Sunday Garden Chat: Planning & Dreaming

winter blues spring green pluggers

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It’s almost time for us Northerners to start seeds, if you’ve got the patience for that, and certainly time for planning this year’s garden / ordering plants. So I’m making lists from the websites of my three standby mail order houses: Laurel’s Heirloom Tomatoes, The Tasteful Garden, and Territorial Seed Company. (Not to mention ordering more of my new fav root pouches from A.M. Leonard.)

Two questions: Anyone here have an opinion on Lazy Ox Farms?

Second: Has anyone grown Paul Robeson tomatoes? Two years ago, I set out a plant… and got one perfect, exquisite, delicious tomato before the vine withered & died. Last year, I bought two plants, and set them out as far apart as I could in my tiny container garden; I got four or five lovely, delicious tomatoes before both plants simultaneously collapsed. The plants on either side remained productive, so it wasn’t just the environment. On the other hand, 2013 was a crappy year for tomatoes around here — too much rain in the first part of the season, too hot in August/September. From what I’ve been able to find on the web, it seems like P.Robeson can be a tricky variety to grow. But it’s sooo good, I’m planning to try again this year (and maybe start one new root pouch with virgin planting mix on the front lawn, which is the only other sunny area I’ve got).

What are you planning for your gardens, come Spring?

Any of you Southerners want to brag about your gardens, yet?

82 replies
  1. 1
    raven says:

    I don’t know what the princess has planned but I’ve been busting it building a brick sidewalk between the raised beds in the main garden. I thought the cold snap killed the collards but some look like they might be coming back. The lenten roses and some other flowers are out now so there is that. We’ve tons of rain and snow so we should be in good shape to get started.

  2. 2
    raven says:

    Damn, doesn’t want to take my links.

    Here’s the garden from the rebuilt deck.

  3. 3
  4. 4

    My vanda orchid is in full spring bloom here in Miami. The hibiscus is always blooming, and the live oaks are starting to shed their leaves in preparation for the new spring growth.

    I do miss the smell of fresh earth under the spring sun and the prospect of new growth in the garden. And I’m not wild about having to cut the lawn year round.

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  7. 7

    @raven: Thanks. When I lived in Albuquerque we built a little 12 x 12 brick patio with sandbox sand as the foundation and spread between them. It was great; lasted for years without shifting. It was really easy to do. All it took was a weekend and a station wagon load of bricks and bags of sand.

  8. 8
    Gindy51 says:

    All we have to do is add soil and plants, not until mid April at the earliest depending on the moisture level. If the El Nino hits as expected we can push that back to May. We had way too much moisture last spring and almost all my tomato plants failed big time. I had some but not nearly the HUGE amount from the dry spring before. I have water piped to the garden from our pond, lots of fertilizer in there, and watered every day that year. I had tons of tomatoes, gallons and gallons of them lasted all the rest of the year for eggs and salads. Last year, pfffft. One lousy gallon of extra tomatoes.
    I only plant a few things since most of the family is very picky. I do try one new thing per year and if they like it, I plant it again. I mostly plant tomatoes and peppers and cucumbers. I may try some squash or (dog help me) zucchini, not sure which.

  9. 9
    Ferdzy says:

    We’ve already planted our celery, celeriac, onions, leeks and parsley! Indoors, of course. Our first three sprouts are up this morning, always an exciting moment.

    Spring must be coming; I can smell the melting dogshit already.

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  11. 11
    NeenerNeener says:

    Wow, “So the story goes.” really likes pie.

  12. 12
    WereBear says:

    I couldn’t help it, I bought a mini rose for myself for Christmas, and at least I saved it from certain death. It’s the nice peppermint striped kind; burgundy and cream. I couldn’t help it!

    But it’s not blooming, it’s not getting enough light and I just don’t have the dough to set it up right now, so it’s perking along under my “natural light” office desk lamp, and it will get planted out when we have spring, which is quite a ways away for us Frozen Northers.

    But St Patrick’s is looking to be quite festive: Mr WereBear and his friend both got kilts this year for Winter Carnival and are looking forward to another occasion to wear them in.

  13. 13
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @So the story goes.:

    a waste of space and time their whole fucking lives.

    A clearer case of projection I’ve never seen.

  14. 14
    jenn says:

    Wow, it is impressive how hate-filled shites some humans can be.

    Ferdzy, thanks for the melting dogshit comment – it provided a needed laugh!

