Monday, March 31, 2008

Storms, Pictures, and Various Seedling Updates

I've been up since the tornado sirens tonight, but nothing more than rain and lightening actually came close to our neighborhood. The entire time the sirens were going, though, all I could think about was the fact that I had opted to leave all of the seedlings outside for the night! Nooooo!!!

But no tornadoes for us, thank goodness. I think I may have heard some hail though, so I hope nothing got hurt.

In any case, I recently took pictures of some of the young garden plants, which are coming along rather nicely.



The onions really are looking nice. It's so tempting to pull back the dirt and look for bulbs!

Little Gem Romaine lettuce:


They're all growing sets of true leaves, so it shouldn't be long before we actually have tiny little bunches of lettuce.

White Icicle Radish:


Most of them have true leaves now, and a couple of them are just huge! These were a very last-second addition to the garden, and I'm so pleased I decided to try them.

Sugar Snap Pea:


All four of the sugar snap peas are getting big and beautiful like this fellow. Look at the little tendrils seeking support! It's definitely time to put in the trellis... this week.

Cucumber plants are finally peeking over the soil, but don't look like much so far. I had to thin the carrots like mad, but they aren't very interesting looking plants yet. I'll post photos as soon as they're a little more visible.


I've potted a few strawberries. A basket with two June-bearing varieties, a basket of Alexandrias, a basket of Alpines, and one single Alexandria sitting on the bottom back step (to see if the stray cats will leave strawberries alone before I risk them in large numbers). Most of them look wimpy so far, but the ones that have been in their pots for a while are getting stronger.

Emergency Tomato Transplants

I had a tomato transplanting emergency the other day. The seedlings were outside for hardening off (which is complete!) and the Oklahoma wind decided to pick up like mad once I was inside. It managed to crack one of the delicate brandywine seedlings right at the base. It was time to put them in more soil anyway, so I hurriedly repotted them all up to their necks and the cracked seedling is still looking healthy. Seriously, I would have stomped childishly if I'd lost it. I feel like I didn't start enough of the brandywines, and one already looks less healthy than the others.

Just about two more weeks until it's time to put them in the ground!


As I've commented before, I'm more into edible gardening than flower gardening or landscaping. However, Chad and I have made quite a team on the porch and in the flower bed. He's put something like 20 purple annuals in the flower bed so it'll look nice and full while the perennials establish themselves, and I've started seeds in several pots on the porch. There are cheapie square planters on each step up to the porch with tiny Petite Marigold seedlings, and we got a little experimental by planting the marigolds in a ring around alyssum in two squat barrel-style planters on either side of the porch. Tiny seedlings in these, too. We'll take photos once they're more visible. I'm honestly not the biggest fan of Marigolds, but it's difficult to pass up 10 cent seed packets and they do make decent mosquito deterrents.

What I'd like to do next year, however, is to grow only edible flowers in pots, and maybe even a few in or around the vegetable garden. Decoration is nice, but I much prefer plants with more of a purpose.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tips on Preserving Seeds

Well, the thing about container and small-scale gardening is the shear number of seeds. If I get a packet of 1000 lettuce seeds and have room for only, say 20 heads of lettuce at a time, chances are that I'm not going to use use up all the seeds. So I save the leftovers for the next year, because I know that most varieties of seeds will last for at least two years (sometimes even 4 or 5) if properly stored.

Nope, you don't have to buy all new seeds every year!

But not all seeds will last two years (onion seeds aren't as likely to make it), and you also have to make sure you store them correctly. I personally put all of my seed packets in a large zip-lock baggie, throw in small handful of uncooked rice to absorb moisture, and put it in the refrigerator. Some people even opt for the freezer, while others simply put them up in a cool, dark cabinet. Whatever you decide on, the essential ingredients here are dark, dry, and cool.

The seeds that apparently didn't survive for me were the Tom Thumb Lettuce seeds. Nothing showing up in the garden and my attempts at sprouting them on damp paper (which also serves as a germination rate test of sorts) have done nothing. Desperate for the adorable little compact heads of lettuce, I may attempt to sow the entire packet of remaining seeds, but I believe I'll be relying on the Little Gem Romain (also purchased last year, but doing great!) and the mystery tube of mesclun mix a friend gave me.

But in general, I say you should always save extra seeds. You can always test germination rates (hmmm, I should do a post on how to test it!) when in doubt, so the worst that can happen is that you might end up buying again after all.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A Simple Gift

Plants make great gifts. I'm taking this little strawberry plant to a birthday party tonight. It's one of the dozens I've grown from seed and I just spruced up an old pot with a scrap ribbon. Plant tags make a nice touch, and they don't have to be anything fancy, though crafty touches are much more impressive. In this case, I just printed it, cut it, and taped it to a craft stick. Voila! An inexpensive gift almost anyone can appreciate.


