Planning for Spring Planting

Once January starts every year I always start to plan out my gardens and what I am going to plant. This process always involves ordering unique plants from different online retailers.

I recently developed a love affair with dahlias. I planted three different varieties last year and they did amazing! This year I plan on planting a long row of dahlias in all colors of the rainbow. I ran across Floret Flowers, a flower farm in Washington state over a year ago. They sell some of the most beautiful and rare varieties of dahlia tubers. Floret is popular with dahlia enthusiasts across the country, so they sell out fast! This year they went on sale at 9:00 CST on January 2nd, so I was ready to order because I missed out last year. I ended up ordering 12 different dahlia tubers in all different colors. By the time I placed my order two of the varieties that I intended on ordering were all ready sold out! These varieties were Castle Drive and Hillcrest Kismet. After doing an internet search I ran across the company Stone House Dahlias. Instead of selling dahlia tubers like Floret and most other retailers, they sell rooted dahlia cuttings. I have never purchased dahlias or any other tuber/bulb as rooted cuttings so I decided to give it a try this year. At check out you select your ship date, so being that I live and garden in Minnesota I picketed the last possible ship date, May 21st. I was able to purchase both Castle Drive and Hillcrest Kismet from Stone House Dahlias, so I was super excited! Along with all my dahlias from Floret I also purchased a package of Dalmatian Peach Foxglove to try growing from seed this year.

Photos from Floret Flowers

Moor Place // Loverboy // Spartacus // Chimacum Nadjae

American Dawn // Maarn // Golden Sceptor // Otto’s Trill

Chilson’s Pride // Lavender Perfection // Sweet Nathalie // L’Ancresse

Photos from Stonehouse Dahlias

Hillcrest Kismet // Castle Drive 

Along with my newly purchased dahlias, I have dahlia tubers that I saved from last year that I will be planting in my long, colorful dahlia row in my garden. I have the ever popular Cafe au Lait and Arabian Night. I have a stone path that runs through my perennial garden. Last year I planted a short variety of dahlias called Gallery Bellini. They were so pretty and the perfect height! I plan on purchasing more again this year from Longfield Gardens. I had really good luck with the tubers that I purchased from them last year and they often have sales!

Along with all my dahlia tubers that I purchased for this year I ordered some annual flower seeds. I love zinnias and always plant many along the boarder of my large vegetable garden. I have always been a fan of the classic State Fair Mix, but decided to try some more unique varieties not sold in local nurseries. I ordered Queen Red Lime and the Giant Flowered Mixed Colors to start from seed in the spring. I purchased both of these varieties along with QIS Lilac Gomphrena from Burpee. QIS Lilac Gomphrena is a taller variety of gomphrena that will be great for cut flower bouquets along with my dahlias and zinnias.

I also start to think about what will be planted in the vegetable garden. We usually plant the same things every year, but often try something new or add a new variety. Our family and the extended family has quite the collection of vegetable seeds that we have collected from our plants over the years. We go through all of our seeds and decide what we need to order to start seeds in the spring. We often order one or two new introductions or new to use varieties to try. This year we will be ordering pepper and tomato seeds from Totally Tomato and Tomato Growers.

Later in the winter or early spring I will plan out my container gardens and decide which other annuals and any new perennials that want to add to the gardens once my local nursery Gertens Greenhouse puts out their 2018 catalog to view online.



Maple Syrup Season has started in MN!

Maple Syrup Season has started in MN. Very early this year. I tapped trees on Feb. 12. About 1 month earlier than average.

Here is a photo of this years boiling setup. I can evaporate at about 2 gallons per hour.

I started boiling the maple sap on Monday, Feb. 13th. We canned 3 Quarts of maple syrup on Friday, Feb. 17th.

Maple Syrup Season has come to a Close

After 3-1/2 weeks of collecting and boiling maple sap the season is over. Total maple syrup processed into canning jars was 38 quarts. A new record for us beating last years record of 32 quart.  One reason this year was better is we had 3 more taps in 2 trees than last year. Here is a photo showing how the late season syrup gets darker. The syrup may be darker, but it becomes more flavorful maple taste. If you have never had pure maple syrup this would be a real treat!

Late season maple syrup
Late season maple syrup

Maple Syrup season is winding down.

I think maple syrup season is winding down for the year this week. The trees are showing buds and the forecast is for 60 this week and not below freezing at night.  We canned 28 quarts of completed maple syrup so far. I’m getting tired of boiling, I’ve been doing this for 3 weeks straight and still working m,y full time job. It has become less fun and more like work. Because of rain and snow I’ve not had enough dry wood always. It is challenging to keep a hot fire to keep up a full boil.

Completed Maple Syrup

This morning we completed 4 quarts of pure Maple Syrup. The early season maple syrup is very sweet with very little maple flavor. In fact it is so sweet you could almost use it as a sugar substitute. I use it in hot tea instead of sugar or honey. In order to get 4 quarts of syrup, I started boiling the maple sap on Tuesday evening and each evening for 3-4 hours the rest of the week and then for 10-12 hours on Saturday. Since the ratio of sap to syrup is 40 to 1, I boiled approximately 40 gallons of sap to get the 1 gallon of maple syrup.  It is a lot of effort but the reward is great. I can’t wait to try some on pancakes or hot oatmeal.


Maple Syrup update

It has been warm this week in MN. Too warm for March! while it may be nice weather for humans, maple trees like to wake up from winter slow. They like the days to be above freezing and the nights to be below freezing to get the most sap from the tree. It is what is called the “pumping” action of the freeze thaw cycle. I have started boiling my sap down to concentrate it into Maple syrup. I’ll explain how to do that on another page.