Thursday, November 11, 2010

My Winter Project: Planting Alpine Strawberry Seeds

Ah, it's been a long summer and fall.  A lot of my plans fell through.  First we had weird weather, with too much rain that drowned my potatoes.  The remaining plant was pounded by a hailstorm later.

I also had some problems with the community garden - finding someone who could do the plumbing.  I also had emergency gallbladder surgery in June, so that further threw plans out of whack.  It's back on track for next year, though.  I am working on applications for grants and funds like the Pepsi Refresh project.

I was sitting in my bed working online, and I decided that I needed more plant life in my room.  I have an Earthbox I need to test out, so I rummaged through the seeds that I need to review.  I came across some Mignonette Alpine strawberry seeds from Renee's Garden, and I knew this was the project for me.  I recently wrote a blog post for about wild strawberries, and I've never tried growing strawberries from seeds (I always just buy the plants).

Alpine strawberries are often found wild in Europe.  They are conical and smaller than the strawberry we are used to in supermarkets.  It's supposed to have a smashing flavor, so I can't wait to finally try them.

It sounds like I'll have to be patient with these seeds - it can take 3-4 weeks to germinate.  Whew!  I'll probably start some other seeds too, but that is yet to be determined.

Here's a video about seeding alpine strawberries.  It's part of a whole series about growing alpine strawberries.

What's your winter gardening project?

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Technology in the Garden

A good friend sent me this video. I found it funny and clever.  Who knew?  Enjoy.

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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Seed Potatoes Are Taking Over My Bedroom!

There is a strong smell of soil in my bedroom right now - ah, the adventures of urban gardening.

The weather had been pleasant here.  We had built one potato townhome (ours are 2'x6' instead of 2'x2' like many of the condo plans I've read, so I'll dub them with my own name to match my residence). It's fun - we bought strong 2x4s for the corners, but are recycling fence boards for the main part.

I also cut up most of the seed potatoes at that time.  You do it a day or two ahead of time so they form a callus on the cut side.  That means they won't rot when you plant them (I think that was my fatal mistake when I was little) and be a bit more protected from pests and diseases.

Then when we looked for an update in the weather, we saw that it was now slated for freezing temperatures and snow again.  Sigh.  I worried so much about planting them outside in those conditions, but also worried about these cut potato pieces sitting for too long.

Finally, I popped to the store to buy more soil and some peat pots.  I potted up the seed potato pieces and placed them on cookie sheets and in plastic shoe boxes for easy transportation. I've escorted them up to my bedroom so I don't annoy the roommates.  I did plant some pieces outside.  We'll see what happens.

It's supposed to get better next week, so hopefully we can build more potato townhomes and plant these babies up.

In the meantime, I've got many pots and containers in my room. I like the smell of soil, but it's pretty strong in here right now.  Whew!

What's the weather like where you are?  Please say it's better than here :)

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Winner of the Drought Tolerant Seeds Giveaway

Whew!  It's been a bit busy lately.  I've been planting some seeds (pea sprouts appeared today!), training for a marathon (see the Super Hot Chica tab), planning a community garden (more info to come) and more.

First - do you notice anything different?  This blog got a wonderful makeover courtesy of Mary,Mary Quite Contrary Designs.  I especially love the picture of the palm tree in the snow (symbolic, of course, of ME!)

I put all of the entries for the Drought Tolerant Seeds Giveaway into a Google document, adjusting to make sure that any extra entries were counted.  I zipped over to Random,org and as you can see, #24 was the winner! She said:

Using a water efficient sprinkler (uses 30% less
water) check at your garden center. 


Congrats to you, Candice!  I'll be sending you an email and you'll have 72 hours to send me your address, or an alternate winner will be picked.  Thanks to everyone for playing and be sure to read the comments on the giveaway for some water conservation tips and plants.
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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Seed GROW Project: Spitfire Nasturtiums

I'm one of 45 gardeners around the country participating in the Seed GROW Project, where we are all growing Spitfire Climbing Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus 'Spitfire') and comparing results.

It's not quite time to be planting them here in Utah. Planting outside would have to be after the frost date (May 15th), and starting indoors would only be about 3 weeks before then.  It's been snowing off and on this week, so it's not looking promising yet.  If I was home in California, I could have planted them when I got them a month ago..

