From Farmer Wannabe

Bulbs, Bulbs, Bulbs!

It’s fall! BRRRRR…..

Our garden is in constant need of improving. It causes me a good bit of stress because I *love* gardens and yet not much grows (that’s worthy of note, we do have plenty of weeds 🙂 ) in our yard because of the trees, trees, trees. I’m having hubby save up for some major tree cutting but it will be a while. They gave us an estimate last year to cut down THREE trees — approx. $1000. Not fun. The bad thing is that we have black walnut and honey locust aplenty, and the roots are toxic, so unless I put raised beds all over, not much will grow well. NO WONDER our tomatoes and eggplants the past few years had been sickly. And I thought it was me! The annoying thing is that even if we had raised beds all over, we’d still have too much shade. I would *love, love, love* a cottage garden — except I was doing some reading on *real* cottage gardens the other day and hah! The first sentence jumps out at me: “The first thing you need if you want a real cottage garden is….. (tadaaa!) a cottage.” This house wouldn’t look like a cottage even if I took a bulldozer and a wrecking ball to it. Plus the kids and the hubby won’t like that. So…. I’m stuck with the house, but I’m not really complaining, but not having the garden of my dreams is getting to me. Hubby says, though, as he is wont to say…. “one thing at a time.” Yes, dear.

So. A few days ago, I placed yet another order with my favorite bulb place: Brent and Becky’s Bulbs. This time I ordered some Pink Pearl hyacinthus that I last grew in Pennsylvania; some muscari to fill up the other half of the space under our tri-colored beech; and tulips, again, to replace the ones that died a couple of years ago. You’d think no one can kill tulips but die they did. It may have had something to do with an over-eager weed whacker, a.k.a. my darling husband.

Besides those, I placed an order with a new company — The Maine Potato Lady, for garlic and onion sets. I will plant the garlic beside the roses…. it’s been a perpetual wish of mine to plant some garlic there and annoy my landscape-obsessed neighbor, who’s always giving me tips like “use bleach on your lawn to get rid of the dandelions, blah blah blah”…. The onions will go *somewhere* not too conspicuous but still towards the front yard so I have easy access to water while keeping them far away from the toxic trees. One of these days we’ll get things right.

Another great place to buy garlic: The Garlic Store. Those were the best Chesnok Reds I grew one year.


…. are really only lovely and adorable in books.

In real life, they are mean things that deserve to be put in paella.

Yesterday, I had 6 beautiful, unopened crocus buds. We were looking forward to taking pictures and sketching them this morning.

Today, I have 3 crocus blooms, and 3 bitten-off purple stumps. I am not amused. Maybe there’s a lesson out there somewhere that incorporates art, science and revenge. Maybe I’ll put cayenne pepper in the crocuses. Maybe I’ll put a picture of Mr. McGregor, large and menacing, beside those crocuses. Or maybe I’ll put a picture of the Fierce, Bad Rabbit with its tail cut off as a warning sign.

Rod Dreher and Michael Pollan Table Talk

Two of my favorite writers — Rod Dreher and Michael Pollan — talk food. Must read!

Some helpful resources:

Slow Food USA
Local Harvest
Eat Wild

And information:

a YouTube Playlist: Torn From the Land: The story of the take over of American farmers’ land by financial manipulation of world grain, interest, prices. The end result was the acquisition of family farms by corporations for 5 cents on the dollar.

Plus, how timely is this? Archbishop Migliore: Investing in Sustainable Agriculture

Wintersowing Journal, Part 2

Part 1 is here.

