DEAR GAYLA: Well, this is just perfect. You are publicly blaming me for the fact that you are about to be overrun by giant Nicotiana in your smaller garden, and I am in turn holding you to task for the fact that I am suddenly obsessed with growing dwarf tomatoes in pots in my bigger one. (At least we’re keeping all our finger-pointing in one botanical family: the seductive Solanaceae.) Seriously, though: Thanks for the unusual tomato seeds you sent, and the advice on how to grow them. Thanks to you, I’m starting tomato seed today. [read more…]
Planting a vegetable garden, or growing herbs, fruits and berries? One of my great pleasures is growing a portion of my own food. I eat the harvest fresh in season, of course, and freeze or can or otherwise store things for the winter, bringing the color and flavor of the summer garden to the offseason table.
WHAT DO YOU WANT in a ‘Butternut’ squash (besides sweet flesh)? I wanted ones that really lasted, to keep me in “fresh” orange meat all winter long, and I got my wish, after buying seed from a catalog that said they’d been selecting their seed strain for just that quality. It really pays to read the details—to look for little specifics like this that make a big difference between one ‘Butternut’ and another (or any open-pollinated vegetable or flower variety you might be growing). My squash adventure. [read more…]
A FRIEND I BUY seed potatoes with and I were scratching our heads as we filled out the order form, blanking on the line where it said “preferred ship date.” How early do we want them to arrive, we asked ourselves as we do every year. Time for a review of that and other questions about when and how to plant, hill and harvest potatoes. (That’s a row in my raised beds here, seen in late spring one recent year.) [read more…]
PLANTING PEAS—that first traditional first task of each new food-growing year—took on new significance this spring. I’d just finished watching a lecture on Gregor Mendel and his pea-breeding experiments in an online biology class I’m taking, when the snow finally melted and the soil warmed enough—well, almost enough— to have at it. The peas I like best, and how I plant them, all with a new reverence for the genetics built into a single Pisum sativum seed: [read more…]
MAYBE YOU’RE WONDERING this about now: Why do vegetable seedlings stretch and grow spindly sometimes, and how can you prevent it? That was how I began a note to Dr. Thomas Nils Erik Bjorkman, Associate Professor of Crop Physiology at Cornell, seeking an answer to a question I’m asked a lot. He’s a botanist whose research focuses on the effects of environmental stimuli on plant growth and development, particularly in vegetables. So I asked him what’s going on—are the leggy seedlings reaching for light, or is something else at work? (I couldn’t resist sharing the mung-bean time-lapse video, above…though probably not what you’re sowing at the moment.) [read more…]