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I just got my last seeds for this year and am almost done getting them started. So far everything has come up really nice — a pretty big improvement from past half-assed seed starting attempts. But everything is still really young and not to transplant size yet. It is still early yet.

I had been led to believe that pepper seeds can take a long time to germinate and can be stubborn, but I had no problem at all getting mine up. I soaked the seeds in lukewarm water for 15 minutes ahead of planting, then I stuck them on top of the fridge (for heat) and under a humidity dome for a while. They began emerging in a few days and are now living happily under the lights of one of my Aerogardens. Then I’ve got my tomatoes that are all coming up nicely and various flowers that are in different growth stages.

I can’t wait for Plantin’ Day 2009! I have to get a few more big pots and one long, rectangular planter (for peppers, calendula and nasturtium) and a bunch of potting soil, but other than that I just need it to get warmer!

Tomato greed

The number of tomato plants that I’m growing keeps inching upwards. The four from my official 2009 plan are still happening, but then my step grandmother gave me some seeds for a red grape (‘Snacker’s Delight’) and I couldn’t pass it up. And then somehow I ended up ordering seeds for ‘Ildi’, a yellow grape that should ripen early and produce tons and hopefully taste a bit better than ‘Yellow Pear’ last year. Somehow I am resisting planting the Paul Robeson seeds I have because I know they aren’t as well suited to container growing as some of the other varieties I have picked (I have ‘Black Sea Man’ for a determinate black tomato), so at least I can be proud of myself for that.

I’m sad that I can’t grow the same varieties I would want to if I could put them in the ground, but I decided last year to select only cultivars that were specifically container friendly and see how that goes. And then I decided that cherry tomatoes were allowable since they did so well last year, so we’re up to 6 different plants of all different sorts for this year. I will have to buy some new big pots, but I hope that there is enough room on my deck for everything.

On my to-try list for as soon as I get my spot of dirt:

  • Brandywine (No duh, right?)
  • Paul Robeson
  • Carmello
  • Sun Gold (I’m trying this next year regardless of where I am)
  • Opalka
  • Eva Purple Ball
  • Kellogg’s Breakfast

I want some kind of a small white tomato, a green one and a good lemon yellow one, but I haven’t chosen them yet. The idea of having a whole patch of different colored cherry tomatoes is very appealing to me, but that seems impossibly indulgent right now. I just can’t imagine having that much space.

Winter 2008-9 Failures

Ranunculus: Got eated by squirrels around Christmas.

Sweet Pea: Only one came up, and then it quickly died.

Tulips: They were going so well, but began to rot in their pot during a rainy week about a month ago.

So sad. Oh well, you live and you learn.

A quick catch up

I took a break on the blogging, but I’m growing more than ever.

Over Christmas Break I went to Hawaii and came back with two orchids and a kahili ginger. My nice orchid is living with my parents where it can be babied and not devoured by my Jules and my cheap-o one is just hanging out, not looking much different than when I got it, but the ginger is starting to take off. My mom has had plenty of success with the same plant in the past, so that’s not surprising. I hope it blooms this summer, but it’s so hard imagine it getting big enough to do so. We’ll see!

I had my wedding shower at the end of February and it was garden themed, so I got tons of new garden-oriented toys. I got not one, but *two* Aerogardens, a 6+ and a Pro 200. I’ve started the herb kit that came with the 6+ and aside from the basil coming up purple when it was supposed to be green everything has been working just like it’s supposed to. I’m using the lights from the Pro200 to start seeds under and it’s wonderful so far. I’ll post an update soon about seed starting and my constantly evolving plans for summer.

My chives are back too

My chives are back too and that's the ginger on the right.

Plans for 2009, revisited.

It’s going to look like this*
Handrawn plans, since it's cold outside.

I am trying to keep my plans for next year reigned in, but it is proving to be almost impossible. I blame a number of things: the fact I have so many pots from last year, The Bountiful Container by Rose Marie Nichols McGee and Maggie Stuckey (review to come), knowing I have a reliable nursery and farmers market at hand for quality supplies, my out of control imagination and predisposition towards daydreaming, my desire to have something happening in my garden in all seasons. What’s a girl to do?

Working from my aforementioned plans, I’ve decided to add carrots (probably Scarlet Nantes) to the snap peas (very likely Sugar Snap VP instead of a snow pea, but maybe both if I get out of control) and greens on my list of cool season crops. I want to expand this list greatly in years to come, but I’m new to extended season growing, so I’ll see how these go this year. As you can see, I also am adding strawberries to my list of summer plants. Fresh strawberries are one of my favorite things and they shouldn’t be a problem to grow, so I have to have at least one for snacking/topping my ice cream or cereal, but I secretly want about 5.

Deciding what to do for flowers has been a pain because there are so many neat ones out there. Like I mentioned before, I really want to grow morning glories because I have always loved them, but they tend to be more like a weed in the garden. I won’t have that problem in containers though and I am going to mix them with moonflowers so I’ll have one vine blooming in the morning and the other in the evening. Because I still need more flowering vines apparently I am very interested in having some purple Cathedral Bells take over the railing leading to my front door. I will probably have one more pot with a flower on it and right now that is looking like it will be a balloon flower, an Astra series one that will be small and compact.

I’m so excited! I know that it might be a bit of a challenge trying so many new things, but I’m ready.

*Obviously even if everything goes perfectly, all the plants will not peak at the same time like in my fanciful drawing. Moonflower and morning glory bloom at opposite times, so getting this kind of overlap would be impossible, not to mention my tomatoes should all be ready at different times.

A question

I’m going to have to start a substantial number of my plants from seeds in the spring and I’m trying to determine what the best way to start them is. Is it worth it to get one of those special little trays that every seed company has some version of? Do they work, or are they a waste of money? What I really want is an Aerogarden (especially a Pro 200) but they are so expensive…

Which reminds me, so often I look up gardening stuff online I run into stuff about growing pot. It is kind of amusing.

Worm Poop Aspirations

Last year I didn’t put too much thought towards the details of fertilizing because I was grappling with the basics of taking care of a deck full of vegetables, but in these slow months I can turn my attention to what I am feeding my plants. Everything I have read has been full of praise for worm castings. They have a wide range of nutrients that are in a form easily used by plants, they improve soil aeration, they add lots of biological activity to your soil, they help hold moisture, you can’t burn your plants with them through overuse, they are ph neutral… all very good things that chemical fertilizers can’t offer.

Another big plus for me is that they are actually practical for me to produce on my own. I hate going to the store to buy things if I can make it myself! I don’t have bats or chickens to poop for me, but in January I am starting a worm bin. I figure the starting cost will be about $20-30 depending on where I can find worms and should be almost free to upkeep.

I recently bought the classic Worms Eat My Garbage: How to Set Up and Maintain a Worm Composting System by Mary Appelhof which I have flipped through a little. I understand the basics and hopefully when I read it throughly I will find answers to all the questions I have:

  • How much castings will my worms make every month?
  • How long can I store harvested castings before using them?
  • How quickly will unused nutrients wash away in the soil?
  • Are they too rich in nitrogen that they will discourage blooming or is that not a concern?
  • What nutrients are they lacking?
  • Do they cause salt build up in the soil or is that a problem only with chemical fertilizers?

I’ll let you know how it goes and post a review of the book when I get things set up, but like I said, this isn’t happening until early 2009.

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