This week's 'dig'
Kate at High Altitude Gardening reports a neat thing happening in SLC, UT


You know you're a gardener when...
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Blunders with Shoots, Blossoms 'n Roots
Where things either live or die!

Feb 28, 2009

Making Progress

 

With spring on the way, I’ve found myself really busy planning, rearranging, sowing backup crops, and praying that what I’ve started will all make it to be set out in the garden, whether mine or someone else’s.

As any gardener that starts their own seeds knows, timing is everything. In mid-March, the broccoli and beets I’ve started can go in- assuming the weather behaves. And as any NWer knows, the weather doesn’t always behave. Below is the broccoli I started, and it’s getting to be a good size to go into the beds. As you can see they are competing for light and touching- I may have to take a few out of the packs to give them more room. So, I can conclude, assuming they go into the ground as planned and do well, that I may want to start them about a week and a half later next year. However, they grow a lot faster in the house, so when I start leaving them out in the greenhouse maybe their growth will slow a bit. I’ve been putting them in the greenhouse during the day, when the weather permits- funny, it’s when the sun comes out all day that I can’t put them out there unless I can keep them in a cooler spot in there. We’ll see what happens, it’s really too soon to predict whether the timing was right or not for the broccoli- and since this is only the second time I’ve ever grown them, I don’t have much to compare it to. 
                   Note: Some images below enlarge on mouse over.

 

I will probably start some more, as back-ups, or just pull these ones after the main head is harvested and have new ones ready to go in. I think I’ll start the next ones in the greenhouse.

 

 
I’ve mentioned in previous posts about last spring being a little traumatic- a lot of plants waiting to go in the ground, and a few unhappy ones that I went ahead and planted, hoping they would make it.  In anticipation  of this happening again, I’ve decided to make a few tunnels. I needed more beds anyway, and really if I had to do it again, I wouldn’t have put in the 4x4 raised beds, or my perennial bed- at least not where I decided to put it. At one time I had a bunch of 30” wide beds and I really liked it that way better. Now I’ll have a combination, and that’s okay too. Since I’m really trying to focus on succession planting this year- it will be important to have more beds ready. 

The beds are small, but I plan on sowing and transplanting short rows across them. Not all crops will be grow that way, the larger plants will take the whole length of the bed. The beds run E/W and will be sloped slightly to the South to take advantage of the angle of the sun in winter- if I can gather enough soil, that is. Oh, and please excuse my neighbor’s mess behind the fence there- he’s remodeling. My mess, like the milk carton, is just because I’m lazy! Well, maybe I was just tired after clearing everything...yes, that’s much nicer :)



This is only one of the new areas. I will have a couple small ones in addition to the beds here, which are hard to see right now. The new 30” wide beds will run the same direction as the raised one above, but only one will be as long. I’ve designed it to have a 1’ path between them. They will each have a tunnel, or a better name would be a chenille. A chenille is a type of French tunnel design where the plastic, instead of being buried in the soil to secure it, is held on the wire hoops by a string on top. This design is really nice because venting is easy. Gone are the days of taking the plastic on and off on one side. All you do is slide the plastic up because it is sandwiched between string and the hoop supports- it is never buried. You can find out more in Eliot Colman’s book Four Season Harvest. When I put it all together, I’ll post more. 

This weekend, I plan to put down some black plastic on the bed areas and paths to help dry it out a bit. This area was covered with cardboard and bark, so I think the soil will be okay to work in- but just in case, I want it to dry a bit before I go digging out the paths, adding that soil to the beds. I’m not going to edge them with boards, but there will be obvious growing areas. After that, the chenilles will be created.

 

In the greenhouse, things are going well...so far. I’m going to try and build another shelf for the other bench. As more and more plants are potted on from inside the house, they are slowly moved to the greenhouse.

