Archive for January, 2014

Winter Gardening…not for the weak of back!

Filling sandbags, lugging lumber, and portaging compost on a warm January weekend will remind you that you have neglected those gardening muscles for far too long!  The greenhouse is full of flats of early spring varieties just waiting for March to get here so they can find their new homes in the raised beds.  I re-planted spinach and carrot seeds in three raised beds and covered them with double tunnels in hopes of an extra early harvest.  All in all, I stayed very busy this weekend and here are some videos to show what’s going on in the January garden.

This first video is from early December.  These lettuces made it through some very cold temperatures through Christmas, but those -14 temps we had in early January killed them off.  The carrots managed to survive, but were definitely stunted from the bitter cold.  Temps this cold are a rarity in zone 6…in a “normal” year I know they would have thrived all the way through.

This video is of the greenhouse filled with flats of seeds ready to sprout!

This is a video of my lumber and compost pile…lots of work ahead for me!

This video is of my three double tunnels I finished this weekend.  It takes a LOT of work to get them to this stage, but having fresh spinach and carrots before anyone else will be worth the effort.  Tripper made a “special” appearance in this video…he has no shame.

Besides the things going on in the greenhouse and the garden, I have all of my pepper seeds sown and incubating in the house and growing under fluorescent lights.

I hope these videos give you an idea of what it takes to have a large garden….it’s a labor of love, but there is a LOT of labor!


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2014 Pepper and Eggplant List

As always, these are tentative lists and all varieties my not be available due to germination and other unforeseen conditions.  If you have a variety on your list and it is unavailable, we’ll talk about a possible replacement.

I am not growing the Bhut Jolokia (Ghost Pepper) this year and am replacing it with the Trinidad Scorpion…Trust me on this!

I am also growing the new record holder for the hottest pepper in the world…the Carolina Reaper.  I will have a VERY small quantity of these and these plants will have a special price of $10 each.

The rest of my plants will cost $2 if you buy 100 or more plants, they are $1.50 each.

Super Hot Peppers


7 Pot Yellow

Chocolate Habanero



Habanero Yellow

Trinidad Scorpion

White Habanero

Hot Peppers


Big Bomb

Billy Goat


Chile de Arbol



Hot Rod

Hungarian Yellow Hot Wax

Jalapeno M

Large Red Cherry Hot

Peter Pepper (red or yellow)


Red Cayenne

Red Mushroom

Sante Fe Grande


Serrano Del Sol


Thai Hot

Yellow Devil’s Tongue

Yellow Pequin

Sweet Peppers

Ace F1



California Wonder

Canary Bell



Jimmy Nardello

Hungarian Cheese Mix

Krimzon Lee

Mellow Star (Shishito Type)

NuMex Joe E. Parker Anaheim



Stavros (Pepperoncini)


Purple Beauty


Sweet Banana


Toma Verde


Black Beauty

Fengyuan Purple

Florida Market

Long Purple


Rosa Bianca


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Soil Preparation…now is the time!


Every year I talk to a lot of gardeners who are not happy with their garden’s production of produce.  Many of them tell tales of disease, small plant size, insect infestation, and myriad other woes that plaque many gardens.  When I try to troubleshoot their concerns, my first questions always revolve around their pre-planting soil preparation.  The answers I usually get are that there was little if any preparation other than right before they planted their seeds or transplants.


Quality soil is something that needs to be planned and developed over time.  Sure you can till up a patch of your backyard, toss in some fertilizer and some transplants and call it a garden, but you are probably going to be very disappointed if you do not build your soil properly.


I like to have total control over my garden soil so I garden almost exclusively in raised beds.  Most all of my beds are filled with straight compost with some perlite and vermiculite mixed in for aeration and moisture retention.  I place my raised beds directly on my backyard soil, lightly till the grass inside the bed, then fill it with wheelbarrow loads of compost.  Make sure you are buying or building quality compost as bad compost can cause disasters.  I just ordered 10 cubic yards of compost from Suburban Lawn and Garden and I know that when the truck arrives, the compost will smell sweet and be a deep black color which tells me it has fully composted and is safe for my garden.


Every year my existing beds settle down a few inches and need to be topped off with more compost.  I like to add some garden lime, and some other mineral additives such as Azomite and Aragonite which I get from Troque Farms in Buckner,Missouri. Once I have the beds filled, I run my electric tiller over them to mix the new stuff with the old stuff.  I NEVER step foot in my beds to keep from compacting the soil.


All of this needs to be done several weeks before you plant your seeds or transplants.  You need to do this early to allow the additives to blend in with your soil so the nutrients are readily available to your garden.  Tilling early also chops up hibernating insects and brings them to the surface of the soil where they’ll likely die due to being exposed to the elements of late winter.


Make sure you pick a window (right now is very good!) where the soil has thawed out and is dry.  Do not work in wet soil or you will destroy the structure of the soil and have hard clumps of dirt instead of fluffy soil for many years.  These past few days of high wind should have dried out the soil enough to work in it.


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Early Spring Plants

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I know it’s the coldest day ever out there today with it being -10 degrees when I woke up.  I think this is the perfect weather to start planning for a spring garden!  Last year was my first year to offer spring plants and gardening classes and lots of gardeners had beds full of salads from the end of March through early June.  I’ll be offering the same basic products and services with some options to meet your own personal gardening needs.

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I’ll again be offering a gardening class where we’ll discuss succession gardening techniques and strategies for getting multiple crops out of the same beds.  The class will take about an hour or so and will be held on March 8th and 9th in my backyard.  The class will include a full set of spring plants (enough for a 4′ x 10′ bed and more), as well as the floating row cover and supports to protect your plants from the harsh weather of early spring.  The class will cost $50 and will include e-mail support throughout the spring with tips and advice on when to harvest and when to plant later crops.

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For those of you that have already had the class or those that cannot attend  class, I will be offering a-la-carte offerings of plants and supplies.

A full set of plants (12 cups + one set of onions) of your choice will cost $20.  aprilfreee2013 015

Agribond 19 will be $1 per linear foot…allow 2 feet extra to fully cover the length of your bed.

Hoops loops will be 3 for $10.

Below are the plants that you will be able to select from (hyper-linked for your convenience).  Please look them over and start planning your spring garden!


Early Purple Vienna

Quickstar F1

White Kossack



Bright Lights



Red Russian

Blue Curled Scotch

Dwarf Siberian

Starbor F1


Waltham 29

Bay Meadows




Self Blanche



Romanesca San Giuseppe

Asian Greens

Siamese Dragon Stir Fry Mix

Michihili Chinese Cabbage

Pac Choi Da Cheong Chae



Afoglia D Oivo


Late Flat Dutch


Red Tide


Mesclun Mix

Paris Island Cos

Rocky Top Mix

Black Seeded Simpson

Red Wing Mix

All Star Gourmet Mix

White Boston

Little Gem


Bronze Mignonette


Red Ace F1

Detroit Dark Red



Bull’s Blood

Merlin F1

Ruby Queen


French Breakfast


Black Spanish Round

China Rose

Easter Egg Mix



Slow Bolt

Wild Rocket

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