Friday, April 29, 2011

not so fungi

My first attempt at sowing the peas, the germination rate was very poor. I really like snap peas so I want to have more than 4 plants. I read here that you can germinate the seeds in a paper towel. This way I can pick out the ones that do germinate. I dampened a paper towel, put the peas in it, spritzed it with water and put it in a ziplock bag.  I didn't read closely enough because I sealed the bag completely. 2 days later, I opened the bag and I see this:
 There were some seeds that looked like they were cracking so probably more seeds will germinate. But then I saw this:
The peas were all slimy and a few of them looked as bad as the above photo. Yuck. Sealing the bag was not the right move. I didn't want to throw them away so I got rid of the ones that looked particularly fuzzy and transferred them to this plastic container and left it open. I hope they don't all grow moldy...I want to pot the ones that are germinating tomorrow.
 I also noticed some white spots on the pea leaves. I don't know if this is some sort of sickness (not all the leaves had the spots). I couldn't find any information on the web, unfortunately.
Finally, I left the bigger plants outside all day. Most did OK, but I had one broken leaf/stem on the zucchini. Again, the wind. I cut it off at the base near the stem and will wait to see how they do. The stem was really prickly.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

I have a shopping problem

They had a farmer's market today at the parking lot next to our office. I wanted to see if they had any fruits I can add to my Greek yogurt. Unfortunately it was a rainy day so there wasn't a lot of people there, and I was imagining a farmer's market like the on 32 second street, but it was much much smaller and not much produce. There was a food booth, ice-cream truck, 1 small vegetable booth, and 2 vendors selling plants. One booth was selling tomato, pepper, rosemary, and parsley plants. The second booth was all herbs. I spotted a purple basil plant - I have seen pictures of this plant but had never met one in real life. I really wanted to buy from the other vendor since the women manning the booth looked like they took a lot care growing the plants and cared about them (now that I know how much TLC is required to grow plants from seeds) while the herb booth was manned by 2 teenagers that looked like they didn't want to be there. However, I could not resist the allure of the purple basil and bought that (along with an oregano plant). I need to stop purchasing plants, I'm gonna run out of space.

And the Genovese basil at home is growing nicely - looking more like basil. They smell fantastic!


Check out these seedlings here...look closely, they are so tiny. These are arugula seedlings I sowed 3 days ago. At least that's what is said on the package.
I'm really liking the way the planters look on the balcony. I've decided to leave the peas, tomato (early girl), and zucchini (in the larger pot) outside overnight. I hope it doesn't get too windy and break the young plants. I need to start thinking of ways to create a wind barrier for the balcony.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

All kinds of nasty

Bucket #1 there are holes on the bottom
Bucket #2

Today was warm but cloudy and tremendously windy. I thought we would have a thunderstorm so I left my plants inside. In the evening, I decided to "turn" my compost before going to the gym. I have two 5-gallon composting buckets (urban organic gardener link --> has great info on starting a compost bin). I drilled holes on the bottom and sides of one bucket (bucket #1) and was too lazy to do the same for the second (bucket #2). I figured it is a small bucket so it would be easy to turn the compost around to aerate it (wrong, with a little shovel, it is hard to get to the bottom). The compost in bucket #1 had no smell (well, smelled like dirt/soil). The compost in bucket #2 was smelling a little like horse radish - nothing too bad but definitely like something was going on in there.
This bucket should be fabreze'd
I decided that I should empty bucket #2 and get some air to the bottom of the bucket. And after dumping half of the compost into the bucket I got a whiff of something nasty, real the kind of smell you get when you walk into a porta potty at a summer festival kind of nasty.
I panicked, starting running around not sure of what to do. I was so glad it was windy otherwise I probably would have killed my neighbors with the stank. I quickly drilled holes on the bottom and sides of bucket #1. Scurried into the house, grabbed some scrap paper, shredded it and put the stanky compost (if I can call it that) back into the bucket - layering it with the shredded paper. I am still unsure of when the compost is "done". I guess I should wait until I can't identify the food scraps. I hope I can figure out this composting thing, it is such a great way to reduce waste and save money on compost.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tomatoes need their space!

Here is a quick comparison of the growth of super sweet tomato seedlings when they transferred into individual pots versus not. These seedlings are about 1 month old. Can you see that the seedlings that have their own pots are larger and happy looking? Now that it is getting warmer and sunnier it probably a better environment for them to grow. They are, however, a lot smaller than the starter plants that I saw at the store the other day. The same difference in growth was observed for the peppers as well.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Starting to feel like summer!

