Sunday Morning Garden Chat: Seeds Are A Promise

(h/t John Cole, Blogmaster)

From the Washington Post, an update: “On its 10th anniversary, dispelling myths around the Arctic Circle’s famed ‘doomsday’ seed vault”

‘Tis the time of year to get seeds for the coming growing season. On Monday, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in the Arctic Circle got a delivery of more than 76,000 seed batches from gene banks in 22 countries.

But these are not for geminating — not yet, anyway. Sometimes referred to as the doomsday seed vault, the chilled storage chambers are located within a mountain on Norway’s island of Spitsbergen and form the protected repository of the word’s food crops.

This week’s ceremonial arrival of rice, wheat, barley, legumes and other seeds puts the vault’s inventory at more than 1 million varieties of crops. It also marked the vault’s 10th anniversary.

Officials with the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and the Crop Trust were on hand to receive a total of 179 boxes of seed from gene banks around the world, including two in the United States.

Jon Georg Dale, Norway’s minister of agriculture and food, said in a statement that in a period of extreme weather and an increasing global population “it is more important than ever to ensure that seeds — the foundation of our food supply and the future of our agriculture — are safely conserved.”

The Norwegian government also announced a $12.7 million plan to improve the vault with the construction of a new access tunnel and a service building to house emergency power and refrigerating units. The proposal stems from flooding at the entrance from an unexpected thaw in the permafrost, though none of the seed stocks were affected…


Got a whole new batch of garden catalog this week, but I’m pretty well pre-ordered up, having already reserved a few more plants than we realistically have room for. Although the Spousal Unit is excited that I’m turning a couple of permanent planters (where tomatoes no longer flourish, even though the soil has been replaced) into alpine strawberry beds. Now we’ll see if he remembers to check for ripe fruit before the local fauna gets every last one — an ongoing issue with the three strawberry pots we’ve currently got near the front door.

What’s going on in your gardens (planning), this week?

Look at All My Babies

Going to be a good crop this summer, I know it.

Sunday Morning Garden Chat: Hearts & Flowers Day

… or, as us relationship lifers call it: Amateur Evening!

Photo courtesy of ace photographer & funny dude Ozark Hillbilly.

And speaking of flowers, from the Washington Post“How the rose trade lifted Colombia – and nearly erased an American industry”:

The majority of roses Americans give one another on Valentine’s Day, roughly 200 million in all, grow here, the savanna outside Bogota, summoned from the soil by 12 hours of natural sunlight, the 8,400-foot altitude and an abundance of cheap labor.

Thousands of acres of white-tarped greenhouses, some the size of several football fields, are crammed with seven-foot stems topped with rich red crowns. Many are pulled into warehouses by horses, chilled to sleep in refrigeration rooms, and then packed with other flowers onto planes — 1.1 million at a time — to be sold in the United States.

It’s peak season for a massive Colombian industry that shipped more than 4 billion flowers to the United States last year — or about a dozen for every U.S. resident.

The Colombian industry has bloomed thanks to a U.S. effort to disrupt cocaine trafficking, the expansion of free-trade agreements — and the relentless demand by American consumers for cheap roses.

The transformation demonstrates the barreling, often brutal, efficiency of globalization: In 27 years, market forces and decisions made in Washington have reshaped the rose business on two continents. The American flower industry has seen its production of roses drop roughly 95 percent, falling from 545 million to less than 30 million…

Colombians don’t even celebrate Valentine’s Day, but among flower growers, the foreign holiday can account for close to 20 percent of annual revenue.

The volume of the rose trade is breathtaking. In the three weeks leading up to Feb. 14, 30 cargo jets make the trip from Colombia to Miami each day, with each plane toting more than a million flowers.

From Miami’s airport, the flowers are loaded into refrigerated trucks — 200 are needed each day — and from there many go to warehouses in South Florida, where they are repackaged, assembled into bouquets, and then shipped all over the country…

Walmart alone is purchasing 24 million Colombian roses to sell for Valentine’s Day. One of its senior associates, Deborah Zoellick, is so well known in Colombia and South Florida that her travels are closely tracked. That’s because any buying decision by the United States’ largest retailer can single-handedly change the flow of roses on two continents.

This year promised to be especially busy. Valentine’s Day falls on a Wednesday, a boon for Colombian growers, as they believe Americans are more likely to splurge on midweek sales and still count on extra purchases on the weekend before and after…

You should definitely read the whole thing, because the photos, as well as the stats, are amazing!

Apart from planning for V-Day, what’s going on in your garden/household/photo planning this week?

Sunday Morning Wildlife Chat: Life (or at Least Finches) Will Endure

Quick garden-related note: I’ve already been, shall we say, less than totally successful at cutting back on the number of mail-order tomatoes I put on hold during the dark winter days (and it hasn’t even been much of a winter here north of Boston, just yet). Mostly because of the dozen plants I impulse-ordered during that big Burpee sale, which cost practically nothing if I didn’t pay attention to the time & effort they’ll take to nuture during the growing season. On the other hand, I’ve been thinking about experimenting with putting a few plants in a new location (along the chain-link back fence — severe northern exposure, but taking down our covered porch and the neighbors’ loss of some trees have increased the light levels considerably) and these ‘bargains’ should be good candidates…

What’s going on with your garden / renovation projects, this week?

