Winter Bulb Care

That is my favourite dahlia, growing in the chair in the picture above! It's a 'Keri Blue', called that because of the slight blue tint in the very center. It's beautiful and I take no chances with these during their winter rest in my cold cellar. Also wintered over in the cellar are other dahlias, cannas, glad, 4 O'clocks and geraniums (pelargoniums). Many winters, if left alone, the small dahlias will dry up. Some of the other ones do too. This has always been a great disappointment to me in the spring!

This year I decided to take steps to make sure that didn't happen! I read that it helps to take them out of storage in early January and soak them for a day or so, then dry well again and pack in cold storage for another couple of months.

I did that this past week. I took out the small dahlia divisions and small new dahlia bulbs, as well as the 4 o'clock roots and soaked them in room temp water for a few hours. I then laid them out on the kitchen floor on newspapers to dry for a few days. Today I repacked them in wood chips in plastic bags in the basement.

I had planned to leave them for a few more days but our wonky male cat, Shadow, who has cabin fever in the snowy winter, spent his morning attacking them and shredding the papers. lol! Since they were dry again, I put them away. It won't help him. He just attacks the little rugs and the furniture, rolling around on the floor and killing them with all four feet and teeth! lol! Abby, the female cat, prefers to play with and carry off any little hard things she finds around. Anything is fair game. Hubby swears that she has stolen a couple of his tiny wrenches from the desk. I have seen her batting other things to the floor and knocking them around, as well as finding wood pellets scattered all over the house in the morning! (I won't be the only one glad when spring comes! lol! We love them both dearly!)

I only soaked the small and new dahlias that would, in past years, be dried up in the spring. In past years I have tossed them down there to be completely forgotten until spring. This year I have new ones that are important to me, so I am tending them carefully, checking on them whenever I am down there and making sure they are not getting shriveled.

The geranium roots are hanging up, dry. This is the first year I have wintered them over in this fashion. Usually I pot them up and grow them as houseplants all winter, and I did do a few like that, also. Geraniums love spending their winter growing in a sunny window and bloom continuously, right up until they go outside in the spring. I didn't have room for all of them this year. I am considering soaking the bare geranium roots hanging in the basement, too. Has anyone done this and does it help or will they be fine hanging bare root in the cold cellar until spring without intervention?

I had calla lilies and some dwarf white cannas last year, but neither survived last winter in storage. I grew them all from seed and was very disappointed when they didn't make it.

Saving Seeds

Autumn is my favourite time of the year! I love the cool, crisp weather and the wonderully diverse, bright colour scheme. I also like the lack of thick undergrowth and weeds. Late summer and early fall are the time of year when the plants decide it is time to reproduce for next year. I try to prevent this stage in the weeds, but get excited when my favouite flowers seeds are ready to harvest.

In order to have flower seeds, a plant has to have flowers. No flowers, no seeds. The flowers also have to stay on the plant to develop into seed pods. If you cut off the flowers for bouquets or cut off the dead flowers, you won't have seeds. I know it looks a bit messy with dead flowers aging in the garden, but it is necessary in order to have seeds from those flowers. If you want pristine gardens, perhaps you should have your "seed gardens" somewhere out of sight where the long dead flowers and stalks will not be seen.

I also like to save my special vegetable seeds. We grow a very sweet and fat cucumber that we like a lot. We have grown it from our own seed for a few years now. Cucumber and tomato seeds need special treatment in order to germinate the following spring. I will describe how to do that later in this post. This year I hand pollinated my squash to get more produce. I should have tied the male and female flowers closed before and after I hand pollinated them to keep the seed very pure, but I didn't. I will do that next year.

While I love my flowers and gardens, I also love seed collecting. Sometimes I have to remind myself that having a large and diverse collection of seeds is not the goal. I should be actually planting the seeds in order for them to be of any use. I not only plant the seeds for more plants in the garden, but use them for trading as well. This way I can trade all over the world for things I cannot buy here. It is very exciting to grow something rare and spectacular from a seed acquired by trading with another gardener from another country or even another continent.

