Friday, April 30, 2010

Biodegradable plastics and other things...

I came across this today in another blog i have been following:

I went to reply but after 2 paragraphs i realized i was carrying her entry too far off topic....  but it sparked a memory of a few things that i'd like to hang onto just a bit longer, lol.
She is doing her own test on the Sunchips biodegradable bag in her compost pile. According to Sunchips, the bag should be gone in about 14 months.

This is what i was going to reply with:

interesting. i saw their commercials but never looked into the claim. there was a plastic-like product made of corn starch that i remember being started when i was a kid. i had a writing pen that was made of it. It was green and yell and had a character of a smiling ear of corn on it.  you had to be careful to not chew this pen because it would begin to break down. i think it was the same stuff that Booda Velvet dog chew bones are made of...

Anyhow, i wonder if the bags could be used as one-year containers for planting in. I know some people have done whole (though small)gardens using store bought soil. They simply laid the bag along the ground, leaving the soil in the bag and planting seeds in a couple holes punctured in the bag. At the end of the season the bags are split open and the soil is left in place to be tilled under- since the soil bag effectively mulched over the garden plot they were placed upon. I once bought some doggy cleanup baggies at a pet store where i worked that claimed to be biodegradable.  After testing them with household kitchen waste, i decided that they weren't very biodegradable. I did some research online and discovered they were only made up of 10% biodegradable.  I'm not an Earth worshipper or even a believer in the global warming hoax, but i was wanting to be a little more responsible in Stewardship.  That company really made me mad because frankly it was more than a little misleading.   But through researching that, i did find a company that does make doggy cleanup baggies that are plastic-like and compostable and at a decent price.  But since i decided to keep a Vermicomposting bin in my kitchen, i didn't need any small, biodegradable, plasticlike baggies for my kitchen waste  any longer since i don't have to take that winter trip to the compost heap anymore.  But i do need to find those bags again because we are adopting the neighbor's Basset hound (a sad casualty of an unexpected divorce and subsequent relocation of the  family into  'no pets allowed' apartments) tonight or tomorrow, so i will need something to pick up the poo and i plan to install one of those pet poo digester compost pits.
 So, yeah...i was going way off topic for a one-sided discussion and didn't want to gum up her nice Blog with my ramblings. That is what my Blog is for. LOL

So....  windy again today... not as terrible as yesterday.  How on earth my greenhouses stayed upright is beyond me.  I have the bigger one tethered to the basketball hoop with coated airline cable and i have the smallet one tethered to that....  it must be the weight of the plant trays and the stability of being strapped together.

One bit of bad news tho...  my big laptop is now toast.   I caught the little one banging on it heartily with a toy and the screen went dead. I went to take a dirty diaper to the trash and that was all it took.  I think the banging dislodged some condensation and it permafried it.  I am just going to put it in a closet for a week or so and see if it ever comes back to life, but i am not expecting anything.
At least i have this mini laptop for now. Its an Acer Aspire, and it is very small but fully functional...  it does let me play with the garden program and some Facebook games- though they are quite small.  But at least i get online.

I almost got my Delicious account setup...  i was planning to do it a few minutes before the power went out and in the mild drama of that, it didn't get done.. then shortly after that, my laptop croaked.  So, my bookmarks are probably gone...again... *sigh*

Oh, another thing that shows how weird things have been for this house in the last couple days.   One of the fan blades snapped off one of our ceiling fans...  while it was on. It simply snapped off and hit the wall...  Hubby saw it fly off, i didn't see it myself but i watched him go pick it up. I had heard the bump noise it made and asked him what that was when he went to get it.  We were lucky that it missed my salt water tanks. It Probably missed the top tank by only about 6 inches.  I'm really glad it missed because we very well could have had 30 gallons of seawater on our floor last night.
So that fan will be removed soon. We think we will replace it with a basic fixture, 12 feet away is another fan and they really aren't needed anyway. In fact i don't like either one at all, but the intact fan is useful.

I have been trying to get my livingroom reordered.  Its small and the furniture is ugly, missmatched, awkward and big and there is too much of it,  but still too little space for more than a couple people to sit comfortably.
Since i have been playing with graph paper so much, i decided to measure out my livingroom and put it on a graph.  I measured all the furniture  and cut out paper pieces to represent them. I put the grid with my livingroom drawn on it into a plastic 3 ring binder sleeve and put scotch tape on the pieces representing the furniture.  So i can stick and unstick the furniture in different configurations and try to come up with a better layout.  I used the scanner to copy a couple of the possible layouts because i will forget from one try to the next.  So i will try and get hubby to look at it with me.  I am so frustrated with this room and the way the space is laid out. Every wall has something against it and it feels cramped and cluttered. Most of our furniture was given to us, and we are grateful for that, but in the 'Beggars can't be choosers'  reality, we weren't able to pick our own pieces with the idea of economizing space. Also, nothing really matches and it is embarrassing on a daily basis, no matter how much i clean the livingroom, it always looks and feels dingy.

Ok, so frustration has been let out and i have had my chance to just babble.

Gardenwise, the Jerusalem Artichokes are really coming along now. They are still very short, but they are appearing  all over.
I have some eggplant seeds sprouting now and more of the seedlings are really looking good.
I hope my dad is willing to do some compost delivering and some tilling this weekend.  There are things i could actually have planted by now if this wasn't my first year getting this plot ready.  If i were more capable i would try the mantis on the garden right now, but i won't make my hubby do it. So i will have to wait for my dad to come with his tractor.
I really hope their back yard, where the compost is, has dried up enough for access.  It needs to be spread out so it can all warm up.

The waiting is truly the hardest part!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Power outage today...

Major winds picked up around 11:15 am. At about 11:30 i was outside making sure things were secure since the baby was finally napping.  I was coming inside and could hear the battery backups all beeping (we have 3 computers and the Vonage and modem whatever system all on their own battery backups)... so there are 4 beeping sources.  That woke up the kidlet.  So, now she is cranky. 
But it was weird because some of the appliances had power, but some did not.  Hubby said that is what a brownout is.  This is new to me since we have only ever totally lost power.  We always lost it completely.
So i didn't know if it was a circuit or what.  Hubby came home from lunch to check if it was on our end or not.  He said all the traffic lights were out.

I keep hearing sirens...  the first were only a few minutes after the power went down. Then about 10 minutes later there were more.  Then just before hubby came home i watched the Fire Chief go by and heard even more sirens. I think there are 3 or 4 towns coming in on this.

My computer has about 2 hours on its own battery when i put all the power on low...  but with the little one awake from a short nap,  its a few sentences at a time.

I always wonder what happens when this stuff goes on.

I wonder if the power out made the lights go out, then caused an accident, then later there was another one.
I bet my daughter's school has no power as well.   Fun for the kids i bet,  something to break up the monotony of regular school.

The wind is gusting so hard, i am amazed that my mini greenhouses are still upright.  I hope they don't topple!  At this stage  of growth, my seedlings will be very hard to replace.  It would be devastating.

I wonder how long we will be without power. The kiddo is mad cause i can't warm up her milk. Its refrigerator cold and i usually warm it up just a bit...

Fun planning, long-term seed storage

This is fun!

I played with the GrowVeg program and it is really quite fun.
I do need to do my garden plan in a sideways orientation rather than up and down because it obliterates the veggie lables otherwise.  I didn't realize it will let me map out my whole yard, not just the actual garden plot. So i have more things i want to play with...  but in a half hour of playing  to learn the system, i came up with this:

I really think i will subscribe.  It lets you customize your varieties, their size, spacing and names. If they don't have a veggie in their list, they have a 'blanks' for you to customize- and it allows for much detail.  It let me put in my paths in and it even has fruit trees. I'm sure there are more little features, but after just a half hour of just playing, those are what i found.
I did a test print also and it looks really  neat, clean and comprehensive.
I'm going to concentrate more on detail for my actual working plan and i will let me put marks where my hoops will be.  This will help me measure more accurately for the spacing when i actually get out there.
Now that i have a better guide on space needs of each plant, i will have a better idea of how many plants i will need and how many seeds i need to sow and which plants can be multicropped and companioned.  If i subscribe, this could be a great tool to keep me more organized next year.  I will be able to know just how many of what is needed and i won't have a ton of extra seedlings.  I can plant only what i need.

Another thing i was thinking about is proper seed storage. Now i admit i have had awesome luck with germinating old seed, but i'd rather be sure that i can be sure.  So around the time when college gets out, i plan to see if i can find a good deal on a used mini refrigerator. I want a dedicated storage place for my seeds to hang out. 
From what i have read, seeds stored at cooler temps and very low humidity can be kept extremely viable for 10 years or more.  Silica gel is used to keep humidity down and little refrigerators are adjustable and if i plan to use it for seeds only, it won't be opened much throughout the year. That means there will be few temperature fluctuations in their lifetime.
Gardening authors like Steve Solomon even encourage you to buy the bigger packets of seed of many types of  veggies and store them properly to save some money.  His math does work out in favor of this. Particularly if you like the varieties and plan to plant them every year.
This would also be good if i try the Eliot Coleman method of low tunnels in the late fall,  i'd need to buy extra seeds to keep us in cold season crops longer since my season for them would be extended... i might need twice as many seeds each year, so for 8-10 years worth of seed in a bigger packet rather than multiple small packets, the difference could be quite dramatic.
That is if my attempts are successful.

House work.... then more GrowVeg playing.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A couple more links to bookmark...

This is a nice site with cute and clean graphics. They have seed sowing and transplanting times in neat little graphic charts.

I printed them out and put them in my 3-ring binder.  I'm a visual person so i really like these comprehensive little images:

The rest of the site is nicely organised and illustrated.  There are tips and suggestions as well as season-spanning photos of their garden's growth.

This site is to a garden planner software. I am seriously considering using this, i think it will eliminate some guesswork and i could easily make multiple orientations to mull over.  I plan on beginning the free 30 day trial tomorrow when i have time to sit down and play with it.  They ask $25 for subscription, and i don't think that is a bad thing.  I watched the little demo and it looks like it has all the little details i need.
You can plot your garden or bed size, place your crops, and the crops have a little shaded halo to show how much space the plant needs. They apparently have a database for Square Foot method as well.  I am hoping to see if they will let you do a hybrid garden- by that i mean classic spacing and square foot spacing in the same chart.

Since reading Steve Solomon's  "Gardening When it Counts" i have gone a bit skeptical on the SFG method.  According to Mr Solomon, just because you can grow 60 lettuces in so many square inches, your lettuce might look pretty and provide a lot of food, the available nutrient level won't be very impressive.  He stresses the idea that your home grown veggies should  provide maximum nutrition, especially if you intend to go 'off grid' when it comes to veggies. Nutritionally deficient home-grown veggies are worse than less fresh store-bought and worse than none at all.  I think i agree with this.  The majority of his book is dedicated to explaining and teaching how to achieve the proper fertile balance of the garden soil, not to make the veggies grown in it as healthy looking as possible, but to make sure the veggies have every opportunity to become as highly nutritious and productive as possible.
So to help maximize the nutrient value of each plant, that recently maligned "old fashioned" wide spacing of plants, is actually the best way after all.  As if the farmers of old didn't know what they were doing all along.

