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My Book!

I wrote a book about preserving food. The same step-by-step instruction and full-color photos you find in my blog. Buy it at Yes, You Can 

Links to planters at selected vendors:

Small Kitchen Garden Store

Nature Hills Nurseries

Garden-Fountains.com

Krupps.com

Farm & Home Supply Center

MasterGardening.com

 

 

Sprouts

Amazon.com is a terrific source for certified organic seeds intended for home sprouting. Dress up salads, stir-fry, sandwiches, spreads, and other dishes with homegrown sprouts of all kinds. Follow this link to order your sampler or to find home sprouting kits.

 

Small Kitchen Garden Store

Find the perfect gift for any kitchen gardener--or find products to help get the best from your own small kitchen garden. To save you time, we've selected products from Amazon.com that received the best customer reviews. Click here to visit our store and pick up the perfect gifts for any small kitchen garden enthusiast.

 

 

 

 

Hen and Chicks?

You Can Grow That!

Hens and Chicks

I spent a dollar to buy two Hen and Chicks plants at a yard sale in autumn. With snow predicted, I “heeled in” the plants in my vegetable bed. When the snow finally melted in March, I found this little family looking healthy and ready for action. Eventually, these will find a home in a rock garden I plan to build where the compost heap now rests.

I’ve been a sucker for succulents since I grew a jungle in my bedroom during my high school years. So, despite my garden’s intense focus on food plants, I’ve mused for a long time about establishing a succulent garden in my yard. Near the end of last year, I was working specifically toward that end: I had packed several carloads of rocks back from my brother’s farm to use in building a rock garden that would host a variety of cold-hardy succulents.

One afternoon in late autumn, I stopped at a yard sale. There, the only items that interested me were foam coffee cups planted with Hens and Chicks. Each cup had a price of fifty cents—lower than I’ve seen nursery plants discounted at the end of the season. I bought two. I hope my experiences with them so far inspire you.

No Garden Yet

By the time it got too cold to garden, I’d not yet prepared my new planting bed. I had enough rocks stacked on the driveway, but I needed to move the compost heap and it became too unpleasant outside for me to feel motivated.

Hens and Chicks Hedge Row

To emphasize the certainty that you can grow Hens and Chicks, I captured this photo of a border along a sidewalk in Toronto. Toronto is well north of me and they experienced as punishing a winter as ours. However, by early March, snow had melted off and revealed this healthy-looking planting bed. Hens and Chicks have crowded the bed enough that it could benefit from thinning—a procedure the harsh winter failed to accomplish.

I didn’t want my Hens and Chicks—along with several other succulents I’d acquired—to spend winter outdoors in pots. And, there was no way I’d try to keep them growing indoors under lights. So, I decided to “heel in” the plants at one end of the vegetable bed.

Heeling in means planting a seedling poorly; without commitment. You can dig a shallow hole or find a bare patch of soil, lay the roots of the plant against the soil, and then cover the roots with more soil. I’ve seen young fruit trees heeled in while they were all but lying flat on the ground.

In any case, I heeled in the Hen and Chicks plants along with close to a dozen other succulents I’d bought at a garden center at “we don’t want these anymore” prices. Winter happened.

It was an impressive winter! We had more than a month where temperatures never rose out of the teens, and we had many, many days near and below zero. We also had snow, which is a blessing. Snow covered the garden continuously for several months and provided some relief from the cold for perennials.

Finally, Thaw

A rule of thumb for central Pennsylvania is to plant peas on St Patrick’s Day. Usually by mid-February daffodils are at least sprouting and by March warm days beckon us to garden. This year St Patrick’s Day came and went and we got to April 1st before there was any real beckoning.

Hen and Chicks Chick

A chick must have broken off one of the potted plants when I heeled it in last autumn. Under snow at seriously frigid temperatures, the little plant managed to drop roots into the soil. It looked perfect when the snow melted, and it will look just fine in its new home when I get the rock garden assembled.

But look at the photos! Hens and Chicks are very well, thank you. The two plants I heeled in are healthy and ready to move. What’s more, a small “chick” that must have broken off last fall had rooted where it lay despite the cold and snow!

