Saturday, March 30, 2013

It's T & A Time!!!

T&A! T&A! T&A!

No, not T*ts and @$$, you perv!  Test & Amend!  Yayyy!!!

Doesn't sound too exciting?  Welllll...............................

If you want results like this:

And this:

Or maybe like this:

And this:

And, of course, who can resist this?!

Mmmmm :::drool:::

If you want to experience the above, firsthand, well you're gonna have to do this:

I first blathered about it here...  Or, you can skip my blathering, scroll down to the bottom of that post and find the links to Finnyknits' (aka Indie-Farms) blog where she explains Soil Testing and Organic Amendments very clearly and all scientific-like.

Feed your soil - and it will feed your plants!

So, if you're a South Bay Gardener - Run!  Do not walk to your nearest Garden Supply Store and buy yourself a Soil Test Kit.  Do it NOW - before the warm weather truly hits!!!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

More Gardening Madness and Bonus Bee Story!

So yeah...  Been bizzy-bizzy-bizzy this past week or so!

Friday afternoon, I granted myself a little "Comp Time" from work and logged-out an hour early so I could drive up to San Mateo for the annual San Francisco Flower and Garden Show.  It's an Annual Thing - kinda like one of those "Rites of Spring."  I feel like, if I missed it, it wouldn't *really* be Springtime!


Why yes please!  And thank you!! :-D

The Garden Show actually doesn't change a whole heckuva lot.  Of course, the displays change - but it still seems like the same thing year-after-year - and I wouldn't miss it for the world!

I took a bunch of pics with my Droid while I was there but, unfortunately, none of 'em were particularly post-worthy.

Nevertheless, I did enjoy perusing the vendor booths and stealing getting inspiration for different types of ceramic garden art.  They had all kinds of cool stuff - from ceramic wind-chimes, to bird-houses, to funky brightly-colored ceramic sculptures that could be threaded onto a tall length of rebar.  I'm kind of thinking I need to make a sandworm (a la Beetlejuice) to slither and tunnel through my veggie beds!

I did make a couple of smallish purchases:  A new "not-so-deep" harvest basket, a metal duck sculpture, and a few tiny succulent plants.  I showed GREAT RESTRAINT in the Plant Vendor Zone - and I even walked past Love Apple Farms' booth without stopping! (Trust me - with appx 130 seedlings in the greenhouse - I do NOT need to purchase any more tomato plants!!!).

Rusty the Duck, guarding my veggie beds

I also purchased a new garden apron - but not at the Garden Show, actually.  I bought myself a Roo Garden Apron (online) and I absolutely LOVE it!  I'll admit, I was a little dubious about the "One Size Fits All" claim.  I am most definitely an ample person (and not at all by choice!).  I am happy to report that yes, indeed, for the Roo Garden Apron - it really is One Size Fits All!

Nope.  No spliff.  I just genuinely like the apron.  In fact, just for grins yesterday, I stuck one of the dogs into the Roo-Pouch/Pocket thingie.  Dog weighs appx 13# and - while she didn't like it - it wasn't at all uncomfortable walking around with the apron carrying a 13# dog!  I especially like all the pockets in it (like for your cell phone, or a pen, or shears, or whatevers).  

Let's see, what-else, what-else, what-else?!  Gawd, there's been a lot going on and I don't want to get too rambly!  

Let's just focus on the Garden Seedlings then...........

First bit o' drama was the sudden realization that as the plants get potted-up, the amt of available space in my greenhouse shrinks exponentially!  I needed more pots and more flats.  I'd found the pots on eBay, and I found several online sources for seedling flats - but shipping was "Are you freaking kidding me?!!"  Well, as luck would have it, we've got a Hydroponic Supply Store nearby, Rasa Hydroponics.  They have a nice selection of seed-starting supplies (including soil organic amendments), including 3" square pots and flats - competitively priced even!  So I am all set!

