Sunday, March 27, 2011


I checked and yes, it's past time to plant to tomatoes and peppers.  So I tracked down the Root Trainers, brought them up to the house, and rinsed them out.
I laid out the plan for planting in them.  We have 8 Root Trainers with 32 cells each.  They are good for starting plants in because they are set up for deep roots and don't have a tendency to get root bound.  However, we also have peat pellets which are easy to transplant at an early stage.  The root trainers are harder to transplant because they are about the same depth as the pots we transplant into.  So we decided to put the tomatoes in the root trainers--sometimes they can go straight from there into the ground.  See below for the planting schematic.
Root Trainers

Peat pellets--hydrated on left, dehydrated on right.

It was nice in the greenhouse on Friday, as it snowed outside.  I labeled and loaded up two of the Root Trainers and planted them, except that I can't find the Marvel Stripe seed.  I know I spent a bunch of time finding it.  Is it backordered?  I'll have to go back and see what the deal was.  Apparently I got distracted.  We're off to Seattle this week, where perhaps they sell such seeds.  We tried everyplace in here town and no luck.

Saturday we got two of the peat pellet units planted, and Sunday the other of each.  There are a few plants which can be sold.  We'll see how it goes.  We're using saved seed for the Alma and the Red Demon.  If it works out well, I think we'll work on tomato seed as well.  With the peppers, we have dried versions of several, so it was easy to grab seed.  It's supposed to work, but I'm not 100% convinced there won't be cross pollination.

Peats waiting for the seeds to be pushed in.

The root trainers working on germination.  Small lettuce to the right.
The extra space onion experiment continues, but we decided we'd just buy some starts anyway.  Shawn smartly remembered that last year we didn't open the box until we were ready to plant, and then found that all the onions were moldy.  So the onions are hanging in the coldest room in our house (our bedroom).

The potatoes are keeping the onions company.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Of Potatoes

One problem we've frequently encountered is that we don't keep track of how much we plant in terms of potatoes.  So two years ago there weren't enough potatoes and last year there were (are) too many.  So here's what we ordered and if we can only remember to add what we buy locally (the real problem) we should be in good shape.
Ruby Crescent Fingerling: 5 lbs
French Fingerlings: 3 lbs
Russian Banana Fingerlings: 3 lbs
German Butterball: 5 lbs (for Merlyn)

The calendar says spring, but it's still darn cold.  It seems like usually we have a few unseasonably warm days, but not this year.  Today it wouldn't be bad out there if it weren't for the wind.  A friend insists she'll plant peas today.  It seems impossible, but I'll head down and see just how muddy it is in the garden.
The next job is to figure out if we should be planting tomatoes and peppers this weekend.  The census will help with the tiresome job of determining how many of each.  Some thought will need to go into deciding whether we want to plant extras to sell or not.  So many decisions!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Master List

Here's everything we grow, I think.  Please note a few things are just for us (like chard usually since the flea beetles are hard on it making it too ugly to sell).  Also, we often run out of time to get everything planted.  For example, every year so far we haven't managed to plant dill.  And then there's cabbage--we keep trying, but have been abject failures so far.

Master plant list
Peas--probably have enough
Beans--have seed
Radishes--get more Hailstone
Red Beets--enough
Golden beets--enough
Carrots--good on Bolero need more others. Have pelletted Nelson
Zucchini--need regular green
Italian star-shaped--have seed
Yellow zucchini--need seed
Crookneck--have seed
Peppers--need Lemon Drop
Eggplant--barely enough Fairy tale. Ok on others. 
Tomatoes--see separate list
Figerling Potatoes
California white
Blue potatoes
New potatoes
Sweet Corn--have seed
Decorative corn--need seed
Eating pumpkins--have enough
Halloween pumpkins--need more seed
White pumplins
Tiny orange pumpkins--have Jack be Little
Tiny white pumpkins--have Baby Boo
Cinderella--have seed
Gourds--have seed
Acorn--have seed
Butternut--have seed
Buttercup--have seed
Sunshine--need seed
Delicata--have seed
Sweet dumplings--have enough
Carnival--need seed
Hubbard--have some Sweet Meat, need Blue Ballet
Basil--have seed
Tomatillos--have seed
Cantaloupe--enough for this year only
Watermelon--have seed
Pickling cucumbers--have seed
Lemon cucumbers--have seed
Slicing cucumbers--have seed
Armenian cucumbers--have seed
Chard--have seed
Red onions--need live
Yellow onions--need live
Sweet onions--need live
Leeks--need live
Spinach--need more seed
Dill--have seed
Fennel--have seed
Cabbage--need seed


