Saturday, January 17, 2009

Well, today was a beautiful day, we almost hit 50 degrees and the sun was out.  But I didn't get out to the garden to work because I was watching my youngest today.  You see, yesterday his older brother closed the heavy wooden door on his pinky.  Then my 2 year old pulled his hand out.  Ouch!  Not only was his finger tip flattened and mangled, but he lost most of his finger nail.  No problem I thought, they grow back.  Of course I was at work and didn't see it.  So, a trip to the pediatrition, then Children's Hospital ER later, and we had his nail bed stiched back in place.  /sigh  When it rains it pours.  Of course he's such a trooper that he was sitting there being polite and complimenting the stream of doctors and nurses that came through the room over the 4 hour ordeal.  He's really an amazing kid.  Even now he's great about not using his hurt hand, using his inconvenient left instead.  Incredible.

So, after taking him to music class, we went to Lowes to shop.  I checked out the light systems, but got enough information to be confused before I moved on.  I think I'm going to go the cheap T8 plug-in lights rather than the T12s, because the employee there said it's likely that T12s are going away, maybe next year.  Not conservationalist and environmentalist friendly I suspect.  Then I figured for the bulbs, instead of getting a $10 per bulb grow light, I'd get one cool and one daylight bulb.  That way, I span both ends of the light spectrum, providing red for initial growth and blue for growth, or something like that.  Basically it's back from the days last year when I did some research on the GW grow light forum.  OMG those folks have strong opinions and they're all right and everyone else is wrong.  Oh, and you need to spend hundreds on the lights alone. 

No thanks. I think I'll spend less than $50 on the entire set-up.  Well maybe a bit more.  You see, I'll need to get some seedling trays to fit on my light stand.  Plus, I would kinda like to buy a Peddler's Wagon Soil Block Maker to plant my seedlings in.  Both my brother and I want it, so it would be good to have for the "family".  Of course, I kind of want one of these too hehe. You see, since I lost a ton of weight a few years ago, I've been on the lookout for unique T-shirts to replace my XL wardrobe. This would qualify!

Anyway, back to gardening. Sorry that this post is less about garden stuff, but today was all about family.  Tomorrow I'll go out and work in the garden.

So, back at Lowes.  I didn't buy the stuff to build my SWCs, but I did do some checking for prices and options.  Can I say ouch?  Lowes now only carries the Roughneck variety of 18 gallon bin, unless I want a flimsy (yet good idea) recycled plastic bins that wouldn't hold dirt to save their souls.  The Rubbermaid Roughnecks look sturdy enough to do the job, in fact, they look more sturdy than the one I'm using now.  Unfortuantely they cost $9 each.  Do the math, I need 3 new SWCs, so that's $54 just for the bins, and I would be demolishing half of them, hehe.  I'll wait until they go on sale.  I seem to recall once a year big box stores get loads of bins in and blow them out.  I think it's sometime in spring , like for spring cleaning.  That would be perfect timing if it's early spring.  I could build them and plant my tomatoes right away.  Anyone else remember this?  My wife doesn't.

Ok, so I am not leaving you high and dry as far as garden photos and such.  I did take a brief spin around the yard today and took a couple of pics to share.  What I wanted to share was my garlic.  If you recall, it was showing a few inches of growth prior to the deep freeze and snows of winter '08.  What you haven't seen is the scene I've witnessed from my office window since then.  Look at what they look like now, here's one of the two patches I planted last fall.

The glove is one of my winter gardening gloves for perspective.  But here is a good shot of how tall the greens are.

Certainly not as tall as some around the country, but for my first time growing garlic, I'm pretty happy.  Sure I won't be eating the greens like chives (yummy sounding to me) anytime soon, but it's a start.

And it's a great use of the space between my blueberry bushes until they fill in with growth over the next decade.  Speaking of blueberry bushes, I finally took down the names of the varieties for posterity.  Over time the labels wear down and I want to have record of what I'm growing.  So I'll end with a list of the blueberries I'm growing, along with a blurb about each.

