Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Disaster Strikes

I came home from work last night to this:

It turns out that when I put the shelves up - the shelves that held all my starts - that I should have done more than merely follow the instructions. They needed heavier screws, and in more places.

They pulled some screws out of the boards, and the bottom shelf, came tumbling to the ground.

I lost a lot of starts, maybe a couple hundred, but by no means all of them; I'd re-potted many of the best ones to larger pots a day or two before.

Unfortunately, all the starts I was keeping for my mama are dead.

I was able to save a couple of dozen starts; I hope they survive. I planted some of the brassica outdoors, and some of the peppers & tomatoes might have had enough roots to re-pot.

We'll see how things survive. . 

Monday, April 29, 2013

More Growing Space

Dug out several square feet of grass behind the new raised bed.

More room for my sweetheart to grow beautiful things.

It makes her happy! And that makes me happy!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Movin it Outdoors.

I think it's an improvement.

Now if the weather will only cooperate.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Trying to Start More Peppermint

Goal: As many pots of peppermint as I can this summer. Someone I love loves peppermint tea, and I love to make her smile.

I've taken some starts, but they're inconsistent. So I'm starting some more this way, burying a living stalk in soil, and holding it in place.

I think it will work.

Four new pots this weekend.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Thwarting the Pests

Something's been eating the young cruciferous plants: the broccoli, the kale, the cabbages. Not sure what's doing it. They're growing right next to the garlic, and the garlic was mulched with half-composted straw.

I got tired of feeding the pests, and took action.

The first action was to add slugbait around the plants. No success; the next morning, a couple more plants were missing leaves.

I should have been more scientific about this, changing only one variable at a time, but I was tired of losing plants. So I did two things:
  • I tore all the straw mulch out from around the garlic (it didn't need it any  more anyway!), and 
  • I added a bit of diatomatceous earth around the victimized plants. 

Success! They've stopped being devoured. I found at least one slug among the composting straw, so that could have been our culprit. But I've left the diatoms out anyway.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Chocolate Nibs Plant

So we have this very interesting houseplant. Every few weeks, it bears fruit. That's kind of cool. But this one bears better fruit than most houseplants. It bears a tin of chocolate covered nibs.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Busy Weekend in the Dirt. Lots of Dirt.

Made a whole lot of dirt this weekend. I'll be growing a lot of plants in pots on the patio (and other places), so we'll need a whole lot of potting soil.

Today's recipe:

  • ½ a wheelbarrow of "Garden mix" (which is ⅓ topsoil and ⅔ mushroom compost).
  • 3-4 shovels full of plain old topsoil. Ours is pretty sandy.
  • ½ - gallon of Pearlite (crushed pumice). 
  • 1 - 2 gallons peat moss.
  •  ½ cup ground bone meal. 
Stir it all up with a shovel, and fill pots. Then fill some more pots.  Then put a bunch into big covered bins for use later. 

I believe I made about 12 wheelbarrow-loads of potting soil today. ALL of it is in containers now.

This was, when it was full, half of the garden mix I was working with. I'm a wealthy man.

Documenting stuff: Planted carrots and lettuce in the blank spot in the onion bed. (I was going to plant more onions, but I forgot and planted them in a container in the greenhouse. Durn.)

And I side-mulched the rest of the onions with the new garden mix (not the potting soil mix). The beds have never been stunningly fertile, despite the heavy load of horse-made fertilizer last fall.

I'll bet this helps the soil.

I'm tired & sore.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Another Bed!

Well, we put in a new garden bed this weekend. Plenty sore now!

I actually went out and bought the dirt. We have a dirt supply place nearby, and it's foolishly cheap. This took one (Toyota) pickup load, and I shared the load with two of the other beds. Two truck loads cost what a couple of starts would have. (But I had to shovel it all! That's a lot of work!)

The "dirt" they sold me is ⅓ topsoil and ⅔ mushroom compost. Mushroom compost is the best stuff in the world. If you're gardening in that, you need to stand behind a tree and just throw the seed at the soil, so it doesn't hit you in the face when it sprouts! That's why they "thin it" with topsoil! It's for your safety!

Our excuse for the new bed was that we want to try growing sweet potatoes this year. Yeah, I know they aren't supposed to grow here. I grew some amazing cantaloupes and watermelons last year. Don't tell me stuff won't grow here: that means I have to try it!

Now I gotta find a home for that stack of sod I pulled up for this. . .

Friday, April 19, 2013

Sometimes Weeds Can Be Cool Too

I have a bin that I keep potting soil in. I have a piece of plywood over the top that holds a number of starts.

Today, I looked inside. I have weeds. Two weeds. One bean plant, and one pepper plant.

That's kind of cool. 


Also planted a bunch of starts for the Grand Mama's garden: Broccoli, cabbage, chard for now. She'll get some squash starts, too.

Judging the Wild Things

... or at least the Wild Flowers. The test is started early March.

