Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Gardening Indoors in April

This year, like usual, we started our tomato, pepper, artichoke and eggplant seeds indoors in late February.  We found that the seeds we had from 2012 and 2013 germinated very well.  Older pepper seeds did not.  Our eggplant seeds did not germinate well.  The worst thing we found was that the Gardner & Bloome potting soil we bought was infested with fungal gnats.  

We had never had this problem before.  For weeks, I was vacuuming hundreds of them as they emerged from the soil and started flying around.  I had to lift each pot and vacuum the ones hiding on the bottom and around the sides.  I did this a few times each day.  I also bought yellow sticky traps which attract some of the adults (but not all).  Another thing I tried was putting potato chunks on the soil in some of the pots to attract the larvae.  Sure enough, after a few days there would be clear larvae 1/4" long squirming on the underside of the potato.  It was so disgusting.  

While fungal gnats are not supposed to kill plants, a number of our seeds would start to germinate and then disappear. We pulled up a few weak seedlings and found the roots were eaten.  Last weekend we divided our starts that had several in a pot and moved some weaker starts into fresh TAGRO potting soil.  We also sterilized the leftover infested potting soil by putting it in a metal pot, adding some water and steaming it on the burner on our outdoor grill.  We put a big dent in the population of gnats, so we're hoping the seedlings will start growing more quickly now.

Another thing that was different this year with our seedlings was that this was the first year we started our seeds under florescent lights in our back north & east facing room.  In the past, we had started them in our south facing dining room window and then moved them under lights in the back room after they were well on their way.  I feel like they took longer to germinate and are slower growing than when they have more exposure to natural sunlight.  Hence, we are kicking ourselves for not building a greenhouse this past fall/winter.  We definitely learned some lessons this year.

Artichoke start

Fungal gnats 

Tomato starts

Tomato start

Our grow light setup- bigger and better than last year, but still not big enough.

Out in the Garden in April...

Lettuce is sprouting in the cold frame.

Onions sets are planted and starting to grow.

Fava beans with newly planted Horseradish and some random dill sprouts.

Close-up of young Horseradish.

Asparagus shoot.  This is the 2nd year for the six little crowns I planted last spring.  

Monday, March 25, 2013

Spring is here!

I'm so excited that spring is finally here.  This fall and winter have been full of changes for me... physical changes, changes in daily activities and priorities.  As many of you know, we've been growing a different little sprout than usual.  Rather than spending the winter researching gardening topics like usual, I've been researching everything baby and it's a whole different world.  Rather than building a greenhouse, we transformed a bedroom into a nursery.  That being said, we are gardeners and we've been spending as much time as possible getting the garden going before baby arrives.  

Here's a list of what we've accomplished so far this year:
  • Ordered 7 yards of bark to refresh the landscaping (only moved about 2% of it).
  • Reinforced our fencing around the veggie garden to keep the pup out.  Built a "composting fence."
  • Pruned our apple trees.
  • Taught two workshops for our community garden.  Espalier Pruning and Seed Starting.
  • Started tomato, pepper, artichoke, and eggplant seeds (been battling fungal gnats ever since). 
  • Planted peas.  We're planting a lot of shelling peas to have some to freeze later.
  • Planted horseradish for the first time.
  • Bought potato sets.  They are chitting in the basement.
  • Planted four types of onion sets- Red Candy Apple, Red Zepplin, Walla Walla, and Copra.
  • Pruned the raspberry and blackberry patch.
  • Pruned the grape vines (still not sure if we're doing it right despite watching a lot of youtube videos and researching it in books).
  • Planted spinach and lettuce.
  • Kicked-Off the season at Orchard & Vine Community Garden.  Great to see everyone again.  This year I stepped down from the steering committee, but Terry is still on it as Infrastructure Coordinator.  
  • Planned out what we're growing for the annual O&V Community Garden Plant Sale on May 18th.  Hopefully we'll be able to keep our starts going after baby arrives.
That's about all I can think of right now.  We're just so excited to meet our little sprout this spring and watch her grow.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

