The 10 commandments of community gardens

Courtesy of City of Sydney, Australia

page-01The 10 commandments of community gardens

While each garden will have its own set of bespoke dos and don’ts, here are our top etiquette tips to be a gracious gardener.

1. Everyone’s welcome

You don’t need to know a scrap about gardening to join in, as long as you’re keen to learn. Seasoned gardeners are welcome too – they share their know-how and mentor the newbies.

2. Love lockdown

Let’s face it, life can be hectic. Work steps up a notch, kids take priority, small bars pop up. Keep it simple by only planting the crops you love. You’ll be more likely to make the time to nurture them.

3. Be a neat freak

Nobody likes an unloved, weedy garden, so if you fall behind, get sick or take a trip, ask your fellow gardeners to step in and do your bit. If you find you can’t cope, let someone know so another eager beaver can take your spot.

4. Get stuck in

Pretty obvious huh, but if you’re lucky enough to be offered a spot at your local garden, make the most of it! It’s community gardening 101.

5. Surround sound

There’s usually a hive of activity going on in your local garden, but cranking classic rock from your radio won’t win you many friends. Consult other gardeners on your ultimate playlist before you hook up the stadium speakers. After all, this is your time to channel Mother Nature.

6. Small people and furry friends

Most gardens welcome little ones with open gardening gloves, but a wild child just spoils it for everyone. Keep an eye on them and reap the rewards of giving them a place to dig and watch things grow. It’s a good idea to ask if four-legged companions are OK too.

7. Go natural

Most community gardens are organic. If bugs, diseases and nasties abound, ask your fellow gardeners how to deal with them the natural way. Who knew snails hate eggshells?

8. Thou shalt not steal

Don’t take the bounty of others unless they’ve said it’s OK. Same goes for borrowing their tools. It’s a good idea to harvest as you go, leaving nothing to temptation. If it’s a collective garden, you’ll agree as a group as to who takes what, when.

9. Learn and grow

Look online, stick your nose in a book or best of all, talk to other gardeners about new ways to garden. You’ll be wowing friends and family with your growing prowess in no time.

10. Introduce yourself

Most importantly, get to know your fellow gardenites. You’ll have someone to swap vegies with, help out when you’re stuck, and a new bunch of fresh-food-loving-friends in your ‘hood to boot.


Why Not to Plant to Early in the Spring

frost damaged tomatoes.jpg
Frost-damaged plants
I have a sad story and a word of caution to share with you. One of my “most favorite” customers misread the weather app and planted the tomatoes in the garden yesterday.Unfortunately, they froze last night. At my house, we didn’t get frost. Everyone has microclimates at their house. My garden area is probably about 5 degrees cooler than up by the house. Keep that in mind when you plant.
I don’t recommend that you plant until mid-May in the Spokane area because our weather is so unpredictable. We are all anxious to get started planting after the long, cold, dreary winter but just because it is warm during the day doesn’t mean it is warmer at night. (That’s where it pays to know your microclimate) If you do have them out, cover them for a few degrees of protection if it’s going to be below 32 degrees. If they’ve only been in the ground for a day or two and you know frost is coming, pull them out and put them back into their pots. They won’t have started spreading their roots yet.
This is a picture of when we used buckets to cover the plants. It provides a few degrees of protection. They still froze, see the story in next paragraph.
One last thing, if they get touched by frost, they will look dreadful, kinda like canned spinach when the sun hits them. Don’t be in a hurry to rip them out of the earth. One year the same thing happened in the first week June (I mean really???) to our garden. I cried, said some not so nice words and left them in. They recovered and grew as big as before! Unless we have several days of killing frost and the ground freezes, give them a chance.

Bi-Color and Striped Tomatoes Color My World

As an artist, I am in love with color! Any color. Of course my favorite is purple but I almost equal opportunity when it comes other colors; my clothes, my vegetables, my flowers etc.

Todays post is about colored tomatoes – striped ones to be exact. When I started choosing my own seeds for tomatoes many, many years ago, I thought there were only red, round ones. Boy, was I surprised when I started looking at the seed catalogs. Red, purple, black, yellow, orange, pink, bicolors, green, striped, white, cream, and now “blue”. And the shapes: round, heart-shaped, sausage-shaped, fluted, grape-shaped, blocky oblong, the list goes on.