Yesterday, I moved the Cypress Vine out of their packs and into four inch pots with a stick. I had to use Raspberry branches that needed to be cut anyway- they are green on the inside, so I hope there will be no growth on the sticks...unlike my pea brush experiment!

 

 Dwarf peas growing on Fruitless Cherry tree branch prunings ‘07
Pea Brush experiment

 

I probably shouldn’t have left the Cypress vine out there that day- but I did. Needless to say, they weren’t very happy with me! Luckily before I went to bed, I wrapped the small area that has a heat mat and a 2’ light in a layer of plastic, so they are fine today. I also had to add a piece of insulation to block direct sun until they get used to the new conditions. I try not to shock a plant with all those new things at once; I’m relieved that they are doing better today!

The Hollyhock is doing really well, especially after I added the shelf. I guess it likes the higher heat in the top.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A lot of work to do tomorrow- I hope the rain stays away for a bit!

 



Happy Gardening!

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Feb 25, 2009

Busy Little Bee- that would be me!

 

Catherine over at A Gardener in Progress, asked me ‘Where you been, haven’t seen you for a while- working in your greenhouse?’ Well, she’s right- I’ve been busy. Too busy! I have really been trying to grow a lot of food this year- but my eyes always go for the beauty too, and I’ve started a lot of flowers as well. I’m praying that our spring isn’t like last year and things will be able to go in the ground when it’s time! I also decided to try starting some perennials in January, which is a lot earlier than I usually do it. Going by suggestions of other gardeners with greenhouses, I jumped in. Just in case the spring doesn’t cooperate, I’ve covered a couple of my 4x4s with plastic. One of them I covered a few weeks back, and good thing I did because I’ve been using it to hold lettuce seedlings, 4 flats of them, when the greenhouse gets too hot on the sunny days. It’s too early to put the shade cloth on, but there have been a few days that the sun decided to grace us with its presence! So, back and forth I go moving this, and moving that.

 

 Lettuce and Broccoli

 

I also planted my peas last week- a little past the usual Presidents Day sowing, but it will do. I actually got the trellis in before planting them, like a good girl!

Yesterday, I harvested a big, yummy bowl of salad greens that included 3 different kinds of lettuce and some spinach. That reminds me, anyone know what the gritty, sand like stuff is on Spinach? It’s seen (and tasted, if you don’t wash it good- Yuck! ) mostly around the center rosette if you cut it right at soil level. I hate crunching down on it- It’s like finding a shell in your eggs! So, is it...


Grit like stuff produced by the Spinach itself. Probably for protection of some kind.
Sandy soil particles the Spinach just picks up from your soil.  
Never mind what it is, wash it and eat it anyway!   
I have no idea, but have wondered the same thing!   
It’s like a pearl- it just grows, so deal with it!  

 

Red Star’, ‘Salad Bowl Blend’, ‘Focea’, Spinach ‘Tyee’- Sown Sept. ‘08

‘Going up?’

In the greenhouse, things are getting a little bit crowded- okay, I’m running out of room! I have a bunch of metal pipes, the pvc connectors and the metal shelf material left over from a little pop-up greenhouse I had before the one I have now. I am so glad I kept these! I made a shelf  for the greenhouse- only for one side, but for now it will work...it was time to go up! It doesn’t look like it, but there is plenty room above the plants and the roof- at least for a little while!

 

The shelf takes up more than half the length of the bench- I can now put 3 flats in the same space that two fit. Yes, that’s duck tape you see...fashionable, I know. What is a garden without a little duck tape? It’s better than them falling on the seedlings below- I would cry if that happened! This shelf is only temporary- I’ll make a much more stable pvc one later.

I got lucky and didn’t have to cut the metal pipes, which ended up being just right, so the shelf is high enough that the plants on the bottom won’t get shaded too much. I tipped them a little forward toward the South too. The other side is getting packed also, and with more plants coming out soon from the house, I’ll need to make a shelf there too. If I keep this up I’ll have to make some under the benches, and rotate them so they all get some really good light. With the sun still low in the sky, it will be fine for a while. A lot of these plants will go in the garden under cover, in mid-march, so space will clear up for the heat lovers and more flowers. The broccoli will only spend the nights in here for a week, and outside during the day, before they go in the ground mid-March, or I may pop them in the cold frame to harden off. All weather permitting, of course!