My, I'm Fried....

I am just pooped.

Today, Chad and I went to two greenhouses in search of plants for the front flower bed. That bed is primarily Chad's project, so I followed and assisted as he picked out $70 worth of beautiful perennials. They look a bit dwarfed now that we've put them in the bed, but they're going to be amazing once they fill out. There's still space to put in annuals for this year, which we'll do since it takes plants a little time to really establish themselves and start to flourish in that clay-heavy soil. But if all of the plants we put in today last until next year, we should end up with a full bed.

Chad's soaking in the tub and I've just finished potting a strawberry plant as a gift to be given at a birthday party tonight. I must confess that I am terrible at gift follow through.... I still have gifts half-made on my sewing machine from Christmas. However, I happen to know that this friend has gotten very into veggie gardening this year. I found the most attractive Alexandria Strawberry plant in the seedling tray and potted it in a wee terracotta pot (big enough to hold about a cup full of soil) and tied a pretty burgundy ribbon around it. Wallah! A perfect gift for any gardener.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Ya Gotta Have Faith, Faith, Faith!

There are two carrot seedlings in the garden!

I guess it's just the way things are for me this season. The second I give up on seeds and start over, that's when the first set of seeds will prove me wrong!

I don't think I'm gonna complain.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The First Day of Spring!

It's a beautiful Spring Equinox! The light has finally returned and we will slowly see longer and longer days.

And early next month, it'll actually be time to start moving the indoor seedlings to the garden. *hop*hop*

You know, I used to be a Winter kinda girl... but gardening has changed me. I'm a Spring girl all the way, now!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Underachievers and Overachievers

I am skeptical about the Tom Thumb Lettuce and the Carrots, as I've seen no signs of life from them so far. It may be time to soak the seeds until they have to sprout. Yes.... I think this is the new plan. I have so many seeds that I think it's well worth the try, even if it turns out I'm being paranoid.

Everything else is going as well as I could possibly hope for! I currently have something like two dozen strawberry seedlings getting their first taste of direct sunlight out on the front porch. Wheeee!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Seedling Pictures

Radish Seedlings

Radish Seedling
Radish Seedling
I planted the radishes mainly to deter cucumber bugs, but now I'm just pleased at how beautiful the seedlings are!

Little Gem Lettuce
Little Gem Lettuce Seedlings
Chris apparently dropped a TON of lettuce seeds into each hole. :) No problem. I'll give them another day or two to see if there's a particularly strong looking individual and snip out the rest of them.

Sugar Snap Pea
Sugar Snap Pea

Onion in a Soda Pop Cloche
Onion in a Soda Pop Cloche
Not a seedling, but I love this one that Chad took!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Seedlings, Seedlings!!!

Oh me of little faith, the garden has seedlings today!!! Several radishes, a lettuce, and maybe a carrot. One of the sugar snap peas seems to be on it's way, as well!

Oh well, no problem. I had more seeds than I'd ever use before they went bad (and still do!). I still think some of the original seeds are too deep, so those squares will benefit from my shallow reseeding.

Chad has the camera at work, so I'm going to bug him to take photos when he gets home. He has a much better eye for photography than I do, anyway.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Follow Your Instincts

Concerned about the single sugar snap pea starting to root and utter lack of seedlings, I decided to reseed the garden this afternoon.

Maybe the soil I like to use is a too heavy or something, but I've just always had better luck with putting seeds either right on the surface with a little soil sprinkled over them or poking a hole, dropping one in, and leaving that hole open. I think I may start following my instincts the first time around rather than following the depth instructions on the seed packets.

I've removed most of the two-liters from the onions so they're easier to water evenly, but they are at the ready for cold nights.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Repotting and Seedling Cleanup

Phwew, yesterday was productive!
  • Re-potted Red Robin Tomato plants into hanging cone planters.
  • Watered and checked on garden. Onions are doing fabulously, but I see no growth from seeds yet.
  • Put baby tomato plants into some soil in a four-cell tray, as their little roots were starting to poke out of the peat pods.
  • Started "cat grass" in a left over plastic tray for the kitties.
  • Threw out dead seedlings (used their soil for re-potting!) & consolidated the living onto one large tray.
I realize now that the RR tomato plants are going to be a bitch to harden off, as they are extremely heavy in their hanging cones. I can handle it, but I'll be leaving them outside overnight the very second I think I can get away with it! I actually think Wednesday evening is supposed to stay as warm as the 50s, so that may be their first night out.

