Would you look at this? I’ve got sprouts! I know they are hard to see but there are fifteen sprouts of tomatoes that showed up Wednesday night. This is the seed tray that was planted around noon on Saturday at the Duval County Extension class. Four days later, sprouts! Amazing. I haven’t even gone to the store yet to get a grow light so I’ve put them on the porch in the early morning sun and will move them into the shade as it gets warmer.

Spring Seeds Are In!

It’s time to get serious about planning your spring garden plot. You bug averse, chicken-livered non-gardeners need to get with the veggie gardening program, too, because fresh veggie prices are projected to increase 3.5% to 4.5% in 2012 according to the experts at USDA’s Economic Research Service. You think I’m making this up? Fine, check out this chart with your own eyeballs: ers.usda.gov/Briefing/CPIFoodAndExpenditures/Data/CPIForecasts.htm.

Spring seeds have arrived! Your on-the-hoof researcher has the following to report:

Wal-Mart’s Ferry-Morse seeds underwent a design change in the package artwork (a red band across the top and white background below) plus a change in price structure. Some of the dollar packages dropped to 97 cents while others went up to $1.19.  Herbs went up from $1.00 to $1.39. Wal-Mart also brought in $2.00 organic packages from Seeds of Change. Home Depot brought back their $1.00 Burpee and Ferry-Morse seeds, among others. I could find no seeds under $1.57 at Lowes. Still, Lowes is my favorite big box home improvement emporium because they have the Down-and-Out-but-Not-Quite-Dead table in the Gardening Department. Just the other day, I bought a large Bush Daisy in a decorative plastic pot for $2.00. Makes me soooooo happy.

I like to get some of my basic seeds from among the dollar seed packages and then mail order the slightly strange and down right weird stuff brought back from Ichtheeluwookistan by the adventurous seed seekers.

Mutant Veggies

This cabbage is Early Jersey Wakefield. I had no idea it would pop out of the ground with such a bizarre-looking pointy head. I’ve got one foot on the banana peel that’s slipping towards geezerism but the existence of pointy headed cabbage was news to me.  Honest.  Momma knew about them but never bothered to enlighten me until I started complaining that half of my cabbage crop had gone mutant. She came stomping down to my veggie garden to see what was going on.  It was then that I learned we have flat headed cabbage for cooking and pointy headed cabbage for coleslaw. However, a fair number of folks on the internet thought it was the other way around – flat heads for slaw; pointed for cooking. I don’t care who wins that argument. I want to know why I’ve shopped in the grocery stores for more years than I can count on my fingers and toes yet never saw anything but flat headed cabbage. The even larger question is this: how did I get to be so old and know so little?

The radicchio was the first mutant to show up in my winter garden. I actually emailed the seed company to inquire why my radicchio looked more like lettuce and the response involved something about needing colder temperatures. My neck of the woods has now experienced several nights of temperatures under 20 degrees and still the radicchio looks like lettuce.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that the seeds sprouting from my dirt don’t quite match my expectation. After all, I spread the greenbacks around when I shop for seeds. Some of the companies I order from go on seed hunting expeditions to backwater burgs at the edge of the earth. Then I order these exotic sounding seeds to play with new and interesting stuff despite the fact that “no photo is available.” Just today, I opened a package with a nursery certificate and several stickers proclaiming “may be opened for agricultural inspection.” Out tumbled seeds from Germany, South Africa and, of course, the back water burg at the edge of the world, Ichtheeluwookistan. If I disappear from these pages for more than a week, please send somebody to my plot of paradise to check on me. The exotic vegetables may be holding me hostage.

Cherry Tomatoes

I just stuck my hand out the door and waved it around.  My hand did not encounter 70 degrees so I snatched it back in and slammed the door. I don’t like cold weather and I don’t like what it does to the garden.  Our two beautiful cypress trees lose all their greenery, the hydrangeas get some sort of spotted dog disease, and precious little blooms.

Each time the weatherman threatens us with temps down in the 30’s, I run outside with my stash of old sheets to cover the plants. If the temps stay down, then the sheets stay in place looking like dead bodies lying all over the yard. Except for Casper the Ghost, of course, who stands upright. Casper is a fashionista with a two-sheet toga and some clothespin fasteners. Thus far, he has done a good job protecting the cherry tomatoes. Just yesterday I picked this bountiful bowl of tomatoes and just as many for my friend who brought me a big box of homegrown grapefruit.

My Garden Now Has Its Own Address

My cousin asked me what I did about bugs in my new 12×25 spring garden plot.

“I don’t have bugs,” I replied, my brows knitting together quizzically.

God love him, he didn’t point out my naiveté and I learned the hard way that it takes a while for the bug population to recognize your garden plot as an address.

My plot went on the bug radar over the summer.

By the fall, my poor little garden had become one of the most popular landing strips in the neighborhood. The bok choy looks like a rabbit, raccoon or opossum stood up on its haunches, aimed a sling shot down the row and shot holes through the tops of all the bok choy. Why couldn’t the critters pick out one or two bok choy and gnaw them to the ground? Why all the splashy holes?

The cherry tomatoes, sigh, are under attack by tomato horn worms and two other unidentified assailants. What are these ant-like things with red bodies [click photo for slideshow]? How about the bugs wearing medieval armor (please note the miniature black bra on their orange backs)?

What’s the solution? Do you plow up a new plot of ground every season in an effort to thwart the air traffic controllers of the bug and critter kingdom? Yeah, yeah, I know I should be grateful that I’m picking tomatoes in December but I long for the Better Homes & Garden perfection of that spring garden.