  • Blue (Okame spinach hybrid) out 3/27/08!! – moved to cold frame, + 3 yogurt cups: solanum molangena (Greek Gods), Bot Int Eggplant (Chocolate Underground), sanguisorba minor (french vanilla)
  • #201 Clear plastic soup tall – edamame Bot Int Tohya
  • Blue Bonnet – shikaku mame/Winged Bean Kitazawa
  • #203 Salad – Akahana fujimame – hyacinth bean Kitazawa
  • #204 Baby Spinach – yard long bean Kitazawa
  • #205 Green Mushroom – lemon/Thai basil Kitazawa
  • #206 Cool Whip – Thai Holy Basil, and ack! mistake: Strawberry Temptation
  • #207 Fage – Sapporo Hot Kitazawa
  • #208 clear – Coriander – out 4/2/08
  • #209 Fage – Snow Crown Cauliflower Fedco –
  • #210 Tall clear – Brassica rapa – raab – sprouted 3/25/08!
  • #211 small white yellow green – Prik Chi Faa
  • #212 salad New England Pie Pumpkin Fedco
  • 301 – stonyfield farm french vanilla – siam queen basil – out 4/2/08
  • 302 – galeux d’eysines squash x spectrum shortening
  • 303 – fairy tale eggplant – impatiens x
  • 304 – green zebra tomato – verbena venosa
  • 305 – clear plastic squat – marine heliotrope fedco x
  • 306 – Pruden’s Purple – Chocolate Sweet Pepper
  • 307 – Nancy’s Cottage Cheese – Rosita Eggplant
  • 308 – Big Salad – Black Kabouli Garbanzo Bean – sprouts 3/25/08!
  • 309 – Black Krim – Hatekana Mustard – sprouts 3/25/08!
  • 310 – Costoluto Genovese – Ruby Red Rhubarb Chard – out 4/2/08
  • 311 – Fage – Buttercup Squash x
  • 312 – Blue Mushroom – Cajun Jewel Okra
  • 313 – Stonyfield Large Vanilla – Sugar Baby Watermelon


sowed 3/12/08:

  • 501 – Blue Coco Pole Bean Org – Nancy’s yogurt plain – out 4/2/08
  • 502 – Stonyfield yog plain larkspur 7 dwarfs – out 4/2/08
  • 503 – big blue mushroom – armeria maritima bees hybrid mixed x – out 4/1/08
  • 601 – impatiens tempo cancun mix – i can’t find it!
  • 602 – bok choy – out 4/2/08!!!
  • 603 – butternut squash
  • 604 carmello – lumina
  • 605 – garland chrysanthemum
  • 606 – elecampane – johnny’s x
  • 607 tiny tim tomatoes
  • 608 x brandywine -+ purple broccoli – out 4/5/08

Part 1 is here.

Note: If you’re wondering about the number and container codes, it’s something that makes sense *to me*.

My Favorite Gardening Catalogs

Ongoing attempt to reduce the clutter around here…. getting rid of all my favorite gardening catalogs; yes, I have quite the pile.

The first part are all companies I’ve shopped from before; Renee’s Garden I ordered from when it was still “Shepherd’s Garden Seeds” which was bought by White Flower Farm. Papa Geno’s I haven’t ordered from in years but there were 3 years in a row back in the ’90’s when I was ordering from them and I was always very happy with the service and plants. I’ve included links to Garden Watchdog Reviews, which I always check before ordering from a company unknown to me — though sometimes if the deals are too good to pass up I’ll go ahead and order even if they’ve received a bad review before, e.g., Gilbert’s and Sons from whom I ordered some really nice peonies back ‘in ’04.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds | Garden Watchdog Review
The Natural Gardening Company | Garden Watchdog Review — this company’s great to order from if you’ve tried to raise organic tomatoes and other plants from seed and failed, or you ran out of time, etc. — I ordered from them last year.
Kitazawa Seed Company | Garden Watchdog Review – the best source for Asian seeds
Pinetree Garden Seeds | Garden Watchdog Review
J.L. Hudson, Seedsman | Garden Watchdog Review – THE source for unusual, hard-to-find, rare seeds; you get quite an education just from the catalog.
Gardener’s Supply Company | Garden Watchdog Review — this is an okay company if you’ve got money to spend on their gardening landscaping supplies, etc. I look mainly for inspiration, though they did have a bargain on a cold frame I’d been wanting last fall, so I went ahead and got it. Thinking of getting their tomato, eggplant and flower supports this year.
Fedco Seeds | Garden Watchdog Review – if you’re looking for bargain organic seeds, this is the place. Love the old-time illustrations on the black and white (or I should say, black and grey) catalog. The seed packets aren’t pretty but they serve the purpose, hey.
Territorial Seed Company | Garden Watchdog Review – I believe this is the company from whom I ordered my asparagus crowns in ’04. They did well except we left the house before we could harvest anything significant.
Brent and Becky’s Bulbs | Garden Watchdog Review – no complaints here, love this company.
Gourmet Seed International | Garden Watchdog Review – has good bargains from time to time.
Gardens Alive | Garden Watchdog Review – like this company for its coupons (hee) and its natural pest control, fertilizer stuff, etc.
Wood Prairie Farm | Garden Watchdog Review – I got salad mixes from and Egyptian walking onions from this one, and potatoes which I’m going to try this year.
Specialty Perennials | Garden Watchdog Review – another purveyor of hard-to-find seeds, love their flowers; I got the prettiest lupines in ’04.
Seeds of Change | Garden Watchdog Review – the very first company I ordered organic seed from, back in ’98-’02 (?) — some were still viable last year!
The Cook’s Garden | Garden Watchdog Review – good source for herbs and other veggie seeds. Love that their catalog is illustrated by Mary Azarian, one of our favorite artists — she illustrated Snowflake Bentley.
ValueSeeds | Garden Watchdog Review – the bargains!
Swallowtail Garden Seeds | Garden Watchdog Review – pretty seed packets, again, some unusual seeds.
Botanical Interests | Garden Watchdog Review – how one would be able to resist these lovely seed packet artworks, I have no idea.
Renee’s Garden | Garden Watchdog Review
Papa Geno’s Herb Farm | Garden Watchdog Review
American Meadows | Garden Watchdog Review
The Butchart Gardens | Garden Watchdog Review — some of the hard-to-find seeds that Jefferson was growing at Monticello, I found here.
Raintree Nursery | Garden Watchdog Review — ordered raspberry and blueberry canes from them in ’04. They did okay but I don’t know how they are now at our previous home.

