Special announcement

As you know, I have another blog together with my sisters.  After creating this blog, intended as a garden journal, I discovered folia,  which also has a garden journal feature (mine is here).  As it’s too much to handle both, I’ve decided to start keeping track of my gardening on folia, in particular as my journals will continue to be open to my adoring public (i.e. you don’t have to be a member to view posts, but only, I think, to comment).  Any comments may still be made here, however, as I’ll get updates on that from time to time.  I’ll also continue to keep my links here up to date (they are useful for me, after all, as well!)  Maybe later I’ll come back to this blog, we’ll see…

Without further ado, once again, click here to get to my folia page.

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May 15, 2009

The radishes are sprouting (and are already bigger than this photo shows) and growing up outside to avoid having to harden them off.
Radish Seedlings May 14

Radish Seedlings May 14

The onions have shot up.

Egyptian Onions May 14

Egyptian Onions May 14

I’ve planted some beans (I ordered heirloom beans, for eating of course, from Rancho Gordo.  However I heard the founder on the radio explaining that you could even plant the beans because they are heirloom and grow true!).   I saved some of little E’s yo-baby pots, used my leftover seed-starting mix (this time rather than following the instructions to mist after planting, which didn’t seem to work for the second round of tomatoes, I mixed the water into the dirt and then filled the pots with the moistened mix) and then planted 1″ deep–or what I think 1″ is, anyway.  We’ll see–it would be pretty cool if it worked out, though who knows how well pole beans grow in pots?

Bean pots:  vaquero, cranberry cargamento, and yellow eye.

Bean pots: vaquero, cranberry cargamento, and yellow eye.

Finally, all the tomatoes and squash have been transplanted!  They are in the process of hardening off, so when they are not outside, here is where they live.  As you can imagine, I am eager to get them out on their own, and I’m sure they are eager to get better light than this provides as well!

Tomatoes and Squash to be hardened off

There were a few kinks which hopefully have sorted themselves out.  Anticipating transplanting the squash, and knowing that you need to water well post-transplant, I had held off on watering so long as the soil appeared to be OK.  Wednesday morning I touched the soil and it seemed a bit dry so I watered the squash just a little.  Well, not enough, as when I came home they had wilted quite a bit.  There were three in each cell and I need to get it down to one anyway, but this wasn’t how I intended to do it.  In each cell, there was one seedling that was only wilted at the leaves and not the stem.  I transplanted anyway and watered well and they have all bounced back.  I’m going to press on, though I’m a bit worried that this early stress is something they won’t recover from, but I’m hopeful that since the seedling I plan to keep never wilted on the stem or on the true leaf (or at least, only a touch) that it was relatively unharmed.  I need to be brutal sooner rather than later–but I’m finding it hard to snip off the weaklings!

I’m a bit unsure about my Early Girl tomato.  It appears to be a “potato leaf” tomato, for the reason that its leaves look like potato leaves, (obviously!).  Some of them appear to be curling under a bit but I don’t know if this is just how those leaves are, or if there’s something the matter.  I thought perhaps it was drying out (although none of my other tomatoes are drying out) but stuck my finger in the soil and it felt damp enough.  It got a little water when it started to rain and doesn’t look any worse today, so maybe that’s just how the leaves are meant to look.  I’ll post a few closeups though just to show what I mean.

Early Girl May 14

Early Girl May 14

 

Early Girl May 14 Closeup

Early Girl May 14 Closeup

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May 14, 2009

Check out my sister and her husband’s link here on urban gardening, and this article in the NYT on some of the challenges of urban gardening (i.e. that lead issue I mentioned in my earlier post!).

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May 12, 2009

Much planting and transplatning over the past few days.

First, on mothers day, armed with my gardening class knowledge, we went to Mahoney’s and purchased 4 tomato tranplants (I bought bigger ones only so I could have many varieties–the 6 packs were only one type of tomato).  I picked Mr. Stripey for the uniqueness, Celebrity since that was what I had been trying before as seeds and supposedly it’s very easy (despite what I did to it!), Viva Italia (for a “paste” tomato for sauces) and Early Girl (since it’s “early” maturing!).  We also got a butternut squash six-pack.  My guide from Botanical Interests suggests a 5-gallon container for each of these.  I have seen bigger containers suggested, but at my class Robin said she grows her heirlooms in 5 gallon containers so I figure I can try that.  As for the squash, it does seem perhaps a little small, but I can always replant them if I have any success!  They are already big:  I just realized what I though was a mature transplant actually only has seed leaves and a few true leaves.  Those seed leaves are huge!  It does make sense as butternuts are pretty large themselves, but I am a bit afraid to think of how big this plant must be!  We love butternut so we went for that over eggplant (which I love but my husband not so much.  Next year, perhaps…)

Early Girl May 11

Early Girl May 11

 

Mr. Stripey May 11

Mr. Stripey May 11

Butternut Squash Transplants

Butternut Squash Transplants

 

The majority of the cash was spent on containers.  I know it’s cheaper to use garbage buckets, but it just was more convenient to buy it all at one place.  I got a big bag of dirt (which is already running out) and some cages for the tomatoes.  I also got some cheap measuring cups and spoons and a utility bucket at the grocery store for measuring out fertilizer and bleach (to disinfect all those pots where things died!)

