Garden Update 4/1/18 to 4/14/18

 

April 1

I raided the garage for suitable planters for our ever growing seedlings. I found two from some of our past nursery acquisitions.

I filled the large one with soil, and using a teaspoon, transplanted the lettuces, leeks, onions, and spinaches. I made sure to select only the healthiest seedlings for transplanting.

I watered the transplants. Then I cut the vegetable names off of the egg cartons to use as markers.

The leeks, and to a lesser degree the onions, had taken root in the cardboard of the egg cartons. I’m worried that I may have damaged them when I separated their roots from the cardboard.

If the seedling leeks die I will have to plant the seeds directly into the garden itself. Our luck with growing onions that way has been pretty hit or miss so I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that.

As I mentioned in the last update I have an emotional investment in the leeks. I have to admit I’m a bit anxious. I have yet to cry over a vegetable, but I’d be seriously bummed if my leeks died.

 

April 2

I hadn’t filled the black container all the way with dirt. I noticed that some of the transplanted seedlings were starting to shrink in the shadows that the sides of the container created.

I roughly folded a used piece of foil that was mostly clean but had a little too many burnt bits to recycle. I propped it under the planter so that the seedlings get more even sunlight.

 

April 3

I adjusted the black planter to little under a 45 degree angle. I manually adjusted some of the weaker plants so that they were directly in the sun.

The soil is still moist after 2 and a half days.

 

April 4

I watered the big planter for the first time in a couple days.

The more sickly plants were looking a bit perkier even before I actually watered them.

 

April 9

I’ve had to water the big planter less often than the egg crates. This means it’s a lot easier to forget to water the tomatoes as they are the serious only crops left in the crates.

I’ve left some extra lettuces in an egg crate because I feel weird about throwing out perfectly healthy plants.

I might donate it to one of the many churches near where I live or give them to a friend. I’m going to have to transplant them soon though if I’m going to do that. They are very tiny and sickly compared to the ones in the black container.

The transplanted lettuces look like proper little lettuce plants. The onions and leeks have looked like miniature onions and leeks for some time. Even the spinaches, which I admit are the weakest of my transplants are starting to develop into mini spinach plants.

I’m kind of really geeking.

The tomatoes are still very small but sturdy looking. I think a little transplanting may do them some good. I will have to do that some at some point this week.

If I can find some pots I’ll transplant the extra lettuces too.

 

April 10

I found some small plastic pots to transplant the extra lettuces into. They are a bit crowded but nowhere near as crowded as they were in the egg crate.

 

April 12

The extra lettuces are looking better.

I just got around to transplanting the tomatoes. We had seven plants and six spots in the pink planter. One had to go.

RIP Curly. You will be missed.

I think I’m getting better at thinning the seedlings but just barely. We were only planning on growing one tomato plant from seed.

We are thinking about adding experimenting with canning this year but we don’t know what yet. Jam seems like an easier place to start.

We could just plant all the tomato plants and make sauce. They are cherry tomatoes so that seems unlikely.

The onions are out growing the leeks again. The leeks look all crooked and bent. If I haven’t killed them I at the very least damaged them.

On the bright side the few spinaches that have made it are really starting to look like viable plants.

 

April 14

 

The leeks are starting to straighten out! They are healthy enough to heal the damage I caused them. These leeks just might make it to the garden yet.

The onions are getting so tall that they have completely fallen. The roots are most definitely not deep enough. I will have to replant them this upcoming week.

5 Ways to Reduce Food Waste at Home

Waste not, want not. Here are five foods you thought went bad that you can still use

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1. Soft wrinkly apples, pears, peaches, plums, and nectarines: You put them in the crisper drawer to keep them fresh only to forget them. Now they are anything but crisp.

Don’t worry. They’re just letting you know that want to be made into a cobbler.

Try this super simple Rachael Ray recipe or use your own.

