Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Halfway Mark

The Dodge County Fair started this week. This event is the halfway mark of our summer in Minnesota. I've been able to harvest some beets and summer squash. Here are my tomato plants showing a few green ones on the vine.

The squash and zucchini are growing nicely.

The variety of these are touted as easy pick. See how they grow straight up on the plant?

This is my bean field with yellow, green, and purple beans. 

A better look at the purple beans that are flowering.

I'll post more information on these beans when they are closer to harvesting. 
The cucumbers are really vining, no fruit yet, just blossoms.

And speaking of vining, my peas are just about ready for eating. These never make it into the house, they are picked and eaten in almost the same motion.

So a lot of things going on in the garden at this halfway mark. We're getting a nice gentle rain today and it looks like the cornfields are beginning to tassel. Soon the days will feel shorter, but for now we enjoy the certainty that it's summer.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

From seed to garden

My pepper and tomato plants are planted in the garden. In past posts I've shown the progression of seed germination to seedlings in packs. As the pepper plants matured I had to give them some room to grow. I discovered an effective way to allow them more room.

By taking three of the plants out of the six-pack and spacing them in another pack.

This method allows them room to mature. Some of the larger pepper seedlings needed even more room so those were transplanted to recycled yogurt cups. But the downside as you can see is it starts to crowd the grow center. Here's the peppers under the florescent lights taking up the space that the tomatoes will need.

So even though it was a cool spring, the peppers went out to the cold frame.

There was one evening that I had to put the milk-house heater in the cold frame to keep them warm. The recycled mustard bottle is my tool for watering each pepper plant. While the peppers grew in the cold frame, my tomatoes now went under the lights. Here's a picture of them along with some eggplant and basil seedlings.

Now in Minnesota the weather doesn't really settle until after Memorial Day. And this year the holiday was early. So for the last couple of weeks I've been slowly planting the seedlings into the garden. Here are the pepper plants in the raised bed.

The top of the photo are cucumbers that are suppose to grow in a compact form. Here is a close up of the Sweet Banana pepper on the right. It already has fruit!

 And this is a picture of the tomatoes. I may have them too close together, we'll see as they mature.

Lastly, for the edibles, a picture of my Siberian Kale and beets.

 Yesterday the garden was in great shape. Today the forecast is 2 to 4 and maybe more, inches of rain. Well, at least it's not snow. And for tomorrow sunshine!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Spring turning to Summer

Our Spring is now turning to Summer. These are the tulips in full bloom. 

The blooms have faded now and the plants are storing energy for next year. They say to let the foliage slowly brown and not to cut them back. In the mean time, with the help of my grand-daughter, I've direct seeded Zinnias in between the tulips. We got an inch and a quarter of rain last night so our spring is nice and green.

Monday, May 11, 2015

A Friend in Need

I was talking with a fellow gardener the other day and he commented on a variety of tomato that he grew a few years ago. They were the best, most prolific cherry tomatoes he'd ever grown. Then he commented that he could not find them sold anywhere anymore. He buys his bedding plants, he's not a seed starter. So I told him I'd be glad to start the tomatoes if he could get me the seeds. So these are the tomato seeds he gave me.
As you can see by the title, they're not really politically correct. But what's in a name? I think that a lot of the seeds we buy are the same variety but renamed each year as "New!"
I seeded about half of the packet to the germination tray on April 24th.

The seeds sprouted quickly on April 28th and......
.....on May 2nd I pricked them out to six packs.

 Here they are today, I still need to top dress the packs. I've found that if you prick the seedlings to the pack it's better if each cell is not completely filled. About halfway seems to work the best. Then as the seedlings mature, I add growing medium to each cell to fill it up. Here is an interesting video on the Mexico Midget cherry tomato plant.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Allure

Part of the allure of gardening is that you can show off to your friends and neighbors that you might actually be good at something in life. Another incitement is that you share a commonality with other folks who like to garden. You share the common purpose of producing food. When I first started gardening on my own, I did what a lot of others still do. I'd go to the greenhouse and purchase my plants. The trouble I ran into was that I didn't need 6 jalapenos or 6 sweet banana pepper plants. I sure didn't need 6 cherry tomato plants. The other thing I noticed was that the greenhouse plants seemed too far along. Most of the time they were root bound in the pack. Of the 6 plants you purchased, about half were healthy to transplant. So what to do? I have a small garden but I still wanted a variety of plants. Maybe one of each I reasoned. So I began starting my own bedding plants and then splitting them up into groups of pepper and tomato plants. That way I could have the different varieties and could control the stage of growth for my planting zone.
 The other enjoyment of gardening is sharing your labors with others. Here is a care package for a fellow gardener that I'm going to deliver today.
There are 6 assorted varieties of pepper plants in the box. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Tomato Time

If you recall, I mentioned that I use tax day as a rule of thumb for starting my tomato plants. I missed by a couple days but last Friday I seeded these to the germination tray. Here are the varieties that I'm planting this year.
Some of the seeds came from Seedman. I purchased these on-line. According to my garden log, back in 2005 I grew First Lady II. I first became acquainted with First Lady tomatoes before the turn of the century. In 1998 according to the log and of course that's when Hillary was our First Lady. So for a while I'd nicknamed them Hillary's tomato. But after 2008 I couldn't find them anymore. Finally this year I found them on-line. So I am growing Michelle's tomato this year.
I seeded them to the tray on 4/17 and on 4/21 they were sprouting.
I will prick them out today to six packs. It's interesting when you find a specific variety that performs well and you really want to keep growing it. Then for some reason it no longer is featured in the seed catalogs or in retail stores. A few years ago you were just out of luck but now with the internet it seems possible to find those lost varieties. In my next post I'll go into that a little deeper. Also in the germination tray is eggplant, basil, and thyme. I may have started the eggplant a little too late. I hope they can catch up.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

First Mowing

We got an early taste of Spring in Southeast Minnesota. The lawn mower started on the first pull so I got my mojo on. But the snow-blower still has gas in it, just in case. I planted some elephant ears and lilies last week. Here are the tulips planted last fall and now getting ready to bloom.

