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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