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Sorry about the Pics!

I don’t know what happened?! DH renewed our flikr account and all my links broke! I’m only using 5% of my allotted space, so I’m thinking of hosting the pics directly on wordpress, but that will take time as there are 3 years worth of gardening pics to find and repost.

But I am aware of the issue and will continue thinking of a solution. Actually finding the solution and implementing it will take time. So be patient!

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I’m back after almost 6 months off! I have a really good excuse, though.

This is Baby at 12 weeks along. S/He is now 27 weeks along and weighs about 2 lbs.

That’s right, we’re expecting our first baby and I’m already 6 months along: due September 1st. Plus this was the rainiest spring in my memory. The local crop reports had only 2% of the local corn crop in by the usual planting time. Plus all the soil around here is clay and it takes days for it to dry out after a rain and we just kept getting pounded day after day with 1 inches or more at a time. Brutal time for our farmers.

I was also (and continue to be) extremely busy. I was barely able to keep my poor seedlings alive, what with our unheated garage and very cold early spring. I was also dealing with morning sickness, getting a garage sale together (major work!), and cleaning out our future nursery. Plus joining an expectant mothers online forum (due date club), becoming a weekly online chat co-host, and not wanting to cook anything (food aversions) made me disinclined to continue my blog for the time being.

But now I’m back! And today was planting day! I finally finished tilling out my garden plots (yes, I admit: I worked my soil when it was wet. Ha, ha. Hardly had a choice, you know?) I was 2 weeks “late” but my neglected seedlings needed the extra time. Plus I kinda forgot about the hardening off process. I usually baby my plants over a 2 week period, but this time I pushed them into hardening off in just 8 days. They seem to be adapting good, though. Please see my Seed List for a complete list of what I’m growing this year.

I’m going to finish up planting my peppers and squash tomorrow and then I’ll be done except for staking, daily watering (unless it rains—ha!), and occasional weeding. Oh, and mowing the yard of course. That’s right, I’m 6 months pregnant and I’m still doing all my usual outdoor chores. But my midwife encourages cardiovascular exercise.

Also big news: we got our tree order!! Two years in the making, and we finally just up and ordered the 10 trees and 4 bushes that I wanted. Now I have to try and keep them alive too, and I still have to cut their tags off and mulch. They are so tiny! To think, in 3 years or so we might be getting fruit! Here’s what we ordered:

  • Hall’s Hardy Almond
  • Russian Mulberry
  • 5-in-1 Dwarf Apple
  • 5-in-1 Dwarf Pear
  • 5-in-1 Dwarf Stone Fruit (a.k.a. Fruit Cocktail Tree)
  • Dwarf Sweet Cherry
  • Dwarf North Star Cherry (Sour)
  • Paw Paw (3 quantity)
  • Tophat Blueberry (2 quantity—in pots)
  • Honeyberry (2 quantity)
Here I am inspecting the shipment:

I'm inspecting our tree shipment looking for dead or diseased plants, broken branches, etc.

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I made the switch to all heirloom or open-pollinated seed varieties in 2009. My main concern in doing this was saving my own seed in order to reduce future seed costs and to have the ability to trade seed with other gardening friends. Saving seed for me is a great connection to the earth, and completes the life cycle. The whole point of a fruit, after all, is seed dispersal.

Some home gardeners swear by hybrids and love to buy them. And they do. Every year. I have no problem with people planting hybrids. The companies develop them to have disease resistance, grow in less than favorable conditions, such as less water or maybe less sunlight. Some also have more herbicide resistance as well. Almost all commercial varieties of crops are hybrids.

A modern seed company will make most or all of its monies from the sale of hybrid seeds. I have no problem with this at all. Hybrids can be a great option for beginning gardeners who want to grow successful produce without extra work. Hybrid seeds often come with a large markup because the company must make new hybrid seed every year. They hand-pollinate Proprietary Parent #1 with Proprietary Parent #2 and harvest all the seed from the fruits grown. This is an F1 Hybrid and the seeds from those fruits (now called F2) will not grow “true” if planted, but will show various traits of each or both parents.

