Saturday, May 10, 2008

Things are Growing

It's been ages since I updated. I've been using a site called as a sort of garden notebook, and it works better for me than Blogger since it allows me to keep track of individual plants, etc. without having to rely solely on tags. Since I don't think many people read this blog, I didn't think it would be a big deal to switch. If you're interested, you can find my gardens on myfolia here. I'm not sure I'll bother updating much here anymore, since I can add journals there just as well, and I think it'll be easier for me to look at next year when I'm trying to figure out what to do.

I really do like the myfolia site - it's kind of like Ravelry for gardening. Maybe not quite as robust yet, but pretty great so far.

Meanwhile, my allergies are protesting all the time I spent hacking down weeds today, so I'm going to sneeze my way off into the sunset.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Absences and tomatoes

I haven't made the time to write a blog entry lately; I should remedy that, if I'm going to stick to this. Nothing particularly exciting has actually happened yet, though. Right now everything is in anticipation of building the square foot bed (tomorrow, if it doesn't rain too much) and moving some plants outside.

I have started my tomato seeds, all five varieties, though I've no idea where I'll put them all. The pepper seedlings have come up, too, and the cats are chewing the onions to death. I haven't been able to keep them out of the office (where the seedlings are) with any great success, yet. I did buy some cat grass of some sort or another today while we were out getting vermiculite for the garden beds, so hopefully they'll chew on that soon instead.

The birds are back, though. They're flocking to the little suet feeder I have, and I think I'd like to put a bird bath out front as well as perhaps a few more feeders scattered around in back. I don't want to end up attracting them to the vegetable garden and have them eat all my tomatoes, though. Tomatoes are all for me. Still, it's nice to hear them singing again, and the cats are fascinated. I saw a birdbath I liked at TSC today for about $40... maybe a birthday gift, I hope. Though I've also asked for pruning shears and nice gardening gloves. Hmm.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Seedlings getting in shape

I was, to be honest, a little hesitant that starting seeds indoors would work out for me at all. I was kind of convinced the cats would eat them, or I would under- or over-water them, or that they would somehow fail to sprout at all. But right now, many of them are starting to look like the grown-up plants they will become, and I'm very proud. The most startlingly delightful surprise was checking in this morning and seeing that the one of the parsley seedlings had developed a leaf that's actually, well, parsley-shaped. It kind of looked like it might've been thinking about becoming parsley-shaped yesterday, but overnight it just magically transformed itself into something recognizable.

parsley at 18 days

The other plants I started back at the tail end of February are looking good, too. The basil has developed its second set of leaves, and they're like little tiny pesto components already. The metamorphosis wasn't nearly as dramatic, but it's there. I transplanted one of the seedlings into a larger pot, the one it will hopefully stay in; it's under the lights, still, but as the days get longer and warmer I plan to transfer it to the kitchen windowsill. The peppermint seedlings are so tiny they're barely visible (in fact, I can't really see them in the photo below) but they're there, with their cotyledon leaves and a pair of real leaves. The onion stalks are growing thicker, to the point where I start to worry they may be too crowded until I can get them outdoors, but then I remember they don't put energy into building their bulbs until light and temperature tell them to do so.

state of the seedlings, 16th march

You can see there, too, a recycled mushroom box; I punched some holes in the bottom with a chopstick (egads, what an awful sound that made) and filled it with seed starting mix, then planted jalapenos on one side and sweet red peppers on the other. Unfortunately I forgot to label which side is which, but as long as I get one plant from each side into the garden I know I'll have both. They were just started on the 13th of March, and I hear pepper seeds can be a long time in germinating.

There's also a Ziploc bag, which I do not find at all aesthetically pleasing, but I wanted to grow some lettuce indoors and it seems this is a good method. Essentially, I filled the bag 4" deep with potting soil, cut the corners off at the bottom, then watered the bejeebus out of the soil. I let it drain so it wasn't just straight mud, then tossed in three lettuce seeds and sealed the bag except for 1" along the zipper. The seeds sprouted within 2 days, but I saw signs of mold at the base so I opened the bag up. They seem to be doing quite well and with luck we should be eating some lettuce within three weeks. One of the little guys seems to have established himself sideways in the bag, and I doubt he'll make it, but I haven't plucked him out yet. I figured I'd see what happens.

lettuce in a bag, 8 days

Audrey, the cat pictured basking in the fluorescent lighting, seems to have developed some kind of affection for the plants. Whenever I water them or otherwise tend to them or just sit and look at them, she has to join me, and often meows at me (she's a talker for sure). She has also taken to curling up under the seed trays; really, who needs a heating mat when you've got a heating cat?

