some of my bearded irises first.  They have such beautiful blooms, even though they are short-lived, but the spikes of leaves last longer and really add contrast to the garden.  The other great things about bearded iris is that they multiply fast.  What starts out as just 1 small rhizome quickly spreads.  You can divide them also to have more and also spread them out.  I’ve found that after the clump gets too big, you really need to divide or the flowers aren’t as big.

PeonySome of my favorites, especially in the spring, are peonies.  I love the big flowers.  They put on quite a show.  I have both tree peonies and herbaceous peonies.  The tree peonies are interesting in shape, but I think I lean towards the good, old-fashioned herbaceous ones.  Thankfully both are starting to show growth in the garden.  The herbaceous ones always send up these amazing red shoots.  They are easy to spot in the spring soil.  They will be bursting with color in May.

Tree PeonyThe tree peony is a very interesting specimen.  As the name suggests, it grows as a tree, and it sends out new shoots every year.  These shoots will include the buds that will also put on quite a show in a few months.  The one very nice thing about the tree peony is that the flowers don’t weigh the plant down.  Often times, towards the end of the blooming season, especially if we get a good rain, the herbaceous blooms will end up on the ground because they weigh the delicate branches down.  The tree peony comes with its own built-in support!

DayliliesDaylilies are just starting to burst through the soil.  The bright green shoots are coming up in a number of places.  They prefer a little bit of shade and do really well, growing into very substantial clumps, sending up big, colorful blooms.

20140331_161038Even though many people think of mums in the fall, they do start to sprout now if you have them in the garden.  They are a hardy perennial, and I’m always lecturing people about how they can plant their fall potted ones in the ground.  The good news is a bunch of friends have no desire to do it, so I get their leftovers!  These will need a cutting back before July 4th to make sure they don’t bloom too early.  Any later than that, and they won’t have time to bloom at all this season.

Probably the favorite plant in my garden as far as my Strawberryniece and nephews are concerned, the strawberry plants are doing well already.  They will have sweet, delicious berries in a few months.  One thing to note, they spread like crazy.  I have a few sections on the side of my house where there are beds that are surrounded by sidewalk.  They have done great in this location, and also can’t take over anything!  It’s a win/win.

TulipsI have a number of bulbs that I’ve planted over the years.  Some of my favorites are daffodils and tulips.  I love that the daffodils are one of the first to bloom in the spring.  They are such a welcome sight, and they multiply and create full clusters in the garden.  Tulips are another favorite, and you can really spread out their bloom time with the different varieties available today.  They are just starting to poke through, although they will take a little while to send up buds.  Even so, they are always such a welcome sight in the early summer garden.

As for the seeds I wrote about a few weeks ago, I’m happy to report that I have seedlings for all of them.  Some have definitely done better than others, but I’m not loosing hope.  There is still time for a few to come through.  Here is what’s growing so far:

Cucumbers

Cucumbers

Eggplant

Eggplant…small, but coming along.

Kale...I've gotta thin these!

Kale…I’ve gotta thin these!

Tomatoes...these are both the San Marzano and Brandywine varieties.

Tomatoes…these are both the San Marzano and Brandywine varieties.

Beets...you can't miss these...I love the red color.

Beets…you can’t miss these…I love the red color.

Fava Beans...these are growing like crazy!

Fava Beans…these are growing like crazy!

Sage

Sage

Chives...these are also so tiny.

Chives…these are also so tiny.

Taragon

Tarragon

Squash

Squash

It’s Finally Spring and I’m Planting!

I think we can all agree, it’s been a long winter, or at least those of you not in sunny, warm locations that don’t really have to deal with winter.  Even though I know there is more cold weather in the forecast, it was a great first day of spring yesterday.  The temperature hit the mid-50s, the sun was shining, and I took the opportunity to plant my seeds.

SuppliesThere were a number of seeds in my order that required early planting, and yesterday was the perfect day for it.  I received my order from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company a few weeks ago, and I purchased my supplies, pots and soil, so I was ready.

The last few years, I’ve used biodegradable peat pots for planting seeds.  It works out really well.  They soak up the water and stay moist, and you can plant the whole thing when you’re ready to plant outside, great for those tender transplants.  This year I Stripspurchased Jiffy Strips from the Home Depot.  They are cheap, $2.49 for a 5 pack, which can hold 50 plants.  The other great thing is, you can write directly on them.  Instead of needing popsicle sticks or some other way to mark which seedling is which, I just use a Sharpie and write on the outside of the strips.  It’s that simple.

For this planting, I like to use an all-purpose potting soil.  It’s full of nutrients and stays moist.  VIgoro All-Purpose Potting Mix was the brand of choice this year, because it’s what I Strps Filledhad left over from the fall.  And a side note about potting soil, make sure you keep the bag closed once it’s opened.  I like to twist the top of the bag and fold it over itself.  Even if it’s a resealable bag, it never seems to stay closed for me. If it’s left open, the soil will dry out.  If that happens, before using the soil, just dump a few cups of water into the bag, toss it around, and leave it sit for a day or so.  The soil usually perks right back up.  I know you’re probably thinking that you can do the same thing in the pot, but you really can’t.  The water drains too quickly and it can’t hold the moisture, so it never perks up.  Throwing some water in the bag before using it definitely works better.

