Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Mar-Duke is Done!

Well I did not fill  up every inch of space but I came close.  I am calling the spring planting phase at Mar-Duke now done and don't plan on doing any more other than weed and water and harvest.  This weekend I got the last bit of work in.  I staked up all the tomatoes, did some weeding, got the rest of the transplants in and added some line for the peas to crawl up. 

So far I am very happy with the soil in the plot.  We keep having torrential downpours and I can still work withing the plot a day later.   So are my favorite thing about community gardening is watching what everyone else is doing.  For each plot out there, there is a slightly different way people are going about getting their plants in.  Most are tilling.  A few like me are no till.  So far tilling versus non-tilling seems to be making no difference with respect to weeds.  They weeds are popping up right away in the tilled and no tilled areas alike.

Here is a quick picture of how things are looking now. 

Saturday, May 28, 2016


Heat +thunderstorms this past week has lead to a whole lot of growth.   I need to harvest my bok choy and spinach already!  Its crazy.  The potatoes are also taking off.  I will need to mound them up this week.  Pretty much everything that was suffering during the cold is now turning around.  Edamame is now sprouting.  Still no corn.  Billions of weed.  I'm really glad I did landscape fabric or thick straw for must of the beds or I would have a serious mess.

Too muddy to plant today.  Many inches of rain this past week.  I did however do a bunch of weeding.  It was perfect weather for that.

I have to say I am rather freaked to be harvesting already.  I was hoping of a few weeks of doing nothing.  :)

Monday, May 23, 2016

Mar-Duke: What a difference a week makes

The weather has turned (again).  Things have warmed up to mid-fifties at night and upper seventies/low eighties during the day.  The warmth has brought things to life!

I've been working hard trying to get things in the ground.  Plot is now about 3/4 full.  I'll sum all that up later this week for now, here's whats happening.

Bok Choy:  massive growth in one week and now bolting.  :/
Peppermint celery:  about 50% size increase, very healthy looking.
Spinach and Kale.  Now actively growing and looking good.

Deadish cukes, did not come back.  Replanted (Lemon, Armenian, Burpee Hybrid and Poinsette)
Cucamelon:  Hail took it out. Drat.  replanted.

Fennel:  Improving color.  No growth yet.

Peas:  Sprouting and growing!

Beans:  Sprouting and growing!  Mostly dead beans are coming back as well.  I have too many beans.

Cauliflower:  180 turn around, no visible growth yet but much healthier looking

Purple peacock broccoli:  Growing!

Purple potatoes and Red tenderlings:  Sprouting!  Man potatoes sure have pretty foliage

Tomatoes:  all are in the ground.  No losses.  No visible growth yet.  Looking less beaten up however.

Peppers:  Looking good, blossoms are starting.

Winter squash with smushed stem:  Still alive and still green.  It proves that I cannot kill plants I don't enjoy eating.

Cantalope, watermelon, zukes, butternut.  Planted today.

Popcorn seeds:  No sign of life yet

Popcorn plants:  Look terrible, sort of shrively as if they got hit with a herbacide.

Radishes:  growing slowly.  Fighting through weeds

Carrots:  sprouting I think.

Onions:  growing and looking good!

Artichoke:  1 happy 1 pouty

Eggplant:  1 happy, 1 pouty

I'm starting to meet my allotment neighbors.  Its fun seeing what other people are doing.  This has been a lot of hard work getting it all in, even with no till but I am close to seeing light at the end of the tunnel with respect to the hard stuff.  Well other than the hauling of the water.  Fingers crossed for Rain every 3 days of approximately 3/4 of an inch.  ;)

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Sad State of Affairs at Mar-Duke

First, a note of optimism.  These guys have NOT been in my plot.  The fence is thankfully, working.  Birds this size can do a lot of damage. I have watched them merrily ripping out the seedlings in other plots but mine are untouched by fowl.  Mother Nature on the other hand has not been so kind.

