The Violet Fern

A Colorful Tale of a Garden in the Making


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Potager Plan 2016

It’s that very most favorite project of mine around this time of year … planning the Potager (vegetable garden) and ordering seeds! It doesn’t matter if you are in cold country or closer to the equator I’ve found, one still gets the gardener’s itch.

Yes, even though I try to have some amount of discipline and control, I went crazy! It’s time I revamp most of my seeds anyhow and well, they are stored in a box in a dark closet in my (frozen) house so how viable will they be anyway? I’ll find out. Yet, one more gardening experiment. Last year I stored my seeds in our heated garage so technically they did not freeze because the garage remained heated while we were away.

Before I migrated, I managed to move my office/studio to a slightly larger room in the house and I set up my seed station so that I am ready to start seeds the day after we get home? Last year I started seeds in my little greenhouse but I think it was still a little too cool to get things off to a really good start so this year I am going to germinate them indoors under lights and when I pot up they will go into the greenhouse. That is my strategy anyway.

Thank goodness I am not returning home to this!

Now I’m actually looking forward to getting back to my newly moved and reorganized office.

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My seed station is to the right in the photo above in front of another window.

This year I’ve gone back to some of my favorite seed sources. Although Baker’s makes me drool – I mean, that catalog! – I don’t think the seeds do as well for me because of climate and locality as Johnny’s or High Mowing. It is from Johnny’s and High Mowing that I’ve ordered the bulk of my seeds from this year. I also ordered lots of flowers from Renee’s and even though she is in California, her seeds have always done well for me perhaps because most are annual flowers geared to grow fast?

Here it is my annual sketch/plan for the Potager, before I delve into my plant list for 2016. You can view previous years here, here, here and here. I am still missing 2014 (that was the COLD year that I didn’t escape even for a week). It’s fun to see the changes in the Potager over the years. You can click on this year’s plan to zoom in.

potagerplan2016

So, what am I growing?

If I had to pare it down to the bare minimum these would be my staples:
Basil
Garlic
Kale
Tomatoes

I enjoy peas early in the season. Not so much radishes but I am going to try some again. I am also going to try cucamelons again because they are just too cute and too fun. I like squash but we can get wonderful squash from the nearby farms, still so much fun to grow your own.

I am into colors so I have begun mixing colors i.e. black, red, gold tomatoes or purple and white eggplant or green and purple basil. Aside from that, the darker more colorful varieties are tooted to be higher in nutrients or antioxidants so win, win.

So, here is the list.

I’m going to make use of the greenhouse now that I’ve evicted the hornets. I will grow some things in large pots I’ve saved from purchasing shrubs.
GREENHOUSE/PEPPERS: Early Jalapeño Hot Pepper (so I can make one of my favorite vegan snacks/dip), Black Hungarian Hot Pepper
GREENHOUSE/EGGPLANT: Little Finger (black), Gretel (white)

HERBS (Annual)
Basils: Lime, Genovese, Purple Ruffles, Purple Dark Opal and Sacred
Cilantro: Caribe and Calypso (will be planted among the Squash – forgot to add that to my sketch!)

PEAS
Spring Blush Tendril
Tall Telephone

RADISH
D’Avignon

KALES
Dinosaur or Lacinato (my favorite)
Curly Roja Kale
Kalettes! (Last year I restrained but I just have to try these!) Snowdrop and Mistletoe (The circled K on my sketch)

BEANS
I prefer growing pole beans.
Blue Coco (I have been wanting to try!)
Runner Painted Lady (I love these for the hummingbirds)

LETTUCES/GREENS
Swiss Chard (going back to Bright Lights)
Belle Isle Cress
Forellenschluss Lettuce

SQUASH
Summer: Ronde de Nice
Fall: Honey Bear (a mini Acorn!)

TOMATOES
For slicing and salads: Yellow Brandywine, Indigo Rose, Copia
For sauce: Speckled Roman
Cherry: Sun Gold, Supersweet 100, Indigo

I grow a staple of flowers in the Potager as well.

I like to mix Morning Glory on the trellises so when a vegetable vine is done there are still some pretty flowers to look at. I’ve also mixed in Cathedral Bells in the past – beautiful. The Morning Glory just comes back so no extra work for me.

Nasturtium is a must for eating, and companion planting.

Calendula reseeds itself valiantly as well as Borage. Borage is a bee magnet.

I will also try, try, try to tuck in some Sunflowers! Ants be damned. Last year they toppled their stems like trees by chewing around the base but hey, I moved that entire raised bed to the other side of the Potager so probably will not have ants again (I hope).

I am very excited for another year of gardening – THIS IS THE YEAR I can finally harvest my Asparagus – and can’t wait to also try out my new patio right in the garden so I can watch everything grow!

