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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Journal Entry 2015-02-24

Gardening in Middle Tennessee

Record-keeping has been spotty this year as we have been moving. Hope to catch up on that this weekend. I am happy to see that some of my tomato seeds from 2006 and 2007 have germinated, even if rates are low as expected. If I can get tomatoes off of one or two plants, then I can have fresh seed. I am also pleased that peppers are doing well.

I put seedlings under lights this last few days. They have turned from pale yellow to green. Today will be their first full day in light. Hopefully they are a dark greens you in a day or two. 

How did this entry get here? What are Journal Entries?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Ice Storm

I am saddened by the branches that have splintered from our tall trees, and losing hope that the buds on some of our smaller trees will bloom.  For sure when I have a small orchard, I will be out there with blankets and heat and I don't know what to protect my fruit trees.  I know it is the cycle of life and death, and that Spring will still be amazing even though there are some things that will not make it.  And yet, there was a part of me - the photographer in me, no doubt - that marveled at the beauty of it all.  So when the temps made it up to 20*F, I donned insulated coveralls, heavy jacket, double socks, boots, and gloves, and took my camera out to survey the world.  The day was full of gray skies, but that didn't make the day dreary at all.  I walked outside the property, for the most part, not wishing to step on something frozen that might have made it if I had not have crunched it with my boot when it was covered in ice.

For the most part, over exposed by +1.3 to +1.7,  More photos to eventually be posted on my Facebook Page.

Fat, fuzzy buds in January 2015

Now encased in ice.

January vista looking towards the road.
February view from the driveway looking in.
Patterns in the tree branches.
A hungry visitor awaiting its turn at the feeder.
Snowflakes (from my Facebook page)
View of the field and the neighbor's trees.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Seed Starting Craziness Begins

Costoluto Genovese, Pomodora Roma Nano - the names of these tomatoes conjure up the aromas from an Italian kitchen.  Travel from the Old World to the New World, and peppers like Arroz con Pollo, Jalapeno, and Habanero makes one salivate for all foods "South of the Border."   Here in the Middle of Middle Tennessee, we are blessed to be able to grow all of it.

I seem to always over-dream the number of amazing plants that will delight the senses in the garden - but I am pretty sure that is the only way I make it through February - by dreaming, planning, and starting seeds.  Today I will start 32 pepper plants (4 each of 8 varieties), and over 50 tomato seeds (representing 13 different varieties).  A first year garden probably cannot absorb that many peppers and tomatoes, so, as in years past, I am likely to give away some (many?) plants to friends and coworkers.

I used to use the Miracle Grow version,
but the last few years, I found sticks and rocks in it,
so I've switched.  I like the Jiffy Mix so far.

The Peppers - I did not try and grow peppers for the last few years since I did not have sufficient space or sunlight.  Now I have both, but probably not enough time!

Sweet Peppers
  • Sheepnose Pimentos (Google Photos) - because, presumably, they look like sheep's noses?  70 days to ripening from transplant.  There is a pepper called Bull's Nose, too.  I am imagining they are much larger? 
  • Mini Yellow Bell (Google Photos) - because they are cute, and yellow, and I have been unsuccessful in growing these in the desert? I want to make bite-sized tuna-stuffed peppers.  90 days to harvest from transplant.
  • California Wonder - you know these ones - if you get green peppers from the grocery store, this is likely the one you are getting.  I love green peppers.  I might not share these.
  • Golden Bell (F1 hybrid) (Google Photos) - Been trying to grow this one since 2006.  Seed might not be viable any more, but I'm going to give it one more shot.   Seeds are almost 10 years old, so if I get 25% germination, I'll be happy.
I used to grow in "six-packs" and I probably will continue to do so for some seeds,
but peppers and tomatoes can take a certain amount of abuse, so this method works with them.
These containers have been reused for years now.  Don't recall where I got them.

Hot Peppers
  • Arroz con Pollo (Baker Creek) -  Looks like an orange Habanero - but with spice instead of searing heat.  To make Chicken and Rice, of course.  80 days from transplant.
  • Cayenne, Long, Thin - (Baker Creek) - Spicy hot - hopefully not as hot as the Thai chillies.  Planning to dry some to add to home made taco seasoning. 
  • TAM Jalapeno  (Wikipedia) - From our friends plant friends at Texas A&M (Go Aggies! Love that Marching Band!... but I digress...), a mild Jalapeno purported to have all of the flavor, but only some of the heat.
  • Peach Habanero (Google Photos) - looks a lot like Arroz con Pollo, except that this one can sear your face off.  Gotta grow at least one of those high-temperature beasties, right?
Issues with color-coding arrows; however, I'm not redoing the photo. 
Peppers like light to germinate, so keeping these misted, and covered with a clear top.

Tomatoes - Did I mention my love affair with tomato plants?  And my growing interest in making home made salsa and spaghetti sauce?  And that freezing tomatoes requires no blanching, skinning, or slicing and dicing?  And, of course, there are tomato on Wonder Bread with Best Food's mayonnaise sandwiches like my Daddy made (only here in Tennessee, those sandwiches are on Bunny Bread with Hellman's Mayo).  Good stuff!

