Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Wintersown Update- Tomato Seeds


   Winter Sown Seed Update- Tomato Seeds

     As promised- here is the update on the tomato seeds we received from www.wintersown.org. The brochure that comes with this one instructs you on how to save your tomato seeds (hopefully we can do it- well hope I can do it- E is not so big on these types of gardening things). The instructions are copywrited so I will not tell you them word for word- I think the instructions may be on their website or I guess you can order some to get exact details, but I will give you the gist of it. The actual pamphlet has nice pics with it though to help you out.

     Essentially you cut the tomato in half and get the seeds out, clean them, and do a lot of rinsing and letting them sit so that all the hollow seeds will go to the top of the water. Then tap them out on a dry surface and spread them in a single layer and let them dry about a week. Here is a link that has a method fermenting the tomato seeds: http://www.mastergardeners.org/pdf/import/SGM/files/Saving_Tomato_Seeds.pdf. It is a PDF from the Agricultural and Natural Resources Coop Extension in Santa Clara County. It discusses a fermentation process, which is different than the cleaning method in the Wintersown pamphlet. I suggest looking at several processes and picking the one that suits you best.

     Since there are several cycles of clean, rinse, let seeds sit and repeat it seems like a long process to me. Honestly it makes me nervous, but I suppose it is doable (we'll find out next fall I guess lol). We may try more than one method and see what works best for us.

     The thing I like about their tomato seeds is that you can pick which you want and if they have them in stock you will get them. We chose off the wall varieties so that we can have our colorful and off beat garden this year, but for grandma's we are going to pick seeds she is more familiar with.

On to the seeds:

1884 Purple- Darker brick-tone variety of 1884 tomato, very delicious beef steak can weigh over half a pound. Since this one is more rare there are only about 7 seeds in the package, but since the most we have grown in one year are 5 it's not biggie to me. Though mom or grandma might want a big beefsteak to try. Plus further down I have Black Tomato Blend so we'll see who wants what.

Pineapple- Red and yellow tomatoes that can weigh up to two pounds. I knew E would like the name and they make huge tomatoes. It comes with about 15ish seeds so me, mom and grandma can all get a few to try out if we want.

Orange Queen-  Orange globes are plentiful, all purpose tomato- nice for sauce, slice, or salad. I got it b/c it is more of a medium size, but pretty color.


Snow White Cherry- Cream-colored cherry tomatoes are sweet, fruity and prolific, big plants too. Since there are almost 20 seeds I figure we can all try a couple. I just know E is going to like the white tomatoes since they will look so difference from what he is use to. I can hear his giggle now.

Kellogg's Breakfast- yellow- wildcard seeds ( I asked for a wild card to see what we'd get)- thin skinned, meaty tomato with a sweet, tangy flavor. Pretty good for a wild card.

Mixes: I ordered two mixes just to have fun with. I actually wouldn't mind if mom and grandma wanted to have the others (except for a couple each of snow white cherries and pineapple since I know E will want to plant a few of those).

Black Tomato Blend- Mix of sizes - all brick brown- It'd be cool to see what comes of these. If I end up winter sowing I may give some away to friends for them to grow- who knows.

Mixed Seeds- various mix from their stocks. I'd also love to see what we get with these.

Random seeds- in the last batch they gave a random flower mix as their "surprise", in this lot we got:

Mexibel Pepper- small bell peppers with a touch of heat- productive. Just shy of 20 seeds means I can share these are well. PB likes hot peppers so if it has a little heat I know he'll want us to grow a few.

Review- I got what I ordered - remember you don't have to order mixes and not all the varieties are off the wall in color or name- that is just what we wanted to order. I'm hoping to wintersow some so that we can know which germinated and give the rest to mom and grandma. We may not order tomato seeds for grandma if she wants to use these slightly off the wall ones. I'm not sure how many she is planning on planting either. My mom is sort of willy nilly like me and tries different stuff every year, but grandma is a hardcore planter. She is more of a beefsteak kind of gal- so if she thinks there is enough in the beefsteak ones for her we may not. Then again she may want a black tomato in there somewhere ;). Of course, she could seriously surprise me- she's known to do that. My grandpa on my father's side gardens as well, but is also a hardcore planter and he seems to love looking through seed catalogs finding his seeds. I'm sure I'll have some we don't plant and will ask if there are any he is interested in as well. Then again, he could get a huge kick out of talking seeds with me. All in all a pretty decent site, I can't wait to give seeds back to it.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Wintersown Seeds Update- General Seeds

   The seeds have arrived!!! I am not going to lie- it was like a lil Christmas present for me. I didn't expect them to arrive until after the holidays so when we checked the mail (Christmas Eve)- nestled among a few bills, some Christmas cards, and junk mail were my two envelopes.