  15. 15
    Debbie(aussie) says:

    @<a href="#comment-4883931raven: Raven, you must have put in a lot of work. I remember the mess you talked about when everything was.changed for you.. it looks great. Neither my hubby.son or DIL are interested in garden. I am interested but physically and financially restrained.

  16. 16
    Debbie(aussie) says:

    Apologies for double post. I believe the correct chant is now FYWP

  17. 17
    JPL says:

    Good morning. We have a cold front later this week but after that I only see warm days ahead. Last year I had a bumper crop of sweet potatoes and lots of tomatoes but very few beans, squash and no melons. The bugs enjoyed my zucchini and I’d appreciate any advice on how to prevent this.

  18. 18
    Debbie(aussie) says:

    Good morning to al Balloon Juicers, have a nice Sunday. Mine is almost finished. Time for some sleep.

  19. 19
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    Seeds have been started, mostly herbs with some tomatoes and tomatillos, some heirloom Italian sweet peppers, serranos, pasilla bajos, and another whose name slips me now, fennel and…. I forget what else, not much. Ordered most of my seeds from Renee’s. Also gonna try some tomatoes the wife brought back from Mallorca.

    I ordered my tomato plants from Territorial Seed Co. this year. I want to get away from using them as I found out they are owned by Darth Monsanto (IIRC) or possibly DuPont. One of the big seed consortiums pushing GM seeds and the attendant herbicides.

  20. 20
    satby says:

    By last August I swore no more big garden for me, but needing to plod through another polar vortex later this week has me obsessively counting days to when I can start new seeds (30 more). Heirloom tomatoes and sugar pumpkin, some other squash maybe, and lots of flowers that are butterfly, hummingbird and wildlife friendly. Adding a prairie garden on the side of the yard this year.

  21. 21
    Raven says:

    @Debbie(aussie): yea, it’s ok but I just rebuilt some stuff hoping to tear it down next year if the do re-route the sewer.

  22. 22
    Tommy says:

    I want to put in some roses this year. Also my regular garden. Some herbs. A lot of different peppers. And of course tomatoes. Last year I put in eggplant and it worked better then I thought it would. Way better. I have another raised bed I am not using that I plan to deploy this year. I canned my peppers last year and the processes was easier then I thought it would be. Took some time and elbow grease, but pretty simple. I want to use the new raised bed to grow a ton of tomatoes and can some salsa this year to give away to friends and family members.

  23. 23
    JPL says:

    This is where I purchased my sweet potato plants, They arrived in excellent condition and even though you don’t see immediate results, the produce is worth the wait.

  24. 24
    Tommy says:

    @satby: Any advice on a prairie garden would be very welcome. My town built a new high school a few years ago and they are just letting a prairie garden grow in front of it. There is something I find very beautiful about it.

  25. 25
    WereBear says:

    @Tommy: I want to put in some roses this year.

    What kind? Don’t get stuck on “tea roses” when there are so many other kinds! Heirloom varieties are gorgeous and often require less care.

  26. 26
    Ferdzy says:

    @JPL: We seem to be going through a continent-side cycle of bad cucurbit bugs, and unfortunately they also carry viral diseases (wilt etc.).

    There are three main bugs that infest squash, cucumbers and melons: Striped cucumber beetles, squash bugs, and vine borers. If you google each of these you will find different strategies for dealing with them, but the one that seems to work for us the best is to keep the plants covered with row cover as long as you can. You will have to take it off once they start flowering in order to get fruit though. We also leave out a trap plant in a pot for them for a while too.

    Hand picking, and checking for eggs and crushing them work in varying degrees. There are so many cucumber beetles you won’t keep up, but the othe two come in smaller numbers. For squash bugs, water the plants heavily, then come by about 10 minutes later with a jar of water with a drop of dish soap in it. Pick up the bugs that climb to the top to dry out, and drop them in.

  27. 27
    Tommy says:

    @WereBear: I am not sure. I want what my parents have. Need to take a few pics and head to my garden center to figure out what kind they are. I am also hoping to help my parents with their garden. My now live in the house my grandfather lived in. When my grandmother was alive she had a flower garden like you would see in a magazine. My parents have let it totally go. It is kind of a shame and I figure I might offer some help. I just have no experience with flowers.

  28. 28
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    Public Service announcement: Monarch flutterby numbers are down again this year. Everyone who cares, please plant milkweed where you can. It is not certain but it seems that the recent extreme drop is due in no small part to a precipitous drop in milkweed from the increased use of Round-up. Their #s are reaching crises levels.

