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Cool-season vegetable transplants

One of the things that I enjoy about living in the Southwest is the ability to garden throughout the year.  Well, that may be a slight exaggeration – I don’t especially like gardening in July or August.  During those months, I simply like to view my garden out the window from the air-conditioned comfort of my home.  But, you’ll often see me outside spending January in the vegetable garden through the winter months.  

So far, this year’s cool-season garden hasn’t been very impressive.  In fact, it was quite disappointing.  Our drip irrigation system wasn’t watering this particular vegetable bed well because the tiny holes had become clogged from mineral deposits left behind by our notorious hard water.  As a result, a handful of romaine lettuce transplants survived, but none of the seeds that I planted in early October germinated except for the radishes and a couple of carrots.  

To make it worse, when I discovered the problem last fall, I was so busy trying to keep up with my landscape consulting that I didn’t fix the irrigation troubles.  Spring and fall for horticulturists is much like tax season for accountants, and little else gets done.

Well, I felt bad looking out at my sad little vegetable bed, so I cleared my calendar to give it a little TLC earlier this week.  First on the list was to pull out the lettuce plants, which had bolted and were ready to be taken out.  I was able to get a few radishes, much to the delight of my youngest daughter who loves them.

Before planting, I added a 4-inch layer of compost to help refresh the soil.  There wasn’t any need to mix it in with the existing soil – in fact, it’s better if you don’t do that.

Like many people, I find working out in the garden therapeutic and the stresses of day to day life simply melt away.  What made this day even better was that my husband came out to help me.  At this point, I should mention that he isn’t one of those men who loves to work out in the garden.  Oh, he does a great job at it, but he doesn’t like it – at all. Poor guy, he had no idea that the woman he married 30 years ago would turn out to be a plant lady who lives, eats, and breathes all things related to the garden.  

My darling husband took an entire morning out of his busy schedule to help me in the garden, fixing the drip irrigation system in my garden.  Forget flowers, if spending a morning out in your wife’s vegetable garden fixing irrigation doesn’t shout “I love you,” I don’t know what does.

The drip irrigation system in my vegetable garden is made up of a main poly drip line that runs up the center of the garden.  Micro-tubing, with small holes along the length, are then looped along the length of the main drip line.  We pulled out the old micro-tubing and replaced it.  

Once the irrigation repair was finished, it was time to add plants.  Luckily, there is still plenty of time to plant cool-season favorites.  To get a head start, I bought romaine lettuce, Swiss chard, and spinach transplants.  The rest I would grow from seed.  Irish Eyes Garden Seeds is one of my favorite seed companies.

Another seed company who I have used over the years is Burpee.  I remember perusing my dad’s Burpee seed catalog when I was a child and planning on which ones I would order for the little plot of land that he gave me in the back garden.  

I still order seeds from Burpee and was pleasantly surprised to receive a gift from them this Christmas – an advent calendar where each door opened up to a seed packet filled with one of their new 2017 plant introductions.  What an ingenious marketing tool!  Every morning, I felt like a kid again waiting to see what new seeds I would find behind the door.  

I selected ‘Dragon Tail’ radish, where you eat its purple seed pods and NOT the roots.  It is a version of an Asian heirloom radish and has a more delicate flavor than regular radishes.  I am very excited to see what this one does in my garden.  ‘Rido Red’ radish and ‘Bend and Snap’ snap peas also found a spot in the garden.

Marigolds and nasturtiums are always present alongside cool-season vegetables as they attract beneficial pollinators, discourage harmful insect pests, and just make the garden look pretty.  Imagine my delight when I saw new varieties of my favorite flowers in the advent calendar.  ‘Strawberry Blonde’ marigolds and ‘Orange Troika’ nasturtiums will add welcome beauty to my vegetable bed.  There were other seeds in the calendar that I plan on using including ‘Bend and Snap’ snap peas.  I plan on giving some of my seeds to my mother for her garden.  Burpee has a list of their new 2017 introductions, which you can access here.  I’d love to hear if you grow any of them.

