Archive | February 2013

Seed Germination Update #1- “Suddenly, Broccoli”

So I started some more seeds on Saturday (Feb. 23rd).  It may be a bit early, but I started my broccoli plants, some herbs, and ground cherries.  I planted some new broccoli “Calabrese” seeds that I bought from Seed Saver’s Exchange (SSE) this year. They were in the dirt and under lights for three days and this morning I found this.

Broccoli Calabrese 2.26.13  (1)

All three of the 3×3 cells that I planted seeds in are sprouted and looking strong.  The packet said 3-10 days for germination.  I guess the heat from the lights really help speed those seeds up.

Also new from SSE are the ground cherries “Aunt Molly’s” variety.  These are new to me, but they’re supposed to be easy to grow and good for pies and jellies.  They haven’t germinated yet, but they could take 2 weeks or so.  I also planted some catnip seeds that I got at a local swap last year.  They are from SSE but they are older so I expect that they will take longer, if they germinate at all.  They were basically free to me so I’m not complaining.

At the end of last summer I let my basil and cilantro plants bolt and go to seed.  I then collected and screened out the seeds and stored them all winter.  To continue that experiment I planted those seed on Friday as well.  The cilantro hasn’t come up yet, but it seems the basil has started to germinate.  If I can keep these going and collect seed from them this fall, it will be the first plant I have taken from seed to plant to seed again.

Basil 2.26.13

A couple of little basil seedlings, Hooray

I had already started my onions and violas “Johnny Jump up” a couple of weeks ago and they have been going pretty well.  The violas are growing slowly but surely and the onions are chugging along at a pretty good speed.

Violas 2.26.13

Violas-sprouted, but growing slowly

Onions 2.26.13

Onions, already trimmed them a couple of times

The onions have had trouble staying hydrated (mostly because I need to water them more often).  So to help with that I picked up a 6″ dome so that there will be less water loss.  Most of the dead looking pieces in there are just pieces that I trimmed off and didn’t pick out, but some of the plants that weren’t well planted into the soil have dried out and perished.  Oh well, those guys probably wouldn’t have survived much longer without replanting.

I can’t wait to start my tomato and other seeds, but that’s not for two more weeks.  I would love to hear about what seeds everybody else is starting.  Thanks for reading and good growing everybody.


One Month of Homemade Bread-March 2013

These days it seems like homemade bread is one of those oxymoronic luxuries. Buying bread at the store is just what everyone does nowadays. Just like back in the olden days (like a hundred years ago) everyone baked their own bread. It has just been accepted that bread is too much work, takes to much time and just isn’t worth it.

As always the truth is far muddier than it would seem. Baking a couple of loaves of bread on a Sunday really doesn’t take that long, especially if you have a bread machine. Much of the time is taken by the bread rising so it isn’t even that much actual work. The final question is whether or not baking bread at home is worth it. The hard part is trying to compare the nice, fresh home baked bread vs the plastic wrapped “wonder” type bread. So cost-wise I feel it is pretty much a wash. You may save a little bit of money to make bread at home, but it I don’t think only baking bread at home is going to pay off your mortgage.

So the real difference is the quality of bread that we are eating. So I’ve decided that for the month of March I’m going to only have homemade bread in my house. I have a bread machine so I will be using that as well as making bread by hand. I’ll have to see if it lasts beyond March but I have promised myself to not buy any loaves of bread for this next month. Good growing everybody.


English Muffin Bread

P.S. I got an early start on it today by making these loaves of English Muffin bread.  I froze one loaf so it wouldn’t go bad while we eat the first one.

