Thursday, March 31, 2011

First Beautiful Spring Day 2011

Kyle finished our first Adirondack chair today. Next step is for him to share the knowledge and help me build one for my own. I will in fact do all the building.  
This is the disgusting mess that the pondtainer ended up in. Brackish black black water due to the tons of leaves that fell in it last fall. The water was literally slimy and stinky. Yet, the dwarf water lily sprouted up new lily pads despite it's pot having fallen on it's side sometime during the fall/winter. Hardy dwarf lily lives up to it's name. I re-potted the lily and cut off the rotten gross stuff. I also emptied the lower pondtainer galvanized wash basin and scrubbed all the gravel.  It looks so much better.  I also took the two fake plants from the stock tank and pressure washed the slime off them and thew them into the lower 'tainer until I get the big one ready.  

I mucked out a huge pile of soggy leaves and gross stuff. I now understand how a natural lake can go bad so easily.  
This is the lower part of the pondtainer all cleaned and ready to form good algae.  The non-potted plants are the two plastic ones I use to help the fish hide and not take up any nutrients out of the water.  

Monday, March 28, 2011

My Favorite Quote on Beets

"The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious.

Slavic peoples get their physical characteristics from potatoes, their smoldering inquietude from radishes, their seriousness from beets.

The beet is the melancholy vegetable, the one most willing to suffer. You can't squeeze blood out of a turnip...

The beet is the murderer returned to the scene of the crime. The beet is what happens when the cherry finishes with the carrot. The beet is the ancient ancestor of the autumn moon, bearded, buried, all but fossilized; the dark green sails of the grounded moon-boat stitched with veins of primordial plasma; the kite string that once connected the moon to the Earth now a muddy whisker drilling desperately for rubies.

The beet was Rasputin's favorite vegetable. You could see it in his eyes."
— Tom Robbins (Jitterbug Perfume)

2011 Early Sowing

We broke out the salad bar Kyle build last year out of a rubber-maid style storage bin. It is self watering and we will post some how-to's when we convert our now defunct recycling bins now that the city has changed to big city-style garbage and recycling cans. The concept is basically a perforated shelf lined with landscaping fabric (to keep the soil from washing out) and landscape fabric lined wells that go down into a water reservoir. The soil wicks the water up as needed and they usually only require weekly refills making gardening in the high desert a breeze.  Homemade self watering tubs are great because they don't cost much, you get to say you made it, and you can move them around to meet the needs of your plants.  
The PVC pipe is the watering tube we drop a funnel into for weekly fill up. The set up worked so great last year we decided to keep this one a salad bar. We have several varieties of leaf lettuce, three varieties of radishes, and some scallions.  The idea is to broadcast spread the seeds and then eat your way through it to thin it as the plants get older. Radishes are fast so they usually get chomped up by me right out of the box, I just brush them off and enjoy. Kyle washes his thank you very much. Then you pick baby lettuce greens foe each dinner salad. As you thin your way through some of the lettuces get to grow to full size and then the onions mature.  To be honest, we were a little sick of the salad bar by the end of last season and started gifting bags of very fresh, very tender, tasty lettuce. I liked our little cherry bomb radishes last year so much that I couldn't resist adding two new varieties. I'm sure you get right from the dirt photos as they mature. I chose Burpee Fire and Ice, and Watermelon. Photos courtesy of Burpee below.
I also planted more of the radishes in the big raised bed and started some successions of beets as well. I am trying again with Detroit King and have a new variety Beet Crapaudine. Yeah the name doesn't work so well in English, but it is supposed to be one of the earliest of beet varieties known to seed collectors. 

O.K. since the photo of the ugly crapydine beet just suckered me in to a malware scam, we won't have a pic of said beet, although I've heard of them looking like ugly witch's noses.  They are a more cylindrical beet with a pointed end and gnarly skin that helps them last through winters in the ground.  Since I have tons of scans to make sure the malware didn't tag me. I need to end this post. Who the hell uses a photo of an ugly beet for malware? I thought that was more likely tied to nekkid photos of celebrities. I would like to personally see them tortured though. Not the celebrities, the malware jerks. 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

I've Created Monsters

45 degrees outside, maybe i'll stunt their growth and buy some time

These are two of the four 8 week old Black Krim plants. It's March 26th, there are 6 weeks left before the average last frost date. They are huge and each plant has started to bloom. I have a very hard time offing my plants and am in a bit of a pickle, so I've started an experiment in the greenhouse. I filled 8 more 2 litre bottles to help absorb as much solar energy, although cloudy wet weather isn't helping the cause.
circle the wagon train

Tomatoes don't like temps below 55 degrees on average, so we have a long way to go. I'm recording each days high and low in the greenhouse and as soon as possible, will plant two of the Krims inside rings of bottles. In the mean time, I have a sacrificial Zavory pepper plant planted in the right circle of bottles.
poor little guy, i feel bad for him

I'm not sure if I'll learn anything from this experiment other than plants don't like the cold. The problem with a greenhouse or cold frame is that hey have no heat source of their own. Have you ever slept in a tent? It can be 40 degrees outside and 40 degrees inside at night, but when the sun comes up, you can start to cook within an hour.  