On Sunday afternoon I transplanted the Early Girl Tomato and the Mr. Stripey.  I wasn’t sure I had enough dirt for another tomato so I held off on the Celebrity and the Viva Italia, as well as the squash.  I’ll have to hit the store again this week for more dirt.  In the meantime, I’ve been hardening off the tomatoes and squash, watching carefully as we still get below 50F at night.  I learned at my gardening class that sun is really bad for unacclimated seedlings so I’ve been putting them in the shade as well.  I need to read up on exactly how much to increase and when they can go in the sun–I’ve just sort of been sticking them out when I get home from work until I remember to bring them back in (when it starts to get dark). 

I also fertilized everyone (including the transplants, though maybe I shouldn’t have?)  I definitely was not using enough fertilizer before, as this time when I measured it out, I saw that the water has a brownish tinge.  It’s fish and seaweed, and it really smells the part.  I don’t think not using enough fertilizer was the problem with my other plants, though–they only need fertilizer after the grow true leaves and that didn’t really happen–one of the problems, in fact, was that it never happened!

I am also braving the world of seed starting again:

Last night I planted the radishes and chard seeds I bought earlier on in some 2 gallon boxes.  Hopefully I will have more luck this time, these are both supposed to be extremely easy.  I used the potting mix (not the seed starting mix) as these are not meant to be transplanted. 

Rhubarb Chard and Radish May 11

Rhubarb Chard and Radish May 11

I also started my “experimental” peat pot mini-garden.  Andrea has had a lot of success with these and suggested them.  I planted two peat pots of thyme, one each of mint and parsley (my mint has not died but has not grown–apparently it should be “mature” by now!).  Also, I figured “what the heck” and tried my marglobe and celebrity bush seeds again.   I’m also going to leave them in the windowsill (covered until they sprout) rather than the sunroom to see if that helps.   My grandmother had massive tomato starts from the purple russians I sent her, and it was all done in the window.  Of course, noone is surprised that her tomatoes took off!  My tomatoes, if they survive this time, may not be mature enough to bear much fruit before the growing season dies down, but at least I’ll know I got it to work.  And what am I going to do with those seeds anyway?  With my luck, I’m not going to try old seeds next year.

Peat Pots May 11

Peat Pots May 11

Here’s my latest thoughts on the seed-starting problems I’ve had:

–Overwatering. 

–Not removing the seeds from the heat pad after germination.  I read in Burpee’s Complete Vegetable and Herb Gardener you should remove them once they sprout.  High heat can contribute to damping off and spindly growth.  (Note this does not explain the full problem as many of my failed seedlings were not on a heat mat, but it’s a good thing to know).

–Light in the sunroom.  My herb transplants seem very happy there, but nothing I started from seed.  This does not make sense to me, except that perhaps seedlings need a broader spectrum of light than mature-er plants–hence the UV treatment bothers the seedlings but not the mature plants?  Besides damping off, my problem was total lack of growth after great germination.  I can only imagine this is light related because it’s only once the new leaves appear that you start fertilizing.  I never really had the new leaves appear so I don’t think it was attributable to lack of “food” in the soil.  Is this right?

–Direct sun for seedlings, before adequate hardening off, is a killer.  Yeah, I know that too now from experience!

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May 10, 2009

Back from vacation and what has happened?

First, all the herb transplants are doing well.  The basil in particular is taking off!  I see it was a mistake to go off and pot two together.  I think I’m going to split them up now, hopefully they will be OK–have not seen basil listed as a plant that hates “root disturbance”.  I just can’t figure it out–I thought it was the light in the sunroom, but the transplants are doing fine…unless seedlings need a broader spectrum of light than mature-er plants?

Basil May 9

Basil May 9

My onions seem to be growing somewhat slowly, but perhaps I’m paranoid given prior seedling experience!  They live outside with the chives, which have also gotten some new leaves.  Actually the onion that “looks” best to me is the only surviving onion from my “experiment” of just sticking some bulblets down in the foundation bed.  It looks best as the leaves are getting long enough to spread, while my potted onions are not. 

Egyptian Onions May 9 in pot

Egyptian Onions May 9 in pot

Egyptian Onions May 9 in soil
Chives May 9

Chives May 9

Yesterday, fresh off the plane, I went to a course sponsored by Drumlin Farm/Mass Audubon–“small scale agriculture”–it was great.  Our instructor, Robin Wilkerson, a master gardener, gave the class out in her place (a several acre former dairy farm), and we got to see her system of vegetable planting, her fruit trees and plants, herb garden and wildflower garden, and her flock of 12 chickens!  She gave lots of helpful ideas for planning a garden–for example, plant late season crops like pumpkins that take up a lot of space when maturing next to plots that will have died down by that point, such as strawberries.  

