HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY ALL!
With kids we decided not to pester our families to watch them while we went out to eat on a Thursday, so my Valentine suggested I bring home salads from our favorite downtown restaurant instead. It was almost as pricey as going out to eat, but they gave us more salad than one human should digest, and boy was it tasty. I love a good Italian Chop Chop and Palominos makes a great one. Anyway, today was a MUCH better garden day for me. Lots to tell. I'll compose while I have my desert smoothie.
First off, work was work, but at lunchtime I checked my email and found I had two non-spam emails. Bonus! The first was from a GardenWeb contributor, Alberta. I've been impressed by her comments on threads and experience in the garden for quite some time. Much to my pleasant surprise, she emailed me directly with thoughts on my garden woes. She suggested an alternative to lights for me. Apparently Winter Sowing is a good solution. She suggested I head to the GW forum on it and check out Vera's posts. She's in Washington also and has had great success at it.
I actually have been there and it is essentially planting seeds in potting soil in various recycled milk jugs and other transparent/transluscent containers. Then you put them outside in the winter sun and keep them watered. That's the gist anyway. I didn't try it because I figured it wouldn't work here with our lousy sun and frosty mornings. Now I'll have to check it out and see what Vera's up to. THANK YOU Alberta! I will definitely do that. Oh and I will let Judy know your troubles with the site. I have cable so it's not too slow for me.
Not that it's winter sowing, but a post I read last night said some guy in Minnesota has been putting his seedlings outside during the day to get them acclamated and hardend off or whatever to make them stouter. So I took the kiddies out for a walk today. Before work I put them out on a board resting between two beds. They seemed no worse off when I got home after dark and brought them in for the evening. I expect frost tonight or I'd leave them outside unless it rained. Too much water can be a bad thing. So I'm experimenting with these broccoli, cauliflower, onions and lettuce. They're either going to live or not, no matter what I do.
I also read Judy's comment and some of it is directly relating to my next comment, but that's good to know about peat moss. I recall it isn't as stringy as it could be, but I expect it works well once it's decompressed. I can understand how hard it is to do so, but that's what I'll end up getting. It can't be any worse than decompressing the newspaper blow-in insulation and my dad did 40 bags of the stuff in a day. I appreciate the comments and will take them to heart for sure.
Ok, so last night I calculated that I need fifteen 3.5 c. ft. bags of vermiculite to equal 2 c. yards. We check with Sky and find that they only have 5 bags, at $28 each. Thus the reason for my post on Ft2Garden's boards last night. I calculated with the peat, compost and vermiculite totaling 6 c. yards, it would cost me $750 for my dirt. OUCH! So after my wife told me Sky only had 5 (one third what I needed), I panicked.
During my lunchtime (I work through lunch), I called The Plant Farm at Smokey Point, way up north in Arlington. It's an hour north but I was desparate. They sold me my blueberry bushes so I like them. Well, they had only small bags of vermiculite, but instead of coming up blank on alternative sources (like Sky), they suggested their supplier in Snohomish. Snohomish is about 30 minutes away from us, so closer. Anyway, I called Steuber Distributing and asked if they had vermiculite in bulk, or at least large bags. They only carry it in 4 c. ft. bags, but I only need 13 of them. I asked how many they had and they said about 200! Then I asked their cost. Get this Judy, $14.50 each. WHOOOOOOT! That just cut the cost of my vermiculte in half!
Then I asked if they carried peat moss. Sky had half-bales for $17. Steuber has FULL-bales for $12.50! I couldn't believe my ears. Even getting my Cedar Grove compost from Sky (they're close and it's reasonable if you don't consider they get their product for free... all our yard waste goes there), the price of my "dirt" is now about $325 vs. $750. I'm so excited! After bugging my brother at work, we are set to head out bright and early Saturday morning to be there when they open to get 13 bags of vermiculite and 7 bales of peat moss. Boy do I hope it all fits in my brother's truck... I don't have time Saturday to make two trips (it's my eldest's 4th birthday).
So this weekend is time for dirt. Saturday is getting the vermiculite and peat moss, along with my son's party for his friends. Sunday is getting compost and mixing it all on a HUGE tarp, then moving it 20 feet or so to the beds. I'll pick up a sheet of plywood and rip it to 1 foot widths so the wheelbarrow can move over the gravel (still kicking myself in hindsight for getting pea gravel insted of crushed rock). Oh, and I'll definitely take pictures and share the experience.
All in all it was a very very good garden day. Thanks to my gardening friends out there and the nice folks at The Plant Farm who put me on to their supplier in Snohomish. If they are for real, I'll definitely add them to the vermiculite sources for Washington. I can't wait for the weekend!