Saturday, July 31, 2010

July 31, 2010

The garden is in a lull right now.  The crappy summer weather we've had this season has slowed the garden's growth and delayed harvests.  Then, to add insult to injury, the massive heat wave that struck the area while we were on vacation caused all my cool-weather crops to bolt.  So much for the brassicas.  I was really looking forward to the broccoli and cauliflower. 

Yeah, I know I mentioned this in my last post, but it is a pivotal point in this year's garden season.  About the only thing that liked the heat was the tomatoes, which shot up over the last month.  I have hundreds of flowers on my ten tomato plants, but shaking them has not formed any tomatoes.  I fear they either won't be pollinated or not have time for the eventual tomatoes to ripen at all.  What the heck is happening to our weather?  It's insane.

The other reason that the garden is in a lull is that my salad bed that I planted before I left is still not quite at the harvest stage.  I guess I should have immediately replanted the dozens of blank spinach spots from horrible germination, but I don't have the seed to replant. 

Speaking of that. I forgot to mention in my last post that I took a bit of a detour on my trip back from California.  I just happened to read a billboard while driving through central Oregon that Territoral Seed was coming up.  Much to my family's appathy, I stopped at the company store.  For a Pacific Northwest gardener, I was in heaven.  No taxes, no shipping and their entire seed catalog at my fingertips.  Unfortunately, aside from a few salad greens I knew I was out of, I couldn't remember what I needed.  I thought about spinach, but didn't get any.  How was I to know I'd get 3 of 30 plants to germinate.  And we just love adding it to salads and smoothies alike. 

As a tip to parents, you can't taste or see it in smoothies, so kids will drink their veggies. Peas work well too, but broccoli adds a discernable taste in any amount.  I was looking forward to trying cauliflower.  And of course I wont have any for fall harvest since ALL of my cole crop seedlings died over vacation.  Still kicking myself over that one.

Lastly, for those of you posting concern for my carrots, we're eating them daily.  We've eaten about a pound so far, and they're still tasty, though definitely lacking the fresh-from-the-garden sweetness.  Oh well, I do have about 100 carrots almost ready for fall harvest, so I'm not concerned in the slightest.

Finally got my cord back for my phone, so here is a sompling of the semi-processed carrots ready for mid-term storage.  And here is the package ready for the garage fridge crisper.

Come to think of it, we've eaten one and a half of these paper towel bundles.  They may not last a month after all.

Enjoy your garden!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

July 22, 2010

My oh my.  I want to thank the folks that have come here and left comments of encouragement of late.  They actually got me off my duff and back to the site with the intention to post again.  Unfortunately when I got here the theme had changed.  Not only was it ugly, but it lacked a way to log in to change it or post.  Thankfully I found a way to get to the login page directly, so hopefully all is well again. 

Since my last post, the weather changed here yet again.  We had a week of 90+ degree temperatures, which killed my cold weather crops while we were on vacation.  Not only that, but the fall broccoli and cauliflower that I planted out right before I left didn't make it in the heat.  Too fragile I guess.  Shame, it was yummy what I got to eat. 

So let's see, what else is going on.  The salad greens have all bolted, except the romaine from EG.  It has actually started forming hearts.  I was wondering when that would happen.  I still hope to harvest the outer leaves and keep it producing.  Not sure.  Anyway, before I left late last month, I planted an entire bed of salad greens for fall.  What came up is doing fairly well, but the spinach was a bust.  I think I got 3 plants out of 30 seeds.  Insane.  That's too bad because we were really liking the spinach.  My youngest eats NO veggies so adding spinach to smoothies was a real hit.  Shh, don't tell him. hehe.

What else.  Ah yes, the carrot fiasco.  A week ago my eldest asked to go get a carrot from the garden.  Of course.  Then my yougest wants to do so.  However, he decides he wants the perfect one, so he harvests a dozen, expecting to put them back in the ground like Curious George.  So, when I get out there, I ask my eldest to pick up all the carrots that his brother pulled while I got educate my youngest.  Alas, all he apparently heard was pick all the carrots.  When I got back he'd harvested nearly the entire bed.  I went crazy.   It ended up being 4 pounds of baby carrots.  I couldn't be mad at him for long though, he was heartbroken.  He was only doing what he thought I wanted and truly loves carrots, so he was distraught until we researched and found out how to keep them for a month or more.  We can easily go through them in that. time.  Live and learn.