Another point that was made was getting soil tested–the state extension will test your soil and let you know what you need to do to amend it.  Lead is a concern in this region of the country given the old houses so we are definitely getting that done.  As I’m sticking to containers this year, no rush but will be good for planning for next year.  (Sadly, it can’t be amended–but you can container garden most things so it’s not the end of the world!)  Still, I wonder why this area is so much worse given that lead wasn’t banned in paint until the 1970s, and then I wonder about all those gardeners in Europe.  Regardless, I’m testing and will follow the recommendations, and meanwhile cross my fingers.  I can always grow inedibles in the ground, after all.  (I’m not so excited about that as I guess it’s not “utilitarian” enough for me, but I’m sure I can get into it!)

We also discussed the wonders of compost (FYI even organic bananas should not go in compost piles as they are sprayed to prevent the entry of tropical insects into the country), blueberries (which thrive in the naturally acidic New England soil) and just enjoyed being in a beautiful, diverse garden.  I’m going to sign up for her second class later this summer.  And we learned to identify the insidious garlic mustard.  And no sooner had I gotten home but I noticed it was all over our patio, along with cat’s ear and several unidentified weeds.  At least the garlic mustard is easy to pull.  Theoretically you can eat it, but I’m not going to bother with that just yet.

Evil Garlic Mustard

Evil Garlic Mustard

What is it?

What is it?

We got a “take home gift”, some of Robin’s chives.  (We were given these to demonstrate just how hardy plants can be–ripped them apart at the roots after digging them up and then taking them home).

Chives from Class

Finally, Robin’s most important “words of wisdom” were that failures build character (how New England a statement is that?) and are your tuition in learning to garden.  She still has failures after 20 years so none of us should get too discouraged!  Something I am repeating to myself here. 

For Mother’s Day we are going to the garden store to pick up some transplants, tomatoes and what else?  Hopefully the veggie transplants will do as well as the herbs!

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May 2, 2009

My chives are growing true leaves!  First, out of the “crease” that was the first to emerge from the soil (they initially poke out folded up, and then the top of the plant emerges, but the stem never entirely straightens), and then a tiny bit at the base.  Knowing how long and futilely I waited for true leaves to appear on any of my herbs, you can imagine how exciting this was for me (especially after me dropping them on their head!)

Chives May 2

Also, I think the egyptian onions are already adapting well to their new home.  They had already sprouted when I planted them, but they do look a little bigger to me–in particular I see a second shoot poking out from at least one onion bulb–it’s flush with the intial shoot but it’s definitely distinct–is that what a true leaf would look like? The onions are a little hard to see in the photo in general as I am not adept enough with the camera to get the shoots to stand out against the brown dirt.  I still see a few of those that I planted in the foundation bed–not sure if they’ll make it ultimately, but so far they are still there.  (In particular, I’m not sure there is enough sun for them, but we’ll see–am still figuring out the sun patterns in the backyard anyway).

Egyptian onions May 2

I hope they will fare well during our week away.  Of course my husband is at home to take care of them, but I still worry about my “little babies” being away…not that I’ve been particularly good to many of my plants, and perhaps a little time away from me will do them good!

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April 29, 2009

Somehow I have not killed the chives, despite dropping the pot on its head (see my prior post here).  Seems these plants really want to live–they figured out which way was down and up in their new home.  Most of the sprouts have now opened up.  I hardly know what to expect true leaves to look like on these guys.  They are apparently “monocots” rather than “dicots”; a term I vaguely remember from 8th grade biology.  Monocots have one seed leaf, dicots have two.  I’ve been putting them outside as much as possible so they don’t suffer from whatever it is inside that has made the other herb seedlings so miserable.

Chives April 28

Chives April 28

I’ve put the mint pot and the thyme pot out as well.  I’m hoping they aren’t too stunted from their time indoors to take off now.  I’m not so worried about the mint–if it’s so invasive, I figure it will manage to overcome a bad beginning if conditions are right.  The thyme doesn’t look great, but it’s not leggy nor is dead.  (Both in fact are so short–I wonder if that means something bad too?).  The microgreens are leggy, I’m pretty sure, but the color is great and some are starting to develop buds of true leaves.  Hopefully the sun will do the trick for these guys too.

Microgreens April 28

Microgreens April 28

Yesterday I also received my Egyptian Onions from Om via a swap on folia.  I planted them in a large plastic pot, just under the soil and 2 inches apart.  I didn’t get in quite as many as I’d hoped, and had a lot leftover.  I pushed some in to the mulched foundation bed around the house to see what happens–not sure if it’s sunny enough there (I’m still observing sun patterns in the backyard), or even if the soil is right, but why not experiment a little.  I had plenty extra so I gave these to a co-worker who is a gardening expert–I didn’t even have to explain to her what Egyptian onions were (they are a bit unique, see here and here).  I told her she’ll have to give me a few to taste if I kill all mine.  

So that’s two members of the onion family so far–and I’m certainly planning on trying some garlic in the fall.

Egyptian onions just sown

Egyptian onions just sown

This morning they already looked like they had even grown a little compared to the picture below.  I worried I had handled the stalks a little too much while planting but they seem OK.  They also seem to have survived the trip up from Kansas quite well, so now I guess it’s just up to me!

Egyptian onions closeup

Egyptian onions closeup

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