Saturday, April 2, 2011

The vines are winning

My flower seedlings from March 19th and the 26th have defied logic.  Or at least my logic.  Two six packs of the same flower, same seedstarting mix, same water, same location and one fully germinated and the other didn't.  Go figure.

Here are all the day 12 seedlings:

Cosmos: Cosmic Orange (7-10d) and Bright Lights Mix (7-10d)
Coreopsis: Mardi Gras (15-20d) and Thunbergia: Spanish Eyes Mix (7-21d) 

Morning Glory Flying Saucer (7-21d)
Nasturtiums:  Gleam Mix (4-14d)
Pansy Swiss Giant sowed without stratification 3/19

Minalobata: Spanish Flag (10-15d) not yet germinated
Morning Glory: Picotee Blue (10-15d)

MG Heavenly Blue  (7-21d) and a few Empress of India Nasturtiums

Day 7 after stratification and sowing:

Pansy: Swiss Giant Blend (10-20d) and Violas Amber Jewels (7-10d) 

Despite my inexperience many of the flowers sprouted.  I was expecting that it would take a lot longer for the vines to get so tall.  They can't go outside for another month so I may have a situation.   If they misbehave it is out into the cold frame whether they like it or not.  Meanwhile, tender veggies are hanging out on heating mats.

Day 7 pepper and tomato seedlings

Sowing Basil and Fennel tonight to keep the pepper and tomato seedlings company until May indooors.

Pea time

After a week of being quarantined in the house due to a virus I finally got out into the garden to get the cold frame together.  I needed to harden off the brassicas and make room for my tender vegetables indoors under the lights.  Over two days I  turned over all the beds, added more compost, and covered them with plastic to heat the soil.  The cold frame was put together and placed south facing against the fence.  It did take me a bit to figure out the automatic opener, but after a few calls and bringing it in the house to acclimate the interior wax I managed to set it to open at 70*.

The cold frame seems to keep the temp about 10* warmer at night and is venting at 70*.  I didn't realize how very hot it gets in there.  Highs up to 100* even when outside temps are 48*.  I have all the seedlings on self-watering trays which typically need water once a week inside.  In the cold frame they needed water after one day.  Fortunately, the soil temps seem to be consistently 68-74*  I put the broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage in the cold frame and they have done quite well.  I had lettuce seedlings from the 26th which really didn't have their true leaves yet but I was anxious to make space indoors so out into the cold frame they went.  I also had a flat of coleus and alyssum that I thought could go out.  The coleus suffered a bit from the cold weather... I think they will recover but I learned that coleus are tender.  The alyssum on the other hand are doing great.

Friday's April Fools' snow storm provided much needed moisture to my beds.  Today the beds soil temp was 68* and ready for planting.  

Bed #1 Sowed carrot and beet tower
Carrot: Berlicum 2 
Carrot: Cosmic Purple 
Carrot: Jaune Obtuse Du Doubs
Beet:  Gourmet Medley
Bed #4 Sowed greens
Spinach:  Bloomsdale Long Standing
Rocky Top Lettuce
Wrinkled Crinkled Cress
Endive De Meaux

Bed #5 Transplanted brassicas and sowed peas and greens

Spinach Merlo Nero
Golden Sweet snow pea
Sugar Ann snap pea
Broccoli Calabrese Green Sprouting
Broccoli Romanesca Italia
Cabbage Early Jersey Wake
Cauliflower Purple of Sicily

The newly planted beds are now covered with blankets that let in 60% of the sun and all the water and protect the seeds and transplants from their predators.  Meanwhile the greens that are in the cold frame are growing and I'll transplant them mid April into Beds 2 and 3.  I'm trying to stagger the greens and brassicas so I don't have everything ready at once.  

Updating my spring cleaning list:
1) Build the cold frame
2) Repair the tomato trellis connectors
3) Clear away space for another 2x6' raised bed for melons
4) Repair the roof of the Y9 arbor
5) Repair the Y8 gate
6) Replace the shed roof with a shallow box that can hold soil for wildflower mix
7) Change position of front layered boxes to allow for carrots/leeks
8) Add compost to each square of Mel's mix, water throughly, and cover with greenhouse plastic to warm the soil
9) Build potting shed
10) Add more mulch to the areas between boxes where the weed blocker is showing
11) Pull the wild onions that continue to grow through the weed blocker :(
12) Build trellises for beds 2-5
13) Remove excess rocks from Y8 flower beds
14) Remove holly bush and rose bush from Y8 rear fence
15) Relay brick patio with fine gravel base parallel to rear fence after holly/rose removed
16) Set up potato bags


Friday, April 1, 2011

Flower garden Y8

Looking at garden from path you 
can't even see the left fence under 
all the Virginia Creeper 
Adjoining my veggie garden my parents have a flower garden in the Fenway Victory Gardens.  As we were doing some work on the garden this week, we realized that we couldn't remember what it used to look like.  So here goes a collage of the changes since they received the plot in August 2010.
Looking straight into the garden 
from the path you can see the rose 
bush to the right rear that has grown 
over the entire fence separating 
my parent's garden from my veggie garden

  At first glance you could see some mature hydrangeas and lots of invasive prickly vines.  The gate would also need replacing at some point.  The fence although leaning was still sound enough for now.

