The Seedlings are Growing Up!

Is there a name for a plant’s middle stage between being a little seedling and an adult plant? If there is, then that’s where we’re at with ours!

Well, with the tomatoes, anyway.

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When all is quiet

Should we use this space to complain about yet another snowstorm? Eh, at this point, it seems quiet redundant. But yes, along with everyone else, we survived our fourth Nor’Easter of March. And though this one dumped them most snowfall of all the storms this month, it really wasn’t that bad. Our local road crews did a good job of keeping the streets clear, and we really only had to shovel out once. Plus, warm temps that followed made quick work of the snow generally, though even now there are still a few stubborn piles here and there. An d this week, Mother Nature has changed her tune significantly towards a Spring-ier song! Warm and rainy is what’s promised…we’ll see how that all pans out.

Another snowy day, as seen from our screened-in porch

Meanwhile, there’s little else to report. Our new sump pump has been working like a champ, and we’ve had no further plumbing mishaps *knock on wood* since. The seedlings are doing nicely, and we made a first pass at thinning out the tomatoes (more on that next week). As we head into Easter, it’s a good time for some quiet reflection anyway. And right now, we’ll take all the quiet we can get!

Happy Seed-Starting Day!

So many seeds!

Seed Starting Day has become something of an unofficial holiday in our house. On that day, we spend half the day with the seeds, from preparing the trays to the actual planting of them, and then we spend the other half of the day being as lazy as possible. 🙂 Okay, “being lazy” is relative, so maybe the most we did was order pizza. Either way, this year’s Seed Starting Day, which we held this past Sunday, was as good as any. And this was despite the fact that our yard looks like this just a couple days earlier:

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Here we go again with more pictures of…dirt

One of the strange and potentially funny side effects of having a gardening blog is that we’ve ended up with an inordinate amount of pictures of dirt. Granted, it is usually dirt that’s brimming with newly-planted seeds, but really, it’s still dirt. There’s nothing wrong with that – it does show the process and all — but it’s still a little bit odd.

So how’s about that dirt?!

Well first, how about the reason for taking pictures of said dirt? It’s because we got around to planting seeds, that’s why! This past weekend, we enjoyed a really lovely and warm Saturday. It was followed by a much cooler Sunday, and by the looks of the forecast, things are going to remain on the cooler side for a bit. With that in mind, we knew we could plant seeds that could handle a slight dip in temps, such as lettuces, arugula, kale, spinach, and radishes.

Planting prep tip #1: identify what you want to plant. Easy peasy!

On something of a whim, we decided to include flowers and herbs, along with a few other surprises, because we now have a slightly different planting situation with two of the raised beds. Namely, we replaced the old, rotting boards with concrete blocks.

This is the “new and improved” raised bed #4.
And this is the “new and improved” raised bed #2. We can barely tell them apart, too.

The reason for including other seeds in the mix — flowers and herbs and such — is because of all the surrounding planting “spaces” that we now have thanks to the concrete blocks. In those spaces we wanted to place a variety of items that might repel rabbits, or if the rabbits happen to get curious, at least distract them from what’s actually in each bed. As we’ve said before, the keyword with the garden this year is experiment.

So, in raised bed #2 we placed two lettuce varieties, along with kale and spinach. In the outer planting “blocks,” we planted various flowers and herbs — basil, thyme, dill, and cilantro — in an alternating pattern. In raised bed #4 are two types of arugula, along with two other types of lettuce. Around the edges of this raised bed, we got a little crazy and planted not only flowers and herbs, but also radishes, carrots, and even onions! While we seem to have the best of luck with radishes, the same can’t be said of either carrots or onions, but with the deeper plots, we decided, what the heck! We had the seeds already — the onions we hadn’t bothered with for a couple years — so why not see if they happen to take?

Meanwhile, we also placed radish seeds in our two half-barrels.

Barrel #1 with Saxa II and Round Black Spanish radishes.
Barrel #2 with Malaga and White Hailstone radishes. …and an unknown volunteer plant that we were too curious about the get rid of.

