Sunday, April 20, 2014

Seedling update and time for trimming

The seedlings are doing exceptionally well in the 'grow room'. So well, in fact, it was time to give them a little trim.  I want my tomatoes to grow vigorously, but also up a little. I want to plant each start fairly deep, so the roots are strong and well developed. To achieve that, they needed some thinning, so the energy would go up and into the top leaves just starting to come along.

It was only the tomatoes that needed trimming at this point. The peppers won't need any, nor will the eggplant. The basil I will prune to create a bushier plant, but it's still a little early for that.

Before trimming they looked very happy, and everyone was/is growing well, almost too well. Now I fear they will be ready for the great outdoors before the great outdoors is ready to provide a hospitable growing environment for them. The last (average) frost isn't until the end of June, and I won't be waiting that long. They will be going out far sooner than that, but I'm prepared to bring them in, as well as cover them with plastic 'jackets', should they need protection from the colder temperatures. None the less, they are still about a month from going outside.

Most of the things I've done with my plants, I've learned through my Google searches, and some instructional videos on YouTube. I really have no clue what I'm doing, but my plants, at least so far, are very happy. Emergence of the seedlings has been well over 90%, which is really cool, and further reinforces that I'm making the right choices so far.

They look a little naked now that they are trimmed, but I know it's good for them, and for how I want them to grow. With the speed they have been growing, it should be no time before they are ready for another trim.

After I trimmed them, I noticed the underside of the leaves was a beautiful purple color. Not sure if these were from a particular tomato plant, or not. I thought they were interesting enough to shoot.

We have almost 80 peas emerging in the garden boxes outside, and they are going crazy. My blueberries are loaded with buds, too, even the plants that are only rated to -30, and had to endure -27 (in buckets!) this winter are coming along.

Cliff's dad loved gardening. Maybe his green thumb is landing on me. I hope so. Time to plant some chives now, and I just may have to bite the bullet and plant a raspberry bush, too, in my father in law's memory.  He always grew them, and Cliff smiles when he tells me about it.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Strawberry coring

I'm not a real fan of cleaning strawberries. Never have been. I'd rather be on the eating end of things when it comes to these little guys.

None the less, cleaning must be done. I'd always done it the 'old fashioned' way. Cut the top off, then slice the berry, but it always bothered me that the less sweet core was still inside, and it took a fairly big cut off the top to remove the leaves, and the hardest part of the core, right at the top.

Many years ago my sister told me to use a straw to push the core from the berry, but every straw I'd tried was too flimsy, and the diameter too small, so my efforts weren't very productive.

This morning I got to thinking, as I looked at cleaning 4 lbs. of strawberries, "how can I make this easier?" I had an extra fat straw from the local coffee shop, so I gave that a go. The only trouble? Once the straw was full of cores, it was hard to push more of them from the berries that would follow, so I added a smaller diameter straw in the center, to act as a plunger. It worked beautifully.

Push the straw into the bottom of the strawberry, up through the leaves and out. If you miss the center, just pull back the housing straw, realign, and push again. When the core is in the straw, and pushed all the way through the berry, push the plunger, and out it comes.

Viola!  Perfectly cored strawberries, with very little waste.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

New 'life'...

I knew after Jet died, I would need something to fill my time, to help ease myself into/through the grief, without being overwhelmed by it. It was probably one of the biggest reasons I went against my promise that I wouldn't grow another vegetable garden this year. I'm glad I did, though in some ways, it is bittersweet.

The day Jet died, we came home to find the first two peas emerging in the planter boxes in the backyard. Eight days later, we have over 50. Both Jet and Ty (and Kindle, too) loved the peas, plucked right off the plant. To see those emerge, and know Jet wouldn't be here to enjoy them this summer, was hard. I knew when we planted them, he wouldn't be here. I even said as much to Cliff at the time. Knowing that, I struggled through the planting, but Kindle is still here, and life goes on...we have to keep things moving for her, so she enjoys her life, as both the boys did when they were here.

The rest of my seedlings are still enjoying the grow lights, and the warmth of the room where they are currently housed. I added a small humidifier to the room a few days ago. I turn it on, along with the heater/fan, for a few hours every day. They are living in their own little 'rain forest'...and thriving, I might add.

This is about 3 weeks post planting. The eggplant and peppers were the last to emerge. I wasn't sure they would, but they did. Just took a bit longer. They popped up about six days ago.

The tomatoes are the furthest along.  We planted three varieties, and all three are doing well.  Cherry, Brandywine and Roma.

The basil is doing well, also. I have found I like to grow the Genovese basil best, and as I understand it, it's the one most prized by chefs. It grows about twice as fast as the sweet basil. I gave one plant to each of my sisters in law last weekend, and kept one for myself. I planted more seeds the next day, and they are well on their way now, too.

The cuttings I took from the gnat infested plant I got at Trader Joe's are also thriving now. After I cut the stems, I washed them well, and set them in a cup of water. Once the roots were well developed, I plunked them into my homemade potting mix, and off they went. They are happy...and no more gnats. In the last week, they have a second set of leaves on one stem. I think they like the 'rain forest', too.

Friday, April 4, 2014

I don't know how...

I don't know how to write this entry. I don't even know how to start. All I see is pain and loss...and a long life ahead, without you at my side.

All your life, you have been my heart, and when you left, it went with you. I feel so empty, so lost without you.  I know I'm breathing, but I can't catch my breath.

Our journey was a private one - one I never wanted to share, and one I don't think you wanted to share, either.

