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I planted my 2016 garden last Sunday!

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I purchased tomatoes and cucumbers at Home Depot and planted some (probably very old) Burpee zucchini seeds.  I had seriously considered decreasing the number of plants I put into the garden, but Husband (easily) convinced me that if we were going to put in a garden at all, we might as well plant 6 tomatoes again.

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To be planted! zucchini seeds. TamiG grape (hybrid) tomato Cherokee Purple (heirloom) tomato Super Fantastic (hybrid) tomato Burpless (hybrid) cucumber Husky Cherry Red (hybrid) tomato (for kids’ pot on the deck)

Since we put the weed-blocking cloth down last year, it was so much easier to get the garden set up for this year!  Wow.  I just had a few weeds to pull, and I was good-to-go.

garden before.  the weed-blocking cloth actually worked really well!

garden before. the weed-blocking cloth actually worked really well!

 

Garden after.  Everything is planted!

Garden after. Can you tell??  Everything is planted!

This year, I decided to switch the sides on which I planted the tomatoes and cucumber/zucchini.  I don’t know, call it crop rotation or something!  I just had the idea that it might be good to switch.  Otherwise, the planting is exactly the same as it was last year– I separated the layers of weed-preventing fabric and planted the seedlings (and in the case of the zucchini, the seeds).  We bought new metal wire trellises for the cucumbers this year, since the wooden ones we got for our first garden in this location had lived their life.

Garden after.  Everything is planted!

Garden after.  Everything is planted!

We’ve had so much rain here recently that I was easily able to water the whole garden from the rain barrel!

After I had the in-ground garden planted, the kids “helped” me to plant their cherry tomato in a pot on our deck.  I helped them to use the spade to replace the soil around the plant, and they took turns watering.  I hope that they will really enjoy watching their plant grow and have a fun (and delicious) time eating its fruit!

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...and then they took turns using the watering can!

...and then they took turns using the watering can!

...and then they took turns using the watering can!

...and then they took turns using the watering can!

Varieties:
TamiG grape (hybrid) tomato
Cherokee Purple (heirloom) tomato
Super Fantastic (hybrid) tomato
Burpless (hybrid) cucumber
Husky Cherry Red (hybrid) tomato (for kids’ pot on the deck)

 

 

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So we gave in and bought some new plants.  Four of the tomato sprouts and two of the pepper sprouts had died (or all but died), and since Husband put in so much work to get the garden ready, we didn’t want it to go to waste.

garden today.

We picked out two varieties of tomatoes (Bonnie Grape and Indigo Rose varieties) to try, as well as one new pepper plant (Carmen variety).

new (purchased) plants for the garden

Since it’s a lot of work these days for me to get down near the ground to work, Husband graciously planted them out for us.

planting the new tomato plants

Here are some closer peeks at the “new-and-improved” garden:

First, the cucumbers (back)– I added a few more seeds in front of each trellis, since I’d only seen one sprout so far, peppers (the new plant is on the left, if it’s not completely obvious ;-)), and zucchini (front):

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Here are the tomatoes [columns left to right]: Fourth of July (front stake), Best Boy (back stake); Bonnie Grape; Indigo Rose (apparently this one is a purple tomato that turns red when it’s ripe!)

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Bonnie Grape:

Bonnie Grape tomatoes

Indigo Rose:

Indigo Rose tomatoes

While Husband planted our new plants, I investigated our daughter’s cherry tomato plant in the pot on our deck.  I was happily surprised to see a little tomato forming on it!

tiny tomato starting on Vivian's cherry tomato plant

 

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On the first weekend in May, Husband worked super-hard and got our yard into great shape!  One of his projects was to prepare the garden (isn’t he a great guy?).

garden before tilling/planting

This is what it looked like “before.”  We’d dumped all the leaves that we’d raked from the yard into the garden to cover it for the winter.  Husband has decided that he will not do that again!  It made tilling it (by hand) extremely difficult, and there are big chunks of partially decomposed leaves throughout the soil now.

compost from last year

This is an oh-so-glamorous shot of our compost bin.  We ended up “cold-composting.”  All last growing season, we added material to the compost bin.  When the growing season ended and we deconstructed the garden, we stopped adding to the bin and just let it sit.  We didn’t turn the contents at all.  So when Husband opened the bin, we found a layer of nice compost at the bottom, but there was still material above it that hadn’t transformed.  Not a bad result for basically no work!  Husband mixed the layer of compost soil into the garden, and left the other material to start this year’s cold compost.