To reinforce the point, I’ve included a photo of a border along a yard in Toronto. I visited Toronto in early March—at least one hardiness zone farther north than central PA. In the city, snow had melted, and that dense growth of Hens and Chicks made a dramatic in-your-face, winter, statement.

If you have any doubts about succeeding with gardening, try growing a Hen and Chicks plant. If a small piece of this plant can break off and root itself during a miserably cold winter, I feel safe to suggest: you can grow that!

Follow this link for more You Can Grow That posts.

 
http://www.smallkitchengarden.net/you-can-grow-that/hen-and-chicks

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Chili Pepper Seedlings Under Lights

First chili pepper sprout of 2015

My first chili pepper sprout of the year is a sweet pepper, but I don’t know what type. Last year I collected orange bell and sweet Italian pepper seeds from my harvest and managed to store them unlabeled. I’ve two distinct packs of seeds, and planted as many from one pack as from the other. Nearly all have sprouted. I’ll find out in August which plants are which.

Just a week ago I reported on the success of my tomato starts (Tomatoes Under Lights). Two days later, my first chili pepper seedling of 2015 emerged.

You might surmise I get a special rush when my seeds start each year. I used to wait until my garden soil warmed and then I’d buy flats of seedlings at local garden stores. Year after year I’d choose from among a very limited variety of plants. Starting my own seeds changed so much.

  • I now select from among hundreds of varieties of tomatoes and peppers rather then from the dozen or so available in local garden centers.
  • I now try varieties of plants that simply aren’t available as seedlings at local stores. For example, I’ve started artichokes and cardoon this year as well as quince trees all from seeds.
  • 100 percent chili pepper germination

    I planted 16 sweet pepper seeds in this container and every one sprouted. That’s a very tolerable percentage!

  • My gardening season becomes “real” some 2 months earlier than it used to. Perusing garden catalogs from January until April used to make up my entire “pre-season.” I still peruse catalogs, but in February and March I mail-order seeds, fill planters with soil, and start plants under lights. My growing season is way longer because I get to tend seedlings
  • for a month or so before I set foot in the garden.
  • I get to enjoy near problem-free gardening leading up to spring planting. Starting seeds indoors under lights controls for nearly every problem I face in my garden: light, water, insects, disease, marauding rodents, birds… I decide how these work on my seed-starting shelf.
  • My sense of accomplishment is way bigger when I start my own seedlings indoors under lights. I marvel that a seed the size of a bread crumb under my care grows to a plant more than 10 feet tall and produces 20 to 100 lbs of food containing seeds that can start it all over again next year—perhaps several thousand times over, depending on the food.

Do you start your own seeds? Perhaps this is your year to try.

 

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Tomatoes Under Lights

First tomato sprout of 2015

It took just over four days for my first tomato seedling of 2015 to emerge.

Saturday and Sunday, March 21st and 22nd, I planted 73 tomato seeds in five planters. The planters are under lights in my office.

The 73 seeds represent 18 varieties of tomatoes – six varieties I brought back from last year’s garden, and 12 I bought from seed companies this spring. The first seedling emerged on March 26, just five (or four) days after planting. I snapped photos but here it is about 36 hours later and I’m just creating a post.

A lot happens in 36 hours! At last count, 67 seeds had sprouted. My planters have gone from bare to heavily-forested in just a day-and-a-half. I’m very excited to set the seedlings into my garden, but that won’t happen until June (unless the weather forecast is excessively rosy in May).

I love starting my garden indoors under lights!

Tomato jungle under lights

In about six days, all but six of the tomato seeds I planted in containers have sprouted. Unfortunately, only one out of four Great White seeds is up, so I may do a second planting of that variety. Those leafy things way in the back on the right are cardoon and artichoke plants. I started artichokes about February 10th, and cardoon about March 5th.

 

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First Crocus, 2015… and Figs

First crocus of 2015

Perhaps as hardy as the other crocuses in my yard, this one sneaked under my fig tree lean-to and managed to get a head start on spring.

This is an awkward “first crocus of spring” post. The photo dates back to March 9, but the crocus plant it shows cheated.