In this area our springs can be a little wild.  50 degree temperature swings are not unusual.  Nor are 50 mph winds, tornado warnings, snow advisories or rain totals of 3, 4, 5 inches in a week.  In the last week my poor little seedlings got hit with 4 inches of rain, 30 mph gusts and temps that went up to 80 and then crashed down to 35.  Needless to say, the babies are not thriving.  The images below sum up the carnage and disarray currently in place in my plot at Mar-Duke.  Tomorrow night is another temp crash and fingers crossed that hopefully, after that, recovery begins. 

This first plot isn't so bad.  Its the first plot I did at Mar-duke.  It contains Bok Choi, Peppermint celery (red stem), two kinds of spinach including Montreux , and chinese kale.  Everything is growing.  The celery started as teeny tiny seedlings and I can already tell I planted it way too close but to be frank I only expected 30% survival. So 100% are alive!

 Bed 2:  AKA tomb of cukes.  This bed is in rough shape.The fennel in the background is struggling.  In front of that is a row of cylindra beets, that did sprout and then stopped.  In front of that are the carcasses of the lemon and other cukes, killed by cold, despite the wall of water that was around them.  Also of note the inch of fine leaf mulch is mostly blown away or eaten by worms.  This bed had a ton of them.  In the very front row is some sporadic sprouting of some watermelon radishes and a lot of weeds.  I threw a few lemon cuke seeds in the bed after the first kill but I'll be shocked if they sprout.  They have been really wet and really cold.

Bed 3:  Peas and edamame
Apologies for the tilted photo.  I was trying to avoid mud.  Not much success to report in the Pea and edamame bed.  The couple of pea plants are pale and not growing.  The pea seeds and edamame seeds have not sprouted.  The entire bed I suspect is not happy with all the rain we have gotten and how wet everything is. I also cannot find my pea inoculate, which I really need to do soon.
Bed 4: Potatoes
Aren't all the pictures of straw fascinating?  This is the potato bed.  Purple potatoes and red fingerlings. Chitted weeks ago, nothing has sprouted.  Not even weeds.  I planted a couple of cosmos in this bed yesterday to make it a little less pathetic.  Fingers crossed they survive tomorrow.
Bed 5:  Beans
The pretty kale and mizuna in this bed are hiding the bean tragedy that has occurred.  On the left are the beans that got hit by the 35 degrees and the winds and rain.  They are mostly dead.  In the ground are all the bean seeds that have not sprouted.  Two varieties, Kew Blue and a yellow pole-they are probably rotted but I will give them another  weeks.  On the right are the new plants I planted this weekend before the forecast changed to more cold.   Hang tough little beanies, its only one night!
Bed 6:  Onions
While clearly unhappy about all the rain (note the yellowing)  This bed is still looking mostly OK.  On the right is a variety called Candy.  On the left is Spanish utah (much younger plants).  In the far back left is a lone artichoke that is looking pale but alive.  In the center is a mostly mushy french marigold that I don't expect to make it.
Bed 7:  Purple tomatoes
Tomato plants turn purple when they are cold.  Their leaves curl when they are too wet.  These eight plants are purple and curled. They are so purple they are blending nicely with the color of the landscape fabric.  If the warmth comes quick enough they should turn around.  If not, I have 9 others in reserve.  I never plant all the tomatoes at once.  Behind the tomato row is the other half of the plot not yet planted and full of weeds  In the very back corner is the strawberry popcorn under landscape fabric. It has not sprouted-too wet and cold.
Bed 8: Cold Cauliflower and Sad Shiso
This bed contains snowy cauliflower. I put them in this weekend to replace the armenian cuke carcasses>  They are looking rather pale. I give them a 50:50 chance.
I give the Shiso seedlings to the left even less.  These clearly show frost damage and they were so little when they went in, I will be shocked if they recover.  Oddly, these two marigolds have no damage at all and the one 6 feet to the right is mushy.

 More cauliflower:
Here is the cauliflower that went though the storm.  Orange and Purple cauliflower seedlings.  They were very small when they went in and are now almost invisible between they hay.  They clearly have some cold damage.  Survival chances not looking so good for most of these.

