A garden is the best alternative therapy.

Posts tagged ‘blue lake’

Sprouts … new Burpee Seed Starting system

I was at Home Depot the other day and they had their seed station up for Spring.  I decided to give the new Burpee Seed Starting Ultimate Growing Kit a try.  I set it up last Sunday and sowed 36 seeds.  By Wednesday, the broccoli had sprouted and now almost a week later I’ve got several bean sprouts up, too.  I’ve never used a system like this, but it looked like it would work well.  As you can see by the pictures, there is a water reservoir at the bottom that wicks the moisture up on a pad that runs under the individual seed cells.  Supposedly the water in the bottom reservoir lasts for a week.  With just a couple of sprouts, I think it would probably last three times that.  But with all the cells being used, I bet it would last almost a week.  The system is reusable and once its usefulness is done, it is completely recyclable.  Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up.

The kit comes with 72 Burpee Super Growing Pellets, which I opted to use.   They are purportedly all-natural from sustainable sources, but I couldn’t find an ingredient list and I’m sure they’re not organic.  Oh well.  Everything I do to these plants from here on out will be organic!  The pellets were actually very easy to use.  I put one pellet in each cell, added warm water and they expanded to fill each cup in just a few minutes.  A helpful tip:  make sure that the pellet sits flat and that the warm water doesn’t turn it on its side.  The pellet does not expand properly if it tries to expand on its side.  If it does this, just do your best to break it up and it will fluff up.

A cut-away diagram of the system: the seedling tray is supported on another flat tray that stands above the water reservoir on several legs.

Side view of the layers. The absorbent "wick" is washable and reusable - as is the entire kit.

Calabrese broccoli, foreground and Tendergreen and Blue Lake bean sprouts, day six from sowing.

Bean sprout almost free of the dirt

In addition to those sprouts, I have also sown Ring-O-Fire cayenne pepper seeds, Cal-Wonder Orange Bell Pepper seeds, Bloomsdale Spinach and two varieties of lettuce seeds.

Garden Update 10/31/09

It’s been a couple weeks since the last garden update, so I need to document some of the changes.  In the past two weeks, I’ve started brewing and using my own compost/worm casting tea.  I started with an anerobic brew because I didn’t have an air pump, but I’ve since purchased one and now have been successful brewing several batches of aerobic tea.  While I started brewing the tea using strictly worm poop, I’ve since added a good shovel full of fresh compost as well.  Every two days I have a new sweet-smelling batch of tea that I’ve been applying both as a foliar spray and by watering into the ground.  I think it’s still pretty early to say how well the tea is working, but I’ve seen some significant growth over the past week especially.   What I have noticed – in the herb garden especially, is an increase in earthworm activity.  Every small section I turn over I find a small worm loving life.  I know this is good for the plants and shows the soil is healthy.  Compost/worm tea is reputed for building beneficial protozoa and bacteria which aerate the soil, providing nutrients, and growing fungi like mycorrhizae which attach to the root system of the plant, allowing it to pull more nutrients out of the soil and protect it from diseases.  All of this wonderful activity underground is mirrored in the phyllosphere above, creating a healthy environment at the base and up the entire plant that draws in more beneficial insects and keeps harmful ones at bay.

Ingredients:  shovel of compost, 1 cup worm castings in panty hose, four gallons of rainwater, 1/2 cup of molasses - add air.

Compost/worm castings tea after 18 hours

I officially lost the squash, zucchini and cucumbers, may they rest in peace.  I’m still bummed about that.  My last report on them showed how destructive aphids can be.   I really think that this is because the soil was simply not ready.   This stressed out the plants, creating an environment for the aphids to come in, multiply and take over.  I’ve pulled them all up now, reworked the soil, added fresh compost and watered with the compost brew.  I hope to create healthy soil before I put the next round of plants in, giving it time to build the right balance of fungi, nematodes and bacteria.  Right now, I’m not really sure what I’m going to put there.  It appears that, as the year progresses, the rotation/tilt is now causing a bit more shade in that area.  Perhaps I can find some partial shade veggies that I can put in.  Who knows, maybe I can start putting lettuce and spinach over there.  They seem to be doing alright.

