Join THE #gardenchat!
BWS tips button
Home Kitchen Garden

Follow me on Twitter: @cityslipper

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:

Garden-Fountains.com

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

 

 

 

 

plant vegetables

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.

 

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

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.

 

Crazy Squash Story

Neck Pumpkin on the vine

You could describe a neck pumpkin as a megagigantic butternut squash. This one is about 30 inches from stem to blossom end. At harvest it weighed 19 pounds. In central Pennsylvania, people favor neck pumpkins (also known as Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Squash) for pumpkin pie. This same squash appears (ripe) in two other photos in this post.

I had some fun with squash this year. Actually, I had a series of fortunate unlikely accidents. Each one was minor and seemingly unimportant, but when I think it through, the accidents together make a story worth sharing.

I present the accidents in the order they revealed themselves to me… but I’ve numbered them in chronological order. I hope that makes sense.

Accident #3: Windy Wipeout

I “acquired” a small section of one of our ornamental beds in 2013 to grow beans and zucchini. That worked so nicely that I used space the same way this year. As soon as the soil was warm, I planted a hill of zucchini seeds and mulched around the hill with autumn leaves that hadn’t broken down over the winter.

Whenever I checked the garden (daily when I was home), leaves had shifted to cover the hill. I’d brush them aside, but wind would move them back again and again. As seedlings emerged, I wasn’t home enough to keep up with the wind, and eventually leaves smothered the young plants.

Accident #2: Hedging Bets

I’ve been developing a “rain garden” and set new perennials along the bank in early spring. Among my plantings, several seedlings emerged that were obviously of the cucurbitaceae family (the Gourd Family). These would have to be volunteers from squashes I’d grown in past years, but I didn’t know which: Butternut, Neck Pumpkin, Blue Hubbard, Fairytale, or Zucchini. I decided to leave to seedlings at least until I figured out their variety.

Accident #4: Bad Redo

Hybrid winter squash vines

Before producing their first fruit, my hybrid squash vines had overtaken a huge swath of an ornamental bed. The plants were supposed to be zucchini which are very compact as squashes go so the behemoth hybrid winter squash plants were totally inappropriate. From the farthest squash leaves in this photo to the nearest is more than 20 feet. The mountain of leaves rising to the window is a stand of trellised climbing beans. Beneath them and a four foot stretch of squash vines is an azalea bush that puts out red flowers in spring.

I re-planted the original hill of zucchini seeds. At least that’s what I thought. I used seeds I’d stored in an unlabeled, folded paper towel. I was fairly confident these were zucchini seeds I’d collected over the winter from a very mature fruit I blogged about here: Summer Squash is a Choice You Make.

Soon, the volunteer cucurbitaceae seedlings near the rain garden revealed themselves to be zucchini. For a week or two I pondered removing the second planting of zukes from the ornamental bed; we’d never eat so much zucchini!

And then it became obvious that the plants emerging from my second planting of zucchini seeds weren’t zucchini plants. I was intrigued: What had I planted?

Accident #1: Cross Pollination

Turning back the clock to mid-summer of 2013 gets us to a defining moment for this year’s squash crop. I had Fairytale squash, neck pumpkins, and butternut squash growing strong, but the plants were still young.

Hybrid squash on the vine

The first fruit from my hybrid squash vines hung among the branches of a butterfly bush. I tried to imagine it was a weird neck pumpkin, but it hardly changed shape as it grew—it just got bigger.

One morning, a beautiful female blossom was prominent on a neck pumpkin vine, but there were no corresponding male blossoms. There was a male blossom on the Fairytale squash vines with no female fairytale blossoms to pollinate. I hated to lose a squash fruit, so I used the Fairytale blossom to pollinate the neck pumpkin. Had no idea if this would work, but I hoped it would at least fool the fruit into developing.

That and several other neck pumpkins eventually matured. We ate squashes, I preserved squashes, and I collected seeds from squashes. In fact, I gave away neck pumpkin seeds to readers of this blog.

Back to This Summer

In June of this year, I started two planters each with 4 neck pumpkin seeds on my screened porch and I set the seedlings in the garden in early July. From markings on the leaves of the “not zucchini” plants in the ornamental bed, I guessed they also were neck pumpkin plants. And then those “not zucchini” plants produced a fruit. It wasn’t a neck pumpkin.

