Sunday, March 30, 2008

Got to dig in the dirt today!

Today made up for yesterday and put me in a better frame of mind. A warm front moved in after storms rolled through early this morning. The day was overcast and only mildly windy, so I got to dig in the dirt and do some transplanting! I planted "hunks" of broccoli and cauliflower seedlings from their wintersown containers. This is a 2nd attempt as I tried separating the seedlings into singles and transplanting last week and they all died. I've got my fingers crossed these survive, but if not, there are still those in the cold-frames that I'll save to transplant for a couple more weeks.

Then I planted the Flat of Italy onions, the Crimson Forest Bunching onions, and the chives into the garden. I've still got quite a few in the wintersown containers "just in case". It seems a bit early, but the day was just so perfect and I'm itching to get the garden going. I may spend the entire month of April covering these babies up every night.
Now, what I REALLY need to get busy with is finishing the layering in my current garden, and getting new beds prepared in the new one. I just can't seem to get the energy, the right weather and the time to all come together they way I need them to. Hopefully I'll get a chance each night this week to get a little done and be able to finish the "old" garden before the weekend. Then I can devote all next weekend to the building of the new beds. Stay tuned....

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Bring on the sunshine

What a dismal day today was! Cloudy, cool, misty/rainy. And yes, I could have donned layers on layers and worked in the garden anyway, but my aching head (sinuses reacting to pollen and changes in air pressure) and a general sense of aggravation toward the weather prevented that. Oh, and two grandaughters who brought smiles and hugs to me this afternoon.

I did manage a few photos of the growing that is going on, inside and out.
Photo 1:
Broccoli surrounded by Buttercrunch lettuce - growing in a cold-frame.

Photo 2: Mustard-Spinach (Komatsuna) growing in leaps and bounds in another cold-frame.

Photo 3: Gorgeous 6-week old Bell Pepper "Orange" that is growing in my indoor seed-starting area.
This and a couple of other varieties are nice big plants already at around 7" tall!

Photo #4: White Hailstone Radishes - these seeds started germinating only 3 days after sowing.
And they seem to like their cold-frame home - growing quickly - or I suppose quickly as I've never grown radishes before.

And, finally, Photo 5: Wild Strawberry seedlings that I started indoors. Sooooo tiny! They were about as big around as a human hair when they first emerged from the soil, and still aren't very big. Sowed 6 seeds - just wanted to see what happened. I'll try some more in wintersown jugs next week.
I'm looking forward to these - another first - and I would guess they won't produce a large volume of fruit, but it will be fun to have berries for their ornamental value too.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Wintersowing and other experiments

I tried the wintersowing method of seed starting this year, with what so far seems like great success. Every container I planted in January and February has sprouts! The next test is getting them to survive until I can transplant them into their garden beds. I couldn't resist the urge to get started transplanting, and a few weeks ago I went ahead with transplanting some cauliflower and broccoli to a couple of tubs that I'm experimenting with. I have some big black plastic tubs, about 2 ft. tall x 2 ft. diameter - perfect for absorbing the heat from the sun - that I have grown veggies in previously. I decided to try to use them as cold-frames (although 'hot tubs' has a better ring to it I think!) by planting in them, then covering with plastic or glass. I transplanted the broccoli and cauliflower to a couple of the tubs on March 1, and while they aren't quite as big as some of those that are still in the original wintersown containers, most of them are growing. I also direct-seeded Buttercrunch lettuce in one, Mustard-spinach in another, Swiss Chard in one, and a combination of radish, dill and cilantro in another. Those have all germinated and are growing as well.

Another experiment was a 2nd transplanting of the broccoli and cauliflower from the wintersown containers into their permanent garden beds. I did that Saturday (3/22) and today, I'm pretty sure most of those died :*( It turned too cold and windy before they could get rooted I'm afraid. I tried using some of the row cover fabric to protect them, but I didn't have enough to do a good job. Good news is, there are still several nice, healthy plants in the wintersown containers, so I'll get another shot at this in another week or so.

Friday, March 21, 2008

A year in the finding

Ok, so it's silly to not just go buy the tools you will likely use over and over again that will really make your task easier - right? But, oh no, that is not my way. I have to find a bargain. I rarely purchase something at full-price that I can make-do without for a while. So, it has taken a year for me to finally buy a salad spinner - but by golly it was a wonderful bargain! Most people probably don't think a salad spinner is a big deal - certainly not the person who let this jewel I now own get away. But, for someone who wants their homegrown salad greens well washed AND dried (I hate soggy salad) it is a must-have. But rather than go buy a new one, I assured myself that I would come across one at a yard sale. And I did - but they always looked really flimsy and overpriced - so I never bought. The 'perfect' salad spinner was bound to be at the NEXT yard sale! So, a year after I decided this is a must-have, I still don't have one. But one day last week a desire to get out of the office for lunch takes me to a thrift store. I rarely find anything very exciting, but there is always the feeling that there might be something just waiting for me. Well, this day it was, and took me quite by surprise. I was scanning a shelf where plastic food containers and the like are kept for items I might use in my gardening. And there it was - a nice BIG, OXO Good Grips brand salad spinner - in perfect, like-new condition. Did my eyes decieve me? Was it not the most perfect salad spinner I'd ever laid eyes one? AND it was marked $1.48???? YES! I latched on to that and carried it throughout the store with me - having to look repeatedly to convince myself it was really only $1.48! A couple of online searches find this retails for $30, with $20 being the best on-sale bargain. Yep - THAT was good day - and while we won't have fresh greens from the garden for a few more weeks, it has had plenty of use already with store-bought salads. How did I live without this? :)

A Good-kind-of-Sore

Today was one of those "I know I'm gonna pay, but I'm doing it anyway" days. I waaaaaaay over did and am so stiff and sore it's ridiculous. But, I did what I set out to do and THAT feels so good! I had located some used concrete retaining wall blocks for a good price and wanted to get those home. Plus I had finally devised a plan for rebuilding my kitchen garden since recent heavy rains had washed part of it away. So, I spent a good 8 hours or more lifting, pulling, hoeing, digging, bending, shoving, shoveling, squatting, kneeling and whatever else one does when they build garden beds with walls and haul some 1,300 lbs. of concrete blocks home in the back of their van! I think some icy hot and tylenol are in my immediate future, if I want to sleep pain-free tonight. Hopefully weather and body will cooperate and in the next few weeks I'll get these wimpy muscles of mine back in gardening-shape. I have big plans to layout a whole new set of garden beds and get them built before the end of April. That ought to get the body firmed up a bit!

Monday, March 17, 2008

In the pink

I don't consider pink to be one of my favorite colors for most things, but for these, I wouldn't change their colors one iota! They are just the thing to keep spring dreams alive while we wait for winter to loosen her grip.

My sweet husband chose a couple of lovely pink-tinged ornamentals as gifts for me on valentine's day - Rhoheo (the striped leaf) and Pink Splash (Hypoestes phyllostacha). For now they seem happy living amongst my other indoor plants, waiting for warm weather and a spot in one of the outdoor flower beds.

And, this gorgeous Azalea with it's striking
pink double blooms is courtesy of my new boss. She surprised me with this beauty a couple of weeks ago. And yes, the blooms are a bit stressed looking... somehow I missed that they weren't getting enough water and I nearly lost the whole plant! It seems to be making a good comeback though and hopefully I'll find the perfect spot for her outside in a few weeks. With her showy blooms, I want to find a great place to showcase this one.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Surprises - the good kind

I like surprises - the good kind that is. Surprise lillys, that I thought I had killed, are sprouting. A friend gave me these last year. I brought them home, planted, watered, the leaves turned brown and withered away. No flowers. Nothing. Until now...very nice surprise!

And, while I've made every effort to successfully grow peppers from seed this year, I'm still a bit surprised that so many of them are doing so well. Having tried a few times before, and in earnest last year, I've learned this is not as simple as poking some seeds into dirt, watering and walking away. They need attention - DAILY! They need the right potting mix, and light - they need warmth - they need water, but not too much. And good air flow, a spritz of tonic to ward off damping off, and a watchful eye for mold and other issues. Lots to remember - but worth it.

I seem to have 3 groups - A) very vigorous and thriving; B) growing but just not as fast or big as group A; C) Hanging in there - growing very slowly, maybe having a leaf drop or curl. So while I'm having far better success than in the past, there's still a few weaklings in the bunch. No biggee - I'm just thrilled to have some super-babies that should make fabulous transplants come May! I'd say for month-old seedlings they look pretty darned good, wouldn't you?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Robins in the Hand Tree

My daughter is blossoming in so many ways. Not the least of which is her creative bloom. She has a yen to be a master cake decorator, and so with Dad and I insisting she get her undergrad degree before she leaps into that world of frosting, fondant and sugar-roses, she has decided to major in Art. Now, mind you, she is several months from starting college, much less declaring a major, but she has her mind made up....for now. However, she has definitely shown some creative stretching during this year. Her previous project - a wire shape covered with nylon hosiery - became a beautiful red Cardinal. And this plaster hand could not be satisfied with a realist's finish of skin tones and nails, but instead begged to be a part of our spring world developing right outside the window. So budding limbs and Robin's eggs grace the Sycamore Hand, complete with tree swing.

I love seeing her imagination run amuck!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

From seeds and cuttings

The peppers are growing so well! Only 3 weeks ago I started the seed for several types of peppers (all sweet but one) and many of them are getting nice big leaves already. And about that same time I took cuttings from my wax begonia and a couple of curly ivy that I have. Both have rooted and are doing well - so well in fact that one of the little begonia starts has even bloomed! I'll try to get them out of the perlite and into some potting mix tomorrow and hopefully they will really take off then. Unfortunately, I somehow killed one pot of the ivy plants I took cuttings the new ones will really just replace the pot I ruined. Oh well, maybe next year I can get some extras going.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Wild and Windy

I had every intention of getting the existing beds in my veggie garden layered with peat moss and compost today. Of 4 rows, I did 1/2 of ONE row. This crazy March wind was gusty when I started, and by the time I got a 1/2 row complete, it was just out of control. I put away the peat moss before it all ended up in the next county! However, there were lots of things that helped make the day enjoyable in spite of my change in plans. First, I heard the peeper frogs last night for the first time this year...and then again nearly all day today. Their voices are my favorite spring sound as they are usually one of the first signs that spring is upon us. Then I got to enjoy watching a trio of Canadian Geese catch their breakfast (some of the peepers?!) in the small pond just west of the garden. Later on I peeked inside the wintersown containers and was thrilled to see that I now have Lupine, Swiss Chard, and onions sprouted!

While I was in the garden, I was serenaded by the sounds of many different birds that seemed to be singing in delight at the warm spring-like day. A rather rowdy bunch pulled my attenti
on from the soil at my feet to high above in a nearby elm. A group of 40+ Redwing Blackbirds were gathered in the elm, which also made me recognize the buds on the old elm are enlarging and developing a deep crimson tinge. Now, if only it could stay this way. But, oh no, Winter isn't going to give up her reign quite so easily as that. The weather predictions are for rain and snow and cooler temps again tomorrow. Patience...patience...oh for just a bit more patience!
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