Friday, February 5, 2016

Seedlings and Still Learning

When I started my first attempt at gardening, it didn't occur to me to do some reading first. As the years passed, with wisdom must come change. I have to start implementing some of the things I've learned. Many people state that, "nothing taste better than home grown produce", but when I tasted my first homegrown strawberry and tomatoes, I didn't taste the difference. The strawberries were dark red but not sweet at all although they'd been left on the plant till ripe. What I've been pondering and have read at some point during my few years of attempting to garden"went in one ear and out the other", as I seemed to put what I learned in the back of my mind. Why, I'm not sure.

I've bought my last bag of Miracle Grow potting soil and plant food. I have one bag left but won't use it in containers or the ground. Did I ever read that it contained sludge and isn't a good thing to use, probably so but as I said, as a novice the importance of this didn't impact me at the time. I read a lot this week including some articles about Miracle Grow and the company that makes Round Up with it's equal problem possibly impacting the  decrease in the bee population along with other chemical and pesticides being used by gardeners. I do believe it starts with the soil. If nutrients, minerals, and beneficial organisms aren't in the soil I grow my vegetables in maybe that's why they don't taste the way I expect them to. Nor do they have the nutrients and minerals that vegetables should have.

I took my first step to organic gardening last fall when I bagged up my leaves  for leaf mold. It looks like soil to me and doesn't smell, and no insects came out the bag as I expected. There were no remnants of leaves although there was one weed seedling in the bag when I opened it. Organic gardening used to mean to me just not adding chemicals or pesticides and that some may be safe but that's not exactly true. It starts with the soil we grow our food in, adding organic things to build the soil such as leaf mold, compost, untreated grass clipping, and things that were once living that break down and turn into humus like the right mulches and straw. 

I learned that mulching not only helps keep moisture in so plants don't dry out so quick but it also protects the soil from oxidation and invasion by unwanted insects. It also breaks down and helps build the soil with organic material. You probably already know these things but for me, I'm learning and will continue to learn. Composting my kitchen fruit, vegetable, egg shells, coffee, and coffee grinds scraps would be wonderful but for me, this would be a feast for mice, voles, raccoons, squirrels, and possums in my yard. Even if I had a closed composter they'd still be drawn to my yard. If I lived on lots of land, that would be a possibility but  the city compost will be my option and it's free. But, once again, all compost is not equal, so I went to the website for the compost council to make sure that the compost that Philadelphia makes seems to be okay.  

Reading soil lables seems so much work but if I want food that actually nourishes my body and taste good, I'll have to make good choices in what I choose to use in my containers. A good compost would be perfect. Before I really didn't know why some gardeners grew seeds in compost, now I do. My own would be best because I know what's in it, but right now, that's not an option. So, what will I do for a potting mix for my containers this spring? I'd love to go get some compost from the park in Philadelphia's program. Second choice, make my own mix with the peat I bought during the fall, add vermiculite, and perlite, some of my leaf mold and some compost to add something organic and with some beneficial organisms. Last option, purchase a bagged soil that I've researched like Organic Mechanic's potting soil or Dr. Earth's soil which Homedepot started carrying last spring. It's expensive but after reviewing the ingredients on their site, hopefully better than Miracle Grow even their alleged organic potting soil. Buying only organic, non gmo, and open pollinated seeds will follow along with companion planting to help with insect control. From what I've read, if your soil is healthy it won't draw some of the unwanted insects. It's a possibility. I hope you're enjoying seed starting inside and outdoors, winter sowing.

Vegetable seedlings.

The chard. You can actually see 2 different types. I planted more than 3 seeds but this is what came up. I'll plant more to use ornamentally out front in my planter and maybe in the ground in the yard. Squirrels and raccoons might like this and it'll be a learning experience for me.
I like black krim and still have to sow some of the seeds.
Seedlings below.

Seedlings are below and more than I need but if they reach maturity, I can give some to my sister and neighbor.

Broccoli and 3 is plenty and another looking like it's breaking ground.
Only one pepper germinated but I'm not disappointed after reading that peppers can be slow to germinate. I only need one but would rather have more in case it doesn't survive. I'll sow a few more if nothing else germinates.
Freckles romaine lettuce starting to get some true leaves. Hopefully I have time to move them to individual peat pots this weekend.
Free seeds from an order. I wouldn't have ordered this type of kale but if it taste similar to all kale we should love it.
Kale. The seedlings look similar to the broccoli seedlings. They're starting to stretch and may need to go closer to the light.
The only pelargonium remaining from my first sowing. I'm still waiting for fresh seed to arrive from Swallowtail. Last night I dropped my tray of ivy leaf geraniums on the floor and was horrified all the work it took to get them this far and they're delicate at this point. I salvaged some and will pot them up tomorrow in individual containers.
Vinca getting a second set of leaves and time to transplant.
Red Kong coleus doing good and time to put in individual containers.

Begonias only 7 of 18 sowed germinated. Too late to start more.
I have to tackle separating the wizard coleus seedlings this weekend. The chocolate mint ones aren't large enough yet.
The broccoli and broccoli raab are for fall.
A succession of lettuce all season would be nice so I bought a variety to try including the bibb  and already have some mesclum lettuce seeds. The bibb lettuce is supposedly slow to bolt.
My mother always made a sauce with vinegar and hot peppers. Since she passed I haven't had sauce so it's time to grow my own and make some. The 5 peppers include anaheim, ancho, cayenne, jalapeno, and Hungarian wax.
For stir fries.
Chives are my favorite but haven't done well in my yard.The ones I have are a different variety so maybe these will do better for me.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Good Seed

Nobody told me lettuce germinates in 2 days as well as Swiss chard and one pepper seedling. More to worry about. I spoke with Swallowtail seeds today about trouble with the Maverick geranium seeds. I've never in the past called a seed company when I had problems with seeds, but this year I called 2 companies. The first about poor development of the Nir paper whites. No, I'm not an expert on seed starting or bulb forcing but I try to follow directions when starting seeds,  and use sterile seed starting medium, fresh seed trays, light if this is a requirement for the particular seed and a heat mat to speed up germination. I haven't even washed old containers this year yet but bought new ones. 

