Sunday, June 23, 2013

Vinca on display

The vinca that I started from seed has grown nicely!

Here they are in their new home for 2013 and ready for display.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Playing catch up

A lot has happened in the GrowCenter since my last post. Spring came to Minnesota! But along with it came the moisture. We've had over 3 inches of rain in the last few days. I can't complain, the weather has not been severe like other parts of the country. There are no pictures with this post, just commentary on what's up.
I'm just getting some of the garden planted only to have it drown in water. I put out my rain barrel and it was full after one night. I've planted some sweet corn and some peppers that had to go into the ground. I was over anxious and started my peppers too early. They were getting root bound so I put them into the garden. You would think I'd have learned the lesson, use your garden log for start dates.
Also I've planted the beets and kale. I will take some pictures tomorrow since the sun is suppose to shine.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Vinca update

The Trailing Vinca is blooming!

I've repotted some of the vinca seedlings to allow them to spread out. Here you can see that one is blooming already. I hope that I haven't started them too early. Today the high was about 35 degrees and no prediction of a warm up in sight. In fact we are supposed to get a couple of inches of snow tonight.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Tomato Time

It's time to start your tomatoes. I seeded mine to the heated tray on Sunday, the 14th of April. The heating mat thermostat is set at 85 degrees and I covered the tray to preserve humidity.

Two days later I've got some seeds sprouting.

After reviewing my past garden logs and assessing the performance of the transplanted tomatoes, I've set a rule of thumb for planting time as April 15th. It is an easy date to remember given it's the deadline for tax filing. I've started tomatoes earlier but those years I had mature plants before the weather had settled enough to plant them outside. It's a lot better to have tomatoes that need to catch up rather than root bound leggy plants that you need to "trench" into the garden. Here in Minnesota you can plan on waiting until after Memorial Day to safely plant tomatoes and peppers outside. 
I've also seeded to a tray Borage, Okra, Flowering Kale, and Beets. This is the first time I've tried to start all of these inside. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Zahara Fire Zinnias

On April Fools Day I seeded some zinnias to the germination tray.

I set the heat mat at 80 degreess and left the light on 24hrs.

Two days later the seeds were sprouting!

At the end of the week on April 7th I pricked out the zinnias to egg cartons. I think that transplanting them from the egg cartons to the garden will cause less transplant shock. I'd heard that Zinnias don't like to have their roots disturbed and grow better if they are direct seeded. But here again they wouldn't stand a chance because of the earwigs. I think zinnias are related to sunflowers and earwigs love them both. So I am testing the egg carton planters for this purpose.
Out of 50 seeds I have 40 seedlings.

Sunday, April 7, 2013


Moonsong Deep Orange Hybrid
 Marigolds are easy to grow. In fact they are so easy that they can be direct seeded to the garden in the spring. However, in Minnesota we are now plagued by a new garden pest. EARWIGS ! These nasty bugs eat just about everything. I didn't think anything ate marigolds but these bugs can devour a tender seedling overnight. Given that new gardening challenge you almost have to start the marigolds inside so that they have grown large enough to withstand the loss of some leaves from the hungry earwigs. On St. Patty's day I seeded to the germination tray Moonsong Hybrid Marigolds. They sprouted quickly so five days later I pricked them out and put them in egg cartons. 

Here they are growing in the cartons today. I lost one plant from under watering but I think it will revive. It's important not to over water seedlings but that line between dry and dead is an easy one to cross.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

HOT Pepper Plants

Last month at about this time I seeded to the heated tray some hot peppers. I've found through the years that those hot varieties need a bit more time than the sweet bell peppers. The hot ones were started on 3/8 and then on 3/15 I started the sweet bell peppers. I also seeded some eggplant. Eggplant is a lot like tomatoes but it needs more time in the growcenter just like the hot peppers. It's really not too late to start peppers or eggplant but the window is closing on starting them inside and having them ready for transplant in May.

HOT Peppers
Sweet Bell

Most of the pepper seeds were left overs from years past, but the sweet bell are new this year. The variety is Bell Boy Hybrid.