Overwintering Figs

In late fall of 2014, I had two young fig trees I’d bought at the end of a garden center’s retail season. These had been in containers on my screened porch and I wanted them in the ground before temperatures plummeted… but I didn’t want them to freeze back to the soil if we had another polar vortex like the one in winter 2013-2014.

So, I built a lean-to. I leaned a “trellis” against the wall and draped very heavy plastic over it. Bricks hold everything in place. This lean-to would keep the wind off the fig trees and most likely keep the temperature around the trees at or just below freezing on the coldest winter days.

Temporary lean-to greenhouse

It’s not pretty, but it’s practical: There’s a section of wooden fence under that plastic. I leaned the fence against the wall, draped it with plastic, and held the plastic down with bricks. Though I live in USDA hardiness zone 6b/7a, I expect the two young fig trees inside my lean-to had a zone 9 kind of winter.

On March 9, I peeled back the plastic so the trees wouldn’t overheat on sunny days. The first crocus blossom of the year in my yard was growing strong inside the tent—it had benefited from the shelter while the other crocus plants shivered under snow.

Crocuses have arrived

For days I wrung my hands: Should I reward the cheater? How could I feature such a softie as the FIRST when so many others had faced the elements and were only days behind?

The other crocuses are now in bloom, and the first crocus blossom has faded away… except for in the photo on this page. Sure, it had life easy this past winter, but it gave me a chuckle when I found it blooming away alongside its sleeping fig tree sheltermates. So, there it is; it’s spring!

 

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Unlikely Starters in my Kitchen Garden

Ice on the rain garden

It’s still cold enough in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania for ice to form on the water in my “rain garden.” I use quotes because I dug a hole several years ago and it has been wet only in spring thaws and heavy storms—it’s dry most of the year. Haven’t yet decided what to plant in it.

Being a garden writer has changed me. Before I posted my first blog entry, I’d plant almost exclusively things intended for my stomach. I’d joke (and I still joke) that if the plant doesn’t come with a recipe, I won’t waste energy growing it.

There were exceptions. For example, I came across zinnia seeds that were supposed to be special and I planted some. They weren’t special. I also planted poppies year after year until finally two plants survived to adulthood. They met their demise under the lawn mower when my wife sent my oldest child with it into an unkempt flower bed.

How Garden Writing Changed Me

Through blogging I got to know other garden writers and a group of them in New England organized an outing to a public garden in very eastern New York… I have friends in that area I’d actually already met in person, so I used the outing as an excuse to visit.

Sedum sprouts as snow melts

A cluster of leaf buds sits on the soil line between stems that supported last year’s blossoms. I bought closeouts at the end of the season in 2014 and “healed them in” in my vegetable garden. I’ll transplant these into the rock garden I expect to create in April.

It was a most terrific day. I toured a gorgeous garden with people I had known only as avatars and Twitter names. As those people became “real,” my change began.

My friends all were giddy about the garden and it was easy to understand why: Textures and colors intertwined in displays I’d never have conceived. Gorgeous arrangements of rocks, wood, water, and living plants drew us from one themed area to another. The weather was perfect. The light was perfect. The people were perfect.

Ideas accumulated in my mind. Ornamental gardens around homes in central Pennsylvania are, for the most part “shrub-and-mulch” monstrosities (set shrubs and young trees throughout a planting bed and spread mulch). I don’t recall seeing mulch in the public garden (it was probably there, but I simply didn’t notice it); each themed area combined hardscaping and a variety of plants to interest a visitor looking up, forward, or down. Plants provided the ground cover that mulch provides in central Pennsylvania!

Hens and Chicks

Hens and Chicks were on sale at a yard sale late in 2014. I bought two for a dollar apiece and heeled them in in the vegetable bed next to the sedum. They’ll also move to a new rock garden in April.

I’ve resisted the change, but each subsequent visit to a show garden has provided more inspiration; more examples of ornamental garden design done well. And there’s another factor:

Whenever I attend a GWA event or a horticulture industry conference, it seems I bring home seeds and plants to try in my garden. When those aren’t edibles, I imagine my yard some day rivaling the many show gardens I’ve visited.