Swallowtail talked to me about watering and that spritzing the seeds from the top is better than bottom watering of geraniums/pelargoniums as it may cause the seed to rot. I felt that tornado geraniums which germinated well and are starting to develop their true leaves would also have done poorly but they didn't and were also watered from the bottom. I do appreciate this information and will spritz from the top next time until germinated as they recommended. The customer service agent was pleasant and I was offered a credit or more seeds. Of course more seeds was my choice. Let's see how these do when they are sowed.

A garden journal would be helpful. I have so many pieces of paper where I took notes instead of putting information in one place. Especially for vegetables as growing food is new for me. There's nothing like going in your yard and picking what you're going to eat hopefully chemical and pesticide free if the insects and critters allow. If my yard received more sun, vegetable beds would be possible but where the containers currently are is where most of the sun is. Then the soil would need to be tested first. Last fall I finally stopped cats from doing their business in my beds by putting chicken wire were they entered the yard. Although I've seen one cat occasionally passing through, there has been no evidence left behind since the chicken wire. I have a problem eating food where animals have deposited their waste.

The vinca seeds sowed 2 days ago have also germinated.

Romaine Freckles. You've seen my little vegetable growing sections. What am I going to do with this many lettuces if it survives? I only shook this many seeds into the container because I didn't know if all would germinate. Must be the advantage to fresh seed. I bought these in the fall packaged for 2016. This is their anniversary year and all seeds are $1.99 the whole year. So when I have time, I think I'll order some other seeds. The lettuce will have to be separated. Should have used small peat pots.

I believe you can keep pepper seeds for a few years and they may still be viable. These are from 2013 and have started to germinate also.
These are 2015 seeds. I love my broccoli but don't know if these are even appropriate for my region. I think reading that it tolerates heat is why I picked these as it may not bolt as fast in the heat.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Weekend

By the fire on Saturday morning after my trip to the vet with kitty. 
She maintained her position on Saturday and Sunday. Between trips to her bowl for food and water and playing with the ball throughout the house, she slept. Her bed is not far away but she's doing what she probably does when I'm not at home and can't see her laying on the furniture.
I did something this weekend that I haven't done for a long time, cook dinner on Saturday. Shrimps for shrimp salad. This freed my Sunday to do whatever I wanted including start some vegetable seeds.
Cooked yesterday for tonight's dinner, kale, collards, and turkey.
For some of my veggies. I won't talk about them until they do something if anything. I've never tried vegetable seeds inside before. It's a little early for some but I'm planting them today as some are cool season and will go out in early spring. 
Really having problems with geranium seeds germinating strangely. If a seedling dampens off I figure maybe too much moisture or keeping a dome on too long, but seeds that germinate and appear deformed, that's not something I did wrong. I'm not buying more seeds. I used the new ones for my second sowing and have a few left from 2015 and 2012 that I'll sow. Can't hurt.
The wizard mix of coleus germinated in 2 days but chocolate mint which was pelleted took a few more days but have started germinating.

Obviously I don't know how to sprinkle a few seeds in each cell. What am I going to do with these?

Giant exhibition red coleus starting to get their true leaves and a tiny spot of their red color. All ten seeds germinated and are healthy.
Vinca with some seeds again that weren't as healthy. One germinated with no leaves. I planted 10 and 8 germinated but not all look healthy. I sowed another small container with about 14 pacifica from Swallowtail seeds.
A closer look at those 2 vinca seedlings. The one on the top right still has the seed coat attached and the one next to it doesn't look promising.
Vinca again.
Another container of geraniums that don't look good either.
Ivy leaf geraniums. I dug up the seeds that didn't germinate today and they look like they have problems but the one's that germinated look healthy.
Ivy leaf geraniums again.
This is a geranium from my first sowing that refused to give up. Time to pot it up.
I'm going to see if these force. Minus time in the refrigerator but they've had some cold on my unheated porch and had to have some chilling before they arrived at the end of the season or else they would probably have been mushy, or dried out by now. The worse that can happen but they don't force. I'd love to smell them before spring.

Still showing out.
They're starting to look like ivy leaf geraniums. Good thing since I didn't label them.
Coleus and palm in the kitchen window. Last season's seedlings would look prettier had I have pinched it to help it be bushier.

She needed a little support. Did you say, what is that little plant? Don't ask.
Primose still living but needs to be deadheaded so more blooms can continue.
They bloom all year and are hard to kill.
The upstairs window. Yes there's still snow. 
In the upstairs window. Her variegated color came out with the addition of osmocote. 
Beautiful sunset tonight.
Pelleted chocolate mint has started to germinate.
Vinca on the heat mat covered for darkness to germinate.
Red coleus.
Coleus again.
Geranium seed on the left is abnormal.
Ivy leaf geraniums.
Ivy leaf geraniums

Geraniums seedlings having trouble germinating and don't think they'll do anything.
Only 9 viola seedlings remain. The other's died. Payed good money for those seeds and I'm dissapointed. I'll so the remained and try somehhing different like the window seal. After the light burned them they were doomed.
The ivy leaf geraniums have been the healthiest.
I hope you enjoyed seeing them as they progress. That's my favorite part of looking at other gardening blogs. It gives helps me see what to expect and what looks normal and what doesn't. Hope your seedlings are progressing nicely.