Black Friday Weekend Seed Sale – Pinetree Garden Seeds

The only Black Friday shopping I do every year is online from the couch, with Pinetree Garden Seeds. Everything on the site is 15% off from today on 11/27, through Monday 11/30. Use code BLACKFRI15 at checkout (note if you want to use Paypal, click on the regular “Checkout” button, enter the code and then choose Paypal – don’t click on the Paypal link on the main order screen).

Every item is eligible for the discount, including seeds, plants (they will ship in the spring), books, gardening supplies, and even craft supplies – soap making supplies, cosmetics making supplies, and even some knitting gear.

I’ve pretty much already decided what will go in next year’s garden, so putting together the seed order was pretty easy. I did swap a couple of varieties, but kept mostly to plan.  I still have a ton of seeds from last year’s massive Black Friday seed order, so I just replenished a few that I was running low on, plus a couple of impulse buys (of course)  –

pinetree 1

And then I realized a few hours later that I’d forgotten to order potatoes, so… I went back and did a second order. Also remembered I needed some more plant labels, and I discovered some cosmetics items that have been hard to find at other places – small quantities of charcoal (going to try to make my own natural mascara), beet root (for tinted lip balm) and a single mascara tube (most places only sell big quantities) –

pinetree 2

So, the seeds for spring are ordered, and I got a great deal on a few other items too. Supporting a family owned business is my kind of Black Friday shopping!

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Advance Planning in the Garden

Is it too early to start planning next year’s garden, when this summer’s has just started to produce? Maybe practically speaking, but the problem with garden planning in the middle of winter is two fold – first, all of the realities of how the garden works and what you do with it are often forgotten, and second, your imagination quite easily runs away with itself.

For example, this was supposed to be this year’s plan –

A

We didn’t even build beds in this configuration since we had to relocate the orchard. And there’s a lot of great stuff in here, but not in the quantities that reflect what we’ll actually eat. We want more tomatoes, way less big onions, and we don’t need to grow zucchini – we can buy the handful we want at the farmer’s market. Ditto on the watermelons and leeks. And where are the potatoes? Relegated in the “plan” to some mythical other spot in the yard, and of course they never ended up getting planted.

So, in the thick of this growing season, I’m planning ahead for the next to try to learn from those mistakes. This is what we’ll plan to grow next season (each square represents a square foot) –

B

From left to right – Rutgers tomatoes, Gold Nugget tomatoes, Early jalapenos, Spacemaster cucumbers (2 per square), Small Sugar pumpkin, Mini Jack Baby pumpkin, Evergreen Bunching onions (36 per square), Lacinato kale, Tom Thumb lettuce (4 per square), and an entire bed of Yukon Gold potatoes. The Spacemaster cucumbers are a bush varietal so they should not need trellising and the pumpkins will be trained up a shared A-frame trellis. The onions, kale and lettuce will all be succession planted to spread out the harvest through the season.

We’ll also continue growing herbs in pots on the deck – thyme, rosemary, parsley, peppermint, and sage. I’d also like to add in oregano and lavender. And of course we have the orchard – the apples, persimmons, hazelnuts and blueberries. And we’ll try a few pots of strawberries too. I also haven’t given up on raspberries – we’ll plant some new canes and try them again, but next year we’ll buy them locally.

Anything else we want or need we can get at the farmer’s market, so I think it’s a good mix. The stuff we use the most and eat the most of might not be the unusual and exciting, but it’ll be incredibly useful to have all of that at our fingertips. So now that’s out the way, maybe I’ll go less overboard ordering seeds in December!