I have a large unused field by the road that I plan to use as a repository for old flower seed. If the seed gets to be a year old and I still have it, I will scatter it in that field in the fall. This will be the first fall that I have done this. I am hoping for a field full of flowers next spring. I have a lot of cosmos, feverfew, calendula, peony poppy and pink yarrow seeds from three years ago to scatter in there soon. All are prolific reseeders. I am sure many will grow. I won't be using these old seeds for trade or sell, as the germination rates will not be as good as the newer seeds, but I can reap the harvest that does grow from those seeds for use the following year.

I started a seed bed this year for direct planting of seeds and to hold seedlings I started indoors until they are big enough to hold their own in the flower bed. I have helleborus seeds in there now, planted in July. They will need at least two months of moist warm summer temps planted in the ground and then two months of cold before they will germinate. I will be looking for these seedlings next spring. I did, also, plant some in trays on the front porch to bring in after their cold spell. I will put these indoors on the windowsill in Jan and hope for some tiny helleborus several weeks later. These are special seeds and must be sown while fresh, immediately after harvesting from the plant. If they are allowed to dry for very long, it will take several warm-cold spells to break dormancy and can take a long time. The seeds that I have were sent to me directly from the plant in a small plastic bag in damp perlite.

My flowers have been producing seed for a few weeks now. I have harvested many from the flowerbeds. These are the peony poppy seed pods drying. Each plant is labelled in the garden so I know what colour the seeds are, even though they are open pollinated. With seeds, you never know what you are going to get. With special seeds from a trade, I will plant all of them.

The poppy seed pods are cut to dry when the leaves turn brown and the plant starts to die. There is no point in trying to ripen the seeds any longer.

These are cranesbill geranium seed candles. They tend to pop when the seed is released and the seed will fly out of the container and into other seed containers drying various types of seed, so I keep them covered. The plant is covered with them now, but they are still green. Seed pods should not be picked until the pod turns brown to ensure that the seeds are ripe. Some seeds will ripen off the plant, but most of them need to grow into maturity on the live plant in order to be viable. There are many exceptions to this rule of thumb, of course.

I have just begun to get ripe ground cherries. This is the first year I have grown them and I will grow them again next year for jam. I think they are delicious! I will be saving my own seed from these this year. I have already used one ground cherry for seed harvest and dried them on a paper towel. I have read that they are prolific re-seeders, so I expect most of the seed to germinate next spring without any special preparation.

I also save the seed from our cucumbers as these are the best cucumbers we have found. They are big around and great for sandwiches. They are ripe when they are yellow, turning a bright orange-red when over ripe. When they are ripe, they are very sweet. Cucumber and tomato seeds need special treatment to be viable the following year. The fruit needs to ripen completely before the seed is harvested. When it is ripe enough on the plant it can be picked and left at room temperature to ripen further. It should be left to ripen until it is soft and mushy before the seed is harvested. The seed is then put into a glass container and left to ferment even further for a few days. After another 2-3 days of fermentation, the seed can be washed, dried and stored for the following year.

Some seeds need a winter in the ground before they will germinate. These seeds are either planted in the ground in the fall or planted into flats and put on shelves on the front porch. They will have a month or two of warm weather, then they will be exposed to the fall and winter temps. I will bring them indoors in Dec-Jan and put in the south seed window to germinate. I have tried leaving them outdoors until spring to germinate in their containers when the weather warms up, but have had poor success with that. You can also put them into baggies with a little damp soil and put these into the freezer or the fridge for a couple of months, then plant in flats or pots for indoor starting.

All seed need to be dried before storing. I dry mine on an elevated screen on the front porch. The tiny seeds and smaller amounts I dry on a thin paper towel in a container with holes in it. A strainer or a plastic berry box from the grocery store are good containers for this. I always write the name of the plant on the paper towel or on a piece of paper drying with the seed. Seeds can take weeks to ripen and dry completely and I will forget what plant and variety they came from if they are not labelled.

After the seeds are completely dry, you can store it in a small plastic bag or glass jar. I prefer to store mine in labelled paper envelopes in a basket, ensuring that they stay dry and do not rot or mold in storage. Do not store them in the refrigerator or freezer unless the seed requires this for germination but do keep them in a cool, dry spot. On top of the refrigerator is too warm.

Wild Grapes

We have wild grapes! We have probably always had wild grapes and I just didn't know it. We have a large grapevine on our old TV antennae attached to the back of the house, but I have usually cut it down every year. Last year I left it alone, mostly due to a lack of time and energy to deal with it. (Last year was the "year of the dogs" and a lot of things got "left alone".) 

