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Archive for the ‘lettuces’ Category

It all started because I felt the itch to see something growing. A bit of stress relief for me, and an activity for the kids as pandemic news was starting to skyrocket.

I had recently found a tiny packet of carrot seeds among some papers in my kitchen, and I thought it would be fun to plant them in a pot that we had outside.

And then, about a week later in mid-March, my kids’ school closed.

At that time, we had no idea that school would be closed for the rest of the academic year, and that our school system wouldn’t start any sort of distance learning for a LOT of weeks. But I wanted to do some fun but still “learning” activities in the meantime, so one of the first things we did was dig out some more old seeds and plant them in some seed-starting soil I had on hand.

We planted some lettuce seed that I had leftover from my second garden ever (way back in Illinois, on the balcony), as well as parsley seeds and a few different tomato varieties from packets leftover from various years.

At this point, I had no real plans for these seeds, just some vague ideas that maybe this year, without ankle troubles to hinder me, we might be able to use our garden plot again.

I had warned my kids that the seeds were pretty old (and they hadn’t been stored perfectly and had been through a couple of interstate moves), and so we couldn’t be sure if they would actually sprout. I think that made it even more exciting when they did sprout!

Of the lettuces and the parsley, only the arugula seeds in the mesclun mix sprouted. It took an extra long time for the tomatoes to germinate, and I had given up on them, but in the end, we had two Best Boy tomatoes and a few Tiny Tim tomatoes– what a happy surprise!

I had also given up on the carrot seeds outside (the theme of this whole garden is seeds that are at least 5 years old!), but we were thrilled to see them sprout and watch them start growing.

Now that we actually had some seedlings growing, I needed to actually decide what we were going to do with them! But that’s for my next garden 2020 post!

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On Tuesday (May 17, for those of you keeping score), I finally planted my garden outside!

I had been “hardening off” my seedlings for the past several days, and when I forgot and left them out all night Monday, I figured they could survive if they were in the ground!

On Sunday afternoon, Husband and I went to Lowes and picked up some 54″ tomato cages and two 64-quart bags of Miracle-Gro Potting Mix.  I had hoped to plant everything on Monday, but it poured down rain the entire day, so I waited. 😉

Allow me to take you on a tour of my freshly-planted garden!  I made a diagram with an otherwise not-very-good photo of the main plot (southern exposure) so that I can remember which varieties of tomatoes I planted where…when the labels on my pathetic popsicle-stick plant markers fade!

As you can see, I have 5 varieties of tomatoes, a total of 8 plants in the plot.  Of the five varieties, only the Jelly Bean is new this year. There are pepper plants on each corner, and the corn is planted in hills along the back of the plot.

Since there wasn’t enough room in the plot for everything we wanted to grow, I also planted things in our pots (from previous years), hence the potting soil.

three pots of cucumbers on the front side of the fence

two pots of zucchini (left) and two pots of watermelon (right) on the back side of the fence

I’ll train the cucumbers and zucchini (maybe) to grow up the fence (I’ll add strings for support once they get going).  In a previous post, I mentioned that I didn’t know much about whether watermelons would work in pots, but a search on growing watermelons in containers yielded this link, which confirmed that Sugar Baby watermelons (the variety we have) are one of the varieties that can do okay in a pot. (And just for the record, searching on “sugar baby watermelon yield per vine” took me to this site, from which I gather we’ll have about 3 per plant, if they survive).  I’m pretty sure that the pots are placed in sunny locations, but I will be keeping an eye on them, and I’ll move them if it looks like I chose their spots poorly.

You didn’t think I forgot about the herbs and lettuce, did you?

herbs, lettuce, and a lone pepper plant

These smaller pots are on our back deck (western exposure).  In the photo above, the top row, from left to right, contains: basil, a pepper plant, and Black-Seeded Simpson lettuce.  The bottom row, from left to right, contains: flat-leaf parsley (not looking so hot from when I transplanted it… hopefully it perks up!), chives, curly parsley, and a Mesclun mix of lettuce.  After planting all the big and little pots, I had leftover potting soil, another biggish pot, and another pepper seedling, so that’s why a pepper got mixed into the herbs and lettuce 🙂

Let me tell you, I have *definitely* seen signs of our little tree-rat friends (squirrels) in these pots.  Not 2 hours later, I noticed that the little rascals had been digging in the pots, especially the ones with the lettuce.  ::sigh::  I wonder if these plants will survive?  I have seen a little bit of evidence of animal digging in the main plot, but not as much, thankfully.  We’ll see!  As a precaution, when I planted my seedlings, which I started two-to-an-egg-carton-space), I left both of them intact.  If I had been more sure of animals leaving my garden alone, I would have thinned them immediately, but I’m going to wait for a bit and see what survives.

