Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Tomato Blow Out

Um, yeah, so I guess maybe I planted too many tomato seeds?

 Here they are looking all crowded together in their little pods.  Look at all those cute little leaves!  This is a very happy moment, because they finally smell like tomato plants!  Yay!  They're definitely ready for some direct sunlight, but before I move them I'd like to transplant them into bigger pots.

This isn't a necessary step - I didn't do it last year.  I'm hoping to grow them really big though, and maybe even sell a few, so I'm experimenting.  I thought that these yogurt containers would be just right, so I poked holes in the bottom with a screwdriver, added a layer of hay, a layer of compost, and a layer of ordinary garden dirt.  I put two seedlings in each container.  I planted over 60 seedlings, I'm out of containers, and I've still got 2/3 of my tomato plants to go...  So I haven't quite figured out where I'm going from here...

They look great, though!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Garden of Will & Charlie

My seedlings are finally starting to grow their true leaves - the third and fourth leaves that indicate an ability to photosynthesize.  Flora childhood is so fleeting!  I'm planning to move them to a sunnier location this weekend.

For those of you running a bit behind, it is almost - but not quite - too late to start your seeds indoors.  So get a move on!  Check out these inspirational photos of my good friends, Will and Charlie:

Will, left, age 5, and Charlie, age 3, prepare the "greenhouse" by watering the pods.

Will, whose attention span is significantly longer, adds the seeds.  Can you believe he's never done this before?!  He's already planting like a pro - And so can you!

Planting is done!  Will is extremely confident, while Charlie's expression conveys a cautious optimism that will be familiar to my fellow gardeners...

Great job, boys!  Keep us posted! 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Perennial Plate

I just stumbled upon this website and had to share it!  The host, Daniel Klein, is a chef with an interest in "adventurous and sustainable eating."  He and camerawoman Mirra Fine filmed 52 short episodes (about 5 to 10 minutes each) exploring topics relating to that theme, from spear fishing to community gardening, from tapping maple trees to hunting squirrel.  (I haven't watched that one yet!)  The unique characters really keep things entertaining.  Plenty of recipes, too.  Beware though - some of these videos are not for the squeamish!  (I only made it half way through the "Meat" episode, and I'm not generally very sensitive.)   

I've watched about half the episodes over the past 12 hours, and these are two of my favorites... so far.  Enjoy! 

The Perennial Plate Episode 3: A trip to Milan, MN from Daniel Klein on Vimeo.

The Perennial Plate Episode 22: A very community garden from Daniel Klein on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Note to Urban Gardeners

I just read this article - Please take a moment to look it over if you're planning to plant a garden in an urban area this spring, if your home was built before 1977, or if your garden will be next to a roadway.

If you're worried that you may have lead or other heavy metals in your soil, you can send a sample to a lab for testing - The cost is only $10.

Don't let a little lead stop you from planting, though!  You could fill some raised beds with fresh soil, plant in pots, or just make sure you wash your veggies well before eating. 

Growing your own organic produce is the most delicious way to positively impact our planet!

Sunday, March 20, 2011


My tomato seedlings are coming up nicely!  After a full week, they have nearly all "hatched," as have the Brussels sprouts, impatiens, Mexican sunflowers, and "Purple Mystery" flowers.  So far only one marigold (although the seed packet was market 2008, so I didn't expect much) and two black-eyed Susans have appeared.  

I am finally seeing signs of life in the hibiscus, eggplant, and pepper pods as well, so hopefully those sprouts will be up in a day or two.

Since most of my sprouts are up, I've gone ahead and propped open the lids on my greenhouse boxes to allow more air to flow through and to prevent too much moisture on the leaves.  I simply set the lids kind of ajar, so that the corners are open for airflow, although the sunflowers and Brussels sprouts are getting so tall that I may have to lift the lids up higher somehow.