After 20 years of choosing, I’ve come to the conclusion that my favorites are usually not red. Stripes and bi-colors float my boat. No too come in the same color. Here are a couple that I especially love.


This is Speckled Roman, a paste tomato. It is reddish orangish with yellowish stripes. Good flavor.


This one is a cherry tomato called Blush, a real beauty, with bright yellow skin suffused with red streaks. It has a lovely sweet-tart taste when you bite into it.


Here we have Ananis Noir. It means black pineapple in french and was a sport of Pineapple in someones garden. I am glad they cultivated it. Admittedly, outside isn’t all that attractive to my eyes, but the inside is gorgeous, fruity and juicy. And, they can get pretty big as you can see by the numbers on the scale.


Orange Russian, on of the first bicolors I’ve tried. they are considered an oxheart, but like all heirlooms, their shapes and size can differ on the same plant. This one is a lovely orangish-yellow with reddish highlights, even on the inside.


Bunblebee is a cherry and comes in many colors with striping. Sweet and pretty!


Chocolate Stripes – Brick red with greenish stripes. Juicy and sweet with dark colored interior. Yum!


Lucky Tiger, cherry, originally a customer request. I’m glad I grew it for her. It is now one of my husband’s favorites along with Sungold. Golden green when ripe with green and reddish-yellow striping. Great taste.

roman candle 2012roman-candle-2012.jpg

Roman Candle, a paste. Definitely easy to find, it seems to light up the interior of the plant! Bright yellow, sometimes with green shoulders, more often than not it has faint green stripes. Makes good sauce and brightens up any salad or salsa.

gold medal trio

Gold Medal, a bi-color. Good flavor, yellowish orange with red blushing. Shows up on the inside and is sweet and juicy.

isis candy

Isis Candy, another bi-color cherry, this one round, often times with a white starburst on the underside. Very prolific, a favorite of my kids when they were still at home.


Fred’s Tye Dye, a tomato developed by The Dwarf Tomato Project. There was a desire for a larger tomato on a smaller plant, especially good for a large container or small space gardening. The plant gets to about 4 feet tall with a massive stalk (sometimes they are called tree tomatoes), and dark green leaves. the color is perfect, dark red with metallic green stripes. Love this one!

pink berkeley tie dye cat

Last but least is Pink Berkeley Tye Dye. this is a Wild Boar introduction. A gentleman named Brad Gates, started breeding for striped and bicolor tomatoes. He has an amazing collection of them now. I think this one is an amazing tomato, with dark pink coloring and metallic green stripes.

Anyway you slice them, these beautiful and tasty tomatoes!

Here are some pictures of the newly transplanted babies, tomato babies. Just in case you thought I was sitting on my laurels! I try not to transplant until they have there first true leaves. It takes them 4 to 7 days to germinate, then another week to grow their true leaves I have found there is no real point to transplanting any earlier than that. Often, when you do, they fail to thrive. There isn’t enough root system to recover well.


Here are the two greenhouses almost full of plants. I will be transplanting about 2000 more in about a week. Again, waiting for them to get their true leaves.

Now for some individual pictures


A Quest for the Gros Michel, the Great Banana of Yesteryear

Who knew this about bananas?

The forgotten, flavorsome Big Mike is elusive, but not impossible to find.

A colorized 1902 photograph shows a banana cart in Detroit

A colorized 1902 photograph shows a banana cart in Detroit LIBRARY OF CONGRESS/LC-D4-19576

Just below the end of Wall Street, at the tip of Lower Manhattan where the island meets the furthest estuaries of the green-grey Atlantic, there are no bananas. I’m around a hundred years too late: In the early 20th century, so many boats bearing bushels of bananas arrived at this spot that the Old Slip piers became known as the Banana Docks, as ships laden with bananas came in to land.

In the shops nearby, admittedly, there are a few—lurid yellow Cavendishes occasionally making an appearance behind the glass sheet windows of Starbucks, or for a buck apiece on the street corner from a local vendor. Unfortunately, the Cavendish will not do. I am here for the Gros Michel—the OG banana that was the standard across the United States from 1870, when it sold for $2 a bunch in Jersey City, until the late 1950s, when the ruinous fungus Panama disease all but wiped it out.

