Thursday, April 2, 2009

Mini-farmin' Mom

It’s been cold here in Pennsylvania but that hasn’t stopped me from being busy in the garden. I don’t have a farm, yet. But that hasn’t stopped me from farming. Mini-sized.

I have a 10 square foot farm working in my basement. Under my seedling benches topped with precariously placed grow lights almost kissing the tops of my plants, I have my worms in their composting bin and three baby chicks nesting in their box. My son says we have a lot of pets. He’s including the worms in the pet category.

I giggle at the contrast between the Eames rocker, which sits next to the worm composting bin, and my "farm". The chicks are also in close proximity to a pristine 1950’s Haywood Wakefield dresser. It’s fifties mod-living for my chicks. The Red Rock and Barred Rock chicks are dubbed Poachy (thanks I-Carly, not), Lovey, and Dixie. My four year-old was in charge of the names. I’m not so sure that was so smart. And yes, my four year-old does watch I-Carly. I may be a better gardener than parent in certain moments.

Spring planting, horticulture classes, writing a biz plan, and watching the chicks with my son, have kept me busy and away from the PRG this week. Look for another guest columnist soon and several postings on native plants and plant sales coming before the end of April.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Tomatoes Anyone?

If you want to start seedlings yet this year, it’s time to do it. If you want to start lettuce or onions or peas, you now have the choice of starting them indoors or directly sowing these cold hearty vegetables.

If you’d like to try a indoor seeding of tomatoes, you should get a move on. It’s widely recommended growing tomatoes for 4 to 6 weeks inside before transplanting.

In central Pennsylvania, the recorded last frost date is May 4th. However, we’ve had frost after that and many use Mother’s day as a safe starting point. We have just enough time to start our seed, but we have to do it now.

Can’t do it now? Not to fear. Erica Beadle, Nursery Manager at Highland Gardens said they will stock over 40 varieties of tomatoes this year. Check out their website for a list:

Both Highland Gardens and Ashcombe Farm and Greenhouse will be carrying heirloom varieties as well.

Shirley Halk, a Dauphin County Master Gardener, said people shouldn’t be afraid to try heirlooms. Halk’s heirloom tomatoes have performed every bit as well as any hybrids and taste much better.

Some of the heirloom varieties she suggests growing are:

Old German – A large tomato with a pink inside
Cherokee Purple – Flavorful rose colored favorite
Amish Paste – Plum shaped, excellent for paste and sauce
Green Zebra (not always an heirloom) – Green and yellow tomato with added spice and zing

I got the sense that Halk had grown and loved many other varieties of heirloom tomatoes and would probably discover at least one other variety to add to her list this summer.

Ashcombe Farm and Greenhouses lists their tomato plant varieties at:

At the end and the beginning

Today, I found myself celebrating old and young beauty. Graceful arching of the over wintered Hakonechloa grass under gray skies made parting with the dry foliage sad, as I cleaned up my perennial beds a bit. Then visiting my tiny greenhouse of seedlings, some begging to be planted outdoors, others just saying hello with their first true leaves, brought home the cycle of the seasons again.

At the end and the beginning