Archive for January, 2011

Some late season plunder from my vegetable garden!

Over the past several weeks, our mailbox and our inboxes have been filled with various seed catalogs and e-mails from different seed companies. But even more telling that the gardening season is on the way; Andre has begun to talk about catalogs on his “In the Garden” radio show!

The time has come to spread all these catalogs out over the kitchen table or sit in front of your computer and explore all the possibilities for new additions to your vegetable garden or perhaps just to mark your tried and true favorites. Every year, there are some really exciting new varieties of vegetables available and in most cases you will only be able to find these in catalogs or online.

In fact, most of the catalog covers, website homepages, and e-mail blasts tout the “AMAZING NEW” or “MUST-TRY” varieties for the year!

Rattlesnake beans have become my favorite pole bean ever,   surpassing even Kentucky Wonder beans - sorry Grampa!

Rattlesnake beans have become my favorite pole bean ever, surpassing even Kentucky Wonder beans - sorry Grampa!

Personally, I like to sit down with my catalogs rather than browse online. As I mentioned in a recent post, Eric and I have been pouring over several different seed catalogs trying to pick out our seeds and plan our vegetable garden for the coming season. Burpee is offering some delicious new tomatoes and peppers in their 2011 catalog! Mmmmm!

One of my favorite catalogs is from Pinetree Garden Seeds. My gardening friend Ellen introduced me to this seed company a few years ago. Their catalog has some really interesting varieties including quite a few heirloom varieties. One of the best things about this catalog is that it has very detailed descriptions of each variety including growing characteristics, color, flavor, and yield. They also include the date of introduction and a bit of history behind the heirloom varieties if that information is known. Pinetree is where we were first introduced to the Rattlesnake beans which are an heirloom variety.

General Lee is a delicious cucumber that bears well. Be prepared to make lots of pickles!

General Lee is a delicious cucumber that bears well. Be prepared to make lots of pickles!

Pinetree has some interesting new varieties that we are going to try this year: Sugar Sprint snap peas are supposed to be nearly stringless and low growing, Cashflow zucchini just sounds delicious, and we’re really excited to try their new selection of spaghetti squash called Vermicelli!

Eric is still eager to plant a “Three Sisters Garden” so we’ll plant Silver Queen for the corn, Rattlesnake beans or a purple pole bean, Trionfo Violetto for the beans, and Waltham Butternut for the squash.

We have made a whole list of seeds to order, many are our tried and true favorites and others will be varieties that we’ve never grown before but look like fun ones to try. I’m looking forward to a great vegetable gardening season! Stay tuned throughout the summer for my vegetable garden updates!

Check our website for more great seed catalogs!

Until next time – Happy Gardening!

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My Amaryllis Forest

My amaryllis bulbs seem to be growing well.

My amaryllis bulbs seem to be growing well so far.

Well, it’s not really a forest – maybe a grove … a copse … OK I’m just growing four but I’m kind of excited about it. You see, I’ve never tried to grow them before because I assumed our cats would decide they looked like an interesting snack – especially the newest addition to our feline family, Skitz.

Skitz has made herself comfortable in the Christmas tree.

Skitz has made herself comfortable in the middle of the Christmas tree.

After knocking most of the ornaments off, she decided that the most comfy place to hang out was in the middle of our artificial Christmas tree. Looks like it’s a good thing we didn’t put up a real tree this year – especially since we were away in Vermont for Christmas!

Anyway, I’ve gotten side tracked – back to the amaryllis! It all started when Mark Viette got some exciting new Amaryllis bulbs from Brazil that he wanted to test. Mark asked me if I would be willing to grow some of them and evaluate them; i.e. number of stems, number of flowers per stem, flower size, etc. “Oh I would love to,” I told him, “but I’m afraid my cats would destroy them before they got very far along!”

The beautiful Amaryllis 'Minerva' flower is just beginning to  open.

The beautiful Amaryllis 'Minerva' flower is just beginning to open. In the next day or two it should be fully open.

In the end, I decided to try growing 4 of the bulbs. I also took a bunch up to Vermont with me and gave them to my family up there. Talk about an amaryllis forest – my mom loves amaryllis and has a whole windowsill of them now. She has great success with them and manages to get them to rebloom from year to year.