Am I close? Do I know what plants will look good together when they grow up? Do I have any ability to design an attractive ornamental garden? Does this paragraph contain enough questions? (No. No. Maybe. Do you think it contains enough questions?)

What’s in my Kitchen Garden Now

Last autumn, I grabbed a whole bunch of hardy succulents at a garden center—marked down to a fifth or less of their “in-season” prices—Tall-standing and ground-hugging sedums, and Hens and Chicks. I had also picked up some sedum roots at Cultivate ’14 and had nursed most of them into seedlings.

Hellebore bud in late winter

I fell in love with hellebores when I first saw their fleshy white flowers poking out of a snow bank. Prices for these plants always seemed high until I found a friend selling native plants at a local garden show last spring. I bought one from her and she generously gave me another. They went in the garden in early summer and spent a lackluster season there. Despite drawing full shade until late afternoon, one hellebore was already putting up flower stalks by the time the snow melted off of it as spring approached.

As gardening season ’14 ended, I simply ran out of time to install the planting bed I want for these succulents. To increase their chances of surviving winter, I “heeled them in” in my vegetable bed. They’ve been covered with snow for months, but it melted off while I was away last week. They look spectacular! Photos complete the story.

Given that the ground is still firm with surface frost and frozen through in some places, it’s astonishing to find so many plants looking alive and ready for spring. I’m ready to go; I wish the climate felt the same.

Horehound in late winter

Horehound doesn’t belong on this list. I added it two seasons ago, technically not as an ornamental element—its and herb. I included the photo because the plant is remarkable. Last season, the horehound emerged from winter dried up and burnt; all growth in 2014 came from the roots. This winter brought at least one month-long stretch where the temperature never rose out of the teens; it seemed colder overall than the previous winter. Still, snow melted away to reveal healthy, beautiful leaves on the horehound plant… it’s so true that snow insulates plants from winter cold.

 

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2015 Seed Giveaway: Grand Prize Winner

My (nearly) annual seed giveaway closed on February 15. Seeds are almost in the mail! Here’s where things stand:

Packing tomato seeds

I’ve laid out seeds to fill 50 envelopes for winners of this year’s seed giveaway.

  • My wife and I selected the grand prize winner!
  • I contacted people who nearly almost kind of entered the giveaway but might have missed a critical step (no mailing address received here).
  • I designed, printed, and applied new seed envelope labels – more than 160 envelopes.
  • I’ve packed 80 seed envelopes with 80 still awaiting attention.
  • I wrote (am writing) this post to let participants know their seeds are on the way.

Corona tools pruners

The grand prize, two pruners supplied by Corona Tools, go to Maggie Towson whose winning comment appears below.

The Corona Tools Grand Prize

My wife and I reviewed the comments that qualified participants for a shot at the grand prize (Two Corona Tools pruners). We loved the stories! Thanks so much to everyone who took the time to share.

Several comments gave me a chuckle, and a few were very poignant. The winner scored on both sides with a story that seemed especially fine-tuned to the judges’ sensibilities. It involved not only gardening, but also a dog behaving exactly as dogs do: being ever so helpful in exactly the worst possible way. I had warned that a story about a garden failure may not entertain the judges, but OMG, a PUPPY!

Congratulations to Maggie Towson, and thank you for the wonderful picture you told about Luna. If not for my garden fence and a deep distrust I have of Nutmeg’s (my dog) gardening sensibilities, this could be our story! Your pruners should be in the mail before the snow melts.

And the Seed Giveaway

I hope to fill the remaining 80 seed envelopes tonight. Here’s what’s left after that:

Maggie Towson’s Winning Story

The first summer after our 2nd dog, Luna, joined our family revealed the unfortunate truth that in this yard two gardeners is one too many. The beginning of this revelation was the day I first decided to transplant some seedlings into the main garden. The dogs did dog things in the yard while I worked my way down the first garden row. Part way down the row, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. I turned in time to see Luna, seedling in mouth, paw at the grass, toss the seedling joyfully into the air, watch it fall on the ground, and pounce on it. Several of the seedling’s brethren had been stolen and ‘replanted’ in similar fashion and littered the backyard in various states of smashery. Ever the optimist, I thought it would be cool to teach her to gently plant seedlings. I don’t even need to illustrate for you the many ways in which that was a stupid idea. So I decided to teach her to pull weeds. She was great at this and really enjoyed it! Unfortunately, she really stinks at distinguishing weeds from not weeds and sees no reason to wait to be instructed to pull something. Not my Luna. She’s proactive! These days, she is banished from the garden (she ignores this rule) and is only allowed to play with the weeds I toss to her (she ignores this rule too).

