Sara seems to invite adventures. Not satisfied with her Peace Corps assignment and follow up stints in Madagascar (which resulted in two books....Sara 2, Dad 0...but not for long!), she is now about to take her act westward and assume a new job in Seattle. Of course we will miss her (it has been quite a week; our other daughter Caitlin just moved in with her friend in Wake Forest). Empty nest, indeed...though our two dogs and three cats do fill the space nicely.
Sara is in for quite an experience (we love Seattle, having lived there while I was a post-doc back in 1983...when Sara was 2!). And we appreciate her choosing a wonderful vacation destination for us for our visits.
Here we are, in a pic snapped by my book photographer, Stephen Garrett, early this spring.
My dad, Wilfred Edmund LeHoullier, was born in Pawtucket, RI on May 25, 1927. The picture above is one of him showing me flowers in Slater Park when I was probably 2 years old or less - probably from 1957 or 1958. Though it was my grandfather Walter (my mom's dad) who got me interested in eating tomatoes when I was in my early teens (and used to walk me through his beautiful garden in my mid single digits), it is all of the trips to parks and time spent with my dad that is likely responsible for my deep interest in growing things.
Wilfred passed away in March of 2007, following a severe stroke 2 months earlier. He was a special person and a wonderful father, with a wicked sense of humor and very kind nature. He always had a garden of some sort in our various houses through the years. Here is one below, when I was probably around 7 years old. (pay no attention to the really bad clothes..my brother Kent is wearing the very stylish hat).
My dad actually caught the heirloom tomato bug from me when he was in his early 70s, first starting his seeds, then growing plants I started and shipped him. He became well known in his church and neighborhood for the quality and quantity of his tomatoes, with Cherokee Purple and Cherokee Chocolate particularly loved. It is just perfect symmetry for how it all worked out for each of us with respect to gardening, and I will always be thankful that he introduced me to such a wonderful pursuit.
After my dad passed away, Sue found his seed collection while going through their basement. One of the varieties he saved was named "Big Willy"; I suspect it was a variety such as Beefsteak that he decided to name, for whatever reason, after himself. I managed to get a seedling to germinate last year and really liked it, and some of my tomato seedling customers are growing it this year.
I named a tomato from the Dwarf tomato breeding project after him; Dwarf Wild Fred. It is a big purple tomato, like Cherokee Purple (one of his favorites), but on a nice short plant. Why Wild Fred? Some years ago, while he was the church sexton, they misspelled his name in the Sunday program, converting Wilfred into "WildFred". He was really tickled about it and couldn't wait to tell me about that particular bit of accidental humor. It seemed like a fitting name to use to honor him with his very own tomato variety.
So, dad, on your birthday, know that your wife, Phyllis (currently living in Assisted Living in Florida), and your two sons and their wives - as well as your granddaughters Sara, Caitlin, Olivia and Devin - all miss you very much. I can honestly say that Wilfred is always gardening along with me; we have some good chats as we discuss my tomato projects.
Thanks, Dad and Happy Birthday!
Yesterday completely wore me out....today is a day to take stock of things, update my 2013 Excel planting log, and take Sue to lunch. Essentially, with the exception of a single tomato variety (that will go into a driveway small pot), the garden is planted. Finished. Complete.
Thursday saw a number of activities, and I love those types of days with a bit of gardening this and that. Since the garden needs to be more photogenic than usual this year, I decided to add a front row of short flowering annuals. I planted seeds of Marigold and Dahlia, since they grow quickly and will provide color within a month or so. The new bean row that I laid down on Wednesday was planted, and I used four different bush snap bean varieties; Royal Burgundy, Jade, Fresh Pick and Maxibel. I plant beans in a double row, staggering the seeds, about 6 inches apart. The long wide row is evenly split among the four varieties.
Then the real work began - getting up on a ladder and hammering in the rest of the stakes for all of the indeterminate tomatoes, in the big garden and the driveway. After that, I went around and tied all of the plants to the stakes, then did the same to those dwarfs that were ready for their first tie (which was most of them). Finally, I did some weeding of the beet and greens and lettuce rows, focusing on the dreaded Japanese stiltgrass that is beginning to emerge here and there.
The single tomato that remains to be planted is Bisignano #2 saved in 1997; it took a long time to germinate and the seedlings were really weak looking. Two came through fine, and they just need to put on a little more height and strength before one is selected to take its place in a small pot in the driveway garden.
Here are a few pictures taken after all of Thursday's work.
I snuck in a picture of our red side yard knock out roses, which are very happy...especially when the water scarecrow keeps the deer away from them!
Soon off to Azitra - our favorite Indian restaurant, in Brier Creek. Yum!
