Saturday, December 31, 2016

Ordering Seeds

It's amazing how fast things can come unglued. In mid-September, I had everything under control, with my work, school, family, nursery, and church responsibilities carefully, if tightly, scheduled. Or so I thought. Then a family member experienced a health crisis, and that took the place of school, family, and nursery for the next 6 weeks. Thankfully, the health crisis ended reasonably well, the family event (a wedding!) went off without a hitch, I finished my paper for school, and the Christmas concert went well. And then I crashed for a while.

My husband did all the shopping and most of the cooking this year. He set up the tree, but I never managed to get the ornaments on it. I did hang the stockings--on Christmas eve. I've spent the past week taking care of family obligations and doing the pre-intensive reading for my January class--until today.

Today, I finished the reading, and, as I usually do this time of year, have been planning for the next garden season. Lessons learned from last year?

  • Fewer off-the-wall varieties
  • Mulch garden plot more and earlier
  • Improve infrastructure: 
    • automatic watering
    • larger greenhouse
  • Plan popup locations in the city
  • Marketing on-line and in-print
I ordered seeds today, which always gives me a sense of hope. I need some hope. Last year was hectic, exhausting, and humbling. But it is nearly past, and a new year dawns in a few hours. So, I'm taking stock, establishing priorities, making plans for my year, just like for the garden. In more ways than one, I'm ordering seeds.

What about you? What seeds are you ordering for next year?


Friday, August 5, 2016

Cheap Shade is Cool!

The sun is wickedly hot,
even early in the morning.
I'll confess to being quite frugal at times. Since I spend so much time on the tractor in the summer, the relentless heat has caused me to investigate air-conditioned tractor cabs which means I was investigating new tractors. All it took was a quick Google search to collapse from a severe case of sticker shock. Tractors are expensive! So, no new tractor for me.
Wrap the Gear Straps around the
uprights on the ROPS, and snap
the hooks onto the u-bolt.

Next I looked for the hard canopies (the ones that attach to the ROPS), and suffered more sticker shock. So I returned to a prior idea: a large umbrella. I had tried a golf umbrella in previous years, but they were not sturdy enough. I dug even deeper into the idea bag and found my old faithful, years-ago-Christmas-present "Sportbrella." It's a large, deep umbrella that's very, very sturdy. I had quit using it before because I could not attach it securely to the roll cage but still be able to detach it after every use (tall tractor/short tractor shed door). A chance purchase at Northern Tool solved my problems.

Wrap a Gear Strap around the top bar, then snap the
hooks into the u-bolt.
Use an elastic cord to
keep it from spinning.
They call them Gear Straps, basically, hook-and-loop straps with a twistable snap hook. The snap hooks were too small to go around the umbrella shaft, so I found some u-bolts that fit loosely around the umbrella that I could snap onto. The result keeps me in the shade, and gives me at least a couple of additional work hours. That's really important when the heat index is 110+.

It's a small thing, I know, but I enjoy working these things out. What about you? How are you being frugal?


Friday, July 1, 2016

Dawn Patrol

A break in the clouds.
As soon as the sun rises over the trees, it becomes unbearable.
I just cannot bear the double-barreled 90+/90+ heat and humidity we've had for the past week or two, so that means that what little I do in the garden must happen in those golden moments of twilight just before sunrise and after sunset. As long as the sun is above the horizon, it's miserable.

That means I have about 45 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening--which isn't enough, but it will have to do. It's a good thing that I don't mind a grassy garden, although I'm working on that. Several years ago I tried mulching with untreated grass clippings with decent success (see "Thank You Very Mulch!"). Time, and the availability of large amounts of grass clippings are causing me to give it another try. There are some downsides to using grass clippings; they do contain some seed. That means I must continue to mulch throughout the season. I'm also trying to build up my garden plot after a fallow year, and any organic matter is beneficial. Mulch protects the roots of plants from the sun, so, despite the drawbacks, I'm going to give it a try. Except for one problem: I've worked three mornings and still haven't distributed the first mowing's clippings. I'm using a spade fork, but I guess I'll have to give in and buy a manure/hay fork because it's wider and the sharper more slender tines can, I hope, pick up the matted grass more easily and in larger clumps. I'll also need a D-handle for "tossing" control.