Well, that's plenty for this post.  Sorry I don't have pics for this one. I can't find my cord to upload photos to my sharing site.  Speaking of pictures, we got a new camera for our trip.  It's a real nice one, so I hope to start using it more for the garden so you get better pics.  Something to look forward to, don't you think?  Hope your weather's better than ours and get out and enjoy your garden!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

May 30, 2010

Wow, nearly a month has gone by.  You wouldn't have known it from the shape of the garden though.  The weather's been more like late fall than late spring.  Cool, wet and windy.  I haven't planted cukes yet but I'm fairly certain they wouldn't germinate in this weather anyway. 

Other things I haven't done include planting my tomatoes in my Self Watering Containers.  The containers still sit there ready to go, but there appears to be no hurry to get them in the ground.  They're not growing much anyway.  I have picked off a few flower buds to encourage more green growth.  Last year I didn't do that with my first flowers and the plant size suffered tremendously.  This year I've been more cautious. 

I also haven't weeded my Bed 1.  The overwintered carrots there had gone straight to seed rather than form good roots.  Shame as my kids don't have carrots for a while.  My new plantings are about 2 inches tall.  Let's see, my trellis is still in the shed.  The only thing that would need it now are my peas, which are about a foot tall now.  I think that will go up soon to give them something to grab hold of. 

Lastly, I haven't hooked up my rain barrels.  I need to build the platforms for them, nor found the right way to hook it up.  I am still considering the Gutter Adaptor here though I am not sure how well they work or how long they'll hold up.  However, considering the deluge of rain we've been getting of late, I'm in no hurry to store water.

Speaking of all the rain, look what I found on the way back from running my eldest to the bus stop... Note the paper is just for comparison, though it is really good that folks are trying to figure out how to improve the park behind our house.

Oh, and I haven't had a chance to mow with all the wet grass, but here is the composting action from my last mowing.

First I mix and dig a trench while I'm fluffing the aging compost. Then, while I'm mowing I occasionally throw down a sheet of news paper in front of the mower to mix in some shredded browns.  Tis the season of all greens and no browns.

Then I simply dump the new stuff into the trench, wetting the layers and adding heaps of the old compost for variety. It still needs to age and cook more.  Doing this creates a heaping pile of hot compost in action...

Speaking of the lack of browns, I have been adding small amounts of cat hair, lint from the dryer and the like.  I don't like to have too much of those, but they do help out and create a great diverse compost.  And while we're on the compost subject, if you've seen the Sun Chips commercial, I'm trying out to see if their chip bags are really compostable.  We got them for an outing as they're a healthier alternative to potato chips or Doritos.  When finished, I cut the bag into little pieces and put it in my home compost bin.  Give it a chance to cook a bit inside before being added to the bottom of my next compost build.

Oh yeah, I was also planning on bagging up the remaining finished compost and doing a two-bin system.  That hasn't happened.  Too busy playing with the kids and doing the job search.

Lastly, the kids have been getting in the action.  One warmish day my eldest took some discarded peat pot egg cartons and trying to grow cut flowers... Cuter than all get-out, but not going to work.

I hope you all have had better weather than I and have been more active in your gardens!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

May 2, 2010

Well, the weather is definitely working along the idea that April and May showers bring flowers...  I got out in the morning to start working on the Self Watering Containers.  They had been crudely stored for the winter and needed to be cleaned up and filled for planting.

The first order of business was counting.  I've got 10 viable tomato plants that are all hardened off and ready to go in the ground.  Unfortunately, even if I use my 32 gallon SWC for tomatoes and not mellons, I stil only have 4 bins.  My solution?  The 32 gallon scrap container that held my failed corn last year.  It's behind my blueberries and in great sun.  So what if it's not an SWC, it's good enough.

It was sprinkling off and on, so I worked fast.  I know that dirt used to grow tomatoes can carry diseases from year to year, so it's good to rotate, especially since I'm growing heirlooms with horrible disease resistance.  So I did some musical dirt.  Using a small bucket as a big scoop, I transferred the tomato dirt (Mel's Mix) to my sons' scrap SWC bin gardens and took their formerly carrot dirt and augmented my scrap tomato bin and a little into my SWCs.  My goal with the tomato bins was to keep the mix as diverse as possible to allow for the best possible nutrients for the heavy feeders.  I'm still going to fertilize, but it all starts with good soil. 

