Tuesday, December 30, 2008
I received the Baker Creek catalogue last week. This is my favorite seed company, and their catalogue is beautiful! All the seeds from Baker Creek are open pollinated - heirloom seeds that you can save after you grow your own vegetables. One of the reasons why I like this company, is that they grown all the seeds they sell themselves. They aren't just a middleman, passing on seeds produced by large seed companies. Since they are located in Missouri, they have some of the same growing conditions we have in the summer, hot and humid. They are aware of the challenges of growing vegetables in the South.
Here is the list of seeds I ordered. It took me only 10 minutes to place this order, because I had the codes:
AB101 $2.50 1 - Red Rice Bean (asian dry bean)
AML110 $3.00 1 - Ananas D' Amerique A Chair Verte (melon - grown by Thomas Jefferson!)
BN101 $2.00 1 - Royalty Purple Pod (bean)
BN108 $2.00 1 - McCaslan 42 Pole (bean)
CU147 $3.00 1 - Dragon's Egg (cucumber)
EG131 $6.50 1 - Brazilian Oval Orange - 1/ 4 oz (eggplant) I know... expensive, but these look like wonderful ornamentals. I'm planting them as edible landscaping. :)
LG101 $2.25 1 - Red-Seeded Asparagus Bean (Asian long bean)
LT116 $2.25 1 - Little Gem (lettuce)
ML102 $2.75 1 - Prescott Fond Blanc (melon)
OK102 $2.00 1 - Burgandy (okra)
TK123 $3.00 1 - Millionaire
TM122 $2.00 1 - Principe Borghese
TN112 $2.50 1 - Red Round
TP103 $2.00 1 - Black from Tula
TP114 $3.00 1 - True Black Brandywine
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Alpine Strawberries – Mignonette
Summer Lettuce Bouquet, European Reds and Greens
Merveille de Quatre Saisons (H)
Baby Mesclum, Paris Market Mix
Leeks French Baby Leeks, Primor
Pumpkin, Cinderella’s Carriage (H)
Melons, Three Flavors –Galia, Earlidew & Solid Gold
Sweet Peas, Color Palette Cupid
Seeds of Change
True Gold – sweet
Chinese cabbage, China choi
Prize of the Trials, Cherry
Green Deer Tongue
Red Riddinghood, head
Sweet Dumpling, winter
Broccoli, De Cicco
Cherokee Purple (H)
Black Prince (H)
Komatsuna Summerfest, Asian hybrid greens
Turnip, Hakurei, hybrid
Pumpkin, Rouge Vif D’etamptes
Melon, French Charentais, hybrid
Garden of Eden, pole
Tongue of Fire, American & Italian Shell
Sprite, grape, 60 days
Gregori’s Altai, pink beefsteak, 67 days
San Marzano, paste, 80 days
Amish Paste, 85 days
Stupice, cold tolerant, 52 days
Glacier, cold tolerant, 58 days
Amana Orange, orange beefsteak, 90 days
Aji Dulce #2, 85-90 days
Jalapeno M, 75 days
Carmen Hybrid, Italian bullhorn, 75
Rosa Bianca, Italian heirloom, 75 (H)
Florida High Bush, 85
Zucchini, Black Beauty, 52 days
Armenian Yard Long, 70 days
Fancy Pickling, (H), “Homemade Pickles”,
Rouge Vif D’etampes
Brussel Sprouts, Bubbles, hybrid
Watermelon, Dragon Skin
Melon, Amish Muskmelon
Okra, Little Lucy
Amish purple popcorn
Purple Passion Flower
Nasturtium, Jewels of Africa
Parlor Palm, Neantha bella
H= heirloom seeds
Growing a garden from seeds is exciting! :)
Monday, December 15, 2008
Friday, December 5, 2008
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Above me were these autumn leaves, and Bonaparte gave me his usual stare. He is our least friendly chook, the kids stear clear of his evil bantam ways; but the hens seem to feel safe with him around, even though he is half their size.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Also some kale just harvested a few minutes earlier
curry eggplant in the making...
and fresh eggs from our chickens...
kale mushroom omelett coming up...
plus salad = dinner!