Fava SeedsSo once I have my strips labeled, I start planting.  I follow a pretty simple process.  For seeds that need to be planted deep, like the fava beans, I fill the strips with soil, then drop the seeds on top.  I always plant multiple seeds, at least 2-3, just to be sure that something comes up.  Then I push the seeds down deep into the dirt.  These need to go 1-2 inches down.  I top them off with soil and pat everything down a bit so there isn’t any loose soil.  Done!

TarragonFor finer seeds, like the tarragon, which didn’t need to be planted that deep, I fill the strips with soil, then I push down the soil first.  I spread the seeds then sprinkle some additional soil, but only a very light layer.  Press down again to smooth the tops.  Done again!

Once I had all of the strips planted, I started watering.  I don’t like to pour water on top.  Some of the seeds are so fine, the water can carry them away.  Instead, and this is another great reason to use the peat strips, I soak Tubthem in a tub for just a minute or two.  I fill a tub with a few inches of warm water, but not enough to cover the strips.  Then I soak the strips until the soil is moist.  Once they’re moist, I pick them up to drain, then set them on a big tray.  For this, I use a huge sheet pan that was my grandmothers, covered in foil to cut down on clean up later.

The next trick is critical for me.  I cover the whole thing with plastic wrap.  This basically creates the same environment as if you got one of those kits in the store that comes with the clear plastic cover.  You’re creating a little greenhouse to start the seeds off right.  The plastic will start to get little drops of water, and that’s how you know it’s working.  The water is staying in and not evaporating.  This also should Seeds Donekeep you from having to water for a little while.  That also is a good thing.  Once the seedlings emerge, you have to be careful with watering to not disrupt the tender plant or create any kind of mold or fungus that could kill the very delicate seedlings.  Once the plastic is covering them, I set the whole thing in a warm, sunny spot and wait for the growth!

Before you know it, it will be time to plant outside!

Ordering Seeds and Getting Ready for SPRING!

I had a glimmer of hope for spring this week, and now I just can’t let it go.  I was in Austin at a conference for work, and while it wasn’t as warm as it could be in Texas this time of year, it was in the 60s, and it made me excited for spring…even after I came back to the snow.  But spring is coming, and if it’s coming, for me, that means planning for the garden and ordering seeds.

CatalogsI love gardening.  Whether it be flowers, trees, shrubs, vegetables, it doesn’t matter, I just love to play in the dirt, as I like to say.  And when those catalogs arrive (see my post from January for more on that), I get so excited about the possibilities.  The most exciting for me at this time of year is the vegetable garden, because I basically start from scratch every year.  While there are some perennials people may have (like rhubarb or asparagus), I don’t have any in my vegetable patch.  I get to reconfigure every year, and last week, that’s just what I did. 

Fava BeansMy first step was figuring out what I wanted to plant this year.  Sure, I have the staples every year, tomatoes, lettuces, zucchini, and squash.  But this year, I wanted to try a few new vegetables.  I love beets and kale, and especially fava beans, so I’m adding those to the mix this year.  And I’m giving Brussels sprouts a try (mainly because I love them).  The next step was figuring out the varieties.  If you’re used to picking up plants at your local garden center, you probably haven’t had the opportunity to play with different varieties.  Sure, there were probably many Listvarieties of tomatoes, and maybe even one or two heirlooms, but aside from that, many garden centers just carry one variety of other vegetables.  That’s one of the reasons why I like to start from seed.  When you open those seed catalogs, there are so many different varieties, it’s amazing.

This year, I decided to get my vegetable seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  I really wanted to focus on heirloom varieties this year, and I’ve heard great things about their seeds from a friend of mine (who also blogs, but, unfortunately for me, it’s in French…Le Hamburger et le Croissant).  If you haven’t seen their site or catalog, Baker Creek has a great variety, and their catalog is beautiful.  The vegetables and plants are expertly photographed.

GraphThe next part, and for me one of the most fun, is planning out the layout.  I’ve found the easiest way to plan out the garden is to use graph paper.  Just figure out your dimensions and use some sort of scale.  I used one block for one foot in the garden.  Then go through and plot out your garden.  Pay special attention to any light restrictions (mine is all in the sun, so that wasn’t an issue) but also how far something spreads, if they are vines, etc.  Once you have this map, it’s so much easier to get out there and actually plant in the next few months.

I don’t know about you but I’m excited.  My seeds are already on their way, and I’m looking forward to starting them indoors.  I’ll probably write about that in another week or two.  Oh, and if you’re interested in what I purchased, here’s what I chose:

  • Extra Precoce A Grano Violetto Fava Bean-SKU: FB105
  • Detroit Dark Red Beet-SKU: BT110
  • Long Island Improved Brussels Sprouts-SKU: BS101
  • Marketmore 76 Cucumber-SKU: CU101
  • Astrakom Eggplant-SKU: EG174
  • Birdhouse Gourd-SKU: GD108
  • Tronchuda Kale-SKU: KA107
  • Sugar Snap Pea-SKU: SN106
  • Caserta Squash-SKU: SSQ138
  • Rouge Vif D’ Etampes Pumpkin-SKU: SQ118
  • Boston Marrow Squash-SKU: SQ221
  • Brandywine Tomato-SKU: TK115
  • Zucchini-Lungo Bianco Squash-SKU: SSQ119

Happy gardening (or at least thinking of gardening if you’re still dealing with snow on the ground like we are)!