Finding Ease: Tip #1

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

The gardening season here in the ‘North’ is starting to ramp up which means that, as someone who works in the garden retail industry, my work hours are starting to increase and my work week lengthen. That’s great for the bank account but, unless I’m careful, will wreak havoc with my garden and all my plans for this season. So, I’ve decided to look at all the little ways that I can streamline my gardening…without losing any of the joy, of course.

Sweet Pea 'Matucana'; Grown 2 years ago without inoculant.

Sweet Pea 'Matucana'; Grown 2 years ago without inoculant.

Tip #1 is the ‘aha’ moment from yesterday when, while looking through my seed packets to determine what next needed to be sown inside, I came across some sweet pea and Brazilian verbena seeds. Either flower can be started inside or sown directly into the soil outside but both flower earlier and, in the case of the perennial verbena, are hardier when sown inside. The trouble is that sowing inside is more time-consuming (potting up and hardening-off are two steps not necessary when sowing outside) and I save my precious time for plants like peppers and tomatoes that, unless started inside, will not produce anything due to our short growing season. So, I decided the risk was worth it and I’ll sow them directly outside when the weather warms up a bit (can you believe we still have a bit of snow?).

To cover my bets a bit, I’ll inoculate my sweet pea seeds. Inoculant contains Rhizobia bacteria which helps the members of the legume family (such as peas and beans) fix nitrogen from the air which makes them more productive. This bacteria is less active in cooler soils and, since sweet peas are always sown in the early spring when the soil is just this side of unfrozen, a little more of the Rhizobia will only be helpful.

The Brazilian verbena, however, is on its own.

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Inhale…Say “Ahh”…

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Sweet Pea Matucana closeup…That would be the sweet peas you’re smelling!

I’m growing a lovely Italian heirloom variety called ‘Matucana’  this year that, as you can see, has a striking violet and fuschia color combination. And the scent is divine!

I purchased the seeds from West Coast Seeds who claim that it was brought to Britain by a Sicilian monk in 1700. A quick Google search reveals conflicting opinions on the truth of this with other histories stating it originated in Peru or that it was developed in the 1920’s. Whatever its origins, I’m in love!

If you want to try this variety (or any sweet pea), soak the seeds in a little water for about 8 hours – they have a hard seed coat that needs a little softening to make germination better. Plant in a sunny spot and give them lots of support – mine are against a fence that I’ve attached some netting to. Like other plants, keep water consistent and give them a little fertilizer now and then. Deadhead regularly or use them as a cut flower to keep them blooming.

Seed Order Completed

Saturday, February 20th, 2010
The process is well underway.

The process is well underway.

It’s a good thing winter is long here in Edmonton because my seed order took me a while to put together this year.  No excuse but, for some reason, procrastination seized me halfway through the process and it took me a week longer than it should have.  Why the procrastination?  Well, it could be that after I’d inspected my existing seed collection and sorted out the ancient-therefore-no-longer-viable seed from the old-but-I’ll-just-sow-it-thicker seed to the yay-it’s-brand-new seed, made a list of what was left, made a list of what I was missing, filled in the details on the planting plan, and then went hunting for what I wanted in 8 seed catalogues, that I was just exhausted!  But with spring looming around the corner (sshh, don’t discourage me!), I finally got on with it and made my final selections (with the help of an Excel spreadsheet but you don’t need to know the dirty details).  I chose two companies that, between them, had all the varieties I was looking for – William Dam Seeds and West Coast Seeds.  I’m not going to run through the entire list since it will be linked on my final plan that I’ll post a little later, but I’ll share a few things I’m particularly excited about as they relate to my list.

In the ‘never grown it before’ category, I’ll be trying the Spanish Black Round radish and cumin.  Buoyed up by the bumper crop of coriander that I harvested last year and no reason to hope except that they combine so well together in my favorite Indian dishes, I have high hopes for the cumin.  If anyone has any advice for me about growing this herb/spice, I’d love to hear it.

In the ‘expensive and/or difficult to find’ category, I’m growing my own crop of tomatilloes – because I can’t keep mooching off the neighbors forever.

The ‘eye-catching plants’ category also needs to include nose-catching plants since I’m going to try sweet peas along the back fence.  This also falls into the ‘never grown it before’ category – which is shocking to me since I love their scent so much.

How about you?  Anything you can’t wait to see show up in your seed order?