Archive for the ‘Heirloom’ Category

2011 Garden Beginnings!

January 2, 2011

For our weekly update this week, we have the beginnings of our 2011 Garden plantings, and a Seed Exchange!


We spent part of the week planning out what (and how many) plants we need to start in the basement to be transplanted out in the Spring.  We’re expanding the garden a bit this year to the front yard to grow melons and winter squash where they can spread out and not be in the way.  Doing so opens up some of the main garden’s boxes for more PEPPERS.  We figure we have room for 86 pepper plants at the dense planting we tried this year (and it worked out great).  We have 16 different varieties we’re going to try to grow next year (some are even home-saved seed!).  The first number in the list below is the number of plants of each variety we hope to end up with; the second number is the number of plants we’ll start in order to (hopefully) end up with the desired number:

HOT Peppers:

Tabasco:  2, 3

Habanero:  5, 7

Ancho:  7, 9

Thai Hot:  1, 2

Cayenne:  5, 7

Jalapeno:  6, 8

Serrano:  4, 6

El Chaco:  2, 4

SWEET Peppers:

Cherry:  5, 7

Anaheim:  7, 9

Pimento:  3, 5

Yellow Pimento:  3, 5

CA Wonder:  11, 14

Red Marconi:  8, 10

Yolo Wonder:  9, 11

Italian Relleno:  8, 10

We’re cutting back on tomato varieties this year to only four (2 paste, 2 slicing) plus tomatillos.  We’ll be planting (and starting):

Better Boy:  9, 12

Early Girl:  5, 8

Amish Paste:  5, 8

Roma (seed gotten from Mimi):  5, 8

Tomatillos:  3, 5

Tomatoes/tomatillos will take up 3 boxes, as they did last year and we thought we had a good amount for eating, canning, and sharing.


In other plants, we had way too much celery last year, even though we lost a number of plants to voles.  But we had so much we actually sold some to a local specialty store.  Next season, we hope to have 25 celery plants and we’ll start 32; all one variety this year (Tendercrisp) – it’s our first time growing this variety so hopefully we’ll be successful!

Eggplant:  we lost all of our eggplant seedlings to the voles last year and had to plant store-bought seedlings.  Four plants survived the voles and we thought this gave us a reasonable number of eggplants through the growing season (basically, 1 per week).  We’re aiming for 4 eggplant plants again next year so we’ll start 8 since we have trouble getting eggplant to germinate well.

Onions:  this year we’ve finally figured out which onions grow in our area!  (Maybe we’re a bit slow…).  We’re growing Yellow Granex from seed.  We’re going to start half of the seed inside and direct sow the other half to see which methods works the best for us.  We may also pick up some Candy onion seeds from Southern States if we decide we need more than one seed pack.

Broccoli and cauliflower:  we’ll try again but this may be the last time we do so.  We do not have good luck growing either of these vegetables to maturity, regardless of whether it’s Spring or Fall.  But we will start two varieties of cauliflower (8 of each, hopefully to end up with 6 of each) and three varieties of broccoli (7 of each, hopefully to end up with 5 of each).

Summer squash:  we normally do not have room under the seed starting lights to start them early but we’re going to make room this year.  The plants germinate so easily when direct sowed but the squash bugs pose such a problem here in NC that the plants die long before they’re even thinking about giving up.  We want to plant transplants this year to give them a bit of a head start on squash bugs and hopefully get a bit more production.

Winter squash:  we may direct seed the butternut varieties since they seem to have a bit of resistance to squash bugs but the acorn squash we want to grow needs an early start indoors if we hope to get any fruit before the plants succumb to bugs.  We also ordered some “Lakota” seeds from Burpee and will likely start those indoors as well.

It’s looking like we may need to expand the indoor seed starting operation!  Maybe I’ll go down to the basement soon and figure out what we can do…

More Seeds!


We’ve culled the seed collection and decided what we’ll be growing next year so we have the following seeds to either just give away if you need seeds but don’t have any to trade or to trade for seeds we’d like to get.