    Free milkweed seeds can be had here: Live Monarch – Seed Campaign 2014

    One of my clearest childhood memories is of a perfect September day and being called by my father to look up in the sky. Looking up and seeing… nothing. Then as I adjusted the focus of my eyes I began to see thousands, then hundreds of thousands of Monarchs at all elevations fluttering over our house on the way to Mexico. In my memory it was hours before they all passed by. Theirs is truly one of the most amazing migrations in existence. I don’t want my granddaughter growing up in a world without Monarchs.

  29. 29
    CJane says:

    I tried Paul Robeson for the first time last year. Planted it in a mound of dirt that had been dug up from where I put in a patio, so it was completely fresh soil (I added some bagged compost) and completely separate from the rest of the garden. It did very well, lots of tomatoes and kept producing until I pulled it up in the fall. I had never tried it before because I didn’t realize that it’s a Russian variety and they often do well up here in Wisconsin.

  30. 30
    Ferdzy says:

    Oh yeah! I have grown Paul Robeson tomatoes. They are fabulous. Mine were not fussy but note I am in Canada and perhaps therefore a climate more like home. I have found them quite variable, depending on where I got my seeds. I think they are a variety that crosses with other tomatoes very easily so make sure you get your seed from a professional seed company that knows what the hell they are doing.

  31. 31
    Tommy says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Oh don’t get me started on Round-up and other chemicals. Directly across the street from me is a huge corn field. I got no idea what chemicals they use with the feed corn, but it grows in kind of an unnatural way. Doesn’t seem to matter how hot it is. Even if it rains much, it just grows and grows. Corn the size of my forearm just doesn’t seem natural. Heck they used to rotate crops. Feed corn, soybeans, and winter wheat. Now it is just corn.

  32. 32
    Josie says:

    I cleaned and weed eated my little yard the last two weekends. I had neglected it due to cold, rain and old age for quite a while. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that several tomato plants in containers had lived through the winter and were blooming – some Arkansas travelers and yellow pears. So I guess we will have fresh tomatoes shortly. I ate the one little yellow pear straight off the vine and it was yummy. All my eggplants and hot peppers are doing well and producing. I planted some squash and Malabar spinach. It gets too hot in South Texas to grow greens.

  33. 33
    WereBear says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Thanks for link, will be sharing all over.

  34. 34
    Josie says:


    I’d like for you to come visit me for while. : ) Your layouts and construction on deck and gardens always look professionally done. I am so jealous.

  35. 35
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Tommy: Yeah, around here it is mostly timber and cattle. There are a couple operations down in the Indian Creek valley that grow crops and they both rotate, but nothing grows that weed free without some help. I am ordering extra seeds this year and I will ninja plant them around and about.

  36. 36
    Thor Heyerdahl says:

    So the story goes…T&H has a new nym?

  37. 37
    WereBear says:

    @Tommy: I want what my parents have.

    Then go over there this spring, once they are budding out, cut off a branch, and root it in some water. Plant it to a pot outside, and then when it is flourishing, into the dirt.


  38. 38
    Linda Featheringill says:

    I have plans for tomatoes, peppers, beans, and onions. Last year, Betty Cracker’s hubby passed along advice on starting peppers with a system that provides water from the bottom, so I have such a system this year [Burpee, only 25.00 or so].

    This year, I’m going with a West Virginia heirloom Hinterland Trading Hillbilly and Brandywine. I’m going to try again to grow Fish peppers, which is a hot pepper, heirloom, that apparently appeared in the African American community in the mid 19th Century. And of course, sweet peppers.

    Right now, I’m waiting for the seeds to come and IF THE SNOW WILL EVERY GO AWAY I need to work on the soil in the raised beds.

    Last year, I discovered that the heirlooms started from seed did better than store bought plants, so I’m going that way again this year.

  39. 39
    SFAW says:

    OK, so I’m going to betray my ignorance in yet another area, and will compound the problem by asking (potentially extremely) stupid questions.

    Background: About every other year, I fool myself into thinking “This year I’ll have a REAL garden.” So I start the seeds, usually a bit late (like, late March, and I’m in NE), and then do nothing. But last year, I was actually doing a little more, and might have had a chance of following through. Got the seeds, planted them in seed-starter mix, etc. The problem? The germination rate was, for a number of plants, below 50 percent. Unwilling (for the moment) to blame my own (in)competence, I’m starting to question the quality of the seeds. My father – who was a pretty decent veggie gardener – swore by Burpee seeds, so that’s what I generally use.

