Sunday, March 28, 2010

Seedling Update

The weather was so unseasonably warm lately that it was difficult to resist the urge to plant something in the garden. This week, reality hit and I was reminded that it is MARCH in MAINE. Daytime temperatures reached 70˚F last Saturday then dropped to 48˚F on Sunday. The rest of the week was rainy/snowy and mostly in the 40s during the day and back to below freezing nighttime temperatures. Sheesh! Mother Nature is such a tease.

In reality, I am thankful for the extraordinarily warm weather we have had over the last few weeks. It motivated me to get out to the garden and prepare the beds for planting. It really felt good to play in the dirt.

Instead to feed my gardening urge, I am doting on the seedlings growing under lights in my basement. The soil blocks are so easy to move around and organize. I consolidated and grouped them together into three trays.

Here are some updated pictures of the seedlings.

Lettuce looks good enough to eat:

Onions are getting a haircut each week giving us our first harvest of the year:

Swiss Chard is looking colorful:

Dill are growing their true leaves:

A few weeks ago, I was attempting to harden off some spinach to plant in the SFG, but felt the weather was too harsh last week. So back under the lights for now:

I will begin hardening these spinach plants off again this week. I am going to need this shelf under the lights for the tomatoes and peppers soon.

I started the pepper seeds in soil blocks over the weekend and placed them on the heat mat:

I may need to pre-sprout my tomato seeds using EG of Our Engineered Garden's Germination Method as I am out of room on my heat mat right now. I am most excited about growing peppers and tomatoes from seed for the first time. So this next month should be fun.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Weeding the Herb Patch

I cleaned up the herb patch over the weekend and mulched it with pine straw in effort to try to discourage more weeds from growing:

The soil in the herb patch is not very good quality and tends to grow weeds quite well. Each year the herbs fight it out with the crabgrass. Most of the perennial herbs in this spot came with the house and have been well established for many years. These include chives, garlic chives, and Greek oregano.

It was time to accept the fact that the Greek oregano isn’t going to grow this year. It was about a 1-foot wide planting when I purchased the house and has since expanded to a 2-foot oblong in this herb patch. I use Greek oregano in many dishes, soups, salads, sauces, and of course pizza topping. Here is a picture from last year:

Each growing season, I usually give oregano a trim once it flowers. Almost immediately, new shoots begin growing from the cut stems allowing me to harvest more before frost. Last summer there was no re-growth after trimming. At first I attributed it to the awfully rainy summer we had and hoped that it would recover in the spring.

When other perennial herbs were rousing from their winter slumber, the oregano continued to show no signs of life. This weekend, I inspected the original plant area carefully hoping to find some green growth, but found none. So I inserted a trowel to dig out a section and inspect the roots. I found it was indeed dead and began digging it out of the herb patch. So sad.

This will however, give me opportunity to amend the soil here with some good quality compost.

Luckily, I have transplanted a bunch to a different part of the yard and this second planting is still alive and growing well. But it is quite small right now and will take a few years to achieve the harvest that I am accustomed to:

I have planted seeds to replace the Greek Oregano in the same spot. Hopefully they will grow a strong cluster that will survive for years to come. They look like such delicate seedlings:

It's difficult to believe that these tiny seedlings will grow into a hearty perennial herb that expands year after year. Greek oregano is a perennial herb that is related to the Mint family. It can be invasive, so it is best to keep it confined area.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Beautiful First Day of Spring

We embrace the first day of Spring like a long lost friend. Temperatures reached 70˚F by midday on Saturday. It felt so strange to be outside in short sleeves.

I began by replacing the nylon netting on two of the SFGs:

The old netting turned brittle from exposure to the elements and easily snapped with little pressure. I surely don’t want to chance growing tomatoes on netting that may fail mid-season. Last year I had difficulty finding nylon netting in my area and ended up ordering it online. This year I had no trouble at all finding it in several big box stores among their seedling displays:

Although tempted by this warm stretch of weather we have been experiencing, I reluctantly decided not to plant some peas along the trellis right now. It is really too early and our nights are still below freezing. I am going to wait a few more weeks at least.

I also added two 10 foot pvc conduit over the SFG that contains the overwintered spinach and will house new spring transplants soon:

This dome method described in Mel Bartholomew’s All New Square Foot Gardening seemed to be the simplest solution to providing frost and cold protection to the spring plantings. There was no cutting, trimming, or tools necessary. Simply push the end of the pvc conduit in the corner of the SFG and bend across the garden to the opposite corner:

The SFGs frames hold the ends of the pvc conduit in place. And a couple zip ties hold them together at the top of the arch:

I can easily place plastic over these supports and clamp it directly to the SFG frame. Then lift the covering on warm days to let in air. On extra cold nights, I can also drape a blanket over the bed to provide added frost protection.

I also see I will need to get a fence up soon as Bradie has been walking in my SFG:

The air cooled as the afternoon progressed and soon temperatures returned to more normal levels for this time of year. It was nice while it lasted.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Let the Gardening Begin!

On Friday, temperatures reached 60˚F/15˚C! I took full advantage of the unusually warm weather we are experiencing. We ran some errands in the morning and picked up some compost to add to the Square Foot Garden (SFG) beds and the 2x6 boards for the 3 new 4x4 SFG. As I walked into one of the big box stores, I was confronted by a display of summer bulbs, fruits, and onion sets. I couldn’t resist and picked up these:

I am growing Copra and Patterson storage onions and White Lisbon bunching onions from seed. But couldn’t resist picking up some Red Baron onion sets too. Not sure where I am going to plant all these onions. I am not sure where I’ll plant the strawberries yet either. Maybe in pots. Maybe since I am building more SFGs anyway, I can build another one for the strawberries in another part of the yard….hmmmm. So much for careful planning.