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Boy, it’s been a while since I’ve written a garden update on the blog!  So this post is going to be a long one with lots of photos to fit it all in.

Believe me, I have been closely watching the progress of my sprouts…  It’s amazing how much joy those tiny green plants can bring me.  Here is a photo progression showing how they’ve grown…

March 24, 2011

and approximately one month later…

April 22, 2011

I planted the zucchini, cucumber, and watermelon seeds on April 13, and by April 22, they looked like this:

April 22, 2011

And then, on April 25, they were even more impressive, especially the zucchini sprouts.  You perhaps can also see from the two photos that I transplanted the pepper and tomato sprouts from the egg carton (first photo) to (bigger) plastic yogurt cups (second photo, in the background).

April 25, 2011

April 25, 2011

I started “hardening off” my seedlings yesterday so that I can plant them in the garden early this week.   Here they are, back inside Saturday afternoon (I had to stand on a chair to fit them all in the photo):

May 14, 2011

Which brings me to the other main point of this blog post: the garden plot. After doing some more investigation after the snow finally melted, we decided that the area in the backyard was too full of big tree roots to be a good idea.  So we’re just using the side yard plot.

I definitely want to give major kudos to Husband for all the amazing hard work he has put into getting it cleared out for me. 

Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of the plot this spring before he started clearing it.  But to give you some idea of what was starting to come up, here are a couple photos from sometime last fall.

The bed was full of violets (which might have been beautiful if we’d left them long enough to bloom again) and underneath them, there was pachysandra.  If you know anything about these plants, you’ll know that they have incredibly stiff root systems.  When I returned from my fabulous trip to St. Louis in April, Husband showed me this beautiful sight:

On Friday, I finally started planning where my plants will go. Based on the recommended 2′-3′ spacings for the tomatoes and peppers, not all of the seedlings will fit in this plot (which I expected).

From background to foreground in this photo, I will have:

  • one pepper plant + Yellow Pear tomato plant
  • two Jelly Bean tomato plants
  • two Early Girl tomato plants
  • two Fourth of July tomato plants
  • one pepper plant + Red Lightning tomato plant

We’ll put the Silver Queen sweet corn in a row behind the above plants along the house (the right-hand side of the above photo.  (There’s a post coming up about my corn planting).

The herbs and lettuces will go in smaller pots on the back porch where I can access them easily while I’m cooking in the kitchen.

The zucchini and cucumber plants will go in pots with trellises (I really liked having my cucumbers trained upward in my past gardens), because otherwise I’m afraid they’d take over the whole plot.  I’m not quite sure what to do with the Sugar Baby watermelon plant(s) yet.  I’m considering putting it in a pot, too, but maybe without a trellis.  I’m going to do a bit more research on that!

On Saturday, Husband squared off the garden plot, and I weeded and marked the planned placement of the plants.

You can see the pots along the fence, and I might put a second row just inside the fence (where the yard is also very sunny).

I’m so excited!

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I cannot tell you how excited I am to be getting back to the “roots” (haha, get it??) of this blog.  This spring/summer, we’re going to have a garden again!!  Garden plans have been simmering on the back of my brain ever since we moved in to our house (with a YARD!) and the other day, I got an email from a good friend describing her herb garden.  That brought garden planning to the front of my mind.  Over the weekend, Husband and I sat down and did a little garden pre-planning.  We made a master list of what crops we would grow in our dream garden, and then whittled it down to something a little more reasonable for our first in-ground garden.

 

Okay, so we didn’t reduce our list by much….  😉

We’re going with our old favorites of tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers, as well as loose-leaf lettuce (for me, mostly) and fresh herbs: parsley, basil, and chives.

New for us this year (besides the whole in-ground part of it!) are sweet corn, watermelon, and butternut squash–things that weren’t quite possible in pots on our balcony!.  I haven’t picked out any varieties yet, because I’ll do that when I go to a local garden store.  Hopefully someone there will be able to recommend varieties that are good for my area.