Next up for my crazy concoction was copious amounts of home made compost.  It's very dry because of the cover over the compost bin for the last year, but that's ok.  It will hydrate soon enough.  It's also not what I'd call finished compost, at least not in the way Cedar Grover uses a chipper on theirs.  Again, I don't mind.  I love seeing bits of egg shell and news print that isn't quite done.  It's all good for the soil.

After that, I mixed in an equal amount of Cedar Grove compost.  I know, cheating.  At least I didn't buy it.  My Aunt got 6 yards delivered to spread out all over the yard at their new home.  She got too much (minimum orders) so she's been giving it away.  I just bagged four left over compost bags and brought them home.  I used three of them to fill all my bins.  Actually, rain stopped me before I could finish.  I basically left everything right where it was when the sky opened up.

Over the next few days, not much gardening got done.  If it wasn't rain, it was horrible wind storms.  So bad in fact that I actually brought in my tomatoes overnight.  I could do that since mine are still in pots.  Unfortunately, my brother's plants are in the ground already.  I got a call at 8 the night of the storm asking if I had anything he could use to protect them.  Thankfully I've been slowly collecting junk over time for use in the garden.  I had 5 empty 2-liter pop bottles in the garage for just such an occasion.  He cut the bottoms off, drilled a few vent holes in the top and put them over the plants like mini-cloches.  He's leaving them on to heat the plants a bit.  Can't wait to see how they fair.

Hold onto your hat and enjoy your garden!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

May 1,2010

Happy May Day!  Time for all good gardners to get their gloves on and work the dirt!

We celebrated a showery May Day by taking a walk by the chickens with the kids.  Nobody was home, but we did get to see the little chicks nearly all grown up.

If you recall, the chicks we saw just a month or so ago fit in my 3 year olds hands and were about the size of your fist.  Now look at them!

It's insane how fast they grow when treated with care.  I also wanted to share this picture because it looks like a great size for a home gardener that only wants two or three chickens.  I believe this is called The Egg.  I showed it before but this is the first time I saw it in action.  You can clearly see the mini coop with the panel on the side for getting to the nesting box. But what I really like about it, is the whole thing weighs less than 30 pounds so it can easily be moved from spot to spot in the yard so the hens don't do damage to the grass and keep everything nice and trimmed.  IF I can get the Mrs. to cave on chickens, this is high on my list of things to look into purchasing.

In case you want to see the size and scope of this set-up, I took another shot with a yard waste container as perspective.

Tiny, I know, but two, maybe three chickens would fare well in there, especially if you let them free range most of the time.  We have a coon problem in our area so it would definitely be necessary for night-time protection.

I have been out in the yard, especially trying to maintain my compost bins.  Unfortunately Spring storms have utterly destroyed my cover.  It needs to be rebuilt, but I'm not certain I will.  My compost is VERY dry and I could always just cover with blue tarps in the winter to avoid nutrients leaching out into the soil.  More later.

Enjoy your garden!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

April 27, 2010

Look at this, three days in a row.  Actually I wrote them all the same day after a lovely Sunday in the yard.

Saturday we spent the evening with some good friends of ours.  We had wanted to duplicate their window boxes filled with various varieties of mint.  We had the idea last summer when we were over at their house and they offered us some mint water.  All it was was ice water with brused mint leaves in it.  You can't believe how refreshing it is on a hot summer day.

So last summer I bought the self watering window box containers from Wal Mart.  Last fall I used them for lettuce, but this spring they took on their permanent role. Mint containers.

I have been wating all winter for the local hardware store by our friend's house to get their stock of mint in.  Last week I got the call saying they were in.  We picked out multiple varieties of mint.  Well, my wife picked them out since I had a cold or allergies so I couldn't smell a thing.  In additon to the mint, we got lemon thyme, lemon balm and pineapple sage.  The thyme went into the containers to break up the mint leaves so I could tell them apart when they all grow together.  Sorry, I'm getting ahead of myself. 

When we got home late Saturday, the plants just went outside with the tomatoes.