Upon our return from shopping, I immediately walked to the garden and began stirring up the soil in the SFGs:

I added some Espoma Plant-tone and the new compost and mixed it in really well. This is my second year with SFGs and I was wonderfully impressed with the quality of the soil:

Temperature of the soil was similar to the air temperature:

This is the spinach that has overwintered:

Also in this SFG I found some garlic from last year sprouting among the overwintered spinach. I thought I harvested all the small garlic last fall before planting out the spinach but I guess I missed a few. These are really small, less than 1/2-inches wide. I ended up pulling them since I have larger garlic planted in a separate SFG and I have plans for these squares. They won’t go to waste though as they will be used in cooking:

Speaking of garlic. I am pleased to see the fall planted garlic also poking up through the mulch in its own SFG:

I will be adding some pvc hoops and plastic for cold protection later this weekend to the SFG with the overwintered spinach. I am going to start planting out some early spring crops. The first will be some more spinach that I have begun hardening off:

It is difficult not to be tricked by this unnaturally warm weather.

Temps are supposed to be in the 60s again today. However, next week the temps are supposed to drop to more seasonable levels. But for now I am going to take advantage of the warm weather and do more gardening this weekend.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Planning for a New Raspberry Patch

We have wild raspberry and blackberry bushes growing behind the shed, but the last couple of years have been pretty lean for fruit production. I think it is because they are mixed in among many small saplings, weeds, and even some poison ivy. It may take some time and careful pruning to get them back into shape so that they produce more berries.

In the mean time, I thought this area would work well for a new raspberry patch.

It is at the edge of the lawn near the vegetable garden. From this point, the ground begins to slope downward over a bank into the woods eventually leading to a small brook. Because this area is so uneven, it isn’t mowed and contains tall grass, weeds, and wildflowers. The blooming goldenrod, milkweed, and queen annes lace attract bees and butterflies and the seed heads provide food for the birds.

Today was the perfect day to reclaim a small section of this area to begin a new raspberry patch. I began by raking the dead plants aside.

Nothing has started growing yet and most of the dead plants were shallow rooted and easy to pull out. There were some clumps of grass that required a garden fork to dig out. I was impressed by the quality of the soil beneath. I still need to add some compost, till it in, and level the soil out the best I can on the slope. But this is the basic outline of the new raspberry planting area.

I placed an order today for Heritage raspberries. I chose Heritage raspberries because I have heard good things about tham from several blogs I follow, especially the growing experience shared by Daphne at Daphne's Dandelions and Laura at The Modern Victory Garden. A huge thanks to you both for the inspiration.

I felt really good to be outside digging in the dirt.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Not All Online Earning Opportunities are Scams

I’ve been exploring more and more ways to be more frugal in my life. With the economy the way it is and layoffs and reduced workweeks occurring at my place of employment, I can’t help but worry about things. Growing a vegetable garden helps tremendously to reduce my grocery bill. Hopefully even more so this year as I have added more variety of food to preserve and store for the winter months.

I came across this video where Nichole of Nichole’s Nickels explains how she earns $500-$800 per month with her computer and a couple of hours per day:

Visit Nichole’s Nickels blog for more money earning tips and ideas.

I joined SwagBucks last week. SwagBucks is a “search & win” site where users earn digital dollars for performing basic search tasks. The more you use it, the more swagbucks you can win. Then, you exchange your earnings for prizes or gift cards to places like Amazon. The search is powered by google and, so the results are the same. Except every now and then you receive a message at the top of your search page saying you are a winner.

I search the internet anyways, so I thought I’d try it out. It’s free to join and fun to see the swatgucks add up. I’ve been using it for about a week and already earned enough swagbucks for a $5 Amazon gift card. You also receive swagbucks when people join using your referral code. So check it out and see if it’s something you’d be interested in, and if you want to give it a try click on the referral link below and we will both win. I’ll obtain swagbucks for the referral and you will receive 30 to get you started.

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Good luck!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Seedling Update

The seed starting area seems to be working out very well:

I am starting the seedlings in soil blocks using recycled bakery and produce containers. Once seeded, the containers are placed on a heat mat on the top left shelf. When they sprout, the humidity dome is vented, and they are placed under lights. After a few days, the soil blocks are removed from the container and moved into one of the black flats and carefully labeled. One black flat fits on a shelf and each black flat can accommodate 50 soil blocks. These shelves can hold up to 200 soil blocks.

One thing I love about the soil blocks is they can be moved around and organized. If a block has failed to sprout, the seed can be scooped out and the block can be recycled.

I have added a second strip light to the bottom shelf because the plants were leaning a bit towards the center where the light was. The top shelf strip light was just added this week to accommodate the lettuce that is in the top right flat which sprouted this week.

I have lost a few seedlings here and there to damping off. I planted extras, so I am not too concerned yet. I have added a small fan for air circulation and began spraying the soil blocks with a chamomile tea once a day.

Here are a few seedling updates:

The onions are in need of their second haircut:

Spinach is forming its second leaves:

The Thyme seeds were several years old. I wasn't sure about their viability, so I planted a pinch in each soil block. It looks like they all sprouted:

Lettuce is all doing well. I have four varieties growing so far:

Parsley germination has been pretty spotty. Some have grown lanky as you can see in the background of the pic below. I have reseeded another batch just in case:

The Celery seeded on 2/21 have not sprouted yet. I have seeded another batch just in case. I have also seeded White Lisbon Bunching Onions, Fernleaf Dill, more Spinach and Lettuce. Soon I will be adding hoops to one of the Square Foot Gardens for some early spring planting.