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Thread: The 2011 Garden Thread

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    The 2011 Garden Thread



    It's the middle of January and there's a foot of snow on the ground, that can only mean it's time to post the annual garden thread!

    Thanks to Mrs. Maister going bananas and ordering seed catalogues from a dozen different companies, I am already well supplied with winter reading materials. I think this year will not be a big year for experimentation, but rather, growing large quantities of tried and true things: plenty of peppers, tomatoes and beans. Naturally, I'll grow plenty of salad stuff as well and am already plotting out the square footage necessary to ensure there will be adequate lettuce, radishes, carrots, peas, spinach, and cucumbers for salads two or three times a week throughout the summer.

    2011 should be a memorable year at Maister Gardens thanks to the asparagus we planted three years ago, as we can now begin to harvest them this spring. I've been looking forward to fresh asparagus for some time. I understand the asparagus crowns should continue to produce for the next 20 years. They really are a nearly maintenance free plant; they like poor soils, are extraordinarily drought resistant (here in Michigan we don't need to water them at all) and seem to flourish with little more than a monthly weeding. I'll report later on how they taste.

    Junior has expressed an earnest desire for a bigger garden this year because he wants more sugar snap peas. I think he would be happy with growing nothing but sugar snap peas He loves them because he can see the pods develop and when he decides it's time to eat he can just pick them right off the vine and pop them into his mouth pods and all.

    What's on your garden planning agendas this year?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    You can eat tender asparagus shoots raw right out of the garden, too, so Junior may really like those as well as sugar snap peas.

    I am thinking of planting some ferns along the shady part of my fence line. They have some that grow to 7 feet ... which would be nice for blocking out the view of my new neighbors' yard.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I love this thread.

    Last year I doubled my asparagus path to about 30 crowns. We have a debate here about whether the thick or thin stalks are better tasting. I favor the thin ones, sauted in harlic and olive oil or roasted over coals.

    Some of the new plants I will try this year are ground cherries, eggplant, and paprika peppers, provided I can find the seeds. I also made the choice to relocate the pumpkins and squash to an unused corner of the yard, freeing up more space in the garden for other vegetables. I am doubling the tomatoes, sugar snap peas, spinach, and herbs.

    Last year I planted three serviceberry bushes, a cherry tree, and a plum tree. It is too soon to expect fruit, but hopefully in another year. This year I will add an apricot and pear.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Speaking of fruit, I forgot to report that the three blueberry roots (and two 2 yr old transplants) we planted a couple years ago appeared to be doing a little better last fall. They got off to a very slow start (due partly to critters and partly to soil). Even the 2 yr transplants yielded a mere handful of berries last year. I somehow expected more. I tried to add pine mulch last spring to up the acidity, but it did not seem to be doing the trick so I broke down and added some commercial soil acidifier around a couple of the plants and that seemed to make a measurable impact. The bushes grew enough near the tail end of the year that I'm confident we'll see more than a handful from those plants, probably another year, though before we can expect much from the root plantings.

    Raspberries: well, I had to remove the old bush last year. I didnt plant it, it was probably over 30 yrs old, never maintained, and frankly had demonstrated declining production over the past several years. Not sure what I'll do with the space now. Serviceberry, you say, Cardinal? hmmm...

    Strawberries: I have to admit I did not weed as well as I should have, and managed to lose several plants due to this neglect last summer. The remaining 18 or so plants should, however, be ready to go great guns this year and I will endeavor to be more diligent in weeding that area this year. I hope to have enough for some jam. We did harvest a couple quarts of strawberries last fall (and probably lost that amount to critters too), which was pure bonus for a first year planting, this year my hopes for strawberries are raised.

    Fruit can be so darned expensive and you just know the prices are going to skyrocket once economic recovery really gets going and gas prices shoot up to the stratosphere, thereby increasing the transport costs of fruit as well. This is one area where the economics of home gardening can shine.