Legacy: Mid-Late season harvest, this variety tends to be a little slower to produce in the first couple of years, but then responds with very high yields once established. Legacy has received top ranking reviews for its fruit quality, superior scar and flavor.

Blueray: Mid season harvest, it excels in marginal Northern Highbush blueberry growing areas where winters are more severe. It’s large berry size with medium to large scar and superior flavor makes Blueray a good choice. Blueray produces best in intensive plantings with severe pruning and has tight clusters.

Northblue: Mid season harvest, it is quite productive for its size (semi-dwarf).  Northblue has produced between 3 and 7 pounds per bush in Minnesota tests. Initial observations in Oregon indicate a high yield potential in milder climates. Very little pruning is needed for Northblue the first few years, then regular thinning of old wood is recommended.

Jersey: Late season, it is one of the oldest and most dependable varieties. It grows well in most types of soil, producing consistent yields of very sweet fruit. The loose clusters and upright bush with a small to medium sized berry.

Overall, I think those are great choices, and I can say so myself because I didn't know any of this when I got them.  The first two were recommended by the nursery in Arlington where we bought them, and the second two were a gift from my garden buddy Sandy over in Woodinville.  I guess the only thing I'm missing is an early variety, but given our climate, I doubt an early variety would be such here.   Though if I could find room for another, I think I'd go with something like the Patriot, which is ultra early with cluster berries.  Not that I have any room for another unless I removed some bushes or huge stumps. 

I hope you got out and enjoyed your garden this weekend and if you're in the east, I hope you are staying warm and have the pipes wrapped tight. /brrrr


  1. screw lowes, I got mine on sale at Target today, they had the Sterilite heavy duty 18 gal bins 2 for $9 ( reg $4.99 each) and the 30 gal sterilite heavy duty bins $8 each ( reg price $9 each).
    they felt comparable to the rubbermaid roughnecks, and were tan instead of dark blue. I have enough for 5 SWCs now, and got rainchecks to pickup more at the sale price later. ( I love rainchecks)

    HAHA about the lights, when I had my saltwater aquaium going lighting was one of those issues in my local 'Reefer' club that could destory marriages apparently, some peopel were so obsessed with their lighting settups, T5 vs metal halide vs power compact vs german mogul bulbs vs T7s, blablabla. Ironically its my old aquarium power compat lights that I use now as my seed starting setup lights, since they were just gathering dust in the garage.

    Once I get my order for tomatofet put in I'll have spent about $100 this week on seeds (including rennes garden, seeds of change and botanical interests). My garden has to feed 10 adults and 2 children, including 1 vegan, for the season. Plus I'm hoping to get some canned/preserved as well. Now if only the weather would cooperate...not that I don't mind an 88 degree day...but its JANUARY!

  2. I also spent an afternoon reading the GW indoor lighting forum. It raised more questions than it answered. I did however come away with the general idea that you might just as well get a cheap fluorescent light setup and that will be adequate although not the best. It's OK for starting tomatoes indoors, but not for raising a full season of Maui Wowie.
    I think what I'll do is go into my workshop and borrow the 12-foot long fluorescent fixture, and bring it inside for a month or two. I'm just wondering if I should put new bulbs in as that seems to be quite recommended.

  3. Hi Rich,

    Sounds like you've been busy! I've never done the self-watering containers and am interested to see how you do these. If you find a good sale on containers, let me know. I'd like to put together a few myself.

    I've begun my experiment with the LCD blue/green grow lights. I'll let you know how it goes. The good thing about LCD (according to my research) is that they use less energy and they last forever. I found some good deals for these on eBay. They were a cinch to install. Just had to screw them to the bookshelf I had. I'll let you know how they work out.


  4. One edit to post post. They bulbs don't last literally forever, but for much longer than other bulb types. :-)

  5. Wow, great comments one and all! Just had to respond, but please keep them comming!

    Cynthia: Target is on my to-do list today. Thanks for bouncing ideas off of for SWCs.

    Tim: Yep, that's what I remember of my research too. I do believe that one cool and one in the upper end of the light spectrum, like the daylight bulbs, will do better than standard ones, but use what you can get. Oh, and even the guy at the store mentioned that you should change your bulbs every couple of years for growing lights. The old ones may still work, but will have much less growing power. Anyway, that's so cool that you have a portable light like that in your garage. My brother's going to grow seedlings in his unheated garage with lights under some cabinets and heat pads on the countertops.