Mulching tomatoes and peppers first.
I'll have enough clippings to
mulch the entire garden.
I mentioned that mulching protects roots from heat, and that's important because I just recently put my tomatoes in the ground. Yes, in mid-June. I know; I should have put them out earlier, but it just did not happen. They're in the ground now, and, being all heirloom varieties, should produce until frost. I've planted a 16-foot row of Principe Borghese for canning, and a mixed row of Cherokee Purple, Black Krim, Rutgers Improved, Arkansas Traveler, Arkansas Marvel, Old Ivory Egg, Black Cherry, and Middle Tennessee Sweet. They're blooming, and tiny tomatoes are appearing. Perhaps I'll enjoy tomatoes soon.

The beans are doing okay, blooming and a few pods, but the corn was a bust. I think 6 plants germinated out of 4 rows. Corn has never done well in this spot; I don't know why I thought it would this time. One of my friends (who's been farming 50+ years) told about planting corn in his garden plot twice, with no success. He finally installed a game camera and retrieved some lovely shots of a raccoon digging the seed kernels right out of the ground. He installed a trap before his third planting!

The squashes (zucchini, yellow, and pattypan) are blooming, although germination was a bit spotty, not surprising since my seed was purchased for a previous season. I should still have enough plants to supply us nicely if the squash bugs leave us any.

It's a great blueberry year;
blackberries, not so much.
I saw the first brown marmorated stink bug of the season yesterday, and I confess I dispatched him (actually, probably her) to his/her/its eternal reward. A friend texted a desperate request for an organic solution for an onslaught of squash bugs (a near relative), and my cousin recommends dousing plants with a garlic/geranium oil infusion. I'm thinking of applying a prophylactic dose.

The blueberries and blackberries are in, with the blueberries being the winner this season. I guess I need to go pick them before it gets too hot.

Stay cool, drink plenty of water, and mulch your Savory garden!


Monday, May 9, 2016


Freshly-tilled double rows with one foot middles
Sometimes, you just get lucky. I've been trying to get my garden plot planted--that is, once the ground dried enough to till--but work and community responsibilities have preoccupied me. Until Monday night. The only night I had available before the predicted deluge on Thursday. So, blessing upon blessing, it was cloudy and 70 degrees, the last of blackberry winter, I guess. Having tilled over the weekend, we took the seed box and hoes to the plot.
I have a love/hate relationship with both honeysuckle and
Russian olive. I love their fragrance and their
decorative value, but hate their invasive habits!
This year, I'm trying six double rows on 4' centers. The plantable area is about 3' wide with 1' middles. Down the center of the row is corn (Country Gentleman) planted in a 2" furrow. One either side are either bush beans (Top Crop, Purple TeePee, Jacob's Cattle, Hutterite Soup, Purple Hull Pinkeye Cowpeas, Dragon's Tongue) or squash (Fordhook Zucchini, Yellow Straightneck). One row is a little short, so I plant a hill of White Scallop Squash. When the corn has sprouted, I'll go back and interplant Tendergreen Burpless Cucumbers so they can trellis on the corn. It's sort of my version of the Three Sisters Garden, with beans being the third sister.

In the fallow row in the front we plant Lemon Queen Sunflowers. We'll probably plant seed sunflowers (Mammoth?) around the perimeter with some sort of trap crop (marigolds/zinnias?) or pollinator attractants underneath.

So, back to timeliness--I've been berating myself for not getting the garden planted earlier, but the perfect evening presented itself, and I was able to take advantage of it (along with much help from the Resident Dragon). The predicted Thursday deluge was more of a shower, but enough to moisten the seeds. I did not see any tiny leaves on Thursday night (yes, I am that impatient!), but, perhaps, critters and weather permitting, soon. In their own good time.

What about you? What have you planted in your Savory garden?


