Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Project Grow Plant Sale 2008!

Are you as excited for the Project Grow Plant Sale as we are??? It's coming up soon (May 3 and 4 and the 10th); check out the Project Grow Events page for details.

To get you excited I'm posting all that we plan to sell with descriptions. Enjoy!

  • Applegreen Eggplant (62-70 days)-Productive upright 2-3' plants. Oval fruits are 5" in diameter with pale-green skin and mild white flesh, non-acid flavor, no need to peel.
  • Diamond Eggplant (65-95 days) - Russian variety. Plants grow 20-25" tall and fruits are set in clusters of 4-6. Dark purple fruits are 6-9" long by 2-3" in diameter. Excellent texture and flavor, never bitter.
  • Rosa Bianca Eggplant (80 days)- Italian heirloom, beautiful fruits are prized by chefs. Very meaty 4-6" round fruits, mild flavor and almost never bitter.
Hot Peppers
  • Anaheim Hot (90 days)- Mild to medium-hot pepper popular for roasting, frying and stuffing. Prolific bearers of long, thin, two-celled fruits, 6-8 in. long when fully grown. Can be used green or red -- hotter when red.
  • Bulgarian Chili Pepper- Vibrant orange, 2-3 in. carrot-shaped fruit has consistent heat and fine flavor. Extremely productive variety.
  • Czechoslovakian Black Chile Pepper (90-100 days)- Productive bush yields many 2-3 in. mildly hot fruits, which are such a dark green that they appear black before ripening to red.
  • Early Jalapeño - Heavy-yielding 3-3 1/2” blunt-end fruit can be eaten dark green or allowed to ripen to red. Delicious with that distinctive jalapeño flavor. Medium heat.
  • Fish Pepper- (80 days)- Pendant fruits 2-3" long, ripen from cream with green stripes to orange with brown stripes to all red. Good for salsa. Medium-hot.
  • Hot Portugal Pepper (65-70 days)- Sturdy upright plants, very heavy yields. Large smooth, glossy, bright-scarlet, fiery hot fruits taper to pointed tips, grow 6" or longer.
  • Ring-O-Fire Cayenne Chile (80 days)- Packs even more heat than traditional cayenne. 4-6 in. fruits ripen to flaming red. Fiery flavor is good dried or fresh.
  • Thai Hot Pepper (85 days)- Loaded with little 1⁄2" fruits ripening from green to red, averages 200 fruits per plant.
Sweet Peppers
  • Chocolate Sweet Pepper (70-75 days)- Dark, shiny green fruits ripen to a rich chocolate brown. Excellent sweet flavor when fully ripe, average flavor when green.
  • Hungarian Hot Wax (75 days)- Dependable and productive northern variety -plant sets fruit continuously. Produces upright, hot, yellow fruits.
  • Jimmy Nardello's Sweet Pepper (65-70 days)- Excellent fresh or fried, the sweetest non-bell Pepper when ripe. Red when ripe, these 6-8 in. peppers have shiny, wrinkled skins.
  • King of the North (70 days)- The best red bell for northern gardeners where the seasons are cool and short. Sweet flavor.
  • Klari Baby Cheese (65 days)- Ripens yellow to orange to red. Great for pickling whole. Ripens from white to yellow to red.
  • Pimento Sweet Pepper (74-100 days)- A large, thick-walled pepper with sweet, succulent flesh. An extremely heavy producer of 3 in. long, heart-shaped fruit. Best when ripened to scarlet red.