This year I discovered grapes on it and the world of wild grapes opened up! It is covered with them, but there are even more growing and fruiting on a few back fence areas that I didn't know were there. At this time of year our back fence is unapproachable due to the goldenrod and blackberry bushes. With the hope of wild grapes in mind I blazed a path through the weeds to the fence and found several enormous vines filled with grapes!

Half are ready now and half still need to ripen another week or so. Next week on Monday morning I will go grape picking again. The grapes growing in sunny areas are all ripe now. It is the ones in the shade against the woods that need to ripen a 
bit longer. 

The picture at the top is what I picked now. I will probably get at least half that again in another week! This is about 13 pounds of grapes. We weighed them at 11 pounds, then I found about 1/4 of a bucket more and added those. So I am estimating it at about 13 pounds. I will make some wild grape jelly (recipe below) but we don't eat much of it so I won't be making a lot. Some wild grape jelly I will make in fancy jars and use for gifts. The rest of the grapes will be frozen until winter, when I have the time make wine.

We have truly been blessed with an abundance of wealth here on the land The Lord has given us! He continually amazes me with His gifts daily! There is just so much here in the way of herbs, fruits, mushrooms and wildcrafting abundance!

Wild grape jelly recipe:

3 lbs wild grapes, stemmed
3 cups water
4 1/2 cups sugar
1 (85 ml) package liquid pectin

  • In large saucepan, crush grapes with potato masher; pour in water and bring to boil.

  • Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes or until fruit is very soft.

  • Transfer to jelly bag or colander lined with a double thickness of fine cheesecloth and let drip overnight.

  • Measure juice (you should have 3 cups/750 ml) into a large heavy saucepan; stir in sugar.

  • Bring to boil over high heat, stirring constantly.

  • Stir in pectin.

  • Return to full boil and boil hard for one minute, stirring constantly.

  • Remove from heat and skim off foam with a metal spoon.

  • Pour into sterilized jars, leaving 1/8 inch headspace.

Wild Choke Cherries

These are wild choke cherries, also called "pin cherries" by some. They are very bitter, but, as with most of the small wild fruits, such as crab apples, they have a lot more flavour than their domesticated cousins. The secret is to use just the clear juice alone and NONE of the pulp, and more sugar, of course.

The choke cherry tree is a nice addition to the flower garden too, as long as you are going to pick the fruit when it is ripe. If you leave it to just fall to the ground, it will make a mess and reseed in the garden, growing baby trees all over.

The tree is small, not getting above about 8'-10' tall and flowers in the spring. It is really a nice little flowering tree for landscaping with the added benefit of bearing fruit!

We have several of these small trees growing wild on the property. This fall, when they are dormant, I will move one to the new, expanded section of the ornamental garden where it can provide a little shade for a nearby bench.

I also plan to make jelly and possibly wine from the fruits. I make wine from everything! I am always looking for unique wine possibilities. (I started a one gallon batch of chocolate mint wine this morning! It smells heavenly!)

Below are some recipes I found for choke cherries. Avoid swallowing the pits.

Extracting the Chokecherry Juice

10 cups washed, with stems removed 2.5 L
5 cups water 1250 mL

Add 5 cups (1250 mL) water to 10 cups (2.5 L) berries and simmer 15 minutes. Crush fruit with potato masher as it softens. Drain through a moistened jelly bag. DO NOT SQUEEZE THE BAG!! The clear juice make excellent jelly. If you squeeze pulp into the mix, it will be bitter!(If the juice is to be used for jelly, choose berries that are under ripe as well as ripe, so the pectin content of the juice is higher).