    You know who we should coerce with lots of peer pressure into experimenting with growing fruit is TerraSapient (c'mon, what are you chicken?...afraid of a little lemon tree?....). Hawaii's gotta rock when it comes to growing tropical fruits. Her apartment mgr should let her grow some little potted citrus trees (I wonder if you can grow pineapples in containers?...).

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    Cyburbian TerraSapient's avatar
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    Funny you mention it Maister, I have been doing some experimenting and researching for container gardening in Hawaii recently. Yes, you can grow pineapple out of a container, though I have never seen these plants yield very large fruits and my outdoor space is rather limited. Though, I have been speaking with my landlady and now have the official thumbs up to convert some of the grass in front of our apartment into landscaping. So, I am going to opt for some ornamental and some edible plants. I want to plant some ginger and pineapple and possible a papaya or two. The Buddhist Monk ladies across the street grow limes, so I am hoping to trade some of my papayas and ginger for limes with them.

    So far, I have a few container plants started, with mixed results. I have a Thai hot pepper plant that is doing relatively well, though I think I need to change the soil that it is in. It may be holding too much moisture. My Italian Basil and my Thai Basil both seem too woody, and the Thai Basil is barely producing. I killed my tomato plant I have never had a hard time with tomatoes before. Usually, they just grow and grow and grow and I have so many tomatoes that I am begging my neighbors to take some, but clearly growing tomatoes in Hawaii is not the same as growing them in Ohio, so I need to figure out where I went wrong and try again. On the bright side, my aloe varieties are doing well!

    I have never grown food in containers before. I clearly have a lot to learn. I would be happy to try some fruits for you, but most fruit producing plants that grow in the tropics tend to be very large, so they may not be appropriate for containers.

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    I just found a blog about container gardening in Hawaii, perhaps there's some useful info? Oh, and here's a whole book on this very topic.

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    Cyburbian Plus dandy_warhol's avatar
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    TerraS, I think you should try to grow some mangoes in your container garden. I will be happy to sample them and report back on their quality.


    Sadly, I think the backyard gardens have officially be turned over to the dogs. It is too frustrating to see them destroy anything that I plant so with the exception of a small corner garden where I've planted some of my grandpa's garlic, the backyard will continue to be neglected.

    Last year I drastically increased the size of our front flower bed. My coworker graciously offered to let me dig up a number of her lamb's ear, lilies, and siberian iris. They seemed to survive last summer so we'll see how they do this summer. My gardening budget will be drastically reduced to compensate for an increase to the travel budget. I think my only expenditures will be for mulch. I might upgrade the mulch as the current hardwood selection gets quite washed out and cement-like by the time August rolls around.

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    Cyburbian TerraSapient's avatar
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    Thanks Maister. I was actually looking over her blog recently. Still on the fence about the book, but I suppose it is time to take the plunge and cough up the $15 ahihihi. My biggest roadblock has been figuring out when to plant things. There are essentially two growing seasons here, Ho'oilo (winter) and Kau Wela (summer). Maybe that trusty book with offer some tips.

    Edit: Dandy, we have tons of mangoes growing in my neighborhood! Upwards of a dozen varieties, actually. They grow on GIANT trees though and mango tree owners are particularly feisty about people five-finger discounting their goodies. Maybe if I can harvest some papaya and ginger, I will have some goodies to trade.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Any suggestions on unusual vegetables to plant? I always seem to enjoy them.

    Maister, I am going to have to try blueberries. Like yours, my past attempts have not done well. Maybe the soils at this house will be more amenable. With all of the limestone in the ground I doubt it, though. Maybe if I plant them next to the spruce trees?
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  10. #10
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal View post
    Any suggestions on unusual vegetables to plant? I always seem to enjoy them.
    I'm toying with trying this one