  • Anna Russian (70 days)- An excellent, gorgeous tomato. Early maturing 1-pound fruit. Superb rich old-fashioned, tomatoey flavors with lots of juice. Indeterminate.
  • Armenian (90 days)- Large flattish yellow and orange flesh with some red marbling. A bi-colored beefsteak with great flavor and unusually strong flavors for a bi-colored. Indeterminate.
  • Aunt Ginny’s Purple (79 days)- A productive beefsteak that yields 1-pound, deep-pink tomatoes that are smooth with little cracking and contain juicy flavors that some people claim are equal to the Brandywine. Indeterminate.
  • Lillian’s Yellow Heirloom (90 days)- Late maturing, large (up to 20 ounce), oblate bright yellow fruit with pale yellow interior and very, very few seeds. Great tasting. Indeterminate.
  • Aunt Ruby’s German Green (80 days)- Beefsteak fruits, 5" by 4" deep, weigh one pound or more. Sweet juicy flesh, refreshing spicy flavor. Pick when soft to the touch. Indeterminate.
  • Bisignano #2 (80 days)- Wonderfully flavored, with medium to large (four ounces to one pound), red, variably shaped fruits - oblate to elongated. Great for canning and sauces. Indeterminate.
  • Black from Tula (80-85 days)- Good yields, 3-4” fruits. Indeterminate.
  • Black Krim (60-90 days)- Slightly flattened 4-5" globes with dark greenish-black shoulders, turns almost black with enough heat and sun. Excellent full flavor. Indeterminate.
  • Black Zebra (85 days)- 1 1/2" round fruit with purple/brown skin with green stripes containing rich tomato flavors with hints of smoke and sweetness
  • Box Car Willie (80 days)- Produces 10 to 16-ounce, smooth, bright-red with an orange tinge. Excellent tasting tomatoes- very juicy. Good resistance to disease and cracking. Indeterminate.
  • Brandywine (90 days)- One of the best tasting tomatoes available to gardeners today. Large pink beefsteak fruits to 2 pounds. Incredibly rich, delightfully intense tomato flavor. Indeterminate.
  • Brown Berry Cherry (75 days)- Warm, earthy brown fruits are a great color addition. Excellent sweet juicy flavor, extremely heavy producer. Indeterminate.
  • Burpee’s Quarter Century (75 days)- A medium sized smooth round red tomato originally offered by Burpee in the late 1800's. Resists cracking. Indeterminate.
  • Caspian Pink (90 days)- One of the best tasting tomatoes available to gardeners today. Large pink beefsteak fruits to 2 pounds. Incredibly rich, delightfully intense tomato flavor. Indeterminate.
  • Cherokee Chocolate (75 days)- Warm, earthy brown fruits are a great color addition. Excellent sweet juicy flavor, extremely heavy producer. Indeterminate.
  • Cherokee Purple (75 days)- A medium sized smooth round red tomato originally offered by Burpee in the late 1800's. Resists cracking. Indeterminate.
  • Cosmonaut Volkov (72 days)- 1-2 pound fruits. Round, slightly flattened fruits have a full, complex flavor and nice acid/sweet balance. Indeterminate.
  • Crnkovic Yugoslavian (80 days)- Prolific, disease resistant heirloom that produces large, 1 lb.+, pink beefsteak fruit that is meaty, juicy, with a robust, complex tomato flavor. Indeterminate.
  • Cuostralee (85 days)- A French beefsteak heirloom that produces heavy quantities of huge (1-2 lbs.), red, blemish-free fruits that have intense, balanced flavors. Fruits are typically 4-inches across. Indeterminate.
  • Dr. Wyche’s Yellow (78 days)- A beefsteak heirloom that produces slightly flattened, smooth, blemish-free, golden-yellow fruit with a meaty interior and few seeds. Rich flavor. Indeterminate.
  • Dunneaux (85-90 days)- Large late season paste tomato that lost its ID tag. It might be Howard German, but I just dunneaux. Good fresh eating, in addition to great sauce.
  • Ethel Watkins’ Best (70 days)- Originally from Australia, this tomato has a unique flavor when eaten slightly under-ripe. When fully ripe, it is sublime! Consistently a winner with Ann Arbor’s tomato tasters.
  • Eva Purple Ball (70 days)- Delicious, round, 2 to 3-inch, blemish-free, pink-purple fruits. Indeterminate.
  • Evergreen (72 days)- Large, up to 2 lb fruit that stay green when ripe. Mild, delicious slightly sweet-spicy flavor. Lime green with yellowish shoulders when totally ripe. Indeterminate.
  • Pete Motza’s Evergreen (80 days)- Good yield of 4-7 oz amber and green fruit, very good flavor. Indeterminate.
  • German Johnson- A popular American heirloom tomato from the South, 'German Johnson' produces large pinkish-red fruits with meaty flesh and few seeds. A good slicing or canning tomato. Very productive and fairly resistant to disease. Indeterminate.
  • Glacier (58 days)- Produces an early crop and continues to bear the entire season. Good flavor. Determinate.
  • Glasnost (75 days)- An open-pollinated variety from Siberia producing 3", smooth, red-orange, dense, meaty fruit. Excellent flavor. Indeterminate.
  • Gold Brooks (70 days)- An accidental cross that won the Ann Arbor tomato tasting held in 2004. This is seed from the F2 generation selected from a plant that had large, yellow beefsteaks with good texture and flavor.
  • Goldie (75 days)- Large deep orange beefsteaks are full of flavor and juice. Indeterminate.
  • Green Zebra (75-80 days)- Green 11⁄2 - 21⁄2" fruits with various shades of yellow to yellowish-green stripes, sweet zingy flavor. Very productive plants. Indeterminate.
  • Hog Heart (86 days)- 2 1/2 to 3-inch long red fruit, shape varies from a banana shape to a heart-shape. Excellent sweet flavors with moderately juicy flesh. A top paste tomato for sauces. Indeterminate.
  • Kellogg’s Breakfast (80-90 days)- Large beefsteak-type fruits are 1-2 pounds, juicy and meaty and truly orange in color. Delicious rich flavor. Indeterminate.
  • Macrocarpum Lutea
  • Olga’s Round Yellow Chicken Egg (70 days)- Very heavy production of 2 1/2" 4-6 oz. round yellow-gold thick-skinned tomato with a slightly tart flavor. Indeterminate.
  • Orange Banana (85 days)- Sprawling plants with good yields of 1 x 2 1/2" 2 oz. plum-shaped orange paste with pointed ends and a good sweet-tart flavor. An all-purpose plum tomato with good disease resistance. Indeterminate.
  • Oaxacan Jewel (85 Days)- Beautiful 1-2 pound, yellow beefsteak tomato with red streaks throughout the fruit. Wonderfully rich, sweet flavors. Indeterminate.
  • Pachino (75-80 days)- A medium-sized mid-season red tomato from Sicily by way of Orvieto, Italy. Fruits have an intense, tangy tomato flavor that makes great sauces and is excellent fresh.
  • Peacevine Cherry (75 days)- So named because of the high amino acid content which has a calming effect on the body. Indeterminate.
  • Pineapple- An heirloom garden favorite that grows to 2 lbs. This bi-colored, slightly flattened, yellow beefsteak has a red blushing and streaks on the outside. Taste is wonderfully mild with tropical fruity-sweet flavors. Indeterminate.
  • Pixie Red Rock (70 days)
  • Rose de Berne (75 days)- Swiss heirloom variety of dark pink tomatoes with soft meaty flesh. Very rich flavor, good acid and sweetness. Indeterminate.
  • Roughwood Golden Plum (76 days)- Beautiful 2-inch, orange paste tomato that is meaty with few seeds and a delicate, sweet flavor. Semi-determinate.
  • Speckled Roman Paste (75 days)- Heavy fruit production of meaty 4-5 oz. oblong fruits until frost. Indeterminate.
  • German Striped Stuffer (78 days)- This German stuffer tomato is red with yellow stripes and has very good flavor for a stuffing tomato. Indeterminate.
  • Stupice (52 days)- Cold-tolerant tomato that bears an abundance of very sweet, flavorful 2 to 3-inch, deep red fruit. Sweet/acid, tomatoey flavor and production. Indeterminate.
  • Yellow Pear Cherry (85 days)- Clusters of small bright-yellow, pear-shaped fruit. Very tasty. Like eating candy. Indeterminate.
  • Zapotec (85 days)- Pink fruits are large, with ruffles like a pleated dress. They can be stuffed and baked like a bell pepper, or served raw. Indeterminate.
  • Jaune Flamme (90 days)- Plant produces heavy yields of 3 oz orange tomatoes. Tomatoes are very sweet. Indeterminate.
  • Bicolor Cherry (80 days)- Small, mostly one-ounce globe-shaped yellow and red bicolor fruits. Size is not consistent ranging from one to two inches in diameter. Excellent flavor - sweet and juicy. Indeterminate.
  • Micado Violettor (80 days)- Rare. 4-6 oz. fruits. Vigorous 18-24 in. vines with 2 in. fruits of excellent quality and flavor. Indeterminate.
  • Chadwick Cherry (70 days)- Flavorful, 1-inch, red fruits borne in vigorous clusters of six. Indeterminate.
  • Green Cage
  • San Marzano Paste (70 days)- A very productive, 1 x 5-inch, red paste tomato. A great addition to tomato sauces and salsas. Indeterminate.
  • Manyel (75 days)- 3-inch, round, clear-yellow fruits look like hanging from the plant. Mildly sweet and juicy. Indeterminate.
  • Santa Clara Canner (79 days)- Rich, complex flavor. Plant produces a great amount of red-orange fruit that is juicy, meaty and flavorful. Just as suitable for eating off the vine as it is for salads, cooking and canning. Indeterminate.
  • Sutton (79 days)- Good yield. Medium-sized 8 oz. white slicer with irregular shapes and sweet fruity taste. Indeterminate.

