Thursday, February 28, 2008

February 28, 2008

It looks like the best time to prune back the blackberries after harvest... yay!  I'd hate to lose out on the harvest this year, even if it's a pain and I can't reach much.  Sure there are MUCH better options at Washington State University's (WSU) blackberry site as far as more prolific producers and less painful harvesters, but this brutal patch isn't taking up space in my yard.  I don't have room currently to plant any blackberries in my yard and Mother Nature's supplied me with a good option to get some blackberries, and since my neighbor and I are the only ones capable of currently getting to them, it's us or the birds... I'll pick us over the birds any day.  One way to apparently fix this is when the new canes grow up after laying waste to the area, cut them back to head height to encourage side growth (around the 4th of July).  I should be able to do that.  Sounds like I need to head next door to talk to my neighbor.  He may not like the downtime from the pruning.  He just told me he's STILL eating frozen blackberries from last year.  He apparently packaged up 1 cup baggies and froze them and eats one a day for breakfast.  Doesn't that sound good on cereal or oatmeal or whatever? Yum, good idea!

On a separate note, I was reading in the Seattle P-I today in the Edibles column by Chris Smith, a retired Master Gardener from WSU.  Though his idea of raised bed gardening isn't anything like SFG, he did have some good ideas on what to plant now and when to plant it.  For me, it means in addition to my broccoli, cauliflower and lettuce (all cool plants), I'll be planting peas and spinach this weekend or next, weather permitting.  I'm so excited.  My beds have been getting some rain, but not nearly what I'd expect.  We've had a dry February, at least since I got dirt.  So much that I had to wet it down myself.

Another thing Chris Smith suggested was to work in 5-10-10 fertilizer into the soil before planting, then side dress it when the plants start really growing.  I don't know what fertilizer has that ratio, but it's not Miracle Gro, it's more like 30-10-10ish.  I'll have to research it or just ask the nursery.  Also, I don't know if I should do that for all the beds, or just the peas and spinach.  So much to figure out.

The best news from the article was that although Enation (a virus spread by aphids that destroys plants) resistant peas include my Oregon Trail, Oregon Sugar Pod and Cascadia that were all recommended to me by the nice folks at Territorial.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

February 27, 2008

A special thanks to all the GREAT folks over at Gardenweb's Fruit and Orchards Forum, particularly Murky, Austransplant, Fruitgirl, Jellyman and Cambse!  I learned tons from all of you.

The best information I got was the fact that the variety of blackberry bush is a Himalayan, which is essentially an invasive weed that does indeed grow over my fence every year.  It doesn't impact my garden though, as it is on the other side of the yard from my garden.  They'd just kill my pear tree in half a second.  We actually hack back a 2-3 foot path away from my fence every year after harvesting.  Great information.  Now I just need to find a hedge trimmer. Nobody in my family has one of those, but I can see how it'd come in handy.

Also, I learned that there are many varieties of blackberries that don't have thorns.  Wouldn't that be nice if wasn't working on city property.  hehe.

I just love blackberry jelly.  It's hard to make (get all those seeds out) but it's worth it.  It goes very well with the plum jelly we make from the plums from my tree, and the pears make great canned pears (on cottage cheese, yum!).  Hehe, my wife scolded me today for saying that all we needed were the jellies we make from our own harvest.  She loves a good strawberry jam as much as I do.  Maybe someday I'll plant strawberries, but I don't think we'll ever have a strawberry harvest to make tons of jam.  She suggests we just go to a U-Pick farm and get a handful of flats.

Anyway, it sounds like I've got a good topic to talk to my neighbor about next time I see him.  Thanks all!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

February 26, 2008

Sandrine, this one's for you...

Well, it's been a few days since my last post. Not because I'd ever dream of abandoning my blog. That won't happen while I have a garden and some seeds to plant in it.  No, it's because I've been working 10 hour days (12 with commute time), and I still haven't seen the light of day at home during the week.  That makes it tough to garden.  Oh I can't wait for daylight savings in a few weeks.  Hehe, I've never thought that before, but I plan on doing my gardening in the morning before work.

In fact, I had my wife take some pictures of the blackberry bushes so I could see if anyone had advice for pruning them for maximum productivity.  The reason for this is I'm on my last jar of blackberry jelly and I need it to last the whole year. hehe  I'll find the answers and report back.

The blackberry bushes aren't exactly in my yard.  I think of them in the "back 40" because they're just outside my backyard fence in the city's wetland buffer between houses and the park.  Years ago there was a path between the park and my backyard, mainly for the 4 boys that grew up here before we bought the place from the empty nesters that bought the house originally and greatly expanded it (very poorly I have to add, nothing's square/plum/level).  We had a pad lock on the gate to keep the high schoolers from partying back there and taking a short cut to the street through our yard.  Luckily Mother Nature helped us out by overgrowing the area with blackberry bushes making it impassable.  Now there's no lock and we go out there every year and harvest buckets and buckets of blackberries.  All I have to do is hack them back to not overgrow my fence and yard.  They would in a single season if I let them. 

So I want to learn to prune them so as to not waste all the fruit that's in the middle and on top that I can't reach.  Hopefully there's a way to do it so we get a bigger harvest this year because my whole family loves blackberry jelly.

Wow, I just checked Judy's blog.  She really went to town with the posting and the picture taking.  She's got an amazing garden already.  Me, I've got dirt.  Hopefully I'll be able to plant something this weekend.  The SFG book says several of my veggies can be direct sowed 4 weeks B4LSF (before the last spring frost).  I'm all set up with my beds ready and my potato bins ready.  Now I just need time and seeds.  I'll call Territorial tomorrow and see if they can't send my potatoes now and if we have good weather this weekend I'll take my 4 year old out and we'll plant.  The picures will be so cute!

Well, it's late for this early riser of a night-owl, so I'm going to hit the sack.  If I remember all I was going to post I'll do it tomorrow.  Happy gardening!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

February 24, 2008

Today is supposed to be the day to move the wood and set up the potato bins.  Seems I forgot that my eldest has a birthday party to attend so I will have to watch my youngest, who is not a help in the yard yet.  I'll only have a few hours to accomplish all I want, so that's a pain.  I'll update the blog to see how it turns out.

This morning after cruising the internet I got the idea that I needed to try some more onion starts.  Seems sets is the way to go with onions, and I don't think the ones I have languishing in vermiculite outside in the dry cold weather are going to cut it.  So my son and I just went out to the garage and sprinkled my potting Mel's Mix I've got made up into Jiffy Peat trays, put one onion seed in each and then sprinkled a think layer of mix over the top.  Then I soaked them down and threw them on top of the fridge.  This time I think instead of trying my window sill, they'll just go outside once they sprout.  Now it's just trial and error.  I've read so much on the internet that my head's spinning.  I don't know what's right and what's wrong.    We shall see.

