My most recent Globe and Mail Kitchen Gardening article is on sweet potatoes and chronicles an experiment I took up by chance, growing sweet potatoes in a shopping bag.
While in Dominica I learned that when there is not enough soil fertility to produce tubers, sweet potato leaves are cooked or steamed like spinach. I haven’t tried it yet, but think this would be a good option when starting the plant too late in the growing season. I have some slips on hand right now that I might plant for this reason.
Can you distinguish the plants from the rocks? Lithops, aka stone plants, are a favourite botanical freak but I am very tentative about growing them. I’ve killed a fair share and even though I have an intellectual understanding of their needs, I still don’t feel like I truly “get” them in practice. I currently have 2 plants and I haven’t killed them yet so that’s saying something, I suppose.
My friend Barry grew these from seed. He says they are about 2 years old. Look at the exciting colours in there!
I never see anything that interesting in stores. I’ve got a packet of seed that I bought back in the spring. I hope to grow them this winter once my outdoor gardening activity cools off. Since I’m feeling a bit nervous about the experiment, I’ve started a Lithops Grow-Along thread in the You Grow Girl Forums. Support, camaraderie, and accountability just might be the ticket to success. Wanna join me?
And I am growing it!
Back in February a secret somebody, whose identity I will not reveal (pinky swear), gifted me a package of seeds of the only open-pollinated (OP) blue tomato to have been raised by natural plant breeding techniques (not GMO). I was under the impression that this yet-to-be-released tomato was so secretive that I didn’t plan to write about it at all and was extra careful not to show it in photos until last week when I did an internet search and discovered that everyone and their second cousin has been growing and writing about it willy nilly.
Perhaps it is not so secretive after all.
This experimental blue tomato (sometimes going by the name P20) is being produced by Oregon State University in an attempt to create an uber-healthy tomato with a high level anthocyanin, the powerful antioxidant found in blueberries.
When I wrote about the Morelle de Balbis (Solanum sisymbrifolium) last it was on April 30, 2010 when the seedling was still living in the greenhouse. It had just begun to produce its thorns and I was beginning to get a glimpse into what I’d signed on for.
It is now July 1 and the plant has been living outdoors in soil for just over a month or so. When it came time to plant, I decided to grow it in a large pot, rather than in the ground. The final mature growth of this thorny Tomato Family plant is estimated to come in at around 5′ tall. I had a feeling it was going to be fairly treacherous to grow. Planting it into a garden bed meant there would be a greater chance of scratching myself on the thorns. I am not a particularly graceful person. I bash into door frames fairly regularly. I live in small spaces and I garden in cramped quarters, which means I regularly come into close contact with plants whether I want to or not. As the Morelle de Balbis grows it becomes more and more apparent that this is not a plant I want rubbing up against my skin.
Shortly after planting. I used straw mulch to help lock in moisture and keep weed seeds from sprouting.
I did not have any room left in the big pots on my roof, so I decided to plant it in a container in “the new space.” Oh, didn’t I tell you? There is a FOURTH garden this year. The fourth is a yard share, located through a secret door in the back garden of friend. One of my goals for this year was to get a bigger garden space. And when it didn’t happen through the City allotment garden network, a friend stepped up and asked me to join their space. I am so grateful.
With other gardeners in the space, I had to be especially mindful of this plant’s placement. As a part of the garden’s revamp in the spring, we decided to make use of a sunny spot along a fence by lining up large recycling bins for container growing. I planted the Morelle de Balbis in the furthest bin along the fence where I hoped it would receive minimal contact.
About a month after planting. The Morelle de Balbis is in the centre and is flanked by two determinate tomato plants: ‘Black Seaman’ and ‘Whippersnapper.’ All are under-planted with different varieties of basil.
There are several pansies and violas that claim to be black, but when it comes down to it they are purple, more or less. Ever since Mr. Brown Thumb posted about his not exactly black, black viola, I have been meaning to pull out a photo of Viola cornuta ‘Black Magic’, the blackest flower I have ever seen. It lives! The black viola lives! The colour in my photo above is pretty true to life — there’s no Photoshop trickery at work here. In fact, I’d say it looks a little more purple in this light than it does on the average day. From afar it has a smoky softness about it.
I bought a single pot of it this year, and only one pot because boy did it break the bank. I’ve complained about the “Not 99 Cent Pansy” before, however this plant, this single, solitary plant, ran about $7.99.
But it was worth it. I’ve had it for over a month now and I look at it fondly every day.