Chokecherry Jelly

3 1/4 cups chokecherry juice 800 mL
4 1/2 cups sugar 1.25 mL
2 oz package powdered fruit pectin 57g

Combine chokecherry juice and pectin in a large saucepan. Bring to a full rolling boil. Add sugar. Boil hard one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off foam. Pour into sterilized jars. Leave 1/2 inch (1 cm) headspace. Clean jar rim. Seal. Process 5 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Yield: 7 -1/2 pint jars (250 mL jars)

Crabapple and Chokecherry Jelly
4 cups chokecherry juice 1000 mL
4 cups crabapple juice 1 L
6 cups sugar 1.5 L

Prepare crabapple juice by selecting sound, slightly under ripe fruit. Wash thoroughly, cut off and discard any damaged spots. Remove the stem, but not the blossom end. Cut the crabapples in half, or if large, in quarters. Be sure to cut through the core so that the pectin around the core will be readily released. Add only enough water to the fruit so that it is just barely covered. Boil fruit and water in a covered kettle until fruit is soft and mushy; stir often to prevent burning. Crush fruit with a potato masher during the cooking process to reduce the boiling time. Pour hot cooked fruit into a moistened jelly bag. Hang over a bowl until dripping ceases (about 12 hours). DO NOT SQUEEZE THE BAG!! The clear juice make excellent jelly. If you squeeze pulp into the mix, it will be bitter!

Make chokecherry juice, 1/3 from red and 2/3 from fully ripe chokecherries. Wash, sort, and remove stems from chokecherries. Add enough water to cover (about 1 part water to 2 parts chokecherries), and boil until soft, about 30 minutes. Strain through a moistened jelly bag.

To make jelly: Measure juices into a broad, deep pot and boil uncovered for 3 minutes. Remove juice from heat and test for pectin. If pectin test is good, add sugar slowly to hot juice. Stir until all sugar is dissolved. Return to heat and boil briskly, uncovered. Remove scum as it forms. Test for doneness using the jelly test. Remove remainder of scum with a cold spoon. Pour carefully into hot, sterilized pint (500 mL) jars leaving at least 1/ 2 inch (1 cm) headspace. Process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes. Begin processing time when water returns to a boil.

Yield: 4 pint (500 mL) jars.

Lemon Mint

I harvested the lemon mint today! I did not cut it all today. I left a few stalks to go to seed so I can sell it this fall in the seed store.

It makes great tea and spice for cooking! I especially like lemon with chicken.

I rinsed it and laid it out on a screen for drying. I might hang some herbs to dry this year too. I do have the wire strung under the porch roof just for that purpose but this is drying on a screen. I will turn it a few times every day.

I collect large screens whenever I find them at garage sales and so forth. They are a great way to dry herbs, flowers and seeds!

Chichiquelites (solanum nigrum)

I like to experiement in the garden. Growing unusual, often old and forgotten, plants is a joy. I never plant those ordinary annual flowers people seem to buy in flats and stick in their gardens and I like to grow heirloom vegetables, who's seed I can save to grow from year to year. This saves me a lot of money in seed each spring.

One of the things I have discovered this spring are chichiquelites, also known as garden huckleberries (
solanum nigrum). I got these seeds in a trade and, having never heard of them previously I did some research.

I am always looking for good to eat and easy to grow quickly, fruits for wine and pie making. These sounded perfect! They also make good jam, but we don't eat a lot of jam so I will be using them for pies and wine.

They need more sweetening than blueberries, but I am ok with that. I will add a bit more sugar.

They are easy to grow from seed, not requiring stratification. I know this because I have some seedlings sprouted on my seed windowsill. I have heard from other growers that they grow quickly, without a lot of care, into huge shrubs covered with berries. This is what I am hoping for. I will can and/or freeze all that I can get, if we like them. I will also collect more seeds to grow again next year. They will apparently reseed themselves anyway but I prefer to plant them from seed myself. Being a close relative of the poisonous nightshade berry, I would prefer to know exactly where they are growing.

They have medicinal uses, as well. This is a quote from Wikipedia regarding solanum nigrum:
"The plant has a long history of medicinal usage, dating back to ancient Greece. This plant is also known as Peddakasha pandla koora in Telangana region. This plant's leaves are used to treat mouth ulcers that happen during winter periods of Tamil Nadu, India. Chinese experiments confirm that the plant inhibits growth of cervical carcinoma (Fitoterapia, 79, 2008, № 7-8, 548-556)."

I am hoping for great things from this new and little known berry!

My Rooting Bucket

I have made a rooting bucket. It's just a big bin full of sand, embued with very old chicken manure runoff. I have a piece of plastic to cover the top and intend to spray it whenever I pass by. I used rooting hormone for these.