 Bed 9:  Leeks, Carrots and Arugula and Black Peanuts
I thought if anything was going to croak it was going to be the black peanuts and the basil.  The basil did not disappoint.  While not completely dead, its mostly there.  The black peanuts on the other hand are totally fine.  Huh.  Go figure.  Carrots (Romaine-F1 via seed tape) have not sprouted. 
Of course everything is so small you are mostly looking at straw but gorgeous close ups are for things that look good.  Carnage is best viewed standing back and squinting over a steaming cup of tea.
Bed 10:  Purple Cabbage and Shallots
Purple cabbage, very purple and growing!  Shallots very tiny and disappearing.  There are some monster night crawlers in all these beds that I mulched with leaves.  I wonder if they are eating my shallots?  This bed has some beet seedlings coming up as well...in between the weeds.

Bed 11:  Peppers
This bed looks pretty good.  Primarily because other than the 5 peppers planted in the straw, all of these in the landscaping fabric I planted yesterday.  They were all planted in pretty wet soil so fingers crossed there.  The pepper varieties are "fooled you" Jalapeno, Purple Beauty, Sweet Orange, Yellow banana, Cubano, something that began with an M that sounded big (sweet red) and I think there is an ancho poblano in there too.
When I check these today the surface soil was already dry so that is a good sign related to drainage.  Fingers crossed!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Pond after Rain

It has rained the entire week and as a result the pond is in rough shape.  The winds in the storms blew every single crab-apple blossum into the pond plus a fair number of sticks and other debris.  Visibility is only about a foot and a half.  When the pond is in good shape its crystal clear to the bottom  Part of the issue is also the DOCs.  See all those bubbles under the waterfall?  That is not good.  Those are DOC's or dissolved organic compounds.  Its the result of leaves blowing into the pond and starting to rot for  the entire winter.  Leaves I have only started to remove.  Normally I would be farther along but the water is still only 55 degrees and putting on waders and spending a few hours scooping up methane loaded rot is the recipe for a bad day which one has to mentally psych oneself up for.  The cool weather has not inspired me so instead I have been doing a scoop or two at a time, in between rain storms.

The big yellow koi is Luna.  I have had her since she was 4" long.  She spent November through March under ice with no problem whatsoever.  This is because my pond is 4 feet deep and doesn't freeze to the bottom but more importantly it only has 4 koi in it, Luna, Fred, Bella and Ginny.  The fewer koi the larger the margin of error.  I don't have any intention of making this group any larger. This size herd allows me to go on vacation and ignore them there is enough in the pond where they can sustain themselves.  Plus each time you introduce a new fish there is a significant risk of introducing bad disease

The goals this weekend is to get the leaf debris reduced by 75% at least, and get this final load of seedlings planted. 
I'm hesitating for two reasons.  1) we have two nights in coming days with lows of 36 degrees.  That is cutting it closer than I like.  The remaining unplanted seedlings and plants are primarily tenders and expensive ones at that.  I may hold off a few more days. 2) Reason two is another good reason to delay.  It has rained the entire week we got several inches and everything is pretty wet.  The winds are up again so it will dry out fast but I'm not sure fast enough for any work at Mar-duke.  Fingers crossed there!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

How ya doin? Ahright?

Hi and welcome.

I was clicking around today and found a reference to this blog. It said I'm an author of a garden book and garden in Toronto.

Nope.  Ima chick from ChiCAWgo and not an author....As obvious by my blog entries.   Der

Thanks for the mention of my blog though!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Weekend Gardening Blitz: Mar-Duke

Gack look at all those dandelion seeds off to the right!
I took Friday off to go hard core at the planting at Mar-Duke.  I had great plans that by the end of the weekend I would be done and could relax and watch things grow.  Ha!
All I can say is man I am slow.  I spent 8 hours on Friday, 6 on Saturday and another 8 on Sunday and I am only about 1/2 way done with filling up my plot space.  I also can barely move. 

I think it is the weeding part that is slowing me down.  The plot has a lot of grass in it with very deep roots.  Type A person that I am, I have been slowly picking--yes picking through each area to dig up and dispose of the grass.  Most of my neighbors are Mar-Duke are just rototilling.  No till philosophies aside.  I'm not sure about that approach.  Chopping these roots up just makes more grass sprouts to grow.  It will be interesting to see how it all compares in a month or so. 

