Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Projects

Summer always dawns with a to do-list rivaling any New Year resolution. Summer has yet to dawn... in fact we were caroling in the car earlier today as the snow fell in huge flakes on the way to the swimming pool. Its dreadfully cold at the moment. Sure its not far below freezing, but maybe the wetness makes it cling.

Conceived over years other on whim these are the projects I've given some thought to.

Curbside beds - Thought up last year after watching the last of the last of the grass in them die. I don't care for gravel filled beds, but curb appeal calls for something more than sparse weed cover. Already under way, this project will involve widely placed stepping stones, planted almost flush with the dirt, with walkable poor soil tolerant drought hardy wildlife friendly ground cover. Namely a few varieties of thyme and sedum, though some natives might find their way in if I discover some to fit the bill. Also I'll be planting a few taller specimens between each tree. Maybe lavender, sage, and low bush wild blueberries. (Though me brother pointed out... "Won't dogs pee on them?" Definitely something for considerations : / )

East Side path - The utility side of our house, formerly a 4-5ft tall weed grass stand/storage place for everything from old lumber to my uncles paddle boat. Getting new neighbors we thought it would be nice to clean it up so we started last year. This year I want to make a space of it, paving a stone path through it, blocking the neighbors view all together with clematis on a trellis, and maybe throwing in a bench. Sure looking at the air conditioning unit isn't ideal... but it might be shady in the afternoon and with some plants and a book it could be swell. Already stuck a currant bush there last summer.

Frog Pond - My dream. We used to have a real frog pond. Huge natural one that sadly collected random garbage from clueless people and was filled in to make way for trailer houses that STILL haven't actually come in. No sense live and let live in the interim... at any rate, I sorely miss the chorus of Chorus Frogs(sorry...) and the mud puppies and tadpoles and all sorts of amazing life that existed there. I want to bring it back. Even at the cost of more mosquitoes. A frog friendly native plant filled habitat, maybe with a little water trickle sound... is what I want.

West Side bed - The bed of perpetual death. This dirt can take prolonged hose blasts and not break down. I've amended it with organic stuff. Mother has too before... frankly I cant guarantee anything to grow... But I'm calling in the survivors. Wild flowers and sunflowers. Mostly natives. Something should figure out how to grow there. And if it can reseed itself and come back next year? All the better. Naturalized plantings, the way to go.

Shade Tree -My room claims the only window on the west facing wall. It bakes all summer long, just like the death bed below it. A shade tree in that side of our yard would do wonders. Maybe even lowering cooling costs, or one day making my room a inhabitable environment during daylight hours. Who knows! I love the shape of the big slow growing nut trees like Black Walnut, or maybe Oak, but they are slow growing. And I fear the toxicity and ground litter of the walnut... but their shape is gorgeous! And I love nuts.

Hedge - This one is long conceived but struggling. I need to define the property before I can grow a hedge. Living next to an inaccurately curved dirt road, I have no clue where the sidewalk will be, so its difficult to plan fences, hedges, walls or trees. A dogwood hedge would add some privacy though... perhaps not the best for water conservancy.

Dry Stone Wall - I've always loved them, but this idea is this year. Having a puppy is making me long for a fence. Fences require supplies and wood and things I don't have, but stone I do. A lovely gray stone wall might be just enough to discourage mad dashes and some curious wanderings of small puppies. Would add some privacy... and frankly their just cool. Like living in a castle or Victorian witch's house cool.

And maybe something involving a sort of raised bed thing in the front to add some vertical interest in the front yard and cut down lawn. Lawn which is slowly but steadily dying in the heat and dryness. We'll see after it gets hot and the vegetable garden gets going and I inevitably sign up for another play that fills the best dang gardening hours of the day. We will see.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

You Make My Heart Sing

I love wild iris. Maybe more then I love the huge blooms of the more domesticated types. I love how small and delicate they are. How they quietly paint a field lavender and blue with their whisper soft blooms. I love how they run by our highway, making the landscape a little less bleak.I don't usually plant flowers. If I cant eat it, its not worth much time to me. If it doesn't reseed itself and out preform the weeds with admirable vigor, it gets pushed aside. Bulbs? To much work. Yet I think someday, I'd like to plant some wild iris and hope that it would grace my presence with its ethereal flowers.