Bell Boy Hybrid

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Poor Man's Peat Pots

I am trying to start more of my seedlings in containers that will be planted directly into the ground. "Earth Friendly", but also easier to plant. Jiffy Pots are expensive for any type of volume planting. So I have been testing egg cartons as a cheap alternative. Here is a short video on the technique of fabricating your own.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Trailing Vinca

Last year my daughter grew Vinca in planters in front of their house. It seems that Vinca are very forgiving of their growing conditions. They stood up well to the heat of the summer and recover from lack of moisture. This year in my catalogs I found a variety called Trailing Vinca (Catharanthus roseus). These are suppose to have a growth habit similar to "Wave Petunias". I've never started vinca from seed so I thought I would take on the challenge.

Trailing Vinca in hanging planter

I hope these will be perfect for her in the planters. The seeds I purchased are mixed colors so we will have to wait and see what colors I have recieved. I seeded them to germination tray on February 18th and they sprouted quickly. Here they are growing in the tray.

These seedlings were pricked out and put in packs on February 26.

Here's the healthy little plants today. They may be a little ahead of schedule since we still have a couple of inches of snow on the ground.

Sunday, March 3, 2013


My brother was in town and for him that means a 2 day plane ride from Australia! His kids live considerably closer so we all got together for dinner. I also provided them with a tour of the Minnesota Grow Center. My how they have grown up nicely and now with growing families of their own.
Speaking of growing, my herbs have been transplanted to bigger pots and I'm harvesting some of them now. I've trimmed basil and cilantro for salads. Fresh herbs are really good this time of year. Tonight and tomorrow we are supposed to get about a foot of snow.

Herbs that need transplanting

Some Basil and Dill

Once your seedlings are in the larger packs you can put them under the long fluorescent lights. Make sure that you keep the light as close as possible to the plants or they can grow spindly.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A Package!

My seeds have arrived. I wasn't going to make the same mistake as last year. Last year I was fretting over the shipping charges for an envelope of seeds so I tried to find comparable seeds locally. The variety was limited and the quality was just not there. As an example, I purchased some impatiens seeds from Walmart. The package only had about 7 seeds in it! Not to mention the gas costs to drive around and the time factor involved. Also you can really test the patience of your spouse as they wait for you while you seem to browse aimlessly through seed displays at the store. So I went back to Jung and mail ordered my seeds.
 Over the years I've purchased seed starting kits and I've tried to reuse them from year to year. That involved carefully removing the plants from the plastic pack and then storing the packs for the next year. Then as I brought the GrowCenter back on line I was washing and soaking each pack in bleach for a few minutes and then drying them off. Well the packs had gotten kind of ragged so this year I ordered new inserts for a fresh start. I figured if I had to pay $5.95 in shipping for a few seeds then I would get my money's worth and have them ship me the inserts for my planting trays. Each insert was only $1.39. That's pretty reasonable compared to purchasing the complete starter kits. I already had the trays and those have been washed and bleached. So I am ready when it's time to start the seeds.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

An Observation

Here is an observation of human behavior. It seems to me that there are two types of people. Those who put the roll of toilet paper on the holder with the tissue overlapping the roll. And those who just leave the roll laying on the floor. Or folks who keep the inside of their car clean and those who use fast food wrappers for car mats. And in Minnesota, those people who clean and scrap their driveways and those who just don't. In the grand scheme of things it really is no matter which habits prevail but as for me, I'm a scraper. It just seems if you keep a little section of your driveway clear, spring will come sooner. Well we just had 2 days of freezing rain and then cold. But thanks to driveway salt and my wife's help, we've managed to clear our driveway as you can see.
The outcome of our efforts though is a rather large glacier at the end of the driveway. With the forecast for tonight of 14 below zero, it doesn't seem that the glacier will be headed south anytime soon.
The Glacier

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

An Exciting Video

As you may recall my blog has stressed the need for a record of your gardening activities. Last year I went sans log. I now regret that oversight. I also regret the decision last year to buy seeds locally. I was very disappointed in the selection and quality. I am now happy to post that the seeds I ordered through the mail have arrived. And now without further ado, the exciting video!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


