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Old 11-13-2018, 02:25 PM   #51
Ben E Lou
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Originally Posted by corbes View Post
Haven't seen mini-greenhouses before but am intrigued and will look into further...
There are tons of them on Amazon in a ton of sizes. I simply picked the largest size that will fit in the one specific spot on my deck that is acceptable to She Who Must Be Obeyed. I'm not looking to use it to extend my growing season on the back end--just to start seeds early without having them inside on freezing nights. In the end it *might* even save me a little money because I'll be starting everything from seeds instead of buying seedlings/small plants. (And of course, if it turns out that some of my seed-started plants don't do well in March, I can still just buy stuff in late April/early May to supplement whatever didn't make it.)

There are larger ones that can be put directly in the garden if you're looking to protect a particular section. These things scale upward in size/cost quite granularly from around 30 bucks, all the way to a few thousand if you want to have a bona fide big ol' greenhouse on your land. And there are so many options that--at least for the size I went with--you can just filter on 4-star reviews or better and still have multiple options. (I started with around seven 4-star-plus options in the size range I wanted and narrowed it down from there.)



My situation is that there's a power outlet on the deck right by the "acceptable" spot, and I've read that simply putting a small space heater on the bottom shelf at a low temperature is quite effective as a fail-safe on nights where there's a really hard freeze. We did have a few 20-degree nights and some snow in March last year, and I already own what seems to be the perfect space heater for those situations. (Automatic turn-off if it gets tipped over, ability to blow air that's as cool as 70 degrees, etc.) Point being, it makes more sense for me to just have it on the back deck than to get a larger one.
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Old 11-19-2018, 03:08 PM   #52
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I'll admit I was drawn to this thread from the nice choice of words in the title.

this is absolutely a great read and i'll keep following, ben. I wish I had a big garden + available time to plant organic veggies instead of buying them.
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Old 11-20-2018, 03:48 PM   #53
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SQUASH AND ZUCCHINI--Seeds. These were doing great early on, then suffered the great groundhog attack. They came back strong and produced a solid crop until squash bugs and squash vine borers destroyed them completely. I'm considering going non-organic with these next year by just using good ol' Sevin dust.
So, methinks I'm going to stick with organic for at least one more season. Upon further reading and discussion, I think I'm going to try a bit more companion planting along with a combination of Neem Oil and insecticidal soap to combat those nasty buggers.


I turned piles #2 and #3 completely yesterday. And by "turned completely," I mean that I actually moved them over a few feet, essentially creating new piles where what was on the bottom is now on top. I'll do the same for #1 this evening. #2 definitely is moving seriously toward being usable compost. I'd imagine that #1, especially near the middle, is going to be heavily decomposed.
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Old 11-20-2018, 06:16 PM   #54
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I'll admit I was drawn to this thread from the nice choice of words in the title.
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Old 11-24-2018, 10:51 AM   #55
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I turned piles #2 and #3 completely yesterday {11/19}. And by "turned completely," I mean that I actually moved them over a few feet, essentially creating new piles where what was on the bottom is now on top. I'll do the same for #1 this evening. #2 definitely is moving seriously toward being usable compost. I'd imagine that #1, especially near the middle, is going to be heavily decomposed.


I assume that the cold weather is affecting the heat some. The temperature has been in the mid 30s or lower just about every night for the last week-ish. Pile #3 (the newer) is the hottest, coming in at 154 yesterday. Given how new it is and with a complete turn, I would have expected the low 160s. Not complaining, though. Pile #2 was at 147. Again, I would have guessed 5-8 degrees hotter than that for it. And as I'd guessed, pile #1 is fairly close to looking like just dirt, especially in the bottom/middle, and it has only managed to heat up to 128 since being turned on 11/20.


Because I moved those piles, I grabbed a few bags of leaves from around the 'hood and started a relatively small pile in the back corner where the original one began. That area is in shade from the storage shed and back fence, and can't be tilled because of cable/phone lines, so growing much of note there isn't really feasible. Instead, I expect it to be where I keep an ongoing pile throughout the growing season where I'll dig into the middle to use some if/when I need small amounts.


ACTUAL NEWS ABOUT PLANTING SOME STUFF!!!

I did some reading of the extension service's recommendations for planting in my area, and it turns out that I need to be planting my garlic....now. (Technically, I'm actually a week or two late.) Garlic is an excellent pest deterrent for the garden (both rodents and insects), and ideally I'd like to intersperse it near the plants that benefit from it. However, because I still need to till, my thinking is that I'll do two plantings:


1. FOR HARVEST--To harvest/use/eat actual cloves of garlic, it would appear that I need to get it in the ground ASAP, so I've ordered some California softneck garlic for planting, and it should be arriving today. I'm thinking I'll put it just outside the brick perimeter to help deter rodents from the entire area until time to harvest it in June/July.


