More Garden Gem Tomato Seeds

The tomato seeds that I was given for donating to Prof. Klee’s research were nearly gone, so I decided to donate again on January 17th and see what I would get.  Yesterday (February 3rd), I received a letter from the University of Florida with three seed packets.

packets of ‘garden treasure’, ‘garden gem’, and ‘W’ tomato seeds and accompanying letter

If you want to do the same, go to the Klee Lab Research webpage and follow the link where it says Click Here.  Note that they cannot send seeds to Australia, New Zealand, or Germany.

‘Garden Gem’ and ‘Garden Treasure’ are the same varieties that I received in 2016 and became two of my favorites.  The ‘W’ variety is supposed to have higher-than-normal lycopene content, which may have health benefits.

For more information, see my previous post How to Get Garden Gem Tomato Seeds.

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2020 Seeds Orders

I placed my orders for vegetable and flower seeds on January 15th.  This year, in addition to my usual source, Pinetree Garden Seeds (, I also ordered from Kitazawa Seed Co.  I hadn’t ordered from them before, but I have used some of their seeds that were given to me.  See my Resources page for more about seed companies.

I’m searching for an eggplant variety to replace my favorite, ‘ichiban’, which is no longer available.  I also want to find a good slicing cucumber.  I decided to try some new varieties that sound like what I’m looking for from Kitazawa:

  • eggplant ‘millionaire’
  • eggplant ‘yasakanaga’
  • cucumber ‘progress’
  • cucumber ‘southern delight’
  • cucumber ‘summer dance’
  • tatsoi ‘savoy’

The last item on the list is a cabbage green that sounded interesting.  I grew ‘summer dance’ cucumbers long ago, and remember them as being a good choice.  I plan to try all of these cucumber and eggplant varieties in the garden this year with those I grew last year and see how they do.  This order came from the other side of the continent in only 2 days.

I ordered the rest of my vegetable seeds, and some flower seeds, from Pinetree:

  • carrot ‘Napoli’
  • beet ‘red ace’
  • radish ‘cherry belle’
  • radish ‘sora’
  • radish ‘cherriette’
  • lettuce ‘all year round’
  • bean, pole ‘carminat’
  • bean, pole ‘northeaster’
  • greens mix ‘spicy Italian’
  • lettuce ‘all year round’
  • nasturtium ‘peach Melba’
  • cosmos ‘sonata mix dwarf’
  • zinnia ‘carousel mix’
  • legume inoculant

The carrot and beet varieties are favorites, as are ‘cherry belle’ radishes.  I’ve tried other radish varieties in the past and been disappointed but perhaps one of the two other varieties will surprise me.  My favorite pole bean variety ‘fortex’ was out of stock, so I decided to give these two a chance.  The greens mix and lettuce are also new to me.

I plan to plant the three flower varieties in containers.  I’ve grown ‘peach Melba’ nasturtiums before.  I’ve also grown cosmos and zinnias in pots, but decided to try some different varieties.  Finally, the legume inoculant is a biological helper for beans and peas.  I initially forgot to add the inoculant to my order, but an email to Pinetree brought a quick phone call and they were able to include it.

I keep my unused seeds in sealed bags in the refrigerator so they stay fresh and can be used for many years.   Many of the vegetables, herbs, and flowers that I plant this year will be from orders from previous years:

I also donated again to Prof. Harry Klee’s research and received seed packets for three tomato varieties from him; see More Garden Gem Tomato Seeds.

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One of the planters that I grew flowers in last summer had moss covering the soil at the end of the season, so I decided to bring it inside for the winter.  I took the photo below on October 25th.


moss with sporophytes and gametophores

I believe the round pods are sporophytes atop seta (stalks), while the shorter “leaves” are the gametophores.  Learn more about moss at Wikipedia or the Australian National Botanic Gardens website.

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Aphids & Lady Beetles

On Tuesday, I discovered that my nasturtium planter that I had moved into my office was infested with aphids.  I ordered the “starter size” of 1500 lady beetles (also known as ladybugs or ladybird beetles) from Arbico Organics.

The species of lady beetle that they carry are Hippodamia convergens, the convergent lady beetle, one of the many species in the Coccinellidae family.  More information about this lady beetle species can be found at the University of Florida and University of California web sites.

