Monday, February 27, 2012

Spinach Germination Update

An update on the pre- sprouted spinach seeds.

'Scarlet' spinach was pre-sprouted beginning on2/21/2012.  Seeds sprouted on 02/23/2012, sown on the same day, germinated on 02/25/2012.  The seed came from Pinetree Seed and was dated 2006.  Here they are today.

'Scarlet' spinach seedlings.

The spinach that was written about and pictured on 02/24/2012.  These were planted in 6 packs on 02/25/2012 and began sprouting on 02/27/2012.  The seeds were dated 2008, 'America' and 'Viking' and 2011 for the 'Giant Nobel'.  Here is the 'Gian Nobel' today.  All cells have sprouted.

'Giant Nobel' spinach seedlings.

This seems to be an efficient and fast way to start your spinach.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Seedling Update & More Pre- Sprouting

Here's an update on the shallot seedlings.  They are three weeks old now and doing great, I'm thinking of giving them a trim soon as some are starting to flop.

'Ambition' shallots at 3 weeks.

'Primero' red cabbage germinated in two days.  I'm trying a much earlier start this year as they take 20 days longer than my green cabbage.

'Primero' cabbage at 4 days.

After the success with pre- sprouting spinach, I dug into the seed stores and pulled out 4 types of swiss chard.  I have grown it before and never used it.  This year I'm definitely going to use it as it full of nutrients etc, and can be very ornamental.  The seeds were not soaked, but went onto damp coffee filters soaked in a weak fertilizer solution.  As an FYI, the weak fertilizer solution contains nitrates which are supposed to aid in germination of older seed.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Pre- Sprouting Spinach Seed

Like almost everyone else I have very uneven germination from direct sown spinach.  Last week I came across a a mention of pre-sprouting spinach and then potting it up to use as transplants.  Wednesday night I dug in my seed hoard and came up with three old packs of spinach.  One pack from 2006, two from 2008 and one from 2011.  The results have been terrific.

On Wednesday night I soaked the seeds in water and a few drops of liquid fertilizer.  Thursday morning the cups were drained and the seeds were placed on a damp coffee filter soaked with the same solution.  They were placed in a plastic bag and placed on top of the refrigerator.

The coffee filter filled with seed.

I checked them when I got home from work and this what I found.

'Giant Nobel' spinach sprouting in 2 days.

Most of the seedlings have begun to sprout and are ready for potting up.
Those above are the 'Giant Nobel' seeds from 2011.  The 'Scarlet' from 2006, 'America' and 'Viking' from 2008 have results just as good.  This method may also work with direct sowing.

Now I just have to get them all potted up!

This method is definitely worth trying if you have had germination problems direct sowing spinach.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


In 2001 Park seed was having an end of the season grab bag sale.  I ordered two (of course they were both the same), and was not very excited about the contents.  The other day when I was going through my VAST stock of old seeds, I came across one of them. 

On Sunday I decided to fill a few extra cups and scattered some 'Biondissima Trieste' chicory on top.  Imagine my amazement this morning when I checked and some a few white roots emerging.  I was shocked at any germination from 11 years old seed, let alone two day germination.  I can't wait to see what the germination percentage is.

Now I have to take closer look at what else was in that grab bag...

Saturday, February 18, 2012

First Flowers of the Season!

Imagine my surprise when I went out this morning on a walk around the yard and found a patch of crocus in full flower, basking in the morning sun.

'Blue Pearl' snow crocus patch.

Here is a close up.

'Blue Pearl' snow crocus close up.

My 'Ice Follies' daffodils are well advanced for Feb as the bud stems are starting to elongate.

'Ice Follies' daffodil clump.

Photo's from previous years put the stage of growth for these bulbs in mid March!  I guess I better get busy as the season looks like it's going to be a month early this year.  

Friday, February 17, 2012

Container Gardening 2- Thrillers, Fillers and Spillers

Thrillers, chillers and Spillers are the tenants for ornamental containers.  Simply put, thrillers are those plants that have the "WOW" factor.  Fillers are the ones that will fill out the containers, preferably something that will enhance the thriller.  Spillers are the trailing plants at the outer edge to soften the lines of the planting.

Right now I'm in the process if the planning the six sixteen inch pots that separate the paved area of the pool and the lawn.  There is a 2 foot band of white stones that they sit on.

In the above photo the thrillers are 'Fresh Look Red' or 'Fresh Look Yellow' celosia just about to bloom.  The fillers are 'Summer Jewels Red' salvia, 'Moonsong Deep Orange' marigolds and 'Merlin Blue Morn' Petunia.  The spiller is 'Carpet of Snow' alysum.

Right now I'm thinking of 'New Look' celosia for the thriller, 'Peter Pan Gold' and 'Profusion Double Gold' zinnias, 'Janie Gold' Marigold for the filler.  The spiller would be 'Peaches' and 'Carpet of Snow' alysum.

Another idea I'm considering is 'Jams n' Jellies Blackberry' vinca as the thriller, 'Zahara Starlight Rose' zinnia, 'Frillytunia White' petunia and 'Ideal Violet' dianthus as the fillers, 'Rosie O'Day' alyssum as the spiller.

The same principal can also be used with a group of containers, with individual types in each pot.