Garden Planning – 2015

Spoiler alert – this is the year I lose my mind. It will be the very first year of our adult lives where we have our own yard and garden space, right where we live. I have big plans for our slightly-less-than-quarter-acre lot. Observe –

For the vegetable/fruit beds –

Jacob’s Cattle beans
Envy edameme
Gonzales mini cabbage
Boston Pickling cucumber
Lacinato kale
Lancelot leeks
Evergreen Bunching onions
Southport Red Globe onions
Valencia onions
Lincoln Garden park
Early Jalapeno peppers
King of the North peppers
Jack Be Little pumpkins
Small Sugar pumpkins
Ronde de Nice squash
Gold Nugget tomatoes
Tiny Tim tomatoes
Jubilee Bush watermelon
Yukon Gold potatoes
Bristol Black raspberries
Mara de Bois strawberries
Friendship blueberries

Herb/flower beds –

Grandpa Otts morning glory
Patriot morning glory
Valerian
St. John’s Wort
Italian Large Leaf basil
Caraway
Black cumin
Compatto dill
Citronella lemon balm
Marjoram
Green oregano
Flat Leaf parsley
Rosemary
White sage
French thyme

And if that isn’t enough crazy, I’m adding fruit and nut trees to the mix – as yet undecided varieties of apple, American persimmon and hazelnut. Yes, you read that correctly. I just started reading Grow A Little Fruit Tree: Simple Pruning Techniques for Small-Space, Easy-Harvest Fruit Trees by Ann Ralph. It’s all about keeping standard sized fruit trees at a manageable (around six feet) height with proper pruning and maintenance. Which considerably opens up the varieties one can consider, since only limited varieties are available as dwarf, semi-dwarf or columnar. It’s so good, I can’t put it down. I’m a convert to the method and I haven’t even finished the book yet. So yes – in addition to multiple vegetable, fruit, flower and herb beds, I’ll be adding a tiny orchard this year as well. If I’m going to do something, I do it. 🙂 Only a few weeks and we’ll be getting the first seeds started!

Garden Planning 2014

I am ready! It’s currently snowing out and we’re at least two months away from reasonably starting seeds, but nonetheless. I am geared up for spring! Awhile back I found a brand-new seed starting tray for $2.00 at Goodwill to replace the ones that finally gave up the ghost last year.

And today, friends, I have placed the 2014 seed order! And I haven’t even gotten a single seed catalog in the mail, which now that I think about it, is really weird. I swear I got them before Christmas last year. At any rate, I placed my order with Pinetree Garden Seeds (my all-time favorite, even if they have gotten rid of flat rate shipping). This is the order I placed –

A

And this is about how it will look in the garden –

B

I love planning with Smart Gardener – the best free garden planner on the internet, hands down. It’s pretty self-explanatory – I’ve got tomatoes on the right, and a corn and pumpkin patch in the upper left corner. In front of the pumpkins are peppers and onion-type things, with leafy greens and peas next door. In the middle is an alley of dwarf sunflowers, with beans and potatoes in front.

And the crowning glory of the garden is the one thing that looks like a major blank spot in the plan – at the end of the alley of sunflowers with be a bean teepee covered in Rattlesnake Pole beans. So when we go to the garden, Little Man can run down the lane of sunflowers and play inside the bean teepee.

I also came across a great idea on Pinterest (of course) for DIY plant markers that I’m going to make –

C

Aren’t those cute? The picture (and the idea, naturally) are from Katy Harper and I think they’re great. I have a can of red spray paint and a white paint pen already, so if I can score some paint sticks this little garden project won’t cost me a dime. If you can’t find a store that will give you paint sticks (some do, some don’t these days) you can buy them on Amazon. The best deal on paint sticks I found was about $10 for a package of 100 – enough to supply you with labels for your garden for a few years! I also found out that Hobby Lobby sells a package of 24 for just under $4.00, if that’s more your speed.

Another thing we’re going to get again this year is another package or two of wooden landscape stakes, which cost about $12 for a package of 25. They’re great as plant supports and as the foundation for perimeter fencing. They worked great last year.

So, I’m really excited to get the garden going again this year – and I will be anxiously awaiting the arrival of the seed order!

New Year, New Plans

Hey All, I hope you had a great holiday season! We had a wonderful first Christmas with Baby Apartment Farmer and a nice low-key New Year’s Eve at home. In years past, January has been a real let down for me. The sparkle and glitz of Christmas are gone. Boring winter sets in. But this year, I was actually all set on go to get the tree down, the decorations put away and the house in order. I enjoyed them while they were up, but everything was put away by New Year’s Day. I wanted to start the year out fresh and clean!