The first two leaves that appear on the seedlings aren't really leaves at all, but are called "cotyledons."  These provide food for the plant until the "true leaves" are able to begin photosynthesizing.  Too sciency for you?  All you really need to understand is this:  When your seedlings grow their third and fourth leaves, and those leaves are shaped differently than the first two, it's time to move the little guy into a sunnier location.  If you haven't already, you should also remove the plastic covering entirely at this point.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Starting Seeds Indoors

I know that the idea of starting seedlings indoors is intimidating to some people and too much trouble for others.  If that's the way you feel, then you can just stop reading this blog right now.

No no!  Just kidding!  You should keep reading and see how easy it is!

You need three things: 

(1)  Dirt.  These pellets are the easiest option - No mess whatsoever.  I bought a box of 36 for $1.99, although I know I bought them in a bag on sale for much less last year.  You don't need any fancy container - That styrofoam thingy that your eggs came in is perfect.

(2)  Seeds.  You can buy a packet in person or online in about a gazillion places.  Or you could buy an organic vegetable, remove the seeds, dry them on your counter for a couple of days, voila. 

(3)  Water.

Ain't she a cutie?  I'm using these seed starter boxes that I think will run you about $6.  (Buy them on sale at the end of the season if you can.)  They're great if you're planting 20 or more seeds, and come in a variety of sizes.

Get your pods (or dirt) nice and wet before you add the seeds.  I put two seeds in each pod, usually by making a small indent with a toothpick or pencil, dropping the seeds in, and then using the toothpick to cover the seeds with a small bit of moist soil.   If you're especially forgetful, working with a preschooler, or both, I recommend covering the pods with paper or rags so that only the row you're planting is visible.

Once you've got them all planted in damp soil, cover them with plastic.  If you're not using a container with a lid, simply tent some plastic wrap over them to hold in the warmth and moisture.

You want to place them in INDIRECT sunlight, meaning a bright room, but not in a place where the light will actually be on them (or they'll burn up under the plastic.)  I put mine in a north facing window, which is light all day but never bright.

And if you're planting more than one crop, DON'T FORGET TO LABEL!

Now standing next to your seeds, spread your feet so they're shoulder width apart.  Bend slightly at the knees and at the waist, so that you're leaning over them at a 72 degree angle.  Wait.  As soon as you see a few little sprouts pop up, come and check back with me.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Corn Container Maze!


How crazy is that?

And if your balcony or patio is large enough, and if you have several long, rectangular containers placed in a well thought out design, then you could create your own corn maze!

That would be so awesome!  (I'm talking to you, Jen!)

This is the final installment of our "Garden of Jen" container gardening series.  For those of you who don't know, Jen is a nice midwestern girl now living in Oregon.  I can only assume that her summers are spent despondently perusing independent book stores, drinking locally brewed organic beer, and wandering the beach in despair.  Not an acre of sweet corn in sight.  Tragic! 

I'll save you, Jen!  Save you with some delightful Blue Jade Sweet Corn!

These miniature plants (up to three feet) bear 3-6 ears with sweet steal-blue kernels.

If you're not so sure about the blue, you might also try Tom Thumb Popcorn, which is yellow, ornamental, and good for coastal and short season areas.  Dwarf 3 1/2 foot plants produce one to two ears that measure about 4" long.

Here's my note of caution regarding corn of any size or type:  Animals love this stuff.  Birds, squirrels, mice, you name it.  I've really been wanting to grow popcorn in my garden, but don't have room to grow enough for ALL of us.  The pests will eat it before you get a chance, so grow a few stalks for fun or dozens of stalks for food, but don't think you'll be able to grow just a few stalks and have any kind of harvest. 

Not that I'm trying to discourage you!  I suppose a balcony cat or realistic scarecrow could make all the difference! 

I hope I've managed to make a convincing argument for container vegetable gardening!  There is so much that you can grow in, really, any space at all.  A corn maze would be magical, of course, but a potted herb on the window ledge is a perfectly respectable start!

Check back for details on when and how to start your seedlings indoors...