Maybe it is my background as a scientist, or as someone who is insatiably curious (and gets bored with routine very easily!). But, each year I treat my gardening exploits like a big sprawling laboratory. Which means each season I make sure to try different varieties of familiar crops, as well as some things I've not grown - either ever, or in a long time. I eagerly anticipate the familiar - the many hued tomatoes, eggplant and peppers, the beans and lettuce, the squash - all of those items that make spring and summertime meals so memorable. But the unfamiliar is what makes me leap out of bed early to check on the progress - it is what renews my gardening energy and drive each season.
So, these are the things that I am most eager to observe and experience this year.
Brussels sprouts - I think I started these way too early, so will need a second planting....but having been introduced to these by our daughter (who loves them), Sue and I now crave them as much as any veggie - and this is my first attempt at growing them in the garden. I will experiment with different locations in the garden, and timings of set out - but the thought of harvesting fresh sprouts just after an autumn frost is exciting indeed!
Oleander - I've collected dried seed pods from Sunset Beach and Ocracoke....the Sunset Beach seeds germinated well last year, and I have six healthy plants, approaching 3 feet tall, in 2 gallon pots that wintered through fine in my garage. I can't wait to see them bloom - and have enough to try in different areas of our yard to test ability to winter over. I think that these came from plants with deep red flowers that grew in our friend Margie's beach house yard. Whether they keep that color - or were hybrid, or crossed with other varieties - will be interesting to see.
Annual flowers - I planted and have up and happy a selection of sweet peas, Dahlias, Zinnias, Pansies and Snapdragons, none of which I've grown before. Can't wait to see how they do, and the different colors to spread around the yard!
Of course, I always vary our tomato plantings, and this year am returning to the original cross from which Lucky Cross and Little Lucky were selected, to see what else I can find in the mix. And there will be more work advancing some of the new Dwarf varieties.
For the experimental hot peppers, I am going to focus on two general types - one I named Bouquet, but is still highly variable, and one that looks like the variety Black Pearl - and, again, is still quite unpredictable.
For sweet peppers, I will continue on with the stabilization of five new named varieties from the hybrid Islander.
That will keep me busy and motivated...and, by the end of the summer, happily exhausted!
There is a lot growing on in my office, under the lights in my garage, and now, outside in large pots. And I've not even planted my first tomato seed yet! (well, not quite accurate...I did plant some Mexico Midget seeds in the first flat, since they are so slow and stubborn to germinate!).
But....this is what was planted in my second vegetable flat over the weekend: Eggplants Antiguan, Casper, Early Green Giant, Italian Pink Bicolor, Listada di Gandia, Louisiana Long Green, New York Improved, Speedy, Rosa Bianca, and Rosita
Tomatilloes: De Milpa, Toma Verde, Purple and Cisneros
Hot Peppers: Ancho, Bulgarian Carrot, Facing Heaven, Golden Cayenne, Kung Pao, Malu Miris, NuMex Heritage, Peter and Thai Dragon
Sweet Peppers: all of those on my 2011 Seedlings list (see the tab at the upper right) - 27 different varieties
And, in another flat - a flower and herb flat - I planted:
Flowers: Four different types of Hibiscus - yellow, white, red flowered and a mystery variety; four types of Zinnias, two types of Dahlias, two Cosmos, a Marigold.
Herbs: Cilantro, Parsley, Sesame, and nine types of Basil.
Germination in the initial eggplant/hot pepper flat is proceeding well - I will provide an update in my next blog entry.
Outside, today, I planted three types of radishes - one each, in large (5 gallon) pots. The last two years, my radishes (planted in the large garden) were a disaster - nice, big tops, but for the most part, no root development at all. Let's see what happens when they are grown in containers!
Next garden tasks - which I need to get to really soon! - transplanting lettuce and greens...they are getting big (I will take some pics tomorrow and post them).
I hope people's garden plans and preparations are going well!
Now it really feels as if spring is on the way! I've been sunning the seedling flats when it is warm enough....and actually did some transplanting yesterday.
So...I am mostly done distributing seeds to various other gardeners and friends, which means those involved with the dwarf tomato breeding project have what they need to move things along this season.
I planted, today, the rest of the hot peppers, eggplant and tomatillos - as well as all of the sweet peppers for our seedling sales. I also planted the flat of flowers and herbs.....what remains are all of the tomatoes, as well as the usual eggplant and pepper experiments for my garden this year. By the way, the initial planting of eggplants and peppers is starting to show signs of life - about 1/3 of the varieties have germinated (today is day 6).
Yesterday I decided that, though small, it was a good time to transplant the pansies and snapdragons into individual plugs, and sweet peas into individual 3 inch pots. They are all now recovering under the grow lights.
That gets me caught up pretty well. I hope everyone else is looking forward to their gardens this season!
Here are some pics of the three seedling flats that are underway. There is the pansy/snapdragon/sweet pea flat, the Asian greens/beets flat, and the lettuce/spinach flat - including some close ups.
They are clearly enjoying their lives under fluorescent lights in my cool garage!
On today's agenda - planting the first flat of veggie seedlings - focusing on the slower growing peppers and eggplant, and those for which the seed is a bit old, so could result in slow or low germination.