There is a reason I started a six pack of Krims at the usual 8 weeks before average last frost. 
two week old krim seedlings

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Staircase

Do yourself a favor and watch The Staircase. It is the documentary about a notorious murder trail centering around defendant Michael Peterson who had been charged with the grisly murder of his wife  Kathleen. Trust me, I don't get into crime T.V. too much, but I was riveted and shocked with the ending. This doc is an interesting look into the US judicial system and is an example of why I think we should have professional jurors.  



As I work in a mostly arid climate, although the past few springs have been very wet, I've never seen this happen to a body.  In other parts of the country that are more humid and cool, saponification happens. Yes, a body can turn to "soap". Click the link for an interesting article. If you are into this sort of thing.  It is also known as "grave wax" or most professionally adipocere.

Well not really soap that we wash with. Here is the Wikipedia article.

Close Up

click the photos to enlarge:
 eggplant spines

this looks like this year's first megabloom


fuzzy krim


brandywine potato leaf

teeny-tiny yellow wonder alpine strawberry

cherry tomato seedling

garden huckleberry

Thursday, March 24, 2011

First Outing 2011

Sadie and I spent day one of my four day weekend outside in the yard.  I re-potted seedlings and she kept guard. It was a perfect afternoon. I never take my weekends for granted.  Gardening is a perfect hobby for me to have. It is very meditative and so full of life. It is a nice balance for working with grieving people and  the dead. I also think starting seeds indoors would benefit those with SADD. There is nothing better than coming home from work on a dreary late winter night and having those grow lights on and little seedling to watch as they grow from seeds into little identifiable plants. I know it is cheap and easy to buy seedlings at the store, but I love the whole ritual of choosing seeds in December, planning the gardens when you don't dare go outside because of the weather, and the actual sowing-waiting for the first seedlings to curl up from the soil.  
These are some of the tomato varieties: tomatillo, garden huckleberry, and ground cherry.  
Greenhouse courtesy of Abby. Thanks again Abby!

This is the season's big experiment for me. We usually don't get tomatoes until July, so I started a few plants way in advance to see if I could keep them alive as long as I can indoors and then planting them in the little greenhouse with water filled soda bottles to help keep them warm at night.  These guys are getting huge for tomato seedlings. I'm going to wait as long as I can before putting them out to ensure they don't get injured by the cold. The variety I chose was Black Krim, the ones I botched last season. I also started some Krims at the usual 8 weeks before that last frost date just to be sure. Friends and family will get those if the big guys work out.  I actually plan on only keeping two of these and hope to find someone to give them away to that may be able to do the same type of set-up or maybe in a small easy hoop house.  I could even provide extra empty soda bottles since Kyle and I have saved so many.  
These four are just spending the days buttoned up outside and I will bring them in each night because it is way too cold at night this early in the spring. If anyone can help me find a good home for the two spares I'll gladly give them up. I can even deliver them on one of my days off.  My plants are all organically grown BTW- no chemicals, just potting soil, water, good cool temp light to make them extra sturdy, stocky, and very leafy. Oh, I would love to be able to live off doing this.

I have found that people often come to me for gardening advice. I find that really funny because if they could see what I was doing three seasons ago they'd think I had a black thumb. I actually did. I made the same mistake everyone does and buys one of these:
This is actually a pretty neat setup for seed starting. You take the little fiber wrapped peat pucks and soak them in water 'till they expand into neat little cylinders of seed starting medium, pop a few seeds on top, cover with the included lid, and set in a warm space. Most seeds will start just fine in these. Except some hot peppers, eggplants, and even some tomatoes, that require certain warm soil temps. A seedling heat mat does the job really well if you don't have enough heat. I've also started seeds on top of the refrigerator, but I don't have enough space for the amount of stuff we start and I like to keep my grow-op as contained to one area as possible.  

The problem with just using the peat pellet greenhouse is that once the seedlings have emerged and started their first pair of true leaves, they are gonna need some light. The south facing windowsill at our house helped me produce the leggiest seedlings that I pitifully propped up with toothpicks that eventually died from dampening off, and fungus gnat infestation. 
leggy seedling can't hold itself up 
I am not going to get into light sources as there is so much information out there that you can simply Google. But some sort of lighting will be necessary if you want strong, sturdy plants. You've seen my current set up, and here is another:

The other problem I've had with peat pellets is that they dry out so darn fast. It was always really hard for me to keep them properly watered. Too much water and you get fungus, damping off, and rot. Too little and your plants die. The only way I was ever able to keep them from drying out was to have constantly fungus/mildew covered soil surfaces. Nowadays I use simple potting soil and the plastic seedling trays and flats from Novosel. They sell in both bulk and small order. I have no affiliation with them whatsoever. I can just vouch that their prices are reasonable and they have good service.  With careful use, the same trays and flats can be reused over and over. 

