Another update – Tomatoes and Peppers!

Hello!

Today we transplanted tomato seedlings to bigger pots – I picked one of our tomatoes up and the roots were growing out of the bottom! And they won’t be transplanted to their permanent home for another week or two. That’s a bit concerning to me seeing as how they almost doubled in size in the last couple weeks. One tomato got droopy after the move up, but with some temporary shade and extra water (everything got a lot of water after the transplanting), it perked back up and returned to the sunshine! Here’s some photos of our tomatoes and peppers. The first are the plants that are our strongest and growing the quickest. The second half are the plants that haven’t been growing so quickly, and some tomatoes haven’t been growing very well for a while (sad day!!). In fact, I have zero Roma tomatoes that grew really well. Next year I’ll opt out of trying to grow that variety. As for why some plants of the same variety grew better/worse than the others, there’s not a lot of explanation for it. The only cause I can think of is that the seedlings all have slightly different genetics like people do, so some survived better? That is, after all, how plants (open pollinated) grow and evolve as the climate changes throughout history.

Okay, here are the plants!

A cayenne and banana pepper, they started to grow quicker with the good weather and strong sunlight.

image.jpeg

image.jpeg

Most of the tomatoes! They are looking like they like their new upgrade.

 

Now for the ones that have some catching up to do:

 

I have high hopes for the seedlings that are smaller (well, I’m not certain of the Roma’s). Stay tuned for when we transplant to the gardens! So far we should have each pepper variety to transplant and all but the Roma for tomatoes, unless the Romas decide to really take off and have a sudden growth spurt, turning a nice green in the process. Right now their a bit on the pale side.

I hope you all are having good luck with your seedlings or having fun picking out plants at the stores as you craft your garden!

First Harvest!

Hello!

This morning I wandered outside to our cool weather garden, which is basically just part of my daily routine. And what a lovely routine it is! To my discovery, the lettuce is continuing to grow quickly. In fact, the outer leaves are just about sandwich ready! The real star of the show today, though, was the Matador spinach. It looked ready to start harvesting! I restrained myself from harvesting until dinner time. When I returned home from work and went back out to the garden, it almost looked like everything grew even more since the morning! It was a small amount that was harvested (we only planted one small row and it’s JUST now starting to be ready). I tried to only harvest the outer leaves, and feeling the crispness as each leaf was harvested gave such a sense of accomplishment! Gardening can do that. It can give such a sense of achievement and it also gets you in touch with nature as you learn how to work WITH nature.

Anyways, back to the spinach. Just check out those crisp green leaves! And it was so tasty in our alfredo dish this evening.

image

Matador spinach, Ferrymorse. Approximately took 7-8 weeks from seed to harvest. 

image

Most up to date photo of the cool weather veggie garden. Look at that lettuce go!! The chives that went through cold stress are still trying to make a come back, though.

Go Tomato Go!

A few tomatoes are really growing quickly! They’re my shining stars among the tomato seedlings – at least for now until the others start taking off! I thought I’d share the two varieties that have been doing so well in the beginning stages.

San Marzano!

image.jpeg

Ferrymorse – seedling is approximately a couple weeks old.

Pink Vernissage!

image

Baker Creek – seedling is approximately a couple weeks old.

 

Also, check out these fun links for additional info. about tomatoes for crafting your garden:

http://www.tomatodirt.com/san-marzano-tomatoes.html

http://www.hgtv.com/outdoors/flowers-and-plants/vegetables/the-best-tomatoes-for-sauces-pictures

Sunny Side Up! An Egg Carton Tutorial For Starting Seedlings

Ahh – it’s finally warm enough to sit outside as I write this post. Sunlight is filling the yard with the promise of Spring. Yesterday was chilly and rainy – reminding me of my vacation days in Portland. Today, well today is a bright and cheery day. I’ll bring y’all up to speed on some things, then I’ll do a little tutorial about using egg cartons for starting seedlings.