Haven’t bought from these, but I like to browse their catalogs for inspiration, and reference for future orders:

White Flower Farm | Garden Watchdog Review
D. Landreth Seed Company |Garden Watchdog Review
Musser Forests |Garden Watchdog Review
Dripworks | Garden Watchdog Review
Seed Savers Exchange | Garden Watchdog Review
High Country Gardens | Garden Watchdog Review
Horizon Herbs | Garden Watchdog Review
Forest Farm | Garden Watchdog Review
Mischel’s Greenhouses | Garden Watchdog Review
Wildseed Farms | Garden Watchdog Review
Kinsman Company | Garden Watchdog Review

The Watchdog Top 30

Wintersowing Journal

started 28 January 2008 and succeeding days:

Row 1

  1. valeriana officinalis – valerian
  2. satureja montana – winter savory
  3. salvia officinalis – broadleaf sage
  4. rosmarinus
  5. pisum sativum – snow pea
  6. perennial oregano
  7. marrubium vulgare – horehound
  8. spearmint
  9. levisticum officinale – lovage
  10. cress fine curled
  11. inula helenium – elecampane
  12. hyssopus officinalis
  13. arugula – germinated week of 2/11/08, some died, okay again 3/25/08
  14. carum carvi – caraway

Row 2

  1. purple top white globe turnip
  2. flowering chinese leek
  3. bellis perennis
  4. aubretia – sprouts 3/25/08!!
  5. stachys byzantina
  6. antirrhinum majus Night and Day
  7. agastache rugosa honey bee white – mexican mint – 24″ to 32″ tall
  8. tradescantia andersoniana
  9. anchusa azurea
  10. pansy black – sprouts 3/25/08!!
  11. herb thyme old english
  12. phormium
  13. geranium Black Magic
  14. polyanthus Gold Lace
  15. lychnis Molten Lava – sprouts 3/25/08!!!

Row 3:

  1. sisyrinchium bellum
  2. viola odorata Queen Charlotte
  3. herb parsley wild – sprouts 3/25/08!!!
  4. four o’clock, from Bethany – sprouts 3/25/08!!
  5. monarda – Red Shades – Fedco
  6. muscari
  7. ratibida columnaris – Mexican Hat
  8. gloriosa daisy
  9. wildflowers (American Meadows) – sprouts 3/25/08!!
  10. wildflowers (Fothergills
  11. mixed sunflowers – Yena
  12. sunflower giant single – sprouts 3/25/08!!
  13. bellis perennis
  14. Wood Prairie Farm Fall and Winter Mix (salad)
  15. scabiosa black and white

