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Archive for April, 2008

Germinating seeds

I got my seeds April 12th. I decided to germinate them in baggies w/ paper towels. It worked really good and pretty fast. The flower seeds germinated in less than 2 days, and the peppers followed. The tomatoes took longer, I finally planted the salsa tomatoes after about a week (got it written down upstairs) but only 50% germinated when I planted them. The lemon boy tomatoes still haven’t germinated to this day, which pisses me off, unfortunately. We’ll see. It’s not over until it’s over. I sowed some lettuce seeds in the garden on the 23rd, and plan to do successive plantings in 1 week increments.
I love looking at my little seedlings! I’ve got flowers, peppers, and 3 tiny tomato seedlings so far. I hope to get some watermelon seedlings soon (just planted those today), and if my lemon boy’s ever germinate, I’ll plant those too.

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Long title, great info!

After reading this book, I decided to amend my soil with some hard work! This is not something I took upon myself thinking it would be easy, that’s for sure!

Double digging is a method of tilling your garden by hand that allows for the maximum amount of amendments, air, and fluffing of the soil all for the benefit of the plants. If you do this kind of tilling, you will be able to grow vegetables and produce closer together (french intensive method).

Of course, with clay soil there’s even more work involved:

  • You first remove the weeds/sod in your garden plot
  • Layer on top your amendments: manure, peat moss, compost, other humus, and fertilizer (if desired)
  • Trench (as in dig) the dirt out up to 2 spades deep (you can use a spade or a garden fork. I prefer the fork)
  • Start breaking up the clumps
  • a. Turn over a huge clump of clay dirt
  • b. Bang it repeatedly with the side of your garden fork until it breaks into small bits
  • Finally, work your way one forked trench at a time to the end of the plot.
  • Take a well-deserved break!

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I’ve been busy tilling out my garden plots. I’ve done my 3 secondary plots, and have yet to do the 2 primary plots because it requires removing sod, and I fear it will be back-breaking. I have to do it soon, though because it’s only going to get hotter. It’s supposed to get to 80F today. Another reason I haven’t tilled out my plots, is I’m not planning on planting in those plots until late May/early June. But I really should let the dirt settle… I’m trying a technique that’s called double digging; but am really only 1 ½ digging, cause it’s darned hard with this clay soil! My small secondary plot  (lettuce plot)  took about 2.5 hours to till out; the other plot (hot pepper) took about 3, in two 1.5 hr increments. I’m trying to limit my work to just 1-2 hours max as I don’t want to stress my body. The watermelon plot under the play set only took about half hour cause I only tilled out one trench only as the vines will be planted close to each other, relatively. The main plots are both twice as big as the hot pepper plot, so I’m guessing 6 hours each? 4 days of 1.5 hours each per plot = 8 days for 2 plots, spread over 4 weeks = tilling out 2 times per week, 1.5 hours at a time. Yeah, that’s definitely doable.
I’ve mowed the lawn twice this season, and have vowed to mow every 5-6 days instead of 7 so I can keep it shorter and neater this year.
The grass seed patch I applied has started to sprout, finally! I was starting to kid around about watering my “dirt patch” but then one day I went out to water it and it had teeny tiny grass seedlings in it, hooray. The neighbors mowed over the smaller patches, unfortunately. I hope the grass is hardy enough to recover getting rolled on and covered over with clippings. We’ll see. If it doesn’t come in very well, I’ve got some patch mix left over and there’s always next year.
I built a shabby compost enclosure and will fill it up with sod if I ever get it removed from my garden. And a neighbor tried to get some mulch/compost material picked up with brush but they didn’t take it, so I might go over and claim it for my compost pile. That would be a good way to get some material in there. The books said a pile less than a cubic yard won’t heat up enough to break down, so we’ll see.
Okay, I just got back from getting some. It was just old leaves and pine needles, but I need it to layer my compost. You’re supposed to layer green and brown materials, so it’ll balance out my sod. I got both recycle bins full. I barely made a dent in the pile. I could have filled up 8 or 10 bins full, I’ll bet. It’s so hot outside, though.

