February E-News from Viette's                     Volume 11: No. 2

Lori Jones, Editor                                                                                       February/2015

Vegetable harvest with heirlooms
Plan a Successful Vegetable Garden

February is a perfect time
to browse through your seed catalogs and choose some unique and delicious new vegetables to grow!  
Quick Links
Plant of the Month
White and pink orchid
Orchids - Beauty Indoors

Orchids are beautiful tropical plants with stunning blooms. In the past, orchids were considered hard to grow, exotic plants and were only produced by a small number of specialty growers. Recently, however, their popularity has "blossomed" and they are more widely grown. Many beautiful varieties are now available from most full-service garden stores and even in some grocery and home stores. With their beautiful, long-lasting blooms and widespread availability, orchids have probably surpassed poinsettias as the most popular indoor plant in American homes.  

Beautiful magenta orchid
Orchids were one of Martin Viette's (Andre's father) favorite plants. He grew many different varieties in his 10-acre tropical gardens in St. Thomas, USVI. His favorite was a beautiful white Phalaenopsis.

Phalaenopsis orchids
Phalaenopsis orchids are one of the easiest of all the orchid types to grow as they usually grow quite well under the conditions found in most homes. They are found in a wide variety of colors including white, pink, lavender, and yellow. Some have interesting stippled or striped accents on the petals and sepals.  

Yellow phalaenopsis orchid
The center of this phalaenopsis orchid looks like an angel!

The beautiful 2" - 5" flowers open sequentially from buds which form along arching flower spikes. These flower stems need support so be sure to provide a plant stake that you can attach them to. Many types of orchids, including Phalaenopsis, will bloom for 3 months or more. The flower stems often produce branches full of additional flower buds which will prolong the bloom period. Individual flowers can last up to a month on the plant!

Orchid flower scape branching
A tremendous number of flowers can be produced from just one stem.
Orchid Care
Phalaenopsis orchids prefer the bright light of an east or west facing window but they can also tolerate low light conditions. Avoid locations where they will be exposed to bright noon-day sun. Orchids grow best when the humidity levels are between 40 - 60%. During the winter, when the air tends to be drier in the home, it can be advantageous to set the pots in a tray of moist gravel but do not allow the pots to sit in water.
New stem forming
A new flower stem is forming.
A gray aerial root grows below.
not over-water orchids! Water them thoroughly and then let the planting medium approach dryness before watering again - about once every week or 10 days depending on the temperature and humidity levels where they are growing. I have found that the easiest way to water is to put 3-4 ice cubes in the pot once a week. It's easy and seems to work well.
orchids with half strength orchid or African violet fertilizer about once a week in the summer and once every other week in the winter.
Aerial Roots