    1) Are Burpee seeds still a good brand, and I’m just incompetent, or are they just living off their rep?
    2) If not Burpee, then which brand(s)?
    3) What kind of germination rates should I expect?

    Yes, I know Teh Google is my friend and all that, but I figured, since AL and many others here talk about this stuff a lot, the quality of info might be somewhat better than a bazillion hits from a search.


  40. 40
    Tommy says:

    Just a couple random thoughts if there are some lurkers here. I started a garden three years ago and have been stunned now easy and rewarding it was. I did a ton of research (asked a lot of questions here). I need to stress I didn’t think I would be successful. I mean I can kill house plants. Heck I killed a cactus. I went the Square Foot Gardening way. Even made my own soil.

    What stuns me the most is how much money I save. I keep a garden journal to figure out what works and doesn’t and I am stunned that a $2.99 tomato plant might produce 50 tomatoes. I am not nearly to the level some people here, like I have not started to try seeds, but if you don’t have a garden give it a try.

    There are so many rewarding things about it. That I produce something I can eat. Also I have more food then I can consume myself, and it is nice to give it away. Heck I know my neighbors better now cause I am in my yard working in the garden more.

  41. 41
    tybee says:

    2nd round of snow peas are up. the first planting died. from snow and ice. why do they call them snow peas if they don’t like snow?

  42. 42
    Tommy says:

    @WereBear: I was wondering if that was possible. Their roses might be like 50 years old.

  43. 43
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @WereBear: Thank you. I obviously care. It is nice knowing that others do to.

  44. 44
    SFAW says:


    why do they call them snow peas if they don’t like snow?

    Maybe they were named by a “compassionate conservative”?

  45. 45
    Tommy says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: There is a Monsanto test facility in my town and this is their field. There are still a ton of family farms around me and most people refuse to use Monsanto seeds. Last year it was hot and not much rain. Seeing other fields with non-Monsanto corn literally dieing while their seeds seem to grow no matter what is just telling IMHO.

  46. 46
    JPL says:

    @Ferdzy: Thanks. I think I’m going to plant just zucchini and concentrate on that. There is nothing like zucchini on the grill.

  47. 47
    gogol's wife says:

    I can’t grow anything, but I do love Paul Robeson.

  48. 48
    eric nny says:

    My 3 go to mail orders are Fedco, Sandhill Preservation and Seed Savers Exchange. This year’s trial is heirloom sweet corn without the modern hybrid sweetness enhancing gene. Apparently you have to pick the ear just as you’re ready to use. Probably setting myself up for failure but I miss the old fashioned corn flavor. Modern sweet corn is too sweet AND should stay off my lawn….

  49. 49
    gogol's wife says:

    @eric nny:

    You’re giving me a flashback to what my father’s corn used to taste like. Sweet, but not too sweet, with a little bready, funky taste in there. Umami, I guess.

  50. 50
    chopper says:

    This week is cleanup and compost week, but the peas are already taller than I am. Greens are coming up nice too.

  51. 51
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    In non-gardening news, a non-disaster in Jupiter FL: Jaime Garcia may be lost for the season. Whatever will the Cards do??? Ummmm, Joe Kelley, Carlos Martinez, Kevin Siegrist….. It is tough being the best organization in baseball.

  52. 52
    Tommy says:

    @gogol’s wife: There is hope for you :). I thought the same thing about myself. The first year my garden was a complete failure. I didn’t plan well enough and planted everything too close to each other. But I learned from that mistake (I joke I guess I couldn’t read the labels for planting — or thought those that produced the plants didn’t know as much as I did) and got some graph paper to plan. The next year was better. Last year even better. This year I have grand plans and I might have an epic fail, but in all honesty a garden in the grand scheme of things is kind of “cheap” to put in. As projects I undertake go, it is on the “cheap” side of things.

    BTW: Try peppers. I like spicy food and I’ve found there is almost no way to kill a pepper plant. I had six kinds last year and they all did well. A few others things didn’t work out as well as I had hoped but the peppers were amazing. I had so many I figured out how to can them. That was after giving away I don’t know how many of them.

  53. 53
    WaterGirl says:

    @JPL: I love zucchini, but I haven’t tried it on the grill. How do you do it?

    Last spring there was a sunday garden chat about squash bugs and there were lots of suggestions. I remember at the end of the growing season last year saying that I was going to do all three things that I remembered.