As I walked around checking out my plants this morning, pondering what the major activity of the day would be, it seemed like a good idea to start keeping a sort of garden diary. I guess that a blog is a sort of diary, but as many of those who read this know, you can never be sure what I will be blogging about. The Diary entries, of which this is the first, is to keep me focused on not only what I am doing, but what I am seeing and dealing with. Since today was a major garden milestone (which I will describe below), this is the first of my 2013 garden diary entries.
After walking around both gardens and making some observations into my hand held recorder, I decided it was time to finish planting the indeterminate and dwarf tomatoes in the big garden. The first step was to fill in all of the holes Caitlin dug (some still filled with water from the rain of a few days ago). It is clear that this garden does not drain well. The ability to hold moisture should be an asset during our typically hot, eventually dry summers. Although it is breaking one of my guidelines (not resuing the potting mix), the pile of spent Miracle Gro mix/composted cow manure is quite well aged in spots, and provides a perfect material for "raising" the garden. Each spot to receive a tomato plant was dug and turned well, and spent grow mix from the pile was added on top of the turned hole to the depth of nearly one foot. I worked each row this way, first determining where the plants were to go, digging the hole and turning it over a few times, then adding the spent mix from the pile on top of the turned area. The plants were then set in as deeply as possible.
The good news is that the tomatoes easily fit into one less row than was originally considered, thus leaving a perfect row in which to plant bush beans immediately (well, tomorrow, to tell the truth...I am too tired to plant anything else today). I added a thick layer of the spent mix onto the proposed bean row, so it is all ready to go. Once the greens and lettuce are done, it will be squash that takes up the newly vacated spaces. I also put a thick layer of the spent mix onto the front of the garden, making a row at the very front into which I will place some nice colorful annuals, like Marigolds or short Zinnias. If all goes well, the garden will be nicely photogenic for the book.
As to my early morning garden walk through, I hope it doesn't jinx things to state that everything is vigorously growing, healthy looking and making great progress. All of the driveway tomatoes - be it large pot indeterminate, grow bag dwarf or grow bag indeterminate - are shooting upward rapidly. I positioned some 4 foot stakes in all of the bags yesterday, but haven't tied the plants to them yet. I did tie up some of the indeterminate tomatoes that are growing very quickly; a few of the plants have open blossoms. The peppers and eggplant, all in grow bags, are healthy, happy and growing well. As to the big garden, the basil and tomatoes are fine, yet growing much more slowly than in the driveway - the advantage of the heat-absorbing grow bags is evident. The mole or vole that dug up some of our lettuce plants seems to have left the premises after I sprinkled castor oil-impregnated pellets in the area (the damage was noted a few days ago, near a few 2 inch diameter holes that appeared).
We are picking lots of lettuce and greens, and eagerly anticipate the beets. What remains to be done - and will be a task on tomorrow's list - is to finish staking all of the indeterminate tomatoes in both the driveway and large garden, plant bean seeds and annual flower seeds, and start the daily routine of pinching suckers, tying plants, and doing typical garden maintenance - watering, troubleshooting, and just being on the lookout for any issues before they get serious.
Though I am sore and tired, there is always that wonderful feeling of accomplishment at having made it through a major gardening milestone - getting pretty much everything planted.
Check out the pictures below - big garden front and back, chard, mustard, lettuce, caged dwarf, indeterminate - then a few shots of the driveway, including eggplant, peppers and dwarfs.
...not that I am completely done planting. The recent rain mucked up the garden a bit, so instead of finishing off the big garden tomatoes, attention was turned to the small (as in one gallon) pot annual experiment with the ornamental hot peppers. After a few hours work yesterday, there are now 56 pots with a variety of selections settled into the driveway garden, standing in front of and somewhat in between the eggplant and pepper grow bags. As always, pictures will follow in a few days.
I also noted that the stem color of my Midnight Lightning eggplant chosen for the 5 gallon grow bag wasn't dark enough, so that plant (an off-color segregate) went into a smaller pot, and was replaced with a seedling that had a more appropriate color. Finally, thanks to my gardening friend Kent, I now have a sample of what some claim as the world's hottest pepper - Trinidad Scorpion Butch T - sitting in a 5 gallon pot at the end of one of my pepper rows. Which means I will likely have lots of seedlings available next year.
I find something to love in all of the various gardening phases, from variety selection, through seed starting and transplanting, to harvest and tasting. But my fondness for the few months of caring, observing, watching the surprisingly rapid development and growth of the plants, could be the greatest of all. Even though it has only been a week or so since doing the majority of planting, the tomato seedlings are thriving and beginning to show small buds, and the eggplant and peppers are exhibiting the great joy of escaping their small 3.5 inch pots and stretching their roots into the planting medium. Even as I realize that each garden will have its losses and disappointments - be it critters, disease, mixed up seedlings or just poor performance - this is the time when it all looks great and the possibilities of harvests to come are truly exciting.