   I am going to do the general seeds envelope first and the tomato one in another post. The biggest item in the envelope was a small brochure explaining how to wintersow seeds. I only took a front picture of it b/c it is copyrighted and I don't want to reproduce it. It doesn't seem too difficult. There is a lot of info on the internet about it, and once I get my supplies together and wintersow I will post how we did it. In a nutshell you get a container that is either see through or has a see through lid and sow your seeds. Then you sit them out to grow over winter. Apparently this makes hardy seedlings that you don't have to harden off, and saves you time in the Spring. It mimics what happens already in nature- seed drops and hardens over winter then when the weather is nice it germinates. Easy peasy I guess... at least I hope ours will be successful.

On to the seeds:

     They say on the website that the general one has a variety of seeds sent depending on what is available at the time. This makes sense as they are supported by donated seeds and money. So if you have extra seeds you want to give over feel free to donate to them (I sure plan on doing it later). There is information on how to donate seeds on their website. Since I ordered some for my mom at the same time (she received hers yesterday) we got mostly the same seed with the exception of two (I don't remember which ones now). We ended up with 9 different types of seeds, which is pretty nice and generous I think. It was a variety of flowers (mostly), veggies and one herb. Remember though it varies depending on what they have at the time so you never know- which is part of the fun of it I think.

 Ok, I promise I am getting to the seeds here they are:


Tickseed- (I have never heard of this)- It is a yellow wildflower with summer blooms. I think it is neat that they give directions for the wintersowing depth, when it germinates, when to transplant, what type of conditions it prefers to grow in and if it reseeds.

Black Eyed Susan- A lot of people have these around here in TN, but for those of you who don't know it looks kind of like a yellow daisy (at least that's what I called them when I was young- we even played he loves me he loves me not with them as a child).

Autumn Beauty Sunflower-  As you can see the packet doesn't have a pic, but I think we all know what a sunflower looks like. It does say it is a fast growing plant with huge blooms. I am excited since E is all about sunflowers.

Wildflower blend for full sun- Yeah a surprise!! I like surprises and think it will be fun to see what comes of the blend.

Pansy- (Burpee)- I love pansies and don't have any planted so I am excited about it. I think this is one my mother and I got different seeds for - if I am thinking correctly she got peonies. I simply can't remember the other one that was different.


Leaf Lettuce Blend- we always plant some leaf lettuce since it germinates quickly and E likes results. Having a blend will be nice for salads.

Detroit Dark Red Beets- I love beets, but already have some to plant (in fact I probably have more than I need). I don't plant too many b/c I am the only one who likes them besides my grandma. I may ask her if she wants mine and my moms since she usually cans some beets every couple of years and I don't think she did this year. While there is not a ton it might help out a little.

Potato Leaf Type Tomato- I didn't know there was a tomato that has potato like leaves, but it said it grows sweet, pink fruits that can weigh over a pound. Since I got a wide range of tomatoes I don't know if I will plant these or not. I think mom, grandma and I are going to get together once grandma gets hers (I haven't sent hers yet, but think I will get her tomatoes so we can all swap and trade them for what each wants) and decide who will plant what tomato.


Parsley- I should have said herb singular I guess. I have had good luck with parsley every year.  In fact I left the parsley plant in the ground this fall and here it is Christmas time and it is still alive. We'd had plenty of freezing days and one or two very light snows, and I thought for sure it would die out by now but it just keeps coming back.

My conclusion on wintersown so far is that they are exactly what they say they are. They send a small amount of seeds, but enough for a small home garden to get started. If you are going to have a huge garden not so much. I like that they give ample instructions for trying to germinate over winter, as well as planting instructions for each plant.

Now all that is left is to save up milk containers (I had some but E planted his mini winter garden in it- more on that in the future-I'm waiting till they grow a lil more to snap some pics). So, I've got to save up some more, and get some planting soil.

