G Is For Gardening

Yes it is true that “G” is for gardening, but it is also for germination, growth, and green!

G IS FOR GARDENING

Our plants are coming along nicely under the warmth of the grow lights, their safe little haven in their seed cells.

Some of the plants have already been transplanted into larger pots, due to their fast rooting systems, and need the extra room in a larger pot to expand their growth. While the other plants are still growing, their roots are still not yet to the stage of being transplanted. Wonder how I check if they are ready to be transplanted? I take a small thin butter knife and slide it down the side of the seed cell, then slightly pull up the soil around the plant. If I see roots all around the sides, it is ready to be transplanted, if not, I drop it back into the seed cell and check on it at a later date.

One thing when starting your plants indoors yourself, you don’t want to disturb the growth of the plant until it is ready. Plants are tender and need lots of love and attention to grow into a nice sized plant.

Also, you never want to over water your small plants either. Watch their leaves! Their leaves will tell you everything. If they are yellow, they are getting too much water, but some plants require that their soil is always moist, but this is something that you learn when you have been a gardener for awhile. If you are just starting out, I would suggest that you water your plants in small amounts until you learn the best amount of water that they need.

One last important note when starting your plants indoors, is to check on them many times during the day, and once again before you head to bed. Since the grow lights stay on 24/7 until the plants get bigger, you need to always make sure that your plants soil does not dry out. Once the plants get transplanted because their root systems are in need of a larger pot, this is the time to get your plants used to “sleeping”. By sleeping, I mean that you turn your grow lights off for a certain amount of time, which tells the plants that they need to learn how to sleep. Then you turn the lights back on for a few more hours, but this step is only done when your plants have been transplanted and are getting bigger in growth.

How well do you know your garden plants? Can you name the eight plants below? 

4-2-15 t

4-2-15 r

4-2-15 m

4-2-15 ci

4-2-15 ce

4-2-15 ca

4-2-15 z

4-2-15

Do you think you named all eight plants properly? As always, we love sharing our gardening experiences with you!

Taking Care of Our Future Produce

Nine days. It’s been nine days, from a seed to a little sprout, that’s all it took. Well, for some of our plants. Each seed we have planted has some sort of action going on with them, each germinate and grow at different rates.

ZUCCHINI 3-15-15

Obviously, the zucchini plants are growing up nicely! They are already getting secondary leaves! At this rate, I will be transplanting them into bigger pots soon.

CUCUMBERS 3-15-15

The cucumbers are standing at attention and coming along nicely too. Secondary leaves are starting on them as well.

BIG BOYS AND JULIETS 3-15-15

I love watching our little tomato plants grow. I love how they go through so many stages and right now, they are in the lanky stage, but they are coming along nicely. I love that the stems look furry, but my favorite part of growing tomatoes is when I touch the leaves and get that “tomato” smell aroma!

PUMPKINS 3-15-15

I think our pumpkins have taken some drugs! OMG, I can’t believe how big they have grown in nine days! Geez!  Big secondary leaves have already formed and they are definitely ready next week to be transplanted into bigger pots!

ROMAINE 3-15-15

Finally, we are starting to see little baby Romaine sprouts popping up! Oh how I can’t wait to watch them grow!  We planted Romaine lettuce for the first time last year, and definitely loved it! Romaine is so much better than regular leaf lettuce for sure! If you have never tried growing Romaine, you should consider it!

CELERY 3-15-15

Today, we got our first sight of some of our celery popping up. We love celery! This will be our first time ever that we have attempted to grow celery, so this will be quite an adventure for us.  I remember when we first tasted a celery stalk from a gardener friend of ours a few years ago, and when he told us to taste it, it tasted like it already was lightly salted. It was so awesome to munch on that piece of celery that day, and we have always wanted to try growing some of our own, so this year will be an awesome adventure.

We still have more plants that are coming along, germinating at their own slow pace, but that is how you roll when you start your own seeds indoors. Everything just does not pop up at the same time, they all grow individually, at their own pace. And, like I have mentioned before, we always plant extra seeds just in case some of the seeds don’t germinate, but if all the seeds do, then we’ll have extra.

Nothing is wrong with having too much fresh produce, right?

Seed To Green In Three Days

One of the most exciting parts of gardening is watching your plants grow, the other is eating what you grew! I know that we are a long way off to picking any veggies yet, but I can dream of them being in my belly!

GREEN SEEDLINGS 3-10-15

Late Friday afternoon I finally got all of our seeds planted. When I checked in on them on Monday, I was shocked at what I found! I saw “green” and lots of green under the seed cell clear covers! I was doing a happy dance in the laundry room.