Indoors, there are a few things going on. The Broccoli looks really good. I have them under the double light shelf and they really love it! The below pics where taken on the 23rd. I put the broccoli in the greenhouse and sometimes in a tunnel outside, if the weather is sunny.

 

 

Here is the broccoli on the 17th.

 

 

The tomato is doing well too. Everyone I know loves tomato, so I probably should sow some more!

 


I have some other things in the house including Cypress Vine, and the 2 different kinds of Black-Eyed Susan. I also managed to find those Lantana seeds I was searching for and have sown them. They are on a heat mat, and under the double light fixtures. It will be very interesting to see if they germinate. I have read, all over the internet, that they are kind-if hard to start. From what I’ve read, they take 40-62 days to germinate! I’ll be sure to let you know how these do!

I forgot to add that I have some Sweet Pea that I started in the greenhouse. I’m growing them the same way I started the Peas last year, except I used Perlite instead of Vermiculite. I started them on the 15th and they came up yesterday! We’ll see how they do when I plant them out. I just love the smell of sweet pea!

And finally, here is a list of actual food that I plan on growing this year- some of which is already growing. Some are grow in succession, and the cycle has already started. Wish me luck!

      Lettuce 
      Mizuna  
      Beets 
      Broccoli 
      Peas  
      Carrot  
      Beans  
      Swiss Chard  
      Spinach  
      Pac Choy  
      Eggplant  
      Tomato  
      Corn Salad 
      Watermelon 
      Red Komatsuna 
      Hong Vit



Happy Gardening!

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Just a quick note- I’ve added the seed starting schedule for winter consumption in the box.net files- hope they are helpful to you!

Feb 20, 2009

I thought I was gonna get lucky!



No, silly! It’s to what you think! This is a gardening blog, remember?
Seriously though, I thought I was going to get away with nothing eating my greens in the cold frame, but when watering it yesterday, I glanced over and noticed one of the Mizuna was almost finished off- ‘Damn slugs!’ I thought to myself. I guess it’s time for my midnight checks. Well, maybe not midnight- I was tired last night. I went out about 9pm. I looked, and looked, and couldn’t find any slugs, not even a slimy trail. Then I looked a little closer at each little seedling and there it was, big as life, stretching the length of an upright leaf- happily munching away! Not a slug at all. I should have know, really, by the fact that instead of a hole in the leaf, the leaf was just gone.
some kind of catepillar

I got rid of him in the garbage disposal- I know awful, but quick! I’d feel terrible if it ended up being a gorgeous butterfly larvae- but I’m sure it is just your standard caterpillar that loves the Oriental greens. I’ve read that other gardeners are having a few problems with these hungry guys, but haven’t ever found a name for them. Some of these gardeners gather them up at night, store them in a plastic container, and then feed them to their chickens in the morning- I wish I had chickens! I have a feeling I’ll find more, at least until the Mizuna is gone.



Happy Gardening!

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Feb 19, 2009

What’s My Beef?


Okay, I have a rant. I normally don’t write rants, but I simply couldn’t let this one go!

Hubby and I, for the past few years, have really been focused on how and what we eat.  The last few years have also been challenging for me, health wise, and it all boils down to hormones in my diet- and not by my own doing. Not to mention any pesticides I’ve inadvertently ingested over the years. A recent brush with borderline pre-cancer has caused us to dig a little deeper. It’s not just about pesticides anymore. What our cattle is eating is scary! This is something we’ve known for quite a while, but what to do about it is the question. If you want a very informative book about the industrialization of our cattle ranches read Read Food What to Eat and Why, by Nina Planck. I urge you all to read it, but don’t say I didn’t warn you...it will give you more than you probably want to know.