Wow, what an afternoon.  After my wife and son got back from the birthday party, I ran out and started moving the stack of wood to the front yard sidewalk.  It was fun, my eldest son helped load the wheelbarrow and even carried one to the pile. It was a race. 

(Note the "S" shape cinder block rock wall in the background. That's my blueberry bed with the mature rosemary plant at the far end.  In the forground is the apple tree we planted last year for my youngest son. Eventually it may shade the area too much for the potato bins but not for a few years.)

After that, I asked my wife to put the cedar wood pile on Craigslist.  Then I set out to pick axe the area between two of my cedar tree stumps against the fence.  It was hard work to dig down 6 inches or so to remove all the weeds.  Then I set the boxes on the ground over the holes and added a bag of Mel's Mix to each of the bins.  


The mix came right about one inch up the 2x6s so I'll plant the seed potatoes in the mix and then have just about 3 feet of growing room.  By the time I was smoothing out the mix, there was a truck out front loading up the wood.  They were great. They live "off-the-grid" and use wood to exclusively heat their home.  Great for them!  By the way, the wood "nobody wanted" got us three emails in the first ten minutes and several after we had posted the wood was gone.  Wow! 

Not bad for a few hours work!  I was wearing my heart-rate monitor and burned 900 calories, so I think we'll have steak, baked potato and a nice salad for dinner... Can't wait until it's my potatoes and salad fixings to go with a nice steak.

Now I'll update my Build-As-You-Grow bins page and post a new link on

Saturday, February 23, 2008

February 23, 2008

Today was a lazy day with the kids.  The eldest was sick and I was still exhausted from the trip.  So around 2 I took an hour nap after waking up early with the kids.  At least it was lazy until my wife suggested we take advantage of the sunny weather to go for one of our power walks.  It's 3.6 miles pushing jogging strollers and we do it in under an hour.  Not jogging, but walking fast.  It was a good walk.

I did take some time to watch the sun exposure of the rose garden today.  Unfortunately it is blocked by the house most of the day. So while it has a southern exposure, it doesn't get the hours of sun that I'd like for my potatoes.  The best spot for them would be the bump-out of my blueberry bed, but my aunt planted the tulip bulbs she found when we were preparing the bed for the blueberries last fall.  They're already coming up and I don't think she'd take kindly to my removing them to plant potatoes.  Strike two.

I'm determined not to put them in the garden area on top of my gravel.  After talking to my dad, he suggested I move all the cedar wood I've got stacked up against the fence that backs the blueberry bed.  It gets great sun all day long but will eventually be partially blocked by the apple tree.  Thankfully not this year since the tree's shorter than I am. 

The cedar wood stack is about 3 feet high and 15 feet long.  Since it's cedar it burns fast so none of my family wants it for fire wood.  My dad suggested I stack it out front and put a FREE sign up.  My wife suggested I put a post on Craigslist.  Boy am I going to be busy tomorrow.  If I move that stack about 50 feet.  Then dig two holes and gut out the root systems from the cedar trees that died and needed to be cut down last year (thus the wood pile).  Finally I back fill the holes with Mel's Mix and place my bins over it. 

That's a ton of work for my silly potato bins.  Maybe I'll just chuck it all and put them in my beds and sacrifice some other veggies.  Naw, the wood pile has to go (should be gone already, but I had other things to do).  I'll take pictures so you can see the transformation.

Friday, February 22, 2008

February 22, 2008

I come home and my 19 month old has added tons of new words and phrases to his vocabulary, and I've only been gone less than a week, including a darn good impersonation of Arnold doing "I'll be back"...

I must say, everything IS bigger in Texas, well at least the hotel was, it could fit a small city inside it, and I've been to some big hotels before.  Unfortunately I didn't get my Texas sized steak.  I'm still bumed about that.

As I just got home and it was already dark, I haven't seen my garden, but I guess it looks the same as when I left.  I left the seedlings out all week hoping they'd survive some minor frosts and limited rain, but I'm still not holding out hope.  Even less since my wife told me it DIDN'T rain like it was forecast to this week.  In fact, my beds haven't had rain. Drat.  I may have to see if my hose will reach.

I'm not sure what my wife has planned for this weekend, but if the weather's ok, I'd like to get my potato bins set up and ready for planting as soon as I get the seed potatoes.  Of course that's assuming you don't need to leave them out to sprout or anything.  /shrug

Oh yeah, right before I left for the airport, I posted pics of fungus that's been growing the trees in my yard for several years, including my pear and plum trees.  I got several replies while I was gone and the verdict seems to be that the fungus is not a problem and only says that we've got good air quality here.  If I want to get rid of it, just add polution.  No thanks, duh.  Good to know, though I am stumped now what's causing the lower branches of my fruit trees to die if it's not the fungus?

Finally, according to my brother, Costco has gardening stuff out now, so they've got landscape fabric if you need it and also blueberry bushes for sale.  I don't have any more room in my yard for more so I'm passing, but stop by your local store if you want any.

Well I'm exhausted from a very long week with not enough sleep.  I'm going to spend some time with the Mrs. and hit the hay.  Enjoy your garden this weekend!

Monday, February 18, 2008

February 18, 2008

Boy am I sore, and this cold isn't going away either.  Shame, since I'm getting on a plane for Dallas tomorrow.  Hope DayQuil works. 

Today was a light day despite the 55 degree sunny weather we're having.  I just didn't have the strength and energy to do anything.  Besides, the next plan is to dig up an area and put Mel's Mix into it and place my potato bins on top.  I don't want to dig up my rose garden until my Aunt tells me where she planted bulbs.  I didn't even know she did it until they started sprouting last weekend and she mentioned it. 

All I did outside was go out early to see that sure enough, frost covered my raised beds for their first morning since dirt was put in them.  Good thing I didn't plant anything yesterday.  While I was out there, I finally saw the coffee grounds in full daylight.  I don't know if it was the freezing temperatures or the humidity, but they all clumped together into cakes and balls.  So I took a half hour and went around each bed and squished up all the big chunks of coffee grounds  and mix some of it into the top layer of dirt.  It looks good.  Now for some rain to saturate the ground and start releasing the nitrogen.  We're expecting clear skys until Wednesday, when we'll have showers for the rest of the week.

I still don't have any water on that side of the house and doubt any of my hoses will reach.  However, according to a brief discussion with my dad yesterday, the PVC piping to put a faucet in my garden area should only cost about $30 and take less than a day.  I will probably do that in early March so I can water after I plant. 

My brother said he saw an add for pre-made rain barrels for $55 in the paper yesterday.  Not bad considering the instructions for making your own say it should cost $120 each.  I'll have to think about that.  Mostly where I'd put them.