I also read on a forum that blowing on and brushing (i.e. petting) your seedlings is a good idea to help make them strong. So I've set up a small desk fan about three feet away from them, and I turn it on low every couple of hours for about 20 minutes to simulate a breeze. Audrey does a good job of sniffing at and "petting" them, but I touch them sometimes too, not least because it's just fun. I don't know why I never read about or thought of this before, but it certainly seems like it will help the plants to prepare for the Big Move Outdoors later in the season.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Growing lettuce and herbs indoors

It seems that ever since daylight savings time hit this past Sunday, I've been even more impatient to get my square foot garden started. Considering the snow's only just today melted away, I've got a little while before I'll be harvesting much of anything; our last frost date here is around mid-May, from what I can ascertain. Even though I know one morning I'll wake up and it will be August and I'll wonder where the time went, I still get antsy now, so I decided to try growing a few things indoors.

I cook so much I've always thought I should grow some herbs in the kitchen windowsill, but somehow I've never gotten around to it. Until recently I'd never had any luck with indoor plants, so I let that discourage me, plus sheer laziness, you know. But this year already I've got cute little basil, parsley, and chives going, and I'm going to think about starting some shiso today as well. It's not commonly used in the US, I don't think, but I love the way it tastes and it's especially good during the hot summer. Anyway, the basil in the picture in an earlier entry has already been repotted into something a bit larger, and it's looking quite nice; the parsley has come up, and the chives are getting quite tall.

I've also got some lettuce going: I planted the black-seeded Simpson in a Ziploc bag full of potting soil as suggested in several places online. The seeds sprouted within two days - now that's instant gratification. I have to admit I'm still a little wary of growing anything in a Ziploc bag, but we'll see how it goes - and so far, so good.

All in all, I'm really pleased with my indoor light setup since it allows me to grow these things indoors rather than waiting for the actual warm weather to commence. Hopefully the experiments turn out well....

Friday, March 7, 2008

Fluorescent Lights and Your Cat

So. I took the advice of a few gardening books and websites and just used one cool and one warm fluorescent tube in each of two light fixtures as "grow lights" for my seedlings. Even though they all assured me that this was Fine and A Good Approximation of Sunlight, I have to admit I wasn't entirely convinced. That is, until one of my cats discovered the lights.


She now spends a majority of her day basking in the glow of the fluorescent lights, even rolling around just like she does in the sunlight. I guess if it's good enough for a cat, it's good enough for the plants, hm?

Monday, March 3, 2008

They're up!

I checked the seedling flats tonight and o! exciting day! Some of them have poked their heads above the surface! The basil has actually unfurled its wee little cotyledon leaves.

Itty bitty basil!

See him? The onions and chives are as yet just bent stems, heads down in the soil, but they'll probably join the party soon. The parsley and mint don't seem to have joined the party as yet.

I also got my copy of The New Seed Starter's Handbook in the mail today. It's got rather more content than I'd expected, and I've been happily reading along. Based on my reading, I think I'm going to start some pepper seeds tomorrow, since they can take a while to germinate.

Meanwhile, I'm going to continue admiring my little sprouts, and try to make a schedule for planting their summer neighbors. Oh, and for getting them all out into the yard; there's no bed awaiting them just yet.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Finally, actual "dirt"

On Wednesday, my order from Baker Creek arrived. They were out of stock on a few items: the Little Gem lettuce, Delikatesse cucumber, and Sugar Snap peas. I'll have to get at least the last two from another source. I haven't quite decided where, yet; I'm trying to avoid possible GMO seeds, so buying them at a local shop is pretty iffy. Then again, I don't want to pay another shipping charge. I'll have to look into my options a little more. Because of the delays in getting my order to me (caused by snow and ice, of which there's plenty here), Baker Creek sent an extra packet of seeds - a tomato variety called Furry Yellow Hog. I have to find somewhere to raise a plant of those, because come on, really? It's like a bacon plant! Only tomatoes!

At any rate, on Wednesday night we went to Lowe's again and I bought the shop light fixtures for the plant stand, along with both cool and warm fluorescent bulbs. In total the cost was about $32; not bad, and the long life of fluorescent bulbs should mean I won't have to buy any again for a couple of years, at least. With luck the fixtures themselves will last indefinitely. I also picked up a bag of seed starting mix (sterile and soil-less) as well as some peat planting cubes. I'd been planning to reuse plastic tubs from cream cheese, sour cream, and the like but our usage of those has apparently declined because I didn't have nearly enough. It was another $5 for those items.

My thoroughly wonderful husband helped me to finish assembling the stand and put the lights on it; it's just much easier sometimes with two sets of hands. After an inordinate amount of fiddling and guessing, we reached an agreement with the electrical outlets in the room and got everything in place. I do love living in old houses but one of my major complaints about them is the fact that there are never enough outlets for a family that uses as many electronic devices as we do. Maybe that's supposed to be some kind of sign to cut back, but I like my internet very much, thanks.

Here's the setup:
PVC seed starting setup

Very late that night, actually about 5am on Thursday, I planted the onion seeds and some herb seeds. They're actually inside those black plastic seed trays in the photo; they're covered right now as they don't need light to germinate and I'm trying to keep the moisture in since, with forced air heat, it gets pretty dry in here. I'll take a picture of the seedlings when there's something to show.

I guess the fact that I have all the equipment and seeds now means I need to make my actual seed starting schedule soon, hm?