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.  

2 comments:

  1. Spending productive gardening time with a dog is the best, isn't it? I've tried those Jiffy pot greenhouses and had the same problems. I'm learning something here.

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  2. Spending a day with plants is almost as good as a day prop making...almost.

    Thanks for sharing your latest adventure. Really enjoy seeing your progress. I wish I lived a little closer I would love to see this in person.

    Happy planting!!

    Cheers!

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