Lettuce and carrots sown Feb 20th.

image

image

A comparison: chives on the left were transplanted in February, going through 22 degree temps. Chives on the right were given an extra few weeks indoors before transplanting.

image

Close up measurement of the chives that were recently transplanted, originally sown indoors in January:

image

Our best parsley so far:

image

 

Now for those egg cartons you likely are throwing out often! There’s a great use for the non-styrofoam cartons during the beginning of garden season. You can try out using them for starting seedlings! Here’s how I did mine:

Step 1:

image

Cut apart the two halves. One will be the tray that catches water, the other to fill with dirt.

Step 2:

image

Poke holes in each section, carefully. This will allow adequate drainage.

Step 3:

image

Fill with your seedling mix!

Step 4:

Carefully pick up pre-germinated seeds to plant. If you didn’t germinate the seeds yet, then just plant according to the directions on the seed packet. Shown in these pictures are chamomile seeds. TINY seeds!!

Step 5:

image

Make note of what seed is planted where and watch them grow!

 

I should note that some plants may start to grow roots through the cartons before transplanting. Mine have started to do this, so I’ll be putting the individual sections into bigger containers for the fast growing plants. Also be aware that these become quite flimsy when you are watering plants, so it’s probably best to keep them on a tray for good support. You don’t want the carton to rip in half as you carry it and deal with seedlings spilling out!

Have fun coming up with your own ways of starting seedlings – there are lots of ideas out there! Craft your garden!

One Month Later

Hello everyone!

It’s been a while since my last post, so it seems fitting to give y’all an update on our seedlings.

Last week, temperatures plummeted to as low as about 22 degrees Fahrenheit and the sun spent a lot of its time hiding behind the clouds. Not your ideal growing conditions! We’ve also recently had sleet, hail, thunderstorms, snow, and after all of this we had 80 degree weather today. It has seriously been ALL over the place!! And yet, we still have pansies in full bloom, roses growing leaves, a hydrangea growing some greenery, a couple peonies, and we just saw our first sign of green on an azalea. On top of all that, our first raised bed for the cool weather plants has been thriving. In fact, I had to thin out the lettuce so that it can start to focus on growing into heads of lettuce.

image

I know it’s almost impossible to see some of the seedlings, but we have a ton of Cosmic Purple Carrots (Baker Creek), Matador Spinach (Ferrymorse), Buttercrunch Lettuce (Baker Creek), and of course chives (Ferrymorse). This photo was before I thinned out the lettuce (there was a lot extra!). Can you tell where in the lettuce one of our furbabies walked through right after I planted the seeds? ūüôā

We also have the first sprouts of Tall Top Early Wonder Beets (Ferrymorse).

About a month ago or so, there were only chives that had been transplanted. A lot happens in just a month in the gardening world! Unless you’re¬†parsley being grown in soil from a seed. Then you likely aren’t doing much at all. Good thing we used the paper towel method for parsley this year!

Let’s check out the progress during this past month:

Parsley photographed February 19th and later on March 19th. Growth seemed to improve when it was inside the portable greenhouse.

Peppers photographed February 21st and March 18th. The first picture was right after planting the germinated seeds. Following advice from The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, the peppers spent time outside in the cooler weather for a few weeks after germinating.¬†

There are also tomatoes 2 weeks old that are growing true leaves, and many other seedlings that are really starting to take off. The one thing we have really struggled with, is making sure the containers don’t dry out and stress the seedlings. We had this happen and lost a few, which was super sad! But, you know what is a great solution? Using those aluminum lasagna pans you normally use in the freezer. They come with plastic lids and aluminum pans. We had some on hand for freezer meals, so we put those to use. You can water from the bottom of the tray and it keeps the seedlings from drying out in the hot sun.

One last side note, the Buttercrunch Lettuce is one of my candidates this season for seed saving. Baker Creek shares online that there are no patents on their seeds, they are heirlooms, and they actually encourage people to share and save seeds (which is REALLY awesome). The Buttercrunch, being from Baker Creek and an easy veggie to start saving seeds from, is likely going to be in a later post about seed saving. And with all of this intense and variable weather, those seeds are going to produce some hardy plants in the next season! That’s why I’m so excited to start saving seeds for heirlooms using Baker Creek seeds. It’ll actually feel like our plants become better fitted for our growing seasons. The strongest plants survive, and those seeds go on to grow stronger plants. How awesome is that? Looks like my past school science knowledge is actually starting to have real world relevance.