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
In spite of the cold snap of last week, our basil is growing well. I'm making some homemade tomato/basil spagetti sauce for dinner.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
The oranges are not quite ripe yet. We all look forward to fresh OJ at the beginning of the Advent season every year. It's looking like this will be our smallest harvest yet. The two lemon trees are a sad sight with only a few lemons near the top of the trees. I think the reason is the development that went up on the west side of our property. There used to be a large orange grove there. I think our trees just didn't have enough bees pollinating them.
Our tomatoes survived the cold weather well. The lowest temperature we had was 37 degrees on Tuesday. I definitely think the tomatoes are sweeter after a cold snap. :)
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
Milkweed, not my favorite from a distance. It lives for the Monarch butterflies whose caterpillars make those ugly holes on its leaves. Most of the time, it's a bare bundle of sticks. We enjoy the butterflies, so it earns its keep.
Carrot (Sweet Treat Hybrid) - Burpee
Lettuce (Jericho) - Seeds of Change
Radish (French Breakfast) - Seeds of Change
I have planted all of these already this season and have been harvesting the lettuce and mesclum for couple of weeks. I noticed some of the the first radishes I planted are showing their red tops, so not much longer before we start harvesting them. Jericho is still #1 on my list of favorites.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
The author has a family of six like ours. I'm sure she would have to update the $12 amount, since she wrote the book in 2002. Still, all her ideas are valid. There is a lot of good shopping advice in this book. She suggests buying BOGOs with coupons, shopping at Aldi - which I will try once the new store in town opens its doors, and buying certain things in bulk at places like SAM's and food coops. She mentions gardening as a way to save money on produce but doesn't go into the subject past the suggestion. I'm sure that could fill another book, and there are already many out there. ;)
Monday, November 10, 2008
The seeds for this pumpkin came from a crop I grew last year. I still have plenty more. According to Seed to Seed they should keep for at least six years. Calabaza seeds aren't easy to find. For some reason, the large seed companies don't sell them. It may be that there isn't much demand, since the Calabaza (Cucurbita moschata) is definitely a tropical squash. The vines had damage after the low one morning went to 41 degrees. On the other hand, this variety is very disease resistant - perfect for our Florida garden.
To save seeds from a pumpkin or squash, all you need to do is scoop out the pulp and seeds, separate and wash off the pulp, and spread the seeds on a cookie sheet to dry. I like to put mine on top of the refrigerator. They have to dry for at least two weeks. If they aren't completely dry, they will not germinate - learned that from experience. To insure dryness, I keep my seeds in a ziplock bag in the refrigerator with one of those silica gel packs that come in vitamin bottles.
My pumpkin bread recipe goes like this:
Calabaza (pumpkin) Bread
2 cups of pumpkin puree
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
2 cups honey
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Turn on oven to 350 degrees. Grease two loaf pans.
In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and honey until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.
Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Enjoy!
This weekend everyone enjoyed a pumpkin casserole. Tonight, we'll be having Pumpkin Curry Soup. I think I'll be canning some of the dozen or more pumpkins that are still on the vine. ;)
Saturday, November 8, 2008
I have a planter by the garden gate with a few Salvias. I planted the original plants there about a year ago. During the heat of summer, they died back but left seeds behind. The new plants are growing better than the parents did, and there are many more of them. They attract butterflies, bees, and others like this Silver Spotted (Epargyreus clarus)Skipper I found feeding on them this afternoon.
Michael asked to see the skipper's straw-like proboscis - we've been studying insects lately. He went and identified it for me in one of our Audubon guides :). It sat and fed on a Salvia, though the guide says it likes wisteria. I think the eyes, on close-up, are amazing; they take up about half its face. Teaching our kids about nature in our backyard has been one of the most exciting things I've done in my homeschooling career.