Well, I won't have another post until after I get back Friday.  I won't have internet access, nor time with all the conference responsibilities.  Enjoy the week and hope you get out into your garden while I'm working.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

February 17, 2008

Sunday night update.  Dirt day was a resounding success!  Despite being sick with muscles already sore from the day before, I started at 8:30 am and finished at 6:30 pm.  I'm not sure I'll make it to 8:30.

Since I already had 2 of the three ingredients to Mel's Mix and the compost place didn't open until 10, I went to Lowes (I dislike them but they're closer than HD) and got 2 sheets of 3/8" plywood and had them ripped to 1x8 sections.  Then I came home and set them out to create a wheelbarrow path to the beds from my driveway.  Finally, I unloaded the peat moss bales and vermiculite bags into no-sun land of my garden area to get them out of the way, staged for mixing.  By then it was 10 and my dad was there.  My dad and I went to Sky Nursery to get 1 yard of Cedar Grove Compost and picked up my brother's wheelbarrow and tools on the way back.  My brother was there when we got there and had set up my 20'x20' tarp in the driveway. 

We started mixing by dumping half a yard of compost onto the tarp and put 1/4 the peat and vermiculite on top and used hoes and rakes to mix it together.  Then we added more compost, vermiculite and peat moss until we had 1 yard of compost and half of our bagged ingredients mixed together.  Boy was that long, tiring work.  My brother tried to tell me I owed him one, but I had two comments for him.  It was HIS idea to go 15 inches high and did he forget the 15 c. yards of gravel and river rock I helped him shovel and spread over his side and front yard?  Oh yeah, never-mind.


Of course I had to listen to decades of experience telling me that my mix may be ok for seedlings but wouldn't work for mature plants.  Finally my brother deceased his banter down to "I'm skeptical about it" but he didn't want to read the book.  /sigh

So while they continued mixing, I went and got not just the second yard of compost, but another half a yard to make them happy.  Doesn't the load of pure compost look great above? Anyway, I conceded mainly because our calculations were for 6.3 yards of material  for the beds and I had only 6 yards worth of material, plus I needed some for the potato bins. 

Anyway, we busted through the wheelbarrowing the mix to the beds and then had lunch.  By then we were all pretty tired and the "mixing" of the mix wasn't quite so thorough.  We convinced ourselves that shoveling the mix into a wheelbarrow, dumping it into a bed and spreading it around would mix it well enough.  We were basically right. 

We finished up the beds around 5:30 and while my brother smoothed out the dirt in each bed, my dad and I filled the empty vermiculite bags half-full of Mel's Mix for use in the potato bins.  Also if there is any settling of material when it rains. I don't think there will be or Mel would have mentioned it, but I've got extra if need be.  I actually have about a quarter yard.  Not too bad calculating.  Of course the bottom 3 inches of the beds is gravel. /shrug

Notice that the corn bed is a bit richer in compost than the background beds.  That's because we mixed 1.5 yards of compost to 2 yards of bagged material.  It still looks good.

Finally, after we cleaned up and everyone left, I broke out 8 bags of Starbucks coffee grounds we'd stored up for a few weeks and sprinkled them over each of the beds.  I also did a ring around the drip line of my blueberry bushes.  I had just enough.  Then I gently smoothed out the grounds with a rake under the light of the moon. 

I'm very content with my garden now. It's light and friable as the book would say and it should retain moisture and drain like a dream!

Now I'm going to scarf down something to eat, take some NyQuil and Alieve and get some rest.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

February 16, 2008

What a day, what a day.  It started at 6:30 this morning when I drug myself out of bed, threw some clothes on and had a bowl of cereal before my brother showed up at my door with his truck.  We then headed out to Steuber Distributing in Snohomish (30 min. away), which is a nondescript "hole-in-the-wall".  Actually it's a commercial catering set of yards chocked full of pallets of all sorts of agricultural supplies.  They had everything!  For $300 I got 13 bags of vermiculite (4 c. ft) and 7 bales of peat moss. FYI, that totals 4 c. yards of material, and it ALL fit in the truck!  Even if we did have to put four bags of vermiculite in the jump seats in back.  Of course, my all my brother said was that's going to be the $500 tomato.  Ah, gardening roughly 170 years of gardening experience to help me, gotta love it.  I completely recommend Steuber Distributing if you're in the Puget Sound area.  CHEAP gardening supplies and they had pallets of vermiculite and peat moss.

On the way back we stopped at Starbucks for an IV and picked up 4 big bags of coffee grounds.  We got back to my house at 9:00 and I took my brother home.  We left the truck backed up against my garage door with a tarp over the bags and strapped down tight.  We don't have room to unload inside and the vermiculite will be easier to handle dry.  Besides, at 10 I had to take my youngest to Music Together class.  Then we ran to the party store and got balloons and plates.  I took a shower and raced off to the Children's Museum in Everett for play time and a 2:30 cake and presents party.  Boy was it hard to keep an eye on two toddlers in the midst of a hundred others while my wife greeted the guests.  Thank goodness when my in-laws came and I could help set up. Whew, how my wife does it I have NO idea.  She's a goddess for sure!

After the party we went out to dinner with the in-laws, and if I didn't notice it before then, I certainly came to the conclusion that I am very under the weather.  PERFECT timing.  Dirt day is tomorrow and I'm feeling crappy.  So we're back and the kids are watching cartoons while I write this.  I'm going to take some NyQuil and hit the sack early.  Hopefully the sleep will do me good and I'll be up for working hard tomorrow, racing all over creation.  It's hard to be excited when I'm feeling like this.

The plan for tomorrow is to wake up early, unload the truck, run to the lumber yard and get the sheets of plywood ripped to 1x8 pieces.  Then head back there to Sky and get the first of two yards of Cedar Grove compost to create my Mel's Mix on a big tarp in the middle of my driveway.  Then we wheelbarrow it to the beds, mixing in some coffee grounds in the top six inches.  It'll be a process, but hopefully I'll have tons of help.

Night all, the NyQuil is working.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

February 15, 2008

I don't normally write posts before work, but I just checked the weather report for Sunday and Monday.  Though it could change at a moment's notice, the prediction is for partly cloudy and highs in the mid 50s.  Excellent news!  I'll have a lot more help (the non grouchy kind) if the weather holds.  There's even good weather expected for my son's party!  We're good all around.  Now to take the seedlings out for their walk.  Have a good day all!

Boy did Seattle weather scare me today.  I had forgotten that today was a 60% chance of rain. On the way home we were hit by a fair amount, and it has lasted most of the night.  First thing I did when I got home as check the weather and it is still supposed to hold for tomorrow and the next day.  Sunday's the day if weather holds.  Saturday's completely booked up until the evening. 

On a garden note, the more I look into Winter Sowing (thanks to Alberta), the more I want to give it a try.  Although I could still do it this year, I'm really close to getting dirt and starting many of my veggies in a few weeks anyway, so what's the point?