OK so what we in the ground this weekend? 
Strawberry popcorn
8 tomato plants (more to go)
watermelon radish
two towers of pea
1 bean teepee
purple cauliflower
orange cauliflower
2 artichokes
2 strips of Romance carrots
purple potatoes
pink tenderling potatoes
some borage, dill, basil and marigolds, nasturium seeds, sunflowers
cukes (replacements for the two lemon cukes that croaked from last week.)
4 sweet peppers.  Bit cool for these but we will see what happens.
candy onions
spanish utah onions
Shiso-red Perillo
purple peacock broccoli
Red Russian kale
mustard greens

Rain is now forecast for the next three days, so I am going to concentrate on pond plantings and the yard veggies for the next few days.
Sorry for the terrible pictures.  I will get some closer ones next time.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Deadbeat Duck

Originally the title of this post was going to be "Inconvenient Duck".  You see Taffy the duck that visits our pond each spring decided to set up a nest and lay eggs directly beneath the main spigot that serves my seedlings and my pond.  Argh.  To say that that was an inconvenience would be an large understatement.  I am in the middle of spring pond clean up which is done exclusively with that hose.   Nevertheless, we delighted by the thought of fuzzy ducklings in 21 days, so we of course left her alone.

Sadly there is no cute picture of Taffy to accompany this entry.  Taffy flew the coop and has not come back.   While ducks often lay eggs, leave, go away for a few hours and come back to lay more eggs, I am virtually certain that the cold temps yesterday and last night have eliminated any hope of fuzzy ducklings from this particular set of eggs.  Yet I leave them be.  I hold out hope that our deadbeat duck changes her mind and comes back.  She is awfully cute.  Quack Quack

Update:  Taffy did not return.  Her boyfriend Daffy still shows up about every other morning around 6 quacking his fool head off for a few minutes and then taking off again.  Poor Daffy, looks like Taffy split on him too.  

Week of April 25: Pond Start up and Mar-Duke post Rain

The week has been rainy and cold.  Not that misty rain that one thinks of when one thinks of spring.  No this was multiple days of downpours.  Very very cold downpours.  Wind chill yesterday was 36 degrees in the 2" down pour.

Needless to say, there was no real planting that went on this week.  Oh I tried today.  I went out to scope out the allotment.  I even took the shovel out of the car and make a few half hearted swings with it.  It wasn't happening.  Moving with tens pounds of goo on your boots is hard and getting the goo to fall nicely off the shovel without destroying your soil structure just doesn't happen after that much rain.  So Mar-Duke was a wash this weekend.  One thing I did note though was geese.  Lots and lots of geese wandering around and yanking out plants.  I was glad for my three sided fence.  My plot so no evidence of geese or other traffic through it.  I will need to make it a four sided fence soon.  The other thing of note was that the fence saw 30 knots of wind this week and held.  That's good news.

I did have some productivity in the pond arena.  I got the bog filter and waterfall filter box cleared out of winter sludge and got the pump connected and flowing.  This is good timing for this.  I have not been feeding the fish regularly because the water is still too cold but I suspect that will change soon.  I need the bacterial filtration established some before feeding resumes.  That requires temperatures about 40 degrees and I have that.  I also want the water moving to prevent any  mosquitoes from hatching.  Mosquitoes do not like moving water.

I took a few swipes of the leaf net at the bottom of the pond just now to see how bad it was.  Verdict was BAD.  There are probably about 500 pounds of wet leaves down there.  The methane smell when you pull them off the bottom can give you a headache right away.  This will be a project I will tackle in spurts.  When the water is this cold, the koi's immune system is not up to par.  I only want to disturb a little bit of water at a time so keep their conditions as decent as possible.  It is important to get this off the bottom though.  I can host a whole lot of bad bacteria an parasites and with the ducks hanging out here again this spring who knows what is being brought in.  Here  is a picture of the pond this afternoon.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Mar-Duke Farms Allotment: Day 1

About a week ago, the community garden opened up for planting!  I immediately drove to check it out and got very excited.  The amount of space I have rented is a nice size and the soil looks nice with minimal weeds.  This past weekend I spent about ten hours on getting it ready.  Looking at it above it sure doesn't look like it!

