One of the Joys of Maturity
One of the joys of getting a bit older is having the time to putter around in the garden. Below is my garden blog. This site also contains sections of recipes and features about specific, and often obscure, gardening lore.
We're into our second straight day of warm, foggy, misty weather. Yesterday was more fog than mist, with the reverse being true today. Our predicted 66o F high temperature today will give way to below freezing highs, ice, and snow by the weekend.
With no outdoor gardening possible and little ambition to begin some needed indoor chores today, I decided to share a few garden oriented Christmas shopping suggestions here, beyond the tongue in cheek suggestion yesterday for Boston's new album.
When the weather turns bad or when one has a gardening question, there's nothing quite like having a small library of good books on gardening to consult. While our bookshelves are filled with gardening books, there are just a few I keep for frequent reference in a box sitting just behind my chair in the office.
Most of the image links above and below are to Amazon.com, but Alibris, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million also carry the titles. Typically, a used copy of the Victory Garden book runs 1¢ with $3.99 shipping for a bargain total of just $4 from Amazon!
While writing this posting, I discovered that I have two copies of Nancy Bubel's excellent The New Seed Starter's Handbook. One needs to go to Goodwill. I put up two shots of Rob Johnston, Jr.'s Growing Garden Seeds, as the first is a cleaned up product shot I did of my copy a few years ago, with the second being the current version available from Johnny's Selected Seeds for just $2.95! The last image of Digital Plant Photography: For beginners to professionals is a cheat, as I just recently gave the title to Annie as a Christmas gift suggestion for me.
Tools and Such
At $24.95, the CobraHead Weeder and Cultivator is possibly a little pricey for small hand tools, but worth every cent of its price when removing established weeds in the garden. After hunting for years for affordable and usable trellis material, I've pretty well settled on using Dalen Garden Trellis Netting. The Large PVC Kneeling Pad Annie gave me last Christmas does double duty, both in the garden and when I'm on my (bad) knees on the hard kitchen and garage floors.
Along with the kneeling pad, Annie also got me a Midwest Kneeler Bench last Christmas. The bench has never made it into my garden, as I keep it in pretty steady use in my plant room. Clonex Rooting Compound Gel is a big improvement over the older rooting powders I used to use. And while I still use the original Brinno GardenWatchCam for time lapse photography in the garden, they've come out with an improved version, the Brinno TLC100 Time Lapse HD Video Camera. I've been fairly happy with my GardenWatchCam, although I would love additional features, pixels, and depth of field, but it is about the first such inexpensive time lapse camera to go on the market. Amazon offers a pretty wide selection of time lapse cameras for outdoor use in the $100-200 price range.
I won't again tell my story about a good hoe here, but offer the advice that a good scuffle or standard hoe with a bow on it makes a dandy Christmas present. One can usually find them at a good hardware store.
And of course, with all the gifting that goes along with this season, it's important to remember those who have little to nothing here at home and around the world.
As I watched the six o'clock news and weather, that forecast that included a little snow and ice became a bit more serious. WTHI-TV's Kevin Orpurt is shown at left predicting between three and five inches of snow for our area in the next few days.
When I was teaching, Kevin used to make a trip each year from Terre Haute to McCormick's Creek State Park to give a weather talk to our sixth graders on their annual camping trip.
Looks like it's going to be snow shovel and hot chocolate time soon.
Like any rabid Boston (band) fan, I was still up just after midnight when the email announcing that I could download Boston's new album, Life, Love & Hope, came in. So as I write today's early morning posting, the incredible guitar strains of my favorite rock group are playing.
Listening to the new album is a bittersweet experience, as several cuts feature Brad Delp, who committed suicide in 2007, singing the lead. Three of the eleven cuts on the album are from the Corporate America album. Didn't Mean to Fall in Love sounds just the same, while You Gave up on Love (2.0) and Someone (2.0) appear to be rerecordings or rearrangements of the old songs.
As I wrote last month, if you have an aging rocker on your Christmas list, this album might be something they'd like.