The problem comes in when I was reading my 2011 large seed company catalog yesterday. I ordered from this company in the past and haven’t had a problem with them before.

Here’s the problem:

This is an "Heirloom" tomato collection. Notice anything?

Look closely at the 2nd tomato variety. It is called “Burpee’s Supersteak Hybrid.” But wait–I thought this was an heirloom tomato collection? My first impression of this listing: [laughing] “Hey babe, they’re including a hybrid in this heirloom collection!” Eyebrows go up all around. A closer reading of the collection is that it is an heirloom taste collection. So they admit that they’re including a hybrid, but swear that it tastes just like an heirloom. Still, it’s misleading.

I continue reading the catalog (hey, I’m a gardener, to me this is a magazine). Then I come to this listing:

Hmmm, this listing of a Hybrid is tagged as an Heirloom. What gives?

My first impression is that this company made a mistake in their catalog. They accidentally identified this hybrid variety as an heirloom. It’s possible that this variety is actually an heirloom, but I only know of one heirloom that retained the name “hybrid” and that’s the squash “Essex Hybrid.” It means it was a hybrid at one point but has since been grown out and stabilized to be true to type and open pollinated. But the key word in the listing above is “our.” Possessing a variety indicates ownership. You can’t own a variety technically, unless it’s a proprietary hybrid.

These two pieces of evidence could be dismissed as mistakes or harmless mislabeling. Until the third piece of evidence was discovered:

This most famous of hybrid tomatoes is labelled as an Heirloom. Cause it's old, right?

Okay, the secret’s out. This is the Burpee catalog. This hybrid tomato variety is probably the most famous and most well known and possibly the most recognized variety of tomato out there. But it’s still a hybrid. So why is it labelled an heirloom?

Let’s go back to basics and define what an heirloom is. Unfortunately, there is a matter of debate among gardeners about the particulars. But it is generally agreed upon that an heirloom seed will:

  • be open pollinated. This means that seed saved from the vegetable/fruit will make fruit exactly resembling the parent. Assuming it is not cross pollinated.
  • be at least 50 years old. This point is debated because some newer open-pollinated varieties have become fast favorites but aren’t yet 50. An example is Green Zebra, which wasn’t widely distributed until the 1980s, even though it existed back to the early 60s as a stable variety.
  • Should have a history attached. This means that a variety called Aunt Gertie’s Gold should have some relation to a woman named Gertie (and it would help if she was an Aunt) who grew the variety in the family for a bunch of years, etc. This part of the definition is optional, but a great inclusion.

So an heirloom is above all an open-pollinated variety. It may or may not be at least 50 years old and/or have a known history.

So what is the big deal about calling “Big Boy” tomato a heirloom? Does it meet the definition:

  • is it 50+ years old? Hmmm, the catalog says it is from 1949. That’s 61 years, so yes.
  • does it have a history? Well it was probably developed by Burpee to be sold (and patented) by Burpee. Probably developed with certain traits in mind, mainly for size and color. Possibly production and disease resistance. But we may never know for sure. The parents of this hybrid remain proprietary.
  • is it open pollinated? No.

I could have skipped the first two questions. A hybrid will never (ever) be an heirloom even if it meets 2 out of the 3 requirements unless it is open pollinated. So a hybrid can’t be anything other than a hybrid. Period, end of story.

So why does this matter so much? Words have meaning. If this company says, well this hybrid is over 50 years old, (even though they have to physically make the seed with the two secret parents each year), so why can’t we call it an heirloom? It is owned by Burpee and will always be owned by Burpee, so it is an heirloom we’ll pass on to the next Burpee employees on a need-to-know basis. In this sentence, “it” refers not to the tomato, but the genetic recipe for the tomato plant.

Stretching the definition of words to suit your own views is dangerous. It is misleading. Growers can look at this catalog and get excited because they have now been given the license by Burpee to call a hybrid an “heirloom.” They can take this seed and grow it out. Then take the fruit to their farmer’s market and tell all their patrons that they are buying “heirloom” tomatoes. It’s a lie. If by chance a patron decided this was the best tomato ever and saved the seed, they’d grow wild card plants that don’t look anything like the “Big Boy” tomato they’d eaten. They could then get fed up with “heirlooms” that don’t grow true and feel negative to them forevermore.