The first issue was the fencing.  I used green snow fence type netting attached to purchased plastic coated metal plant stakes.  It lasted all of about 45 minutes before our winds started, caught the fabric and bend the poles down to the ground.  Sigh.  Plan B it is.

After removing the above mangled poles I went and purchased some coated steel ones.  Then on the two sides of the garden where I was less concerned about human invasion I lowered the netting down a foot in a half in height.  Big winds again last night and it is still holding.  It took hours to do but will be worth it.  This community garden has a lot of geese traffic and I don't want them in their pooping and ripping out plants. I am also trying to minimize human theft as there is a public parking lot behind the bushes on the right.  I really do like my space though.  The grassy area off to the side gets shade and is a nice place to rest.  Most of the other plots have zero shade anywhere near them.  I do have to walk a bit to haul water but, its exercise!

Once I got the fencing up, I started getting  some plants in the ground.  It took a long time.  Mostly because my muscles and body were not ready for all that digging.  I completed 2 beds that were roughly 4x4 and 1 bed that is 4x6.  I did not til.  Rather I added some organic fertilizer and gypsum to the surface plus some compost.  Then dug up around the sides to mound it up and then wiggled the amendments in a bit.  I am seeing some worm traffic which was encouraging but virtually no organic material which was not.  So I am working to fix that.

In Bed one I planted Peppermint celery seedlings I started in February,  Chinese Kale, Beet seeds and two kinds of spinach (Monteux and one other I forgot the name of)  In bed 2 I planted red cabbage, purple peacock broccoli and I forgot what else.  In the big bed I planted fennel off by itself because all the plants hate fennel, watermelon radishes and two kinds of cuke (lemon and Poinsett). 

The day I planted was really warm 80's.  I was shocked how few people were actually out getting things ready.  I suspect many in this area follow the last anticipated frost date to the letter which in my opinion is silly.  There is plenty that does fine with chilly temps.  Of course the day after planting temps dropped to the 40's and it started raining.  Everything will be fine.  The cukes are in their wall of waters and everything else does not mind the chilly.  I have a lot of plants I need to get in the ground now from sprouted seedlings.  I'm happy for the 2" of rain we have gotten but fingers crossed it starts warming up.  I have strawberry popcorn to plant!  Goal tomorrow is get the pond filtration running so I can focus on my new allotment plantings all weekend.  Here is a close-up of the planted beds so far with their leaf mulch blanket.

Friday, April 1, 2016

This week's garden related tasks

This is the time of year that there is not much to do.  Its too wet to do much outside and I'm running out of room to plant any more inside.  I've summed up the week's activities below.

Monday:  move seedlings outside am
                move seedlings inside pm
Tuesday:  move seedlings outside am
                move seedlings inside pm
Wednesday:  move seedlings outside am
               Replant more seeds for things that did not sprout yet (peppers and eggplants)
              move plants inside pm
Thursday:  move plants outside
             bottom fertilize with Organic Neptunes Gold Fish and Seaweed (stinky!)
            Move stinky plants inside pm
            burn candle to try to cover stinky fish scent
           open windows
           give up and go to bed
Friday:  4pm  move plants outside-forgot to do it earlier
            4:30 pm move plants inside to save them from the hail.

Tomorrow if the weather is decent its time for spring pond clean-up. (blech)  Plan B is continue wiht the really good book I'm reading.   Fingers crossed for rain! 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Ice Rink and the Giant Balls of Plastic

This yard's backyard rink was a gamble due to el Nino.  A gamble that we should not have taken.  We only got a single day of skating in.  It really was no one thing that destroyed the season, but the weather sure did not help.  The first issue was injuries and time.  My son took a crosscheck to the back in early fall that tore up his shoulder.  It took awhile to heal so the rink went up late.  Since he has grown we went really big this year.  80 feed by 40 feet.  That was one large (and expensive) piece of 6mm plastic!  We got it put up no problem and got it filled but the cold weather did not come.  Then hockey season started in full force and he was on a league that traveled to Michigan (we live in Illinois) virtually every weekend.  So time was limited; not that the ice was really that skatable.  Too soft and thin because it was too warm.  Things started looking up in mid-January the day after he finally got a skate in, we lost all the water under the ice.  MOLES.  The ground never really froze very hard and they chewed through the liner in multiple places to get at the water.  I hope the little shits drowned in the resulting tsunami. In one day they completely destroyed a $300 liner.  In the end, it didn't matter that much though because that weekend he took another illegal hit and broke his fingers so skating with stick was off the table again.  Plus it never really got cold enough after that to give us good ice.  We had more than one wading in waders session, cleaning leaves out of the pond. 

