Saturday, March 28, 2009

10 Out of 12 and Almost There!

I'm beginning to feel like a victim of my own success. My original plan was to plant all my seeds, expecting most of them to not sprout or not make it. Well, I should have been a little more optimistic, because now I'm afraid that my zucchini, squash, and perhaps melon will require transplanting way before it's warm enough outside. Especially the zucchini and squash - they are officially out of bounds. At a certain point they're going to start blocking the other seedlings from getting light.

I'm going to have to think this one through. Maybe I can transplant them into their own separate pots early and keep them inside under the lights until it's warm enough outdoors.

In other news, I have five (count 'em!) new sprouts to report:

Beets (it barely looks real with that beautiful purple aura)...

...Fish Pepper (finally, a pepper breaks the ground!)...

...Catnip (looking suspiciously similar to thyme and oregano)...

...and Carrot and Melon (pictures to come later).

I honestly can't believe how much success I've had with this - I need to have more faith in myself and in mother nature. The next step is making sure all of the sprouties make it outdoors alright. I've decided to wait until this fall to start building the raised bed. There's no use rushing it and stressing out - I can take another season of containers. In fact, I'm headed out today to snap up some cheap plastic pots. Here's to spring!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

8 Out of 12 and Counting...

More seedling updates to report...

Just LOOK at this ravenous zucchini beauty:

This past Saturday the dill came up like a forest overnight. They are so delicate and wispy, even as sprouts:

This past Sunday the first fuzzy yellow crookneck squash nuzzled its way to the surface. To date there are four plucky siblings:

I also spotted the first oregano and what I THINK is a red marconi pepper sprout. However, the oregano looks very similar to the thyme, and the pepper looks very similar to the dill. Sloppy sowing on my part? We'll see once things develop more!

Based upon my observations of the sun on our side yard, I decided to move my outdoor pots. All of the sprouts are up except the kohlrabi. That is, they are up, but haven't taken off yet. I moved them about 10 feet north to where they should be getting longer sun.

I've had more and more of an itch to try and build a raised bed for this summer. It's probably overly ambitious at this point as I've read you should build it the fall before to give the soil time to settle. I've been comparing wood boards vs. cinder blocks. I'm hesitant to use boards from the hardware store for fear of chemical leaching from treated lumber. Cinder blocks seem more sturdy, weather resistant, and easier. I'm not so much concerned about the aesthetics of it, but more about the functionality. I think it would be nice to plant some herbs or flowers in the cinder block holes. So far as I can tell, the only disadvantage to cinder blocks is they can raise the pH of the soil. That's something I can counteract in the future. This will be a big step for me, so I'm going to keep mulling it over for a bit...

Friday, March 20, 2009

Goodbye Winter...

...Hello Spring!

Several more exciting updates already - things are just popping with the balmy weather we've had this week. And I must say, I must be doing something right because every day now there is some new sprout in the indoor nursery.

Firstly, by and large, the marigolds are miles ahead of any other seedlings. Here's how many more have poked through since Wednesday:

And here's a better shot of my freckley thyme nubbins:

Newbies include a lavender sprout, which I will feature once it's more mature, as well as a zucchini, quietly and gracefully beginning to raise his head!

Now that plants are starting to push through the soil, I'm fairly sure that I'm starting several seeds too early and that they might not make it to transplant. The zucchini, squash, and melon are probably premature. Chalk it up to 50% inexperience and 50% impatience. I figure that if they don't look like they're going to make it, I have plenty seeds left and I can just grow some replacements. I guess I was still skeptical that things would sprout to begin with. I'm glad I was wrong on this one!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


The past few days have been very exciting - the first sprouts of the year have poked through! My outdoor plantings were the first to make a showing.




Then, this morning after I got up to get ready for work, I crept bleary-eyed down to the basement to check on my nursery. Now, I'm not sure if this is cheating, but there was a crack in the dirt on one side of a cube and a thyme seedling was weaseling its way through the space (he's at the bottom of the picture). This counts, right?

When I got home from work today I noticed a marigold sprout squeezing through as well:

It amazing to me how year after year I have grown plants of all sizes, shapes, and types, but every spring when you see a shriveled brown seed transform itself into a green, succulent, living organism, it seems like the most fantastic miracle on earth.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Spring Sowing

It finally arrived - my grow light stand and lamp got here in one piece on Friday!

