Sunday, March 29, 2009

Seeding while the Snow Flies

The calendar indicated spring but this morning the snowfall seemed to indicate something else. With the greenhouse running (meaning heated) I worked this week on several seeding several crops. Ornamental annuals, Coleus and Nicotiana, were planted and put on the heating mats. Bottom heat is really essential for a number of seedlings especially the peppers and tomatoes but also most annuals who like warm soil germination temperatures. I am researching a new set of mats as the ones I have just don't seem to be as reliable as I would like.

This week's pictures show my seeding methods for onions, and the video shows the deep plastic trays that I early seed for micro-greens. I also started lettuce seed and will continue to plant lettuce all season long. Lettuce is an ideal transplant for empty spaces in a garden at all times so I like to have plants ready and waiting. You will notice that I have top dressed with two different sterile materials to help prevent damping off. I am using a fine vermiculite and milled sphagnum moss. The seeding season will be an experiment to see which I like and which seems to perform the job of protecting my seeding from the fungus.

I seed onions in community flats for later planting out in the garden just like set onions. The flats are filled with a potting soil, lightly tamped and multiple rows are marked in each flat. Seed can be scattered thick or evenly spaced. I usually plant thick and then transplant into the garden as bunches and thin as I harvest. However, this year I have some larger storage onions, Trailblazer and Alisa Craig, that I want to harvest so those were seeded spaced. When I am ready to plant these seedlings I will make a video as to how I get them out of the community flats and into the ground. I also planted a seed variety of Shallot called Olympus Hybrid. We are still using seeded shallots from last year in the kitchen so I am looking forward to this as another shallot for kitchen use.

I also planted lettuce (Tom Thumb, Simpson Elite, Winter Density, Red Derby). Seed was put into nine packs and the older the seed the more I planted. I do have one variety, Red Derby, a Boston type that is pelletized for easier seeding. I like this because I can put an exact amount of seed in each cell and that makes thinning much easier. Lettuce seeds do not get put on heat mats as they seem to germinate better without bottom heat and a cooler location in the greenhouse, sometimes out of the direct light. I also planted two types of Parsley, curly leaf and an Italian. Both seeds were hot water treated ( a way to help speed up germination a bit) and then seeded into nine packs. I planted more curly leaf than Italian because we use the curly leaf as part of the landscape planting as edging. But the Italian is what I cook with because of the nice strong flavor. This seed will take a long time to germinate (15-20 days) so I have to be patient.

This weeks video is the planting of micro-greens that went into a large plastic, wallpaper, tray that will get me an early crop of Mesclun, Arugula, and radish. The trays are never filled with more than 4-5 inches of soil so that later in the season they can go outside to finish growing as the weather cooperates. The seed is either planted in rows or scattered, and in this case some lettuce was spot planted in between the rows of greens.
Earlier this week, on one of our warm sunny days, I did clean one cold frame and plant spinach in a third of the space leaving the other empty soil for later plantings to lengthen my harvest time.
A productive week seeding but there is much more to plant. I hope to work on some cold frame plans for next weeks post. Building two of theses season extenders in the next few week would be a good idea as these seedlings will soon crowd my space in the greenhouse and need to be hardened off outside.

Happy Gardening

Monday, March 23, 2009

Let the Seeding Begin

The gardening pace quickens with official arrival of spring. Crocus are blooming in the yard and the naturalized daffodils have shown themselves, and the species tulips are up so its time to protect them all. Dried blood and Cayenne pepper are my solutions to bunnies lunching on my spring bulbs. Yes, I do treat after a rain but I buy the pepper in big shakers and liberally use it. I will even shake some in the bird feeders (the birds can not taste it but the pesky squirrels don't like it) for this remedy is much cheaper than the commercial products that are basically the same thing. Don't shake Cayenne pepper on a windy day!!!

Also the greenhouse heat is officially turned on. Even though this is a week earlier than last year, I have several plants that will need to be seeded now to be productive. Susan and I sat and went through the seed packets again and arranged them by groups like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and lettuce. Then I grouped them by maturity so the late ones will get seeded first and the early ones seeded last.

Nicotiana (Saratoga Lime), coleus (Giant Exhibition Limelight), blue fescue, parsley (Double and Giant of Italy), and the some peppers (Pasilla Bajio, Yummy, Blushing Beauty Hyb.) will be the first seed to be started. The greenhouse is expensive to run, so five to six weeks is about all I can afford in heat, but that seems to be good enough to start all the plants I want or need. Geraniums are out from under the fluorescent lights in the basement and up in the greenhouse to get accustomed to full sun and harden up before I make this year's cuttings. I usually do the same with spider plants that have been inside all winter and are a bit sad looking. I will make new plants and the old ones will filler in containers or end up as compost.

The excitement builds as many migratory birds have returned and most of the yard is snow free. Just a small amount on the north side of the house remains. I want to get the rain barrels started but will wait until the waters of Green Bay are ice free. That is my signal that I can set the barrels up and wait for rain to fill them.

Happy Gardening

Monday, March 16, 2009

Spring at Last

After a very relaxing two week stay in warm, sunny, Florida, we have returned to wonderful warm spring weather and the sounds of all kinds of birds in the garden.

One of the adventures on the trip was a visit to the Ellenton, FL. location of Earthbox a container gardening system with merit.

The Earthbox is made from recycled materials, is 15 inches by 30 inches by 12 inches and has a water reservoir in the bottom. This patented product has a good record of vegetable production and the site in Ellenton provides good examples of what one can produce with this system. The above pictures attest to their claim of being able to produce 30 to 40 pounds of tomatoes in Florida's climate. I think this would work well here in Wisconsin for patio growing of vegetables. The initial cost of the boxes is noticeable but because they seem to last a long time I think they would be a good investment if they were taken indoors in the winter. I am very tempted to look into getting at least one to see what I can produce in an Earthbox. As soon as I can find a local supply source I will pass the information along.

I planted greens yesterday in my tray system and will make that an entry later in the week as now that the growing season is fast approaching I want to make more posts each week.
Happy Gardening