Saving Seeds with Seed Libraries

If you live in a locale where winter has settled in with its icy grip for the next few months, what’s a warm-weather-loving, green-seeking gardener to do (besides enjoying the houseplants)?  Maybe check out your local seed library… While the concept been around for a little while– some part library, somewhat seed bank, it provides a means to share rare and heirloom seeds locally and make them more available.  It’s not without controversy, as some companies have moved to protect plants that they see as their property.

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(Image from Wikipedia via https://www.flickr.com/people/10293577@N03- unedited; size reduced)

 

Poisonous Plants (Wild Parsnip)

Wild Parsnip (via DNR)

Wild Parsnip (via DNR)

I had previously been aware of Giant Hogweed‘s dangers, and noted when it was reported in Wisconsin recently.  Certainly glad there was none of it around here, and then I found wild parsnip!  Same theme; different plant.

This strikes a little closer to home- literally.  I found a few plants in our yard, thankfully in an easy to access area from all sides.  I don’t recall hearing anything about the plant up until now, and I don’t remember seeing it growing anywhere from when I was a kid.  Other than the small patch of plants, it’s not close to our area that I’ve seen, but we don’t have to go far to see whole ditches and edges of fields full of it.  The DNR and local media have shared more information now that the plant is in bloom with the summer season.

It looks fairly innocent, almost like tall dill!- nothing that would suggest that precautions are needed to deal with this thing.  Mainly, my concern is for friends, family, and their kids who visit our place.  It seeds like crazy, and the sap causes burns on skin in conjunction with sunlight (cloudy weather doesn’t make it safer!)

I’ve taken precautions to eliminate this noxious greenery– unfortunately, I didn’t catch it sooner.  I’ve taken steps to kill the weeds at the roots, and dressed appropriately to remove and burn all the seedheads.  Thankfully, it all was still fairly green, so I think we got to it in time before seed dispersal.

I’m not sure how it traveled to our yard since there’s not much else close around.  Perhaps via creature travel… Watch out in your own outdoors and adventure safely to save yourself some trouble!

Sampling of Summer

Happy mid-summer from Wisconsin!  Now that we have an additional year in our new space, we’re starting to transform our yard with a variety of new plants as I’ve noted earlier.  It’s a slow, albeit rewarding, process for sure; there’s only so much we can do in a day/week/month, particularly when life and weather can intervene.  The pace also allows for some thoughtful reflection:  I know I’ve re-imagined our layout plan numerous times, but it will gradually fall into place.

We’ve been marveling at all the new flowers- some in the garden and some in the yard, and I wanted to share some Wisconsin summer with you wherever you are…

beans

 

 

 

 

 

 

Runner beans on a tomato cage- something has been snacking on them, unfortunately…

 

radish flowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

More from the garden- radish flowers

 

 

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Some Tristan strawberries-to-be (doing exuberantly well in a pot)

 

 

M (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Milkweed (We have been pleased to see more butterflies than Monarchs in our yard, as well!)

 

 

 

cactus

 

 

 

 

 

 

A prickly pear cactus flower (I somewhat recently found out that prickly pear cacti are native to Wisconsin!)

 

 

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Non-floral color- a Wisconsin sunset.  Good night to all!

New for the Garden in 2015

pepper flower

I’ll be the first to admit it… I’m a tinkerer.  I can’t just leave well enough alone- whether it’s a recipe (even when I know it’s good!) or gardening, I always have to try a little something new.  Now that we’re getting our outdoor space settled and organized, there is some work (really, actually fun) to do! We were fortunate to get a lot of space for our yard, so there is plenty of room to experiment.

Last year, we put in our new garden and did a lot of yard adjustments.  While we did and will continue to fight the weeds back (organically) for the near future, I could no longer deny the glossy pages of the seed catalogs that beckoned with spring-y seductiveness all winter.  And don’t get me wrong, I buy local also, with the occasional detour for items that are fairly unique offerings.  Unfortunately, not everything is grown organic, but I figure that by doing things as organically as we can, we can mitigate that part somewhat.