Cobblers are ridiculously easy to make. Once you have one in your back pocket you will be able to mix and match wilting fruits to make a homemade dessert any night of the week.

Next time:

Try displaying them in a fruit bowl in your line of sight. Don’t limit yourself to just the kitchen. Try putting a small bowl of fruit where you work, study, or watch TV.

Also consider if you should buy fresh fruit more frequently, but in smaller amounts.

2. Spoiled wine: It was a really nice bottle of wine. You just never had an occasion to open it. Now you’re too scared to.

Don’t worry! Wine doesn’t spoil the same way meat does. It simply turns into flavorful cooking vinegar. It might not be drinkable, but add a splash to enhance sauces, main and side dishes.

Next time:

Don’t save fancy wines for “fancy” occasions. Instead, use it to make an average day a little more special.

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3. Moldy pitas: You bought a pack of fresh pitas from a little independent grocer. (Woo-hoo!) They even are preservative free. (Yay!) Two days later they’re sprouting blue fuzz. (Oops…)

The moldy parts do have to go, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Remove and toss the technicolor bits. Cut up the rest and toast in a dry pan on the stove. Now you have pita chips!

Next time:

Pitas, like many kinds of bread, freeze and thaw extremely well. Freeze unused pitas until you plan on using them.

To thaw, wrap pitas and leave them on the counter overnight.

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4. Stale baguettes (sourdough loaves, cinnamon bread, etc.): With a bakery in every megamart how could you not enjoy fresh baked bread? Unfortunately you forgot to store it properly and you now have fossilized bread that would make any archaeologist proud.

Congratulations! You have the making of french toast. Mix a little milk with a beaten egg. Dip the thick slices of bread into the batter and fry them in a pan. Add a little powdered sugar or jam. Boom! You’ve got an easy/fancy breakfast.

Next time:

    There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Reuse an old plastic bread bag, from mass produced sliced bread, to protect fresh bread overnight. Not only are you reducing food waste, you’re also keeping that bag out of landfills.

For long term storage many breads freeze well.


5. Wrinkled  grape tomatoes and cherry tomatoes: You bought a pint as a healthy snack but you didn’t snack as healthy as you planned to.

They’re not bad, they just have a bit more life experience than smooth tomatoes.

Cut the them in half and add them to store bought spaghetti sauce. Heat them together until the tomatoes soften. Serve with pasta for a dinner that tastes farm fresh.

 

Or if you want to get pseudo fancy:

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Cut them in half.

Sauteed with olive oil, a diced small onion and some garlic.  (Fresh garlic, powdered garlic: it doesn’t matter.)

Add a splash of wine or a flavorful vinegar (like from that spoiled wine).

Cook until liquids thicken.

Season to taste

Put over pasta, poultry, meat, or whatever floats your boat.

(Looks purdy, don’t it?)

Next time:

Get that (massively relatable) trait of laziness to work for you instead of against you.

As soon as you get them home from the store, wash them and divide them into single serving sized bowls. Then put those servings in the places where you snack the most.

Instead of having to get up and going to the refrigerator or cupboard, where you’ll be more likely to grab an unhealthy snack, you can just sit in your comfy little chair and eat what many gardeners refer to as “nature’s candy.”

These tips will save you money and but food waste isn’t just a money issue. Expanding and creating new landfills uses up natural habitat. Their runoff pollutes both ground and ocean water. They also emit carbon dioxide, methane, and volatile organic compounds.

While some food waste is produced by modern farming and supermarkets, as you can see, you can still make an impact at home.

Can you think of another food that can be saved from being tossed? Tweet me or post your thoughts in the comments section.

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.

Biweekly Garden Update: 3/18/18 to 3/31/18

March 20

I couldn’t get to the lettuces in the clear clamshell that got bumped until today. Half of the seedlings in question were thriving; the other half was dead.

I’m just going to count my blessings that they aren’t all dead.

