Another Seedy Saturday Toronto has come and gone and like last year I managed, with great effort, to make it around to a few booths and pick up some seeds. The event was more packed than ever this year making it nearly impossible to leave my brother/assistant alone at the table for any length of time or push through the crowds lingering around some of the larger seed sellers. The sellers I did manage to get to were often sold out of items on my wanted list. And forget the Seeds of Diversity trading table. I had high hopes but only managed to snag a pack of red orach seeds. Next year I plan to employ the strategy of browsing during setup, BEFORE the crowds arrive. Next year.
Here’s what I managed to bring home with me:
- Red Orach – A trade pack harvested from Jackman Public School’s Learning Garden.
- ‘Early Yellow Crookneck’ Squash – A trade with a You Grow Girl forums member. I thought I needed squash but then got home and realized I have several varieties in my stash. This is why I should have brought a list.
- ‘Dragon’ Carrot – Another trade that I already have. ‘Dragon’ is a beautiful purple carrot. If I had to choose I suppose I favour it over ‘Purple Haze’ although ‘Dragon’ would crumble in a Best Name competition.
- Love Lies Bleeding – I’ve been trying to grow more amaranth over the last few years and ‘Love Lies Bleeding’ is a classic that never gets old.
- ‘Blue Spice’ Basil – Another trade. I don’t think I have grown this variety which is kind of amazing since I’d swear I have covered just about everything in the unusual basil category at least once.
- ‘Purple Calabash’ Tomato – I fell in love with its ugly beauty last year. I am planning to grow less tomatoes this year and have not finalized my list as-of-yet. Who gets cut will be the hardest decision I have to make this year.
- Painted Lady Sweet Pea – I just love the fragrant sweetness of sweet pea flowers but tend to steer clear of them due to their attractiveness to aphids. I decided to try my luck and grow a few varieties this year. I can always pull them out if things get nasty. This variety really does look like the runner beans of the same name. I know it seems redundant to grow them when I can just grow the beans later in the season but I can’t cut those flowers and I am really craving cut sweet peas for my desk.
- Persian Broad-Leaf Cress – I have grown a number of pepper cresses but like that this variety is described as milder than other cresses.
- Tendergreen Mustard Green – I’m on a personal mission to try growing just about every salad green under the sun.
- ‘Queen Anne’s Pocket Melon’ aka ‘Plum Granny’ – I’m planning to grow some melon this year but admittedly this one was an impulse buy and not on the list. ‘Plum Grannies’ are tiny melons known for their intoxicating fruity smell. I can not resist a good back story and the story for these citrus-sized melons is that Victorian women carried them in their pockets to fight street stench. The thought of two of these in a breast pocket has me thinking about another derivative of the colloquial use of ‘melons.”
- Swiss Chard ‘Ruby Red’ & ‘Golden Sunrise’ – I’ve grown the ‘Rainbow’ mix and other coloured varieties but these two are my favourites for their saturated colours that look so beautiful in containers of contrasting colour or as a burst of brightness tucked beside boring veggie varieties.
- ‘Selway’ Lettuce - Brightly coloured greens are another edible trick I employ to brighten dull corners and containers. Consequently I am always on the look out for a good red variety. We’ll see how these fair against ‘Lolla Rosa’ aka ‘Lollo Rosa’ which still reigns as my favourite red.
- ‘Cimmaron’ Romaine Lettuce – An unusual romaine with a deep, reddish purple hue.
- ‘Yugoslavian Red’ Butterhead Lettuce – A really beautiful butterhead variety with shades of green tinged by deep red.
- ‘Black Spanish’ Radish – I’m very curious about the flavour and how to eat this root vegetable.
- ‘Black Jet’ Soybean – I have to admit I bought these for the dark bean colour. I’ve had a lot of success with soybeans in containers on the roof but that dang groundhog just LOVES to eat the plants as they emerge from the soil at the community plot.
Don’t forget to enter the Haiku Contest!
