Don’t you just love an enigmatic title?
Search Engine Optimization – whatever – you can’t make me stopping playing with words or exploring random associations that so often lead to good ideas and make me think.
Like today for instance. I sowed eggplant seed in my pooh pots; eggplants need about 80 F. to germinate so I needed to keep them under a cloche in my warmest window. My cloche is round, ergo I’ll need a round tray – bingo, the family silver languishing in the basement!
Let me back up for those who have a rough time following my admittedly wonky thought processes.
First, Cowpots are biodegradable pots made of cow pooh; yes, you heard me! They are perfect for starting seeds or potting up tiny transplants. Once it’s warm enough, gardeners can plant the CowPot and its contents into the garden. The CowPot will provide a little nitrogen as it breaks down and roots grow right through it. I recieved a box of sample pooh pots at last summer’s Garden Writers Convention; this is what passes for swag at my sort of gathering. Here’s a statement from the official Cow Pots press release:
The invention of necessity, CowPots were created by brothers Matt and Ben Freund on their dairy farm in the sleepy northwest hills of Connecticut. “What started as an idea over eight years ago around our kitchen table- on how to turn cow manure into pots – has turned into these really beneficial pots you plant,” explains Matt Freund.
The manure is dried, completely composted, mixed with natural fibers and pressed into pots. Once planted, it attracts earthworms and is good for the garden soil overall. And unlike peat, which is mined from bog eco-systems, or plastic which is derived from finite fossil sources, cow manure is a renewable resource.
The production process eliminates weed seeds as well as pathogens and offensive odors. The liquid goes back to the field to grow next year’s crops which feed the cows, who make the pots.
“We’re protecting the environment by turning brown into the new green,” says Freund.
I can’t wait to start my corn seedlings in these babies as I think the additional shot of nitrogen will be a valuable nutritional boost at transplanting time. But I’m getting ahead of myself; it’s way too early to think of sowing corn. At 6 weeks out from (hopefully) warm weather, now is the time to start eggplants indoors.
Eggplant is a tropical perennial with lush foliage, starry purple flowers and glossy deep purple, maroon, white, orange, green or striped fruit. An ornamental edible powerhouse. My plan is to mingle several eggplant plants among my Saliva nemerosa ‘Cardonna’ with it’s dark purple black stems and violet-purple flowers and Geranium pratense ‘Victor Reider’ , a somewhat promiscuous but tough hardy geranium with deep purple foliage and brilliant lavender-blue flowers in summer. Victor seeds around but I find that just provides me with good replacement plants for when the parents grow weary – a sustainable rather than annoying habit.
At any rate I’m looking forward to the color play among the plants not to mention the delicious glossy purple fruit which is delicious quickly grilled. (ahhh, summer, are you out there? It’s me, a hungry gardener.)
Oriental Eggplants which include Thai, Japanese, Chinese and Indian varieties – are hardier than the globular aubergine, and produce twice as many smaller fruits in a much shorter season, making them a good choice for short- and cool-season growers.
Eggplants thrive in well-drained, sandy, very rich soil amended with copious amount of manure. Start seed indoors in March or April at 75-90 F. Transplant into the garden 6-8 weeks later, well past the last frost date, and provide a plastic tunnel or cloche for additional heat and shelter from cold winds.
The above passage is an excerpt from my newest book “Growing Your Own Vegetables“, soon to arrive on bookstore shelves from Sasquatch Books. Yes, I’m going to be insufferable and work in tasty tidbits of whenever I can, it’s what I do!
Back to seed sowing, eggplants and cowpots. I’ve been hunting for ‘Slim Jim’ eggplant seed, a supposedly especially beautiful, purple leafed variety with very small, 3-4″ fruits. They had me at the purple leaves but given that I wasn’t finding the seed through any of my local nurseries and mail ordering it was going to add $5 to the price of the seed, I decided to go with Territorial’s ‘Millionaire‘, an extra early variety with supposedly delicious, sweet fruit and very few bitter seeds. I’m trying not to let this ornamental edible kick get in the way of my actually gardening, terribly mature of me don’t you think? Those of you still placing seed orders can get ‘Slim Jim’ through Cooks Garden Seed.
The coming week promises to bring 5 days of sunny skies, and average to above average temperatures to our Puget Sound region – FINALLY! My eggplant seedlings are snug in a sunny window in their pooh pots on a silver pedestal beneath a plastic cloche. A fine mixture of high brow, aesthetics and practicality; making do with what’s around the house.
Give CowPots a try. Locally they are available at Molbaks in Woodinville, Bainbridge Gardens on Bainbridge Island, and Windmill Nursery in Sumner. They can also be ordered online; check out their website if only for their clever UTube video, “Dirty Jobs”, complete with studdly farmers and darling cows.