The photo by Jim Frazier.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Sveet Korn

Corn, one might think, would be an excellent crop to save seeds from. Each ear you save, the product of but one seed, spawning hundreds of other plants. Just dry, save, and plant. No fermenting, no refrigeration. Heck, the seeds are huge. Down right ergonomic compared to spec sized chamomile. The only one easier might be beans, but that's another story.

Corn would be a wonderful seed saving opportunity. If it wasn't all hybrid. If you even so much as plant two varieties, corn can go south. Planting saved seeds? Oh you better believe it'll be trouble! Every seed its very own plant, crazy varieties mostly unusable.

Normally I'd just find a good heirloom or open pollinated variety. With corn, however, its a little more complicated. Ignoring that hybrids produce more, they have other traits that keep me hooked.

For one, my family - and I must admit, myself - really enjoy the sugary super sweet hybrids. They're the kind you must isolate to avoid feed corn, even the first year. They're reamed by true corn aficionados for lacking distinct texture or true corn flavor. They're expensive seeds with low germination rates, but I love the sweetness. I'm trying "Maple Sugar" from Burpee's this year. You get the idea. I'm afraid real corn wont be eaten with such gusto and enjoyment, regardless of possible health issues.

With almost all vegetables, "the fresher the better," is the mantra. Picked this morning from the garden... thats how you want it. With heirloom corn it goes beyond a preference. With heirloom corn, its a race. From the moment you pick the ear of corn, its delicate sugars are turning to starches. Two hours they cede, is an acceptable grace period between picking and cooking, but in the same breath they demand 30 minutes or less for their own corn. Hybrids stablize this, giving you days to a week for your corn to stay sweet in its raw state. I dont know that we truely have the forthought to cook our corn as quickly as heirlooms wish, to retain their best flavor.

All this aside... I'm planting three types of corn this year, call me crazy. Sun and Stars, a super sweet from Burpee's, I've heard has excellent flavor as far as sh2 corn goes. Being a slave to some marketing schemes, I'm also trying a pack of Maple Sugar from them as well. I mean... think of grilled buttery maple sugar tasting corn on the cob, all smokey nutty and deep. And after all, you can plant sh2 corn together. I think. I've read it somewhere at least.

And to get into the spirit... I'm planting a third variety. Blue Jade Baby corn, from Seed Savers Exchange, caught my eye last year, with its steely blue ears, but by then it was sold out. This year I ordered early and already have my pack of seeds in my box. I hope to try this variety as a taste test, novelty, and, if it passes, a seed saving heirloom corn of my own. I seem to have the impression that it wont taste as good as some more standard heirlooms, so I may try others in the future, but I'm hopeful.

As for isolating it from my hybrids and my hybrids from it? I'll plant the blue corn 3 weeks or so earlier. Supersweets are notoriously bad at germinating in cool weather, so it will give the ground some time to warm up for them. Likewise, standard corns tend to do better in cool weather. They all have a range simmilar day till maturity. The sh2 types 78 and 80 respectively, and the heirloom a less pradictable 70-80 day range. Planting the blue jade 2-3 weeks earlier should take care of difference, especially if it tassles in the early range. I hope this way I wont have to bag the tassels and hand pollinate the blue corn, but one does what one must. And on the bright side, this town can be hot and dry. Bad news for traveling pollen.

People complain that corn is a space hog, and here I have three types picked out! Just do do my part, I'll be sure to post some creative commons pics of my blue corn on flikr, for anyone else who wants a picture for their blog. >.<

They're Here!