Neck Pumpkin and Fairytale Squash

My hybrid squashes grew from seeds of a neck pumpkin (the very long squash in this photo is a neck pumpkin). In 2013 in a pinch, I had pollinated a neck pumpkin flower with one from a fairytale squash plant (perhaps from the very plant that produced the fluted round squash in the photo). Apparently, I collected seeds from that cross-pollinated fruit and, thinking they were zucchini seeds, planted them in spring of this year. Note the 12-inch ruler tucked under the fairytale squash. These are very large fruits!

The mystery squash plants grew aggressively, covering an azalea bush, climbing into a butterfly bush, stretching 20 feet along the wall through the rest of the ornamental bed, and five more feet into the herb garden. The plants, I realized had to be the result of that fateful cross-pollination in 2013: I was growing a hybrid of my own creation.

Photos reveal my hybrids are a sensible shape and color to have emerged from the cross. The fruits ripen to a creamy tan, just like neck pumpkins and fairytale squashes. The shape isn’t what I might have predicted, but it’s easy to imagine it as a morph between the two fruits. The fruits are bulky—reasonable considering neck pumpkins sometimes get to 20 or more pounds and fairytale squash might make it to 30 or more pounds.

Next Season’s Squash

I’ll collect seeds from my hybrid squashes and plant at least one hill next summer. If I can control it, I’ll pollinate these only with flowers from the hybrids themselves… which is what I did this year. It will be interesting to see the characteristics of progeny from the hybrids—I could get neck pumpkins, I could get fairytale squash, and I could get a variety of fruits that fall somewhere in between.

I hope the neck pumpkin seeds I mailed to readers weren’t hybrids. I know I collected unadulterated neck pumpkin seeds last year because the plants I started on my porch and moved to the garden produced neck pumpkins. I suppose if my readers got hybrids, I might have heard about it from someone by now.

Neck Pumpkin, Fairytale Squash, and hybrid of both

And hybrid makes three. I chose the cutest of my hybrid squashes for this pose. It’s not the largest of the lot, but it weighed in at a hefty 12 pounds. I’ll post about it again when I butcher it for a meal, pies, and what-not… a squash that size goes a long way.

 

Blond Zucchini?

Green Zucchini

As long as I’ve known zucchini, it has been a dark green squash like the young one in this photo.

To some kitchen gardeners, the existence of blond zucchini is no surprise (though calling it “blond” is probably not normal). In my experience, whether store-bought or homegrown, zucchini is a dark-green squash. It never occurred to me there might be other shades of zuke, and I really didn’t care.

Until this summer.

You see, on one of five zucchini plants growing from commercially-package seeds, a squash developed that is very light, creamy green rather than zuke green. Of course, while writing this, I can’t find the seed packet. It was a late-season purchase to fill a hole in my vegetable production; I planted zukes in August because they grow and mature so quickly.

I do know it was a generic zucchini seed package. It named the variety and mentioned nothing about mixed colors. So… either the plants from which the seeds were harvested were open-pollinated and grew next to blond zucchini OR the seed that produced my blond zucchini experienced a random mutation.

My zucchini experiment

What does an overenthusiastic gardener do when faced with an oddity such as a zucchini of a different color? This gardener lets the stupid squash mature so the seeds become viable. I’ve several questions:

  1. Is blondness a dominant or a recessive trait? In other words, in a cross between a plant to produces dark green fruits and one that produces blond fruits, will there be more blond offspring or dark green offspring?
  2. Whatever color is dominant, can I coax more blond zucchini from this family line? You see, I hand-pollinated the flower from which the blond squash emerged. I used a male flower from a plant that produces dark green zukes. I didn’t know I was pollinating a blond zucchini plant (the leaves and stems look identical).
  3. If I can produce further blond zucchini plants, can I isolate seeds that will always produce ONLY blond zucchini? If so, I’ll have a unique variety of zucchini developed right here in my own garden.

Blond Zucchini

One of my zucchini plants produced a blond fruit! Granted, it’s hiding under leaf stems, but you can clearly see its color is creamy light green rather than the mottled dark green of my other zucchinis. I’m going to try to create a line of blond zucchinis. This is going to be fun.