 I just rechecked my math (never was my strongest suit despite the 4 on the calculus AP test in high school), you use it or lose it.  I need 13 bags of vermiculite and 7 bales of peat moss, which should come to $300 even with tax. Add $60 to that for the compost and we're talking $360 for "dirt" which is a far cry from the $750 I initially thought.

Well early to bed so I can get up and go get vermiculite and peat moss, then make it back to take my youngest to music class, then go get plates and balloons for my eldest's B-Day party, then go to the play time and party, then go to dinner with the inlaws before they head out to NY for a week.  Finally, get the plywood for running the wheelbarrow over the gravel before I crash and wake up to dirt. 

Busy weekend, but fun! Hope yours is spent enjoying the weather and maybe even working on your garden.

February 14, 2008


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!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

February 13, 2008

You know you've arrived when you start getting spammed.  I've had to delete five posts today. Hehe, that's more than I've had of real posts to-date.  Come on people, tell me I'm insane or a fool to start out so big or whatever.  We can't let the morons win!

Well, tonight's short. We went on the first of our regular 3.5 mile walks pushing jogging strollers tonight.  We started out in light and ended in pitch dark.  It sure felt good even if it was a bit chilly.  Exercise and a healthy diet goes a long way to living to see my grandkids grow up.  That's what the garden's all about now.

As for the garden, not all my seedlings have keeled over.  They're still leggy and reaching to the sky, but they're hanging on and I'll keep them outside in the garden window until I've got dirt and I'll give them a shot... along with direct sowing some seeds.  You never know. I'm sure stranger things have happened.

I've got to calculate the amount of vermiculite and peat moss I need for my beds so I can call Sky tomorrow to see if they have enough on hand.  Otherwise I need to find another dealer for my crack. hehe.

Hmm. 3x3x3 is 27 ft3 in a y3, there are 3.5 ft3 in a bag of vermiculite, so roughly 15 bags for 2 yards.  Same calculation for peat moss (Mell says compressed 2.2 ft3 peat moss is 4 ft3 loose) equates to roughly 13 half bales.  Boy is that expensive.  Heck the compost is the cheapest thing there because I can buy it in bulk.  Maybe I'll let my fingers go the walking and see if I can't find a bulk source for vermiculite.  You never know.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

February 12, 2008

Tonight was an internet night.  I didn't have much of a chance to do anything garden related today, but I gave out my blog site to a few folks, got a compliment on my Build-As-You-Grow bins, and said hello to some new folks on 

Oh, and I found out folks from all over like Washington State University (in Eastern Washington, 5 hours away).  They're a big agg school (among many other fine degrees they offer) so their agg department puts out great stuff.  Besides it's gonna work here because they're close to me.  

I also found out that corn can be planted in 8 inch rows with 4 inch spacing.  So I can get 6 rows in my 4 foot wide beds, with 33 stalks per row.  That's a whopping 198 plants!!!! That's way more than the 44 stalks I hoped to grow at 1/SF.  

Well, I got to thinking, would planting that close work in Seattle's mild summer climate?  It doesn't get over 85 here (maybe once a season it hits the mid 90s) and our springs are mild and wet.  I'd hate to get nothing from that spacing.  I sent the poster an email and will report back what I find.  It's exciting none-the-less!

I got interest in composting from a post on and found good information on the WSU composting site linked there.  It isn't as simple and easy as I'd like it, and I'm not sure how well it would work for a quick hot compost. But eventually I would like both a compost and worm compost bin.  I have far too much grass clippings than leaves in the summer so that leads me to think cold do nothing compost is best for me (my family does this type), but I would still need to recycle tons of grass clippings.  And even then, would a cold process kill of the dandelion seeds in the weeds I mow up.  Hehe, eventually I'll be weed free, but not for several years at the rate I'm going.  Composting is very interesting and compelling, but we'll have to see.

To end, it's with sadness I report that I just cracked open the very last of my blackberry jelly. You haven't lived until you've tried home made blackberry jelly. I know it's not in my SFG, it's not even in my yard, but it's 5 feet outside my yard.  I have GOT to figure out how to increase the yield from those naturally growing blackberry bushes without having them invade my backyard. 

All in all, a good night.  Very relaxing and educational.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

February 10, 2008

Ah Sunday. Time to get tons done before you go back to work.  Some people relax on Sunday, but gardeners tend to get stuff done. 

I'm going to keep this post short because it's all about my potato bins and I'll save most of the discussion for my page on them.  Let's say they were very cheap, $65 for materials I didn't already have.  I ended up using the Douglas Fir which was only $4.33 for a 10 foot 2x6.  They've got dings and knot holes but they're solid and hold up in the weather alright, so they're perfect for my bins.  They'll last a few seasons which is pretty good for non-treated wood. 

They ended up being only 27 inches square inside, and 33 inches tall.  They're big enough for my needs and should work for most people.  It took me longer than I thought it would because I'm not that good with my hands and I was working alone. 

I got the materials at 1 and didn't finish until 4:30, and I didn't get all the boards cut like I wanted.  I must say though, my Aunt came over and interrupted my building to help me work in the yard.  We did some light pruning of my mature pear and plum trees (mostly cut back the suckers that grew last year and cut some of the inside clutter).  We also did some weeding and removed most of the leaf mulch I put down in fall.  Apparently they'd done their job and needed to be removed. I wasn't sure of this but she's the expert.  Oh and I weeded my blueberry bed and found a half dozen worms. Insane, in a good way.

Talking to my brother when I returned his truck, it got me thinking that I may want to move my potato bins to my failing rose garden.  It has space and is southern facing, but blocked part of the day by the house.  The advantages of doing that would be I wouldn't have to worry about landscaping fabric being strong enough to hold back dirt or the staples ripping.  I could just dig out a 30x30 square about 12 inches deep and fill with Mel's Mix, then put the bins on top. No weeds, no worry of spilling dirt on my gravel which would lead to weeds taking hold easier.  The disadvantage is that they'd be on the other side of the house from my veggie garden.  They would be 15 feet away from my blueberries though.  I don't know, I'll have to think about it.

Anyway, I'll end with a before and after picture to make you want to go through my Build-As-You-Grow page.

Never say the day is over when you have kids.  We set up a new twin bed for my eldest and moved my youngest into a toddler bed today.  I should have known that the seedlings were in danger, but I hoped for the best with my 19 month old.  Now he could reach the broccoli.  And he did.  He wouldn't go to bed and all heck was breaking loose, when my wife calls me in a panic.  My youngest has eaten the broccoli, and the dirt that it was planted in, and I think it was my best seedling. 