Next to the vegetable garden is my young ‘Meyer’ lemon tree.  We planted it two years ago, and this is its first ever fruit.  Young citrus trees can take a year or two, after planting, before it produces fruit and I look forward to years of delicious fruit from mine.  

Meyer lemons aren’t true lemons.  They are a cross between a regular lemon and mandarin orange, and this gives them a sweeter flavor and a deep yellow skin.  The story behind Meyer lemons includes overseas exploration, threatened extinction, and Martha Stewart.

Well, that is what is happening in the January vegetable garden.  What is growing in your winter garden?

 

For those of us who love to garden, we are often looking out for new inventions and products to decrease the amount of time we need to maintain our garden while also increasing our enjoyment. 


A couple of weeks ago, I attended the annual Garden Writer’s Conference, which was held in Pasadena, CA.

In addition to informative seminars and tours of beautiful gardens, there was also a tradeshow connected to the conference.

The tradeshow was made up of vendors connected to the garden industry.  Their goods ranged from newly invented tools to make gardening tasks easier, unique garden items as well as the new plant introductions.

Today, I’d like to show you a few of the garden products that I felt would interest you.  
(My next post will involve some of the newest plants on the market.)


Soft-sided garden containers were a prevalent item at the show.  I particularly liked these colorful options offered in small to large sizes by Bloem Living

‘Bloem Bagz’ are made from recycled water bottles and can be used for growing flowers, herbs,  vegetables or whatever type of plant you like.


They even have a raised bed with bamboo supports that begins flat and easily folds out.  I can just picture growing herbs in this container.


Along the same line, Smart Pots, offers larger fabric raised beds that are ideal for creating raised vegetable beds.


Also offered are bags that you can be used to create your own compost bin.  Imagine not having to build a compost bin out of wood?


As you can see, the bags come folded flat.


They then easily unfold to create a portable and inexpensive container.

According to their literature, Smart Pots have excellent drainage, last for years and decrease the amount of heat retained inside the soil during summer.


Before we leave the innovative garden container products, I’d like to show you ‘Ups-A-Daisy’.  

These are planter inserts that fit inside of containers, decreasing the amount of expensive planting soil that goes into pots.


I really enjoyed myself in this booth with its rainbow-colored products.

The Dramm display was largely dedicated to devices for watering plants.  

From long and short watering wands in any color you could imagine to innovative hose-end spray nozzles that have a multitude of settings from watering plants, washing your car or even your dog.


There was even a chocolate colored spray wand, which lent a somewhat elegant look to a garden tool.


The folks from Greenview Fertilizer had a variety of organic fertilizers.  

For Southwest gardeners, the citrus, palm, rose and all-purpose plant food would be a welcome addition to the garden.

I was given samples of the citrus fertilizer, which I can’t wait to use for my lemon and orange trees.


Stretch Tie is an expandable plant tie.  This innovative tie expands and moves with plants as they grow, instead of girdling them as inflexible ties can do.

You can use these plant ties for houseplants, tomatoes, trees, and vines.  I will be giving some to my mother for helping her train her gourd vines.


Another garden tie product that I found interesting was Garden Connects.  I met the woman who invented them and it was easy to see how these silicon connectors could be used to canes and small stakes such as those used to create teepees  for vegetable vines to crawl up on.


While the sight of a rack filled with many different varieties of flower and vegetable seeds may not look out of the ordinary…


One that has seeds free for the picking isn’t something you see every day.

Not surprisingly, this was a popular display – not just because the seeds were free, but because the types of seeds offered.  Many new or hard to find varieties of seeds were offered through Renee’s Garden Seed Company.

I can’t wait to grow the white, pink and pale yellow California poppies seeds that I got as well as some new varieties of nasturtium and poppy flowers.

Botanical Interests and Irish Eyes Seed companies also had impressive seed displays, several of which, made their way into my suitcase for the trip home. 

I hope that you are intrigued by many of these garden products as much as I am.

Next time, I will share with you some of the new plant introductions that were on display and my attempt to bring many home in my suitcase 🙂

**If you haven’t had a chance yet, I invite you to enter the giveaway for a great gardening book called “Getting Potted in the Desert”.  The drawing is this coming Monday!