Monday, February 15, 2016

2016 Tomato Transplant Varieties

Tomato transplants for 2016 season! Here are the varieties I'm expecting will be ready around mid-April. Quantities are limited, so reserve yours early. Transplants in 2.5" pots will be $5 each. Heirloom or open-pollinated varieties grown using non-certified organic practices.

NameDays to harvestHabitColorSeasonTypeDescription, Catalog*
(descriptions copied from
Tomato, Arkansas Marvel100IndeterminateBi-color (red/orange)LateHeirloomAn Arkansas Heirloom tomato. Our organic tomato seeds produce indeterminate, regular-leaf, vigorous, big tomato plants that yield moderate to heavy crops of 4-inch, 1 lb., meaty, yellow-orange beefsteak tomatoes with red marbling with a gush of wonderful sweet, well-balanced tomato flavors that hold a distinct hint of mild, peach flavors. A good salad tomato or sliced thick in sandwiches.
Tomato, Arkansas Traveler85IndeterminatePinkLateHeirloomA 100 year old heirloom tomato that was grown throughout the South from northwest Arkansas to North Carolina. Our TomatoFest organic tomato seeds produce indeterminate, regular-leaf, 6', vigorous tomato plants that yield abundant crops of 8-ounce, round rose-pink tomatoes. Considered to be one of the best tasting tomato varieties with well balanced sweet/tart flavors. Arkansas Traveler is much esteemed for its ability to produce flavorful tomatoes under normally adverse conditions high heat, humidity or drought. Resistant to cracking and disease.
Tomato, Black Cherry64IndeterminateBlackEarlyOpen-pollinatedThe only truly black cherry tomato. Our TomatoFest organic tomato seeds produce large, sprawling, indeterminate, regular-leaf, vigorous tomato plants that yield abundant crops in huge clusters of 1", round, deep purple, mahogany-brown cherry tomatoes. Fruits are irresistibly delicious with sweet, rich, complex, full tomato flavors that burst in your mouth, characteristic of the best flavorful black tomatoes. Beautiful to mix with other colored cherry tomatoes. Unique tomato variety. Disease resistant. Once you try want MORE.
Tomato, Black Krim75DeterminatePurple-blackMidHeirloom(aka Black Crimson) Krim is Russian and Ukrainian for Crimea, which is a peninsula in the Ukraine. The heirloom tomato tomato Black Krim is named for it. This rare, and outstanding tomato yields 3-4" slightly flattened dark-red (mahogany-colored) slightly maroon, beefsteak tomatoes with deep green shoulders. Green gel around seeds. Fantastic, intense, slightly salty taste (which is great for those not wanting to add salt to their tomatoes). Black Krim is one of my best black tomatoes. Also suitable for container/patio garden. Perfect choice for slicing, salads and cooking.
Tomato, Black Sea Man75DeterminatePurple-blackMidHeirloomContainer Recommended. A Russian Heirloom tomato. Tomatofest certified organic tomato seeds produce small determinant, potato-leaf plants that yield an abundant set of 12-16 ounce beautiful tomatoes that are rich mahogany colored with olive green shoulders when mature. Inside of tomato is deep, reddish green and loaded with excellent, full-bodied, complex, intense, creamy tomato flavors. This is an outstanding tomato for sandwiches and salads. Black Sea Man heirloom tomato does well growing in mid-sized containers. A great early black tomato.
Tomato, Broad Ripple Yellow Currant78IndeterminateYellow/orange currant 1/2"MidOpen-pollinatedTomato variety was apparently found growing from the crack in a sidewalk in Indianapolis, Indiana in the mid 1900's by John Hartman. TomatoFest organic tomato seeds produce big, indeterminate , regular leaf, tomato plants that yield hundreds of of the cutest, very small, 1/2-inch small, almost translucent yellow cherry tomatoes borne in trusses of 6-8 tomatoes. These are very low-acid tomatoes that are deliciously sweet and perfect for popping in your mouth as you walk through the garden. A great container tomato for growing on your patio or rooftop garden. A good tomato variety for cooler growing regions that produces well until frost.
Tomato, Cherokee Purple80IndeterminatePurple-blackLateHeirloomHeirloom from Tennessee cultivated by Native American Cherokee tribe. Very productive plants producing loads of dusky rose to purple colored, 12 oz.-1 lb., beefsteak tomatoes with deep red colors to the interior flesh and dark shoulders. A very popular market variety because of it's rich, complex and sweet flavors. One of the best tasting heirloom tomatoes.
