Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Weed or Seed?

Let's play a little game! I have lots and lots of unknown sprouts in my veggie bed. I'm trying to figure out if they're seeds that never sprouted from last year, or if they're little "gifts" from the trees that surround our property. Last year, I planted a variety of mixed lettuces and lots of herbs that never sprouted, so they very well could be tasty veggies-in-progress, but I have a feeling some stinkers are floating around in there too. Won't you lend your expertise and tell me: Weed or Seed?


Here is Case #1 - These single-leaf seedlings are popping up ALL OVER the bed. They don't seem to be growing very fast, but they're everywhere:




This is Case #2 - There are only a few of these guys and I suspect weeds. Sorry the photo isn't better (still trying to learn the tricks to my point and shoot), but there are two leaves and the outer sides of the leaves are a deep red color. See all those little green leaves peaking out of the mulch? More of Case #1. So - what do you think of Case #2:




Case #3 - These are beginning to sprout throughout the bed.. They're all green and the tips are rather frilly:




And last but not least, Case #4. I've only seen one of these so far, and I'm pretty sure this is a lettuce. There are three green leaves - what do you think?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Eternal Spotless of a Sunshine Mind

a big thanks to everyone who stopped by and left comments over the last few days. I really appreciate them and will respond soon - promise!


...pretty much sums up my state of being right now. It's been another non-stop whirlwind of activity around here, which really should come as no surprise.. I'm worn out and I am seriously doubting my ability to recite the alphabet. "A..B..C..Zzzzzzzzzz". Some days I wonder if I take on too much, then look around and see that I still have piles of clean laundry (AT LEAST THEY'RE CLEAN!!) on my dining room table that need to be folded and put away, floors that need to be swept and vacuumed, a bathroom that needs to be recaulked... and admit that the only moment of sanity I've experienced for the last few weeks was in realizing that perhaps I'm spread just a little too thin. But you know, that seems to be the theme for moms with families and jobs and priorities similar to mine. Some day we'll rest but today is not that day!


As I said, this weekend was a hectic one, and I even made some progress in the garden. I started 60 (!!!!) tomato seeds and 12 sweet pepper seeds. Because my flat holds 72. And hopefully maybe they all won't germinate. I don't have containers, or soil, or cages for any of them yet (THIS THOUGHT ACTUALLY KEPT ME AWAKE LAST NIGHT).. but there's still time!

It's been two days since I sowed the seeds and I don't have any seedlings peaking through the soil yet, but I did see one little pepper seed that wasn't completely covered by soil and it was definitely waking up. How exciting!! Hopefully it won't be long before all those little boogers are up and growing and begging for a permanent home so they don't have to grow up to become vagrant tomatoes. I can just see them all gathered around a fire.. in a parking lot.. with fingerless gloves.. I need some sleep.

Outside, everything is growing. It looks like most of the seeds I planted two weeks ago have sprouted, with the exception of carrots and herbs... and I'm beginning to give up on herbs. They seem to be so easy for most people to grow.. but I'm not most people. I was really hoping for a big bunch of basil this year, so in one last Hail Mary attempt at something, I threw all my remaining basil seed into the pot that held my basil transplants before they gave up the ghost. Cross your fingers for me! Also, my cilantro is turning purple and not looking so great. Any suggestions?

Oh, and when I said "outside, everything is growing" I really meant it. EVERYTHING is growing - even things I wasn't expecting. In last year's bed that is supposed to be for squash ONLY this year (could someone please forward the memo to the rest of the vegetables?) I now have dozens of last year's lettuce blend seedlings emerging. And more french breakfast radishes. And chives. Nothing went to seed - I just didn't have a clue what I was doing and probably planted some things at the wrong time. Well, now it's the right time.. So, SURPRISE! Makes me think there might be something to Winter Sowing. I'll definitely have to do some more research.

It's time for this eternally spotty, dreaming-of-sunshine, weary head to hit the hay.. Otherwise, there's no telling what kind of trouble it could get me into on a night like tonight. That Baker Creek Heirloom catalogue is very appealing...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

If you aren't familiar with seven year old boys...

...you might want to skip this post. It's definitely off topic, but I promise to get back to garden updates tomorrow.

