Garden thread

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  • mtaratoot
    mtaratoot Posts: 12,400 Member
    I did my annual maintenance on my marionberries today. It's probably not too early. I pulled out long strands of new canes, then cut out all the ones that fruited last year and chopped 'em up and put 'em in the green waste cart. Then I strung up the new canes that will fruit this year.

    I also spread wood shavings on my blueberries and raspberries. I will wait another several weeks before pruning the raspberries and grapes. I can probably start on the fig trees, plum tree, pear tree, cherry tree, and Asian pear tree any time. Gives me something to do outside when we have a weather window that isn't too terribly cold or raining too terribly hard.


    Then I took a flat shovel and removed a bunch of mud that had flowed onto my driveway. After that it was time to scrape off some moss that was growing on other parts of the driveway and the sidewalk. Yep. Fun stuff!
  • MsCzar
    MsCzar Posts: 1,038 Member
    So who here can't wait to start seedlings? Still about a month away here in Zone 6. Peppers and eggplant usually take forever to sprout and seem the hardest to keep alive. Lost them all last year and had to buy nursery plants. I'm thinking of growing broccoli this year, but have zero experience there.
    What are your 2024 garden plans?
  • mtaratoot
    mtaratoot Posts: 12,400 Member
    I might garden this year. I really didn't last year. I didn't even harvest a single marionberry. Wow. I ate plenty of pears, but not many grapes. Only a few raspberries.

    I covered the annual garden with cardboard last week because it had, of course, grown quite will while I was ignoring it. Maybe, just maybe, I'll put some yummy things in the soil in the spring. Zone 8b. Still Zone 8b even with the new PRISM map.

    I pruned one of my three fig trees yesterday. Green waste cart is full. It gets emptied tomorrow. Aside from pruning two more fig trees (probably not as heavily as this one), I have a plum, a cherry, a Bartlett pear, a Chojuro (Asian) pear, and a very large flowering cherry out front. Plus a row of grapes, a row of blueberries, a row of raspberries, and the marionberries. I already did maintenance on the marionberries a couple weeks ago. Whew.

    I found out that the shrub/tree planted between my house and my neighbors isn't actually an Oregon Bay Laurel (a.k.a. California Bay, a.k.a., California Laurel, a.k.a. Pepperwood, a.k.a. Oregon Myrtle, a.k.a. Spice tree, a.k.a. peppernut....) isn't actually an Oregon Bay Laurel. It's actually a Sweet Bay. No wonder I can use so much when I cook without overpowering the flavor. It's the real deal. Fun stuff. Tasty too.

    And of course there's the artichokes. They seem to be doing fine. We'll see. I ate a lot last year, but there were a lot that never got harvested.

    Good news is giving the garden the year off may have discouraged the ants that were destroying roots of lots of veggies. Also gave the soil a rest. I was a year late if you follow the calendar of sabbatical years. I have no idea how I found time to go to work AND have a garden. I didn't have to work last year, and I still didn't find time to garden. Just having too much fun, and I'm ok with that.
  • mtaratoot
    mtaratoot Posts: 12,400 Member
    I forgot about this until today. I only remembered because I picked up a few sprouting acorns from native oak trees while I was out on my hike and I was potting them up. I will probably try to create bonsai from them. I have never been successful doing a bonsai with a native oak. They just don't like it. Will that stop me from trying again? Apparently not. I've got several empty bonsai pots and another one that will be empty when my fears are confirmed in the spring that one of my favorites is dead. I will need to buy more bonsai soil anyway as this year I need to pull most of them out of their pots, prune their roots, and repot with fresh soil.

    But what I noticed was a pot I had set out on my potting table. My poor falling-apart potting table. It was from when I cleaned up part of my garden several weeks ago. It was one of the artichokes I had left in the garden as a nectar source for pollinators and also because the flowers are beautiful. Well, the flower had gone to seed, and the seeds had started to sprout.

    Anybody want some sprouted artichokes? They have mutated into a very delicious plant that survives our winters (USDA Zone 8b). They also have very mean thorns that point OUT so they will hurt you if you're not careful...

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  • MsCzar
    MsCzar Posts: 1,038 Member
    edited January 6
    Dollar Tree seeds are out. 25¢ USD a pack! I've mostly had good luck with with them.
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  • mtaratoot
    mtaratoot Posts: 12,400 Member
    My world is covered with rime. We had an ice storm the other day. Today was sunny. I've been out walking in it every day. Today was nice because of the sun. When I got back, I walked to the back of my yard. I figured the ice is thick and solid enough - like concrete - that I won't hurt the turf by walking on it. I usually try not to walk on frozen turf - it can get damaged.

    Anyway, we haven't had temperatures above freezing since Friday, and we're expecting it to get down to between 13 and 15 tonight. All of my perennials should be safe because they are coated in a layer of ice. This is one of my blueberry bushes:
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    Another round of freezing rain is expected tomorrow. We'll probably lose more limbs and trees. Some friends have been without electricity for about 30 hours. I think the crew was working to get it back as it grew dark. Good thing because of tonight's weather. At least they have a wood stove, but I fear for their well.
  • CoffeeCastle
    CoffeeCastle Posts: 19 Member
    edited January 17
    I love to garden! I always do really well with tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini. Tried lettuce for the first time last year and that went really well. Oh and kale! I got tons of great kale. The thing I always have trouble with are herbs. My herbs never stay nice for very long. This year I’d like to master that.
  • AnnPT77
    AnnPT77 Posts: 31,287 Member
    I love to garden! I always do really well with tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini. Tried lettuce for the first time last year and that went really well. Oh and kale! I got tons of great kale. The thing I always have trouble with are herbs. My herbs never stay nice for very long. This year I’d like to master that.

    What troubles have you had, and with which herbs? They're one of the things I can manage, mostly . . . though I do stick with ones that aren't too fussy.

    We have cold Winters here, so the rosemary is potted, moves in and out seasonally. I've had better luck with upright varieties vs. trailing (which seem to root-rot more easily).

    The oregano, tarragon, sage, lovage, thyme, and mint are hardy here outdoors in the ground . . . the sage and oregano a little too vigorous sometimes, TBH. I have to rip out a bunch most years so they don't take over the bed. (I grow the mint in a trough and treat it badly so that it won't go wild. :D )

    I usually grow some dill, cilantro, and basil in big pots as annuals. Sometimes I grow nasturtiums for salad, also in a pot.

    This past year, I started some chives and garlic chives in planters, but they didn't germinate well, even though they did well for me at my previous place. (I should have ordered seed online from a better source, probably. I'll do so this year and try again.)

    Guilty admission is that I used to grow a lot of veggies and some fruits, but have gotten lazy about that, especially since widowhood - doing everything around the house/yard sometimes gets the better of me.
  • wendymoreland3796
    wendymoreland3796 Posts: 58 Member
    I have always started my garden from plants, but this year I want to try from seeds. Do the quality of the seeds matter? Do people have recommendations on where they buy seeds?
  • MsCzar
    MsCzar Posts: 1,038 Member
    Do the quality of the seeds matter? Do people have recommendations on where they buy seeds?

    I've had great luck with 25¢ seeds from Dollar Tree. I'm not trying to grow huge prize winning produce and things like squash and beans seem to be able to thrive no matter what. I also sometimes save seeds from grocery store produce and kitchen scraps and have had good results there. I've found growing peppers from seed - no matter the seed price - to be the most challenging.
  • mtaratoot
    mtaratoot Posts: 12,400 Member
    I have always started my garden from plants, but this year I want to try from seeds. Do the quality of the seeds matter? Do people have recommendations on where they buy seeds?

    They can, and you also can sort of ignore the "plant by" date. Many seeds are viable for years. You might need to sow heavier because germination rates decline, but if you don't use them all, that's fine. One of the great joys of a cold day in February is perusing the Terretorial Seed catalog for interesting inspiration! I am biased since their farm is an hour away from me.

    Our public library now has a seed library twice a year - spring and fall. People can donate seeds they aren't using, and other people can go take seeds they want. They have seed racks, and they have empty tiny manila envelopes so anyone can take just enough seeds to plant so none are wasted. No charge. It's a cooperative venture with a non-profit called the Sustainability Coalition. They also have classes and other educational materials available. Pretty groovy if ya ask me.
  • AnnPT77
    AnnPT77 Posts: 31,287 Member
    I have always started my garden from plants, but this year I want to try from seeds. Do the quality of the seeds matter? Do people have recommendations on where they buy seeds?

    It depends on where you garden, but IMO some things are better from plants, others from seeds. (Whether garden centers sell them as plants is not a good guide. They sell quite a few things here as plants that grow well from seeds, and have a reputation for not liking to be transplanted.)