  • Purple Opal Basil- Beautiful lilac flowers with dark red stems. Excellent contrast with green basil, spectacular as a garnish, in salads, or for adding to basil vinegars.
  • Lemon Basil (60-70 days)- The fragrant, small leaves combine the flavors of lemon and basil in a delightful way making it excellent fresh or dried in salads and dressings or dried in potpourris.
  • Thai Basil (75-80 days)- Intensely sweet, anise-like fragrance. Leaves are green at the base of the plant becoming more purple toward the flowers.
  • Genovese Basil (65-75 days)- Classic Italian basil. High leaf to stem ratio. Uniform, slow to bolt.
  • Chen Basil (65-75 days)- A thinner leafed, profuse Italian large-leaf type basil. Bright green, glossy leaves. A slow bolting variety with a strong aroma and good flavor. Very disease resistant and good for pesto.
  • Tulsey (Holy) Basil (65-75 days)- An excellent tea herb, but more highly valued as a companion plant and ornamental. Aromatic, fuzzy 2-inch leaves have an unusual scent, sometimes described as walnut, ripe bananas, or spice.
  • Cinnamon Basil (75-90 days)- One of the finest tea basils, and also used in flavoring Mediterranean and Mid-Eastern-style dishes, the dark green leaves have a wonderful fragrance and a distinct cinnamon flavor.