CUCUMBERS 3-10-15

As you scroll through these photographs, you can see that some seeds germinate quicker than others. Don’t fret, if you are watching & waiting for yours to sprout, just give them time!

PUMPKINS 3-10-15

Another thing that I love about watching our plants grow, are the shapes they form while popping out of the soil. I get so excited when I see the secondary leaves forming too.

JULIET TOMATO 3-10-15

This is the first Juliet Tomato that popped up, and although it looks like a little green stick now, this baby (once grown) can produce tons of tomatoes!

CABBAGE 3-10-15

I love watching our cabbage plants grow, because when they are little, their leaves always remind me of little hearts, and I love hearts!

BIG BOY TOMATOES 3-10-15

This little Big Boy Tomato plant has just emerged from the soil, reaching for the warmth of the grow light.

ZUCCHINI 3-10-15

The zucchini plants look a lot like a cucumber or a pumpkin when they are small, and this is one of the reasons I always keep our plants labeled.

When we start our gardening season, it is always started indoors while the outdoors is still cold & snowy. I always get a nice workout throughout the day, and every day, as I run up and down our stairs to check in on the plants. When the plants get a lot bigger, the grow lights will be shut off at night so the plants can start learning how to sleep, but that is awhile away for them now. Right now, they need the warmth of the grow lights for germination & growth.

I just realized that I forgot to mention all of the veggies that we will have in our garden this year. They are as follows:  9 Juliet Tomatoes, 9 Big Boy Tomatoes, 9 Colossal Peppers, 9 Red Peppers, 9 Zucchini, 18 Romaine Lettuce, 9 Flat Dutch Cabbage, 18 Cucumbers, Celery and we will also be planting those Loofah Seeds too!  Just so you know how gardening works for us, not all of these plants will be planted in the garden, as we always start & germinate more seeds than needed just in case.

What are you going to grow this year?

Gardening Is Like A Slow Dance

When you decide to become a gardener, you have questions, and lots of them. What do I plant? What do I plant them in? How do I plant them? Do I start my own seeds or do I just purchase my plants? These are all good questions, which might leave you wondering where to begin.

We were once there years ago too. We got encouraged to start our own garden from gazing at our neighbors garden. He has a green thumb. We asked him tons of questions. (thanks farmer Steve!) I remember that first year we wanted to plant something, just to try it out and we purchased a couple cherry tomato plants from a local nursery. We planted them in large flower pots and when we saw how well they grew in just a pot, we were hooked and wanted our own garden! That’s when we decided to build our own raised garden beds in the backyard! We have never looked back and every year we get so darn excited about gardening every year.

Now, a few years of gardening under our belt, we feel that we can start and maintain a garden with confidence.

Gardening to me, is like a slow dance. You gather your seeds, soil, and plant trays, then stare at the soil for days until you see a little something “green” poking its way out of the soil! Success! You have officially germinated a seed and you are on your way!

GARDENING: STEP ONE
CREATE CUTE PLANT LABELS

When you become a gardener, you definitely learn from your mistakes. For example, last year I made some cardstock plant labels and taped them to a toothpick. I placed these labels in each seed section to identify what was planted in there. What I learned from this, is that the condensation that happens under the lid, those cardstock labels got destroyed and fell apart. That’s where the “learn” from gardening mistakes come in.

PLANT MARKERS

This year, I made some cute plant labels on cardstock, but I laminated them first! Now I’m on the right track! I got those cute labels all cut out and taped them to the toothpicks again and now know that through watering and the condensation, those labels will hold up until we take the plants out to the garden.I am happy.

PLANT MARKERS2

GARDENING: STEP TWO
CHOOSING THE RIGHT STARTING SOIL

Choosing the right seed starting soil is important. I remember a few years ago we got some cheap crap soil at Marcs (will never do that again) and the soil was like a bag of fluff. Yes, I said fluff, because the soil was horrible and we lost all the seeds that we had planted. Nothing grew in this cheap soil.

STARTING SEEDS

We changed our starting soil to either a Burpee seed starting soil, or a nice organic soil and have had much success with both of these. It’s better to spend a few dollars more on your soil than waste seeds.

Once you have the correct seed starting soil, you are ready to start your seeds. This part is fun, but a little tricky because most of the seeds that you will probably be starting are very tiny in size. I had to use a pair of tweezers just to grab the seeds out of the bag. For example, the Flat Dutch Cabbage seeds are the size of a period at the end of a sentence.