    I tried growing tomatoes, peppers, and their kin from seeds. Here (at the time zone 5b), one has to start them indoors. I was never able to get the conditions right to produce as robust, sturdy plants as I could get from a good garden center or the farmers market. I think light was the problem. I don't have a greenhouse or even a good South window exposure, and even growing under grow lights and on heat mats didn't equal the quality of plants I could get in small pots.

    OTOH, even the long-ish season vine-y things (Winter squash, for example) did fine from seed, though I hilled them and used Hotkaps or similar to get a small jump start. The brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts) have been variable for me. Some of the smaller leafy things in that genus did fine from seed (mustard greens, bok choy, etc.). Some of the heading types (cabbage, broccoli) did better from purchased plants. YMMV for sure.

    There are some herbs I wouldn't grow from seed. Oregano has a reputation for not coming true from seed in flavor, even seed from good plants. I prefer to buy a plant so I can at least smell it. Mints are also unpredictable from seed, IME.

    For sure, I'd grow annual herbs from seed. I especially see people buying basil plants and wonder why: They don't take long to mature from seed, and I want more than a couple of dinky plants. I liked to plant my tomatoes (caged) in 3-foot square spaces, right in the middle. Then I would plant basil in a band all around the edge. By the time the tomatoes started wanting all their space in mid-summer, the basil was ready to go. I'd cut most of it (other than a bit planted on its own at intervals for later use) and make vast amounts of pesto or even just olive oil/basil paste to freeze in jam-sized canning jars. (Frozen pesto is a nice Christmas present for foodie friends.)

    The quality of the seeds isn't a big deal in terms of germination, usually, unless they've been handled badly (stored in a hot location, for example). I think that was the issue with the chives and garlic chives I mentioned.

    That said, I do prefer to order seeds from a home garden specialist retailer online. Admittedly, they're more expensive, but OK with me given the amount of effort and money I'll invest overall. For some reason, many of the seed varieties in garden centers are varieties that would be commercially grown. Often, their breeding is optimized for appearance and shipping qualities, maybe simultaneous ripening, other things commercial growers prize.

    There are specialty seed sources that focus more on home or farmers garden type varieties. They're more likely to be bred for flavor, disease resistance, possibly for particular regions, and that sort of thing.

    For me, gardening in Michigan, Johnny's Selected Seeds in Albion, Maine was my main go-to, because they specialize in Northern gardens. They also have the most informative descriptions I've ever seen. Many vendors will be all glow-y prose about how wonderful every variety they sell is. That's dumb. Johnny's will be very explicit about tradeoffs (this bean is earliest, that most prolific, another more disease resistant, etc.). They also provide more detailed culture information than others on their web site. Love them.

    There are others that have that kind of home grower specialization, too. It's been too long since I've veggie gardened much, so I don't have many specifics. I think Renee's Garden is one that's still in business. I'm sure there are others. Some of the biggies (Burpee, Ferry Morse, etc.) sell online, but mostly sell the same varieties you can get in packets at a decent garden center. Some good garden centers these days will carry a seed line that's more home garden oriented, though.



  • mtaratoot
    mtaratoot Posts: 12,400 Member
    After the melt-off I went and looked at my garden. I expect the cardboard insulated the ground under all the ice somewhat. I wonder if that means the critters buried underground fared better than if it weren't there.

    My artichokes have survived almost 20 years. Maybe more. They've been through deep snow and cold weather that was even colder than we just went through, so I'm optimistic that the below-ground portion is still alive and will bounce back in the spring. What's growing above ground is wilted, and I expect it will continue to die back to the ground. That actually might make it easier to pull some of the annoying weeds that are otherwise hard to get to between the plants.

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  • mtaratoot
    mtaratoot Posts: 12,400 Member
    I got my other two fig trees pruned up today. Pulling on the saw, it was very obvious to me I was at the gym yesterday. Not painful, just could tell that I'd been using those muscles. It's some of my weaker muscles, so I'll be happy if I increase their strength. I filled the Green Waste Cart. It gets emptied tomorrow, so I can move on to whatever is next. Now all I have left is two pear trees (Bartlett and Chojuro), a cherry tree (plus a flowering cherry if I decide it needs some work), a plum tree, the grapes, the raspberries, the blueberries, and I guess the red currant and gooseberry if I decide to do them. There's some other things too, but that's all the fruit. I don't mind pruning some of the other things any time of the year unless it affects the flowering. I did a walk around, and I don't think there's a whole lot that needs much work. There's some shrubs I may get to in spring after they flower.

