Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Winter Solstice!

More Seeds for 2010
More Seeds from Botanical Interests

It's finally here. Today is one day I've been looking forward to for a long time now. Having only been able to garden during the latter half of this year, I'm looking forward to being able to grow some crisp spring veggies and succulent summer crops. For many of us, the Winter Solstice represents a great milestone in the gardening calendar. For me, it feels like the time for preparations has officially begun. During the next few weeks, I will be putting pen to paper and planning next year's four season garden. In part, I'm hoping that the lessons I've learned during the past few months will allow me to grow more successful fall and winter gardens. The spring and summer gardens this year (being my first), will be more of an experiment.

Here are some of the projects I will be focusing on during the next couple of months:
  1. By now, I've purchased or have ordered most of my spring and summer seeds for next year. Most of the seeds I have now are from Botanical Interests and I just placed orders with Johnny's Selected Seed and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds a couple of nights ago. (I admit, I've gone a bit crazy in the seed department.)
  2. I have to order some seed potatoes - 1 standard and 2 fingerling varieties. I'll probably purchase some organic potatoes from the supermarket to grow for fun as well. I'd also like to experiment with growing potatoes in large buckets. Here is a great piece on this very subject written by Cynthia from Grow Better Veggies.
  3. I have to order some asparagus and rhubarb crowns for the garden. If anyone has a favorite variety they would like to recommend, please do! For asparagus, I'm leaning towards a purple variety.
  4. I've ordered my 3/4-inch and 2-inch soil block makers from Johnny's. (My little Christmas present to myself.) My mission during the next few weeks will be to track down all of the materials necessary to make the soil block mix. Hopefully they won't be too difficult to source this time of year. I plan on making my own 4-inch soil block maker, which I haven't quite figure out how to do so yet.
  5. I need to purchase all of the equipment necessary to build a mini seed starting operation, including shelves, fluorescent lights, trays, etc. My basement is heated so I'm not sure if heating mats are absolutely necessary (another expense I can surely live without). If anyone can offer an alternate to heating mats, please do!
  6. I need to think about what kinds of fruit trees to grow next year. I'd like to purchase a couple of dwarf citrus trees (kumquat and mandarinquat), two fig trees and a persimmon tree (all fruits I can't source locally).
  7. I have to come up with a seed-starting/transplanting/direct-sowing schedule for all of next year's crops, as well as a plot plan for my garden. Since I want all of next year's winter gardening beds to be relatively close to one another (like they are this year), I have to pick the right spring and summer crops to plant in these beds in order to ensure that they will be available when it comes time to sow my winter veggies.
  8. Finally, there are a few crops that I will be paying special attention to this year, mainly because they can be quite difficult to grow successfully in our New England climate. These include tomatoes, peppers, melons, cauliflower and artichokes. I will be devoting a lot of reading time to them. Here is an enlightening tutorial on how to grow top-notch heirloom tomatoes, again, by Cynthia from Grow Better Veggies. (I've also posted a video link of Cythia's Love Apple Farm on my sidebar.)
I'm sure as the weeks go by, there will be many more projects on my plate and new things to learn, which is why gardening to me is such an amazing hobby.

Next Year's Lemons
Next Year's Meyer Lemons (I have about 10 new lemons on my tree and more blossoms to come.)


  1. The best rhubarb variety in my opinion is Valentina. It has the reddest stems, it produces thinner stems and tastes great.

    For the seed mat I would definitely get one, they really get seeds germinating fast. I have had things germinate overnight with my seed mat.

    Do you pollinate your lemon tree? I seem to get lots of blooms on my tree but rarely any fruit. I have had one in four years!

  2. This is very busy schedule you are planning for a next few months. But there is enough time, I’m sure.

    Thank you for this great link to Cynthia’s page, some interesting tips are mentioned there, like the one with tomatoes and aspirin – I have to try that one next year..

