Friday, June 26, 2009

A T&M Customer Success Story

The other day we received an e mail from Robin, a fellow gardener who told us about the thrill of growing their first poppy from seed. Here's a photo of Robin's pride and joy.

The plant is over 4 feet tall and has beautiful flowers like the one above that are 6" across.
Way to go Robin - Congrats !!!

If you have a success story with Thompson & Morgan that you'd like to share, we'd love to know about it. We'll post your photo too on our blog to show off your green thumb.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Wimbledon & the Strawberry Connection

Today marks the first day of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. First held in 1877, it is the oldest tennis championship on record and is considered the most prestigious. For the next two weeks, the London suburb of Wimbledon will be a host to some of the greatest players around.

There are a few traditions when attending Wimbledon. First, although the colors of Wimbledon are purple and green (as shown in this flower display above), all players are required to wear white.

Second, all of the ball boys & girls are recruited from local schools. Candidates are first recommended by their Headmaster. Then they are given a test regarding all things tennis including rules as well as a fitness & stamina test. The training also includes weekly classes, at which time potential ball boys & girls are pared down. (Sounds like the TV show 'Survivor' but with tennis and no exile island.)

However, the yummiest tradition is the serving of strawberries and clotted cream. You can't attend Wimbledon without it! According to, over 27,000 kilos of strawberries are served with 7,000 liters of cream during the two week period. Something that tasty sounding must have a recipe online.

Thanks to UK, here's one called Eton Mess

It sounds like a delicious summertime treat. Time to head out to our strawberry patch in the back and start picking.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

How to Make Sun Dried Tomatoes

Judging from the size of my tomato plants, I'm hoping for a banner crop. This photo is only 2 weeks old, but with the amount of rain we've been getting in New Jersey lately, they're twice as big right now. I've never seen so many flowers!

What is one to do with a ton of tomatoes? Salsa ? Sure, that's an easy one. Spaghetti sauce? Yes, that's on my list too. How about sun dried tomatoes? That might be a nice way to add flavor to a dish.

I spent some time in the Thompson & Morgan library this morning & found an article we published about that very same topic. It must be tomato karma! Here's a reprinted version for to you enjoy as well.

How to Make Sun Dried Tomatoes

Drying food is a long-established and time-honored method for preserving fruits and vegetables. The basic premise is simple: small pieces of food are placed out in the sun and warm, dry air passing over, under and around the food pulls the moisture from it. Ovens and commercial drying equipment are meant to mimic this natural process.

When foods are properly dried, they can't support the growth of spoilage organisms like bacteria, yeast and molds. Well-dried vegetables have almost 90% of their water removed, creating an environment hostile to these spoilage organisms.

To Dry:

The best tomatoes to use for drying are meaty types such as paste tomatoes. Slice tomatoes into halves or thirds if large. If drying outdoors, place skin side down on a screen or tray in an enclosed screen house to keep insects and dirt off the produce. Outdoor drying will take a few days during warm breezy and dry weather. Bring tomatoes in at night to protect from dew. Hot but humid weather is not conducive to drying and it's recommended to use an alternative method if the humidity is high. If using a commercial food dryer, follow those specific directions that are given with the unit. If using the oven, use the lowest setting possible to maintain a temperature below 65C (124F). Drying in an oven can take as little time as overnight. If the temperature cannot remain below 65C (145F), you should consider the other techniques mentioned for drying. Well dried tomatoes should be leathery but pliable. Store in glass or plastic jars with tight lids. At room temperatures of 20C (70F), tomatoes should store up to 3 months; at cooler temperatures, they can store for as long as 6-9 months.

To Use:

Pour an equal mix of vinegar and boiling water, or just boiling water, over the tomatoes and let stand from a few minutes to a half an hour until they are soft and chewy. Drain off water and cover with olive oil and garlic. Let them marinate in the refrigerator or room temperature for several hours prior to use. They'll keep in the oil for about a month. Their concentrated flavor is delicious with pasta or antipasto.

Monday, June 8, 2009

From Our E Mailbox: Self Sowing Annuals

We always enjoy receiving e-mails from people who enjoy growing from seed. Last week, our Horticulturalist Susan had a request asking us to suggest seeds that are self-sowing.

So without further ado, here are 10 Self-Sowing Annual Flowers:

1. Alyssum

Alyssum is suitable for exposed cool sites, rockeries, paving and walls. Use it in edging paths and garden borders for contrasting color effect. A variety like 'Carpet of Snow' is easy to grow and very early flowering.

2. Calendula

Calendulas will add color to your garden throughout the summer, while
tall varieties add height & interest. Use dwarf varieties for edging.

The 'pulchilla' species produces petals that are lobed at the tips. Plants rarely grow more than 2 feet high.

4. Coreopsis (Annual) Calliopsis Coreopsis tinctoria

Make excellent cut flowers. Coreopsis grows quickly from seed while adding warm color tones to your garden.

6. Mirabilis

7. Rudbeckia hirta

Rudbeckia will grow in a wide range of soil types. Plants are drought tolerant once established. The flowers are highly attractive to butterflies and taller varieties make excellent cut flowers.

8. Love-In-A-Mist (Nigella damascena)

This is an easy to grow cottage garden favorite. Provides color all summer long. Also makes a wonderful cut flower.

9. Malope

The perfect plant to fill in a space in any border.

10. Morning Glory-Ipomoea

Beautiful twining climbers. Be sure to chip or soak seeds prior to sowing.

None of these catching your fancy?

Here's a few more suggestions:
Nasturtium Tropaeolum
Snow-on-the-Mountain (Euphorbia marginata)
Spider Flower-Cleome
Tall Verbena - Verbena bonariensis
Tobacco Plant - Nicotiana

Monday, June 1, 2009

End of Season Sale

Looking for seeds to Fall sow? Want to add one more seed to your garden?
Now's the time to shop and save.

Sale runs June 1st- June 14th