Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Garden Update - February 26th

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It has been another rainy week in my neck of the woods.  This winter the rain has been a little bit on the extreme side.  We got four inches of rain in one day last week.  My backyard and garden is pretty much a swamp.  I need at least a week of no rain to dry things out, but unfortunately rain is in the forecast this week too.

I planted some more lettuce and spinach this week.  My first try at direct sown spinach did not do well.  I noticed the seed was from 2009, so this time I tried using some fresh seed.  The snow peas and Alaska sweet peas are doing well and I put up another set of trellising.  We had a really nice day on Saturday so I got to catch up on some weeding and other gardening chores. 

Here is an above shot of the garden overall.  I have 3 beds of peas going.

Here is one bed of Alaska peas with four single rows.

Here is another bed of Alaska peas with three double rows

Here is a bed full of weeds, this was an absolute nightmare to clear out.
I vow not to let it get this out of hand again.

Here is the bed after I cleared it

My lettuce and spinach bed

You can see the standing water in my yard.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Dr. Seuss Magic Lorax Seed

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LATEST UPDATE 04-20-2012:  The seeds did germinate but quickly died.  It could have been neglect on my part.  I told my daughter I would plant her huge sunflowers as an alternative.  I think she thought this tree would be a real Lorax tree, so sunflowers were the best I could come up with.

UPDATE: I found out the Lorax seeds are Blue Spruce and White Pine Tree seeds.  I will give them a try, but I don't think those trees grow very well for zone 8.

My love of vegetable gardening started in 2010 when me and my then 3 year old daughter started our first garden.  Her interest quickly faded and by the end of that summer I was bitten by the gardening bug.  She still shows some interest (mainly to appease me), but I understand talking about my germination rates and yields per square foot isn't exactly stimulating conversation.

Fast forward to our dinner this past Friday at the IHOP.  They gave us a little card that had a "magical seed" from Dr. Seuss's new movie "The Lorax".  I have never seen my daughter so interested in planting a seed in her whole life.  She couldn't stop talking about it, and I quickly reminded her that I have been asking her to plant seeds with her daddy for the last few years.  I will admit my seeds don't look as cool as this one.

So today we planted that special seed and I am kind of curious to see what kind of seed it actually is.  For those of you gardeners with kids, it might be worth a trip to IHOP to get your kids fired up about gardening.  I think it is a great idea, and I thank IHOP and whoever came up with it.

This also marks the first time I have posted a picture of my daughter on my blog.  In spite of having a gardening blog, I am a very private person when it comes to social networking and my personal life.  I have no facebook, twitter, linkedin, or any other social networking account.  I am excited to share these pictures of her with my close blogging friends, but I may not talk about or post about her often.  
Here is the front of the seed card, that is one cool looking seed.

The directions said soak for 24 hours, we didn't see that so we only soaked ours about 6 hours.

Here is my little girl filling up the pot all by herself.

She is growing up so fast.

She can't wait to see what this seed is.

Friday, February 24, 2012

More money, more problems

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Just like I knew it would, this seed starting project has gotten way more involved and expensive than I wanted it to. I picked up some cardboard pots and some potting soil so I can transplant some of my tomatoes. This brings my total expenses to about $80 bucks. At around $3 per seedling, I would have spent about the same amount to just buy seedlings. So this year there was not really any cost savings, but I had to buy everything from scratch. Next year my expenses should be very low now that I own everything.

I transferred 9 tomatoes to larger pots. I will probably only use six of them, but I did three extra just in case some don't make it. I will probably trash (gasp I know) or see if my neighbor wants the remaining tomato seedlings. I am still waiting on the jalapenos, habaneros, bell peppers, and eggplants to germinate.

Here are my costs so far:
Light and bulbs=$32
Seed Starting Greenhouse=$8
Cardboard Pots=$5
Potting Soil=$7

This has been a fun learning experience, thanks everyone for your advice.
Hopefully they will stay alive.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Update on my seedlings

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I decided to buy a shelf for my seed starting area rather than build something.  My time is pretty precious right now and I found this awesome deal on amazon.com.  This shelf was only $29 dollars, and it is nice and sturdy.  It was so easy to put together too.  I wish I would have bought a couple of these units because now the price is listed at almost $50.  The beauty of it is that even through it is almost 5 feet tall with all four shelves,  you can make it smaller if you need to, which is what I did.  I only needed three shelves to fit under my cabinet. 