So there you have it. Pictures of lots of dirt. But hopefully it’s dirt that will soon be full of little seedlings!

We’ll sign off here with two more pictures that we couldn’t resist taking. Remember the little volunteer broccoli bush from a couple weeks ago? Well, it’s gone perfectly gigantic!

It is literally growing up and out of the net cage!

We’re going to have to remove it when we redo this particular bed, which we use for peas and broccoli (haha), in concrete blocks, but for now, it’s pretty wild-looking. And it does have those nice, yellow flowers on it.

A similar thing happened to our asparagus stalks. Seemingly overnight, the stalks grew into small trees!

Our previous attempts at asparagus have also gone to seed, but not quite like this!

The garden is nothing if not a constant source of wonder. 🙂

 

What’s going in the garden this year? Good question!

Around this time each season, we’ve worked on preparing our planting maps. Using, umm…highly sophisticated drawing software (read: MS Paint), we outline our planting beds and decide where to put everything from beans to kale to tomatoes.
Just one example from last year. See, highly sophisticated graphics and all.

Well, this year, we’re doing things differently.

 

For one, we’re skipping the planting maps. Well…we’re skipping preparing them in advance, anyway. Driving this is the seedlings.

Lookin’ good!

We have so many potential tomatoes and peppers that we want to plant them all! So, outside of the beds where we’ve been planting beans, cucumbers, peas, squash, and greens — those will remain — we’re going to transplant all the peppers and tomatoes first, in all available spaces, and then we’re going to fill in any extra spaces with other crops. At that point, we’ll fill in our planting maps just to keep track of what’s been planted where.

Because of this, secondarily, the garden may be a little less diverse than it has been in past years. We’ll likely skip planting a number of things that have been hit-or-miss, such as okra, soybeans, brussel sprouts, broccoli, and possibly ground cherries and radishes. But we’ll see how things go. A lot will depend on how well the pepper and tomato seedlings take.

Now, because we’re replacing the wood raised beds with concrete blocks, we’re hoping to take advantage of the spaces within the blocks themselves to try planting a few underground items in them, such as carrots and radishes, that need the extra length.
While the aesthetics might leave something to be desired, the practicality is where it’s at.

 So what’s going in the garden this year will be mostly tomatoes and peppers, along with our usual complement of bush beans, pole beans, cucumbers, various squash, greens and lettuces. Additionally, we’ll be planting a variety of flowers as rabbit-proofing, as well as a few surprises. It should all be very interesting, at least.

We sign off with our lovely strawberries, which just started blooming. June can’t come soon enough!

Time to Start the Seeds!

You know how they say “time to make the donuts?” Well, this is just like that except that it’s time for us to make new plants, instead! Yep, our efforts to get on a good schedule with our seedlings began this past weekend. We got all four trays planted and incubated without issue.

As we said a few posts ago, this year we’re going to endeavor to not “cook” our poor seedlings; rather, we’re only keeping them shielding by a sheet of mylar on the front of the shelving unit until the seeds start to germinate. (The mylar on the back of the unit will stay as it helps aid in reflecting the light.) Once the seedlings start to grow, we’ll remove the front sheet and simply keep them warm, when needed, using one of our portable heaters.

In terms of what’s actually in the trays, here are our seed maps for the year:

In the first two trays are only tomatoes. Larger varieties are in Tray 1…

…while we placed smaller varieties, such as cherry and grape tomatoes, in Tray 2. Any dated notations in each tray refer to saved seeds and the years in which we saved them.

Tray 3 is all about peppers. We’ve got four rows of hot peppers (A, B, C, and D), followed by all sweet peppers. The exception is the Jalapenos in Row L. We haven’t had very good luck with them in the past; figured that perhaps placing them on an end row might make a difference? (Eh, we don’t have a scientific basis for this, but it can’t hurt, anyway.)