To answer these questions, I’ll harvest the zuke when frost is inevitable. It should be pretty mature by then. I’ll collect seeds and start some indoors very early in the spring. Those should mature quickly enough that I can harvest seeds from the spring crop to start a mid-summer crop; with a decent growing season I can get two successive zucchini plantings in a season.

The first planting will be of seeds from only this zucchini. I’ll try to pollinate each plant using its own flowers. If that’s not possible, I’ll be cross pollinating from plants that may carry the blond gene so I’ll have a decent chance of seeding more blond squashes. Perhaps by the end of the 2017 growing season I’ll have a reliably blond line of zucchini descended from the freak in this year’s zucchini patch.

What fun! (And, my wife rolls her eyes.)

http://www.smallkitchengarden.net/plant-vegetables/blond-zucchini

Community Garden Ithaca

Potato sprouts in a community garden

Just inside the gate of Ithaca’s community garden is a planting bed along the base of the fence. Many types of plants were sprouting there; my favorites were potatoes.

Sunshine and 76 degrees! What gardener wouldn’t take advantage of such a day? Except my garden was 130 miles away. I did what I could: visited Ithaca’s community garden.

I’ve visited the community garden several times this spring and had been underwhelmed at how slowly it has gotten started. Few plots had cool weather crops planted back when weather was reliably cool. Now, as temperatures occasionally spike to summer highs, cool weather crops are in and they have a race to win! If June brings hot days, Ithacans may come up short on spinach, lettuce, and peas.

Well… we do what we can. The photos provide an idea of what’s up in Ithaca.

Lettuce patch in a community garden

There are patches of lettuce throughout the community garden. The colors in this patch set it apart from the others.

CD scarecrow in a community garden

This allotment uses shiny CDs as scarecrows. The CDs hang above a small lettuce patch which I suspect won’t interest birds at all. However, perhaps rabbits and other large rodents have access to the community garden and have some fear of shiny baubles.

Rhubarb and strawberries in a community garden

Once you’re gotten an allotment at Ithaca’s community garden, you get first dibs on it year-after-year. Some growers plant perennials and this combination is a classic: strawberries and rhubarb. While I encourage gardeners not to let rhubarb flower (flowering stresses the plant), the plants can put on a dramatic show if you let them.

Sage in a community garden

Many years ago I grew a few sage plants from seed. I eventually moved the mature plants from a wooden half barrel container into an herb garden I established at the corner of my house. Those plants died over the 2013-2014 winter… they’d look about like the sage plant in this photo—clearly the product of many years’ growth. The spiky leaves in front are garlic plants started last autumn.

Rhubarb in a community garden

These are two of the prettiest rhubarb plants I’ve seen. They’re growing at the back of an allotment and garlic grows behind them in the adjacent plot.

Radish patch in a community garden

I watched a small Burmese community work on this allotment about two weeks ago and was surprised now to see all the sprouts so far look like radishes! I learned several Burmese families rent space in the community garden and they often converge on one allotment much as an Amish community assembles to build a barn.

Peas and trellis in a community garden

Here’s a pea patch managed by someone who understand peas! Often, people plant just a short row of peas with fairly loose spacing. Here, the gardener planted peas close together—from plant-to-plant within a row, and from row-to-row. As the vines climb the trellises, they’ll create a pea jungle that produces enough peas or pea pods for several meals.

Mint in a community garden

Were I managing a community garden, I would enforce the following rule without mercy: PLANT NO MINT IN THE GROUND. If you grow mint on your allotment, do your neighbors a favor and plant the mint in a container tall enough that the plants never touch the ground. This one would pass inspection. I wrote about mint’s aggressive “conquer all” nature here: Protect Your Garden from Mint.

Tulips in a community garden

One allotment at Ithaca’s community garden had a striking row of tulips alongside a stand of mint. I loved to tulips. I wanted to fine the allotment’s owner for planting mint.

Shelves of squash in a community garden

This allotment’s owner has a terrific idea: grow more in limited space by going vertical. The containers on this tower contain squash plants—way too many for the space unless they’re compact varieties. I can see a problem if this catches on. Plant skyscrapers may prevent sunlight from reaching plants on the ground… I’d hate to have an allotment neighboring a wall of these structures.