Row 4:

  1. gypsophila Covent Garden
  2. ipomoea morning glory small blue – sprouts
  3. Papaver nudicale poppy iceland
  4. penstemon strictus
  5. scabiosa pink purple
  6. salvia azurea
  7. stokes aster blue
  8. scabiosa columbaria nana – germinated 3/6/08
  9. shasta daisy sprouts 3/25/08
  10. gaillardia
  11. candytuft – 2 kinds of seeds(?) — small and REALLY LARGE
  12. sprouts 3/25/08
  13. Forellenschluss lettuce sowed 3/6/08 – sprouts 3/25/08
  14. Arnica – sowed 3/6/08
  15. Lingue de Camarino Lettuce (sowed 3/6/08) – sprouts 3/25/08

Row 5, Sowed 3/6/08:

  1. Lady’s Mantle (sowed 3/6/08) – #104
  2. Lavender
  3. Sweet Valentine Lettuce – sprouts 3/25/08
  4. Rue
  5. Lemon Balm #108
  6. Borage
  7. Wild Bergamot
  8. Rose de Berne tomato
  9. Aunt Lilian’s Yellow tomato
  10. Golden Gopher Muskmelon (the beginning of trust 🙂 )
  11. Borettana Cipollini onion
  12. Par-Cel Cutting Celery
  13. Golden Purslane (first in Fage yogurt cup) #116
  14. Chervil
  15. Sweet Basil
  16. Caraway and Early Jalapeno Hot Pepper

Part 2 here.

Wintersowed #1

I finished up the last of my seeds of the ff:

Mentha spicata – Spearmint – Plantation 2006
Rosmarinus officinalis – Fothergills
Marrubium vulgare – Horehound – Fedco 2004
Bellis perennis – English Daisy True Wild Type – JL Hudson 2004
Mirabilis jalapa unknown color 2005
Brassica rapa – Purple Top White Globe Turnip – Seeds of Change 2002
Rudbeckia hirta Gloriosa daisy rustic colors from trade 2004
Wildflower Mix American Meadows 2007
Monarda didyma Panorama Red Shades Bee Balm Fedco 2004
Satureja montana – Winter savory – Fedco 2004
Inula helenium – Elecampane – Fedco 2004
Salvia officinalis – Broadleaf sage – Fedco 2004
Stachys byzantina 2004 self-gathered
Pisum sativum – Sugar Pod 2 Snow Pea – Seeds of Change 2004
Polyanthus Gold Lace – Mr. Fothergill’s 2007
Perennial oregano
Chrysanthemum maximum Alaska – Shasta Daisy – Butchart 2005
Scabiosa mix pink-purple-maroon from trade 2004
Scabiosa columbaria ‘Nana’ from Donn 2004
Penstemon strictus from trade 2005
Gaillardia Blanket Flower from trade 2004
Stokesia laevis – from Carolyn 2004

so they’re now off my exchange list, and going into my “waiting for” pile. Hopefully they’ll sprout this year so I can get more seeds.

Artichoke Planning

At the writing class our coach brought a humongous artichoke as our first “subject”. My first thought was “this must have been shipped in from California!” But I wasn’t prepared to write a lengthy piece about fossil fuel and eating local, so I wrote instead on the difficulties of growing artichoke from seed. And about finding baby ones in Rome and taking them home to the castle/cottage to cook them, deep-fried in olive oil, and sprinkled with some lemon juice. Carciofi alla Romana…. Yum!!

I’ve got my garden plan in hand and wondering… Should I try again? We love artichoke too much not to. At least I found some encouragement on the ‘net:

Globe artichokes are started from seeds. In most northern temperate zones they are treated as two season crop because they take two seasons to reach a size to produce useable flowerbuds. Since they are hardy to zone 9 only, the plants have to be overwintered indoors in zone 6. You dig them after the first frost, place them in barely moist peat moss and keep at 5 to 10 degrees Celsius (40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit) over the winter. Do not allow to get dry and replant after all danger of frost is past. Keeping the plants in deep pots and moving the pots to a frost free, cool place for the winter will work even better.