I have moved my seedlings under my grow light for the last few days.  I had several tomatoes germinate in like 5 days.  I was waiting for this shelf to arrive and man they shot up quick.  Now I know what it means to have "leggy seedlings".  Luckily I planted so many and some haven't germinate yet.  So I can get rid of the leggy ones if I need to and just keep the good ones.  We will see how they do.

This is the shelf, I am very satisfied for the money I spent.

Fits perfect in my little seed starting area in my laundry room.

As you can see, the ones that germinated early got leggy. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Garden Grow Light Installation

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I installed my 4 foot grow light today and I am pretty happy with the results.  The light cost me $20 and the two bulbs were $7.  So I have less than $30 invested so far.  I could have gotten a cheaper light for $9, but I try not to get the cheapest of anything.  This looked like a decent light for the money.  It was thin and uses the mini florescent tubes.

I had two prospect locations where I could install it and I had to get approval on the location from the Mrs.  She was super happy to give her opinion for the reasons listed in this post.  With the location set, I installed it in about an hour.  Next on the list is to build or purchase some sort of work bench to put under the light.  

This was location #1.  The laundry room right above the washer and dryer.  I liked it because it was very wide and the light would easily hang from bottom of the cabinet.  I was then going to install a wall to wall shelf to put the seedlings on.  The wife didn't like this option as it would be "too busy" with the shelving and light.  I tried to sell her that the extra shelf could be used to store the detergent and stuff, but it was a no go.

This was location #2.  This is also in the laundry room, but in a doorway to the right of the washer and dryer.  This is the same small utility room that my freezer is in.  The opposite wall from the freezer has another cabinet and also already has outlets.  The only down side is that the width of the room is exactly 4 feet and it would be a tight squeeze to get the light in there.  The cabinet is also smaller so the chains would not hang straight.  She approved this location, so I moved on to getting it installed.

This is a picture from the underside of the cabinet.  The edges are only 3/8 particle board material.  I pre-drilled two small holes about 6.5 inches from the wall.  This was to install two eye hooks.

I had to be real careful because the eye hooks were kind of large and I didn't want to split the material.  I screwed the hooks into the cabinet until it started to show cracks and then I stopped.  These threaded hooks should easily hold the weight of the light.

Here is the light installed.  You can see there is only an inch to spare on each side of the light.  The chains also stretch at an angle due to the cabinet being shorter than the width of the light.

Finished product, I am pleased with how it looks and fits.  Now I have to get a stand to put the seedlings on.

Garden Projects and a Pregnant Woman's Patience

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Ok, I will be the first to admit that I ALWAYS have something going on when it comes to home projects.  We have lived in our house for 11 years and I have touched every square inch of this house.  Every door, window, light fixture, flooring, you name it and I have replaced it.

My wife is seven months pregnant and sometimes taking on new projects around this time can be a delicate subject to say the least.  I remember when she was 7 months pregnant with our first daughter 5 years ago.  She came home (on our anniversary of all days) to find our bathroom completely gutted.  I am talking down to the studs gutted.  I had reasoned that the 1970's bathroom needed to be updated, and what better time than before the baby gets here.  I had two weeks off and I was determined to get it done.  Long story short, and a lot of stressful days and I got it done.

Fast forward to this pregnancy.  We have decided to replace the carpet in our house before the baby gets here in April.  Sounds easy enough, but I reasoned that if we are going to do that, than now would be the time for me to replace the three remaining interior doors to newer style doors.  Next came the closets, I put a new closet organizer in the baby's room.  It looked so nice that I decided to put the same system in our other two closets.  You can see where this is going.

So we pretty much have everything done and are waiting for the carpet installers in a couple weeks and now I have gotten an obsession with growing my own seedlings this year.  So when I came home this afternoon to explain the purpose of the 4 foot shop light and what I was going to do with it, I got "the look".  The look in a pregnant woman's eyes that says, "Buddy, if I hear one more thing about another project"....you can fill in the rest.

So yes, I am putting in a new grow light and hope to have a post up showing what I came up with.  Assuming I am still alive.  I love you babe. 

Here is a shot of the bathroom from 2006.  Nice wallpaper and lime green tile.
Happy anniversary!  Welcome to your new bathroom.
This was the finished product.  It took me three weeks, but she forgave me.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My First Seed Starting Kit

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I know I have said more than a dozen times this year that I would not start anything from seed. I am too busy with so many other projects right now. I don't have the time to fool with learning how to do it this year. I will just buy plants.