I hope your seedlings are growing strong! And as always, have fun crafting your garden!

How We Built Raised Beds Around $12 A Piece

Hello reader,

This is finally the blog post I’ll be explaining how my husband and I built our raised beds for a not-so-whopping $12 a bed (rough estimate). When I’ve read up on tips for raised bed sizes, typically they are supposed to be fairly deep and not too big. We like to make our own rules, though, especially when we are trying to build a garden on a budget! We went to a couple stores to browse the lumber areas and brainstorm some ideas. My husband is pretty brilliant at improvising and is very intuitive when completing projects around the house. Building raised beds were no exception. We found cedar ¬†wood (my gardening book, The Gardener’s Bible, mentioned in previous post specified that cedar deteriorates slower) used for privacy fencing. This wood measured around 6 feet long and would create a 6 inch bed. If you wanted to, you could stack these to create a 12 inch bed depth, but we are trying out the 6 inch depth to start with, especially so that we keep our costs down. If it works well, then we didn’t spend unnecessary money and use excess material. Next, we looked for a long piece of solid wood we could cut down for the corners. We also needed screws that are fit for outdoor use and wood glue. After all of these materials were gathered, we got to work on building 3×6 beds and 6×6 beds. Before actually building the 6×6, we made sure we could reach the middle as needed, although I should let you know that the 6×6 will have larger crops with companion plants in the center.

Here is the step by step of what we did. You can improvise as needed so the project fits your needs and matches what is available to you.

Materials Needed:

6 ft x 6 in cedar used for privacy fencing –UNTREATED

2 x 4 or other size solid wood –¬†UNTREATED

Wood glue

Galvanized screws

Screw driver/Drill

What We Did:

1) Have the fencing wood cut down on curved edge to create straight line.

2) Figure out how many beds you need, and for any 3×6 beds, have 6 foot planks cut in half to make two 3 foot planks.

3) Have the piece of wood (2×4 or other size) cut to 2 inch wide pieces that’ll fit in each corner of garden bed.

4) Group your materials together for each bed: 1 group would be comprised of 8 screws, 4 corner pieces, 2 six foot pieces, and either 2 more six foot pieces OR 2 three foot pieces.

5) Glue corner pieces onto the planks that will become the sides – but you only need to do this for TWO of the four sides. Let dry until able to work with it. (We waited about an hour or so)

image

This photo shows 4 sides with corners glued, enough for putting together 2 raised beds once paired with the other sides that don’t need to be prepped.

 

6) Screw together the corners, using 2 screws per side of corner.

image

7) Let dry before moving, handle with care while transferring to its more permanent placement in garden.

 

That’s it! Our grand total for each garden bed ended up being around $10 because my husband was able to do a lot of the prep work with the wood himself, but if you are not able to, the places you can buy the wood from can cut the wood for you.

We ended up saving A LOT of money with this project, and hopefully you can as well! You can purchase raised bed kits, but they can be pretty pricey! We opted to build them ouselves.

Bonus points: 

The 3 x 6 works great with a full size fitted sheet when an unexpected frost hits!

image

When building raised beds yourself, you have a lot more options and can personalize your raised garden. If you or someone you know has spare wood or materials, you’ll save even more money while being resourceful. Have fun, be safe, and craft your garden with this budget friendly project!

** But remember, NEVER use a tool you are uncomfortable using or cannot safely use!! Safety is priority!

 

NOTE: I plan to update this post further when we build our next raised bed so that it is more specific and includes step by step photos.

 

 

 

Our First Raised Bed!

Hello reader,

The weather has remained warmer than usual for this time of year. I became timid about waiting to start our cool weather crops because of the warmer temperatures. My husband has been amazing with his hard work. He went out and prepped the ground, clearing out all of the grass and loosening the soil before placing down our first raised bed. I know last time, I said my next post would be out “how to” for building these, but I had to sneak in this post before next weekend!

We plan to get our soil from the recycling center in town, where we can get a bulk amount for a slightly less amount of money. It’s also a great quality for garden use. Unfortunately, the soil isn’t ready to purchase at the recycling center yet. But there was an alternative way to get soil for a cheap price! On our trips to Lowe’s, we kept checking for their opened/damaged bags in the lawn and garden area. Our firs time checking, we were able to get soil and black mulch for 25 cents a bag! The most recent time we found opened/damaged bags for sale, we got peat humus, cow compost, top soil, and more mulch for 1/2 price. When it was time to fill our 3×6 raised bed, we mixed together the top soil, compost, and peat humus with a goal of having a 2:1:1 ratio (with it being 2 parts top soil). I don’t know if this is right, but it’s what we’re trying out. Sometimes, you just have to do the trial and error method, and that’s okay! I did try to research what we should use, but there were a lot of different ideas out there, so we’ll see if this way works for us.

image

One of our chives, ready to be planted in the middle of our first 3×6 raised bed.

image

In this raised bed, we’ve planted spinach, lettuce, carrots, and the chives. I’ll be planting the second container of chives later on.

I started out with one container of chives, but they got knocked over. So, we hurried and replanted the tiny chive seedlings. I don’t know if you’ve ever had to dig through spilled dirt for tiny grass looking seedlings, but it isn’t easy! We re-planted and then they got knocked into the sink! We re-planted once again, but they didn’t fit back into just one container very well. We ended up needing to put some of them in a second container, sprinkling a few more seeds to help fill it all in. Believe it or not, the twice re-planted chive seedlings survived and thrived despite their rough start! Now that’s what I call a hardy plant! And now, they are getting to be big enough to transplant into their more permanent home.

image

Spinach seeds being planted after soaking in a wet paper towel overnight.

image

Ta-Da! Everything is planted and watered. Now to wait for sprouts.

I didn’t expect to be so excited for the purple carrots, but I’m especially anxious to see if the carrots will work out this year. I tried carrots before without luck, but it was later in the season ¬†the dirt wasn’t very worked through. Hopefully a raised bed makes a positive difference! They were free seeds with my purchase, so why not see what happens? And the lettuce and spinach will be extremely welcome! We love making salads with homemade vinaigrette, and the spinach should be able to freeze well for later use! Whatever it is you are excited to grow for your cool weather crops, I hope you have fun crafting your garden!

Oh! One more piece of excitement… We have an update on our pepper seeds. Just FOUR days after using the paper towel method combined with heat source, we have a Jalape√Īo seed that has germinated! I have to admit, I’ve never had great luck with growing peppers from seeds. Then again, I’ve never had a heat source for them – oops! Seriously though, this is just awesome!

image

Our first pepper seed – germinated in FOUR days!

Until next time fellow gardeners!

UPDATE 2/21/17:

Today I came home from work prepared to plant 1 Jalape√Īo Mild Pepper seed, and maybe a few Forget-Me-Nots… To my pleasant surprise, many more seeds had germinated! I decided I needed to update since last night.

image

As of now, we have 2 Banana Peppers, 5 Ozark Giant Peppers, 4 Cayenne Peppers, 6 Jalape√Īo Mild Peppers, and a LOT of Forget-Me-Nots. They are now planted in some potting mix for now (for moisture purposes). I forgot to mix it with seed starter mix… But, hopefully within this next week we’ll start seeing some sprouting! I’d say using the heating pad we already had on hand worked beautifully! I’ve not had success germinating peppers very well in the past, but between the continuous moisture from paper towels and heat, we have take off my garden friends!

Flower Flashbacks and Starting Pepper Seeds!

Hello reader,
This weekend we have a couple garden projects. The first one we’re doing is starting our pepper and forget me not seeds. Forget-Me-Nots hold a special place in our hearts because this was our “thank you” gift to guests at our wedding. We put together little personalized seed packets of Forget-Me-Not flowers, that way our love could continue to grow (our theme). So now, of course, we need to include these beautiful blue flowers in our flower bed. Last year we grew annuals because we would likely be moving, but this year we’ll be growing perennials.

image

Our Forget-Me-Not flowers in 2016 before the move

I can’t wait to build up the flower bed this year! They are wonderful for attracting pollinators to your area. Plus, they’re beautiful to look at when you decide to relax outside!

image

Our Dahlia in 2016. The bulbs went on sale for 75% off late in the season, and it STILL bloomed! Looks like a watercolor painting to me.

