A garden is the best alternative therapy.

Posts tagged ‘seeds’

Wildflower anticipation

Spring is finally upon us and the wildflower bed I prepared last fall is teeming with greenness!   This is the first time I’ve sown wildflower seeds and I have no idea what each of these plants are, but there are hundreds of them!    I purchased the seeds from  mybluebonnets.com, a local Austin seed distributor.   The package said the seed mix contained the following wildflowers:  bluebonnets, Indian blankets, purple coneflower (echinacea), phlox, cornflower, cosmos, corn and California poppy, daisy, scarlet flax, primrose, Mexican hat, and Indian paintbrush.

I did very little to prepare the bed.  The grass was mostly dead along the fenceline in the back, so I stripped the sod along 30 feet of the fence and about 1 1/2 feet wide.  Then I edged the bed with rocks and poured a little topsoil and compost into the bed before sowing.  Then I simply scattered the seeds and covered with another dusting of topsoil.  The most eager of the seeds germinated within a couple of weeks, but it didn’t take long for a carpet of green to form all throughout the bed.  Today, nearly six months later, many are now over my knees and preparing to put on a show.  Somewhat disappointing is the fact that I can only find one bluebonnet, and it doesn’t appear to want to flower.  I did find this explanation on mybluebonnets.com:

“Adapted to the rocky, alkaline soils of the Hill Country – and to its frequent droughts – Bluebonnets produce large, hard-coated seeds that may cause them to have a low germination rate the first year or two. This is Nature’s “insurance” so that, in case of drought, residual seeds are left in the soil for the following year. As the hard seed coats wear down from abrasion and decay, with some water the seedlings begin to sprout.”

I made sure I either cut with a knife, or rubbed with sandpaper every seed I sowed (which took a long time!).  The seeds are extremely hard, like pebbles.  Disappointing that I can see only one!  Even still, I’m eager for the colorful blooms, of  the other wildflowers, the bees, the butterflies and, of course, posting pictures!

In the meantime, I have to contain my anticipation by taking pictures as the flowers are preparing to bloom.  Perhaps someone out there can help me identify these flowers simply by the foliage?

Look at how tall they are standing!

Wildflower bed, northeast corner of yard

The east fenceline

A flower bulb forming in the center below

Close up of a forming flower head

another type ...

This looks slightly different...

one of the tallest growing so far...

I love the fluffy leaves of this plant

I love the furry leaves

Even the stems are fuzzy

Fuzzies everywhere

Here is the wildflower bed as the seeds started to germinate.

Vegetable Planting Dates for Central Texas

Spring is almost here. What/when should you plant? Read below.

I decided to do a little research so that I can put those dates out there for anyone else looking for vegetables to plant in Central Texas and when to plant them.

I discovered that the Travis County website has a monthly planting calendar that is quite helpful. In addition, I used the Aggie Planting Chart that I’ve referred to many times on this blog, as well as another calendar put out by Texas A&M research center in Stephenville (North Central Texas) and a calendar put out by Austin Organic Gardeners.  Below is the information I compiled.

Herbs: Almost all herbs can be planted this month, either by seed or by transplant. One exception would be basil, which will not tolerate even a light frost. Parsley should be planted in the first two weeks of March.

March 1st – 15th:

Beets
Broccoli (season ends)
Chard
Collards
Endive
Kale (by end of first week)
Lettuce
Mustard (season ends)
Peas (season ends)
Radishes
Spinach (season ends)
Turnips (season ends)

March 15-31:

Basil (wait until the end of month)
Beans (lima, snap, black-eye peas)
Beets
Cantaloupe (fourth week)
Chard (by end of third week, season ends)
Collards (by end of third week, season ends)
Corn (sweet)
Cucumbers
Eggplant
Endive (by end of third week, season ends)
Kale (by end of third week, season ends)
Lettuce (by end of third week, season ends)
Pepper plants (wait until end of the month)
Pumpkins
Radishes (by end of the month, season ends)
Spinach (New Zealand variety, cold weather varieties are done)
Squash
Tomatoes
Watermelon (fourth week)

When is your last freeze?