GARDENING: STEP THREE
PLANTING YOUR SEEDS

For a first time gardener, I would suggest you read the planting instructions on all of your seed packs before you attempt to plant your seeds. The depth of your seeds is important.

ROMAINE

We start our seeds in the 72 cell seed starting trays. Each kit comes with a bottom (to catch & hold water), the 72 cell tray (8 sections for 9 plants each), and a clear lid (for the grow light to shine through). I normally use the sections to plant the same seeds, and always plant a few seeds extra, just in case one seed does not germinate!

ZUCCHINI

You take your good seed starting soil, NOT potting soil, as there is a difference. Potting soil is for house plants, not for starting seeds. Fill up each seed cell with your soil, and very lightly pack it in, but not too much, then take a toothpick and poke a small hole in the center of each seed cell, this is where you are going to plant that seed! (now remember, I told you first time gardeners to read the seed packet first, because some seeds just lay on top of the soil, where others have to be planted at a certain depth)

Once you drop your seeds into the soil, lightly cover them up with a dusting of soil. Lightly water the entire seed cell tray, and put the clear lid on.

GARDENING: STEP FOUR
GROW LIGHTS & KEEPING YOUR PLANTS WARM

Other than choosing the right seed starting soil, keeping your seeds under a grow light is important. We hung our grow lights off the beams in the ceiling in our basement. The lights hang from a chain and we use little metal “S” hooks on the chain, as this is used when we change the height of the grow lights.

SEED STARTER

Since our seeds were just started, we keep the grow lights a few inches above the closed lid on our seed cells, as this keeps the seeds warm and with the moisture in the soil from watering, it produces condensation. Always keep those lids closed on your seed cells until you need to water your plants.

PLANT MARKER CABBAGE

As the seeds germinate & grow, they are still kept under the grow lights, but the lights on the chains gets moved up a few notches. You don’t want to burn your plant leaves with too much heat.

Well, that is it for now! You have successfully planted all of your seeds! Now you wait, and wait, until you see that little piece of green popping through your soil and then you rejoice! Normal germination for seeds can be just a few days, but others may take a little while longer, so be patient, you did nothing wrong!

Gardening is definitely like a slow dance, taking it nice and slow. Stay tuned for more gardening tips as we progress along our way!

Garden Update: What We’re Growing

One never knows what to expect when they start a gardening season. We think about the previous year, the mistakes we encountered and the successes we made. We relive the prior year over and over again, with hopes that this season will be better than last. We sure had our fill of critter encounters last year to last us for awhile, so as we near our new gardening season, we can only hope for the best, and do lots of praying!

All day long, I check on the plants downstairs under the grow lights. I make sure that I rotate them to ensure even light distribution and I keep them properly watered. I think the plants like all the attention!

So here is what we are planting this season:

Juliet Tomatoes: If you followed along with our garden last year, you will know how well our Juliets produced. We picked over 1,200 tomatoes and this was from only six plants! (yes, I actually counted each and every one, just so I could see how many we produced) Our best tip for growing tomatoes was that we used a small amount of Epsom Salt sprinkled once a week around each tomato plant. Tomatoes can lack in magnesium, so the Epsom Salt provides them the magnesium that they require to grow big and healthy, not to mention, it stops the tomatoes from “splitting” and it stops the “bottom rot” you find on some tomatoes.

PLANTS 5-7-14

Big Boy Tomatoes: Although I am a huge fan of the Juliet Tomato, we also grow six Big Boy Tomato plants. I think we produced over 300 Big Boy Tomatoes last year with only six plants, so we can’t wait to see what we produce this year! Once again, these plants lack in magnesium so we use Epsom Salt on them too.

Flat Dutch Cabbage: We grow all the cabbage plants for Grandma! One thing that we will be doing differently this year is how we protect our cabbage heads. I read on Pinterest on how you can lay netting on top of your cabbage row to protect them from those nasty white moths, or you can wrap each head individually with a nylon. The object here is to keep the white moths off the cabbage and prevent them from laying their eggs.

FLAT DUTCH CABBAGE 5-7-14

Red Peppers: We eat red peppers almost every night, so it seems a perfect fit that we have eighteen plants heading into the garden this year. Pepper plants also lack magnesium, so we use Epsom Salt on them too and it provides the much needed nutrients to grow healthy plants and produce nice sized peppers. No bottom rot on any of our peppers!

RED PEPPERS 5-7-14

Green Peppers: We grew green peppers last year too, but this year, I am going to make lots of stuffed peppers with these guys! We also use both the red and green peppers when we make kabobs on the grill!