In my new rooting bucket I have: rugosa roses, variegated dogwood shrub, climbing hydrangea, a golden leaf hydrangea of some kind, euonymous europaeus, forsythia, purple leaf sand cherry, pink rhododendron and curly willow. I have room in there for a few more and another bin just like that one, if I run out of room.

I have chocolate mint and large weeping willow rooting on a shelf. They don't need hormone or a special covered humid bin.

I'm very excited about it and have high hopes!!

Dandelion Syrup

Spring is coming! It's just aound the corner and the snow is half gone now! Soon the dandelions will be blooming all over our fields. We have fields and fields of them and they are pesticide free! I sort of cultivate the dandelions, or I don't actively try to get rid of them. I like them. They really do no harm and they are useful. They don't get tall enough to be a nuisance. Last year I made dandelion wine, which I just bottled this morning. This year I am going to make more dandelion wine and also dandelion syrup. I also plan to collect the tiny leaves for eating and freezing like spinach for soups and stews and sauces. I have collected only the petals in years past for wine making but I have been told that the entire flower can be used for making syrup without bitterness. I don't know about that but it will certainly make the collecting of enough material go a lot faster. I think I will try it with the whole heads this year.

Here is my recipe (sort of) for dandelion syrup: Collect as many chemical free dandelions as possible. Put just the washed heads into a pot and barely cover with water. Boil for some time, about 20-30 mins. Remove those heads with a sieve and add another pot full of flower heads to the water and boil these for 20-30 mins. The more dandelions you boil in the water, the stronger the flavour will be.

When you have boiled all the flowers you plan to boil, remove flowers with a sieve and strain liquid. Add sugar, 1 part sugar to 1 part water. Let boil until thick and syrupy.

It taste slightly nutty with a hint of vanilla all by itself! Eat over waffles or ice cream or make a drink with it, glaze meat with it. You can even heat it up and serve hot over desserts!

Bring it on, Spring! I'm ready!!

Growing Your Own Grains

One vital step on the road to self sufficiency is growing your own grains. We are moving in that direction, but only on a small scale. I grow a few grains but not enough to make our bread, just enough to sprinkle on oatmeal or cereal.

I originally started growing grain to use as chicken feed. While it does make good chicken feed, the ones that I grow are also good for people to eat.

My objective for the years to come is to grow all of our own grain needs, organic wheat included. At the moment we don't grow wheat but I am looking into it.

We do grow flax, both the yellow grain variety and the blue variety. Both are good for eating but the blue ones are beautiful enough for the flower bed. They are one of the few true blue flowers and reseed to come back year after year. I do grow a few in the flowerbed, but I grow rows of them in the field. It's hard to keep the deer away from the flax! Just as the pods were full and ripening, they ate a lot of it to the ground. Very frustrating! (Really, I love the deer but they have to stay away from my garden!! ) A big dog helps to keep the deer away but a big dog will destroy the garden as fast as a deer...

There are other grains that I grow but the deer seemed to like the flax the best. I also planted rows of millet, amaranth, and poppies. I am currently doing germination testing on quinoa, red quinoa, and chia. I did plant millet last year but was unsuccessful at getting it to germinate so I won't be planting it again this year.

Quinoa and chia are new to me this year and I don't know if I will get them to grow here. I think quinoa and chia are long season plants, but I have them now sprouting in trays 
early indoors.

Quinoa is not a real grain but akin to spinach. Chia is a salvia.

Even if I cannot grow the grains to ripeness, I will grow them for sprouts. Sprouts are very nutritious eaten, as is, in a salad or on a sandwich! While we do eat them like this, my aim is to grow the seed for grinding and for sale in the seed store. I would like to see more people on the road to self sufficiency, growing their own grains and providing their own basic food needs.

All are extremely good for you! Both chia and quinoa are very high in protein, just about as complete a protein as it is possible to get in grain. Next year I am going to grow my own organic wheat...maybe.

I have yellow and blue flax seeds and amaranth seed for sale in my seed store. Now that I know the quinoa and chia will germinate well and quickly, I will be offering those soon, too!

Next year I am going to look into growing my own organic wheat. I don't tolerate wheat very well. One of the major side effects of this are migraines. I know from personal experience that I can cut my migraines down to a few a month if I cut out the wheat. It's hard, but if you live with severe migraines on a regular, almost daily, basis, it is worth it. I am hoping that organic wheat will be more easily tolerated.