Seeds we’d like to get:





French Breakfast radishes

something you have that you think is particularly worthy

Seeds to give away/trade:

Old Dutch Half-Runner Beans (a great, tasty, prolific green bean that we’ve grown for 3 years and will continue to grow but we have too many seeds.  Stringless when young.  Although a 1/2 runner, it grows to 8 feet in our garden).

Heirloom Iceberg Lettuce (iceberg lettuce can be hard to get to germinate)

Parisian Carrot (small-ish round carrots)

Green Zebra Tomato

Greek Basil

White Sweet Spanish Onion (long day)

Walla Walla Onion (long day)

Bianca di Maggio onion

Ruby Queen beet

Chioggia beet

Plum Purple Radish

Watermelon radish

Chinese Red Meat radish

Chinese Green Luobo radish

Black Spanish radish

Japanese Minowase Daikon radish

Baby eggplant

Russian Tarragon

Utah Celery

Beefsteak Tomato

Bloody Butcher

San Marzano Tomato

Send us an e-mail: foodgardenkitchen at gmail dot com if you’re interested.


Weekly Garden Update: Summer Solstice 2010

June 20, 2010

8' Tomato

Tomatoes have once again outgrown our 8’ trellis.  Last year they grew up and then started back down, with the longest one having a total length of approximately 14 feet.  This year I’m topping them as they hit the 8’ mark, and plan to sucker more of them as well.


San Marzanos

The war of attrition against the vole menace seems to be tilting our way.  In the last 2 weeks we’ve only lost 1 celery plant and 1 eggplant, and we have racked up 2 voles in traps, and a total lack of new vole hole activity.  (I started humming the Ballad of Roger Young while I wrote this (chuckle)).

We took another step this week away from the mainstream:  we bought canning supply implements and wide-mouth pint Mason jars.  With our large metal pots, this will allow us to do water-bath canning.  We’re seriously considering splurging on a pressure canner at some point as well.

Haricot Verts

We harvested haricot vert at least 4 days out of the past 6!  Oh, snap beans galore to be steamed and gobbled.  We’ve been harvesting a few yellow squash which were promptly sautéed in butter and devoured.  We got our first Anaheim pepper off the vine, and we have jalapenos, cayenne, and Italian Rellenos growing.  At least one tomato is coming off the vines daily.



Today we harvested our first cucumber, and more celery.  More cucumbers will be harvestable tomorrow or the next day.



It has been 15 days since we racked the garlic, and this morning I cleaned and polished the bulbs after trimming down the stems and the roots.  I separated damaged bulbs or bulbs with little or no paper covering to be eaten sooner.  I smell like garlic.

We pulled up all the snow peas this morning, and reworked the bed.  And we weeded and tidied up and picked squash bugs, etc.

Field Peas (Cow Peas)

Butter Beans

Dutch Half-Runners

The butter beans, field peas, and Dutch half-runners are growing nicely, as you can see here.

Here is our butternut squash growing up the trellis, and in the background are the tomatillos.

Butternut Squash

Last but not least, this is a color of day lily of which I am particularly fond, and a couple of extra photos from the garden.

Day Lily


Yukon Gold Potatoes - Planted recently

Haricot Vert

Weekly Garden Update: 6/13

June 13, 2010

Our first actual squash rotted at the end, oh what a disappointment.  We have several more on the way, but another smaller one rotted as well.  Current theory is that it rotted because it was in contact with the ground, but we aren’t sure that it isn’t something else.   We only lost 1 celery plant to voles since the last vole war update.  Are we winning?  Who could say…


We harvested tomatoes this week (see the previous post, sonnet to the tomato).  The bloody butchers, which were listed as 60 day tomatoes, were the first to come off the vine.  We put them in the ground 3 days before the last frost date, only a slight gamble due to the weather report at the time, so these are really on the ball.


We have tomatillos firming up, I can’t wait until I can make some hot tomatillos sauce and carnitas.

Haricot Vert, i.e., Snap Beans

Haricot vert!  Harvested this morning!  We eagerly embrace these green beans:  frozen ones from last year are fine, but they do not retain the fresh snappy green goodness of vine to table in less than 24 hours.

Haricot Vert on the Vine

The field peas (cow peas) we planted last Saturday all came up on Wednesday.  And now the lima beans and the dutch half-runners are as well – both came bursting up out of the ground on Thursday and Friday as though they were late for an appointment with the sun.