I think I have a plan for growing container tomatoes in the future. Once they're ready for a full-sized pot, I'm going to plant them deeply and with a few inches left at the top of the pot. This way, I can fill in more soil once they're larger and leggy. I think this'll work nicely.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Looking Forward to a Gardening Day

I'm sooooo excited about tomorrow's gardening plans! Both of the Red Robin Tomato plants are super leggy, so I'm going to re-pot them into two lovely cone-shaped hanging baskets. We're due for a week of pleasant weather, so the porch will be their daytime home now. One has several green tomatoes, so I'll have to be extra careful with it.... but I really do think the transplant is necessary.

It's also time to start hardening off the wee baby tomato plants, so they'll be transported in and out for a while as well. It's nearly time to give them a little more soil, but it'll be a while before I'm confident about putting them in the garden itself.

Meanwhile, I have ungodly numbers of strawberry seedlings. The store-bought ones didn't fair so well, but the ones I grew from seed are fabulous little pretties. I need to see if I can hunt down some small, inexpensive pots so I can give a few of them away to friends once they're strong enough. I suppose it actually won't be long until it's time to harden these off, as well. They're just so lacy and delicate right now, I can hardly stand the idea of removing them from the environment that has them thriving so.

I need to remove the screens from the garden and see if any seedlings have started, as well. Once they're too tall to avoid getting crushed by the screen, I'm going to have to devise new ways to keep it from becoming the neighborhood litter box!

Creating Old Traditions for the Young

Last weekend was such a heart-warming weekend, I don't know why I didn't post about it right away. We had Chad's nephews (9 and 11 years old) from Saturday morning through Sunday evening. As usual, we tried to make their time with us thoughtful, productive, and fun in ways that most kids don't get to have fun these days.

We picked them up late Saturday morning. We first visited their great grandmother at her house and then took them to see their grandmother in the hospital. Chad asked them questions and got them thinking about the body and the immune system.

Our next stop was the farmer's market. We absolutely love the farmer's market and had been wanting to share it with the boys for quite some time. We handed them canvas bags and and walked them around to our favorite tables. We bought some organic eggs and the seller showed them pictures of the mobile hen house while we talked about how her chickens, unlike most, get to walk around and scratch in the dirt like nature intended.

Our next purchase was a fresh honey comb. Chad asked the boys if they'd ever tried one before, to which they replied, "We've had Honeycomb Cereal!"

"Uh, no," Chad said. "It's absolutely nothing like the cereal."

The seller shook his head in pain and said, "That's just how kids are taught to think these days!" We told him that's why we'd brought them to the market and he smiled and said, "Good! They're young enough that you can still fix them!"

Then we made a b-line for the Christian Cheese table. They sampled several varieties before settling on Cowboy Cheddar and Basil and Sundried Tomato Cheddar.

Then I spotted shelves of small organic vegetable plants and remembered the sorry state of my onions. We gave the boys two dollars and asked them to buy me the best looking bunch of onion starters. They picked out a fine green pot full of them and the grower told them about his farm and nice dog who never bites before we were on our way home to drop off our findings.

We then met up with our friend David and his 8 year old daughter at the Omniplex Science Museum of Oklahoma for the controversial human body exhibit. The kids were very mature about it and it was all very fascinating. Overall, we were very happy to have made it. The rest of the evening involved a little omniplex exploration, dinner, and then board games.

Sunday morning, I dragged into the kitchen and it wasn't long before the boys were in there helping me make a breakfast of buttermilk pancakes, vegetarian sausage, and scrambled organic eggs (the ones they'd picked out at the market!). Not long after, we all put on long sleeves and got our hands dirty in the Square Foot Garden!

Here you get to see my completely constructed garden.
Gardening with the Boys
The grid is just a sort of twine, but it served our spacing purposes. You can see in the photo that I'm separating the onions and showing the boys how to plant one.

Once they got the idea, my job was merely to separate the onion roots, hand them the best looking ones, and guide them a bit in their placement.
Gardening with the Boys

Gardening with the Boys

Here we are learning about the grids that are meant to serve as a guide for plant placement.

The four of us then split up into pairs and planted almost all of the garden's seeds. I suspect there may have been a little much enthusiasm for poking holes deep into the soil though, so I may need to do a little reseeding if some of them don't grow. But over all, they did an excellent job!

We knew, however, that a chilly storm was on its way that night. Our final project was to dig through recycling for plastic bottles (which I'd been hording for this purpose) to cut and place over the onions.
Gardening with the Boys

Once we put screen over the seeded portions of the garden to deter cats from using it as a litter box, we felt everything was sufficiently protected and went inside to wash up, play games, and eat organic mac and cheese until it was time for them to go home.

I think they enjoyed getting dirty and starting things from seed. I'm going to send them photos as the plants grow and they'll help out in the garden whenever they're over here.

It's a wonderful thing, to share something like this with children. I remember gardening with my parents when I was very small, how the rows of corn towered over me and the little carrot tops tempted me.

I plan on raising my own children with their hands in the dirt.