Seed Starting

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I think I can say that this is the first time in my life I’ve started my seeds on time, and properly. I now have a seedling heat mat, and was happy to find small greenhouse flats at the dollar store for a buck each. I made free plant markers out of plastic yogurt lids, and the seaweed snack trays I’ve been saving fit perfectly six to a flat. Let’s go!

 

First to sprout was the curly endive and broccoli in less that 24 hours, followed by the marigolds, okra and thyme at about 48 hours. I have my tomato and pepper seeds going, as well as some herbs that I’d like more of. I go through thyme so quickly and it grows so slowly!

The tomatoes I have started are Aunt Ruby’s German Green, Prudens Purple, Black Sea Man and Green Grape. A couple of the seed varieties are older so I may have to start more. The Prudens Purple are from 2008!

For peppers right now I have Jalapeno, Poblano, Sweet Banana (thought it was hot),  and New Mexico 6 Chili. Planning to also do Habaneros.

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I went seed shopping today and got a bunch of fun stuff. Seedy Sunday is next weekend but I just couldn’t help myself.

Starting from top left we have mixed Iceland poppies, mixed violas, variegated nasturtium, tarragon, edamame, rhubarb, borage (I know it’s a weed!), rainbow carrots, daikon radish, collard greens, castor bean, shallots, scallopini squash (pattypans), golden beets, crystal apple cucumber, lemon cucumber, brussels sprouts, celery and bergamot. Phew! Did you know that some people hide seeds behind other seeds at the seed store? They do!

 

I also picked up a flat of Winterbor kale since there were no seeds available and it’s a variety I wanted to try. It’s the curly green kind most often found at the store.

Last I grabbed some elephant garlic and a canna since I’ve never grown one and I find them lovely. It will need to be lifted in the fall and stored in a frost free area for the winter, but I canna see that being much of a problem!

Second Raised Bed Filled

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Things have been moving along well with the beds, the middle bed now has a deep layer of aged compost and manure, topped with some chicken coop flooring, and finished with topsoil/decomposed mulch from the existing garden. I hardly know where to start planting!

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While I was emptying the compost pile to fill this bed, I uncovered another rat’s nest. I knew they were hanging out in there. A couple more wheelbarrows in and a huge momma rat jumped out and ran off. We were too slow to get her. She’s still been too wily to step into a rat trap, but she sure doesn’t like the cayenne pepper I’ve spread around the perimeter of the coop where she used to dig in every night. I’m also putting it into the poultry feed itself.

 

February 29th Garden

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Peonies coming up

March has not yet hit, but the garden is already back in full force. Some things like the kale, calendula, and chamomile have been going strong all winter long.

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Cavolo Nero (aka black kale/Lacinato kale) getting ready to flower

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Self-seeded and transplanted red Russian kale from last year is starting to take off, this is a 5 gallon pot!

I wandered around today with Parsley the cat as my companion and took some pictures to share with you.  I think we’re going to have a prolific year!

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“I have decided to supervise this activity.”

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Digitalis or foxglove, started last year from seed. Should flower this year!

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Blue and pink delphiniums started super early

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Looks like I may get a few artichokes this year! Check out the self-seeded kale all around it…

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Princess Parsley surveying the raised beds

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Cheerful mini daffodils surrounded by sweet woodruff

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Some potted up Egyptian walking onions and self-seeded miner’s lettuce

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Potted up prickly pear cactus

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I love how thickly last year’s lupines are coming in

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And of course the arugula, one of my favorites. It’s already trying to bolt!

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Good thing I have all this baby arugula started. I could eat arugula all day.

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Young red mustard greens

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One of the little bee balms from last year now trying to engulf its pot. I think this is the red flowering one

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Moroccan tea mint doing excellently, as expected

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Hops are popping up

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This is a Persian cornflower I got late last year on sale. Can’t wait to see the blooms!

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My big pink tea rose in the front yard is looking good even after being blown down and staked back up last year

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The little hyssop under the nest box made it though too. This herb is too strong-tasting for me straight up but a few leaves chiffonaded into a salad are delicious

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The calendula plants that made it through the winter are pretty scraggly, but new babies are coming up all over the place now

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The wallflower is bravely bursting forth

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Valerian at the foot of the coop off to a good start

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Satisfied ruler of all she can see

Second Raised Bed Complete

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This middle bed was knocked out more quickly than the first, but the leveling and alignment took way more time.

Now that it’s in, I can see that the grade of the yard next to the fence is higher than the center here, and I’ll have to figure out a strategy for dealing with that. The grade needs to come down a bit anyway to allow more clearance for the bottom of the fence. My preference would be to fill this whole area around the garden beds in with woodchip mulch.

Much of the backyard is a muddy pit right now and major regrading and updating need to be done everywhere. At least the garden beds will be nice and level so I can use them as reference.

Bed two has a deep, rich layer of decomposed woodchips and compost at the bottom of it, and to this I have been adding partly composted rabbit manure and bedding. I’ll try to fill it up with as much as possible since the rats are using this compost pile as a hideout and they need to be evicted. The top six inches of the bed will be chicken pen flooring or finished fish compost.

I’m so glad to finally have this bed done. At last I can plant some new things! I’m planning to put in peas, carrots, mouse melons, johnny jump ups, and maybe a tomato.

