Saturday, April 24, 2010

Year-old Onions

So I had some green onions that I never used last year, and I just left them in the garden to do their thing. They came back after winter, but I was too skeptical to try eating them... But scapes are another story!

A scape is what happens when an onion (or garlic!) "goes to seed." These huge ones you see in these photos probably aren't tender enough to eat, so I'll leave them and experiment with collecting their seeds.

There were several smaller scapes that seemed nice and tender, and a few more that should be perfect in a couple days.

You could cut them up for a stir-fry. I'll probably cut them into very small pieces and saute them to add to a rice dish.

It just goes to show that, in the right climate, nature keeps doing her thing. Volunteer tomatoes appear, plants survive harsh conditions, and a neglected onion offers forth new bounty past its prime.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Hardening Off

Oklahoma City's last-frost date has passed! You can put most of your plants into the garden now, if they've been hardened off. If they've not been hardened off, and you're not sure how, here's my usual process:

Day 1: Put plants outside, in the shade and away from the wind, for about an hour.
Day 2: As above, for a couple hours... and letting them get a few minutes of sun before bringing them in.
Day 3: Put the plants in partial shade for a couple hours, in an area where the wind won't hit them full-blast. (Be careful of that Oklahoma wind!)
Day 4: Similar to day 3, but for about half the day.
Day 5: Similar to day 4, but for about the length of a work-day.
Day 6: Similar to day 5, but with more exposure to to sun and wind.
Day 7: If the plants are doing well, give them full-sun most of the day... but check on them periodically.
Day 8: If all is well, transplant them.

Pay attention to your plants during this process. If they start looking wilty when you put them in the sun, then back off a bit and take smaller steps! And check the forecast before you put them in the ground. Freezes can happen after the last-frost date.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Seedy Saturday and Baby Chives

This past Saturday, some friends and I got together for a seed exchange. We each brought whatever extra seeds we had, which amounted to a lot since we are all just backyard gardeners. Each person put their seed packets in a bowl and I set out coin envelopes to serve as our new seed packets (along with pencils for labeling). We then passed around the bowls and took samples of the seeds that interested us. Everyone seemed to feel like they came out a winner. We could all have variety in our gardens without going broke!

Give it a try. It's a great way to expand your garden and try new varieties on a budget. Throw in a veggie tray and some tea, and you'll have a pleasant afternoon of seeds and conversation!

I've started a few seeds lately. It may seem a bit early to traditional gardeners in this area, but that's one advantage of being a container gardener! You can put your plants outside on nice, sunny days (not that we have any just yet!) and bring them inside whenever they need protection from the cold.

I'm particularly tickled by my pretty chives pushing their way out of their soil.

I also have tomato, strawberry, parsley, and basil seedlings that I'll share pictures of when they get a little larger.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Alpine Strawberries from Seed (Kit)

Speaking of cute kits, Target has these adorable little strawberry growing kits (as well as flower kits) in their dollar section for Valentine's Day. I've picked these up a couple years in a row, and they're pretty cool... but they're also an example of how a kit could result in frustration for a first-time gardener.

First of all, keep in mind that growing strawberries from seed isn't the easiest task for a beginning gardener. The seeds are minuscule, the seedlings dry out so easily, and they're delicate. It can be done, but you have to check on them daily and handle them carefully. Second, the kit suggests that 10 seedlings would flourish in virtually no space at all! It comes with a teeny tiny pot, a small packet of about 20 Alpine Strawberry seeds, and a pellet of growing medium. But trust me, you don't want to put 10 seeds in that teeny pot! It's not nearly enough room.

  • Use something like peat pods (or my budget version: toilet paper roll pods) or seedling cells with seed-starter mix.
  • Put only one or two strawberry seeds in each pod/cell.
  • Water from the BOTTOM by pouring water in the seedlings' tray, because those tiny seeds could wash right away if you water from the top.
  • Keep everything consistently moist! These plants are so tiny that they dry out FAST when mere seedlings.
  • Later, you can harden them off and put the plants in hanging baskets or a strawberry planter... or maybe along the edges of your flower bed, as they are quite lovely little plants.
But let's not waste that gowing medium pellet and teeny pot. If you want, you can use them as directed but sow only one or two seeds in the little pot. Just don't over-water, because the pot has no drainage hole. You can also use the pot as a cute container to give away one of the seedlings when they're almost grown. I did this as a gift to a gardening friend of mine, a couple years ago. (In this case, you can hydrate the growing medium pellet and mix it into the rest of your seed-starting mix for another seedling project.)

Alpine strawberries are a small, everbearing variety. That means that, instead of one large harvest at once, it'll give you several small harvests. It's one of the easier varieties to grow from seed, and it's less likely to take over your garden if you put them in the ground. They're about as close to a "wild strawberry" as you'll get in a domesticated plant. They're fairly similar to Alexandria strawberries.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cute Kits

I'm such a sucker for cute kits and convenience. If I were planning an in-ground garden this year, I totally would have snatched up one of these baskets at Lowe's the other day:
I mean, how perfect would this be for a small in-ground garden? And it comes in an adorable basket that's perfect for small harvests!

Could you get all of the contents cheaper? Yes, probably. Especially if you make a deal with other backyard gardeners and split that bundle of onions or bag of seed potatoes. But for the convenience, $10 isn't so bad. In fact, I think this could be the way to go if you're a new gardener or are growing these plants for the first time.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Portable Garden

Because we might be buying a new house in the next few months (yikes!), this year's gardening plans focus on the portable. Everything I'm choosing must either be able to survive in a pot (like not-too-big determinate tomato plants), or it must be something that could be harvested early (like lettuce).

It feels good to simplify. This is why I love container gardening in the first place! There are ants all over the basket of strawberries? Well, brush them off and move the strawberries to the front porch! There's an unexpected spring freeze on its way? Just move everything inside to the utilities room! We're moving? No big deal! Put those pots of Red Robin Tomatoes in the back of the car and let's go!

With this in mind, I just ordered most of my (very few) "new" seeds for this season:

The Tumbling Toms are perfect for hanging baskets, and I have a pot large enough for a determinate like the Fabulous Hybrid. Lettuce is no problem at all, as it can be harvested and enjoyed even when it's still very small.

I will still most likely buy some parsley seeds, and maybe spinach. Everything else will come from my existing stash or from seed-swaps.

I feel good about this upcoming season, and I'm so happy next month is February! We'll soon be starting winter vegetables!!!