Lizards are masters of camouflage. I almost didn't spot this one, except that it jumped off a leaf onto the brown wood.
Our eggplant is finally producing. I think I'll harvest a few of them tomorrow morning. The plant is loaded with small fruit, so it will direct its energy to growing the little ones once the large ones are gone.
The Cassia bush in our back yard is starting to bloom. I found a Cloudless Sulfur caterpillar on one of the buds. We have enjoyed watching the Sulfurs fly in great profusion this Fall. I never knew that the Cassia was their host plant.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
I was reading yesterday that rhonda jean likes to harvest her tomatoes green because, by doing this, her vines produce more flowers and more fruit, plus she avoids pests. I just don't know if the taste and nutritional value of a tomato picked green would really be comparable to that of a vine-ripe tomato. I have always thought that storebought tomatoes were flavorless because they were picked green. Also, I read recently that in order to have a sweet tomato, it must be allowed to ripen on the vine and picked after a cold night. The plant will send all the sugar it has stored into the fruit if it senses a freeze is about to kill it. I was also told this secret by a strawberry farmer in town and have tested it myself. Since we live in the winter strawberry capital, it was easy to do. Last year, I only bought strawberries the day after the temperatures had gone down below 40 degrees. We enjoyed the best strawberries ever. I am hoping this same thing will work with my Fall tomatoes, so I'll be looking to harvesting them the day after we have temperatures in the 40s. Stay tuned!
Monday, November 3, 2008
Friday, October 31, 2008
Sweet Alyssum (white)
The broccoli seeds arrived earlier this week from Johnny's along with three other seed packages: komasuna summerfest greens (asian), cherokee purple tomatoes, and hakurei turnip. All but the tomatoes are new to us. I learned that the komasuna greens are a Japanese variety which does well both in hot and cool weather. I will be saving those for Spring. The turnips will go in the ground later this week, after I look up its growing needs.
Broccoli Di Cicco is an heirloom broccoli from Italy that's supposed to do well with warm temperatures, plus they say you can continue harvesting side shoots after the main head is picked. I learned in Gardening When It Counts that the hybrids produced for commercial farms are not worth keeping in the ground after harvesting the top head, they don't keep on producing. Aside from lower production, the seeds can't be saved for future planting either.
I started noticing a couple of weeks ago that some seed companies were out of some of the seeds we need for our Spring garden. Also, I received a note from Johnny's with my order that said their seed prices will be going up on Nov. 15th, and last week I saw this at Victory Seeds:
Oct. 1 Update: Since people are feeling so much uncertainty about the economy and the future, we are receiving an unexpected volume of orders.
I usually don't order seeds till early December. After reading that notice, I decided it was time to finish up my list and place our seed order for next year. I now have orders pending at Seeds of Change, Tomato Growers, Eon Seeds (a FL based family bussiness I'm trying for the first time), and Johnny's. I did end up finding what I needed. With my small order from Johnny's last week came a free shipping coupon for any order placed until mid-November. :)
Several years ago, I had done the math and calculated the cost of baking vs. buying bread at the store. It came out to be a good savings, around $30 to $40 per month. But the best thing about baking our own bread is the taste. Homemade bread doesn't have the chemical smell and taste that storebought has. Storebought bread contains chemical additives, hydrogenated oils, unhealthy preservatives, and fattening sweeteners.
Homemade Sandwich Bread
2 cups warm water (110F)
1/2 cup honey
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cups white bread flour
3 cups whole wheat flour
1. In a large bowl, dissolve the honey in the warm water, add yeast. Allow to proof until yeast resembles a creamy foam, about 10 minutes.
2. Mix salt and oil into the yeast. Work in 6 cups of flour. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth (or use your mixer with a dough hook). Use a little more flour if needed. Place in well oiled bowl, and turn once to coat the entire surface of the dough with oil. Cover with a clean damp cotton cloth. Allow dough to rise until double in size., about an hour.
