Category Archives: seedlings

And the season begins

Howdy!  It only seems like we didn’t do any gardening last year, because I never updated the blog.  We did grow plenty of vegetables, although the Back 40 garden was a complete disaster, overwhelmed by weeds.  I was also overwhelmed by a new job, hence no posts.  But we’re back, and this year there’s a new plan.

This year we are of course doing the usual in the front gardens:

Tomatoes 5-22
Tomato plants
Eggplants & peppers
Eggplants & peppers

These are the leftovers, which we will be giving away to friends and family.  Old MacDonald likes to have extras on hand, in case of premature vegetative death.  Or because he has the flats, so why not fill them?  I just nod and smile; as we all know, I don’t do the seeds.

Out back, though, we’ll be trying something new and different.  In previous years, the Back 40 has been a 25′ x 90′ monstrosity of a garden, where whatever is planted must survive on its own – we’ll weed, but we don’t water, and we’ll fence it to keep critters out but we don’t do much about the bugs.  Last year was such a disaster, weed wise, that we knew we had to do something different this year.  It was so bad we barely harvested anything from the gardens and I refused to go back there by late July because the conditions were so depressing.

This year we’re cutting that garden in half.  As much as we’d like to add to the square foot total of gardens, to make people question our sanity (go ahead, we do too!) – last year was depressing from a yield perspective and until we retire, we need to do what we can manage.  Its been reconfigured, too – a series of raised mounds of dirt to help create beds that can be mulched to keep down weeds:

The new Back 40 configuration
The new Back 40 configuration

We’ll fence it, as we always do, and we’re going to try putting down grass clippings as our mulch to control weeds and lock in moisture.  We’ll see how it goes.

Summer begins

So once again, I cannot take a lot of credit for moving the garden from concept to reality – J has done the lion’s share of the seedling care & planting. I did go on a massive weeding spree this past weekend, so the gardens are attractive enough to be posted on the internet:

Main garden
Main garden
Parsnips, carrots, turnips, beets
Parsnips, carrots, turnips, beets
Herbs & lettuce
Herbs & lettuce

It has been such a cold spring that growth has been sluggish.  Everything went into the ground the weekend of May 17th but it’s barely done anything.  I know the heat of July will kick everything into high gear.

One crop that is doing well are the hops – J bought three different types a few years ago.  The first year we put them in pots outside our sun porch, and ran them up a trellis.  Last year they were transplanted out into a sunny spot in the area where the orchard is going to go, and this year he split them.  Several of them are already higher than five feet:

Hop vines - without flowers (yet)
Hop vines – without flowers (yet)

Two years ago J grew barley, with the intent of trying to brew his own beer.  The birds ate most of it, and Max napped in what the birds didn’t get.  It was less than optimal, so we’ve abandoned barley.  And beer brewing, truth be told.  Turns out Sam Adams makes perfectly acceptable beer, and it is ten times easier to get it at the store.  Go figure.

Finally, the back garden went in this weekend – this year, everything is being started from seed (watermelons, corn, beans, peas, pumpkins, etc.) so there’s nothing to look at here except exceptionally fluffy soil and beautiful rows achieved with the assistance of some John Deere tractor attachment that’s been cluttering up our basement.  Meaning that it gets to live another year at our house, because there is no way I want to rake a 25′ x 90′ garden into parallel rows.

Back 40, after planting
Back 40, after planting

And now we wait.

Done…..with planting

We finished planting this weekend, in some of the hottest weather we have seen this early in June. It felt unspeakably hot to be out there yesterday, but we persevered. The tally:

125 Mr. Big Peas
120 Sweet Peas
100 Royal Purple Bush Beans
48 Pole Beans
2nd planting of Sweet corn
7 Sugar Baby watermelon plants
4 Moon & Stars watermelon plants
8 Dill’s Atlantic Giant pumpkins
9 Amish pumpkins (those mysterious pumpkins from the purchase 2 years ago in upstate NY at an Amish farm stand)
8 Jack-Be-Little pumpkins
7 Orange Smoothies

And it look like this:


…..which doesn’t look like much at this point. It joins the sweet potatoes, first corn planting (of a brand called Quickie; we’ll see if it lives up to it’s name) and sunflowers. No edible value to sunflowers, really (well, except the seeds) but we’ve always wanted to grow them so this year we finally got around to planting some.

