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Better Late than Never

May 19th, 2011

This year spring has been lagging a bit and so have I when it comes to getting all my warm season crops started. According to my seed starting calculator I should have started my zucchini, squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, basil, zinnias, and all kinds of other things about a month ago. And yet my seed starting trays sit empty, my soil blocker lays dormant, and the seeds are still nestled in their packets on the dresser in my dining room table. Why? I’ve been busy, busy, busy.

Sometimes life allows you to start seeds exactly 4 weeks before frost sometimes it doesn’t. A gardener can decide that time spent improving the soil is better than seeding plants. The weather can change your plans as well. Rain will fall just often enough so that the soil never dries enough to start planting when you should. And sometimes gardeners plan to go on vacation right when they shouldn’t, in the middle of summer. Now they must adjust projected harvests around their plans.

Plants are forgiving though, they don’t get impatient. They’ll grow like gangbusters if given the right conditions and will produce beautifully even if you get them planted a few weeks late. Sometimes I think starting things in pots in the house sets them back (I haven’t done any testing but I’d love to some day when I have the time). This year I’ll be direct seeding most of my squash simple because I didn’t have time to plant them indoors a few weeks ago. The corn will go in a little late so it’s not ripe while we’re on vacation. I don’t think they’ll mind at all, and maybe they’ll be better off because of it – we shall see!

How’s your garden going so far this year? Are you getting everything in on time?

New Rhubarb for the Garden

May 12th, 2011

This year I decided to purchase a few new varieties of rhubarb for the garden. I did some research and settled on ‘MacDonald’. I finally found some from available Nourse Farms. ‘MacDonald’ Rhubarb is described as: an excellent producer for commercial growers and home gardeners. This very vigorous, upright growing strain produces large, tender stalks and has acceptable red color. Shows resistance to root-rot problems.

I decided to get some of the other variety they sell as well. ‘Cawood Delite’ Rhubarb is not as vigorous as MacDonald, but has deeper red color and slightly thicker stalks. Cawood Delight has a stout growth habit that will excel in northern areas. It may struggle in areas with long periods of high heat. We have had a lot of positive feedback on this variety from commercial growers and home gardeners.

I also have some heirloom ‘Victoria’ Rhubarb in my garden which I started from seed 2 years ago (source: Baker Creek). ‘Victoria’ has thick stalks are popular for making delicious pies, cobbler and preserves. This variety can be harvested starting as soon as the 2nd season. It’s more green than red and fairly tart.

Last year one of my rhubarb plants bloomed, it was quite impressive. The seeds were quite lovely as well, they were like little earrings hanging on the plant. You’re not supposed to let the plant bloom I read after it bloomed *OOPS*. Looks like we’ll be able to enjoy our fill of rhubarb in a few years! I’m really looking forward to tasting the different varieties side by side!

Are you able to grow rhubarb in your garden? What’s your favorite way to eat it?

New Plants for the Garden

April 5th, 2011

Now that I have more doubled my garden area I need to start getting plants to fill the new part. I’ll propagate most of them myself from plants I already have or from mom’s plants which will save me a lot of money. It will take longer for these plants to grow and mature, but gardening isn’t about instant gratification. I’ll also start a lot of plants from seed and divide many of my exciting perennials. I will purchase a few new plants that I’ve been wanting to get, but haven’t had the garden space for.

If you remember, I have a fascination with hydrangeas and have amassed a collection of 10 different varieties so far. I just purchased 3 new varieties to add to my collection: ‘Teller’s Blue’ Hydrangea – a blue lace-cap hydrangea, ‘Princess Beatrix’ Hydrangea – produces beautiful crimson-pink blooms, and ‘Penny Mac’ Hydrangea – will flower in the coldest zones because of its ability to produce flowers on new growth.

I also bought a few tree peonies. Two different varieties ‘Ge Jin Zi’ or Purple Kudzu Scarf and ‘Wu Long Peng Sheng’ also known as Black Dragon Holds a Splendid Flower. I’m super excited for these as I’ve been wanting to get a tree peony for quite a while.

Have you purchased any new plants recently? Any that you’ve been wanting to purchase?

We Have Roots

December 4th, 2010

I talked about propagating your own plants back this spring and did a little how-to with some photos. Early this summer I got some boxwood cutting from a friend. He has a beautiful old shrub, very mature and in great condition. It does very well in our climate, which can be harsh on certain boxwood varieties. I figured my best chance of getting beautiful boxwood would be to grow my shrubs from cuttings.

I put about 40 cuttings into 3 long trough planters filled with a mixture of sand, perlite and peat moss. I put them back behind the garage where they’d get morning sun and would be protected from the elements. I decided a few weeks ago it was time to check them and sure enough about 15-20 had roots. This was very good because I actually took cuttings a month before you’re supposed to on boxwood and I wasn’t sure they’d root. They’re all tucked away in the cold frame ready for spring planting.

Have you ever propagated shrubs or other plants?

Bringing Monticello Home

August 13th, 2010

I’ve been wanting to get a terracotta cloche for quite a while now. I don’t know why I like them so much, I think they’re quite beautiful in the garden and useful for blanching and protecting plants. They’re not readily available here in the U.S. so they’re difficult to find. While searching on-line I saw that they were available for purchase at Monticello and I had every intention of buying one.

I’d saved up some money, but when I was standing in the gift shop looking at the $125 price tag I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I’m a very frugal person, so spending that much money on one item to sit in the garden seemed ridiculous, no matter how much I love them. Especially given the fact that our gardens are surrounded by huge trees that frequently drop branches. My luck I’d take it home, put it in the garden and we’d get a summer storm that would knock a big branch out of a tree right on top of it.

Instead of buying a cloche, I settled on purchasing a few plants. They’re a much better purchase anyways, I’ll be able to propagate them for gifts or for additional plants. It’s also a great way to have a little piece of Monticello at home. Most of the plants I bought will be houseplants during the winter and outdoor potted plants during the summer. What varieties of plants did I purchase?

A dwarf weeping lantana, a buttery yellow one just like the one seen in this flower bed. It is not a hardy plant, so I’ll be overwintering it in the house. I’ve overwintered regular lantana in the house successfully so this shouldn’t be a problem.

I also purchased a fig tree of the variety ‘Brunswick’ which is only hardy to a zone 6b. I may be able to wrap it and successfully overwinter it outside, but I think I’ll put it in the basement this winter. I’ll take starts next spring and then try overwintering it outside when I have more than one plant. I have a ‘Hardy Chicago’ fig that I successfully overwintered in the basement this past year. It’s quite large now after only one summer of good growth, perhaps next year I’ll get a few figs from it.

I also purchased two small variegated lemon trees (one for my mom) and a key lime tree, which will become a houseplants in the winter and spend their summers outside on the back porch. I’ve been wanting to get a nice potted citrus for a while and they were well priced at Monticello. Let’s hope they survive and I’ll be harvesting fresh citrus in a few years!

We bought these plants only a few days into our trip, so we had to spend a few days traveling with plants. I kept telling Mr Chiots people probably wondered what we were doing. If anyone asked, I was going to say that we always traveled with plants to help clean the air of the hotel room. The funny thing is we actually met a guy at our hotel that was traveling with a HUGE potted dumb cane plant. We mentioned to him that we thought we were the only ones with plants in our room and both got a good laugh.

I love buying or getting starts of plants as souvenirs, so much better to have a plant in the garden than something to dust inside!

Do you ever buy or get starts of plants when you travel?

Here’s a slideshow of the Vegetable Gardens from my visit,
and a slideshow of the House and Ornamental Gardens from my visit.

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.