Sunday morning was spent planting and weeding with my Aunt.  First we planted a Spanish Lavender that I got to replace the one that died last year.  The bees LOVE it and it completes the triangle of cross-pollination for my blueberry plants.  This time I planted it in the back of the blueberry bed so the bees won't be too close to the kids.  I know they won't sting, but I'm not so confident that my kids won't get carried away and stumble into it.

Anyway, digging out a hole about 2 feet from an old evergreen stump should have warned me of this, but the going was slooooooow.  There was a five inch thick root running through my hole.  It took me the better part of an hour to dig a hole, since it required using an axe on the root.  Here is a picture of what came out of the hole to make room for the lavender.

After the hole was cleared, the planting went smoothly with compost in the bottom and a bit more mixed in with the native soil for the infill.

Now it has room to grow and expand and won't be near the edge of the rock wall where the kids play.  In front of that is where I planted the pineapple sage.  It too is small righ now, but I saw the one my friends cut back from last year. It was a good one foot in diameter and woody.  It went in much easier as it was a little seedling, but the planting process was the same.  This corner that used to just have a sprawling lavender, is really comming together.  I should really take a picture of the bed, but it needs more weeding. Don't all beds that aren't filled with Mel's Mix? hehe.

After my Aunt left, I took the time to plant up my mint.  I was good about taking pictures so bear with me.  Here is me figuring out the placement of the plants within the containers.  There is already an initial layer of compost at the bottom.

The planting went pretty easy, though I ran out of my compost and vermiculite mixture and topped them off with straight compost.  They should like it.

Like my impromptu work station on top of the kiddie play set.  Probably should Craigslist that one unless our friends want it for their babby.  My youngest is too big for it.

Here the bins are in their semi-permanent resting spots between the beds in my garden.  I was thinking about haning them from the fence in the garden, but they would have to be right at the top to not be shaded by the fence.  Also, I would have to buy the hangers, and I'm still Mr. Cheap until I find a job.

You can see that they fit nicely between the beds so they're 2 feet long.  You can also tell that the path ways between the beds are useful things.  The pot on the ground has my Stevia plant in it. It's come back with a vengence! I don't know if I'll keep these where they are once the trellis goes up in back and the SWCs get set up with my tomatoes.  That would make for a crowded path way.  Not sure where these will go then.  Oh, and you can see the size of my collard greens.  Going to have to ask EG what to do with them, hehe.

Overall, this was a productive gardening weekend, with some great quality time with the kids in the afternoons.  Who could ask for more?

Monday, April 26, 2010

April 26, 2010

This post will mostly be random thoughts and pictures from the past two weeks since my last post.  Again, no clue where the time has gone. I mean, this time last year I was working 60+ hours a week, spending time with the family and still had time to blog nearly every day (6 or so days a week).  Now I'm at home all the time and can't get more than 1 per week.  Bad me.

Well, my lettuce has finally taken off.  I mistakenly only planted one square foot of each type of lettuce, remembering the deluge of greens I had last summer.  Stupid me, that was the heat of the summer, not early spring.  Next year I need at least 2 square feet of each variety to have a few salads a week at this time of the year.

As you can see, the Italiensheir is only a few inches tall instead of a foot tall, but should be tender this way.  My salad bowl is sad looking and even the Red Sails are at haf mast.  At least the radishes in the lowe right corner are not ready yet, so I am hopeful a good salad is in the making.

About the only thing holding it's own is the mustard greens.  Funny thing about them.  I swear the package says mustard greens and I got them from my good buddy EG last year.  Unfortunately a few emails and photos detemined that they were indeed Collard Greens.  He apparently never had any mustard greens.  I'll try them in a salad, but if they don't work, I'm going to have to email EG for a recipie, hehe.  I've been to the South as a kid, but never had the pleasure of eatting collard greens. 

Think they're too big to eat raw?  They're even bigger since this picture was taken.

Speaking of salads, they just aren't the same without tomatoes.  Of course I won't have any ready until mid-late summer, but I have been taking them for a walk every day.

As you can see, all but one has been potted up to a 2 quart pot.  I know folks like my brother already have theirs in the ground, but I got a slow start, so mine are a bit delayed.  I will hopefully plan them in a week or so.  Also, you can see I'm using the popsickle sticks from the dollar store with the names written with a Sharpee.  They seem to be holding up to watering and the rain, so I'm hopeful I won't have a repeat of last year's mystery tomato season.

