Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Coffee Planter Gift

I am seeing a long time friend in about a week. She is also a gardener so I thought I would take her a few seedlings for her garden that I know she has not grown before.

A couple of weeks ago a large fast food chain started selling really good, high quality coffee and had a promotion, giving it away free. Shortly into the free coffee promo, I had quite a collection of coffee cups. One day they were sitting on the counter and this idea came to me. What a unique temporary planter that would make! Being a big coffee drinker, I was able to collect quite a few cups and a holder. The medium size worked better than the large tall size which were tippy.

I thought this could be used to start seedlings, since it comes with a lid as well, but for this purpose I am just going to transplant seedlings I already have growing, into the cups. One week is not enough time to grow things from seed. I could also take another set to her planted with seeds and the lids intact if I have time before I go.

I poked holes in the bottom of the cups for drainage and added a piece of aluminum foil to the bottom of the cup to catch the water.

Into the cups I planted:
Garlic chives
'Keri Blue' dahlia
Aunt Molly's ground cherry
Sweet potato
'Super Shepherd' pepper

I put a label in each cup and put them upstairs in the warm room, under lights. I am hoping they will all be growing and healthy in a few days.

I use slats from horizontal window blinds for plant labels. You can cut them to size and write on them with permanent marker. They last a long time and you get hundreds from one small blind. You can put holes in them to tie onto branches and colour code them too.

I am hoping it will be a surprise but if you are reading this, Diane, see you then!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Its Spring! Happy Springtime Everyone!

Its spring! We, in the northern hemesphere are heading back towards the sun! Yippee!

Spring is usually on the 21st, but not always. This year is it today. The days will get longer quite fast now and the sun will be warmer.

We still have about another three weeks before we can say the winter weather has truely passed, unfortunately. This is a frustrating time of year for gardeners.
The days are so warm and sunny, I could put all my seedlings outside through the daytime but the nights are still below freezing. It is too cold at night to have veggies in the unheated coldframe or greenhouse, so I do the "in and out" thing now for a few weeks.

When mid April arrives, in about three weeks, all my little veggie seedlings will go outside, some in the coldframes and some directly into the garden.

There are a lot of green sprouts in the flower bed and the herbs are looking green again. I have fresh thyme and oregano to use! I have been waiting all winter for that. Next year I think I will grow some herbs on the windowsill or under lights in the kitchen.

I planted the primulas into the garden yesterday. They had been hardening off for a few days on the front porch. They can take the freezing cold nights. The daffodils and tulips are poking their heads above ground, the irises are growing and many other perennials are showing signs of waking up.

The chickens are out free ranging every day this week, eating bugs, green sprouts and grass. They have been looking at a snow covered landscape all winter! Spring is very welcome here!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sprouts on My Windowsill

I have a LOT of things I want to grow this year, bags and bags of seeds. I came to the conclusion that only way I will get them all planted is with an early start, so that is what I did. I acquired a few little flourescent lights to extend the daylight at both ends and started planting at the end of January.

The first things I planted were canna lilies and tomatoes. You can read about growing cannas from seed in a previous post entitled
"Seeding". You can read about growing tomatoes from seed in "Growing Tomatoes From Seed".

These are some of the canna seedlings. Looking good and getting big!

I also planted peppers, a few red brussel sprout seeds (only three sprouted) and ground cherries a few days later. These are the peppers and red brussel sprouts now.

These are the ground cherries. I think I will put all of these into individual pots soon. I found a large number of 4" pots in the cold frame when I opened it this morning. I must have quickly stuck them in there last fall. I will be planting more ground cherries this year, probably many rows of them. I want enough to can for pies all winter and a large batch of wine. I grew a small amount last year but didn't eat many of them. I used them mostly for seed.

These are the other brassicas I have growing. They will all go directly into the garden as soon as it is workable, hopefully by mid April. I intend to grow a lot of broccoli and cabbage and use a combination of BT and BE on the cabbage worms.