And then in Tray 4, we planted a couple more rows of pepper seeds, and then filled up the rest of the rows with this year’s experiment: starting flowers indoors!

While we’ll be planting flower seeds directly come May, we wanted to see if we could give any a head start with indoor planting. You might not believe it (we sure didn’t!), but here, just a few days after planting the seeds, some of the Ornamental greens and Nema-Gone marigold seedlings are already coming up! It’s rather amazing!

Super seedlings!

We’ll be keeping a close eye on things here in the first couple weeks. Then, once more seedlings starts to emerge in earnest, we’ll be doing even more babysitting to ensure that they grow strong and hardy. Seed starting is always a lot of work and worry, but hopefully it’ll all pay off in 6-8 weeks time.

New Year, New Seeds

Over the past couple years, we’ve done pretty good with seed saving. And at the end of each season, we tell ourselves that “we’re not going to buy as many seed next year.” And then, January arrives and so do the seed catalogs. Despite whatever we think of our willpower in November, those catalogs with their pretty pictures and feelings of new hope completely sap it. That said, we didn’t buy as many new seeds this year as we have in the past. So, maybe our willpower is getting a little stronger. Or maybe we’re just running out of space to store so many seeds. Whatever that case may be, here’s a run down of just a few new things we hope to grow this year.


1. Flowers
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We mentioned last week that part of our critters-fighting initiate this year involves planting more flowers, and more varieties of flowers. Particularly flowers that rabbits don’t care for. We knew that marigolds fell into this category, and discovered that many others did as well, such as alyssum because of how they smell, strawflowers because of their papery texture, and snapdragons because…um, well…can’t quite remember why, but it seemed like fun to try to grow them.

2. Beurre de Rocqencourt wax beans
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Fancy name aside, we’ve had pretty good luck with string beans in the past. Our past efforts focused primarily on purple varieties, though up until last year we had been planting yellow wax beans as well. We ran out of seeds last year, and opted to plant other things. This year, we return to tasty and tender wax beans with this particular French variety.


3. Fort Portal Jade pole beans
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Sometime, you just gotta try something that looks pretty. 🙂 That’s not entirely the reason why we decided to purchase these lovely teal-colored pole beans — they looks rather sickly in the picture, but they are a nice shade of green-blue in real life — but it’s certainly part of the reason. Plus, they add to our bean stash, so that’s okay, too.

4. 42-day tomatoes
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In having trouble with our tomatoes last year, one of the possible “remedies” we read about was to try planting tomatoes with shorter ripening periods. So when we came across this “42-Day” cherry tomato variety, we decided to give it a go. According to the description, this little red tomato is supposed to ripen only about 42 days after transplanting. It seems a little farfetched, but it’s worth a shot!

 5. Baby carrots
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Ever since starting our garden, carrots have eluded us. In fact, our soil is just so clay-ey and dense that we’ve pretty much avoided most underground plants — potatoes, onions, and carrots. We did manage to grow a decent crop of stubby carrots a couple years ago, and they were actually very tasty. And since we can grow radishes without issue, maybe our solution lies in radish-shaped carrots? When we found this packet of round, baby carrots seeds, they seems to fit the bill. Also, they look too cute to eat. (Though if we actually get any, we’re sure that won;t be the case!)

Honorable mention: Romanesco
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It’s worth saying that, although we can seem to grow broccoli or head lettuces to save our lives, we’re going to give romanesco another shot. It’s such a unique, and, as we understand it, tasty vegetable that we simply have to try again with it. We first tried planting it two years ago, but nothing came of that attempt. Maybe we’ll have better luck this year?

This year’s garden is surely going to be a mix of old favorites and new experiments, so the results should be interesting. Next weekend it’ll  be time for seed starting, and we’ll be back then with an update!

P. S. With the crazy up -and-down weather we’ve been having lately (70s one day, 40s the next), our daffodils don’t know if they’re coming or going. They look a little wilty at present, but with warmer temps showing up later this week, maybe they’ll be a little happier then.

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