You can see that I also sketched out a little plan of where our garden plots (yes, that is plural!) will be.  After discussion, Husband and I decided that we’ll try to have one plot in the corner of the fence in the back yard, and one plot along the side of the house in the side yard.  (In the sketch, the upward direction is south.)  When we moved in last summer, I tried to keep track of the sunniest parts of our yard, and I think these are the spots.  I hope!

Because we’re in upstate NY, we still have snow (of course!), so here’s what the proposed garden plots look like right now (yes, I actually put on my boots to slog around our yard to take these photos!! :))…  But I am so looking forward to when we can see green again!

I also looked up the last and first frost dates.  I found a handy-dandy chart on almanac.com that has dates for a lot of cities in the U.S.  (The site also has some recommended planting dates based on your area!**).  It looks like I have about a month before I should start planting some of my seeds, and I’ll start the rest at the end of March.

 

Some problems that I *know* we’ll face:

  1. The backyard, while it does have sunny spots, is still pretty shady.  (Husband pointed out, though, that it doesn’t get much worse than a northern exposure on a covered balcony!)
  2. There might be issues with tree roots in the corner plot.  I won’t know for sure until the snow goes away how bad the roots will be.
  3. Squirrels.  Holy moly, we have a lot of squirrels.  And a resident chipmunk (a.k.a. Chippy ;-), right Jaime?) under our deck.  I’m pretty sure there isn’t anything that can be done to prevent them from getting into a garden.  If you have any squirrel-proofing advice, PLEASE please PLEASE share!

 

But here’s to the coming spring and to gardens!  Hurray!

 

**This is the first time I’ve used this site, so I don’t know anything about its validity.  If you have experience with it, I’d love to hear your opinion!

 

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Yes, I do realize it’s Friday– but better late than never!

I’m thankful this week that some loose ends for my dissertation work are starting to get tied up.  One last major hurdle and I think I’m set to go to finish my analysis.  And today I officially set my defense date for July 22.  It’s coming up quickly!

So, because I’m going to be in crazy writing-dissertation mode, I will likely not be posting too frequently here (not that I’m so great at it anyway)…

Quick update in the garden:

  • This morning I spotted my first nasturtium sprout!  Yay!  I had kind of started to give up on them.   We’ll see whether any others come up.
  • I have officially given up on my cucumber seeds, and planted a tomato plant in each of the 2 pots that were originally designated for the cucumbers– one more Early Girl, and one more Fourth of July.  While I’m sad that there won’t be any cucumbers from our balcony this summer, I’m excited for all the tomatoes we could be getting!  The other tomato plants are looking happy and getting established.  I really need to get some more tomato cages!
  • Friends of ours had potted herbs as table centerpieces at their party the other day and gave me one of the containers, so I now have lavendar, a type of basil that looks different from mine, dill, thyme, and catnip(?!).  They are all lovely plants, and I’m contemplating dill bread 😉  My from-seed herbs are growing, too, albeit slowly.  Maybe with the extra-warm weather we’re having lately they’ll pick up their pace.
  • The peas are doing nicely, and Husband and I have been enjoying mesclun and Black-Seeded Simpson salads!
  • One of the secretaries in my department brought me some strawberry plants from her (in-ground) garden a few weeks ago, so they are getting established in their pots.
  • Another friend gave me a potted pepper plant that she had over-wintered inside because it never stopped blooming!  It’s still looking healthy, and I think I’m seeing more buds!  Are peppers perennials in any climates?

Finally, I have one Red Lighting and two Early Girl sprouts/seedlings that don’t have homes now that all of my pots are filled.  Does anyone local want them?  I’d love to give them away rather than throw them away.  Leave me a comment if you want them!

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I’ve been looking forward to this day all winter long!  I planted out my tomato and herb sprouts that had been growing in Husband’s office.