    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    Maister, I am going to have to try blueberries. Like yours, my past attempts have not done well. Maybe the soils at this house will be more amenable. With all of the limestone in the ground I doubt it, though. Maybe if I plant them next to the spruce trees?
    I am not an expert in blueberries, but have learned some hard lessons I'm happy to pass along. First and foremost I would make sure your soil is amended before planting. Yes, get the ph down to 5.0 first and then plant your blueberries so you're not mucking around with ph levels while trying to get your plants established. The second thing is to keep them away from any trees. Nutrient/water sucking trees are evil. The third thing to do (that I should have done more of) is to ensure the vegetation around the blueberry plants is thoroughly removed and mulched over. Grass growing too close to the shallow blueberry roots will compete with blueberries for water and nutrients and put a hurt on brand new plants. Make sure you've got at least a 24" diameter area cleared and mulched (and using an acidic mulch like pine bark is not a bad idea either). Last, blueberries are thirsty plants and will definitely need frequent watering. Don't be stingy with water (collected rain water is ideal)

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    I'm toying with trying this one
    I love celeriac / celery root / German celery. It is one of the obscure ingredients for the turkey stuffing recipe my great grandparents brought over from Europe a century ago. Since I do not put a whole celery root in the stuffing I had to figure out what to do with the rest. We do use it in soup instead of regular celery. It is also wonderful when sauteed with other vegetables. Try German celery and brussels sprouts sauteed in butter with garlic. Another favorite is celeriac, potatoes, and onions sauteed, then add paprika a minute or two before takinbg them off the stove.

    I have tried growing celery root from seed packets without any luck. I may try again, especially if I am able to find roots/plants.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    I put in a plug last year for Johnny's Seeds because I thought they did more than any other company to educate. Looks like they're upping their game once again. Check it out.... an indoor seed planting/transplant calculator, just type in your last frost date and viola! The exact day to plant.

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    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal View post
    Any suggestions on unusual vegetables to plant? I always seem to enjoy them.

    Maister, I am going to have to try blueberries. Like yours, my past attempts have not done well. Maybe the soils at this house will be more amenable. With all of the limestone in the ground I doubt it, though. Maybe if I plant them next to the spruce trees?
    I think the trick with blueberries is to amend the soil with peat moss, cow manure, and pine needles before you plant, preferrably for a couple of seasons. Then you have to keep mulching to maintain soil acidity. A lot of the Amish farmers who grow blueberries in this area mulch with saw dust from the local Amish sawmills.

  14. #14
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    PlannerGirl's post elsewhere reminded me that last fall we planted dozens of daffodil, tulip, crocus, and some other kind of bulbs - I forget what - that will greet us come spring time. I do enjoy the first signs of spring and crocuses and daffodils are among the first.

    One other thing we started doing, pulling our tulip bulbs out after they're done flowering in early summer so they'll continue to flower well next spring (otherwise the bulbs only flower a couple years before they poop out).

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    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    I keep it pretty small and simple.

    Tomatos
    Cucumbers
    Peppers

    I consider myself a novice when it comes to gardening. I typically don't pay too much attention to the soil and fertilizers, but this year I will.

    I was surprised at how much space cucumber plants take over.

    For some reason, I've been really successful at growing cherry tomatos, but not so much luck with the larger varieties.

    That's all for now. I generally hate when it rains, but when that rain is helping to melt snow, I'm all for it!!!!
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

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    Cyburbian ursus's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by btrage View post
    I keep it pretty small and simple.

    Tomatos
    Cucumbers
    Peppers

    I consider myself a novice when it comes to gardening. I typically don't pay too much attention to the soil and fertilizers, but this year I will.
    Novice doesn't begin to describe what a novice I am. But I've got a small garden plot now and I grow (or try to grow) only tomato, peppers, squash and pumpkins.

    I also have grape vines and a peach tree. Good peaches, but I don't do anything to deserve them.
    "...I would never try to tick Hink off. He kinda intimidates me. He's quite butch, you know." - Maister

  17. #17
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    What kind of tomatoes are you all growing this year? I'm definitely going with Sweet 100's (cherry), Roma, and Better Boys.

