Biweekly Garden Update: 3/4/18 to 3/17/18

March 4th :

The Garden Map is all but finalized.

We will need at least two buckets for carrots, four buckets for beans, plus three pots for herbs.

I’m leaning toward planting the tomatoes in the ground, as opposed to pots. This will save money and it’s good practice if we want to expand the number of tomato plants in the future.

I did a crud ton of research on the best time to start seeds indoors and plant plant outdoors. I even made a table to help keep us on schedule. By march 3rd we were already over two weeks behind.

Life happens. It’s better to be reminded of that earlier than later. At least now it won’t be a shock when other things go wrong later in the season. C’est la vie.

We spent $12.83 on seeds for bush beans, sugar peas, container carrots, lettuce, spinach, green onions, and cherry tomatoes.

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We started the tomatoes, onions, spinach, leaf lettuce and head lettuce on the 3rd.

I marked which containers held which seeds before I started planting.

I planted them in some compost in the bottoms of some cardboard egg crates lined up on rimmed baking sheet.

I watered them, encased the entire thing with a thin white garbage bag and put it on a small table in front of a southern facing window.

Some of them sprouted on the 5th and green was seen on the 6th.

March 8th:

I unwrapped the seedlings because all the seeds had finally sprouted.

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All of the leaf lettuces had mold as well as two spinaches. I removed the offending sprouts and set the rest in front of the window where they sprouted.

On further investigation, I found what was either mold or tiny roots on some of the other seedlings.

Most of the spinaches look good, but about half the head lettuces have this white hairs on their roots. I’m torn between trashing them and doing nothing until tomorrow. Honestly, unless I can find the answer to the question of if this is mold or roots quickly, I’ll probably wait.

The leaf lettuce seeds were about two or three years old. All the other seeds were brand new.

The leaf lettuces were stored in the same jar as some bean seeds that had gotten moldy. This may or may not account for the mold issue we had in the garden last year.

All our seeds are currently stored in this jar, so we will have to get all new seeds next year.

I will either get new carrots, pea pods and bush beans or separate this year’s carrots, peas and beans into a second jar and hope for the best. I may do a test sprouting to decide.

Either way, we will have to get all new seeds next year.

Later that day:

I removed the seeds from the one large jar and will look in the basement for smaller jars to hold individual seed packets.

I found a video on youtube that answered my mold or root question. The white hairs on the roots are most like baby roots.

They definitely look different than the stuff that covered the leaf lettuces. Very helpful to know. I’m much more hopeful that the new seeds have not been affected by fungus.

I may not do a sprouting test now that I know that the seedlings are ok.

March 10th:

The sprouts are thirsty and the air in my home is dry. I had to water the seedling multiple times today.

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I placed the head lettuces in a clear clamshell that used to contain donuts to see if that keeps them moist.

I need to place some more dirt on the spinches to harden their stems.

The tomatoes don’t look too good. I will put them in another a clear clamshell to warm them and keep and hydrated.

    March 11:

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The tomatoes are looking much better. The onions are also looking perky. I still have to water the spinach and onions more than once a day, but other than that the seedlings are doing quite well.

March 12th:

The spray bottle I used last year to mist plants for fungus was stored incorrectly. As a result the spraying mechanism is broken. I will have to get a better quality one this season.

March 14th:

I was super tired last night and went to bed without watering the seedlings. I slept in this morning and I think I may have killed the spinaches.

I watered them once but a few minutes later they were dry again. (I guess that’s a good sign?)  I watered them again 2 more times making sure the soil is dry first.

We need a more permanent solution.

The lettuces and tomatoes are doing great so we just need more clamshells. The only issue is we need four of them stat. Eventually we’ll need six more when I thin the lettuces, spinaches and onions.

I have one clamshell that just needs to be washed, but there is no way we’re eating three containers of donut holes today. 

I think I’ll have to test out the freezer bag hack just as soon as I know if any of the spinaches survived.

Later that day:

With a little TLC many of the spinaches are looking better.

I cleaned the clamshell and a salad container my mother donated to the cause. I put the healthiest looking spinaches in them and added a little water.

Hopefully this won’t backfire. They are cold weather plants after all. The lettuces seem to love their clamshell, so hopefully this will work out.

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March 16th:

We finally found leek seeds. Because it was so late in the season, they were on sale for $1.69 making the grand total $14.52 in gardening costs.

I planted them in a cardboard egg crate and put them with the seedlings to sprout.

Today is the day we were supposed to plant the peas and beans outside but the ground is still frozen.

This is why having a gardening journal is so helpful. We will adjust next year’s schedule accordingly.

March 17th:

I thinned and replanted some of the spinaches and lettuces.

I think I may have done more harm than good with the lettuces. They are much more delicate than the spinach seedlings. We will have to wait and see.

