Sunday, February 22, 2015

Pruning Blueberries

Despite all of the snow and rain we got yesterday, it's that time of year to start thinking about pruning your blueberries.  I could write several long paragraphs showing before and after slides, but that really wouldn't explain all of the finer points.  Because my planting was made in 1986, I have mostly mature plants and mature plants are pruned differently from new plantings, 4 year plantings, etc.  So suffice it to say, rather than type, I an going to turn to an great blueberry pruning video I found on the Oregon State University's Extension website.  It is about a 20 minute long, but it covers how to prune all ages of plantings and even pruning for mechanical harvesting, which I'm sure none of us will use.

When your finished watching this video you will be ready to tackle your high bush blueberries.



635 pages of treasure: the Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook

I joined Seed Savers Exchange because I support their mission to conserve and promote America's diverse food crop heritage. I do get a little discount when I order from their catalog (you can also order if you're not a member), and it's beautiful to look through, but the real fun - and the real membership benefit, even if you never take advantage of it - comes with the arrival of the Yearbook.

This is the listing of all the seeds that SSE members are offering for sale, the "Exchange" part of the organization's name. These are all open-pollinated, mostly heirloom seeds that gardeners across the country (and in other countries as well) have saved from plants grown in controlled conditions so they stay true to type. No pretty photos in this inexpensively-printed paperback, just 635 pages of seeds listed by category, plus instructions for ordering. (The Exchange now also has an online version.)

I don't actually order from the Yearbook frequently. It arrives in mid-February when I've already made my seed orders for the year, have been to a couple of seed swaps, and have realized that even given I'm collecting for two gardens, I have way too many seeds in stock. And since I'm not a "listing member" (though maybe someday I'll save enough seed for that to happen) the small packets cost $4-5 each. But it's still tempting - and it's also the way to find that one offbeat variety of seed that you've been searching for since your grandmother grew it, or else just to acquire something for your garden that none of your friends and neighbors will have.

Since it's the Year of Beans and Peas, let's peek at a few legume descriptions. I'm leaving out the quaintly coded information showing who is offering the seed and where they got it from in the first place, but both of those are an essential part of SSE parlance. If I listed I would be "MD SM E."

  • MOLASSES FACE. 90+ days. First dry pods in 95 days. Viney sprawling plants. Rounded green pods produce plump oval white seeds with a large yellow circular patch around the eye.
  • GOLDEN LIMA. 119 days to first dry pods. Plants climb to about 6 feet. Although it has lima in its name, it is not a lima. Flattened seeds of pinkish orange speckled and streaked with a darker orange color.
  • ZONA UPCHURCH GOOSE. Similar to Ohio Pole (both Appalachian) but seeds smaller and pod skinnier. Fine purple speckles concentrated at one end of the cream seed. Very late to mature but fairly productive. 60 seeds per plant, in full sun planted late. Not all ripe by frost. Hard to shell, tough and leathery. Lots of size variation in that some seed are twice the size of others. Might do better in a longer hotter summer.
  • BAGUETTE. 55 days, a great filet bean, excellent flavor, very prolific in 2005, were served at several dinner parties and universally acclaimed, also prolific in 2006 even with severe insect pressure, a very late but abundant crop 2009, great crop again in 2013 - slightly abused due to lack of water but recovered once again in fine style, naturally grown.
  • SHWI PEH. 60 days. Snow pea with purple flowers, excellent taste, produces for months. Plants are spindly looking but produce copious quantities. Obtained from a farm woman from a small village in the Inle Lake region of Burma.
  • LOLLAND RAISIN. The most renowned Danish gray or soup pea. Semi-leafless, i.e. no small leaves, just tendrils. Light smoky foliage and lovely bicolored flowers. Early, plants 36-50 inches, support each other until the pods fill out. Very tasty in recipes with bacon or smoked ham - they don't cook down as much as split peas so "soup" is misleading, more like stew. Grown on the Danish island of Lolland in the 1800s and shipped to Copenhagen, where it was both the working man's protein and a delicacy for the rich.
And so forth! Not to mention the mystery varieties given insufficient description for their intriguing names, like beans GROUND SQUIRREL and ETHNIC ECSTASY. Just paging through the catalog on a snowy day is entertaining, even if you don't find yourself reaching for a pencil to mark possibilities. Maybe I'll grow some of these next year...

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Seedlings are love

Ip Ssam Hong Chinese cabbage

Happy Valentine's Day! It's so nice to have some seedlings growing under lights again. So nice that I probably planted way too much cabbage at the beginning of the month, but isn't that always the way? More greens to come soon!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Links for February reading

Got your vegetable-related reading, here, for when the temperatures drop again.

from Wikipedia
Kudzu bugs are spreading into our region. Unfortunately they like soybeans nearly as much as kudzu. And they will overwinter in your house.

10 Superfoods Healthier Than Kale. #1 makes great salads, though it's harder to grow than kale.

Margaret Roach is rethinking her vegetable seed-shopping rules after the arrival of a great farmstand nearby.

5 Places to Grow Urban Food. Just make sure you're getting your soil tested.

Vegetable purees are trendy and fun to make, but there are some rules and techniques associated with their preparation. I found this guide to veggie purees while doing my own research. It doesn't really answer my questions about balancing taste (though I think my celeriac and carrot puree needs potatoes) but it's useful advice.

How Marie Antoinette gave prestige to the potato (with a recipe). I will have to try wearing potato flowers in my hair.

Also in a historical vein: a gardening manual owned by Henry VIII goes on display (in Britain, sorry). Gosh, I wish we'd known during the Year of the Cucurbit that "squash will bear fruit after nine days if planted in the ashes of human bone and watered with oil."

Finally, a very lovely Flickr album of fruits and vegetables with lights inside. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Register now: Montgomery County Master Gardeners' Spring Conference

The Montgomery County Master Gardeners present their annual Spring Gardening Conference on February 21 - a whole day of learning for a low price! Sign up now before it's full - this Eventbrite link will get you to registration information and a full schedule of events.

You'll have a choice of classes for each of three sessions, plus informal lunchtime talks. The Grow It Eat It track includes classes on growing peppers, attracting bees, and making use of herbs, but all the talks will be informative and worthwhile. Join us!

While you're marking your calendars, make note of our next Grow It Eat It Open House at Derwood, on Saturday, April 18. Hope to see you then!