So yesterday was clean up the carnage day.  I would have liked to use the liner again for at least another year but it was a total loss, too many mole holes.  People think that leaving plastic on the yard over winter kills the grass.  It does not.  The grass under the liner actually greens up faster than the rest of the lawn.  If you leave the boards on the lawn too long you will get some grass kill but not enough to be able to see it a few weeks later.  This year we did have some actually damage though.  Mole tunnels.  The paved them under the boards and they were very busy.  Ice rink put away is the only think I really don't like about backyard rinks.  The boards are no big deal but man handling that ginormous piece of plastic that gets kind of slimy over the winter is not so much fun.  So this year I decided the kiddo was big enough to do it solo!  And he did.  He is 80% done.  Observe and admire.  On other blogs you get lovely tulips and daffodils.  At Mutiny in the Garden you get a yard full of giant plastic balls!
Oh well, at least the grass is getting green.  

Friday, March 25, 2016

Transplanting Tomato Seedlings

Tomato Seedlings Day 19

Drat!  I left town for two days and the babies did not got enough light while I was gone.  They have gone and stretched beyond where I like them to be for their first transplant.  This is not really a big deal with tomato seedlings.  If you have the time, mine seem to do better with a transplant to a bigger container before their final move into the garden.

When I transplant tomato seedlings I try to transplant them as deep as I can get them, preferably right up to the bottom of their lowest leaves.  This allows them to develop lots of new roots along the buried stem and makes for a stronger plant.  Some of these seedlings were unfortunately so tall that even with bending the stem a little, they were still much higher than I like.  Oh well I'll get them deep when they go into the garden.

The first transplant is also when I do the first and only thinning.  I go down to one plant of each variety except for Chocolate stripes.  I need to save seed from that one this year so I am keeping two to be on the safe side.  Throwing out tomato seedlings makes me a little sad, but they grow so much faster without roommates in their pots, its worth it.

I've lost one seedling this spring.  Striped Roman only had one seed sprout and it croaked.  That variety is notoriously wimpy when small and my seedling.  I'm not going to replant.  I have enough tomatoes.  I did replant a few other things where germination has been poor.  Some peppers and leeks today.

The last chore of the day was the first fertilization of the new transplants.  I use Organic Neptunes Gold Fish and Seaweed fertilizer to get the trace nutrients.  It STINKS but just for a little bit.  Its a very gentle fertilizer (2-3-1) but the plants seem to do well with it at this stage.  Here is a picture of some of the kids all potted up.  The plants on the right are as deep as I like to go.  The ones on the left are showing too much stem!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Potatoes from Seed

    This year I am chitting (encouraging the seed potatoes to sprout before planting) only a 
handful of seed potatoes.  Six Rose Fin Apple potatoes and six organic Purple Majesty    are all happily spouting on my counter.  I hate having potatoes sprouting on the counter, and that is what first made me take a look at growing potatoes from seed a number of years ago.
    My research led me to a number of video's by Tom Wagner who specializes in breeding unique potato and tomato varieties.  His technique seemed straight forward and I gave it a wing and it worked.  I grew them in some homemade bags I made out of landscaping fabric and got a pile of potatoes from tiny little seeds.  It almost seemed like magic, to be getting that amount of food out of such a tiny thing.  That is why this year I am again growing potatoes from seed.
     On March 6th I planted six cells of Purple Valley and six cells of All Blue.  I wasn't sure what was going to happen.  This is older seed and no longer available on Tom's website.  That fact wants me to grow these even more and save the seed and keep them going!
Purple Valley is doing well.  Virtually 100% germination.  Second leaves look like they will be coming this week. 