Heirlooms, What's Growing On?

What are Heirloom Vegetables?
Heirlooms vegetables are defined as open-pollinated cultivars that were popular and available many generations ago, before large scale hybridizing. Some of these heirlooms are indigenous, some were brought to this country by immigrants, and others were passed down by farmers, families and gardeners.

Our Heritage
Imagine what it used to be like: Farmers and gardeners maintained their own vast seed collections of plant varieties. Over time these plant varieties diverged from the original stock and adapted to local tastes. But, when agriculture became industrialized, the premium on taste and local suitability was replaced by the ability to stand up to mechanical picking, trucking and storage.

It’s not just hype! Heirlooms are highly regarded for their flavors, textures, aromas, colors and other unique qualities. Come to Project Grow’s Fall Tomato Tasting and see what all the excitement is about.

Protecting Diversity
The USDA recognizes the need to recover, protect and sustain seed diversity to maintain the vitality of commercial crops. Each year, a small percentage of the USDA seed bank is planted out and fresh seed is harvested. Individual gardeners contribute too: Nonprofit organizations such as the Seed Savers Exchange have ever expanding seed banks and organized seed swapping. In fact, it’s a worldwide phenomenon!

Project Grow Heirloom Garden, Workshops and Events
  • Located at the Leslie Science & Nature Center, our heirloom garden includes varieties of vegetables.
  • We offer classes in heirlooms, seed saving and plant breeding, plus a Spring seed swap! Check out the Project Grow class calendar.
  • Join us for our annual free Project Grow Tomato Tasting! Over 30 varieties of tomatoes are available for tasting -- vote for your favorite and see the winners online. For this year’s date and location, visit the Project Grow Website.