After removing the fence that joined our gardens, pulling away most of the Virginia Creeper and the invasive roses, and doing some much needed pruning we found a pond, a shed, a lilac bush, a weeping cypress, and discovered that the plot used to be a rock garden that had been covered up with plastic and then covered again with a thin layer of soil and planted with grass and a few shallow beds.  The azalea and hydrangeas were so shallowly planted that most of the roots were covered up just by the leaning rocks.

The shed had been in the rear left corner buried under vines. We moved it to the left fence for easy access.  Later we planted wildflowers on the roof but I don't have pics of the sweet little flowers that soaked up the sun in that spot.  This year I plan to add a new shed roof with a lip for a proper soil layer for the wildflowers.

 Removing the vines from the path fence opened up a bed below it for planting flowers.  And you can now see the pond to the left and the back fence.  We then built a makeshift patio out of rescued brick and put out a patio table.  We relocated the azalea from its rock bed to a deeper soil bed behind the pond.  We pruned the hydrangeas and cut down the grass so one could walk through the path.

Finally in November we emptied the existing pond and replaced the liner.  We now have a functional 18in deep pond.  Mom has planned water irises, mint in containers. rosemary and flowering thyme around the edge of the pond.  We also have a solar pump waiting to be installed.
Now the flower garden is still under its winter gloom but we have big plans....

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sharing my germs with the seedlings: not quite the called for inoculant

Yesterday I was sick.  Like cough up a lung, whine to anyone who will listen, feverish sick.  I couldn't get dressed or think of leaving the house.  After a few hours (try 8) of feeling sorry for myself I realized that this was the day to get my veggies sowed.  After all they certainly wouldn't be bothered by my sneezing and coughing virus particles all over them.  Perhaps the virus inoculant would protect them against fungi in a competitive, territorial, "I was here first" kind of way.  Or not.

I pulled out the flats, heating mats, organic seedstarting soil, and the seeds.  I actually thought it would take me an hour or so.  Six hours later I finally finished the last flat.  Partly this is because I was sneezing and blowing and stopping to take Cold Eeze and tylenol.  Partly because I am so very distractible.

I first had to rearrange all my flower seedlings from the 19th.  After much careful planning to assure that each flat had seeds with similar germination times and environment needs, I discovered that planning for germination is an amusing reminder of nature over science.  About half of the seeds germinated in two different flats from different sides.  After flipping the trays around and using a cover over only half of each tray on the 22nd I finally had to come to terms with the fact that I was going to need to cut the flats. Of course no rhyme or reason... one six pack of the same seeds germinated and the other six pack with the same seeds attached to it did not.
So I spent some time cutting the six packs apart from the 72 tray and reorganizing in new containers so those that had not germinated could do so and those who had could get more light.

Then I remembered that I had not planted the pansies and violas that I had stratified on the 19th.  So before I got to the veggies I went ahead and used up one of my plastic flats/peat pellets for the cold seeds. Since I didn't have the heart to throw away the remaining stratified seeds I planted them in Miracle Gro seedstarting mix and peat pots in a reused salad container.  I'm not sure why I am adverse to tossing out the seeds.  You can see the poor collection of plastic containers that I pulled into use so that I wouldn't have to toss the flower seeds on my post on the 19th.

Finally I start preparing for the veggies.  I had 13 different types of peppers, 16 different types of tomatoes, and lots of lettuce varieties.  I managed to get all the peppers in one flat and the tomatoes in the other.  I will need one plant of each variety for my SFG.  I sowed two for each variety with some extras. If need be I can start another flat with more of each.  I used self-watering Burpee's Eco Kits with "plastic" made from corn and deep cells filled with organic peat for the peppers and tomatoes and placed both of them on heating mats.  The lettuce is planted 4/square in SFG and so I sowed 4 cells/variety (head and leaf, arugula, endive, cress, mache and chrysanthamum).  I sowed a few/cell in organic seedstarting mix and APS self-watering greenhouse kits. The seeds are so small that trying to do one per cell is too time intensive.  I'll just have to learn how to snip out the weaker seedlings.  However given my track record in being unable to throw out seeds, we'll see if I can successfully cull down to one seedling/cell.

Top shelf in picture has left to right: flowers, tomatoes, peppers on heat mats Bottom shelf has two 32 cell flats with lettuce, mache, endive, chrysanthemum

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The winter thaw

I finally got a chance to get into the FVG to look at my plot.  Last time I was there it was so covered in snow that I didn't think it would thaw out until April.  A day of warmer temps helped uncover the beds... unfortunately just in time to expose them to freezing temps now that they weren't insulated under the snow.  Oh well.

Very few losses from the winter.  My arbor lost its roof...