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Where are my seeds?

As far as I know, Burpee’s still hasn’t sent my seeds! I need to start the seeds right away so I can plant young plants outside by early June. I can’t connect to the internet right now, so I’ll have to check on that later, but I’m disappointed as the seeds are dormant, and can be mailed anytime.
I wasn’t able to find seed starter plats at Menard’s, so I got a tray at K-Mart. It was only $5 and has 72 individual sections. Scott and I went over the proposed garden plan and Scott was insistent the plants get adequate southern sun, so we moved the garden to be next to the patio, in two rows of about 8′ x 4′ each, and a secondary section by the house and wrapping around towards the side yard. That’s going to be tons closer to that darned dog, but we’ll just have to make due.
In this new arrangement, I’ll have room for 5 plants each of my 3 peppers and 2 tomatoes. However, I was thinking last night I will have very little use for the bounty of 5 habanero plants, so I will only plant 2 of those and add another couple plants of the gypsy and one of the banana. We can can, pickle, freeze and dry those peppers, and will definitely use them. Chestnut alone eats 3 bell peppers a week! (I hope I’m not ‘counting chickens’ here!)
I haven’t been able to start tilling yet, as I worked in the yard clearing brush for 3 hours and did a number on my back and legs. I’m still recovering, actually. But I had enough energy to sow the grass seed for the patches in the yard and organize the tools some more. The garage is really starting to be totally organized and functional. I have yet to organize the home improvement tools, and reorder the shelves a little bit. It’s a work in progress.
I really want my seeds! I could have bought some of the same seed packets in the stores. They are half packets and they are also half the price and no shipping. But the varieties are more limited, of course. Arg!

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Today I placed my order for seeds with Burpee’s. I’m planning on “growing vegetables” rather than “vegetable gardening.” The former has a much more relaxed attitude about it, and the second is very scientific and more likely to make me feel like a failure if my plants don’t make fruit. Oh, who am I kidding? I’m obsessive and a control freak, and I’m probably going to try my hardest to garden rather than grow…
I ordered:
3 kinds of lettuces: 2 mixes and 1 mild mustard (on sale)
3 kinds of peppers: Gypsy bell, banana, and habenero
2 kinds of tomatoes: salsa tomato, and yellow lemon boy
1 kind of watermelon: bush style to be planted under the play set
1 pkt of sunflowers: free with purchase
1 pkt of Tithonia, a cousin of sunflowers: free with purchase
I got seeds only, so we’re going to Menard’s tonight to get seedling trays and soil mix, manure, fertilizer, and peat moss or similar.
Okay, I just had an “I don’t know what I’m doing” moment. Big breath. My garden will be on the North East side of the house—but it still gets sun, so don’t worry about that. It is about 3-4 feet by 20 feet or so. I need to clean it out, add stuff (fertilizer and manure) and till it in by hand to a depth of 6-8 inches.
*Past experience was in a garden plot 3 ft by 4 ft, and we only grew tomatoes. Poorly at that. 3 or 4 years in a row, and we only got like 4-8 small tomatoes each year. Pathetic! I postulate that Dad didn’t take full responsibility for the garden and so I did some, but that wasn’t enough. Soil wasn’t properly prepared, and plants were spaced too close together so roots prob got crowded. Miracle grow applied sporadically, and sun and water were not steady. I read that plants only produce fruit all season with consistent conditions; when there’s bouts of drought the plant needs it’s energy just to survive, let alone produce fruit.
I charted out my garden last night, and I will probably have room for: 15 pepper plants only, 8 tomato plants only, and lettuce scattered between. I want to start lots of plants, but I still am squimish about thinning healthy plants, so I’ll probably just plant less to start with. And the seedlings need higher temps than I can provide, so I either have to find room in the house (sheltered, warmer) or use a heating pad in the garage. Or do a combo. Depending on the size and number of trays I get, starting them in the laundry room may be plausible. I need them to fit on a 4 foot countertop, for sure.
It’ll be a lot of work, but hopefully it will be worth it. We’ll see.

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