That is a long-shot. But it’s in the catalog not once but 3 times. If we start to erode even this simple distinction, what’s the gain and what’s the loss? Burpee may gain a few more seed packet sales. Gardeners will lose space for genuine heirlooms in their gardens. And farmer market gardeners can gain a fake label for their fruits and possibly make more sales.

Burpee must have caught on that heirloom seeds are getting to be a real trend (read market share) in gardening today. They want to get in more on this heirloom market so they just call their hybrids “heirlooms” and hope gardeners won’t  notice long enough to shell out their money. What other reason is there?

Of course, they could try selling more actual heirloom varieties. But there is one glaring exception: the Burpee company developed the first yellow zucchini. It was an open pollinated variety from the start and has a great history attached to it. It is probably over 50 years old by now so it is an heirloom variety in every sense of the definition. But it is not being sold by Burpee for 2011. It’s a mind bender. . .

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I admit it: I am an avid reader! But I am a slow newbie when it comes to teen vampire/werewolf drama romances. However, even years late, I admit that the Twilight Saga makes a great summer read. Stephanie Meyer’s The Host was an excellent example of vivid storytelling. But I’ll talk about that book in another post.

After reading all 4 books in the Twilight Saga, and then reading my Baker Creek Heirloom Seed catalog again, I realized that one could very easily plant a Twilight garden! (Some of these can also be found at Tomato Growers Supply.) Some of my descriptions may include spoilers, so go out and read the books already 😉

This list could be used to encourage young adults and teens to get into gardening. It could be used for a community garden, a school garden, or in your own personal garden. There’s a wide variety here for vegetables, but I’ve included some flowers as well at the end for those who are inclined. Enjoy!

A smattering of the tomatoes for the Twilight Garden

Tomatoes:
Violet Jasper: These tomatoes are similar to Green Zebra only deep purple with green stripes. Very nice. So picked after the character Jasper, obviously. Jasper is one of my favorite characters–he was excellently developed deeper in Eclipse.

Topaz: These tomatoes very similar to Violet Jasper only they are yellow with green speckles. Picked after the color of the Cullen’s eyes.  Bella changes her favorite gemstone to topaz after meeting Edward.

Bella Rosa Hybrid: These are medium-large red globes. Yes, this is a hybrid pick. But it is the only tomato named Bella–can you believe it?

Rosalita: These are red grape tomatoes. Picked after Rosalie, of course. I loved how she was developed more in Eclipse. You could also plant Rose or Red Rose instead.

Black Prince: A black salad tomato, or a small globe. This is doubly appropriate for Jacob, as he is a Black and the natural leader of his pack, or alpha. So prince works. You would not believe the number of plants that have the word ‘Black’ in them, so this is the only one I’ve included here. I’m totally Team Jacob, btw.

Break-o-Day: a great producing red globe. So picked for Breaking Dawn.

Seattle Best of All: Another red all purpose tomato. So picked because the books take place in Forks, Washington. Seattle is in Washington, obviously. It is also where Victoria chooses to create her new vampire coven in Eclipse.

Weeping Charlie: This is a red paste-style tomato. So picked after Bella’s father. But does he actually seem like the kind of man who’d weep? I think not, but it’s the only tomato named Charlie so there you go.

Morning Sun: A yellow grape (cherry) tomato. These would look great when paired with Rosalita. So picked after Breaking Dawn also.

A beautiful assortment of veggies from the Twilight Garden

Other Vegetables:
Loves-Lies-Bleeding Red Amaranth: This is one freaky looking plant. It is grown for its edible leaves (use like spinach), and also as a grain crop for its seeds. But the name is so interesting when thought of in the Twilight perspective. Bella lies bleeding on the floor in Twilight, and again in New Moon, and finally in Breaking Dawn. She probably bleeds in Eclipse too, when Edward is fighting Victoria.