Lastly, my neighbor and I share a lilac bush. Well, it's mine but since it was planted too near the fence line, it grew under and into his yard.  He likes it too so he doesn't complain.  He does like to repeatedly ask why the flowers on my side are light lavender and his are downright purple.



It is absolutely the same plant, though my side gets more direct sun.  The only other thing I can think of is that for years I had three tall cedar trees right next to this, so maybe it turned the ground acidic or something.  No clue.  One of the great mysteries of life.  Either way, it's still a gorgeous tree.

Enjoy your garden!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

April 25, 2010

Again, it seems like I've been blogging every day.  Well, I haven't.  Mostly I've been spending every sunny day in the yard working on something or other, thinking I should blog about it.  Then I get the kids down and do some job search and stupid FB crap, then it's time for bed.  Oh, and I'm reading a gardening book for Patti's newsletter and going to review it for her.  Other than that, the job market appears to be picking up a bit by the number of calls I've gotten and interviews I've got lined up.  The potential for me finding a job has sent me into daddy overdrive, trying to eek out every moment with the boys that I can.  Still, the nice weather screams garden, so I obey.

I can't believe I haven't mentioned my strawberries.  I've wanted to plant strawberries along the edge of my rock wall blueberry bed for ages.  Each year at our preschool auction, one of the parents contributes 6 or so pots of 10+ strawberries that they weed out.  Every year I bid and lose.  This year, I worked it out so that if I did lose, I could snag some directly from her.  Alas, for $7 I got a pot.  The next day my Aunt and I got them in the ground since they were about to flower...

First we weeded the bed, at least where we were planting.  Despite the aging layer of beauty bark, weeds are prolific in that bed.  Then I dug little holes about a foot apart along the edge of the bed, leaving a 2 foot opening between the two blueberry plants for easy entrance to the bed.

Then I collected a bucket of my trusty 2-year-old compost and worked a handful into the soil at the bottom of the holes.  After that, it was time to separate out the pot-o-strawberries.  My aunt had the great idea to do it in my wheelbarrow to avoid bending so much.

I ended up with 11 plants that could easily be separated.  Some were more like 2 plants and some were barely plants at all.  Still, we got to work planting them.

You can see in the background that the blueberries are benefiting from the heavy mulch of pine needless from my neighbor.  That and the rock wall may be in desperate need of repair, but it still makes a nice bench to sit on to plant.

After filling in around the seedlings with native soil, I mounded with more compost.

You'll note that the compost still has a bunch of little dried grass clippings and twigs in it.  I don't use a shredded to chop up my compostables into fine bits (though I could).  It's also drier than I'd like, but having a cover over it for a year tends to dry things out.  I have since propped up the lid to let rain get to it.

Since I planted them, most of the plants have flowered and grown the little hard buds where strawberries form.  I was told by the donor that this should be a heavy producing year for the plants, so I didn't pinch back the flowers.  I had intended to train the runners to fill in the gaps.  However, a good friend of ours just offered up their own strawberry weedings.  I am excited to fill in the gaps with different varieities to have strawberries all season long.  I may go 2 rows deep with runners some day. Not sure.  My whole family loves strawberries.  Time will tell.

Well, this post is long enough.  I will do a few more and forward publish them since I have time.  Hope your spring weather is as gorgeous as mine and you have had time to enjoy your garden!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

April 6, 2010

Man, it sure feels like I'vele been blogging tons over the past week, but alas, I haven't.  You know this from the lack fo posts. I guess I've just thought I'd been keeping up with it.  Oops.

Well, Easter came and went, along with spring break for the kids.  The weather was crappy all week, which was bad for letting the kids go out to play, but at least it cleared up for Easter. 

I'll spare you the tons of pictures and even video clips of my kids racing for Easter candy, though I did want to share a few shots from the day before.  My eldest wanted to leave carrots for the Easter Bunny.  Just not any carrots either, but ones from our garden.  Before I could get out there to stop them, each had pulled from the not-quite-ready to harvest patch of over-wintered carrots. I had hoped they would pull from the didn't finish harvesting the overwintered fall carrots patch.  It's still adorable what they did.

Being out there in the garden made me want to do some spring clean-up and planting of spring's carrot patch.  Logan wasn't too keen on helping this year, despite his desire for the spoils.  Thankfully by the time I had them nearly done tilling the bed to aerate it for carrots, they were in heaven. 