I realize that most people are excited to get seed catalogs and shop for seeds.  It's not one of my favorite things.  The real problem is that I have to drag out all the seeds, spread them out, figure out what we have and don't have, and then what we need more of, where we want to buy it from and then get it ordered.  Always looming is that I will have forgotten something basic, like jalapenos.  Trying to figure out what new we might to grow and reading all the descriptions then becomes less fun.  Let me tell you that I can't really tell which is better:
"Dundoo is extra early with dark green fruits.  The open plants are easy to harvest."
"Plato has spineless plants with an excellent disease resistant package.  Fruits are shiny dark green.  Plants are open and easy to harvest and have intermediate resistance to zucchini..."
Seems like one just has more information than the other.  But, they had me with the word "spineless" since the backs of my hands get really scratched up from harvesting zucchini.  Long sleeves are a must, even in the heat of summer.

Seed sorting.
There will be a return of the Lemon Drop peppers this year, and new tomatoes will include Malakhitovaya Shkatulka, replacing Aunt Ruby's German Green (thanks to my Aunt Mary for a great round of birthday seeds).  These are early, medium-sized green tomatoes that are "very flavorful and tasty.  Plants are productive even in the North, as this variety...has been tested in Siberia."  Also Illini Star (these are a nice, sweet, early red tomato--thanks Jason and Christian) and a new red cherry.  Isis was good in flavor, but too big to pop in my mouth.  I almost got Favorita from Johnny's until I realized they wanted $6.95 for 10 seeds!!!!  So instead we went with Sun Cherry.  We're trying a new variety of poblano peppers, which are supposed to have stronger stalks.  I wanted to try a tiny, green, short season eggplant, but Shawn pointed out no one would buy it.  We're hoping to have lots more carrots and red radishes this year.

I made a master list of what we grow (see additional post), so maybe shopping will get easier next year.  In the past I've made a giant spreadsheet of all the seeds we have and the growing season, how early you need to plant, etc.  It was very long and ended up not being useful.  We'll see how this does.

In other news, the Thai Fire garlic is way up!  None of the others are peeking above the mulch yet.  The first weeds (burr buttercup) have emerged, but no one is doing anything about it.  Last weekend we had a nice day and Shawn and I completed the pepper/eggplant census and pulled all the labels and supporting stakes for those two types of plants.  The plants themselves remain.  We discovered that we had done a reasonable job of cleaning up the winter squash and gourds--we thought maybe we'd only gotten the ripe things cleaned up.  This week it's back to being a muddy mess.
Aren't bulbs great!
Burr buttercup--sometimes has gone to seed before you can even really get out in the garden!
Nicely organized winter squash taking refuge in Gladys' house last fall, after the frost.
Overview of most of the garlic--taken a few weeks ago.
I planted some lettuce last weekend.  It's up, but Little (our aged, infirm cat who came with the house, before she was aged and infirm) keeps walking on them because they are on a heat mat.  At least she hasn't slept on them yet (I think the light hangs too low for her to get comfortable).  I'm considering setting her up on a heating pad of her own, but haven't gotten around to tracking down the heat mat.
We did a little spring cleaning associated with the Rural Action scrap metal drive.  Nice!

The tractor was helpful in moving scrap metal.

Load 2 of 3.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tomato Census

Sungold: 3 My favorite cherry.  It's orange and sweetly delicious and I can't imagine anything better.  They also get started pretty early.  As the weather gets cold, the sweetness definitely fades, though, and they can be mealy in October.

