Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Here is the exhaustive, painstakingly vetted garden list for 2010. In addition to these, we'll also be planting as many herbs and wildflowers as humanly possible. And don't forget our blueberry bushes, golden raspberry canes, asparagus crowns, and hazelnut, cherry, and apricot trees. Seriously, am I going to have to plant all of this crap myself? [Kate: Most likely, since I will be massively pregnant.]
  • BASIL, Thai Queenette - This one seemed to do well last year.
  • BASIL, Holy - Trying out seeds from Baker Creek this year. I also brought some seeds back from a bunch of basil we used in my Thai cooking class, we'll give em a whirl.
  • BASIL, Genovese - The old standby. We get a few seedlings from Well-Sweep Herb Farm every year.
  • BEANS (BUSH), Tiger's Eye - We never got to plant these last year because of our move. Here we go again...
  • BEANS (BUSH), Jacob's Cattle - We ordered a whole lotta beans from Fedco, looking forward to trying them out.
  • BEANS (POLE), Garden Of Eden - More unplanted holdovers from last year.
  • BROCCOLI, Blue Wind - We had good results last year with this variety so we're going to give it another go.
  • CARROTS, Muscade - We planted some last year but never got to harvest them.
  • EGGPLANT, Turkish Orange - This will be a new variety for us. These are small eggplants that are best harvested prior to turning orange.
  • EGGPLANT, Ma Waeng - I'm excited about this one. These eggplants are pea-sized and impossible to find even at the Asian market. They're good in lots of SE Asian dishes and freeze well.
  • GROUND CHERRY, Aunt Molly's - This is another one I've been meaning to try for the last couple of years. I finally overcame Kate's inexplicable lack of enthusiasm.
  • GREENS, Siamese Dragon - This is a Baker Creek mix of Asian greens that we've had since last year.
  • LEEK, Bleu de Solaise - This leek showed great promise last year, although we didn't get to try it.
  • LETTUCE, Val D'Orges - We actually got to harvest this one last season, a nice butterhead for my little butterhead.
  • LETTUCE, Arugula - Can't get enough of this stuff!
  • MELON, Charentais - One of our biggest goals this year is to finally grow some decent melons. We've never had enough sun before to do it. Charantais is a nice classic European musk melon.
  • MELON, Sun Jewel - This is a Johnny's hybrid type that also looks like a winner. It's a banana-shaped Asian style. Might as well try two different varieties and compare the results.
  • ONION, Walla Walla - The best sweet onions around. We couldn't find seed last year and went with transplants instead. We've tracked the seeds down this time, so look out.
  • ONION, New York Early - This looks like a good keeper onion, which we never seem to have enough of.
  • PARSLEY, Flat Leaf - Another yearly Well-Sweep purchase.
  • PEAS (POLE), Sugar Snap - Always a favorite. Nothing beats fresh-picked snap peas, and this is the best variety we've found.
  • PEAS (POLE), Green Arrow -We're also looking forward to having some fresh shell peas this year--another delicacy that can't be found at the grocery store.
  • PEPPERS, Aji Dulce - Arguably Kate's favorite peppers, these taste like habaneros but have virtually no heat. For big babies.
  • PEPPERS, Bird's Eye - These are the tiny red peppers ubiquitous in Thai cuisine. Hot but not brutal, fruity and versatile.
  • PEPPERS, Cascabel - We grew these a couple of years ago, and they were quite unique. Very prolific and easily stored. I couldn't find the seeds in any of the six (yes, six) catalogs we ordered from so i'm going to try to use seeds from a package of dried peppers from Penzey's.
  • PEPPERS, Golden Treasure - A thin-walled, orange sweet frying pepper.
  • PEPPERS, King Of The North - Thick-walled and sweet, this is one of the shortest season bell peppers available.
  • PEPPERS, Lemon - An intensely fruity, moderately spicy South American variety, this is an old favorite originally obtained from Burpee four years ago. The seeds we're using are the longest-running strain of any seeds we've saved.
  • PEPPERS, Thai Burapa - Standard pepper used in red Thai curry paste (in dried form). Easy to dry but quite useful fresh, either green or red, in all sorts of Asian dishes.
  • POTATO, La Ratte - Fingerling variety, demanded by Kate. [Kate: You could have described them as creamy-fleshed, buttery, versatile, and used by generations of French chefs.]
  • POTATO, Carola - Toted as an all-around outstanding potato. We ordered all of our potatoes from Fedco this year.
  • SCALLION, Evergreen Hardy White - Another indispensable allium. 'Nuff said.
  • SHALLOT, Ambition - We blow through shallots like water, often substituting them for onions. Like scallions, we really can't get enough of them. You could say, we're feeling more AMBITIOUS than ever! HAHAHA [Kate: Fortunately, I would never say that.]
  • SQUASH (SUMMER), Lemon - This Baker Creek yellow summer squash looks intriguing and has some rave reviews, not to mention a supposed compact habit. A nice alternative to zucchini.
  • SQUASH (WINTER), Golden Delicious - Another Baker Creek selection, this squash is alleged to rival the buttercup in pure awesomeness.
  • SUNFLOWER, Irish Eyes - This will be our first year growing sunflowers, as we were brutally thwarted last year by anemic sunlight and the oft-mentioned move.
  • TOMATO, Nyagous - We had some really good results with both Nyagous and Isis a couple of years ago. Two years ago, we were devastated to lose most of our crop to blossom end rot. Last year was a bust, not to mention the ravages of the late blight pestilence. This year is going to be our year for tomatoes. It just HAS to be! Oh yeah, Nyagous is a purplish red medium sized tomato good enough to eat all by itself.
  • TOMATO, Isis Candy - Another favorite, this cherry variety is incredibly sweet, almost and indulgence.
  • TOMATO, San Marzano - This is the renowned paste tomato of yore, popular in Italy. We've gotten some underwhelming results in the past but are looking forward to a better experience this year. We're going to be using the seeds we saved from Genesis Farm two summers ago.
  • TOMATO, Gold Medal - This is the only new tomato we'll be growing this year. As with the Nyagous and Isis candy, Gold Medal comes from Seeds Savers Exchange. We figured we could use some color in the tomato section so we went with this early-yielding golden variety.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Operation Deerterrent (Part 1 of Many)

