Thursday, March 3, 2011

Looking for Spring..?

Ok.. just when I think that spring might finally be pushing winter out of the way, winter pushes back - hard. I was going to pop up to the cold frames this morning to scrape off any snow or ice, but it's just too darn cold! It's -19 C with the windchill and I'm beginning to feel like spring isn't ever going to arrive.. The silver lining is that the forecast for the weekend calls for sun with temperatures hovering around 7 C ( above zero)!! I'll believe it when I see it, but for now, my fingers are firmly crossed in hopes we get that mild spell.

After the photo of my out-of-control veggie seed box a few days ago, I've been getting e-mails asking what on earth is in that box! Well, I thought I'd give you a bit of a peek inside.. I won't list everything, as that would take all week, but I will share some of my new acquisitions or things that I'm particularly excited about. In my own defense, I did clean up the box just after Christmas and discarded old seed or things that weren't successful or worth growing again, so everything in the box is fresh and/or new for this coming planting season. I just need to realize that I only have so much space in the garden! A common problem among gardeners, I think! :)

Tomatoes - here are a few of the tomatoes in my seed box:
  • Cole (from - 3" red fruits. An extra early family heirloom from the Canadian prairies selected to mature in a short growing season. I choose this variety because the owner of Annapolis Seeds told me it was his quickest maturing tomato and one of the best tasting. 
  • Chiapis Wild Tomato (also annapolis seeds) - Tiny fruits that are intensely sweet. Wild looking plants. Should be fun.. I'm hoping the fruits are as sweet as sungold! (a girl can wish, can't she?)
  • Costoluto Genovese - LOVE this old Italian heirloom. The 3 to 4-inch wide red fruits are incredible pleated and simply gorgeous. They're perfect in any bruschetta, salsa, sandwich or sauce. So good!
  • Big Rainbow - Another heirloom, this big beefsteak is delicious and beautiful. At the bottom of the large fruits, deep ruby colour streaks upwards, blending with golds and oranges, creating a multi-toned effect. Great in sandwiches! (Photo of Big Rainbow)
  • Black Cherry - Larger than most of our other cherry tomatoes, the fruits of black cherry are dusky burgundy-purple in colour and boast a sweet, smoky, intense flavour. Very yummy! They do split if not picked often though.
  • In a previous post, listed off the tomatoes that the 'North Carolina Tomato Man', Craig LeHoullier sent me a few weeks ago. There are 8 new-to-me varieties including Mexico Midget, Rosella Purple, Speckled Roman, Dwarf Sweet Sue and so on. ( Plus, I have others that we grow every year - Sungold, Persimmon, Black Krim, Brandywine, etc.

I have to admit, I've got a thing for cukes. I'm always looking for unique ones to try and because they can be space pigs, we grow them up on tall A-frame trellises. Lemon cukes are our #1 pick, but here are a few others that we grow:

  • Suyo Long (annapolis seeds) - This Chinese variety has long, thin, ribbed fruits that are crispy and sweet. We trellis ours for the straightest fruits. If left to grow on the ground, they curl up like snakes! (fun for the kids)
  • Sweet Armenian - Botanically a melon, the cucumber-like fruits of this old variety are pale green, ribbed and can grow very long if left to their own devices. We tend to pick them when they're about 8 to 10 inches long. The flesh is crisp and bitter-free. Plus, because they're ribbed, they look so pretty cut into slices on a plate - like flowers!
  • Garden Oasis - Because my hubby hails from Lebanon, we grow a lot of middle eastern veggies. Garden Oasis is a beit-alpha hybrid cuke that has thin skin (never bitter) and cool, crunchy flesh. We pick them when they're around 4 to 6 inches in length for gourmet baby cukes! When my parents-in-law visit during the main growing season, they can be found in the garden eating these cukes, as well as the artichokes, peas and tomatoes!
Greens - Ok, I have a LOT of greens. We use them to succession plant (I have harvested up to 7 crops from one patch of earth during an 8 month span in the past) and we also use them to interplant - between cabbages, broccoli, under trellises and teepees, etc. Plus, I want a salad every day, so we need a lot of greens. Here are a few of our favourites:
  • Bianca riccia endive - This is a hard worker in the garden. I plant the seeds in mid-March in the cold frames and we'll have a steady supply until the following March (unless we run out in mid-winter!) In the summer garden, it bears very well - even in the heat.. Sometimes, we pick the outside leaves, allowing the center to keep maturing. Other times, we cut the whole plant back to a 1-inch stub, water it with some fish fertilizer and it resprouts - we can do this 'cut and come again' harvest 2 to 3 times per plant! 
  • Mustards - A zippy little green, we love Giant Red, Osaka Purple, Green Wave and more. They are excellent when picked young, but can be left to mature for stir-fries.. a bit spicy at that point though! 
  • Mizuna - Another must-have, mizuna
  • Lettuce - What can I say about lettuce.. we grow at least 15 to 20 varieties a year. There are so many textures and colours.. I love them all. Outredgeous stands out for me, as well as Red Salad Bowl (great even in the deep-freeze of winter in the frames). Black Seeded Simpson is a classic - lime green, cool tolerant and one of the first harvests of the new year. Also, I love lettuce mixes, which we use to edge our garden beds. Let's us grow more in a small space and looks nice too.
  • Also, tatsoi, pak choi, spinach, arugula (our favourite green), mache, claytonia, etc..

