Just tryna get my web pages back to where they were before my hosting provider was hacked. Yes, they took backups.
A few weeks ago, I tested the viability of some older, packaged tomato seeds. Then I realized that there might be some beginners out there who don’t know how to do this.
Seed packages aren’t too expensive, but when you add in variety – I like to grow seven different kinds of tomatoes at a minimum – buying new seed every year can get expensive. And tomato seed can last for many years. But what if you aren’t sure how old they are, or maybe they weren’t stored properly? You can check.
These are some Emerite Bean Seeds that I saved from 2017. I didn’t want to buy more if they were viable so I checked. It’s easy to do. The seed at the left of the picture is what they look like in the envelope. To test, just wrap a seed in a wet paper towel, put it in a waterproof container and in a dark, warm spot. The top of the refrigerator is classic. I tucked mine there under a shelf for the darkness part. I started checking at about three days.
The picture was taken at more like a week because that’s when I around to getting the camera out. It shows a swollen seed that’s putting out a root system. You can just see the base of the leaves, breaking out of the seed pod.
Now I know, the seeds I saved from two years ago are fine, and will make bean plants this year.
Some caveats: Don’t wet the paper towel too much for small seeds. Check sources to find out how long your seed normally takes to germinate; there is a lot of variation. Warm and dark works for most summer garden seeds but not all; e.g., some seeds need a cold period before they will sprout. Check your package or check for special conditions online.
Once upon a time there was a hydrangea called Pinky Winky.
Every summer she grew in stature and grace. The woman who planted her near the deck admired how the flowers started white and then went through many subtle variations of pink as they opened and matured to a deep rose. She even left the brown flowers stay until spring – for winter interest she said – when Pinky dropped her other leaves and went to sleep.
The nearby pine tree watched all of this, the woman constantly at the door, on the deck, her loving attention. “That woman is far too fond of flowers.” He thought. “All she ever did for me is pull the poison ivy and creeping Charlie that want to smother me. But then, without asking me, she planted some other vine to grow up my trunk, one whose leaves look a lot like Pinky’s. It’s true she also made a flowerbed around me. And I do get extra water when she thinks they are dry. But none of that’s for me. I’m just a backdrop, staging. Neglected.
I tried for flowers to make her happy but all I can do is these heavy brown things that the squirrels like. I see her throw them into the woods when she mows the lawn. That’s how much she cares for me. She cares far too much for these little, bright, short-lived things. I will have to remind her of the beauty of power.”
It wasn’t something that he could do on his own, he had to harness the power of a snow storm, too. A wimpy one, there was no wind, but the heavy snow and sleet gave him what he needed. When he felt one of his lower branches breaking under the weight, he took direct aim at Pinky. As a bonus, he tried for the small rose in front, but the woman had protected it with a metal cage. Now a twisted metal cage.
“That’ll teach them. Pinky may have beauty but I have the power to destroy. A ha, ha, ha, ha, hah!” He roared.
The woman thought it was the wind.
Previous studies have shown the biological activity of soils can be determined in a quirky manner with cotton briefs.
This backyard experiment in Oregon, Ohio, involved the potential breakdown of cotton fiber to make gross observations about biological soil activity. The study started May 22, 2017 and continued undisturbed until October 7, 2017, for a total 137 days.
Materials and Methods
Three pair of new men’s 100% cotton briefs were washed with a small unmeasured amount of detergent without additives and city water to remove any manufacturing residue. They were rinsed twice and dried. Each pair was cut in half through the waist elastic to the crotch.
Each half was weighed. Left halves of each pair were numbered 1, 3, 5, and right halves of each pair were numbered 2, 4, 6. The #1 half, an untreated control, was kept inside the house at ambient room temperature.
Each of the remaining five halves was buried in a different location of the property. The sites were recorded. The elastic waistband portion of each underwear half was allowed to remain slightly above the soil level for visual location. The five treated halves remained undisturbed in soils of native silty clay (halves #3, #4, #5), previously purchased and amended sandy loam in a vegetable garden (half #2), or amended sandy loam in a hosta bed (half #6).
Brief halves 1, 3, and 5 each weighed 33 g; brief halves 2, 4, 6 each weighed 35 g before burial. Even-numbered halves were heavier as they included the extra fabric from the briefs’ slit construction.
Day 137, with shovel in hand, the study was concluded. Three of the five men’s underwear halves were not found even though the elastic had been at ground level and the location had been recorded.
