Saturday, March 31, 2012

More Sprouts

I have more sprouts, but not as many as I would like.  Next year, I will start the germination process earlier.  To date, I have 2 jalapeno, 2 Cherokee Purple, 1 Beefsteak, 2 Boxcar Willie, 1 German Johnson and 1 Kaki Coing that have germinated.  None of the sweet or hot peppers have germinated or the Hillbilly or Paul Robeson tomatoes. 

Tomorrow, I'm going to start a few more Cherokee Purple and Beefsteak pots since they germinated quickly so I can have a few extra heirlooms on hand just in case the other tomato seeds don't germinate.

I'm loving the grow lights.  I need to pull out a banquet table to set it on this week-end.  It's setting on the floor in one of the guest bedrooms now.  I can say that purchasing the light was money well spent.  The seedlings seem happy at this point.  I set a few pots of dill under it a few days ago.  It seems that dill needs light to germinate, so I'm hoping that it will warm the soil enough to germinate the seeds.  I found the perfect stand in my attic last week-end that I plan to turn into a germination station next year.  It has 4 tiers, and is wide enough to hold several flats per tier.  Sure wish I had spotted it earlier.  (I really need to clean my attic out, lol).   

Any experienced dill growers out there?  I need dill for my pickles this year.  I had a few dill plants in the garden last year as companion plants and they did well.  I'm hoping to germinate a few seeds.  Research has shown that dill doesn't transplant well, so I don't know if I will be successful with transplanting it in the garden if the seeds do germinate. 

The thing that I tried and was successful in producing last year was sunflowers.  I'm going to try to germinate my seeds inside this year.  I love sunflowers in the garden, and hoping to share the experience with my grandchildren.   How's your seed germination going? 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Seed Sprouts

I have a sprout!  Actually, I have several.  Last night I had none, this morning I had 5.  For the experienced gardeners, is this how the sprouts are suppose to look for heirloom tomatoes?  This is a German Johnson, but my Cherokee Purple and Boxcar Willie look exactly the same. 

I don't know what I was expecting, but this wasn't it.  I thought the sprout would be shorter, and I certainly wasn't expecting germination so quickly.  It has two leaves as expected, it's just tall.  When I realized I had sprouts, I immediately removed the cling wraps.  I haven't put together my grow lights yet, so I had to set them in the window.  Hopefully, the lights will be put together tomorrow.   I didn't realize the picture was blurry until I loaded it onto the computer.  I hope someone can see enough of the sprout and can let me know if I'm on track with the seedling process, and will leave me a comment on how I should proceed. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Starting Seedlings

Well, I've started my first flat of tomato and pepper seedlings.  Wish me luck.  I decided to use the peat pots, and save the plastic for potting soil and transplants.  I love how the peat pots absorb the water.  This flat has heirloom tomatoes and sweet peppers.  They were in the process of absorbing the water when this picture was taken.  I have 12 tomato and 6 mini and grand sweet peppers mix so far.  I was leery about starting sweet peppers, especially after the monsters I grow last year with plants from my hardware store.  I decided to do 6.  If I can grow the quality and size from my seedlings that I did with the store brought plants, I know I'm on my way to being a true gardener, lol.  If not, I'll be ecstatic that I successfully germinated the seed.  I ran out of time, so I'll be starting my cayenne peppers this week-end.  I'm planting 6 cayenne, 5 jalapeno and 5 banana.  I probably should have started the cayenne's first since they seem to have the longest germination period.  Oh well live and learn. 

As you can see, I like it hot.  I'll freeze some, use some in salsa, and dry the others for pepper flakes.  I loved pulling out fresh peppers for chili and spaghetti over the winter, so I'm looking forward to replenishing my stock this summer.

I purchased a few packages of cukes, but not sure I'll try starting those from seeds or not.  From what I've read, they're difficult to transplant.  Do you start cukes inside or direct sow?  I want lots of cukes for homemade pickles this year.  I decided to purchase a few heat mats for germination.  I was going to use the rope method, but got a good deal on the heat mats at my local hardware store with free shipping.  I love them.  I found the perfect place to place my flats, in my laundry room.  I have two 4 foot shelves over my washer and dryer that were empty, so I thought it would be the perfect place for germination and grow lights once germination takes place.  They're out of the way, and I won't drive myself crazy because of the clutter through out my house.  I told you about my OCD  problem, right.  I can't stand for things to be out place.  I inherited that trait from my father.  Once the seedlings get large enough, I'll transplant and move them in front of a window in my guest room until it's time to harden them off. 

Here's my flat on the heat meat in the laundry room.  I used craft sticks from the dollar store to mark the plants, 100 for $1.00.  I purchased the peat pots from Big Lots, 20 for $2.00 and the water trays held geraniums from the nursery last year.  I didn't have a dome for the trays, so I used cling wrap and rubber bands to cover the posts.  Got this idea fron Martha Stewart, and it seems to be working great. 

I'm wondering if should poke a small hole in a few of the cling wrap covers, it looks like condensation is building on a few in the front?  It's only been 5  days, but I was hoping something would emerge.  I like immediate gratification.  It seems that patience is a must for a gardener. 

