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Seedlings at Four Weeks

Athrun and I planted this years seedlings four weeks ago. I know it was a bit early for pretty much everything but the peas, but we’ve been having fun tending them. Since we have very limited space for planting, we only seeded one flat worth of vegetables for the year. We had 100% germination for every variety of plant except peas. Now, I have up to five seedlings when I really only have room one or two plants out of each variety. Some of the seedlings were getting so large that I have already put them in larger pots (I’m looking at you squash and cucumber). They seem to be thriving, I just hope they survive the move from pot to earth box. There is also the secret hope that I can somehow find room all of the seedlings to grown out on the balcony. Of course, then I have to contend with whether I will be able to get out there and water everything.

The start of this year’s yellow squash.

A jolly cucumber seedling. Last year, we were giving cucumbers away with only one giant plant. This year I have plans for at least two giant plants. The cucumber plant also kept producing through the six weeks we had at 100+ degrees when the tomatoes took a break.

My tomato seedlings are still rather small, therefore not pictured. I waited too long to thin them out. They are doing well, but they look small compared to the rest of the giant seedlings in the tray. (Also not pictured are peas, which are already outside and doing pretty well. Maybe because I am covering them with a blanket at night.)

I have to say that if it hadn’t been for Athrun, I probably wouldn’t have tried to go sunflowers in containers. Sunflowers are so lovely in the summer, and they can really be good bug deterrents, but they are just so darn big. Plus, flowers aren’t food. But, like every year, the balcony garden is one great big experiment. Imagining a row of giant sunflowers on my balcony in late summer gives me enough joy to try it out, even if it doesn’t happen.

And now for the plants that will likely prove the biggest container garden challenge.

This my friends is a cheerful little watermelon seedling. One of five cheerful little seedling full of sweet, refreshing, mouthwatering mid-summer potential. This little watermelon seedling is mocking me. It’s daring me to plant it in an earth box and train its vines to grow up while training it’s fruits to grow down. This will test my limits as a new gardener. This plant is telling me that it wants to grow and thrive, but if I don’t take care if just right it will mock me unceasingly until I can afford a house with a yard.

I saved my favorite seedling for last.

The pumpkins. I know I shouldn’t play favorites, but look at this gigantic plant!

When Athrun and I planted the tray a month ago, we opened our little packet of organic pumpkin seeds and there were three–THREE!–seeds inside. We both felt as though the seed company had pulled one over on us. I mean, have you ever pulled seeds out of pumpkin? There are only about a million! And here we had paid $3 for three seeds. We made little soil mounds in the box and planted our three seeds. And then waited. All the other seedlings were bouncing up out of the soil. We had a veritable tomato sprout forest (which I used a magnifying glass to thin), and the peas were getting too tall for our plant shelf.

Then, one week ago something started to pop out of the row marked “pumpkin”. It has been ONE WEEK since the pumpkins germinated. All three seeds are up and growing strong. These seedlings are just defiant. Unlike the watermelon, these guys are saying to me, “I am going to go grow no matter what you do to me.” And I can get behind that kind of attitude in a plant.

So far, everything but the peas are growing in the balcony window on a wire shelf. I need to prune my basil plant and chuck the oregano and start over. Athrun’s mint plant is full of new leaves, but needs a little cleaning up after the winter. The hardware store down the street had started setting up its garden center in the parking lot. That means it’s just about time to grab giant bags of potting soil and some fertilizer and replant the earth boxes, even if I have to move them in and out for a couple weeks. (Then I can also direct seed some spinach!) The trellis needs to go back up, because it’s been rolled up in the corner of the balcony all winter and it’s really starting to look sloppy to me. I want my clean, green balcony back.

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A Little Garden

I was feeling optimistic on Sunday about the springy weather we’ve been having all winter. I began thinking that surely, in six weeks, it should be warm enough to get this year’s little balcony garden planted. Part of me was thinking about how last year I waited until the final frost date to put out my seedlings and the peas were roasted before they even had a chance and the tomatoes had only just started to blossom when the month full of 100+ degree days set in and we didn’t get any tomatoes until September. Part of me was thinking about how much I miss fresh produce. The CSA should start up again in April(!), and we should be once again rolling in spinach and spring greens, but there is nothing quite like going outside in the morning and picking a cucumber for your breakfast.

With all that in mind, Athrun and I went to the local hardware store to pick up a seed starting kit and some seeds. I bought vine cucumbers and two types of indeterminate tomatoes, which despite the heat, we had great luck with last year. We bought more peas (Athrun’s favorite to plant and harvest), in hopes that they make it past seedling stage. Since we had such great luck with cucumbers last year, I thought we should give squash a go. I am also going to try some greens (probably spinach because I really do eat it everyday) that I will direct seed when I put everything else out. I have a potato shriveling up in the window I am determined to find a way to grow on my balcony. (I am thinking something like this might work.)

Then I have the seeds I bought for Athrun: pumpkins, watermelons, and sunflowers.

Now, I am not adverse to growing any of these things. If I had a yard, my list of vegetables and herbs would be much larger. However, all the growing space I currently have is a 12×4 south-facing balcony, three earth boxes and various other planters. We have some established basil, oregano and mint, plus the usual suspects like ancient spider plants that need to be re-potted and a couple flowers. I think I have a strategy for attempting to grow all this food. I am not sure if I have physical space for the additional planters I am going to need, but I don’t think that is going to stop me. If worse comes to worse I’ll move the indoor plant shelf outdoors.

The garden is going to be one great big experiment this year, but it’s going to be fun. And, if I can get my kid interested in growing things himself by growing some of the stuff he likes, all the better.

As of this morning, I have some cucumber germination and will not be deterred by the fact that it might snow later. (They have promised it many times, but by now I am thinking snow is not for us this year.) To pass the time, I am going to attempt to seam up my Vignette cardigan. I am in love with the chocolate brown super soft yarn, but it’s rather dark and difficult to see when the sun doesn’t come up.