For decades, the Gros Michel banana was the standard in the United States and across the world.
For decades, the Gros Michel banana was the standard in the United States and across the world. WELLCOME COLLECTION/CC BY 4.0

I am on a quest across New York City for the Gros Michel, the Big Mike, the banana that launched a thousand pratfalls. Online, people speak of it in revered digital tones: “I am absolutely dying to try one,” one banana forum user writes, promising to pay “an arm and a leg” for them. Another claims they are so delicious that regular Cavendish bananas are disgusting by comparison. Today, the banana is virtually gone from the consumer market in the United States—finding it will be at best a challenge, and perhaps impossible.


It wasn’t always the case: The Gros Michel was once everywhere. When America fell in love with the banana, this is the fruit that captured its heart. The alchemist who first produced the banana split used a Gros Michel; the chemist who produced artificial banana flavor allegedly had it in mind as well. When Eddie Cantor sings “Yes, We Have No Bananas,” it is Big Mike he’s singing about. In New York, for enough money, you can get nearly anything: dice made of camel bonesa purple latex executioner’s hood; half a cow, sliced lengthways. But can you get a Gros Michel banana?

New York's Banana Docks were once located at the end of Wall Street.
New York’s Banana Docks were once located at the end of Wall Street. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS/LC-D401-19576

My first port of call is the internet. I’m by no means the first person to search for this, and strangers online have a few ideas about where I should be looking. A Reddit user thinks she’s seen them for sale in Chinatown. It seems sensible enough: If you can get pomelo and dragon fruit, lychees and longans, perhaps you can get a rare banana as well.

When Panama disease crept across the world in the first half of the 20th century, only a few places in a few countries were spared the blight that blackened bananas from the inside out. The few countries that still produce the Gros Michel today mostly do so under another name: Thihmwe in Myanmar, Johnson in Cuba, Pisang Ambon in Malaysia. In Hawai’i, it is commercially grown as Bluefields. The world’s largest banana firms don’t sell it—Chiquita, Dole and Del Monte have their hands full with Cavendishes—so any fruit with a recognizable blue and yellow sticker is automatically out. (This is helpful as, from pictures and YouTube video taste tests, the Gros Michel looks near indistinguishable from the Cavendish.)

Photographs of banana blossoms and fruit growing in Florida in 1888.
Photographs of banana blossoms and fruit growing in Florida in 1888. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS/LC-DIG-STEREO-1S09786

It’s possible that some Gros Michels under another name have slipped into a shipment of fruit from Thailand or Indonesia, therefore—and that’s what I’m banking on. Down on Forsyth Street, in the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge, Chinese-speaking vendors sell frilly green cabbage for a dollar a pound. It is just days after Chinese New Year, and supplies of fruit and vegetables seem lower than usual, though pouting red strawberries are selling like hotcakes. Barely a banana to speak of—just a fan of green phalanges, unceremoniously dumped in a cardboard box. I look closer at their stickers. They’re Del Monte. Back to the drawing board.

Back in Brooklyn, specialist fruit stores, markets and street vendors are all selling glossy Cavendishes, custard and green and as flawless as an emoji. (A fruit seller, speaking to the New York Times, described the less ripe version as the Millennial banana; older generations apparently prefer them golden-yellow and flecked with brown, like in the extremely suggestive Chiquita banana commercial.) The Cavendish, in fact, is just about the only banana commercially sold in the city, and the country, with the average American eating over 100 a year.

Cavendish bananas being sold in New York's Chinatown.
Cavendish bananas being sold in New York’s Chinatown. NATASHA FROST/ATLAS OBSCURA

As the Gros Michel went down, banana producers scrabbled for a variety that they could replace it with—one that, like the Gros Michel, shipped easily, grew readily, and could handle the odd bump and bruise in the packing process. In 1961, producers plumped for the Cavendish. Descended from a plant grown in a Devonshire hothouse 180 years ago, it takes its name from the family name of its Duke and Duchess. It was a compromise, says Dan Koeppel, author of Banana, The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World. The Cavendish is not as hardy as the Gros Michel, leading to changes in how the bananas were boxed and bagged. It is also not quite as delicious, he says. “Chiquita and Dole definitely worried that consumers would reject the Cavendish because it didn’t taste as good.”

Eight years after Cavendishes started being grown commercially, they became the standard in American stores. But this revolution in the banana industry seems to have made little impact on consumers. Today, a slight change of recipe for a commercial foodstuff provokes petitionspublic outcry, and much media coverage—but there was barely a peep from banana-munchers whose Gros Michels were entirely replaced by Cavendishes in the early 1960s.

