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Posts Tagged ‘nursery’

Excursion from my Small Kitchen Garden

Daughter on Rock

My daugher and I attended a tweetup of garden writers, landscapers, and other enthusiasts in upstate New York. On the way, we stopped for a day of rock climbing in the Gunks. That’s my daughter about 35 feet up the cliff face on our second climb of the day.

My small kitchen garden is a busy place in mid spring, and I hate to travel during this critical time of year. However, the announcement came out recently across my online social network: come to a tweetup in upstate New York.

I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to meet in-person the people with whom I interact regularly on blogs, Twitter, and Facebook. Some I had met last autumn, and looked forward to seeing again. Others I’d not met in person, but I enjoy them so much on line that I was excited to know they’d be at this gathering.

Great Venue for a Tweetup

Our host for the tweetup was Margaret Roach who is an accomplished garden writer. You can visit her garden online at A Way to Garden blog. Margaret’s yard/garden is delightful… a terrific assortment of gorgeous plants and landscaping features that could hold my attention for hours. And, while Margaret’s emphasis seems to be on ornamental plantings, she also has a kitchen garden: a collection of raised beds in which vegetables were already coming on.

Group Photo

Had no tripod on this trip, so we enlisted my daughter to take the group photos. This is one of three she shot with my camera. She took better shots with other cameras, though this isn’t too bad.

Usually, I snap a whole bunch of candid photos of people at social events… this may be my most favorite photographic pursuit. At Margaret’s tweetup, I was not in top form. I shot many photos of people and plants, but I repeatedly caught the people with unflattering expressions on their faces.

So… my photo collection from this event is a bit heavy on foliage and flowers. I hope they provide some sense of how fine a day I had visiting.

Dual Purpose Trip

Rhubarb Flowers

Margaret Roach’s kitchen garden features a dramatic rhubarb patch that was in full-bloom during the tweetup. I encourage you not to let your rhubarb flower, but if your emphasis is ornamental rather than food, this display could add drama to your landscape

In considering this trip, I knew that between Margaret’s home and mine, I would pass quite near the Shawangunk mountains. There there is a rock climbing preserve where I used to climb 30 years ago. My daughter enjoys climbing, and she decided the bother of waiting out my tweetup was an acceptable trade for a day of rock climbing.

So, my daughter and I drove to the Gunks on Friday evening and slept there in our car. We were on the rocks by about 9AM, and we climbed until 2PM. It was very satisfying, though I tried to rearrange some rocks with the top of my head and succeeded only in irritating my scalp.

After climbing, we drove toward Margaret’s and within a mile or so of her house found a State Park that allowed camping. Social activism alert: That NY State park (and so, probably all of them) has added a surcharge for out-of-state visitors. I will not be camping in NY State parks as long as this surcharge is in place. There’s no stupider way to try to recover budget shortfalls than to charge tourists more to be in your state than you charge people who actually live there. If you want to bring more money into the state, run a marketing effort in which you offer discounts to visitors from out of state. Of course, if your parks already draw to capacity, do what you want.

Anyway… my daughter did homework and some cross stitch while I socialized and toured the gardens. My small kitchen garden is a week behind—I’d have planted potatoes, carrots, and peppers had I been home. Still… the tweetup was well worth the time away and the nearly 4-hour drive. I so look forward to the next gathering of garden writers, gardeners, and gardening enthusiasts.

Here is a slideshow of some of the photos I created during the tweetup at Margaret Roach’s garden. I hope you enjoy it:


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Spring Planning for Your Small Kitchen Garden

My anticipation for red, juicy, sweet tomatoes grows through the winter, spring, and early summer. I usually plant more than half my garden in tomatoes, and add a small selection of other vegetables. In some years, I cram a bit of everything into my small kitchen garden. Still, I crave fresh tomatoes most of all (fresh peas are a close second).

I’ve spent the last five weeks compensating for my small kitchen garden’s winter hibernation. I made a trip to South Carolina, spent several days at the Pennsylvania Farm Show, and made a head-first dive into growing alfalfa sprouts. I also have a pot of cilantro struggling away on a south-facing windowsill in my basement.