My son is a very sweet boy and a very hard worker, to boot. He is wonderful in math, but is having a little trouble with reading and writing. The other night while my husband was out, Caleb and I were coloring and drawing, and we decided to leave a message for my husband who would be returning after we went to bed. I went with a generic "We love you!". You can imagine my surprise when Caleb churned this out, without any help:




Let's get a little closer:





"I hop dat you fart!" Translation: I hope that you fart!



Okay, so it's not a typical greeting... and the only four letter word he spelled correctly was slightly offensive.. But like any mother would do, I congratulated him for the effort, let him know just how proud I was, and asked him to please not do that at school because I'm certain the next time I'm there, I'll hear "Oh, that's Caleb's mom!" Cross your fingers for me, please.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Patience is a Virtue

Sometimes it seems like nothing is growing - and that I'll never enjoy a nice crisp salad from my garden. Then I compare pictures from a few weeks ago:


Baby Romaine Transplants:




Romaine Now:



Baby Buttercrunch Transplants:



Buttercrunch Now:




Looks like I might need to do some thinning, and perhaps it won't be too long before I can start weighing in those harvests!!

Leprechaun Mischief

Two days ago my son came home from school, insistent on making a leprechaun trap. "Leprechaun Traps" are new to me, so I consulted my most trusty resource for learning the unknown - Google. I found out that when one sets a leprechaun trap, mischief and candy will no doubt follow. So, I pulled out an empty oat can and Caleb and I quickly got to work on making the trap, complete with Lucky Charms as bait:








Caleb went to bed shortly after, excited to capture his first leprechaun. He awoke the next morning to find a letter written on a paper shamrock, from Lucky the Leprechaun, instructing him to dress for school then to check the trap. After getting ready for school, Caleb opened his door to find a trail of paper shamrocks and gold-wrapped candy leading down the stairs, through the kitchen, all the way to the table where the trap had been set.

Caleb looked around - the house was in disarray. All of the kitchen cabinets and drawers were open; cookie cutters (100 of them!!!) had been strewn about; toilet paper was hanging from the chandalier; all of the chairs were facing backwards; there was even a half-played game of Connect Four on the table. As I went about my morning routine, I reached into the refrigerator to prepare our lunches and found a jug of GREEN MILK!

Beside the trap, there lay a pile of Lucky Charms crumbs. The cover of the trap had been removed and a stuffed dog was peering down inside. Caleb was quick to peek inside, where he found another pile of candy, a stack of shamrock sugar cookies the leprechaun had baked just for him, and a letter from Lucky informing him that he didn't outsmart him this year, but to try again next year. Lucky really enjoyed the Lucky Charms and all the fun he had at Caleb's house, and left him a bit of treasure in return.



At first, Caleb was confused. Then distraught. Within seconds, he broke down into tearful hysterics completely distressed because he had not caught a leprechaun. It took me 20 minutes to calm him down and then I had to hurry him to the bus. TOTAL PARENTING WIN.

Caleb seems to be fine now, and I think he understands that Leprechauns like to play games. I don't think I need to start saving up for his therapy just yet..


For some mysterious reason, all the labels are missing from my veggie containers out in the garden. I have no idea where the lettuce is. Or the bok choy. Or the buttercrunch. It must have been the leprechaun, because there is no way I could have forgetten to label my plants..

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Updates and The Sterilite Experiment

I hope you can forgive my absence of late. Fortunately, it means that I've been busy in the garden (or unfortunately, if you actually derive any entertainment from my ramblings..). Of course, I haven't just been busy in the garden.. I've been busy everywhere, every minute, of every day (jobs and motherhood will do that to you), but it's the path I've chosen and so I'll travel it with a smile! Finally this morning, on my third cup of coffee, I've found some time (and chemical-induced energy) to provide an update on my gardening-filled weekend.

First of all, I decided to transplant the volunteer onions from the squash bed to a container. When I gently dug them up, this is what I found:





I find it funny how the size of these guys varies so much! I replanted them in a container filled with a mixture of peat moss, vermiculite, and compost and then gave them a little dose of fish emulsion. So far they seem to have adjusted well to their new home. When I dug them up, I also found lots of worms. Three years ago I never thought I'd say this, but YAY FOR WORMS!!