We trucked them home on Friday after work, and I could hardly wait to start planting them on Saturday.  Here’s the balcony before I started.  You can see that the lettuces (in the pots along the right hand side of the photo) have been thriving since I planted them back on April 11.  They alternate between black-seeded simpson (light green) and mesclun mix (darker green).  The peas are in the light-colored pot at the far end of the balcony.

before

before

I got out all the rest of my pots and arranged my little seedlings in their cups so that I knew where everything would go:

arranging the sprouts for transplant

arranging the sprouts for transplant

As I started to dig out little holes in the middle of the lettuce, I realized that I almost forgot the eggshells!  I had a whole ice-cream bucket filled with them, so I smooshed them down:

smooshed eggshells

smooshed eggshells

and sprinkled them in the hole I had dug for each tomato seedling.

eggshells in the planting hole

eggshells in the planting hole

I tried to bury the stem of the tomato seedlings as deeply as possible to encourage more root development (especially for stability, since the balcony can get pretty windy).  In two of the lettuce pots, instead of tomato seedlings, I planted some cucumber seeds (from last year’s seed packet… I’ve planted some from this year’s seed packet tonight, as well as some nasturtium seeds in the window basket).  I also transplanted my herb sprouts into bigger containers.

Here’s the “after” picture:

after

after

And some individual shots of all the pots:

"Red Lightning"

"Red Lightning"

"Black-Seeded Simpson" and lettuce seeds planted-- pot 1

"Black-Seeded Simpson" and cucumber seeds planted-- pot 1

mesclun mix and "Yellow Pear"

mesclun mix and "Yellow Pear"

"Black-Seeded Simpson" and "Fourth of July"

"Black-Seeded Simpson" and "Fourth of July"

mesclun and "Red Lightning"

mesclun and "Red Lightning"

"Black-Seeded Simpson" and cucumber seeds planted -- pot 2

"Black-Seeded Simpson" and cucumber seeds planted -- pot 2

mesclun and "Early Girl"

mesclun and "Early Girl"

peas

peas

"Tiny Tim"

"Tiny Tim"

basil

basil

really sad looking chives

really sad looking chives

parsley

parsley

Of course, when I took out the lettuces to make room for the tomatoes, I enjoyed a lovely mixed greens salad! 🙂

destined for dinner

destined for dinner

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There are lettuce and pea sprouts in my outdoor pots!  Whee!  Last Saturday the weather was so beautiful that I had to get outside.  So after I got home from helping some friends move in the morning, I went out and set up my pots on the balcony.  Since I’m using potting soil for the second (and third, for some of it) year in a row, I bought some slow-release fertilizer to add to the soil once I got it into the pots.  I planted lots and lots of mesclun mix and Black-seeded Simpson seeds– 3 pots of each, and 12 pea seeds in a pot.  I didn’t have enough potting soil for the other pot in which I plan to plant peas.  Husband and I bought another 2 cu ft. of potting soil yesterday, but it’s been rainy enough today that I didn’t get out to do that last pot yet.  Maybe if the weather is nicer tomorrow…  I can hope!   And maybe there will be photos in my next post… we’ll see 🙂

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Well, I think it’s pretty, anyway 🙂  Here are some photos I took yesterday in the beautiful, but fading, evening light.  

 

the peas reach for the sky

I managed to capture a pea pod unfurling

the tomato plants continue to thrive as the lettuce “season” ends

the cucumbers are growing quickly!

the italian parsley is thriving!  (unfortunately the other one isn’t doing so well)

the strawberries continue to ripen

 

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Here’s another big long update post!

Last Friday evening, we cut our first bunch of mesclun leaves!

Mesclun leaves

We mixed them into a big salad that we served when friends of ours came for dinner 🙂 Yum! I think that from now on, all of my gardens will include a Mesclun mix! We harvested some more on Monday and had enough to add to my salad for Tuesday’s lunch. And not too soon! The weather has turned really hot here (today, it’s supposed to break 90 F!) and some of the Mesclun has bolted already.

bolted Mesclunbolted Mesclun

I have cut a few leaves of the Black-seeded Simpson and tried them. It has a very mild, “green” flavor– nothing nearly so strong and nutty as the mesclun leaves. It hasn’t been great in the pots– I think that it would do better where it got more sun. I’m not sure if I’d plant it again on our balcony if we didn’t have seeds left. But I might try it again in the fall when it gets a bit cooler. It hasn’t bolted yet, but it most likely will soon.

Early Girl and Black Seeded Simpson

You can (sort of) see in the center of this pot (with Black-seeded Simpson around the outside) that the Early Girl tomato plants are doing much better! In fact, all of the tomato plants are growing splendidly. The warm weather and sunshine has done wonders for them. Even the Yellow Pear plant has very obviously perked up and put on some new leaves!

I think that the Tiny Tim plant is so cute! It’s hard to imagine a small tomato plant that bears fruit after seeing the HUGE plants we had last year!! But everything about the plant is miniature so far! The sprout was noticeably smaller than the other sprouts, and now the seedling is definitely growing healthily, but definitely smaller than the other tomato plants.