Be Green by Gardening

Did anybody see Michael Pollen's article in the New York Times: "Why Bother"? In it, he addresses the hopelessness that can occur when we think about making individual changes to benefit the environment. His answer? Gardening! Pollen argues that by growing our own food, we can, not only reduce our carbon footprint, but also reconnect to the earth. Here is an excerpt:

"But there are sweeter reasons to plant that garden, to bother. At least in this one corner of your yard and life, you will have begun to heal the split between what you think and what you do, to commingle your identities as consumer and producer and citizen. Chances are, your garden will re-engage you with your neighbors, for you will have produce to give away and the need to borrow their tools. You will have reduced the power of the cheap-energy mind by personally overcoming its most debilitating weakness: its helplessness and the fact that it can’t do much of anything that doesn’t involve division or subtraction...The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world."

In what ways do you feel gardening connects you to environmentalism?

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Natural Lawn Care

by Erica Kempter from Nature and Nurture, LLC
originally appeared in the summer 2006 Project Grow Newsletter
photo by
Selva Morales under Creative Commons License

The goal of natural turf maintenance is to develop and maintain healthy lawn ecosystems. Different organisms occupy varying ecological niches. By keeping most of the niches “filled” with desired organisms, the delicate balance of nature favors a healthy lawn. Disruption of this balance can lead to lawn problems. One type of disruption is the creation of “empty” niches. For example, bare soil is an “empty niche” that invites weeds to enter the lawn. Another example is that of beneficial fungi in the soil. Over 400 species of fungi are known to live in the soil and thatch of lawn. Of these, less then 25% are potentially harmful (Daar; 1992). That means that over 75% of these fungi are occupying a niche that could otherwise by filled by bad fungi. That’s why even one application of lawn pesticides can be harmful to the lawn because it
indiscriminately kills fungi, throwing off the natural fungal balance leaving the lawn wide open for attack. For example, an herbicide is used to kill weeds, lowering the fungi population and creating empty niches. Something as simple as an unusually wet period combined with pest fungi that were previously kept under control by beneficial fungi now have their opportunity to attack the lawn. This can cause significant visual lawn damage. So to control the fungus, a fungicide is applied to the lawn. The additional pesticides make the lawn even more susceptible to problems creating a cycle where the lawn becomes more and more dependent or “addicted” to chemicals for control and prevention of pests and disease. This is what is often called the
chemical treadmill.

Fortunately, due to nature’s incredible ability for regeneration, even the most problem stricken, chemically dependent lawn can recover. The most important thing that you can do for your lawn is to increase the organic matter content of the soil. Organic matter improves drainage, water holding capacity, nutrient holding capacity, encourages earthworms, counters soil compaction and provides food for microorganisms that feed the grass. This is the foundation of a healthy lawn ecosystem. Organic matter can be added as lawn clippings, compost, decomposed manures, and some fertilizers that are high in organic matter. Here are 10 Tips for a healthy lawn:

  1. Mow high. Set lawn mower to 2-3” high. Helps prevent weeds, drought, and grubs.
  2. Mow with sharp mower blades. Sharpen the blades at least once per year. Shredded grass blades are more susceptible to disease.
  3. Mow when dry. Ideally, mow when the soil is dry on the surface. Mowing wet soil can spread disease and using heavy equipment on wet soil compacts the soil causing poor drainage and other problems.
  4. Leave clippings on lawn. They will break down to provide natural fertilizer and organic matter to the lawn.
  5. Water deeply and occasionally. Instead of shallow and often. During droughts, for most lawns (depends on soil type and irrigation type) water 1x–2x per week for 45-60 minutes. This prevents damage to lawn from lack of water, discourages disease by allowing soil surface to dry, and encourages deep root growth.
  6. Fertilize. Apply compost or an organic-based fertilizer 1-2 times per year. This provides essential nutrients and organic matter.
  7. Monitor lawn. Keep an eye out for problems so they can be dealt with before getting out of control. Look for unusually colored patches, mole runs, thin grass, bare soil, and dug up areas. Along with these, a lawn monitoring program includes checking the soil for grub populations and soil compaction.
  8. Weed control. Hand remove weeds. Try the “water weeder” sold by Lee Valley Tools for dandelions and other tap rooted weeds.
  9. Grub control. White grub infestations can be treated with beneficial nematodes. It is best to apply them in the fall. Nematodes have a short shelf life and die in dry soil so follow instructions precisely and only order if planning to apply them soon.
  10. Got a headache? If all of this sounds like a headache, consider reducing your lawn and replacing it with low maintenance native prairie or woodland plants, sedges, moss, or edible plants. The possibilities are endless!