After the back-breaking work of tilling the garden and working in the compost soil, Husband let me plant my (rather pathetic) seedlings, at my request.  (Side note: it was way harder than I expected to be kneeling on the ground and working around my big ol’ belly, haha!)

seedlings before planting

 

And here are those sprouts, above.  The leftmost column are the peppers, next are the Best Boy, the three in the middle-right column are what is left of the Jelly Bean sprouts (sad), and the Fourth of July sprouts are in the far right column.

I direct-sowed cucumber and zucchini seeds, as well!

 

Now for some not-very-illuminating photos of the planted garden:

Garden planted and mulched!

Garden planted and mulched!

 

By the way, you can see our rain barrel all set up again to the left of the garden.  Thanks to some absolutely crazy rain storms recently, it is nice and full already, and we used it for all of our garden watering as we planted!   When Husband set it up a couple weeks ago, he added a second layer of cinderblock to give it additional height, which hopefully will result in more water pressure when we hook up the soaker hose later.

 

cucumber seeds planted at base of trellises, pepper plants in the three middle spots, and zucchini seeds planted in the two foreground spots.

cucumber seeds planted at base of trellises, pepper plants in the three middle spots, and zucchini seeds planted in the two foreground spots.

 

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Best Boy seedlings in the back row, Fourth of July seedlings in the front row.

 

I also direct-sowed a packet of mixed herb seeds (basil, dill, marjoram, and savory) that I got as a freebie last summer at the county fair.  We’re using the box on the porch railing for this, and I”m going to try to be much more reliable about watering it this year! 😉

planted a mixed packet of herb seeds in the box on the porch

Finally, my little girl has been SUPER excited about the garden.  All spring long, she has been talking about helping in the garden.  So Husband and I decided that she should have a container “garden” of her own; the rabbit-proof fencing makes it difficult for her to get into the main garden!

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We picked out a compact cherry tomato plant at our local Home Depot, and she helped us to plant it in one of our large terra cotta pots.

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I’m so excited for her to help take care of it and watch it grow!!

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The 2013 garden is officially planted.  Hurray!

Note: This is a long post with lots of “repetitive” photos.  I will post an “official” diagram and list of seed varieties separately. 

On April 21, I raked the soil in the garden plot ’til it was smooth(er).  We measured carefully and added the trellises for the cucumbers and the stakes for the tomatoes in the proper spacing (3 feet on the long axis and 2 feet on the short axis).   You can also see the stakes for the fencing in this photo:

planting spots marked, trellises and stakes in place

After that was accomplished, Husband installed some (hopefully) rabbit-proof fencing.  This wire fencing (which comes on a roll) has increasingly small spacing from top to bottom to prevent the smaller “rodents” from getting through.  We’ll see how it works.  There are bunnies all over the yard in the evenings, and I’m hoping that my garden won’t become a smorgasbord for them.  It’s not as pretty as a non-fenced garden, but I think it’s a necessity.  It is hard to see in this photo, but you can see its shimmer at the closest corner:

rabbit-proof fencing installed

We bought some mulch, which I’ve found to be pretty important for keeping the soil from drying out quickly… and it also dramatically keeps the weeds at bay.  I spread it out that evening and took some photos the next morning:

garden mulched

Right after I’d put down the mulch, I direct-sowed my cucumber and zucchini seeds.  The cucumbers will grow (hopefully) up the trellises, and the zucchini plants will be in front of them.

 

cucumber and zucchini seeds planted

As of the writing of this post (April 30), I haven’t seen any sign of sprouts.  I did plant some extras this weekend (April 28) and mixed in a bit of random potting soil I had on hand because I was concerned that the soil may have dried out.

P.S. The big white tube thing is a downspout diverter.  We are trying to come up with a solution so that it’s not as ugly… maybe a rain barrel?  Not sure if that would be better…

Oooh oooh oooh!  I have herbs!  While we were picking up the mulch, we saw that they were on sale at our local Home Depot.  In addition to the basil I already had, I planted thyme, dill, and curly parsley (R to L) in a wooden box planter that we secured to our back  porch railing:

herb box

You may recall that I originally intended to have my herb garden on my kitchen counter, but after trying to keep some plants alive there earlier this spring, I discovered that it isn’t as sunny there as I’d thought.  This box of herbs is right outside the door to the porch from our kitchen, so I will have easy (no-shoes-necessary) access.  Plus, it’s nice and high and out of critters’ reach.

This Sunday morning (April 28), before church (which ended up being a good plan, because by the time we got home, the sun had gone away and it was raining!), I planted my tomatoes.  I decided to risk planting them out a bit early, since they were looking sort of anemic in their cups:

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I have two of each variety in the ground now:

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What, you can’t see them?  Haha, I know.  But they are there!  I promise.  I’m hoping that they have been doing okay this week.  We’ve had some nice, gentle (as far as I can tell), soaking rain, but it’s been a bit chilly.  I think the sunshine is coming back soon, though!  Hurray!  I’m excited to see my plants grow.