By the time <em>The Velvet Underground and Nico</em> came out in 1966, the Gros Michel was gone from stores.
By the time The Velvet Underground and Nico came out in 1966, the Gros Michel was gone from stores. YANN CARADEC/CC BY-SA 2.0

To Koeppel’s mind, and palate, it’s simply because they don’t taste that different. He likens them to vanilla ice-cream. The Cavendish might be a five-gallon tub from the back of the supermarket freezer; the Gros Michel only one step up from that. Neither one, he says, is exactly Haagen-Dazs. “The Gros Michel is a better tasting banana. I don’t think there’s any question about that. But it’s not a million miles ahead of Cavendish,” he says. “There are many, many varieties that are astonishingly good, where you would notice a difference immediately.” None of these more delicious bananas fit the bill from a shipping perspective, however—and so we are stuck with the McDonald’s hamburger of the banana world.

A Chinese friend, hearing of my search for the banana in Chinatown, suggests that I look in New York’s Thai grocery stores instead, along bustling Woodside Avenue, in Queens. Koeppel suspects I won’t find them there. (I don’t.) In countries where people eat many different kinds of bananas, like Thailand, he says, no one hankers for the Gros Michel. “Thailand, I guess, has 40 or 50 fairly common backyard banana varieties,” he says. Many are simply more delicious, like the diminutive “lady finger” Nu Meu Puying banana, or candy-sweet red varieties with a peel the color of lungs.

A 1918 photograph shows Gros Michel plants struck by Panama disease.
A 1918 photograph shows Gros Michel plants struck by Panama disease. PUBLIC DOMAIN

If banana giants like Dole and Del Monte were to offer a greater selection of bananas to customers, Koeppel says, they’d have to change the way they think about the fruit. At the moment, “it’s an industrial product. It’s all about scale and markets.” More delicious bananas are also more expensive to ship—requiring a cognitive shift in how consumers think about them. In short, we’d have to start thinking of bananas as fruit worth spending more than a few cents on. At the moment, only the Cavendish can promise that.

But how much longer the singular Cavendish will remain in our stores remains to be seen. For some time, it has teetered on the precipice of disaster, after a new incarnation of Panama disease began to wipe out crops in Asia in the late 1980s. In the years since, the fungus has destroyed African crops, Filipino plantations, bananas in China, Pakistan, Indonesia. This month alone, it struck a third commercial banana farm in Queensland, Australia. Cavendish bananas don’t have seeds inside—they’re clones of one another, no matter their provenance. But, like the Gros Michel before them, their monoculture makes them vulnerable to attack. Anything that will wipe out one plant will kill them all. The Cavendish’s days are numbered—unless they can be modified to fight off the plant cancer that has already felled so many.

There are a few options on the table. In Australia, scientists are attempting to “switch on” the gene that makes the Cavendish able to resist this particular blight. In Japan, they have engineered a new form of the Gros Michel, with a lettuce-like skin that fruit fans can simply bite into. (If this one were to become the norm, shipping practices would have to change dramatically, likely driving up prices.) But these, and other biotech options, again prioritize the monoculture that led us to this problem in the first place. Banana barons seem to have learned little from the demise of the Gros Michel, and are now finding themselves bitten by precisely the same bug. No one knows exactly when the Cavendish will come crashing down—Koeppel is reluctant to make any predictions—but it seems an inevitability.

A selection of Gros Michel bananas, grown in Florida.
A selection of Gros Michel bananas, grown in Florida. CHRIS NAKA/ATLAS OBSCURA

The day I speak to Koeppel, a FedEx box arrives on my desk from Miami. Inside are 26 bananas, each around four inches in length, of varying shades of chartreuse and canary yellow. Having given up on finding the Gros Michel in the wild, I’ve ordered it in from the Miami Fruit Company in South Florida, a tropical fruit grower with so many different bananas they’ll ship you an entire sampler of different varieties. I spend the next week waiting for them to ripen so I can hand them out to Atlas Obscura staff members and their banana-loving family members. “It’s not a taste revelation,” Koeppel has warned me on the phone. Visually, there’s no obvious difference—the inside of the skin is a little silkier, the stem, to my mind, slightly more delicate. Across a room, I’d definitely mistake them for a Cavendish.

