Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Just a Quick Note

This may be the longest time I've ever gone between blog posts. So sorry to keep people waiting! I have been working on developing an e-Newsletter, using MailChimp, for my department at work, and the text-oriented part of my brain has been a little overloaded. 
Frosted sage, untroubled by e-newsletters and blog posts.
Kale getting sweeter in the cold while I sit at a computer.

Also, we've been getting ready for the Thanksgiving holiday -- my favorite holiday of the year! Making the holiday even better, my Mom and Stepdad (aka: Grammy and Grandpa Bill) are headed our way for a seven-day visit.

Mom called this morning from the Oklahoma City airport, to say that they were at the departure gate and waiting to board the plane. We are really looking forward to sharing a week of togetherness and good food with family!

Luckily, my relatives all know that coming to visit at our house isn't at all like going to a hotel; it's more like going to summer camp. There will be crafts and  outdoor activities, everyone pitching in on the cooking and clean-up, and "quiet time" for which having brought a couple of books will have been a good idea.

Local friends will be coming for Thanksgiving day, too, and we always look forward to the full house. The cheerful buzz of conversation somehow makes the aromas and flavors of the day even more wonderful. 

I hope that everyone else is set for a beautiful Thanksgiving day!
Sweet persimmons mark a transition to winter in the yard.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Onion-Family is Planted; Cold is on the Way

On the way home from work one day last week, I stopped at a garden center and picked up a little bag of onion sets -- dry, tiny bulbs -- and I was able to get about half of them into the ground last weekend.

The bed they were destined for also was planted with garlic, shallots, and multiplier onions. By the time I had all my saved bulbs in the ground, there wasn't room for all of the little onions in the space that had been set aside. I'm thinking, though, that when I pull out the last of the zombie pepper plants that still are holding onto some darkened, ragged leaves out in the garden, I will be able to plant the remainder of the little white bulbs in the newly emptied space.

An alternative is to plant them around the edges of a bed that will be covered with mulch for the winter, so that spring planting can be done without too much trouble in trying to not disturb their roots. Regardless of which option I choose, planting the rest of those little onions will have to wait for next weekend, which is expected to be quite cold.

All the more tender plants need to be either safely under cover or, if potted, indoors, because it's supposed to be pretty cold tonight, and a very cold snap is forecast for next week. This weekend we are looking at low temperatures in the mid-20s, but at least one day next week is expected to be down around 22 degrees F. For Georgia, in any month, that's cold.

I hope all the gardeners out there are keeping warm as they tend to their plants!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Lost Varieties - Wheat, Corn

The phone call ended up being about corn, but it started with wheat. The old-timer who called the office today asked whether it was too late to plant wheat as a cover crop for his half-acre garden. He wanted to plant the wheat to keep out the henbit that would take over if he left the soil bare. The birds could have any seeds that the wheat might produce.

According to UGA's 2012-13 Wheat Production Guide, "The optimum window for wheat planting in Georgia is typically one week before the average first frost date for a given area and one week after." In other words, this week is perfect for planting, since our first frost is usually around November 1.

I asked about his seeds, and he said they were just an ordinary winter wheat, and he didn't know the variety, but it wasn't like the one his daddy had grown on the family farm many years ago. That wheat had a bluish-purple tint to it, and the grain was very hard. Apparently, the guys at the mill didn't like it because it was hard on their roller-equipment. I was told, though, by  my old-timer, that the blue wheat made great biscuits.

When I asked if he still had any seed for that variety, he said no, it had been lost, like his daddy's corn.

Then, I had to ask about the corn.

His daddy had crossed Hickory King, which has very wide kernels and is a good corn for hominy, with Tennessee Gourdseed, because he had liked the look of the tall kernels on that gourdseed corn. The resulting corn, even after carefully selecting the best ears to save, still wasn't quite perfect, so his daddy had taken the best of new corn and planted it intermixed with Hastings' Prolific (a Georgia variety). The planting was two rows of the first cross and then one row of the Hastings corn, alternated across the field.

The resulting corn had been good for both cornmeal and feed corn, and the ears had been pretty enough to win many ribbons at the fair. Seed from that corn was saved and replanted for many years.

It's unlikely that my old-timer's daddy had had formal training in horticulture when he created his own corn, and yet he was successful in breeding a variety of corn that met his own needs.

This story is a good reminder to keep working to save seeds for old family garden crops that come my way, like the Hogseds' Sweet Potatoes and my friend Becky's Joanie Beans.

Also, the next time I have a zany garden experiment in mind, I'm going to remind myself that there's always a chance that something will go exactly right!

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