Many thanks to commentor Tenar Arha for this most fascinating Atlantic link — “Urban Bird Feeders Are Changing the Course of Evolution”:

To my knowledge, no one has ever been killed by a plummeting bird feeder. Still, when you live on the 25th floor of a Manhattan high-rise, you can’t hang one outside the window and risk knocking off a pedestrian below…

… I missed a connection to the wild. Seeking a remedy, I discovered a small Maine company called Coveside Conservation Products, which makes a unique “Panoramic in-House Window Bird Feeder.” A semicircular mahogany platform enclosed with plexiglass, the feeder fits into an open window and juts inward, providing a front-row view of birds bold enough to enter. No part of the contraption dangles outside, presumably rendering it safe for urban use.

In reply to my enthusiastic query, however, Coveside’s owner, Jim Turpin, was less than a salesman. “Frankly, I’m not overly optimistic about attracting birds to feed in a high-rise setting,” he wrote, explaining that most species search for food at specific heights. He pointed me to the website of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, where someone had inquired about luring birds to a 17th-floor balcony. The answer—that attractive foliage can help, but don’t hold your breath—wasn’t promising, considering I don’t have a balcony and scarcely overlook a tree.

Nevertheless, I ordered the feeder, filled it with birdseed, and installed it in my window, where it interrupted the soundproofing, so I found myself working amid a cacophony of sirens and jackhammering. Two hundred and fifty feet above ground—the height of the tallest giant sequoias in the Sierra Nevada—the wind howls more often than not. Despite my best efforts to insulate the edges of the wobbly wooden feeder, freezing January air whistled through the apartment, slamming shut any door left ajar…

Then, one morning in March, as I brewed coffee in the kitchen, Jeff strode into the office and sprang back out again, announcing he’d seen a flash of red. I joined him, and we peered around the door until the startled visitor worked up the courage to return. A cherry gum ball of a head poked up from the ledge and cocked to one side, uttering an inquisitive chirp and inspecting the room from behind plexiglass. Once satisfied that all was clear, a sparrow-size creature with a blushing breast and triangular beak hopped into the feeder. I recognized it immediately as a house finch…

Native to western North America, house finches weren’t introduced to the East Coast until 1939, when a Brooklyn pet shop released a small number that had been illegally trapped in California. Over the next 50 years, these plucky pioneers established a firm footing, spreading across the continent until they reunited with their western cousins on the Great Plains. Today the finches inhabit perhaps the widest ecological range of any living bird, having emigrated from their ancestral deserts all the way to the edges of the subarctic taiga, adapting to suburbs and cities alike…

According to experts, feeding birds is probably the most common way in which people interact with wild animals today. More than 50 million Americans engage in the practice, collectively undertaking an unwitting experiment on a vast scale. Is what we’re doing good or bad for birds? Recently, researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology sought to answer this question, analyzing nearly three decades’ worth of data from a winter-long survey called Project FeederWatch. Preliminary results suggest the species visiting our feeders the most are faring exceptionally well in an age when one-third of the continent’s birds need urgent conservation. Still, what are the consequences of skewing the odds in favor of the small subset of species inclined to eat at feeders? What about when the bird we’re aiding is invasive, like our house finch?…

Sunday Morning Garden Chat: Starting


Reposted from late-night Friday, the Blogmaster:

I don’t know if I will save any money, but I do know that I will be able to use the kind of seeds I want, and not have blight or anything from factory produced plants.

The biggest reason though is that I like spending the time doing it and it’s a nice calming activity.

For those of you who self-start: Where do you get your seeds? (This batch of Cole’s is from Sustainable Seeds; there’s a bunch of other recommendations in the comments to that earlier post.)

Any recommendations for setting up a successful starting array? Supplies, lights, benches?

How about pet-proofing? Are there seedlings that are particularly resistant — or attractive — to cats or dogs? (Cats I’ve lived with would eat anything from nicotine-laden tomato seedlings to thorny mini-roses being overwintered; not having a sunny window the current felines can’t access is the main reason I no longer even *pretend* I’m gonna start from seeds.)


I’ve started ordering this season’s plants already… partially in the hope that I’ll be a little less likely to overbuy tomatoes when we’re having a snow-melting period to remind me how much work our yard already needs. Results so far: mixed! Some more Mara des Bois strawberries for the Spousal Unit from Logees, while they’re still available; a half-dozen must-have tomato plants I’m not seeing elsewhere from Got suckered lured into ordering a bunch of container blueberries, strawberries and lingonberries along with a batch of ‘Mix’n’Match’ individual tomato plants from Burpees, which is running a big sale this weekend.

When all the FRAGILE LIVE PLANTS arrive at the same time (in mid-May), I’ll be cursing my overambitious goals — again!

My First Batch of Babies

As I mentioned last night, I am starting from seeds this year. Here is my first batch, which I moved from their little incubator pods to tiny pots (these were from Sustainable Seeds). My goal this year is everything I plant to start from seeds that I grew.

I don’t know if I will save any money, but I do know that I will be able to use the kind of seeds I want, and not have blight or anything from factory produced plants.

The biggest reason though is that I like spending the time doing it and it’s a nice calming activity.

Sunday Morning Frost Garden Chat: “Winter Is Here”


Sometimes all you can do is accept the austere beauty of a frozen landscape. From faithful commentor and ace photographer Ozark Hillbilly:

Seeing as I had sent you a “Winter is Coming” post I kinda felt obligated to send you a “Winter is Here” post. Sadly I find I do not have enough snowy pictures that are worth sending. Instead you are getting some from a couple of ice storms.


What’s going on in your (frosted, flourishing, or metaphorical) gardens, this week?