P.S. I know I've used I instead of we a lot this post, but E is at his dad's and didn't really get to look through the seeds- that will have to wait until he comes back from winter break daddy time. :)

THANKS WINTERSOWN!!!!! Hopefully I can learn to save seeds and send some back- if I flop at it I plan to send a $$ donation - we'll just have to see. We'll update when we get our supplies saved up and sow the seeds.Wish us luck!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Last Minute Gifts for Gardeners

Since Christmas is just a few days away I thought I'd make a list of last minute gifts for those of you who celebrate Christmas. If you don't some of these would be good to know for any time of the year.

  • Let the company do the guess work for you: Place your order by 2 p.m. Dec. 23rd @ the Gardeners Supply Company  http://www.gardeners.com and it will overnight. They have a wide variety including gardening, outdoor living etc. You could even send it to the person's house - shopping and delivering DONE :)

  • Are you low on funds and time, but just realized you forgot someone on your list? Try this:

         Get a cute basket, a ribbon (to pretty it up) and some simple gardening tools from the dollar                 store - BAM inexpensive gardening basket.

Living Christmas Ornament

(They also have Christmas bulb gardens)

  • If you know what kind of seeds they want and have some make them a mini seed basket or put in those cute holiday themed boxes. 
We wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Hanukkah, or if it suits you best Happy Holidays! May you all be blessed in whatever way you need the most and please regardless of which faith or if you are faithless enjoy time with friends and families and the small "gifts" in life such as love, laughter and good health.

Mom and E

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Cucumbers - our best grower

     I think that cucumbers are some of our easiest growing veggies- every year. Maybe we live in a good place to grow them. My grandparents always had them in their gardens as did their grandparents so maybe it is the area. All I know is that even when very little else grow our cucumber plants produce and produce well! Even the first little front flowerbed veggie garden we grew (which really only had some success and was very small) produced lots of cucumbers. I know I mentioned this in a previous post, but found the pics to show you- my son named the first cucumber we grew Roy E. Boy and wouldn't eat it. He carried that poor thing everywhere until he rotted. Here are some photos are proof:

This is right after he named Roy E. Boy:

He brought him everywhere- in the car

 He literally loved ole Roy:

     One of the best things about cucumbers is that you don't really need that many plants to get a decent amount of cucumbers (unless you plan on pickling them or something). We love to eat them and three plants are enough for us.

      We did do something new this year, which was to grow our cucumbers up a trellis (nothing fancy just a metal one you can buy at the store), and I think that is the way to go if you can. You could also use some wooden stakes and twine which would be cheaper. It helped keep them from getting too wet and rotting and we had no trouble with any weird diseases (though we don't generally). It was easier to find the cucumbers meaning we were able to pick smaller ones (though on occasion I grow a few big ones for E- he thinks that is pretty cool).

     Make sure you pick a sunny spot as they love this. It isn't a bad idea to mix some compost in for nutrients. Then you can either plant the seed directly into the ground or you can start transplants indoors about 3 weeks before the last frost. We have done it both ways and it has worked alright each time. We did have better success last year, but I don't know if that is because of the transplants or the trellis (probably both).

     If your plants bloom but don't produce then you probably have low pollination - one tip to increase this is to spray some sugar water on the leaves to attract the bees. Also, once they start producing make sure you keep picking them or they will stop producing.

If you are interested in growing cucumbers please check out the almanac website- they have a lot of information. http://www.almanac.com/plant/cucumbers   They also have information about common problems with cucumbers.

Happy Growing!

Mommy and E

Unusual Veggies

     E has decided that for our next garden he wants some unusual veggies to plant. He wants normal veggies in interesting colors or  different shapes. We are going to plant "chocolate" tomatoes, cosmic purple carrots, red lettuce, kale (a first for us- can't wait), tomatillo (can anyone say green sauce?) and Cherokee wax beans (since they are a yellow color). We are also going to plant that weird looking broccoli/cauliflower Romansescu (though I've only tried regular broccoli once or twice and had no luck). Currently we are search around trying to find interesting veggies we might enjoy growing and eating.

     We found this website for those of you who like heirloom veggies:

It includes a handful of different seeds- I haven't even heard of all of them. May try the cucamelon?

     The Gardenweb forum seems to always be a good place to find information out and it did not let me down this time either- lots of gardeners talking about what they like to grow that's unusual:


     Here is a lens with various types of veggies that look neat- especially the sea man tomato and the Jerusalem pickle plant.


      For Asian inspired veggies check out the Kitazawa Seed Company  http://www.kitazawaseed.com
It includes some veggies I have never hear of such as Molokeyhia, which was used in soups for kings and is considered quite nutritious, as well as numerous other varieties. 