But there are some items that i am not really looking to maximize the nutrient potential, i just want to snack on them.  Things like radishes, or things that don't mind being in poor soil, but do very well when intensively planted in extra fertile soil.
I do want to try intensive plantings of corn. With a small garden, there isn't any other method that will give you more than a couple dozen ears in a season besides intensive.  And if we aren't subsisting on corn, i'm not worried that it won't be as nutrient rich... i don't think corn is all that good for anyone anyhow.

But my cole crops, carrots, tomatoes, leafy greens and green beans... they must be as nutritious as possible because i want those to make up the bulk of our summer and fall eating.  The squashes also need to be up there nutrient-wise to have over the winter months when we won't have as much fresh veggies to choose from.
Anyway, fascinating book.  And great websites with good info.

I'm going to have to make an entry of just Bookmarks one day. That way if i ever have another destroyed laptop scare, i at least won't lose my Bookmarks permanently. I know there is a way to savy the bookmark list to my external drive, but i would have to update it often. Here i can just mention the new bookmarks every few days when i come across one.

I need to not worry so much about this blog being dull. Its really just a journal after all... mainly for myself since i have such a bad memory.  Blogs have more bells and whistles than any of the free journal programs i have tried.  This blog site is very easy to use and i won't lose it like i did the last time my computer crashed...  i lost the journal entries i kept during my pregnancy.   That was really upsetting.  Had i blogged it, they  would still be safe and sound.

Oh well, off to find something constructive to do...

Yay, then...not yay... ha ha

Yay-  my laptop survived!
Not sure how it lived, but so far it is back to normal and no sticky keys (i don't sweeten my coffee) even.
Hubby thinks i may have saved it by flipping it over to drain and yanking the battery as  soon as i could. I also put the blow dryer on cool and set it up against it for a few minutes.  WHile that was working, i got out mini box fan and set the laptop up so the air blew into the keyboard so i could put away the blow dryer.  Another thing that helped is thta keyboards have this  failsafe sort of thing, kind of like GFCI....  if there is a sudden voltage change it shuts down automatically.  So when the spill happened, the computer got itself shutting down and i just had to clean it up and wait for it to dry.

So there ends the drama of the day for Tuesday.

One thing i did do to change my laptop's settings to hopefully protect it was to go into the energy settings and tell it to do nothing when the cover of the laptop is closed.  This way when i leave the room for a few seconds, i can close the cover and this will protect the keys and screen from tiny, nosy,  little fingers---and spills.
I keep my laptop on all day and i check something on it a number of times a day. Shutting it down after each lookup  is not going to happen, so this might be the next best thing.

But i am grateful that i don't need to get a new one at this point.  I have been very good at archiving things into my external hard drive, so i would only have lost my huge bookmarks list and a few inconsequential things.

So, all is well that ends well... hubby said just to watch for overheating.

Last night large regions got snow. Our mountains up here got as much as 2 feet. Some spots a few miles East of us got some freezing rain, but i don't think we got any of it.  I think our night time low temperature got down to 38 degrees. I have not been out to see the mini greenhouses yet this morning. I haven't even been over to the window that has the indoor/outdoor remote thermometer in it.  I have the wire of the outdoor thermometer inside one of the greenhouses and then i have the 'indoor' part on the shelf of the gas grill where i can see it through the window (and it won't get rained on).

So there isn't much to report on sprouty things or gardeny things since it just raining out and its not a weekend, so nothing is being done.  Hopefully there won't be too much rain and my dad will be willing to get the compost over here for us.
I hope to have it get tilled in so i can put  clear plastic over the soil to wake up the weeds then run the Mantis over it a week later, then black plastic to warm the soil faster. 
According to the Johnny's blog and according to the book by Eliot Coleman (that i am reading now) i should be able to plant out the hardies within a week or two- and possibly as much as a couple weeks ago-  under the hoops of course.

The little citrus trees seem to be doing fine so far. The venous orange still has those rolled leaves, but there isn't any real info on this plant online. Some posts about them that result from searching, seem to imply that 'venous' is a made-up name by Gurney's/Henry Fields.  There was one suggestion that it might be Madame Vinous orange...which is a known type.  But its hart to tell because people are in general so dismissive to HF and their products, that nobody will say much even if they did know.

I don't know myself right yet,  i just want to get some nice smelling flowers. It doesn't even have to set fruit, but if it does i would love to see some fruit with at least an orange blush.
 I do want a variegated pink Eureka lemon soon.  I saw it first at Springhill's website... but i don't remember their reputation so i'd check in on that before i would consider them .  Territorial also sells it and they have the Kaffir lime that i want to replace the one i accidentally murdered.  They also have the Kumquat plant i want.
They also have one of the better reputations, so i might go there for "all my citrus needs"...  since hubby was kind of freaked out by my idea of turning the front garden into a Milkweed festival, i may have to console myself with a collection of a different sort.

The Goji seedlings are taking off like crazy, and i did manage to find the charger for my camera after an hour of searching the other day.

I also think that  my Hoya shephardi is setting a penduncle.  This is pretty exciting since this can take years to happen... of course it can still take years to bud and then bloom from this point i guess. But the fact that it seems to be starting something after less than 2 years from being a rooted cutting...  its pretty cool.  One out of 6 of my Hoyas might bloom within the next three years.  Yay!

 I forgot two of my Passiflora outside, i'm going to leave them out until it warms up cause i think if i bring them back in they might go into shock if they aren't there already. But i did repot the P. lavender Lady the other day, it looks happier in a bigger pot.