Above,  a grouping of four pots.  'Floradale Scarlet' zinnia is is the thriller.  'Black Velvet Scarlet' geranium (not visible at this angle), 'Fire Chief' petunia are the fillers.  the spiller is my favorite, 'Carpet of Snow' alyssum.

This year I'm going to try and apply these principles to groupings of edible and ornamental containers.

If you are going to plant some containers give this principle a try.  The results are worth it!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Have To Have It!

Every once in a while a plant comes out that, on first sight, I have to have.  Yesterday I found one, vinca 'Jams n' Jellies Blackberry', a recently awarded 2012 All America Selection.

Vinca 'Jams n' Jellies Blackberry'

I'm thinking that these may be the focal point of my pot's surrounding the pool, maybe with orange marigolds.  Now I only have to find the seeds from a company that doesn't charge $6 to ship one or two packs of seed.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

First Sprouts of the Season

Can spring be far behind?
Last week I sowed six cups with 'Ambition' shallots.  The seeds were from 2011 and never planted.  Knowing onion seeds have a limited shelf life I sowed the six cups as a experiment.  One week later each cup has sprouted so I sowed 12 more today.

'Ambition' shallot seedlings.
We are finally getting a real taste of winter.  High today was 25 deg Fahrenheit with a wind chill of 12 deg.  Thankfully this will only last through tomorrow.  After this very mild winter it will be galling if that groundhog turns out to be right.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Evolution of a Plan- Adapting a Victory Garden Plan

I've always been a huge fan of Victory Garden memorabilia.  Twice during the first half of the last century it was your civic duty to plant and raise vegetables.  During WW1 they were called War Gardens and the term Victory Garden was adopted during WW2.  Over the years I have acquired a few pieces of this memorabilia.  The Victory Garden Handbook has many plans, one for a miniature Victory Garden, shown below.  The garden is 11ft x 15ft, easily adapted to my space of 9ft x 16ft.

I've always wanted to plant a Victory Garden based on this plan using vintage varieties from that era.  Maybe next year for the vintage varieties...

Below is how the plan evolved.

From the Victory Garden Handbook

Spring- Adapted to the garden area.
 There is too much space for cabbage, and I really could use a path down the center to adapt the plan to wide rows.

Summer- Adapted to the garden area.
 There is too much space for turnips, and I really could use a path down the center to adapt the plan to wide rows.

Spring 2- Adding a path in the center.
 Adding a path down the center and the first tweak of the crops.

Summer 2- Adding a path in the center.
 Adding a path down the center.

Spring 3- Tweaking the crops to suit my needs.
 I don't use Swiss chard, it is replaced by snow peas.  There is a lot of unused space for the tomatoes and peppers.  I can now add arugula, more lettuce and Thai greens.  We don;t eat radishes so they are replaced with spinach and the onions are replaced with shallots.

Summer 3- Tweaking the crops to suit my needs.
Fro summer there are more bush beans, turnips replaced with summer lettuce, kale and collards have been added.

The only thing missing is space for pole beans, squash and cucumbers.  The area has a 6ft fence on two sides so I may be able to squeeze in the cucumbers and pole beans.  A butternut squash or two may work at the base of the tomatoes.

Seventy years later, the original plan seems to have been remained useful. 
I may use this plan, or the one I previously wrote about, or another one I'm currently developing based on a real Potager plan.  One of the great things about gardening is you are always dreaming...

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Seed Saving and the Tiny Garden

There are many reasons to save seeds.  Genetic preservation seems to be the most common theme one sees when researching this subject.  A good reason, but not the one that motivates me.  I try to save seed for a few reasons.  The main one is the variety is scarce commercially, my purple podded Pretty peas and Freezonian peas are examples.  Economy is a factor that has been influencing me as well.  With the cost of everything rising and postage for most seed companies at ridiculous rates, my seed orders have decreased dramatically in the last few years.  The best reason to save seed, in my not so humble opinion, is that after a few seasons you can develop strain that is uniquely adapted to your conditions and micro climates.  After all, you are only going to save seeds from your most vigorous, healthy and productive plants.  A strain that is adapted to your unique growing conditions is very easy to develop.

Now to the dilemma.  When you have a tiny garden space and want to to save seeds of certain crops, you are taking ways space from future harvests. Spring crops are the worst offenders.  I leave my peas in the garden until early July to ripen the seeds.  This backs up the next crop by a month.  I don't save lettuce seed for this reason either.  Small garden devoted to seed saving would seem to be the solution, but then I'd have to worry about cross pollination etc.  Also I have enough garden beds already.  This mountain is a rocky one!  Every bed must be hand dug and an area of 3' x 3' feet yields at least a pickle bucket of rocks the size of a quarter or larger.  Mulling over this dilemma this passed week and also thinking about my last post the bells went off in my head...CONTAINERS!!!

I can plant a container each of Ruby, Lingue de Canarino, Galactic lettuces and when they start to bud distribute them to out of the way spots and then harvest the seed.  No taking up garden space, proper isolation distances and I can select for late bolting.  I can do the same with my English peas and also select for heat resistance.  As an added bonus I can plant a pot of Pretty and Freezonian combined to see if I can get a cross of the two the try and sweeten up Pretty.  This strategy would also work for flowers.

I'll be updating my spring plans this weekend to add containers for seed saving and tweak the PSP.

Let me know what you think and why you save seeds.