The two recovered items, half #2 and half #5, indicated pretty complete breakdown of cotton as shown in the photos. Insufficient cotton remained for final weight determination. Breakdown of the cotton was likely a result of pretty good biological soil activity. Except for a few cotton remnants, only the elastic waist and seam portions remained.
Over 4 months for this study was too long but scientific curiosity of two retirees was satisfied. Stopping the experiment at 2 months in order to compare this study with the previous study went out the window in the heat, humidity, and mosquito-ridden environment. This was a fun backyard experiment and shows our soil is indeed biologically active, whether native clay soil or purchased and amended sandy loam soil.
From bottom left, around the outside: A ripe Black Krim, a not so ripe Black Krim, a counter ripened Big Beef and Green Berkeley Tie Dye.
The small ones in the middle, again starting from the left, Purple Bumblebee, (slightly above) Supersweet 100, back down to another Purple Bumblebee (to show the variation in shades) and bottom right is a sun gold.
I included some of the classics because colors are hard to capture and this way you can compare the exotics.
The classics, for me, are Black Krim, Supersweet 100 and Sun Gold. All of them taste yummy this year as other years. I tasted one Purple Bumblebee and want to reserve judgment. Haven’t tried the Berkeley Tie Dye yet, either. I will report back after tasting.
I do not have any large yellow tomatoes yet. Pineapple seedlings died in the tray and Gold Medal (formerly named Ruby Gold) haven’t ripened. The Gold Medal plants have stopped growing, acting like determinates, although Tomato Growers lists them as indeterminates.
In a normal year, the tomatoes would just be getting started now. With our severe drought and the longest heat wave that I remember, it’s hard to tell what will happen. I’ll let you know.
Although I’ve done the same things this year, as far as I know, a lot, not all, of my seedlings have developed these leaves of an unhealthy, pale green.
As usual, I started seeds, one to each 2″ soil cube made with Pro-Mix . Fertilized with a half-strength solution of Miracle Grow when true leaves appeared. (Seedlings are supposed to carry their own “food” to this point.)
My favorite theory is that the small soil cubes (like the basil below) dried out on the heat mat and then got flooded when I watered. That inconsistency would interfere with the plants ability to take up water and nutrients. It’s my favorite theory because I’m potting everything up, anyway. As usual, I do that when they have a couple sets of true leaves or earlier, if I see roots at the edge of the soil cubes.
Most of the web sites on this issue are written for mature plants and because the problem is on the newer leaves, most sources would indicate an iron deficiency. But why this year and not others?
Other theories are a magnesium deficiency, although that would be easy to treat with Epsom Salts, again, why this year only? And web sites that show pictures of magnesium deficiencies show more damage than just a poor color.
Other years, I’ve had damping off problems and fungus gnats, as well as mice that ate my seedlings, and a cat who ate them and upchucked green goo on my putty colored carpet (sigh). This is a new one.
So, as I was potting up, I cleaned all of the flats and the watering can with a 10% solution of bleach in water, just in case. I sprayed the plants with the same fertilizer solution — if for some reason they can’t get food through the soil, maybe they can get it through their leaves. It has small amounts of both iron and magnesium as well as the usual.
I’m also considering a test where I also spray a few plants with an Epson Salts solution, a teaspoon in a pint of water, because of anecdotal evidence that tomatoes love the stuff.
Doing several things at the same time isn’t a very scientific way of finding out the cause but mostly, I want my seedlings to thrive.
It’s supposed to be Mizuna, maybe from a packet named Kyoto Mizuna, but I’m not sure. I buy from a couple of sources and not sure which package I used this time. Even Kyoto, which is supposed to have fatter leaves, does not have rounded serrations.
I reordered and will throw out all other packages in my stash labeled mizuna, but what do I do with these plants? Do you think they are some other kind of mustard (mizuna’s family)?
An exercise that I wrote in my Thursday writing group. I have been working intensively on fiction writing skills and not on my blog. It IS garden related so I thought I’d post it here.
Red, it’s almost always got to be red, the color of lust, the beating heart, the cut-vein red of an open wound. And round like the sun, with the curving, firm heft of a young woman’s breast.
Anticipation is a part of it, the days waiting, praying to the weather gods, not too cold, not too wet, now not too hot, please.
Worship of the bees. Just in case, I take an old electric toothbrush to the blossoms or snap my fingers next to their small yellow flowers. The pollen is necessary.
And smell. There has to be a ripe, rich odor, slightly acid, sweet. The tannic smell of brushed branches, their green-yellow sap burning my skin, is all a part of this. The summer’s first tomato.