The beetles arrived yesterday (Thursday, November 21st) and I applied them to all my plants, both at my office and at home, that evening after misting the plants with water as the instructions directed.  I didn’t release all the lady beetles.  I put the remaining beetles in the refrigerator and will release them on Monday (November 25th).

lady beetle

one of the lady beetles

Many of the hundreds of lady beetles disappeared overnight, but those that discovered the aphids have remained on the plants, hopefully destroying those little pests.  As you can see in the photo below, the beetles have plenty of work to do.

lady beetle and aphids on nasturtium plant

lady beetle and aphids on nasturtium plant

This isn’t the first time I’ve had aphids appear on houseplants after I moved them inside for the winter; see my previous post about aphids.  It is the first time I’ve tried to control them with lady beetles.  In the past, I’ve tried other controls such as green lacewings but without much success.

When I released the remaining lady beetles on Monday, November 25th, many of the previously applied beetles were still on the Nasturtiums.  They didn’t seem to have made much difference in the number of aphids.  A week later, on Monday, December 2nd however, I couldn’t find any aphids and there were still many lady beetles patrolling the plants.  Hopefully some beetles will lay eggs so I have an ongoing control.

After another month, there are still a few lady beetles in my plants and no sign of aphids.

Find more about lady beetles in these articles from Cornell University and University of Kentucky, and about aphids in this article also from University of Kentucky.

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Root Crops & Herbs: Preparing for Winter

With temperatures predicted to fall well below freezing, on November 8th (Friday), I decided to harvest my remaining root crops.  I pulled the beets and the last turnip and used my garden fork to dig up the carrots and daikon radish.

beets 'red ace' and a few 'touchstone gold'

beets ‘red ace’ and a few ‘touchstone gold’

There weren’t many of the ‘touchstone gold’ beets (on top in the photo) partly because we harvested some earlier and partly because they didn’t germinate as well as the ‘red ace’ variety, which is very reliable in my experience.  Remember that you can eat the greens (they are related to Swiss chard) as well as the roots of beets.

carrots 'Napoli' (left) and 'Danvers' (right), daikon 'April cross', and a single turnip 'hakurei'

carrots ‘Napoli’ (left) and ‘Danvers half long’ (right), daikon ‘April cross’, and a single turnip ‘hakurei’

Several of the ‘Danvers half long’ carrots (on the right in the photo) decided to bloom this year, which we don’t want our root crops to do.  They should be putting their energy into growing large roots rather than making seeds.  I initially harvested the carrots that bloomed but decided to compost them as I don’t expect them to be good.  None of the ‘Napoli’ carrots (on the left in the photo), which were planted in the same row, bloomed.

I planted the daikon and turnip in August.  The ‘April cross’ daikon variety also produced well in my spring planting.  There’s only one turnip partly because we harvested some earlier and partly because the rather old seed didn’t germinate well, unlike when the seed was fresh.

I cut off and composted the greens from the carrots, daikon, and turnip before storing the roots.

I also planted ‘Kyoto’ mizuna and a winter lettuce mix in August.  The mizuna grew well but the lettuce did not, perhaps because it was planted too close to the carrots.

Greek oregano, sage, and pink catmint pots buried in the garden for the winter

After I dug up the carrots, I buried some potted plants in the same area.  Sage (Salvia officinalis) is the plant near the middle with large leaves; it is flanked by two pots of Greek oregano (Origanum heracleoticum).  On the left is a pot of pink catmint (Nepeta nervosa), an ornamental flower.  I grow these plants in pots partly because I have no place that I want to plant them and, in the case of the Greek oregano, to keep it separate from the standard oregano that has spread itself around my yard.  Burying the pots over the winter protects the plants from drying out and from rapid changes in temperature.  After I took the photo, we piled leaves around the pots as further protection.

More about these herbs:

The only things I still need to do in the garden this year are to pull out and compost the pepper, eggplant, and tomato vines, remove the cages that they were growing in and the garden fabric, and dump the soil from my dwarf tomato containers in that garden bed.


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We had a frost warning for last night, so we needed to do a few things to prepare for it.  First, we picked all of the vegetables that were ready or nearly ready.  This included a lot of tomatoes that were just starting to ripen, and all of the dwarf tomatoes because those fruits don’t seem to be ripening and the plants seem to have stopped growing.  We also picked almost all of the pole beans and peppers, leaving only the smallest fruits and pods.  I picked a pumpkin that was produced by a volunteer vine that grew near my compost.  The pumpkin fruit was hiding in the raspberry canes, similar to the gourds that grew there last year.

tomatoes, peppers, beans, and a pumpkin

tomatoes, peppers, beans, and a pumpkin

The big pepper in the front bowl is of the ‘Aconcagua’ variety, which produced many large fruits but is somewhat later than the other varieties that I plant, ‘sweet banana’ and ‘Takiis new ace’.  The large tomatoes in the rear bowl are from the “volunteer” ‘Cherokee green’ plant that is also growing out of my compost pile.  The other tomatoes in that bowl are dwarf varieties; in the front bowl, we have ‘cherry bomb’, ‘sungold’, and one ‘plum regal’.  The beans are ‘fortex’.