This year we’ve fenced the entire garden. Last year we only fenced the peas, beans and corn, which worked out fine, but once the pumpkins, watermelons and winter squash had matured, something came through and sampled a little bit out of quite a few of the fruits. Plus, this year we have a turkey. We think it’s a female, but who can tell? (It could be a juvenile male. Only time will tell.) This turkey enjoys walking across the corn, and snoozing in the dirt mounds we created to plant the watermelons, squash and pumpkins. So up went the fence. Which works, because as I was finishing up the watering yesterday she walked out of the brush and right into the fence. Someone unhelpfully pointed out turkeys can fly. We’re hoping the dirt isn’t that appealing to her that she’ll fly over and end up stuck. Or knock the fence over.

Almost planting time

Last night the first round of corn was planted.  We have finally gotten some rain and the ground is no longer bone dry, so J could move forward with planting.

Our beets have started to come up, as have our cabbages, lettuce and potatoes.  Still no sign of the parsnips and carrots, but those are usually slower and we have been less-than-attentive to watering.  I am going to double-check them tomorrow and see if anything’s starting to pop up; if not I’m going to plant another round.

Our seedlings are looking good and are ready for planting next weekend:

The bottom two shelves are flowers,the top 3 are all vegetables.  This is not including what we will sow directly into the ground – namely, the peas and beans – and there are still more growing under the lights on the bigger rack down in the basement.

And the front yard yesterday:

The only downside is that to encourage healthy bulb growth I have to let all the foliage die off and turn brown before mulching the bed.  Still, worth it – it reminds me so much of our trip to Amsterdam last spring and the Keukenhof garden.  It’s nice to see such color without the jet lag.

More than just vegetables

In addition to our vegetables, this year we attempted to start our flowers from seed.  Longtime readers will remember that I managed to avoid planting many of the flower seeds and instead left it for J.  They have done remarkably well, as you can see:

This front basket was a gift from a friend

We did not grow the hanging baskets – they were purchased Memorial Day weekend from a nearby nursery.  I need to find out what the large green leaf plant is – it fills in the basket nicely as petunias get pretty leggy by August and the baskets still look great.
Originally we had planned to have hanging baskets of snapdragons, but the type of snapdragons – Lantern – really did not look anywhere close to good by Memorial Day, so we made the substitution with the nursery baskets.
The extremely tall flowers are dahlias.  I have never seen dahlias get quite so tall.  I was forced to tie all of them up with stakes due to their weight and the fact they were tipping over and covering the cosmos, geraniums, double petunias and aquilivia that I also put in the pots.
My front steps have never looked better.  Now if only I could grow a decent hanging basket.  Maybe if I plant seeds now, for next spring…..

Another Season Begins

Most of the garden is now in the ground:


Potatoes, carrots & parsnips, planted in April

 I didn’t remember to photograph the main garden, because we were headed out immediately to plant the back 40:

From this angle, it doesn’t look so bad.  Hunched over the rows, planting peas, beans and corn, it seemed like the worlds loooooongest field.  Where you can see the furrows above, we planted corn in one half of the right hand side (we are planning a successive planting over the weekend of June 16-17 if the weather holds) and on the left-hand side, we planted 1 1/2 rows of pole beans, 1/2 row of green bush beans, 1 row of purple bush beans, and five rows of peas.  I must have put in more than 200.  J claims to like peas – we’re about to find out just how much.  We left 2 rows empty to do successive plantings of green and purple bush beans.  About the middle of the field you can see some very thin stakes sticking up – J planted barley in that area.  Behind the barley is where we will be putting the pumpkins, watermelons, winter squash and radishes.  We don’t actually like radishes all that much, but J read that they repel the bugs that eat squash and pumpkin plants, so hey!  Let’s grow some radishes.  I bet the woodchuck will love them.
Our newest concern is how often it rains.  Unlike the main house garden and raised beds, there is no water source out by the back-40 field, and it’s quite some distance from the house:

Standing next to the field, looking back towards the house

In fact, you can’t even see the house from the back-40 garden.  Fortunately today it is raining, and it seems like we got a pretty good soaking rain last night.  We’re hoping the overcast/drizzly weather last through Thursday, as predicted, while J investigates the possibility of rain barrels for out back.  Otherwise it’s a really long way to haul 5-gallon buckets of water, even if we put them in the trailer that attaches to the tractor.