Well, i guess that is all.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


GOt a whole cup of coffee spilled onto my laptop keyboard. Not sure if i killed the laptop dead or just made it very sick.  Hubby is going to try and see if he can make it live again,  but if not i will have to borrow hubby or the oldest daughter's computer if i plan to journal.  I do have a mini netbook i could use, but i loaned it out to my mother and i think she will have it for a few more days.  So, unless i get a new one, or the old one survives...or i use the netbook, i might not get a chance to update here and may have to go back to a paper bnotebook for a while.

We'll see how it goes.

Meanwhile i have some graph papering i need to do...also want to use graph paper to try and rearrange the livingroom.  So of course i have plenty to do with the extra 15 minutes a day that i won't be typing stuff here.


Monday, April 26, 2010


Counted them all up...

Type - Name - Number Sprouted / Number Planted

Sweet pepper, Zsa Zsa- 0/0
Eggplant, Slim Jim- 2/5
Sweet pepper, New Ace- 0/0
Hot pepper, Fooled You Jalapeno- 2/5
Tomato, Roma- 5/5
Tomato, Black from Tula- 2/5
Tomato, Garden Peach- 3/5
Melon, Rocky Ford- 5/5
Melon, Hale's Best- 5/5
Melon, Banana - 5/5
Summer Squash, Patty Pan- 3/5
Watermelon, Tom Watson- 2/5
Watermelon, Pony Yellow- 2/5
Cucumber, Alibi- 3/5
Cucumber, Summer Dance - 5/5
Artichoke, Imperial Star - 2/5 (one looks scrawny, doubt it will grow)
Winter Squash, Long Isl. Cheese- 3/5
Summer Squash, Sundance- 5/5
Squash, Carnival 5/5
Winter Squash, Red Eye- 4/5
Tomatillo, Purple - 6
Tomato, Polfast- 5
Tomato, Pruden's Purple - 3
Tomato, Yellow Pear- 3
Broccoli, Gypsy - 7
Lettuce, Buttercrunch -5
Cauliflower, Graffiti - 1 (the rest got sun/windburn, need to reseed)
Collards, Vates - 6/6
Pak Choi,     - 6/6
Chives -7
Burdock - 7/9
Kale, Red Russian- 9/9
Kohlrabi,     -7/9
Asparagus, Mary Washington - 14/50 (just started sprouting, the other flat planted later has not started yet)
Genovese Basil- 9/9
Chervil- 9/9
Marjoram - 9/9
Sweet Basil -9/9
Anise- 7/9
Strawberry- 1/27 (and i'm not convinced it is a strawberry sprout, very disappointing)
Shiso - 1/3
Cabbage, Point One -4/9
Sage- 7/9
Okra, Burgundy- 8/9
Bird House Gourd - 2/9
Nasturtium - 3/9

Red onions, white onions, shallots, welsh onions...  most are up and going, but i'm not going to count those right yet. Also some flower seeds are up, but since they get planted randomly in different places  (companion planting or flower garden) i don't need to count them for calculating veggie garden space. Same with some, but not all, of the herbs and some things that were planted recently and are not (as expected) up yet.

More sprouts coming up

I think at this point all wintersown seeds that will come up are up (excepting peppers and eggplant maybe).  The Goji has also sprouted, one of the Leonotis leonuris have come up, a few of the scabiosa, most of the gaillardia, some of the rudbeckia and some other assorted ones i can't recall right away.

I haven't planted the paeonia seeds yet.  not sure where to plant them since they are supposed to be slow germinators with a large root.... so they will need something bigger than a 6pack or peat pellet to start in.

Today's job will be to make a list of sprouts. 

Oh, and i never did make the final graph drawing of the planting map for the garden. I did lots of  "sketches"  while trying to decide the minimum size i need the garden to be, but now i have to really pay attention to plant height and sun angle.  I also need to make a planting calender for things that can be planted in succession.  Some people can do all this in their head, almost instinctively. I cannot.  I have to write things down. I mentally understand all the little bits and pieces of information, but i can't line them all up internally. 
Maybe if i am successful a few years in  a row, this will all come together, but before now i gardened in plots like this:

So, the list today so i know what i must have room for.  Then for the next few weeks i can make a graph drawing.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


So...  what do i do with 20 some-odd Rosemary seedlings?
I don't have 20 some-odd pots or the potting soil for them...  they are rapidly outgrowing their pie tin...
Had i expected a decent germination rate i would not have been unprepared.  Or actually, i would not have used all my seeds.

Got this mossy green algae stuff all over. Looks kinda neat.

I think i'll have to resort to plastic dixie cups and grab another bag of potting soil...

The asparagus seedlings began to come up today. I didn't get a picture, but they are really small anyway. They look just like tiny asparagus spears, lol.

Most everything i have planted has at least one sprout so far.  I'll have to write a list of them so i don't forget.

I got the little citrus plants potted up too.  They look good. No time for pictures again.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Just some reference pictures...

In a few blogs i read there are pictures of seedlings. Those who have a higher zone number than i do, their seedlings are giant. Some of those gardeners still have a couple weeks before their planting date still....  i think mine is about 35 days away at the least....  my seedlings sure look puny compared to those early planters.  This year is an experiment to see if Wintersowing actually gives me a boost on a short season or if i break even.  I hope it won't delay...  but if it breaks even, i have to say that having the seed flats outside is a relief, since the inside of the house isn't severely cluttered from it. I only have a light shelf for the houseplant type seedlings.

Anyway, here's the pics:

Burgundy Okra

Bright Lights Swiss Chard

Point One Cabbage

I half hope this is the Strawberry. Out of 27 seeds its the only one up so far... :-/

Shiso, also spelled "Shisho"...

Should be a poppy. Out of most of a packet of seeds, only a few are showing up...  i sowed a whole flat.