    1. put aluminum foil on the stems so the bugs can’t eat them
    2. plant dill in with the zucchini, because they hate dill
    3. cannot remember what this was. erghh!!!

    Last year I planted 3 zucchini plants, all of the same variety. They were great while they lasted, but the bugs eventually got them. I learned that different varieties peak at different times, so I decided to plant 3 different varieties this year in an effort to extend the growing season.

  54. 54
    Tommy says:


    I love zucchini, but I haven’t tried it on the grill. How do you do it?

    Honestly any way you want. You can put it on a skewer. I just throw it sliced on the grill. Some sea salt, pepper, and olive oil. One of the favorite things I do is slice up a potato and zucchini. Put it in foil with some fresh garlic, basil, diced onion, salt, and pepper. Oh and way more butter then I should use. Throw on the grill. If you slice it really thin it cooks quickly. Such a simple thing but when I have guests over they seem to love it more then anything else I do.

  55. 55
    WereBear says:

    @Tommy: The ones your grandmother planted obviously like your area, right? So you have a great head start by choosing them.

    And you will love growing “Grandma’s Roses”… I know you will.

  56. 56
    OzarkHillbilly says:


    One of the favorite things I do

    Nice… thanx.

    @WaterGirl: I like to marinate them in cheap italian dressing for a half hour or so, than toss ’em on the grill for a quick char…. or even better yet, a quick smoke.

  57. 57
    p.a. says:

    @WaterGirl: grill baskets are great for veggies. Get a small grill pot or use a sturdy all metal saucepan. Get pan hot. Add 1-2 tbsp peanut or canola oil. Toast (carefully) 2 tbsp curry powder in oil. I then add approx 1 cup skim milk and let it boil and thicken. No thickener needed the curry does it. Have recently heard skim is NG because sugar and more is added, so I’ll be trying other liquids; beer, H2O, veggie broth to see how they work. Plate veggies, pour sauce over.

  58. 58
    Gvg says:

    Seed starting can be tricky. I have found the quality of the soil matters a lot. The big brands you would think would be reliable are terrible. Fungus damp off gets the seedlings as soon as the germinate or they never do germinate. Switch to whatever your local grower nurseries use. The ones that grow their own plants to sell. sometimes it’s local whole sellers or the farmers market sellers. After you get the soil right, then worry about which seed sources to use. I’d use several to compare. brûlée has been ok but not outstanding for me. Worst luck from Thompson n Morgan and Pinetree. Both have things I want enough to keep trying but not often. Also look for regional specialists. The right varieties for your area save a lot of bad luck. I tend to look for University of Florida bred or recommended varieties. Some states have good extension services some don’t. Some have great private companies who are experts. nothing works everywhere. Also check the gardenweb forums for your area.

  59. 59
    Fuzzy says:

    Unless northern CA gets huge amounts of rain our garden patch will be fallow. It is nice that we have a twice weekly farmers market nearby unless that dries up too. This drought is no joke folks,

  60. 60
    Tommy says:

    @Fuzzy: I am not an expert on weather, but even as a novice on the issue I look at CA and can see things are FUBAR. One of the things that gets me is we knew these days were coming. I live in a Great Lake state and we have a lot of water. We’ve had a working committee among the Great Lake states asking other states to get involved. That one day you will want our water, so you need to be involved in making sure it is clean. Buck up. They have not been involved and honestly I don’t want you to suffer, but alas we told you this day was coming and you did nothing.

  61. 61
    WaterGirl says:

    Thanks for all the grilled zucchini ideas.

  62. 62
    Fuzzy says:

    @Tommy: Agree but the “water rights” fight is such a political football that the only solution is two states. We have and will have plenty of water in the north but southern CA is using most of ours and AZs so let them dry up. Desalination is the only solution or build a pipeline from the great lakes but you have your own problems with invasive species and algae.

  63. 63
    Doctor J says:

    I’ve grown several dozen heirloom varieties in recent years, looking for those which do well in my particular microclimate here in the foothills in northern Colorado.
    One thing I’ve noticed is that there seem to be “clusters” of closely related varieties; I presume that over the years, as people passed seeds along, some folks would choose to re-name their own cultivars. In some cases, there may be little or no difference; other times, different cultivars derived from the same seed stock might be better adapted to different climates and soils.