Seed starting mix experiment

Now that I have built myself a nice big seeds set up I have been planning on starting a lot of seeds this year.  There is of course one thing that I still need to accomplish this, seed starting mix.  Calling it seed starting dirt or soil is not quite accurate, as most mixes are made completely without any soil or compost.  So I determined to try making my own mix and seeing how it fared.  There are a lot of different recipes out there, but I seemed to stumble on the same one repeatedly so I figured I could start with that one.  It is very simple and quite cheap.  It simple consists of:

  • 1 part coconut coir (or peat moss)
  • 1 part pearlite
  • 1 part vermiculite

I especially liked the use of coconut coir as it is a fair bit more sustainable than peat moss.  Peat moss is taken from peat bogs that take a couple hundred years to regenerate, while coconut coir is just the ground up husk of coconuts.  It usually comes in compressed bricks that expand when water is added to them.  So I went to the garden store and bought everything I needed, including a bag of pre-made potting mix.  I had to buy this as I am a scientist at heart and a control group is necessary in any good experiment.  So I set up the 2013 seed mix experiment.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

First I mixed up my homemade mix (4 quarts of each ingredient).  And yes, that is an old cat litter box.  Our cats decided they wanted a covered one so this one became my soil mixing container.  I’ve seen garden trays sell for about $20 so this is a pretty good repruposed item.  I think it works purrrrfectly (haha).  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I marked off half way down the middle of a growing flat.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Then I filed each half.  On the left is the homemade mix and on the right is the store bought mix.  The store bought mix is darker because it uses peat moss as the base instead of the coconut coir.


I counted out four test groups of seeds.  Two varieties of onions seeds (Yellow of Parma and Sweet and Early) were split in half and each planted in one quadrant.  The seeds were simply broadcast on top of the soil and they lightly pressed down to ensure good contact.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The seeds are far too small to see so you’ll have to trust me.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Then (as per the instructions on the store bought mix) I covered the store bought mix side with a layer of vermiculite.  The seeds on the homemade side got a layer of some more of the mix itself.

I’ll have to wait a few more weeks before writing up the final results, but I can say that the price difference is significant.  I can make 12 quarts of seed mix for about the same price I can buy 8 quarts of mix from the store.  I hope that everyone can get their seeds started soon.  Good growing everyone.


Seed Starting Set-Up 2013

My blog started about a year ago when I was starting my seeds in 2012. Now it’s 2013 and its getting close to seed starting season again. Actually for some people further south of Iowa it’s time to get them going right now. As a part of this I needed to get my seed starting shelves set up. You can go back and look at my set up from last year if you want, but lets just say it left a little to be desired. It was just a small shelving unit and a couple of old aquarium lights. That’s why I decided to do a bit of planning and engineering on a new set up last fall. First I had to decide on materials. I could have used wood or metal shelves, but I had to go with my favorite material- PVC. PVC pipe is light, cheap, easy to work with, and it can be taken apart for storage. the design was inspired by The Horticultural Engineer and his set up. I think I may have just taken it a step up. Below is a list of pieces that I used.

Parts List (using 3/4in, schedule 40 PVC pipe)
11-48″ pieces
4-3″ pieces
12-4″ pieces
4-2″ pieces
12-7″ pieces
4-17.5″ pieces
4-14″ pieces
Elbow joints-4

First I assembled all the corners and crossbars. (Note: some of my T-joints are replaced with cross joints. That’s just what I had on hand so I used them.)


All the pieces laid out.


Diagram of the corners and crossbars

Then started to build the structure with the rear corner sets and the cross bars.


Next attach the front corners and link the two sides with 4 of the 48″ pieces. At this point it stands on its own.


Bottom Level complete

Fill in the next level with the other two crossbar sets and the 48″ long pieces


Second level complete

Finally use the last crossbar sets and long pieces to finish the top.


Shelves complete

Hang lights and you’re good to go. I like using chain as it is easy to adjust and it wont slip.


The two shorter lights on top are the re-purposed aquarium lights I used last year. The shop light on bottom I got on sale and picked up two florescent grow lights to put in it. I’m planning on getting at least two more of the shop lights. That way I’ll have two 48″ lights for each level.  Its designed to hold 4 standard seed flats on each level.  So with enough lights it should be able to start 8 flats of seeds at one time and there is a bit of space on top for storage.  But my favorite part about this set up is that it can be taken apart and stored in the closet when not needed.  Once taken apart it takes up very little space.

I would love to see pictures of other people’s set ups. Good Growing Everybody.

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