Garden Update, Fall 2013

My busy season started a little early this year, so I haven’t been posting garden updates like I had intended.

Well, hold on to your butts, because here come some pictures of flowers and things.

The first up are nasturtiums. Usually I get whatever mix they have at the store, but then I saw this photo of the trailing nasturtiums in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum courtyard in Boston. I NEEDED trailing nasturtiums!

These are what I settled on:

“moonlight” nasturtium

They’re called “Moonlight”. A nice creamy yellow. The foliage (which always reminds me of lily pads) is a little darker green than the nasturtiums I’ve grown before.

You can see the trailing habit here, where it’s creeping along the ground a little:


I didn’t give the hanging planters enough sun, so there wasn’t much trailing this year in that regard. Lesson learned for next year. But the other lesson I learned is that they do just as well in a bed, and the creeping habit makes for a nice annual ground cover.

Oh yeah, did I mention nasturtium blooms are edible?  They have a subtle pepper flavor that goes great in a salad. But if you wanted to use them more as just decoration, they’d be so pretty on a cake.

Nasturtiums are SO SO SO easy to grow. If you think you’ve got a black thumb, I urge you to give them a try. Just soak the seeds for a bit before planting, and then stick them in the ground! They actually thrive in poor soil.

If you don’t have hanging planters, you can grow the creeping varieties up a trellis. One of my other super easy-to-grow favorites are morning glories. I think I’ll grow some of the Moonlight nasturtiums with my bright blue/purple Grandpa Ott morning glories on a trellis next year. I saved a ton of seed from the morning glories already, so I’ll have plenty to sow next year.

Since the nasturtiums and morning glories are so easy to grow, I didn’t even bother with the winter sowing method for them. But here are the results of some of my winter sowing experiments:

winter sown ruby grass

I couldn’t believe it when these nigella seeds sprouted. I got them at least 6 years ago from a friend and they’d just been sitting around in a plastic baggie!

winter sown mixed nigella aka love-in-a-mist

My cosmos FINALLY BLOOMED. I got them in the ground a little late, so they’ve been a little tardy. Better late than never!

cosmos “sensation mix” and mixed cleome

I love the pale yellow/green color of these nicotania:

Nicotania “lime green”

Here’s another shot of my random mixed cleome (you can see why they call it spider flower) with some plains coreopsis in the background:

mixed cleome and plains coreopsis aka tickseed

And here’s a shot that sort of shows it all together:


Pretty awesome, considering this is what it looked like in April:


There’s quite a bit more in this bed that didn’t bloom this year, which is common for many winter sown perennials. I should have blooms next year. There’s columbine, purple coneflower, black eyed susan, hollyhock, foxglove, and lupine.

There were some things I didn’t have success with because I didn’t get my winter sowing done early enough- some of the seeds that needed a cold period never got one, because it got warm so early this year. But I have lots of seeds left to try again next year.

All in all, it’s definitely the method I’ll stick with for most plants. I don’t foresee buying many plants in the future. Seeds are so much cheaper and the winter sowing gives me something to do when I start getting cabin fever in February.

I did buy one plant this year- a butterfly bush. The particular color I wanted (black knight), doesn’t grow true from seed. So it was one of a few plants I had on my “to buy” list.

I also ordered a ton of bulbs from EasyToGrowBulbs, which should arrive any day now. Most bulbs (daffodils in particular) are so easy, it’s another black-thumb-proof thing to grow. And now is the time to plant, so go order yourself some bulbs.

Before I forget, here are some of the tomatoes I grew this year (also winter sown):

costoluto genovese tomato

The Costoluto’s are a high acid tomato, which makes them great for sauce. And they made really good sauce. And soup.

I also grew Brandywines, which are pretty much the most delicious tomato I’ve ever tasted. I’m not usually a big fan of raw tomato, but these are a different story.

brandywine tomato

They also tend to get pretty huge. How huge?

a brandywine as big as your head

That huge.

Winter sowing the tomatoes was a huge success. In fact, next year I don’t think I’ll grow quite so many. I started out with 16 tomato plants. I think I lost 2 or 3. And I had enough tomatoes to make 3 gallons of tomato soup and 1 gallon of sauce. I also froze a gallon of raw tomatoes to use for sauce or soup later. We ate our fair share of raw tomatoes. I gave several pounds away. And I STILL HAVE TOMATOES. If I had more freezer space, it wouldn’t be a problem.

Other veggie successes: I have a couple of HUGE butternut squash ripening in the yard. I had one plant survive Earwig-ageddon, and it just about took over my whole yard. I got one wee melon that never quite ripened- another victim of the earwig attack that did not fair so well. The green beans were also heavily damaged, but I got a fair amount from the surviving 2 plants. Enough that I won’t plan on planting anywhere near 24 plants next year, because I would have had beans for years if all of those had survived.

My peppers were decimated by the ‘wigs. I got one Ichiban eggplant before it mysteriously died.

The corn was a mixed success- it grew fantastically. I did side by side winter sown versus direct seed comparisons and the winter sown were way ahead.

direct sowing corn vs winter sowing

However, the corn itself, which was supposed to be “super sweet”, was more like “barely sweet”. This was not a complete surprise, since there’s a field directly behind our house that is growing feed corn. The corn I planted must be isolated by at least 100 feet from any other varieties, or it cross pollinates and you don’t get “super sweet”.  The good news is that the last time they grew corn behind us, they cover cropped with something else the next year. So if I always grow my corn in the off years, I shouldn’t have the cross pollination problem again.

As much as I’m not looking forward to the colder months ahead, I can’t believe I sowed all the stuff in these photos in February and March! It’ll be time to start winter sowing again in no time.

How to winter sowHow to build “instant” raised beds – no sod removal necessary!
More winter sowing resources
Baker Creek Heirloom seeds – my favorite heirloom seed source
Garden Hoard – my friend’s heirloom seed project. Get free seeds!

2 thoughts on “Garden Update, Fall 2013

  1. Oh my God! I love flowers and Moonlight is perfect for me. It is, as you say eatable, did you make a salad couple of times or you didn’t? I happen to hear the name of the plant not only here but from one of my friends who also likes gardening and dedicates most of her time to growing various plants. But she says she has pale yellow and bright green flowers, not like these you showed here. Do you agree that because of different weather conditions the color of the plant can vary all over the world? Let me know what you think. Thanks a lot for the post 🙂

    1. You can get nasturtiums in lots of colors- pink, yellow, red, orange. There are some very pretty bi-colors varieties, as well. In that past I’ve grown the “jewel mix”, which looks like this:

      I didn’t eat any of them this time around, but I have in the past. The first time I ate a nasturtium, I was at a fancy restaurant for a family party, and they served the salad with a nasturtium on top. I thought an edible flower was the coolest thing I’d ever heard of, so the whole table started passing me their flowers to eat. 😀

      And I haven’t tried them myself, but the leaves AND seeds are edible as well. Pickled nasturtium seeds are nicknamed the “poor man’s caper”.

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