The lettuce seedlings growing outside of a clamshell are all pretty much doing fine. There are a couple empty spaces, but I’ll have the 6 plants that I planned on for planting.

The spinaches aren’t hardening as well as I was hoping. This is one of the many reasons why you’re supposed to plant more seedlings than you plan on planting.

I’m still not sure how many more that is supposed to be. I fear the 48 seeds I started isn’t enough to grow the 18 plants I planned on growing in our garden.

This is a proof of concept year for both growing our garden from seedlings and growing spinach in our garden. As you can imagine a lot can go wrong with this vegetable.

I really want them to work out but I have to be realistic about my abilities as a gardener. I’ve grown lettuce seedlings in a pot before and I’ve sewn some seeds outside, but that is the sum and total of my experience with growing from seed.

I seriously can’t wait until everything is in the ground and in my comfort zone!

In more positive news, the onions are doing awesome. So there is always that to cheer me up.

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What’s the lesson here? Don’t under estimate the power the Green House Effect.

March 23

The clamshells act like terrariums so I try not to disturb them and just let the condensation do its work. They tend to fog over like a car windshield so you can’t see inside them without letting out some of the water. I thought I’d just take a peak at our little tomato plants just to see how they are doing. All but one was dead!

I underestimated the greenhouse effect that the thin plastic would have. If I had waited until it was time to transplant them I would have none at all.

I opened up all the other clamshells. With the exception of the lettuces, they were all either as bad or worse than the tomatoes.

I can’t wait for the last frost. I know what to do with mature plants!

I started 24 additional tomato seeds in an egg carton just in case the last one dies.

 

March 25

The last of my terrarium tomatoes is all but dead.

One terrarium spinach looks like he may or not make it. He does have a little buddy sprout up next to him so I don’t feel like a total black thumb.

The lettuces, terrarium and otherwise, look sort of healthy.

The best news though is that the onions look like miniature versions of their adult selves. This is great for two reasons:

1. Something is actually thriving in my nursery and

2. The leeks just sprouted.

I feel more confident in my abilities to grow the leeks knowing that their closest relative in my care is thriving.

March 27

The onions were leaning toward the window. The spinach looked like it was overheating. I turned around the tray that they were both on so that the spinaches were farther from the window and the onions were leaning toward the center of the room.

March 28

The onions are already leaning back toward the window. The spinaches are looking a lot healthier.

The leeks are growing quickly! I’m super excited.

I’m not completely sure, but a couple of the clamshell victims look like they are sprouting new plants. It’s probably just hopeful thinking.

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See that tiny little speck in the closest pod on the right? It’s a tomato sprout!

March 30

One tiny plant has sprouted from one of the clamshell spinaches. I thought we might have a survivor from the clamshell tomatoes but it was not to be.

A couple of the tomatoes from the second round of seed starting have just started sprouting. I’m not sure if they will be ready in time to plant outside but we could always use more indoor plants for the front window.

According to my maticulus researched planting schedule, today is the day I’m supposed to plant the lettuces and spinaches outside. Given the sickly demeanor of the spinach plants and the size of the letucces I don’t think that is going to happen.

This is my first time growing them in egg cartons. I need to transplant the lettuces into something larger than egg crates so they can grow. I probably should have done this a couple weeks ago.

As I have said before this is a proof of concept for the spinaches. I think the concept of starting them indoors has been proven. I will need to do more research next year if they prove viable in the ground.

That said, they are going to have to wait a little bit until they are big enough for the great outdoors.

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When crisis hits your garden, just keep gardening.

March 31

The leeks are as big as the onions. I’m very excited by this.        

According to Jacques Pépin leeks are the poor man’s asparagus. Given our track record with trying to grow asparagus at home, being able to grow something, however tenuously related, feels like a victory in a way.

The lettuces are getting too big for the little egg cartons. I will have to transplant them tomorrow.

This will be the next to final elimination round for the plants. Some garden layout reworking may be required. We’ll just have to wait and see.