Second sunny and warm day in a row! I smell summer is finally here!! I quickly checked the weather forecast and decided that today will be warm all day (70-80s). I took all my plants that are in big pots (eggplant, jalapeno, tomato, and zucchinis) out on the balcony. Then I sat there contemplating whether I should leave the seedlings out to. I know you are supposed to slowly expose them to the elements. From what I've read in gardener's blogs and from listening to podcasts (yes, I listen to gardening podcasts because I am totally addicted, a dork, and know little to nothing about what I am doing), you are suppose to take the seedlings out for about an hour one day, 2 hours the next, 3 hours the next and slowly increase the exposure time monitoring how they are responding. On the weekend, yes, this is reasonable. But during the week, I cannot figure out how this is possible. I live really close to work, so it is feasible to come back home quickly and bring the seedlings inside... but really? I can't do that. So I decided against leaving them outside for the day (though I have a feeling they would've been OK). As I was driving home afterwork, I was little concerned that my plants wouldn't fare well in the heat.But they were looking quite happy on my balcony!

If you look real close, you can see the peas "grabbing" the string
Jalapeno and eggplants are doing well
I'm not sure if this is what the mesclun green are suppose to look like. The side I thinned out doesn't look any better than the other side. Hm...

The balcony can be accessed from the second bedroom. There is no water source on the balcony so I have to go into the bathroom. I made a little funnel to make it easier to get the water in my watering container. Works pretty well!
Water bottle-turned funnel

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Busy busy Easter Sunday

Yesterday, I went to buy tarp to protect my carpet from any water spilling from the containers. I walked passed the starter plants and couldn't stop myself from picking up a couple...3 to be exact. I bought early girl 50, mammoth jalapeno, and ichiban japanese eggplant. I found the eggplant first and after that there was no stopping me. I also purchased marigold since I read that they are a good companion plant for tomatoes. The weather forecast for today was thunderstorm all day - they were wrong! It was hot hot hot! On the balcony it reached 90 degrees. I had plans to go to a movie...but I decided to change my schedule and take the opportunity to do some gardening and go the move later in the day.
I put my seedlings outside to enjoy direct sunlight. The seedlings in the newspaper pots are tomatoes and peppers. Then I have basil in the two brown containers. Marigold replanted into a white container. In the top left corner I sowed some leftover mesclun seeds into a recycled salad container. In the green pot I have rosemary that I repotted. My goal was to grow vegetables, and I wasn't interested in flowers but I'm loving the marigold and the color it brings to the sea of green leaves. I need to think about getting more flowers to beautify my balcony.

It turns out that there are LOTS of bugs on the balcony. I saw ladybugs and several bees. I know these are good insects...but I don't really likes bugs. Actually, I hate them.  I will have to change my attitude quickly and make friends with them since I will probably be out on the balcony quite a bit this year and they are essential to keep my garden happy. It is good to know that I will not be having problems with pollination! I'm glad I haven't seen any stink bugs in the city yet (knock on wood). Just a couple of miles out and they are really a HUGE problem.

Here are all the other plants I potted today. I think it was a little too hot for some of them (eggplant especially). The leaves started to get all wilty-looking. Well, it is 4pm, and it looks like that storm they predicted will be here soon so I better bring the plants inside. One day they will be able to withstand a thunderstorm, but I don't think today is the day.
Peas with homemade bamboo trellis
Early girl 50 tomato starter plant
Right: Mammoth Jalepeno; Left: ichiban japanese eggplant
Zucchini plants. Experiment to see the effect of container size

Friday, April 22, 2011

Peas doing well, and gardening on a budget

The peas are growing quickly - although the germination rate was low (I think I sowed about 12 seeds or so). I have 4 seedlings reaching towards the light. I think it is time to build a trellis for them - I probably should have planted them with the trellis. I will have to be careful not to damage the roots. I want to start a second container of peas this weekend.

Coffee grind to the left, filters to the right.
Gardening is not a cheap hobby, I would guess especially in the beginning. I was going to build self-watering pots with 5 gallon buckets. I still plan to do this, but in the meantime I am using some cheap containers I found at Walmart and old containers I had lying around. I have started composting in two 5-gallon buckets but I'm not entirely sure if I am doing it correctly. I really want to try vermicomposting, but I can't quite get comfortable with the idea of having worms in the house. I read that used coffee grinds are great fertilizer and can be added to soil (<20% volume). We go through a lot of coffee at work so I have been taking the coffee grinds and filter home this past week. I've added some to the compost bucket and drying the rest to set aside for later use.

I broke my plastic watering bucket the other day - I didn't realize how strong I am! I made a new one using an empty juice bottle and it works quite well. I'm trying to think of other ways to save money. It is kind of fun!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

First harvest...well, sort of...