It was tomatoes that bought me to this garden, to any garden, in the sense of tending plants. Well, them and roses.
I was raised on a farm. My first memories are of vast fields. Planting corn, it was my job to stomp each hill once the seeds were covered. The hills went on, beyond my father’s towering frame, to the sky.
I realize now that much of my early years in the garden were because there was no childcare, no pre-school. So I spent my summer days learning soil, small red bugs lighting up the brown; curly fat worms, spiders, my playmates. Weeds the enemy, the purpose of our labor.
Rebel youth, I grew to hate the heat, the work and the isolation of the farm, to dream of living in a house like grandpa and grandma’s in Detroit where evenings were spent on shaded porches, chatting with the neighbors, the ice cream shop a short city block away. Someday, I thought.
Boarding schools and colleges and big cities later though, I hungered for tomatoes. Grocery stores sold pinkish things that would turn some approximate shade of red but never make my heart beat faster. Never remind me of the sun’s heat in August or the last pickings under a cold harvest moon in October, racing to beat the frost.
Now I need a patch of ground, a piece of the sun for myself and the bearing of the tomatoes inside of me, long buried seeds, waiting for a rebirth that only I can bring.
This shot of Lady Liberty was taken at Dahlia Hill in Midland. It’s the only public display garden that I know in Michigan with this breadth of varieties and number of plants. (Hamilton Dahlia farms has the numbers but is not technically a public display garden — though open to visitors.)
It was my favorite white on this visit but I wonder how it compares with my old time favorite, Hy Mom. I may have to grow them side by side to find out <g>.
The big dahlia plants become leggy and unattractive near the soil so I’m always on the lookout for short dahlias that can go in the front of the bed. I’m trying Firepot next year, for sure. You can probably tell that I love blends and this one is spectacular. It should also work well in pots, for my friends who have climate problems with dahlias. A good one to try.
Bashful, below is a nice single for the same purpose. Low growing and full of color. The bees love these singles and some of my collarets, not all of which stay small enough to use in the front of the bed.
Show and Tell is a garden in its own right. I saw it at both Dahlia Hill and Toledo Botanical Garden. Dahlia Hill’s volunteer told me that it’s a late bloomer, it had just started there, and on two plants at Toledo Botanical Garden there was just this one fantastical bloom. But it was the size of my grand son’s head. I am SO tempted. So many dahlias; so little sun.
Lower front, Candlelight’s orange aurora varies in its location and intensity; the orange deepens as the blossom ages. This is not a huge dahlia but it’s one of the best dahlias for cutting, lasts forever and just gets prettier.
This blossom of Gloriosa had more red highlights than most. I like!
This is Kelvin Floodlight; normally a huge plant. I pulled it with several non-performing tubers after they had been in the ground for a few weeks, when most of the dahlias had good sized plants. I noticed a tiny sprout that had done nothing on this tuber and stuck it in a ten inch pot, intending to find a place for it later if it grew. It did grow and I never did find a place for it. Now it’s blossomed; still in the small pot, much more than I deserve.
Also a bonus shot. One of my Croydon’s Masterpiece plants is blossoming too yellow. It’s still a pretty color but not what I get normally. Evidently, all the better to give some intense sunset effects, streaks of purple.
- Patches (two shots) is still an early favorite for it’s clown like irregular coloring. Each blossom is different and the blossoms fade from white/purple to pink/purple.
- The delicate blush water lily is Yvonne.
- Lemon Kiss is next, the plant is a bit tall for the front of the bed unless you put it in front of a really tall dahlia like Bonaventure; it would be a nice combo but I didn’t grow Bonaventure this year.
- Then a shot of Pooh at the top left; a very tall plant for such a small flower but he’s so cheerful. I can’t resist growing at least one plant of him. To his lower right is Gloriosa, shyly turning her head.
- Then Esther. Perfect for the front of the bed or in a pot but I don’t know if it’s possible to buy those tubers any more.
No pictures yet this year of Croyden’s Masterpiece or collaret Cherubino who have also blossomed. The firsts were not great because of the summer heat. Dahlia season’s just begun.
Ironically, when I was searching for information about a problem with wilting dahlias, I came across a couple of pictures that looked just right. When I clicked on them in the search engine, it was from an earlier blog of mine. And I never got an answer and never came back to it. Real helpful Gaias Gift lady, she says sarcastically. What MAY have happened, is what’s happening this year, the plants are recovering. I don’t know if they will produce any blossoms but they are not wilted in the cool of morning and evening and less wilted in the daytime.