      What about pineberries- strawberries that taste like pineapple? It looks like you have to buy the plant and not the seed as they are a hybrid, but it is something I think would go well at my house as my husband doesn't care for strawberries but loves pineapple.

     The only problem we have is that there are so many cool veggies, but we only have so much planting space... perhaps I should expand again? If not I going to have to incorporate more pots and such. If you have any unusual suggestions we'd love to hear them!

Our challenge to you- grow something unusual this year- and let us know how it goes :)

Mom and E

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Lasagna Gardening... sort of

I meant to post again earlier this week, but I have been super sick, and am just now feeling better (translates- I was able to eat something other than soup) so I thought I'd post something I had been working on earlier this week. 

    I'm sure that many of you are familiar with the method of gardening known as lasagna gardening. The premise is that instead of digging (tilling) the soil every year and disturbing the soil, you amend it organically. The way that this is done is by layering (which is where it gets the name lasagna gardening- it looks like layers of lasagna) greens and browns.

      Most people start with either layers of newspaper (several - at least three though five is recommended) or cardboard overlaid to form a weed barrier. Then layer greens and browns. Greens encompass stuff you would put in a compost pile such as vegetable peelings, coffee grounds, tea leaves, garden waste, grass clippings etc. Browns encompass such things as shredded leaves, peat, shredded paper, cardboard etc.  Usually the brown layers are twice as thick as the green, and many people top it off with some manure. Then you can either put enough top layer of compost deep enough to plant immediately or (like us) you can start it in the fall and let it break down over winter.

     Well, since we didn't have enough of everything we sort of did a lasagna gardenish (can that be a word?) deal. The section that had the most weeds last year is where I put the cardboard (the back under the steps). I put a lot of shredded newspaper in the front and a little on the side (it doesn't really get many weeds). We did put a bunch of leaves and quite a bit of green under them. I have also been slowly but surely putting my kitchen waste on top of that. We will put compost with manure on closer to Spring. We are not sure how our little "experiment" will work. We know the weeds will show up (since we didn't put thick layers of newspaper and/or cardboard everywhere) but are hoping our soil is more nutrient rich.

     We did this awhile back, and it has broken down some- it was much higher. We keep adding kitchen scraps on top. It doesn't really look pretty, but I know that later when we add the manure compost it will look nicer. We're hoping that the leaves break down enough, but figure if not we'll just add more top layer to plant in. It shouldn't be a problem for the most part either- at least according to other articles and blog posts I have read.
Do any of you have an experience using this method? Suggestions (other than we need more cardboard next year and top layer compost/manure)?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

New Layout

Do you like the new layout... E picked it out! He loves blue and red- he also wants everyone to know that E stands for Ethan and what he likes about gardening is watching things grow.

He thinks there is not enough information about him so here is some more:

He has made a good sized Christmas list (not that he has shared it with other people- which is a bit of a problem- but oh well)
His favorite color is red
His favorite food is pepperoni
He loves cucumbers - so much that when he was young and grew his first one he gave it a name: Roy E. Cucumber and carried it around until it was rotten
His favorite band is The Beatles
He loves to cook- here is him showing off his fruit salad and his eggs in a basket he made

Favorite Thing To Grow?

So E posed an interesting question the other night.....

Mommy what is your favorite thing to grow?

Sounds simple right? Not for me... I kept listing veg after veg... well I love strawberries, but ours doesn't grow that well (in fact we've been letting it be our sacrifice for the bunnies that roam around)... then again I can eat tomatoes till the cows come home... but carrot tops are so pretty when they are growing... then again our cucumbers always produce.. and so on and so forth.

In the end he gave up.. lol

However, later I found E is the same - he loves growing it all so he doesn't have a favorite either lol

Here is a very early harvest from last yr. -it was small but yummy and had my favorite to eat- beets. We ended up with much bigger crops but I didn't get pics- (except for there weren't all that many potatoes)

So, fellow lovers of gardening I ask you

What is your favorite thing to grow?

Friday, December 13, 2013


     I plan on blogging from time to time- perhaps regularly, but I don't know if I'll have the staying power. I figure that I'll post more in the winter when I'm garden crazy without much of a fix, and less in the summer when I'm only home a few days a week and in a rush to get everything done and spend quality time with E and PB. Anyway, I don't plan on being a daily blogger, but since I have a busy weekend- one of my brothers is graduating college tomorrow and I have Christmas shopping to finish, presents to wrap, finding the perfect gift for a friend who is retiring, helping E finish his school science project, and the normal stuff (grocery shopping, laundry and cleaning)  I thought I'd post today and then sometime next week.