Recently the director of the Devonian Botanic Garden in Edmonton, Alberta, in zone 3, told us that he has been growing globe artichokes reliably for over a decade as a single season crop, not as a two season crop suggested in the previous paragraph. The key is to start seeds early indoors (he starts them in January or February) and to provide ample direct sunlight so that the seedlings can develop to a good size by the time it is safe to plant outdoors in May. Outdoors, the plants get rich soil, full sun, and ample water.

– from

I grew this plant for several years (zone 6/7). Each fall, cut foliage to ground and mulch heavily. Did not do too well, produced few artichoke buds of edible size – may need very rich soil, more feeding to flourish this far north.

– Greenknee at

– see comment at end of

– and

A greatly improved variety that is vigorous and prolific Perennial, but produces the first year from seed, so is good in cold regions (Zone 6 and colder) where artichokes should be treated as an annual or the roots dug and stored for the winter like flower bulbs. Huge silver leaves with deeply cut margins make it one of the best ornamental edibles, with any uneaten buds opening into thistle-like blue flowers. Medicinal: detoxifies liver, gallbladder etc

– from

This is the one I want to grow!:

Violetto Artichoke
From the north of Italy we bring you the artichoke of aristocrats, Violetto. This violet-bracted ‘choke has small, oval, slightly elongated flower heads that measure 3 inches wide by 5 inches long. A bit later maturing than Green Globe, Violetto will produce abundant crops of mouthwatering artichokes for at least 4 years. Divine when served with melted butter or plain yogurt blended with a touch of mustard. Hardy to zone 6.

The question really is — should I start it now or wait to wintersow? If my efforts fail, I do have a backup — a nice little company I’m keeping secret for now. Heeee….

When You’ve Got 406

Seeds, that is, you KNOW it’s time to stop gathering/collecting/trading/buying and start planting.

The breakdown:

106 vegetables
1 fruit
41 herbs/spices
258 flowers

I will be wintersowing these, so I’m getting my soil and my containers ready. Still have to get that plastic sheet though.

How I’m going to fit all of this in our 1/3 of an acre, I have no idea. My problem is actually getting rid of/planting all of the seeds. When I sow them, I leave at least half of the packet to make sure I have “insurance”, in case they don’t germinate. I suppose it’s still that hoarding mentality I need to let go of. I *am* thankful I saved a lot of them though, since there were years I sowed but didn’t harvest seeds.

My updated seed list is here! Not looking to trade at the moment, but if you happen to have any of the few things remaining on my wish list, e-mail me and I’ll reconsider!

And Now Roses and (Wine) Grapes

I’ve got 5 rose bushes that I haven’t bothered to find out the names of (heh, that persistent preposition again) — and now I found a note in my files from way back …. saints’ and Our Lady’s names for roses! Like I need to plan yet another garden… but good for reference, maybe someday when I have a better feel for the neighbors and won’t be so scared about turning our yard into a Wildlife-Federation-Certification-worthy sanctuary.

My Papa loves roses, and his garden (okay, I should say his and my mom’s, she does quite a bit too) is kept pretty much weed-free all year. This year my favorites were his beans which he grew on improvised climbing posts made from pruned branches. His roses… he’s got quite a variety, I think 20+ at one point. A few years ago I got him a rose bush from Bologna as a reminder of their Italy trip. I keep telling him to plant garlic all around them (roses love garlic) to maximize the space, but he’s not listening 😀 . My mom, OTOH, is growing grapes — their patio is surrounded by grape vines (among other viney things). They’re really sweet — but not seedless. I think they’ll make excellent wine. (Mommy, if you’re reading this, maybe winemaking could be another hobby you and I can get into when you retire!)

More About Perennial Vegetables

I take back what I said about this book. The more I read it, the more I want to plant these veggies! And they’re not that difficult to find after all. I’m now having regrets about leaving behind the plot-ful of Hemerocallis fulva at our old home. Even more regrets knowing I could have cooked with them!!!

Foraging / harvesting from the wild has long held an appeal for me, though I’ve never been on a hike with Steve Brill. But I can’t ever trust myself to walk around a forest and try to eat / cook things. However, I *can* grow plants in my yard, and even better if they’re perennial crops that I won’t have to worry about from year to year. The only ones I’m staying away from are the ones that have poisonous parts/relatives.