Here are some of the new vegetables and plants we’re trying this year… More to come on the results!

Hops

I’ve started homebrewing, so a combination of a steady future supply of this essential ingredient and an abundance of fences make hops bines a perfect yard addition.  I’ve bought some locally and at beer fests, and I’ve seen collections in catalogs, but The Wine and Hop Shop had the most options and good quality, also.  (I think I have a few more varieties… and some wine grapes… in my future.)

Strawberries

Strawberry, Tristan (We liked the color of the flowers; they’re different!  And… strawberries.)

Pineberry, White Carolina  (Strawberries that taste like pineapple?  And we’re in a zone that can grow them?  Sign me up.)

Yellow Wonder Wild Strawberry (Another strawberry- another flavor.)

Attila Strawberry (I’m a fan of the productivity and flavor of alpine strawberries.  And these have runners!)

White Soul Alpine Strawberry (Strawberries… gotta collect them all!)

Vegetables

Potato, Blue  (These are just plain interesting.  Several catalogs have them, but I haven’t seen them in stores yet.  The story partially behind purchasing them is that my father and grandfather would argue over whether white or red potatoes, respectively, were better.  I guess I’m obligated to like blue ones best!)

BEIRA TRONCHUDA PKT (Maybe not a true kale, so my wife will be extra disappointed…not really.)

Scarlet Runner Bean  (The color of these, flowers and seeds, is just awesome.)

ORACH PURPLE PKT  (I can’t say I’ve ever had a salty leafy vegetable, but it will be a nice contrast in the garden and should be a healthy add-in to salads.)

‘Strawberry Spinach’ (Neither strawberries nor spinach- it should be good for salad.)

Santon Charentais Melon (I am a fan of melon varieties, especially the non-standard/rare ones.)

Tigger Asian Melon  (These will stand out in the garden for sure.)

Petit Gris de Rennes Melon (The melons I bought are all open-pollinated, so they will grow true from saving seeds- versus hybrids.)

Long Island Cheese Pumpkins (These are a recommended variety to use for pies.  I also like to make pumpkin risotto or pumpkin soup.)

Herbs

Shiso Green Perilla Aoshiso (I have red shiso/perilla.  It’s extremely easy to grow from seed and makes an attractive contrast plant with the leaves and flowers.  It has a wonderful aroma and appealing basil-like oil to the leaves and can be used as an herb for cooking.  Just be careful when it gets close to seeding or you may end up with them everywhere.  It didn’t do too poorly in a pot last year as long as I kept it watered.)

Garden Sorrel (It’s perennial, and can be used in salad.)

Grain/Seeds

Quinoa, Brightest Brilliant (Quinoa is not just trendy; it is truly healthy!)

India Red Popping Sorghum  (I thought this might be an alternative to growing popcorn along with sweet corn.  We’ll see how this grows and how it tastes.)

Emmer Wheat (Since I’m getting into brewing, it looked intriguing.  The note about the old variety sometimes being more palatable for those with gluten issues piqued my interest.)

Et Cetera
Passion Flower, Maypop (We think it has neat-looking flowers, and I’m a fan of anything edible- maximizing use and utility of space.  Oh, yes, and we still have lots of fences for vines.)

Lilac, Dwarf Josee Reblooming   (My wife adores lilacs; this one blooms for quite a while.)

Luffa Sponge, Packet  (I thought we’d give these a try to see if we could grow some sponges.  The biggest challenge will be the time to maturity.)

PEANUT JUMBO VIRGINIA (This is another item that might be a plant maturity stretch, but I’m willing to give it a go.  Not many catalogs had peanuts for sale.  The flowers are a nice accent in the garden.)

SILVER BELLS TM CHOCOLATE VINE
VIOLET CHOCOLATE VINE  (Not actually chocolate… they just smell like it!  The seed pods are tasty too!  At least one of each vine is needed.)