It seems every year I end up going to a commercial green house to purchase plants. Last year was no exception, in fact I bought quite a few there. The reason for this can be attributed to the quality of seed I purchased last year. Usually I order seed through the mail and specifically from J. W. Jung Seed Company. I've found them to be the best value. Well last year I tried to do it on the cheap. Walmart, Fleet Farm, etc.
I grew plants but they just did not meet my expectations. Mid summer of last year I needed some flowers for one of my planters. I went to the green house and purchased a 4 pack of Dianthus and one Gerbera Daisy. The clerk informed me that the Dianthus are able to survive Minnesota winters so at the end of last season I planted them out back. I then searched the Internet for overwintering Gerbera Daisies. To sum up the information available - good luck with that idea! I pressed onward despite the naysayers. The first step was to totally clean the roots of the Gerbera. I had to totally remove all the soil it had been growing in outside. We have a new pest to our ecosystem - Earwigs.
 I had to be absolutely sure there were none trying to hitch a ride to a friendly environment. So I soaked the root ball in a bucket of water and then sprayed off all the soil. I replanted the Gerbera, trimmed off a few of the weathered leaves and brought it into the GrowCenter. There it received 16 hours of light from a 26 watt compact fluorescent bulb. The soil moisture was constantly being monitored by a sensor sticking in the pot. When the planter dries out the sensor makes a bird chirping sound. However, I did keep it relatively moist most of the time without waiting for a chirp.

Now it's my pleasure to present to you Gabby the Gerbera.

Please note: My wife named the flower, I don't name flowers.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Climate Change?

Today, January 27, it's raining in Minnesota. We had a drought last summer and NOW it decides to rain. I remember a few ice storms years past, but not in January. How does a gardener cope? One way is to page through the seed catalogs that began arriving last month and plan the garden. It's a lot like the prisoner who completely built a house, in his mind of course, while in captivity. Another coping strategy is to plant something. A week ago I planted some Basil, Cilantro, Parsley, and bunching onions. Today there are green shoots in the GrowCenter.

Here are the seeds in the packs

And these are the Basil seedlings

It should be noted that these are Burpee Organic Sweet Basil seeds. They cost $2.49 at Walmart! What the hell was I thinking when I bought them???

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Blogger Benefits

Besides being a great way to pass the time in ones reclining years, bogging offers the benefit of self-aggrandizement. With the latter in mind I want to show off one of my gardening accomplishments.
In the spring of 2011 I had a desire to put in a small herb garden. I planned on the classic >
 - Parsley - Sage - Rosemary - & - Thyme -

Well 3 out of the 4 were quite easy to germinate from seed but Rosemary was more of a challenge. Here is the link to the post in March that describes in detail the challenge of getting Rosemary to sprout from seed. 

Below is the fruit of my labor

I carefully transplanted these sprouts and eventually planted them outside in my herb garden. Well the season passed and I thought, I'll bring one of the Rosemary plants ( they had now become plants) into the house to overwinter. Rosemary is not hardy to zone 4. That proved to be a success so in 2012 the little Rosemary plant went back outside and grew nicely. In the fall last year, I transplanted it into another pot and brought it back into the grow center. Now before I show you this ROSEMARY BUSH, let me first polish my fingernails on my shirt.

OK, drum roll please, TA-DA!!

Please notice, this thing has got a TRUNK on it. The plant marker is courtesy of my daughter who brought the rock from
Lake Superior and then carefully lettered it for me.

But I have to confess, it really wasn't all that hard to achieve. Now I'm considering trying to shape it into some sort of topiary. But I've got to read up on that first.
Coming up, More herbs in the GrowCenter.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

So, where have I been? I started this blog in 2011 and found out the difficulty in gardening and blogging simultaneously. Besides that, I was working full time, so the blogging stopped. Rather abruptly, and I apologize for that. I am now unemployed by choice, I prefer that euphemism to retired. Of course the question that comes up is - What are you going to do now that you're retired? I've searched for the best answer to that. Grow a pony tail. Get a tattoo. Those replies just got me a sideways look from the inquisitor. And then it dawned on me, the quickest way to duck the question and move on was to announce - 
Well, I'm blogging again!
And so it begins anew. Coming up, a huge success story.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

To Blog or not to Blog, that is the question.
My first attempt at the concept fell short of my expectations.
I found out that it's one thing to envision and another to accomplish. It's really a lot of work! Add to that the time it consumes and also the realization that you are the only one reading the damn thing.  Which begs the question - 
If a blog on the Internet goes un-read does it make a sound?
OK, step back from the reality of ones own insignificance and consider the task at hand. My intention was to digitize the gardening experience for easy reference. My blog did not accomplish that objective. I still need to keep a garden log. However, now that I have more time, I intend to force my blog out of dormancy. Coming up, where have I been and where is this going.