Matt's Wild Cherry: 2 This plant suffered from being oversold.  Johnny's seed catalog says, "The wild tomato with lucious taste.  These small cherry tomatoes are packed with more taste thatn you can believe.  5/8-3/4", deep red, round fruits have a tender, smooth texture, and loads of sweet, full flavor.  High sugar content.  Shawn heard that the founder of Johnny's was given some as he got into his car for a drive.  He ate one and it was so delicious that he didn't eat any more so he could save the seeds.  We were very excited to grow this.  They were terrible!  They were tiny, but sour and thick-skinned.  I don't think we'll grow them again.

Giant Tree: 2 I can't exactly remember these, but I do remember that the plant was nicely upright.  I think I was happy with the fruits as well.  We'll grow them again this year.

Tomcat: 3 These tomatoes with the ruined name have been very good for us.  We're out of seed or would have had more last year.  They make smallish fruits (c.3" diameter) that are perfectly red and round.  Several are often ready at the same time so they can be on the vine--just like at the grocery store! They also remain pretty firm when ripe.  They are very popular with our customers who believe a tomato should be red and round.  On the other hand, the stems pull off without injuring the fruit, so they can be easily stacked without poking holes in their neighbors.

Siletz: 2 These are an early variety from right here in Oregon.  They don't taste great, but they do come early.  We'll continue to grow them.

Marvel Stripe: 4 This was our first year for these and they are definitely keepers.  I LOVE the combination of red and yellow, which was also popular at Foley Station, our favorite restaurant and excellent customers.  ason and Christian gave us the book The Heirloom Tomato last year, which is what I refer to as garden pornography--incredible, sumptuous photographs of tomatoes, which makes you drool in the middle of winter.  Anyway, it says this plant is from Oaxaca and was grown at San Juan Pueblo at 6000 and was introducted by Peace Seeds of Corvallis.  How could I not love it?

Ana Russian: 4 This would be my favorite if it didn't look so sickly in the early part of the season.  The fruit is a giant, ox-heart shaped fruit which is very meaty.  It is delicious to eat, good for canning, and for saucing.  It has a nice pinky-redness too.  Apparently another plant out of Corvallis.

Aunt Ruby: 3 I like having a green beefsteak, but I'm not 100% sure this is the best one.  Aunt Ruby is relatively early, but not so prolific.  Maybe she just had a bad year.

San Marzano: 5 I know I'm supposed to be super excited about these, but I'm really not.  Saucing tomatoes aren't good for anything but canning and saucing.  I did actually do a whole batch of just saucers, and since they minimize seeds/water, they work for that, but don't really taste any better.  I think we'll just have a few Roma-styles.

Green Zebra: 2 I do love these.  They have a fantastic citrusy flavor.  The Heirloom Tomato has a great story about the development of this plant by Tom Wagner at the age of 10:
"I bred that up when I was a kid back in the fifties.  I was getting seeds from Glecklers, and I got the Evergreen and thought it was a crazy-ooking tomato.  It was late-maturing and I couldn't get the thing to ripen; I didn't know when it was ripe.  It was cracking and by the time I picked it I had to almost carry it in both hands to get to the house before it would either crack more or fall apart in my hands.  I thought it was the perfect tomato for trowing at people; they would be all green and nobody would know what hit them.  Well, Evergreen cracked, so I went down to Atchison, Kansas [nine miles away] because there was a fellow there growing some old tomatoes, and he said they were the best tomatoes he had, and they didn't crack.  So I thought, 'I'm going to make my Green Zebra a noncracking tomato.'  So I crossed those two tomatoes.  The Kansas fellow's hybrid was red.  I didn't know what the results would be, but the Evergreen crossed with a red tomato is a red tomato.  So I saved the seed again, thinking maybe I could to better than that.  I finally got a good green tomato that didn't crack, and I called that Glamour Evergreen.
"But then I didn't stop there.  I wanted something different, and I was crossing some striped tomatoes...I picked up varieties that had a little striping on them--it wasn't very much.  I crossed the striped tomato in with another variety that didn't crack, and I was trying to get more stripes on it.  I was working on different levels of stripe--10, 20, 40, 60 percent--I wanted different leves fo striping on it to make it more beautiful.  So when I crossed this improvement with my Glamour Evergreen, once again, I got a red tomato.  It was worthless.  I could hardly see the stripes on it.  So I saved the seed, put the plants out in the garden, saved seed from those, put them in the greenhouse that I had built, saved the seed, put the plants out in the garden, doubling up the seeds.  And finally I realized that I wasn't getting the flavor I wanted in the greenhouse.  I was looking for something that had more zing to it.  So as I was going through my Green Zebra look-alikes at the time, I found one that had 80% stripes, some 90, 60, 20%.  I settled on one with about 60% stripes.  I liked the flavor and I thought that had to be it: It has stripes and it's green and I know when it's ripe and it doesn't crack.  I had to show it to my dad and mom and all my relatives.  Their response was, 'We'll see you in the funny papers.  You're not going anywhere with that!'  So then I thought Green Zebra was going to be a total loser and nobody would want it."