Dave’s Garden has a great tool you can use to enter your zip code and receive your area’s last/first frost dates.

Not only that, but it will provide local “detailed station data” highlighting the percentage of likelihood of receiving frost at particular dates in your immediate area.  The result summary will also tell you when you are virtually guaranteed to/not to receive frost.  For example, a search for Round Rock, Texas came up with the following summary:

My results: "You are almost guaranteed that you will not get frost from March 30 through October 31."

With that information in mind, you can sow seeds indoors according to the seed packet directions and have them ready to go when Mother Nature is ready!

Indoor Seed-Sowing for Spring

Saturday was a beautiful day of sunshine.  I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to spend gardening, but I think I made the most of what little time I had.

I pulled up the remaining carrots.  There were slightly more than three dozen, all with varying sizes.   In retrospect, I need to do a better job of thinning the carrots to 2″ apart.  Most of these were just too close together and it limited how big they were able to grow.   They had incredibly long tap roots, but they just didn’t fatten up and fill out like they should have due to space restrictions and probably less available nutrients.  Still, there were several good-sized carrots.   I went ahead and worked the soil well and planted five more rows – three of the Danver’s half-long and two of the Big Top.  (For the record, the three rows closest to the lettuce and marked by wooden sticks are of the Danver’s variety.   Last time I couldn’t remember what was what after they grew!)  In the fall, I think I’ll dedicate the 3’x3′ broccoli bed to carrots.  The broccoli needs to be rotated, and I need more room for carrots.  So far, they seem like an easy crop to grow and, as I’ve mentioned before, they are a common staple at our house.  It makes sense to have a bigger bed that I can successively sow seeds in.

I transplanted about six more lettuce plants and then cut three more heads down for our use this week.   I have another half dozen transplanted into cups, which are growing under lights in the garage.  I’ll pull up the roots of the heads I just harvested, plus I think I currently have space for a couple more in the bed, so that should give me room to transplant the remaining plants.  That will probably conclude my lettuce planting for the year.  Oh, and I still have many sprouts of the organic lettuce blend coming up, which will need to be thinned out after they’re a couple inches tall.  The blanket of snow we received last week did absolutely nothing to the sprouts, luckily.

It was also time to start the rest of the veggies for transplanting at the end of March.  I’m going to try the zucchini, cucumbers and squash again.  Because I had half a pack of seeds of each leftover from fall, I decided to go with the same varieties:  Black Beauty, Straight Eight and heirloom Yellow Crookneck.  I have eight seeds of each sown.   I started eight containers of Tendergreen bush beans, but I also need to do another eight or so Bush Lake Beans here in a couple of days.   To get a jump start on the sunflowers, I started them in large paper pots – I started about half a dozen Russian Mammoth.   These seeds are all sitting in a sunny window covered with plastic until they sprout.  Finally, I sowed about twelve chives.   These need darkness to germinate, so they are sitting in a closet for now.

The cayenne (4) and bell peppers (5) are now 3-4″ tall.  They weren’t growing very fast out in the garage due to the colder temperatures.  I moved them indoors to the sunniest windowsill where it’s at least 65 degrees.  I placed them into a recycled, clear-plastic Baby Spinach tub and then used binder clips to attach another tub on top.  This created a mini-greenhouse.   As it sits in the sun, the entire container warms up and gives the pepper roots the warmth they need to grow.  Since doing this, they’ve grown at least 2″ in the past week!  Mental note: next fall, purchase a couple of heating mats for germination and seedlings.  This will accelerate growth and I’ll have healthier and bigger plants to transplant.

In addition the all of the above, I have a dozen or so Sweet Alyssum, four Mexican Mint Marigold, six Verbena, twelve Black-Eyed Susan (just starting to germinate!), four Calabrese Broccoli and one Bloomsdale Spinach plants growing from seed.

Small triumphs are nourishment for the soul

It looks like the transplants are starting to take off now after a few days – the broccoli all looks to have survived the deeper planting and their stems appear firm.

A little added luck:  the only spinach plant that sprouted, which then got nibbled off by our tubby cat, also looks to have survived.