Biting into the banana of yesteryear, I expect a more intensely tropical flavor and the vivid sweetness of artificial isoamyl acetate banana flavor. Instead, the fruit is tangy and complex. Everyone who eats one over the following week agrees: This is a superior banana, with a creamier texture and a more delicious flavor. I could eat three in one go, easily. But these bananas have not come cheap. Each costs about $2 a pop, which would get me at least a half-dozen at my local bodega.

One thing is for certain: The model of banana growing is likely to change. Small plantations like this one, where lots of different varieties are grown side by side, is one possibility, though one that would put an end to “Big Banana.” Moving from monoculture to multiculture is a more environmentally sound outcome, but one that may push bananas into a higher cost bracket. Whether consumers believe that to be a reasonable price is hard to say. If that is the eventual outcome of the Cavendish being scuppered, however, the specially grown Gros Michels on my desk may not be a vestige of the past, but the bananas of the future.

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Pepper House – Now Full! Transplanting Peppers When It Is 20 Degrees Outside

Disclaimer: Sorry about the quality of the pictures. I usually like them looking clearer but was in a hurry before it got too cold for me to run out to the greenhouse! Yes, I am a wuss!

Over the last three days, I have been transplanting peppers. Sweet bell peppers, sweet non-bells, Italian frying peppers, heirlooms, super hot peppers, medium hot and just plain hot peppers, All types, all colors. Right now it is about 20 degrees outside, There is still snow on the ground. In the greenhouse it is a balmy 60 degrees due to the sun being out and shining on me and my babies. I also transplanted some schizanthus, cinnamon basil, million bells, alyssum and petunias.

I had a hard time getting into my groove as The Tomato Lady. Not sure why but as soon as I got my hands into the potting soil, I started getting into the swing of it. Nothing says spring like green plants. The knowledge that each one of those itty bitty plants was going to become a large plant giving us good things to eat in the summer just amazes me!

SCHIZANTHUS Baby and in full bloom

And the flowers are even better to work with. Those are truly tiny and they will be gracing mine and your yards at a future date flooding the landscape with color and scents.


The basil is giving back already. As I put each of them into larger homes, the myriad of aromas tickled my nose. Especially the cinnamon, one of my favorites. I like to mix it with fresh tomatoes, sweet onion and little bit of garlic and make a light, fresh sauce for pasta.

The count on peppers so far is 1210 pots with maybe an additional 30 pots coming from late “germinators                 .


How to Test the Germination Rate of Your Old Seeds – Courtesy of You Grow Girl

This is an excellent article on testing the germination rate of seeds. If you are like me, I am always saving seeds I buy, seeds I collect from my garden, seeds I save from other folk’s plants… Sometimes I feel the need to test the germination rate of seeds I buy from commercial seed houses! Occasionally I get no or little germination on a seed packet.

How to Test the Germination Rate of Your Old Seeds

I love to buy, collect, save, and trade seed, but I have to admit that I do not go about it in a particularly organized fashion. While I am careful about where and how I store my seeds and I do have my own “it’s all in my head” system, it doesn’t exactly compare to some of the personal seed banks I have seen. I do not have Excel charts or lists of any kind that track what I have and when I got it. If I’m being honest, I often don’t realize I am out of a particular something or other unless I bother to check ahead of time. However, most years that moment doesn’t come until I am in the act of sowing. Whoops, guess I won’t be growing that this year.  For this reason, it’s not uncommon for me to find packets in my stash that are older than I can remember. Most store-bought seeds have a “packed for” date on them, but I receive a lot of seed in trade, and some of those traders are even less organized than me. The seed of some plants last no more than a year or so. If I find an unmarked, rogue packet of onions or leeks I can be nearly certain that they are junk. Tomatoes seem to last forever, so if I find a packet of unknown origin that I’d like to grow, it’s worth spending the time to test its germination rate.A germination test determines the viability of the seed — how many in a packet will reliably germinate. This is important because the window of opportunity to get some crops sown and growing can be short. I’ve lost the chance to grow a specific variety some years because I sowed and then waited on seed that wouldn’t grow.Germination rate can also provide a gauge of a seed’s vigor. I explain what this is below.

How to Test for Germination Rate
There are lots of ways to go about this. Some people use paper towels. I use coffee filters because I find it easier to see the germinated seeds and their roots should I opt to plant those that have germinated. Fragile roots and leaves tend to disappear in the pile of paper towels.

