Monday, January 28, 2008

My Update...

Let me start by saying that I’m not only new at SFG, but blogging as well.  This first post is sort of my second. My first was my introductory post on  Judy, the moderator asked me if I would write a blog and I said sure.  I’m not sure if she wanted a neophyte’s perspective on gardening or just to get me off the forums.  Actually, I agreed because even if nobody but Judy and maybe my family will read this, it will be a good chronicle of my first SFG, heck my first garden ever. 

You see, I started out hating gardening.  My wife and I bought our first house a month before we were married and moved into a house with a quarter acre yard right after our honeymoon.  We bought our house based on a snap decision in 1997 (the market was ultra hot then, our house was on the market for 12 hours). What I failed to realize was that a quarter acre is a ton of work to keep up the landscaping.  Just mowing took me an entire weekend!

So, if it wasn’t for a dog run that became a jungle of weeds, weeds and more weeds, my brother wouldn’t have suggested I turn the southern facing area into a garden.  Further, if it wasn’t for my good friend Jen, I wouldn’t have checked out SFG (the 2005 edition) from the library.  *aside* why did they have a 2005 edition and then a 2006 edition a year later when they hadn’t put one out since 1980?  After reading the book, I was hooked. I got excited and poured time, energy and money into designing the perfect space and constructing my beds. I don’t even have dirt yet (next month) and I’m already planting seeds… I get ahead of myself.

Anyway, back to my first post.  What I’d like to do here is update My Story today.  A lot has happened in the few weeks since I wrote that post.  So instead of spreading out the last few weeks over the next few weeks, I’ll make this a long one… 

Well, my broccoli and cauliflower are not doing so well.  After growing like weeds (I’m experienced with those) on the refrigerator in the 70 degree house, they’ve all but stopped growing in the deep freeze (45 degrees, peeking at 60 in the sunlight).  The only bright side is that my 4th broccoli seed sprouted after only three weeks germinating.  Go figure.  Just tonight, after 4 inches of snow outside and freezing temperatures, I finally caved and got out our heating pad and put the trays on it, set on low.  Don’t ask me if it will do anything, I just can’t stand to see it constantly 45 degrees in there.  I know they’re cold weather plants, but not that cold.

Yesterday I decided it was time to start a new batch of broccoli and cauliflower seeds.  I’ve got room in my garden for 8 (1 per SF), so if they all transplant well, I’ll have a decent staggered planting. Worst case, I would be planting replacement seeds only a few weeks later than you’re supposed to.  I hope it’s the former because even with our mild summers here, they don’t like heat.

If I didn’t mention it before, I’m not only excited about gardening for me, but for my sons.  Logan’s turning 4 next month and already loves gardening with my Aunt.  He’s been ecstatic about helping me plant our garden, so I’ve let him help start the seeds.  I don’t care what anyone says, no seed is too small for little fingers to pick up and plant!  He’s great at poking the holes and putting one or two seeds in each.  It’s so much fun I can’t describe it!

In addition to broccoli and cauliflower, this time I consulted the book and decided to start 8 lettuce plants.  Instead of using straight vermiculite, I decided to use the Jiffy peat seedling pots with a slightly modified Mel’s Mix.  I combined 1/6 compost with 1/6 Miracle Grow potting soil, along with the 1/3 peat and 1/3 vermiculite.  I figure the fertilizer won’t kill the seeds.    I had my son put two lettuce seeds in each hole in case one doesn’t come up.  That way, I’ll have two SF of lettuce ready to go and can start another set in 2 weeks.  Maybe I’ll find a way to get some different variety of lettuce seeds for my next set to mix it up a bit.  I love the type that tastes like pepper (I love black pepper).  Now they’re on top of the fridge next to the broccoli and cauliflower.

When they sprout, I’m going to cave and put them inside.  The reason the first set isn’t inside is my house is not designed for starting seeds.  I don’t have a good sunny south-facing window in the heated portion of my house (the garage isn’t currently heated, we’re working on that).  My kitchen window has a southern exposure, but it is blocked by my family room and the eves over the window.  It gets poor direct sun rays.  The garage window is perfect, right over my beds, but the cold is not so good.  The reason why I’m caving is that I do have a really good window.  It gets decent direct sunlight and is in the most heat efficient room in the house.  AKA the nursery.  It was tough to convince my wife that we could get my 4 year old who helps with the seeds to not touch them when they’re growing on his window sill above his bed.  Further, if I get them too close to the crib on the other side, my youngest would grab them for fun.  Not good either.  So we’ll give it a try, once they sprout. 

Finally, I’ll share the saga of my potato bins.  If you see by my garden plan, I’ve got two bins marked for two different potato varieties; a russet type and a Yukon Gold. I like potatoes a lot, so I’ve been obsessed for a month or so, trying to find the perfect containers for my potatoes.  In my mind, the perfect container is 3 feet wide and 3 feet tall. That way I can plant tons of seed starts and can get tons of production out of each plant.  I thought of tires, garbage cans, composters and barrels.  None were wide enough.  I went to store after store, website after website, finding nothing.   Then, bless Judy’s heart, all the way from Alabama she finds an article in my local Seattle paper about the perfect potato bin.  It’s built out of 2×2s for height and 2×6s for structure.  You start with one at the bottom, plant your potatoes and as they grow, you add more 2×6 layers and cover with dirt (note when I say dirt I mean Mel’s Mix).  This is the perfect system for me. I can make it as big or small as I want and as deep as I can handle.  I even designed a 3×3x3 container using 1×6s since Mel’s Mix is so light, with landscape fabric on the bottom to hold the dirt in but still drain well.  I had it all planned out.  Then, for some reason I looked at my garden plan.  Hmm, where do these go again?  3×3 bins don’t fit anywhere in my plan.  I don’t have space for two beds that size in the sunny areas of my garden.  I’ve been obsessing over something I can’t possibly have.  The best I can hope for is slightly over 2 feet by 2 feet, though I’m still going up 3 feet.  I can’t wait to buy the materials (probably cheap pine) and build it.  Now if only I can get Territorial Seeds to ship me seed potatoes in early March instead of early April.

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