Vegetable Gardening

Nosiest Eggplant is 2013 Weird Veggie Winner

The results are in for the 2013 edition of the Weird Veggie and Funny Fruit gardening contest. Entries came in from across the country, but in a strange twist (absolutely fitting for an oddball vegetable contest) the first and second place winners are from Colorado.

Gardener Geri Koncilja has judged the Weird Veggie contest since it started in 2009. She received the photo entries by email after the contest ended on Friday and had no idea where any of the wacky fruits were grown.

First place goes to The Nosiest Eggplant, submitted by Ashley Grabb. The eggplant was grown on Shepard Valley CSA farm located outside of Boulder, Colo. The farm also sustains the Farmer Cultivation Center called Everybody Eats!

1st Ashley Grabb eggplant 2013

First Place-The Nosiest Eggplant, Ashley Grabb, Boulder, Colo.

Weird Veggie and Funny Fruit Gardening Contest

Welcome to the fifth annual Weird Veggie and Funny Fruit gardening contest sponsored by

Weird Veggie Snail CukeLate summer means it’s time to harvest prize-winning tomatoes, perfect peaches and a bonanza of beautiful vegetables.

It’s also the time of the gardening year when Mother Nature’s sense of humor shows through and she puts noses on eggplants, pants on carrots and smiles on tomatoes.

The 5th annual Weird Veggie and Funny Fruit contest is on!

I want to see the wackiest vegetables or craziest fruit you find in your garden or at the farmer’s market. Just take a look at the Snailcumber I found in my garden this morning.

It’s simple to enter the Weird Veggie and Funny Fruit gardening contest:

1. Email ( a digital, in-focus photo of any vegetable or fruit you find that makes you laugh, makes you blush or stops you in your tracks. Give it a fitting name and include your name, city, and state. Contest is open to gardeners in the U.S.

Flea Circus is a Must See at Denver County Fair

The Denver County Fair is ready to welcome you to some unusual fun, August 9-11.

Flea CircusThe sign on the table reads “Positively No Dogs” and Swami Bill means it. He’d hate to see any of his troupe of highly-trained fleas run away from the circus.

Swami Bill and his original Flea Circus are just one of the wonderful acts you have to see at the Denver County Fair this weekend.

Look for Swami Bill near the Geek Pavilion at the all-indoor fair staged at the National Western Complex.

I had the chance to catch an abbreviated version of the Flea Circus at the Fair’s press day event. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

There were fleats of strength as Fritz pushed a barrel around the stage. That was the equivalent of 650 pounds moved easily by a tiny flea.

We were also fleabergasted while watching Festus the flea do some daring tricks on the high wire suspended above the stage.

Win a Blue Ribbon at the Denver County Fair

Do you have any prizewinning produce in your garden this year?

Cayennetta peppersThe 2013 Denver County Fair starts on Friday and the flower and vegetable competition deadline is tomorrow, Thursday August 7.

Walk-in entries will be accepted from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the National Western Complex.

All the exhibitor information is available at the Denver County Fair website, click on Competition Guidelines.

After gardening for many years, 2012 was my first experience entering my home-grown vegetables in a competition and I had a terrific time.

I took cherry tomatoes, basil and hot peppers to the Arapahoe County Fair and won three blue ribbons.

At the 2012 Denver County Fair, I took another batch of hot peppers and an odd-looking tomato and won two more blue ribbons and $50 in cash.

Then I went on to the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo with two more entries and won two more ribbons, this time red for second place.

Hot Weather Help for Gardens

When the weather heats up, plants need extra help. My mantra? “Mulch like crazy.”

Leaves1A few summers ago, in the heat of a Colorado July, I had to to leave my garden to present a xeriscape program to a master gardener group in the southwestern part of the state.

I fretted about how to keep the vegetable garden in good shape while I was away. I didn’t want to hire a garden sitter and there wasn’t time to hook up an automatic irrigation system. So I decided to implement the cheapest and easiest plan possible. I mulched like crazy.

All the bags of dry (untreated) grass and leaves that I raked from the front yard would finally come in handy.

Before I left on my trip, I deeply watered the vegetable bed that was filled with tomato, pepper, and squash plants. Then I took the dried grass and leaves and heaved great bunches onto the garden.

New Ideas in Straw Bale Gardening

I can’t think of a single gardener who wouldn’t want to plant a vegetable garden that could grow anywhere–without soil—and never needed weeding.

Straw Bale GardensWhen something sounds too good to be true, in most cases it means watch out for all the pitfalls. Gardeners are used to hearing claims for plants, products and tools that sound perfect, but end up being a big disappointment.

