Seed Start Schedule

February 1, 2011

For those of you who are confused as to when to start, transplant and harvest your seed-started plants, don’t despair!  I’ve jimmied together an automatic seed starting schedule that will calculate it all for you.  All you need is to enter your last spring frost and your first fall frost.

You can download the document here: Seed Starting Chart


Free Tomato Plants!

June 16, 2010

Sales are over and the season is getting on.  Anyone interested in free heirloom tomato plants can get in touch with me by email. Not sure what I’ve got left exactly though there is a variety of stuff.

I’ll only be available this Thursday, Friday and Saturday.


I’ve set my tomato plant sale dates for Saturday, May 22 and Sunday May 23 from 9 AM to 3 PM on the Victoria Day long weekend.

I’m selling them for $3.50 each or 3 for $10.

Here’s a list of the different types I have:

Amish Paste
Andrew Rahart’s Jumbo Red
Aunt Ginny’s Purple
Black Cherry
Black from Tula
Black Krim
Black Plum
Cherokee Purple
Cosmonaut Volkov
Crnkovic Yugoslavian
Eva Purple Ball
German Red Strawberry
Gold Rush Currant
Green Zebra
Jaune Flameé
JD’s Special C-Tex
Martino’s Roma
Matt’s Wild Cherry
Mexico Midget
Paul Robeson
Purple Russian
Red Brandywine
Red Penna
Red Zebra
Sapho F1
Sara’s Galapagos
Snow White
Sweet Pea Current
Tommy Toe (red)

Please EMAIL ME if you have any questions about the tomatoes or pick-up. Thanks for stopping by!

I realize that my choice of words for pre-pre-orders and pre-orders was pretty crappy.  Here’s my attempt at correcting any misunderstandings.  There are two sales this year:

Buy a Seed to be Sown for You Sale
This is the pre-pre-order that closed on March 20th (yeah, dumb name but it was all I could think of at the time).  My thought was that people who really knew what they wanted early in the year could tell me and I would sow a seed for them that they could buy as a seedling later on.  These pre-ordered seeds would be sown at the same time as I normally sow seeds for my tomato plant sale (see next).

Buy a Seedling Sale
This is the pre-order that I had last year.  I’ve started about 50 different types of tomatoes (a lot of red-coloured tomatoes as well as cherries) and I have about 400 seedlings.  If you can believe it, I’ve scaled back from last year when I had 800 seedlings.  These seedlings will be available for purchase mid-May, after I’ve hardened them off.

Details of the Buy a Seedling Sale will be posted soon and people who are interested can email me with their selections for pick-up in mid-May.

In the meantime, here are my little seedlings in the garage:

DIY Low Tunnel Hoops

April 21, 2010

So I’ve been really into the idea of extending the gardening season as well as protecting my cabbages, Brussels sprouts and broccoli from the dreaded white butterfly.  I’ve been scouring the interwebs for a good project to take ideas from and ended up at Johnny’s Selected Seeds Quick Hoops Bender.  Cool tool, eh?  It’s also a cool $69 plus $32.45 for shipping.  At just over $100 US, I couldn’t justify buying it and shipping it to Canada to only make a few hoops.  I set myself to finding a do-it-yourself (DIY) solution.

When I first tackled this project I thought 3/4″ PVC pipe was the way to go.  I’ve worked with it before when building props for Halloween (my other hobby) and I was used to the fittings and cutting of pipe, etc.  After reading blogs and posts from different gardeners who’ve built their own low tunnel hoop houses, I realized that the PVC would be too fragile to overwinter in my cold climate.  If I was going to build something, why not build something that will last?

Enter  electrical metallic tubing (EMT), a.k.a. galvanized electrical conduit.  These metal pipes are used to run electrical wiring in houses.  All the sites I’ve read (US sites, I should add) mention how a 3/4″ – 10′ length of EMT only costs about $2.  Great, I thought, this will be a cheap experiment.  Checking my local hardware store, I found out the same pipe costs $8.48.  I looked online at Lowe’s USA and found their price was $3.27, a whopping 2.6 times cheaper than here in Canada (btw, 1/2″ pipe up here is $4.98 and $1.87 down there. Ugh.).  I decided the next trip across the border would have to include a stop to Lowes.

In the meantime, I needed to find a way to bend the EMT without the use of the Quick Hoops Bender or a pipe bender – a handy pipe-bending tool that I don’t have and don’t want to purchase.  The problem would be to create the arc that the 10′ pipe would need to have so that the ends of the pipe would have a 4′ distance.  Basically, I was trying to figure out how to recreate the pipe in this photo.