    As to Paul Robeson: I’ve grown it with results similar to yours–a wonderful black tomato, but a poor producer. But I don’t think I could tell a Robeson tomato apart from a Black Krim. As the story behind Robeson is that a farmer renamed a black tomato in honor of the great performer, I suspect that it’s probably a strain of Black Krim.
    In contrast to Paul R., I’ve had great success with Black Krim–loads and loads of gorgeous, delicious black beefsteaks. I’ve used BK seed from bounty beyond belief, and from with similar wonderful results.

    Another black variety I tried for the first time last year is a black globe tomato, Black Prince (from Tomatofest). Wow! Even sweeter than Black Krim. Canned a batch of black tomato sauce made with nothing but Krim and Prince; taste it, and you’ll wonder whether to use it for a pasta sauce or a dessert topping!

    My advice: If Robeson didn’t grow well for you, get seed for a number of black beefsteaks, and see which one grows best in your own garden.


  64. 64
    auntie beak says:

    ugh. although i consider myself a “recovering gardener,” i got sucked into starting a few seeds this year; just the nightshade family. japanese white egg eggplant; 5 pepper varieties—early sunsation, hybrid ace, islander, king of the north, and sweet chocolate; 1 hot pepper—tam jalapeno; 5 varieties of slicing tomato—abe lincoln, cherokee purple, defiant, gypsy, and pineapple; 1 paste tomato, sausage; and 4 different cherrie tomatoes—chocolate cherry, egg yolk, sara’s galapagos, sungold, and umberto.

    around these parts (southeastern connecticut), i’ll be starting the eggplant and peppers the last week of march, and the tomatoes the first week of april.

    i will then rely on my husband, the new family gardener, to tend the plants. me? i’ll be out hiking.

  65. 65
    cmm says:

    We are in the process of getting our house ready to sell and downsizing into a 34′ RV trailer. Eventually we plan to go mobile when employment allows, til then we will be stationary for several years on land rented from friends. They garden and want to garden more; in addition we are having a patio built for our trailer that will lend itself to container gardening. But at this point I have idea what we’ll be growing. I will leave that to my partner and the friends and just go out and weed, water, or harvest as ordered. I am torn between wanting to start gardens in our current house so the garden areas don’t look so scrubby to prospective buyers (especially since we have several raised bed gardens in the front yard, which is a plus to some buyers and a minus to others), and not wanting to expend the effort when we most likely won’t reap any of the results.

  66. 66
    imonlylurking says:


    Got the seeds, planted them in seed-starter mix, etc. The problem? The germination rate was, for a number of plants, below 50 percent.

    A couple of years ago I got involved in a corporate garden and decided to start most of the seeds myself. (Partly to see if I *could*-I’d never done plants from seed before.) I got 100% germination on sweet pepper seeds that were at least three years old, and this is how I did it (more or less):

    #1 You need coffee filters and little plastic baggies. I bought bead-holding baggies in the craft aisle but the snack-size ziplocs would work just as well. Also a thermometer and some hydrogen peroxide in water in a little spray bottle. Boil the water and let it cool sightly-I don’t remember the temperature but you can find it online. Once the correct temperature has been reached, pour the pepper seeds into the water and soak overnight. I used a tiny little tupperware cup, wrapped in a towel, with the lid on to keep the warmth for as long as possible.

    #2 The next day, set up the plastic bags-cut the coffee filter in half, then fold each half into half, then half again so it looks like a piece of pie. When setting up, it’s easier to have the hydrogen peroxide mix in a saucer-you want the filter to be damp but not dripping. Wet the filter, place a pepper seed inside the fold, place the filter inside plastic bag. Repeat until you are out of seeds.

    #3 You need a steady source of heat. I used a metal bookshelf-pinned the baggies to the wires with clothespins- and put Christmas tree lights underneath. Every day or every other day, check the baggies and spray if they are to dry. (I opened each one at first, but after a while you can tell by holding it up to the light which ones are too dry.) Once you see sprouts, transplant into something with a growing medium -not too deeply, here is where you use seed starting mix- and get them under lights.

    That’s the method I used. Some people use whole coffee filters in larger bags-you can plant more seeds in each bag that way. I was able to germinate every single seed this way, and they grew extremely well.

    Here are the shelves I used:
    Target also has them-watch for a sale

    The shelves are adjustable. I moved the bottom shelf all the way to the floor and moved the top two closer to each other-put a thermometer on the middle shelf so you can keep an eye on the temperature.

    Google ‘seed starting in coffee filter’ for details. I would never use any other method now-yes it’s work, but it’s hard to beat 100% germination.

  67. 67
    jnfr says:

    The one time I grew Paul Robesons, I think I also got one good tomato out of the plant and that was it. But I got plants from Laurel’s that year and several of them wilted before harvest time.

