The Birth of Gardening Jones

Gardening Jones shares how a necessity became a passion.

I often get asked how I came to be an avid, albeit addicted, gardener. To some extent it is in my blood.

My Great Grandfather and Great Uncle were florists, and my Dad grew up helping in their greenhouses. My childhood was filled with the gorgeous ornamental gardens at our own house.

My Dad grew some vegetables as well, but my only memory of that was shucking corn.

So when I got my hands on some land I began to grow flowers, never expecting anything else.

It was when my first child was diagnosed as borderline hyperactive that things changed. After doing some research at the local library I learned that a clean diet can make a major difference in activity level.

It wasn’t that we ate a lot of junk, but when you don’t have much money you eat what you can afford. So I become more aware of what was in our food, and started buying from the local farmers and canning what I could. The effect on him was immediate and very positive.

When the price of a bushel of tomatoes, are you sitting down, went from $3 to $3.50, I decided to try my hand at growing vegetables. You might say the rest is history, as it has been 3 decades now. What started with a few veggie plants and some seeds has turned into a lifelong passion.

Okay, obsession. But that’s a good thing.

It’s a pastime that has done a great deal of good for our family. And now it has extended to the internet and social media and in that way, I hope it is doing the same for yours.

Garden on!

November 22, 2015  Tags: , , , ,   Posted in: Addiction  3 Comments

Choosing the Right Onions to Plant

Gardening Jones shares some tips to help you choose the right onions to plant.

There are two main considerations when deciding which type of onions to grow:
1. Your location.
2. What you intend to do with your harvest.

The first one is easy. If you live in the southern part of the U. S., or anywhere you would plant your onions in the autumn or winter months, choose a short day variety. These onions only need 10-12 hours of daylight.

If you live in the northern states, or anywhere you would plant your onions in early spring, choose long day onions. They need 14-16 hours of day light to do well.

And then there are so many of you in the middle who do well with Indeterminate Day onions.

Click here for a great map that defines these areas.

Okay, so now that you have narrowed your choices, which variety should you plant?

If you intend to only eat them fresh, go by flavor. Pick a few types to try, and certainly include a sweet and a red variety.

Onions can easily be frozen, and do well canned in recipes like this Red Onion Marmalade. In this case, you may want to limit the number of varieties you choose so that most of the crop will be harvested at the same time.

If you intend to store them fresh, check out their shelf life. This can range from as little as 1 month to as much as 8-10 months. Big difference!

Since we are in an area where the growing season is spring through summer, we grow long day onions. Specifically, we will be planting Copra onions for the most part, as these are one of the best for storage. We’re also going to plant Ailsa Craig for showing off, er, I mean for fresh eating.

Those sweet woppers can get to be 8″ and as heavy as 6 lbs.
Can you imagine?

Here’s more: How to Grow Bigger Onions

November 21, 2015  Tags: , , , , ,   Posted in: Celery, Onions & Leeks  One Comment

The How’s and Why’s of Gardening with Kids

Gardening Jones looks at the benefits of gardening with kids.

I want to share a very informative video with you from my friend Christina Kamp of Little Sprouts Learning Center. In her home garden she works with kids from toddlers to early teens.

I have very little to add to what she says, except to agree to not expect perfection; rows will be uneven, seeds will sprout where you didn’t know they were planted, and carrots may get pulled too soon.

And be sure to keep it fun. I recently saw some wonderful garden pictures that had Tonka trucks in the digging areas. I want that for my own garden!

Check out her video here, and give her a Thumbs Up! for all the great work she does.

Garden on Little Sprouts!

November 20, 2015  Tags: , , ,   Posted in: Kids & Gardening  No Comments

A Gardener’s Dilemma – Pineberry

How would you deal with this?


The wonderful hybrid (not genetically engineered) Pineberry is a variety of strawberry somewhat new to our gardens.

We purchased only one plant last spring, they can be somewhat expensive after all, and planted it in a new bed with a few strawberry plants we got from their runners.

We did what we normally do with a new strawberry plant from a nursery, and pinched back the flowers. The crown grew really well and we are excited to get berries come summer.

Note that you don’t have to inter-plant them with strawberries, but they are reputed to have a better yield if you do.

