Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

I hope everyone is having a nice New Year's Eve. With the new year year hours away, it is time to think of your garden resolutions. Here are three of mine for 2010.
1. Add more items for cutting--- In particular, I have pre-ordered some roses. I love cutting flowers from my Graham Thomas rose, and I really want to add more. Therefore I recently ordered three roses; Jubilee Celebration, Fragrant Cloud, and Queen of Sweden. They should fulfill my desire for fragrance, large blooms, beauty, and flowers for cutting.
2. Add more fruit--- The cost of fruit at the grocery store can be outrageous. In particular, berries. Oh how I love berries. Four dollars for a tiny container is just too much for me to spend on berries weekly. Therefore I recently ordered berries!
Strawberries--- 100 Fort Lauramie everbearing strawberries. These will go in flower pouches, a strawberry pot, and along the newly removed edge of the sidewalk.
Grapes--- I've never tried growing a grape before, so I ordered one Reliance vine. A seedless, red grape with disease resistance to cover the entire raised porch railing.
Blueberries--- Tied with strawberries for my favorite berry, I just had to find room for blueberries. I was going to order some half-high bushes, but decided to sacrifice my stone wall space (where I typically grow my tomatoes) in order to grow three large, highbush blueberry bushes. The varieties I chose in order of ripening were Patriot, Blueray, and Chandler. The benefit of having them near the stone retaining wall is that they will be easy to net upon fruiting time.
Raspberries--- After discovering that my one and a half year old loves raspberries, I had to find some room for raspberries. One each of Fall Crop (yellow) and Caroline (red) everbearing raspberries. I am still deciding which plants to move in order to accommodate their spreading habits.
Blackberries--- As requested by my dear husband, I ordered a thornless, upright blackberry bush named Navaho.
3. Add more fragrance--- Two years ago I planted an Acapulco and Salmon agastache and absolutely love it's strong lemon fragrance. The scent always made my day. I've decided that I need to incorporate more plants that will do the same. I have moved my Golden Zest rose closer to the agastache. Their fragrances will compliment each other well. In order to add fragrance near the back porch I will plant the Fragrant Cloud rose. I also plan on starting Ellagance lavender, a perennial, from seed to form a small patch by the front door to greet visitors.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Time For Giving

Today I went through all of my seeds. Seeds packets that completely fill my crisper drawer of my refrigerator. I sorted out all of the seeds that I do not think I will use in 2010. I have them packaged in a separate one gallon Ziploc bag.

Now I need to figure out what to do with them. I considered posting them for free on Craigslist or on a garden website, but I want them to go to someone that NEEDS them. Maybe I will find a local community garden or garden club to donate them to. Perhaps my son's school would like to use them for a school lesson. A local church or food bank might find them a good home. Granted a one gallon bag of seeds isn't much, but for someone that would like to try growing some of their own flowers or food, it might mean quite a bit.

I suggest that we all go through our seeds and share them with our family, friends, and communities. There is so much potential in each one of these seeds, but they need a chance to grow. Don't let them wither away, because you might plant them "someday". Let someone that NEEDS them plant them today.

Still not convinced....

Other Reasons to Share Your Seeds:
1. Germination rates drop year after year.
2. Giving to others will make you feel good.
3. More importantly, giving to others will make them feel good.
4. Freeing up the seed space will give you an excuse to buy some new varieties.
5. It's Christmastime!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Baker's Creek 2010!

Check your mail everyone. I got my 2010 Baker's Creek catalog this afternoon! Let the fun begin....

My Favorite New Toy!

If you like making pumpkin cookies (or other cookies from your harvests) I found a must-have item. I didn't even know these existed until a friend of mine mentioned them. For less than $20 I purchased two aluminized steel cookie sheets with silicone liners. I will never bake without silicone liners again. Ever. I wrote more about the product on my Recipe blog if you are interested and posted the link to the item. They say they'll be delivered by Christmas. Right now they are on clearance, so get them while you can. A great gift and a must-have for any cookie baker. I love these pans! I couldn't burn a cookie on them if I tried!

Thursday, December 10, 2009


The feeders have been very slow for the last few months. The birds have found plenty of natural seeds, bugs, and berries on their own. It wasn't until the snow storm that we had this week that we started to get good bird activity again. Yesterday around 10am it began. Blue jays, white-throated sparrows, house sparrows, tit mice, black-capped chickadees, dark-eyed juncos, male and female cardinals, and an unidentified woodpecker in our old oak...oh my. All within the span of about a half an hour. It was a flurry of activity and the kids were enjoying it as much as I was. Here's what we saw through our window.

Monday, December 7, 2009


This is the same iris from the previous post. It's now two days later. It's a symbol of resiliency despite temperatures below freezing for a large part of the last two days.

Irises and Snow

On Friday this beautiful iris opened its first of two flowers. Isn't it beautiful?
This is the same flower Saturday while we were accumulating approximately 2-3 inches of snow. Our first snow of the season here near Reading. I guess I should be glad that at least one of the flowers had a chance to open...briefly.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Bagging Blossoms?

I know it's a bit early....or very late, but I wanted to share how I bag blossoms for seed-saving. This is a technique that I use primarily for my tomatoes and peppers.

The Easy Method:
Many large craft stores such as Michaels and A. C. Moore carry bags made of tulle that have drawstrings. Buy these in light colors and cinch them around your blossoms before they open. They come in different sizes, but I would definitely recommend the largest bags they have. These can be a bit pricey, but there's a way to make them more affordable. Check the ads in the Sunday paper. Most large craft stores have circulars with great coupons. For instance, "Get 40% off one regular priced item". Find the largest pack of bags they have and get them! If that is still too pricey, try this other option.

A Little Self-Help:
Use pre-cut white tulle circles or tulle rolls that they sell in craft stores. Typically with the wedding decorations. Thread a needle with a large eye with some yarn. If you need to, sew the tulle into a bag and tie off the yarn. Then sew along the top edge of your bag all the way around. Weaving in and out until you get back to where you started. Place the bag over the blossoms, and pull the loose ends. You can cinch it as tightly or loosely as you want. This takes a bit more work then buying pre-made bags, but it should save you some money.

No matter how you bag your blossoms, be creative. And remember, it's not important how you do it, it's just important that you do it for the sake of your seed purity.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Are you kidding me?!?!

I went to the grocery store yesterday. Just a handful of blueberries are 4 dollars. FOUR DOLLARS! I love blueberries, but four dollars. Ugh. Then I had a brainstorm. I need to plant my own blueberry bushes. Obviously with my small garden size I will have to choose carefully. I got out my catalogs from last season, and I've been searching online. I figure I can have one bush that maxes out (or can be pruned) to around 6' x 5'. I need a second to assist with cross pollination. That would have to be under 3' tall. Width wouldn't matter as much. I can move flowers around pretty easily. So far I am trying to decide between the following varieties:
For The Large Bush:
Chandler - large berries, good flavor; Question: How well does it produce compared to Patriot? Pounds per bush at maturity?
Patriot - good producer; Question: How does it taste?
Northland - matures early, great yield potential; Question: How tall does it get? Sources conflict by up to 3 feet!
For The Smaller Bush:
Dwarf Northblue - okay yield, only listed as getting to 2-3 feet. Question: Is it really under 3'?
Top Hat - very compact; Question: I don't expect tons of berries, but how many pounds per bush at maturity?