Assorted melons, squashes and cucumbers

French Marigolds...  i let them get too dry by mistake, lost a few. But i have more seeds.

Gypsy Broccoli

Buttercrunch Lettuce

Polfast tomato

Purple tomatillo

Pruden's Purple tomato

Yellow Pear tomatoes

Collards and Pak Choi

Welsh Onions and Mirage Shallots

Chives all the way back, second from front on the left is the Burdock, left front is purple kohlrabi and then Red Russian kale on the right.  The other things are being slow to germinate.

Peppers, eggplant, a melon or two  and some very old tomato seeds that i am almost shocked to see them germinate at all, much less be numerous!

Sweet basil

Sweet marjoram

no less sweet itself.....Genovese basil...

And little grape is doing well.

Three trees...

My citrus trees came in today and i am actually impressed.
They weren't in the ridiculous plastic bag that i remember Henry Field's used to ship things in...  they were in a real cardboard box packed with inner sleeves and air pillows.

I still wasn't sure what i'd find...

Sturdy shipping sleeves

This is the Meyer Lemon,  much bigger than expected and looks rather healthier than i hoped!

Next, the Key Lime

A bit small, but this was the size i was expecting them all to be, but i didn't expect this size both healthy and leafy!

Last is the Venous Orange.  Leaves are a bit pale and rolled, but they are soft leaves, i think its just how they grow in.

No sign of scale, spider mite, whitefly or anything else. I can see roots in the soil that was loosened in shipping, but that means these are well rooted plants and  not recently propagated cuttings just barely started.

So i am relieved and pleased. For about $10 each, shipping included, i got some nice plants from a company with a poor reputation.  I hope this is a sign of a company on the move upward.

   I hope my little Fig plant arrives looking as well as these do.  It is scheduled for shipment around the first week of May.


Another gorgeous weather day today. A bit before noon and its almost 65 degrees and the sun is shining.

Later on i plan to take a few more reference pictures of the seedlings in the mini greenhouses.  Things are popping up all over in there!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

New seeds and old books.

More seeds came in yesterday.  The ones from Specialty Perennials.  I was happy that i got my seeds in 9 days,  from what i was told at Gardenweb, he often takes much longer to deliver. I was content with the idea of having to wait a few weeks or months.

I also found my copy of Crockett's Victory Garden.  I have been looking for it everywhere for the last few months, i try to re-read it every year that i expect to have a garden.  So anyway, i am glad i found it. I was worried it was lost or destroyed.

Here are the seeds i got (i just happened to use the aforementioned book since it was conveniently near) :

And i flipped the packets over to show the quantities, which are a little hard  to see...

Some of these seeds will need cold stratification, so i hope to get them going soon.  The packet containing the paeonia  anomala seeds is full of mold, which i assume must be somewhat normal since it was packaged separately in its own baggie.  I know some seeds have to be kept in their mush until planted out, i expect these are like that.

I have too much stuff to do today that won't get done.

But its nice outside. Almost 60 degrees before noon  already.


Ok, got some seeds planted.

Leonotis leonurus- Specialty Perennials
Monarda didyma- panorama shades, Specialty Perennials
Rudbeckia hirta- autumn colors, Specialty Perennials
Scabiosa caucasica- house hybrids,  Specialty Perennials

Gaillardia- Arizona sun, Park Seed
Stinging Nettle-  Richters
Siberian Motherwort- Richters
Pleurisy Root- butterfly weed, Richters
Roseroot- Richters
Red Knight, sweet pepper, Totally Tomatoes
Chiltepin, hot pepper, Totally Tomatoes

The things in the greenhouses are looking fine.  The Imperial Star artichoke seeds have sprouted one more seedling, so i may get 2 plants out of the remaining 5 seeds i had.  I hope so, in Johnny's seeds blog, they had mentioned the other day that they successfully overwintered some Imperial Star artichokes under hoops. This is  encouraging since i hope to do that myself this year.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

More seeds and my notes on bokashi composting

I managed to get some more things started yesterday. The Echinacea paradoxa are being stratified in the fridge. They need cold strat for one to 12 months...
I also planted the Sea-Buckthorn seeds and they are in the fridge with the Echinacea. The Sea-Buckthorn only need cold stratifying of about one month.
The Gojiberry seeds have been planted... and i was surprised when i got the seed packet. It was thick and felt strange.

Richters sends you a packet of dried berries for $2.50. I thought that was funny, and i was a little concerned. It seemed a bit shady at first since they sell whole, dried berries too and list the seeds separately and call them "seeds", not "whole, dried, seed-containing berries".

But i did some searching and i found this informative discussion at a board in Ireland, where a person planted the dried berries and got great plants. Instead of separating the seeds (which are similar in size and shape to rather small sweet pepper seeds)  i just broke the berries in two pieces and planted those in the soil.  I should see something from them in no less than 11 days.
 So, though it seems odd, it really isn't a big deal...and i bet its probably just as well for the seeds to be kept in their fruity little cocoon  until planting time.

I keep checking the greenhouses and it looks like everything is going to make far. Its just so chilly out there, but the greenhouses seem to stay about 10 degrees warmer in the daytime even with no real sun, and about 3-5 degrees warmer overnight.  I was not able to put any hot water bottles in them like i had considered doing.  I sort of wanted to see if i could go without.
But i am learning what things can be wintersown and what can't... too much interfering will skew my results.  Also, just because they sprouted, does not mean the seedlings won't be stunted when planting-out time comes.

But then it can't be too bad out there, since the basil is sprouting. Ha ha.

This year's garden is pretty much 90% experiment.
It kind of makes me wistful for my tiny little plots that got a bag of compost from the garden center and got all of our household and yard compost put into it each spring.