All Blue is not doing as well.  Only one seedling in one cell so far.  I will give it a bit more time as the seeds are years old.  It will be fun to see yields of the seeds versus the seed potatoes.  I will be growing them in different plots though.  One of the benefits of the seeds is that there is significantly less chance of them bringing disease into the garden due to the way they are processed.  The other big advantage is significantly more options in your selections.  I suspect that the seed potatoes will move faster but there is something magical about getting anything at all from a seed the size of a period.  So I won't be giving up my potato seeds anytime soon, regardless of which produces better.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Planning without Information

I'm in a bit of a pickle right now.  I have hundreds of seeds sprouting and I want to start more.  Before I start more seeds I would like to have some assurance that I will have room for it all.  The extra space I've rented via the allotment this summer seems like I should have a lot of room but I have zero information about those spaces.  I really should have paid more attention when it was time to rent them.  Taken a picture of the plot map or something.  Right now I don't know anything, thus the pickle.

I've never done this allotment thing before. It seems very common in the UK but there they seem to have more permanent attachments to their spaces.  Here in the US this allotment is only mine for a few months and then back to the Park District it goes.

I've tried searching the web for information about where I am renting and alas there is nothing out there.  I don't know if my plot runs east to west or north to south.  Where does the sun hit?  Where do the taller plants need to be sited?  How far from the water am I.  I don't want to carry tons and hoses are not allowed.  Temporary fences are allowed but do I need them?  Gah.  If anyone happens upon this post in a similar search can you clue a fellow Mar-Duker in?

I found a single photo of the site.  It was not helpful. 
I tried driving to the site to scope it out and access is chained off until it opens for the season.  I guess I will do the only thing I really can do right now.  Plant more seeds and keep my fingers crossed...

Monday, March 14, 2016

Spring 2016 Seed Selection: Tomatoes

2016 Tomatoes Selected

 photo tomatoes_zpshw9jy2ur.jpgI prefer to grow my tomatoes from seeds for a variety of reasons.  First and foremost I love the variety available to me via on-line seed sources.  Sites such a Adaptive Seeds, Heritage Seeds, Tatiana's and the Seed Savers exchange are great sources for both heirlooms and the unique.  I've found that a pack of well sourced seeds can last for years.  This year I am growing some varieties that were first purchased back in 2008.  My selections this year tend to follow my usual requirements.  They must have excellent taste, be productive in my zone and be generally reported to be reasonably disease resistant on forums such as Tomatoville.  In my zone I lean towards mid-season varieties as the long season varieties tend to leave me with too many greenies on the vine in fall.

I planted these babies on 3/6/2016.  Eight days later all but a few are up.  I expect the older seed to take a little longer.  Here are the varieties I chose for this year and why they made the cut.  The last three on my list I added a couple of days ago.  Because I had room!
  1. Forest Fire:  Early, 60 Days with very good flavor and productivity.                                        
  2. Chocolate Stripes: My seed. Gorgeous, unique neon stripes.  Productive with very good flavor
  3. Striped Roman: Long, meaty productive sauce, pretty colorization.  Productive.  Good flavor
  4. Amazon Chocolate: Mid-season black with very good flavor.  Good Producer. 
  5. Indian Stripe: midseason compact. Purple beefsteak  Excellent producer.  Taste is exquisite.
  6. Porkchop: mid-season yellow with green stripes.  Great flavor. 
  7. African Queen: Late season. Pink Beef steaks 1#.  Very good producer.  Excellent taste
  8. Marizol Bratka: midseason 1# potato leaf, dark pink with outstanding flavor
  9. Sibirskiy Velikan Rozovyi: midseason hearts/beefsteaks, excellent flavor, heavy producer
  10. Eva Purple Ball x Big Beef: Productive disease resistant with good taste.  F3 so not yet stable
  11. Neves x Brandywine: F3.  Disease resistant cross.  Very productive.  Taste Good.  Salad size
  12. Galinas: Sweet fruity highly productive cherry.  Vines get huge.  Early producer.
  13. Darby Red and Yellow:  Early 60 days, red with yellow stripes.  Flavor excellent.
  14. Earls Faux: mid-season 1-1.5# pink beefsteak.  Award winning flavor.  Good production.
  15. Anna Russian: Early oxheart.  Gorgeous.  rich complex flavor.  Very reliable.
  16. Aunt Ginnys Purple: Mid-season vigorous.  Exceptionally flavored pink beefsteaks
  17. Siletz:  Early red slicers.  Productive.  Taste is good for an early
  18. Crnkovic Yugoslavian:  mid-season.  reliable.  large pink sweet beefsteaks, excellent flavor
  19. Black Seaman: Mid-season.  Productive.  Stunning pieces of art when cut.  Delicious.
  20. Hillbilly Potato Leaf: Mid-Season.  Beautiful Bi-color 1# beefsteaks.  Sweet.  Heavy Producer
  21. Black Cherry:  Very tasty cherry when you get good seed.  Many bad seed sources out there.
  22. Seattle's Woolly Blue Mammoth:  Very fuzzy.  Very blue.  Cool looking plant.  productive
  23. Orange Russian 117: Bicolor 8 oz oxhearts. Meaty and very delicious.  Mid-season. 
  24. Black Krim: Very disease resistant in IL.  wonderfully flavored black.