It's also uncertain as to where these will be planted, as I have at least 3 garden locations to work with this year - my own place, the community garden I am starting, and a half acre that my best friend and I will share.  We are looking to try our hand at growing competition-sized pumpkins on that one, and there will be plenty of room for at least one of these nasturtiums too.

I am looking forward to this experiment.  They taste peppery, so I am told, and it would be fun to serve a flowery salad to my friends.

Until it's planting time, I am left just dreaming of planting my Spitfire nasturtiums and reading the blogs of those who have been able to start.

Have you grown nasturtiums?  Tried eating them?

"I'm growing Nasturtium "Spitfire" for the GROW project. Thanks, to Renee's Garden for the seeds."

Photo from Renee's Seeds

Monday, March 22, 2010

Our Patriotic Potatoes

One thing I haven't personally grown yet (successfully) is potatoes.  I tried planting cut-up pieces when I was little, but the pill bugs (rollie pollies, of course!) ate them all. I haven't tried to plant them since then, as I was too busy planting their cousins (tomatoes) and other scrumptious plants.

That's all changing this year.  My best friend and I have decided to grow some potatoes.  It's especially fun since he's from Idaho, land of spuds. I have had some fresh from the ground there and it was pure heaven.

We're going to be growing them in potato condos.  I heard about them first from my friends the Shibaguyz and fell instantly in love with the name.  Over at Living Homegrown Fresh, Theresa has put up a wonderful post all about potato condos, including links on how to build them.

We pored over catalogs and websites, trying to figure out which varieties we wanted to grow.  Late varieties are reported to work best in potato condos, so that narrowed down the field.

In the end, we bought our seed potatoes from the Seed Savers Exchange. The three varieties we are going to grow are:

  • All Blue - Dark blue skin and blue flesh.  Quite stunning.
  • All Red - Same as the blue, but it's all red instead.  A bit unsure about this one - some say it's a mid variety, some late.  It will be an experiment.
  • German Butterball - here's the white one.  It's said to be a good all-around potato.  Even won an award from Rodale!
I can't wait to see how our patriotic potatoes do in the potato condos.  Have you grown potatoes?  Have you built a potato condo?  Share how your harvest went!

Photo by Lawrence Farmers' Market via Flickr

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Drought Tolerant Seeds Giveaway

Since I grew up in Southern California and now live in Utah, I am used to drought.  I enjoyed the time I spent working as an assistant horticulturist at the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District's Demonstration Garden.  They show that you don't have to sacrifice beauty for drought tolerance.

I've got a stash of drought tolerant seeds that I want to give away to one lucky winner.  These come from Plants of the Southwest, a New Mexico company that focuses on drought-tolerant native plants..  They are a bit older, but should still germinate just fine.  I've been saving them for a special occasion, and I can't think of a better way than to help someone else make their yard more beautiful while conserving water!

What seeds are included?
  • Wild hyssop (Agastache cana) - good for hummingbirds
  • Pink nodding onion (Allium cernuum) - edible blossoms
  • Chocolate flower (Berlandia lyrata) - smells like chocolate
  • Indian ricegrass (Orzyopsis hymenoides) - a light, airy grass
  • Jacob's ladder (Polemonium foliosissimum) - very pretty blue flowers 
  • Little bluestem (Andropogon scoparius) - changes colors in the fall 
  • High Desert Mix - 1 oz with at least 17 different wildflowers
Mandatory Entry:  Leave a tip listing your favorite drought tolerant plant(s) or ways you save water in the garden.  1 tip per person.

Extra Entries:  
  • Follow this blog on Google Connect (or leave a note that you already follow)(+3 - leave 3 comments, Google connect name)
  • Blog about this giveaway (+5 - leave 5 comments, link to giveaway)
  • Tweet (leave a link)
This contest will end on Thursday March 25th, 2010 at 11:59 PM.  Make sure I can reach you somehow - email in your profile or in your post.  Open to all countries 13+.  Void where prohibited.

Good luck!

Photo of Jacob's ladder by Flickr user travelingwild

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Learn All About St.Patrick's Day Plants - Shamrocks & More

I've long been a believer in luck.  I enter (and win!) sweepstakes all the time.  The only time I've been in the hospital was when I was born.  I've come out of 3 car accidents with semi trucks (I wasn't always the driver) with no more than a few scratches.  I feel like the luckiest girl for the circumstances that lead to my job as a garden writer.

