Let the Seed Starting Begin!

Today I kicked off the 2017 seed starting season by sowing seeds for several herbs, including seeds for parsley, fennel and garlic chives. While I was at it, I also sowed seeds for a micro greens mix, sunflower shoots, and cilantro sprouts. I’ll be starting more seeds for early greens in the days to come. And I’ll be starting seeds for petunias once the seeds arrive.

starting parsley seeds

starting parsley seeds

Since parsley and the other herbs take a fairly long time to germinate, sometimes up to three weeks for the parsley, I sowed those seeds separately in 3.5 inch plastic pots. Then I covered them with plastic film secured with a rubber band to help keep the soil moist until germination. I will remove the plastic once the seeds are up and growing, and eventually transplant the seedlings into individual pots. I know parsley has a reputation for not liking to be transplanted, but I’ve been starting it like this for quite a long time with good results.

portable potting tray

portable potting tray

Even though I have a greenhouse, it’s usually cold this time of year and I wind up starting many of my seeds indoors in the kitchen. To keep down the mess, I’ve been using a portable potting tray I got from the Greenhouse Megastore. I like this so much I got another one to use on my greenhouse potting bench. There’s plenty of room to hold a 1020 standard flat, as well as the plug trays I often use for seed starting. That’s an 18 inch long planter in the above photo, which is where I sowed the micro greens mix. I’ll start all these seeds indoors using my fluorescent light setup in the basement.

starting seeds under fluorescent lights

starting seeds under fluorescent lightsseed starting

Back in 2013 I covered the basics of seed starting in my Seed Starting 101. And back in 2015 I shared a look at my indoor Seed Starting Setup. I’m still doing things pretty much the same way, so you can check out those earlier posts for more detailed info and pics. For the general timetable I follow every year check out my Seed Starting and Planting Schedule. I’ll be back with more updates on my seed starting activities as they happen.

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Photo Friday: Something Warm and Fuzzy

For anyone who might be in need of looking at some warm and fuzzy animal photos, today’s the day! It’s been a while since I shared photos of our cats, so here’s a few from my collection. I hope you enjoy them.

Ace busy bird watching

Ace busy bird watching

Our four year old Ace is a big fan of bird watching. Both our cats are indoor kitties, so this is one way they like to keep in touch with nature. The birds mostly ignore the Ace, or do they come to see him? I mean, who is the watcher and who is the watched here, anyway. The house finch in the above photo wouldn’t tell me, but it sure looks curious!

Puddin snoozing

Puddin snoozing

Puddin is our 10 year old Queen cat. She leaves most of the bird watching to Ace, and instead spends a lot of time perfecting her napping skills. Here she is with her play buddy Mr Turtle.

Ace sleeping

Ace sleeping

All that bird watching makes Ace sleepy too. Here he is in my wife’s Woman Cave, guarding the TV remote.

Puddin and Ace

Puddin and Ace

Sometimes they sleep together in the chair. You never know what position they will take.

Puddin getting a leg up on Ace

Puddin getting a leg up on Ace

Puddin sometimes seems to be asserting her dominance. In the above photo she is surely getting a leg up on the situation!

Puddin with a leg out

Puddin with a leg out

And speaking of legs, Puddin always seems to have a leg sticking out whenever she is in one of her beds. No matter how big the bed, there’s always one leg that just won’t fit.

I hope you have enjoyed today’s kitty pics! I’ll be back soon with more happenings from HA.

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Posted in Cats, Photo Friday | Tagged , | 6 Comments

The 2017 All-America Selections Winners

The lineup of 2017 AAS Winners has been announced, and in the edibles category so far it includes five national winners and three regional winners. For those who might not be familiar with it, All-America Selections (AAS) is an independent, non-profit organization that tests new varieties of flowers and edibles in trial grounds all over the U.S. and Canada. The AAS Winners give gardeners a chance to grow varieties that have proven themselves to perform well when compared to existing cultivars, and usually offer superior flavor, disease resistance and growth habits. I grow several AAS Winners in my garden every year, and I always look forward to trying the new winners here at Happy Acres.