I have two containers this size of broccoli.

This is the cabbage.

This is bok choi.

These are the red cabbage seedlings.

As you can see, brassicas all look alike as seedlings so it is important to label everything.

These are my sweet potato slips.

Grown from these sweet potatoes that I started rooting in water in December.

My edoes are doing well. You can read about growing edoes in
a previous post "Edoes and Elephant Ears".

These are my chichiquelites (Garden Huckleberry). I have read that they are close in taste to a blueberry, a bit more sour, but I can always add more sugar to pies. I am hoping to get a lot of berries for wine and pie making all year. I may have to concentrate on collecting enough seed this year and grow many rows of them next year.

The large globe onions are doing well. They will go into the garden with the brassicas as soon as it is workable. They need a drink which I will take care of right away.

I also have chives and garlic chives growing. These will go out with the onions into the herb row.

I have a couple of just sprouted cilantro seedlings in the pot from the grocery store. I planted some seeds in with the growing cilantro. The plant did not survive but the seedlings are coming up. I did not realize they had sprouted so quickly and had them covered in heavy plastic out of the sunlight, so they are leggy and will need more light than they have been getting.

I also have flower seedlings growing.
These are primula seedlings outside in the flowerbed, only yesterday freed from snow cover. They are so hardy!

This is another one in the garden, amidst the green sweet williams. This one has buds on it already! When I saw this, I put the group I had growing indoors, outside on the porch to start hardening off.

I was adventurous this spring and planted four bird of paradise seeds. One sprouted and is growing. It's about 6" tall now.

These are my dianthus "Siberian Blues" seedlings, planted in a cookie tray.

I have both white and lilac daturas growing in here. There is also one tiny 'Black Magic' heuchera seedling about 1/4" high.

Among the seedlings I also have some of last year's dahlias, cannas and callas. This is a dwarf white canna that I grew from seed last year. It bloomed the first year from seed! I grew it indoors all winter on the windowsill. It was looking a bit tattered when the new spring growth started. Now it looks pretty good.

I have a lot more flower seeds yet to plant. I am trying to plant something every day in an effort to get everything planted. I don't know if I will make it or not. The ground is thawing and the snow cover is dissappearing. I have work to do outside!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Another New Addition To Our family

Our cat, Chisel, needs someone to play with, a friend and companion, so we decided to acquire another kitten. You can read about Chisel in a
previous post "Lost and Found".

I placed an ad on kijiji for a young cat, less than about a year old that is neutered, not declawed and short haired with a sweet personality, either gender. I got a few answers to my ad. The first one was just around the corner from us, right here in town, so I gave them a call. They dropped this little girl off at our place today.

She is about 6 months old, spayed and even micro-chipped. She is, of course, scared to death right now and will need some time to adjust to her new home. Poor Chisel is very interested in her but she is afraid of him and is spitting and clawing at him when he comes near. He is complaining about this, loudly, at present. He doesn't have an aggressive bone in his body and just wants to be friends. I am sure they will be great buddies when she settles down. Chisel forgets that he spent his entire first day with us hiding under the couch.

She has been here for a couple of hours now and she and Chisel are still keeping their distance, she sptting at him and he complaining about it. I do hope they get to be good friends! I am a little worried about it right now but we are willing to give her time to settle in here and accept him.

We adopted a set of wild kittens that were about 6 weeks old once. They had never been around people before. They spit and growled at us, at first. It was only about two weeks before they climbed up our legs to snuggle in our lap every time we sat down and cried at the bedroom door to sleep with us. Young ones adapt very quickly. We hope she will too.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Growing Tomatoes From Seed

This year I started planting my tomato seeds in January. (Our last frost date is May 24.) As you can probably estimate, January is way too early for most folks here. I got excited about all the tomatoes I want to grow. I got carried away looking at my big seed stash and had to plant. I am just too impatient to be a farmer.