Sunday, March 6, 2016

Mar-Duke Farms: The Next Adventure

Wow, how time flies.  My last post was in 2012 and occurred approximately three days before a giant wind storm collapsed my beautiful pond cover into the pond. This was immediately followed by a  cold snap that froze the mangled mess of plastic partially under the ice for the entire winter.   It was discouraging at first.  Then I realized I didn't have a prayer to fix it until the spring thaw so I could ignore it the entire winter.   I didn't have much hope for the fish but they lived!  Proof yet again that understocking a pond leaves a lot of room for user error.

 photo inice.jpg

Pond cover collapse was not the reason for my long absence.  I have nothing more interesting to offer than I got busy and this blog dropped below the list of achievable items in my daily list of to dos.  I've missed it occasionally, toyed with the idea of picking it up occasionally but have not wanted to do that until I was sure I was back in for another decent run.  Finally, today, I think I am.

I've been inspired to take on a new adventure.  It began yesterday morning when on an impulse I googled the park district's community garden allotment site to see if they still had plots for spring/summer rental.  Actually it probably began three days prior when I raised the notion of a few raised beds in the one area of my yard with decent all day sun and was told by my spousal unit that that would "look stupid".  My yard is full of trees and the lack of enough full sun positions has been an ongoing source of frustration for me.   Yesterday morning I decide that rather than start a raised bed battle, I would check into community gardening plot rental.

I googled Mar-Duke farms (the community garden plot) at 8:57am on 3/5/2016.  The message that came up was that plot rental was occurring on 3/5/2016 from 9-10am.  Gah! My panicked brain decided that that message meant that I had 1 hour to make it happen this year (probably less because I was envisioning arriving tail end to a hopeless giant line of people). It was a sign to get moving!  I got ready in record time, making it to the Park District by 9:30am.  I broke the speed limit and raced through the parking lot for no reason.  There were 4 people in the room.  My adrenaline was still going though so I eyed the people in the room (clearly my competition) and gah! One of the people, definitely had his eye on the plot I immediately decided I wanted most (after checking out the plot map for a whole 3 minutes).  Please note that my crazy was completely unwarranted since there are 450 plots and only about 1/3 were gone when I got there. Yes, I am embarrassed.   I rushed to complete the paperwork.  Alas, tall guy still got the one I wanted most.  The one right next to the spigot.

I appeased myself by grabbing the one next door and its neighbor!  Yes that's right.  I went for one plot and left with two plots.  Two plots that are 20x30' EACH.  About two minutes after paying the $68 per plot I realized that , whoa.  That is way more space than I am used to gardening.  WAY more space.  I then did the only logical thing I could do.  I went home, examined my enormous box-o-seeds.  Acknowledged that I had enough seeds to plant 5 times the area of my two new plots.  Ignored that fact and went out an bought more seeds.

This should be an interesting season.