    This year I’m starting all my own seeds, but not till next month. Plants go out in May, exactly when depends on snow and frosts. But I can’t start the seeds until I finish harvesting my state-legal marijuana plants which are currently in full bud.

  68. 68
    StringOnAStick says:

    @SFAW: You’re probably experiencing a problem with it being too cold for proper germination, a common problem for folks in cold climates who want to start their own seeds before spring. There may also be a problem with inadequate light too.

    I’ve had my best success with using the APS (advanced propagation system) units that Gardeners Supply sells, but not having a warm enough/sunny enough place is a real germination killer. Some people solve that with a heating mat designed for that use. As far as seed companies go, try some of the smaller, organic-leaning ones that are in regions with a climate similar to yours. I mostly use Johnny’s Selected Seeds, being careful to interpret the descriptions as a hint about what has the best chance in my area.

    Until this house, I’ve always had a large veggie garden. Our backyard is adjacent to Open Space, and the elk and deer will eat anything other than lavender and salvias, and sometimes even those too, so no veggies in the back yard. I’ve been using large self-watering containers along the driveway in the front and I get some veggies, but by the time we get into the blazing Colorado summer it starts to seem like too much work for such a short season, therefore this year I am torn on if I will do any at all. Combine that with us suddenly having to travel a lot to care for my FIL in another state, and I can see this being the year that I take a break, just so I don’t have to burden the neighbors to water for me when we are off doing eldercare. Fortunately the yard is planted in xeric perennials and shrubs with a drip system, so no lawn to mow and it pretty much takes care of itself now.

  69. 69
    Bob Esler says:

    To answer some questions in the above comments:
    Burpee is a good seed company, but very expensive compared to other companies.
    I order most of my seeds from Jung Seed (Randolph Wis.) and Pinetree (New Gloucester, Maine). I also like Johnny’s (Winslow, Maine) and Totally Tomatoes (Randolph, Wis.). For someone with a small garden, Pinetree is a good choice. Their packets are less expensive than the others and have a bit fewer seeds.
    As for tomatoes, I have been starting my plants from seeds planted indoors about mid-April, setting out around Memorial Day. My current favorite types are: Cupid (grape), Viva Italia (paste), Lemon Boy (yellow) and Brandy Boy- a Burpee exclusive combination of Brandywine and Big Boy (large, red, very tasty).
    My friends are often too eager to set out tomatoes in the spring. Any cold, wet period really harms tomato plant development- and since I live on Lake Michigan, our springs are usually cold, wet and late in coming. I wait until the weather forecast is for warm and dry conditions for the next week or two before setting out and usually get a bumper crop.

  70. 70
    SectionH says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Asclepius self-sows prolifically where our former house is, and we brought along a jar of seeds Mr S saved, as well as a few volunteer plants in containers. I’m hoping some Monarchs will find them on our balcony. It’s the 7th floor, but I have watched the butterflies climb much higher to go past buildings in their path, so just maybe a few will find us.

    And I will send seeds to interested people as long as I can. Anne Laurie can provide my email.

    ETA: the asclepias I have I isn’t like Midwestern milkweed, but is related. It has pretty little orange-red flowers, and massed is an attractive garden plant. Grows about 2″-3″ high.

  71. 71
    a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q) says:

    @Tommy: Rooting rose cuttings is a little more complicated; I’d recommend advice from a local garden group. I love to get some wonderful own root roses from Antique Rose Emporium – the quality is always terrific and you can search about 17 ways. The print catalogs are rose p0rn. I’m going to get a couple this year for this house, and will plant with lots of lavender to discourage the deer.

  72. 72
    divF says:

    I’ve not been a successful gardener for a couple of decades, but our recent discovery of Nantes carrots makes me want to give it a shot. Sweet, no woody core, no bitter overtones. They’re a cool-weather vegetable, but cool weather is what we get here in the East Bay for quite a long while, so we’ll see.

  73. 73
    KS in MA says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Thanks–I was just looking for a source for milkweed seeds!

  74. 74
    eyelessgame says:

    I live in California. Rocks.

  75. 75
    joel hanes says:

    Like fuzzy, I’m in Northern California, and my gardens will lie fallow this year. The back lawn we’ll let die, and the front lawn I can keep going with one deep watering a month.


    advice on prairie garden

    It’s best to use local-genome seed. Contact the Nature Conservancy or your county conservation people to find the prairie enthusiasts in your area,
    and use only seed collected by knowledgeable restorers. These people will be eager to offer help and resources so that you can do it “right” — that is, to help preserve and restore the local biodiversity of the prairie biome.

