Sunday, March 29, 2015

Preparations for Spring Garden Season

I found out at a family gathering that my cousin, Paul, is now president and CEO of a seed company. He put some catalogs in my hand, and I made the mistake of taking them home. Let's just say that I wasn't planning to put a lot of time, energy, or money into my garden this summer. Let's just say I changed my mind.

Or rather Park Seed changed my mind.

What do I like about Park Seed?

  1. It has been around a long time, since 1868. Experience counts in the seed business, and Park boasts of its superior germination rates.
  2. It has a GMO free pledge. I want to grow natural and healthy vegetables.
  3. Its seeds are grown in South Carolina. The company boasts many varieties of vegetables and plants that resist the heat, humidity, and diseases prone to the South. I live in Southeastern Virginia, so I like plants that resist powdery mildew, for example. Park boasts several of these.
  4. Park has exclusive and time-tested varieties of plants that I can't find elsewhere. I can't wait to try their "Park's Whopper" hybrid tomatoes, which the catalog tells me have superior flavor and unbeatable disease resistance.
  5. Park offers a variety of practical-sounding options for seed starting. 
I have had problems starting seeds since moving to my current home, partly due to a lack of sunlight in our front windows. Seeds haven't germinated well and have produced weak plants that developed problems due to too much moisture. I am hoping Park's "Biodome" seed starting kit with a grow light and heat mat will fix all that. I plan to use the setup to start tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants indoors.

I also bought flowers to intersperse around my vegetables to attract and feed pollinators and beneficial insects. I plan to intersperse some "Golden Guardian" marigolds with my tomatoes and peppers to discourage harmful nematode worms, too. "Golden Guardian" is supposed to be more effective than the chemicals that I refuse to use, anyway.

I purchased tomatoes and flowers for growing in containers on the sunny side of our house and other flower seeds to plant in a garden on the shady side of our house. The shady side has notoriously difficult growing conditions, so I will be pleased if any of the varieties I ordered will grow there. I looked for varieties that are very hardy and grow in partial shade, a tall order for most flowers.

Specifics about what seeds I ordered: Coneflowers, Park's Exculsive Tomato Seed Collection, Summer Glory Blend Lettuce Seeds, Thai Siam Queen Basil, German Chamomile, Calypso Cilantro, Dill, Amadeo Eggplant, Our Best Pepper Seeds Collection, Maskotka Hybrid Tomato, Astra Double Mix Balloon Flower, Finest Mix Astilbe, Rose Bergenia, Whirlybird MIx Nasturtium, Golden Guardian Marigold, Purple Hybrid Petunia, Sunspot Sunflower, Vinca Flower, plus a Pro Hand Seeder to help me plant all the seeds!

I promise pictures and details when my order arrives and I start planting. In the meantime, feel free to share your favorite seed sources and spring gardening tips in the comments below.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

How to Cook Fresh Eggs

Post by my friend Valerie Jean Cudnick, posted with permission. Fresh eggs are hard to peel when hard boiled:

With Easter coming up the how to cook eggs posts are showing up again. When the topic came up last year, I did my own test: 

Batch 1: added baking soda
Batch 2 added vinegar
Batch 3 steamed (steam for 20 minutes, then plunge into ice water)
Batch 4 started the water at a boil and plunged the eggs in all at once
Batch 5 old boil & cool method with nothing added to the water

***Results*** steamed won out by far. Eggs peeled very easily, even super-fresh.

Baking soda & vinegar additions peeled about the same (better than traditional method with nothing added to the water, but not much), but the baking soda eggs were rubbery.

Method 4 resulted in no difference in ability to peel, was just more trouble.

Granted I only did 4 of each method, 'cause that's 20 eggs.