Don't Let Pests Get the Best!

originally appeared in the Project Grow Newsletter, Summer 2006
photo by Ikes under Creative Commons license

In your garden, have the seeds sprouted with a fine rate of germination, only to be nibbled to the ground? Have you babied those cucumbers, only to have the plant destroyed by insects? Or how about the green worms on your broccoli—that you find at the dinner table? Gardening by its very nature includes nature, all of it, including what we think of as “troublesome pests.” In the same manner that plants are always growing and changing, so the pests in your garden may change and adapt year after year as well.

For optimum pest control, identifying the culprit is key. It is not useful or recommended to kill all the insects that you find on a plant, or to even eliminate all the “bad guys.” By removing all of a particular insect you run the risk of eliminating its predator as well, thus, creating a perfect situation for the pest to return in force.

You can also develop garden practices that will contribute to a healthier garden overall and certainly help in the control of unwanted insects. These healthy garden practices include good garden sanitation—removing diseased and infested plants from your garden, promptly getting rid of pest-ridden plant material, and rotating crops. Try companion planting—planting basil among tomatoes helps control hornworms, combining thyme or tomatoes with cabbage plantings controls flea beetles, cabbage maggots, white cabbage butterflies and imported cabbageworms. You can also sow catnip by eggplant to deter flea beetles, grow horseradish with potatoes to repel Colorado potato beetles, set onions in rows with carrots to control rust flies, grow radishes or nasturtiums with your cucumbers for cucumber beetle control. Nasturtiums also deter whiteflies and squash bugs, but they are most often used as a trap for aphids, which prefer them to other crops. Be sure to encourage beneficial insects and animals.

Did you ever consider repelling with smell? In his book “Your Organic Garden,” Jeff Cox writes about how night-flying moths approach flowers by flying upwind. If netting is placed over flowers the moths will still land and feed, indicating that they react to flower odor. If pests can’t smell your plants, maybe they will go elsewhere. Jeff recommends planting scented marigolds as thickly as you can around your garden. Mint is another fragrant plant, but since it quickly grows out of control, set it in pots around your garden. The oil from the leaves of rue can give some people a poison ivy-like rash, but this trait also deters Japanese beetles. Rue can be helpful grown as a border or scatter the leaf clippings if Japanese beetles are a pest. Sweet basil interplanted in the vegetable garden repels aphids, mosquitoes, and mites.

“Your Organic Garden” also lists a few home-brewed pest controls that many of you may already be familiar with. Results from these brews are certainly not guaranteed, so keep an eye on plants to monitor their effectiveness.

  • Bug Juice: ½ cup of specific pest, mash well, mix with 2 cups water and strain. Mix 1/4 cup of this bug juice with a few drops of soap and 2 cups water and spray (wear gloves and always use nonfood utensils)
  • Garlic Oil: Finely chop 10-15 garlic cloves and soak in 1 pint mineral oil for 24 hours. Strain and spray as is or dilute with water and add a few drops of soap.
  • Hot Pepper Spray: Blend 1/2 cup of hot pepper with 2 cups water, strain and spray. Remember hot peppers burn eyes and skin.
  • Killer Cooking Oil: Combine 1 tablespoon of dishwashing liquid with 1 cup of vegetable oil. Add 1 to 2 1/2 teaspoons of the oil/detergent mix to 1 cup of water and spray on infested plants once every seven days.
  • Firewater: Mix two to four jalapeno, Serrano or habanero peppers, three cloves of garlic, and 1 quart water in a blender, or chop the peppers and garlic and let them steep in a quart jar of water set out in the sun for several days. Strain through cheesecloth, spray as needed, reapply after rain.
  • Alcohol spray: Combine 1 to 2 cups of rubbing alcohol with 1 quart of water. Test spray a small area on one plant. Wait a day to check for damage before spraying entire plant. Or add between ½ and 1 cup of rubbing alcohol to 1 quart of insecticidal soap or horticultural oil sprays to increase effectiveness.