Alas, my seedlings have been a failure.  They are now relegated to the 45 degree garage window sill and they're leggy to boot.  I don't think at this point I will do more seedlings this season, instead I will direct sow seeds in my SFG when I have dirt.  What a disappointment.  Lights are a necessity for me and I don't have a good spot for them.  Maybe next year.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

February 9, 2008

Well, I did a ton of spinning my wheels today.  I was very active, but nothing got done.  I went to Home Depot and looked at their wood and shop lights.  I'm trying to build my Build-As-You-Grow potato bins this weekend.  I am also going to set up my grow station because as you could see in my February 8 post, my broccoli and cauliflower are very very leggy.  They may be able to be salvaged if I burry them to where the stem splits into leaf branches.  I'll see if they can hold out til I get dirt and then plant them immediately.

Anyway, at Home Depot I find the lumber's expensive, so I decide to go to a local lumber yard to get a better deal and selection.  I head over to the lights and find one, just one option for my 28 inch space.  They have a 24 inch two-bulb, 20 watt T12 fixture, but it doesn't have blinders on it to disburse light and it doesn't hang from chains to adjust up and down based on the growth of the plants.  Further, since it's 20 watt and T12, I'm limited to 20 watt bulbs.  Further, since I'm stuck at 24 inches, the bulb choices are even more limited.  I'm trying to figure out if I should spend twice as much for plant lights or just use two different regular bulbs.  I'll research it and let you know what I found out.

So my plan is to install it on the lid of the cavity and put the shelf about a foot below it. Here is the cavity I've decided to use.

The only use for that space currently is the cold-air return for our furnace directly above it.  The top area above that hand-carved walking stick is where the seed growing setup will go.  To raise and lower the trays, I'll just use books and other stuff to get it within an inch or two of the lights.  Certainly not the best set-up, but I'm stuck with what I've got to work with. Maybe I'll work on that project tomorrow after my bins... which leads me to the rest of my story about the shot day.

While I was looking at Home Depot for lights, finding out that I was severely limited by my 24 inch space, my kids were getting antsy, in a hardware store with exploding flourescent light bulbs all around.  Needless to say we went home and dropped off the kids.  After calculating the materials I needed for my bins, I figured 10 foot 2x6s (cheaper than 1x6s so I am going strong and cheap) have less waste.  Unfortunately there's no way 10 foot boards would fit in our minivan.  So I go over and borrow my brother's truck, talk to him about the garden and jump in the truck.  As I'm doing so, he says, you're good, you've got a full tank.  WRONG.  First trip is to the gas station.  I call my wife and have her call Dunn Lumber to see how late they're open. Another half hour. Great.  Ok, race there, call them and figure out what I'm getting rather than standing at the counter.  They're incredibly helpful. 

After hearing what I was doing, they said instead of using their construction grade Pine/Spruce/Fir (PSF), which is pretty but definitely an indoor wood, I should use Douglas Fir.  It's actually $1 cheaper per board but much more resilient to rot and weather damage.  Unforunately that store doesn't carry Douglas Fir, their other store does.  It's equally distant from my house, they too closed at 5, so I'm out of luck today.  I called them and they've got tons of stock and I'll go tomorrow at 10. 

Good thing my brother doesn't need the truck so I'll keep it overnight.  Tonight I'll check Lowes for their lighting department choices.  I know gardening can be a ton easier than this, but I do enjoy a challenge.

I checked Lowes, and although their lighting department looked better than HD, they didn't have anything remotely workable for my needs.  Their 2 foot stand alone unit was only 17W T12, so it wouldn't throw off enough light for growing plants.  Oh, and their commercial one that was 20W T12 (just like HD's stand alone) didn't have a cord or a shut off switch.  The electrician there at 8 PM was helpful enough to tell me just how easy it was to wire a cord to the commercial one, but he was stumped as to a switch.  I was the one that came up with the idea of a surge protector with a switch, or better yet, a timer.  Looks like I either find a 4 foot area to set this up or settle for the HD one.  Sigh...

Friday, February 8, 2008

February 8, 2008

Well, I ordered my Red Sails and Italienscher seeds today. Unfortunately Territorial is too darn efficient and they'd already shipped my seed order so I had to pay shipping again.  Drat, expensive lettuce, but I couldn't see making salads out of just Salad Bowl Lettuce and Spinach all year long.  Now I'll have color, texture and taste! Muahahahaha!

Well, I was helping put the boys to bed and checked out my garden in their nursery.  Unfortunately I think my plants are getting a bit too leggy, despite being repotted deep enough to cover most of the stem.  It just re-grew!  What am I doing wrong?  It's to tall and falling over.  Should I stake it up or what?

The rest of my seedlings seem to be doing ok... here are some others...

And even my cute little onions sprouting up all over the place...

I'm not sure when to transplant the onions? A few are looking good but sooner or later the seed will give up all it's nutrients and vermiculite has none to give (thanks Judy for that tid bit). 

Well, the weekend is here and aside from putting together a bed and taking down a crib, I should have plenty of time to build a potato bin or two.  It should be pretty easy, just cut the boards and assemble four 1x6s to four 2x2s, then attach landscape fabric to the bottom.  Shame I used up all our landscape fabric when I did the gravel work.  I sincerely doubt they'll have 4 SF for sale anywhere.  I'll have to buy TONS of it.  Ah well.

One week away from dirt!  I've started accumulating coffee grounds to mix into the top 6 inches of my beds. So far I've got 5 pounds but need a lot more. Starbucks has it free at most locations, just ask for used grounds for the garden.  It's really good for improving the nitrogen (it's got a 20:1 ratio of nitrogen to carbon, and roughly an NPK ratio of 7-2-2, though another site had it at 2-0.3-0.2 what a difference espresso can make, hehe)  It's also slightly acidic which makes it useful to help out the blueberries.  I read that the pH of coffee grounds is 6.9, which is BARELY acidic at all.  So I don't get how you can make soil more acidic by using several pounds of coffee.  It doesn't seem that it could make it lower than 6.9 pH.  I may use a little around my blueberries but I think I'll need a soil test kit.  Blueberries like 4.5 pH, which is nearly as acidic as citrus juice.

Ah well, a quick look on the web for how coffee grounds help corn didn't yield anything. I know they're high in nitrogen so I'll throw some in to help it out.  Corn feeds on nitrogen.  I may also fertilize with Miracle Grow since it is really high (30) in nitrogen.  This is especially the case since I really can't cycle my corn around my garden. I only have one bed big enough for corn.  If I deplete the nitrogen one year, I won't have any for the next year.  Something to think about, and of course diseases that may result.  Maybe worms help. Who knows? Flatlander that's who. I guess I could use the second largest and smallest and then use the corn bed for traditional SFG.  That would leave me with 2 less trellises.

Ok, I found this searching the internet for coffee ground benefits in gardening.  Hope it helps...

  • Sprinkle used grounds around plants before rain or watering, for a slow-release nitrogen... Good for augmenting for corn when the stalks start to shoot up or the cobs start to form.

