Friday, February 28, 2014

Business Card Saga: Aster Lane Edibles

Why it took me so long to get a business card: a conversation with myself (and a few others).

Me: You need a business card.
Myself: Why?

Me: People expect it.
Myself: But they just bury those things at the bottom of their bags to be thrown out when they get around to cleaning them. They pick them up and say "Who the heck was that and where was I?"

Me: No that's just you.
Myself: I'm pretty sure it's not just me.

… 6 months later…

Me: You should really get around to that card.
Myself: Let's talk honestly here. Cards are boring.

Me: Then make an interesting card.

… months later…

Me: Why not a planting schedule? That would be useful. A little reference pocket thingie.
Myself: On a card? 

Me: Yeah.
Myself: Good luck.

… a month later …

Me: You're right, that was tricky. Now to the printer. But what if they screw it up?
Myself: Have some faith.

… Months and months later …

Me: Do you think your graphic design husband would help me create an exact document of something? 
Friend: I'm sure he will.

… visit to a common copy place that shall remain nameless …

Them: What? Folded? Like a gift card? But you want a business card right? I think we're going to have to send this to our specialty print shop. And what are these other lines for on the file? We can only print what we can see.
Me: They are formatting lines. I figured that you could remove them with your fancy programs. Will you have them ready like within a week. I want to have them for an event I'm going to.

Them: -incredulous look-

… several phone calls later, an independent print shop …

Me: I have these files and I need them to transform into a business card through the magic of computers and large printing machines by tomorrow.
Them: Why certainly.


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This is the front, inside is a planting calendar and on the back is contact info.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Experiments with hot and cold

I'm in the midst of two experiments dealing with two of my favourite vegetables that like different weather regimes.

Experiment I: Cool Cabbage

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Flowerbuds on rooted cabbage cutting.

*If you have no idea what I just wrote below then go to the bottom*

The first is my San Michele x Red Rock Mammoth cross. If you haven't heard about me gone about it before, well then, welcome to an odyssey. I haven't managed to yet get f2s so I figured I'd try rooting cuttings and overwintering. All was going well but then I realized that I will have to vernalize in order to get flower. Generally I plant out cabbage early without inducing flowering and those heads that have overwintered, so far, have not produced seeds but more heads (part of why I don't have f2s, along with the bugs and freeze-thaw of spring). So I thought they would need a rather long exposure to cold. I started off with sitting them in my shoe room near a window. It gets cold in there but not horribly. They were there for a week. Then I put them in the garage window where I had planned on leaving them until the end of winter but only managed they were only there for a few days before it dipped into minus double digits so I moved them back inside planning on doing the shoe room treatment again. Mistake. They immediately started elongating and producing flower buds. Dang it!! Now, I have a few that are further behind and some that I did not attempt to vernalize so all hope is not lost. Not only that but in the spring, I will take cuttings from the plants emerging from the snow before they get all freeze-thaw-mushed on me. However, now the experiment has taken a turn. I plan on potting on again and hand pollinating with the hope of getting viable seed. Lesson learned I guess. Hold off on the vernalization until March.

I *could* potentially remove flower heads until spring. Maybe I'll do half and half.

Origins of this Cabbage

Experiment II: Hot (Sweet) Potato

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These are freshly slipped sweet potato plantlets, doing some branching which I hope to cut off and root.

This is not a very serious experiment, I have to say. I am just starting my shoots really early so that I can cut them into sections producing more plants than usual for spring with fewer tubers. So far, roaring success. Sweets root easily from cuttings. Nothing further to report yet. The danger, I suppose would be if I get an indoor bug infestation. Not to fear, I have more roots that I can force later which is good as I am predicting a late spring (sorry folks). Don't cry though, I'm using my 'intuition' rather than probabilistic forecasting. That and the amount of accumulated snow and cold weather patterns.

 Extra Experiment: Craggy 2 year old, broken sweet potato tubers will sprout. Go figure.