There are two tomatoes on the list of 2017 AAS Winners. First up is Chef’s Choice Yellow F1, a Southeast Regional winner and the fourth member of the popular Chef’s Choice series of tomatoes. This one produces 10 ounce yellow-fleshed fruits on 5 foot indeterminate vines that are resistant to a number of common diseases. Chef’s Choice Orange (a 2014 AAS Winner) has been a standout performer for me here since it came out, so I look forward to trying the new addition to the series.

Tomato Chef's Choice Yellow

Tomato Chef’s Choice Yellow

The Patio Choice Yellow F1 tomato is a compact determinate hybrid that produces 1/2 inch yellow cherry tomatoes on plants that only grow 18 inches tall. It’s loaded with the mild flavored fruits, and the short vines make it perfect for containers and hanging baskets. I’d say it’s decorative enough to be used in mixed plantings too.

Tomato Patio Choice Yellow

Tomato Patio Choice Yellow

Pepper Mad Hatter F1 is a hybrid pepper with mild heat and a citrusy sweet taste. It’s a member of the Capsicum baccatum species from South America, and related to the open-pollinated Bishop’s Crown (sometimes called Bishop’s Hat) baccatum pepper. The peppers grow on tall, bushy plants that can reach 3-4 feet in height. I’ve grown Bishop’s Crown before, and it would be interesting to see how this one compares.

Pepper Mad Hatter

Pepper Mad Hatter

Watermelon Mini Love F1 is an ‘icebox’ sized watermelon that grows on compact, space-saving vines. The melons weigh in the 7-9 pound range, and the vines set up to 6 fruit per plant. Mini Love has a high sugar content, and thin but strong rinds that are split and crack resistant.

Watermelon Mini Love

Watermelon Mini Love

The next winner is a ‘First in Class’, since the AAS has never before declared a fennel an AAS Winner. Fennel Antares F1 is a Florence type fennel with an edible bulb and decorative edible fronds. This is a multi-purpose plant, also useful as a seed producer and as a host plant for swallowtail caterpillars. The AAS judges found Antares to produce uniform, pure white bulbs with a sweet licorice/anise flavor. I look forward to growing this one in our Wild Garden, where it can feed us as well as the pollinators and butterflies.

Fennel Antares F1

Fennel Antares F1

Okra Candle Fire F1 is the first AAS okra winner since Cajun Delight won back in 1997. Candle Fire has bright red pods that are round instead of ribbed, and it won high marks from the judges for productivity, taste texture and tenderness. It’s also very ornamental, with the red pods setting on red-stemmed plants that reach 4 feet in height.

Okra Candle Fire F1

Okra Candle Fire F1

Winter Squash Honeybaby F1 produces personal sized butternut squash on compact 2 to 3 foot vines. Each plant produces 8 to 9 fruits that weigh up to a half pound each and have a sweet, nutty flavor. This Heartland Regional winner also has powdery-mildew resistant vines, which should make it more productive in gardens where mildew is a problem.

Winter Squash Honeybaby F1

Winter Squash Honeybaby F1

And last but not least we have Pea Patio Pride, which is a Southeast Regional winner that produces in just 40 days. The peas can be picked young and eaten pod and all, or left to mature as a shelling pea. The compact vines grow 18 to 24 inches tall if supported, or shorter if left to sprawl. This makes it ideal for containers and tubs, where the cool season flowers and peas will make a decorative as well as edible showing.

Pea Patio Pride

Pea Patio Pride

I hope you have enjoyed this review of the 2017 AAS vegetables winners. For a full list of both present and past winners, visit All-America Selections Winners. Their website also has information on where to Buy AAS Winners.

All photos courtesy of All-America Selections.