I know 28'x30' isn't huge, but i wonder if i am crazy for thinking i can do it. The book i just read by Steve Solomon seems to imply that if i have a good, sharp hoe, weeding should not be a problem even for me and my bad leg.  I sure hope it turns out to be true, cause otherwise this garden is going to rope my hubby into something that he shouldn't really be responsible for. He already has to do the refined tilling with the Mantis and will have to help me with the row hoops and covers.
Not to mention, if i want to do a root cellar...guess who will have to be doing most of  the construction on that?
Of course, if my garden utterly fails this year, i won't need a root cellar anyway. lol

I got my shipping confirmation from Henry Fields on Saturday. It says so far that billing info has been received at the UPS site. I hope this means that my plants are not sitting in their mailing package someplace on a UPS loading dock, to sit there over the weekend.  HF has an irritating habit of mailing their stuff in ridiculous, flimsy plastic bags. So i hope UPS only has the delivery info and not the actual goods and hopefully the goods are someplace conducive to plant life.  I think it would be completely foolish of that company to ship live vegetation on weekends. So i hope they haven't.
My fig tree has not shipped yet, which is fine.

My Hens & Chicks seedlings are doing well. Growing slow, but they are coming up all over the place in the flat.
I had brought the Rosemary in and they are also growing slowly but steady.

Um, what else do i have to write down...?

Oh, yeah..the Bokashi thing (also spelled Bocashi).  Its a type of composting that you can put proteins in.  I understand that if done right it can be done indoors, but i don't know that i want another indoor compost thing going on. One of the only reasons the worm bin is in the house is so that i have a place i can dump scraps without having to go to the back yard and because the red wiggler worms that are the best animal type composters are not able to survive our winters here.

Anyway the bokashi system is basically an effective microbe-innoculated bran material that is sprinkled in 
layers on top of the scrap waste. The effective microbes (EM) are basically lactobacillus.... and is apparently similar to, if not the same as what makes milk into yogurt.  EM cultures can be bought (EM1 containing a more diverse number of organisms) , but i am reading about people having the same results using the liquid that you get when straining yogurt to make yo-cheese.
I have also read of people using  newspaper sheets instead of rice or wheat bran to hold the EM.

So, what you do is get the newspaper, drench it in a mixture of water (6 parts), some molasses (1 part) and the yogurt liquid (1 part).

Put the wet, but not dripping, newspaper into plastic bags (i think a medium trash bag would work) squeeze out as much air as you can, then let it ferment for 10-14 days. Open the bags and spread the sheets to let it dry out.
I imagine the newspaper can be inoculated with the EM by spritzing the sheets with a regular spray bottle, then after they are fermented and dried, store in a used paper feed bag or a burlap sack, then put that someplace cool and dry.

To use,  layer a few pieces on the bottom of a 5 gallon pail with a tight fitting lid.   Place your scraps on that layer, then add another layer of the innoculated paper. Close the lid and repeat the next time you have more scraps, as often as once a day. They say the more you press down on the layers, the better it works.  The solid paper probably helps keep this less messy than sprinkling bran.

If you want to get a compost tea from this, you can get another bucket, attach a spigot to it, drill holes in the other (it will be the inner bucket) , put screening in the bottom, then stack the buckets.

For it to work at maximim, the pH should be around 3. This high acidity tends to taper off as the compost becomes finished.

Alternative materials besides newspaper can be shredded junk mail, wood chips, saw dust and pet bedding shavings.

Other sources of EM organisms include: kimchee, sauerkraut, natto, kefir and possibly kombucha.

The waste that it can utilize is veggies, meat, cheese, fruit, dairy (they say to exclude milk as its too much liquid) eggs, bread and the usual spent coffee grinds and  tea bags.
What makes this different from vermicomposting is the proteins and bread. What differs from standard backyard composting is the  proteins.

There is some mention of putting bones in the compost.  With a few discussions it isn't successful. One mentioned the outdoor setup was raided by wild animals.  But i think small bones like chicken wings and rib sections would deteriorate quite quickly when the acidity gets at the calcium (remember the chicken egg in vinegar science project?  we made 'rubber' eggs ), i think it wouldn't work so well with large bones such as the picnic shoulder of a pork roast. I think larger bins would have enough microbial activity  to process chicken thigh bones and maybe beef bones that come with some steaks.  Pork chop bones would probably work as well since they are thinner and the marrow is exposed.

Anyhow, i think this method might prove to be a  more complete fertilizer since it would contain composted animal products... acting much like blood, feather and bonemeal fertilizers-  but instead of buying it, it would be made of things you'd throw out otherwise.
Things you are already paying for.
When you pay $1.49/# for chicken thighs, you are also paying $1.49 /# for the bones too. Would you pay $1.49 for a pound of bones just to throw them away?

Wildlife gardeners
And myriad anecdotal internet search results.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Belated April fools...?

All i can say is that i am prepared to replant if necessary.

Friday, April 16, 2010

41 degrees in the greenhouse this morning. i have been trying to think of something non electrical to warm things up out there, but i can't.  Other than bricks heated in the oven. But i'm not going to do that because i don't want the oven running all day and the bricks would be too hot. The water bottles are probably my only real option.

I got my ship notification from Specialty Perennials this morning. I expect my seeds should arrive sometime next week. I can't wait to get the Leonotis leonurus started. I like orange and yellow flowers the best and the leonotis have such an interesting shape and the color is cheerful.  It looks a bit weedy, but i like it anyway. Hubby got me a couple more bags of seed starting mix. The Miracle Grow brand, not the Jiffy.  The MG is heavy compared to the Jiffy, but the Jiffy stuff made me mad being so water resistant.

