Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Latest (Gardening) Project...

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Okay, DH is out of town again.

And the weather is starting to turn NICE again (Ooops - Not Good!!!). It's still a tad chilly for full-on gardening (although I do still have more cannas to chop down - and TONS of weeds to pull!).

It's also too early to start any serious planting b/c nighttime temps are still dipping into the 30's. But that doesn't stop me from "planning" next year's garden! (Damn those seed catalogs!!!)

I've already ordered a buttload of seeds from TomatoFest. I've never actually ordered from them before, but they're somewhat "local" so I'm hopeful that the varieties they grow/sell will do well here. I'll start the seedlings in the bathroom window-sill using 3 Mini Jiffy Greenhouse thingies (with Peat-pellets - I bought about a bazillion pellets off of eBay a few years ago!). I've had "so-so" success with them in the past (they don't transplant SUPER-well, unfortunately).

I'll also start some of them in my hydroponic Mega-Garden. The plants I started hydroponically, last year, did *not* transplant-to-dirt well. But the plants that I left in there (roasting in the greenhouse, all summer long) did EXTRAORDINARILY well. Verrrrry prolific producers - especially when you consider that I'd planted them in 16 oz plastic drinking cups (and never potted-them-up)! I had a TON of tomatoes - but I have to admit that the dirt-grown 'maters did taste a lot better than the hydro-grown...

And I'll undoubtedly end-up making a trek to Ben Lomond at some point, this spring. Love Apple Farm grows/sells a wide variety of SUPER-COOL tomato plants. And, toward the end of early-spring, they generally have a Seedling Sale.

I've tried other growing experiments:

One was making a planter out of a 2 liter soda bottle. Topper's Place has the instructions for that (Note: I used a drill for making the holes - rather than a soldering iron - either way would work, though!). Might be a fun project for any gardening moms with wannabee-gardener kids, actually (Gardening+Recycling=About-As-"Green"-As-You-Can-Get!). The pop-bottle planters were actually good for starting seedlings (for later transplant), and I did manage to keep one Micro-Tom tomato alive, in the soda bottle for most of the season (But Micro-Tom Tomatoes are itsy-bitsy-small!). IMHO, I didn't think it was one of my more successful experiments. Still, it's a good "Green" thing to do - and it really *did* work well for starting seedlings (I didn't have any deaths from transplant shock, anyway).

One Utter-Failure (for me, anyway) was the Topsy-Turvy tomato planter. I'd planted yellow cherry tomatoes in that and it did grow - but it was verrrrry leggy (in spite of being in a very sunny, very hot part of the yard). Watering it was kind of a pain b/c I had it hanging pretty high-up (and you need a STRONG hanger for it - once you water the plant, it's verrrry heavy!). I did get quite a few tomatoes from it (although the dogs probably ate the majority of them!). But overall, I really wasn't impressed. But that's just me! Maybe I just had lousy luck!

(And yes, I'm sure I'll "try it again" this year!)

I would *never* discourage ANYONE from trying New Things in their garden!

Soooooo... Along those lines....

Paul James, The Gardener Guy, is My Hero! He's a bigtime organic gardener who hails from Tulsa, Oklahoma. His show, Gardening By the Yard, is on HGTV - and it really is one of my favorite shows! It used to be on every Saturday and Sunday morning - and that's how I'd start my weekends: Plant my @$$ in the recliner with a cup of coffee, watch Paul James, then get "inspired" to go toil in the yard. Even Rog knew better than to try to talk to me while Paul James was on! "You got somethin' to say - you'd best wait 'til the next commercial break, Bucko!!!"

Well, friggin' HGTV, in it's infinite wisdom, keeps changing their format, and shuffling shows around - to the point where I almost never watch that channel anymore! They moved GBTY to friggin' 7:30am EST on Sunday mornings (Yes kids, that's 4:30am, Pacific!). Now I think it's on @ 4:30am Sunday, and 4:00am Tuesday - or something like that. Of course, they never ANNOUNCE the change, or anything. The only way I find out about it is when I fire up the DVR (Yes, Rog - bless-his-heart - has set the DVR to record "My Show!"), and see that GBTY didn't get recorded (@#$%!!!!).

Ya know - I don't even care that 70% of the episodes are re-runs - I GOTTA have my Paul James Fix!!!

Sooooo Anyhoooooooooo (Yes, I digress!)..........................

A couple-three years ago, Paul featured a Self-Contained Tomato-Planter System. Even though, admittedly, he's not a huge tomato fan. Details of the show are here (I reluctantly post a link to HGTV's site! I'm p*ssed at them!). It looks like a pretty cool gizmo and, in fact, in a subsequent episode - during a Q&A segment - someone had asked how the tomato planter was working out and he said it was doing an awesome job (or words to that effect).

Wellllll... I got a flier for an Earthbox with a recent purchase. I looked into it and thought "Hmmmm..." But @ $29.95 + 7.95 shipping (apiece!), it seemed a bit steep. Not outrageous, but I'd like to experiment with several of them - and that could "add-up" real quick!

I really like the idea of the self-watering feature. I'd tried a few container-grown 'maters last year and my biggest problem was keeping them watered. The hottest, sunniest spot in our yard is on the [solid concrete] back patio (so I can't easily run the automatic sprinkler lines to them). And since it's sooooo sunny and hot, they tend to dry-out Super-fast!

So I "Let my fingers do the walking" - not thru the Yellow Pages, but good ol' Google! I found a couple of sites that offered-up DIY Plans for making your own "Self-Contained Gardening System."

This one has the best instructions - and I'm giving credit where credit is due! Josho's Home-Made Self-Contained Gardening System. I think I'm gonna build me one-a them!

This afternoon, I ran over to Big Lots and bought a 6 plastic bins [18-gallons] with lids. $5.00 each, less 20%-off coupon. And I stopped off at Home Depot and picked up 3 pond baskets for $2.47 apiece. I've already got 1/2" sprinkler tubing that I'll use in lieu of the PVC pipe. We've already got the jig-saw and drill, so I think I'm Good-To-Go. Added Bonus: Big Lots had 1.5 cubic-foot bags of soil for $5.00@ (again, less the 20% off coupon!). So, all-told, I think I'll end up with three COMPLETE planters for less than $20 apiece - "SCORE!!!"

I think I'm going to experiment with plastic mulch this year. Maybe plant one with red-plastic mulch; one with silver (I'll use a mylar "space blanket"); and one just using the plastic top drilled with holes.

So I'll be tinkering around with making my planters this week...

Another New Experiment this year will be growing a Giant Pumpkin. I bought some Dill's Atlantic Giant Pumpkin seeds. I don't think I'll be growing any Record-Breakers this year (since it seems I should have started soil-prep last year!), but it'll be fun to give it a try! Those, I'll grow "in the ground" over by the back gate. I've done nothing to improve the soil back there (yet!). But I plan to dump some compost and steer-manure, and create a kinda/sorta "raised" mound where I'll plant the pumpkin seeds and hope for the best...

Yep - I think "Spring Fever" is starting to kick-in now.... (But DAAAAAAMN, we need more rain!!!).

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