Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Gearing up the produce garden

Roses bordering the vegetable garden, April 2011

The daffs and tommies (Crocus tommasinianus, planted in the sunken Baptisia pots to keep them safe from marauding voles) are in bloom a month early. There's even a few natives displaying their delicate flowers among the miniscule new greenery: Blue Violets, Jacob's Ladder, Woodland Phlox, and Marsh Violets.

Time to prune the apple trees. Last fall I posted about looking for new apple trees as the two we have were setting lots of fruit that was then dropping off. We're keeping the 12-year-old trees and giving them another go. It's normal for apple trees to shed some of their fruit prematurely (this self-thinning is called June drop), and perhaps the apple trees dropped all of their fruit because they were heat and drought stressed. We mulched them well over the winter and DH pruned them this year. Maybe the problem is that when I pruned them I pruned them for more flowers rather than maximum yield. lol Last fall I looked at ordering from two different nurseries: Big Horse Creek Farms in the NC mountains and Century Farm Orchards in Reidsville about an hour north of Greensboro. Big Horse Creek custom grafts trees for customers; if you order in spring they will graft a sapling, grow it up over the summer and then ship it in the fall, which is a really nice customer service. I wanted to go ahead and order some dwarf apple trees last fall so I contacted Century Farm about available trees on dwarf rootstock. From their list of a half dozen trees I picked two old southern varieties with good disease resistance, Aunt Rachel and Yates. Aunt Rachel is from Chatham County (central) NC. Fruit ripens early, late July to early August, green and red striped apples with firm juicy mildly tart flesh good for eating and cooking. Yates was developed in GA before 1860. Fruit ripens in October and is a good keeper. The tender flesh is juicy and aromatic and was historically used for cider and eating.

While some gardeners have already started their tomato seeds, I'm still deciding which ones to use this year. Last year was such a fail for our tomatoes in spite of planting them in a brand new garden patch that we're going to grow them in half wine barrels this year. I might start the leftovers seeds from last year:

Roma (determinate, verticillium and fusarium wilt resistant)
Eva Purple Ball (indeterminate, heirloom from the Black Forest region of Germany)
Druzba (indeterminate, heirloom from Bulgaria)
Black Brandywine (indeterminate, heirloom)
Chadwick Cherry (indeterminate, heirloom)

I just ordered Neptune, Ozark Pink and Tropic from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange after they came up in a google search for best tomatoes/ hot summers. I want some other black tomatoes also just for taste. I love the sweet acid taste of the Black Russian tomatoes but they're not the most disease resistant tomato. Even if I just get a few I'll be happy. I ordered seeds for Black Prince, Japanese Black Trifele, and Paul Robeson from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. I'll probably also get the "super tomatoes" (resistant to just about everything) Bella Rosa and Fletcher from Totally Tomatoes. I will order some cherries too since they seem to be tougher than the regular tomatoes. I'm considering Black Cherry, Black Plum, Brown Berry, Purple Haze, and Matt's Wild Cherry. Any other suggestions for tomatoes to try would be welcome.

DH wanted to know what I'd like in the vegetable garden since our tastes don't always match. He likes cabbage and greens but I won't touch them. I only eat okra if it's breaded and fried, not just sauteed naked. Otherwise it's slimy, blech!! I tried looking through the Territorial Seeds catalog and while the choices looked great, I had no idea how those plants would do in our muggy heat. Territorial is out of Oregon so their recommends aren't really relevant. So I turned to Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and decided on the following:

Christmas Pole Lima Bean (I meant to order King of the Garden)
Lazy Wife Greasy Pole Snap Bean (so called because the beans grow in clusters and are easy to pick, and because the hairless pods are shiny, thus the term "greasy")
Silver Queen Corn
Kansas Muskmelon (cantaloupe)
Spaghetti Squash (really is as good as pasta with a good sauce)
Rose Finn Apple Fingerling potato

The Black Swallowtails requested more parsley plants please, so I ordered 2 packets of Italian flat-leaf parsley and two packs of Bronze Fennel seed as well.


  1. You've made me hungry now:) Those apples sound absolutely delicious! Your bulbs are beautiful and Crocus are another of my favorites to have's the purple.:) And your rose bushes look absolutely healthy....I'm still working at that art:) Hope you have a good day! Chris

  2. Wow, great spring colours and amazing list of seeds !!! I love the black tomatoes too. The Black Cherry was great last summer. This year I have some Black Krim and Berao Black. But I always want more varieties in my garden ... I am whishing you a good germination, Sweetbay !

  3. I read in a garden magazine not long ago that squirrels and voles will not eat the Tommies. I had really really had high hopes they were right, and planned to order some this year. Were you hoping to protect yours or did you actually see vole damage or worse, squirrel. Please tell me the first is right, please ;-) I miss crocus in my garden here.

    You have made me hungry too. How wonderful to see the roses.

  4. Gardeningbren putting the crocus in the pots was proactive on my part. :) I just figured that voles would go after anything crocus. Our Prissy helps keep the vole population under control but they still eat things.

  5. Thank you so much for saying that it was a proactive attempt!! yeh!! So will try the Tommies in the garden with fingers crossed, voles and squirrels stay away from them. The Tommies naturalize really well, the article said, although smaller than other crocus, they are mighty in their own way.

  6. 'Big Horse Creek custom grafts trees' that IS a really nice service!

    Good luck with the tomatoes.

  7. Sweetbay,

    My favorite tomato is Cherokee Purple, we got about 15 one pounders last year from our plants. I have not thought about planting seeds yet. Two packs of Bronze Fennel seeds? Once you plant a few you'll have them everywhere.

  8. I like many of the varieties of Roma tomatoes because of their high yield. I sowed some snowpeas and they are ready to transplant to the garden. Your daffodils and crocus photos are lovely. It feels like spring.

  9. Love those purple crocus - and the yellow daffodils make such a complimentary pair! Good luck on your veggies! I know what you mean about one person liking one kind of vegetable, and another not. My husband grew the most beautiful mustard greens, and they sat there - none were harvested because I don't like them! (And I'm the one that cooks, so I get to decide!)

  10. There are four apple trees at my mother's house and I'm trying to figure out what to do with them. I did some pruning a few weeks ago. Every year the fruit looks bad and I'm wondering if I need to apply any type of insect control around the base of the tree. I don't like using things like that but I've been told you pretty much have to for fruit trees. Do you know if this is true?

  11. Phillip we've used the sticky fake apples for maggotfly and another trap for other pests too. I think if you want pretty fruit you probably do have to spray -- we didn't in the past and used the apples for cooking.

  12. Looks like you will have a nice veggie patch with your seed collection! I have been putting Hosta in pots and into the ground the past few years. The Voles will eat them otherwise. Seems to work for me thus far. Beautiful pic of that crocus!

  13. Looks like you have a great selection of veggies. You don't do cabbage??? augh. love it cooked, soured (sauerkraut) and slawed. Guess it is some of my German blood. I haven't started my one packet of tomato seeds yet....I am so lazy with seeds. Time to get to it!

  14. Cole slaw yes, cooked cabbage no. ;)

  15. Our old Grenadier apple tree is still producing much fruit than we can use ( in spite of last yearsclack of water) but it's needing pruned, which is a stepladder job nd I keep putting it off. You've also reminded me that i was going to try growing Spaghetti Squash....

  16. Your daffodils are lovely Sweetbay! Wonderful photos all filled with light. I am with DH on the greens and cabbages! So are the rabbits here!!!! Great that you plant food for the Black Swallowtails too.


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