Recently, we have been on a search for some quality meat. My mother, who lives not far from Salem has been searching the area. She has found some ranches, but they are grass-finished. I told her that we don’t want that- that is just their way of tacking on the label ‘grass-fed’ (only grass-finished) so they can profit. These farms feed their cattle grass the last month or two of their lives. They still spend their lives in feedlots. We don’t want grain fed. You wouldn’t believe what grain does to the cows- and then problems get passed to us...again, read the book.

Here is an interesting article in the Oregonian, written by Leslie Cole about the truth of the labels. I encourage you to read it, and also the book, because Leslie does not go into the details of what feeding grain to cattle actually does to the cattle. The article starts out talking about a taste test conducted by the OSU and was a done using elementary school aged children. Grass-fed hamburgers  vs grain-fed hamburgers. The children liked both about the same! I don’t know about you, but I’ve tasted good meat...there is a big difference in how it smells coming out of the package, when cooked, and how it tastes. Was the test fair- No! They didn’t use grass-fed, but grain-fed grass-finished. Why use grain? To fatten them up...it’s all about money and the cost to us is high.

I could go into detail, but lets just ask this- Is anybody surprised about mad-cow disease given the fact that we feed our cattle...meat, bones, blood, feathers, and anything else that is not edible for us (I believe that is not in practice any more, by the way, but you get the point). Shouldn’t there be a bit of backfire when forcing an animal to eat meat, turning them into carnivores. Why are we feeding them grain when they don’t normally eat it? Is there something wrong with doing it the way they did it before heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and numerous other diseases? Oh, yeah, I forgot...it’s all about profit, silly me. Yes, it takes more land. Yes, it will be more expensive to the consumer (not if everyone were doing it correctly, however). Will I pay the higher cost? I will one way or another! It’s a pay me now, or pay me later kind-of thing. I have a choice, pay the extra cost for better meat now, or pay more medical bills later.

Am I going to be accused, yet again, of being a tree hugging, owl loving, fire-fighter sacrificing for the sake of fish, hairy armpit person? Probably. One difference, however, human life over that of animal- but responsible care of the animals of this earth...especially ones we eat! I need to do some more research on this, but one thing is for sure, I can't continue to eat awful meat. It is terrible going shopping now! Ignorance was bliss- I suppose.

Okay, enough. What do you think?



Happy Gardening!

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Feb 18, 2009

They know me well!

 

I have been very busy since Valentine’s Day and then my birthday not far behind it. I just had to post about how blessed I feel that my hubby knows me so well and is so generous! I have to admit, I feel a little spoiled!

For Valentine’s Day, DH purchased a 5 shelf rack for my seeds. I really needed this because the greenhouse is really not big enough to spare any room for a germination area, and I was rapidly running out of room in there! Since then, I’ve been busily setting everything up to start more seeds.

I decided the only place I really have room for it is in my office. I’m not really worried about  the little bit of water or soil that could get messy in there because the whole room needs to be redone, including refinishing the hardwoods. As you can plainly see by the lovely colors on the wall and window frame! I put a little plastic down to make it easier to clean up, however.

 

 

The really great thing about this seed shelf is that it is deep enough that 2 lights can go into it! That means no leaning seedlings! I really have to come up with a better way to hang them, however. It’s not hard raising them, but it could be easier. Usually I move them out to the greenhouse fairly soon after they have germinated. I give them a few days under the lights, then they go to the next shelf with only one light , then it’s out to the greenhouse they go.

 

 

Here is some broccoli that I started on the 11th. As soon as I put them in their new home, they burst into green life! What a difference with two lights!

 

 

Eventually, maybe sometime this year, DH is going to build me a LED light that will span 2 flats. I have a lot of research to do yet before that can happen, as well as find a good source of the LEDs. With them becoming cheaper these days, it will be a matter of quality. By the way- did you know that these are ‘grown’- can we all say Terminator?