Tomato, Gold Currant76IndeterminateYellow/orange currant 1/2"MidOpen-pollinated1/2-inch, golden cherries with sweet & tangy flavor. Good acid balance. Great for dressing up a salad or any dish or just snackin'. Some folks report plants of 12' producing crops of incredibly 2' long fruit clusters containing as much as 40 tomatoes.
Tomato, Japanese Black Trifele81IndeterminatePurple-blackMidHeirloomRussian origin. In Russia the Trifele varieties of tomatoes (of which there are several colors) are highly prized and command big prices. This short potato leaf plant yields prolific quantities of 6 oz. fruit that looks like a beautiful mahogany-colored Bartlett pear with greenish shoulders. Very tasty flesh with a meaty core that produces luscious fruit all summer long. A work of art sliced out on a plate and a wonderful flavor that possesses extraordinary rich and complex flavors. The Black Trifele is one of the blackest varieties available and is resistant to cracking.
Tomato, Middle Tennessee Low Acid90IndeterminatePinkLateTall, indeterminate, regular leaf plant that produces abundant yields of 1-2 lb. pink, beefsteak tomatoes with excellent mildly sweet flavors. Recommended for folks who can't eat tomatoes with any pronounced acid.
Tomato, Principe Borghese78DeterminateRedMidHeirloomItalian heirloom tomato. Our organic tomato seeds produce short determinate plants that prolifically yield big clusters of 1-2 oz. red, plum shaped, crack-resistant paste tomatoes that are a great substitute for Roma tomatoes. Tomatoes are prized for drying because they retain more flavor than most other drying varieties. Italians are known for hanging the whole plant, loaded with fruit, up to dry .A great sauce tomato or eating fresh in salads or canning. Also prized for reconstituting in olive oil or crushing dried fruit into flakes to add to a sauce for quick thickening. These short plants will benefit from having support due to weight of the huge amounts of fruit.
Tomato, Rasp Large Red90IndeterminateRedLateHeirloomDeveloped by T. Rasp of Cheektowaga, NY. Tall, indeterminate, regular leaf, spindly plant produces round to heart-shaped, smooth fruit of 12-16 oz. Excellent, full tomatoey flavor and texture.
Tomato, Red Currant70IndeterminateRed currant 1/2"MidOpen-pollinatedSouth American species of tomato. (Note: A different plant species, Lycospericon pimpinfolium, than garden tomatoes. Currant tomatoes can easily cross with with other tomato varieties. Don't plant near other varieties you are going to save them for seed). Our TomatoFest organic tomato seeds produce huge, vigorous branches that yields thousands of 1/4" -3/8-inch, fruity sweet (but slightly tart), red currant tomatoes. These are wonderful for snacking on fresh and adding to a tomato salad or adding to culinary dishes as decoration or delicious flavoring. Rare tomato seeds.
Tomato, Rutgers Improved78DeterminateRedMidHeirloomRutgers was developed by the Campbell Soup Company in 1928 from a cross of Marglobe and J.T.D. The variety was later refined by Rutgers University in 1943. Rutgers Improved is a Rutgers-type tomato with additional disease resistance.Our TomatoFest organic tomato seeds produce short, bushy, compact, determinate tomato plants that yield 7 oz., dark-red tomatoes with thick walls that are loaded with delicious flavors. Excellent canning tomato. Disease Resistant.
Tomato, Spears Tennessee Green80IndeterminateGreenMidHeirloomA wonderful heirloom grown by the Spear family of Tennessee since the 1950's. The seeds were passed to Jeremiah Gettle of Missouri, owner of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, who released the seeds to the public. Our certified organic tomato seeds produce indeterminate, regular-leaf tomato plants that yield an abundance of 8-10 oz., slightly flattened, round, emerald green and amber-colored, tomatoes that excels in it's taste with sweet, well-balanced flavors with a tinge of spice and citrus. Lots of that old-fashioned tomato flavor. A rare and historic tomato variety.
Tomato, Sweet Pea62IndeterminateRed currant 1/4"EarlyOpen-pollinatedThe smallest tomato I've seen. Our TomatoFest organic tomato seeds produce large, wispy, regular-leaf, indeterminate tomato plants that yield thousands of 1/4-inch, deep red, currant tomatoes that have an excellent, rich, and complex sweet flavor. That's a lot of goodness for such a tiny fruit! Tomatoes resemble ruby jewels. Perfect tomato for decorating culinary dishes, snacking or mixing into a tomato salad. A wonderful novelty tomato.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Hungry Hornworms

