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I’d tell you I’d been working in my garden as the reason I’m only posting once a month. But it would be a lie. My gardens need weeding, all of them! I did a few hours worth yesterday. For the most part, my plants are doing well or going wild. The columbine have reseeded all over; so have the native wild geranium and wild ginger are invading many areas, as have the poppies. Last year the deer ate the vegetable garden. Changes made it difficult for them to get into it, so they are busy eating my garden plants, hosta, daylily, and purple coneflowers. Deer ate ALL the leaves off my beautiful hosta, but otherwise everything is doing very well. I don’t think they like lavender-blue flowers because all of those have survived the invading hordes.

I made a big mistake in my vegetable garden. I wanted a low growing plant to cover the area between the raised beds. The garden is on a slight south-facing slope, but this is sandy soil and erodes easily. My idea was maybe it a low growing weed (other than carpet weed) might hold the soil and help keep other weeds at bay. I thought I was spreading veronica peregrina seeds. Whoops, major misidentification. Nope, not veronica seeds but chick weed seeds. I’ve laughed at myself every time I go in the vegetable garden. Most of the vegetables are doing all right to great, and I need to plant more seeds this week.

Isn’t it amazing how every year presents different challenges?

So what has been keeping me out of the garden? Writing classes for my pleasure and creating communication classes for my students plus other life events.

After my post about Gardeners and God Complex, I’ve reaped some bad karma for my presumption.

First, all the seeds I planted when the soil first became workable died or were eaten by birds or insects.

Second, a drought has followed the cold spell that followed the warm spell that let me plant early.

Third, the peas came up but languish in the heat.

Fourth, deer jumped the fence and ate all the new pepper plants I had grown from seeds and just planted, along with the leaves of the Jerusalem artichoke, the asparagus (although we had a great harvest of asparagus), and the parsley that has gone wild in the garden. The deer did not touch the eggplants or tomatoes. Bought and planted more peppers, two of which have disappeared.

Fifth, within a day of  the cucumber seedlings breaking ground, they disappeared, as happened to the beets, parsnips and turnips. And something is eating the young squash plants. Moles? Birds? Insects? Grasshoppers?

Sixth, I planted a bed with beans, but now see I’d planted it with sunflowers too. It will be war of the world all over again.

Seventh, a special someone (not giving away names!) wanting to be helpful tilled the walkways between the beds so my feet sink into loose sandy soil whenever I walk the garden.

So, grrr, I didn’t take into consideration all the things not necessarily under my control. I’m hoping its not too late to plant more crops. What else can happen?

Two good aspects: the grapes seem to have abundant fruit developing for the first time. (I really need to learn how to prune those vines, and I’m sure the Baltimore Oriole nesting nearby will enjoy them as they did the Juneberries!)  Yet the rhubarb is doing tremendous and the ancient apple trees have fruit developing.

Kale

Kale

Spring is going to start early this year. Already the normal 12″ of snow covering my garden this month is gone, the snowdrops are blooming with many honey bees hovering over them. Since most garden books say as soon as the soil can be worked, the cold crops can be planted, I’m going to try it. Just watch, a week or two from now a heavy snow storm will dump on the sprouting seeds. I’ll discover what happens to those baby plants then. I’m ever a pessimistic optimist.

So what are cold crops? Mostly leaf or root crops started from seed that actually prefer growing in colder temperatures. They vary in hardiness, but most will survive frost, and some of them even snow. What makes them great are they are typically short season, too, meaning they’ll be on the table quicker. Many ‘cole’ crops are cold hardy, but cole refers to crops from the Brassica genus or mustard family, vegetables like broccoli, kale, collard greens, kohlrabi, cabbage, or cauliflower. While these are cold crops, many other vegetables are similarly cold hardy.

Most root crops such as carrots and onions (basic cooking foods) parsnips (mashed like potatoes only sweeter), turnips and rutabaga (essential for pasties), beets (borscht and pickled beets, yumm), and leeks (leek and potato soup) prefer cool temperatures. Some leafy vegetables like arugula, lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, maché (a old leaf crop in France relatively new to the states), and parsley (combine all for marvelous salads, plus spinach and Swiss chard make good cooked greens) favor cool weather. I’ve seen parsley still fresh and ready to use growing up from snow. It is also biennial, meaning it harvests for two years, but it has also reseeded itself in my garden. Peas, which are grown for their fruit, produce best in cooler temperatures.

Some of these leafy crops like spinach, lettuce, and Swiss chard (I’m not fond of kale or collards) will be ready for the table by the end of April. If the summer is relatively cool, they’ll keep sending up new leaves even after several harvestings. The root crops will take longer to develop, but will be ready to harvest when tomatoes and pepper plants are only becoming safe to put in the ground (May 15th to 30th depending on your last frost zone).

Two more good things about cold crops are that they can be planted again in mid-August to the end of September providing a late season crop, but most seed companies have seed sales in the fall, so you get the seeds cheaper. One more good aspect of this is those cheaper seeds will be just as viable for the spring growing seed. I’ve grown fall season carrots, which are very cold, even freezing, hardy, and while I can’t get into the snow covered garden to harvest them, I have dug them from the ground in the early spring.

Petunias are annuals in my zone 5a to 4b area. Seeds are not supposed to survive or we could plant them in the fall. Plus, petunias are hybrid, so if seeds did come back they wouldn’t be the same petunia, or at least that’s what I thought. So why did it happen in two of my containers?

The deep purple petunias are what I planted the summer of 2014. The pinkish purple, which have been overcome by the deep purple, were plants put in this past spring.

Last year versus this year petunia completion.

Last year versus this year petunia completion.

It happened in image of the second  container too. Here those fuchsia petunias did much better. Yet, those white and red flowers? They came from the red, white, and blue plants I placed in the container in 2014.

Red, White, and Fuchsia.

Red, White, and Fuchsia.

Both containers were buried in snow over the winter, once snow came. Until the snow, they were exposed to the cold of this area. So what happened?

One thing I’ve noticed about shopping on the web — more sellers find you. Since the beginning of December I’ve been receiving two or three seed or plant catalogs a week, many from companies I’ve never heard of.The plant photos and descriptions are all so enticing.

The coming season's catalog offerings.

The coming season’s catalog offerings.


How can a gardener choose between all the varieties of lettuce available? What about all those beans! It’s dizzying. I keep a list of all the vegetable seed types I buy, not that it does much good. By the end of the season when I should be recording a review on each seed, I’m too busy canning, freezing, or drying. Last year I grew kohlrabi for the first time. Family likes it as well as potatoes as a side.

This winter has been so very busy and my cold has drug me down, so I haven’t perused those catalogs as much as I’d like, but I’ll have my orders in by the end of February. the thought of getting into the garden again helps me get through these sub-zero temperatures we’ve been having.

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