I planted the spinach starts that I had going – twelve plants in all.  They’re really tiny yet, but I’m hoping they’ll be fine.   They seemed to have slowed down the past week, so my thinking is that they need more room.  I’ve got them nestled into a bed of fresh compost and mulched them with even more on top.     The lettuce I did the same way, and it is really growing.   I’ve got sixteen plants going right now of three different varieties, as well as another fifteen or so started in toilet paper tubes.  The broccoli has struggled a bit establishing themselves, but I have a handful of strong plants that should be just fine.  I have another four that I’m watching – and another transplant ready to put in if need be.   Also in the same bed, the carrots are developing nicely.  I’ve got about 110 of them going.  Libby, our little brat dog (just kidding, she’s the most loved/spoiled dog in the world), decided that she’d eat the tops off about ten of them.  Surprisingly, a few decided to keep on growing.  I also lost a couple to some crazy hard rain.

spinach bed

they're teeny-tiny, but they're there!

spinach

newly transplanted bloomsdale spinach

lettuce bed

lettuce and parsley

red sail

red sail lettuce

buttercrunch

buttercrunch lettuce

cosmo savoy

cosmo savoy lettuce

lettuce starts

the latest lettuce starts

carrots

carrots - i don't remember which variety these are anymore!

carrots2

big top or danver's half-long carrot rows

carrots

eaten back - still insisting to grwo

broccoli bed

calabrese broccoli bed

broccoli

broccoli

The pepper plant is weighted down with a ton of peppers right now.  It’s been a bit wet for it lately and it’s lost some leaves because of it, but the peppers are growing strong.  Compared to the summer crop, these are larger and have a thicker skin and I’m quite pleased.  I’ve even got my first jalapeno – it’s only about an inch long right now, but I can taste it already!

peppers

bell pepper

jalapeno

one happy jalapeno

Meanwhile, the beans are starting to produce their first pods.  I didn’t realize how cute little bean pods are!  I really didn’t expect them to do anything because I thought I’d lost them, but they’ve held on.  I pulled up a couple of them and transplanted three more.  Those transplants are four weeks younger than the others.  I’ve been watering them with compost/worm tea for the past two weeks and they are taller than the others and look like they will start flowering this week.  If that’s the case, maybe I’ll be able to pull off a decent harvest on the beans.  I don’t expect them to be done before Thanksgiving, but we aren’t scheduled to get our first frost until the first or second week of December.    I’ll keep applying the tea and wait.

beans

blue lake beans (bush)

beans

a green beaner!

The rosemary cuttings have really grown in the past week – I think due to the tea.  I’ve got at least an inch of new growth.  I took some more cuttings off the main plant and now have another seven plants going.  This time I dipped them in rooting hormone to speed up the process, and started them off with the tea.  I should be able to make another round of cuttings before I pull up the old plant, which I killed by watering too much this summer.  I’m going to go by the local nursery and pick up an established rosemary bush and plant it in its place.  This time, I’m going to use a lot of sand in the hole to help keep it drained and happy.

the bright green top is all new in the last week

the light green top is all new in the last week

rosemary 2

more new growth - is it the tea?

rosemary starts

latest rosemary cuttings

The mints have taken off in the corner of the yard.  At first, the long hours of shade made me think they might not do too well.  Alas!  They are mints!  They’ve sent runners out about a foot now and all kinds of new growth is popping up from the roots I buried.  The mother plants almost died (I relocated them and they received more sun and neglect.  They’re not happy with me.).   Now that they are back in their original place, I expect they’ll be back to normal in a number of weeks.

mint bed

the mint bed

mint 1

this is one of several mint cuttings i planted

mint 2

another ...

mint 3

and another ...

mint runner

a mint runner - its serious about spreading!

Also, I’ve got a ton of sprouts along the fence where I cast the wildflower seeds.  I’ve gone through and pulled out the grass, but I can’t tell what is a weed and what is a wildflower.  I’m going to let them go awhile and see if I can distinguish them better before pulling them up.

The hibiscus is up to my chin now and it’s still growing.  It also has a bunch of buds ready to open up – so it isn’t done yet.  Perhaps I can continue to enjoy the tropical blooms a bit longer.

hibiscus

the hibiscus bush

hibiscus bulb

still more tropical blooms to come?

 

Veggie Garden Update 10/17/09

Here are some pictures I took of the garden plants this morning:

Carrot tops beginning to form

Carrot tops beginning to form

carrot rows

carrot rows

parsley/lettuce bed

parsley/lettuce bed

Buttercrunch lettuce

Buttercrunch lettuce

cosmo savoy lettuce

cosmo savoy lettuce

Red Sail lettuce

Red Sail lettuce

latest spinach starts ...

latest spinach starts ...

first spinach starts ...

first spinach starts ...