Growing my own grains is another step for us on the road to self sufficiency. It's an exciting change that we are looking forward to!

Bean Varieties

How many different types of beans are there? I had no idea there were so many until last winter when I began researching them, looking for the perfect beans to grow. We have always grown yellow wax beans and love them, but hubby is not fond of the standard green beans, so I went on a quest for really good beans. If we are going to devote that much space and time to something, we should really, really like it and not just grow it because, well, you know everyone else does. I mean, what's a garden without beans?

We still grew the standard yellow wax bush beans because we love them, but we also grew other kinds, unusual and different kinds, this year.
One that we like a lot is the "asparagus" bean. It's touted to taste like asparagus and it does! It's delicious! This one is actually called "Gow Dauk Yard Long Asparagus Bean". It's not a yard long but it is long. Each bean is about a foot long, slender and tender and good and it does taste like asparagus! We will definitely grow a lot of them next year! I only have a few plants this year, not even enough for us to eat, just enough to grow seed for a row of them next year. I will probably also buy some seeds next year, if I can find them. I got these in a trade from another gardener.

One of the most promising and interesting beans I planted is "Aunt Mollie's Mushroom Bean". The beans themselves, not the pods, are suppose to taste like mushrooms when cooked in things. Interesting! I only have one plant and it doesn't have beans on it yet, so we may not be able to see if this is true. If we do get a few beans this year, it won't be enough to sell them, unfortunately. Not this year, anyway. If we do get beans and, indeed, they do taste like mushrooms when cooked in things, I might have some seeds for sale next year, maybe. If we like these, I may buy these seeds to plant next year, as well. Again, if I can find them.

Another bean I am growing and we like is an heirloom yellow flat bean from Romania called "Gold of Bacau". It's a fast, tall grower and good producer. I will have these beans for sale in the seed store this year. They did really well. That's them in the picture, growing above the hibiscus beside the deck and covered with beans!

I also grew "French Duet" beans, called "duet" because they are a mix of yellow and green. We liked these a lot! They are slender and tender too and grew very well. I may have these seeds for sale this year, still not sure if there will be enough or not.

I always grow scarlet runner beans, for decoration as well as eating. The young tender green beans are very good. Not sure if we will have these beans for sale this year or not. They sure are beautiful in the flower garden! 

We also grew Kentucky Wonder yellow pole beans this year. These are excellent and I might have these seeds for sale this year. I grew these in an attempt to switch from bush beans to pole beans,
(much easier on the back!) but they are ready much later so I will still grow both. The yellow bush beans are ready all through late June-July, while the Kentucky Wonder beans come after and are ready in August. Growing both will prolong the bean season.  

I planted a few Blue Lake Stringless green beans too but, while the plants are up and growing well, they have not produced any beans yet, nary a one. That one is probably not going anywhere. Must need a longer growing season. Oh well, as previously stated, hubby is not fond of your standard green beans anyway. He LOVES the asparagus beans, however!

The beans that we grow are for eating of the pod. We don't grow beans that are for eating of the seed. Our season is not that long and, frankly, we don't eat them. I have considered growing pinto beans for chili, but we just don't eat enough chili to bother, but I do consider it every spring. It just doesn't go anywhere, maybe next year...

Although I have said here that I will probably have some of these bean seeds, nothing is definite until it is actually in my hands. Such is the life of a gardener.

There are so many different kinds of beans out there that I could not possibly grow them all. I keep looking for the fabulous, the unique and the useful, not just in beans, but in everything we grow! I am thrilled to find the "asparagus" beans this year!


Our asparagus is finally ready!

Its really past ready as you can see. I cut it about three days ago then got busy. Oops! Looks like I am one day too late for a few of these. Oh well, I need to let 3-4 stalks grow to maturity for the health of the plant.

I did cut a good bunch today. I cooked them slightly, cut off the tips and put them in a salad for dinner. I wolfed down the bottoms. They were so good with a pinch of salt! I like cooked vegetables in tossed salad. I put all the left over vegetables in a salad the next day. Its all good!

The above photo is the older end of our asparagus bed. This is the new end. I planted these from seed three springs ago, so these are three years old.