We did 12 SF of carrots in the middle of bed 4, where I planted potatoes last year.  I actually found a few yukon gold husks that I'd apparently missed.  With that many squares and rain interrupting us, most of the patch got 16/SF spacing, but some got far more than that.  A little thinning never hurt anyone.  And they sure had a blast!

Speaking of potatoes, my brother never asked for my potato bins like he was supposed to.  I had planned on giving potatoes a rest for a season given my planned absense during the critical hilling stage.  Of course, Mother Nature had other plans.  I couldn't help but notice that what I thought were weeds in the bins that I hadn't taken down over the winter, were actually potatoes that I swore were not there.  I dug and dug with my hands trying to find some to no avail last fall.  But sure enough, each bin looked just like this the other day.

I plan on hilling a bit to give the taters room to bloom, but not the tower of old.  The system works if you work it properly.  I just haven't yet. 

I've got tons more to talk about, but this post is getting crowded as it is.  So I'll leave it with a slight breakthrough.  I swear I only brought up chickens to my wife a few times, but the kids keep wanting to go back to the chicken house near my folks place.  So, much to my shock and surprise, my wife starts asking questions about chickens the other night, clearly looking for answers that will cross off her cons.  Like how do they stay warm in the winter and what do you do with them when they die (she doesn't want to eat pets).  Great conversation insued, and I didn't push.  I'm still bidding my time, mostly because it'd be a rush to get them now for spring and we're planning an extended vacation if I'm still not working for early summer.  Of course, if I am working, there's no way I'll have time for chickens if it's a high-pay, high-stress job.  Still, it's a MAJOR step in the right direction.

Enjoy your garden!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

March 28, 2010

The Friday before Spring Break, my 3 year old was given a book by his preschool teacher.  Let me say he LOVES reading.  Well we read to him.  He'll sit raptured as we read him stacks of books. I love reading anything about gardening to him.  Surpisingly there are many kids books that are about farming or gardening.  So when he showed me the book from his teacher, I was happy.  It was about a real chicken and how she loves worms when her "sisters" like corn, and she likes finding creative places to lay her eggs rather than just the nesting box.  He loved the book and wanted me to read it over and over.  That afternoon, the sun was breaking through the clouds I took my boys for a walk. 

A block away from my folks place is a couple that raises chickens in their fenced front yard.  I had expected to show them the coup and the nesting boxes like in the book, and maybe get a glimpse of some of the girls pecking away in the yard.  Instead, we found the home owner in the yard gardening.  She was gracious and generous.  She let us tour the yard, the coup and play with the hens.  I hadn't expected that, but it was a joy for the kids.  I love that she uses the eggs for her family and the left overs go to her restaurant.  When I get a job I plan on going there to return the favor.


The coup has all the right ingredients including 4 nesting boxes, one had several eggs in it that day.

The kids had a blast feeding bread to the chickens, though even the nicest ones shied away from them. 

However, the best time was when she brought out a couple of chicks that she bought for her cousin and is raising until they're ready to leave the nest so-to-speak (she has heat lamps). 

The kids got to hold the little ones, but we had one dropped bird and one pecking.  All in all, that was the highlight of my week.

I would love to have a few birds of my own.  I saw a mini-coup that was like an egg for two birds with a hoop cage to protect them from raccoons. I am a bit worried about the viscious coon problem we have here, but that setup was a good solution.  Sorry I didn't take a picture of it. 

Anyway, it doesn't matter, my wife doesn't want them.  I've asked and asked, but she keeps saying no, despite her love of the fresh eggs we've had in the past.  Maybe some day.

Enjoy your garden, and try a fresh egg, they're unbelievable!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

March 27, 2010

Well, spring showers has been an understatement since my last post.  It's rained off and on for the last few days.  That's probably a good thing for my plants since I don't have water outside at the moment.  I haven't re-attached the backyard hose and the front yard hose is missing a spiggot following the pipe freezing this winter.  Probably a project I should tackle soon.  Don't you think?

Anyway, I finally planted out my salad greens and cole crops.  They were clearly outgrowing their 2 inch soil blocks and beginning to wilt.

Compare that to two days earlier from my last post.  Note to self, start hardening off sooner so it doesn't get this far.  Oh, well, cool weather crops have historically been very resilient, so I'm hoping they bounce back.

