Spring Flowers 2018

I planted some more spring-flowering bulbs two years ago.  These photos were taken on May 5th; the flowers have finished blooming now, except for the grape hyacinths.  The bulbs were all purchased from Van Engelen (see Resources).

First up are some daffodils, Narcissus ‘Professor Einstein’.

daffodil (Narcissus ‘Professor Einstein’)

I planted some ‘Persian pearl’ tulips on a hillside many years ago.  Those are species tulips and as such are expected to naturalize and increase, but in my yard they have diminished each year.  You can see them in my post Spring Flowers.  I decided to supplement them with a different species tulip, Tulipa clusiana var. Chrysantha, that is supposed to naturalize well.


Tulipa clusiana var. Chrysantha on the hillside

These flowers are yellow on the inside and reddish on the outside of the petals.

Tulipa clusiana var. Chrysantha closeup

A few of the tulips that I planted all the way back in 2001 still bloom every year.  This is one of them.

long-lived tulip

I also planted some grape hyacinths (Muscari armeniacum) that have grown very well and may have increased in number already.  Last year, after blooming, the foliage died back in the same way as other spring-flowering bulbs; but to my surprise, they started growing again in the fall and kept that foliage all through the winter.

According to the Van Engelen website, this is considered to be the original blue-flowered grape hyacinth and it originated in Turkey around 1878.

grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum) with pollinator

Here, you can see the grape hyacinth with one of the little pollinators that were busy visiting these flowers.  I think this is a fly, as I can only see a single pair of wings, but I’m not sure.

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Containers for Growing Vegetables

Last summer, I decided to try growing some vegetables in containers.  I selected some 5 gallon (19 l) buckets because they are labeled as food-safe and they are relatively inexpensive.  These buckets had three ring-like features on the bottom and I drilled holes in the middle of the rings as I thought the buckets would be stronger there and they’d be less likely to crack.

The holes were for drainage but also for strips of capillary matting that transported water from a saucer below the bucket into the soil.  I bought a large piece of capillary matting and cut it into strips about 1 by 21 inches (2.5 by 53 cm).

bottom view of bucket showing holes for strips of capillary matting

I put two strips of matting through each hole; one wound around the bottom of the bucket while the other ran up the side and was temporarily secured at the top with some tape.  I intended to remove the tape after adding soil, but it didn’t seem to make any difference when I forgot it on a couple of buckets.

top view of bucket with strips of capillary matting taped to the sides and positioned around the bottom

The black landscape fabric was used to cover the holes in the bottom of the bucket so soil wouldn’t fall out.  The large, green saucer was used as the water reservoir.  I placed two bricks in the saucer and rested the bucket on top of the bricks so the soil wouldn’t get waterlogged.

I planted eggplant and dwarf tomatoes in these containers last year.  You can read about them in my Container Vegetables post.  It worked well enough that I decided to double my number of buckets this year, from five to ten, and try planting additional vegetables.

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Eggplant With Three Seed Leaves

One of my eggplant seedlings has three cotyledons or seed leaves.  I’ve found extra seed leaves on my vegetable plants before, but only on cabbage family seedlings (see previous posts Seed Coats, Seed Leaves, True Leaves, & Mutant Kale and Mutant Mustard).

eggplant ‘ichiban’ seedling with three cotyledons (seed leaves)

The first post linked to above has additional information about seed leaves and tricotyledons.

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Huge Seed Leaves

I planted ‘green tiger zucchini’ summer squash for the first time this year.  I was surprised to see that they grew huge seed leaves, or cotyledons, that are much larger than those of other squash I’ve grown.  I  measured the leaf on the left as over 3.5 inches (9 cm) long.

cotyledons (seed leaves) of summer squash ‘green tiger zucchini’

The size of squash cotyledons is influenced by how much light they receive during germination; see “Changes in the cotyledons of Cucurbita maxima during germination.

For more about seed leaves, see my post Seed Coats, Seed Leaves, True Leaves, & Mutant Kale.

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2018 Seeds Order

I placed my seeds order yesterday to Pinetree Seeds (superseeds.com), my usual seed source (see Resources).  I don’t need many varieties as I have a lot of seed left over from previous years.  Here are the vegetable seeds I ordered:

  • tomato ‘sungold’
  • bean, pole ‘fortex’
  • lettuce mix
  • beet ‘red ace’
  • carrot ‘Napoli’
  • squash, summer ‘green tiger zucchini’

I tried ‘fortex’ pole beans last year and liked them.  I ran out of seeds for ‘nectar’ cherry tomatoes (which we like) but, since this vendor doesn’t carry that variety, decided to try ‘sungold’ as it is highly recommended.  The lettuce, beet, and carrot seeds are old favorites.  I’m planning to try growing summer squash in pots this year, like I did with tomatoes and eggplant last year, and ‘green tiger zucchini’ is supposed to work well in a (large) pot.