Today's photographic updates:

Getting ready to Get Dirty!
Roo Garden Apron and my spiffy new harvest basket

In the course of potting up, I did discover a few plants that seem to be suffering from damping-off.
I dragged out the spritzy bottle of chamomile tea - maybe they'll bounce back.

More potting up...  The entire lower-shelf is covered with flats, and I'm moving up to a second shelf.
I have added another 4' light fixture (So 2 x 2' Grow lights + 2 x 4' Grow lights!)

My first Zucchini is finding a new home!

Sooooo...  In a nutshell...  I started out with 131 mini potlets of seedlings.  I was actually forced to create a spreadsheet to keep track of 'em all (AAAACCCCKKKK!!).  4 never sprouted and got tossed.  As of now, 78 have been potted-up with 49 remaining.

I have two flats (cucurbits and tomatoes) that are currently cycling in and out of the greenhouse.  Out in the sun during the day, then back in the greenhouse at night...  Starting tomorrow, I think that's going to become 4 flats that cycle in and out (and I haven't quite figured out where they're all gonna go!).

Making a batch of Buckaroo Worm-Poo-Stew
For foliar feeding...

Annnnnnd...  I started a batch o Worm Poo Stew (aka Worm-Casting Tea), as per Indie-Farms recommendation.  I wandered a little off-course and decided to dump my worm-poop into a pouch made from old pantyhose (I don't want to strain it later!).  I'll let it steep in the bucket for a day or two, then put it in a spritzy bottle and spray the plants.

Next up:  The Annual Test-And-Amend Ritual (I'll start that next week).

Annnnnd...  A mini-update to the Bee Saga (which I never finished, but it seems like the story refuses to end!!!).  Here's a preview:

That is a bona-fide SWARM!

Okay, that's enough for today!  Happy Gardening!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



Sunday, March 17, 2013

March Madness! No, not B-Ball, but GARDENING!

Holy smokes!  It's been awhile, huh?!

Truth be told, I've been BUSY.  Sometimes in a good way.  Other times, not so good!  But let's focus on the GOOD, shall we?!

The greenhouse has been a very fun and productive place to hang out!  You may recall that last month, I started yammering about seed-starting in the greenhouse.

So how's that going?

Ohhhhhh....  Pretty well, I'd have to say!

Okay, this is a Burpee Super-Sauce 'Mater I started my "Old Way"
Jiffy Peat Pellets in the bathroom windowsill

Assorted Melons, Squashes, Cukes and Zucchs 
Already ready for potting-up (March 10)

Babies are growing like mad!
(March 12)

Friend P heard about my Seed-Starting Adventure and convinced me to share some shelf space!
P's babies started March 1.  This picture was taken on March 15.

My lonely Super-Sauce 'Mater (the bathroom seedling)
Doing surprisingly well (and way ahead of my other maters, actually).
Potted-up on March 16

Ordered 150 cheap blown-plastic pots off of eBay
Jeez, I hope that's enough!!!

We've been getting some halfway-decent weather so the first batch of potted-up babies got to spend the afternoon working on their tan!

All of the babies, tucked-in for the night!

Germination rate, overall, has been pretty good (except for the some of the older seeds).  And I figure I'll plan on taking inventory and potting-up, as needed, on a weekly basis.  

I wander out to the greenhouse, twice a day.  First to open it up in the morning (otherwise it gets too bloody hot in there!).  Then again in the afternoon to "bond" with 'em.  Watering, adjusting lights, and just checking on their general welfare before I "put 'em to bed" every evening.  So far, so good!

Today I tackled a few smallish garden chores: 

Broccoli and cauliflower have bolted.

Two raised beds are "mostly cleared" (I even weeded!)
Cabbage, garlic and artichoke get to stay!

Former-Finny-Farm gets to stay - for now.
This bed is "mostly shade" right now...

EasyBloom Plant Sensor

This is a Geeky Garden Gizmo that Hubs bought for me a few years ago.  It's used to track sunlight, air temperatures and soil moisture. Newer models also track soil fertility (but I don't think I would trust that).  You "supposedly" can download the readings to your computer by plugging it into a USB port.  Sadly, I cannot recommend this product because I can't seem to get it to work with ANY of my PC's (Yes, I've downloaded the latest software/drivers) (and my inquiry to Customer Support went unanswered).  "Oh, well!"

