Saturday, April 3, 2010

Mad for Veggies!

Leaves are popping up out of the ground so it's time to start prepping to fill in all this empty, ugly space. The front of the house needs cleanup so the perennials can come up without problems and the area around the front door looks really bare.

The fence around the garden plot has been ripped out and will be rebuilt. I did a pretty shoddy job of trying to revive it from the effects of the flood two years ago so it's best to just start over. It doesn't look like much right now.

Everything that I've started so far (from seeds) is growing inside these little pre-fabbed greenhouses. They have dirt pellets in them. Add water, they expand, and you have perfect little cocoons to nestle seeds into until they're ready to pot.

Once they've soaked up all the water, I used a pen to poke little holes in the center and dropped in a seed or two.

The mini-greenhouse that I started random herbs in was mysteriously knocked off the windowsill, likely by a feline, so now I have no idea what's what. It's the herb roulette greenhouse now. Soon I'll be able to tell which are which...of the basil, dill, chives, sage and cilantro.

The tomatoes, which were started in the green house have been added, still inside their dirt pellets, to bigger sectioned seedling trays. Most of them now have super-tiny, textured leaves. I am nervous about leaving them ouside overnight, but it's going to be in the mid-40s. I may do some last-minute internet research to find out how cold is too cold for baby t'mater plants. I am off to a good start with these, so I don't want to ruin it.

Also lined up along the western wall we have my first attempt at growing garlic. I love garlic and use it in almost everything I cook. I was excited to learn that I can just drop some cloves, pointy side up, into the dirt. I am curious to see how these grow.

I also sewed lettuce, green bean and onion seeds into some more pellets and lined those up with all the rest.

green bean seeds

I also potted some zinnea seeds and some midwest wildflower seeds.

I did this all under the devoted and watchful eyes of my two favorite canines, Chico and Brady.

Chico the Crazy Eyed Killa

Brady, the White Lightening Wonder Hound

My next step to keep watchful eyes over these babies and perhaps start my spinach and container cucumbers. I won't be starting my peppers from seeds. I think last year they took a long time to produce anything. They were still producing well into the cooler weeks at the beginning of autumn.

So it's getting chilly and the sun is going down. I am going to get cracking on researching temperature resistance for these little guys....

happy gardening!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Out of Hibernation

So my blog more than fizzled out last year and I am again prompted to start writing - by my garden. It's springtime in Iowa and I have begun to sprout seeds for the second season of my amazing vegetable and herb garden. Only this year I am doing many things differently to avoid last year's "disasters" in the garden. What disasters, you ask?

Let's review my mistakes:

1. I assumed I would unintentionally kill most of my tomato plants so I stuck far too many into the ground and I overfed them. I think a conservative estimate would be to say I put 15 plants in the garden. I both gave away some plants that I started from seeds and took on some plants from friends who didn't have space. Overall, it led to way too many tomatoes that ended up rotting before I could hack my way into the tomato jungle to harvest them. If only I could accurately portray, with words, the massive mess of tomatoes I made in the back yard. Let me just say I had to get on my hands and knees and crawl under the plants to get to the tomatoes in the middle. That was the sitch despite me leaving over a foot between the plants when I originally planted them. So the lesson: far fewer plants this year, and way more attention paid to each.

I came across a great beginngers tomato growing video:

2. I fried my lettuce last year. It started beautifully, in a long shallow window box, and grew heartily until I left it in full Iowa sun all day. In just one day it was all zapped. No matter what I did to it after that, it wouldn't perk up. It was really disappointing because it did look so full and healthy in the beginning. So for all you lettuce growers that may be reading -- partial sun, and keep it moist.

I thought this guy had an interesting idea for lettuce.

3. Parsley takes over. While having herb medley pots looks lovely, the oregano was doomed from the start since it got no sun hiding beneath the super-fast growing parsley. I don't even really use parsley. So the plan of herb attack this year is separate, but equal pots for the herbs - and no parsley (unless last year's monster plant revives well). It's not looking so hot now.

1. One of the best things I learned and did last year was make homemade organic pesticide. In a spray bottle, combine a couple cups of water with a half a cup of castille soap and a few peeled garlic cloves. Spray it on veggies and leaves every couple days or after heavy rain and not worry about bugs eating your leaves. Do this either very early in the morning or in the evening so the pesticide doesn't burn the leaves in the hot sun.

2. White pencil eggplant is delicious. I had a few plants to my disposal and they grew really well in tomato cages to keep them off the ground. I learned to be careful of the giant spikes that grow under the large, velvety, floppy leaves.

The next step is to get my tomato seedlings out into the sun tomorrow. I started them in little plastic greenhouses about a week ago and now they are each about an inch tall.

I bought a basil plant at New Pi Co-Op and that needs sun as well. The rest of the herbs are still seeds in the other plastic greenhouse. So far I've got more basil, cilantro, dill, sage and chives. I intend to add thyme and oregano. I want to have a huge amount of oregano this summer so I can dry it and have it in the winter.

I wish it would just get warm and stay warm already. I am not entirely sure how cold it needs to get in the evening before I need to bring them inside. Any answers for me out there?

crazily anticipating the summer,