  • Add to compost piles to increase nitrogen balance. Coffee filters and tea bags break down rapidly during composting... They're trying to make me compost. We LOVE tea!

  • Dilute with water for a gentle, fast-acting liquid fertilizer. Use about a half-pound can of wet grounds in a five-gallon bucket of water; let sit outdoors to achieve ambient temperature... I could be dangerous with this. Seattle RAIN, hehe. If you didn't know, Starbucks started here, about 2 blocks from my work.

  • Mix into soil for houseplants or new vegetable beds... This is how I plan on using it.

  • Encircle the base of the plant with a coffee and eggshell barrier to repel pests.

  • If you are into vermi-posting, feed a little bit to your worms... Flatlander take note.

  • (From Sustainable Enterprises, so the other poster said).

Ok, here's my research on Starbucks coffee and blueberries.  Unless blueberries need nitrogen, don't bother.  The lable apparently says the acidity is brewed out of it (and into our coffee, read heartburn) so the pH is 6.9 for sure. No good for acid loving plants like blueberries.  I guess I'll buy enough Miracle Gro Acid fertilizer to last the full 20 year life of those plants. I understand a table spoon dilutes into 1 gallon twice a year, and you get a big container. Joy.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

February 7, 2008

Been a slow garden couple of days, coupled with a ton of work at work.  Oh, and a some great theatre thrown in for good measure. The onions continue to sprout and grow now that one came all the others want to join the crowd.  I moved the lettuce back in thinking it just needed more time (nothing yet).  I hope I didn't stunt the germination or anything.

Most of what I'll talk about today is my new seeds.  I put a few calls into Territorial this week.  The beauty of their shop is that the order takers are very experienced gardeners in addition to having a guide to have the key features of each seed at their fingertips.  The first call I ordered my potatoes for early March delivery.  I'll follow Mel's advice and plant them 4 weeks prior to the average LSF, though my brother and I agree we are likely in for a few more weeks of winter, no mater what the groundhog says.  I ordered Yukon Golds and Buttes.  Both make great mashed potatoes, but Yukons can easily be chopped up and sauteed in butter and parsely for a different side dish.  The Buttes are excellent bakers. ROFL, I just connected that sentence to my amazing mother.  Not only was she raised in Butte Montana (after fleeing war-torn Poland), but she is an incredible baker, just like the Butte potatoes.  I digress.  Not only are they bakers, but they reportedly make great fries and mashed potatoes.  I look forward to blending the Yukon's with the Buttes for a different take on mashed taters.

On the way to the play that night, my wife (you can read her blog about being a busy mom from the link here), was writing a letter to her grandma, telling her about our garden plans.  When she heard what we were growing, she said "we're doing shucking peas? I wanted snap peas!"  Oops!  Um, I like shuck peas.  They're what the frozen peas the kids eat WISH they could be.  So today I called my brother and got a good feel for when to get my tomatoes (mid April).  He's not going to try to beat the weather this year with all the snow in the mountains and the rain/snow mix here.  So it's mid April or later. If later, I'll just repot and keep inside until it's safe to transplant outside.

So based on my pea fiasco, I called Territorial back today and actually got the same sales person.  We chatted about peas and I ordered some snap peas for my wife, the vine kind since I plan on a trellis for that bed and need to use it.  Actually, she suggested to trellis my bush peas as well for ease of harvest.  Why not, the trellis will be there.  Anyway, while we were talking, I noticed snow peas at the bottom of the page.  Another minute chatting and I'd bought some snow peas.  Great for stir frys.  We don't stir fry, but we should.  If we have snow peas, broccoli etc. why not?  So, at the end of the call, I had set up to grow three different types of peas in my 4 SF.  Since they're planted every 3 inches on both sides of the trellis, I'll have TONS of plants and peas.  I can't speak highly enough about the folks at Territorial Seed Company.  Not only are they helpful, but their options are great and so is their delivery times.

Speaking of the trellis... the trellis will be in the back of the bed against the wall of the garage (a foot and a half away).  If you've seen my setup, the wall of the garage is light beige, which reflects a great amount of light.  But is it enough for growing peas on the back side of the trellis?  Something to ask before I plant.

Did I mention that the back of the book with it's quick reference guide to each veggie is my favorite part of the book?  I refer to it often.  Well that's about it for me tonight.  I hope to clear out my garage enough to build a potato bin or two. Don't worry, I'll take pictures... I need them for my guide page.  Gardening season is just about upon us!  I can't wait and hope you can't either.

Ok, I said I was done, but alas, things happen.  I called my brother to find out about that peppery lettuce he grows so I can get some (Territorial is going to think I'm crazy if I call to amend my order again).  While on the phone, he convinced me to get Italienscher (the peppery lettuce) as well as Red Sails (for color and flavor).  If I keep this up, I'll have more variety than a produce department.  Not what I originally planned.  I hope I'm not getting too ambitious.

Anyway, while I was on the phone with him, I bemoned the lack of germination of my lettuce seeds.  He proceeded to do some math for me.  Since I started my seeds in late January (say February 1 for simple math), 55 days would put the lettuce ready to harvest at the end of March.  We could still have frosts during that time that would kill the lettuce if I planted it outside mid-late February.  That's not good lettuce weather.  Oops.  Guess I'm not so concerned if the come up.  He says if they come up I should just set up lights and grow them completely indoors like a green house.  I don't want to do that (yet anyway, you never know what I'll be doing when I've got Judy's experience under my belt).  Live and learn.  Around here, lettuce is planted around April 1 and sown outside.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

February 5, 2008

Well, well, well.  It seems patience really IS rewarded, at least where my onions are concenred.  I planted them in straight vermiculite on 1/29/08 and where my broccoli and cauliflower sprouted in a few days, I had just about given up on my onions and lettuce.  I hadn't even looked on the top of the fridge today.  It wasn't until I was making dinner that I saw just over the edge of the cool whip container a tip of green.  Sure enough, my son and I found three little spouts out of 16 to 20 (it's been so long I can't remember).  It just goes to show, a watched cool whip container never boils, or something like that.

(Sorry if the picture's blurry.  My wife's out and her cameraphone autofocuses at 2mp and mine sucks at 1.3mp with no focus. Oh, and the sprouts are TINY.) 

So now they're sitting on a very crowded window sill in my sons' room.  One major concept that all my advice had in common was that AS SOON as you see any sprout, move them to full sun.  I have no idea what I'll do when (if) the lettuce sprouts.  I guess I'll have to clear their dresser and open the shade more.


Out of all my seedlings, the cauliflower is doing the best (maybe it's a tad "leggy").  Some of the broccoli looks a bit anemic.  If it doesn't perk up I may just consolidate the best growers and dump the rest.  Or maybe I'll plant them all and see if they grow.