I got my Richters order in today, so i will have some more things to start growing.  Some need a month or more of stratification so it would be smart to start those as soon as i can.

I posted to the gardenweb orchard section about my apple trees, i hope i can get some help!
What i would really like is if someone would put my pictures into a photo editing program and make marks where i should cut. I really need advice about the big one that has the bent trunk.

My dad was going to bring a few loads of loam from a local place today, but we decided that there wouldn't be much point in buying it when we might be able to wait another week or so and use the stuff that he's been composting.  If i buy it, it will only cost about $100, but why pay it if i don't have to.  The manure cost about $40 in gas.  My dad will need 4 loads for himself, so we are glad that the stuff itself is free.
Dragging in loam now won't speed anything up, and the wet weather we are getting isn't expected to be drenching, just dreary and chilly.  My parents will be leaving for their vacation in a bit as well, so this can  be done when they get back.

Another thing i have to do is research Bokashi composting...  the indoor worm farm is doing great, but i like to think about different things and try them.

So i will be updating my seed stash list today and my Gardenweb trade list if i get the time to do it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Got the electric fence today. I like it, looks very complete and i hope it will work to keep out the woodchucks!
I can't wait to watch it get to work...!

I keep checking the Jerusalem Artichoke patch and have been wondering if they are going to show up.  The rhubarb looks so happy that i imagine the soil has warmed enough for the JA's to appear.

But i think i see them now.  These are in the area i marked with the Red Rover tag, from Oikos:

There are two patches...

They seem to have been there for some time, but the days have been cool, so i am almost unsure if they are the JA's. I really hope the rest didn't get eaten. The seed tubers were not cheap.  I am almost considering beginning a small cottage industry selling them on eBay if i get inundated.  According to what i read about their productivity levels, the amount i planted should feed my family and the neighborhood for a year...  but if something ate most of them then i might get enough for a few meals every now and then through early winter.

Its supposed to be cold tomorrow, maybe even some wet snow...uggh.  But temps are not expected to get to the freezing mark, but prolonged cold with no sun to warm my greenhouses might not be good. But the  Wintersowing method seems to imply that bringing in the flats shouldn't be necessary.  I'm not so sure about that. I might bring them in anyway, at least some of them. Or just supply them with hot water bottles. I have squash and cucumbers sprouting and watermelon, those have me worried.  They aren't as rugged as the broccoli or even the tomatoes.
The weather may change and it may be warmer than they expect, if it stays in the 40's inside the greenhouses, all should be fine.

I hope. lol

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Root Cellar

No one wants second best. A slimy cabbage from a dingy corner of the basement will never compete with the crisp specimens on the vegetable shelf of the supermarket. Wilted, dried-out carrots look unappealing next to the crunchy, plastic-wrapped beauties in the refrigerator. When home storage is unsuccessful, a case can be made for artificial refrigeration. But the cabbage need not be slimy nor the carrots wilted. A properly constructed root cellar does not take a backseat to any other method of food storage. It is no great feat to manage a simple underground root cellar so that the produce will be equal or superior in quality to anything stored in an artificially refrigerated unit, even after long periods of storage.
A successful root cellar should be properly located, structurally sound, weather tight, convenient to fill and empty, easy to check on and clean, and secure against rodents. Proper location means underground at a sufficient depth so frost won’t penetrate. The cellar should be structurally sound so it won’t collapse on you. It needs to be weather tight so cold winds can’t blow in and freeze the produce. You need to have easy access to fill it, to use the produce, and to clean it at the end of the winter. And it should be rodent-proof so all the food you have stored away won’t be nibbled by rats and mice.
Provision must be made for drainage as with any other cellar, and the cellar should be insulated so that it can maintain a low temperature for as long as possible and provide properly humid storage conditions. Finally, microclimates within the cellar (colder near the floor, warmer near the ceiling) should allow you to meet different temperature and moisture requirements for different crops. The cellar will be most successful if it incorporates your underground food storage needs into one efficient, compact unit. It’s surprising how easily a hole in the ground meets all those conditions.

Any house with a basement already has a potential root cellar. You just need to open a vent so cold air can flow in on fall nights, and sprinkle water on the floor for moisture. The temperature control in the root cellar is almost automatic because cold air, which is heavier than warm air, will flow down, displacing the warmer air, which rises and exits. This lowers the temperature in the cellar incrementally as fall progresses and the nights get cooler. By the time outdoor conditions are cold enough to require moving root crops to the cellar (around October 21 to November 7 here in Maine), conditions in the underground garden are just right-cool and moist. With minimal attention, they will stay that way until late the next spring.
No wood or other material that might suffer from being wet should be used in root cellar construction. The ideal root cellar is made of concrete or stone with rigid insulation around the outside. Any permanent wood in a root cellar soon becomes damp and moldy. Wood will not only rot but also will serve as a home for bacteria and spoilage organisms and is subject to the gnawing entry of rodents. The stone or concrete cellar is impregnable. It won’t rot or decompose, and the thick walls hold the cool of the earth.
The easiest way to make a root cellar is to wall off one corner of the basement as a separate room. The best material is concrete block. There is no problem even if the rest of the basement is heated. You simply need to insulate one temperature zone from the other. Leave enough space between the top of the walls and the joists of the floor above so you can install a cement-board ceiling with rigid insulation above it. Also attach rigid insulation to the heated side of the cellar walls you build. The insulation can be protected with a concrete-like covering such as Block Bond. Install an insulated metal door for access, and the structure is complete.
There are several simpler options, especially for storing small quantities of vegetables. If your house has an old-fashioned cellar with a dirt floor and there is enough drainage below floor level, you can dig a pit in the floor 18 to 24 inches deep, line it with concrete blocks, and add an insulated cover. You will want to open the cover every few days to encourage air exchange in the pit. The pit won’t be as easy to use as a room you can walk into, but like any hole in the ground, it should keep root crops cool and moist. In warmer climates, you can use similar pits or buried barrels for storage either outdoors or in an unheated shed.
One of the simplest techniques we ever used, before we had a root cellar, was to dig pits in one section of the winter greenhouse. In that case we used metal garbage cans and buried them to their edge in the soil under the inner layer. To make sure they stayed cool we insulated their lids. We filled those cans with all the traditional root crops after their late fall harvest. Our whole winter food supply that year was in one central spot and when we went out to harvest fresh spinach and scallions for dinner we would bring back stored potatoes and cabbage at the same time.

