The newest immigrants in our garden come from Mississippi and Maine

tomato plants from MississippiOnce again, we have used our travels to help stock the vegetable garden.

Four of our 15 (!) tomato plants (and it’s NOT my fault this time) are Brandywines we picked up at a farmers market in Jackson, Miss., in March. Four for $1.50 and the potential to get a jump on the tomato season was just too irresistible. (And for the record, you can take plants on an airplane as carry-on. I have done it several times.) I had expected one of the Brit’s colleagues would have wanted one or two in a trade, but nope. All the better for us.

It’s been a rainy and generally cool May and June, and the plants aren’t the tallest tomato plants we have. (That would be one of the sungolds we grew from seed.) But all four have yellow flowers, compared to just three of the others.

And when we were visiting friends in Maine last weekend, we stopped at a garden center that we had mail-ordered from many, many years ago. The prices were great then and still are attractive. Best of all, we found three varieties of leeks at 16 cents a tiny plug. Not that there was only one leek in each plug! So we have bigger, more established plants than the ones I had bought in Indiana last March that were perhaps as thin as a strand of angel hair pasta and which didn’t fare that well. (OK, I could have watered those more.)

leek seedlings from maineWe bought 18 plugs (six of each variety), so less than $3 before tax; we have more than twice that many plants. There’s the Megaton, which it seems should be harvested in the fall, rather than left to cope with snow; the Gervaria, which a seed company describes as a mid-season harvest; and the Lexton, which that same company describes as very frost-hardy. It will be an interesting experiment and taste test.

We also picked up a robust Canada Red rhubarb plant that looks like it could be three. I decided not to stress it by trying to divide it.

This is to make up for a frustrating experience with a national mail-order company. We ordered eight bare-root plants at the end of March; the lone Canada Red bare root in our order is now out of stock, as is our order of purple potato seedlings, and we’ve been told we won’t get them and had that portion of our order refunded. We’re still waiting on the Glaskin’s Purpetual (two sets of three bareroots — but worryingly, the website lists them as now out of stock, though our order is still listed) and the Crimson Red jumbo bareroot. The shipping date has been pushed back time after time, and I’ve been oh so tempted to cancel the whole thing. We will never use them again.

Our Maine friends also gave us some flowers that they are constantly dividing and moving. If they can survive the deer and the rabbits (and one has already been attacked by something), I’m going to let them fight it out with the Black-Eyed Susans. And I’ll post some photos.

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.