I also ordered one type of flower seed to grow in a pot:

  • petunia ‘tidal wave silver’

And I ordered two biological helpers:

  • Actinovate
  • legume inoculant

Actinovate contains bacteria that protect plants against some types of fungus, while the legume inoculant contains bacteria that help beans and peas obtain nitrogen from the air.

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New Buds on Surinam Cherry

After I moved the Surinam cherry and some other houseplants into the house last fall, I forgot to water them for several days.  The cherry lost most of the leaves from the upper half of the tree.  Now, it’s started to produce new buds on the bare branches, so I guess I didn’t manage to kill it after all.

new buds on Surinam cherry tree

For a photo of the tree from when it still had leaves, see my post Houseplant Moving Day.

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Why Are Cranberries so Sour?

Glenn Facey explains in his blog:

NMR of Cranberries. Why Are They So Sour?

TL;DR version:  Organic acids (malic, citric, quinic, and benzoic) contribute to the tart or sour taste of cranberries.


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Carrots and Beets

Early this week, with rain and freezing weather predicted, I decided to dig the rest of my carrots and beets.  I got home early to dig them before it got dark, but still ended up digging in the dark, cold, and wet.  Isn’t gardening fun?  I used a garden fork to dig them as it’s less likely to damage the vegetables.

carrots and beets drying

We spread the carrots and beets out in the basement so the mud would dry and hopefully be easier to remove.

The carrots are rather small, not more than 4 inches (10 cm) long, probably for three reasons:  (a) overcrowding — I should have thinned them, (b) too much shade in that part of the garden, and (c) my clay soil is too heavy for root crops to grow well.  The beets on the other hand are fine, and this variety (‘red ace’) is supposed to hold well in the garden, so they should be good even though they were planted in the spring.

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Container Vegetables

This year I tried something I hadn’t done before, growing vegetables in containers.  I got this idea from the book “Epic Tomatoes” by Craig LeHoullier.  I grew eggplant and dwarf tomato plants (seeds purchased from Victory Seeds; see Resources for more info on Victory and “Epic Tomatoes”) in some five gallon (19 liter) buckets.  These photos are from a couple of weeks ago.

from left, eggplant ‘ichiban’ (2), tomato ‘Polish dwarf’, tomato ‘dwarf sleeping lady’, and tomato ‘dwarf sweet sue’ all growing in containers

The vegetables were planted in an inexpensive soil mix supplemented with peat moss and slow-release fertilizer.  They are bottom-watered; you can just see the green saucers that I used as reservoirs.  Strips of capillary matting carry water up into the soil.  I added large commercial tomato cages to help support the plants.

For more information, see my post Containers for Growing Vegetables.

The plants got a late start as I wasn’t sure how well the bottom-watering setup would work and delayed planting until I felt confident in it.  As it turned out, my design is working well and keeping the soil moist.  Despite that, I had problems with blossom-end rot earlier in the season with all three tomato varieties.  I added crushed eggshells when I planted the seedlings as a source of calcium to help prevent this, but perhaps the eggshells released calcium too slowly.  The problem disappeared and the plants have been producing a lot of fruit lately.

My eggplant grew and produced well, probably as well as if they had been growing in my usual raised garden beds.  The only problem I had with eggplant this year was the usual flea beetle invasion.  I tried removing them by hand but although I killed dozens, if not hundreds, of these tiny pests, they kept coming and ate thousands of little holes in the eggplant leaves.  There’s more information about them in my Beetle Battle post.

eggplant ‘ichiban’ growing in containers

Several fruit were growing on the eggplant when I took this photo.  Now that the weather has gotten cooler, the plants aren’t producing as much.  If you look closely, you can see the damage caused by flea beetles.

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More Tomatoes

A quick look at five tomato varieties that are producing fruit in my garden at the moment:

from the left: ‘garden gem’ (two), ‘Corleone’, ‘garden treasure’, ‘Anna Russian’, and ‘Cherokee green’

I grew the first three last year and wrote about them in my 2016 Tomato Report; the two on the right I wrote about in yesterday’s post.  You can really see the difference between the red tomatoes (first three varieties) and the pink ‘Anna Russian’ in this photo, unless you’re color blind.  When ripe,  both types have red flesh, but “red” tomatoes have yellow skin, while “pink” tomatoes have colorless skin.  ‘Cherokee green’ has yellow skin over green flesh.

The ruler at the bottom of the photo has inches on the top and millimeters along the bottom so you can get an idea of the sizes of the fruit.  All these varieties produce fruit that is both larger and smaller than those in the photos, so you can consider these as “typical” sizes.

I brought these tomatoes in to work to get my colleagues’ opinions on them.  The only variety that wasn’t someone’s favorite was the ‘Corleone’ paste type tomato.  Most people liked ‘Anna Russian’ initially, but after they tried the others, they found those were more flavorful.  ‘Cherokee green’, ‘garden gem’, and ‘garden treasure’ all had fans.

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