Here is a photo of apples on one of the trees, and we have figs on the Brown turkey.  The black mission fig and the black jack fig are growing very well this year, but I don’t expect to see figs on them until next year or the even the next.  People have told me that they won’t grow here, but I have grown them before and when I lived in my grandmother’s house I planted a black mission fig that is now over 24 feet high and provides enough figs for multiple families.

Black Jack & Black Mission

Flowers are food for the spirit:

Day Lily


Balloon Flower (Platycodon grandiflorus)

Day Lily

And here are some good photos of the garden as a whole:

"New Row"

"New Row"

"Middle Row"

"First Row"


Side View

Side Boxes

Wormfarm & Boxes

From the top, "First Row"

From the top, "Middle row"

From the top, "New Row"

It’s May! It’s May!

May 1, 2010

Tra la! It’s May!

The lusty month of May!


That lovely month when ev’ryone goes

Blissfully astray.

(end singing now)

Lettuce in Harvest Basket

Och Aye, It’s May.  Today we shopped at Carrboro Farmer’s Market and the South Estes Farmer’s Market, buying beets and carrots and biodynamic strawberries that taste like Vanessa Redgrave’s voice sounds.


This afternoon we spent in the Garden.  We harvested green garlic, which makes great garlic bread, and oodles of radishes and enough lettuces to satisfy the entire Efrafa warren.  We harvested young spinach, and the last of the wintered cauliflower.

Trellised Peppers

Then we transplanted peppers to a box, only 21 of the ones we have ready to go.  We harvested lettuces and thinned the rest out by transplanting them so they had more room.

Pepper Seedlings

We have Sugar Snap Peas!  Not many, but enough have come in for a dish.  And we have blueberries growing!


And lit-tle ty-ny apples.  We have half a dozen tomato plants blossoming, plus both our tomatillos.  The snow peas have lovely purple and pink blossoms.

Tomato Blossom

We transplanted winter squash that we set to germinate last week into a box, and the summer squash are starting to unfurl from beneath the top layer of dirt.  The haricot vert are germinating as well as the cucumbers.

Squash Seedlings

Below are photos of many of our herbs we have growing in railing boxes and by windows and in large containers outside scattered amongst the Garden.

We’ve been growing mung bean sprouts from beans purchased at our local Co-Op, and have gotten nicely efficient at having them on hand most of the time.  Mostly they go into the salads.

Sometimes I feel redundant; shooting what seems to me to be similar pictures over and over.  Then I remind myself that a year from now it will be nice to have a visual record of the weeks passing in the garden.

More cilantro


More tomatillo blossoms

Tomatillo blossom







Tomato Blossom




April Garden Update

April 27, 2010


More Lettuce!

Spinach & Lettuce

We have harvestable baby spinach, along with the ubercrop of lettuce and radishes.  The potatoes have been mounded yet again, the boxes are all full (we started with a 4” deep soil base, and have been adding to them since).

Bed o' Taters


Our broccoli and cauliflower are doing much better than the ones we did last year.  The seed onions needed thinning, and the set onions are way ahead of them in size.  All the garlic now has 5-7 leaves, a few of the stalks are nearly 4’ high.

We planted 30 tomato plants this past weekend, including green zebra, bloody butcher, brandywine, beefsteak, early girl, better boy, and san marzanos.  We also planted 2 tomatillos, 1 box of haricot vert (2 rows each 12’), and 6 summer squash:  yellow and zucchini.  We planted 3 varieties of cucumbers.  Winter squash seeds were set to germinate inside, both acorn and butternut.



The pepper seedlings are in their final stages of hardening off, and we hope to plant them either this coming weekend or the next at the latest.

In the flower parts of the lot, we have azaleas and irises in bloom now, the daffodils and the tulips have faded away for the spring.  We have dahlia, oriental lily, day lily, and calla lily bulbs that will be coming along.  The moonflower vine almost looks like it is biding its time, though its growth is thick near the ground.



The apple trees have what look to be tiny apple pods on them.  Given their young age, we are most pleased!  The figs and the blueberries are puttering right along, doing nicely.  My lime mint hasn’t come back up so far this year, not sure why.  If it doesn’t, I’ll try to plant it again in a different location.

