Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Countdown Continues

Being that we are 12 weeks from last frost date according to my planting calendar, I started a few seeds today:
Snapdragons- 10 cells (I might need more. . .later)
Artichokes- 5 cells (thought I'd start early for their long growing season)
Leeks- 5 cells (needed more for Mom)

So I officially have 1 flat full. I keep worrying that I'm not going to have enough cells to start everything that I want to inside, but then I remind myself that I am using the small cells unlike last year, and instead of having 48 total cells as I did last year, I have 200 cells that I can plant! Whew, that makes it so much better. Plus, I have been collecting plastic containers that I can use if I want to for extras. And besides, most of the things (besides tomatoes and these few early crops) that I'm growing could probably be planted directly in the ground anyhow.

Looking through my garden spreadsheet, it became clear to me that I am in need of a few supplies that I will need yet this spring- I still need to pick up some parsley seeds, and I really should get one more flat (have the cells, just need the tray). For anyone trying to start seeds indoors, a spreadsheet such as this is essential to track the recommended planting dates, spacing, days to maturity, where you plan to plant them, and of course any extra notes on fertilizer or care). Well we're 12 weeks away, off and running- cheers!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Photos as Promised!

I finally took some photos of the grow light set up and my one seed flat today. So without further ado, here is the set up- the grow light is 4 feet long and has 2 bulbs inside. There is enough space to fit 4 flats under it if i turn them the short way- I'm hoping that once I have that many flats going, that will be enough light. The light is on a timer and is on for 16 hours per day. I lined the carpet below the set up with painter's plastic, and set up 2 wooden platforms that my husband made last year (actually really cool- they are cedar decking put together with a little space between each board, and sitting atop 2 small perpendicular runners to keep them up off the ground- these are intended to put under the pots that I put on the deck or the porch- so that excess water can run down through the boards, but yet it keeps the pots up off the deck, preserving the wooden deck- genius!), one at each end, with a piece of plywood over the top- we just happened the have the PERFECT size to fit under the light stand. Then we clamped the plywood to the wooden platforms below and voila! a perfect set up for seed starting. I also have a space heater in this room, which I run in the evening to try to maintain the temperature between 65 and 75 degrees for ideal germination and growth. In a cold basement office, it can get a bit chilly down here. In the photo you can see my other flats and cells waiting for their turn, and of course a spray bottle full of water for misting the top of the soil as needed.


And now for the stars of the show- the seedlings! The leeks are getting pretty big- some of them are already 2 inches tall! And Of course when you try to plant one seed in each cell, inevitably, some cells grow 3 seedlings and some grow none. I will attempt to transplant some of these seedlings into their own cells later once they get a little bigger. Still no rosemary, but that will take 2-3 weeks to germinate.

It also looks that according to my planting calendar, we are at 12 weeks now, and therefore, more seeds will be ready to start! Particularly snapdragons, but I'll double check my list to see if anything else is ready to go. Update on that tomorrow.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Relief

Tomato Grower's Supply Company came through! I got my seeds in the mail today, whew. I ordered Serrano Chili, along with the following tomatoes: Big Beef, Todd County Amish, and Earl's Faux. They threw in a packet of Giant Belgium for me too- holy moly the packet says they have been known to produce 5 pound tomatoes! Woah! Well now I just have to try that! Oh my garden is slowly being overcome by my fading willpower as I try to choose which variety of tomatoes to grow until I give in and grow all of them. Thank you TGSC! I'm looking forward to it!

Will get pictures this weekend of the one flat I have started. cheers!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Waiting

The violas/pansies have germinated! I just love seeing those teeny tiny little green leaves. Still waiting for the pokey rosemary to come up, but that should be soon. The leeks are growing nice and straight under the grow light, and some are already an inch tall! Luckily I only filled their cells about half full so I can add to them as needed.