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    Cyburbian ursus's avatar
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    Our springs are almost colder here than our winters are, so I don't get an early start. I buy plants (not seeds) and I usually buy Better Boys and Early Girls. I've liked the Better Boys more. I may try these other varieties you've mentioned. Which are your favorites? Romas are the "sauce" ones, right?
    "...I would never try to tick Hink off. He kinda intimidates me. He's quite butch, you know." - Maister

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Romas are a smallish type of tomato. Quite firm and not very juicy. They're good for putting in sandwiches and salads.

    Folks that are serious about their tomatoes like to grow early (like Early Girl), mid season (Beefsteak, Big boy), and late season (Ace, Wonderboy, and lots of heirloom varieties), so they can enjoy tomatoes year round for lots of different cooking/meal purposes

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    Cyburbian Plus dandy_warhol's avatar
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    Although it is still a few months away, I'm looking forward to the ground thawing and flower shoots poking their heads through the ground. I can't wait to see if the perennials I planted last year survived and how they look. I planted a bunch of lamb's ear, irises, daylily, hydrangeas, and something else that I can't remember now.

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    Cyburbian Plus Salmissra's avatar
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    I let my front flower beds go straight to he!! last year, so I have a lot of work to do this spring. Once the painter is done with the outside, I think I'm going to have to rent a tiller from the hardware store and just clear it all. Only the shrubs will be left standing! Then I will plant some native annuals, and probably some perinnials by the railing.

    In the back, different story. Need to get lots of shrubs removed, since they didn't survive the week of ice and snow. Not a big problem - some of them were on borrowed time, anyway. I still have lots of groundcover I don't like, so I'll get hubby to trim it down. Then it's time to actually plant something back there that is meant to be there.
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    Cyburbian Emeritus Bear Up North's avatar
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    Katie has been talking about doing a garden again. When we first moved into our place in Swanton we did a fairly large garden. But after a couple years we moved on to other things and the gardens went away. Additionally, this Bear was on a prohibition from sticking my hands in dirt (for a couple years after the bone marrow transplant).

    Now I am ready to join Katie and "get dirty".

    Likely candidates will be tomatoes (a few different types), peppers, and cukes. NW Ohio soil is among the best in the world.....it was known as "The Great Black Swamp" (before settlers developed methodologies to "ditch" the water).

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  23. #23
    Cyburbian ursus's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    Folks that are serious about their tomatoes like to grow early (like Early Girl), mid season (Beefsteak, Big boy), and late season (Ace, Wonderboy, and lots of heirloom varieties), so they can enjoy tomatoes year round for lots of different cooking/meal purposes
    Alright, I'm upping my tomato game this year and planting for the seasons. Like John Denver said, there's only two things that money can't buy; true love and home-grown tomatoes.
    "...I would never try to tick Hink off. He kinda intimidates me. He's quite butch, you know." - Maister

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    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    On our visit to CA in Jan, RJ's sis gave him a pack of spring mix seeds after he admired her garden. That means I got to get the Jiffy pack, start the seeds, transplant the seeds, etc. That said, they are doing fine in two pots by the pool.

    Also by the pool, we have a bush tomato, oregano, the spring mix, the 2 yr old dwarf pomegranate, and a bunch of new day lilies and agapanthus.

    In the yard, we have a lime, a lemon, 2 blueberries, lots of bulbs and sunflowers (for the butterlies and birds). In the "garden" plot, 4 new kiwis, a strawberry that somehow managed to survive the winter in a pot by the pool, a tomatillo, cayenne and banana peppers, and a bunch of flowers. We'll be getting a bell pepper soon, too.

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    I found out you can cut hydrangeas down to the nub in the fall and they'll spring right back the next year.

    Last weekend I got my green peppers, parsley, tomatoes, and Mrs. Maister's petunias started indoors. The parsley probably got started a little late, but I grew so much last year I don't think it'll matter much.

    I notice the birdies/critters saw fit to spread my strawberry plants into my raised beds 10 feet away....I'm torn, I don't like the thought of getting rid of one of my favorite plants, but their spacing is not optimal, plus I was looking to add a little more peat to the beds and that'll be difficult working around the plants. I'll probably end up having to rip 'em out

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