  3. You've got so much to do during the winter months to keep you busy!! It's just fantastic. It will feel so good to see all of it fruition. Summer harvests are so plentiful; you'll love it.

  4. I love Cynthia's advice too. I do my tomato spraying per her recommendation. My fertilizing is similar, but I haven't added fish heads to my planting hole ever.

    BTW I've found chili peppers pretty easy in our climate. They aren't as hot as typical but they tend to grow well. The sweet peppers on the other hand I've had more issues with.

    I'm also going to buy some more soil blocks I think. I really want the little ones and bigger ones they can go into. And I'm finalizing my seed list right now. I blame you for me ordering Oasis Turnips (close to a Hakurei). I've never successfully grown turnips here. I've tried a million times, but this year they will be put under the row cover. There isn't a brassica related plant that will grow outside of the row covers in my garden. So I will give them the full treatment.

  5. Sounds like you have it all figured out! Have you ordered from They sell certified organic seed potatoes. They carry some of the finest!

  6. Instead of a heating mat for seed starting, I just use an old heating pad that I have at home. It works well.


  7. Those baby lemons are beautiful. Such promise of things to come.

    You are on your way for the 2010 gardening season. Exciting stuff isnt' it?!

  8. Thomas ... SUCH ENERGY !!!! I have to admit it reminds me of a funny piece I read several years ago that I quoted some seasons ago ...

  9. I have to get going on my seed orders! I do, however, have all my seed stuff down out of the attic! It was easy to do since I was up there for the Xmas stuff anyways. I did fingerling potatoes last year and they were DIVINE! They don't store as well as some others, but it didn't matter since they were consumed very quickly! Some tips for the seed starting: don't go crazy on expensive grow lights - the cheap ones from Home Depot or the like work great, just suspend them from chains you can lower and raise. I did all mine this year with the cheapo lights and my heirloom tomatoes, peppers, eggplant & herbs were bushy and not leggy at all. A really good way to get cheap, even, low cost heat (if you have the room) is to bury rope lights in sand, either in a kiddie pool or long box or whatever you can get your hands on that is the right size for you and will hold sand. It distributes the heat evenly throughout the entire box and you can place your seedlings anywhere in there! Definitely try potato cages, i do mine planted in nothing but straw in chicken wire cages "the Scandinavian Way" and the potatoes are easy and clean to get to, just lift the cages off! You have inspired me to get my butt in gear on my spring planning....!

  10. Phew, you're going to be busy for the next few years!!!

    My rhubarb is wonderful, but I have no idea what variety it is! We live close to the 'rhubarb triangle' of England (where the very best rhubarb is grown),and the crowns were given to me ....I think they are a local variety!

    Have a wonderful Christmas with your family.

  11. Hi Thomas...your seed collection is wonderful..I get about a catalog a day now too....saving them to read on New Years Day...

    I have been on Apples of Antiquity..going to order 3 new fruit trees..thinking..cherry, pomegranite and a peach tree...

    I LOVE the fruit trees so much....

    wishing you and Marc and Jonathan peace and happiness as we approach Christmas....

    more later,dear friend

    Sending Christmas Love,

  12. Hey Dan, yes I do hand pollinate my lemon tree with a fine art brush.

    Thanks for all of the great tips and comments everyone! I will have to look into that heating pad...although I may crack and get the seed mat.

    Leslie, that piece is hilarious! I will surely be doing my share of "toiling" next summer.

  13. Oh this post is so exciting and encouraging! I am looking forward to planning the gardens again after the holidays. I am growing from seed for the first time this year and have considered the soil block makers from Johnny’s too.

    I am really looking forward to reading about your garden progress.

  14. Looks like I need to start pollinating! Happy Holidays.

  15. Next year I'll have a meijer lemon. I was so spoiled by having them grow easily outside my back door in SF.... but I will do whatever they ask to keep them happy indoors here in winter time!

  16. Wow, those seed packets are so very beautiful!! I'd frame them, after planting, of course. :) Rebecca