   I have read on other sites about  www.wintersown.org.   Have you heard about it? If not go over and check it out.  It is a non profit and will send you seeds (if you print off a page and send a self addressed and stamped envelope). There are two options- one for a six pack with various seeds including flowers, herbs, tomatoes and one for just tomatoes. The six pack is sort of a surprise depending on what they have in stock, but the tomato option has a list you get to pick six from. It looks pretty neat and is a really cool thing. I haven't told E yet, I want it to be a surprise.

        I'm giving it a try and also sent one in for my mom and grandmother (my mom has no printer and well grandma doesn't even have a computer). We figured we'd share the tomatoes- mom and I both plant much smaller areas than grandma and then each have a surprise six that we may trade around. I'm hoping to be able to learn to save the seeds and give back. I also plan on sending a donation later (without receiving seeds) since they are so generous. I figured you would be able to just pick one of the options, but as long as you send in two different envelopes and print off pages you can get both options. Even more to my surprise is that they ask you  not to take advantage (ok that part wasn't a surprise) by not sending in for more than two times each year. I don't plan on doing it twice a year as that seems greedy, but it is a nice option for people who really want to garden, but may be low on money.

      I got the surprise six for each of us (one to each address) and then sent in one tomato to come to my house. I don't think you get a ton of seeds - just enough to plant, but it is still neat. I'd love to do something like this for kids as E and I have noticed there isn't really anywhere that kids can get little packs. If nothing else and this blog gets going I may have a kid give away come spring. I don't know if anyone will read what I write (and that's ok-it's mostly just nice to get it all out- poor PB does not share the love of gardening and E is a kid so he can only handle so much lol), and I'm not sure how many kids would be interested in such a venture- we will just have to see I suppose. If anyone is reading this- do you know any kids who would like to win some free seeds?

     When I told my mom she seemed excited- it is the perfect thing for the winter gardening blahs. Sure, we have our little mini garden (more about that in the future), but it is just not the same. It is supposed to send instructions about how to winter sow seeds. I have never personally done this, but have read plenty of blogs and checked out websites with people who have been successful. Since I am always up for trying something new I figure- why not?

I'll let you all know when they arrive and post pics of the seeds. I'll also keep you updated on our winter sowing techniques and explain the process for those of you who are interested. Maybe next time I won't have such long sentences ... then again I do love to ramble. :)

Have a great weekend!!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Mommy and E Gardening Adventures

A little about me and E.

E is my sweet son, who is almost 9. He loves math and science thus gardening is the perfect complement. He love watching things grow and in his free time makes a comic called Stuntman.

Me- I work full time at work and try my best to keep the house clean (though I must say it will never be spotless). My job is at a school but not with the school. My program does a summer residential component which means as long as I have this job we will probably not have a huge garden in the summer as I am only home on the weekends.

There is also PB my sweet husband and son's stepdad. He is a teacher and is the main plant waterer  during the summer.

Since we can't have a large garden we have taken to planting in beds around the house. It started with a few plants when Ethan was about 4 in the flower bed in front of the house. We did that for a few years, growing just enough to enjoy it. Mostly cucumbers, turnips, carrots and lettuce (all picked by E). One of the first things we planted was a strawberry plant which has continued growing each year.

This last summer I dug up along the side of the house and a little section behind that is between the bottom patio and the back porch steps. It sort of an odd configuration with part of it under the top porch steps. We planted turnips, onions and carrots under this section as they don't need much vertical room. Along the side we planted tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers which all did well.There is also a small strip that we have a grape plant growing in. We had actually bought it the previous year, but it didn't grow much at all where we had it planted. This last year it grew quite a bit so there is hope I supposed. We don't know much about pruning it though so if anyone has any advice that would be greatly appreciated.

We tried potatoes for the first time, and had lackluster success- I think that we needed to put them in deeper and hill them more?  Our herbs did pretty well, I never realized how much parsley can grow. In fact it is still growing even through some cold weather. Though we are in the South so our cold is not nearly as cold as in the North.

There is what we've done so far- next time we'll talk a lil about our adventure trying a sort of lasagna garden overwintering this year.

Update: I just noticed how you can upload photos ... lol... so easy- I feel a lil silly :) - These are from the early parts of last summer- I was too busy to get photos when they really came in, and I neglected to get a photo of the front gardening area.