Live Plant Update 4/12/21

So, a lot has happened in the garden in the last ten days or so. I am finally up and mobile (and in PT, oh joy) and am able to get out and do some of the larger planting. Luckily, last week my orders of living plants started rolling in.

First to arrive was a Coral Knock-Out Rose I ordered from Home Depot (I was getting impatient waiting for the nurseries and garden centers to send out my plants, so I did finally buy a few from Home Depot). My plan for the rose is to create a screen between myself and my neighbors on the right side–our fence is a picket-style fence that is only 3′ tall, and the lack of privacy is killing me. The rose was smallish, in my opinion, for a 1 gallon rose, but seems healthy and has a ton of fresh growth on it. I know it’ll take a few years for it to turn into the screen I envision it to be, but hopefully it’ll be a great yard decoration until then.

Next to arrive were my Night-Blooming Jasmines (Jessamine). Trying to veer away from large corporations (on the whole), I canceled my order with Burpee and found a dealer on Etsy who had amazing ratings and a decent price on the jasmine. I ordered three plants, thinking that they would be tiny and I’d need three or so to fill up a large pot for my deck. They were not. They were exquisitely packaged and each were at least 10″ tall and fully bushy. And, despite our week of 50s/60s temps and on-and-off again rain, they are thriving, with plenty of new growth. It looks like I’ll need to re-home at least one of them, as these are in no way hardy to my zone and I’ll have to bring them inside to overwinter them.

Next up were my strawberries from Johnny’s Seeds. All of the 25 bare-root strawberry plants in my order were healthy and moist with long roots. I planted about 18 of them in my Greenstalk and the rest went into small planters to give away to friends. The strawberries are not much to look at now, but since I took the pics they have sprouted–and at least one of them has been eaten by some unknown critter 😦 Which is probably why the smallest order is 25 plants–they assume I’m going to lose some of them, one way or another.

I think in the future, when I buy annual or biannual live plants, I’m going to stick with Johnny’s. They are the only company (aside from the Etsy dealer) that delivered the quality product that they said they would, when they said they would. They are a bit more expensive than places like Burpees or Ferry Morse, but from all I’ve seen and heard, they are extremely reliable. I have an order of sweet potato slips due to arrive in May; hopefully they’ll be of the same quality.

This week a few other plants have arrived: a ZinFin Doll hydrangea and a small order of Jersey Knight asparagus roots, The hydrangea was from Home Depot (same order as the rose) and arrived in pretty good condition. The plan for that is to also be a living screen blocking off part of the fence with my next-door neighbors. I hear that hydrangeas grow fast, and sooner is better than later. (We also have a ten-year-old QuickFire hydrangea next to the house, which is about 8′ tall at this point and looks like a small tree. If the ZinFin Doll gets anywhere near that height, I’ll be happy.) The asparagus was a last-minute panic buy from a random seller on Amazon, but the crowns arrived today in very good condition–I was highly impressed. Assuming we have no rain, they’ll go into the ground tomorrow.

New plants that are on the horizon: two Limelight Prime hydrangeas, both to help block the fence on the other side of my yard. Also, after forty-four years of waiting, I’ve finally ordered a red Japanese maple to fill in the empty spot between the garden and the back of the house. Bloodgood Japanese Maple, I can’t wait to add you to my growing menagerie of plants. ❤

A mature Bloodgood Japanese Maple tree

Ordering Live Plants, part 1–Fruits and Veg

Or, some plants are better not grown from seed.

In planning for this year’s garden, I ended up taking a few shortcuts. While growing veggies and flowers from seed is easily the cheapest way, some veggies and flowers take a very long time to mature and produce food. And I’m not the most patient person.

Veggies:

Asparagus

I had high hopes for having fresh asparagus this year until I found that it takes a good 3-5 years before you can harvest any asparagus that you’ve grown from seed. In lieu of this, many seed companies sell 2-3 year old asparagus “crowns” which is the root of an asparagus plant. I’ve ordered a set of 10 crowns of Jersey Knight Giant asparagus from Gurney’s (many other seed companies were already sold out). Jersey Knight seems to be the favored variety.

Jersey Knight Giant asparagus

Leeks and Onions

Leeks are another crop I had high hopes for. It can be grown from seed–I actually have three packets of different varieties in my seed collection already. However, my experience with growing both leeks and onions seeds last year was really frustrating–all I got was a series of chives, or, at best, green onions. So when I heard that you could order leek and onion “starts”, I jumped on it. (Onion starts are different from onions sets, which are essentially bags of mini onion bulbs which more often than not will bolt early–onions are biennials and the process of being stalled at the small bulb stage makes them think they are on year two and should start putting out flowers instead of growing a bigger bulb.) Several companies, such as Johnny’s Seeds, sell onion and leek starts, but one company specializes specifically in onion and leek sets: Dixondale Farms. I ordered a bunch of leeks (30 or so in each bunch) and a bunch of mixed onions–yellow, red, and white from Dixondale. These will be the first of my live plants to arrive as they are supposed to be shipped out mid-March. I think I’ll put them in the beds next to the garlic, though at this point I’m not sure if I’ll even be able to get into the garden to prep the beds and plant them. Erik may end up doing more gardening that he had planned on this spring.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are another crop that could theoretically be grown from seed but no one does. Instead, companies sell “slips” (sweet potato starts), or you could make your own from old sweet potatoes. Last year I received three different types of sweet potato slips from Baker Creek–Pumpkin Yam, Jersey Yellow, and Molokai purple. Of the three, the Pumpkin Yam grew best and tasted amazing roasted. The Jersey yellow did not grow that big, and also didn’t cure well. The Molokai purple were also very skinny–they cured well, but as they are so thin I haven’t bothered to use them in cooking yet.

As I’m not sure if Baker Creek will even offer sweet potatoes slips this year, I went ahead and ordered a set of Murasaki Purple sweet potatoes from Gurney and a set of 25 slips of Mahon Yams from Johnny’s Seeds. I think I’ll plant them in a large container again this year. One set of slips is set to arrive in late April, and the other set is scheduled to arrive late May. Honestly, I’m not sure what I’ll do with the April set, yet as sweet potatoes are finicky and only like hot weather and April is not hot in Northern IL.

Mahon Yams

Apple Trees

My first purchase when we moved into the new house were some apple trees. Unfortunately, they were sold out last summer, and even when I went to pre-order trees this winter, many were already sold out! My preference is Fuji apple, but all the companies I could find were out of stock. Instead, I ended up with a HoneyCrisp and a Haralson, both of which cross-pollinate well with Fujis (and each other), from Gilby’s Orchard, a tree company based in MN. These apples are all dwarf varieties, as I live in the middle of the city and full-sized trees would be too large (plus, a pain to manage). I’m not entirely sure where I’ll put them yet, but there is plenty of room as all of the house’s previous trees have been removed due to illness and old age.