3. Punch dough down. Knead for a few minutes, and divide in half. Shape into loaves and place into two well oiled 9x5 loaf pans. Allow to rise for 30 minutes.
4. Bake in a 350F oven for 25 minutes. When you thump the top of the bread it should sound hollow.
For a buttery crust, brush hot loaves with butter. Cool on a rack and enjoy
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
The pumpkins are still blooming profusely. This little moth sat very still inside this flower maybe hoping to catch some warmth from the sun. I didn't see much bug activity out there, even the bees seem to be waiting for the temperature to rise. They have been out in droves lately harvesting pumpkin pollen.
This Salvia lives in a pot by the vegetable garden gate. Even though it is one of the bees' favorites, they are not visiting. Maybe they are too busy with the pumpkins to bother. I also have a volunteer Everglades tomato growing in this pot.
Belinda's Dream is a Floribunda rose bush that produces these beautiful pink roses year-round. It is my low maintenance rose. It performs with very little care. I discovered it at a u-pick farm a couple of years ago. It sat apart from the other roses, looking gorgeous. I had to ask the lady there what it was. She directed me to a family-owned rose seller in Plant City. I've found that with roses, as with most other non-natives, it is best to see how they grow in the ground in our area before committing to planting one. I've heard many times that roses are too difficult to grow in Florida, and that is true for certain varieties, but not all.
This is another great low-maintenance rose that does well for me. Is is an old-garden rose I ordered from Pickering years ago. I will have to dig out my rose records to find the name, because it is a survivor. I am planning to plant a moon garden around this bush. It looks so beautiful by the light of the moon. I will start by spreading out some white Sweet Alyssum seeds around its feet today. I also have some white Morning Glory seeds waiting to be planted.
Monday, October 27, 2008
This Fall, I planted three cucumber plants in hydroponics buckets. They grew and sprawled over the ground then produced the largest crop of cucumbers we've ever had. I think one of my conclusions here is that they really like the regular watering they get with the automatic irrigation, plus the constant source of fertilizer. Our soil is just very poor, so we have been working on building it up with peat and compost. Hopefully, by next Spring, we will have it in better shape.
These seedlings were planted back on Oct. 2nd, just over three weeks ago. I put four seeds in a black pot that had been growing tomatoes last Spring and added compost to it, and they all came up. I have been using COF* (Home-made Complete Organic fertilizer) in my garden this fall, so they've had two side-dressings of COF. I've also sprayed them with kelp and fish emulsion twice.
This is what the plants looked like this morning. Cucumbers and others from this family (pumpkins, squash...) are not worth buying as seedlings. They sprout and grow so easily and quickly when seeded directly in the soil.
I'm hoping that these will do ok in the cooler Fall weather, since they are in this black pot. The sun should keep the soil warm until the plants are mature, and they should do better now that the daily rains have stopped. I decided risk it and ignore the suggested planting date for cucumbers in Central Florida, which only goes through August. It is unlikely we will have a freeze before Christmas; and even if we did, we could try to cover them up. We've enjoyed our cucumbers so much, I couldn't bear to see the last of them.
I just finished harvesting the last of the cucumbers from the plants in the hydro-buckets. The plants are done, mainly because of the mildew growing on them due to all the rain we had in September. I will have to work more diligently to keep the fungus off these types of plants during the rainy season come Spring.
* COF is a homemade Complete Organic Fertilizer. The formula was created by Steven Solomon, the author of gardening when it counts. The basic ingredients I use in COF are: seed meal, lime (gypsum & garden lime), phosphate rock, and kelp (if possible). I finished reading gardening when it counts last week and cannot recommend it highly enough for anyone trying to grow vegetables at home. Steven Solomon is the founder of Territorial Seed Company; and although he no longer owns it, he has many years of experience growing vegetables organically.