2. FOR COMPANION PLANTING--Several organic gardening resources list garlic as THE #1 crop out there to help other crops. A significant portion of the stuff I intend to grow is listed here (and in other places) as benefiting from having garlic nearly, so once I cover with compost, till, and get stuff i the ground, I'll be interspersing a garlic clove or two near the appropriate plants. I don't expect to be able to harvest any of that garlic, but based on my reading, I liken this strategy to signing a 20/20 minsal mentor in FOF: you're not signing him for his production, but for how he helps the youngsters thrive.




I intend to get the first round of garlic planted today or tomorrow. The planting guide for my area suggests November 15th as the last date, but since I live on the far northwest of the area in question. I'm hoping I can get away with doing it 9-10 days too late.


EDIT: In case you're wondering why I waited late, it's simply because though the planting calendar had been on my radar for several weeks, only a few days ago when reading up on pest management for my squash plants did I fully realize how revered garlic is in that arena.
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Old 11-25-2018, 08:05 PM   #56
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Planted 24 garlic cloves today along the top side (closest to the camera,) just inside the mulched area near the bricks. I have four more bulbs left, and it looks like 12-15 cloves per bulb, so that should be enough to plant them all the way down the long side of the garden just inside the bricks over the next few days.
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Old 11-26-2018, 02:30 PM   #57
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Ok, so this is kinda fun. When I was taking my trash out this morning, I noticed that the neighbors across the street had two pumpkins sitting on top of their trash can to be thrown out. I couldn't resist grabbing them.


1. Opened up two pumpkin-sized spaces in the newest compost pile.
2. Lifted each pumpkin overhead and SMASHED it into the ground in the space.
3. Scooped out the seeds.
4. Covered the pumpkin pulp and shell with the material from the pile. Now I've got lots of pumpkin matter in my compost.
5. This evening, I'll get with the girls and follow these instructions for saving the seeds to plant next year.
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Old 12-02-2018, 09:18 AM   #58
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I've been doing some reading on growing raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. Nearly every source says that raspberries and blackberries should be grown at least a few hundred feet from one another due to some air-borne diseases that they can give one another.



My yard is big, but not that big, so I have to pick one. Based on what I read about ability to grow them in my area and given the locations I have to work with, the choice seemed fairly easy: blackberries win, and they'll be grown in a location away from the main garden:


https://www.dropbox.com/s/wm5j1y1uhkjrb9f/blackberry_location.png?dl=0


The pic above was taken from the back corner of my yard a few minutes ago. I'm going to put a simple twine lattice up on the back side of the deck that you can see. The deck (not including the stairs) is 16 feet across, and it's 6 feet from the ground to the bottom of the deck. I'll let the blackberries climb the lattice in that area.


Blueberries thrive in soil even more acidic than the 5.8 pH I have outside of the garden area. 5.0 to 5.5 is listed as the ideal range for them, so I'm going to create a bed a few feet up the yard from the existing main garden bed for them. I'm thinking one row of five bushes.


COMPOST
I'm continuing to move the piles farther up the beds as I turn them so it won't be as much work to spread it all when the time comes. Pile 3 is almost at the top of the bed now. I haven't turned the other two in a week, but expect to do so this afternoon. Here's an update on the piles:


PILE # BUILD DATE LAST MATERIAL ADDED LOCATION LATEST TEMP LATEST TURN COMMENTS
1819-1 9/2/2018 10/29/2018 main bed, bottom 126 12/2 Looking like mostly dirt, but based on temp, clearly is still active.
1819-2 10/2/2018 10/29/2018 main bed, middle 133 11/26 Also mostly dirt-like, but with observable leaves in particular still breaking down
1819-3 11/5/2018 11/5/2018 main bed, top 145 11/26 When I started turning it this morning, there were pockets of dry leaves that appeared to have not decomposed at all, so I watered each layer as I turned it.
1819-4 11/24/2018 ongoing additions back corner of yard 130 11/26 Hoping I won't need anything from this one until I'm planting the first fall crops in July-ish 2019. Assuming the temp is low because right now it's not big enough to get hot.