The lettuce needs to be transplanted from the starter kit, so I’ll do that tomorrow or over the weekend.  Meanwhile, I have lettuce transplants temporarily sitting in plastic cups awaiting to go in my mother-in-law’s garden beds.  I’m surprised at how quickly the lettuce transplants have grown over the past few days.  Although they are the same age as the plants in the starter kit, they’re easily double their size now that they’re in a larger container.  The roots on the lettuce plants still in the starter lit have escaped their cells and are snaking along the mat-wick.  Amazingly, I found roots going through the mat-wick to the reservoir below!  I’d say it’s time to transplant them!   Also germinated are several Verbena, Sweet Alyssum, and Mexican Mint Marigold (left 3 rows of starter kit).  I checked the flat of alyssum plants I had last fall.  It’s been sitting outside.  They’ all seeded and have since re-sprouted, so I gave them a good watering to help them along.

I’m pretty happy with the setup and with the results thus far.  I was worried about the broccoli, but I think it’s going to do just fine if not better now.

Plants and transplants

Transplants with rebounded broccoli

Lettuce transplants awaiting, well - another transplant.

The spinach stands alone - but at least it's still standing!

Lettuce roots

Indoor Sowing Dates for Veggies

It’s less than six weeks until the average last frost date here in the Austin area.   If you haven’t started your seeds yet, it may be time to do so if you plan to get a head start on the growing season.  Because Spring typically is short-lived before temperatures reach the nineties here in Austin, it is a good idea to start plants indoors and transplant them later.  Doing so will ensure a healthier plant and faster/longer harvest.

As a general guide, here are recommendations I found online regarding more popular types of veggies.  Below is the number of weeks seeds should be sown inside prior to transplanting into the garden.   As always, don’t forget to account for a few days of hardening off, and remember that plants cannot go out until all danger of frost has passed.  Some plants cannot go outside until the soil warms to 70 degrees.

Beans: direct sow, they grow too quickly

Broccoli/Cabbage/Cauliflower: 4-6 weeks

Carrots: direct sow, the taproot grows the most in first few weeks

Cucumbers: 4-5 weeks, no more than 5

Lettuce: direct sow or start 4 weeks before transplanting

Melons: 4 weeks at most

Peppers:  8 weeks – not until soil is 70 degrees (plan on April 1st)

Pumpkins/squash:  no more than 3-4 weeks.

Spinach:  6-8 weeks

Tomato: 5-6 weeks

The planting window closes for some of the cooler crops like carrots, spinach and lettuce within the month, so those should be started right away.  Spinach and lettuce transplants can probably still go into the ground through mid-March.

I’ve started broccoli, which I should be transplanting in two more weeks.  I also have one spinach (1 out of 6 germinated!) that I’ll transplant the first week of March.  I have more carrot seeds that I will direct sow this weekend in the space left behind by the carrots I harvested.  I have eighteen lettuce plants going and I’ll transplant them in the next two weeks as well.  I have also started a couple dozen pepper plants (habanero, jalapeno, cayenne and bell).  I’ll have to transplant them one or two times before they are permanently placed in the garden.

All of these times can be a somewhat daunting task to remember and keep straight.  This is why I record my sowing times and plan out the sowing schedule for the season ahead of time.  This is also one of the major reasons why I keep this blog, as a reference tool/chronicle of what I’ve done in the garden.

Austin Area: It’s six weeks until the last average frost!

It has been sixteen days since I sowed the lettuce seeds in the new Burpee seed starting kit.  They’re progressing nicely.  I’ll have to transplant them into larger cells before I can harden them off and move them into their beds.   Judging from the root growth, I should do that within the week.  The other plants are doing well: 6 Calabrese broccoli, 5 Cal Wonder orange bell peppers, 4 Ring-O-Fire cayenne peppers, 1 Bloomsdale Spinach, 10 Sweet Alyssum, 1 Verbena and 4 Mexican Mint Marigold.  I’ve got 6 jalapeno seeds and 6 habanero seeds planted as well.  We’ll see what they do.  Here in a couple of weeks I’ll be starting a bunch more seeds for several different types of veggies and flowers.

These small lettuce plants are less than two weeks old.