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25 February 2011

Spring Garden - The Beginning

It's late February.  The WRAL weather guy has guaranteed no more accumulating white stuff!  We'll see about that.  We're in a nice weather pattern now with lots of 60 and 70 degree days, somewhat above normal but it's got me in the gardening mood.

That being said, I did a couplethings yesterday.  From Amazon.com, I purchased a Hydrofarm JSV2 2-Foot Jump Start T5 Grow Light System, along with a 20"x20" heat pad and a digital heat pad thermostat.  Total cost with free shipping, about $100.  Then I went to Home Depot and picked up a pair of Jiffy Seed Starting Greenhouse kits (like this one), some seed starting mix, and some seeds, including:

  • Cucumbers (Tendergreen)
  • roma Tomatoes (Roma VFN)
  • Cherry Tomatoes (Supersweet 100 VF hybrid)
  • Pole Beans (Kentucky Wonder)
  • Peas (Wando)
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Anaheim Chili Pepper
  • Jalapeno Pepper
  • Eggplant
  • Zucchini

Now, after doing some reading, it sounds like Peppers are a little harder to germinate than some o ther plants and need about 10 weeks indoors before moving outside sometime in May - so I decided NOW was the time to start my peppers.  I stopped at home depot this morning and bought a Jiffy Heated Professional Greenhouse kit (it was cheaper at Home Depot than at amazon, go figure).  I have it set up on my desk at work.  Soaked the seeds in warm water for a couple hours to speed germination, and planted.  Now, I wait.

As for the rest of the crops - I need to get the peas in the ground - yesterday!  They'll harvest in 2 months, but right now I don't have enough light in my back yard to grow anything - the sun is still too far south.  So I'm going to put some of the peas in a half barrel or something similar out in front.  Probably gonna do that this weekend.  Apparently, peas grow just fine here even though we certainly haven't seen our last frost.

I probably won't have my gardens ready in the back yard until early April, so most everything else I'll be planting under the new grow light system at appropriate times, probably starting with the tomatoes and basil.  I'll be able to seed 144 plants in the grow light system, and transplant some of them into 4" pots, and I can have two flats of the 4" pots under the grow lights so that gives me 24 plants to keep and others to give to friends and family to keep in their windows.

Adrienne and I discussed plans for the back yard last night.  We're going to put in a 8x8 or 8x10 shed near the back corner with the door facing the house, and a gravel walkway coming out of the shed between 2 raised bed gardens that will each be about 4' wide and 15' long.  These are my "sunny" gardens where I'll have to plant most of my stuff.  I'm definately doing corn again - probably will get 12 plants in a 4x4 space.  I'll also put the eggplant and peppers over here, along with the cucumbers and maybe some of the tomatoes, depending on space.  I am going to hang some of the tomatoes again this year in a topsy turvy.

The sunniest of the side yard gardens will get the pole beans - there's already a nice sturdy trellis in place that the bird feeder gourds were on last year.  In the less sunny garden I'll plant the zucchini, since it did very well in that location last year.  The other side yard garden I will not use because nothing grew well in it last year.

Posted by rickroot at 7:58 AM | Link | 0 comments
20 September 2010

Garden Update - The Fall Garden

The autumnal equinox is almost here!  On September 22nd at 11:09 P.M. EDT, it will be Fall.

What does that mean?  It means I've ripped up my tomatoes, birdfeeder gourds, cucumbers, corn, eggplant, beans, and bell peppers (the latter three didn't do well at all because of their location).  It also means that it's time for fall planting.

I moved one of my raised bed gardens (the one that didn't get enough sun) to the back yard in the middle of all the dead grass (lol), and filled it with good garden soil.  In it, I planted about 4 feet of double-rowed sugar snap peas (probably 40 or so plants), about 3 square feet of mesclun (aka, spring mix salad lettuce), and 6 broccoli plants which I purchased at Wal-Mart.  Hopefully, the broccoli will survive the warm September without going to seed.  We're still in the mid 80s to low 90s in the 10 day forecast.  The record warm summer might turn into a record warm fall, and I may regret planting my broccoli this early.

I moved the trellises that my cucumbers were on into this garden for the peas.

About 2 weeks ago, I also seeded a bunch more peas - 2 varieties of regular ol' peas and some snow peas.  Most of these seedlings were 4-8 inches tall now and needed to be transplanted, and that meant figuring out where I was going to put them.  I put 24 of them into my topsy turvy strawberry planter.   I decided that growing strawberries was too much work but it might work well for pea vines.  We'll see.  I also put 4 plants each in two 12" pots with tomato cages for the vines to climb on, and I planted more of the peas in flower boxes hanging off the deck.  I don't think these will do particularly well because the deck doesn't get much sun anymore (sigh).   I was going to just have them trail out of the flower box and essentially hang down but they really won't get any sun that way so I'm going to have to put some kind of light weight trellis in place for them to grow vertically out of the flower boxes.

