Thursday, March 31, 2011

Nor'Easter Expected on April Fool's Day

It's no joke! The National Weather Service Forecast for my area:

Tonight: Snow, mainly after 2am. The snow could be heavy at times. Low around 31. East wind between 3 and 8 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New snow accumulation of 1 to 3 inches possible.

Friday: Snow. The snow could be heavy at times. High near 33. Breezy, with a northeast wind between 14 and 21 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New snow accumulation of 7 to 11 inches possible.

Friday Night: Snow likely, mainly before 2am. Cloudy, with a low around 28. Blustery, with a northwest wind between 14 and 21 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%.

Update: Friday Night: Snow, mainly before 11pm. Low around 29. North wind between 8 and 11 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New snow accumulation of 2 to 4 inches possible.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Harvest Monday: March 21, 2011

Each Monday, Daphne’s Dandelions hosts “Harvest Monday” where everyone can share links to their harvest for the week. It’s fun to see what everyone is harvesting from his or her gardens in different areas.

Not much to harvest here in Maine yet, but I did enjoy some of my stored harvest from last season.

I was sad to use up the last of the Kennebec Potatoes this week:

As you can see, it was perfect timing. They have begun to sprout and were a little soft, but still very good as mashed potatoes with garlic. Now I have a better idea how long potatoes will keep in the basement. I haven’t opened up the boxes with the seed potatoes yet, but I am worried they may not last until planting time.

We were down to only a few jars of salsa, so I made another batch this weekend using frozen tomatoes, garden garlic, and the remainder of my frozen Anaheim and Bell peppers. I still have some frozen Jalapeno peppers and I am not sure how I will use these up.

Fresh harvests include a few salad clippings from the spinach and lettuce growing under the lights in the basement. Onion trimmings are also adding a nice mild, onion flavor when sprinkled on various dishes.

Be sure to visit Daphne’s Dandelions to see what others are harvesting this week.


I am sure many of you laughed at first when you saw that we were shoveling and snow blowing the garden over the weekend. I had a moment of thinking we were a little nuts as well, but look:

By Sunday, the remaining snow melted on the raised boxes. This will allow the boxes to dry out and hopefully warm up sooner than if they were still blanketed with a layer of snow. We are currently experiencing another snowstorm that is supposed to drop 3-6 inches of snow by tomorrow. However, this spring snow won’t be around for long now that the sun is stronger.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Impatient Maine Gardener

After K snow blowed the paths between the beds in the garden, I shoveled off some of the raised beds so the rest of the snow would melt faster. There was over a foot of heavy snow on top of the beds.

By afternoon, temperatures reached 68 degrees F and the paths were clear down to the ground and the snow remaining on the raised beds had reduced significantly. However, you can’t outsmart Mother Nature. We woke this morning to more snowfall a fresh covering of snow. Only an inch or so that will surely melt quickly, but it served as a reminder that winter is still hanging on.

There is some green under the collapsed mini-hoops, but I don’t know yet if anything survived.

Removing the snow from the raised beds will allow the remaining snow melt quicker and the soil to warm up sooner than the rest of the garden still under snowcover. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get some early crops planted under protection soon.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Snow is Not Melting Fast Enough

The past few days have been really warm here in Maine. Today it is supposed to reach 60 degrees but the snow is not melting fast enough from the garden. Last year at this time the snow was long gone. I was amending the soil, fixing up the trellis, and hardening off some cool weather crops.

I drive to work only 20 minutes away and the snow is almost gone. I come back home and see the garden still covered with 1.5 feet of snow. The snow around the house foundation and the snow blowed paths is gone and continues to recede:

Snowblowed path leading to shed and compost bin

It seems K is getting sick of hearing me complain about the snow on the garden.  He took matters in his own hands this morning:

More later…

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

There IS a Garden Beneath the Snow

A combination of rain and warmer weather contributed to some significant melting over the weekend. We can now see the very top of the wire fence surrounding the garden.

The fence is 2 feet high, so we still have a ways to go.  

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Using Soil Blocks for Growing Seedlings

A recent comment from Jeph at “Fresh is Best” has prompted me to share my experience so far with growing seedlings using soil blocks. As I explained to Jeph, I am no expert as this is only my second year of both growing my own seedlings and using soil blocks. However, my overall experience last year was so positive that I will continue to use soil blocks for most of my seedlings this year.

Previous to growing my own seedlings last year, my garden was planted with purchased transplants and direct seeding. I usually do a lot of research on new gardening methods that appeal to me before trying them. So, I had been reading and learning about seed starting and soil blocks for years before deciding to try it myself. 

Once I decided to grow my seedlings from seed, I knew I wanted to invest in a 2-inch Soil Block Maker. I purchased mine last year from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

The recommended soil block recipe is from Eliot Coleman’s book: The New Organic Grower and a copy was sent with the soil block maker I purchased last year and can be downloaded for the Johnny’s Selected Seeds website.

Last year I had problems sourcing out these ingredients during the winter months. However, most of my research told me that alternative soil mixes have also been used with good results as long as the soil mixture is fibrous enough to hold together through many waterings but allow air to pass through to provide oxygen to the roots and to permit drainage.

The recommend mix is composed of peat, lime, coarse sand or perlite, fertilizer, compost and soil. What I could easily find in January was organic seed starting mix made from approximately 80% peat moss, 19% perlite, and 1% lime. I also had some organic bagged compost on hand and some Plant Tone fertilizer by Epsoma.  So I thought I would mix up a batch and give it a try: “I Played With the Soil Block Maker!” I passed the compost through a piece of hardware cloth into a tote to screen out any lumps before adding it to the mixture.

The test soil blocks retained moisture and held up well to being moved around and organized into different trays. So I proceeded with using this soil block mixture for my spring seedlings. I did fertilize with fish emulsion when the seedlings showed they need it, which was several weeks after germination, then every two weeks until planted in the garden. I had very good results and my seedlings were healthier and stronger than any transplants I had purchased before. When potting up or transplanting to the garden there is no transplant shock since you are not disturbing the roots. The transplants just continue to grow.

The fall seedlings were started in soil blocks made from Pro-Mix Potting & Seeding Mix (Made from Canadian sphagnum peat moss, limestone, perlite, vermiculite, and a wetting agent), screened compost, and a sprinkle of Plant Tone by Epsoma. This will be my second year growing from seed and I am using the Pro-Mix, screened compost, Plant Tone method again for my soil blocks.

I use a dishpan to mix up small batching of soil block mix as needed. I add Pro-Mix and screened compost to the dishpan at a ratio of approximately 3 scoops of Pro-Mix to 1 scoop of screened compost. I sprinkle in a couple of tablespoons of Plant Tone by Epsoma and add water. I mix the soil and water together then I let it sit for a few hours or even until the next day. This gives the mixture ample opportunity to soak up as much water as it can.

Johnny’s has a great video showing how to make the soilblocks: Click here to view.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Expanding the Seed Starting Area

Spring arrived early last year and I began planting out some cold hearty crops under protection in early April.

Spring 2010 Square Foot Garden Under Protection

This was perfect timing because the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants were due to be sowed and space under the lights was tight.

Since things are already getting crowded under the lights and it is doubtful that Spring will be early again, I decided to increase my seed starting area.

Previously, I used two 24-inch wide shelving units on the workbench. Side by side they accommodate 4-foot shop lights and two seed flats on each shelf.

2010 Seed Starting Area

I decided to expand the shelving by moving the units to the floor and adding two more shelving units on top.

New Shelving Units

This will double my seed starting area and give me more working space on the workbench:

Updated Seed Starting Area with Room to Grow!