I don’t have any photos of the cucumbers today, but they are definitely going strong. Two of the four surviving sprouts have put out at least one or two big true leaves, and the other ones are on their way. I’m so glad for this warm weather!

I do, however, have photos of the peas!  They are growing like crazy! They’ve basically reached the top of the tomato cage (Note to self:  I wonder if I should figure out a way to extend the height?  I’ll have to look at the seed packet and see how high they will grow– I think we got a “dwarf” variety?)  Below is a photo of them from Monday.

Pea plants

On Tuesday evening I noticed that there was a bud forming!  This morning, I went out and took a few pictures– and there are even more buds coming!  Woo!  I’ve never had peas fresh from a garden before, and I am so excited to taste them.  Plus, I think that pea flowers are gorgeous.  They look like little orchids.

Pea bud

Pea buds

Last, but certainly not least, it seems that the strawberries have been successfully pollinated.  Of course, I don’t know for sure if it was my efforts with a paintbrush or natural pollination by wind/high-flying bees/etc., but I’m pretty excited at the prospect of strawberries fresh from the balcony.

baby strawberry

There are baby strawberries like this all over the plants!  Woo!!

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The weather here has been cold and kind of nasty, so my garden isn’t faring as well as I’d like.   The chilliness isn’t the worst part– it’s been raining so much that there’s been hardly any sun for my poor plantlings.  It’s not terrible (yet), but not great either. I went and took some photos on Tuesday… The lighting in the pictures is kind of weird– it was so dark and cloudy that the automatic flash went off for some of the photos.

The strawberries have continued to grow and have lots of flowers. I’ve been trying to go out every other day or so and take a paintbrush to the flowers to encourage their pollination. So far not much has happened besides the petals falling off the flowers, but hopefully we’ll see some progress soon.

One of the plants that we thought was dead has suddenly come back to life– there are little happy green leaves starting 🙂 Hopefully we can keep it alive this time 😉

In the photo above, you can see the two Italian flat-leaf parsley plants that Ramona gave us. We put them into two pots that had previously held dead strawberry plants. They are doing well– I noticed some new growth in the middle!

The mesclun is thriving! I think that we’ll start cutting some pretty soon to eat in our salads. I’m excited! However, the yellow pear tomato plant that is in the center of this pot (above) is looking sort of weak. I am pretty sure it’s due to the non-sunny non-warm weather we’ve been having. The leaves are pretty limp (I do make sure to keep the plants watered!!) but it hasn’t turned brown and keeled over yet. And this was the best looking sprout of the bunch! I’m pretty sad that it’s not doing so well.

The Black-seeded Simpson is actually doing better now! In the top photo just above, you can see that the four plants are making pretty big leaves finally. In the lower photo just above, you can see the new sprouts from the seeds that I sowed after all but one of the original lettuce plants died.

In the centers of both of those pots, we planted the Early Girl sprouts. They are still standing, but they haven’t been doing much. I’m hoping that now that the weather is getting better (yesterday it was finally sunny and almost 70 degrees, and today it’s sunny and in the 70s, and I think it’s going to be warmer for the next few days!), we’ll see some new growth on these plants. I’d be pretty sad if all of my tomato sprouts pooped out! (We might have to make an emergency trip to Prairie Gardens for seedlings… 😛 )

Tiny Tim is still hanging on, too! This sprout actually looks the best of all the tomato sprouts… I have high hopes that we’ll at least have a mini cherry tomato plant later this summer!

All is not bad, though. I’m finally seeing growth on the cucumbers! And the chives are starting to look like more than just a single tiny green blade here and there.

Here’s a close-up of the true leaves finally starting on one of the cucumber sprouts. My dad (who has gardened in the past) has assured me not to fear, cucumbers grow like crazy. Now that these true leaves are starting to unfurl (and warm weather is on its way), I think we might start to see some of that crazy growth– I certainly hope so!

Finally, I will leave you with the most hopeful image of them all– the peas!

They are doing great! They get bigger every day, though I haven’t seen signs of any flowers yet. I did add some extra vertical supports to the tomato cage using dental floss to give the tendrils something to cling to.  I think they were happy with that!

So here’s hoping that the warm weather (and sunshine!) will bring rapid growth to my garden! 🙂

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