March 15, 2011

Spring in our Step!

So many lovely signs of what's just around the corner!  We think these are daffodils, or maybe jonquils?  No matter what they are, they will be very welcome.

Thanks to Costco, we have instant spring blooms in the house.  These two begonia plants came in a very nice basket, and eventually I'll set them out on the porch for the summer.  The price was really reasonable and I've learned from experience to get these kinds of plants when I see them, and not wait until I think I'm ready for them!

Another nice spring bonus are fresh farm eggs from chickens who have just started laying. One of the women I work with has been so generous to bring in these eggs to share!  I love all the colors, especially this greenish egg. What a lovely surprise to see the pale blue interior when I cracked it open!

Maybe the thing that put the spring in our step the most this week, was the gratifying site of these seedlings, which have sprung to life in no time at all.  Since my last posting, we've seen very encouraging growth in many of our seeds.  Maybe the most encouraging being the sprouting of the seeds that my husband saved from ripe fruits two years ago.  He was given some very nice heirloom tomato seeds in the past, and now he's had the experience of planting, growing, harvesting, saving seeds, and planting again.  What a beautiful thing!

March 8, 2011

Here We Go!

The signs of Spring are pouring in now - rain vs. snow, Girl Scout cookies for sale, our flock of red-wing blackbirds returning to the pond, decent strawberries showing up in the produce aisle.

And...we have begun putting in our garden, by planting seeds indoors, which we haven't  done since two growing seasons ago, and it feels great to be back at this practice!  The first step was using a very diluted bleach solution to wash down these tray systems (bottom trays and dome lids), as we don't want to pass on any disease that may be hanging on from the previous season.

Here you see some of the lovely seeds we ordered from Seed Savers, in Decorah, IA.  You also see in this picture, that we are using an abundant number of plant markers this year.  If you've followed us for a while you will know that we have had our challenges with identifying seedlings at times!

At Seed Savers, they are committed to preserving and promoting heirloom variety seeds, which are those that have not been genetically modified, or in other words are like the ones that Grandma and Grandpa used.  You can save these seeds from ripened plants, and use them in future growing seasons, unlike many seeds you buy commercially, which are called "hybrid".  If you saved seeds from hybrid plants, they would either not germintate at all if planted, or they would germinate but produce something quite different from the original plant.  A wonderful treat at Seed Savers are the seeds offered that are just like the ones used in illustrious gardening places like Thomas Jefferson's Monticello.  How pleasant to us to be planting the same thing that once grew there, a place we have visited and loved.  Jefferson was quite a pioneer in the horticulture field and made the most of his travels oversees to bring back plant varieties that had yet to be introduced to the USA, including the tomato.  Now where would an Iowa gardener be without the tomato!!

This seedling process starts with a good growing medium.  This year my husband chose to go with a soilless mix, that is for the most part, a combination of peat moss and vermiculite.  There are many choices and you should check out your local garden center for a ready-made mix, or the ingredients to make your own. 

He filled up all the little cells with this light mix and then they go into these trays, which are now ready for seeds. 

Next the seeds will be gently pushed down into the soil, the marker put in place and then down to our basement where our "nursery" is set up.  So far, we've planted eggplant, onion, tomato, and pepper seeds.  These are some of the plants that need a particularly early start.  Some gardeners would contend that we are lagging behind already!

Here you can see the grow lights, at this point sitting very low on the growing trays, and under that is the special plant heating pad, that helps encourage the seeds to get going!  One note of safety is to avoid trying to use a standard heating pad for this purpose - not good!  These systems are not inexpensive, but they are specially designed for this purpose, and if you go this direction, it is certainly wise to invest in proper equipment.

 This last photo shows the screen shot of my husband's planting chart, which he intends to tweak and share on the blog in the near future.  This year we're planting along with the cycles of the moon - should be interesting!

Hope you're in a growing frame of mind already! A shout out to one of my nieces who's in the process of starting her own little salsa garden to grow on her patio-AWESOME!!