I think it will be warm enough in my office that I probably won’t need heat mats except for the real heat lovers, which is nice because they will go in the greenhouse and that will make the transition from house to greenhouse much better for the seedlings.

Today I put plastic on the top and back to keep the humidity in a little better; the shelves are not quite solid. As soon as I add the rest of the lights, I will put plastic on the sides, where I can (lights hang out), and the front with a slit running down the center for easy access. I may add a little fan too.

For my birthday, I received a great surprise. DH got my 4” and 6” pots that I needed this year, just in case the spring lasts forever, like it did last year, and I am forced to pot everything up to a little bigger pot. Last year was a disaster!I had very few pots of this size and had to hold things over a lot longer than I wanted to. Live and learn!

I also got some trays and humidity domes, 32-cell pack sheets,  some really great seeds, a much needed shade cloth, another heat mat (this was an extra surprise), gardening gloves, and my mom got me a really good book by Steve Solomon, the previous owner of Territorial Seed. I highly recommend his books, by the way!

 

 

I feel spoiled, but I also feel blessed that my husband and family really know me well. That is a gift in itself. Now I can sow a lot more of our food and flowers and have more than enough for family and friends! Usually we combine my birthday and Valentine’s Day since they are so close together- not this year! What a surprise!

Well, I’d better get moving- lots to do!

 



Happy Gardening!

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Feb 15, 2009

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day- Feb.

 

I almost forgot- today is GBBD day! This is my second time joining in on the fun, but unfortunately the Snapdragon and Ageratum that I grew purposely to have early color in the greenhouse, has decided not to bloom yet. Well, actually, because I sowed them late Sept. ‘08, I’m really not expecting anything until late Feb./early March...but I was hopeful anyway!

What I do have are some...you guessed it, Pansy. Different colors this time. My Hyacinth is long gone, and missed both GBBD days. I didn’t start anything in the house this year either.

Here you go.

 

I did include a couple Snapdragon and Ageratum in this shot- I thought being so near the beautiful pansy blooming their little heads off, it might encourage them to do the same, and soon. I thought I heard them whispering  amongst themselves as I was leaving, so I think it worked. I know! I’m terrible using embarrassment and guilt like that! I hope they’ll forgive me ;)

If you want to join in on the fun, visit Carol!



Happy Gardening!

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Feb 13, 2009

What have I been up to?

The weather may be cold, and my fingers may be red from the cold, but there is much to do. Here is what I’ve been up to.

Sowed more seeds:


Carrot ‘Parisian Market’- cold frame, Feb. 9
Tomato ‘Big Beef’- for greenhouse, Feb. 11
Tomato ‘New Girl- for greenhouse & outside, Feb. 11
Broccoli Organic ‘Green Sprouting Calabrese’- Feb. 11
Ageratum ‘Blue Mink’- Feb. 11
Portulaca mix- Feb. 11
Salvia ‘Coral Nymph’- Feb. 11
Beets ‘Bulls Blood’- Feb. 12

The carrot is a cute, little, round variety. I’ve tried to sow carrots before and got down to the last week of waiting for them and then...

Yes, mamma squirrel scattered them everywhere! I found a couple later on, no where near where I had planted them. Lets just say that when I sow in my cold frame now, I put little wire protectors over everything- she got the hint luckily for her!

The tomato variety ‘Big Beef’ is one I grew in ‘07, and was delicious! I wanted to try one that was supposed to do well in the greenhouse, and I have to say they (Johnny’s) were right. Here in the NW this variety doesn’t do well outdoors- they somehow are not near as good- probably need more heat. There is a picture of it on my previous post- just click the link.

‘New Girl’ is a new one I’m trying this year. Johnny’s again said this variety does well in a greenhouse, and we’ll see how it does outside too. It is ready to harvest a little earlier than the ‘Big Beef’.