I have a package of "Butterfly Mix" wildflower packages, one from Ed Hume (from last year) and one from Livingston Seed (from this year).

Nothing to do but to compare them! This is, after all, first and foremost a garden journal: trying stuff to see what works best.

So here we are, April First. Here's how they're doing so far. Ed Hume has the clear advantage so far.

And again, mid-April. I think we have a winner.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Making & Using New Dirt

This afternoon, I re-worked one of the worm boxes.Worm castings (the dirt that worms leave behind; actually, it's worm poo) are one of the best kinds of compost in the world, so I made use of it.

I made some dirt. Well, I made some potting soil. Not quite the same thing.

Since I'll be growing a LOT of plants in pots this summer, I'll need a LOT of dirt.

Here's the recipe:
3 shovels of worm castings. Pull the worms out and return them to the worm box.
3 shovels of good, clean, garden dirt.
1 or 2 pints of used coffee grounds.
1 gallon or so of peat moss

1 or 2 quarts coarse sand.
1/2 cup bone meal, or general purpose fertilizer.

Screen all the ingredients into a large tub. Roll up your sleeves and mix it all up.

So here's some of what I planted:

  • Tasty Bites Hybrid Cantaloupes. These will grow to the size of small softballs. They're super sweet. These are probably my favorites.
  • Athena Cantaloupes. These are the big ones. I grew both of these last year, from starts provided by a very helpful veterinarian. This year, she gave me her leftover seeds. 
I've actually already got cantaloupe starts going, but they're from last year's seeds. Furthermore, I didn't know that I had two different species, so I'm not sure which ones I'm growing (probably Athena's melons). And finally: they're from hybrids. It's very likely that they won't produce the same fruit this year as they did last year. 
  • Rose Flynn Apple fingerling potatoes. They really are the size of fingers, or maybe the size of my thumbs, which are admittedly fairly lumpy. I planted them in newsprint start pots
I've never grown fingerling potatoes before. This might be interesting.

Then I also used the dirt to side-dress some of the basil starts.The starts are small (under an inch), but their soil is also under an inch deep. And basil really doesn't want to be planted outdoors until June, so these kids may be with me for a while. They deserve more nourishment. They're so small, I needed to use a teaspoon to spread the dirt around their tiny stems.

The Clematis That Took Over the World

We have a clematis that we've been trying in various places. Last year or two, we tried next to the front porch.

Epic success. It's eating the front of our house. The blooms are many, large and fragrant!

It had the wind chimes for dessert.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Gardening With Leftovers

I've been inspired by the idea of taking leftover kitchen scraps, and growing good food with them. Here's one list of things you can do this with:

I've had great success before doing this with potatoes and celery. I'm doing it accidentally this year with onions and garlic. I've failed before with pineapple, but I'm not done trying.

The idea of doing this with lemon grass really appeals to me. My bride & daughter use lemon grass in their (very yummy!) Thai cooking, and we'd like to not spend a fortune on it.

But first (and primarily because it was on sale at Trader Joe's), we're going to try ginger root. I'm soaking it in water (in a dirty garden jar) overnight first, then I'll plant it in the morning.

It doesn't sound all that hard. We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Third Update on the Tater Towers

It was scheduled to get pretty cold last  night, so it seemed like a good time to help the potatoes out with more dirt and straw.

The first thing was to add some more dirt to the  red potatoes. Reminder: these were started from a bag of potatoes that started sprouting in the cupboard in January. Mid March, I stuck the pots in a couple of new Tater Towers, and darned near killed the greenery by dropping half a bale of hay on top of them.

They seem to have survived the trauma pretty well.

To each, I added:
  •  About four inches more of dirt, with more straw around to hold it inside the wire.
  • One red seed potato that is already sprouting (just below the new surface of the dirt).
Looks to me that I only have one more layer I can add.

Of the potatoes that I planted outside from seed potatoes in mid March, I have been concerned that they were failing. But this week, several sprouts have broken through. These are white potatoes (I think).

Got  about four of these, between the two other towers, at least one of which is purple.

When the seed potatoes weren't sprouting well, I took some of the leftover seed potatoes and started them in newsprint pots in the greenhouse. That seems to be a reasonable way to start taters.

In any case, this is the very first transplant: I just planted the entire newsprint pot in the soil, leaving the tiny sprout sticking its head out (that was about all that there was).

I've left the rest in their starter pots until they get bigger.

The Original Post.
The First Update.
The Second Update.

Curious Weeds in the Onion Bed

It looks like onions are going to be epic this year. But the weeds are really weird.

The weeds there mostly consist of four things:
  • Cilantro that re-seeded itself from last year. 
  • Lettuce. Not sure if it re-seeded itself, or roots are just sprouting. 
  • Onions from last year.
  • Garlic from last year. 
How do you weed the garden bed, when all the weeds are yummy? 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Cabbage Gone Wild

Hmm. This one that didn't work out as well as I would have hoped.