    _Do_not_ use the “wildflower mix” seeds available in hardware stores.

    Do not expect everything you plant to come up; keep trying things you want, and accept that some of them don’t work.

    Be patient. Prairie seeds often lie dormant for years until conditions are just right. We have seen stuff we planted years earlier, and assumed failed, come up and flourish when the particular mix of warm/cool wet/dry early/late weather it wants finally comes around.

    I don’t know where you live, but in Iowa, you can attract adult butterflies with Monarda and Butterflyweed (Asclepius tuberosa). My Mom loves her Blazing Star. Alexander sunflower is vigorous and gives a good show. There will be ten kinds of asters for your area; some of them will do well in your garden.

    If you plan to use prarie grasses: I would avoid switchgrass, as it’s just too successful and invasive, and tends to crowd out other things you might prefer.
    Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) and Canada rye (Elymus canadensis) are medium-height and have showy plumes in autumn that feed seed-eating birds;
    little bluestem is good in poor, dry soils, while big bluestem in good soil with plenty of water can tower up to six or seven feet,

  76. 76
    J R in WV says:

    We have gardened in the distant past with great success… but nowadays the white-tail deer are out of control predators on growing plants. They even eat ferns (which they aren’t supposed to like) right by the front door.

    We have 2 dogs, lab mix rescues, who will chase the deer until the deer stop and stand their ground, at which point the dogs apologize and run back to the house.

    So all the successful gardeners have built stalag-high fences, often with electric add-ons, to keep the deer from harvesting the plants before the planting gardener get a single bite!

    I’m planning to get into the construction of fences this summer, maybe. I’m also getting old, and can’t do stoop work much, maybe build really high beds for canning tomatoes?

  77. 77
    Bill Arnold says:

    That’s Asclepias tuberosa aka Butterfly Weed (in the northeast at least that’s a common name).
    Both it (and cultivars) and the common milkweed (i think this) grow well and wild in my area (hudson valley) but mowing kills them.

  78. 78
    satby says:

    @Tommy: Tommy, you just look for perennials that will naturalize, think Midwestern wildflowers. I bought a bunch of seeds (Park had a $1 sale) and just intend to sow most of them, keep it moist and cross my fingers ;)

  79. 79
    satby says:

    @WereBear: @Tommy: you can also look at garden centers for “rooting” gel, it helps cutting from plants root a bit better. Don’t really need it to start a cutting, but it may help.

  80. 80
    satby says:

    @SFAW: heat and light: essential! A sunny window is often not warm enough long enough, so get a seed starting heating pad and AFTER you have sprouting put them under a grow lamp for 8-10 hours a day. The first year I did seeds I did the sunny window thing, and less than 1/2 sprouted. A year later with a heating pad and grow light, almost 100% germination. Try it.

  81. 81
    Anne Laurie says:

    @Doctor J:

    As to Paul Robeson: I’ve grown it with results similar to yours–a wonderful black tomato, but a poor producer. But I don’t think I could tell a Robeson tomato apart from a Black Krim. As the story behind Robeson is that a farmer renamed a black tomato in honor of the great performer, I suspect that it’s probably a strain of Black Krim.
    In contrast to Paul R., I’ve had great success with Black Krim–loads and loads of gorgeous, delicious black beefsteaks. I’ve used BK seed from bounty beyond belief, and from with similar wonderful results.

    I agree, Black Krim and Black Prince are both on my annual “must have” lists! For me, BKrim tends to start producing earlier and then poop out by August, while BPrince will just be starting to ripen fruit by then.

    The other two full-sized “black” tomatoes I swear by (as opposed to swearing at) are Cherokee Purple, and Japanese Black Trifele (or Truffle, which look like organic truck nuts but are reliable & very tasty).

    But the Robesons are soooo delicious, and my fussy Spousal Unit loves how perfectly shaped they are, so I’ll keep trying them as well!

  82. 82
    SFAW says:

    @imonlylurking: @StringOnAStick: @satby:

    Thanks to all for the suggestions re: heat, light, etc. I had them on our (unheated, but generally warm) porch, which has the east and south walls as mostly windows, but it sounds like that may not have been enough.

    Of course, the danger now is that, even with all the help, I drop the ball. But I guess I’ll need to work on not doing that.

    Thanks again!

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