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First Raised Bed Populated

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Progress on the raised bed garden has been slow and steady. I was able to transplant my leeks, some arugula, my strawberries, some mustard, yellow and red onions, shallots, some chamomile, beets, celery, calendula sprouts and a couple of stray garlics and bok choys out of the ground and into the bed. This now leaves me lots of room to erect raised bed #2.

The first bed has also received some amendments, I added 1kg of crushed eggshells and have been moving the partially decomposed woodchip mulch layer from the former ground-level bed on as a top dressing. The initial fill of soil has settled around three inches lower and it would be a shame to bury all that rich worm-filled media at the bottom of bed number 2.

Everything you see planted in this bed are edibles that overwintered in the ground and are now starting to take off with new growth. I was surprised to see the celery survive and I look forward to lots of it this year, I use it often when making stocks or mirepoix for soups and sauces. The arugula self-seeded as always and I’ve already been eating it for weeks. The leeks are really filling out and I’m looking forward to making them into soup too. I’ll probably also let a few go to seed so I can replant them next year. They are expensive to buy in the grocery store and keep in the ground year-round.

My strawberries never fared well on the ground for some reason, and I kept losing plants. I maybe got 6 strawberries out of them last year. They were the first transplants into the new bed and despite my concern that the soil would be too “hot” from being taken directly out of the chicken pen, it seems that they are very happy now and have been putting out fresh new growth. Please let’s have a real strawberry harvest this year!

An unexpected benefit of the raised bed is more light can reach the plants. I don’t know why I didn’t realize that before, but I’ll take all the extra light I can get. This bed is right next to the coop, so it’s a bit shadier than the other two will be.

I also leveled out the pathway between the beds and lined it with old paper feed bags. My hope is to eventually cover this with a nice thick layer of coarse wood chips to provide good drainage and weed control.  If I can’t get a free wood chip delivery I’ll make do with straw. In the meantime, the feed bags can start to decompose. I have about a million of them taking up space and it’s great to finally be able to use them.

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Some of the damp bags were even beginning to colonize with wispy white strands of mycelium. I guess if I don’t use them all up in landscaping projects, I can set up a stack of them to grow mushrooms!

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First Raised Bed Filled

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I took a couple of hours today in the sunshine to fill up the first raised bed I built. I need this bed filled before I can start on the other beds, because there are a few things that need transplanting when I clear the area, like my leeks.

The entire top half of this bed was filled with earth taken from my chicken pen floor. A little over a year ago my lovely boyfriend dug out the pen about a foot deep and we filled it in with wood chips. These did a really good job of keeping the mud down and providing the chickens a loose surface to scratch. It also mixed with the droppings and broke down over time into beautiful, rich black earth.

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It’s time to dig it out again and put in another load of wood chips, and luckily I had the bed ready to be filled. I probably transferred about 20 wheelbarrow loads out of there, and there’s easily another 20 to go which is good because I’ll have another two huge beds to fill soon.  The chickens were beside themselves with joy at the layer of worms and fresh earth I uncovered for them.

I loaded it right to the brim as it will settle with time. I also plan to top dress it with some finished fish compost that I have left over from last spring. I can’t wait to get planting!

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First Raised Bed Complete

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I had to take time off after the last time I worked on this bed, since it got cold and the ground froze. Now it’s nicely thawed again and I spent a little while before farm chores today to finish it off.

It now has both its ends completed, two cross bars in the middle to keep it from bowing out, and I have ground down the tips of a few screws that pushed through the wood into the inside. The tips were barely visible, but I did not wish to be reminded of them later on while gardening.

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If you’re wondering how the thin ends of the triangular side pieces are attached, there is a block of wood inside securing them to the top piece.

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The bed is already almost half filled with rabbit manure, chicken manure, kitchen scraps and kitty manure. It will be good to get bed number two started soon, since I don’t want to overload them with fresh manure. They have only a few months before spring planting to mellow out, and I don’t want my plants to burn.

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Raised Beds Day 2

DSC_0002Technically it hasn’t taken me two full days to get this far along, I’ve only worked a total of about 6 hours and that includes driving to pick up materials. I need more daylight hours!

The first bed is nearly complete, it just needs the triangular bottom board on the far side put in and a couple of bracing boards installed to keep the sides from bowing out. I’ve decided on 2 foot wide pathways between the beds instead of 3.

I have been discovering renegade potatoes as I excavate, as well as a lot of grubs and cutworms, which are quickly dispatched by my two-chicken clean-up crew. I even managed to get 3 or 4 wheelbarrow loads worth of chicken pen flooring dumped in, just the spots that were soggiest and had compacted down. I’m leaving the nice, dry and crumbly earth for a top dressing.

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Next I’ll start emptying my overflowing compost pile and dump in most of the fresh stuff consisting mostly of rabbit manure, urine-soaked sawdust and cat litter (I use chick crumble for kitty litter) so it will rest deep on the bottom and continue to break down with the help of the worms.

I’m not concerned about putting cat waste into the bottoms of the raised beds since my cats are parasite free and they’ll most likely use the gardens as a litter box anyway. Heck, the chickens think the clumps of cat pee/chick crumble are special treats.

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