The small table where we are growing the seedlings is getting really crowded really fast. The various clear plastic containers are working great as little terrariums, but they take up a lot of space.

We may need to bring up a larger table from the basement.

Later that day:

I bumped the clamshell with some of the lettuce seedlings.

It is too late in the evening for my brain to assess the damage and come up with a solution. I will check on them first thing in the morning.

Worst case scenario: we toss the seedlings and sow the rest of the lettuce seeds directly in the ground.

We’ve had great luck with this style of sowing lettuce. We were trying to start them earlier as seedlings to extend the season but, we will see.

   

Changes to Our Garden 2018

In February our family started planning this year’s vegetable garden. We’ve finally finalized what to grow and where to grow it. Every year we make a few major changes.

The first is the moving of the potatoes to a dedicated plot behind the garage. This may be a traditional plot or a box. We have a lot to consider: cost, curb appeal, our neighbor’s view on that side of the property, etc.

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The potatoes overgrow pretty much anything they share a box with but we love them.

They are crazy easy to grow. They practically plant themselves. Unlike store bought potatoes they have a lot of flavor. And you can pick them over the course of a few weeks to extend your harvest of fresh potatoes.

I’ve personally decided that growing potatoes in buckets just isn’t worth the effort. I actually find it easier to plop piles of dirt onto a large area with a garden spade than carefully scooping small amounts of dirt into several different containers with a small trowel. (Can anyone relate to this or is it just me?)

The second major change is we are going to put bush beans in raised beds to make them easier to pick.  Last year we let way too many beans go to seed.

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Kneeling on the wood chips hurts my knees even through denim and bending down makes me dizzy. These are small things but the cost of loss of crops from putting off picking beans “tomorrow” can really add up.

I can’t tell you what the raised beds will look like because we don’t know yet. We are still in the early design stage. For all I know we may just stick some buckets in the bed hidden from street view.

We might do a proper build but it would have to be portable. We try to rotate the plants every year.  That means the raised beds would have to move from spot to spot. So even if we build something it’s likely that it will only be a proof of concept.

We are combating the under-picked bush bean problem on two fronts. By happy happenstance the type of bean that we selected this year is an heirloom variety. Even if we miss some this year we can still harvest the seeds for next year.

This gives us a little flexibility because we’d have to let the beans go to seed at some point anyway. I say “a little” because obviously we only need so many seeds for next spring.

Bush beans, like pea pods, freeze well. This means we don’t have to eat them at the time we harvest them. They keep well for many, many months after the last harvest in the freezer, making them real money savers in the winter and early spring…assuming we can pick enough of them!

The third major change is that we’re going to try to grow a few seedlings indoors for transplanting.

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Growing two cherry tomato plants from starters (small young plants) can cost around $7 just for the plants. A packet of seeds, that will stay fertile for two years, costs around $2 to $4.

A $5 savings per year isn’t something to sneeze at. I know it looks like something to sneeze at but we’re planting a lot more than cherry tomatoes.

If we manage to successfully grow the seedlings, we will be looking at around $18 savings this year alone.

Again this doesn’t seem like much in the long run. I get it. What is $18 dollars out of a one year food budget?

Nothing really.

But this isn’t about the $18 that we might save this year (assuming that we’re even successful.) This isn’t even about the $42 per year that we will be saving once we nail down this skill.

This is about the potential to save hundreds per year on our grocery bill.

This is about being able to expand our garden while still making a profit from it.

This is about getting one step closer to harvesting the seeds in the fall so we can plant in the spring.

Mostly though, this is about being able to see green plants a month or two before we can actually put them in the ground and being able to casually work the fact that I grow vegetables from seed into random conversations. (Again, is that just me?)

Gardening is a skill. It takes time to develop. As you can see we are far from master gardeners. But we are much better gardeners than we started.

We started with just two tomato plants in pots. Now we’re going to have four plots with 15 different vegetables and 3 different herbs. I’ve barely begun working with this year’s plantings and I’m already thinking about starting a tea garden next year!

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If you had told me this when we started several years ago, I would have been overwhelmed by the idea. If you had told me that broccoli was one of the easiest vegetables that I’d be growing, I would have been positive that you were addressing the wrong person!

I grew more than 22 pounds of food last year. (Actually much more than that but google docs updated around mid season and I couldn’t keep track for a while so I stopped trying to keep track. I have a love hate relationship with google products.)

I’ve killed quite a few plants in my lifetime, too. If I, in any way, look like I’ve got my gardening stuff together please check out last year’s carrot “crop.”

Don’t worry where your gardening is going to take you. Don’t worry whether or not you’re even “good” at it. It’s a growing process, so to speak. 

And remember, it’s not a matter of perfection it’s simply a matter of doing something today to get a little Closer To Green.