I also suspect that pile 3 is lacking enough nitrogen; when I built it, there simply wasn't as much grass available, and I haven't been able to use the van to get copious amounts of used coffee grounds lately because my wife has had it pretty much constantly filled with presents for foster kids. (Yeah, can't fuss at her about that...) The last of the foster kid Christmas events is this Thursday, so I hope to add more nitrogen next weekend.
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Old 12-05-2018, 11:03 AM   #59
Ben E Lou
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When I started turning it this morning, there were pockets of dry leaves that appeared to have not decomposed at all, so I watered each layer as I turned it.
Well I haven't addressed the potential nitrogen issue at all, but watering the layers seems to have helped. Temperature was up from 145 to 153. That said, I'm not nearly as concerned about the heat for that as I was for the others, as it contains zero clippings from my weed-infested yard. To the contrary, whatever grass clippings were in that pile were from grass in the neighborhood that was still growing enough to need to be cut in early November--the healthiest lawns around, in other words--typically those with few weeds.
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Old 12-12-2018, 07:43 AM   #60
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BIG SNOWSTORM

We received over a foot of snow at my house over the weekend. The broccoli and strawberries have been completely covered in snow for over 72 hours, and I don't want to try to dig them out yet, for fear that I'd step on them while trying to locate them. I'm wondering if I should have put some sort of cover on them for identification. Oh well, I guess we'll find out how cold-tolerant they really are.




MAJOR EXPANSION--PREPARING NEW BEDS
We've eBefore the snow came in, I put the mower on the lowest setting and shaved off a large area to being prepping it for more planting next year. If all goes according to the new plan, the garden area will extend all the way from a little in front of the storage shed to being even with my back deck. If I've measured everything correctly, the length will be ~93 feet now.



The expansion will mainly do two things:
1. Allow for a good-sized (18x16) area that's dedicated to blueberries. It's looking like I'll do six large rabbiteyes and four dwarves, or perhaps just eight rabbiteyes and one dwarf. (I already bought the dwarf. Couldn't resist. The nursery I visited where I was planning on just going in there for advice had exactly one thriving dwarf blueberry plant left from last spring.) As mentioned earlier, blueberries grow best in soil that's even more acidic than what occurs naturally in my yard, so I'd prefer to have an area just for them. I sent soil samples from the soon-to-be blueberry bed to Raleigh on 12/4, and have ordered some organic soil acidifier in advance of getting the results, so I can apply it ASAP to have close to two months before I purchase and plant the blueberries in February. This area will be mulched with pine straw eventually.

2. Give space for a truly targeted pollinator/beneficial insect flower garden, and for me to have room to experiment with growing flowers from seed. Plus I figure beautifying the area will enhance SWMBO's willingness to sign off on all of this. I finished mulching this area with leaves in the dark on Saturday evening, and the snow came in Saturday night/Sunday morning, so I haven't gotten a picture nor do I have a good feel for how much bigger the area looks with



So with all that said, HERE is a link to the updated plan. (Too big to post a pic here, I would think.)


There are a few green areas not filled in. That's intentional. Some of the empty space will likely remain empty; some of it will be used for either extra planting of stuff that's struggling, or if I run across some seed or plant that looks interesting and I decide to stick it in the ground.



COMPOST UPDATE

The piles were cooling a bit anyway, probably due to not having been turned, but I'm pleased to report that the hottest one was still at 138 as of yesterday, despite being buried in snow. No complaints here, and the good news is that I'll have plenty of moisture around when I turn them again--probably starting today since I'm off work due to school being out and the temperature is slated to rise into the mid 40s with direct sun on the back yard. The heat of the piles has made them the first areas in my yard where you can see the soil. Pic coming in the next post. (Easier to post pics with Tapatalk, I've realized...)
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Old 12-12-2018, 07:45 AM   #61
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Old 12-14-2018, 11:30 AM   #62
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So the melting snow allowed me to easily mark out the 2019 plan and take a pic:




Dropbox - big picture map.jpg
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Old 12-21-2018, 08:57 AM   #63
Ben E Lou
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Planted 24 garlic cloves today along the top side (closest to the camera,) just inside the mulched area near the bricks.
100% of these have sprouted. Woot!
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Old 12-30-2018, 08:49 AM   #64
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Updates...
  • The 60ish garlic plants I mentioned earlier are coming in like gangbusters now. It makes me hopeful that the work I did on composting and ph adjustment is paying off.
  • Speaking of compost, I just used a little in each hole I dug for garlic and left the piles in tact back in November, but I've now spread the compost over the entire vegetable section. It probably averages 3-4 inches deep. Some of it is unfinished, but I'll let the earthworms deal with that the next couple of months for me.
  • I've either purchased directly or ordered online all (I think) of the seeds I should need for this coming calendar year, and put the plan together for planting dates. If anyone cares to give it a gander, it's here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/gseyfetw5i...dates.pdf?dl=1
  • The first plant (Kale) is set to be started in the greenhouse next weekend. Woohoo!
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Old 01-04-2019, 04:55 AM   #65
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Updates...
  • All seeds have arrived in the mail or have been purchased locally, I think. I'll do an inventory soon to make sure.
  • Planting the first batch of kale tomorrow, most likely.
  • I tilled the entire vegetable area (roughly 700 sq ft) in a couple of hours Wednesday afternoon, and I'm glad I did. I don't recall if I mentioned it, but I covered that area with leaves as a winter mulch. Well, the leaves were quite a bit more matted/stuck together than I'd realized. (Many were not shredded, but whole leaves.) With that, combined with the mostly-but-not-fully-finished compost on top of it, I think some mixing may well have been in order. I got that all mixed up well and the tiller did a fine job of breaking up the leaves into smaller pieces in preparation for...
  • ...Yesterday, where I bought ~1500 European Night Crawlers from a local worm farm and put them all in the vegetable area. Per the suggestion of the worm farmer I dug six holes, spaced throughout the garden, where I buried kitchen scraps and put a concentration of worms in those--hoping for some breeding--and then spread the rest of them all over. I'm hoping they'll accelerate/complete the breakdown of the leaves and unfinished compost for me.
  • I know I keep saying it, but I'm still utterly stunned at the progress of the garlic. I'll get another pic on tomorrow. (Rain all day today.)
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Old 01-04-2019, 09:03 AM   #66
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I tilled the entire vegetable area (roughly 700 sq ft) in a couple of hours Wednesday afternoon . . .

Sounds perhaps like someone invented a reason to play with a new Christmas present?
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Old 01-04-2019, 09:50 AM   #67
Ben E Lou
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Sounds perhaps like someone invented a reason to play with a new Christmas present?
Hehehe. In fairness to me, there were legit reasons, too! I wanted to get worms in there to chew up the leaves and unfinished compost, but I wanted to do it *after* I'd tilled so I wouldn't kill a bunch of 'em. Therefore, since Christmas, I've been waiting to find a day when all of the following were true:
  • It hadn't rained for 48 hours. (So that it wouldn't be too muddy to till.)
  • It hadn't been below freezing for 48 hours. (Soil warm enough for worms.)
  • It wasn't going to get below freezing for 48 hours afterward. (To give 'em plenty of time to go deep.)
  • I had time for the 55-minute drive to the nearest warm farm to pick 'em up.
And of course, the sooner the better, so the worms would have time to do as much as possible before the first stuff goes in the ground in early February, and everything is rockin' and rollin' in April.
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Old 01-07-2019, 01:39 PM   #68
Ben E Lou
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First germination! Tiny kale seedlings are starting to emerge in my mini greenhouse. A few pics:







The little space heater has been a surprising star. Even on nights that have gotten into the lower 20s, the greenhouse has remained in the 55 to 80░ range all night long.
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Old 01-11-2019, 10:42 AM   #69
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I have to comment again on the mini-greenhouse. Obviously, I thought it would be a good fit for my situation. Well, I must say that it has absolutely blown away even my somewhat-high expectations:
  • It traps heat *far* better than I would have thought for something that small with an open bottom. My deck faces south with all-day sunlight, so on sunny days like today I'm able to turn the heater off once the sun comes up, and won't need to turn it back on until an hour or so after sunset. Right now, a good 2 1/2 hours after turning the heater off, it's 31 degrees outside (low was 19) and 71 degrees in the greenhouse. Today is the coldest day we've had since I've had it, and even so I won't be surprised if I need to open it up mid-day to cool it off a bit in there.
  • Securing it from wind couldn't have been easier: my deck has little slits between the boards, and I was able to thread wiring that I use to secure tomatoes to their stakes through the deck and tie all four corners down that way. It's tied extremely solidly.
  • Given how it traps heat, it'd be too hot on my back deck once it starts to warm up in the spring, but I have no real need to use it other than for Jan-Mar seed starting.
  • When I targeted the greenhouse, I didn't know about 72-cell peat seed-starting kits. I've got one in there that's doing great, and two would fit on each shelf if need be. So theoretically, I could house over 500 seedlings in there even with the space heater if I went with the tiny cells.
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Old 01-15-2019, 09:21 AM   #70
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Did a little thinning this morning. I have 15 kale seedlings now.



Also, I went to the county landfill and picked up about 1900 pounds of their compost and put it in the flower garden area over the weekend. It’s about 2 1/2 inches deep on average. I’ll till it into the soil when it comes time to throw the flower seed out there in April. The cardboard is down for weed prevention in the walkways in the vegetable garden as well. I need to decide what mulch I’m going to put over it.