And as a compulsive list maker, this is my very favorite time of year. Planning requires lists, after all! I have to admit, I’ve done something psychotic… I’ve joined a 52 Project Challenge on the one of the forums I frequent. It’s basically like a crafter’s support group – the goal is to complete one project each week of the year. Here’s what I’ve got planned –

House slippers January Me
Circle scarf January Me
Travel tissue case January Me
Scrapbook paper seed envelopes January Me
Valentine’s Day postcards February Holiday
Embroidered stationary birthday cards February Holiday
4th of July flag bunting June Me
4th of July pinwheels June Me
Halloween costume for the baby September Holiday
Spiderweb skirt for Halloween September Holiday
Snapfish photo calendar November Christmas gift
Snapfish Christmas cards November Christmas gift
Fanny pack/belt bag TBD Me
Dinosaur hat TBD Christmas gift
Magnetic paper dolls TBD Christmas gift
Lion stuffed animal TBD Christmas gift
Gorilla stuffed animal TBD Christmas gift
Kitchen knife roll TBD Me
Jelly jar shelf TBD Me
Patchwork table runner TBD Me
Apron TBD Me
A-line skirt TBD Me
Coming home from the hospital outfit shadow box TBD Me
Wedding/honeymoon scrapbook TBD Me
CD wallet scrapbook TBD Christmas gift
Tote bag TBD Me
Cold frame for the window box planter TBD Me
Portable spice rack TBD Me
Pour spout mason jars TBD Me
Gold glittered deer TBD Holiday
Travel cosmetics case TBD Me
Tile coasters TBD Me
Pattern piece lampshade for sewing desk TBD Me
Embroidery hoop pocket organizer TBD Me
Scrapbook paper pattern envelopes TBD Me
Diamond quilt – cut blocks TBD Me
Diamond quilt – piece horizontal TBD Me
Diamond quilt – piece vertical TBD Me
Diamond quilt – assemble quilt TBD Me
Diamond quilt – quilt/topstich TBD Me
Laminated kitchen helper magnets TBD Me
Change purse TBD Me
Crocheted ice skate ornaments TBD Christmas gift
Glittered paper leaf wreath TBD Me
Cookie cutter Christmas wreath TBD Me
Shutterfly photo story book TBD Christmas gift
Christmas gift for nieces – TBD TBD Christmas gift
Christmas gift for son – TBD TBD Christmas gift
Christmas gift for husband – TBD TBD Christmas gift
Christmas gift for husband – TBD TBD Christmas gift
Stocking stuffers for son – TBD TBD Christmas gift
Stocking stuffers for husband – TBD TBD Christmas gift

It’s quite a list, right? And I’ve actually gotten one done already – I made two of the pour spout mason jars. It literally took two minutes to put together. I’m using one for my bulk instant yeast and one for cinnamon sugar, and I love how convenient they are.

And as if that list weren’t enough to keep me busy, I do have a couple more goals for this year in the foodcrafting department –

Put up 52 quarts of tomatoes
Make pancetta
Make fermented hot sauce
Make fried garlic
Grow vegetables year round
Make chili powder from dried and ground hot peppers

That list is destined to get longer as I hop around on Pinterest and come across new things to make and try. And of course, I’ll be sure to post about all of the good stuff I accomplish. What are your goals for the coming year?

Garden Dreams Versus Garden Reality

Oddly enough, the first snowfall usually gets me to thinking about spring’s garden plans. I like to start my seeds early, and March always comes around more quickly than I think. Plus, I’m a born planner, and making lists is a specialty of mine. And what better list than one for the garden?