To start my experiment, I bought one 1/2″ EMT, one 3/4″ EMT and one 3/4″ PVC pipe, all in our high Canadian prices.

Reviewing the Quick Hoops Bender manual (PDF), revealed that each hoop was to be extended 16″ beyond the end of the bender, i.e., there would be 16″ of straight EMT on either ends of the pipe.  I pounded scrap rebar into the ground until it was at a height of 16 inches:

I pounded another piece of scrap rebar into the ground 4′ away:

I took my 3/4″ PVC bendy pipe and stuck the ends on the rebar:

Stepping back, I had a 10′ long and 4′ diameter arc!

It’s not as perfect-looking as the Johnny’s picture but I didn’t care.  I dragged out a large piece of scrap plywood and placed it behind the pipe:

I took a Sharpie and traced the inside of the arc onto the plywood:

My next step will be to drill screws at 18″ intervals along the line to create a jig around which to bend the pipe.  Having two different diameter pipe will help me figure out which one is more suitable for this experiment.  Once I’ve got a few hoops made, I can then put them in my garden and cover it with remay to protect all my brassicas.


Sad Satellite Garden

April 15, 2010

Recently I had a look at the satellite garden.  It looks pretty sad:

Mostly it’s the encroaching grass and weeds that are depressing  as it’s going to take a lot of work to get it prepared.

There was a couple of interesting items to be seen, like overwintered garlic from last spring:

And some overwintered leeks that I had forgotten about:

I decided to try taking stem cuttings of some of the plants that I bought at Richters.  Here’s what I used:

  • assorted plants from Richters for cuttings
  • really sharp scissors
  • Root-A-Maker natural rooting powder from Richters
  • Wilson’s Roots liquid root stimulator from Lee Valley Tools
  • cut up vinyl mini blinds for plant markers
  • a flat of 9-cell trays filled with damp germinating mix
  • a clear dome
  • a water sprayer
  • a seed spoon from Lee Valley Tools used as a dibble
  • a Sharpie
  • two small bowls

I’ve never properly propagated stem cuttings before.  My process before this adventure was to put a stem cutting in a glass jar with some water, hoped it developed roots and then stick it in some soil.  With all these new herb plants I decided to make the process more formal, even throwing in a good test on top of that: which would root stem cuttings better, powder or gel?

I gathered my supplies:

Read through my propagation book to make sure I was doing it right:

There was a lot to go through, especially the different types of cuttings: greenwood, softwood, semiripe, hardwood, conifer, cane, leaf petiole, leaf vein, upright leaf, monocot leaf and root.  I realized that I wouldn’t be able to propagate all of the plants by cuttings, especially the Society garlic.  At some point, after flipping back and forth through the book, I decided to just take cuttings of different plants and see which ones rooted.  Of course I couldn’t just root something, I had throw in a test between two different rooting products:

The powder on the left was chalky and the gel on the right smelled funny.  I put a bit of each into separate small bowls so as to not contaminate the main supply.

For each cutting I made sure that it was a minimum two inches long with at least one inch of stem.  Here’s a shot of a zaatar cutting where I snipped off the lower set of leaves:

I took the cutting and dipped it into the gel:

And dibbled a hole in one of the cells of the tray and put the stem into it.  I gently tamped the soil so that it would have good contact with the gelled stem.  For each plant I did three cuttings with gel and three cuttings with powder (the powdered zaatar isn’t shown).  I labeled each cutting with the plant name and if I had used powder or gel.

The whole process took a while as I needed to select a good stem to cut and be gentle with each.  Here’s a finished tray of both gel and powdered cuttings:

There’s zaatar, Greek oregano, Rex rosemary, Piss Off plant, hummingbird sage and mojito mint.  I was so happy with finally taking cuttings (I’ve been meaning to do this experiment for years) that I experimented with a few more:

That’s pineapple sage, BBQ rosemary and variegated marjoram.

I watered and spritzed the cuttings with my water sprayer and put a clear dome over it.  I placed them out of direct sunlight on a table.  So far none have wilted and died so I’m hoping that the cuttings have started to root.  I’m so excited about the idea of making more plants that I’m going to take some more stem cuttings.  Not only will I have more plants, the main plant that I’m taking the cuttings from won’t be spindly and will be forced to bush out, creating a healthier plant.  Woo.