I did manage to get it to work ONCE - after I'd left the sensor in the Finny Farm Bed for a week.  It confirmed that the bed doesn't get enough sun for tomatoes.  But when I went to use it again in "Recommend Mode" (where it gathers data and offers recommendations for plants that *would* grow in your specific conditions), well...  It just keeps giving me wonky error messages (PC doesn't recognize the sensor when it's plugged into the USB).

So yeah, save your money!  

* * * * *
Random Observations on Seed-Starting:
  1. It's a heckuva lot more time-consuming than I thought it would be! Not a complaint - just an observation!
  2. It's only gonna get worse after everybody's potted up and has to come out/go back in the GH daily for "hardening off."
  3. You need to do math!  I started with appx 33 Peat-Pots per flat.  Well, when the babies start to get their first "true leaves" you need to pot them up.  33 Peat Pots per flat vs 18 x 3" pots per flat means I need a lot more flats than I have (and - obv - I had to order a bunch of cheap pots, too! See above!)
  4. Need LOTS of adjustable lights.  I have my 4' Hydrofarm Grow light hanging appx 3" above the plants.  On the upper shelf, I also have my old 2' Hydrofarm Grow light fixture resting on the upper shelf (so maybe 8" above the plants?), annnnnd I have an old Aero-Garden Hood also resting on the upper shelf.  This *just* covers 4 flats.  Gawd help me when potting-up is complete and I have to start using multiple shelf-levels! (I think I'll be purchasing another cheap 4' fluorescent light fixture from Home Depot and rigging it up with more grow-lights).
  5. Peat-pots:  Jury's still out on those.  It just happened that I had ordered a bunch of 'em on eBay, so that's what I used (along with peat-based "seed-starting" medium).  I like that you can start the seeds and pot-them-up without disturbing the roots.  I do end-up tearing-off the top 1/3 of the peat-pot when I transplant into larger plastic pots - plus I try to plant them deeper (especially the 'maters).  I've found, in the past, that peat-pots CAN wick soil moisture *away* from the plant if any portion of the peat pot is left exposed above soil level (YMMV - but that's been *my* experience).
  6. Interestingly enough, I'm finding that the babies I start in the bathroom windowsill DO seem to get a bit of a head-start over those that were started in the greenhouse.  I do have heat-mats under the flats in the greenhouse, but I think that - just because the temperature is ALWAYS warmer (and much more consistent) in the house, -the windowsill babies do better.  And once they're potted-up (and put on heat mats in the GH), they seem to do just fine...
  7. Oscillating fan is an awesome addition to the seed-starting ritual.  The constant air movement is good for the babies.  It makes 'em stronger AND keeps the soil surface from getting all yukky (and buggy)! But you definitely have to keep on top of watering (Daily!).
  8. Haven't had to utilize my "Old" Secret Weapon of spritzing the babies with chamomile tea (to prevent damping off).  Not sure why - but I'll take it! (And I still have my spritzy bottle of tea ready - just in case!)

Lastly...  In other (but still Garden-related) news:  Eggton (love her blog) posted an awesome-sounding recipe for white chili here.  Love-Love-Love this post because it hits on Weenie-Dog-Racing AND has a recipe for white chili! 

Well, immediately after reading that post, I ordered a BUNCH of white tomato seeds!

Mind you, I have NO idea where I'll find space for the actual PLANTS!

Some have been started in the bathroom window, and others have been started in the greenhouse.  The bathroom seedlings are kickin' @$$ and takin' names.  The greenhouse babies seem to be a bit slower with waking up...

* * * * *
Allllllllrighty then!  I think that makes up for 3 weeks of silence!  I'm freezing my butt off - out here at the Tiki Bar (no, it's not summer yet!), so I think I'll wrap this up and haul my carcass INSIDE where it's warm!




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