This article was taken from this source, which was adapted from Eliot Coleman's "Four Season Harvest"

Another link...

Risky business...

Maybe it was early onset Spring Fever...  but i did it.  In early February, i tempted fate and granted the mail-order plant company with one of the worst reputations about $39 of my own money in exchange for some miniature citrus plants. 
According to my account, the plants will begin being shipped within a few days:

I don't like to be skeptical, cause being skeptical insinuates that i should have known better. But i feel i need to plead some sort of insanity...  of course i am also holding out that this company, despite all the evidence against it, will man up and send me something alive and in generally decent health.
I'm not expecting the Rutaceaen version of a mighty sequoia to be shipped to me in a box with fruit ready to be harvested...  but i would like to get more than a scale covered stick that dies within 2 weeks.

I have ordered from them before, with so-so results. I admit, at the time i ordered from them, i was even more a novice then than i am now. Some of he items came bare root and looked like something i fished out of a clogged sink...  but other things looked fine.
If i remember correctly i got some Japanese Toad Lilies, some English daisies, Ranunculus and i ordered some Manchurian Apricots.

The toad lilies did well enough and bloomed the year i got them. I think the bare root daisy may have had a better shot had i known what i was doing.  But it was a bust.

The ranunculus grew but never flowered.

The apricots never arrived. I was told they were backordered, and when it was shipped, i was sent a really nice looking forsythia by mistake.  I was told i could keep it, so i gave it to my parents- but they never planted it. That really bugged me because it was actually pretty nice.

They ended up sending me a store credit for the price of the apricots (about $7) that i never used, because the following spring they had filed for reorganisation bankruptcy or sale - and were shutting down during that time. So i kept the voucher but never used it.  I had planned on buying their multi packs of old fashioned lilacs with that voucher, but in a way i'm glad i did not because when we bought the new yard, i ended up with more lilacs than i could give away!

But i will try to be optimistic that i get the correct items, that  they arrive healthy, if probably smaller than i'd like, and they ship quickly because our weather is a bit odd in this "El Nino" year.

I am eagerly awaiting my Richters order. I want to get some of those seeds started. A number of them are hardy types that can be sown now. I got the ship notification on the 9th, so it should only be a few more days.

I think everything in the greenhouses did ok overnight. Before it got too cold, i put a heavy blanket over each one just to keep in whatever heat the containers had absorbed.

I need to write a list of what has sprouted already, just so i won't forget next year.  Many things have been up for a number of days, but i have been too busy to write down small details like that.

The Buttercrunch lettuce looks like it will be edible quite soon....

I cannot believe that these Tomatillo seeds as old as they are, are sprouted and look pretty good!

  A bit fuzzy, but i think these are the Polfast. The stick is facing the wrong way for me to read the name and i forgot already.

Pruden's Purple tomatoes

Yellow Pear tomatoes

Gypsy broccoli

Welsh onions and Mirage shallots

Collards...  i should have had faith and sown one seed per pellet. Now i have to thin them. Glad i only sowed two seeds each. I have had great luck storing seeds, so i tend to think of every thinned seedling as a whole plant wasted since i can keep my seeds in high germination ratios for many years.

Pak Choi...  I can't wait to grill up a few of these!  I need to do successive sowings of this!

Mixed flat of the front on the left is Burdock, on the right is Kolrabi
in the back i can see the tag for the Oregano, but no sprouts...  on the right, i can't remember what that is and i can't see the tag, but its obviously some sort of cole crop.
See why i need to write everything down? lol

Some brave little  tomatoes are sprouting in there...  both from seed that is over 7 years old.

Mixed flat...  the Swiss Chard and Point One cabbage are waking up.

Finally, the Rosemary...  it has been cold, but they have made it very well.  Now that i have the light setup, i might bring them inside.  I will need to pot them up soon or i will damage them too much if their roots get tangled.

The Electric Fence kit i bought from Tractor Supply has come in, i just need to go pick it up. Maybe later today. There is no real rush since i can't install it yet- nothing to guard.... and i don't want to have it too long before installing in case the warrantee is too short.  I have at least 30 days before i will need it and most return policies are "within 30 days".  So i won't get it until we can test it some weekend.  Lay it out and make sure it is sturdy and complete.

I saw my first cabbage butterfly yesterday...  i felt kind of bad giving it the stink eye as it merrily fluttered across the yard.  I covet my future broccoli and cabbage plants, if the electric fence keeps the woodchucks out, i don't want to lose everything else to caterpillars! Even with the row covers, i don't want to have to use a bunch of bug killers to fend off a plague.

Soon i have to clean out the Worm Farm.  The red wigglers have been happily munching away at kitchen scraps all winter. The topmost bin is looking quite full. I am not sure i know how to remove all that black gold without losing half my worms.  Its too cold for them to live up here through winter, so if i lose any to the garden they won't last. I know they are just worms, but they do such a good job :0)

Well i have cleaning to do and if i get it done before nap time is over, i might get to read a little too! Yay.