Saturday, April 24, 2010

A few pictures from the garden this evening.







Still growing the seedling tomatoes indoors. Most of them have graduated to Solo cups. Hopefully they won't be indoors much longer!

Basil needing a bigger home.

Bell and assorted hot peppers.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Seed Operation

My seeds are turning into tiny beautiful plants! Here is the first batch. I started them in dixie cups and keep them under the light of a full spectrum compact fluorescent bulb most of the day. They are starting to produce their first pair of "true leaves." The big ones you see are their cotyledon leaves, similar to baby teeth on a child. Once their true leaves develop a little more I will transplant them into solo cups so they have more room to grow. From there I will set them outside for a short time everyday to reduce the shock of planting them outside in the garden.

These two cups are basil.

After these cups sprouted, I saw how easy and cheap it was to grow them all from seed so I went bigger for the second batch. Sara and I saved the plastic containers pesto and butter come in and used them to plant another round of basil and tomatoes. In the small dixie cups, I planted two to three seeds per cup. In the plastic containers, I planted seven seeds.

Here you can see all seven seeds are sprouting. These were planted five to six days ago.

Here's my second batch of basil just breaking the surface and opening their tiny leaves.

I mentioned in an earlier post I would try soaking seeds in water before planting to see if they germinate quicker. I soaked all the seeds in my second batch overnight before planting. Without soaking, the tomatoes and basil came up pretty quick, probably four to six days. The ones I soaked came up in about the same time period, but had a better percentage of seeds germinate. Along with the second batch, I planted two dixie cups with bell pepper seeds and two with hot pepper seeds. I had trouble finding jalapeno seeds and settled on a package of mixed hot pepper seeds that included jalapeno. These I soaked overnight before planting, hoping I could shave off a day or two on germination times. They are finally starting to sprout, after about seven to nine days of germination.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Garden Progress!


One of our bigger potato plants:


Lots of onions:


We planted these tomatoes a few days ago. We have quite a few coming up from seed indoors, but stumbled across these six small Heirloom tomato plants for $2 and couldn't resist a good deal.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Starting seeds, the cheap and easy way.

I'm poor. I want a big garden, but I don't want to spend a lot of money. After a lot of reading on the internet, and a few inspiring YouTube videos, I decided to start my tomatoes, basil, bell peppers, and jalapenos indoors by seed. Home Depot has many fancy seed-starting kits, but a few websites showed me I can start them with whatever I have laying around.

So far my seed-starting operation has been successful, but let's go back to the beginning. One thing we had laying around (actually neatly organized in a kitchen cabinet) is a set of dixie cups. The handy thing about using dixie cups is what you don't use for planting, can be used to drink out of. I took five dixie cups and filled them about a third to halfway with a potting soil and compost mixture. Next, I put a little bit of water in so the soil would be nice and moist for the seeds. On each cup I wrote what seeds I planted, the variety, and the date planted. In each cup I planted two or three seeds. I planted a cup for each of my three tomato varieties, and two cups of basil seeds. To keep in moisture, I taped a little piece of saran wrap over the top. I put them on a table and crossed my fingers they would germinate. This first set was planted on March 31st.

Over the weekend, Sara and I went to Kansas. When we arrived back home on 4th we had a few sprouts coming up. Today is the 7th and we have four 2-3" tomato shoots. Putting them outside right now would probably kill them of shock. Having no access to a sunny window, I picked up a full spectrum compact fluorescent light to put over them for a while until I can start putting them outside to adjust and prepare for transplant into the garden.

Yesterday I picked up a pack of seed starting pellets. Drop one in a cup, pour in warm water, and it expands to fill the cup with loose coconut fiber based soil. I planted another round of tomatoes and basil but this time leaving the tops uncovered and placed the cups in small plastic containers with a little bit of water to keep the soil moist.

Today I read about putting seeds in water for a day to speed up germination. Tonight I believe I will experiment and let a few bell pepper seeds soak overnight before planting tomorrow to see if they sprout quicker.

Garden Update

I am feeling relieved. Everyday that went by without a green sprout poking through the soil made me a little more nervous that this wouldn't work. Luckily, the garden looks a little bit different everyday. The first two rows of corn we planted have several sprouts breaking through the ground, all of them 1" or less. The potato rows have a couple sprouts coming up, but those were planted deeper than everything else. We have around five of six garlic sprouts coming up, a couple already 3" high. As for the onions, I'm not sure. They don't look much different than when I planted them so we'll watch and see what happens.

Monday night Sara and I went out to water and check up on the garden. We found a small problem. Fire ants are taking over one of our potato rows. I researched our fire ant problem and found a cheap organic repellent we already have a lot of: coffee grounds. They seem to hate coffee grounds and will move away from it. This also explains why they haven't been on any of the other rows. Everything else has coffee grounds mixed in or on top to soak in during rain or watering. Somehow we missed this row. Today I went out, watered the problem row, and gave it a light dusting of coffee grounds. Hopefully they will set up shop somewhere else.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A few more days, a few more plants.