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Planning the 2017 Garden

In years past, I would eagerly await the arrival of the new seed catalogs. Then I would sit down with my notepad, and come up with a list of things I wanted to grow in the coming year. These days by the time the catalogs arrive I already have a good start on my growout list. I get a lot of great ideas by reading about my fellow garden bloggers growing experiences. For instance, this year I plan on growing the Gingaku melon that did so well for Phuong (Kentucky Fried Garden) last year. I also want to try the Mellow Star shishito pepper that Will (Eight Gate Farm) has grown the last couple of years. I’m planning to grow Win-Win choi, thanks to Norma’s (Garden to Wok) experiments with growing it in a container. And the Portugese kale Tronchuda Beira is coming back, after seeing it show up often in Michelle’s (From Seed To Table) harvest basket.

Tronchuda Beira from 2012

Tronchuda Beira from 2012

Other ideas come from my own growing and eating experiences. After buying some Korean gochugaru pepper flakes, I went looking for pepper seed so I can grow it myself this year. I found a couple of candidates, Korean Hot (Refining Fire Chiles) and Lady Choi (Kitazawa). And dismal experiences recently with growing heirloom beefsteak tomatoes has led me to try the hybrid Heirloom Marriage tomatoes Cherokee Carbon, Genuwine and Big Brandy. These are hybrids created by crossing two different heirloom tomatoes, so hopefully the offspring will have not only hybrid vigor but also the good flavor of their parents. And I’m looking forward to growing more of the Artisan Seeds unreleased test varieties of tomatoes. I had a lot of fun (and ate a lot of good tomatoes) last year with the test tomatoes, as well as the other Artisan Seeds tomatoes that have already been released.

Artisan Seeds tomatoes

Artisan Seeds tomatoes

I always like to grow a lot of different squashes, both summer and winter kinds. This year I want to try the yellow striped zucchini called Sunstripe. And I found several winter squash to trial, including a moschata type called Tahitian Melon and an heirloom acorn type originally from Missouri called Thelma Sanders. I also want to try the Japanese hybrid Tetsukabuto that did so well for Mike (Mike’s Bean Patch). And I want to try the Dickinson Pumpkin and see how it does for me here. I plan to grow my old standbys too like White Scallop, Striata d’Italia, Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck (aka neck pumpkin) and Seminole.

Striata d'Italia zucchini and White Scallop Squash

Striata d’Italia zucchini and White Scallop Squash

I love to experiment with growing new things, so my growing list is always long. There are always last-minute changes to my list, but this is my current list as to what I plan on growing this year. I’ve already received a few seeds, and I will work on getting the rest ordered in the next month or so. It will be time to start seeds before you know it!

Mei Qing pac choi

Mei Qing pac choi

Varieties I am growing for the first time are marked with an *.

Asian Greens: Carlton komatsuna, Koji tatsoi*, Mizspoona Salad Select, Mei Qing Pak Choi, Red Kingdom mustard*, Red Pac Choi, Vivid Choi, Win-Win Choi*

Basil: Italian Pesto, Italiano Classico, Licorice, Mrihani, Persian, Profuma di Genova, Queenette Thai, Rosie, Sweet Thai

Beans (bush): Derby

Beans (pole):  Early Riser*, Fortex, Gold Marie, Musica, Robe Mountain, NT Half Runner*,  Trionfo Violetto, Withners White Cornfield*

Broccoli: Apollo, Artwork, Bay Meadows, Blue Wind*, Diplomat, Green Magic, Gypsy, Imperial, Packman, Santee (PSB)*

Cabbage: Farao, KY Cross, Kaitlin*, Katarina, Little Jade (napa), Melissa Savoy, Minuet (napa), Pixie, Primo Vantage, Soloist (napa), Tendersweet, Tiara*, Tronchuda Beira

Cucumber: Corinto, Diva, Green Fingers, Manny, Socrates*, Summer Dance, Tasty Jade

