Tag Archives: heirloom

A Strange and Wonderful Growing Season

Well, I said I was going on hiatus from the blog for awhile but I guess this is what hiatus looks like…

It’s the last day of September 2012, but by looking at our rooftop you’d swear it was the first week of June. In the Great Lakes region we’re lucky to have one full growing season, much less two. But that’s exactly what it’s turning out to be- at least here in Chicago, 4 stories up.

Like the rest of the garden, these Atkinson heirloom tomatoes were an anomaly this year. I couldn’t get them to hold blossoms all summer – too hot? – but now in September I have plenty of fruit arriving at all stages from blossom to red ripe.

Green Bell Peppers were absolutely prolific this year and are still going strong. Each plant has more fruit than they can hold – and with new flowers blooming, there’s no sign of stopping. Will probably yield a crop of smaller peppers well into October.

Like the peppers, these Chinese eggplant were fantastic this year. In August the plants seemed to be on their way out. Leaves were yellowing and dropping. But when day time temps got milder, new growth sprouted and now flowers. Will easily have a crop of small eggs in a few weeks. They grow quite fast and can further ripen indoors if the risk of frost threatens the young’n’s.

What? A double season of squash? Now that’s a new one for me. This Dwarf Hubbard squash grew very quickly this month after the plant was surely about to dry up and blow away with the wind. Not thinking the season would support them to maturity, we actually had a September meal of squash blossoms. Glad I left one on the vine!

Another surprise – a third round of strawberries. These Ozarks are bound and determined to hold onto every last ray of sunshine this year. Fine by me!

It probably comes as no surprise that the Japanese Shishitos gave us more than we could handle this year. We ate, and ate, and ate, and gave away, and pickled. And guess what? Yup, another round of foliage and blossoms popped up this week. I think I’m going to start leaving them on people’s doorstep at night. Here’s a jar of pickled peppers that yielded amazing flavor.

Extra Dwarf Pak Choi did great in the spring but a second planting in the summer was quickly snuffed out by the heat. I planted these seeds a week and a half ago and expect to have several meals over the next couple weeks. Perfect weather for brassicas.

Mildly warm days and cool nights is ideal weather for late season greens like this arugula.

A flourishing Autumn herb garden? This cilantro seems to think so. So do its companions parsley and dill.

Not to be left out, this California poppy plant that had fully died back after its summer show is making a resurgence.

Attempting to upstage the entire crowd, this floribunda ‘Moondance’ rose towers over the garden in its 3rd blooming cycle of the summer. Am I going to have white roses at Christmas?

This year the news was full of stories about drought and poor farming conditions. Here in Chicago, it’s just been bizarre. If you felt this year’s season was strange too, I’d love to hear your story in the comment section.

Alright I really must put an end to these distractions. So back to work… unless I find more surprises up there.

Choose Heirloom or Choose Monsanto?

Without jumping too deeply into the political fray, I just want to share a few links that will help home gardeners choose their seed supplier this year. This is particularly timely, with a gigantic class-action lawsuit pending against Monsanto by a collective of farmers and the wild popularity of the movie Food, Inc.

If you want to avoid genetically modified seed varieties while supporting sustainable options like organics and heirlooms, then here is a link that lists which seed companies are owned by or sell Monsanto/Seminis seeds: http://www.garden-of-eatin.com/how-to-avoid-monsanto/. That link also shares alternative sources for non-Monsanto seeds.

[Note: Seminis is a child company of Monsanto and according to Wikipedia is “the largest developer, grower and marketer of fruit and vegetable seeds in the world.”]

In addition, the Council for Responsible Genetics lists seed companies that have signed the 2012 Safe Seed Pledge.

Make your own pledge to stay informed and make your vote (money) count when you make purchases this year. While it may be fun and nostalgic to thumb through the annual Burpee, Jung or Park Seed catalogs, just know that they are all supplied by Monsanto.

Now, hopefully nobody wearing a black suit knocks on my door this week…

[UPDATE] Not 5 hours after I published this post, did the New York federal court toss out the lawsuit against Monsanto. Back to the drawing board.

First round

I’ve noticed on Facebook and in the blogs that some people in Illinois and Michigan have been starting their seeds indoors recently. I have to wait a bit longer and plant mine on April 2nd. I’ll be visiting Portland, OR for the week prior and not able to tend to the babies back home in Chicago.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying ordering supplies and planning. I used the site Growing Taste to help me pick my veggie crops this year. Along with the 10 EarthBoxes that are on their way, here are the seeds I’ve picked up so far:

Heirloom/Open-pollenated seeds from Seed Savers Exchange:

  • Pea, Dwarf Gray Sugar
  • Watermelon, Blacktail Mountain
  • Cucumber, Poona Kheera
  • Tomato, Kellogg’s Breakfast
  • Tomato, Opalka
  • Tomato, Stupice
  • Thai Basil

From Renee’s Garden:

  • Mesclun Salad Mix, Asian Baby Leaf

These 3 packets are from an Asian market that I picked up to experiment with. No expiration dates, so I’m not holding my breath:

  • Eggplant, Chinese long, purple
  • Pai-Tsai, Chinese cabbage or “choy”
  • Rau Den, Amaranth

Since I’m container gardening and have limited space I decided to grow crops that are either difficult to find or more expensive to buy in stores. Flavorful/colorful tomatoes, for instance, are impossible to find in stores and potentially pricey at farmers’ markets. On the other hand, organic juicing carrots can easily be purchased in bulk at stores and don’t seem very practical to grow in containers. Although, the nutrition level of any store bought produce is debatable. Next on my list are more herbs and native perennials.