Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sunshine on My Garden Makes Me Happy

I got to dig in the garden yesterday - finally. There is a real need to get the peas in, it's late. I was thinking of how to edge the garden on the side of the pea bed and tried a couple methods before I said 'screw it' and went back to plain dirt.

So the first bed has been weeded, dug, and hilled. The rest of the garden hasn't been touched, there are a lot of weeds and grass that need to be removed before it is worked up, don't want to be spreading those roots!

Yesterday the cabbage seedlings popped up, there might be something to this having the heat on, I'm dying but the plants seem to appreciate it.

Then this morning there is movement in the English cucumber pots:

If this keeps up I might have some new baby plants! I've almost given up on the baby tomatoes. They are not only not growing but have started keeling over.

I'm not a houseplant person, my dd thinks this is why my indoor seedlings are doing so poorly. I should just hand the whole operation over to the 11yo's as they have green-green-thumbs. Their room is filled with lush houseplants they have either purchased or grown themselves from cuttings. The only houseplants I have are ones they have been maintaining. Something about them needing ... water?

When I warned my dd about touching my baby plants she said it wasn't her touching them I should be worried about. Took me a minute to get the very suave insult that that was! LOL!

I admit it, my green thumb is only operational outside.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Garden Planning 2009

Last year I found I wasted valuable space on veggies we don't eat that often and didn't plant enough of others that we do. With hubby's big market garden supplying some of our needs I still have to maximize the space I have to grow what he doesn't. For example, he grows all of my cucumbers, and since we do 100 quarts of dills plus sweet pickles and relish that is quite a load! He doesn't plant green beans and we eat a lot of them so I need to plant enough here at the house garden.

I've been sitting here doing some reverse planning. I'm asking myself what to plant this year by thinking about what we eat, can, freeze, dry, and store. If I want to make 4 batches of borscht a year and it takes 3 beets each time I need to grow 12 beets. Only 12 beets. Not a huge row, just 12! On the other hand if I want to grow enough tomatoes to can, make salsa, spaghetti sauce, and dry I need to plant LOTS.

For other foods we buy straight from farmers I am making notes of where I buy them: eggs, beef, chicken, honey, corn, tree fruits, grains and legumes are all available locally. The question I am looking at is what to grow ourselves and what still makes sense to purchase. The prices for some items like strawberries make it a better idea to make room for at home. Blueberries we can barter for so those I'm not planning on growing here ... yet. As we live right downtown we can't raise chickens, cattle, or bees so those items we have to buy or do without. Some things grown locally we don't eat like asparagus, allergies are the cause here, it's too bad as the local stuff is AMAZING!

Every year I try to increase what we eat locally. Some we grow and some we purchase. We joined the grain CSA last year and loved the experience of learning to grind our own grain for baking as well as the wonderful lentils and oats that came with our share. Now I'm thinking about finding a source for dried beans and chickpeas. Can we grow them ourselves or do they require too much space for our urban garden?

This year I want to get back to drying some foods: fruit leathers, tomatoes, garlic, onions, cherries, apricots, apples, herbs for spices and teas, as well as mixed vegetable flakes for soups. This is pretty ambitious and more of a long term goal to work towards than this year's plan. I used to dry a fair bit when we lived on the farm but my drier didn't survive the move so I'll have to purchase a new machine to accomplish this. I've been reading how to dry and powder your own garlic and chilies online and it looks like it's totally doable.

I'm also thinking of working on cold room storage, something that we haven't done much of at all. Item on this list include potatoes, carrots, cabbage, onions, garlic, beets and turnips, maybe more. I do have the Mike and Nancy Buble's book on root cellaring as well as a mother who is experienced with this. Hubby also did a lot of cold storage of when he worked at a fruitstand way back. It is time to learn this valuable skill. Only problem is that we don't have a root cellar or a room in the basement suitable for this. Were not handy building type people so this maybe a long term plan!

Also as I plan for this year's harvest I am keeping in mind what supplies I'll need to purchase: sugar, certo, vinegar, spices, lids, lids, lids... I find it imperative that these are bought well in advance so as not to be running to the store in a panic only to find them sold out.

So I'm busy scribbling this into my garden journal and then I'll go to the library to get the book that gives you the yield for garden veg by the foot of row. Very handy that. Hubby says one of his seed catalogues also has yield figures so I'll check that out too to make my planting plans. So if I want to grow 12 KG of peas I'll need to plant how much??? Ohhhh... I love planning :D

Saturday, April 11, 2009

More Potting

Last night I saw my mother's tomato plants, planted after mine and just tossed on a table by a window. She has leaves people, leaves! My babied plants have only cotyledons! That's it. The. Gloves. Are. Off.

Today I bought a new bag of potting soil and potted out cabbage, green peppers, English cucumbers, and more tomatoes. Nothing fancy just used pots of dirt on old take out boxes cut into trays by the window. Ha! Take that you seeds!

I think one reason mine aren't doing as well is because we keep our house cooler than my mother's. I just may have to ditch the parka and turn on the heat. Hubby will be pleased, he is cold blooded and finds my preferred temperature - chilly. My habit of having the window open every night all winter long is especially grating.