Apios Americana “Potato Bean/Groundnut”  (I’m still debating on which vendor I will use to get this, as it’s not offered in many catalogs I can find.  I discovered it via the linked blog.  This flowering native plant with edible parts looks well worthy of growing. Ahem… fences.)

Sunberry/Wonderberry  (An interesting find… appears to be an annual.)

Trees
Fir, Korean (Blue pine cones!  Blue pine cones!)

Redwood, Dawn (I was intrigued partly that this is an ‘older’ type of tree.  Not too long ago, I read that it was somewhat recently fairly rare.)

Phew!  It’s a lot of seeds and plants, but time and the season will tell what the garden and yard may provide.  As you may have noticed, I’m a fan of the rare and/or different.  And don’t worry, we’re still growing the classics, too.  What new plants are you trying this year?

The Great Pumpkin!

Happy Thanksgiving! There is never a bad time to be thankful and enjoy food (even if you aren’t in the U.S. for this specific holiday)!  If you have not yet had your fill of Turkey Day delicacies, perhaps some pumpkin will tantalize… and not that stuff in the can, either:

(via http://www.marthastewart.com/1089860/diy-pumpkin-pur%C3%A9e#1089860)

Hmm… a pseudo-pumpkin is filling our store shelves?

I grew the sugar pumpkin variety this year to a fair level of success.  I may have to expand to the additional variety he mentions, as well!  I have used pumpkin as a base for a risotto- it can be so much more than dessert… the recipes abound (for slow cookers and more.)  And who can forget the not-quite-so-unexpected bonus of toasted pumpkin seeds- sweet or savory? (After saving some to plant for next year, of course.)  I enjoyed ours fresh from the oven with a little salt.  (Parchment paper was a good tip to keep them from sticking/burning and to cut the fat.)

Enjoy!

 

State of the Garden Address

Friends and Fellow Gardeners,

My wife and I had the blessing of quite a bit of outdoor space with the purchase of our new house.  I wasted no opportunity to start our garden this spring.  I had a box full of old seeds, so I wasn’t expecting a true garden of eatin’.  Space was no issue (though I do remember the days that our patio was our garden).  It took a few passes with our trusty tiller to carve out our space.  The previous owners had no garden, so the sod stood in our way.  Given this reality, it has been quite the battle  (as you may note) to keep the weeds out.  gardenI’ve had others tell me that it takes about three years to eliminate some of that, so the tiller will be busy.

One other battle has been with the critters of the area: birds, chipmunks, deer, and rabbits.  All seem to frequent the garden at different times.  We lost most of our peas that were already on the vines, and something has been digging by/eating our potatoes!  I cannot say I have seen that before.  I had a garden out in the country growing up and had seen my share of creatures.  Being near a somewhat large highway doesn’t do much to scare anything away.

Yet another battle has been with what I think is an occurrence of a plant disease.  I mentioned something similar earlier on the blog.  So far, much of our tomato crop is in the process of succumbing.

tomato with plant disease  Whatever it is, it has also affected the nearby clover and a flowering vine.  The tomatoes have all had similar issues- the leaves have turned grayish silver and seem to have stopped growing.  We still have had some tomatoes ripen (though some critters have helped themselves…)  Regardless, we’re not planning to compost any of these so nothing spreads, hopefully.

The weather has been somewhat bizarre.  We had a cool spring, so no early start this year.  We had a steady pattern of rain, but now we are behind for July- and only one day above 90 degrees so far.

On a more positive note, our vines seem to be growing well enough.  More of the garden germinated than I was expecting, but the weeds have kept some of that in check.  The potatoes may hold out if something stops eating them.  The radishes earlier this season were robust, and the cucumbers have been producing.

Thus, there is much to improve on for next year, but a garden is a process- with fun and frustration (emphasis on the fun for me).

Keep gardening, friends!

 

What have you planted this year?  Successes/difficulties?