All posts by Mike E. Bailey

We grow and stock Estate Grown, Heritage Quality, Heirloom, Open-Pollinated seeds ONLY. Our seeds grow tasty, productive plants, tough as nails while surviving harsh conditions. Paint The Desert!

Hardy Perennials Add Color to Your Winter

If winter finds you longing for those riotous colors of spring and summer, cheer up. You can enjoy a colorful winter that rivals spring blooms and fall foliage for sheer variety and color. There are lots of colorful plants that love the cold, and some even bloom in the snow! Here are just a few to consider.

There are also quite a few hardy vegetables that produce in winter.

Hybrid Witch Hazel

(Hamamelis × intermedia)

Hybrid Witch Hazel

 

USDA Zone 5

Blooms January to March.

Hybrid Witch Hazel reaches 10 to 20 feet, with some reaching nearly the same width. They offer a riot of color in the fall when their foliage turns brightly colored hues that depend on the variety grown. Long, glorious blossoms abound along the branches from deep winter until early spring. The Chicago Botanic Garden has over 20 different cultivars of Witch Hazel hybrids growing side by side in Zone 5. If you’re in the Chicago area, you shouldn’t pass up the chance to see so many different types bloom at once in February.

American Witch Hazel

American Witch Hazel, (Hamamelis virginiana) would make a great complementary planting. Native to the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas and Missouri, it’s hardy down to Zone 3. The roots and bark are the sources of witch hazel extract found in drug stores. Its foliage turns rich yellow in the late fall and it blooms deep purple at that time, instead of in the deep winter.

Oriental Hybrid Hellebore

(Helleborus orientalis)

USDA Zone 5a to 8b

Flowers January to early March.

Hybrid Double White Spotted Hellebore

The perennial hellebore is remarkable for its characteristic ability to bloom in the snow. Even in the depths of winter, the hellebore adds colorful life to a monotonous winter landscape. This might just be the star of your winter show once you see how many colors, details and shapes are available. The hellebore comes in about as many colors as you can dream up. Pink, purple, peach, green and even black, actually a very dark purple. They come with picotee edging, some have contrasting veins and a few have dark or spotted flower centers.

Blooms are profuse, coming in star shapes with singles, doubles and anemones to choose from. There are few garden sights as stunning as a black hellebore blooming against a backdrop of snow.

Helleborus Orientalis

English Primrose

(Primula vulgaris)

USDA Zone 5-9

Blossoms February until April.

This historic favorite is available in a dazzling array of colors, blooms profusely and can take a variety of sunlight conditions. English Primrose averages about a foot tall with clusters of flowers averaging 8-10 inches across.

English Primrose

Winter Honeysuckle

(Lonicera fragrantissima)

USDA Zone: 3-8

Bloom time is February-March.

Winter Honeysuckle

The Winter Honeysuckle shrub offers a profusion of 3/4″ long yellow and white cascading flowers, closely followed by bright red berries in early springtime.

No More Drab Winters

Planting these choices strategically throughout your landscape and garden will keep the sunshine bright colors around all through those long winter months. Garden strolls will be a great attraction for children and holiday visitors. Back inside, you can impress them just a little more with fresh veggies from your indoor winter garden. Gardening doesn’t have to be limited to one particular stretch of the year. You can have bright, cheery color no matter what the season!

Dinosaur Country: Jurassic Farm With the Peterson Farm Brothers

Update from Dinosaur Country!

This video is one we can really relate to, because the Painted Desert is one of the dinosaur capitals of the world. Everywhere you go there are fossils and museums. You can find dinosaur fossils and footprints just spread around on the ground sometimes.

We also happen to think The Petersons are hilarious!

 

The Hillbilly’s Back in Town

Look What Wandered In

After an absence of two weeks from the catalog, we’ve got enough seeds out of the field to put the Hillbilly Beefsteak back on the roster. One of the choicest varieties available for summer heat, drought-worthiness, and just plumb great eatin’, whether on that Fourth of July burger or those zesty summer evening salads. We’ve also got live starts for local pickup, in 4-inch, six packs and a limited selection of half-gallon sizes.

Cut ‘Em Open for a Visual Feast

These big, beefy bi-color tomatoes are famous for warm flavor, for excellent taste, and as the perfect burger slicer. Undeniably delicious, these enormous, 1-2 pound fruit have gorgeous golden-orange, red streaked flesh and skin. Indeterminate plants produce sweet, juicy beefsteak type tomatoes that are low in acid and exceptionally tasty in sandwiches and salads.

