About Grunt and Grungy ...

For those of you who don't know about us, a little history to fill you in.

Between the two of us we had over a hundred years of experience gardening. (Now that makes me feel old.) We had gardened in climates that can be described as West Coast Marine, to Sub Arctic wilderness, to flat prairie and finally settled in what we commonly refer to as our little piece of paradise, here in the Creston valley, in south eastern B.C., Canada, located about 10 km. north of the Idaho panhandle and just below Kootenay Lake.
The property lies in a small microclimate that gives us a zone 5/6 Canadian version or 6/7 US version.
We were avid gardeners for years, and about 10 years ago noticed that more and more of the old varieties of vegetables were no longer being offered. Being raised in the generation that thought "if you aren't part of the solution, then you are part of the problem", we decided to start growing heirloom and open pollinated varieties of vegetables (especially tomatoes) and offering the seeds to other gardeners.
Well one thing lead to another and we ended up starting a private seed bank so that our and your grandchildren will be able to have the same tastes that you are having now. This past couple of years we had gone past tomatoes and started seed banking (cold and cool storage) any annual vegetable seed.
If you have questions or would like to contribute to this blog, please feel free to contact me at any time.

Also for those who wish to trade please contact me at the below e-mail address and I will get back to as soon as possible. Thank you.

I am sad to report that Dan McMurray passed away on February 15, 2012 at his home in Wynndel, British Columbia. Dan was 69 years old.

Much of the final years of Dan's journey is chronicled on this blog. He was a man who made a difference to many people, and his family believe that his thoughts in the last years and months of his life, and his work in preserving heritage seeds should remain available.


What I post about ways, methods, and results is based on what I observe in my garden. Your growing conditions may achieve results that differ from mine. I am putting this blog here to offer a site to exchange gardening ideas and methods, and to exchange seeds.
I welcome questions and discussions about anything gardening. The only dumb questions are the ones you don't ask. I will try to find answers for questions that I can't answer, and may post links to sites that have clearer answers than I can come up with.


I do have tomato seeds to offer. The seeds are free, but I ask you to help cover the postage and handling in one form or another.
They can be obtained through trading seeds, or paying for postage at the rate of $2.00 for the first ten varieties or seed packs, and an increase of $1.00 for every ten varieties or seed packs beyond that. Seed packs are approximately 25 seeds each (not counted, just a pinch of seeds). Germination rate usually exceeds that of commercial seed packs. If you have problems with germination, let me know, and I will replace the seeds, either with more of the same variety, or with a variety that I think will give you something similar to what the original variety would have. Please note. I am not a seed company. Iwill only offer seeds from my current trade lists and also if I have lots to spare from previous years. I don't check germination on older seeds, but my experience has been over 80% on five year old seed.

2010 FALL SEED LIST = http://tinyurl.com/4whnxy3 Some seeds from this list may be in limited supply, but I will do my best to fill your request.

Albums containing photos of most of the varieties I have, and other photos that may be of interest, can be found at:
http://www.picasaweb.google.com/tvgrunt, or

When you have made up your list, send me a copy at grungysgarden@gmail.com

Changes ...

The status here has changed substantially, as you can see above. The blog will continue, hopefully with more frequent input than recently.
Seed saving and trading/sharing will also continue. I still want to bank seeds, not just of tomatoes, but I am older than the lead photo on the blog would indicate, and have passed the seed bank on to younger hands.
In the meantime, I will continue to pay it forward, and trade/share seed to all corners of the world, as I did with Val.
This poem, which we both have known since the 1960's gave us much comfort through Val's battle with cancer.


Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.

Life comes with no guarantee of quality or quantity. It is up to you to remember to smell the flowers, watch the sunset, hear the birdsong in early morning, and the spring frogs in the evening. What ever happens in your little corner of it, it is still a beautiful world, and you do yourself a great disservice if you fail to see and celebrate what is there.

A little footnote here, that will stay at the top of the blog. I have married again, for the fourth time. Another internet marriage, as Val's and mine was, and just as good, although completely different.
I was also diagnosed with lung cancer in May 2011, and started treatment to cure it in late August 2011.
The blog will carry on, in much the same vein as it always has. I will post mostly garden related articles, but also a few comments on things and life in general.
For a while, I thought Gump had it right = sh*t happens. He's wrong = LIFE happens

I am sad to report that Dan McMurray passed away on February 15, 2012 at his home in Wynndel, British Columbia. Dan was 69 years old. His family wishes his blog to remain for those who wish to read Dans' journey.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