When I was living in Oregon for my internship, we would sometimes go visit Portland.  One Saturday another intern and I drove to the city and walked around. Since I'm a garden nerdlet, I started looking at the clover in the grass, searching for 4-leaf clovers. Oddly enough, I found quite a few that day.

I also had the fun task of helping a friend plant red clover in his lawn last year.  It's actually quite beneficial for the yard.  Clover (as well as other legumes like beans and peas) performs the process of nitrogen fixation with the help of microorganisms found in root nodes.  Nitrogen fixation means the plant can pull nitrogen out of the air for use (most plants cannot).  Inoculant is a concentration of those microorganisms so you can help boost nitrogen fixation.  We coated the seeds with inoculant and spread it among the grass.  I can't wait to go see if they took and look for 4-leaf clovers.

Shamrocks are a symbol of Ireland and St. Patrick's day, but it's not clear which versions of clover can be considered the "real" shamrocks.  My coworker David from Landscaping has a great piece called Irish Shamrocks and Four-Leaf Clovers.

You can also read about the native trees and shrubs of Ireland  in the list of websites I have compiled.  I think the Killarney strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo) is one of my favorites since we grow that in California too.

Have you found 4-leaf clovers?  What's your favorite native Irish tree or shrub?

Photo by cygnus921 via Flickr

Monday, March 15, 2010

Wisteria Seeds-A-Poppin'

I was sitting on my bed working on my Trees and Shrubs site and other fun online when there was suddenly a loud BANG in my room.  I looked around, startled, as I tried to figure out what could have caused it.  Everything looked the same in my room.

I had an inkling of what it could be, though. I walked over to my book review table, which also holds my tub o' seeds.  Sure enough, the wisteria seeds I had gotten that day from a seed swap (more about that in the next post) had burst open.

Wisteria seed pods always react in such a violent manner, snapping open and scattering their seeds. You can read more about the process in this post from the Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County.

I am glad I got them.  I'll be sending the seeds to my folks in California, since they have an arbor as the entryway to our "secret side garden".  Currently it's covered with morning glory vines, which are unfortunately very invasive in their yard.  It sends out roots all over the yard and smothers everything.

Once all the morning glory is ripped out AGAIN (one of these days it will starve....right?), they can plant the wisteria and eventually train it to drape over the arbor. It's sure to be delightful.

I still have 2 pods that are unpopped.  I can't wait until they startle me again.  I could open them myself, of course, but it's much more fun to anticipate a surprise.

Have you ever been around a wisteria vine when the seeds were bursting open?

Photo by Jessibird via Flickr

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Is It Time for Peas Yet?

My mind keeps whispering the question "Is it time for peas yet?"

When I was growing up, I HATED eating peas. I would see the green balls on my plate and want to gag.  I used my fork to carefully push aside any of these insidious vegetables.  If I had to eat them, they went down whole.

A few years ago, I worked at a water conservation demonstration gardentry  that had several different sections to show design possibilities.  In addition to a beautiful harvest garden that focuses on fruits and herbs, there was a vegetable garden that used underground drip irrigation.

Since I had another job, I usually worked nights. The exception was Saturdays, when I usually worked a morning shift.  The garden was 45 minutes from my home, so I was usually running out the door without any breakfast.

On one fateful Saturday, I decided to make a breakfast of yellow pear tomatoes and try peas fresh off the vine.  I was in love!  I decided that the problem all those years was that the peas had been cooked.  Fresh peas are marvelous.

There were several Saturdays afterwards that I enjoyed the same meal.  I now search for peas on vegetable trays at parties.  I do eat them pod and all.

Fortunately for me, peas are one of the earliest vegetables to plant.  As soon as the ground thaws they can be put out, in fact.  I have an EarthBox to test out, so I can start them even sooner inside and move the box to the patio when it's closer to spring.

I haven't quite decided which varieties I will plant yet.  I have some older hybrid seeds that do need to be used up.  I also want to try some sweet heirloom varieties.  Any suggestions?

Do you always wonder "Is it time for peas yet?"

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Mystery of the Pink Hill

I have long wondered how this landscape came to be.

                                                                 Photo by Andy Stanton

It's just

Were the pink portions red once upon a time, and they were trying to mimic the pretty sandstone mountains down in Southern Utah somehow?