What You Need:
Coffee filters
Plastic baggies
10 Seeds (per test)
Permanent marker

Cut or tear the coffee filter along the bottom and one side seam. Lightly moisten with water so that it is moist, but not sopping wet. I sometimes use a spray bottle but you can also just dip it into a bowl of water and squeeze it out.

Open the filter up flat and lay out 10 seeds on one half. You do not have to do 10 seeds at a time, but it makes figuring out the germination rate a heck of a lot easier. Spread the seeds out so that they aren’t touching. I do this so that there is less chance that their roots will become entangled should I decide to plant them up.

Fold the half of the coffee filter that does not have seeds over onto the side that does.

Fold the bottom half up.

Place the moist and folded coffee filter inside a baggie and seal. Write the variety name and the date you started the test on the outside of the baggie. I write this onto sticker labels so I can reuse the baggies in further testing.

Place the sealed and labelled baggies in a warm place and check on them every few days to see whether germination has occurred. Some seeds may require more time. Some may also require light in order to germinate, or more heat.

Tip: The majority of the seeds I test do well in a kitchen or utility drawer that is used often. Otherwise I have a tendency to forget about them! I also put a sticky note on the front of the drawer as an added reminder to keep checking the seeds! Hot peppers tend to need more heat, so I keep them on top of a reliably warm (but not hot) appliance.

The rate is determined by the number of seeds out of 10 that have germinated. For example, 6 out of 10 seeds = 60% 3 out of 10 = 30% and so on.

You can go ahead and plant any seedling that have germinated into soil just as you would a seed. Don’t bother trying to remove the seedling from the paper — you risk damaging delicate roots. Instead, tear the paper around the plant. (Note: If your seedlings have browned roots like mine do in the above photo then I would not suggest planting them up. I left those too long and the roots were starting to rot.)

Loss of Vigor: Seeds that fall below 70% germination tend to suffer from a loss of vigor that will increase with each passing year. What this means is that even though many of them will still germinate, the seedlings that develop may not be healthy or develop into strong, vital plants. If the percentage isn’t too low you may decide to take a chance and see how the seedlings develop. It should be easy enough to determine which are suffering. However, if you’re planning to save seed from this plant for future crops then you may want to replace the seed now. Unhealthy plants beget unhealthy plants and since you’re going to the effort, it is worth it to start out with the best of the best.

Please note that some varieties suffer from a poor germination rate even when new and healthy, so it’s important to know your plant/variety.

Tip: I keep all of my seed testing equipment (including the used baggies) together with my seed saving equipment in one of the dollar store containers that I use for organizing seed. That way I have it on hand whenever I need it.

Source: How to Test the Germination Rate of Your Old Seeds – You Grow Girl

What Happened to the First Chair Grown From Living Trees? – Atlas Obscura

The fully grown chair (left), and Krubsack sitting in it as it grew (right). 

I know this has absolutely nothing to do with tomatoes but this is fascinating…and it has to do with gardening and the natural world right? Enjoy!

What Happened to the First Chair Grown From Living Trees?
On the hunt for a pioneering piece of furniture.


SOMETIMES IF YOU’RE LUCKY, YOU stumble across corner of the world that immediately captures your imagination. Last summer, when I got into the world of tree shaping—the practice of coaxing trees into sculptures and structures, useful and otherwise—I wanted to know everything I could about it. Eventually, I visited and wrote about a small company in England, Full Grown, that is working to grow an entire forest of chairs, tables, and other furniture. But a small mystery remained, one that I couldn’t let go of: What happened to the original “Chair That Grew,” the first chair coaxed from growing trees?

The first person to mention this chair to me was Richard Reames, author of Arborsculpture, who practiced tree shaping for many years.

In the first decade of the 20th century, he said, a man named John Krubsack started to grow a chair. It required 32 trees and 11 years, but his quixotic idea worked, and eventually, in 1914, he harvested it.* “That chair went on to the World’s Fair—it was the chair that lived,” Reames said. “He was the first known person to grow a successful chair.”

Later, I came across the chair again: Full Grown’s founder, Gavin Munro, keeps a picture of it in their office. I found an entry on it, too, in Atlas Obscura’s collection of unusual places. But there I learned a troubling fact. The chair seemed to have been lost: “‘The Chair That Grew’ was last seen at the entrance of Noritage Furniture, owned by Krubsack’s descendants, Steve and Dennis Krubsack. The store recently closed, and the fate of the chair is unknown.”