Unfortunately, having a deck has really gone to my head. I sat down recently to make my garden wish list, and ended up with a whopping thirty-one items on it –

Basil

Blueberry Bushes

Bok Choi

Broccoli

Brussels Sprouts

Cabbage

Celery

Cherry Bushes

Columnar Apple Trees

Cucumbers

Drying Beans

Edamame

Gourds

Green Beans

Hops

Hot Peppers

Kale

Leeks

Luffa

Mustard

Onions Peas

Potatoes

Pumpkins

Raspberries

Scallions

Strawberries

Sweet Corn

Sweet Peppers

Thyme

Tomatoes

I know, right? I’ve got some pretty wild stuff on there. Clearly I can’t expect to plant all of that! It also doesn’t take into account that I’d like to plant several varieties of a lot of it. But so far, I can only narrow the list down by half! These are the ones I can’t seem to eliminate (along with my justification on how I can include them) –

Basil – This is easy. I can put a pot of basil on the wrought iron etagere, no problem.

Blueberry Bushes – This sounds insane, considering I still don’t have a yard. But I came across a container-friendly variety called Top Hat a few years back, and if I can still get a couple they can live in a few five-gallon pots on the concrete below the deck.

Columnar Apple Trees – This also sounds insane, since I just fessed up to not having a yard and all. But columnar apple trees, as the name indicates, do not branch – the apples grow off spurs on the main stem. If I get two half whiskey barrels, they can live on the concrete, flanking our steps. I think they’d look quite lovely there.

Cucumbers

Edamame

Hot Peppers

Kale

Leeks

The above “crops” I can grow in a Self Watering Planting Bed that I want to get from Gardener’s Supply Company. It’s a $170, but it’s a self-contained nine foot planting bed with a water reservoir and can easily live on the concrete below the deck. Actually, that might be a lot for nine square feet, so maybe the hot peppers will have to live in a few pots, and the leeks… maybe I’ll cut the leeks this year. If I have to choose between kale and leeks, I’d have to go with kale. I think.

Peas – I have a tiny variety of pea called Tom Thumb that can grow in small pots, which I can find a home for on the etagere with the herbs or just placed around the deck.

Potatoes – I intend to grow some fingerlings in a metal trash can (a nice looking one!). It can sit on the concrete with the blueberries. 

Scallions – I can squeeze these onto the perimeter of the planting beds, or in with the pots of tomatoes.

Strawberries – I have a terra cotta strawberry pot that has been vacant for two seasons now. What better home for strawberries than a whole strawberry pot?

Sweet Corn – This is the problem child of the garden this year. The earth box failed to produce anything real (and now houses a few creeping junipers and dwarf spruces anyway). It only accommodates about a dozen plants, which isn’t enough for good pollination. From my reading on the subject, sweet corn in small plantings does the best in a stand of at least four rows deep. I really want to see how my Blue Jade can perform outdoors, because I really think it would be tasty and look great in the garden. If I get a second self-watering planting bed, I can do a whole stand of corn, but since these beds aren’t cheap, if might have to wait until next season. And for those of you that are wondering why I don’t just build my own planting beds, I need something self-contained and really good looking since I plan to plunk it down on what is technically common space on a concrete pad in our apartment complex.

Sweet Peppers – I’m thinking about putting some in the window box that hangs from the deck railing. I could do small bushy ones in the back, and some put some vines and short flowers in the front – decorative, yet half edible (or all the way edible, if I choose the right flower). But if I decide to use that window box for more decorative purposes, I do have room to add another two hanging baskets to our real estate; more if I ask our neighbor to the east if I can use his deck railing, since he doesn’t put plants out – wait! See how quickly I get out of control!? I cannot take over Bill’s deck too. One deck at a time, here…

Thyme – Easy enough to find some small pots for a few different varieties to live on the etagere with the basil.

Tomatoes – I have four hanging baskets that will hang from the deck – I already have the brackets; we just need to install them.

So out of all that, leeks and sweet corn might not make the cut. And I already have a pot of chives, rosemary and a bay tree that will want to live outdoors when the weather gets warm. Fourteen to sixteen new things should be no problem, right? And I’ve certainly got time to agonize over which varieties to settle on, as well as see if I can find some more good deals on planting pots, and watch for a sale on the self watering planting bed.