Eggplant: Dancer, Fairy Tale, Galine, Nadia

Garlic: Basque*, German Red, Godfather’s Italian*, Idaho Silver, Killarney Red, Lorz Italian, Maiskij, Nootka Rose, Red Janice, Red Toch, Russian Red, Shilla, Siciliano, Silver White, Simonetti, Spanish Roja, Uzbek, Xian

Greens: Adagio arugula, Apollo arugula, Golden Corn Salad, Granon Corn Salad, Speedy arugula

Kale: Beedy’s Camden, Dazzling Blue, Improved Siberian, Madeley, Meadowlark, Nash’s Green*, Prizm, Purple Peacock, Red Ursa, Western Front, White Russian, Wild Garden Mix

Kohlrabi: Kolibri, Konan, Kossak, Superschmeltz

Lettuce: Anuenue, Black Seeded Simpson, Cardinale, Hanson, Jester, Oak Leaf, Outstanding, Pele, Radichetta, Red Sails, Sierra, Simpson Elite, Slobolt, Smile, Three Heart, Total Clown, Unicum, Tango, Winter Density

Onion: Candy, I’itoi, Red Torpedo Tropea, Sierra Blanca, Yellow Potato*

Parsley: Georgian Flatleaf, Giant From Italy, Hungarian Landrace, Moss Curled, Splendid

Peas: Avalanche, Oregon Sugar Pod 2, Sugar Ann

Pepper(hot): Aji Angelo, Aji Golden, Aji Panca, Anaheim, Ancho 211, Biggie Chili, Cayenneta, Criolla Sella Chili, Emerald Fire*, Farmers Market Jalapeno*, Flaming Flare, Guajillo, Highlander*, Hot Happy Yummy, Holy Mole, Kaleidoscope, Korean Hot*, Lady Choi*, Malawi Piquante, Minero, Numex Garnet*, Numex Primavera Jalapeno*, Numex R Naky*, Senorita Jalapeno

Pepper (sweet): Cece*, Cornito Giallo, Cornito Rosso*, Doux Des Landes*, Dulce Rojo, Escamillo, Glow, Jimmy Nardello’s, Mellow Star*, Numex Sweet*, Orange Blaze, Pritavit, Sweet Happy Yummy, Topepo Rosso

Pumpkin: Dickinson*, Pepitas, Winter Luxury*

Radish: Alpine,  April Cross, Summer Cross #3*, Shunkyo

Shallots: Conservor*, Dutch Yellow*

Spinach: Gigante Inverno (Giant Winter), Space, Verdil*, Viroflay

Squash(summer): Astia, Bossa Nova, Clarimore, Daize*, Enterprise, Romanesco, Sunstripe*, Striato d’Italia, Tatume, White Scallop

Squash(winter):  Buffy*, Butternut Rugosa, Butterscotch, Cornell’s Bush Delicata, Early Butternut, Honeybaby*, Honeyboat Delicata, Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck, Pinata*, Seminole, Tahitian Melon*, Tetsukabuto*, Thelma Sanders*, Tromba d’Albenga

Sweet Potatoes: Beauregard, Bonita, Indiana Gold, Korean Purple, Purple, Red Japanese, Redmar

Tomatoes: Better Boy, Big Brandy*, Black Cherry, Blush, Captain Lucky, Celebrity, Champagne, Chef’s Choice Green, Chef’s Choice Orange, Chef’s Choice Pink*, Chef’s Choice Yellow*, Cherokee Carbon*, Garden Gem, Garden Treasure, Genuwine*, Golden Rave, Green Tiger, Health Kick, Jetsetter, Juliet, Lucky Tiger, Marzano Fire, Marzinera*, Mexico Midget, Orange Jazz, Purple Bumblebee, Sun Gold, Sunpeach*, Sun Sugar, Sunrise Bumblebee, Super Sweet 100, Vinson Watts, Viva Italia

Turnips: Hakurei, Nozawana, Oasis, Royal Crown, Scarlet Ohno Revival, Tsugaru Scarlet

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