Ahhh. Okay, so now that I’ve had my flashback to last year’s flowers, let’s talk peppers. Traditionally I’ve not had good luck germinating peppers. This year I researched and talked with a friend to find out what would work better. As a result, we’re using the paper towel method and heat. Peppers like it hot! You can find heat mats for sale at stores or online, but I didn’t want to spend the extra money! You can put the pepper seeds in a warm area. However, I’m just using a heating pad that you find at drugstores. My mom used to have me lay on heating pads when I had an ear infection, so using them to encourage seed germination wasn’t my first thought. But we already had a heating pad around, so why not try it out? However,¬†I do not recommend or advise leaving a heating pad plugged in and left on while unattended. Other options for a heat sorce in your home could work as substitute. I use the top of the washer or dryer for my seeds to sit when needed because it is typically warmer for some reason in that area, even if the appliances are not running. My friend uses the top of her refrigerator.

imageThe wait begins!

We’re aiming to grow four different types of peppers using the paper towel method. Three of our pepper varieties are from Bakers Creek Heirloom Seeds in Mansfield, MO, and we can’t wait to see how they work out! Our goal is to have 7 Jalape√Īo, 5 Bell pepper, 5 Banana pepper and 3 Cayenne. Hot peppers will be in one 3×6 raised bed, the sweet peppers will be in another.

image

Varieties we are growing include Ozark Giant, Banana, Cayenne Long Thin, and Jalape√Īo Mild.

We want enough peppers to hopefully be able to make chopped jalape√Īo (for future recipes) fajita veggie packs, jalape√Īo jelly, crushed cayenne, and picante sauce.¬†I have wonderful memories from childhood when my mom would have the summer bounty rinsed and ready to process. As a child, it seemed as though she spent all day in the kitchen when it was time to make picante sauce. Any time she emerged from the kitchen, she had a mask and gloves on. The aromas would fill the air, and by the end of the sealing process our linen closet would be transformed into a salsa storage unit. As fall approached and the summer days turned into school days, the salsa jars became part of my after school snack. There was no comparison to the store bought version. The honey overlapping the hot peppers created a complex flavor, with the heat sneaking up on you. This summer I hope to learn from my mom how to re-create this memorable picante sauce from my childhood.

Another¬†garden project we are working on is getting our “cool weather crop” garden bed up and running (not literally of course, but is that a fun image)! We’ll be sowing some spinach, lettuce, purple carrots, and possibly our chives. The lettuce and carrots were also from Baker’s Creek Heirloom Seeds. In fact, the carrots came free with my order! How cool is that? The spinach is Ferry Morse brand.

image

Varieties we are starting in the 3×6 raised bed this weekend are Buttercrunch, Matador, and Cosmic Purple.

So far my Ferry Morse seeds have been germinating extremely well! The parsley and chives were both Ferry Morse, and have been growing steadily.

Next weekend, I’ll post in more detail about how we built our own raised beds for an average cost of $10 a bed (not including cost of soil). Until then, look into what planting timeline is best for your growing zone. Have fun picking out peppers and cool weather crops that fit your fancy! Each garden is unique. Craft your garden!

 

Quick link to Bakers Creek Heirloom Seeds:

http://www.rareseeds.com

Ferry Morse seeds can be found in stores.

Let’s Talk About Plant Friendships: Companion Planting

Hello reader,
It’s been unseasonably warm around here lately. To a gardener, this comes with both perks and a sense of weariness. On one hand, the days are beautiful and perfect for getting outside to enjoy sunshine and a piece of late spring weather. On the other hand, it is cause for some concern as bugs are likely to be bad this upcoming season and a healthy garden is highly dependent on both pest control and weather. Let’s hope that the weather cooperates this growing season. In the meantime, it’s a good time to start planning ahead and looking into organic pest control! Companion planting is one of the ways to implement organic¬†pest control while also attracting pollinators to your garden. It also adds visual interest to a garden and some have said it improves flavor of the harvest when done certain ways.
Companion planting is an age old technique. One of the earliest forms that I’ve read about is the “Three Sisters” method Native Americans used. Corn would be grown with pole beans and squash. The corn provided a way for beans to climb, beans provided nitrogen to the ever hungry corn plants, and squash provided shade low to the ground that prevented weeds. Pretty clever, huh? Many gardeners still follow companion planting techniques. One commonly known friendship gardeners pair together is tomato and marigold. The marigold is supposed to be repellent to aphids, which helps tomato plants be healthier. Herbs are another good pest repellent. Dill supposedly is a deterrent that can be sprinkled throughout the garden. However, it’s said to be a good idea to keep dill away from carrots and tomatoes. While plants have friends in the garden, they also may have foes to be aware of when you plan out your garden.