According to my therapist, I'm finally ready to post this first installment in our latest mini-saga: Operation Deerterrent. Yes, those cute, pesky indigenous antelope roam in billions around our new locale. I've decided to take preemptive action before we start growing a damn thing. Immediately after installing leading-edge steel deercatchers on the fronts of both our cars, I broke ground on our first major gardening project at the new house--none other than the construction of a 6' high, 280' long deer fence.

As with my other past (and most likely future) projects, Operation Deerterrent began with a freakish amount of research, planning, and anxiety. After some online research and plenty of local scouting, I drew up some plans and then immediately abandoned them in favor of some other, more complicated and expensive plans. After discarding those, I settled on a hybrid design and gathered the materials:

280LF 4' wide hog-wire fencing
280LF 3' wide chicken-wire fencing
(28) 8' 4X4 pressure treated wood posts
(28) 60# bags concrete
(2) 6' wide chain link swing gates

The plan was pretty straightforward. The fence consists of 28 evenly spaced posts around a rectangular area with 83' X 50' dimensions. Each post was to be set in concrete at a depth of 30" below grade. Next, a 12" deep by 6" wide trench was to be dug and filled with a chicken wire barrier to stop burrowing varmints like rabbits, moles, and groundhogs. After securing the chicken-wire to the wooden posts, the hog-wire would be stretched and affixed to the posts as well. The chicken-wire would come up 18" from the ground and lap the hog-wire fence to create an "impenetrable" pest barrier. The gates would be installed last, one gate each in the middle of the 50' sides. Sounds pretty simple, eh? And how many of my past so-called simple projects have lived up to that expectation? Here are some of the myriad ways I underestimated the tasks before me.

For one thing, we live on top of a mountain. Granted, our little mountain is no K2 or anything (think foothills of the Appalachians), but the two share the distinction of both being made out of almost solid rock. As I soon discovered, rocks and digging implements don't get along too well.

Another potential problem arose from the sheer scope of the project. Digging a 12"X6" trench is no big task if it's 10 ft long; digging a nearly 300' long trench is another story. Obviously, this necessitated the use of power equipment which I didn't own and couldn't borrow. I added rental costs to the ever expanding expense list.

There were other challenges as well. Rented power equipment is not as easy or well-suited to the task at hand as it may seem. For instance, a mini-trencher sounds like the perfect tool to assist in the miserable labor of trench-digging. The model I rented was basically a colossal, unwieldy dirt chainsaw without any kind of safety mechanism at all. And that was even before the buried boulders began ambushing and mocking me. You'll have to wait to hear the rest. Time for a Xanax.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Out with the Old

Seed catalogs have started appearing in the mailbox early and often, and the post-holiday doldrums are perfect for planning the coming year's garden. This morning we went through our store of seeds, keeping the packets from last year we never got the chance to plant because of the move and tossing ones from 2007 and leftovers we weren't too keen on. There are also some special varieties we saved ourselves like San Marzano tomatoes and aji dulce peppers.

Here's the collection of old seeds, which, once the snow melts, we'll sprinkle in a corner of the property and see if anything sprouts. Maybe we'll be surprised.

And now, in with the new: Garlic is planted, fruit trees ordered, deer fence (mostly) finished. Let the 2010 garden planning begin!