Lower pic - just a taste of the task of finding the seeds to plant!
Top left - germinated seedling flats are now under lights in the garage - center - demo tomatoes on the left, peppers and eggplant on the right. Right - four flats that were planted last night on heat mats on a table in front of a south facing office window.
Lower pic - just a taste of the task of finding the seeds to plant!
This will be a pretty brief entry (just kidding - when are my blogs brief!). I really enjoy the seed planting part of the season...finding all of the various seeds is not quite as pleasant. It took half of the day, but there are now five flats of seeds on my office germinating table, all happily warming themselves on heat mats. Tomorrow I need to clean off the garage table and get two flats under the lights - the tomato flat to be used for a transplanting demo at the Philadelphia Flower Show, and a mixed eggplant and pepper flat that germinated quite well while we were in Seattle.
Joining those are two flats of tomatoes, and a mixed flat of the remainder of the tomatoes, along with a few slow or low-germinating peppers and eggplant and ground cherries. There is also a mixed flat of this and that - lettuce, leeks, beets, chard, collards, and various herbs...and my first shot at Okra (the burgundy variety).
For the most part, there are few surprises in my selections this year. I don't have time for a significant experimental garden - mostly I want to grow all 36 released Dwarfs to get good documentation and testing. However, there are four really interesting plantings....my first attempts at crossing. If all goes well, I will be planting these hybrids: Sleeping Lady (a chocolate colored medium sized dwarf) X Sun Gold, Dwarf Mr. Snow X Cherokee Chocolate, Summer Sunrise (a medium yellow potato leaf dwarf) X Mortgage Lifter, and Mortgage Lifter X Sun Gold. If the crossed with the dwarfs took, the plants will be indeterminate in growth habit - I will know soon if I was successful. For the Mortgage Lifter X Sun Gold, it may mean waiting until the tomatoes form to see if I was successful.
So, what's next? If the seedlings germinate well, they will be ready to go under the grow lights while I am Philadelphia....soon after my return, it will be time to start transplanting. Where is the year going....time is flying so fast right now.
Sue and I had a wonderful time in Seattle for the first major Epic Tomato book promotion set of events. The sleet storm kept us away an extra day (yes, an extra day in Seattle....really tough to take!). I find myself with a very full plate and need to keep things moving between now and the next major trip, to Philadelphia via Richmond, which begins on March 5. Between a new newsletter that my daughter and I hope to work on tomorrow, and my Epic Tomatoes website, there will be plenty of news coming from the Seattle trip.
The From The Vine blog is about my own gardening efforts, and that is what I will focus on for this update.
Above, left to right, are pics of my planted flats - the center pic is the planting of Large Lucky Red, to be used for a demo on transplanting at the Philadelphia Flower Show workshop. On the right is remarkable progress in the pepper and eggplant flat that I seeded just before heading out to Seattle.
Next on the list is outlining all remaining seeding - greens, herbs, leeks, beets, flowers, and tomatoes - as well as any fill in peppers and eggplant. After that, I need to get the garage grow light table ready for that Philadelphia-bound tomato flat, which will also open up more room on the germination table.
Hard to believe all of the seeding and growing is happening when it may hit zero tonight....but the extended forecast indicates that spring is indeed not too far off (temperature-wise, anyway).
Happy Gardening, Everyone!
The gardening season is officially underway. A few days ago I planted a partial flat with tomato seeds (using some Large Lucky Red seeds sent to me by Bill Minkey a few years ago) for use in one of my demos at the Philadelphia Flower Show (no Power Point presentations allowed, so I have to be creative!).
Today, however, was far more relevant to my own garden, as well as our spring time seedlings. One complete flat of 50 cells was planted with eggplant, ground cherries, sweet and hot peppers - and Mexico Midget tomatoes (finally, it occurred to me to get them in early, since they take so much more time to germinate than any other tomato variety). The plan is that while I am in Seattle, the flat will germinate (peppers and eggplant are much slower than tomatoes). The day after I return, I hope to get all of the tomatoes planted - that will probably be 2 or 3 flats - for the season, including all 36 released dwarfs. I will also plant a mixed flat of lettuce, beets, leeks, herbs and flowers.
If everything germinates timely and well, they will quickly go into the garage and ready themselves for a mid-March transplant. I also need to start looking for a good source of straw bales (maybe a source that delivers!), and finalize what I hope to plant where this coming season. Hard to believe, but warm weather is just around the corner (today was a really nice tease - a taste of what we will experience with regularity in just a few months).
Seattle, here we come - off we will be on Tuesday!
In between book-related activities (which seem to come at me daily!), I've been pondering what to grow this year and when to start things growing. My plans are to simplify things just a bit, but also try some new challenges. I hope to get an updated list for the 2015 seedlings season very soon. One thing for certain is that I will be growing all 36 of the new Dwarf growing tomatoes from our project in our driveway.
The number of pepper and eggplant varieties will be reduced so that I can focus on tomatoes. Our big side garden will be reduced in size by one half, since the rear just doesn't receive the sun exposure that equates to productive plants. Current plans are to grow lettuce, beets, chard, bush beans, cukes, and squash (all repeats from previous years), as well as some new crops - sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots and leeks - all in straw bales. What fun!