Zucchini: Last year was a dud for our zucchini. We directly sowed the seeds in the ground last year at the end of our strawberry bed and we had not one of them produce anything. Every time we planted a seed, the chipmunks dug them up. We planted more, and the same thing happened. So this time, I have started the zucchini plants indoors in the hopes that they have a chance to make it this year. Heck, all I want is to make zucchini bread!

ZUCCHINI 5-7-14

Leaf Lettuce: If you follow along with our garden updates from prior years, you know that we plant two uniform rows of leaf lettuce that produce more than enough lettuce for our family. And, when you cut the lettuce, it regrows more! Looking forward to many healthy salads this year!

Romaine Lettuce: Last year we “would” have had some nice Romaine Lettuce, but when that one deer got into our garden and ate it down to a nub, we had no chance at it ever regrowing. This year we hope that we have a better chance at actually tasting this delicious lettuce.

Straight Eight Cucumbers: Oh boy, we are excited again to be growing cucumbers because I enjoy them every day for lunch with tomatoes & Italian dressing! Yum! I am working on creating a new trellis for the cucs to grow up this year.

CUCUMBERS 5-7-14

Peas: Now, this is one thing that we have never grown before, so if any of you have any suggestions on how to grow peas, let me know! I surprised my Sweetie by purchasing a pack of Peas this year and I have them growing under our grow lights right now. The pea plants are truly a unique looking plant, as the leaves don’t look like any of our other plants, and are so neat to watch grow! I believe that peas need a trellis of some sort to grow up, but I am not sure, so if you have any advice on this, be sure you pass it along!

PEAS 5-7-14

PEAS2 5-7-14

Connecticut Field Pumpkins: So far, I have started eighteen pumpkins downstairs under the grow light, and half of them have already popped through the soil, as we are getting them ready to head out to the back flower bed. Last year, we had the same problem with chipmunks as they dug up and ate all of our seeds when we directly sowed pumpkin seeds in the ground, so this is why we are starting the plants indoors this year. We learn from our mistakes, as every gardener knows.

CONNECTICUT FIELD PUMPKINS

Sunflowers: Ah, sunflowers! I saved every seed from the sunflowers that our Auntie Rene gave us last year and I currently have eleven sunflowers growing that I started from the seeds I saved. I can’t wait to find some awesome places to plant them around the yard this year!

SUNFLOWERS 5-7-14

So there you have it, a complete list of what we will be growing this year! On top of this, we are also planning on building a second raised garden to accommodate a lot of our new plants. The new raised garden bed will be 6′ x 5′. Here’s the difference between a “garden” and a “raised garden” and why we chose to use a raised garden bed. A regular garden is when you till up your lawn and plant directly into the ground. A raised garden bed is when you build a structure to hold your soil, add blackout weed netting on the bottom to keep the weeds out, then fill it with soil. A raised garden beds soil has better drainage, and the soil is warmer because it is not in the ground, it is above the ground. Just in case you did not know the difference in these two, now you know!

Itching to Grow Something

As a gardener, the winter months weigh on you.  You flip through all of your seed catalogs, you dream of what your garden will look like, and you salivate at what you will be eating. You are itching to just get out in the yard to dig around in the soil, pull weeds, water, and baby your plants.

RP 1-11-14 POPPED UP

But we are not even close to gardening season yet. Our snow covered ground has slightly melted, only the high piles of snow still exist. The snow piles by the edge of the roads are all nasty looking with dirt.  Yet, we are still dreaming of gardening.  We won’t be starting any of our seeds indoors yet until around the end of February/beginning of March, but I have been itching to grow something.

RP CONDENSATION

So, I pulled out two red pepper seeds that I saved from one of our peppers and planted them in a little McDonalds sundae container, and put another container on top as a lid  to keep the condensation inside. I set the container under our little light we have on our kitchen counter to keep them warm and provide the light they needed to germinate. They were planted on January 3rd, and just yesterday the 11th, one popped up!  I was beginning to think that they would never germinate, but one did, finally.  Now, I have something to watch grow!

FIRST RED PEPPER PLANT OF 2014

As a gardener, we love to watch things grow.  You feel the need to nurture something, and when you see it finally pop it’s little green stem from the dirt, you do a happy dance. And I did just that!  We are a long way away from starting the rest of our seeds indoors, but just having the chance to watch these little peppers grow under the kitchen light, is good enough for us right now.

I bet McDonalds never knew that their sundae cups were good seed starters!