The aerial roots of orchids are important for providing the plant with essential water and nutrients from the atmosphere. It is important to leave these on the plant - do not trim them or cut them off. I think they add to the uniqueness and charm of these beautiful plants!
Orchid aerial roots
Never remove aerial roots
The Bottom Line
Growing orchids is easier than you might think and well worth a try. They will bring long-lasting color into your home!
Watch Mark's video tips on growing orchids.
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Gardening Questions?
Andre  answers a listener's question during a broadcast of 'In the Garden'
Listen to Andre
on the radio every Saturday morning from 8:00-11:00 on 
"In the Garden  
with Andre Viette"
Click for a station list or listen live from our flagship station WSVA in Harrisonburg, VA.
Listen to podcasts of the show.    
Viette Discussion Board
Tip of the Month
Planning a Vegetable Garden? 
Vegetable harvest
Plant a variety of vegetables and include a few heirloom varieties
It's that time of the year again when our attention turns to spring and ideas and plans begin to hatch for the planting of our vegetable gardens. The holidays are over and the seed catalogs are appearing in our mailboxes and inboxes.
The time has come to spread all these catalogs out over the kitchen table or sit in front of the computer and explore all the possibilities for new additions to your vegetable garden or perhaps just to mark your tried and true favorites. Every year, there are some really exciting new varieties of vegetables available and in most cases you will only be able to find these in catalogs or online.
The delicious, wholesome crops you grow will lead to healthier eating habits and tending a vegetable garden, whatever the size, is great exercise. Plus, home-grown vegetables tend be of high quality and have fantastic flavor when fresh picked.
The trick to having a really great vegetable garden is to plan ahead. This is especially true if you have only a small space to work with (as small as 10' x 10').   
First time vegetable garden?
  • Be sure to choose a good location that gets plenty of sun (at least 6 hours of direct sunlight). For convenience, consider placing your garden near a source of water.
  • Don't be too ambitious! Choose a plot size that is manageable. Take it from me, there is nothing more discouraging than a large garden that has more weeds than vegetables!       
Getting ready to start tomato seeds
Getting ready to start
some tomato seeds
Choosing Seed
There are some really exciting new varieties of vegetables available but in most cases you will only find these new and different vegetable seeds in catalogs or online.
  • Purchasing vegetable seeds from a seed company will give you a huge selection to choose from that you won't find in most garden stores.
  • Order your seeds early so they arrive in time to start some crops indoors to get a jump on the season.
  • Click for some of Andre and Mark's favorite seed companies.
Succession Planting
You can grow a continuous supply of vegetables in a small space if you plan carefully, map out your garden space for the whole season, and plant a succession of crops.
  • Plan the space you are able to allot to each vegetable, then divide this space into 2-4 sections depending on how many crops you have time to grow (check the days to harvest to make sure your last crop has time to mature).
  • Plant the first section at the normal planting time, and then plant successive crops in the other sections every two weeks after this. As one crop is beginning to finish up, the next crop should be ready (or almost ready) to harvest.
  • This is a great way to have a constant supply of fresh vegetables (but not too many) through the gardening season.
  • This type of succession planting is great for bush beans, beets, broccoli, carrots, radishes, lettuce and even tomatoes.
Crop Rotation
Rotating crops is one of the best ways to reduce the incidence of disease and pests in the vegetable garden.
  • Plan your garden carefully to avoid planting the same crops in the same place year after year.
  • Click here for a chart on crop rotation
Be ready for the spring planting season! Start planning your vegetable garden today!
From the Viette's Views Blog ...
peach flowers 01-29-2015 14:54:26 PM
After working hard to plant and nurture your fruit trees, it can be very discouraging if you are not soon rewarded with a bountiful crop of delicious fruit. Since many fruit trees can take up to 5-6 years (or more) before they are old enough to bear, problems with fruiting may not become evident right [...]...�


Rime ice on holly berries 01-16-2015 15:40:40 PM
It was beautiful yesterday morning. The sun was beginning to come up through a hazy fog as I looked out of the window. I could just see a hint of orange glow through the trees. It was 21�F and there was still a dusting of snow on the ground from our little snow squall the [...]...�


Sapsucker damage to white birch 01-12-2015 17:01:07 PM
Woodpeckers are a common sight around our house. We often hear their cackling calls as they fly through the woods or the drumming of their beaks on dead trees as they search for insects. Red-bellied woodpeckers are frequent visitors to our suet feeders as are the little downy woodpeckers. Less common at the feeders are [...]...�


Did You Know?   