Mesclun thinned out
Ok, so this isn't really a "harvest", but the mescluns are growing so thick (due to my poor sowing technique) I decided it needed to be thinned out. The package indicates that the seedlings should be about 6 inches apart. I also think these seedlings are little leggy but I'm going to keep it. I only thinned one side of the pot.

I nibbled on one of the seedlings and it tasted like a cross between lettuce and alfalfa. But it was good, so I collected the seedlings
The seedlings post "harvest"

Cleaned the dirt off the seedlings....added it to my arugula salad with crab cakes! It was really very good. I can't wait to get some grown veggies!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Amaryllis and veggie seedlings

My parents left me a bulb - I think it is an amaryllis. I've had it for 2 years and all it did was grow long leaves. This year, it has decided to bloom. And it is BEAUTIFUL! If you look closely, the petals are glittery and shiny.

  Now for the edibles. The zucchinis are doing really well, so I transplanted one into a bigger pot. I don't want to take up too many pots with zucchinis so I'm not sure what I will do with the leftover seedlings.

The tomato, peppers and basil aren't doing as well. They just aren't growing. It is getting a little warmer here, but probably still not warm enough. I thought maybe they were crowded in the newpaper pots so I thinned them out and for the stronger looking ones I repotted them in their own little newspaper pots. I also made a foiled line container so as to maximize the light from the window and my little desk lamp. Lets see how they do.
 I recently planted mesclun greens and sugar peas. The greens are sprouting like crazy and the sugar peas are starting to show its little head. I really want to get some arugula as well. This is on my weekend shopping list (as well as some starter plants...I still hope my seedlings will grow but just as a back up.)
Mesclun green seedlings
Sugar snap peas

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The balcony

I moved here 2 years ago and I have not yet used the balcony. It is a good size (10x10), but I just haven't found ways to use it. I have thought about buying a grill, but I don't feel comfortable having anything flammable on a wooden balcony. It gets direct sunlight so it is ideal to grow vegetables I think. It might actually get too hot in the dead of summer. But we shall see.
 The first thing I plan to do before I start the veggie garden is to waterproof the whole balcony. We haven't had many sunny days so I have to wait for the weather to improve. While I wait for consecutive sunny days, I trimmed and re-potted the rosemary. I want it to grow vertically rather than horizontally. This is the first resident of the balcony garden.
Rosemary in new home
My seedlings are still very cute...I think though the growth should be faster. I suspect I need more light and maybe a heat mat. I'll put together a seed starting setup next year. But for now, I'm just going to continue to wait to see if these seedlings successfully grow up. I also planted lettuce and snap peas. I really want to go buy some arugula as well.
True leaf looking more true leaf-y, but these seedlings are really tiny...

Saturday, April 9, 2011

True leaves and rosemary

I've been waiting for the true leaves, but I didn't really know what true leaves are. Just that you are supposed to transfer the seedlings and then start feeding them fertilizer. So I did a little search and found out that the first pair of leaves are actually a part of the seed (cotyledons) and provide nutrient for the plants without photosynthesizing. The true leaves eventually take over sustaining the plant through photosynthesis. I think this is correct, and this information sounds oddly familiar ie: high school horticulture class and college plant physiology. It is so strange, because I really didn't have any interest in plants when I was in school eons ago but now I would be interested in taking these classes again.

Now for a look-see at the seedlings. The zucchinis are doing really well. I left them outside for an hour today and cut 1 seedlings so now each pot has 2 seedlings. Eventually I will wittle them down to 1.
The tomato and pepper seedlings are still tiny. I really think they need a warmer environment...I'm just going just keep waiting...but if you squint, you can see the beginnings of true leaf formation. I'm not sure if I need to thin our the tomatoes seedlings. I feel like they are trying really hard to grow so I cannot chose which one to keep. The basil is also starting to show signs of new leaves.
  I mentioned before that this gardening project is really ambitious for me. Other than being a beginner vegetable gardener, generally speaking I'm not very good with plants. I've managed to kill some plants that people have told me are resilient. Really I only have been able to keep pothos alive. More recently I have added zz plant, jade plant, and dwarf umbrella plant. I have some herbs growing in the kitchen such as these rosemary plant. My mom pointed out to me that they look ready to be repotted. So this is on my to do list.
Rosemary that needs some TLC

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Mom's wisdom

My mom has been helping me a lot with my vegetable garden project, giving me advise and sharing her experience with me. She is leaving on Saturday so I will be left to fend for myself. Hopefully she will keep up with my progress through this blog and continue giving me much needed advice. I'm already worried about all the bugs/slugs/insect that may attack my little vegetable plants. Anyway, she showed me this little trick, something I that is done in Southern part of Japan. I was about to compost the roots of the green onions but she said you can regenerate them my planting them in soil....and sure enough, they are happily growing in this little container.