    Sandy: Yeah, SWCs are amazing. Not very attractive, but very functional. Great instructions are on Judy's blog (see my blogroll), but if you have any questions, fire away, I would love to help!

    Oh, and you're trying the LCD lights, that's so cool. I saw that and thought it was a little too new wave for me (pun intended), but I am very interested to see how it works! I chose T8s for their energy efficiency, but even they pale in comparison to LCDs. Did you use a mixture of blue and red for the different ranges of the spectrum?

  6. Ouch! What a brave little guy, smashed fingers throb...a lot!

    If you find a 4-foot two tube shop light that plugs in to an outlet, let me know. I searched Lowe's last fall and could only find hard wired ones. Another "Ouch!" on the price of the Rubbermaid containers. I haven't yet taken the plunge, but I do have a few big buckets that fit together perfectly and would hold a single plant, so I'm thinking of trying cucumbers in them this year...or maybe my cherry tomatoes.


  7. The LCD lights that I have are blue/red panels. Each panel contains 50% blue bulbs and 50% red bulbs.

  8. Oh Rich -- so sorry to hear about your son's accident with his finger. Poor thing! I know that must have hurt like $%$&!!!! I sure do hope that he's feeling better. It seems like fingers and toes that are injured hurt and throb the most.

    The lights I got were 4' long -- kinda the cheapy shop lights. I picked them up at Home Depot. They did really well for me. I can't even remember what kind of bulbs I got for them. I'll use them again this year. Just to get the seedlings started until it's time to move them out to the garden is all that I was looking for. You are so right, people are very "adimate" (sp?) about their lights LOL

    Isn't that soil block maker cool! I've also been looking at it myself. We can just use the Mel's Mix and save alot of money on seed starting mix. I hope that you get it!

    Your garlic is looking great! I hope that mine hasn't put all of their energy to making green tops -- I'd rather have the garlic bulbs LOL

    I got two more blueberry plants yesterday at Lowes.

  9. Sure hope your son's finger heals very quickly. That is soooo painful but he sounds like he was quite the brave one.

    You ended up with a nice selection of blueberry varieties! I noticed mine are putting on some new growth again - so spring cannot be all that far away. ;)

  10. I remember getting my fingers slammed in a van door by my sister when I was really young. Funny how kids bones are flexible.

    Your garlic is looking really good, you should have a very nice crop by the middle of summer. The water meter guy keeps stepping on my garlic, some people are just oblivious I think. One of these days I should look into getting the thing moved.

    Good luck with your lights and that soil block maker is pretty cool!

  11. ...forgot to add

    I made a great blueberry pie the other day, it was a mix of blueberries and grated granny smith apples. I will post the recipe the next time I can't think of what to post, maybe if you get a bumper crop this season you can try it out. I will let you know when I get it up.

  12. Dan: Sounds yummy! I'll have to write it down. Funny because right next to our blueberries is a granny smith apple tree. Hehe. Thanks Dan

    Sandy: target has the 18 gallons on sale which means they're sold out. I am not sure about the roughnecks.

    Granny: Lowes in Lynnwood is where I am getting my lights. I tell ya, swing on over on your way back hehe

  13. My aunt rolled up her car window with my fingers inside when I was a kid. Bravo to your little one for handling it like a trooper....I know I sure didn't!

    I priced out bins about a month ago and couldn't believe how much they were going to cost. I must have mentioned this to a relative because I ended up getting 3 Earthboxes for Christmas. I know they aren't as large as homemade SWCs but I grew tomatoes last year in the Gardener's Supply version with great success. Plants over 6 feet tall. I must admit I'm relieved to not have to build them. I wouldn't have bought Earthboxes myself but if someone wants to pay for them I'm more than happy to accept!

  14. Oh, one more thing....I'm jealous that you can see what's going on with your garlic....mine is under 6 inches of snow!

  15. Soil blocking is the only way to go!