Moonshadow Hyacinth (Lablab) Bean: I’ve grown these for 2 years now and I love them. It is ornamental because the vines and leaves are tinged purple, and it puts out beautiful lavender flowers. Its dark burgundy bean pods are very tasty in stir fry. So picked after Eclipse. As an eclipse is when the shadow of the moon covers the sun, or the shadow of the earth covers the moon. Which is more appropriate for the series?

Mary Washington Asparagus: These are the classic heirloom asparagus. I did not choose to plant these because they drop seeds and can become invasive. So picked because they are in Forks, Washington (not picked after the person in this instance).

Dragon Tongue Bean: These are a very cool looking bean for the garden, being both green and purple. They are to be eaten as a regular green bean (edible pod). This is an intersting pick because the word ‘dragon’ in Romanian is ‘dracul’ which of course, referrs to the original vampire, Dracula.

Jacob’s Cattle Bean: These are a very old type of bean that is used dry, like Pinto beans. They are white and maroon speckled. So picked after Jacob, though he hardly has cattle.

Bull’s Blood Beet: These are the reddest of the red beets. Even the leafy parts are deeply colored. So picked because the Cullens survive off the blood of animals, not humans.

Romanesco Italia Broccoli: This is the super cool spiriling broccoli. You may have seen pictures of it, but it is more commonly grown in Europe. In New Moon, Bella and Alice travel to Italy to save Edward from the Italian vampires. This broccoli’s name covers all the bases for anything Italian.

Tete Noir Cabbage: This is a very dark purple variety of cabbage. So picked because the French name means ‘black head or face’, which makes me think of an eclipse again.

Lunar White Carrot: Before carrots were orange, they were white. These are a natural pick after New Moon.

Edmondson Cucumber: These are a very cute 4 inch light green mini cucumber. It has also been around since 1913, which is very close to Edward’s year of birth. But it is so picked because finally something is named Edward or a derivitave.

Golden Honeymoon Melon: This is a unique Honeydew melon with gold skin. Obviously picked for Breaking Dawn where Edward and Bella honeymoon on a private island off of Brazil.

Jake’s Melon: This unique melon is a Native American heirloom. It has yellow-orange flesh with a spotty tan rind. So picked after Jacob again.

Alaska Peas: These are a classic shelled pea. So picked because when Edward meets Bella for the first time, the only thing he can do to keep himself from killing her is to drive to Alaska. Plus another friendly coven of vegetarian vampires lives there as well.

Chicago Warted Hubbard Squash: These are like classic Hubbard squash except with wrinkled warty skin. It might be a stretch, but Edward was born in Chicago. I think that’s where Carlisle turned him as well.

Victoria Rhubarb: Despite Victoria’s red hair, this rhubarb only has a blush of red on the stalks. They’re mostly green. They’re also perennial (come back year after year–much like the real Victoria) so don’t plant them unless you really mean it.

Verona Watermelon: A classic red watermelon with dark green skin. It’s another stretch, but in New Moon, Bella and Edward are studying Romeo and Juliet and the play takes place in Verona, Italy.

Diamond Eggplant: This eggplant grows a longer, more narrower shaped fruit. In Eclipse Edward gives Bella a diamond (and more than one in her engagement ring).

And some lovely flowers as well.

Other Plants:
Yeti Nasturtium: because like the Yeti (Abominable Snowman) we all know that werewolves and vampires don’t exist. 😉 Nasturtium is also edible, having a spicy peppery taste.

Moonlight Nasturtium: another stretch but with all the ‘moon’ talk, moonlight seems appropriate. Plus Moonlight was another vampire-related tv show which was very good.

Evening Sun Sunflower: a stretch, but technically twilight is the last light of the day.

Lion’s Tail Herb: This herb is like mint. Edward’s favorite meal is Mountain Lion. He also refers to himself as a lion, and Bella a lamb.

Tiger Eye Sunflower: a stretch, but if you’ve seen this flower it looks just like Edward’s eyes.

King Edward Sweet Peas: Finally, something actually named Edward! But sweet peas aren’t edible, alas.

Isabellini Zinna: The only thing even closely related to Bella’s name, Isabella. It is the flower in the center above, a buttery yellow flower.

The end! If you’ve read down this far, congratulations!

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