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Old 01-15-2019, 12:42 PM   #71
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Missed this until now. Here for Farmer Ben.
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Old 01-18-2019, 05:53 PM   #72
Ben E Lou
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Planted 12 broccoli (arcadia), 6 more kale (ragged jack this time), 6 cabbage (brunswick), and 12 spinach (bloomsdale longstanding) this evening in peat pellets on a heating mat in the mini-greenhouse. Best part: my two incredibly sweet and devastatingly cute helpers. ❤️❤️❤️ #DaddysGirls
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Old 02-02-2019, 01:26 PM   #73
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Today in Vermont it is officially omg-cabin-fever-read-the-fedco-seed-catalog day! It happens every winter but you don't know when it will be until the day arrives.
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Old 02-02-2019, 07:13 PM   #74
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Today in Vermont it is officially omg-cabin-fever-read-the-fedco-seed-catalog day! It happens every winter but you don't know when it will be until the day arrives.
Good times! I bought several things from Fedco this year.
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Old 02-02-2019, 07:13 PM   #75
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Old 02-16-2019, 05:45 AM   #76
Ben E Lou
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I haven't posted in a while, but that doesn't meant I haven't been busy. Here's a quick catch-up on the last couple of weeks.


THE GOOD
  • Laid straw bales to cover the cardboard in the walking paths.
  • The girls have planted carrot and lettuce seed in their gardens, and the younger transplanted three of the broccoli seedlings that she planted in peat pellets into her garden. (Lettuce is only in the older child's garden. She loves caesar salads so she asked to plant some romaine.)
  • A few lettuce seedlings have emerged in the older child's garden.
  • On 2/5, I planted lettuce, carrots, spinach, and onions in the ground in the main garden. No germination yet.
  • 63 of my 72 viola planted in a jiffy tray have germinated and are doing well. We had a particularly warm spell right at germination time for them, so they sprouted outside on the back deck in full sunlight and seem quite acclimated to it. I've been leaving them in the sun all day most days, so i'd imagine they're hardened pretty well.
  • In addition to the three broccoli transplants in the kiddie garden,I moved five to my garden on 2/11 and didn't cover them on the couple of nights we've had below freezing, and they appear to be thriving.
  • We've got a week-ish of rain in the forecast nearly every day coming up, and the current extended forecast is calling for only one night between now and March 1st with temperatures below 35. I'm going to check what else might be ready for transplanting and move more cool-season seedlings to the main garden this morning once we have daylight.
THE BAD
  • My germination percentages on cabbage, spinach, and one of my kale varieties has been poor. I'm thinking I didn't water them enough in their peat pellets. The violas were watered much more and did so much better. I did a huge planted yesterday (2 x 72-cell peat pellet trays) and watered to the same level that I did with the violas and covered. We'll see if that improves things.
  • The spinach that did germinate got too hot in the greenhouse one day this week, it appears. I was stuck on a 3-hour call with a client watching the greenhouse temperature rise into the upper 80s on a day that was expected to be cloudy, but we ended up having direct sun. Nothing else seems to have been heavily impacted, but the spinach is still lying down on the soil after 2-3 days. (I guess the good news is that it's still green, so maybe it's still alive and could recover?)
  • Keeping the germination media moist has been taking up too much of my time when using peat pots. So yesterday I put them in trays without holes and filled the bottoms with around a half inch of water. Here's hoping that'll reduce my watering needs.
THE UGLY
  • The kale that was doing so well is now almost all dead from a bad move I made. We had a morning where it was around 20 degrees. Given that the kale had been outside in temperatures as low as 35, I thought I'd give it a little exposure to super-cold temps so I could feel comfortable putting it in the ground. Oops. Only 40 minutes in 20-degree weather killed nearly every one of them. I had 15 seedlings almost ready for transplant. Only three seem to have survived. They're in the main garden and seem to be recovering well. One looks like it's starting to thrive.

EXTENSION SERVICE CLASS TAKEN
I attended the "Totally Tomatoes" class offered here on Sunday. Extremely informative and helpful, especially with regard to specific varieties that thrive here. I'm picking up some Celebrity seeds ASAP.


CURRENT STATUS
The spreadsheet I'm using to track planting dates, germination, etc. has entries for "estimated germination begin" and "estimated germination end" based on the planting date and the "7-14 days" or whatever the specific plant says. I have a total of 275 plants--plus some that I didn't count numbers such as the carrot seed scattered in my garden--with estimated germination end days between 2/15 and 3/1. In other words, the next two weeks will either be a ton of fun or a massive disappointment!
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