The broccoli is just an Ed Hume packet I picked up at a local grocery store. I figure that out of all vegetables you will find in the fridge in my house, on any given day, broccoli is it! Why am I not growing it? I did grow it a few years ago, and like everything else home grown, the taste is nothing like what you get in stores! There are a few bug problems, and I plan to get a barrier to protect them this time- chasing down those white moths with a tennis racket wasn't very effective.

Ageratum is one of my favorites (blue, of course) and I was a little disappointed in the ones that I had started in the greenhouse for some early color, so I’ve sown some more for the garden. The jury’s still out about the ones in the greenhouse, however. Sowing them in Aug. & September is supposed to give me blooms in Feb., but I sowed them the 25th of Sept. so I have a bit to wait.

Portulaca, or ice plant, is very drought resistant so I have a special place for them in my front bed.

Salvia- I’ve never grown before, but I’ve always loved the look of these plants. This one is supposed to be a salmon and white bicolored one and it’s just lovely. Purchased at Johnny’s.

The beets are new as well. I chose this variety because both the greens and the beets are supposed to be really good- a double duty plant! I’m trying a new thing with sowing them that comes from the Dutch called multiplants. You sow four seeds in each cell or directly in cold frame, and you don’t thin them. You transplant the group of 4 plants together. Now I’ve read conflicting things on whether beets transplant well or not...we’ll see what happens. I also know that with one beet seed you get a few plants, but I will need only 4, so I don’t get the sowing 4 seed thing...again, we’ll see what happens. In any case I sow 4 seeds, and want to end with 4 seedlings- when they are set out in the cold frame or garden you give the group a 6” spacing. From what I’ve read, the beets move each other out of the way nicely. Apparently this idea can be used on onions, broccoli (4 plants/24” space/1 row in 30” wide bed), Leeks, Scallions, Cabbage, and Spinach- if this works, maybe I’ll try some that spinach that way. I read about this idea, I think, in Eliot Coleman’s book Four Season Harvest.

Last night I also found some Lantana seeds!!!! Some of you may know that I’ve been looking for these. You can purchase them at either Thompson & Morgan or Swallowtailgardenseeds. Note, however, that they are both hybrids. I also ordered some beautiful Nicotiana! I can’t wait to get them!

Other than that, I am hardening off a few pansies to go to family and friends. They really are more green than in this picture, I really do need to learn to take better pictures before I even think about getting an SLR camera! Someday, I’d like to be able to try microphotography.

And I have a few lettuce that need to go into some pots.

Things are looking a little different in the greenhouse- with the pansy and lettuce moving out there will be room for the perennials, annuals, and vegetables I’ve started. This month I am expecting the snapdragon to bloom too...we’ll see.

And I do have some more pansy since they do so well in pots right through the winter here in my yard. I really need to have some scattered around.

Gardening aside, I’ve been tweaking my test blog getting a new look ready for spring. The layout will be the same 3 columns- but new spring colors will bloom ;). Thank-you Catherine (of A Gardener in Progress) for your help, by the way! With only a month left, I’d better get moving!

On You Grow Girl there is an awesome seed starting chart for Excel. All you do is put in your last frost date and everything is calculated for you- over the next few days I’ll be tweaking this a little, adding things I grow.

Coming up soon, I’ll be posting on how the Mizuna and lettuce is doing in the cold frame- as well as the lettuce and spinach still left in there over winter. I feel a salad coming on!

Happy Valentine’s Day to you all!



Happy Gardening!

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On the post pages, located in the sidebar, is a list of all the seeds I’ve sown and what I’m growing currently. Just click the little plus sign to view them! I will also be adding more files to my box.net downloads (the orange box) for anyone to use. I've already added a blank diagram for square foot gardeners- the size is for a 4x4 box. A rough plan for winter consumption sowing dates, based on my first fall frost date will be added soon. Be sure to check these often!