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What’s Growing: C-C-C-Kholorabi

The sun was out today and the temperature reached 30 F so this sleepy bear roused, went outside and puttered about the garden – frozen though it yet is. It was a spontaneous distraction from my daily list of things to do, but I allowed it considering that there’s more snow storms on the way.

The Potager in February

The Potager in February

Last year I maintained a makeshift cold frame – diligent about keeping the snow off the old windows. This year it has proven to be a challenge. It is buried, and has been buried, for most of our Winter. Today I yet again tried to chisel off crusty, icy snow. A few days back I actually broke one of the windows (I am not the sharpest tool in the shed), by banging on it with a broom handle in an attempt to break up the ice. I broke a lot more than I bargained for! Fortunately I had a spare window in the shed (along with those “uh, very dull tools”) that I put in place instead, but of course we have had more snow. Today I used a heavy duty plastic trowel and scraped and scooped (instead of banging) – oh, it made me long to dig in the dirt! The windows show, but the frame they are resting on is still buried in the snow. Still, I wanted the sun to seep through those frozen window panes very, very badly.

My buried cold frame.

My buried cold frame.

Upon revealing the panes, I got a view inside. To my surprise, a Kohlrabi! Isn’t she beautiful? Can you make her out – the round belly just center of those GREEN leaves? I just cannot get over how AMAZING it is to grow things! Here, where we have had stretches of well below zero temperatures, there is green and by god, Kohlrabi!

Kohlrabi!

Kohlrabi!

I know I do not use this cold frame to its potential. I am sort of  a hack gardener. Read about a real professional who knows how to deal with a cold climate here. Honestly, I really do not know what the heck I am doing but if I can grow a Kohlrabi in this Winter, so can anyone! I am very much an experimental gardener. I read a lot, and research a lot, but I forget most of it. When it comes down to it, my guiding hand is usually “what the heck, let’s try it.” So, here I am experimenting with my makeshift cold frame for the second Winter. I have beets (alive!), parsnips (alive!) and Kohlrabi(#*!) in it this year. Not sure what I will attempt next Winter – perhaps some Escarole? My dream is to actually harvest something in January or February. It will come true one day if I keep trying.


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What’s Growing: Purple Peas and Potato Seeds

In spite of the roaming and very hungry rabbit herd, I actually have harvested a few things from the Potager for myself!

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The garlic is now hanging to dry in my shed.

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I planted Purple Podded Peas from Hudson Valley Seed Library. Each year members are asked to grow a different heirloom seed by the library, and then to collect some of the seed and send it back to the library. This way heirlooms are grown in and spread about various places so the plant varieties live on. This year the chosen seed is Purple Podded Peas, a wonderful dried pea that was absolutely beautiful growing on the vine. I just recently harvested the pods I let dry (on the vine). I cannot wait to make a homemade split pea soup with these! – though I can wait for the colder weather to do so, even after our recent heat wave.

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Purple Podded Peas

Speaking of heirlooms, I did not realize that potatoes actually produced seeds! Did you? Most potatoes no longer set seed as this trait has been bred out. I planted a variety pack from Wood Prairie Farm called Potato Blossom Festival.

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Potato Seeds or Berries

So far no signs of damage from the Squash Borer Moth on my cucumbers and squash. I hid a bean bush in there that the rabbits didn’t find and actually picked my first few green beans!

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Cucumber Tower

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Cucumbers beginning to form.

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Squash Towers

The asparagus has been tossed about in recent high winds and chopped off by, yes, again the rabbits, and still the first year fronds manage to fill out.

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I’ll be making salsa verde soon, minus fresh chiles from my garden. The peppers have been picked almost to death (again, the rabbits) – maybe they’ll make a come back. I am hopeful. They are now secured within open-ended black, plastic pots. The cold frame is covered with plastic potting trays for the same reason – actually a rather nice shade cover – and is planted with beets, carrots, turnips and kohlrabi.

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Tomatillo

So far, a couple of the artichokes, surrounded by zinnia and nasturtium, look promising. I sure hope they flower – last year they dried up!

artichokes

The pole beans are not-so-mysteriously missing from this bean tower. Morning Glory climbs up it instead. Third round of sowing seeds … maybe this round will make it?

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Potted eggplants – a container variety from Renee’s Seeds called Little Prince – next to purple perilla which has seeded itself throughout the Potager.

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Container Eggplants and Purple Perilla

Volunteer dill has been left to run wild through the Potager.

dill

I have been training the trumpet vine over the rustic arbor. It has doubled in size this year.

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Trumpet Vine Campsis ‘Flamenco’

I will be planting more lettuces, chard, kales, and spinach over the next few days for autumn harvest. I am going to raise one of the beds another 12″ to see if it will be too tall for the rabbits to take interest. If anything, it will be easier to tend.