    And I also noticed that I no longer have to worry about those sprouted acorns I was going to plant. I checked to see if they survived all the ice. I can't say whether they did. None of them had grown upwards yet - just roots. Well, I checked on them again today. They have "flown away." Either a scrub jay or a squirrel I presume. I bet it was a scrub jay. Grrrr. If I go back out to that trail, maybe I'll bring a plastic bag and small trowel and see about collecting some more. I think it must be a mast year.

    I need to get out to one of the independent garden centers north of town that has a bonsai section. I need a big bag of potting mix; I think I need to repot all of the surviving bonsai this year. I won't need any for those oak trees... But I do have some other trees that are ready for bonsai pots. Two incense-cedars and two Port Orford-cedars.
  • mtaratoot
    mtaratoot Posts: 12,400 Member
    It wasn't raining. I even saw a little part of the sky that looked kind of blue. We had unseasonably warm weather - near record setting even. So the idea of going INSIDE the gym to swim just sounded like a bad idea.

    Instead I got to go up and down and up and down and up and down on an orchard ladder. I got both of my pear trees (Bartlett and Chojuro, which is an Asian pear variety), my Stella (dark red cherry), and my Italian Prune Plum tree done. I filled the green waste cart with branches from the pear trees and most of the branches from the cherry. There's still a pile from the cherry left for after the cart gets emptied on Friday. First I'll lop off the larger pieces to save for the grill - cherry smoke is really good on fish. The branches from the plum are just sitting where they fell. I'll deal with them another time.

    I still had some energy, and so I made quick work of the raspberries. Old canes cut out. New canes tied up to the wire and pruned shorter. Excess canes pruned away.

    I will still need to work on the blueberries and grapes. The flowering cherry out front needs some work, but I can do that any time - even after it blooms. I have a few more shrubs that need attention. The filbert needs some work, but I'll need to borrow a chainsaw for that.

    Nice way to spend three hours or so in the yard. Some birds stopped by to say hi. I stepped in "presents" left by either some neighbor cats or raccoons. Yuck.

    We have more warm weather for another couple days, but not quite as warm as today. Thank goodness. I want the snow to keep piling up in the mountains. We are supposed to start getting more precipitation, but alas - if it's as warm as predicted, it's going to be rain even up on the passes, and that will melt the snow. Sad. It's the bank so to speak where this summer's water comes from.
  • MsCzar
    MsCzar Posts: 1,038 Member
    edited January 29
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    The bad news is that I live in US Zone 6b and it will be 2-3 months before I can even think of moving them outside. :'(
  • mtaratoot
    mtaratoot Posts: 12,400 Member
    The first blooms of my "spring" bulbs appeared today.

    I have been seeing crocus around town, but mine are "late bloomers." I only planted them a year and a half ago, so their first blossom was last year. I see the green shoots, but the flowers are several weeks away still at least.

    But imagine my surprise when I walked out to the garden today and one of the areas where I have "Spring Snowflakes" (Leucojum vernum) has a few flowers on it. Wow. How lovely. That tells me they survived the ice storm.

    I used to think they were "Snowdrops" (Gallanthus), but they aren't.

    My camellias are weeks away. Others in the neighborhood are earlier. One neighbor has a bush that reliably blooms right around new years. I am thinking flowering quince is right around the corner. I saw Daphne odora blooming on my walk today to meet a friend. I sure miss mine. Maybe I should spring for a new one - they are so expensive.
  • AnnPT77
    AnnPT77 Posts: 31,287 Member
    Even here in Michigan, we're seeing some of the Spring bulbs and early-flowering plants start earlier than average.

    I had my first snowdrops (Galanthus sp.) in early January. Then, it was just one clump behind the garage that's always earlier than the others, but now many are starting to pop out, too. The earlier Hellebores (usually the ones with some H. niger in their lineage) are in full bud, and even some of the H. orientalis hybrids are showing a tiny bit of bud color. It'll be a while, though. (Shown: The early Galanthus clump on January 2, and H. niger on December 30 (buds are plumper now, and yes, they're semi-evergreen all Winter here).)

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  • mtaratoot
    mtaratoot Posts: 12,400 Member
    I have a Corsican hellebore that starts to bloom early. This year it was in December I think. Or sooner. There's still blooms, but they're getting worn out.

    I transplanted a clump of Hellebore from the neighbor, but it appears it's been eaten by something. Oh well. It was kind of a boring color, and I really didn't have the room for it.

    I need to consult my phenology to decide how soon to trim some branches from the Mt. Fuji to bring in and force bloom.