Of course it had to start raining the day I planted these out.  So much for taking my time and letting my kids help.  I just threw them in the ground.

Sorry looking greens if I ever saw them.  Sure hope they ounce back.  Anyway, the picture above is my three foot wide bed, which works well for my lettuce since I have three varieties.  I'm more hopeful for the Italiensheir and Red Sails.  The salad bowl has seen better days.  Man they went downhill fast. 

Not sure if you noticed the bare space in the bottom right hand corner. I didn't plant anything there.  It's not the best space, so I threw in a handfull of radishes.  You can't have spring salads without radishes, hehe.

Lastly, I planted my cole crops. All four broccoli and cauliflower worked well for me, though they were getting a bit leggy despite my plans otherwise with the light system and fan to simulate wind.

I'm tempted to cut a toilet paper roll in thirds and ring these plants. I recall in years past I may have had something nibbling at them.  Never found out what they were, but now would be the time to try to thwart it.  Thoughts?

Well, Spring is here, so I hope you're thawing out and getting outside.  Gardening time is upon us. Enjoy your garden!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

March 23, 2010

Today I spent some more time outside.  The weather is cooperative and the kids LOVE the fresh air.  Most of the time it's just watching the kids ride their bikes or play in the dirt with a neighbor kid.  Today however, I took the seedlings for their second walk.  They're actually getting a bit long in the tooth to be out of the ground, so I'm doing a crash course in hardening off.

I wasn't kidding when I said I didn't know if I should plant them out or harvest them.  We could have a nice salad from these two-inch soil blocks.  I think I'm going to plant them out tomorrow and let them deal with mid 40s night time temps.  Speaking of which, it's 1 am and the seedlings are still out there. BRB. hehe

Today I also played musical seedlings.  If you recall, I set up an impromptu light system in my kitchen to let the cole crops germinate before moving them upstairs to the real light system.  Well, today all my broccoli and cauliflower had officially germinated (five of each, which rocks).  I wanted to move them upstairs, along with the three germinated tomatoes. 

Carefully I moved the seedlings upstairs and rearranged the kitchen area.  I took a picture of the upstairs system which looks very baren while the original seedlings were outside.

Notice how steep the slope of the light fixtures is?  That's to accomodate the cup-o-tomatoes and the new cole crop seedlings. From not on out this season, the fixtures will look like that due to the tomatoes.

To end, I'll share two random comments and pictures.  The first is a stubby carrot my youngest pulled from the garden. 

He said he thought it was ready.  I can see why he thought that.  It's fat, but short.  I wonder why that happened?  Anyway, my eldest loves baby carrots, so he ate it up in two bites.  I hope the rest aren't like that.

Secondly, the neighbor my kids play with have several towering pine trees in their yard. They hate them because of all the pine needles and cones they drop, but I have been looking for a local source for pine needles.  They're very acidic and make a great mulch for acid-loving plants.  So today while the kids were playing, I got a kitchen garbage bag and convinced the kids it was a game to fill it with needles.  I took them and spread them liberally around the base of my blueberry plants.  I hope I'm not too late and all the acid's run out of them.

As you can also see in the picture above, I still need to thin my garlic.  I never harvested last year's heads, so they went to seed in the ground.  Each of the cloves sprouted.  They're way too crouded to grow properly, so I need to pull all but one per few inches.  I'm thinking I could probably transplant them, but don't really have the space for it.

Well, that's about it for tonight.  Enjoy your garden!

Monday, March 22, 2010

March 22, 2010

Yesterday I spent a lovely Sunday evening with my family to celebrate my wife's and my birthdays (belatedly) It was a great time all around, but I especially enjoyed taking a stroll with my brother.  Not only did I get to see his garden, but we walked down the street to the chicken house.   It appears that Mountlake Terrace has no rules on owning chickens in the city.  These neighbors of my brother's have 5 hens that live in a fenced-in front yard.  I love thier chicken coop.  I should have taken pictures, but I didn't want to pry.  Safe to say the hens looked fat and healthy.

While we were out, I took a few pictures of my brother's garden and seedlings.  He's planting is similar to mine, though with some major differences.