These are grown for hamburger and sandwich slices, dicing for salad, tacos and the like, and for an occasional decadent, juicy snack, with flavorful juices running off our chins as we smack our lips… uh, sorry, lost it for a moment just thinking about these awesome beauties.

Get some seeds and grow yer own.

Hillbilly Beefsteak

Certified Veteran Grown

Farmer Veteran Coalition

 

A Flair For Flavor

Next up on the January Hit Parade will be our Sonoran Flair beefsteak tomato, a medium-sized sandwich slicer, smaller than some beefsteaks, maybe tennis-ball-sized. This variety is selected from F8 Solar Flair seeds(nowadays spelled “Flare” instead of “Flair”), which were selected and provided by grower and originator Brad Gates at Wild Boar Farms. We will be selecting for flavor, size and for drought and heat resistance. In the near future, we plan to select for cold hardiness as well, at high altitude gardens in Northern Arizona. At the same time, we will be carefully preserving any unusually colorful or otherwise noteworthy mutations for further investigation.

Visually, the primary distinguishing feature of these tomatoes is the presence of metallic gold stripes over a deep red appearance. The overall effect is most appetizing. Those who act on the impulse to bite into one will be rewarded with warm yet sweet flavor, a high degree of juiciness and a savory complexity that goes just as well on a bacon cheeseburger as it does with avocado and bell peppers in your salad.

Sonoran Flair Tomato

Use ground cover such as melon or squash to cool the ground and preserve moisture through the hottest part of the summer. Then you can cut the ground vines away as fall approaches, and the mature plants will produce heavily until frost.

The selection criteria for Sonoran Flair are:

  • Heat resistance. We are looking to sell a tomato seed that will set fruit well above 100 degrees. These plants have survived 120-degree summers in Southern Arizona’s Sonoran Desert, and set fruit in spite of spending weeks at or above 110-115 degrees.
  • Currently being adapted for short seasons and cooler summers in our Painted Desert location at 6700 feet on top of a mesa in Pine and Juniper forest
  • Drought tolerance. A scarcity of water goes with the territory when the temperatures are well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the late afternoon.
  • Size. This doesn’t mean we select for the biggest monsters we can produce. We seek to select a variety that serves as the RIGHT SIZE rather than the largest size. We’re looking for the perfect burger and sandwich slicers here.
  • As always, even if all the above criteria are met, taste is the deal-breaker. These tomatoes must taste GREAT or they just don’t make the team, simple as that.
  • Unusual colors, cherry sizes or noteworthy mutations will of course be preserved for exploration as fixed phenotypes, going into the future.
Sonoran Flair Tomato

 

The pictures show these beauties nearing ripeness in our January gardens. Over the next couple of weeks, these large berries will change color, with the lighter color deepening into red, and the dark colored stripes richening to a deep gold color.

Sonoran Flair Tomato

These are very hardy plants, having survived a brutal 2016 summer in Phoenix, and several freezes in December and January this winter. Hardy and beautiful in a single fruit. Drought tolerance is great with this variety, too. A permanent addition to our catalog.

 

Black Carrot Seeds Now Available

Been harvesting seeds from our Pusa Asita South Indian Black Carrots lately. The big one has greens that stand three feet tall, and it’s putting up seed stalks as thick as fingers. It’s a monster.

Here you can see the root crown in comparison to a one-pound coffee can and a tuna can…

Here’s a comparison shot of the seed stalks forming on this plant, compared to those of average size…

According to University of Southern Queensland research Professor Lindsay Brown, the Carrot Museum and growers in Southwest Asia, Australia and Spain, true black carrots have white centers when young, that eventually darken to purple. This information is corroborated by the Cardinal Oak Hill Farm in Central Texas, who told us their young, edible carrots were white inside with a purple ring in the center, but that the ones they pulled after going to seed were purple all the way through.

The carrots we have harvested were dark purple, nearly black at the root crown, with white centers. The taste is somewhat milder than an average supermarket sweet carrot, holding a similar level of sweetness, but more complex and layered flavor with a hint of celery to it, and no taste of bitterness or spicy bite. We especially like them for dipping into a bowl of ranch dressing. Can’t wait to try them roasted or in stews.

The blunt and twisted shape of this carrot is because it was grown in heavy clay-based soil with only a small amount of compost double-dug into the plot, which was new at the time of this planting. For a longer, more slender carrot, the soil needs to be more fluffy and full of organic material, or heavily amended sand.