I also have some sunflower seedlings growing and I put them into one of the side yard gardens.  They won't do very well, it's far too late to plant sunflowers and that garden doesn't get enough sun, but I've got nothing else to do in that garden so whatever.

I planted some leeks and green onions in seedling containers but I'm not really sure if I'm going to plant them.  They probably should've gone directly into the ground but I don't really have any place to put them where they'll get enough sun. 

Spring/Summer Garden Successes

Sweet corn, cayenne peppers, jalapeno peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, birdfeeder gourds, basil, cilantro.

I did learn some lessons here.  My sweet corn would've produced even better had I assisted in the pollenation, but it worked out pretty well.  Cayenne and Jalapeno Peppers did fantastically and produced a TON of peppers.  The cilantro did great until it got really REALLY hot and it was dead by July.  Too hot for cilantro.

Summer Garden Failures

Tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, green beans, cantaloupe, pumpkin.

I over-watered my topsy turvy tomatoes and they got diseased.  The tomatoes in the 12" pots were overcrowded and too difficult to maintain, and the ones in the ground didn't really have enough good soil to work with (only about 4" of garden soil on top of rock hard clay).  The eggplant, bell peppers, and green beans were in a raised bed garden that really only got 4-5 hours of sunshine and they just didn't do very well..

I only got one cantaloupe - probably not enough sunshine for it either.  I had two pumpkin plants that only produced one pumpkin.  But then, the pumpkin was in a 12" pot and it was far too difficult to keep watered - the vine died in July, and the pumpkin got to around 10" in diameter.

Posted by rickroot at 7:20 AM | Link | 0 comments

Garden Update - The Fall Garden

The autumnal equinox is almost here!  On September 22nd at 11:09 P.M. EDT, it will be Fall.

What does that mean?  It means I've ripped up my tomatoes, birdfeeder gourds, cucumbers, corn, eggplant, beans, and bell peppers (the latter three didn't do well at all because of their location).  It also means that it's time for fall planting.

I moved one of my raised bed gardens (the one that didn't get enough sun) to the back yard in the middle of all the dead grass (lol), and filled it with good garden soil.  In it, I planted about 4 feet of double-rowed sugar snap peas (probably 40 or so plants), about 3 square feet of mesclun (aka, spring mix salad lettuce), and 6 broccoli plants which I purchased at Wal-Mart.  Hopefully, the broccoli will survive the warm September without going to seed.  We're still in the mid 80s to low 90s in the 10 day forecast.  The record warm summer might turn into a record warm fall, and I may regret planting my broccoli this early.

I moved the trellises that my cucumbers were on into this garden for the peas.

About 2 weeks ago, I also seeded a bunch more peas - 2 varieties of regular ol' peas and some snow peas.  Most of these seedlings were 4-8 inches tall now and needed to be transplanted, and that meant figuring out where I was going to put them.  I put 24 of them into my topsy turvy strawberry planter.   I decided that growing strawberries was too much work but it might work well for pea vines.  We'll see.  I also put 4 plants each in two 12" pots with tomato cages for the vines to climb on, and I planted more of the peas in flower boxes hanging off the deck.  I don't think these will do particularly well because the deck doesn't get much sun anymore (sigh).   I was going to just have them trail out of the flower box and essentially hang down but they really won't get any sun that way so I'm going to have to put some kind of light weight trellis in place for them to grow vertically out of the flower boxes.

I also have some sunflower seedlings growing and I put them into one of the side yard gardens.  They won't do very well, it's far too late to plant sunflowers and that garden doesn't get enough sun, but I've got nothing else to do in that garden so whatever.

I planted some leeks and green onions in seedling containers but I'm not really sure if I'm going to plant them.  They probably should've gone directly into the ground but I don't really have any place to put them where they'll get enough sun. 

Spring/Summer Garden Successes

Sweet corn, cayenne peppers, jalapeno peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, birdfeeder gourds, basil, cilantro.

I did learn some lessons here.  My sweet corn would've produced even better had I assisted in the pollenation, but it worked out pretty well.  Cayenne and Jalapeno Peppers did fantastically and produced a TON of peppers.  The cilantro did great until it got really REALLY hot and it was dead by July.  Too hot for cilantro.

Summer Garden Failures

Tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, green beans, cantaloupe, pumpkin.