Next, we covered the tomato and pepper plants as well as we could with some old bed sheets in the hope that this will keep enough heat in the area to prevent freezing.  We also covered the part of the “volunteer” tomato plant that was trailing along the ground.  We used some clips to keep the sheets in place.  We didn’t bother to cover the pole beans as they seem to have stopped producing.  Cabbage family plants and root crops such as carrots shouldn’t be affected by a light frost, so we did nothing to protect those.

tomatoes and peppers covered with sheets against the frost

tomatoes and peppers covered with sheets against the frost

Finally, we moved all of the houseplants that can’t tolerate frost into the garage for the night.  I need to start pruning and cleaning those plants to prepare them to come back inside for the winter.

All this preparation was not for nothing; I found a layer of ice on the surface of the water in the birdbath this morning.

ice on the bird bath

ice on the bird bath

Update:  After a couple of days, it appears that the “volunteer” tomato vines that I didn’t cover, those growing on top of the compost pile and over the raspberries, were hit by the frost.  The vines on the ground, which I did cover, seem to be OK.

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Monarch Caterpillars

We had a number of monarch (Danaus plexippus) caterpillars feeding on our common milkweed (Asclepias syriacaagain this summer.  Several turned into butterflies; see my earlier post Monarch Butterfly.  Since the females lay their eggs singly, often on different plants, we usually see the caterpillars feeding solo.

two monarch caterpillars feeding on a common milkweed leaf

two monarch caterpillars feeding on a common milkweed leaf

I was surprised to find these two caterpillars feeding on the same leaf.  This photo was taken on August 21st; I hope they both metamorphosed into butterflies early enough to head south for the winter.

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Blooming Herbs

Many of my herbs bloom during the summer or fall.  We usually don’t want annual herbs such as basil to bloom, since the plants will then put their energy into making seeds rather than the leaves that we wish to use.  For perennial herbs such as the two illustrated here however, blooming doesn’t seem to affect their usefulness.  A bonus is that many herb flowers attract bees and other pollinators.

flowers on Greek oregano

flowers on Greek oregano

I now have Greek oregano (Origanum heracleoticum) growing in two containers.  I feared that the plants I started in 2017 weren’t going to survive, so I started another pot this year, but both are growing well.  It has been blooming much of the summer, and bees have been spending a lot of time visiting the flowers.  Later this fall, I will bury the Greek oregano pots (and my sage pot as well) in a garden bed for the winter.

flowering rosemary with ants

flowering rosemary with ants

My rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) has grown a lot this summer.  It too is in a container, because it needs to come inside over the winter.  Recently, I noticed it had produced some flowers.  Ants were visiting the flowers, probably to collect either nectar or pollen.  I wonder if they were pollinating the flowers.

See more about the herbs that I grow in pots in my post Container Herbs.

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Volunteer Tomato

Around mid-summer, I noticed a tomato plant growing out of my compost pile.  I was curious to see what variety this “volunteer” might be, if it was a seed that originated from my garden or from a tomato that we bought.  Would it be an open-pollinated variety that is identical to its parent, or be something entirely new from a hybrid parent?  The plant grew quite large and set many fruit.  As time went by, the large fruit started to look familiar.

a portion of tomato ‘Cherokee green’ growing out of my compost pile

When the fruit ripened, it was clear that this was a ‘Cherokee green’ plant.  Since it got a late start, it didn’t produce any ripe fruit until recently.  I first planted this tomato variety in 2017.

ripe ‘Cherokee green’ tomatoes

The fruit are quite large.  I weighed two of the largest fruit and found that both were about 430 grams, nearly a pound.  The plant has set a lot of fruit, probably as a result of growing in the nutrient-rich compost pile and getting plenty of sunlight.  What is visible in the first photo is only the half of the plant growing in front of the compost pile; more vines are growing over the top of the pile and over some raspberry canes, similar to a “volunteer” gourd or squash that grew there last year.

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Monarch Butterfly

Although we didn’t see as many caterpillars on our common milkweed plants as last year, we still had at least a half-dozen monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) emerge from their chrysalis.  I hope some of them make it all the way to Mexico for the winter.

monarch butterfly newly emerged from its chrysalis

monarch butterfly newly emerged from its chrysalis

I photographed this butterfly on July 27th.  Like this one, most of the monarch caterpillars living in my yard have chosen to attach their chrysalis to human-built structures.

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