Here are some rainy day pictures of how things look...
Planting in pots vs planting in the garden...each has delights, and physical challenges, as I was well reminded yesterday. With containers, it is the lugging of the planting mix and then the filled pots. With the garden it is digging in our utterly delightful North Carolina soil. Yesterday I attacked the garden front row, and was met immediately by clay, rocks and tree roots.
Back to the progress report...today's rain ensured that there will be no planting in the big garden today (which my sore body appreciates). As of today, this is the total of living plants in my yard:
Driveway indeterminate tomatoes in large pots - 29
Driveway Dwarf tomatoes in 5 gallon grow bags - 94
Driveway indeterminate tomatoes in 2 gallon grow bags - 39
Large garden Dwarfs in the soil - 15
Large garden indeterminate tomatoes in the soil - 4
that's a grand total of 181 tomatoes planted, with another 25-30 set to go into the big garden. Yes, it will be over 200 once it is all planted (which I hope happens early next week)
Driveway eggplant in 5 gallon grow bags - 14
Driveway peppers in 5 gallon grow bags - 43
Pending are the small (1 gallon pot) ornamental hot pepper project plants - that's to be completed next week.
Total plants in containers so far - 219. Seems like a lot, but is about half of what was there last year (though the 1 gallon hot peppers will bring the number closer to 250). No worries - the way that they are lined up, it takes less than half an hour to water it all.
With the seedling sales about done, it is about finishing text for the book, finishing planting the garden....then garden maintenance and photography right through the end of the season...
Pics, variety names, more details to follow. Off to go to our daughter Sara's going away party - she is off to Seattle (relocation, not vacation!) next week. What a nice visit travel destination we shall have!
About 10 years ago we were given a Voodoo lily by a vendor selling plants next to us at the Farmers Market. The one gallon pot had a single stem with a lobed leaf on the end. What to do with it? Well, I planted it behind our backyard fence, essentially in the woods - and forgot about it. Every few years we would find a single leaf emerge, but quickly forgot about it.
A few days ago I looked out our back window and saw something really unexpected behind the fence. It reminded me of that weird, stinky flower that blooms only occasionally and draws crowds - and, in essence, the Voodoo lily is a close relation of that noted flower.
Not only was I shocked to find this rather ugly dark purple maroon, rather phallic thing "blossoming" in our woods, but realized it moved - by about 6 feet to the right of where I planted it a decade ago. But - in the picture above - behold the blossom of the Voodoo Lily in all its glory! And, no, I didn't go up and sniff it....
And tonight, while munching our dinner salad on the deck, we noted some deer relaxing in the stilt grass and ferns of the woods behind our house - see below.
Thanks to our water scarecrows, this pair of Bambis hasn't munched our garden.....but it is quite remarkable to have the deer so close by. Our chocolate labs, Buddy and Mocha, were very interested in the gals shown above. I strongly suspect that they are about to produce some mini-Bambis in our woods......I must remember to keep the batteries fresh in those deer sprinklers!
What an odd day.....I took a bit of a break (as in rest) from planting things, but will be back at it and start attacking the big garden tomorrow.
No, I am not done planting tomatoes. But part of yesterday and all of today was about getting the eggplant, hot and sweet peppers into 5 gallon grow bags. I also rearranged the driveway - the seedlings are out, and the grow bags are in (pics below).
I planted the following eggplant: New York Improved, Ripples, Snow Globe, Twilight Lightning, Skinny Twilight, Prosperosa, Rosa Bianca, Midnight Lightning, Listada di Gandia, Italian Pink Bicolor, Green Giant and Antigua...as well as an off-type Snow Globe that had a purplish stem (I love eggplant mysteries). Some of these are annual favorites - we really like the wider, more globe shaped eggplant for peeling, slicing, dipping in egg then breadcrumbs, and baking - we froze bags of eggplant prepared this way last fall. Green Giant seems to be off of seed catalog lists, so seed saving will be critical. Quite a few of these are my own varieties, selected and stabilized from hybrids.
I also planted these sweet peppers: Amethyst, Chervena, Chocolate Bell, Golden Marconi, Fire Opal, Cubanelle, Kalman Hungarian, Oda, Orange Bell, Red Corno di Toro, Yellow Corno di Toro, Red Belgium, Royal Purple, Candy Corn, Garden Sunshine, White Gold, World Beater, and Marconi.
....and the following hot peppers: Eclipse, Bulgarian Carrot, Fish, Pinata, Padron, Vacquero, Takanatsume, Sunrise and Sunset. I will be planting other hot peppers into smaller (2 gallon) grow bags.
And so here is what things in my driveway looked like at the end of Monday: