Sunday, February 21, 2010

Storm Damage

THIS JUST IN: Storm Damages Tomato Crop in Southeast Texas

We have our own Hurricane Katrina - an 8-pound tortoiseshell cat with a big appetite and a bigger attitude.

We started our tomato seeds in flats a few weeks ago and have kept them indoors to provide a warm, even temperature for germination.  Because we have indoor cats and know that cats like to dig, we covered the flat with a clear plastic dome and placed it on a countertop in the kitchen.  We were so excited when most of the seeds sprouted in less than a week.  "Remember how low the germination rate was last year?" we remarked.  "Look at how healthy and strong they are!" we gushed.

Then one of us, who shall remain nameless, decided that the seedlings needed some "air", removed the plastic dome, and went out to get the mail from the mailbox.  The errand took three minutes, tops, probably less.  Said person returned to the house to find Katrina on the countertop having a snack.  She is nothing if not efficient.  In that short time, she had jumped up on the countertop, found the seed tray, determined that it contained something tasty, and neatly removed the tops of four of our precious little seedlings.  She must have been in the process of eating a fifth when she was interrupted by the door opening: the little plant had been yanked out of the soil and left for dead.

Exhibit A below shows one of the casualties.  Note the sad little leaf on the soil surface to the left of the beheaded stalk.

What was she thinking that fateful afternoon?  Was she jealous of the attention we had been showering on these immobile interlopers? Did she feel a need to remind us of her Alpha Female status?  Or was she just hankering for something fresh and green? We will never know.

Damage repair commenced immediately.  Replacement seeds have since sprouted.  Security was stepped up to prevent future incidents (i.e. that plastic dome is glued on until we move it outside!).

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Oodles of Onions

In case 200 garlic cloves in October wasn't enough, we planted 500 onions in December.  We are big fans of the Allium family.  They are so easy to grow organically because they have few pests.  As far as we know.  We may find out that is wrong this year, now that we have a lot more plants, but I sure hope it holds true.

We didn't plan to have 500 onions - we were shooting for about 300, enough to fill one of our rows in the main garden.  We found another Texas company, Dixondale Farms in Carrizo Springs, to supply the onion sets.  After reading the descriptions for short-day onions, we ordered 1 bunch each of 4 varieties (1 yellow, 1 red and 2 white).  Since each bunch contains approximately 5 dozen sets, we would have about 240 sets from Dixondale, plus about 60 of our own that we started from seed.

When the sets arrived in the mail in mid-December, I was impressed by how healthy they looked.  Ed prepared the bed according to the helpful instructions provided by Dixondale, and I started sorting the bunches to choose the best sets to plant.  Unfortunately, three of the bunches had quite a bit fewer than the estimated 60 plants.  We were pretty disappointed, though still pleased with the quality of sets we got.  We planted what we had, then I emailed Dixondale, telling them which varieties were shorted and by how much, and asking them to send us the difference.  They responded promptly, were apologetic, and promised to send another shipment immediately.

When the box arrived, we were amazed to find that, rather than just making up the shortfall, they had sent us full bunches of the three varieties.  In fact, each bunch was 80 to 100 sets.  Wow!  That is some great customer service.  Of course, we didn't want to waste any of those little guys, so we changed our planting scheme a bit and found some space for the extras.  The plants are thriving, as you can see below, and will probably make some very nice bulbs when the days lengthen.  I hope our farmer's market customers are in the mood for onions later this spring.

By the way, I was just poking around the onion photo gallery on Dixondale's website and found out they grow a variety named Red Zeppelin!  I can see the sign in our market booth now: "Red Zeppelin onions from Rain Song Farm" (I might be able to work in some pun on Robert Plant if I try hard enough).  Sadly for me, Red Zeppelin is a long day variety and would never form a bulb here.  I could always grow it as a scallion, though.  Hmm, I may be placing another order...