Good Morning!

This is the sight that greeted me as I came downstairs just after 5 AM this morning:

I did come thumping down the stairs this morning – I am always delighted to reach the first floor in one piece without having any coffee – which caused him to turn around and try and see in the windows next to the door.  Fortunately I managed to avoid being seen; when I am spotted there is lots of meowing and a lot of sad looks.

Many of the seedlings have been brought upstairs and put on a rack.  It started raining so we couldn’t put them outside earlier this week, but they’re going out today:

J has also planted the hops in pots outside below this sun porch:

We are growing three types (and by “we” I mean, of course, J and I am just taking associated credit.)  The vines grow 18 feet high, on average, so they’re on the ground underneath the highest wall of the sun porch so we have a spot we can string trelises from the top to pull them up.  (I also hope that it will provide a little bit of shade on a room that is hard to sit in during the height of summer, even with all the windows and doors open.)

The area around the hops is pretty much empty since they go up rather than out, so J decided on Monday to plant more herb seeds – cilantro, basil and dill.  He of course had help:

He said it would have gone much faster without a cat climbing into his lap.  I’m still trying to figure out when exactly I turned into a cat lady without actually owning a cat.

No Foolin’

I remember now why  I prefer J do all the seed starting:

Those suckers are really small.

Tonight we started oregano, basil, cilantro, thyme and later this week we will start parsley after soaking it per the package directions.  Our other stuff is doing really well:

Our seed starting shelves are getting very full.  The multi-spectrum bulbs seem to really work.  I’m particularly excited about the geranium seeds; all five came up and now look like real geraniums.  We should be in great shape by Memorial Day, aka transplant day.


So I have an extraordinarily busy schedule for this week and next after work.  Unfortunately, we are in prime seedling starting season, which means that poor J had to start my snapdragons.

Not grown by me

Snapdragons are native to North Africa and the Mediterranean, and are apparently incredibly fussy when it comes to getting them started.  The package directions say to sow them in vermiculite, and to only sow them on top of the soil and not to cover them as they need light to germinate.  They also need cooler temperatures, so they can’t be placed on a heat mat.  After sprinkling the seeds on top of the soil, they need to be misted lightly with water and monitored – they can take up to three weeks to germinate.  I picked about 4 different colors to grow, plus a type that drapes so I can grow my own hanging baskets this year.

The geraniums, apparently, need a completely different starting process.

Also not grown by me

We’re apparently already behind the 8-ball on this one, as many online gardening sites suggest sowing the seeds by mid-February for a mid-May planting.  The particular brand I selected this year requires soaking before planting.  Geraniums are sown into the soil and then thoroughly watered from underneath rather than sprinkling water on the top of the cells.  They need a lot of light and temperatures between 70-75 degrees during the day and 55-60 at night.  Under the right conditions, they will germinate in about 7-10 days. 

Ours germinated in two days.  Two.  And two of the five planted seeds germinated the next day.  Moral of the story?  Don’t believe everything you read on the internet; sometimes it’s wrong.  So our new concern is not killing them.  After all, this was the most expensive package of seeds – $2.25 for 5.  But a potted 4″ geranium retails for $3.99 around here, so if we can keep them alive, it’s a significant savings.

When we were placing our seed order, J told me that he was going to put all the flower seed starting in my hands.  So far he’s done all of it.  What a guy!  Of course, if this is successful, I will be unable to say that I grew all my own flowers from seed, because that will be categorically untrue as I have thus far done none of the work.

In August, when the gardens look great and my flower containers are at their height, I am always enormously pleased with how wonderful everything looks.  I forget what a pain in the you-know-what this is to get going.

Peter Piper Picked a Peck of…..

This past Sunday J started the pepper plants – all except the jalepeno, which he started this week.  They are down on the new rack and we’re waiting for them to germinate:

Before filling them with new seed starter, he washed all of them out, just in case there was any residual fungus or bacteria in the cells.  Of course, he had help:

It was windy, and our favorite assistant gardener helpfully watched the empty cells blow off the deck.  I like this photo, because it looks like he’s laughing at us.  Which he probably is – after all, we’re working hard and he’s napping in the sun.