We gave away celery and tomato seedlings that had prospered, but that we had no room for, we hope that they will do well in their new homes.

After we planted everything last weekend, we went back in and put up the trellising for the year.

Black Jack Fig


Boxes View

New boxes


The Seeds of Wrath

March 20, 2010

In December 2008, she started ordering seeds from the various organic, heritage, heirloom, and rare seeds sources, e.g.:

Baker Creek Seeds (

Heirloom seeds (

Botanical Interests (

Seeds of Change (

High Mowing Seeds (

And even Burpee Organics (

My experience consisted primarily of sowing seeds into the ground, or buying seedlings and planting them.  As a child, the Southern States store in my local town was a Mecca, along with the little red grain mill (mostly for corn meal), and the farmer’s market.  Farmer’s Market in those days meant the place where you went to buy a hog or a cow or some other animal on Wednesday at auction, it had none of the current meaning of the phrase.  Each trip was also likely to include a trip to the country store with my grandfather or my father.  We’d sit with the old men on rickety chairs and stools near the woodstove, and eat some hoop cheese and a few crackers, and maybe get a Nehi or an RC cola, or a piece of penny candy.  Talk consisted of farming, hunting, fishing, and local “news”.

What my experience didn’t include was germinating seeds indoors starting as early as January.  We did some research, read a book or so, looked at some blogs, and created our setup in the basement.

Our list of mistakes was awesome.

We bought what turned out to be sterile foam-like “starter plugs” to set in the trays and germinate the seeds.  Neither of us realized the “sterile” part, and as a result we spent weeks starving our seedlings of any nutrients save water and the grow lights.  In addition, these insidious starter plugs were a bit too foam-like, and none of the plants we started in them were able to easily or freely get their root systems through it.  Over a year later, those curs-ed plugs still lay in wait in the garden soil, though I throw out a few every time I rake the dirt.  They’re a bit harder now, but no less decomposed.

This meant that even the seedlings that survived the starvation had stunted root systems.  We were very proud of our 100% germination rate on our onions, and they looked great for the first several weeks.  Not one ever outgrew the starter plugs, and we had a 0% success rate on onions.

This year we used organic potting mix and soil-less seed starting mix.

In addition we did the following:

We left the domes on the trays for over a month after the seedlings germinated, reasoning that a terrarium like atmosphere would recycle the moisture in a positive way while keeping the temperature up.  This promotes the growth of mold, etc. on the poor seedlings and keeps them fragile which makes it more difficult to harden them off and stunts them once exposed yet again.

We left the lights on 24 hours a day so they wouldn’t get too cold.  Bad, bad.  Plants need rest from the light.  Now we have a cheapie timer and 12 hours of light.

Lack of nutrients.  Now we use fish emulsion and bat guano and liquid seaweed.

We did a poor job of hardening plants off, failing to expose them to breezes in addition to the temperature change, i.e., we still sheltered them too much.

We left the heating mats for germination on through the whole process, for months.  Don’t do this.  Turn them off as soon as the seeds get up above the soil good.

The lights were too far above the plants, resulting in spindly seedlings.  This year we put them close down on top, and used cheap 4’ shop lights with metal refractive covers instead of expensive short growlights.

Seedlings, 2010

Seedlings, 2010

The difference in the look of our seedlings from 2009 and 2010 is remarkable.  Our heirloom tomatoes look waaaay improved over last year, with much stronger stems and leaf systems.  The celery looks healthy, not anemic.  We’re even getting better germination on Eggplant, which bedeviled us last year.

Celery Germinating 2010

Celery Germinating 2010

We failed to transplant smaller seedlings into larger cups as they grew.  This year she has already moved the tomatoes to larger cups and they are responding happily.

Those items we have already transplanted to the soil outside in 2010  (onions, broccoli, cauliflower, and broccoli raab) appear to be doing well.  In 2009 they suffered, looked sad, some died, some recovered, some just never changed, appearing to be in some sort of un-dead state.

Germinating seeds and care of seedlings has been a real education, and we’re looking forward to seeing how 2010 goes.