The Legend of the Three Sisters  
Three sisters garden
Squash creates a "living mulch" to shade out the weeds.
years ago we planted what is called a "Three Sisters Garden". At the time, I was vaguely familiar with the American Indian legend of the Three Sisters; at least I knew that it involved the combination planting of corn, beans, and squash - the "Three Sisters", but I didn't really know much beyond that.  
legend of the Three Sisters originated with the Iroquois Indians who considered corn, beans, and squash to be inseparable "sisters" that would only grow and thrive when planted together, each supporting the others in their own special way. It's a fascinating story of sustainable gardening that combines the nitrogen fixing properties of bean plants with the nutritional benefits of all three.       
Pole beans climb corn
Purple pole beans climb up
the corn stalks
In this planting system, the corn provides support for the beans, the beans add nitrogen to the soil to feed the corn, and the squash vines with their large leaves provide a living mulch, shading out weeds and moderating soil temperature and moisture. 
The roots of the beans fix nitrogen throughout the growing season, adding that all important nutrient to the soil for the following season's corn crop. The whole garden can be turned under at the end of the season which adds even more nutrients and increases the organic content of the soil.
Nutritionally, these three crops are packed full of good stuff: carbohydrates from the corn, protein from the beans (especially dried beans), and the squash provides essential vitamins (from the fruit) and oils (from the seeds).
To create a three sisters garden, you interplant mounds containing corn and beans with mounds of a vining type of squash like pumpkins or a winter squash.
  • For good pollination of the corn, the minimum area to plant is 100 square feet - a 10' x 10' garden with three 10' rows spaced 5' apart.
  • Within each row, the corn/bean mounds should be spaced 5' apart with the squash mounds planted between them.
  • The mounds should alternate in each row so that the first row has 3 squash mounds and 2 corn/bean mounds, the second row has 2 squash mounds and 3 corn/bean mounds, and the third row again has 3 squash mounds and 2 corn/bean mounds.
  • The corn is planted first; four seeds to each mound.
  • When the corn reaches about 5" tall, four pole bean seeds are planted in each corn mound
  • Squash seeds are then planted in mounds between the corn/bean mounds.
butternut squash harvest
Butternut squash harvested from
the Three Sisters garden

It is a truly interesting way to plant! For our Three Sisters garden, we planted Silver Queen corn, Rattlesnake and Trionfo Violetto (purple) pole beans, and several varieties of butternut and other winter squash. When it came time to harvest the beans, we had a little trouble making our way through the squash foliage but we managed to avoid tromping the vines.  

What's So Great About Heirloom Veggies?  
What are heirloom vegetables? 
Cherry Belle radish
Cherry Belle is a commonly
grown heirloom radish.
These old-fashioned varieties have become more popular and have been steadily creeping into the pages of the seed catalogs; heirloom tomatoes, heirloom beans, heirloom carrots, heirloom radishes, heirloom squash ...
There are heirloom varieties of almost every type of vegetable. We've actually been growing some of them for years - I just never knew it because they weren't listed in the catalogs as such.
What exactly is an heirloom plant?
Rattlesnake pole beans
Rattlesnake beans are a delicious heirloom pole bean.
The answer isn't truly clear cut.
I have seen heirlooms defined as varieties that are more than 50 years old, more than 100 years old, varieties grown before World War II, but in the simplest terms, these are open pollinated varieties where the seeds have been passed down for many generations. The seeds from the most successful, most flavorful plants were carefully saved and replanted from season to season and passed on from generation to generation.
Regardless of their age, heirlooms are plants that are open-pollinated, meaning they are pollinated naturally and grow true from seed year after year. This is in contrast to hybrid varieties which are the result of the intentional cross pollination between two related but distinctly different varieties. Seeds from hybrids are often sterile or, if they do grow, they produce plants that don't have the same characteristics as the parent plant. This is great for the seed companies because it forces the gardener to purchase new seeds each season - the seeds can't be saved and replanted from year to year.

Why grow heirloom varieties?  
Some people swear that the flavor of heirloom vegetables is far superior to that of the hybrid forms. The modern hybrids were created to promote certain traits; disease resistance, uniformity of shape and size (often for ease of shipment), uniformity of color (for marketability), ability to keep for a long time without spoiling, and a larger per plant yield. Unfortunately, it seems that for some of these hybrids, flavor and texture may have been lower on the list of desirable characteristics.
Kelloggs Breakfast
Kelloggs Breakfast, a large, orange heirloom tomato, is my favorite!
Heirloom varieties have had the benefit of generations of gardeners who hand selected the seeds of the most successful and tastiest of the harvest to keep for the following year. Over time this careful selection has yielded delicious results and wonderful diversity. While they may not have a perfect shape with uniform color and smooth skin like many of the hybrid varieties and though they may be more prone to some diseases, heirloom vegetables are definitely worth growing for their outstanding flavor and unique characteristics.


Try some heirloom veggies in your garden this year!

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