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.
What’s the oddest fruit or vegetable you’ve found in your garden?
I’ve found many crazy-looking edibles in my garden, but the tomato I named “Casper the Friendly Cyclops” is the most memorable.
This misshapen, but smiling, tomato could be a winner in the WesternGardeners.com annual Weird Veggie and Funny Fruit photo contest.
Every year gardeners send in images of the kookiest produce they pull from their gardens.
The vegetables are certainly entertaining and it’s always fun to guess what went wrong to cause those weird-looking shapes. Some environmental problem is the most common reason behind these oddballs.
In the case of Casper, the weather was exceptionally cold when the tomato plant was starting to set fruit. That’s what caused all those odd shapes on the blossom end of the tomato.
When carrots grow in rocky soil, their roots can form into strange configurations.
Every fairy garden needs a few fairies flitting around to make sure all is growing well.
The best fairy garden fairies — the ones who make a gardener’s wishes come true — are those made from the garden’s own flowers, like hollyhocks.
It takes just a few minutes to transform an ordinary hollyhock blossom and bud into a fairy flower all dressed up in a ballgown and ready to dance around the garden.
Fairies made from hollyhocks are a bit elusive because of the plant’s biennial nature; they have a two-year growth cycle. The first year they develop deep roots and a rosette of leaves and the next year they send up a flower stalk. That’s the perfect time to get your hands on one of these flower fairies.
I’ve never met a pepper I didn’t like. Hot, sweet, fried or dried, I’m crazy about them all. That’s why I plant at least a dozen different pepper varieties in my garden every season.
There will always be several jalapeno plants, but each year I enjoy adding new-to-me varieties. I’ve been known to pick a pepper plant just so I could grow enough chiles to prepare a single recipe. ‘Holy Mole’!
I’m drawn to peppers because they’re versatile in the kitchen and grow in so many different sizes, shapes and colors. There are baby bell peppers, slender green Thai chiles, long red paprika peppers and even black edible ornamentals.
Then, of course, there’s the thrill of the unknown when taking that first tantalizing bite.
Has a pepper ever made you cry or cause steam to vent from your ears? That painful burning sensation is nature’s way of letting you know you’ve had too much capsaicin. Capsaicin is the flavorless, tasteless alkaloid compound that stimulates the pain receptors in your mouth.
If you’re a gardener who’s been conscientiously composting your kitchen waste and using the rich, crumbly material as a soil conditioner in your garden, it’s time to take your composting to the next level.
By mixing that earthy concoction with water and allowing it to steep, you can create a beneficial tea loaded with the nutrients that plants love.
Digging compost into flower and vegetable beds is an important part of any gardening program, but why stop at adding millions of beneficial bacteria to the soil when you add billions of bacteria instead?
The process of brewing compost into tea not only makes the organic matter more effective, but it improves its usefulness, too.
Compost tea can be used as both a foliar spray and a soil drench.
- As a foliar spray, the tea’s soluble nutrients give the plant a healthy boost and help control plant diseases like black spot and early blight.