I over-watered my topsy turvy tomatoes and they got diseased.  The tomatoes in the 12" pots were overcrowded and too difficult to maintain, and the ones in the ground didn't really have enough good soil to work with (only about 4" of garden soil on top of rock hard clay).  The eggplant, bell peppers, and green beans were in a raised bed garden that really only got 4-5 hours of sunshine and they just didn't do very well..

I only got one cantaloupe - probably not enough sunshine for it either.  I had two pumpkin plants that only produced one pumpkin.  But then, the pumpkin was in a 12" pot and it was far too difficult to keep watered - the vine died in July, and the pumpkin got to around 10" in diameter.

Posted by rickroot at 7:19 AM | Link | 0 comments
31 May 2010

Garden Update 3

I've uploaded 10 new pictures, complete with various comments, some of which I'll mention in this blog post.

http://picasaweb.google.com/rick.root/YardAndGarden2010#5477489948381492226

Of the most interest I think is the continued growth of the cantaloupe.  It got so big over the weekend that I felt the need to expand my trellis.

Click for full size view.

Wow!

Posted by rickroot at 10:49 AM | Link | 0 comments
26 May 2010

Garden Update 2

My cantaloupe grew a foot last weekend!

That picture is from Monday morning.  It's actually a few inches higher now but it definately did a ton of growing this weekend.  It's been cloudy and rainy all week, but the sun is going to shine today and tomorrow so I suspect everything will burst again.

Yesterday, I planted a couple of Stevia plants, just because the idea of growing my own sugar sounds like fun. 

I also decided I need more than 5 basil plants, so I bought a $6 herb garden at Lowe's that has 36 little containers.  It came with 6 different herbs but I only planted Basil, Sage, and Chives - 12 of each.  It's sitting in the kitchen corner window where it gets light but no direct sun, a fine place to germinate seeds.

I also seeded 8 "small" sunflower plants (a colorful variety that only gets 4-5' tall), and 9 perennial lupines.  I did these in 2" Jiffy Pots.  The lupines will probably take 3-4 weeks to germinate because I didn't follow the "hastening" instructions.  I didn't feel like chilling them in the fridge, then nicking the hard seed shell and soaking them overnight.

Posted by rickroot at 6:58 AM | Link | 0 comments
18 May 2010

Garden Update 1: Photos

Garden Number 3
Three canteloupe and a Big Boy tomoato.  The trellis is made from 6.5' steel T-posts and something I found at Home Depot called "Mason Ladder", which is made of a fairly heavy guage steel wire.  It's meant for re-inforncing concrete.  I also spray-painted it a dark green so it would be less noticeable from a distance.

Garden Number 2
This is the one that doesn't get enough light, or so I believe.  Maybe 5 hours.  The zucchini and onions seem to be doing very well, the mesclun lettuce was great.  The roma tomato plants look okay but aren't growing very fast - same with the cucumbers and muskmelon.

Insects Already?
Several of my eggplants have leaves like this - I haven't seen any insects on them but this sure looks like insect damage.  I took the opportunity to apply some Bayer Advanced Fruit, Citrus, and Vegetable Insect Control.  The instructions say to apply at transplanting - most of my stuff has been in the ground for 4-6 weeks, but hopefully it will still work to prevent future damage.  No, I'm not growing organic.

Roma Tomatos in the Topsy Turvy planters
I have two roma tomato plants in these upside down planters.  Both purchased at the same time, both about the same size and similar in their looks.  Both transplanted into the planters at the same time with the same Miracle Grow potting soil.  Both receive the same amount of water and sunlight.

One of them looks much better than the other, don't you think?

Posted by rickroot at 9:52 AM | Link | 0 comments
17 May 2010

Garden Update 1: The Beginning

In mid-March, I bought a burpee garden seed kit at Home Depot.  It came with seeds, soil pellets, a container for the soil, and a little plastic container that would act as a greenhouse.  I thought it would be fun for emily to grow some things from seed.  The kit came with roma tomatoes, oregano, basil, cilantro, squash, beans, carrots, cucumbers, and canteloupe.  We seeded on March 21st, the first day of spring.  Amazingly, I only had to bring the garden inside once or twice due to frost.  I also put some bean seeds in a planter on the patio. 

While Emily found it to be marginally interesting, it actually gave me the garden bug.  So now, I have FOUR raised bed gardens, three in the wild area out front, and one in the back near the fence.