Another comment on my re-potted seedlings.  Despite using extra vermiculite in my Mel's potting mix, the top of the soil is looking a tad dry.  I don't want to overwater, but I don't want them too dry either.  Such is the art of indoor seeding in specific and I'd guess, gardening in general.

Finally, I got an email from Territorial Seeds today saying, among other things, that they are nearly ready to ship potatoes.  I must have picked good varieties because they featured both the Yukon Golds and the Buttes (had to get them because they're bakers and my Mom's family is from Butte MT).  Tomorrow I'll call them and ask their thoughts on planting 4 weeks B4 the Last Spring Frost (LSF), and if 1 lb. of each variety will be enough for my 30x30 beds at 6 inch spacing?  Also, while I have them, I'll ask if Early Girl and Momoato tomatoes compliment each other for continuous harvest throughout the growing season.  I figure since they cater to folks west of the Cascade mountains, they'll have good information for me.  I was going to call today but time slipped away from me at work.

Tomorrow's hump day, and one day closer to DIRT!

Monday, February 4, 2008

February 4, 2008

While the talk of the day was all about the Super Bowl, I myself was concerned about my seedlings.  Several of them didn't look so hot after the transplanting last night and frankly, all the time and energy I spent on them this weekend lingered into the day.  Yep, I'm  a bit obssessed with my garden.  I think it's the pictures I've seen of other gardens around harvest time.  I long for that time, not just for the delictible veggies we'll eat, but the lush colors brightening a once blighted area. 

When I first got home, my kids wanted to build pillow forts in their room, which gave me a great chance to check on the transplants.  In between telling them not to jump on the bed  and telling them to play nice (the kids that is, not the plants), I saw that the transplanted seedlings were perking up.  Even an hour past dark on an overcast day they looked much better. Let's hope they thrive in damp potting soil and Mel's Mix.

Whereas my broccoli and cauliflower have never failed to sprout, my lettuce and onions continue to be no-shows.  It's been almost two weeks for both of them, and I even took some advice and moved the lettuce out to the garage (on the garden window sill).  I know I have to be patient, but I figure I must be doing something wrong since not one of the 16 onions and 8 lettuce have sprouted yet.  Note that for each of the veggies, the number of seeds I planted is what will fit in 1 SF?  Well that shows my overconfidence based on how well the broccoli and cauliflower germinated.  Not all seeds are quite as easy I guess. 

Maybe I'll check if I should try the Jiffy Peat pucks on a new set of lettuce and onions?  I'm not sure they'd take to huge peat pots.  I know Judy swears by them, but I only bought a 25 pack and if I'm going to plant 16 onions and 8 lettuce, that's nearly all my stock.  I try to stay as far away from the crowds at Wally World I can help it and that's the only place I've found them.   Did I mention I don't shop much?

On a separate note, you may have read on the message boards about Judy's find about a worm farmer on Puget Sound's Vashon Island called the Worm Guy.  He's got millions of worms that are used to break down organic waste into compost to make the small island of Vashon self sufficient since their landfill closed.  My family used to have 4.5 acres on Vashon when I was little, but no, I don't know the guy.  I have thought about worms for my garden before.  You see, my blueberry bed is teaming with worms since I amended the existing soil with compost and peat moss back in October when I planted the bushes.  After I planted them I read that I should have used much more peat then I did, so I dug a trench and put more in. That's when I found dozens and dozens of fat worms helping me out. 

Unfortunately I seriously doubt worms in the existing topsoil under my beds can crawl through a layer of landscape fabric and 3 inches of gravel.  So that means I'll have to add them after I get my dirt.  MAYBE I'll consider "growing" my own worms.  You can tell I only saw the one video on YouTube on the Worm Guy and have no idea what it would entail, but I guess they like newspaper and we've got tons of those from my wife's paper route.  If I do farm my own worms (my family will commit me if they find out I'm even considering it), it will be after my LLLLOOOOOONNNNNNGGGG list of to-do projects this spring and summer.

Not the least of which is bringing water to my garden.  If you've seen my garden plan (see my first post or my SFG Design/Build page), you see the little H2O in the corner.  That's my hose with a wand attachment to water my garden.  Well, it WILL be, once I get water there and buy the hose and wand attachement.  Thus the project.  On the other side of our 750 SF family room directly across from the H2O symbol is where my existing backyard faucet is now.  I plan to connect a splitter to the one, then setting up an elaborate and long PVC pipe along the slab around two corners about 35 feet away to a new faucet.  That way, I can hopefully keep the one faucet on and the new one off until I need to water, then turn on the new one on and presto, water!  I don't need much pressure unless I eventually want a soaker system, but that's WAY down the line if at all. Actually, I'm thinking about leaving a full watering can out in the sun to warm up and use that to water.  I recall plants like ambient temperature water.  Either way, I'll need water over there.  That's one of my first projects after I get dirt on the 17th and 18th after my eldest's 4th B-Day party on the 16th.  

Well, that's all I've got for tonight. Thanks for coming and reading... hope you find something of interest.  I'm trying to keep it light and fun.  Register and drop a comment if you have a thought, suggestion or just want to tell me I stink.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

February 3, 2008

Super Bowl Sunday!  Unfortunately our beloved Seahawks didn't make it this year, but it should still be a fun game.  I've got several errands to run before 3 (joys of living on the west coast). Several of them are garden related.  I want to run to my local nursery to check on larger pots, preferably peat, to repot my broccoli and cauliflower, or maybe I'll just use styrofoam cups.  I'd have to buy those too because we're too "green" here to actually have those around the house. hehe I may need permission to actually buy them at the store.

Apparently the "second set of leaves" that they talk about getting before you repot are at the head.  I kept expecting to see off shoots mid-stem.  Live and learn.

So, after a day of research and probing questions on the internet yesterday, I received conflicting information on my seedlings.  One local guy said I needed lights (seconded by countless others on the Growing with Lights forum... go figure).  I even took a picture of the spot in my house I found for the light system...

I even started designing the area in the top foot or so of the cavity. I found an old shelf that just about fit and figured out how to make it work.  I was busy planning last night. 

But then I got more advice saying the complete opposite.  I didn't need to get lights, I didn't need to move them inside, in fact I should take a sunny day and put them outside for a few hours to start getting them acclimated to the weather outside.  Maybe when I'm at the local nursery, I'll see if they've got a master gardener there that I can ask.

Ok, forget the master gardener. I've got 150+ years of gardening experience in my family.  They just laughed and said, you're making a mountain out of a mole hill.  Just repot them and put them back on the window sill.  Everything will be fine.  Who am I to argue with experience? (Thanks Joytosew for being one of the first to suggest repotting, and you and Judy seem to REALLY like your tomatoes. You should really compare numbers and varieties.)