  • Printing and applying mailing labels
  • Writing and printing a letter about the seeds I’m mailing
  • Stuffing envelopes
  • Visiting the post office to get stamps and mail things out

If all goes well, seeds should be on the way on Friday, February 27, or Saturday, February 28.

It’s hard to express how much I enjoyed your comments. I hope you have great luck with the seeds. I’d love to hear from you once or twice through the season about how things are going… it’d be especially awesome if you’d post a photo of plants producing, of tomatoes, peppers, or squash you harvest, or of all of the above. If you wish, email a photo and a comment or two about your experience and I’ll feature it in a blog post during the growing season. If you blog and write a post about how these seeds work out, let me know and I’ll post a link.

Just 20 days until we’re supposed to plant peas in our gardens in central Pennsylvania. I’ve never planted peas in snow… could be interesting.

 

Amazing Green Sausage Heirloom Tomatoes

Four month old Green Sausage heirloom paste tomatoes

For at least four months after harvest, these tomatoes got moved around in our dining room until I noticed they’d started to wrinkle. These are Green Sausage tomatoes—an heirloom paste tomato that remains green when it ripens. It also, apparently, creates a hermetic barrier between its innards and the rest of the universe.

In late January, I ate a fresh homegrown heirloom tomato harvested from my outdoor garden. This is remarkable because by early October of last year, those of my tomato plants that hadn’t been killed by blight had been frozen by an early frost.

Green Sausage, the variety of tomato in question, had proven particularly susceptible to blight and I had pulled four apparently unripe fruits from the desiccated plants in mid-to-late September. These went to the ripening table in the dining room but I wasn’t convinced they’d ripened by the time I folded up the table at season’s end.

So, four Green Sausage tomatoes spent at least four months “ripening” in our dining room. Finally, in mid January, I noticed they had started to wrinkle. They weren’t soft or blemished as a spoiling tomato gets. They were simply wrinkling.

What’s a garden blogger to do? I took pictures, I made video, and I cut open one of those 4+ month old fruits. I was dismayed at what I found. The photos tell the story; the video captures my reaction “live.”

Sliced four month old Green Sausage heirloom paste tomato

When I cut open one of these well-aged tomatoes, it looked fresh and juicy inside.

Inside a four month old Green Sausage heirloom paste tomato

Cut lengthwise, the 4-month-old Green Sausage tomato (an heirloom variety) revealed plenty of juicy flesh. It begged me to taste it; my reaction is in the video.

 

Don’t Freeze Ya Freesias

NOT Freesia season

The coldest days of winter and a typical central Pennsylvania snow reaffirm the area’s USDA hardiness zone rating. Freesias would not survive this winter outdoors.

Freesias! I took a flier last spring and bought a package of freesia bulbs on closeout. I’ve never grown freesias. I couldn’t have identified them had someone led me to a freesia patch to harvest a few for a bouquet.

Knowing so little about them, I planted twelve freesia bulbs according to instructions on the package: buried many inches deep in a 12-inch container. In a few weeks, exactly two plants emerged. Eventually they blossomed and I fell in love with their fragrance; freesias smell like flowers, but not like any I’d sniffed previously.

By summer’s end, the two freesia plants were done. The temperature dropped, a few weeds sprouted in the freesia planter, and one day three new freesia sprouts appeared. This was an aha moment! Freesias, apparently, draw motivation to sprout from a mild cold spell. The package had identified freesias as annuals in my hardiness zone, so I suspect a freeze would have killed the bulbs. But they were far from dead; there had been no freeze.

Still knowing little about freesias (you’d think I could read something), I guessed that sprouting in autumn and then being put into cold storage would overtax the bulbs. Now that they’d sprouted, I figured they’d need to mature and recharge themselves to make it through a dormant period.

