Project Grow

Project Grow

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Saturday, June 28, 2014

June Community Garden Pictures

Project Grow's 20 garden sites can't be covered in a single post but here are five from mid-June

Discovery Garden at County Farm

Dicken Elementary
Hillside Terrace

Hunt Park

Wines Elementary

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Cut Flower Update

I have not posted much of anything since the weather warmed up because I have been busy working outside. Thankfully, me not posting does not stop the plants from growing.

Here are the lisianthus planted in early January.  Lisianthus plants are expensive and the reason is it takes months to bring them into bloom.  They are about a foot tall now and will probably flower in August.

This is how they looked four months ago.

The next picture is of snapdragons which were planted in March.  These are about a foot and a half or two feet tall.  That is taller than the ones I usually got for the flower business but they are in better soil.   A have another set I started in early May that are still in pots.  

Last are some sunflowers.  The ones on the right were planted in early May and the smaller ones were planted a couple weeks ago.  These are about 8 inches apart.  

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Update on Plants from Seed

All those tiny seedlings I posted pictures of are growing up. Here are the primroses again, now in 3" pots and below that is the original picture.

Here are the lisianthus now in 3" pots and their original picture.

The plugs in the original pictures are about the diameter of a quarter.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Hellebores as cut flowers

Hellebores are nice to have in the garden.

  • Deer, rabbits and ground hogs don't eat them.
  • They grow well in partial shade.
  • The flowers persist for weeks (though the color becomes a bit duller).
  • They are as early as daffodils but don't look like spring bulbs.  
  • The foliage is attractive and evergreen.  
  • They are reliably hardy and live a long time
Hellebores used to be fairly hard to find but have recently appeared at big box stores like Lowe's and Home Depot.  Many of the newer ones are double but the singles are just as pretty and cheaper.

They also make good cut flowers and will look good in a vase for at least a week.

They sometimes don't take up water well after cutting.  The flowers in the above picture were cut last night and the red one on the lower right is having this problem.  It sometimes helps (except when it doesn't) to put them into hot tap water and let it cool.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Surveying the Damage

This has been a rough winter and enough snow has melted that took a look and some pictures. All the perennials  spent the winter under more than a foot of snow and they all look fine, though it is hard to tell this early.

The first picture is of Helleborus orientalis.  They look pretty beat up but they should show new leaves and flowers about the time tulips are blooming.  These are just the leaves that overwintered.  When it gets nicer outside I will cut them all off.

Here is a picture of some snowdrops.  They were not only under the snow but also under the ground so they're fine.  Behind the snowdrops you can see rabbit poop which is everywhere in my back yard.  I haven't discovered whatever they were eating yet but they seem to have been well fed.

Here is a picture of an oriental poppy on the left with two clumps of daffodils coming up to the right.  These look the way they always do in the spring, just a bit later than usual.

Now the stuff that doesn't look so great.

Here is a Blue Girl holly.  The green part, on the bottom, was protected by the snow.  The whole thing usually looks like that this time of year. I don't know yet if the top part is dead or just if just the leaves died..

This is a picture of a yew which now has no needles.  Behind it is an arborvitae which also looks dead. Both of these plants were added to provide some green over the winter.  Not any more.

This is a China Girl holly that looks like it has had it.  I was thinking of taking it out anyway since I didn't like how it looked, so no great loss.

This is an Ilex opaca or American holly.  It looks like it will survive but will lose all the leaves over the snow line.  

Thankfully, not all my evergreen shrubs croaked.  Boxwood has the reputation of being a bit miffy but these look great.  I think they are Green Velvet but I'm not sure.  I always bought the ones that were supposed to be hardy to zone 4 and this winter shows the wisdom of that.

Here is another Ilex opaca.  This one is a female, the half dead one is a boy.  This looks like it made it through the winter OK.

Lastly, here is a rhododendron on the east side of the house.  Except for this one in this spot, I have never had any luck growing these things, but I think this one looks great.  

If it is not obvious from their size, all of these shrubs have been in place 10 years or more, so the dieback is from the extreme winter, not from being freshly planted.

Plant Sale Seedlings

Don't worry if you have not started any peppers, tomatoes or basil because Project Grow's plant sale team has been doing it for you.  You can read all about the sale here.

Here are more pictures of our efforts.
Tomato seedlings started March 15th

Pepper seedlings started February 26th.

Basil seedlings with a few peppers in the front right.  All started February 26th.

Signs of Spring

Spring is coming, it is just taking its time.  Here are some crocus coming up in my lawn just as the snow recedes.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Plants for the Project Grow Plant Sale

The Project Grow plant sale volunteers have been busy starting this year's plants and we now have some pictures.

The first is of tomato seedlings that were planted two weeks ago.  The seedlings in each small pot will be pricked out first to 4 packs and then later to 3" pots for sale.  We started about 12 flats of tomatoes using 18 3" pots per flat.  Each pot should have 18 usable seedlings in it.  That is a whole lot of baby tomatoes!
Two week old tomatoes

The next picture is of Genovese basil seedlings which were started 3 weeks ago.  All the basil plants were transplanted to 4 packs yesterday.
Three week old basil

Finally we have pepper plants.  These were also started 3 weeks ago and we have transplanted about half of them to 4 packs.  In the background you can see primroses and delphiniums I started for myself.
Three week old peppers

We start all this stuff under fluorescent lights.  Indoor lights are the easiest way to get seedlings started but we try to move them to a tiny heated greenhouse as soon as we can to get them accustomed to cooler temperatures and outdoor sunlight right away.  This also prevents them from getting too leggy which can be a real problem with tomatoes started early under lights.

You can read about the 65 varieties of tomatoes, 20 different peppers and 5 kinds of basil Project Grow is growing for the sale here.  If you can make the sale you can also advance order plants and pick them up a week before the sale.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Perennial Flowers from Seed

One of the advantages of growing perennials from seed is you get a lot more bang for the buck.  Even small starter perennials you get at Colemans's, Alexander's or the Farmer's Market will cost $1.50-$3 per plant.  Large perennials cost $5 to $15.  The big ones make sense if you need instant results - like you're trying to sell your house - but growing plants from seed allow you to be much more extravagant in how many plants you use.

Another advantage is the selection.  GeoSeed offered 8 different kinds of Primula acaulis this year, and that is besides the other 21 varieties they are offering of other species.   I chose Danova and paid $5.35 for a packet of 100 seeds.  They came up like radishes and I ended up having to thin them out.  Even after doing that I had 28 primrose plants for $5.35.  Of course, I am  not exactly sure where I will plant 28 primroses, but it is a nice problem to have and they only need to be about 8 inches apart so I will come up with something.

Danova seedlings sown on January 30th
Danova primroses
There are disadvantages to growing perennials from seed.  With many perennials you want a clone of a specific plant, not a seed grown strain.  For example, bearded iris, peonies and daylilies are almost always sold as clones of named varieties.  These plants will be exactly identical - your 'Festiva Maxima' peony will look exactly like every other 'Festiva Maxima' in the entire world.

Peonies, iris and most daylilies are only available as clones, but many other perennials such as dahlias, hardy asters, echinacea, hellebores, and hardy geraniums are available as both seed strains and particular clones. Whether or not this matters depends how similar the seed strains are to the named clones and how fussy you are about obtaining a particular plant.

Some plants are also not really worth germinating from seed.  For example, I love bleeding hearts (Dicentra spectabilis) but they are available everywhere for very little money.  The seed is difficult to germinate without stratifying it outside for months and they self sow quite readily outside so you soon have more than you need.

Lisianthus at Two Months

Here is a picture of how the lisianthus look two months after they were sown.  Much bigger than the head of a pin but compared to the speed many other things grow they are creeping along.  The biggest ones are about the diameter of a quarter, maybe a bit larger.

Fairly soon I will transplant them into small liners (72 cells per flat) and eventually they will go into larger liners (36 cells per flat).

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Parsley Root

If you have never had parsley root you can find it at Hiller's and at Meijer.  It looks like a small white carrot and is sold with the greens still attached.  Eliot Coleman says you can eat the greens as you would parsley though I never have.  The roots kind of taste like parsley in the same way celeriac tastes like celery.

It's not cheap. A bunch of 3 or 4 roots costs $2 or more.  If you like it, the cost makes it well worth while to grow.

Fedco sells a packet of 'Arat' for $1.90.  You can also get an older variety called 'Hamburg' from J.L. Hudson Seeds (no connection to the old department store) for $1.50 per packet. Both are open pollinated. The Fedco catalog says, "Enhance your soups and specialty dishes with these nutty-flavored roots redolent of a parsley-celery combination".  Fedco claims Arat is sweeter and more uniform than Hamburg.

You grow parsley root about the same as you grow carrots.  The soil should be deeply worked and mostly free of stones.   Sow the seed about the same as you would carrots, about a half inch deep and a half inch apart.  Once they come up thin them to an inch apart.  Mulch to keep down weeds and maintain even moisture.

Seeds sown in spring will be ready to harvest in September.  You can also sow more up to maybe mid-summer and harvest them later in the fall.  With a bit of protection (this year's snow would have taken care of that) you can leave them in the ground until spring.  

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sunflowers for Cutting

Double Quick Orange
If you are growing sunflowers for cut flowers you grow them differently than if you are growing one or two in your vegetable garden to attract birds. In the vegetable garden, it is fun to have the sunflower get as tall as possible. They usually have enormous flowers that are 8” or even a foot across. For cut flowers, you want flowers that are at most 6” across at most, and often quite a bit smaller. The easiest way to do this is by planting the seeds closer together. For cut flowers, I often plant my sunflowers 6” apart.
Moulin Rouge

Single Stem or Branching
Sunflower varieties for cut flowers are grouped as single stem or branching. Single stem flowers produce one flower per plant. Once the flower is harvested, the plant can be pulled out because it will not re-bloom. Branching sunflowers produce multiple flowers, and a single plant produces flowers for a longer season. I initially thought the branching kinds sounded better, and if you were only going to have one or two plants in your vegetable garden that might be true. However, I had trouble with short stems and unpredictable flower size with the branched varieties and eventually just grew the single stem kinds.

All the true reds and true oranges are branching varieties. Although some single stem varieties are advertised as orange or red, I thought the orange ones were more gold and the reds had a yellow overlay which the branching kinds do not.

Pollenless Varieties
In the garden, bees constantly collect the pollen from sunflowers so you never see it. However, if you cut a sunflower and bring it inside, the pollen quickly appears on the disk and will litter wherever you set the cut flower. To avoid this, you can grow pollenless hybrid sunflowers. These typically will say “pollenless” or “F1”. There are now dozens of these on the market. Here are some well known kinds.

Pro Cut Series
yellow, gold, pale yellow
Moulin Rouge
deep red
Double Quick Orange
more gold than orange, but a pretty double
Very pale yellow to white
lemon, gold and orange

You can buy these varieties and many more at Johnny's and GeoSeed.

Succession Sowing
If you are growing single stem varieties for cut flowers, you need to succession sow several times or all your sunflowers will bloom at once. You can also choose several varieties with different maturities. When I was growing cut flowers commercially, I sowed sunflowers eight different times from the beginning of May until the beginning of October. I used different maturities at each sowing to ensure I had a continuous supply of sunflowers.

ProCut Orange

Direct Sow vs Transplant

Most people direct sow sunflowers but I had better luck starting them in liners and then transplanting them when they were about 3 weeks old. The bad luck with direct sowing was mostly because I was sowing the seeds in a very large garden and could not keep the soil consistently watered. I also may have suffered from birds or rodents eating the newly emerged seedlings. The method I used was to fill 6 pack liners with grow mix, wet the soil, and then put one seed in each cell about ½ an inch deep. The seeds usually emerged in about a week. When they were about 3 weeks old I would transplant them to the garden. If you wait too long to transplant the sunflowers, the plants will bolt and bloom on undersized plants.  

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Gardener's Hand Cream

This recipe was given to Project Grow many years ago by a County Farm gardener. It's a great hand cream and one batch makes a whole lot so you can easily split it with one or more friends.

1 14 ounce jar Velvachol (see Notes below)
8 ounces glycerin
1½ cups distilled water

Put all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix on low speed with a power mixer until well blended. Then whip on high speed until aerated, about 5 minutes or longer. It will look like egg whites that have formed stiff peaks. Store in jars or pump dispenser containers.


  1. Velvachol is the basic ingredient in burn ointments that pharmacists make. It resembles shortening in a jar. You may have to ask the pharmacy to order it for you. Meijer on Carpenter Road will do this.  It costs about $26 for a 14 ounce jar.
  2. You can add essential oils or any other scent if you want scented hand cream.
  3. You only need a tiny dab of this – about the size of a chocolate chip.
  4. The easiest way to get the hand cream in to a dispenser is to spoon it into a clean plastic bag, cut the corner off the bag and then squeeze it into the dispenser.  

Friday, February 21, 2014

Cut Flowers for 2014

I'm growing two 100sf beds of cut flowers at Dawn Farm this year.  It seems like a lot, but when I had the business I was growing more than 60 times that amount of space in flowers, so it does not seem too extravagant. It has been a long time since I grew cut flowers just for me so I don't have good feel for how much space to devote to each flower.

I got all the seeds for these from GeoSeed.  GeoSeed has a terrific selection and great prices.  They cater to people growing plants commercially and there are no pictures or instructions in their catalog.  However you can find this information so easily now on the web that it is no problem.  Geo is for George Park of Park Seed.

I'm only growing my favorite things and below are the ones I chose followed by the space I'm allowing for each.

Delphinium 'Aurora'
This is a really nice hybrid perennial delphinium.  It is about 4-5 feet tall and does not need staking.  The seeds are not cheap - about $14 for 100.  Delphinium seed is only good for a couple years so I planted about half of them and of course nearly every one came up.  I'm going to put in 40 of the plants and will give the rest away.  40sf

Benary's Giant Zinnias

Zinnia Benary's Giant Mixed
This is the standard cut flower zinnia.  They are large and productive.  I direct seed almost nothing but I do direct seed these. 16sf

Annual Butterfly weed

Annual Butterfly Weed (Asclepias curassavica)
These are really nice.  More than once I have seen Monarch caterpillars on them.  12 sf

Yarrow - 'Cassis' (Achillea millefolium)
This is a nice crimson red yarrow.  Yarrow is really easy from seed. 8 sf

Calendula 'Indian Prince'
I like calendula but did not use them after awhile for the cut flower business because the stems were not always long enough.  For me I can be more flexible. 8 sf

Sweet William - 'Super Duplex'
This is the double, biennial Sweet William.  You can start them as late as July and they will look great the following year. 8 sf

Lisianthus and Apple Blossom snapdragon

Lisianthus 'Marachi' mix
'Marachi ' is a double lisianthus.  Seed was not available to non-wholesale growers until recently so I have never grown this other than from plugs.  12 sf

Snapdragon  - 'Opus' Apple Blossom
Opus is a greenhouse variety of snapdragon but they grown just fine outside.  Appleblossom is a combination white and soft pink which I really like. 12 sf

Cosmos - Double Click mix
I did not use cosmos much for the business because it is tedious to cut enough to make much of a show, but they are nice flowers and easy to grow.  8 sf

Amazon Duo

Amazon Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus)
Amazon is an annual Sweet William that blooms the first year from seed.  They come in three colors - rose, cherry and purple.  I got 'Duo' which has Cherry and Purple. 12 sf

Dianthus  'Rainbow Loveliness'
I wrote about these in a post on Fragrant Plants.  I saved seed from a mix of colors as well as white ones so I will probably plant the mix for cutting.  8 sf

Sunflower (Helianthus annus)
I got the pollenless 'Magic Orange'.  I really like orange sunflowers but I suspect this is more gold because it is a single stemmed sunflower and not a branching variety.  It seems like all the true orange ones are branching but hope springs eternal.  12 sf
Dahlia 'Appleblossom'

I am growing a couple dahlias for cut flowers.  The one pictured below is a collarette called 'Appleblossom'.  Most collarettes do not cut well but this one does. 8 sf

Beebalm (Monarda didyma)
Last year there was still monarda in the field where I used to grow flowers and I hope to grab some starts from there early in the spring.  I used to have 'SummerWine' and 'Jacob Cline'.  'Jacob Cline' is pute red and they are blooming around the 4th of July.  I used to combine them with blue delphiniums and whatever white flowers I had to make red white and blue bouquets.  I always thought the monarda looked like fireworks.8sf

Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
This is a native plant which grows fine outside a swamp but does appreciate some water.  8 sf

Annual dianthus (Dianthus caryophyllus)
These are the annual version