On to this year’s veggie problem. I was so excited at the healthy growth of my cucumbers; Sweet Success again. I started them indoors in soil cubes and they transitioned wonderfully in our warm spring. Then I saw lots of little cukes forming with flowers at the end and I was salivating. No signs of vine borer anywhere this year yet. (Now I’ve done it.)
Alas, almost all of those little cucumbers have done nothing except sit there and petrify. This COULD be a pollination problem except that Sweet Success aren’t supposed to need pollination. And they are all female so I wouldn’t know how to do that anyway?? So did I get the seeds I ordered? I sent off a question to the seed company and got an immediate request for more information; pictures and such.
The one and only cucumber that’s grown to full size hasn’t filled out at the blossom end the way it should but I wanted to keep the plants producing. It does show promise in its length.
I purchased Super Sweet 100 tomatoes from the same source and have been grumping because they are getting so much bigger than any of that variety and much later. See the leftmost two tomatoes in the picture; picked green. Next to the two Sun Golds on the right, picked ripe. I’ve been picking Sun Gold for weeks; so the seed company got that question, too.
Whatever the red ones are, the chipmunks prefer them <weak grin>.
The most valuable parts to me
To me, the most valuable parts of this book are where she discusses the reasons, procedures and processes to create our own varieties of tomatoes and other vegetables. The reasons are excellent. A home grown tomato, selected from the best tasting, and for your garden conditions, is a joy that no amount of money can buy; but you can grow. This singular accomplishment is threatened by the disease called late blight. As she points out, programs to develop new tomato strains that are resistant to late blight are likely to start with tomatoes selected for market. Selected for uniformity, storage and mass growing conditions.
Heirlooms and open pollinated varieties, among others, may be completely lost unless home and small growers do their own work. She gives concrete, how-to advice for de-hybridizing and creating crosses to come up with tomatoes that have the characteristics that we love in heirlooms plus the genes needed to confer resistance for late blight and other diseases.
She also goes into detail about creating landraces, using seed saving and genetic selection to produce plants that are most productive, flavorful, or colorful – you choose – for your own growing conditions.
I’ve always thought that seeds were fragile and to keep them viable, they should be kept from getting too dry or being frozen. Carol talks about using those processes to create a personal seed bank to preserve seeds for periods long beyond what I thought were possible.
Very interesting discussion about tomato taste and when to pick: late day, after the sun has warmed them, for her. That’s not something that I’ve thought about. If she’s right, most tomatoes purchased at a farmer’s market and picked the morning they are sold are not as full of flavor as they could be. I imagine farmers would be overjoyed to find that they could pick the afternoon of the day before, (or a few days before for some varieties) sleep in and have better tasting tomatoes.
A few nit-picks.
There is nothing wrong with Swiss Chard. And I’m surprised as Carol really likes greens; it makes a wonderful counterpoint to the sweet winter squashes that she develops and grows. I would never try to change Carol’s mind but you should try it for yourself and I would recommend you try it in Molly Katzen’s recipe, Pasta with greens and feta.
Regardless of the cover subtitle: “Cultivating Tomatoes, Greens, Peas, Beans, Squash, Joy and Serenity”, it was hard for me to identify the audience that the author had in mind. It gives some basic cultivation advice but not enough for most beginners to be successful. That’s all right; there are other books that do this. She mentions a lot of helpful resources beyond her own books.
The Taoist stories and sayings are amusing and entertaining but in my opinion, amount to a sort of “what ever” from a philosophical viewpoint. But then, the older I get, the more I resist any rigid belief system. So maybe I am Taoist. Whatever. <s> When it comes to joy and serenity in the garden I am a long-time true believer and I can respect anyone who shares that and applaud anyone who wants to share it with others.
Unfortunately, with only room for about a dozen tomato plants; I grow only two or three of each variety (with no ability to rotate where they grow), I can’t afford even the modest space that she suggests to experiment. So I hope some of you with a little more sunny space will read this book feel inspired. It’s probably less space and trouble than you think.
Swiss Chard was one of those things that I used to like growing better than eating. There are so many different colors to feed the eye. But once I used it in Molly Katzen’s Pasta with greens and feta, that changed. So yummy; so pretty; my favorite, just for the looks is any red variety.
So as I started to grow greens under LED lights I became curious as to whether I could make this recipe in the winter with my own greens. Swiss Chard showed up on lists of things that people had grown successfully but there wasn’t much information; it can often be used as a micro or baby green; I think it was even in some baby and micro-mixes that I tried under the lights before I gave up on mixes (that’s a different story).