Here are a few sources for a great list of companion plants and plants that don’t get along too well to help you plan:

http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/companion-planting-guide-zmaz81mjzraw

http://www.burpee.com/gardenadvicecenter/areas-of-interest/flower-gardening/companion-planting-guide/article10888.html

http://www.almanac.com/content/companion-planting-chart-plant-list-10-top-vegetables

https://www.google.com/amp/www.rodalesorganiclife.com/garden/26-plants-you-should-always-grow-side-by-side%3Famp

 

From my own experience:

In past gardens, I have found the following to do well together:

Tomato and bee balm, basil, marigold, tarragon

Pole beans and corn

Peppers and petunias

Melons and cucumbers

image

Bee balm used as companion plant a few years ago – it was probably just a few inches when planted!

 

Our 2016 garden when we used the Three Sisters Method and our first ear of corn, Silverqueen variety.

 

                                                   *        *       *

 

This year, for the 2017 growing season, here is our plan for companion planting:

Yellow Squash/Zucchini: Dill, borage, nasturtium
Tomato: Borage, basil, parsley, calendula
Carrots/Lettuce/Spinach: Chives, nasturtium
Cucumber: Dill, oregano, nasturtium
Pepper: Chamomile, dill, basil, nasturtium

All of the companion plants we are planning to grow this year are also edible. Calendula is “pot marigold”, which is supposed to be edible.
Companion planting, while not proven, has been helpful to many gardeners. Try to look at lists of commonly used pairings, but also experiment with your garden. Who knows, you may come across something that works out even better for you than what a list had provided! Each garden is unique, craft your garden!

 

 

*Remember, never eat a plant that you are not sure if it is safe to eat.

Read more about the Three Sisters Method:
http://www.almanac.com/content/three-sisters-corn-bean-and-squash

Starting Parsley From Seed: Part 2

Hello reader,

Now that you’ve read part 1 and possibly started parsley seeds in paper towels, it’s going to be time to plant the seeds in a mix soon. Or if you are just planting seeds straight into a mix, this post would also apply. I would however, recommend the paper towel method for seeds that can be tricky to germinate such as peppers and parsley. Once the seeds begin to grow roots, you can plant them in a mix. Here’s how I planted the seeds to start the seedlings in 4 simple steps:

Step 1

Clean your pots. Use pots from years before, yogurt containers, egg cartons (not styrofoam), or anything else you think will work. For parsley, since I’ve read they have sensitive roots, I’m going to suck it up and buy larger pots that go straight into the ground. But for other seeds, plastic containers should be fine!

Step 2

Add water to your mix. It should be able to form a ball, but not too wet. This makes sure you have as much soil in the pot that you need (otherwise you’ll water the plant and the soil will become a bit compacted and you may discover you no longer seem to have enough soil)

Step 3

Carefully pick up a seed that has a thick root already growing (or use a seed straight from the package that hasn’t been pre-germinated in a paper towel). Create a shallow hole in the mix and gently place and cover.

Step 4:

Watch for sprouts and make sure it always has enough light and water!

Here’s a picture of how some of our parsley is doing since planting pre-germinated seeds:

image

I had to plant them before I bought the pots that go in the ground, so I re-used a pot temporarily and will transplant them carefully into individual pots before their roots get too big.

There you have it! Starting parsley from seed (although these techniques really can apply to many types of veggie/flower seeds you start indoors). There’s so many varieties of parsley. You could grow curled, used for garnish, or flat leafed. We are growing a flat leafed variety called “Plain or Single”, but have fun trying different varieties. Each garden is unique. Craft your garden!