Being uncommitted to ornamental plants, the most I was willing to offer was a place on the sill of a south-facing window. The freesias have persevered! Seven bulbs sprouted and have grown gangly leaves that hardly hold themselves upright.

I’ve watered occasionally and broken off a dandelion whose tap root has a death grip in the soil. Other than that, I paid no mind.

Until last week.

Freesia blossom

It’s so dark in the basement where my freesia pot sits on a windowsill that there’s barely enough light to take photographs. Still, the plants are abloom and the basement room is redolent of spring.

Freesias in Winter

Two weeks ago I brought an assortment of plants back from MANTS, a horticulture industry trade show in Baltimore. I set the plants on our ping-pong table which catches some light from the south-facing window where the freesias sit. As I was setting up electric lights for those plants about five days ago, I noticed the scent of spring! Sure enough, there was a blossom on one of the freesia plants.

My freesia planter sports two sun-starved flower stalks laden with buds. Five days after the first bud opened, a second is about to burst. It seems likely the blooms will continue until it’s safe to move the planter outside.

The lifecycles of my freesia plants, I’m sure, are severely screwed up, but that will remain their problem. I’ll move the planter outside in spring and back in autumn. If the plants eventually synch with the seasons, I’ll give them a cool, dark corner to winter over next year. Otherwise, I suppose they’re doomed each year to grow gangly and watch from my south-facing window while the snows fall.

http://www.smallkitchengarden.net/gardening/dont-freeze-ya-freesias

 

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Vegetable Seed and Corona Tools Giveaway 2015!

Please note this giveaway is closed. Follow this link to learn who won the prize.

The Quickest Way to Enter

The quickest way to enter the giveaway:

  • Leave a comment on this blog post that shares an entertaining gardening experience.
  • Send an email that includes a mailing address and the email address you used on the comment form. Click this link to send the email.

Read the rest of the post for instructions on how to increase your chances of winning the tools and receiving free seeds.

This giveaway ends on Friday, February 15 at midnight.

2015 Seed giveaway

This year’s seed giveaway once again features the chili-pepper-shaped paste tomatoes descended from two fruits given to me by an area farmer some seven years ago. These have very little liquid and they taste great raw or cooked.

Winter break is OVER! From Thanksgiving until last weekend it seems I made at least two road trips a week. We had kids returning from college, kids heading off to other countries, kids returning to college, and kids coming back to school in Lewisburg. I also visited my Dad in Ithaca along the way, and participated in a few trade shows. I hope your holidays were as fulfilling!

And now for the annual seed giveaway – with a chance to win two excellent pruners from Corona Tools!

My Food in Your Garden

I love to share things that grow in my garden. To that end, I’ll package and mail seeds to as many people as I can – until I run out from last year’s harvest. I’ll write about the seed varieties in the box titled, A Seed Set Package. Happily, this year I’m also giving away two pruners from Corona Tools. Corona generously gave me these pruners and It’s great to be able to pass them along to one of my readers.

Corona Tools pruners

Corona Tools is very generous and engaged with the online gardening community. They provided me with several sets of pruners, and I’m happy to be able to pass some along to readers of Your Small Kitchen Garden. I use both styles – always slipping one into a pocket when I head out to the garden – and would recommend them even without the generous gift from Corona.

Here’s how to enter the giveaway:

How to Enter the Small Kitchen Garden 2015 Seed and Tool Giveaway

There will be multiple winners of the seed giveaway but only one winner of the Corona Tools pruners. Each winner of seeds will receive a set of seeds as explained in the box titled A Seed Set Package. Between January 22, 2015, and February 15, 2015, I’ll build a mailing list of people who request seeds. After February 15, 2015, I’ll mail seed sets to each qualified entry according to the list order until I run out of seed sets. Entrants influence the list order by participating according to instructions under the title, The Rules below.

The Corona Tools prize will go to the person whose comment most entertains the judges – the judges being Daniel and his wife. Note: Stories about failed or damaged crops risk being seen as sad rather than entertaining. Just sayin’.

Completing steps 3 and 4 are critical for entering the giveaway!