This chair means a great deal to some of the people following Krubsack’s example today, so I decided to find it. I began asking around among the tree shapers I’d met to determine if anyone had been in contact with the Krubsack family. One of them passed along an old email for Steve. Did he still have the chair? Had it been destroyed, misplaced, or sold? I hoped he’d be able to tell me, one way or another. While I waited to see if he would reply to my email, I started to follow the only other lead in this mystery—the town of Embarrass, Wisconsin, where John Krubsack once lived, the chair’s last known location

The Embarrass River.

Krubsack was born in Wisconsin’s Dodge County, but spent most of his life in Waupaca County, where he had a farm in Embarrass. (The town’s name comes from the French verb embarrasser, which can mean “to hinder or slow down”—apparently the river through town is not easy to navigate.) When John Krubsack lived in Embarrass, the population hovered below 300 people. It’s been close to 500, and is around 400 today. The town has a Main Street and a High Street, a couple of bars, a feed store, and a vintage store in a historic church building.

The chair lived for decades in a plexiglass case in Noritage Furniture. When I called the Waupaca chamber of commerce, they said they’d never heard of the chair, in part because Embarrass is on the other end of the county. I should try the Clintonville chamber of commerce, they told me.

Clintonville is an order of magnitude bigger than Embarrass, but still a small place. The woman who picked up the phone there, Jackie, knew exactly what I was asking after: She used to work for Noritage. But she had no idea what happened to the chair. All she knew was that the Krubsack brothers are still alive.

While researching Embarrass, I found another potential clue. After Noritage closed in 2007, a nearby auction company advertised liquidation sales, with real estate, equipment, and furniture available. Had the tree chair gone to auction?

I was about to call the auction company when Steve Krubsack emailed back—a couple weeks after I’d reached out. The chair, he assured me, was still in the family. After Noritage closed, “the Chair That Grew was retained,” he wrote. His brother, in Clintonville, still has it.

He gave me a phone number, and I eagerly called Dennis Krubsack, sensing the end of my month-long quest. I imagined that the chair was kept in a corner of a spacious house, the subject of family lore and legend. I wondered what would happen to it in the long run, whether the family planned to keep it forever or had made any plans for its long-term preservation.But when I got Dennis Krubsack on the phone, I was disappointed: He didn’t want to talk about it. The chair, it seems, had brought him little but bother—unwanted attention from visitors ringing his doorbell or people, like me, calling him on the phone.

Axel Erlandson and his Four-Legged Giant.

I am glad to know the chair is not lost, but I can’t help but feel sad that its heir doesn’t want any attention paid to it. It reminds me of the fate of the incredible trees shaped by Axel Erlandson, a pioneer in the field. After he died, his “Tree Circus” was forgotten, and his trees, left unwatered, started to die. They’re around today only because Mark Primack, whose interest in botanical architecture led him to the surviving trees, saved them.

Erlandson sold the land that held his trees to someone outside his family, which makes their situation different than the chair’s. Many families have heirlooms that pass from generation from generation, but most of those have little interest or value to outsiders. It just so happens that Dennis Krubsack’s is a chair that grew out of the ground. It’s rare that someone across an ocean—Munro, who is growing the orchard of furniture—would keep a picture of one of your family’s heirlooms on his desk.

There’s an argument to be made that the chair should be in a museum, or a collection where it can be made accessible to the public. But it is a strange object, and there’s no guarantee that any museum would see its value, or that people passionate about tree shaping today can ensure its long-term preservation. The Krubsack family has kept the chair safe for more than a century. I hope they continue to keep it safe for decades to come.

*This sentence has been updated to add the year the chair was harvested.

Source: What Happened to the First Chair Grown From Living Trees? – Atlas Obscura

Behind the Scenes: Planting Peppers Seeds,, Petunias, Lobelia, Alyssum, Pansies and Million Bells


Here you are looking about 1000 or so peppers seeds.


Here I am planting pepper seeds and some flowers. I planted 50 different varieties of peppers, superhots, sweet bell, non sweet bells, hot and medium hot peppers. I was scared to death to touch the seeds from the superhots so I used tweezers to place them in the seedling pots. My luck, I would have touched them and then my eye, not thinking! Ouch! This was on January 15. They have almost all come up now. We have a ton of baby jalapenos. For all of my seeds I use a sterile seed starting mix and clean single pots. Damping off is an ugly thing!


