My home kitchen garden is livelier this year than in any other November. That’s because I set up hoop tunnels over my lettuce and pak choi, and my salad patch is growing strong. All the other annual food plants are down for the count.
Still, wanting to participate in Garden Bloggers Bloom Day (read about Bloom Day at May Dreams Gardens), I searched every corner of my yard for what’s still in bloom. There’s not much. The photos tell the story.
It’s autumn! Granted, we’re a month past peak leaf-peeping season, but winter is still more than a month away. Happily, I didn’t let peak season slip past; I spent several hours across many days capturing autumn scenes in Pennsylvania farm country. The collection here represents my neighborhood at its best: rolling farmland that blends with undeveloped countryside.
You can find a slideshow that includes these images and more at Your Small Kitchen Garden blog. Follow this link.
Have you ever sprouted a bean seed? Every one of my kids did this in preschool, and I remember sprouting beans in grade school. At some arts festivals and county fairs, I’ve seen booths where you could plant a bean seed and take it home to watch it grow. Maybe you’ve sprouted a bean seed?
Amazingly, bean seeds will sprout even under somewhat unnatural conditions. For example, the seed I started in grade school was in a clear plastic cup. We folded a piece of paper towel into a strip, rolled it into a cylinder, and lined the cup with it. Then we wet the paper, shoved the bean seed between the paper and the wall of the cup, and set it on a windowsill. We watched roots grow down while stem and leaves grew up.
I’d be willing to bet that most people who have sprouted beans have never seen their bean plants grow up. Let’s reverse that trend! Make a point in the next growing season to plant some beans in your kitchen garden.
There are bush beans and climbing beans (also known as pole beans). Bush bean plants grow short and nearly support their own weight. They can look like very small shrubs. Climbing bean plants grow long and twist around whatever they find nearby that’s at least as tall as they are; they’re vines. All the climbing bean plants I’ve grown have reached at least 10 feet in length. The photos show what you can look forward to if you plant climbing beans (which I recommend over bush beans in an article titled Canning and Freezing: How Big Should Beans Be?)
In hopes of encouraging you: I gave the bean plants in the photographs no special care. Before I planted seeds, I dug an eight-inch circular hole about eight inches deep, filled it halfway with compost, and added back soil I’d removed to make the hole. I tossed the compost and soil to blend it a bit, and then erected a support in the center of the hole. Then I set four seeds around the support.
I watered heavily the day I planted seeds, and kept the soil damp until seeds sprouted. Then, for the remainder of the season, I left the plants alone except when I harvested beans. It’s that easy. You can grow that!
You Can Grow That is a loose coalition of garden bloggers encouraging people to garden. Please visit the You Can Grow That website for a list of other participating blogs.
In a post titled Back from the Garden Writers Symposium in Tucson, I reported about my trip to the annual conference held this year in Arizona. I shared photos from the one garden tour I was able to enjoy, and from the gardens along walkways at the hotel. I also explained about the conference’s show floor.
The GWA Symposium draws a decent contingent of garden industry suppliers who set up booths on a show floor in the hotel. GWA members spend nearly eight hours spread over two days visiting the booths and learning from experts about industry products and services. Manny suppliers offer free samples to the garden writers in hopes that we, the writers, will feature those products in our writing.
I had only a few hours on the show floor near the end of the exhibition. Of course, I scouted for products of special interest to kitchen gardeners.
In the “appeals to all gardeners” category, there were two tool companies that I remember visiting. One, Dramm Corporation, was showing a very colorful collection of tools—especially ones you’d use to water your garden. The other, Corona Tools, was showing ComfortGEL pruners—tools with slightly squishy grips that are supposed to be easy on your hands.
BlackGold products had a place on the show floor. BlackGold is an extensive collection of prepared organic soils and soil amendments—appropriate, I think, especially for apartment dwellers and other folks who need to garden in containers. Even more specifically for container gardeners was a product line called UrBin Grower. This is a planter that maintains airspace between the bottom of the soil and the top of a water reservoir.
LiveWall showed a compelling expression of green wall technology. The planters hold soil in trays that hang on horizontal tracks; plants grow up rather than out. This looks like a green wall a plant would design for itself. A freestanding unit on wheels was particularly compelling. I suspect it could manage a fine salad garden as well as several more demanding vegetables in a very compact space.
The most memorable product in the “appeals to all gardeners” category was DriWater. DriWater comes in a squishy clear plastic tube—a lot like brown-and-serve-style sausages. The product is a gel that is 97% water. You use a tube by slitting it open along one side and laying the slit against soil nurturing a plant you want to hydrate for an extended period.
According to the representative, bacteria in the soil digest the gel, releasing water from the package. A single DriWater package can hydrate a container plant for 30 days. Municipal parks workers can set out DriWater units and reduce the number of visits necessary to keep city gardens green.
In the plant category, I saw more ornamentals than I can recall. Some were specific to warm climates and would not survive in central Pennsylvania. Others were hardy enough for my home state. From Encore Azalea, I picked up the Autumn Sunburst which is supposed to blossom repeatedly through the growing season. From Skagit Gardens, I brought home the Kennedy Irish Drumcliff Primrose, hardy to zone 5, and Festuca Beyond Blue—a gorgeous clump of ornamental grass that’s hardy to zone 4.
Flirting with hardiness issues, I found Amistad Salvia from Southern Living. I wish I’d checked the tag because they recommend it for hardiness zones 9 and higher; about 2 zones farther south than it is now. More promising, from Star Roses & Plants, is Flamenco Rose Salvia. This Salvia has pink flowers, and I’d love to have it survive in my garden, but it’s hardy to zone 7—that’ll be hit-or-miss for me.
Finally, on the non-edible side, I picked up a three-pack of Sunrosa rose plants from Suntory. These promise to be covered in red blossoms through most of the growing season.
VIVA! Offered up Scentsational Lavender, a variety they told me was on the hardy side of the lavenders. My last lavender plant gave out after three years, and the representative for the VIVA! product told me that was typical of lavender—I’d always thought it was a perennial that lived on the edge in my hardiness zone, but now I have more reasonable expectations for this lovely herb.
My greatest thrills came at two booths. One, Renee’s Garden had two racks of vegetable seeds and invited me to select any I’d like to try in my garden. It’s hard to find space for the seeds I save from my own plants, but I have a significant expansion in mind for next season, so I’m trying a small assortment from Renee’s.
My second thrill came at the BrazelBerries booth. BrazelBerries come from Fall Creek Farm & Nursery and have small habits appropriate for container gardening. The BrazelBerries line includes two varieties of blueberry plants, and one of raspberries and I got samples of each.
With so many live specimens available to try, the challenge for conference goers is to get the plants home. It’s not practical to jam all those flower pots into a suitcase, so I spent an hour at the hotel shaking potting soil off the roots and repacking plants into zipper-topped plastic bags. These I stacked surrounded by clothing in my suitcase—some in a carryon and others in a bag I intended to check. Happily, all the plants came through in fine shape and I’ve since planted them in my garden and on my deck.
I’m excited to see how the plants do, and will share my observations in coming seasons.
I happened to reach the Corona Tools booth as vendors were packing to leave. There, my friend Chris gave me a handful of ComfortGEL pruners along with sharpeners to keep them in top form. In an upcoming post, I’ll launch a giveaway of those pruners with instructions for how you can enter to win a set. They feel great in my hand, and I expect to pack some next summer when I head out to pluck suckers in my tomato patch.