With my current situation being the way it is (stupid HOA rules and snotty neighbor), I'm using lots of containers, which get to be expensive. And therein lies the problem. You see, I'm cheap. Well, I guess the fashionable term would be "frugalista" or "recessionista", but I've always been one to call a spade a spade and don't feel the need to dress up reality with a fancy, hip, new word. I don't think vegetable gardening should HAVE to cost an arm and a leg - even if you can't plant all of your crops in the ground. Eventually I'll tally my expenses into one of those fancy Google Spreadsheets, and perhaps I'll keep track of what I harvest as well (although a harvest seems so far away right now), just so we can see if this 'hobby' ends up costing more than it's worth. So, without further adieu, I'd like to introduce you to...

The Sterilite Experiment

Disclaimer: This is not a scienfific experiment. I am not a scientist. I will not investigate causal relationships among variables, or test a hypothesis, nor will I include controls or placebos. My only objective is to see if Sterilite containers are reasonable substitutes for more expensive garden pots.

I started with about 10 plastic containers in varying sizes. I found the best prices at Home Depot - the largest ones were only $5 each, and prices decreased from there. I flipped each one over:




And drilled several holes in the bottom of each for drainage. I did split one of the containers slightly, but to avoid this I learned to drill at a slow and steady pace, and did not have any other problems. Imagine, here, a picture of a container will holes, please. I'm terrible at taking pictures of my progress, but I promise I'll try to get better (I have no idea how food bloggers do it - maybe it just becomes a habit?)!

I then filled each container with a mixture of compost, vermiculite, peat moss, and top soil (again, because I'm cheap and filling all these containers get expensive). So far, I'm giving the plastic containers one point for this:




Looks like I didn't get my potting medium mixed as well as I thought I did. Thank you, clear plastic, for allowing me to see that!

After filling the containers, we carefully placed our seed mats in them,
Then spread a mixture of peat moss and vermiculite over the mats:




Then we patted them down and gave them a light watering with some fish emulsion:




We planted (or transplanted) peas, carrots, radishes, chives, pak choi, buttercrunch lettuce, a looseleaf lettuce mixture, basil, cilantro, oregano, dill, and parsley. So far, the basil transplants haven't held up very well, so I'll start some more seeds over the weekend and I'll be sure to give them more time to harden off. Also over the weekend, I'll start my tomato and pepper seedlings and amend the squash bed to get it ready for those seeds in a few weeks. Maybe I'll even have time to make and freeze some pasta... and a nap would be heavenly!


It's been really rainy here lately and it looks like it will continue for a while. The lettuce and herbs I transplanted a few weeks ago are definitely enjoying the precipitation (and so far the containers seem to be draining well enough). If the rain lets up for a bit, I'll take some pictures to update you on the progress. I really want to start chowing down on that romaine soon!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Validation

Apparently veggie growers aren't the only ones snubbing out of season grocery store produce. My friends, our "snobbery" has been validated!

Given recent topics around here lately, I thought it would only be appropriate to share with you an article I came across on Yahoo! this morning.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Just a quick update..

I'm sitting here, watching the SNOW fall, wishing it would stop so I could hurry up and plant more seeds already! Did I mention it's MARCH!?! And I live in GEORGIA!?! This year's weather has just been crazy, but I guess it could be worse - I could live in Antarctica.. or Northern Virginia. Same thing. ;-)

Unfortunately I don't have much of an update today. My transplanted pea seedlings aren't dead yet, so I guess that's a good thing! I prepared some seed mats over the weekend and my son is still trying to figure out why I am going to "plant" toilet paper. At what age can I expect him to understand "biodegradable"?

Hopefully this weather will clear up soon so I can get on with my gardening plans and give some real updates. I can't wait to tell you about The Sterilite Experiment, but that will just have to wait.

For now, I'm going to sidle up to a piece of freshly baked bread topped with meyer lemon marmalade. It's tough, but this will just have to do for now!

And only because I simply can't leave you without it, here's some of my ridiculously awful photography (and I use the term loosely):