Archive for the ‘garden’ Category

Tales of a novice gardener

seedlingsHere’s my tiny seed starting & indoor winter greens set-up. A high-tech combination of repurposed egg cartons, plastic cookie trays, and plastic containers originally filled with mixed salad greens (clearly they were destined to become counter-top salad planters). The light source is a table lamp balanced on its side with a bare fluorescent bulb. I’m hoping to upgrade and add a second lamp soon. From left to right, there’s the planter with some kale; the seed-starting tray with 7 cells of mixed organic greens (exact varieties sprouting here not yet determined), and a planter with an earlier set of the mixed greens. I’ve had one harvest from the planters so far. I’m trying to be better at seed starting so that I might be able to double my yield: two salads a month instead of one every two months.

seed time again

I don’t know if this will remain my sporadic gardening blog or if geography talk will surface, but I am here again to discuss seeds. It’s much too early to do more than dream, given that there’s currently 6 inches of snow in the balmy Niagara region of Ontario. I do have two small planters (repurposed salad mix containers) of greens growing in the kitchen illuminated by a bare CFL bulb. Lettuces, mesclun, kales, that sort of thing. So far the yield has been about one salad in 2 months. I’ve just planted more seeds and I’m hoping to increase the harvest a little.

I bought several different packages of mixes from Fedco Seeds Coop last summer, which is great for variety but it also means I don’t actually know what I’m growing other than “winter lettuce mix”, “organic greens mix”, and “kale mix”. In another month, I will start seeds indoors from the “heirloom tomato mix” and I don’t know when, late May? plant the “rainbow carrots mix” outside. I don’t think carrots are good candidates for starting inside, but I should confirm that.

I’ve got a stash of egg cartons and toilet paper tubes ready to go as biodegradable seed starting planters. I’ve got more seeds than I can use and too much shade in the back yard to take full advantage of all the space. And I’m making lists of what other seeds to buy: spinach, beans, peas, herbs. I just hope my excitement carries over into implementation this time around. My previous record isn’t all that great.

seeds & seeds no more

I’ve had some good luck with seeds — the seeds I saved from heirloom tomatoes bought at People’s in 2007 have all sprouted, except for the orange one – so far only one seed out of six is up, but I only need one plant anyway, so that will be fine. None of the 1992 Seeds of Change tomatoes has sprouted, so I just dumped all the remaining seeds in some dirt and set the container on top of my Mac Mini, which acts as a heating pad for germination (tomatoes apparently like warm dirt). Maybe I’ll get lucky. The sprouts are doing well — not too leggy — in their egg cartons in clamshell containers perched on stacks of whatever I had lying around to get them within a few inches of my living room lamp light bulb. My camera is being repaired, but I’ll post a photo when I can.

Most of the sunflowers have sprouted, but those seeds were packed for 2010, so that’s to be expected. I now have two sprouts from the collection of ancient greens. Too soon to tell what kind of green they are. Not sure if I’ll try starting any of the 2010 mesclun seeds indoors or wait for planting outside.

In a triumph of rationalization, I justified buying some cookies so that I’d be able to use the plastic tray in the the package to hold the tomato egg cups when they’re too tall for the clamshell.

looking down

I finally resolved to plant some of the seeds I had collected and held on to over the years. They don’t take up much space, and you always get so many more seeds than can used in a year, so I kept them. And kept them. And kept them. This is the end of the line: I’m going to use up or compost my tiny stash this season and get all new seeds in 2011. Following good gardener practice, here’s my diary:

21 March: large indoor pot by south-side window: rouge d’hiver lettuce (packed for 1992!) and mesclun salad mix (circa 1999), both from Seeds of Change. My expectations are suitably low; after 6 days, one has sprouted. Tomorrow I’m going to scatter all the remaining seeds from these packs, add some more soil, and give them one more week before declaring failure.

26 March: DIY seed starter kit from egg cartons & plastic clamshell boxes. One dozen ornamental mix sunflowers brand new for 2010 (from VT-based High Mowing Seeds); 6 seeds each of Burbank slicing tomato (Seeds of Change 1992) and seeds I saved from some heirloom tomatoes I got at the food coop in 2007: yellow pear, orange, and red-green (no idea what the official names of the last two varieties were). Twenty-four tomato seeds planted in all, and I’m hoping for one or two surviving plants given the circumstances.

This weekend I also want to start some basil and marigolds, using up seeds ranging in years from toddler to voting-age. Not sure where I’ll put them, though, as I’ve got limited space for indoor cultivation. I’ve also got some geriatric peas to plant outside, but I think I’ll hold out one more week.