This has been a busy week! We’ve gotten a lot done on the garden and have a lot to do! Monday evening we made it out to continue our work. We started by planting the rest of our potatoes, 10 Superior White seed potatoes. We prepared this row longer that our other row, which is home to 10 Yukon Gold seed potatoes, so that we could plant garlic on the end. We planted a lot of garlic! Out of our four bulbs we planted more than 20 cloves.

With that row complete, we moved over to our corn patch. We tilled up a patch with enough space to plant three rows of corn about 20 feet long. Our plan is to plant three rows 12 feet long for now, and in a month or so plant the last little bit, staggering their harvest times. On this night we had plenty of seed and only enough soil amendments, such as manure, compost, and extra topsoil, to plant two rows 12 feet long.

On Wednesday morning I made my way to Home Depot to pick up a few items to finish our corn patch. I ended up buying a set of Texas Yellow onions. They were not part of the original plan, but onions add flavor to everything and repel rabbits (which we have a lot of). I made my way home, finished the third row of corn, and planted as many onion sprouts as I could. I managed to plant 20-25 with another 10 left over.

I have been doing a lot of research on starting tomatoes from seed. I’ve heard they are a little more difficult to start and transplant. I read all through my wonderful gardening bible and various pages on the internet, but it was YouTube that finally sold me on trying it. The reason I want try and start them by seed is cost. Buying seed is a lot cheaper than buying starter tomato plants! While at Home Depot I bought a few tomato seed varieties and basil. I bought two large tomato varieties, Beefsteak and Big Boy. The third is a variety of cherry tomato I don’t remember. I also picked up Sweet Basil seeds.

I started the tomato and basil seeds indoors on Wednesday. They take anywhere from a few days to 10 days to germinate and begin growing. Hopefully when we make it back from Kansas on Sunday we will have a couple little shoots pushing through the soil.

Here’s a picture of the garden so far.

It’s not very exciting right now, just a few rows of dirt.

Now it’s time to get into a little more detail about the garden. In the picture you see four parallel rows, and a big rectangle in the background. The two center rows are a little bit longer than the outer two rows. The first row, bottom right, is where we planted our Yukon Gold potatoes. It is approximately 3ft x 11ft. The second and next row, to its left, is about 3ft x 16ft. The end closest to the camera is home to all the garlic, the rest is our Superior White potatoes.

The third row is only partially planted. It is the same size as the second row. The few feet closest to the camera is where the onions are planted. We plan on planting a mixture of tomatoes and basil through the rest of the row. The fourth row, roughly the size of the first, will be home to some bell peppers, jalepenos, and assorted herbs.

The big rectangle in the back is the corn patch. It is about 11ft x 20ft. The right half is already planted, the left is what we’ll plant in a month or so. We have many fruit-bearing trees planted around are garden area. In the foreground you can see a couple new ones.

Hopefully, the next time I post we'll have more green in those rows!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Plant Whisperer

Spring is here and it's gardening time! Sara and I decided to build a garden. It is already official, plants are in the ground and growing (hopefully). When complete, our garden will encompass roughly 300 sq. ft. We are only growing only vegetables and crossing our fingers we have a bountiful harvest in the Fall!

Our garden will serve many goals:
  • To provide us with clean and locally grown food. No chemicals will be used.
  • To compare the price of growing it ourselves and what we would spend buying it in the store.
  • For me personally, to grow a successful garden. Luckily, I have the help of a wonderful partner.
I am proud to say when we go shopping we have a good amount of fresh vegetables and fruits in our basket relative to the amount of processed foods. Books like The Omnivore's Dilemma and documentaries like Food Inc. really turn the brain gears about our current food supply. Chemicals and processed foods are scary. We are very fortunate to have access to grass-fed beef and land to grow our garden.

This is going to be a learning experience. We've grown smaller amounts of various plants, but this is by far the largest growing operation we've undertaken (not counting the big one in Kansas).

The main three vegetables we are growing in quantity are corn, potatoes, and tomatoes. On a smaller scale we will be planting garlic, sweet basil, bell peppers (types undecided), and jalapenos.

We have some of the work done but have a lot to go. Starting this previous Saturday we prepared a roughly 3x12 ft. section and planted 10 Yukon Gold seed potatoes. On Sunday we cleared and tilled the next sections for planting. Tonight we plan on planting 10 more seed potatoes of a white variety I don't remember. We will also be planting garlic and corn (Sweet Luscious Hybrid variety).

In future posts I will cover more details and post more pictures. Right now there's only sections and rows of dirt to take pictures of!