Neck Pumpkins included in the 2015 Seed giveaway

Neck pumpkins are popular in central Pennsylvania. These are essentially giant butternut squashes though with a slightly milder flavor. The one in front weighs about 18 lbs and is a descendent of a squash that weighed 20 lbs. The giveaway includes five seeds from this family line of squashes.

The Rules

1. This giveaway ends on Friday, February 15 at midnight. As of February 16, no new entries or mailing list “bumps” are valid.

2. To enter the giveaway, complete items 3 and 4. That’s all it takes; you can stop there if you don’t want to read the rest of the rules (though all the rules apply whether or not you read them).

3. Secure a spot on the seed mailing list and enter to win the Corona tools by leaving a comment on this blog post (use the comment form below). Share an amusing gardening experience in the comment – the more amusing the comment, the better your chances of winning the tools (note that stories of crop failures and other gardening losses may sadden the judges rather than amuse them). The Corona Tools pruners will go to whatever garden story most amuses the judges (Daniel and his wife Stacy). ALSO COMPLETE STEP 4!

4. Send an email with a mailing address AND the email address you used on the comment form (so I know which is you). That’s all you need to do for a chance to get seeds and to win the tools! Click here to send email.

If you’ll be “bumping” (explained below) your free seeds entry, include your twitter handle and/or facebook name in the email so I can spot your bumps. If you decide to post on your blog (see below), include a link to your blog so I can have a look.

There is one prize of Corona Tools pruners. Submitting a comment and emailing your address enters you to win the tools; no further activity affects your chances of winning that prize. Read on if you want to improve your chances to receive a seed set.

2015 Sweet Pepper seed giveaway roulette

Sweet pepper roulette! I grew terrific orange bell and sweet Italian peppers in 2014 (the photo shows that even the bugs liked my peppers). I saved seeds, but the labels got mixed up so the only way you’ll know what type of peppers they came from is to grow some to maturity. Fun, yes?

Doing steps #3 and #4 gets you onto the end of the mailing list for seeds. With no further rules, I’d deliver first-come-first-served until I’m out of seed sets. That’d be too easy. Here are ways to improve your odds of getting a seed set (again, doing any of these things in no way affects your chances of winning the Corona Tools pruners):

5. Tweet a link to this giveaway (on Twitter) that includes the hash tag #skgseeds15.

6. Post a link to this giveaway on Facebook and include the hash tag #skgseeds15.

7. Post a link to this giveaway on Google+ and include the hash tag #skgseeds15.

A single daily post on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ moves you up one space on the mailing list. So, posting on all three services in a day moves you up three slots; you cannot move up more than three slots in a day except for a one-time bump explained in item 8:

8. On Pinterest, Pin the photo of the tomato from the top of this post that includes the 2015 Seed Giveaway title. Include the #skgseeds15 hash tag in the pin’s description and you’ll move up 2 slots on the mailing list. THIS IS A ONE-TIME BUMP. While I’d love for you to pin the photo on multiple boards, I’ll count only a single pinning within the giveaway period toward your position on the mailing list.

2015 heirloom tomato seed giveaway roulette

This table was covered with heirloom tomatoes in my dining room all summer; I harvest tomatoes when they just start to ripen and let them finish indoors. For each seed set I mail, I’ll select one variety from this table and include at least eight seeds. I especially like the Moonglows, the Emerald Greens, and the Stupice tomatoes and will try to write about them soon in another post. I also have a story to tell about my Cherokee Purple tomatoes (one of my plants produced red tomatoes last year) and another story about green sausage tomatoes.

I’ll monitor the #skgseeds15 hash tag on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. If I can match your posts to the email address in your original comment on this blog, you’ll move up on the mailing list.

8. Here’s a shortcut: Invite your blog’s readers to this seed giveaway with a link from your blog, and you’ll have my gratitude. Also, I’ll move you to the front of the mailing list after any other bloggers who have already posted on their blogs. I’ll mail seeds to all bloggers (in the order that they post) before I mail to anyone else on the list.

At Least Get on the List!

Sure, it’s complicated… but not so hard if you stick to steps 3 and 4: leave an amusing comment here, and send email with your mailing address. TO RECEIVE SEEDS, YOU MUST PROVIDE A POSTAL ADDRESS!