Pick up a packet or two of these vigorous, unusual and tasty carrots while they’re still around. You’re not likely to see anything like them in your friends’ gardens anytime soon. Make ’em jealous and… paint the desert!

Mike and Bettie

REFERENCE: Comparison of purple carrot juice and β-carotene in a high-carbohydrate, high-fat diet-fed rat model of the metabolic syndrome

The Chocolate Cherry is BACK!!

After selling out of our popular Chocolate Cherry Tomato for 2016 just a week ago, we are proud to announce that the Chocolate Cherry is BACK!! Our schedule cut it pretty close, but we did manage a nearly seamless transition from 2016 stock to 2017 stock with none carrying over.

Fresh from processing and testing, out of the fields and into your gardens for 2017. Thanks to all of you for your support and your enthusiasm for our offbeat varieties!
Michael and Bettie Bailey
-PDSCo

Titan Up

The Titan Sunflower (Helianthus Annuus) is a truly fun and astounding plant. Capable of 12-plus feet in height and a flower of up to two feet across, the Titan certainly lives up to its name. Deep yellow color and old-fashioned appearance make for a striking border, fence cover or backdrop.

The Titan seeds we harvested in the fall have now been dried, slow-cured and germination tested. Finally, they’re ready to bring another generation into the world.

Our plants handled the heat well and didn’t require a lot of water, which is actually not surprising when you consider that the sunflower is indigenous to the Southwest deserts and mountains of southern New Mexico, Arizona and northern Mexico. Southwest growers will experience as close to a trouble-free grow as you can hope for, given the harsh conditions of these hot, cold and arid regions.

Sunflowers tend to attract a lot of aphids. While this characteristic has its obvious drawbacks, it also makes the plants useful as a sacrificial barrier or decoy to keep aphids off the main garden. Secondarily, a bonus of aphids can help to draw ladybugs, or serve as a food source to establish ladybugs. Our growing region tends to have a lot of wild ladybugs that seem to be naturally attracted to carrots, sorghum and okra, at least in our gardens.

Most casual gardeners will achieve 8-10 feet tall and one to 1.5 foot blossom diameter. Well-fed, cultivated, groomed and isolated specimen plants can reach over 12 feet tall with 2-foot blossoms.

Blue Gold Berries in Harvest, Seeds Available Soon!

The Blue Gold Berries cherry tomatoes have been coming ripe over the last couple of weeks, and we are now in full seed-harvesting mode on these babies, with several pints per plant developing. Once dried, cured and tested, these seeds will be listed both on our Facebook Shop page at https://www.facebook.com/PaintedDesertSeedCo and here on our Painted Desert Seed Company website store, beginning in late January or early February.

We’ll be turning around and planting about 150 starts from these plants, just in time for Southern Arizona, in the first week of February.
We’ll have these starts available for spring, beginning around Valentine’s Day and continuing until sold, at $5.00 apiece. Phoenix area only. These tomatoes are very juicy, savory without being sweet, and with a powerful, tangy zing to them. They would be absolutely perfect for salsa, relish and on tacos or pizza.

They make for great snacking all by themselves, and our harvest has been in danger a couple of times because these berries always seem to disappear within a few feet of the bush and never make it into the house! 😀

They have already survived at least three freezes before harvesting, so these berries are also a lot hardier than the average tomato, especially considering they also survived a 120-degree spell for nearly a week in June. You won’t find a tougher, more beautiful or more intensely flavorful cherry tomato anywhere.

They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To

Who wouldn’t love the chance to drive something like this thing for some kind of routine chore on the property? It would be great to use this ancient J.I. Case tractor for staging hay or water to another working area on a regular basis…

Ancient J.I. Case Tractor

Squash Your Pollination Issues

To maintain isolation and control over the purity of a particular variety, it may become necessary to cage a plant and pollinate it by hand, to avoid cross-pollination from neighbors, farm crops or volunteer plants in the area. Many times, especially with very popular plants like peppers and melons, hand pollination is the only way to eliminate unwanted hybridization. What are some of your tricks when it comes to isolating special breeds or hand pollinating?

Here are a few tips when it comes to isolating and pollinating squash blossoms, courtesy of Native Seed/Search, a regional seed bank in Tucson, Arizona, where Painted Desert Seed Co. is a member.

http://www.nativeseeds.org/learn/nss-blog/287-squashpollination

Squash Blossom