Now on to something else. We will stay with the re-potting theme from above, but on a more extreme level. The alpine strawberries to be exact:
I've been watching these guys very carefully because they were so slow to germinate and stratification was suggested. That is a dime for scale. These are five week old seedlings.

Have you ever done neurosurgery? Me neither.  I sure felt that I was in the middle of a brain transplant while I carefully lifted the soil in each cell (gloves were off, I needed to really feel if I was snapping tiny tender roots) and carefully separated these minuscule "plants". It is now over three hours later and the patients seem to still be living. It was a tense process though as some of the really little ones came up with a fine little bare root that I tamped in gently with fingertips. 

Can you tell I spent the day with plants and a dog who doesn't talk, well we communicate in another way, but I guess I had very little human interaction. It was a nice time actually.  

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Early Spring Progress

It's a lot harder to photograph the new grow-op, but the seedlings are doing really well.  We have the very early start tomatoes in the back row with basil plants, the middle row has eggplants, Thai basil, and Zavory mild habeneros, and the front row are all the new seedlings with the normally planted tomatoes, peppers, ground cherries, garden huckleberries, and wild strawberries.  

I finally figured out that the large guy here, probably isn't a strawberry.  It looks more like a dandelion.  I have no idea where it came from. Oh, and the one on the left doesn't fit in either.  I'm pulling them.  

These are really tiny alpine strawberry plants. I hope they get a bit bigger.  

I'm really glad I started the Zavory's extra early.  They were this big when we planted them out last year.  These guys have 2 more months to grow and will have such a huge start.  

I had to make room for two of the early Black Krim tomatoes.  Sadie has new roomies.  She seems O.K. with it.  Also pictured are some Zavory's I just can't part with even though we have way more than we need. Any locals want some? BTW, Sadie auto-crates, she goes in her crate and we usually never close the door. I've stuck my head in there and it is actually a nice little dog nook. 

These are the 8 week out tomatoes, peppers, etc...

We pulled out an old very diseased rose that I spent a lot of money on that came with the rental. It mostly looked bad, last year was really bad.  Today we cut the bottoms out of bins we found along the highway and buried them to make a controlled horseradish bed.  We will plant a new butterfly bush by the porch in place of the old rose bush.  
Two roots in place, three to go.  

We also planted potatoes (this time four boxes), I planted peas, and Kyle put together a huge A frame trellis for the big raised bed.  We'll put cukes and melons there.  

Monday, March 14, 2011

Spring Has Sprung

Saturday was much nicer than forecasted, so we took advantage and prepped the raised beds.  We amended and cleaned out the beds.  That is parsley that overwintered uncovered in the left bed corners.  
This year I wanted to try a new method to keep what I will no longer call the cold frame, but will refer from now on as our portable greenhouse.  The vinyl tent got really warm on warm days, but at night, promptly dropped down to the outdoor ambient temperature.  I first thought that wall-of-waters would be a good idea,, but then found this article.  What a great recycling idea.  
I have four Black Krim tomatoes that will be whittled down to two and will be planted in the center of each of these home made solar heaters.  They are set up now to start warming the soil with the portable greenhouse over the top of everything.
Here is an outdoor transmitter for an indoor-outdoor thermometer (in a plastic ziplock to keep it dry).  Tonight I got my first evidence that the system is working.  Last I checked the outdoor temp was 46 degrees and the greenhouse temp was 54.  I am really happy with the results so far.  

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Early Spring Hope

These are the very early started tomatoes that are 8 weeks early.  Black Krim.
Zavory mild habanero.
New 8 week start seedlings.
The wild Yellow Wonder strawberries are growing!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Royal De Lux

These guys have been around for a while.  The Sultan's Elephant is amazing to see.  This is a more recent video of the awesome puppetry productions they do.
Click the photo for a video link.  Look up Royal De Lux on Google to find bunches of videos.  

This link has ads, but several video clips.  

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Good News

I was having some stress over the alpine wild strawberry seeds germinating.  No need for that, at least so far.  Two seeds have sprouted and are the tiniest little seedlings I've ever seen.  Here is a photo of two sprouts with my finger for perspective.  
Finding the two new wild strawberry seedlings and jumping in the super fun blow-up bouncy house with Kyle and one of his super cute nieces were the best parts of my Saturday.  Well, jumping in the bouncy house was really the best.  Then the strawberries.