Moonglow: 2 This too is a favorite.  Shawn picked it out of Seeds of Change because it won tomato of the year.  It has a great yellow/orange color.  It is firm and meaty and lasts well.  It tastes fantastic--one of my favorites on a sandwich.

Wapsipilicum Peach (or something like that): 2 Peach tomatoes are just a little too weird.  It's fuzzy like a peach.  They are very small--too big to be a cherry but too small to be much else.  Merlyn from Foley Station really likes them. They are sweet and perfumey; more in a fruity sort of way that in a savory tomato sort of way.  We'll keep growing them, but not more than two plants.  The plants are prolific with very thick foliage--it's hard to get to the tomatoes.

Kellogg's Breakfast: 4 My favorite orange tomato.  Meaty and delicious.

American Dream: 2 If I'm remembering properly, these were impressive.  I have to check where they were and make sure I remember.  If so, I wouldn't mind growing more.

Celebrity: 6 This was our red, round tomato for the year.  It did well.  I think they came on a little later than I would have liked, but so did everything else last year.

Legend: 2 Another early that is good for being early but otherwise unremarkable.

Viva Italia: 3 Another Roma-styel.

Wins All: 5 Also don't quite remember.  I think it's just a basic brandywine.  Tasty in the way brandywines are.

Jefferson Brandywine: 4 We bought seeds from Monticello on a trip many years ago and have grown them ever since.  I think we had Jason and Christian resupply us once, but I suspect we're really out this year.

Brandywine: 2

Black Krim: 2 These are weird looking, but satisfactory.  They have some nice tang.  Their color doesn't appeal to me as much as the Marvel Stripe, but we'll keep growing them.

Eggplant Census

Fairy Tale: 15 These continue to be some of our favorites.  They are purple and white, small, early, and prolific.  This seemed like a reasonable number.

Purple Long: 3 These didn't have a great year.  I do like to have a few of these, even though people don't much buy them.

Galine: 24 These are the regular eggplant.  This and Black Beauty have been successful for us, but Galine is easier to find these days.  We didn't get much production until late, but I think in a better year this would have been a good number.  If we planted everything expecting a year like we had last year, in a good year we would have way more food than we could deal with.  Eggplant suffer from not having a good method of preservation.  A couple of years ago I stored some in olive oil, but I'm afraid to serve them to other people in case there is a way botulism could get in there.  Plus, I'm just not that crazy about eggplant.

Thai Green: 5 These seemed more popular this year.  One problem (from the farmer's perspective) with these is that the skin is very thin (which is an advantage from the eating perspective), which leads to scratches as the wind blows the fruit against the plant.  If they are too scarred up, people won't buy them.