2012 Winter Squash Count

 This weekend we harvested our Winter Squash and Pumpkin patch.  We would have waited another week for the squash to mature more, but for thievery.  The foliage had mostly died back and apparently somebody thinks it's okay to help themselves without asking.  They took at least two Sweet Meat, a couple Buttercup, and ALL FOUR of the Butternut Squash.  Bastard!  We know it happened sometime this past week because we had counted our Butternuts last weekend.  They would have had to really take some time to search for them and cut them.  On the positive side, no pumpkins were taken and smashed this year.  Overall, it was a great squash year.
The squash trellis made from branches was a success.  Amazingly two giant pumpkins grew suspended without any additional support. 

The squash trellis covered in foliage earlier this summer.

Definitely looks like fall!

Cinderella Pumpkins hanging on the trellis.

The biggest pumpkin- 42lbs!

The lineup!

Squash curing in the house before storage in the cellar.  This is the first year we've grown Spaghetti squash, Sweet Meat squash and Cinderella pumpkins.  All three produced really well.

The Final Squash/Pumpkin Count: 46

Buttercup- 5 (+2 stolen)
Butternut-0 (+4 stolen)
Sweet Meat- 6 (+2 stolen)
Spaghetti- 17
Turban- 3
Giant Pumpkin- 4
Regular Pumpkin- 3
Cinderella Pumpkin- 7
Jack Be Little- 1

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Coolest discovery this summer...

Being a lazy gardener paid off this summer with an amazing discovery.  Several weeks ago I noticed that one of my dahlias was getting powdery mildew really bad.  I was going to spray it with a baking soda/water mixture, but kept putting it off.  Then all the leaves were covered in the thick white mildew.  I was going to cut the whole thing back to the ground, but I didn't get around to it.  Then, whole sections of the dahlia starting splitting out and flopping on the ground because I never took the time to stake the thing.  So, I finally got sick of how horrible it looked and decided to do some pruning to cut off the sections that were laying on the ground.

Dahlia covered in powdery mildew (not very pretty!)

While pruning I noticed these little insects all over the leaves that looked like tiny lady bug larvae.  However they were white and not the typical black and orange.  Since lady bugs are good, I was conservative with my pruning.  A couple days later I noticed that the powdery mildew was disappearing and the larvae were clustering around the worst of the powdery mildew.  I was shocked.  I googled around and found that there are many different kinds of lady bugs and some eat fungus.  I couldn't believe it, I had never heard of such a thing before.  It took awhile to find out what type we have, but I'm pretty sure it's a tiny lady bug called the twenty-spotted lady bug (Psyllobora vigintimaculata).

You can see the adult twenty-spotted ladybug in the lower left corner.

I'm so amazed by these little guys.  It's a miracle how the powdery mildew has diminished significantly.     We even moved some of the larvae onto our squash plants to see if they'll help control the powdery mildew there.  We definitely have plenty of it for them to eat.  Now I if can only get some regular lady bug larvae to help control the black aphids around here.  

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Garden Eye Candy

Sunflower 'Starburst Panache'
(My favorite sunflower this year)

Birdhouse Gourd
(The coolest thing we're growing this year)

Today's Harvest (August 14th)
Lettuce, Strawberries, Lemon Cucumbers, Eggplant 'Millionaire', Tomatoes, Green Bean 'Fortex'

Potato Tower Harvest

We took apart one of the potato towers.  The tower was only 18 inches tall (three fence boards high)  and it contained Yukon Golds.  They filled half of a five gallon bucket.  I plopped the bucket on our crappy bathroom scale and it weighed about 13 lbs or so.  Not a bad yield from 8 seed potatoes.  There were quite a few large potatoes and medium sized ones too.  The potatoes were well distributed throughout the tower.

We still have three more towers to disassemble.  Two contain Reds and one contains Banana fingerlings.  I can't wait to see how those did.

If we do potato towers again next year, we'll put the fourth board on the towers to make them 24 inches tall.  Maybe we'll get 25% more potatoes.

It may seem like a lot of work for potatoes, but they sure taste a heck of a lot better than the ones in the grocery store.