Newest lettuce starts ...

Newest lettuce starts ...

broccoli bed

broccoli bed

calabrese broccoli

calabrese broccoli

the beans are suffering, too - the ones on the right are over a month older than the newer starts on the left.

the beans are suffering, too - the ones on the right are over a month older than the newer starts on the left.

first planting of beans, close, starting to produce flowers

first planting of beans, close, starting to produce flowers

jalapeno plants

jalapeno plants

bell pepper plant

bell pepper plant

Update: the garden at three weeks

I’ve got three each of yellow squash, zucchini and cucumbers growing on the South side of the house.  I’ve also got a bell pepper plant and green beans on the East side.  The bell pepper has been with us since early June – having survived the summer heat with a couple close calls, I couldn’t bring myself to pull it up.  We eat peppers like crazy, so it’s worth it for me to try to keep it going.  It lost nearly all of its leaves twice – once due to an overly concentrated soap spray I used to combat some flea beetles and then once due to three hornworms.  As you can see, it’s got a lot of fresh new leaves on it, and even a few flowers.  I did it a favor by removing about 50 nubbins it had started so that it could concentrate on growing leaves again.  It looks like that worked.

the green peppers rebound

the green peppers rebound

The beans are now producing another set of leaves.  Not sure what’s been eating or moving across the first set of leaves – but you can see traces of them as white lines.  Anyone know what this is?   It is interesting watching the leaves unfold as they do.

beans, 3 weeks from planting

organic Blue Lake bush beans, three weeks from planting

beans, up close

beans, up close

The zucchini is developing well.  I cut off the first set of leaves because they were yellow and dead.  It’s got new leaves forming near the base, as well as little nubbins.  I assume these nubbins are going to produce more leaves.  If so, it looks like it’s about ready to explode with new growth.

Black Beauty zucchini, three weeks from planting

organic Black Beauty zucchini, three weeks from planting

zucchini, up close

zucchini, up close

The squash plants are also coming along.    They’ve already got a good covering of leaves.  Like the zukes, the squashes also have a lot of new growth near the base, as seen in the picture below.  To me, the little nubbins look more like flower pods than leaves, but we’ll see what they turn into.

organic, heirloom Yellow Crookneck squash, three weeks from planting

organic, heirloom Yellow Crookneck squash, three weeks from planting

squash, up close

squash, up close

As are the cukes.

Straight Eight cucumbers, three weeks from planting

organic Straight Eight cucumbers, three weeks from planting

Our Bougainvillea continues to give us a bounty of beautiful fuchsia blooms.   And, recovered from an invasion of Hibiscus Beetles, the hibiscus offered up this beauty this morning:

a tropical beauty!

a tropical beauty!

Finally, I hope to be able to get some work done in the yard today.  The rain brought back the grass very quickly, so I’ll have to break out the lawn mower for the first time in over eight weeks.   I’ve pumped myself up with some Claritin and Benadryl, as the Bermuda grass gives me fits.  Wish me luck.

Maybe tomorrow I can get started building the last of the beds for the broccoli, spinach, lettuces, parsley and carrots.   We’ll see…

***Afternoon Update*** Whew.  I’m sitting here with a brew after moving a 1/2 yard of dirt for the rest of the raised beds.  This time I enlisted my daughter, who’s itching for more allowance money.  Many hands make light work, as the saying goes.  We knocked out the dirt-moving in about 1/2 an hour – after I loaded up the dirt in the Element and came back home with the load.   I’m still stoked that the grower’s mix only costs me $16 for a half a yard.  I counted at least thirty 5-gallon buckets full of dirt at that price.  If I was to buy that by the bucket, it would have cost me $150 easy ($5/bucket).  Unbelievable.  So what if I have to sweat for a couple of hours and perform some manual labor?!  I still hope that tomorrow afternoon I can get over and pick up some lumber and get these things assembled.  I figure a total of $50 is all it will cost for a couple bags of manure, boards, braces, nails, which includes the $16 for dirt.   I consider this an investment because the boxes and dirt can be reused again and again.

Another bean pops up …

That means that all but one of the 33 seeds I planted have come up!   You really can’t get a better germination rate than that, so I highly recommend buying  your seeds from Seeds of Change.com.

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The fifteenth bean to pop up ... only one hasn't! (11 days to germinate)

The fifteenth bean to pop up ... only one hasn't! (11 days from planting)