Boy, the SFG book never said anything remotely like how challenging starting seeds indoors could be.  Thank goodness for the internet and the various garden forums.  Can I just say that gardeners are some of the most helpful people on the planet?  I guess if they're competing for the county fair, they'll be secretive but otherwise, just ask, they'll help.  Very cool.

Another interesting tid bit I found out from multiple sources yesterday was that lettuce does not like to germinate in warmth.  So I should have put them out in the garage, so they're now sitting on the sunny window sill out there.  Maybe I need to move the onions out there too. They haven't sprouted either.

You know, in my research I found many people out there with indoor setups to grow a thousand seedlings at a time.  At the time I couldn't fathom growing that many. That's more than two or three of my gardens could handle.  I thought maybe they were farmers (or drug dealers, just kidding).  Now I just think they are hedging their bets.  There's a strong possibility that all my seedlings are going to fail.  That would be sad because I'd be behind the curve for transplanting outside, especially for broccoli and cauliflower that don't do well in the hot summer months.  Oh well, I guess I'd just have to break out the chicken wire and landscape fabric and make shade cages like the SFG book recommends.  Or maybe I'll set up one of my 4' window screens I salvaged from our window tear out.  We'll see.

Time to go run errands... then go watch the Super Bowl!  Oh, and if I sound confused today, it's because I am.  Don't worry, I'll be better.


Ok, I feel better now, the Patriots lost, so no perfect season, oh well, not my team, we lost to the Packers in a blizzard (we got made fools of is more like it, but this is about gardening). 

My mother convinced me I was making too much of this and just to repot the seedlings and keep them on the window sill.  So that's what I did. I got dirty. It was fun!  I have no idea if I did it right, but I used 9 oz. transparent plastic cups (all the store had for styrofoam was 16 oz. which was too big), and filled them with Mel's Mix.  Then I gingerly removed the seedlings with rubber gloves on, only touching the leaves, and held them in the partially filled cup, filling it the rest of the way around it.  I *BELIEVE* that the advice I've received for my leggy plants is to bury some of the stem so only an inch or less is above ground.  Anyway, all 16 of my broccoli and cauliflower got "potted up" as I guess they say, even if they were a little stumpy.  Frankly, if half of them survive, that will give me a good staggering of plantings so I can continually harvest broccoli and cauliflower throughout the season.  I have 8 of each and 8 SF devoted to each, so if all of them don't grow, then I'll just direct sow the rest once I've got dirt.   

You see, currently I am the only one in the family that eats these but my wife is excited to make macaroni and cheese with cauliflower in it and I just want to be able to cut off a few broccoli flowerets at a time for my meal. 

Let's hope my mother was right and sowing seeds indoors is not as complicated as the forums make it out to be.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

February 2, 2008

Well, I'm counting down the days until I can get my dirt, especially on a sunny weekend. I can't say I'm quite as excited about it now as I was a few days ago because my seedlings aren't doing so well.  They're not wilting, but they're not growing either.  They've pretty much stopped in this position.


Despite my desperate attempts at getting them to grow with a heating pad set on low, nothing. However, I did find out that moving them back inside wouldn't hurt them, so they're now parked in the nursery.  Three pretty little cool whip containers all in a row.

Unfortunately I found out that our Western Washington sunlight this time of year isn't strong enough to grow seedlings. Oh and on a lesser note, I shouldn't leave standing water in the trays, it apparently can cause root rot and starve the roots of oxygen (though I would think airflow around the vermiculite from the top would help).  Moral of this day, starting seeds indoors is a bit more difficult than I initially thought.  Hehe I figured it would be.

So, I guess now I have to contemplate grow lights.  I hadn't planned on starting up an elaborate seedling setup my first year.  Heck, I'm not even sure I will continue starting my seeds indoors.  This is just an experiment.  Most veggies we eat can be started from seed outdoors (I think). I'm doing this indoor starting as an experiment and for experience.  Yet another problem to solve.  Hehe, I think gardening is a problem solver's dream.  This experience has been one minor problem to solve after another.  Don't worry though, I'll work out most of the problems (with the help of many others), so you hopefully won't have to.  That's the hope anyway.

So I've spent about an hour going through the GardenWeb FAQ for Growing from Seeds and the forum.  I wonder if I'll have any success without setting up an elaborate lighting system somewhere in my house. My family will definitely think I've gone insane then.

On a lighter note (pun intended), I figured out the only spot for good sized potato containers is behind my corn bed.  I was out there in the sun with a tape measurer and found I have over 5 feet currently between the back of corn bed and the fence with the gate.  I can fit two Build-As-You-Grow containers in that space if I don't move the fence line.  It would just mean I can't park against the garage, which I've never been able to do.  Besides, it's less work if I don't have to move the fence, and I've got tons of projects this year already.

Well, after spending the day intermittently with the family and on the web checking out solutions for my poor seedlings, I decided to check out a lighting system for them.  My garage is too cold and I don't particularly want to build a Chicken Tractor-like mini-green house with a space heater out there.  So I wandered around the house and found a 35' by 12' cavity in my wall shelving unit above the cold-air return for my furnace.  It's inside so it's 70 degrees and I should be able to fit one or two fixtures in there on chains from the top to a spare shelf that should basically fit the cavity.  According to the FAQ on GardenWeb for fluorescent lights, going one warm and one cool bulb is the best way to get both red and blue spectrum light without spending too much for "grow lights." 

I'm heading out to check out Lowes to see what my options are for lighting.  Well, that was a short trip. My wife convinced me to wait until the kids went to bed and by the time we got the jumpy kids to bed and I got there, it was 9 and they closed.  Oh yeah, they aren't 24 hours anymore.  I called my Dad and he said they sell 30 inch fixtures so I should be good in that space.

Friday, February 1, 2008

February 1, 2008

Glad it's Friday.  Sure I only worked 3 days this week with a "weekend" off in the middle, but after coming down with the cold my kids had during that time, I'm exhausted.  Sick and tired... literally.  Still, I got my second straight day of my whole family greeting me at the door when I got home.  Then immediately after getting my coat off, Logan wants to see the garden.  As I expected, nothing had happened on the germination side, the lettuce and onions are taking longer than the broccoli and cauliflower.  I say I expected it because Judy left a comment today that told me they'd be slow. 

That's fine, because my eldest then said, let's go to my room and see the rest.  So he ran off and waited for me to pull down the cool whip container with the second set of broccoli and cauliflower seedlings.  He proceeds to count the sprouts for me.  Sure enough, still eight.

The funny thing is that these week old seeds are already as big or bigger than my nearly month-old sprouts in the garage.  I wonder if I shouldn't bring them in?  Are they going to mature faster than the recent plantings now that they've been stunted (assuming they survive)?  Kinda defeats the purpose of spacing them out if they're now on par with the new ones.

Since I'm not feeling well and have nothing more to talk about today, I'll keep this one short (for once)... unless I think of more later, and don't think I won't  try.