So back to the problem.

I recently ordered these two plants on sale. That should have been a clue.

The company said they would be shipped at the proper planting time for our northeast garden, zone 5/6. That’s spring, not now.

What would you do?

  1. Plant them outside anyway and hope for the best. Maybe give them a little protection.
  2. Put them in a larger pot, as strawberry plants tend to get root rot, and place them in the unheated greenhouse.
  3. Re-pot them and keep them indoors in a cool but well lit room. Note here I unexpectedly but inadvertently kill houseplants.
  4. Since there are 2 plants, choose any 2 methods from the above.

What would you do?

Your thoughts are greatly appreciated!

November 17, 2015  Tags: ,   Posted in: FAQs, Fruit  3 Comments

Greenhouse Update – November

Growing in an unheated greenhouse in the northeast.


The temperatures in the little greenhouse have gone down into the 20’s at night and at times, into the low 100’s during bright sunny days. Certainly not typical weather at any time of year here in the northeast.

We’re trying to see how long we can go without using the small propane heater. So far, the only supplemental heat comes from a string of Christmas lights we turn on at night.

Besides adding a small amount of heat, they look quite pretty.

We finally brought the tomato plant in. It was still alive but not maturing at all. The last 2 fruits are just starting to turn red now. We called it a day on the eggplant.

The cucumbers are still producing, but the fruit are few and far between. Our summer squash has only produced male flowers so far, and it is questionable at this point if there is enough time left when a female flower finally opens up.

There are sweet peas loaded with flowers and we should be able to start harvesting them soon. The carrots are coming along like carrots do, slowly but surely. Even the celery is hanging in there.

Not surprisingly what is doing best are the greens, Baby pak choi, spinach and lettuce are happily enduring the temperature fluctuations and we will may have homegrown salad for Thanksgiving.

Possibly with tomatoes.

Fingers crossed.

November 14, 2015  Tags: , , ,   Posted in: Extending the Season, Gardening  4 Comments

A Thousand Words

A tip to help when you are growing new plants.

Unlike Mike the Gardener’s seed packet pictured in the middle above, not all companies adorn their envelopes with a photo of the plant you will grow.

When I was very new to gardening I found myself going back to the magazine or website I purchased the seeds from to look at the pictures of the veggie or herb again; just as a reminder of what to expect as the plants grew and what color a fruit would be when ripe.

To make finding the particular variety quicker in the seed catalogs, I used a yellow highlighter to mark the ones I was growing. In cases where the company didn’t have a website, which is pretty much unheard of these days, I started cutting out the pic and taping it to the seed packet.

I have moved into the 21st. century and streamlined my efforts. Now I keep a spreadsheet of all the new varieties or types of plants I am growing, with a link to the website I ordered them from.

There at my fingertips is not only a picture, but any helpful info the site chose to post. Even if your seed packets sport pictures, creating a link to the information is helpful when you are growing something very new.

Still, I remain partial to packs with pics.

Guess I’m old fashioned that way.

November 13, 2015  Tags: , , , , , , , , ,   Posted in: All About Seeds  No Comments

Confessions of a Seedaholic

Could you go a year without buying seeds?

Of all the possible addictions in the world, being hooked on seeds is likely one of the healthiest.

Still, like anything else, moderation is best.

Here’s the confession:
I have 45 packs of tomato seeds alone.
45, and a jar of seeds in the kitchen I’m saving from the last fresh tomato.

45… does your local Farm & Garden Store have that many in the spring?
And 17 varieties of carrots.
Not packs, varieties. We’re lucky if the local offers more than 3 varieties. Jus’ sayin’.

So it is no surprise that when the first of the seed catalogs begin to arrive, I get a bit antsy. Especially when I see the “New this season” headlines they all seem to sport.

You see, there really is nothing I need as far as seeds are concerned; a fact I find quite troubling.

Not only is this because I have accumulated so many seeds, it is also due to the much needed change in garden plans that occurred as a result of this past season’s harvest.

And, I still have my Seeds of the Month Club membership to deliver me a few packs each month.

The challenge?
To not buy any more seeds for the 2016 gardening year.
The likelihood?
Slim. At best.