Skeletonized by hornworms
If you've ever had any dealings with tomato hornworms, you know they are voracious. Overnight, they can strip all the leaves off a tomato plant. So, you can imagine my dismay when I discovered that they also enjoy tomatillos. Actually, I think they like them better than tomatoes, as shown by the two hornworms noshing on the same plant.

They must really like tomatillos!
Given the hornworm attack on the tomatillos, which were in pots on the front porch, I just knew that my tomatoes had already been skeletonized. To my surprise, they seemed to be hornworm-free, so I sprayed them all down with organic Hi-yield Thuricide.
He should be brown within 24 hours.
While it doesn't kill them immediately, I have had very good results with it. I did hand-pick the hornworms and dispatched them to their eternal reward.

Apparently, tomatillos are accustomed to such attacks as, this morning, I found new growth on the fully-skeletonized plant. And, right next to the new leaves was a bonus: a beneficial praying mantis!
This is what hope looks like!

Both give me hope that, again soon, I'll be seeing blossoms.

What about you? What's growing in your Savory garden?


Beneficials are always welcome!

A future tomatillo!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Making Progress

I've always tried to be thrifty, but sensible. For example, the deep six-pack inserts are more expensive, but they allow better root development, so they've been worth the extra cost. I've found, though, that most of my Farmer's Market sales are of single plants rather than packs, which meant that I needed to cut the cells apart.

This worked well until I forgot my scissors, which convinced me that I needed to make a change to individual pots. They are more attractive, and just as easy to transport since they fit into the same 1020 trays. I took my first set to market on Saturday and the ease of selling individual pots versus cutting apart the cells made me wonder why I had not done it sooner!

Certainly the individual pots are slightly more expensive, but the ease and speed by which I was able to sell one or two plants at a time convinced me that the change would more than pay for itself.

This has me wondering in how many more instances I have been "penny-wise and pound-foolish." Of course, I want to be thrifty and maximize my margins, but I need to look at value more than cost. The individual pots are a better value than the trays for individual sales.

My pricing strategy must also consider the economic means of my customers. I have kept my prices low but I have not been accounting for my time. My time has value, and I need to start including that in my pricing strategy.

 I wonder if, by keeping my prices in the "basement," I have created an impression that my plants are of poorer rather than premium quality. I grow premium products, and uncommon but desirable varieties. I need to price my product to reflect that.

Like many other entrepreneurs, I have to balance sensitivity to my market, the perception of product quality, and profitability. Which is more important? Well, if I'm not profitable, none of the rest matters. On the other hand, my customers have to be able to afford my product.

If it sounds like I'm talking in circles, that's because that's where I feel like I am. I'm still working on the answer. But, instead of allowing myself to suffer from analysis paralysis, I've set a price point that I think is both fair and profitable. Sales have been reasonable, so far, and, this week, I'm adding another market to test my theory.

Herb transplants have already shown themselves to be more popular than tomato transplants and I'm broadening that line. The season for tomato transplants is nearly over, and I'm up-potting them as patio specimens where the price will quadruple.

I feel like I'm making progress. It's always a challenge when transitioning from hobbyist to "professional," but, step-by-step, I'm learning.

What about you? What's growing in your Savory garden?