I have been a little nervous about my tomato grower's supply order and why it is taking so long, assuming that the post office must have lost it. Well, so I called today and found out that they are so busy right now that everything is about a week behind, so it didn't even get sent out until late last week. So I should be receiving it soon. Whew, that's a relief. Very interesting that their business is up so much, I guess people are trying to grow their own stuff this year to save $$ at the grocery store. Can't blame them, seeds are just a fraction of the cost of buying tomatoes at the store and you get way more. Plus they're tastier and you can try some great varieties. So I'm waiting patiently, relieved that my order is in route.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Leeks are Up

Well it's been a week since planting, and pretty much all of the leeks have germinated. No signs of any other seeds up yet, but the grow light is running beautifully. Oh how exciting to have things growing! :)

Still no sign of my Tomato Grower's Supply Co order. . . I'm going to have to call them. That may be the second USPS lost shipment in the past 3 months for me assuming they actually shipped it out. Grrr. >:-(

Friday, February 13, 2009

Signs of Life

Well there is a sign of life in my seed flat. One teeny tiny leek seedling sprouted yesterday- it looks a little bit like a worm right now, mostly white with just a teeny bit of green at the end. It is the only thing up of 30 seeded cells. Of course I expect most of them to take a while to come up, hence why they need to be started so early. So, I turned on the grow light, 16 hours/day and my set up seems to be working wonderfully so far. All the animals (2 dogs and the cat) are gathered in the office now whenever they get the chance because the we have a space heater in there to keep the temps a little warmer than the rest of the house (we only run it in the evenings when we're home), and we are keeping it shut off from the rest of the house so the animals don't get into the plants- so they're curious as to what is going on in there! Anyhow, it still is not the most interesting sight in the world right now, so no photos yet, but I promise I will post some when more things start to pop up out of the soil! Waiting patiently- cheers!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Seed Mail!

I got my seeds from Seed Saver's Exchange in the mail today- a big packet of Fin de Bagnol (haricot verts), a pack of Giant Syrian tomato seeds (my co-worker's all time favorite tomato), Historical Pansies mix, and 2 varieites of Soybean for Edamame- Envy and Shirofumi.

To be relatively even with the other pansies, I planted 1 row (5 cells) of the Historical Pansies today.

Hopefully the office "greenhouse" will go well. So far so good- we're keeping the door shut so the cat can't get in here to eat stuff (he's a plant eater and a general destroyer- as are the dogs), and the running the space heater once in a while to make sure it stays warm enough (preferably above 65 degrees for germination- and this basement office can get a bit on the chilly side at times.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The First Seeds of 2009 Have Been Sewn!

Gardening season is officially underway here in Minnesota! Today we prepared the growing area with my new grow light that I got for Christmas (Thanks Mom and Dad!). We lined the carpet in the corner of the office with plastic, and put down a few pieces of wood with plywood over the top to serve as a growing table under the light (the light is adjustable- the table is not). I got jiffy-strips at Home Depot last month to fit in the trays that I already have. They fit 50 cells to one tray, and I can fit 4 trays under my light pretty nicely. So I prepared 1 whole tray with seed starting soil, watered from the bottom, and spritzed the top with a spray bottle. Let that soak in on top of the dryer (while running for extra heat!), and then sewed the seeds, put the cover on, and tucked the tray away to await germination.

Here's what I planted today:
Amber Kiss Violas- 10 cells
Rosemary- 5 cells
Leek- 10 cells

The set-up isn't that spectacular right now, so no pictures yet, but once the plants start popping up, I'll get some photos. I still haven't completely nailed down a garden plan/layout, but I figure I can procrastinate that at least a couple more weeks while I'm waiting to start the other plants. I am just basing my current plantings off of what I grew last year, and the fact that I wanted more violas. Here's to happy growing- cheers!

