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Kicking off the 2015 Garden: Indoor Planting

Garden planting time might be my favorite time of year. The weather is finally turning warm, it’s pleasant to be outside again, and the whole world feels full of potential. This March has been warm and sunny so far, and in a fit of vitamin-d influenced optimism, last weekend, I started our 2015 garden.

spinach_seedling
Our first seedling of the year was this little spinach sprout. I planted three pots worth of spinach, which are living in our dining room window. I have three more pots to plant next week, to hopefully keep greens in rotation most of the spring. We didn’t have much luck planting greens in the ground last year. A combination of too much clay and ants made the leafy parts slow to grow, but the plants quick to bolt, so I’m sticking with pots this year.

tomato_seedlings
I am attempting grow all of our summer vegetables from seed this year. We spent a ton on seedlings last year, and this year I’m hoping to grow more plants. We currently have about two dozen little tomato seedlings, and I’m hoping to put them all in the ground.

basil_seedlings
Last year was a disaster four our herbs. We got a late start on them and the soil in our yard was so poor, the only thing that took was the mint. I missed fresh basil so much, that this year I’m hedging my bets and have a whole pallet of basil seeds sprouting.

Basil seedlings are so cute and determined looking, I find myself peering into the tray multiple times a day, just admiring their fortitude.

root_vegetable_seeds
If our Earth boxes are thawed enough, because last week they were still big blocks of frozen dirt, I’m going to bring them inside and start our first rounds of root vegetables. We also had trouble with these in the ground last year, they grew, but they were slow to take off and by the time they were sizable, they were also bitter. The ones we ate small, however, were delicious.

I’m hoping that planting the spring vegetables inside this year will give us more opportunity to get the yard ready for summer veggies and herbs and flowers. Our soil is so full of clay, I could take up ceramics and never need to buy it. We’re planning on working the compost we’ve been making since we moved in a year and a half ago into the soil and building up a few inches above the ground–we did this last year, but we decided we needed to go a few inches higher than that.

What are you planting this year?

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Summer Balcony Garden 2013

Like most folks around here, we got a late start on our summer garden this year. Because of late cold weather and the impending threat of hail everyday for two weeks in May, we didn’t plant until Memorial Day. (Usually I shoot for Mother’s day at the latest.) So this year’s garden is a little smaller than it usually is by this time.

catonbalcony

The other thing that’s different about this year, is that we have Minerva, who has been attempting to escape from our second floor balcony ever since it got warm enough to go outside. Minerva loves to be out on the balcony. It is her own little jungle, and we have done our best to make this year’s garden a safe and friendly place for the cat to be.

glassbottlebarrier
First step was to create barriers so she could not actually jump off the railing. Here, we collected glass jugs filled with water so she couldn’t jump up on this side. This also doubles as a way to warm the water we give the plants with sunlight.

catgarden
Next was to further secure our usual trellis. Instead of tying it to the inside of railing, this year it is tied to the outside so Minerva can sit on the railing securely without the possibility of losing her balance. (She has grown more graceful in the last few months, but she is still a kitten, and sometime pretty clumsy.) You can see the old scrap wood Brock reinforced the trellis with and the scrap yarn used to block the holes at the railing, because she can fit through the trellis there. Of course, we also gave her a high seat for bird and people watching.

catgarden2
All of the world, as far as she can see, is hers.

catthronebirdwatching
There is just as much to watch on the balcony.

spideplantbirdhabitat
Until yesterday, we had a clutch of baby birds living in this spider plant. She was very keen to catch them, and catch them she did. Two out of four got away safely, one we got away from her before she was able to do any damage, but she did get one before we realized they were leaving the nest, and the poor thing didn’t make it. She was also very upset when we took it away from her.

catthrone
Under Minerva’s throne, we planted the cucumbers, which are growing vigorously.

cucumberstarts
They are wearing little cup braces until the get rooted enough that Minerva can’t overturn them when she stalks through that container. Last year, we only got one cucumber before the heat shriveled up our vine. This year, I planted six plants in the hope that we get at least six cucumbers.

sadpotatoes
The potatoes, which are next to the shelf, have not been so lucky. The potato bag has been a favorite place to bird watch, and I’m fairly certainly Minerva could care less about trampling potatoes. (I also planted them very late, so I didn’t expect much from them, but thought I might as well give it a shot since I had them.)