Keep in Touch

After I mail out seeds, I’d love to hear from you. Please take photos or write descriptions of what you grow and post them in a comment—or link to them, or email copies. With your permission, I’ll share your progress updates with my readers.

This giveaway is open only to people in the United States and Canada.

A Seed Set Package

A complete seed set for the giveaway described in this post includes the following:

Paste Tomatoes— At least 8 seeds to grow exceptional chili-pepper-shaped paste tomatoes. Some six years ago, a local retired farmer gave me two of these unusual tomatoes. He told me to save and plant the seeds and I’d be glad I did. I am glad, and I enjoy sharing these delicious and versatile tomatoes with anyone who will grow them. These may be Cornue Des Andes tomatoes.

My Choice of Tomatoes— Have a look at the photo of tomatoes on a table (above). I’ll select one heirloom variety from among those tomatoes and include at least 8 seeds in a seed set.

Sweet Pepper Roulette— My seed labels got mixed up so I don’t know which of my saved seeds are for Sweet Italian peppers, and which are for Orange Bell peppers. I’ll include at least 8 pepper seeds in each seed set. The seeds may produce all Orange Bells, all Sweet Italians, or some combination of both. Either way, they grow delicious sweet peppers.

Neck Pumpkin— Five seeds to plant one hill of neck pumpkins. These are descended from a 20 pound squash I bought five years ago at a farmers’ market. Also called Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Squash, Neck Pumpkin resembles butternut squash on steroids. It’s a regional favorite in central Pennsylvania and favored for pumpkin pies.

 

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Happy Birthday, Bren!

Brenda Haas's front flower bed

The part of our visit that most resembled a formal tour began with the flower bed in front of Bren’s house. It was instantly apparent Bren’s garden plan preserves habitat for felis catus, the domestic cat.

If you spend any time online and you’re serious about gardening, you’re likely to have heard of Brenda Haas. The curator of #gardenchat, Bren is a garden photographer and a social media guru.

I got to visit Brenda at her home earlier this year and I wrote about the experience in a post titled Visit in Brenda Haas’s Garden. There you’ll find information about #gardenchat and how to participate. Here, you’ll learn just a bit more about Brenda.

Garden Tour through the Lens

One great joy of visiting with a fellow gardener is the inevitable garden tour. Bren’s garden didn’t disappoint. We spent several hours, and I captured many, many photos.

To celebrate Brenda’s birthday (December 2), I selected from those photos a set of distinct images that get to the very core of Brenda’s motivation and inspiration.

I hope you’ll have a look and celebrate Brenda’s birthday with me. Happy Birthday, Bren!

Bren's garden attracts cats

A theme quickly emerged during out garden tour. Bren has 70 or 80 cats (she told me a number, but I can’t remember), and the cats have assigned one the job of monitoring humans… or, perhaps on this day a particular semi-rock-colored cat drew the short straw.

Semi rock-colored cat

Semi rock-colored cat? This intended to be a photograph of delightful ground cover… I suppose it does capture ground cover.

Deep-thinking angry cat

We might have stumbled into a part of the garden visitors aren’t supposed to see. If this cat is deep in thought, I’d hazard the thinking is about injustice, spite, revenge, or all three.

Lounge chair cat

When Bren and I reached the pond I was pleased to see our shadow cat inspecting one of the lounge chairs. No way would a cat lie down under a defective lounge chair.

Bird bath cat

Bren’s garden features a strategically-placed bird bath.

Bren and cat

Bren and I were chatting in her vegetable garden. I looked away down a row of tomatoes and when I turned back, there was a cat! Despite much coaxing, the cat refused to look at the camera—or was it turning an evil eye on the horse next door?

Happy Birthday cat

For 10 minutes or so leading up to that photo of Bren and cat (above), there was caterwauling at my feet. These were the loudest meows I’ve ever heard in Ohio. I used my cell phone to record, and I ran the meows through Google translate. Google failed to auto-detect the language. I guess they’re still working on that feature. I’m sure if her cat spoke Human, it would say, “Happy Birthday, Bren!”

 

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