Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Fall tomatoes...

Delta Charlie knows what he's talking about, and he recommended two cherry tomatoes for fall planting:
Hi all, the first of the fall tomatoes just started to ripen. The winner of the race for the earliest tomato looks to be the Sweet Quartz cherry and just behind it was the Golden Gem. Had some for lunch on Sunday and they sure were good!
My Jet Setter tomatoes are coming along nicely, but still green. Tonight's near-freezing temperatures may do them in... so be it.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Growing lettuce in FLA

From a post over on the Florida Forum of GardenWeb... my thoughts on salad greens in FLA:
i direct-sowed a bunch of lettuce in september but nothing came up (but the brassicas all came up--broc, collards, rocket). christine (happly_fl_gardener) probably correctly diagnosed the problem as soil fungus, and the small seeds couldn't germinate. (maybe dusting them with fungicide or soaking them in a bit of weak need might have helped.) in the past, i've always direct-sowed my lettuce, but typically i don't plant it until mid-november or later.

at the beginning of october i sowed a bunch of red sails lettuce (from tony--thanks!) in a large windowbox in a mostly-soiless mix, and they all germinated. i've also got a bunch of jericho lettuce going in windowboxes...

anyway, long story short, i learned some things: soil's just to microbiologically active when temps are above, say, 80 here in florida. little seeds (like carrots, parsley, lettuce) don't germinate because they rot or are rendered otherwise sterile. if you want to start lettuce early, i think a soil-less or nearly so mix is necessary. if you want to direct sow, then wait until things cool down--evening temps below 60.


I grew up in a household that canned: Every fall, my mom dragged out the pressure cooker and canning kettle, and went to work on the tomatoes, corn, and peppers from my father's large kitchen garden. (He was an excellent gardener, but never saw fit to include children in his past time.) Reading this article brought to mind those steamy August and September afternoons helping my mom in the kitchen, but it also dug up memories of my grandmother's root cellar, located in the basement of the wash house on her turn-of-the-century farmhouse where she lived the better part of five decades. When she died, the shelves were still full of large, half-gallon jars with produce from her small plot out the back door. The smell down there was always odd but not unpleasant: the mineral scent of the limestone that provided the foundation and floor, the sourish smell of pickles and sauerkraut, the scent of fabric softener and bluing from upstairs.

No real need for a root cellar here in Florida, except for making beer. Actually, I think if we had one we'd use it more in the doldrums (August and September) than the winter, when there's plenty groing fresh in the garden.

Food Storage as Grandma Knew It
The Worleys, like a number of other Americans, have made the seemingly anachronistic choice to turn their basement into a root cellar. While Ms. Worley’s brownstone basement stash won’t feed the couple through the winter, she said, “Ithink it’s a healthy way to go and an economical way.”

According to a September survey on consumer anxieties over higher fuel and food prices from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University in Ames, 34 percent of respondents said that they were likely to raise more of their own vegetables. Another 37 percent said they were likely to can or freeze more of their food. The cousin to canning and freezing is the root cellar.