eggplantandsanmarzano
Next to the shelf, on the garden table, we have our paste tomato plant on the right and our Japanese eggplant on the left. Last year we had great luck with eggplant, so I put it in exactly the same place this year. (Some spider plant starts are in the pot. We’ve got a ton if anybody wants any.)

pepper
While I only have this horrendous picture of it, I am trying my luck with a pepper plant this year. I have never done peppers before. This is a tobasco pepper, and I’m hoping to make my own version of tobasco sauce at the end of the season.

brandywineandmortgagelifter
Two more tomato plants. Brandywine on the left and Mortgage Lifters on the right. For awhile, I didn’t think the Mortgage Lifter was going to make it, but in the last few days, it has taken off so quickly I can’t seem to keep up with pruning the bottom branches. You can also see our basil in the little terracotta pot. I harvested a bunch last night for the pasta I made, so it looks a bit wimpy this morning.

sage
We also planted some sage for the first time this year. It’s tasty.

mint
Athrun’s mint is threatening to overrun it’s pot. I need to harvest some and dry it for tea. Mostly, we just munch on the leaves occasionally.

summerbalconygarden2013
I am excited to see what sort yield we get from these plants. I am so ready for fresh tomatoes, I can’t wait to be up to my eyeballs in them!

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2013 Balcony Garden

The balcony garden is officially started. Not everything is planted yet, nor do we even have all of our seeds or seedlings, but we got the balcony fully de-winterized this weekend and a bunch of stuff planted. It’s only a matter of time before we are resting cool behind our food-bearing wall-o-green ™.

sugarsnappeas2013
First, the peas I planted a few weeks have finally started to come up. I swear they have grown three inches since Saturday. (You’ll also notice that we are using Hefty bags instead of Earthbox approved mulch covers. As much as I love my Earthboxes, I am not paying $15 a mulch cover for every planting when a garbage bag and duct tape serves the same purpose. We used this method last year as well.)

seeds2013

seedpotatoes2013

seedlings2013
These are summer seedlings, and will likely live inside another month before they get Earthboxed.

basilseedling

athrunsmint2013

sageseedling2013

Our herbs so far are basil, mint (for Athrun), and sage. Has anyone ever had luck with oregano? It has never grown enough for me to do much with. What are your favorite herbs to grow?

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Vegetables, etc.

Though I have had the garden planted for a few days, yesterday we finally got the balcony organized so all the plants received their optimum levels of sunlight.

All of the Earth Boxes are up front with tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and cucumber. Then we have basil, rosemary, oregano, and mint spread around the balcony in pots (and a bunch of mini basils that need to be repotted asap).
When you buy an Earth Box, it comes with plastic mulching covers that fit over the box. Last year, we used these, but the holes we had to cut in them to get them over our seedlings still left room for squirrels to dig at our roots and pigeons to root around in the dirt after the squirrels had gone. This year, instead of investing in new covers, I went ahead and planted to boxes as per usual, then Brock duct taped trash bags over them. It seems to be working so far, as all of our plants have doubled in size (and it was a lot cheaper!) And yes, those are old vitamin jars over the watering tube–to help prevent evaporation.

I am overwhelmed with joy every time I check in on my potato bags.

I can’t wait for new potatoes!

Today’s garden tasks include:
Repotting tiny basil seedlings
Adding more dirt to my runaway potatoes
Harvesting some of the giant rosemary plant for drying and then repotting it to promote growth

And just for fun, a look at what I can’t grow.

All of this (except the big chopped onion, which came from the grocery store) was out of last week’s veggie bag. Carrots, peas, turnips, radishes, and green onion all went into last night’s dinner. (The turnips are really good this year!)

Some day, I will grow all of these too.

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Garden Update


Basil ready for transplanting.

I have been a bad gardener so far this season. Most of the seedlings Athrun and I planted failed, mostly because I couldn’t afford the soil to transplant them soon enough. I can’t take all the blame though, the weather has been so wishy washy that we have had random freezes, even with days regularly in the 90s since March. One pour squash plant was decapitated by an errant yo-yo. Things happen, and there is still time to start over.