Some have pencil sized stalks and so could be cut, but most are still too small. I moved them last summer when they were still growing, so they suffered a bit of a setback. We get a few meals worth of asparagus from the older bed anyway, I just wanted to add to it.

Seed is by far the cheapest way to grow things, if you have the time to wait for it.

The older bed was here when we moved in. It is not a wild bed because it is planted in a circle and has purple tipped asparagus. The best kind! You can sometimes find a wild asparagus bed along the sides of a country road or in a field, but they are rare here.

Fresh spring asparagus is one of my favourite vegetables! After a stale winter, a fresh picked veggie of any kind is very welcome!

Coffee Planter gift

I am seeing a long time friend in about a week. She is also a gardener so I thought I would take her a few seedlings for her garden that I know she has not grown before.A couple of weeks ago a large fast food chain started selling really good, high quality coffee and had a promotion, giving it away free. Shortly into the free coffee promo, I had quite a collection of coffee cups. One day they were sitting on the counter and this idea came to me. What a unique temporary planter that would make! Being a big coffee drinker, I was able to collect quite a few cups and a holder. The medium size worked better than the large tall size which were tippy.

I thought this could be used to start seedlings, since it comes with a lid as well, but for this purpose I am just going to transplant seedlings I already have growing, into the cups. One week is not enough time to grow things from seed. I could also take another set to her planted with seeds and the lids intact if I have time before I go.I poked holes in the bottom of the cups for drainage and added a piece of aluminum foil to the bottom of the cup to catch the water.

Into the cups I planted: Garlic chives, 'Keri Blue' dahlia, Aunt Molly's ground cherry, Sweet potato, 'Super Shepherd' pepper
. I put a label in each cup and put them upstairs in the warm room, under lights. I am hoping they will all be growing and healthy in a few days.

I use slats from horizontal window blinds for plant labels. You can cut them to size and write on them with permanent marker. They last a long time and you get hundreds from one small blind. You can put holes in them to tie onto branches and colour code them too.

I am hoping it will be a surprise but if you are reading this, Diane, see you then! 

Growing Potatoes

I have finally gotten everything planted except the potatoes and tobacco seedlings. I have not planted the potatoes yet because I have been undecided about growing them this year. This is the potato capital of Canada and we have friends with a huge potato farm. These friends have let us pick up potatoes off the ground after the machines have harvested them in the past, also, 50 lb bags of potatoes are so cheap in the fall here. It is not really worth planting them.

The only reason I am considering it is because I want them to make dog food next year and I like the red ones. Most of what is grown around here are white commercial potatoes. Its not the same and they are not nearly as good as homegrown red ones with our own chicken manure. So, all things considered, I am thinking about planting some red ones this week. My father in law assures me that it is not too late to plant them now and I have the room and can make the time for it now that everything else is in the ground and it rained last night. This constant hand watering and sprinkler moving has been killing me! Well, its been taking all of my time, anyway.

I want to plant potatoes in trenches lined with cardboard and covered with thick mulch instead of soil. Since the potatoes grow above the seed potato, they will grow onto the cardboard in the trench. You can also just lay them in the trench on the soil and cover with mulch and still have fairly clean potatoes without any digging. The cardboard is optional.

Thus we will have fairly clean potatoes without any digging. The digging is work, yes, but it also results in a lot of large potatoes cut in half or stabbed. This is what happens when I dig them, anyway. I don't seem to be very good at it :-(

If the trench is covered with straw, we can just lift the mulch to see how the potatoes are progressing or to pick up a few little ones to eat.

I think I may be planting potatoes in this manner this week, perhaps with the cardboard, perhaps without it. Writing this blog has helped me make up my mind. I will let you know how the cardboard/mulch plan works out. I do have a small square bale of old hay I can use for that and some fall leaves I can cut up and add to it.

Another reason to plant potatoes is for the flowers. I like potato flowers in a cut arrangement. They are very pretty and people don't seem to recognise them. Everyone asks what they are and seem quite surprised when I tell them that they are potato flowers. I wonder if I can make a gallon of potato flower wine?

I am still a bit undecided. I might look at the work I already have to do in weeding and harvesting and decide not to plant potatoes this year. I keep changing my mind. That's a woman's perogative, isn't it?