In between naps through football games yesterday afternoon, I went out and cleared the stalks from our raised asparagus bed. I used lopping shears to cut the stalks at the ground and then moved them to a hole we're using for such stuff. Clearing the old stalks is supposed to help prevent insect and disease carryover. For my purposes, clearing the stalks makes picking next spring a bit easier.
I'd hoped to turn some peat moss into our main raised bed today. When I checked the bed mid-afternoon, it was clearly too wet to even work dry peat moss into. I often work soil that is far more damp in the fall than I would in the spring, as the ground has all winter to freeze and thaw and heal any damage I might do. Also, working in dry material allows one to work wetter soil. But not today.
Denied the chance to do more than pull a few weeds outside today, I moved inside and got several things started. I'd ordered a packet of Double Brocade gloxinia seed last week from a new vendor and wanted to test it. So I started a small pot of around 30 Double Brocade seeds today.
Following up on the information Mike Bryce sent me about geranium seed not requiring total darkness to germinate, I started a side-by-side trial with some old geranium seed I had in the freezer. I started both Maverick Red and Multibloom geraniums in clear freezer bags. A bag of each went into a tray over our heat mat with the thermostat set for 73o F under our plant lights. A second set of bags with seed went into an opaque bag and into the same tray. While not really a good test (old seed, some of which I believe is hard seed), it may give me some idea of how much benefit one gets from exposing germinating geranium seed to light.
I mentioned on Sunday that we were still waiting on a few more seed catalogs to come in before filing our garden seed orders for next season. One of those catalogs came in today. The Seed Savers Exchange catalog is a very colorful listing of items offered by the Seed Savers organization, not to be confused with their Seed Savers Annual Yearbook, which lists items offered by seed saving members of the exchange.
The SSE catalog contains "open pollinated and heirloom varieties, or varieties that breed true from seed." This year the catalog also includes "special edition varieties from the Preservation Gardens...at Heritage Farm," which were previously only available to SSE members through the annual yearbook. There's also a good bit of cultural information, growing tips, and some features such as How to Thresh and Winnow Beans.
It appears to me that the Seed Savers organization has attempted to have a photo of each variety listed in the catalog. While it's often tough to match catalog product shots with what one grows in ones own garden, such photos are helpful in making selections. The images, along with the excellent page layout, make it the most attractive catalog we've received this season.
With catalogs on hand now from Twilley Seeds, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (the Whole Seed version, not the free one), Johnny's Selected Seeds, and the Seed Savers Exchange, we're close to being able to work up our seed orders. Still supposed to be coming this month are catalogs from R.H. Shumway, Annie's Heirloom Seeds, Burpee, Territorial Seed Company, and John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds. We've also requested a few catalogs from some interesting new vendors I wrote about last month. (See our Trusted Suppliers page for links to these and other seed houses.)
Outdoor gardening usually comes to a halt for us sometime in December. The ground is wet and often frozen, preventing one from doing much more than pulling a weed or two when the soil surface is thawed. The occasional warm spell can provide an opportunity to do a bit of tilling or gathering of leaves. But that's fairly rare.
Being pushed out of the garden by winter weather does allow one time, as Jim Crockett noted in his December entry in Crockett's Victory Garden, "for tidying up the potting shed, cleaning, sharpening, and oiling our hand tools, and sending the garden machinery out for an annual tune-up."
Late this month, we'll take another look at our garden plans for next season before finalizing and placing our garden seed orders for next year. While we've received seed catalogs from some of our preferred seed suppliers, several others are supposed to arrive around mid-month. It's nice to have them all in hand for variety and price comparisons.
December's lull in outdoor activity also allows us to experiment a bit with early seedings of old onion and geranium seed. It the seed germinates, we'll have some very early onion and/or geranium starts. If not, we'll know to order new seed. And as we've done the last two years, we'll probably start an egg carton or two of petunias to add some color to our kitchen windowsill.
at Senior Gardening