Roma or Paste Tomatoes
  • Polish Linguisa (Burpee) - a large paste tomato. Good for stews and freezing for winter use.  Rinse, pat dry, and freeze whole in zip lock bags.  When ready to use, put in a plastic colander or strainer over a glass bowl.  Collect the thawed juice for later.  When the outside has thawed a little, the skin will slide right off.
  • Speckled Roman (TomatoFest) - a multi-colored roma type.  Probably not going to make a huge color difference in a sauce, but might look pretty on the vine or cut up in a salad.
  • Roma - Just plain old Roma that has been grown for generation - no V, no F, not hybrid, just the Roma from our grandma's day.
  • Pomodora Roma Nano (Ferry-Morse)- you know I had to buy this one just because of the name.  You know some Marketing person is enjoying how they have hooked me in.  Hoping to do a taste test this summer.
Cherry and Grape Cherry Tomatoes
  • Red Pear (Google Images)- not the "Mexican Hat" that I remember growing with my Mom during my youth, but a little burst of cherry tomato goodness to pop in the mouth just the same.  I have seed from 2007 and seed from 2011.  Will be growing both out to see if the 2007 seeds are still viable.
  • Tennessee Yellow Cherry (TomatoFest)- Looking forward to seeing how this Tennessee cherry stacks up against my other "snacking" cherry toms.
  • Hssiao His Hung Shih (Baker Creek) - Say that one 10 times really fast.  A yellow grape shaped/sized cherry.  One year I went on a binge and bough a bunch of yellow cherry styled tomatoes.  This was one of them.  Growing for the first time this year.
  • Yellow Pear (Google Images)- Thick skinned, and not as sweet as some cherry tomatoes - but what endears me is that this tom will grow and ripen anywhere - and still have better taste than a store bought tomato.  My old reliable - I bought this seed back in 2005 to grow in the desert (one of the few to thrive and set fruit when it was 99*F!) - and last year I still got excellent germination.  This year I'm going to save some seeds from this work-horse variety.  10 year old seed that was not nicely stored, and still viable.  Life is tenacious!
  • Mexico Midget (Totally Tomatoes) - little round cherry, barely a 1/2 inch in diameter.  Another one that laughs at the desert. Thinner skinned than Yellow Pear.  Maybe under sweeter circumstances it is a sweeter tom?
Other Tomatoes
  •  Costoluto Genovese (TomatoFest)- "Fluted" (ribbed) Italian Heirloom.  I grew one in a 5 gal bucket in the shade last year - really sub-par conditions for a standard tomato.  Still, she gave me three of the reddest, tastiest toms.  They were just over 2 1/2 inches in diameter.  I am hoping with better growing conditions that she will give me basket-fulls of bigger fruit this year.
  • Anna Rusian - a heart shaped, red tomato, but not as big as the "ox hearts"
  • Amana Orange (Tomato Fest) - An orange Beefsteak style tomato. I'm still kicking myself for not saving some seed from the mild, luscious orange tomatoes from the farmer's market last year.  Might have been a hybrid with lousy progeny... might have been an open pollinated wonder to save for generations.
  • Bradley (TomatoFest)- An heirloom slicer - one of my friend's favorites.  I try and give her at least one every year.
  • Spears Tennessee Green (TomatoFest) - Late compared to everything growing in the shade in a bucket last year - frost came before it ripened.  We'll see how it does with sunshine.  Turns from "green tomato green" to a lighter green with darker green shoulders when ripe.  Hopefully I get some ripe ones this year.
I have about another 20 varieties of tomato seeds stashed away.  Maybe next year I will grow some of them out, too.

Where to Buy - These are some of my favorite seed sellers.  Over the decades, I've probably spent over $100 at each of them.  I purchase nearly all open pollinated seeds with the idea that I could save seeds if I wanted to.  The companies I deal with do not sell GMO seeds. Rating: §§§§§ = awesome! None = don't go there.

  • §§§§§ TomatoFest - The Famous Gary Ibsen and Dagma Lacey tomato duo.  Still the best quality seed with an amazing number of varieties - on a pleasant and easy to use site.  Many, many of my tomato seeds originate from here.
  • §§§§§ Baker Creek (Note: The website is http// - not a tomato or pepper site, per se; however, they have all kinds of wonderful things.  Mostly heirloom seeds. All (I believe) open pollinated. Their catalogs are pieces of photographic heaven. A tad pricey - but you gotta support photographic beauty somehow!
  • §§§§ Totally Tomatoes (Note: The website is - They seem to be moving towards hybrids, and while I have nothing against hybrids, open pollinated is the way to go for those wishing to save seeds.
Ok, there are more places to buy these seeds from; however, I'm going to stop now or I'll never get this posted.

PS It's still quite too early to plant out beans, but I have about 100 foot of temporary fence to cover... stay tuned for the Bean and Cowpea trials!