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planting my tomato seeds for the 2013 garden

It’s that time of year again!  Or rather, it was that time of year about a week ago… I’m running a bit late with my seed starting!  I planted my tomato seeds on Monday night.

I am starting this year with actual seed starting mix (in the past I’ve just used potting soil).  Not sure if it’s going to make a huge difference, but we’ll see!

planting my tomato seeds for the 2013 garden

I’m planting three varieties of tomatoes.  Two from previous years (Fourth of July, because I had more seeds; and Jelly Bean, because they are absolutely delicious).  We got a new variety (at least, new to us) this year: Best Boy (Burpee).

planting my tomato seeds for the 2013 garden

I’m also trying something new with my planting.  Rather than filling each cup 2/3 or more full with soil to start, I didn’t even fill it to halfway.  I’m hoping that I can continue to add mix to strengthen the sprouts as they get older (rather than transplanting).  I’ll try to remember to write a post when I do this.

planting my tomato seeds for the 2013 garden

I planted a lot of seeds!  The current plan is to have six tomato plants in our garden plot (2 of each variety).  I don’t know if the old seeds lasted, so I planted extra, and I’m hoping that I’ll have seedlings to share with friends.

 

P.S. I decided to go B&W with my photos for two reasons:  1) I felt like trying something new, and 2) B&W nicely masks the fact that the photos had weird coloration because I planted the seeds at night in my kitchen, which is lit by a big overhead fluorescent fixture. 

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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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Along with getting the garden plot ready on Saturday, I planted the sweet corn seeds right into the ground.

I’ve never grown sweet corn before, though I absolutely love eating it!  So I’m really hoping that this “experiment” in our garden works.

I wasn’t exactly sure what the procedure was to plant corn in a home garden (or anywhere, really), so I did a search on “planting sweet corn + garden” and one of the more useful hits was THIS link.  The bits that I got out of the article (for planting on Saturday) were:

  • for small plantings, use the “hill” method of planting
  • space hills 2′-3′ apart, and plant 4-5 seeds per hill
  • seeds in each hill should be planted in a small circle, about 2″ apart
  • when seeds sprout, thin to 2-3 plants per hill
  • for good fertilization, 12-24 plants are necessary

So I did just that.

I made little piles of leftover potting soil to sort of “mark” the corn hills (and give the seeds something a bit more nutrient-rich in which to sprout) and made little circles of 5 corn seeds.

And here’s the garden with just the corn hills planted.

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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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On Saturday morning, I attended the small-space gardening class at Prairie Gardens.  It was interesting, though having done a lot of reading/research on the subject of container gardening, and having done it for 2 years, not a lot of the information was brand new to me.  But it’s always good to have your facts reinforced.

After the class, I thought I’d ask the instructor about my non-sprouting seeds.  Basically he said that because the seeds were a year old, the germination rate wasn’t going to be as high.  He suggested starting with new seeds (bought this year), telling me that it wasn’t too late to start them, even the tomatoes.

So later that afternoon, Husband and I went and did a little shopping and he helped me pick out some new seeds.  I got a 20 cent package of cucumber seeds (Muncher variety– isn’t that a great name?!) and two envelopes of Burpee tomato seeds.  We decided to try the Red Lightning (stripy skin) and the Fourth of July (very early fruit) varieties.  When I was considering an heirloom rainbow packet, Husband wisely pointed out that given our growing conditions, we might have better luck with hybrid varieties.  So both of the ones we got are hybrids.  And keeping with container-gardening recommendations, the fruits are smaller than your big beefsteak varieties.  I am rebelling against the rule of using determinate plants, though!  I like my tomatoes to keep coming!

Also very exciting, I decided to try nasturtiums.  I am fascinated by the idea of edible flowers, and I got a packet of seeds for just 20 cents.  Not a big investment for an experiment!  Those seeds are *huge*!  Almost the size of peas!  They look like little light brown bugs all curled up.

So yesterday, I spent some time in Husband’s office doing some re-seeding.  I re-used the plastic cups from before, and stirred up the soil before planting my new seeds.  I highly doubt that any of the previous seeds will up and sprout after so long.  I planted 3 cups (with three seeds each) for each of the tomatoes and cucumbers, and I planted 3 cups (with 2 seeds each) for the nasturtiums.

In other sprout news, I have 2 basil sprouts, 2 chive sprouts, and 1 parsley sprout.  I hope they survive!!  The Early Girl sprout is looking happy and cheerful and is getting its true leaves.  Very exciting.

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