Happy Earth Day 2016!
For the last 17 years I’ve worked to create an eco-friendly naturescape in my suburban backyard. I’ve planted native flowers, added low-maintenance perennial plants, reduced water use, and completely eliminated synthetic chemicals.
My certified wildlife habitat includes food, water, shelter and places for all kinds of insects, birds and fuzzy critters to raise their young. But this year, I’m going to concentrate my wildlife-loving efforts to attract more hummingbirds, all season long.
These flighty birds typically show up at the end of summer to enjoy nectar from the Agastache plants. But if I start in April with a few sugar water feeders and then plant nectar-rich flowers, like bleeding hearts, they might start to show up sooner.
Spring-blooming honeysuckle flowers can also turn a hummingbird’s head. The long, tubular blossoms are the perfect shape for their needle-like bills. An arbor supports vines and provides a handy perch so birds can take a break between feedings.
Like many gardeners in a cold climate, I always have to start my tomato seeds indoors early each spring. I typically start in March if I want to have tomato plants ready for transplanting into the vegetable garden in May.
In more than 30 years of gardening, this year is the first time I’ve seen a tomato seed volunteer to sprout on its own in my garden. It must’ve been the warm temperatures starting around the end of February that signaled this little tomato seed to start growing.
To say I was surprised to see it so early in the season is an understatement. Tomatoes are tropical plants and they prefer to grow in hot weather. In fact, I have to wait until nighttime temperatures consistently hit the 55-degree mark before setting tomato transplants outside.
However this miracle tomato started growing in almost freezing temperatures without any kind of plant protection!
If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area on March 16, I hope you’ll stop by the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show.
That’s the next stop on my Blue Ribbon Vegetable Gardening book tour.
I’ll be presenting “How to Grow Prizewinning Produce” at 4:15 p.m. Wednesday afternoon and signing books right after the talk.
If the Northwest Flower and Garden Show was any indication, large crowds of gardeners will turn out to see what’s new in garden design, garden art, plants, gardening materials, and supplies. The show covers more than five acres, so wear comfy walking shoes!
There are also over 100 speakers, from 11 states, presenting free seminars on five stages during the show’s run from March 16-20. This event is conveniently located at the San Mateo Event Center, just south of the San Francisco airport. I’m delighted to be included in the lineup at one of the top garden shows in the country.
It’s as much fun as a funnel cake to enter a vegetable contest and be part of the excitement at an American fair!
If you’re ready to bring a competitive edge to your vegetable gardening — or just impress your family and friends with picture-perfect produce — here’s a special offer just for you:
Save $20 on my Craftsy class called Vegetable Gardening: Innovative Small Space Solutions.
The class includes everything a gardener needs to get started growing great vegetable gardens.
Use this special link to get your discount today!
It’s February and that means the Northwest Flower & Garden Show in Seattle is just around the corner!
I’m excited to kick off this gardening season with two programs at the show followed by signings of my brand new book, Blue Ribbon Vegetable Gardening:
Thursday, February 18, 5:30 p.m. in the Hood Room
Blue Ribbon Vegetable Gardening
Have you ever marveled at mammoth pumpkins, giant cabbages and enormous onions at your state fair? This seminar teaches the tricks for growing the biggest, tastiest and best-looking vegetables for miles around. Whether you want to win ribbons, impress your friends or simply improve your vegetable growing efforts, this session is for you!
Friday, February 19, 3:15 p.m. DIY Demonstration Stage
A Dirty Dozen for Gardening on the Cheap
Yes, I’m giddy about vegetables!
The first review is in for my newest gardening book called Blue Ribbon Vegetable Gardening: The Secrets to Growing the Biggest and Best Prizewinning Produce.
Publisher’s Weekly wrote the review and I couldn’t be happier.
“Torpey writes giddily about vegetable gardening, going so far as to use the animated film Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit as a point of reference, and she will even entertain nongardeners with this delightful book. Dedicated gardeners will be impressed as she seriously coaches the sport of competitive vegetable growing.”
The book, published by Storey Publishing, isn’t out quite yet. The release date is set for December, but folks are already pre-ordering the book. I’ve seen the finished pages, but can’t wait to get my hands on an actual copy.
I’m glad Publisher’s Weekly mentioned how gardeners and nongardeners will like the book, because that was one of my goals when writing it.
A jalapeno pepper with attitude was the big winner in the 2015 Weird Veggie Contest sponsored by Bonnie Plants.
To see the top 10 weird veggies — plus all the other entries — visit the Weird Veggie contest page and scroll through the gallery.
A great big THANKS goes to all the gardeners who grew vegetable gardens and submitted their weird entries! While many great entries failed to garner enough votes to win the contest, they still deserve special recognition and some will be inducted into the Weird Veggie and Funny Fruit Hall of Fame.
WesternGardeners.com also sends a huge “Thank You” to Bonnie Plants for sponsoring this year’s contest and supplying prizes for the top finishers in this annual vegetable celebration!
I’ve done a lot of kooky things in my day, but waiting in a long line of other early-rising plant nerds to get a glimpse (and whiff) of a flower could top the list.
The alert went out last night on the 10 o’clock news: The Corpse Flower at the Denver Botanic Gardens has started to bloom!
DBG members would get the first crack at seeing the monster plant starting at 6:00 a.m. When I arrived at 6:30, the parking garage was full and there was already a line that snaked its way around Marnie’s Pavilion. It was a little like standing in line for Space Mountain at Disney World.
It certainly paid to get there early. I waited just over an hour and was lucky enough to grab one of 1000 commemorative Corpse Flower barf bags — a clever play on the fact the plant emits a distinct fragrance to attract pollinators when it’s in full bloom.
The 2015 vegetable growing season had a cool, rainy and slow start, but plants are finally responding to the warm dry days.
After the first 95-degree day, I noticed every squash plant had blossomed overnight. Each plant had several large squash blossoms, with plenty of buzzing bees, because they were so happy to get the kind of overnight heat they like.
Vegetable gardeners who have trouble growing in conventional in-ground vegetable beds, may want to give container gardening a try.
From my experience, vegetable gardeners have more control when gardening in containers — in spite of the weather.
This year’s container vegetable garden is about two weeks behind last year’s garden. In 2014 cherry tomatoes were ripe enough to eat in mid-July; this year, it was August First.
There were just two ripe-red tomatoes, but they were worth the wait.
It’s taken two years to see what my Blue Ribbon Vegetable Gardening book will look like. It’ll be another five months before I can hold it in my hands.
But pre-ordering has already begun.
Just like a biennial plant, this gardening book has taken its time to put down roots and start to grow. Biennial plants typically take two years from seed to flower.
It’s like planting hollyhocks one year, seeing the rosette of green leaves the next season, and then having to wait another year to see the colors of the flowers in bloom.
The idea for Blue Ribbon Vegetable Gardening sprouted with me about four years ago. After doing the research, I found the most current books about growing perfect produce for exhibiting in vegetable contests were written about 100 years ago.
As the idea took shape, I decided I needed to grow and show some of my own garden-grown produce. That meant planting in spring and waiting to see what would be ready in late summer to take to the fair.