He's got TONS of tomatoes going, many of the same variety.   Like me last year, he'll give away what he doesn't use.   This year however, his seedlings are well beyond mine in the tomato front, though I've got him beat in the cole crop department (see below).  Oh, and the red pots are hot peppers.  He'll hoop house them in the summer to kick the heat up a notch.  Apparently it works here.  Neither of us has tried it, but a friend of his has great luck locally.  They'll be great for salasa making this year. 

Also, he just planted 88 pea plants in a 4 SF bed.  He did something similar to KitsapFG, and went horizontal and vertical.  Here's his setup.

Apparently the slats are made from recycled plastic bottles, so they'll never rot.  Oh, and the bamboo poles used to tie them together came from my folks place across the street.  They've got bamboo growing.  Very cool.

Lastly, an update on my germination efforts.  If you recall, many of my tomatoes didn't germinate the first time, so I replanted.  Further, I planted another 5 each of broccoli and cauliflower plants.  We love those veggies and I plan on getting succession crops out of them.  Hasn't worked out perfectly in year's past, but I'm hoping for the best this year. 

Anyway, I noticed that out of the 10 cole crops I planted in a Jiffy-Peat egg carton thingy, 3 seeds germinated fast and were bending over toward the south-facing kitchen window.  I didn't want to move the whole egg carton thingy upstairs to the light system because it's too cold up there for good germination.  What was I to do?  I had 7 seeds that weren't germinating and 3 seedlings going leggy.  I needed a compromise.  Well, they say necessity is the mother of invention.  It was here.  I found an old funky clip bowl lamp that we used 10 years ago with a black light bulb to find cat stains.  I replaced the bulb with a CFL and clipped it to the spice cubboard door handle.  Tada, an impromptu light system in the Kitchen.

Before you comment, I realize the light is WAY too high over the tray.  It was the best I could do to secure the lamp, and it's only temporary.  Especially since the lamp throws of a decent amount of heat to warm the seeds a bit.

We shall see what happens in the next day or so.  If the plants get too leggy I'll break apart the egg carton and move the seedlings upstairs.

Enjoy your garden and the first days of Spring!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

March 21, 2009

Well, blogging didn't happen last week like I'd hoped, but it doesn't mean gardening didn't.  In fact, I've been so busy that tonight's post is going to be short and sweet.  I need to hit the sack. I actually brushed my teeth and came back out to the computer to post this.

Speaking of sweet, that is the topic of today's post.  Specifically my stevia plant.  If you recall, I planted 10 seeds in a separate pot so I could bring it in during the winter. I had heard you can overwinter here if you bring it inside.  Well, last year, 9 of the 10 seeds failed to germinate.  Thankfully one did and I got a beautiful plant out of it.  Here's a pic of the plant in all it's glory when I brought it inside at the end of last season.

I stuck it in the southern facing window of my garage hoping to give it enough light to survive despite the unheated temps in the garage.  Alas, my attempts to keep the plant alive were thwarted, even after moving it indoors to the top of the fridge to keep it warm.

I can't seem to find a picture of the plant completely brown.  My guess is it's in the device memory of the phone that died.  These were properly stored on the memory card.   Anyway, I felt betrayed by the claim that I could overwinter the plant.  Sure I can't keep houseplants alive, but this is a hearty herb, right? Wrong.  So the entire winter this dead plant sat in my fridged garage in a southern facing window.  My plan was to clean the pot out for use this season.

Well, I finally gave it a second glance this week because I was eyeing it for use to plant my wife's licorice herb.  I am ashamed to say the pot is difficult to get to since we've let that room get cluttered over the winter. So from ten feet away, the plant looked a foot tall and brown, brown, brown.  Or maybe it wasn't. Did my eyes deceive me or was there a bit of green at the bottom?  Sure enough, when I cut away all the dead branches, I was left with this...

I was shocked!  Seems there is some sort of root ball or crown in there that survived and grew this nice new plant again.  Maybe THIS is what they meant by overwintering?  And in case that's not shocking enough, notice that I said I paid not attention to this for several months.  This plant grew with absolutely NO watering!

Of course, I have since watered it and moved it to the bright sunlit window up in the light system room.  I expect it to thrive this year.  Yay!  This year I will harvest all the leaves and dry them at the end of the season, so I don't have to worry about keeping it alive during the winter. 

I guess I need to find a new pot for my wife's herbs. hehe

Enjoy your garden!