But Joel Karsten’s new book may be an exception. “Straw Bale Gardens” (Cool Springs Press, 2013) promises to be The breakthrough method for growing vegetables anywhere, earlier and with no weeding.

He practically guarantees gardeners can get big yields and grow 100 percent organic anywhere. As proof, he suggests planting in straw bales on balconies or driveways. No soil required.

“You plant your garden directly in bales of straw. Add some water, fertilizer and sunshine (not necessarily in that order) and your garden will explode with beautiful wholesome produce. No tilling, no cultivating, no weeding,” he writes in the Introduction.

Great Gobs of Gardening Books for 2013

New gardening books are published every year, but this crop is especially fruitful.

Baker Creek Vegan CookbookIf you need inspiration to help you add more vegetables to your family’s menu, look no farther than this new cookbook from the folks at the Baker Creek Seed Company. The cookbook, written by Jere and Emilee Gettle with Adeena Sussman, is a natural follow up to the Gettle’s first book called “The Heirloom Life Gardener.” If you didn’t grow up enjoying Grandma Nellie’s Garden Soup, don’t fret. Her recipe for homemade vegetable soup is included in the new collection of more than 125 recipes in “The Baker Creek Vegan Cookbook” (2012, Hyperion).

Vertical Vegetable Gardening book1“Vertical Vegetable Gardening” is a Living Free Guide (2012, Alpha Books) that adds to the body of creative ideas for using every square inch of gardening space. Chris McLaughlin has gleaned ideas from gardeners across the country for the best ways to grow vegetables vertically.This user-friendly how-to guide is organized into four parts that make it easy to find information. While beginning gardeners may want to delve into The Basics: Soil and Seed, experienced gardeners might turn right to Vegetables and Fruit that Enjoy Growing Up.

New Items for Gardening from Territorial Seed

The new gardening catalog from Territorial Seed Company is about twice the size of other seed catalogs.

I’ve written about Territorial Seed Company in the past and have placed orders with them. But the company’s garden seed, plants and supply catalog for spring 2013 is something special.

This catalog is huge and features 240 new gardening products for 2013.

Territorial Seed, located in Cottage Grove, Ore., was the first mail order catalog to offer the Mighty ‘Mato grafted tomatoes after trialing them in its gardens.

Gardeners responded to the superhero status of the Mighty ‘Mato and Territorial Seed sold out most varieties last season. The double variety (‘Sungold’ and ‘Sweet Million’) was especially popular with gardeners who wanted to grow two flavorful cherry tomatoes on one plant.

Grafted vegetables are included in the 2013 catalog including grafted peppers. One eggplant variety, ‘Rosa Bianca’ is also in the catalog.

All the grafted vegetables are grafted by hand.

Jung Seeds & Plants Gardening Catalog

Jung Seeds & Plants, based in Randolph, Wis., is a is a family-owned business that has offered gardeners quality products since 1907.

The annual Jung Seeds & Plants home gardening catalog is one I always look forward to reading.

This catalog features, vegetables and flowers, seeds and bulbs, fruit and all kinds of gardening supplies. It is loaded with great gardening gear from cover to cover.

It’s also entertaining to read all of the descriptions. I’d love to meet whoever wrote the description for the ‘Super Freak Hybrid’ pumpkins or the ‘Red Warty Thing’ winter squash.

Every page is loaded with clever narratives about the company’s vast amount of offerings.

Family owned and operated for 106 years, Jung’s searches for the kinds of seeds and plants that gardeners like to grow.

There are plenty of old favorites, Jung Exclusives, Jung Top Picks and new introductions, too.

New Line of Organics from Renee’s Garden

Renee’s Garden is introducing a new range of organic seed for the 2013 gardening season.

Renee’s Garden, a long-time supporter of the Safe Seed Pledge developed by the Council for Responsible Genetics, has gone a step farther.

This year Renee’s has added a complete range of USDA Certified Organic vegetable and herb seeds.

Some of new line include heirlooms like ‘Chioggia’ beets, ‘Royalty Purple Pod’ bush beans, ‘Jade Green’ container lettuce, ‘Marvel Stripe’ bicolor tomato and much more. The complete line is featured in the online catalog.

As with all of the vegetable, herb and flower seeds offered by Renee’s Garden, the organics were selected after testing them in her own trial gardens. Detailed instructions for planting and growing are included on every packet.

Years ago when I first heard about Renee’s Garden, I had an image of a gifted gardener named Renee starting a specialty seed business selling based on the plants grown in her own garden.

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