The first two are each 3 feet by 6 feet and made of 2x6 lumber.  I didn't really do any prep of the ground below, just filled them up with about 5" of miracle grow garden soil.  In garden #1, I tranplanted 4 bean plants and 2 squash that I'd planted from the seed kit, and also four eggplant and 2 "rainbow mix" bell peppers.  I'll probably end up removing 2 of the eggplants.  Garden #2 currently has 5 cucumbers and a nice trellis ready for them to climb, though they're still quite small since I grew them from seed.  I also planted some mesclun lettuce (which we've already eaten some of!), 2 muskmelons, a zucchini, 2 roma tomatoes, and some green and white onions (same thing really, the "green" onions are planted about 3" deep, while the "white" onions are planted at the surface).  Garden #1 only gets about 6-7 hours of sunlight, and garden #2 really gets only 5-6 hours of sunlight.  The zucchini, onions, and mesclun all seem to be thriving here, we'll see how the romas, cucumbers, and muskmelon do.

Garden #3 is one that I added just this weekend, it's 8 feet long and 2 feet wide, and made with 2x8 lumber so it's a little deeper than the other two.  I needed a place to put my canteloupe that I'd grown from seed and needed a sunny location.  I have a lot of trees around my hard to sunny locations are hard to come by.  I put in a couple of 6' steel posts and threw some heavy guage "Mason Ladder" wire between them to make a nice trellis for the vines.  I'll probably train two of them up the trellis and let the other trail out into the mulch.  The other resident of this garden is a Big Boy tomato, which was transplanted from a planter that Adrienne had originally planted from seed.  The canteloupe were also transplanted from a planter, but they'd been seeded in the burpee seed kit, so this was their second move.  They're doing pretty awesome.

Garden #4 is a 4 foot diameter raised bed garden made from a kit I bought at Walmart.  Essentially it's just about 10" of edging.  Also filled with miracle grow garden soil, I have a cayenne pepper and a jalapeno pepper plant here, both purchased at the farmers market and at a fairly good size (each about 15" tall when purchased).  In fact, the cayenne pepper already has 2 peppers on it, and both are covered with flowers.  I also have about 7 sweet corn plants growing in the other half of this garden (there wre more but I thinned them out a bit, and may have to thin a little more).  Behind this garden, in the ground by the fence, I also sowed another row of sweet corn, which I'll probably thin to 4 or 5 plants in a week or so.  I built another trellis here as well using steel T posts and heavy gauge mason ladder wire.  On the trellis, I planted a Himrod grape vine (a variety of white seedless grape).  We'll see how well that works.

We have some container gardening going on - we have several Topsy Turvy planters, one for strawberries (it has 15 strawberry plants in it!) and 2 for roma tomatoes.  We also have 2 roma tomatoes in a large pot, and 2 big boy tomatoes in pots as well.    And finally, we have 5 basil plants (planted from seed) that are in a planter on the porch and doing awesomely.

Oh, and we've got a blueberry bush on the porch, still in the pot we bought it in because it had flowers all over and and we figured as long as we keep it watered it'll produce better than if shocked it by transplanting it.  We'll put it in the ground in the fall.

Fun!

Posted by rickroot at 9:08 AM | Link | 0 comments
08 April 2007

Saving a young banana tree from a late freeze

So, I have a banana tree in my front yard.  I can do this in North Carolina because the winters aren't cold enough to freeze the ground.  Banana trees aren't very tolerant of freezing - in fact, they're not at all tolerant.  The slightest frost will kill all the leaves, and a good freeze will kill the entire tree right down to the ground.

I wouldn't have thought about growing a banana tree here in North Carolina, except that there's a large grove of banana trees in the Sarah P. Duke Gardens up on campus.  I asked my coworker George, who has what you might call a green thumb, and he has some in his yard, and kindly gave me a sproute last spring.

Anyway, last night's low was going to be in the mid 20s.  A record by a long shot - the previous record was 28, and it was supposed to be 24 last night.  My little banana tree had sprouted several leaves and was a good 18-24" tall already, as we've had lovely spring weather, and no frost for over a month I'd say.

Well, I don't want it to have to start over - from the ground up, so to speak - so here's what I did.

I have an unused halogen desk lamp in my garage.  It gets quite hot when it's on, though the bulb is only like 10 watts or something.  Anyway, I ran an extension cord out to the banana tree, and plugged in the halogen lamp and sit in right next to the banana.  Then I mounded up some mulch around the base of the banana, as high as I could get it, and covered the tree and lamp with a 30 gallon plastic garbage can.  Finally, I mounded more mulch around the base of the trash can to keep the warm air inside.

This morning - about a half hour ago actually - I went out to remove the garbage can.  Success!  Not only was the banana tree nice and warm, but the inside of the garbage can was wet.  I think I created a miniature rain forest!  Hah.

Tonight the low is supposed to be in the low 30s, but then after that I think we'll be safe from future frosts.

Posted by rickroot at 8:33 AM | Link | 2 comments