 I knew that I hadn't secured it properly.  Fortunately the wood is still intact and I just need to reattach it with better screws.  The gate lost its top shelf which also was on the ground.  I'll need to do some aggressive gluing and bolting.

I was surprised to see that my strawberries had overwintered and were already coming up green.  I actually had thrown them into the bed replacing spent peppers as a last thought at the end of the season and got a few fall strawberries.  I never intended them to stay in the bed.  I had a strawberry planter that had succulents in it that I expected to die during the winter and planned to reuse the planter for the strawberries.  Neither the succulents nor the strawberries died.  I'm sure if I wanted then to survive they wouldn't have.  So I'll have to figure out where to put the strawberries since that square foot is already taken for peppers again.  I'll leave them until May since I can't plant the peppers till then anyway.

My beds have settled a bit and I can see that some underground munchkin has been at them.  I didn't have any problems with burrowers last year and didn't think to put down a mesh underneath my weed blocker.  I hope I won't have to dig up all my mel's mix and add chicken wire to the bottom of the boxes.
When it warms up and I go to add my compost to each square for the new season I'll investigate further.  It was too cold to do it on the first survey.

Here are the spring cleaning plans:
1) Build the cold frame
2) Repair the tomato trellis
3) Clear away space for another 2x6' raised bed for melons
4) Repair the roof of the arbor
5) Repair the gate
6) Replace the shed roof with a shallow box that can hold soil for wildflower mix
7) Change position of front layered boxes to allow for carrots/leeks
8) Add compost to each square of Mel's mix, water throughly, and cover with greenhouse plastic to warm the soil
9) Replace the area under the tarp in back with a potting shed
10) Add more mulch to the areas between boxes where the weed blocker is showing
11) Pull the wild onions that continue to grow through the weed blocker :(

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Grow Veg attacks

I have my garden plan at  I love the ease of design and all the info that comes with it.  One of the benefits is that you receive an email telling you when it is time to start sowing indoors or outdoors your planned seeds based on your area's frost data.  Well yesterday I received this email....

Plants you can sow under cover or indoors in the next two weeks:
Broccoli: Calabrese Green Sprouting Broc 
Broccoli: Romanesca Italia Broccoli 
Cilantro: Slo-bolt Cilantro 
Cress: Wrinkled crinkled cress 
Mache: Mache Verte D'Etampes 
Peas: Golden Sweet 
Peas: Sugar Ann 
Pepper: Bulgarian Ratund 
Pepper: Chinese Five Color Pepper 
Pepper: Corbaci 
Pepper: Golden Cal Wonder 
Pepper: Jimmy Nardello Italian 
Pepper: Lipstick 
Pepper: Melrose 
Pepper: Ozark Giant 
Pepper: Patio Red Marconi 
Pepper: Pepper Purple Beauty 
Pepper: Pepper Red Belgian 
Pepper: Pepper Sweet Red Stuffing 
Pepper: Tequila Sunrise 
Tomato: Buckbee's New 50 Day 
Tomato: Chadwick Cherry 
Tomato: Delicious 
Tomato: EGG red tomato 
Tomato: Fox Cherry 
Tomato: Hazelfield Farm 
Tomato: Illini Star 
Tomato: Jujube Cherry 
Tomato: Lollipop Tomato 
Tomato: Morning Sun 
Tomato: Mule Team 
Tomato: Stupice 
Tomato: Thessaloniki 
Tomato: Tomato Cour di Bue 
Tomato: Tomato Egg Yolk 
Tomato: Tomato Orange Banana 

Plants you can sow outdoors or plant out over the next two weeks:
Broccoli: Calabrese Green Sprouting Broc 
Broccoli: Romanesca Italia Broccoli 
Cabbage (Spring): Early Jersey Wake* 
Carrot: Berlicum 2 
Carrot: Cosmic Purple 
Carrot: Jaune Obtuse Du Doubs 
Cauliflower: purple of siciliy cauliflower* 
Endive: De Meaux 
Lettuce (Leaf): Dark Lollo Rossa 
Lettuce (Leaf): Devil's Ears 
Lettuce (Leaf): Little Gem 
Lettuce (Leaf): Merveille des Quatre Saisons 
Lettuce (Leaf): Sanquine Ameliore 
Mache: Mache Verte D'Etampes 
Peas: Golden Sweet 
Peas: Sugar Ann 
Spinach: Bloomsdale Long Standing 
Spinach: Merlo Nero 

Holy crap!  How in the world am I going to get all this done in two weeks?  I don't have enough lights or space or attention span.  After a few deep breaths I took stock and realized that I already started all the brassicas. The brassicas are ready for hardening off in the cold frame within the week. The lettuces, mache, endive, arugula, cress will all fit in two 72 in flats.  The carrots, spinach, and peas will be direct seeded in April.  I'll start the peppers this week and in two weeks start the tomatoes.  All but the peppers and tomatoes and basil will be outside or in the cold frame by April.  So indoors taking up all of my growing stand will be light and heat loving peppers and tomatoes.  

I think I can handle this...