Yesterday my husband assembled everything, and without delay I promptly dived into my first seed sprouting experience. Here is what my set-up looks like:

Now, I know what you're thinking: "Awww, how cute. It's so TINY." Well, yes, it is. When I have a larger garden, then this little set-up will quickly become outdated. For now, though, it's just about right. My only worry is that the cats will decide to play hopscotch with the cord...

The kit came with two germination trays, each with six growing cubes, for a total of twelve cubes. Conveniently enough, I had twelve types of seeds that I wanted to try sprouting. Each type got its own cube:
  • Melon, Minnesota Midget
  • Eggplant, Ping Tung
  • Fish Pepper (hot)
  • Sweet Pepper, Red Marconi
  • Summer Squash, Early Golden Summer Crookneck
  • Zucchini, Black Beauty
  • Basil
  • Lavender
  • Thyme
  • Dill
  • Catnip
  • Oregano
My scribbly sowing notes:

For the herbs, I just liberally sprinkled the seeds and gently covered them with a layer of soft soil. For the more substantial seeds, such as peppers and squash, I counted out about six seeds per cube. I can always thin things out later if I have good luck with sprouting. Now I just get to sit back and wait for happen.

As for my outdoor seeds that I planted last weekend, I'm still waiting to see signs of life there. It has been a pretty cold, dreary week - not much warmth and not much sun. I don't blame the seedlings for not wanting to poke through yet.

One sign of life I DID spot this week, however, was a sneaky little Peter Rabbit, hiding slyly in the neighbors bushes. Doesn't he just look so smug, biding his time and eyeing my tender little greens-to-be?

I really had to amp up the zoom on my camera to catch him - he blends in so well with the bark and soil. He's smart to stay hidden - I've noticed several neighborhood cats prowling around. Hopefully feline, hare, and veggie can co-exist peacefully in the years to come!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Breaking Ground

This past weekend I broke ground for the first time at our new house. Yes, it was finally nice enough outside for me to put on a pair of ratty shoes and go play in the yard.

Since I decided to continue container gardening for one more year, cleaning up the pots was my first order of business. My pots looked like little Rip van Winkles after sitting all winter. The old vines, stalks, stems, and leaves were all dried and rambly and in need of a serious haircut. I pulled all the old plant matter and re-mixed all of the dirt, breaking up root balls and fluffing the soil so it is ready for some planting. I was amazed by how aromatic the herb roots were, especially the mint. Nothing like a little aromatherapy when you're cleaning house.

Once the winter purge was finished, I began to sow some early season seeds. I ended up planting a mixture of newly ordered seeds as well as old seeds from last year:
  • Radish, French Breakfast
  • Beet, Cylindra
  • Carrot, Cosmic Purple
  • Carrot, bonus pack variety
  • Kohlrabi, Early Purple Vienna
  • Lettuce, Merveille des Quatre Saisons
  • Arugula

I squeezed all of these seeds into 4 pots and I have them lined up along the stone wall in the back yard:

One benefit of planting in containers again this year is their height - hopefully that will deter the deer, rabbits, and squirrel from nibbling on my tender greens. I've pretty much definitively decided that I will not be tilling up a portion of our back yard any time soon. There are too many tree roots and the soil does not appear to be that fertile. I've been exploring the possibility of building/buying a raised bed instead. This will give me some of that nice height, and will also allow me to work around the tree root issue. That might be next year's project - for now, since we're still settling in to the house, I'll have to make do with what I already have.

After planting the seeds, I started to tackle the front yard with surly husband in tow. I think my urge to get outside and play was a tad stronger than his - my spring fever has kicked in early this year I suppose. I removed most of the big unsightly wood chips from the beds and planted a flat of pansies to add some color. I also ordered several bags of mulch from the local church's "Mulch Drive" to show some local support as well as add some protection for the soil. I can already hear the groans when I suggest we BOTH go spread some mulch together...

I still haven't revealed the biggest excitement for me currently - several weeks ago I ordered a Garden Starter System from Gardener's Supply Company. Call me lazy, but I just need a small set-up to start growing seeds. If I decide to get more serious about it, then I can go hog wild with racks and lamps and heating mats and the like. For now, this will provide me with enough light and warmth to germinate one flat of seeds. I know I'm getting a late start for the season - it just shipped today and they should be delivering Friday. I'll just jump in with the later-season seeds.

There's so much that I want to do with our yard, I really don't know where to start. I need to focus my energies instead of flitting all over the place like a hummingbird. I've taken that first seasonal step, though, so there's no turning back now...

Oh, and PS - my strawberry plant survived yet another winter!