This is how my pelletized petunia seed came. It is put into a gel cap, and looks sort of like Contact cold medicine. Depending on variety, there are 5 to 10 seeds. I love working with it in this form, much easier to not over sow. In it’s “wild” form, it is like brown dust. You might think you used 25 seed but in reality, you just dispensed 349 seeds!


Such tiny little seeds.


Petunia and Million Bells seeds don’t like to be covered. They need light to germinate. Peppers on the other hand need a thin scattering of seed starting mix over them. Always read your seed packet to see what the light requirements are for germination.


Million Bells is another one that I like to work with pelletized. They are coated with a clay like substance. the seed lays on top (press into the seed starting mix) and wet with water. This softens the clay coat and they are able to germinate. I use tweezers to distribute as evenly as I can so they can grow after germinating and not crowd each other. They take a long time to obtain a size that I like transplanting. I have found there is no point in rushing them.


5 Great Tomatoes for Cool Climates | Veggie Gardener (With Commentary from The Tomato Lady!)

this is a good article that I got in my email. it showcases early tomatoes. I  have grown all of these but Novia. I am carrying SubArctic, Legend, and Black Prince. Look for my My Two Cents Worth: I will tell you my thoughts on the variety.

Here’s a tip for early tomatoes. I will try it and let you know how it works. Or you can try it and let me know how it works for you. Flick the blossoms (they are self pollinating) or take a cotton swab/paint brush to pollinate your early tomatoes. Sometimes we don’t have the necessary wind or the bees aren’t out yet so they aren’t being pollinated, therefore no fruit. I don’t know why I never thought of this myself!

Tomatoes are very adaptive plants, and can produce fruit in a wide variety of climates and regions. Whether you live in zone 4 or in zone 10, you can grow tomatoes without too much trouble.Although this is true it is important to choose varieties that are well-matched for the climate you live in for the best results. Some tomato varieties perform best in very warm climates, while others are bred for better production in cooler climates.If you live in a cool climate (from zone 6 to zone 4) here are five tomato varieties that should thrive for your area.

Northern Exposure

Northern Exposure is a determinate tomato variety that performs very well in cool climates. They are generally ready to pick in about 67 days after transplanting outside which is great for shorter seasons.The compact size of this tomato plant makes them perfect for containers. According to my sources it is now sold on Burpee seed racks as Burpee Early Harvest Hybrid. I honestly don’t know why they change the names! My Two Cents Worth: I have grown this for sale but not put it in my own garden (I only have so much garden space). I have heard from my customers that they love this tomato. It is a very healthy plant in my greenhouse.


Sub Arctic

With a name like Sub Arctic you know this tomato does well in cooler, short climates. It is a determinate variety that produces four ounce tomatoes in about 42 days after transplanting.Ideal for short seasons in the north, or for a quick harvest in southern vegetable gardens. My Two Cents Worth: I love this tomato. Grew it for years but never put it in my garden until I had a leftover plant. I put it into an enormous container and loved, loved, loved it. They are a smaller tomato, about the size of a ping pong ball, sometimes larger and very sweet and bright red. I am offering this one this year.


The Legend tomato is another variety that produces well in cool climates and is resistant to late blight.It produces large fruit that can measure four to five inches in diameter and are a bright, glossy red color. This is one of the earliest maturing slicing tomatoes available. My Two Cents Worth: This is a lovely tomato, good flavor, consistent size, shape and color. Plus, it doesn’t want to take over the world. In my garden the fruit didn’t get to 5″ across but about the size of baseballs. I am offering this one this year.


The Novia tomato variety is an indeterminate that produces seven to nine ounce fruit and is very disease resistant.They contain a high level of lycopene which is a beneficial antioxidant. These tomatoes perform well in cooler climates, but can also be grown as far south as zone 9.

Black Prince

The Black Prince tomato variety comes from Siberia, so you know it is used to some cold weather and short seasons.This heirloom tomato features medium-sized fruit that are a deep red with green to purplish shoulders. They are loved for their rich, almost smoky tomato flavor and excellent hardiness in cold temperatures. My Two Cents Worth: This is very pretty tomato. One of those that are considered “black” Mine were a dark, dusky puprle with green shoulders and about the size of large eggs. The inside is a  beautiful dark red and the taste is good but I honestly don”t get the “smokey”  flavor. I think that is a trick of the mind!  I am offering this one this year.

Source: 5 Great Tomatoes for Cool Climates | Veggie Gardener