Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Inspiration from the Flower Show

Odd as it may sound, I've never been to the Philadelphia Flower Show before this year. I used to think it was something that was enjoyed by the elderly, something along the lines of bridge or wearing pastel-colored dress suits.

But, as it turns out, the Flower Show is for everyone. It's especially for people who like gardening. There was a bit of bourgeois feel to it, especially over in the vendor marketplace, where you could buy bonsai, orchids, bonsais, orchids and decorative flags. There were some other things for sale, but nothing that stood out to me as a gardener. Along with the bourgeois, there was also a bit of let's make pretty things/while respecting the earth/look at these native plants feel to things.

The theme this year was England and the main display featured a mock up of Big Ben. The theme was also seen in a cute Sherlock Holmes inspired exhibit, which had you solve the case of the invasive species or something. There were a lot of flowers on display that are pretty common here, especially right now, like tulips, daffodils and other bulbs.

The exhibit that got my attention was called "Before the Invasion" and was created by the EPA. It featured plants that are native to Pennsylvania and that were here before William Penn and the British "invaded" the area. Plants in the exhibit included a few varieties of rhododendron/azaleas, creeping phlox, and sedge.

Last year, I inherited a garden from a couple who retired and moved across the country. It's at 4th and Walnut street and is part of the National Parks service. Although I'm just a volunteer, I have pretty much free reign over what goes in the garden. There are some gaps in it right now, so my thinking is to fill them in with native species. So, thanks, Flower Show, for the inspiration.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Gardentime 2013: Getting Started

Depending on who you ask, Philly has just a few weeks to go before the last frost date. There's about a 50 percent chance of no more frost after April 6 and by April 17, we'll be pretty much in the clear. That means, it's more than time to start planting cold weather veggies, and if you want to start plants like peppers and tomatoes from seed, you're a little late, but you maybe could still do it. I'm an optimistic gardener, so if you want to give it a try, go for it.

My plan originally was to get the peas in the ground a week or two ago, but I ended up putting things off until this weekend, which was probably for the best because there was some snow on Friday. I got the peas, kale and carrots in the containers today. These three plants are all buddies, so I was able to plant them together in the same containers, to add some visual interest to things once they start growing.

Ah, the lovely site of chicken wire, an absolute must when you have a feral cat colony that likes to hang out in your backyard. The bigger pot on the right has carrots and kale planted in it while the blue pot on the left has kale and peas. The plan is to use the peas in the blue for pea shoots, so they won't get to be full size and I hope, won't get in the way of the kale. There's another big pot full of just pea seeds. I've also planted a window box with kale, which I plan on using for baby kale.

As I did last year, I planted Tom Thumb peas. Tom Thumb is a dwarf variety and ideal for containers. The plants max out around 8 or 10 inches and don't need staking. Of the different peas I've grown, they're my favorite.

This is my first time growing kale. I went with Lacinato kale, or dinosaur kale, which I've only recently tried. For some reason, I had this attachment to curly kale, even though it's much easier to work with Lacinato kale when cooking and it also looks a lot cooler. The idea is to grow a bunch of baby kale plants and one or two full-sized ones. Baby kale can do well in shallow pots and in cramped quarters, but big kale needs a deeper pot and about 15 to 24 inches of space.

I'm growing Atlas carrot this year, which a short carrot similar to the variety I grew last year. I was pretty happy with the carrots last year, so I can only hope that this year's crop does as well. This year's variety comes from Johnny's Selected Seeds, while the peas and kale are from Seed Saver's Exchange.

In hey, you survived the winter news, the chives have started to come back already. I wasn't sure what to expect from them, as I cut them down to the soil at the end of the season last year, then read that I was supposed to leave the stems over the winter. Oops, but that doesn't matter in the end, because here they are.

I got a mountain mint plant from Greensgrow Farms two seasons ago. The plant was very, very productive over the past two years, even confined to a pot and left outside for two winters. Today, I decided it was time to give the plant a new lease on life, as it was starting to choke itself out in the pot. I divided it, and the tiny plant above is one of the divisions. It looks fine for now, but only time will tell if I accidentally killed it.