Before you came into my life, I didn't feel a lot of self worth. I'd never been told that I was good enough, smart enough, or worthy of love. You never uttered those words to me, because you couldn't, but in everything you did, every action, every look, every snuggle, bark, sneeze, lick and shake, you told me that I was worthy, that I mattered. You never let me down. You never left my side, unless you had no other choice.  You lifted me up, and healed my broken heart.

You gave me the greatest gift I've ever received - unconditional love.

I don't even want to tell people you are gone. I don't want to hear all the those familiar words, "I understand," or "I'm so sorry for your loss." I don't want to be told how lucky I was, or how lucky you were. I don't want any of that, because no one, anywhere, can understand what you meant to me, what you gave me and how much I loved you...I don't think it's possible to love anything more than I loved you.

I called you "my beautiful," and you were, in every way that possibly mattered.

I have said you were the greatest love of my life, and it's the truth - that I was so well cared for, by you, that I learned to love myself, to trust myself, and to give life a chance I'd never given it before. I trusted you with my deepest fears, and you pushed them away, always letting me know I was stronger than they were. You were the only living thing I have ever trusted never gave me a reason to think I couldn't. Not in your entire life, not for a single moment.

Goodnight, my beautiful. My heart goes with were my everything.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The seedling splits

I've never done a great deal of gardening. I like to experiment, and I enjoy the fruits of my labors, but I've not invested in much, in terms of equipment or education. Just sort of a 'shoot from the hip' kind of thing.

This year I decided to take things a bit more seriously. This, after I promised myself I wouldn't do a much for promises to myself.

I decided that my garden would grow with peas and blueberry plants in my garden boxes, and everything else in Global Buckets, The buckets are a spin on the EarthBox revolution, but instead of investing in a $50 Earthbox, which would only grow two plants, or in the case of tomatoes, just one, I used materials I sourced for next to nothing, and made Global Buckets instead.

I have my buckets made, and now I'm waiting on weather, and the growth of my seedlings, to transplant into the buckets, which won't happen for a couple more months.

The seedlings have started to take over my guest/craft/sewing room. While there is still enough room (barely) for a single air mattress, to accommodate one guest, it has become a room where my ideas come to life. As such, it has become a favorite room. Like the rest of my house, it's about function vs. form, but the older I get, the less I care about form, and the more I care about what my house can do for me, or in other words, "function".

This weekend I told Cliff I needed more space for my seedlings, and needed more grow lights, too. Being the electrical wholesaler that he is, he set me up lickity split.

We use these shelves in our business, so it wasn't hard to fit one with fixtures for my seedlings. The bottom shelf is also fitted with a fixture, but I have to wait to split the remaining tomato plants before I will need to use it. Set on a timer, the lights come on, and stay on, for 16 hours/day. It has proven a very effective way to grow starts. I'm very pleased with how everything has emerged this year, and I'm glad I made the choice to start from seed. Far more cost effective. The Solo cups really make nice (interim) planters, and the clothes pins (50 for 98 cents from Walmart!) were great for 'tagging' each cup.

In the two days since I took the above image, they are triple in size. Amazing how fast they grow!

My basil cuttings grew well in water. Once they had developed roots, I transplanted them into the well loved Solo cups. I have several others started, and now that I know how easy it is to grow from cuttings, I will never be out of basil again!

Emergence has been well over 90% on all the seeds. Far more than I expected, and as a result, I've over planted. I will need at least another 12-18 Global Buckets to house everything. Of course, that assumes all starts survive hardening off, and the move to outdoors. Time will tell!

There is no doubt that gardening is an up front investment, but it's one I really don't mind, since it does pay off on the back end. Fresh food isn't cheap, and if you can grow it during the summer, it eases the pressure on the wallet.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Gardening...just can't say 'no'!

The lure of the garden was too much for me this year. I swore I wasn't going to get sucked in again, but I just couldn't help myself. The promise of things emerging from the ground, after a cold winter...well, like a moth to the flame, here I am again.

This year I decided to start everything inside from seed. I bought three Jiffy greenhouses, then realized those starts would need interim transplant before going into their Global Buckets - a totally unnecessary step. I planted far more than I have buckets for, but when I plant from seed it seems I only get about 70% emergence, so I'm over covering my bases this time.

I used Solo cups for my starts, and used a potting mix I found (recipe #1) on the Global Buckets website. I will also use this potting mix in my buckets, so it should make the transplanting easier on my starts (or so I'm telling myself).

From there, I simply cut holes in the bottom of the Solo cups, planted my seeds, and used clothes pins for labels. The clothes pins were 98 cents at Walmart for a pack of 50. Works for me. The Solo cups were cheap, too.

Everything is now under grow lights in my guest room, turned temporary growing house. With a healthy glow coming from my guest room window, for 16 hours/day, I hope I don't draw the authorities, curious as to what I'm growing!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Tomato cage trellis

Last year's garden was a lot of work, tied us down to home a little too much, and didn't produce like we'd hoped. This year, while we swore we weren't going to plant a garden, we just couldn't help but plant the Cascadia sugar snap peas we have enjoyed so much over the last two seasons.

Cascadia is a bush variety, only growing to about 2', so a heavy trellis isn't necessary. We really didn't want to do anything too involved for the two additional boxes, and wanted to use what we had on hand. The solution? Tomato cages turned trellises. We used heavy pliars to turn the 'leg' ends into a whimsical shape, secured them with some wire we had in the garage, flipped the cages upside down, and staked them into the planter boxes.  Easy, peas-y!