It's cloudy here today.  I may head out to the garden and take down the fencing and posts if it doesn't rain.  I'm suppose to till next week or the week after.   If I get the garden tilled within that time frame, I may plant garlic.  That will be a first.  I want to try that garlic pesto that everyone is raving about.   If the weather doesn't hold up, I'll head out tomorrow.  I need to take three 33 gallon bags of shredded paper down to the compost site and store them.  I have about 10 bags of leaves that are already waiting to be used.  Grass mowing starts next week, so I'll have plenty to add to the bins.  Especially after I weed the shrubbery beds. I visited Mark's Veggie Plot blog yesterday, and he had a beautiful pile of compostI'm looking forward to seeing what's happened with my compost pile over the last year.  I may have to remove the top and use what's on the bottom as he did.  I checked it a few weeks ago, and it hasn't completely broken down.

Well, I'm off to get the cayenne peppers started and see what else I can get into today.  Happy Gardening!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Getting My Seeds Started

I had planned to start my seeds today, but that didn't happen.  I spent the day sterilzing the pots I saved from my geranium and petunia purchases last year and sterilized them with a little bleach and hot water.  I'm a big customer of our local Big Lots so I purchased a few peat pots for a $1.00 for good measure, lol.  I purchased a bag of seed starting mix from the local hardware store and was rearing to go this morning.  For some reason I decided to research the seed starting mix that I purchased.   What did I find, mixed reviews.  I purchased a bag of the organic Jiffy and some of the reviews have stated that it's difficult to germinate seeds with this mix.  Apparently, the mix doesn't hold water well.  Some of the customers stated that the water beaded on top of the mixture when when they tried to water the seedling.  I was leery of this review, I thought you watered from the bottom when you were germinating seeds and just misted the plant and surface?  I continued reading, other reviews and they also stated that they had difficulty when they tried to moisten the mixture prior to placing it in the pots/trays.  Either way, there's a problem.   

According to customers,  Jiffy is aware that the mixture doesn't absorb water well; however, they're not pulling it from the shelves.  A user suggested that water be added several days before using to ensure it absorbs the water; otherwise, you will encounter problems. 

Thankfully, I saved my receipt and will return it Monday.  I'm so glad that I decided to research the mix before I planted my seeds.  I would have been extremely disappointed and wondering what I was doing wrong and why none of my seeds germinated.  Rather than take this chance, I'll wait a few days and find a mix worthy of my precious seeds. 

What type of seed starting mix do you use?  Have you encountered this problem?  I'm also curious about seedling heating mats, do you use one?  Initially, I wasn't going to use them, but decided to purchase 2. 


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Vegetable Garden Fencing

I decided to expand my garden this year.  Last year it was 10 x 20, and was somewhat crowed with what I planted.  This year I'm going to till a 25 x 25  or 30 x 30 area and fence it in similar to the picture shown.  We're putting up 250 feet of privacy fencing, so I thought I would fence the garden as well.  This was suppose to be one of the projects last year; but there are several trees that need to be taken out so we postponed the job.  I need to call in a tree company to remove them.  Hopefully, the ground will be hard enough to bring in a bucket truck soon and we can start the project.   

I still need to figure out how to keep the groundhogs out.  You remember my battles with them last season.  I'm thinking of building a trench around the wood fencing and burying chicken wire a foot into the ground and than bending it under the fence and stapling it to the wood.  

I'm going to set traps again this year.  I have a college student who is willing to set-up traps for me while he's home for summer break.  I'm hoping this will help with the problem.  I trapped 6 last year.  You have to continuously set the traps during the growing season.  They were a royal pain in my __________ last year.   They spread the word about my buffett, and had a major feast with my pole beans.  I replanted at least 4 times and couldn't up with enough beans for a meal, lol. 

Last year I used the row method for my garden.  I'm actually contemplating raised beds this year.  I love this layout behind the wood fencing.  (Thanks to for the photo and idea). 

It has been suggested that I use cedar for the boxes, apparently cedar will last a life time.  I have a few months to make a decision.  My soil is great, I was able to produce a high yield of veggies last year with very little amendment to the soil, so I'm wondering if the raised boxes will really be worth it.  Since I've never used a raised bed, I really have no Pros to weigh against the Cons.  Do you have raised beds?  I would love to hear what you think about one method over the other. 

I will definitely incorporate the arbor, stepping stones and the marigolds around the border, but replace the raised bed in the middle with a bench.  I want to be able to sit and admire the fruits of my labor, lol.   What do you think about my garden layout plans? 

Spring Has Arrived

Spring has arrived and I'm so excited.  I'm going to attempt to germinate my veggie seeds this year.  I've decided to try heirloom tomatoes.  Here's a few of my tomato packets that I've been admiring all day.  They're just like a big chocolate candy bar to me, at least that's the effect they're having on me.  I'm salivating just thinking about plucking a fresh tomato this summer and slicing it with a little mayo and pepper.  I can't get enough of them.

I so enjoyed the tomatoes that I canned for soup and chili this winter.  They were as fresh and delicious as they were last summer.  I decided to plant Hillbilly, German Johnson, Cherokee Purple, Paul Robeson, Kaki Coing (a bonus pack),  and Roma tomatoes.  Pole beans, squash, cucumber (slicers & pickling), zucchini, Sugar Baby water melon, and lots of peppers this year.  

I'll start my seedlings this week-end.  Since this will be my first year at this endeavor, I'm hoping that I'll be successful.  I didn't buy a heating mat, I decided to use my baseboard heaters for germination.   I can regulate the temperature with the heaters or use the top of my fridge.  I'll let you know if it works for me.  I did buy a 4 foot grow light.  Not sure if I will use it or if I will set up a table and just use the light from my kitchen door.  Research has shown that if I turn the plants so they don't reach for the light, I should be okay. 

What are you planting this year?  How do you germinate your seeds?  I'm a novice gardener, so any tips would be appreciated.