Planting Math

One of the hardest parts about gardening, in my mind, is the planning. I find the key to starting seeds is to have a chart of dates and number of weeks to the last frost date corresponding with actual dates. This takes some of the headache out of counting back every time you want to plant something. Here are some of the more common planting dates for zone 4a:

15 weeks: January 30
12 weeks: February 20
10 weeks: March 6
8 weeks: March 20
6 weeks: April 3
4 weeks: April 17
Last frost: May 15

That puts us just under 14 weeks right now. Of course these dates along with the seed starting date on the packages are just estimates, and you can alter these as much as you like as long as you are prepared to deal with the consequences- managing large plants indoors for longer, or shortening the season of outdoor growing and getting later maturity. From my experience last year, I know that violas are really easy to maintain indoors, as they don't get very tall. Snapdragons got a little tall last year with no grow light, but pruning is an easy fix to that. Rosemary has traditionally taken FOREVER to grow, and leeks also have a quite long growing season. Thus these will be the first varieties I will start, though I will likely hold off on the snaps just a tad longer so I don't have to fight 2 ft high plants at hardening off/transplant time.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

2008 Year in Review

When planning for the next year's garden, it is always important to look back on the past and the successes and failures that came before to decide on the perfect plan for next year. So, looking back on 2008, we will go over the good, the bad, and the changes that need to take place for a successful 2009 gardening season!

2008 Highlights (things that still stand out several months after leaving the garden):
- LOVE the new raised bed garden
- tomato varieties were awesome, with intensive pruning grew to 10 feet!
- haricot verts were fabulous
- warm colored flowers are very eye pleasing and great to mix in amongst the edibles
- great out-of-the ordinary varieties

2008 best:
Flowers/ornamentals- violas, snapdragons, zinnias, Chilly Chili peppers
Vegetables- haricot verts, Brandywine tomatoes, artichoke
Herbs- rosemary, basil and dill

2008 worst:
Flowers- cosmos (space-consuming for 2 week bloom)
Vegetables- Zucchini bush (took over a whole bed), onions were a little disappointing, romaine lettuce was too soft
Herbs- I don't know, I hardly used any!
Of course the hail storm the day after I transplanted didn't help

Changes for 2009:
- I miss my cukes (never got any last year due to REALLY SLOW germination outdoors)
- more green beans!
- plant green beans every 3 weeks instead of all at once- really!
- successive plantings of lettuce as well- can't eat it all at once!
- attempt to harvest leeks earlier than November! ;)
- more violas, snaps, and zinnias!
- lost a lot of tomatoes to bacterial speck last year, so start early with the Dragon Dust!
- No HUGE plants (that's you Zukes and Cosmos!)
- there's no point in growing so much of the crops that I can't give away
- one eggplant will suffice
- herbs will be planted in a pot in small quantities rather than scattered through the precious garden space

New varities for 2009:
Tomatoes- Cherokee Purple, Kellogg's Breakfast, Todd County Amish, Giant Syrian, Earl's Faux
Other veggies- Edamame (2 varities), Serrano chilies
Flowers- historical colors viola mix, and a few new zinnia varieties

2008 Photo Highlights:

The brand new garden, May 31st, 2008:
After a few weeks of growth, June 21st, 2008:

At the end of the season with a late frost this year, October 1st, 2008:
A few of the individual crops:
Artichoke:
Chilly Chili Hybrid peppers in front, Big Early Bell behind:
Snapdragons:
Ginormous tomatoes!:
A sample harvest from mid-September:
Well 2008 was really a great year with my new garden. It was only my second year growing anything, and the first time using raised beds. I grew an awesome variety of flowers, vegetables, and herbs, and had a lot of fun doing it! I don't have time to share photos and information on every variety from last year, but this year I plan to have a play-by-play on this blog with many more photos, in which I should be able to give each plant its due credit! Here's to a great start in 2009!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The 2009 Garden Kick-Off!

The seeds have been ordered, the trays have been pulled out of storage, the light is set up and the potting soil is waiting in the garage. Everything is just about ready to go for my 2009 garden kick-off. But there is one minor detail- this is early February in Zone 4a, and is way to early to start most plants, unless you have a greenhouse, which I do not. So I will wait another couple of weeks to start most of my plants, but some will be off to an early start- hopefully this weekend- violas and rosemary, perhaps some others as well. It has been averaging about 10-15 degrees for highs over the past couple of weeks and currently there is about a foot of snow and ice covering my garden beds. It will be a long while before anything gets planted outside, but the lengthening days are starting to feed that spring time dirt-digging itch, and we are all getting anxious to get outside and start growing something!