Well, I was at Home Depot looking at some other stuff today and there was a Burpee complete seed starting kit for $7.99. How in the world could I pass that up? The kit contained a tray of 72 cells with seed growing pellets in each cell. You just add water and the pellets expand to fill the cells and then you plant your seeds. You then add the plastic top and booyah, a mini greenhouse.

I put the finished greenhouse on top of my fridge and aimed my heat vent at it to keep it warm. The quantities below are what I planted to fill the 72 cells.  This is way more than I will ever use, but I figured some won't germinate and some may not make it so better sow way more than I need. If anyone has any tips or has used one of these I am all ears. Thanks.

12 - Roma Tomatoes
12 - Better Boy Tomatoes
12 - Best Boy Tomatoes
12 - Jalapeno Peppers
9 - Habanero Peppers
9 - California Sweet Peppers
6 - Black Beauty Eggplant

Here is the kit, everything you need for eight bucks.

Here is a picture while planting the seeds.

Mini Greenhouse is ready to rock, let's see what happens.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Working Smarter, Not Harder

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This year in my garden I am going to try and stay on top of weeds better than I did last year. I was pretty good about keeping them pulled, but that is a never ending task.

In one bed last year I tried using that cheap black landscape fabric as a weed barrier. It worked great, so much so that I am using it anywhere that I can this year. The thing I like about it is that it comes in 4 foot rolls so it works perfect for my 4x4 and 4x8 boxes. I think it pays to spend a little extra time and energy on the front end before you plant, rather than a ton of time and energy pulling weeds on the back end.

Obviously I can't use the black plastic on vegetables with a real close spacing. It would take too much time poking that many holes. I plan on using this method for squash, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, lettuce, and spinach. Hopefully I will stick with it.

No, this is not lettuce or spinach. That is a bed full of weeds. I don't even want to think about it what it will take for me to clean this mess up. This is why I am going to try a new method.

Here is my first bed using it. The four holes on the right are for lettuce that I planted. The two slits on the left are two rows of spinach. I am staggering my plantings so I will be cutting more holes as I plant.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Garden Update - February 12th

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The garden is starting to come together for spring. We had our first real cold of winter this weekend. It was 24 degrees with a wind chill of 14 on the way to church this morning. That is pretty cold for my area. It is supposed to warm back up in a couple of days.

So far I have planted:
4 heads of lettuce
2 rows of spinach
2 eight foot beds of alaska peas
1 eight foot bed of oregon sugar pod peas

I won't be planting much more than some lettuce and spinach between now and late March. At that point I can plant all my warm season crops. I can't wait for spring.

Garden Overall

Bed of Alaska Peas, they haven't germinated yet.

Here is the bed of Oregon Sugar Pod II Snow Peas.
I planted six rows on January 3rd.

Here is the other bed of Alaska peas. There are four rows.

Friday, February 3, 2012

My New Toy

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For some people it is a brand new iPad or iPhone. For others it is a new flat screen TV with surround sound. For some it is new jewelry or new clothes.....but for me, being the gardening geek that I am. What do I splurge for?  I get a $250 dollar electric pea sheller of course.

I have been looking at different pea shellers and finally after a lot of research I got the Mr. Pea Electric Pea sheller. THIS THING IS AWESOME! It is made out of all aluminum which will last forever and will be easy to clean. It is fully electric with an on/off switch. I can plug this bad boy in on my kitchen counter and go to town on it. It even has a cutout designed for a standard bread pan to fit, so all the shelled peas fall right into it. Obviously at $250 it was not cheap, but that was the best price I saw for this model.  I spent a lot of time shelling purple hull peas last year and for me it was worth the investment to save time on shelling.

I purchased it from the website below and their service was superb. The shipping was free, and lightning fast. I ordered this thing at 10pm last night and it was on my door step at 5pm the next day. The company is based in Dothan, Alabama which is only a few hours away but still that is crazy fast. I read the reviews on their site and they seem to have excellent customer service. Check out this site, they have great information on it. There are also alot of youtube videos of it in action too.

Man I can't wait to use this thing. It will do any kind of cowpeas, lima beans, early peas, you name it and I plan to use it for all. I hope I get to use it around April when my English peas are ready. I will post how it works in a few months. Can you tell I am excited! :)

It is all aluminum and has a very small profile

This is the little cutout for your bread pan to slide in