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.

Posted in garden preparation | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in houseplant | Tagged , | Leave a comment

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.


Posted in fruit | Tagged | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in harvest | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Container Vegetables

This year I tried something I hadn’t done before, growing vegetables in containers.  I got this idea from “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.

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.

Posted in growing | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

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.

Posted in harvest | Tagged | Leave a comment

Two New (to me) Tomato Varieties

This year, I tried planting some new varieties of tomatoes.  Two indeterminate tomatoes that I tried are ‘Anna Russian’ and ‘Cherokee Green’.  They have been producing fruit for a few weeks now.

tomato ‘Anna Russian’

‘Anna Russian’ produces medium-large, heart-shaped, pink (red flesh with clear skin) fruit.  They are considered to be an heirloom variety.  They taste rather mild and a little sweet.  The plants have produced a good amount of fruit.  Birds seem to like them, as I have found a number of fruit that were pecked.

tomato ‘Cherokee green’

‘Cherokee green’ are perhaps the most vigorous tomato plants I have ever grown, climbing out of their tomato cage and pushing against the adjacent pepper plants.  They set many large fruit.  I wanted to grow some tomatoes whose flesh remains green when ripe; I selected this variety because the skin becomes yellow when they ripen, making picking them easier.  I’ve had problems with animals chewing on the fruit (I suspect chipmunks) and even taking the fruit out of the garden (probably a groundhog).  I pick these tomatoes when they begin to turn yellow and they feel a little soft to the touch.  I expected them to have a lot of flavor, but unfortunately so far they have been disappointing.  They are rather bland, although they might have a little more flavor than ‘Anna Russian’.  Perhaps I am picking them too early or too late.

Update:  Most ‘Cherokee green’ fruit from later in the season have had more flavor.

Posted in harvest | Tagged | 3 Comments

Container Flowers

I like to grow annual flowers in various containers.  This year, cosmos, zinnia, and sunflowers have all done well in their flower pots.

from bottom right: cosmos ‘cosmic yellow’, zinnia ‘scarlet king’, and sunflower ‘Pacino gold’

I’ve planted these cosmos and zinnia varieties before and they have always grown well in containers.  The sunflower is a new variety for me, a dwarf variety that produces flowers that are only a few inches in size.

I have to water these large plants often, typically every two or three days depending on the weather.

The sunflowers and cosmos have been attracting a lot of bees of various species.  The cosmos also attracted butterflies in past years.

For more information on my experiences growing flowers in containers, check out these posts:  More MarigoldsPlanting Flowers in PotsOffice marigolds and nasturtiums have flowers!Nasturtium & Sweet William Flowers, and Snapdragon Flowers.

Posted in flower | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Fortex Beans

We picked the first of the ‘fortex’ pole beans on Saturday.  This was my first time to try these beans and I didn’t expect them to be so large; the longest was about 10.5 inches (26.7 cm) long!

pole bean ‘fortex’

We ate them Sunday and they were tender and good.

Posted in harvest | Tagged | 1 Comment


I picked some radishes today in the rain.  I picked some last week too to thin the plants and make space, but those radishes were only about half this size.

radish ‘cherry belle’

You can see that the seed leaves (the heart-shaped leaves close to the root) are still green and healthy.  On some plants, these will wither as the plant grows.

I planted these radishes 5 weeks ago.  I planted a short row every week, so we should be able to harvest radishes for a month.  Last week, I planted cabbages and kale in between the rows of radishes.  Those plants will take over the space as the radishes are removed.

Posted in harvest | Tagged , | Leave a comment