Peppers - I have mixed feelings about peppers. In the past, they've been iffy in regards to a decent harvest, but in the past few years, I've managed to get the hang of pepper growing and have fallen in love with a wide range of peppers. I really love hot peppers - jalapeno, cayenne and such. This will be an exciting year, as Craig LeHoullier (see link above for his site/blog) also sent me a bunch of pepper seed, as well as tomatoes. Here are a few that he sent me - can't wait to grow them!!

The comments below are from Craig on each pepper, as they're all new to me! 

Hot Peppers
  • Fish - all plant, Jalapeno shape and size fruit are green with white stripes ripening to deep red, plant foliage is bicolor green and white, just beautiful, very hot.  Nearly gone.
  • Variegata - remarkable plant is nearly black purple and white, hardly any green in full sun, small slender black purple fruit ripen red
  • Chinese Five Color - colors similar to Bolivian Rainbow but plant is more upright, peppers larger and cone shaped, fiery hot
  • Gemstone - my own selection, compact black purple leaf plant with multicolored cone shaped hot peppers, perfect for a flower garden
  • Trifetti - gorgeous plant, foliage is green, white and lavender, fruit are small bullet shaped black purple, ripen red.
  • Peruvian Purple - Similar to Pretty Purple - whole plant is black purple, fruits glossy black purple, cone shaped, ripen deep red, beautiful and very hot.
  • Bolivian Rainbow - dusky purple green foliage, small upright cones ripen yellow through lavender, white, yellow, orange and red, nice bushy habit, perfect ornamental, extra hot.
Sweet Peppers
  • Fire Opal - another Islander selection - lavender to deep gold - lovely and unique
  • Super Stuff - nice long bell, pale yellow that ripens to orange red.
  • White Gold - I don't have any details on this one yet - sounds intriguing though.
  • Jimmy Nardello - remarkable - a real pepper machine, long (nearly 12 inch!) twisted, slender deep green fruit ripen red, great for grilling
  • Amethyst - my own selection from Islander, lavender bell ripens red
Ok.. well, I've rambled on long enough this morning and only detailed a few types of seeds in this crazy box.. I'm planning on seeding the tomatoes and peppers this week, along with some eggplants and will post more once that is done..

Happy Gardening!


  1. Well you you know what they say, a harsh winter often ushers in a great summer. I loved reading about all of the varieties you will be trying this season. I like the looks of the Suyo Long cucumber, Boothby's blonde is another open pollinated cuke that does really well in "cooler" gardens...leastwise we have lots of luck with them.

  2. We love your garden pictures Auntie Niki and look forward to helping you pick some carrots and tomatoes this summer:)

    Love Brayden and Jackson

  3. Hey Brayden and Jackson! Can't wait to see you guys - I need your help in the garden!! When you come visit, you can help me plant seeds and pick the carrots! Love Auntie Niki


Please feel free to leave comments. I welcome your tips, questions, thoughts and ideas (and suggestions for new veggies to grow!)