Thai Pea: These were an experiment this year.  They sounded cool, but their growing season is way too long for us.  The plants were huge (3.5-4' tall) and sturdy, but they didn't bloom until into September as I recall.  No fruit actually set.  So I don't think we'll have them this year.  I've been tempted by the small white eggplant, especially since we saw them growing in Tanzania.  Although we like growing weird stuff, people don't so much like buying it, so we'll have to think about it.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Pepper Census

Hot Peppers
Serrano 12 plants: This seemed like a reasonable number.  The plants did really well.
Mariachi 11: I don't remember this seeming excessive this year.
Ancho 6: We could use more of these.  Also some work on staking them.  I think maybe we should put them in tomato cages.
Anaheim 16: Had it been a better pepper year, this probably would have been enough.
JalapeƱo 15: Perhaps too many.
Thai 5: These are tiny little guys.  I don't anticipate picking more than a couple of plants.
Habanero 4: Not a good year.  Probably plenty of plants.
Garden Salsa 6: Again, in a normal year, this would have been enough.
Cayenne 4: Seems like there were more of these plants.  Anyway, there were enough cayennes.
India 4: Enough.
Orange Fogo 3: I think we're out of these seeds and probably could live without growing them again.
Red Demon 5: Again, out of seed.  But I really like these; they dry nicely and have a good shape.

Hot and Sweet
Krimson Lee 6: Shawn's favorite.
Alma 18: Too many, but it takes a great number to make a reasonable amount of paprika.  Few actually ripened.

Mexi bell 6: I didn't like these because they looked just like bell peppers.  I was afraid I'd mix them up and sell them to people who didn't want any heat.  There was very little heat and they were yummy--perked up a salad, but too much stress over mixing them up.
Fajita 9: Same as Mexi bell, only hotter.
Pepperoncini 6: These pepperoncini were really big and had very little heat.  I preferred the ones we grew last year, which were really good pickled.  I'm not sure which exactly those were though.

Sweet Peppers
CA wonder 6: This is a good one.
Blushing beauty 5: These did well, but aren't that much sweeter than a bell.
Carmen 10: I was impressed.  They redden up nicely in a fairly short period of time and have a reasonable sweetness.
Lipstick 4: I liked these too.
Mini 6: These are nice to have just for a snack in the garden.  We sell them by the basket; it's hard to figure out the price point.
Aruba 7: I don't know; I think I might be happier with the blushing beauties/whitneys.
Whitney 7: Ripens reasonably quickly.  Kind of a creepy color, but overall good.
Red marconi 12: I think the carmens should replace these.

More From Last Year

The onions are coming along fine.  Can't tell yet whether having more room is making them happy or not.  They spent a week in the house and now they're back out in the greenhouse.  Sandy loaned us some neat trays that today I will plant with lettuce--hopefully seedling pictures next week.

One of the things that took up lots of time last fall was our water system.  We originally set ourselves up down at Teri's because of the excellent exposure, the fertility of the hog lot, and the gravity fed water system.  The cistern soon didn't work so well and Teri and Monte were kind enough to let us use their well water.  We ran a hose from Gladys' house to the garden; all water came off the one hose.  You couldn't water a whole lot at once, but it worked well enough.

In the fall, it all fell apart.  There had been a leak for a while near Teri's well house.  It got much worse and so Teri dug it up to investigate.  Part of the problem was the line to Gladys' house.  The easiest thing to do was cut it and cap it.  No more water through our usual system.  To get us through, we had hoses running from Teri's well house, but they certainly were in the way.  Luckily, it was getting late in the year and water wasn't so crucial.  

The problem.

Suddenly, it was time to develop a plan for a new water system.  How many spigots?  Where do we want them?  Might we expand?  A decision was made, although perhaps in haste.  The backhoe came and dug trenches--some through plants.
The zucchini payed the highest price for the new water system.
 The new system is a 3" diameter pipe.  Shawn and Teri placed the pipe and glued it all together.  I did my best to seat it--make sure that it was sitting on dirt rather than air and then cover it so that when the backhoe came to fill in it hopefully didn't break the pipe.  We now have at least four places where spigots emerge.  Also, it's remarkably easy to turn off the water and drain the system.  There was, unfortunately, one break that developed, way at the end of the line.  A 3" line can put out a lot of water.  Teri found it and stopped it from getting worse.  Sometime this spring we'll have to fix it.
The pre-seated pipe.
 A couple cool critter pictures, because I like them.
Mr. Toad hung out in front of our house for a while.  Luckily Andy didn't eat him (as far as we know).

This yellowjacket wanted to come in the house.