*** For those that didn't know what the heck I was going on about because your plant obsession hasn't quite reached critical levels, here is a translation. P.S. There is plenty of room in the rabbit hole for you.

I let the bees frolic in the flowers of two types of cabbage. One was called San Michele. The other was named Red Rock Mammoth. They made seed babies. As this is the first generation of the cross, they were called f1s. I loved the variety and wanted to see if I could get it to be stable. This is because when I let these babies flower and set seeds, the characteristics will all jumble up again making for lots of variation. I would have to select plants that I liked and save seed for generations until the babies produced were more or less the type I wanted. But to start, I need the second generation or f2s. Cabbage usually flowers in the second year after winter. I have been trying to overwinter my first generation of the cross but had problems. These were 1) eaten by bugs, 2) turned to mush because of oscillating temperatures in spring and 3) didn't both to flower and made another cabbage head instead. Now, I plan on trying a frost blanket, also called a floating row cover this year, (duh) but foliage emerging from snow is very tender so I'm not convinced it will work. Cabbage heads always mush out for me in winter but I do get a lot of leaves growing out of the stems in spring and sometimes flowers which is why I was able to make the cross in the first place.

As an insurance policy, I decided to take advantage of a trick that many members of the cabbage family have which is that they can grow roots from sprouts off the stem. I plucked those and put them in moist soil. Some, I cut a bit of the stem off too with the sprout. They rooted and grew very well but they were inside not exposed to any cold. The aim was to get them to flower not make more cabbage heads. So I tried to give them some gentle cold in order to get them to spring where I could plant them out and they could flower for me. Fail. They flowered early.

This means that to rescue the experiment, I am going to have to move pollen from the male parts of the flowers to another plant's female flowers in hopes of getting some mature seed that will grow. Wish me luck!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Things are sprouting in my fridge...

…on purpose. I'm stratifying which means giving seeds a period of moist cold to overcome germination  inhibition so they will sprout.

I place seeds on paper towels or coffee filters then put in a plastic baggie. This takes up very little space in my fridge or other location that I am giving seeds special treatment. You can also use your baggie to give seeds oscillating temperatures or warm treatment. I use the latter to get peppers to germinate faster.

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Baby with breakfast on his face helping.

For very large seed that won't be in good contact with the paper towel, I've heard of people using cotton balls but I use vermiculite. I also use vermiculite with very, very small seed so that I can sprinkle the whole mix in the seeding tray when ready. Sand would probably be a good substitute.

They would stay in the fridge for a certain period of time say six weeks or whatever is recommended (yes sometimes there are no specific recommendations). During this time, you are telling the seed that it is winter and when you take them out of the fridge, they are experiencing spring so it's a good time to sprout. Only, many seeds will not wait their allotted time. Whether this be because those particular seeds or that variety does not really need the cold stratification AND also does not need high temperatures to sprout or because they prefer to germinate in the fridge-like temperatures of early spring, is something to speculate upon. Therefore, I check my baggies frequently.

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Wild plums from a local source

Here, some wild plums - perhaps Prunus nigra - started to germinate after six months in the crisper whereas their cousin nanking cherry - Prunus tormentosa - jumped into growth after only a few weeks messing my plan of holding off until spring to plant. Instead I put the sprouting seedlings in the ground in fall.

Hablitzia tamnoides is reputed to prefer cooler temps to germinate though it seems somewhat adaptable. Here is my own seed crop throwing roots.

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Hablitzia tamnoides, our seed for Aster Lane Edibles

I'm using the baggie method because I want to grow some of these plants big enough to sell in the spring otherwise I'd probably just wintersow. This is using a recycled (or not) plastic container with drainage and air holes partially filled with soil and seed that acts like a mini greenhouse. It is great for cold hardy greens, plants that volunteer, wild flowers and other plants that need a period of cold to germinate or at least don't mind it.

You can even snow sow. Yes, that's tossing seed on top of snow. This is a version of stratification and seems to me that it would be most effective if done in the fall or early spring just before a snowfall that would insulate the seeds and help work them to the ground.