How does our garden go - part 4

September brings the rush of the closing the growing season as autumn and frosts draw ever nearer. Usually the first week of September finds us harvesting the last of our eating corn crop. What isn't eaten fresh, is cooked and sliced off the cobs, then quick frozen in meal sized packets of real heirloom flavor to be savored over the coming winter and spring months.
On the first Thursday of the month in the afternoon, we set up tables outside and invite all our friends and neighbors to help us with the tomato tasting trials. They are given cards that are number 1-15 and asked to taste pre-cut samples of tomatoes and then rate them, 1-10 and give a comment or two on the taste. We later post a list of which varieties they were and have them circle the numbers if they wish to have seeds from which ever varieties they liked. I find it amazing the different responses that we receive about each variety. Laughter peals out as spouses find that their opposite, rates the same tomato exactly opposite. One will give it an 8 or 9 and the other will place it at 2 or 3. The results are complied and added into the comments that you see when we post our tomato lists for trading.
Nine days after the taste testing, when we are sure that we have adequate sample of all our open pollinated or heirloom tomatoes, we hold what we prefer to call the "Great Tomato Pick Off". Starting at 1 pm, Sunday afternoon the tomato garden is thrown open to anyone who wishes to come and pick the tomatoes. We supply picking pails and the pickers supply containers to take their goodies home. This past summer, 39 people hauled around 2500 pounds out of the patch. After the picking is finished, we supply beverages and the people bring snackers and we set around and catch up on how everyones' gardens have gone over the summer. Would you believe that all those tomatoes were picked in less than 2 1/2 hours?
When the last guest leaves, I clean up the snacking area and Grunt goes down and starts stripping off the side lines to allow the tomato plants to flop over.
Monday morning finds me, pruners in hand and a couple of buckets (one for green and one for ripe tomatoes), back in the patch. I prune off all the branches about 6" above the ground and strip off all the missed tomatoes. The branches are piled into piles that either one of us (who so ever has a couple of minutes to spare) will wheelbarrow up to the cold compost pile. As I finish a section, I go back and pull the roots out, shaking off the dirt and adding them to the growing piles.
While I am working in the 'mater patch, Grunt picks the seed corn cobs, and cuts down the corn stalks, piling them by where the chipper will be set up. The corn plant roots are de-earthed and laid down in the bottom of next year's compost pile. The corn beds are then weeded and the mulch is fluffed to break up any clumps. With a transplant shovel the mulch is turn in to a depth of 12- 13", and the bed is top dressed with the fall amendments. Using a spading fork the corn bed is turned one more time to work the rotting mulch throughout the soil, where over winter it will finish breaking down and provide a deep, humus rich bed for whatever we decide to plant there next year. If it isn't carrots, ( since they don't appreciate unaged compost), we will top dress the corn beds with manure to age over winter and supply additional nutrients.
Each evening after supper the pails of green tomatoes are gently rolled out into cardboard flats and transported into our spare guest room where we maintain a temperature of 55-60F. Once there, they will slowly continue to ripen, providing us with fresh tomatoes, well into February. The ripe tomatoes, minus the few that we eat for meals, are transported to the local food bank and nursing homes. Of the 4000 - 6000 pounds the garden produces, we will eat, or can about 1500 pounds. The rest are eaten by other folk who also appreciate the old fashioned tasting tomatoes. As each row in the tomato patch is cleaned up the branch and root piles are removed to the cool compost bin. It, like Topsy, grows and grows. The bin is 6' X 6" and often by the time we are done it is also over 6' high.
When the corn patches are finished, Grunt bends over the necks of the onions, if need be (as it help speed ripening) and then starts digging a trench in one of the beds to winter store our root crops. As soon as the trench is ready, the potato, carrot and beet harvest begins. They are dug in turn and the beets and carrots lose much of their tops. Then each type of vegetable is stored in its own section of the trench, covered with a very thick coat of mulch, a tarp, a plastic sheet and another tarp to keep the soil from becoming soaked from rains and snows. Doing this provides us "fresh" root vegetables until the following April. Whenever we need the vegetables, Grunt brushes off the snow, lifts the tarp and burrows under the mulch and brings in a pail of mixed potatoes, carrots and beets. Then he carefully recovers the trench to prevent it freezing.
Near the end of September, (or early October, if the weather holds), the squashes and the last of the melons are picked, their plants are ripped out and added to the compost pile. The melons are eaten and the seeds are saved as soon as they are available. The squashes are washed and wiped down with a damp bleach water rag, and then dried and allowed to finish curing their rinds at room temperature, for a couple of weeks. Then they also find their way into the cold room with Grunts assistance.
As soon as the onion tops die back they are harvested and allowed to cure either right on the bed if the weather is nice or under a tarp leanto should rain threaten. A few days there, we rub off the loose onion skins, trim off the roots and tops and bag them in 10-20 pound bags to hang downstairs.


  1. Wow, I wish I could be in your neighborhood to taste all those 'maters! Your gardening projects are amazing. I like your outdoor root storage. How deep a trench do you use? I can usually do carrots and potatoes outside like that, but I've seen it get down past -40F here. Overwintering beets outside has not worked so well for me.

  2. Leigh: Since we rarely get get below about -23 C (-10F) we don't have to go to extremes. Our trench is only about 12" deep, dug into a raised bed, and leaving about 6" of soil along the sides of the bed. Usually only about 6" of straw or hay for insulation on top. I put a tarp over the carrots and potatoes, put mulch on top of that, and another tarp over that to keep rain or melting snow from getting into the mulch. The top tarp makes it very easy to clen the snow off of the trench, and the bottom tarp removes the necessity to rummage through the mulch to find your goodies.
    With temperatures around -40 I would do the trench in flat ground rather than the raised bed, and make it 18" or more deep. If you have the room, and can get bales of straw or hay, I would widen the trench enough to put bales down each side of the trench, and full bales across the top. Another option might be to make a small straw bale house, and have a single light bulb inside it to help keep the temperature up. In milder weather you wouldn't have to have the light turned on, just when it threatens to get more than about -10C (15F). I would still put a coating of straw on the veggies. You could also do a combination of the two, trench and small straw bale house, but that starts to get a little complicated.
    If you have a basement, you can store carrots and beets in slightly damp sand in a cool corner with good results.
    Hope this helps.