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Quote of the Day

April 20th, 2014

For Jefferson, plants were intimately associated with people-friends, neighbors, political allies-and the exchange of seeds, bulbs, and fruit scions represented a token of enduring friendship. This union for gardening and sociability is evident throughout the letters in the garden book. Jefferson would chide his daughters and granddaughters for their inattention to the flower beds around the house, while they in turn would report on the latest horticultural dramas taking place at Monticello. Jefferson also engaged in friendly competitions with his neighbors to determine who could harvest the first English pea in the spring. The winner then hosted a community dinner, sharing the winning dish (or teaspoon) of peas.

from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

As gardeners we often offer cuttings of our favorite plants and receive the same in return. My garden in Ohio was filled with plants collected from friends and family members far and wide. I had peonies that were cuttings from one that was growing in the flowerbeds at my grandmother’s house when they moved there when my mom was a wee little girl.
I’m also lucky to have a start of the old fashioned comfrey that also graced that garden along with a few starts from her lily of the valley.
Spring Sedum
I had a host of sedum plants collected here there and everywhere as well. A few of these plants made it to Maine with me, some of them I need to get starts from my mom once again. I’m now starting from scratch, hopefully I’ll find a few friendly gardeners here that are willing to share starts with me!

What plant do you think people would associate with you as a gardener?


April 19th, 2014

Last weekend I started my tomato seeds. I’m doing this a few weeks later than I usually do, but spring has been long in coming.
tomatoes 3
tomatoes 1
I’m growing a few new varieties this year, the ‘Beaverlodge’ types from Territorial. They are supposed to start producing at 55 days – we shall see if I’m harvesting fruit in late June. The best part about this variety is that if it does well it should be producing fruit for canning before late blight arrives.
tomatoes 4
This year I’m going to try grafting a few. I purchased the grafting seeds and am hoping to get enough rootstock to graft one of each of the heirloom varieties that I’m growing. I’ll plant them side by side with their non-grafted counterpart and look for any differences is disease resistance, growth rates and fruit production.
tomatoes 2
I’m most excited about my favorite tomato ‘Principe Borghese’. This beauty is the perfect tomato, small, delicious and a prolific producer. I love that it can easy be dried and tastes just like sun dried tomatoes. It also roasts up perfectly for my roasted tomato passata.

What’s your favorite tomato?


April 18th, 2014

True happiness is when Dexter discovers an emerging catmint plant for the first time in the spring. He found this yesterday when we were working in the back potager and spent about a half hour rolling on it and eating it.
catmint 1
catmint 2
I can completely understand how he feels, it’s a been a long winter here in Maine and Dexter is happy to once again be able to play in the garden and roll in his favorite plant. Back in Ohio I was always most excited to see my peonies, here in Maine I’m not sure if I have a favorite plant yet, I haven’t added any perennials to my gardens. Perhaps it will be asparagus this year, it won’t be long until it starts coming up.

What’s your favorite plant to see after a long winter?

New Seed Starting Area with a View

April 17th, 2014

I finally have a dedicated seed starting area.  For my entire gardening career I’ve been starting seeds on the dining room table, which isn’t a big deal, until you want to eat dinner and there’s potting soil, seed flats and seeds all over the place.  There was a built in desk area upstairs that was not being used for anything but a plant stand and I decided it would be perfect.
new seed starting area 1
new seed starting area 4
There’s plenty of space, cupboards for storing seeds and supplies along with a long counter that can hold all manner of supplies. The best part is that it is bathed in nature light, it’s right in front of a nice window that looks out over the hill beyond. I can watch the chickens as they scratch around on the lawn below.
new seed starting area 2
new seed starting area 3
The flats are also in plain sight every time I go up and down the stairs making it very easy to monitor their progress. It’s the perfect spot!

Do you have a dedicated seed starting area?

Soil Temperature – It Matters!

April 16th, 2014

In the spring, many of us are excited to get planting and we see the phrase “as soon as soil can be worked” on our seed packet and plant things a little too early. Even though the soil can be worked, it’s cold, this causes delayed germination and in some cases seeds will rot in the ground before sprouting. It pays to wait an extra week before planting things like beets and peas.  Beets in particular seem to be very picky about soil temperature.
planting peas 2
Lettuce can be sown early, it will take longer to germinate than it does in slightly warmer temps, but the germination rates aren’t as drastically reduced as they are for other types of seeds since they’re so close to the surface. In most cases waiting a week won’t put you any farther behind as far as harvest scheduled go, since the seeds often take longer to germinate they end up coming up at the same time anyways, you just have less risk of seed damage or birds eating the seeds if you wait.
arugula seedlings
In my 5×5 Challenge Garden out front the arugula seeds have started to germinate. None of the lettuces have yet. It’s been a week since I sowed the seeds, the ones I planted in a seed flat indoors germinated in 2-3 days. This shows you how soil temperature affects seed germination.

Have you noticed differing germination rates of some things in the spring when the soil is cold? 


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.