I’ve long held the belief that there are no green thumbs or black thumbs and that gardening is a process of learning and discovery with no peak or end goal. You can garden like a maniac your entire life and never know everything there is to be known. In fact I would say that the more I learn the less I realize I know. That sounds intimidating but it’s one aspect of this hobby/lifestyle that is most rewarding and optimistic. And knowing that you can’t possibly know everything there is to know should help to take some of the pressure off.
That said, I can say with absolute certainty that all gardeners have their weaknesses — there is always that one plant, that dirty little secret whose riddle just can’t be cracked. Mine used to be radishes. I know exactly how to grow them and if you had asked me I would have been able to explain exactly what they need without flinching. But when it came down to it I grew a pretty awful radish. I wrote about my radish problem in the You Grow Girl book because I wanted people to know that they should not give up on those embarassing failures and that it is sometimes one thing to understand what a plant needs on an intellectual level and another thing to apply that knowledge to a real plant.
And then low and behold, just last year I managed to grow my first crop of good container-grown radishes! And today, for a second year running, I have harvested my first tasty, crisp, not-at-all-woody container-grown radishes of the season. Woot! I’ve come to think that my radish mistake probably came down to my own insanely stubborn insistance on growing a variety that just couldn’t take the extra heat and drought on the deck. Again this was one of those instances where I KNEW what I should have been growing and had even appropriately advised many aspiring radish growers while stubbornly soldiering on in the wrong direction in my own garden.
I’m currently in Northern California for the Blogher Conference. I’ve been to these parts once before but the massiveness of the plants, most especially the invasives really stand out this time.
I assumed this patch of renegade nasturtiums was a random fluke. Until I turned the corner. And the next one. And the next. And then I saw the hillside covered in nasturtium flowers of every colour with leaves the size of dinner plates. No one warned me that here in California nasturtiums will have you for breakfast.
This is what happens when radishes roam free — all plant no radish. At least the flowers are tasty.
I will admit that I did notice the fennel last time. It’s hard not to since the stuff is everywhere! First I came upon this fennel forest and then I noticed….
…BLACKBERRIES! I proceeded to gorge myself on the ripest of which there were many. And by many I mean enough to keep the multitudes bloated on blackberry pie. There have been past discussions on the forums describing the impenetrable invasiveness of blackberries in the North West. I want you all to know that I get it now. For real.
You have to see how jade grows in Southern Ontario to understand why this scene is such a marvel. Our sad little plants live in sad little pots on window ledges where they remain sad, and little for decades.
I have to admit that it was a 1997 trip to San Francisco that first inched geraniums off of my hit list. Until that point I was only familar with the pathetic little annuals peddled through school fundraisers and shotgun planted into every maple leaf motifed public garden across Ontario. These twisty, tangled sculptures are a whole lot more interesting.
The first thing I would do with a garden in this climate is grow a HUGE rosemary bush. Even the snails that eat the rosemary bushes are cool.
Aeoniums rate high on my list of favourite succulents so to find one this beautiful and in bloom no-less was a huge thrill.
I harvested my first batch of ‘Purple Plum’ radishes this evening from the rooftop garden. I’m growing them in an old wine crate alongside greens.
Unfortunately, I can’t remember exactly what I planted since I wrote on the tags with non-permanant ink and it washed off after the first rain (I have several different lettuce and greens seed packets so it’s not easy to identify). However, I can say for certain that the radishes (back row) are ‘Purple Plum’, the front row is orach (not yet germinated), and there are ‘Rouge d’ Hiver’, and ‘Oakleaf’ lettuce seedlings in there.
Phase 1 of “Project Deck Garden 2006″ was enacted yesterday afternoon. It was inspired by a sunny day and a headache that wouldn’t quit, which not surprisingly, was abated after a few hours in the fresh air. I won’t bore you with the details as Phase 1 involves large helpings of gardening’s lesser joys; clean-up, pot shifting, and organization. Instead I will list the enjoyable activities:
- Planting the “fancy”, or as I like to call them, the ‘Not 99 Cent’ pansies I bought last week. You know you’re shopping at a chi-chi garden store when they give you a paper bag for a couple of pansies.