Do you think I can make it? Do I hear a Hell Yeah!?
(Or do I hear muffled chuckling?)

November 8, 2015  Tags: , , , , ,   Posted in: All About Seeds, How to Grow  10 Comments

How to Store Seeds

How to store seeds.

1. Seeds need air.

We recommend storing seeds in a paper envelope.
It needn’t be fancy, folded newspaper will do, or you can repurpose junk mail envelopes. But seeds need the air circulation paper provides.

If you choose to store your seeds in plastic or glass, we suggest adding a desiccant. You can purchase packets or try your hand at making your own.

2. Be sure your seeds are dry.

If you collected seeds to store, make sure they are completely dry before you store them. This is particularly true for seeds such as peas and beans, which are typically collected when they are still fresh. Let them dry and shrivel up to be sure the extra moisture is gone.

3. Keep them cool.

A cool room is ideal, an attic or a basement that isn’t too humid also works well.

Some gardeners go so far as to freeze their seeds. We have never done this unless it was needed for a short period before planting, but certainly not as a storage method.

4. Arrange your seeds by whatever method works best for you.

We hung a used empty seed display case in a back room and arrange our packets alphabetically for the most part. The exceptions are all Greens are together, as are all Flowers and Herbs, being allotted just one row each.

I like this method because I can easily see what we have, and not purchase the same seed variety unnecessarily.

Other gardeners we know group their seeds by planting time, another very good idea.

However you go about it, keep those seeds in a way that you find pleasing and enjoy.

Here’s more on seeds:
Tips for Saving Seeds
How Long Seeds Last

November 7, 2015  Tags: , , , , , ,   Posted in: All About Seeds, How to Grow  No Comments

Eating Seasonally – Fall

a fall harvest in the northeast.


We wrote about eating seasonally a few years ago, more from the psychological side than what was actually available to enjoy.

So here’s a look at what is growing in a northeast garden this far into the fall season:

  • In the picture you can see kale, kohlrabi, leeks, and a few different carrots.
  • There are also some beets, radishes, and a wee bit of broccoli raab still growing happily in raised beds. We even have some popcorn and dry beans ready to be brought inside.
  • In the little unheated greenhouse we have cucumbers, snow peas, dill, celery, and spinach.
  • Soon there will also be more radishes, turnips, carrots and lettuce to enjoy.
  • In the house you will find fresh basil, the last of the apples, a few tomatoes ripening on the shelf, and a couple more on a plant we brought indoors.

Of course in the cold holding closet (think root cellar) there are a number of winter squashes, onions and potatoes.

Add in our fresh chicken eggs and it’s not bad eating for a chilly fall day, especially when you consider the fact that we have been below freezing a number of times already.

And it doesn’t stop there either.

In preparation for the winter we have already started seeds indoors for tomatoes, fresh greens and more herbs, peppers and eggplant.

The only real down time is the dead of winter, and even then we will have what is in the cold holding and what we dried, canned or froze plus whatever has survived in the greenhouse and what is producing in the back spare room.

So you see, even though our garden will soon be covered in snow, it doesn’t all end there.

Fortunately. :-)

November 1, 2015  Tags: , , , , , ,   Posted in: Extending the Season  2 Comments

Edible of the Month – King Richard Leeks

King Richard Leeks

Able to withstand some frost, which is a very good thing, King Richard leeks are one of our two favorite varieties for growing in the northeast.

Since we plant more than we can use in one sitting, we like the fact that we can start harvesting them early as baby leeks, and continue well into the fall. What we have left right now seems unfazed by the temperatures that have gone down into the low 20’s F.

Here’s an earlier post on How to Grow Leeks. Pretty simple really.

Our favorite way to eat them is just braised in a good butter. I first read about leeks in Eliot Coleman’s Four Season Harvest, where he writes about enjoying them along with some fresh duck eggs.

That not only got me hooked on leeks, it began our journey into the world of poultry. Who’d have thought?

So if you have ducks or chickens, you need leeks.
And if you have leeks as well, then, you’ve got it made.

October 31, 2015  Tags: , , , ,   Posted in: Uncategorized  No Comments