Sold Out!

Went by the Mapple Farm site while still trying to decide whether to bother ordering more sweet potato slips to replace the frozen-by-mail ones and I see they are sold out. So now, of course, I want them more than anything! Nothing stirs a gardener’s blood more than the idea that they can’t have a plant. Even if it’s the ugliest looking perennial or the most foul tasting vegetable -keeping in mind everything is a matter of personal taste – tell a gardener they can’t have it and they will remortgage the house just for the chance to bring it home. Well, almost. Or maybe that’s just me…

After two days of wet snow and April showers the sun has come back out. I can hear the summer birds singing as I type – and Rusty the rooster crowing as he scratches about in the thawing earth for worms and bugs. With so much spring in the air it’s impossible to stay down about something as trivial as sweet potato slips for long! I think I will try a butternut squash in  my raised straw bale bed instead…

 

Sweet Potatoes…Not So Sweet

Well, so much for my sweet potatoes. Found their poor little carcasses frozen to the quick in our mailbox last night. That’s what I get for not picking up my mail every day. We pick up our mail at one of those green metal multi-unit mail boxes just over a mile from our house. It’s the perfect incentive for a little exercise and a favorite walk for our little dog Cosmo. In the last couple years our mail delivery switched from three days a week to five; something I haven’t adjusted to. In the past, three days a week we walked to the mailbox and the other four we’d go in the opposite direction. And now, even with mail awaiting us five days a week, it can get boring going the same way day after day. And often the only thing awaiting us is a couple glossy pizza flyers. So more often than not we alternate directions and let the mail build up in the box for a couple days. Not a good plan when live plants are involved.

I want to blame someone else but I can’t. The mail person doesn’t have to deliver parcels even when they fit in our box. All she is required to do is drop off a post office slip letting us know we have a parcel awaiting us in town. To make the effort to deliver the parcel is an act of kindness.

And it’s not the fault of the mail order nursery. The potato slips were tenderly wrapped and packaged.

Ah well, so the gardening goes. I always worry about losing my sweet potatoes to frost, but never imagined it would happen this early in the game!!! Now I am considering if its worth reordering or if I should just plant something else in my straw bale bed instead…

Pet Your Plants

Petting isn’t just for pets! Everything needs a little attention to grow up strong and fulfill its full potential. Running your hand over the tops of seedlings mimics the wind bending the stems and keeps them from getting spindly, weak and toppling over. I do this every morning and night as I turn on and off the grow lights. A bonus is the scent some of the plants leave on your hands. I even love the smell of tomatoes such as the ones pictured here; though a lot of people don’t. I also like the smell of geranium leaves; another scent many people dislike…

Altogether I have 144 tomato seedlings in seven different varieties. Here they are along with their catalogue descriptions sometimes amended with my own! If you’re interested in checking out any of the sources you can find their links listed under Seed Sources…

Casady’s Folly

Baker Creek Heirlooms

75 days. Determinate. Dazzling, slender plum-type fruits, often with a tiny “beak” at the blossom end, reaching 4” in length and weighing 5 oz. The stripes are very pronounced, alternating between orange and red: the effect is very striking! Very well-flavored with fruity overtones, these are firm with a blood-red interior, suitable for fresh use or canning and sauces. A Tom Wagner creation.

Cold Set

Prairie Garden Seeds – Humboldt, Saskatchewan

I love this one! I’ve been growing Cold Set for the last three years outdoors with good results!

Mountain Princess

Baker Creek Heirlooms

45-50 days. This determinate early tomato is well-suited to short, mountain climates. It is a heavy producer of small to medium-sized red fruit that has a nice mild flavor. This tomato comes from the Mountain regions of West Virginia and has been grown by generations of rugged farmers for its earliness and production.

Mystery Keeper

Mapple Farm Weldon NB

Mystery Keeper is an outstanding storage tomato selection. Before the first frost at season’s end, harvest all fruit. Any that have developed beyond the greenest stage will slowly ripen for months afterwards in storage. Select the best specimens (no cracks or blemishes) for keeping. Note that tomatoes that may not appear ripe from the outside (i.e. not yet bright red) are often ripe inside and ready to use. Space 3 feet (1 metre) apart!

Northern Delight Tomato

Mapple Farm Weldon NB

This is the earliest ‘market-sized’ (over 3 oz/85 grams) tomato we’ve yet to come across. And this bush variety has a lot going for it; great taste, terrific crack and disease resistance with a quite concentrated red with some green at the stem end. Space about 30 in (75 cm) apart.

Sugary

Veseys PEI

The name tells you just how sweet and delicious these All American Selection winning red grape tomatoes are. The ½ oz crack resistant fruit are produced in clusters of up to 15-20 on indeterminate plants. Matures about 60-65 days after transplant.

Super-Early Latah Tomato

Mapple Farm, NB Latah is an exceedingly early variety that handles cool growing conditions better than most tomatoes. Latah not only produces 2-3 inch (5-7.5 cm) red fruit very early; it continues pumping them out clear ‘til frost. In our experience Latah tomatoes are an attractive, crack free and mouth watering selection. Space 30 inches apart.

Poor Man’s Fertilizer…

The last couple days have seen Old Man Winter getting in his last frosty licks before handing the ball over to spring. The ground is covered with the white stuff and still the snow comes a-tumbling down. Ah well, every cloud has its lining and this one is laced with nitrogen. Often dubbed the poor man’s fertilizer, both rain and snow deposit between 2 -12 pounds of nitrogen per acre! A scant amount in the scheme of things, but it’s free and we can sure use the moisture. Still I am looking forward to Monday and the weather forecasters promise of double-digit temperatures all week-long!

I just finished setting up two of my three cold frames before the snows came…those are the tent-like structures you see in the picture. The plan is to let the soil warm up a little and then I’m going to sow some spinach and mesclun mix inside for extra early salad…and hopefully there will be enough spinach left over to freeze for winter use. Yeesh…only a gardener would understand planning for next winter before this one has even left!

On the extreme left of the photo is the beginnings of my straw-bale raised-bed cold-frame. My plan is to fill it with peat moss and compost and plant my sweet potato slips in it. I ordered some Georgia Jets from Mapple Farms in New Bunswick – sweet potatoes are total heat lovers but Georgia Jets are supposed to do well in our Canadian climate. I tried growing some last year in the tent cold-frames but was unsuccessful for a number of reasons. This year I am hoping that having a deep raised bed will provide lots of wiggle room for the roots translating to lots and lots of delicious tubers. I think the insulating factor of being surrounded by straw bales will be a good thing too. I have an old patio door with glass in it that I am going to set on top of the bale frame on cool nights…though a sheet of plastic stapled to some 2 X 4’s might be a lighter solution. We’ll see how it goes. I will keep you posted on how it progresses!

How about you? Any luck growing sweet potatoes in Zone 2b? Or 3? I’d love to hear about it…