This is the last harvest of the year. No, this is. Actually, there’s one more.

I thought this was pretty much the last of the garden produce, aside from the odd tomato (and then the lemongrass stalks I harvested while transplanting the plants into indoor pots for the winter):

october-harvest

But when we cleaned up the tomato bed in late October, we ended gleaned plenty more, some with more appealing looks than others, plus a few more peppers:

tomato-gleaning

The fall peas, planted in August, were still there, and we’d noticed the¬†white flowers. But we’d given up on any actual pods. Guess the Brit planted too late, we said. No bees around to pollinate, we decided.

november-pea-flowers

And then we spotted this, while mulching leaves for the compost bin. I think there may be about three pods.

november-pea-pod

Lesson learned. Plant in July if there is room in the bed. Otherwise don’t bother.

Feeding the tomato plants, naturally

It’s July 1 and I’m excited that we have a few green tomatoes among our dozen or so tomato plants. It’s been an unusually dry June, so some plants are still on the small side. No idea when they’ll ripen. But the lemon boy plant has this:

lemon boy tomato july 1 2016

And one of the Caspian pinks is offering up this:

caspian pink july 1 2016

I won’t show you the smaller ones, but I’m hoping I can get a growth spurt going thanks to a gift from some friends — a big bag of extremely light, extremely fluffy Lancaster county cow manure. Honestly, this is so light, it feels like sawdust. Sold by the honor system for $5 a bag. Honestly, the horse farm down the road should bag up its aged manure and sell it on the side of the road too.

tomato food

We don’t use chemical fertilizers, and we still need to put down last fall’s mulched leaves/compost as a way to feed the soil and keep down weeds. So I’ve put a trowel full of manure around each plant, plus some egg shells for calcium and to create obstacles for creepy crawly bugs, and have tried to water it all in. Maybe I should give them another dose next week?

fed tomato plant july 1 2016

Adding to the garden

Our flower beds are packed… but that doesn’t keep me from thinking about additions.

So far I’ve kept it pretty much to just an idea — except for this Weigela “Prince Red” that is supposed to bloom all summer long. Love the burgundy! We’ve put it in the backyard where we are thinking of creating a private “room”, and this could be a wall. We’ll see what happens as it expands. And yes, it’s not a deer favorite.

weigelia red prince

I’d like to add more red to the front garden — blanket flower or helenium or … I’d have to subtract a bit first to make room. Or maybe the red day lilies will be more prolific and visible in their new home (at least I think I moved them out of the sea of black-eyed Susans last year).

Amazingly, the lenten roses are still blooming in May. The daffodils unfortunately are long gone.

lenten rose in may

And we’re starting to plant the vegetable beds. One of the leek containers imported from Indiana went in this weekend (about two dozen seedlings), as did the Yukon Gold seed potatoes I found there. Got to put in the other leek container in the coming days.

Carrots, kale, lettuce are in. Lemon basil is ready for planting.

Tomatoes will go in soon too. We’ve snared one of the new Rutgers 250 variety, and we have a mystery variety from an Indiana friend. Sun golds are growing … and who knows how we’ll fill the remaining space? We are limiting ourselves to no more than 10 plants this year. Famous last words!

The garden in April

((Apologies — this was written in April and then never published))

DaffodilsNo joke: Our first daffodil bloomed this year on April Fool’s Day.

As I look back at previous years, I realize just how late that is. I’ve blogged about the first blooming in early March one year, mid-March another year. But this was a brutal winter, with snow on the ground until mid-March (end of March before the last was gone from some parking-lot mounds or super-shady bits of the neighborhood), and even after that, we’d be teased with a wonderfully sunny spring day that would be followed by freezing temperatures and at least the threat of flakes.

But with April, we seem to finally be getting warmer temperatures. And today I can’t count the number that are in bloom. A couple of hundred for sure, I’d say, though almost exclusively two varieties: All bright yellow with a big trumpet or a very pale yellow with a bright yellow trumpet. The clumps are getting bigger, too, which means I need to put dividing daffodils and mixing them up more as I replant on the spring to-do list. (I’ll never find them if I wait until fall).

The forsythia is also running late. It looks like it could burst out tomorrow, though.

As for the seedlings in the basement, we have nowhere near a 100% germination rate. That’s probably a good thing, given how many seeds I planted! Though I’d have like a bit more variety than what we have. As it is, we’ve already transplanted 18 tomato seedlings out of seed-starter mix, including six Brandywines and even more of Sophie’s Choice, an extra-early determinate heirloom from Canada that apparently delivers relatively large, flavorful tomatoes. Determinate means all the flowers come at once, rather than continuing all summer, but I will be thrilled if we are eating garden tomatoes before the Fourth of July.

We also have some Blondkopfchen heirloom yellow cherry tomatoes and a couple of Ananas Noir heirlooms, which I think will be mostly green with more red at the base and then more green inside. If nothing else, they will add some interesting contrast to a plate of sliced tomatoes and mozzarella.

Clearly I’ll be giving plenty of these away (this year’s bed has room for eight plants, though maybe I can get away with two Sophie Choice plants elsewhere, or in containers, to say nothing of the neighbor’s raised bed…), but hopefully I’ll also be able to swap for a different variety or two.

Setting myself up for a tomato glut

Every year I vow that I will restrain myself with tomato plants. And I do — sort of — when it comes time to put them in a raised bed. But I am less restrained when it comes to starting seeds. After all, you never know what will germinate and what will flop, right? (And last year, the Brit pushed for using up all those Sungold seeds…) So I usually find myself foisting plants on colleagues and/or appropriating space in a neighbor’s bed.

This year could be at least as bad.

In the quest to use up many of the seeds we have so that I can justify those blue indigo tomatoes next year, I have planted 27 plugs, each with a few seeds because, hey, they’re old so will they all germinate? If they all do, I’ll end up with close to 100 plants — probably enough for the entire neighborhood! But that’s a problem for another day, to sort of borrow a phrase from Scarlett O’Hara. In the meantime, I think (hope?) I’ve found a good way to keep track of all of them at least until it’s time to transplant them into bigger containers.

the tomato-planting plan

The good part is that I did use up a lot of the seeds. And that if it all flops, it’s early enough that I can start another round. The bad part is that I still have quite a few, though the variety is much more manageable for that second round. I didn’t even touch the unopened pouch of black cherry tomatoes, which was a tough thing to do. And maybe I’ll find someone who’ll swap a Sungold or a Sunsugar (even sweeter) for one of mine.

Even if I can’t pull off that last part, I could have quite the colorful tomato salad, with nearly a dozen types of tomatoes. The assortment includes plenty of Brandywines (two different gifts of seeds), an orange variety, yellow plum, yellow cherry, a chocolate stripe and more.

And heck, if I’m going to get my fingers all dirty and start a heat mat, I might as well try some other seeds. So the last of a pack of miniscule alyssum seeds is planted, as is half a pack of white nicotiana that I hope will add a wonderful scent to the deck on a summer’s evening.

Next round: Basil? Salad greens?