February 26, 2009

Flowers in San Juan Puerto Rico

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Seedling Surprise

I must confess that I've been holding out on you and I have started many of my early spring veggies. I just didn't want you looking at plain old soil for weeks so I waited until I had a few seedlings to show you.

Artichoke -Imperial Star-Started 2/10 and 1st true leaves on 2/26
Strawberry- Ruegen and Yellow Wonder -Started 2/12 and sprouted 2/26

Broccoli-Early Dividend, Small Miracle and Di Cicco-Started 2/21 -Sprouted 2/26

Cabbage- Gonzales, Sombrero, Pak Choi- Started 2/21-sprouted 2/26
Eggplant-Lavender Touch, Dusky, Pingtung Long-Started 2/21-not yet sprouted
Pepper-Jalepeno M, Dulce, Red Marconi, Chile Anaheim- Started 2/21- not yet sprouted
Pansy- Swiss Giant- started 2/10-on 2/26 only a few have sprouted
Begonia-white-started 2/21- not yet sprouted
Cardoon-started 2/10-1st true leaves 2/19
Angelica- started 2/12- not yet sprouted

So the planting season has begun and I'm always surprised at how quickly the broccoli and cabbage sprout and how long it takes others like Pansies to sprout. There is always a learning curve to my gardening. This year I want to plant less seeds but plant them more often to have a continual harvest. It seems I end up with too much of a good thing all at once and too much of it goes to waste or in my case the compost pile. This year I really want to just put out a few plants like cabbage and broccoli in the spring since they tend to bolt quickly in the Midwest heat and humidity. However, I want to plant out a mid and late crop of each to extend my harvest into the fall. Gardening is after all hoping in the future so this year I want to plan a little better and eat a little longer.

February 11, 2009

Get Ready, Get Set, Grow!

So, I finally quit procrastinating and started planting my earliest seeds. I think the 60 degree weather helped kick me into gear. Although there will still be snow to fall it's really time to get the seeds started.

I bet you're wondering how I know when to start my seeds as seed packages don't come with a message saying when exactly to plant them. I use lots of different resources from books to the internet. I like using Organic Gardening Magazine's seed starting guide. I also recently found a new seed starting guide at The Savvy Gardener that is also good. Seed starting does take a bit of forethought and planning so take a look at the charts to see what you need to do now.

You'll need to have all your seed starting supplies together before you get started. This basically means something to plant your seeds in and a seed starting medium. As I've pointed out in an earlier post I start my seeds in the APS systems from Gardener's Supply Company. Feel free to start your seeds in anything you like from peat pots, yogurt containers or plastic pots. Just remember that you are going to need to keep a special eye on them when it comes to watering. Now you need a seed starting potting mix to plant them in. Again I turn to the germinating mix from Gardener's Supply Company. I actually was going to use a potting mix from a local store this year, thinking it would be cheaper, but the germinating mix from GSC was about half the price and it's worked really well for me. Please save yourself the heartache of using regular garden soil to start your seeds. It doesn't do well for seed starting as the soil crusts over and makes it hard for the seed to germinate. Remember we want success for our little seeds! Okay, now assuming you've already purchased your seeds you're ready to plant. By the way, I get most of my seeds from Pinetree Garden Seeds. I like their inexpensive prices, quality of seed and an incredible variety of international seeds. In the fall, I've also been known to scour the end of season sales at garden centers for cheap seeds. As a rule of thumb you'll want fresh seeds but I figure it never hurts to try and see what a little bargain will bring.

February 2, 2009

Yes, Virginia, Worms Eat My Garbage!

Okay, this is a warning to all of you are are easily grossed out by worms. CLOSE YOUR EYES AND DON'T LOOK HERE. If you really want to see something that is pretty cool take a peek. I'd like to introduce you to the worlds most helpful pet-eisenia fetida aka the common redworm.

Now you may be asking why I have worms in my house eating my garbage. Well, unlike you lucky people who don't have 2 feet of snow to walk through to get to your compost pile, my indoor Worm Factory allows me to compost year round. I can just walk into the basement with my kitchen scraps and put them in the worm bin. It's a great method for reducing your garbage bill and recycling waste into a great fertilizer for plants. Besides as a pet they virtually take care of themselves and make no demands for walks or petting.

Setting up your own worm bin is simple. I really went the easy route and just ordered a three tiered Worm Factory . Then, like you would for any guest, you need to make a bed for the worms in their new home. I just use coir bricks that have been soaked in water. Invite your new employees, the redworms , to set up shop. Then it's just a matter of giving them your kitchen scraps and covering it with either shredded paper or my favorite, fallen brown leaves from the yard. Covering the scraps helps to keep uninvited guest like fruit flies away. By the way your worms are vegetarian so the kitchen scraps should only be non-meat items like fruit peelings, old veggies from cleaning out the fridge, coffee grounds and so on. There should be no smell from your worm compost bin and if there is you're probably over feeding the worms so cut back on their dinner.

I recommend that you initially use only two tiers on the bin. Then you can put a third bin on later and the worms will climb out of the older bins into the new one. They will have left behind all of the composted scraps plus their poop and this is an excellent soil amendment for your indoor and outdoor plants. You can also put a container under the spout on the Worm Factory and collect the liquid waste or "worm tea" that also can be used as a fertilizer for your plants.

For more complete information on vermicomposting check out Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof.