Saturday, March 29, 2014

Seed Starting Update: Peppers & Brussel Sprouts

Today was pepper starting day! I used to start peppers and tomatoes on the same day, but I'd end up repotting the tomatoes two or three times before they made it to the garden. I doubt I really got that much of a head start that way, so this year I'm planting the tomatoes the minimum of six weeks before they go out in the garden. I'm giving the peppers the full eight weeks though, because they take a while to size up. It's somewhat depressing to realize that it's still a full eight weeks before I'll be planting my warm weather plants out.

I prepared my seed trays, and the first packet of seeds I opened was Chervena Chushka. This is a new pepper for me this year. It's supposed to be prolific and sugar sweet. I thought it would be excellent for salads and relishes, as well as for snacking. I was extremely disappointed to open the packet and find only two seeds. The packet was supposed to have 25, and I needed to plant 12 to fulfill my needs and my friends that had requested this type. I didn't want to mess around with planting two seeds, so I pulled out a 2012 packet of Big Red peppers from Pinetree and planted those instead. I also emailed Seed Savers to let them know my packet was under-filled. I hope they send me a new one; those peppers sounded delicious!

Here's what peppers got planted today:
Big Red (sweet)
Bull Nose Bell (sweet)
Chocolate Beauty (sweet)
Mini Yellow Bell (sweet)
Jalapeno (hot)
Chinese Ornamental (hot)
Joe's Cayenne (hot)

I'm hoping the sweet peppers do well; I've always had hit or miss luck with them. I'm planting 32 pepper plants total, and at least 24 of them will be sweet peppers. I need a lot for roasted tomato sauce, salsa, and relish, and I want to have a lot of chopped peppers in the freezer to use for chili.

I also planted my brussel sprouts today (Long Island Improved).

It's gorgeous outside (compared to our previous weather; today it's in the 40's), so I might try to stake out the hedge garden border. If I can get a shovel in the ground, I'd like to plant my currant bushes tomorrow.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Seed Starting Update: Alliums, Brassicas & Herbs

Today was the third seed-starting day of the 2014 gardening season. I have now filled an entire shelf on my grow rack.

Seed Starting Shelves

I planted the onions and leeks on February 16, and they received their first haircut last weekend. They're looking great.

Onion Seedlings

Last weekend, I started broccoli, cauliflower, celery, eggplant, head lettuce, and chives. The celery, eggplant, and chives haven't germinated yet. I put the eggplant seeds on a heat mat today to help with germination. The broccoli & cauliflower are looking great, but the lettuce was easiest to photograph.

Red Iceberg Lettuce Seedlings

Today I seeded herbs, including basil, cilantro, dill, fennel, mint, oregano, parsley, sage, and thyme. Some of the plants don't really need to be started early (cilantro for sure), but I'm looking forward to having an early crop and then seeding successive crops in the garden.

Speaking of the garden, the snow is gone! I haven't walked out there yet, but the weeds that I didn't get to last fall are definitely waiting for me. One bed is planted with garlic and covered in a loose layer of hay. I hope to see some green shoots poking up there soon.

Backyard Garden After Spring Thaw

Yesterday I got my first delivery of cuttings for the edible hedge—a dozen red currant plants. Given that we have snow in the forecast tomorrow, and we haven't yet staked out the border, they'll be hanging out in the garage for a week. I'm confident we can stake the border next weekend and get the currant plants in on Sunday. The rest should arrive in mid April.

This is going to be quite the transformational year for the back yard. In addition to the hedge planting, we'll be adding an arbor with a gate, finally having a full season of vegetables, and we'll be adding a patio outside the dining room. It should give us some excellent outdoor living space to enjoy a Wisconsin summer.

Next week, it's time to start peppers!!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Planning An Edible Hedge

As I look outside the window towards my garden, I can't even make out where the beds are because we've gotten so much snow this winter. More snow is falling as I write this, but I'm thinking of spring.

I last wrote in January, when I ordered my seeds. They have all arrived, and the leeks and onions were started on February 16. They're up and looking great. I'll start chronicling seed starting more in earnest when I start more plants in March.

I haven't shared my 2014 garden plan yet. It is mighty ambitious. Take a look:

We live in a subdivision that doesn't allow fenced yards, so I'm choosing to grow an edible hedge instead (I may sink chicken wire on the inside if we still have a problem with critters—only time will tell). I just placed the order today, and it was pretty overwhelming. To create a 35' x 60' hedgerow, we'll need:

  • Caroline Raspberries (9) - fall bearing
  • Red Lantham Raspberries (9) - spring/summer bearing
  • Hinnomaki Red Gooseberries (12) - fall bearing
  • Red Lake Currants (12) - July bearing
  • Hansen's Bush Cherries (12) - summer bearing
These varieties were readily available from Gurney's, which appears to be a reliable source, and I got an excellent price. They have a coupon code in March that gives you $100 off an order of $200 or more. When all was said and done, these bushes were going to cost just over $500. So, I split my order into three, threw in the asparagus, rhubarb, and strawberries I needed....and ended up getting some landscaping bushes for the front of the house for a grand total of $310 + $75 shipping. That sounds like a lot for plants, but when you consider what it would cost to fence in this area (which wouldn't provide a delicious harvest), I think it's worth it. Also, I just got a credit card in the mail that has 0% interest for a year, so I can continue to use my monthly gardening budget to pay it off while I'm already reaping the benefits of the plants.

I can't wait to see what this looks like. All the bushes should grow to be 3'-5' tall, and after a few years of filling in I think they'll look wonderful—particularly in the spring when they're all in bloom. The gap in the hedge at the top of the plan will be an arbor with a gate. I got some free morning glories with one of my Seed Savers Exchange shipments, so maybe I'll grow them over the top of the arbor.