I knew it was early and they would get leggy and be too thin to do well in the windowsill in February, so I bought a couple of very cheap flourescent lamps, little ones, old desk lamps at a second-hand store. I put these in the very wide south windowsill where I grow my seedlings. Every morning when I get up, around 5 am, I turn them on and make sure the tomatoes are under them until the sun is up and shining in the window, then I turn the lights off. I turn them back on at dinner time where they shine on the tomatoes until I go to bed at night, when I turn them off again.

This gives the tomatoes the amount of daylight they need. They do ok with 12 hours, 14 is even better. Twelve hours is enough, so this means that I can rotate seedlings under the lights. 12 hours for one set and 12 hours for the next set of seedlings. This way I only need lights for half the growing seedlings at a time.

I started them in little newspaper pots setting in cookie and roast chicken trays and anything else I had saved for planting. You can read about the newspaper pots in a previous post here.

I like these types of trays for this purpose because you get a lid with it.

As soon as they start to pop up, the lids comes off. These tomato seeds sprouted in just a few days! They were so fast!

As the tomato plants grew tall, I transplated them into larger containers, planting them as deeply as possible each time. Tomatoes like to be planted deep with only a couple of leaves showing at the top. They will grow new roots all along the stem, giving them a good supporting root system for later.

This also helps to keep them from getting leggy when planted indoors too early in the winter.

They were soon too tall for the little paper pots.

When they got that tall, I transplanted them deeper in the same containers and took away the paper pots.

These are the tomatoes after transplanting the first time.

They took about three weeks to get too tall for that container.

I took them out and replanted them into the same container. This time I layed the root mass sideways in the bottom of the container with just a couple of top leaves showing. They have been growing like that for a couple of weeks. I had hoped they would take longer to get too big for those containers, but that wasn't to be. This is what they look like this morning.

The time has come to give these babies a very large, more permanent home, at least until they go into the garden.

Today I transplanted them into tall ice cream containers that I had saved. I left a bit of the top showing. The root mass sits solidly on the bottom of the container but I think they will have lots of room to grow much taller.

These tomatoes consist of three types that I have been asked to grow as a 'CSI' project. They are 'Cowlick', 'Spudakee' and 'Indian Spripe'. I think the last ones are also called 'Cherokee Stripe'. I am taking detailed notes on the plants as they grow. I will need notes on soil, dates, temps, weather, taste tests, seed saving info, etc. etc.

(I don't really know what CSI stands for but I am pretty sure it has nothing to do with forensic investigation. )

Some of the tomatoes are for my own use. I planted a large, heirloom beef heart type from Portugal. I don't have a specific variety name for it but it did very well last year and we liked them. I got the seeds years ago in a trade from someone who's ancestor brought them over from Portugal. This is our "Portugal" tomato.

I also planted "Matt's Wild Cherry". (No, I don't know who Matt is but have wondered that myself. I don't know who Pete is either, but catch myself saying "for Pete's sake" often enough that I really should find that out.) Some of these plants are grape tomatoes, grown from seed that I saved from the actual grape tomatoes I bought at the grocery store. These are probably a hybrid so I don't know if I will get grape tomatoes from them or not. Its an experiment. (I love surprise gardening!) I am planning to also plant 'San Marzano' tomatoes. These are Italian and are suppose to be the best paste tomatoes in the world. We grew these last year but didn't make paste from them. This year I am going to. I have a lot of seed saved from last year's tomatoes.

We LOVE tomatoes and put them in just about everything we cook. This year I will start using my waterbath canner and actually can some of these tomatoes. Right now it is being used as our "ash pot" beside the wood stove. It's multi-tasking!

I am thrilled with the results of my tomato growth so far. They are strong and healthy. I have peppers and other things growing now too, in the new greenhouses I found on sale in my previous post! I have two of them set up at the back door that faces south in the kitchen.