I may have to resort to a heated germinating pad like the one hubby uses too. He won't share so I may have to get my own. (On his account at the hardware store naturally.) The seedling adventure continues.

[Just a note in the 3 minutes it has taken me to type this I've yelled 'SHUT THE DOOR!' six or more times. Just did it again. Could explain why I am reluctant to waste money on heating the house, no?]

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Planted today:

California Wonder Green Peppers from William Dam seeds. They had two features I was looking for: open pollination and thick walls. Planted 8 square pots of 4 seeds and 3 round pots of 8 seeds. I'm hoping to grow 48 plants like last year for fresh eating, salsa, spaghetti sauce, and for freezing.

Langedijker Winter Keeper Cabbage also from William Dam Seeds. Promised to be a large winter keeper that retains light colour in storage. I'm hoping to store this in the cold room that isn't built yet. Planted 2 round pots that I will thin to 6 plants each. I am planning for 12 heads.

Glamour Tomatoes from seeds I saved last year. This is my workhorse of tomatoes for canning, salsa, and spaghetti sauce. I am hoping to get some Amish Paste tomatoes somewhere as well for paste and for drying. Planted 7 small pots that will be thinned to one plant each.

Improved Long Green English Cucumbers from Farmer`s Brand bulk seeds at the hardware store. Seeded 3 rectangular pots that I`ll thin to 6 plants each. We really like cucumber salad so I`m going to try to grow these on a trellis in the garden here at the house. Last year I grew English cukes in the greenhouse and they had male and female flowers that never bloomed at the same time and frankly I got tired of having to hand pollinate them, so it`s outside you go for the bees to deal with.

Usually I don`t grow anything that vines and sprawls in my house garden. Hubby does them in his much larger market garden, so that is where our pickling cukes, squash, and pumpkins grow. However, it`s just too much trouble to get a cuke for supper from there!


Friday, April 10, 2009

Wasn't today lovely!

After weeks of rain and months of overcast skies it finally cleared off and got warm, YUM!

I was too buy to take advantage of it until today. The baby lettuce and swiss chard that were doing so poorly downstairs went out into the greenhouse:

The oldest ds wanted to have a bunch of friends over for a LAN party so he did some landscaping to butter me up. The nasty patch under the dining room window that gets very weedy every year got weeded, leveled, weed clothed, stepping stoned, and graveled. WOW. He should have groups of friends over more often!

Two of dds cleared out two side flowerbeds for their personal gardens then found the time to clean out and plant the small raised bed in front of the house:

Not to be outdone youngest ds got off his deathbed, he has a cold, and swept the little front path, his own idea!

And we took a load of recycling to the depot. We only got about 1quarter of it done since the children REFUSED to do this all winter. It had piled up in the sunroom a little:

I managed to get the area where we park the bikes cleared out and all the chains oiled. Then before the sun disappeared I gave the front flower beds a good raking and pruning to get all of the dead bits cleared out. Most of the flowers in these are perennials and are starting to push little green shoots up and out. Now it is just a matter of digging out all of the nasty GRASS! Then I can think about the veggie garden YIPPEE!!!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

This just can't be good

For days now I've been telling dh that my seedlings downstairs aren't doing well, not well at all. And he's been brushing me off laughing at me saying I'm just impatient just wait they'll grow give them time. HA.

I did some checking, they were planted on the 20th of February, it's now the 1st of April,and the seed packets say they should be harvested in 65 days or so. I'm looking at these tiny, stunted, sickly looking plants thinking NOPE not a chance. Gives a whole new meaning to 'baby greens'.

Let me describe them to you. The swiss chard is a whole masterful 1 inch high with two leaves, also the stem and the leaves are bright red. Not good.

Now the lettuce has managed to grow to 4 leaves, go lettuce! But considering that two of them yellow and each plant is only 1/2 an inch tall I'm thinking a salad is out of the question at this point.

And the spinach? Umm... well the spinach knows the game is up, the end is nigh, that's all she wrote and the fat lady is going to be singing soon. They have manfully made it to 1 inch tall but most of them are gathering their last feeble efforts and ..... flowering. They know they are doomed and are doing what they can to survive, in their offspring. Bad Urban Trowel. Bad Trowel. Bad Bad Bad.

But I think I know why this disaster has struck. Pretty much everyone on-line has said that you do not need to got to the extra effort and expense of purchasing special grow lights, just use regular ones. When I went and purchased new tubes I got the cool ones as they gave off more 'lumines' or some such, they were brighter and thus better right? So after a month+ under these lights and I knew something wasn't working I read "put one tube of each cool and warm in each fixture to give the full range of light" AH HA!!!! That's why my babies were dying, and face it they are dying, not just sickly. So I have gotten warm tubes to add to the fixtures, maybe I can save the tomatoes that are just starting to sprout, I'm not hanging out hope for the others. We're just going to have to hope the ones in the greenhouse do better.

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Sorry, still no pictures, the camera has disappeared completely, and face it, looking at pictures of these poor, stunted, neglected veggies would be like looking at the scene of an accident. You just can't help but stare, all the time thinking ... OUCH!