Last night I went to the hardware store and bought a whole heap o dirt. I mean, during this time of year, I am sure it’s not uncommon for someone to buy 4 bags of 2 cubic feet of potting soil, or even more. I do think it is probably unusual for someone to ask for it to be loaded in the back seat of a Ford Escort instead of the bed of pick up truck (at least there was no kid in the car seat is all I am saying because there was no room back there for anything but dirt.)

And, I am pretty sure my neighbors thought I was crazy, hauling that much soil up into my apartment. They know how small the apartments here are. Where would you keep that much dirt? What would you do with it?


I am keeping my mounds of neatly bagged soil on the balcony–along my garden table (folded for now), a blanket for low temperature nights, a chair for convenience (you can see a leg off to the left) and these:


That my friends is what I am now christening a potato bag. It looks to be tarp sewn in a cylinder with two little velcro flaps on the side and some drainage holes in the bottom. I got two for $14.99, which looking at the materials out of the package, seems to me a little steep. However, I have never grown potatoes before, so what do I know?

Over the winter we had some organic potatoes sprout before they could be eaten. I kept them in the window all winter long and they were growing very well off their own tuber energy. Last night I planted six of them in the potato bags.


Some alien-looking potato sprouts.

I followed the instructions on the package for the planter, with a little bit of wisdom from the Vegetable Gardener’s Bible (which is due back at the library tomorrow and makes me sad.) With any luck, we’ll have our own crop of potatoes this year.

I’ll be planting the Earth Boxes this weekend with tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini, and one box will be dedicated to whatever Athrun wants to plant. Probably something impractical that he won’t eat, but you never know.

I loved getting my hands in the dirt again, even if it was bagged potting soil.

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Inside Outside


The 100 degree has started in Kansas already this summer and my garden is exploding. Pictured above is my baby basil plant, which doubled in size yesterday My surprise cucumber plant, which I thought was dead at one point, has made a monumental comeback, complete with vines, blossoms, and little baby cucumbers. My roma tomato plant is visibly adding inches everyday as well. I have to say, this growing stuff thing is all very exciting. I have never had a garden before, and while my balcony garden is fairly low maintenance, I have really come to love going out each day and spending time with each plant. And now that the finch chicks that were nesting in my spider plant have all flown away, I might actually be able to spend a substantial amount of time outside without the mother finch having a panic attack.

The heat has also not stopped me from getting out and around on this beauty.

The bicycle was a graduation present to myself. My summer goal is to get to the point where I am riding everywhere (within a manageable distance) I want to go when I don’t have the kiddo in tow. Unfortunately, my job is not a manageable distance for me at the moment, and riding through eastern Topeka at 5 am is also a little scary. My bike and I have done a couple of trips to the grocery store and back successfully, as well as a few pleasure rides. I have even made it up the giant hill, at the top of which sits my apartment. It was slow the first time, and I am sure I looked awkward, but I am proud I did it, because last week I couldn’t. And when it did it a second time, it was ever so slightly easier.

The period it has taken me to adjust to not being in school has been longer than I expected. I kind of thought I would hit the ground running like I always have in the past. I did not count on being as physically exhausted as I have been, even though I have felt that way for much of the past year. I have been taking time out each day to rest and enjoy myself, and not forcing myself to work constantly. It has been good for me, but it means my productivity has been low. Here’s a look at the first BA-certified skeins.

I hope to get some more dyed this evening, but my hands are itching to spin and I am working on some top-secret birthday projects as well. It’s kind of nice having birthday presents as my only deadlines. Though, I don’t intend to keep it that way for long.

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May, In Pictures


The Boys


Our Bucket-Full of Giant Hail Stones (which later made their way into some whiskey and cola)


Some Handspun. The yellow is a two-ply yarn made out of a carded merino batt from PortFiber. The rest is my first attempt at a usable singles, all from the first addition of The Cosymakes FarmClub. All yarns are about fingering weight.


The Garden. Or part of it anyway. Here you see cucmber, roma tomato, strawberries, and some mint way off in the distance. What you can’t see is that there are two more tomato plants, some basil and oregano to my left, and a whole box of growing peas to my right.


Some oregano, just because it’s pretty.


A picture of the landscaping taken from the second floor balcony.