Sunday, February 13, 2011

Last Season Review: White Desk Planter

This setup was a very late season afterthought, both because I'd just acquired it and because I had some sad un-planted straggler tomatoes. Being a wood desk it may only last a few seasons, but it amuses me plenty in the meantime. I planted it up on August 19th.
Realizing how wood can dry out, I used these handy SoilMoist sheets in each drawer to hold in moisture.
In this bottom drawer is tomato 'Gold Rush', a tiny currant-sized tomato with orange fruits. It looks floppy at first because I always plant my tomatoes lying sideways in the soil, the lower buried branches pinched off to provide more spots for roots to develop. I'd wager that this technique may have further delayed fruits on such a late planting, since it was busier making new roots than fruits. *sigh*
This upper drawer has tomato 'High Carotene', another nice orange-fruited variety with larger fruits. These are pretty big plants, I felt bad they'd not found "homes" so late in the year.Some seasons we don't have a killing frost until late October, so there was some hope.
The top shallow drawer seemed well suited for greens, so I sowed lettuce 'Tom Thumb' and flat leaf Italian parsley. I used a SoilMoist mat again, but I want to point out that it's covered with soil before the seeds are sown.
I made sure to cover this shallow drawer with chicken wire so that my chipmunks and squirrels couldn't wreck my handiwork by burying their food stashes in it.
Atop the desk in one more pot is tomato 'Stupice', also protected from squirrels with this old grate. I make a point of collecting these at the local dump for this usage, saves money and repurposes junk. (Plus I rather like the "look", but that's me :)

All the plants grew well, tomatoes were forming, and I even thinned the lettuce and parsley in September.
By early October a hard freeze was forecast, so I gathered all the green tomatoes I could find. These aren't all from my desk, those plants yielded about a half dozen greenies.
This was taken after a light frost a few days later, but the party was pretty much over. (The other pot is some cilantro I'd moved there for more sun exposure.) I'd managed to get some parsley from the shallow drawer, but the lettuce never got anywhere.
Ah well, I'll study the desk and hopefully get a better harvest this year...doing my homework should really pay off! (Just couldn't resist the puns :)

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

BEST. Birdfeeder. EVER.

Awhile back I saw an advertisement for a new birdfeeder that's designed to help keep itself clean. Amazed and intrigued, I contacted  Wild Birds Unlimited to see if they'd be willing to send me one to test drive and review on the blog. And here we go!
The first thing I noticed is how well-constructed it is, with a thick plastic body tube, metal perches, and sturdy metal lid.
The label explains the antimicrobial properties of the tube's plastic-this is a major development in bird feeders as far as I'm concerned!
But then I discovered the best part: the bottom has quick-release buttons so it can be removed every time you refill! Friends, this is huge, because the bottom of the feeder is a constant problem spot for moisture collection and seed spoilage. Not that regular cleaning of a birdfeeder is heavy job, but life gets busy and tasks like that can get overlooked. And I've seen spring rains gunk up feeders pretty quickly some seasons. Man, I can't wait to try this thing out!

And from the quick response of the local bird population....
....neither can they!

Disclaimer: Wild Birds Unlimited gave me this complimentary birdfeeder in exchange for a review. The opinions expressed here are honest and all my own.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Seed Catalogs

While preparing my posts to review last year's growing season, I've been planning for this year as well. The catalogs have been coming in since December, and they always put me in a good mood reading/daydreaming about the new varieties I'd like to try. Although I have been doing review posts for websites and products that I like in the past year or so, my assessments are always brutally honest. So here are my current thoughts on seed catalogs, completely unsolicited.

This first group are my current all-around favorites for lowest prices combined with best selection of Heirloom and unusual varieties. Very few seed packets are listed in these catalogs for over $3, some are even less than one dollar!

 This group are also reasonably priced at mostly less than $4 per packet, and also have a wide variety of Heirloom and hard-to-find seeds. Johnny's has a fine selection of flower seeds, as well as equipment and supplies for an all-out nursery operation (in case your hobby gets out of control :)
 This last group have the same reasonable price ranges at most for under $4, as well as specialty varieties.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy perusing the main stream vendors like Park Seed, Jung, Gurney's, and Burpee/Cook's Garden. But I've noticed a real spike in prices (at Burpee/Cook's especially), and I find myself gravitating more toward old-school Heirloom varieties with all the scary GMO seed talk out there. One last price consideration is packet size-some list by weight, some by number of seeds. But when you see a price of $4.25 for a packet of 15 seeds, it doesn't take long for the eyes to wander...toward a better deal!