I like to plant tulips in the fall, it gives a Minnesotan a reason to survive the winter. I paid $7.99 for those bulbs dammit, I'm gonna live long enough to see them bloom! And speaking of surviving, I think these two plants are Gloriosa Daisies.

These two made it through a Minnesota winter. I planted the daisies a couple of years ago.  I tried Lavatera here but it bloomed and faded early. So about midsummer I went to the greenhouse and bought the root-bound leftover daisies. They just won't give up, they keep coming back. I'm not sure how they'll fare here, this is where the morning glory grows. We'll see which one is more persistent.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Impatiens Seedlings

My New Guinea Impatiens are coming along and they're showing their first true leaves.
I've also started some Burpee impatiens seeds. But of the 100 New Guinea seeds, so far I have what appear to be 40 viable seedlings. So some simple math - 40% success rate! I will point out that spring planting is a long ways off here in Minnesota. If I achieve 40 transplants by the end of May, I will be happy.

One of the critical factors with impatiens is not to over-water. Just let the growing medium dry out a bit before watering but not to the point that the seedlings topple over. When I water the plants, I spray some water at the edge of each cell and not directly on the seedling.
The Burpee Impatiens are the Walmart variety and I've had pretty successful germination rates with those too. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Rule of (green) Thumb

Every growing season I stress the need for record keeping. But after awhile a grower just remembers when to start planting. Or you can relate it to certain dates and develop a rule of thumb for planting. Using that technique, I start my hot peppers on St. Patty's Day.
 So here they are in the germination tray, seeded on 3/17/15. The Peperone are seeds that I've had for 8 years now, I sowed them quite heavy because of that. Also STGT in three rows are Sweet Banana Peppers.
There are 10 seeds in these two rows. I had really good luck with this variety last year. Or should I say, the plants I gave away, those folks had great yields from those plants. Mine not so much.

The peppers sprouted rapidly, within  a couple days of seeding. The heat mat and temperature control probe really aid in germination.
In the foreground of this picture are Rellenos that are also sprouting. This picture was taken on 3/22 so about 5 days for germination. I've since pricked out some of the peppers. They're growing nicely. 
I actually got 10 viable La Bomba Pepper seedlings.
These Sweet Banana peppers look too far along, I hope we have an early outdoor growing season! I seeded to the germination tray my sweet bell peppers on 3/25. They look like they are sprouting today.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Viable Seedlings

Germination is one thing, getting viable seedlings is really the challenge. The cotyledons of my New Guinea impatiens are appearing. I've been trying to keep the germination tray moist, but not too wet. Also, I've moved the tray and now keep it positioned directly under my 4 foot florescent light.

I've begun to prick out some of the seedlings. So far I've filled one 6 pack. Some of the germinated seeds are not going to survive. I may have to rethink the seeding process. These seeds were right on top of the growing medium. I think I need to press them down into the medium next time. I've also STGT some regular impatiens. Those I lightly covered with a mixture of peat, perlite and vermiculite. It's good to see something growing again in Minnesota.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Germination on Day 6

Amazing, when you follow the directions it seems you're more apt to succeed. On day 6 at 100% humidity and an average 76 degrees temperature, the impatiens started to sprout. If you look very closely you'll see a radicle emerging from the seeds. I had to use a visual aid to see the sprout.

The camera at close range shows the seeds if you know what to look for. I must admit, it's a bit like finding Waldo but they have definitely begun to sprout.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Patience with Impatiens

So last year I grew Orange New Guinea Impatiens. I tried to germinate 25 seeds. I was only successful growing 10 plants. I just could not get them to germinate. But thinking back on that process, I had them in the germination tray but also on the heating mat. And to aid with germination, impatiens need light. But with the light on 24/7, I had soil temps above 80 degrees. 
This year I am not using the heat mat. I have a clamp light about 8 inches above the tray and I've got my maximum temp setting at 77 degrees. The light alone is capable of keeping the tray 75 to 77 degrees as it cycles on and off. I put 100 seeds in the germination tray on March 1st and I've covered them with a piece of ziplock bag. I will keep you posted on their progress. I think the seeds are starting to swell a bit but no sign of radicles yet.

Monday, March 2, 2015

A Look Back

I have a garden on the south side of our garage. I've had success growing sweet corn there but last year I decided to relax a bit and just put in pumpkins and sunflowers. Both did quite well as you can see.

Multiple flower heads!

Since this area is on the south side it receives a lot of sun and dries out quickly. At the far side of the picture you can see I utilize a rain barrel. I plan on putting in a trough system to water the area this year and I'm planning on squash for 2015. The sunflowers were impressive, maxing out at 7 to 8 feet. However, I'm lucky I took these photos when I did because the next week they started to topple over from their own wieght.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

We Begin Again

Hello 2015, the grow season begins. The Grow Center has been scrubbed and bleached and today impatiens will be seeded to the germination tray. It's been a cold winter here in Minnesota, but we've been lucky with only a normal, manageable amount of snow. We'll see what March brings. Until we start to see some green, here is a picture from last summer.

 My first attempt at growing Billy Buttons. 

You can tell by the Heavenly Blues that this photo was taken late in the growing season. Here is a link for more information on the origins of the flower.

The effect was a little disappointing so last fall the planting bed was tilled up and tulips were planted in this space. The orange tulips are now waiting for their chance to welcome Spring to Minnesota.