The seedlings were well beyond micro or baby sized when I blogged about them on February 1, 2015. As I mentioned in that post, I put three of the 2″ soil cubes into 3″, round coir pots. The pictures show them on the right (with some Simpson Elite lettuces in the picture before they are cut, but you can ignore them for this post.) To make it clear, the plants you see in both flats are from the same batch; the ones on the right were potted up. My poor record-keeping would make any real scientist want to shoot me but I don’t think the two flats were treated differently in any other significant way.
The results suggest that Swiss Chard wants deeper soil to mature normally. In the pots, the coloring is better, the stems are wider and the leaf shape is more elongated, more similar to what I would get in the garden. However, all of those characteristics are less than what I would expect from mature chard, grown in the summer garden.
Taste tests next.
What else could I be writing about in this weather? As I write, all I can see out of my basement windows is the snow. I started the usual lettuces and a couple of greens for the new year. My “big” experiment is Swiss chard. I was sure I could get them to micro green size and maybe even baby green size – done. I really would like to get them big enough for cooking. I wasn’t, and I’m still not sure how much room their roots need to get to maturity.
The leaves started quite rounded on long, thin stems, and the bigger ones are still not as elongated as I’d like to see, using what I’ve grown in the garden as a comparison. But I could start cooking with these if I really wanted to do so.
Today, I did what I’ve been planning to do for awhile and put some of the crop into small pots to see what effect more root space might have. We’ll see.
Last trial with arugula failed; because of fungus gnats, I think. (The arugula is the rounder leaf at the front of the flat in the picture above. The spikier leaves in the back are mizuna.) This trial is looking good except I expected these leaves to be more elongated, too and deeply lobed. They are quite hot; I should probably harvest the bigger leaves this week. I don’t know how they do for cut and come again; the mizuna in the back of the flat is great at that.
One flat of greens is going under the new LumiBar LED Strip Light and in the new environment; a sturdy shelving unit. I should be able to consolidate my setup and move the other two lights under the shelf where this flat of greens sit but I want to start with a simple trial of this light. The red and the blue for this light are adjustable; when they are both at max, it shows a lot more blue than the older lights. I’m leaving them at max because there’s no way of knowing what’s best for this exact mix and I’m not funded for trials!
Alas, Fred and last winter’s pygmy sundews did not make it through the summer. Once I turned off the LEDs, I couldn’t find the right combination of light and coolness to keep them alive. So when I started up the lights this fall I made another order to California Carnivores. I let them pick the sundews, a sample pack, and unfortunately, none of them have colored as nicely as the ones that I picked last year. But they seem to be doing their job as I’ve seen the occasional gnat but no damage to the plants.
Fred’s variety was no longer available so I ordered a pretty Nepenthes spathulata x ramispina (M-SG). Lacking any better ideas, I named her Freida. She is bigger and her darker color makes her look fiercer than Fred did. Also the detail along her “blossom” edge looks like teeth to me. Very fierce. Shiver…
The slender stalk in the lower picture front right is an emerging “blossom”. The small structure at the end will develop into something like the large, complex structure in the top picture. By then the mature one will have shriveled up, hopefully after feeding.
Click on either picture to enlarge.
I’m starting out with a bit of a cheat. Citron de Cap did not do well for me last year, although the one or two blossoms that opened were beautiful, that was it. I was going to discard and a friend said she’d like to try with a few of the ones that weren’t doing well for me. She sent me a picture when it was first showing color and I wondered if I’d sent her the wrong tuber because it there was so much pink. But it’s opening now and the fine, lacinated petals are unmistakable. She says there are more fat buds. I am very jealous.
The next two pictures are new dahlias for me. Candlelight is a medium sized plant, good for the front or middle of the bed and Swan’s describes it as a good cutting dahlia.
The lemon yellow is Ferncliff’s Lemon Kiss and it’s another keeper for the front of the bed.
Yvonne, is always a favorite; such a delicate lady.
And the last shot is of Art Deco. I’ve been growing it in the deck boxes for years. This year, I found a lantana on sale during late spring and planted it, hoping that my color memory was good and that it would work with the dahlias when they opened. I think it works.
I threw out about two thirds of my Brandywine seedlings yesterday as I was potting up my tomatoes into three inch peat pots. The leaves were starting to curl, wilt and yellow. With a close look, I was thinking maybe scale but the fuzz is not something that I associate with scale. Then saw pictures and descriptions of older plants with early blight. I’ve never known it to hit seedlings. Any ideas?