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Look what I made!!!

So it happened again.  My garden has gotten bigger.  It started with just a couple of 4ftx8ft beds.  That was expanded to “The L,”  it encompasses a total of 6-4ftx8ft beds connected together.  And now I have added another 4 veggie beds and extended the strawberry patch.  The backyard was pretty much full so I had to expand out to the side yard.  I also decided that it would be better to go with actual raised beds this time around.  Why you ask?  Well, that whole area is riddled with cable and phone cords.  Those aren’t buried very deep so I didn’t want to chance hitting one with the tiller.  Always call before you dig.

Strawberry Patch

This was last year’s strawberry patch.

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This is the side yard after this weekend. The strawberry patch is extended the entire length of the fence and four raised beds for veggies have been added.

The veggie beds need more compost added.  There is a bag of peat moss in each bed currently so I now just need to fill’em up with dirt and they’ll be ready to go.

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RHUBARB!! 🙂

What would strawberries be with out rhubarb.  There was about four feet left on the end and I was going back and forth on what to plant there.  I was going between asparagus or rhubarb.  Well clearly rhubarb clearly won out.  I think it goes better with strawberries and will make great jams and pies eventually.

The vegetables that are in the garden are moving along as well.  Next weekend is the Backyard Abundance plant sale and I’m really excited to get more strawberries to put in the new bed.  Good growing everybody.

 

Anticipation or Apprehension, which is it?

I’ve been going back and forth about what to write today for the last hour or so.  I’ve got so many different felling going on about everything that it’s all a bit confusing.  The problem is my brain is fighting over whether it should be feeling anticipation or apprehension.  I’m excited about the radish seeds just starting to germinate, but worried that the peas haven’t come up yet.  I’m glad that the current plant is budding out new leaves, but the blueberries have not.  I’m excited to see the day lilies, the snowdrops and the other fall bulbs come back up but I see my tons of seedling still under grow lights.  Unfortunately I’ll only know which this feeling ends up being once its too late.  Will my anticipated success be fulfilled or will my apprehension be justified by failure?

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Snow drops in bloom

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Day Lily, so easy to grow but still good to see them back from the heavy dividing I did last year.

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The bee balm plants are really coming back strong.

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The currant bush has leaves just starting to bud out.

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Just next tot the currant, the thyme plant has started to leaf out as well.

Good growing everybody.

 

Seed Germination Update #2-Tomato Time

Its finally here.  The day I plant my tomato seeds.  The long journey to summer tomato season has begun.  As such I needed to set up the large light fixture to accommodate the new flats.  The bulbs in this fixture seem to have much more red tinge to the light  I’ll get right to the pictures then.

DSCF2265[1]First off, the broccoli seedlings were starting to get all tangled amongst themselves.  So I had to thin them a bit and pot some of them into larger yogurt cups.  Now there is one entire flat of broccoli seedlings.  They seem to be doing well after transplant and if the weather would just cooperate I could get the beds ready for these guys.

DSCF2266[1]Here is my miscellaneous flat.  Its got the basil, catnip, ground cherry (which have now gotten their true leaves), violas and now have recently planted cells of big bluestem (a prairie grass) and bunny tails.

DSCF2267[1]The onions have started to slow their growth.  I think they would really like to get into some larger space.  I will oblige them as soon as the weather allows.

DSCF2264[1]And last but certainly not least, the tomato seeds are in their flat and should start to germinate in a week or so depending on the temperature I can keep them at.

Not much else is going on here.  I’m feel like I’m in limbo.  The snow is melted (well most of it), but its still to cold to get out and do anything except for the most basic cleanup work.  I hope that everyone else can get in their gardens this week and get something done cause I’ll just be inside here waiting and watching.  Good growing everybody.

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.

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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.

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.

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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
T-Joints-30
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.)

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All the pieces laid out.

Sets

Diagram of the corners and crossbars

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

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

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Bottom Level complete

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

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Second level complete

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

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Shelves complete

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

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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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