I've decided for the year of 2009 what tomatoes will grow in the garden. Well... that I hope will grow in the garden. Its easier said than done...

Anyway the tomato varieties are as followed, the first five seeds purchased from Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply.

Paul Robeson - Black variety that one best of show once. Described as having "luscious, earthy, exotic flavors and good acid/sweet balance". I saw a lot of people recomending it or trying it so I wanted to jump on bord.

Kellogs Breakfast - A really big yellow one! Thought it would be kind of a stretch for me. It was top ten of one of Tomato Fest's Tomato Fests! It says it has a fantastic sweet/tangy flavor. And so we'll see. At least if it grows I'll be sure to recongize it!

Ananas Noir - The Black Pineapple! A Belgian heirloom with a French name who's flavor description on includes this tantalizing hopeful peice of rhetoric, "rich and delicious, full-bodied, sweet & smokey flavors with a whollop of acidity". You see its the acidity whollop I'm hoping for. I like tart tomatoes! And that completely drove the mater choices last year. Hopefully this one'll pull through.

Black Krim - My first black tomato, planted it last year. The only one of all 5 types I could identify. Very tasty flavor... which I cant really remember now... but I liked it. And it was very pretty too. And productive.

Stupice - Another favorite from last year... that is, if this is the one I think it is. I mean... I completely lost track of everything last year. Except the black krim. So... Fingers crossed! Its supposed to be very tangy with good tomato flavor. A red Czechoslovakian Heirloom!

Early Girl - Purchased as a plant from a local place. Probably Bi-Mart who takes TERRIBLE care of their plants, but they're cheap and easy to pick up cuz we shop their alot. These are the tomatoes of my childhood grown by my father as the "only ones that grow". And they do produce wonderfully, and I enjoy their bright clean tangy flavor.

(And maybe I'll sneak something else if its at the nursury. Shhh! Don't tell!) So thats at least 3 black tomatoes! And I was eyeing another two! And a yellow(two if you count the cherry), which I think I'm biased against. Only two reds. So thats what comes from picking randomly from 500+ varieties on the tomato fest website....

And for peppers... mostly from the Seed Savers Exchange

Beaver Dam! - Exylent flavor and mild hot in discripton (and beautiful color)A hungarian heirloom brought to Beaver Dam, Wisconsin in 1929 by the Joe Hussli family. They also made it onto the US Arc of Taste list for the Wisconsin region. I'm not sure the best ways to use it, but well try it out. And if its good? A great thanks to the Hussli family!

Chervena Chushka - Bulgarian heirloom traditionally used for roasting, or so the discription says which is why I picked it. It had the shape and use I was looking for. It says it has a very sweet pepper flavor, almost candy-like, which I'm a little put off by, but we'll see.

Sheepsnose Pimento - Bought one once. Look georgous, smelled great. It rotted before I got around to using it. I planted it last year... the deer stepped on the one plant, then possibly the dog stepped on it just to be sure it was dead. It even had green lil fruits on it. This year, maybe one will survive? It also made the Arc of Taste list in Ohio. Go figure. I pick em good.

Green/Rainbow Bells - I dont even know what varietes on these. The ranbow mix ones I got from Gurney's last year and maybe a pack of green organics from the store? These ones always actually get used! Salsa... and everything else.

Jalepeno - Might just by some plants on these ones, just to simplify stuff. Salsa... and this year I want to fill them with cheese and grill em! Oh, and maybe piclke some!

Purple Macaroni : (if I can refind last years seed packs. I never really got around to frying them : /

So there you are. This post took forever. And I haven't even started rambling about my secret corn and bean heirloom/open pollination trials, or english cucumbers red currants and musk strawberries! Soon my dears, soon. It will be an exciting year... if I dont let it all die once it gets hot. >.>

I Did It

This marks the emancipation of Two Blocks and its readers from the threatening tyranny of coming rants, musings, tirades, theories, and dreams of garden nature.

Hooray and be free!