I've ordered my seeds and hope to get tomatoes, peppers and eggplant started in mid-February, just after we return from our Seattle trip (that is going to be one busy week - four workshops and five book signings). The goal remains the same, though - mid February seed start, leading to a mid-March transplant (just after returning from Philadelphia!), and seedling readiness and garden planting in mid-April.
Stay tuned - variety lists will appear soon!
Life is so full of "what if" moments. What if Ann Boner and Harry Angus didn't meet and get married. What if their daughter, Susan, didn't decide to become a nurse and take a position at Mary Hitchcock Hospital in Hanover, NH as her first big job. What if I chose another graduate school to attend, instead of Dartmouth. And, what if Sue's friends and my friends didn't persuade each of us to attend a party in April where we met.
But all of those things happened, and so today I get to celebrate the birthday of my wife of 34 plus years. Caitlin, Sara, and I all realize how very lucky we are. Happy Birthday, Susan!
There are those things you think you can get done, and then there is the reality of what you can accomplish in the time allotted. My 2015 garden planning - including seedling varieties for From The Vine driveway sales - and Dwarf project assignments for the year are on a bit of a back burner.
Racing at me are some events I am really looking forward to. Next Saturday, January 24, I will be providing the main talk at the annual Seed and Scion Swap at the Wylde Center in Decatur, Georgia. My talk is titled Epic Tomatoes for Southeastern Gardens - some history, lots of stories and tips for success. I will have some seed samples to give away, and my talk will be followed by a book signing.
Just a few weeks after that will be my official book launch at Quail Ridge Books and Music, on Wednesday February 4 at 7 PM. Many of you will be seeing an invite coming your way soon that will have more details.
Though delayed, I am about to dig back in to garden plans, so watch for lists of varieties and possible availability dates soon. The main difference this year will be a focus on the new Dwarf varieties, an overall reduction in choices in eggplant and sweet and hot peppers, and some tricky scheduling around April and May book-related events. Don't worry - warm weather - gardening weather! - will be here before we know it!
I actually grabbed a notebook today and started to sketch out my initial garden plans for next year. The garden will be smaller - there will be less time to spend on it (due to activities related to my book Epic Tomatoes), and there is less good garden space available. The back half of our side yard garden is simply not sunny enough long enough to make it worthwhile to plant.
My initial plans are this: Grow all 36 released Dwarfs in the driveway (three reasons - to provide a good supply of seed for each, to support an upcoming magazine article, and because they are really good varieties). The only other driveway tomatoes will be plants from what I hope are 4 successful crosses from last year. I hope to use a combination of large containers and straw bales for the tomatoes. Add to that a row of eggplant and a row of peppers (grow bags or containers), and that's that. The deck will be where our Sungolds will grow (they quickly outgrow our dogs).
As far as the side yard garden, working front to back, will be a row of greens, row of beans (both in soil), then a series of straw bales hosting cukes, squash, and a few new crops for me in bales - leeks, potatoes, carrots and sweet potatoes.
Those are the plans - now I need to start getting specific on dates for seed starting and preparations. My first book promotion trip is coming soon - January 24 - and time is flying!
As far as seedling sales from my driveway, I've yet to draw up my variety lists, but I can guarantee that the selection will be more focused than in previous years - again, due to time constraints.
Stay tuned for more info! And Happy New Year!
It's wonderful having my daughter Sara here for the Christmas holiday (she is visiting from Seattle) - one of her gifts to me is assistance with my book publicity, specifically around social networking (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and websites/blogs. This site - hosted on Weebly - will be focusing on my seasonal gardening efforts and spring time plant sales. The new site - epictomatoes.com - is on a different host and will focus upon information about my book, such as my workshops and signing and promotional events, and a blog in which I will describe the whole experience, as well as touch on questions that the book raises.
Just to let you know, I am still selling signed copies of the book - email me at email@example.com for details. Today we were shopping at Parker and Otis in Durham and I experienced my very first Epic Tomato book sighting...it was quite surreal and definitely memorable. What this means is that the book is finding its way into stores. We also noticed that website retailers are moving up the availability date, and are now accepting reviews. I really encourage those of you who already have, or will be acquiring, the book to go ahead and do a review. Feedback is important, and will help me develop my writing skills so that my future writing experiences continue to evolve and improve.
Thanks, everyone, for your support! Stay tuned...I hope to turn my attention to garden and seedling planning very soon!
Now that my mental fog is clearing - some guidance and options for obtaining signed copies of my book sooner rather than later
Hey all - remember the old Ed Sullivan Show - the fellow that spun the pie plates or juggled ridiculous numbers of things? That is how life feels over the past week or so. But...what fun!
Some have inquired about how to acquire signed copies of Epic Tomatoes soon, as wide availability seems to be a few weeks away. If you are local (driving distance), I am happy to schedule visits to my house where you can purchase a signed, personalized copy of the book for $20. Send me an email - firstname.lastname@example.org - for further details and to set up a time.
If you are not close by, I can mail the signed book to you for $25. Just let me know by email - payment can be check, paypal (by using the donate button on the front page of my website), and I now accept credit cards. And while you are on my front page, scroll even further down to see how my schedule of workshops is shaping up - including the book launch at Quail Ridge on Wednesday, February 4 at 7 PM. I really hope to see lots of you there at that event - so much of what I've learned through the years has been through sharing experiences with so many of you.
I promise that this blog will return to my usual musings on gardening - what I am planning to grow, news on the Dwarf Project.
Thanks, all, for your continued interest and support!