- I then proceeded to cover the ‘Not 99 Cent’ pansies with several water bottle cloches (I’ve graduated to 4L bottles) as the flowers had all been snatched off. For years I’ve been blaming raccoons and squirrels but it turns out the thieves are my beloved starlings! WHY? Are the generous quantities of seed not enough? Can’t bargain with the birds. And incidentally the pansies do have a nice flavour.
- I planted two kinds of peas: a dwarf variety called ‘Tom Thumb’, and a sugar/snow variety I am trying for the first time called ‘Carouby de Maussane’. I decided on these instead of sweet peas as the flowers are purple and the peas are edible.
- Greens Galore – Mizuna, red mustard, several different lettuces, orach, purslane, and mache. I planted up just about every container that is currently empty, including some that will hold hot weather veggies since I’ve got nearly six weeks before the transplants go in and I will just remove some of the lettuce at that time. I’ve got a lot of seeds to use up. However, I just realized I’m out of arugula seeds! Ack!
- Radish Challenge 2006 – I can’t recall planting radishes this early in previous years which may say a lot about why I have rarely succeded in growing a decent, edible radish. The rooftop deck is windier than a ground floor garden, but it also gets very, very hot. The season is always a bit accelerated up there, resulting in lousy radishes (but early tomatoes!). This year I will grow a decent radish if it kills me. [Shakes fist in air]
- Carrots – I planted just a couple of the ‘Purple Haze’ in the container where the beans will go as an experiment. It really is impossible to think about this variety without singing the song… or imagining dudes with tie-dyed head bands dropping liquid acid onto their eyeballs. Just saying.
And then Davin showed up to help and informed me that in the tradition of bizarre, unexplainable things that happen around the street garden, someone had left a plastic wrapped cauliflower in the garden as a gift. But it seems, in an even stranger twist, that in exchange, they took the large paper bags that were holding the compostables that were waiting to be put out for city collection. Yes, they left the plant bits sitting on the sidewalk, but took the completely dilapitated and unusable bags. Huh? I REALLY have to get on making those signs I’ve been meaning to make since 2000.
Another seed order arrived in the mail from Greta’s Organic Gardens. I need to get on these asap as time is ticking. The bulk of these are tomato varieties I am testing out on the rooftop this year.
- Tomato ‘Golden Delight’
- Tomato ‘Principe Borghese’ – A paste tomato
- Tomato ‘Gold Nugget’
- Tomato ‘Black Seaman’ – An early variety.
- Red Pepper ‘Fatalii’ – I HAD to get them!
- Red lambsquarter
- Shungiku – There was a problem with the order. They accidently sent me hot peppers (a chili) but the replacement is on its way. I won’t use these hot peppers as I have a few other varieties on the go. The first Canadian to ask is welcome to them.
- Purple Millet ‘Purple Majestic’
Can you believe I have one more small order on its way? Yikes. And now I have to get some arugula! Yeah and did I mention the seeds I impulse-bought off a rack last week?
- Nicotiana ‘Indian Peace Pipe’ – These are by far my favourite nicotiana. They are huge (5′ tall) with fragrant, elongated blossoms.
- Marigold ‘Lemon/Tangerine Gem’ blend – I grew these last year and was so impressed, I’ve been promoting these like crazy since. They are incredibly prolific bloomers, the flowers are tiny with lacy foliage. And they really do taste like tangerines and lemons! They did really well in containers on my hot rooftop but keep in mind that the plants get to be quite large and rotund.
- Quinoa ‘Brightest Brilliant Rainbow’ – 2006 seems to be the year of hippie plants. Pretty and edible. I can not resist.
- Nasturtium ‘Mahogany’ – I have tasted enough nasturtiums to know that the red ones have the best flavour.