I planted cabbage last fall in the greenhouse, and transplanted them out into the "real world" when spring broke out early March, and they seemed to flourish.

We covered them with a bug screen and let 'em grow. And they grew.

But they didn't grow right.

They look real impressive.  But they've already bolted.  They're already flowering. In April. What?

I'm going to harvest a bunch of the leaves, and sit and think.


Cut down one of these on 4/16. Cut off the leaves, sliced them, fried 'em in bacon grease with some onion and some kale. Pretty darned good!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

And then it Hailed.

Apparently, we're not past "the last frost"  quite yet....

Serious hailstorm today.

Early Sunday Morning in the Greenhouse

This is one of the perks of a greenhouse.

I'm sitting in the greenhouse this morning, listening to one of my favorite sounds in the world: a gentle rain on the roof. Behind me, when the sound of the rain backs off, I hear the rainbarrel filling.

I'm surrounded by growing things and life.

The soft rains back off and the sun comes out, and I hear a flock of Canada geese on their way home.


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Another Way to Egg On Your Starts

I've been fascinated by ways to start seeds without a huge expense. There are a couple of ways to use egg cartons to start seeds.  But this one may be my favorite, at least from an artistic perspective.

Seems like it would be easier to transplant, when the time comes, than the other methods, too. But I can't imagine growing large seeds - pumpkin or zucchini - this way.

Also, started some more carnival squash today.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Hanging Lemon Cucumbers

People look at me funny when I say (as I did recently) that Sun Sugar tomatoes are the holy grail for the greenhouse. The truth is that there's another holy grail. The tomatoes are my Sweetheart's holy grail.

Mine is lemon cucumbers. Mmmm.

I also added slugbait to the kale outside. Someone else has been enjoying it more than I can. We'll see if this works.

Made another batch of potting soil today, too.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

More Transplants.

I think I got too excited in February. The starts are getting too excited, and are needing to be
transplanted before the weather is ready for them.

I put the rest of the kale starts out. The starts from Monday are doing well, and God looks like he's going to water my starts for me again, so might as well. They're young, but they're cold-weather friendly.

On the other end of the scale, summer squash is not particularly cold-weather friendly. These, too, probably can't go outside until mid May at the earliest (the statistical "last frost" for here is likely during the first half of May). But they've clearly outgrown their starter pots.

Fortunately, I wanted one hanging pot of Pattypan summer squash.

I'm thinking this greenhouse could be pretty full by mid May.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Holy Grail (for This Greenhouse)

I haven't reached it yet, but it's in sight.

This is the closest thing to a "Holy Grail" for me. This is the main - or at least the best - reason for a greenhouse.

These are Sun Sugar tomato plants: orange colored balls of the sweetest, juiciest tomato goodness that will grow on on a plant. My goal was to have two hanging pots with Sun Sugars dangling from them, just for snacking.

Actually, they're pretty good, but they're not my thing. They're Sue's thing. My thing is ... is ... well, it includes herbs. Especially basil. 

Speaking of basil.... This is some of my basil this year. I suppose I should stop whining about herbs
being slow this year. I keep forgetting how sensitive basil is to cool temperatures. So usable basil in March or April probably isn't such a bad thing.

True confession: these came from the produce department at Trader Joe's. Now, they're a foot tall, beginning to fill out, and ready to grace some sandwiches and salads. Mmmm!

These are the basil plants that I'm growing from
seed. Maybe not so impressive. They're maybe an inch tall.

Actually, I'm probably ahead of schedule on these too. They probably shouldn't go outside until June. I hope they last that long.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Music to My Ears

I have a sound system in my home, on it, I play the kind of music that make me happy: jazz, 70's
rock, industrial, worship, classical. Lots of variety, but all music we enjoy.

Some time ago, I noted that the greenhouse also has a music system. (Hey, I'm a nerd. That's how it works!)

A friend of mine suggested playing birdsong, rainfall, gurgling streams. He had two reasons:

  1. It might help the people who work in the greenhouse to stay a little saner, and 
  2. It's the kind of music that's likely to make the plants themselves happy. 
So I picked up a cheap little iPod Nano on eBay, and loaded it full of nature sounds. All he recommended, plus thunder storms, Amazon rainforests, ocean surf. And it plays pretty much 24/7.

I don't know if the plants will like it. (Some folks say they do. Me? I dunno.) But the Missus and myself rather enjoy it!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Quick: Carrots & Kale

Just documenting a quick after-work update. Planted some carrots. This is a small patch, and they're the 2012 saved seeds, but they've sprouted pretty well in the greenhouse.

And then I also transplanted a few of the kale
I've been starting in the greenhouse. These are maybe 3 weeks old, since planting the seeds indoors. It's a little early, but they're going nuts in the sprouting tray.

The top right (near the BZUs, toward the garlic) is Russian Red, the other side (toward the greenhouse) is Smooth Leaf Kale. Let's see how they do.