I’m growing my amaryllis in a bay window on the breakfast room table. So far, the cats seem to be leaving them alone – I think. The first one to bloom was ‘Minerva’. This is not one of the special new test varieties but it is very pretty none-the-less and one of my favorite cultivars. This was a huge bulb, about 4″ in diameter. It has 3 flowering stems at the moment and maybe a 4th yet to come! The stem bud that is opening now has at least 4 flowers on it. Spectacular!

At least four flowers will open on this one flower stem.

At least four flowers will open on this one flower stem and the stem behind it is now beginning to open as well!

The other three, ‘Blossom Bingo’, ‘Ferrari’, and ‘Angelique’, have at least 2 stems starting with nice fat buds. I’m excited to see how they progress and what the flowers will look like. I’m pretty sure ‘Ferrari’ will be red!

I have my amaryllis growing in water surrounded by decorative stones rather than in soil. This is a much cleaner way to grow them and the lack of soil may be making them less attractive to the cats! The bulbs are stabilized in the vase with a special pegged bulb holder which sits on top of a small oasis about 1½” thick. Before sticking the bulb on the holder, I carefully trimmed the roots flush with the bottom of the bulb (new roots will grow into the water and rocks). I keep the water level near the bottom of the bulb so very little of the bulb is submerged. Too much water might cause it to rot.

Here’s hoping they continue to grow and bloom! I’ll post some pics when the rest begin to bloom.

Read more about growing amaryllis from our website.

Until next time – Happy Gardening!

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“I want to plant a “Three Sisters Garden” this year”, announced my husband Eric last Saturday as we were enjoying our morning coffee in front of the warm fire in the sunroom. We had been pouring over seed catalogs for the past few weeks trying to plan out our vegetable garden.

Corn, one of the "Three Sisters", creates a natural support for the beans.

Corn, one of the "Three Sisters", creates a natural support for the beans.

I was vaguely familiar with the American Indian legend of the Three Sisters; at least I knew that it involved the combination planting of corn, beans, and squash – the “Three Sisters”, but I guess I didn’t really know much beyond that. The legend originated with the Iroquois Indians and it’s a fascinating story of sustainable gardening that combines the nitrogen fixing properties of the bean plants with the nutritional benefits of all three.

In this planting system, the corn provides support for the beans, the beans add nitrogen to the soil to feed the corn, and the squash vines with their large leaves provide a living mulch, shading out weeds and moderating soil temperature and moisture.

Rattlesnake beans will grow up the corn stalks.

Delicious rattlesnake beans will grow up the corn stalks in the corn/bean mounds of our Three Sisters garden.

The roots of the beans fix nitrogen throughout the growing season, adding that all important nutrient to the soil for the following season’s corn crop. The whole kit and caboodle can be turned under at the end of the season adding more nutrients and increasing the organic content of the soil.

Nutritionally, these three crops are packed full of good stuff: carbohydrates from the corn, protein from the beans (especially dried beans), and the squash provides essential vitamins (from the fruit) and oils (from the seeds).

Well, I must say this is an intriguing idea that would be fun to try. Eric’s thought is to transform part of our old overgrown asparagus patch into a Three Sisters Garden. There is a great description of the how to plant one on the Renee’s Garden website.

We'll probably grow butternut squash or acorn squash between our corn/bean mounds.

We'll probably grow butternut squash or acorn squash between our corn/bean mounds.

Basically, you interplant mounds containing corn and beans with mounds of a vining type of squash like pumpkins or a winter squash. For good pollination of the corn, the minimum area to plant is 100 square feet – a 10′ x 10′ garden with three 10′ rows spaced 5′ apart. Within each row, the corn/bean mounds should be spaced 5′ apart with the squash mounds planted between them. The mounds should alternate in each row so that the first row has 3 squash mounds and 2 corn/bean mounds, the second row has 2 squash mounds and 3 corn/bean mounds, and the third row again has 3 squash mounds and 2 corn/bean mounds.

I think we’ll give it a shot! It will be a fun experiment. I was interested to note that the bean variety that is used in the Three Sisters Garden package put together by Renee’s Garden is my favorite – Rattlesnake beans!!!

I’ll keep you apprised of our progress through the season. I hope it works better than my attempt to grow potatoes in stacked tires! That was pretty much an “epic fail” as my daughter would say! This I’m sure will be great – but I’ll let you know!

Until next time – Happy New Year and Happy Gardening in 2011!

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