Tidy allotment in a community garden

One allotment at Ithaca’s community garden is clearly as much about design as it is about growing food. The owner has fenced the space and created raised beds that spiral in from the gate. All is tidy and well-kept…

Gardener wanted in a community garden

This is not a meadow. It’s an allotment at Ithaca’s community garden. Can’t say whether it’s rented and the owner is getting a slow start, or the chives are up for grabs. If you live in Ithaca and you want to grow vegetables, perhaps you’ll find an opening at the community garden.

 
Small Kitchen Garden blog

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Seeds Have Left the Cityslipper Ranch!

Packing Vegetable Seeds

I wasn’t in great shape when it was time to pack and mail seeds. Happily, I had enough complete seed sets for everyone who qualified in the giveaway.

It has been a rough month: harsh punctuation to a difficult year. As my annual seed giveaway closed, I jumped from garden conference to garden conference and crashed with a sinus infection when I should have been mailing out seeds. Despite the plugged pipes, I managed to get seeds in the mail, and they should all have arrived at the homes of their new gardeners.

Start Your Peppers and Tomatoes!

For pretty much everyone in the United States, it’s time to start tomato and pepper seeds. Actually, it’s a little late for people in the south. In hardiness zone 6b, seedlings go in the garden around June 1st (though our last frost date is, supposedly, May 15).

Ideally, peppers will have two full months from seeding to transplant into the garden. Tomatoes will do fine with six weeks from seeding to transplanting. I encourage you to seed winter squash in late May or early June and transplant it to the garden in July.

I’ve written many posts about starting seeds, so rather than repeat myself, I’ve included a list (see box) of articles to provide help in case seed starting is all new to you.

Thanks for Participating!

It’s a privilege to have readers who take time to participate in my giveaways. As with most giveaways, I asked participants in this year’s to tell stories that would make me laugh. Honestly, things swung hard the other way! Many entrants told stories of how their gardens failed. Whether family pets, wild marauders, or hapless spouses destroyed a garden, I felt sad with each such story. Perhaps next year I’ll ask entrants to share gardening successes; those, at least will make me smile… though they might not make me laugh. (Stacia Brooks’s cucumbers made me smile.)

Seed sets ready to mail

The box of envelopes minutes before I took them to the post office. I’ve heard from several readers already that they’ve received their seeds.

Sorry I’m so hard to amuse, but thank you all for your efforts.  Susie Yarbrough tickled me a bit with her story of her 4-year-old son scavenging all her cherry tomatoes. Handy Helen also got a small chuckle with her story of slow-to-sprout seeds.

Debi Marti’s groundhog made me sad. (I’ve seen a 14 foot row of mature broccoli vanish into a groundhog in just a few hours.)  Tamar Apkarian’s Super Bowl reference was timely, but her rabbits were discouraging. I was sad to hear that last year’s squash seeds failed for Una Walker, and the tomato seeds did only slightly better… and to hear that her sweet Italian peppers never made it to red! Sigh.

Canning orange tomatoes

I ended up choosing Moonglow as the “mystery tomato.” The photo shows one way I’ve used orange tomatoes: I once canned 9 pints of combined Moonglows and Valencias. The packed jars glowed gorgeous orange and provided accents in several dishes through the year.

David Moffitt? Well… we’ve had beers together. What else can I say? Bobbi Thomas made me very sad by reminding me of the many years I’ve planted too early and had to drape my garden with large plastic sheets to protect wimpy plants from late frost.

Tim Brenner’s admission that the giveaway instructions were overly complex confirmed what I said in the instructions. I might make it easier next year and simply ask everyone to leave comments and mailing addresses, but it seems important to encourage participants to invite others also to participate… I guess I’ll figure this out next February.

Birds, pickle worms, contractors, seeds that didn’t germinate, clumsy cats, dreams of giant-killing, stubborn husbands, banana plants and syrup bottles, green paint on your thumbs (won’t fool your plants…), more dogs, weeds, prehistoric outhouses (septic fields are great for gardening as well), a steer (moo), soap-flavored cucumbers, manure plunges, and plant-killing crows, were all good stories. Thank you for sharing and best of luck with this year’s vegetable garden!

 

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Subscribe…

...in a reader:     

...via eMail:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

 

contests & sweeps for moms
Contests & Sweepstakes

 

Business Directory for Lewisburg, Pennsylvania

Associations