All of this has helped with my winter gardening blues, but it has also distracted me a bit from important mainstream gardening issues. Key among those: planting season looms large.

What Do You Want to Eat?

Even for a small kitchen garden, it’s helpful to plan for the upcoming growing season. I start all my vegetable garden planning with one thought: what do I want to eat? From years of growing, I’ve developed priorities.

In my laziest years, I’ve planted only peas, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, and herbs; I can’t imagine a season without homegrown tomatoes, and fresh peas are so satisfying. Because my tastes are simple, I can find what I need at a nearby garden store. Usually, I buy seeds for Wando peas, Ithaca lettuce, a lettuce “salad mix,” and Bloomsdale Long-Standing spinach—all very satisfactory. I also choose flats from among a dozen or more varieties of young tomato plants. These are always in the store by the time I need them in my garden.

I saved a few dozen seeds from a gorgeous heirloom tomato a neighbor gave me. I’ll start these two, and several others indoors in March so I can transplant them to my small kitchen garden in May.

Even in years when I’ve squeezed more variety into my small raised vegetable garden, I’ve settled for seeds I could buy locally. That notwithstanding, every winter I pour over garden catalogs and hanker for all kinds of seeds I haven’t tried.

Get Ready to Grow

For most gardeners in the United States, this is garden catalog season. If you want to stretch your gardening muscle, you can’t wait much longer: get going with seed catalogs. If you find something special in a catalog, you may need to order now to have seeds in time for planting in your area. Especially if you plan to start seeds indoors, you should order immediately.

I’ll be starting some tomato seeds indoors, and maybe some peppers. I can’t move tomato plants outdoors until early May, so I won’t start seeds indoors until mid-to-late March.

In the meantime, I’ve become an affiliate of Nature Hills Nursery. This company has a history of on-line sales, and offers a great selection of live plants and seeds. Where you can find customer reviews of the company, you find more positive than negative feedback, which is a decent record for on-line nurseries. Here’s my take on the company:

Nature Hills Nursery

For seeds, Nature Hills is making the right moves. They sell Botanical Interests brand, a supplier that has signed the Safe Seeds pledge. This means seeds you buy from Nature Hills Nursery are not products of genetic engineering. What’s more, Botanical Interests has a large selection of certified organic seeds.

Buyers Beware (of Yourselves)

Buying live plants through the mail comes with many risks, and I coach all gardeners to buy locally: find a garden store or nursery you can visit. Inspect the plants, ask questions, and understand the replacement policies. Then, adhere to planting and care instructions from the nursery operator.

It’s unreasonable to expect professional growers to guarantee survival of the plants they sell. They haven’t tested your soil, they haven’t evaluated your site-selection for light and moisture, and they aren’t doing the planting and tending. If nursery plants fail in your garden, there’s at least some chance that you’re the problem… please be patient with your supplier. Multiple failures of plants in the same planting bed are far more likely due to poor soil conditions, lighting, drainage, fungus, insects, or furry animals than they are to a nursery selling you bad stock—especially when you’ve selected the plants at a local store.

For live plants, Nature Hills has a controversial warranty policy. If your plants arrive damaged or dead, Nature Hills will replace them—but they want you to report quickly in case they need to place a claim with their shippers. If your plants fail after you plant them, Nature Hills will sell you replacements at half price plus the cost of shipping. This policy draws ire from some, though customers whose plants succeed seem quite happy with Nature Hills.

If you can live with the half-price warranty replacement policy, you’ll find terrific variety and good prices at Nature Hills. Still, I prefer that you shop locally for live plants (see box), and only buy on-line if you can’t find what you want at a local garden store or nursery. All that said, please check out the Botanical Interests seeds available on Nature Hills’ web site.

Here’s a link to the Nature Hills vegetable seed catalog. This link takes you directly to their organic seeds. You’ll find a lot of great vegetable offerings at both links. And, depending on your sensibilities, check out their selection of live small fruits (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and such) and fruit trees.


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