I like to pretend that's the reason, because I can't see why else they would have pink concrete.  I used a picture where it featured the side of the house for a little more anonymity, but if you look closely you can see a sliver that shows the front of the house is red.

It's a mystery indeed.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Dreaming of Baby's Tears

One of the plants I miss most from California is a groundcover called baby's tears.  The botanical name is fun to say - Soleirolia soleirolii.  It grows in Zones 10 and 11.

Image by Naota
I know some people would think me crazy, as this plant can be highly invasive.  I can't help it though - I love walking through patches of baby's tears in my bare feet.  I adore the way it can fill in the cracks between stepping stones.  It's good for your spots that are always wet.

Then again, I also admire the way field bindweed looks in lawns.....

(Don't worry, I also properly loathe field bindweed overall as a plant. I'm not THAT foolish :) )

How do you feel about baby's tears?  Does a corner of your heart love it even though you know you shouldn't?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

From Tropical Paradise to Snowland, Part 2

Part 1

After I arrived in Utah as a transfer student at BYU, I got a job on the grounds crew.  The first few months weren't very fun - I spent a lot of time shoveling sidewalks while it was still snowing.  Spring did finally decide to show up, and I had a great time mowing lawns, using a weed whacker, planting new landscapes in more.

I found that I wasn't as enthralled with microbiology any more.  I spent a semester where I changed my mind about what my new major would be.  Finally it hit me:  I loved my grounds job so much - why not major in horticulture?

It wasn't too much later that circumstances led to me moving home to California and continuing my new major at community college for the next 2 years. I even managed to win a scholarship for being the most outstanding student in the whole division.

By then I was restless and it was time to return to BYU.  I had a fabulous time.  Fun fact: I went to juggling club while I was there, and I can now juggle fire devilsticks.   I spent a summer in McMinnville, OR doing an internship at Bailey Nurseries (they're fab!)

I graduated from BYU and have since taken up residence here in Utah.  I spent one season working at the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District's demonstration garden.  These days I work from home as a professional garden writer.  It's a bit strange - I never really dreamed about being a writer growing up, but it's been a wonderful couple of years so far.

I still can't say I'm totally used to this snowy world I've landed in.  I look outside and see a vast blanket of whiteness everywhere.  I've really come to appreciate spring more, though. One of the happiest days of the year is when I'm out for a walk and I find buds swelling on the trees.

This blog will highlight my garden adventures. I love trying plants that don't belong here in Zone 5 - so far there's been banana trees, mangroves and papyrus.   I currently have an Italian stone pine in my house and tiny orchids.  I am planning on trying many more new plants over the coming years.

This week I'm going to experiment with sprouting quinoa.  My best friend and I are going to grow potatoes in condos this spring for the first time.  I'm also helping out with a community garden club with several plots.

Zone 5 does feel like madness sometimes to a girl used to growing brilliantly colored plants year-round. It can be magic too, though.  I can't wait to share all my endeavors here!

Monday, January 25, 2010

From Tropical Paradise to Snowland, Part 1

I grew up in a lush world filled with plants like palm trees and jacarandas - Orange County, California.  Flowers abound even in the middle of January.  Avocados, loquats, citrus and more are being harvested soon.

If I remember correctly, my own garden adventures began with the proverbial bean seed in a paper cup.  From there I grew to love the feel of dirt on my  bare hands.  I would dig up the gladioli to find all of the baby corms.  Snapdragons were the perfect temporary prisons for inquisitive ants. I would plant strawberry patches, tomatoes and bush beans.

Even back then I was already ordering garden catalogs. My favorite was Park Seed.  Each winter I would send in the postcard to request the new catalog.  I'd pore over the pages, looking longingly at the newest varieties.  Sometimes when I had saved up some money, I'd make an order and anxiously await for my seeds to arrive.  I was also very fond of Sunset magazine.

When I was growing up, I actually wanted to be a marine biologist. I would traipse along the beach, picking up seashells and peering into tide pools.  A part of me still longs to be one. The tang of salt air calls to me.

Over the years my love of science grew and as I entered community college, I had a declared major of microbiology.  I spent a couple of years getting my general education classes out of the way, then transferred to the wintry land of Provo, Utah to attend Brigham Young University.

Tune in tomorrow to see how I ended up as a horticulture major and adapted to being a Zone 10 girl growing in a Zone 5 world.

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