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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Tulips in water

I received this bowl of tulip bulbs growing in water about 2 weeks ago. Usually I see tulips growing out of the ground, so I was curious if these would bloom. The first one opened up yesterday and the second is just emerging today. They are next to a south facing window on our kitchen counter. Although it has been raining almost everyday, so they haven't been getting a lot of direct sunlight.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Field Trip

Yesterday the weather was beautiful. After many consecutive days of rain, the sun was shining and the temperature was in the upper 60's. I decided to eat lunch outside on the back porch. Lately, I have been eating lunch next to the seedlings and using the time to check them out for any changes or growth. I decided I would take them outside and sit them on the concrete for a while. Hey, if I was enjoying the sun so much I figured the plants may benefit from it as well. After giving them some water from below (I have learned my lesson about top watering), I let them sit in the sun for about 2 hours. When I brought them back inside, they seemed ok.

In addition to the first sun exposure, the seedlings are starting to develop their first sets of true leaves. The are really tiny right now and I have to look very closely to see them. I expect by next week that there will be some actual leaves instead of just the cotyledons. It is exciting to watch the seedlings grow with the hopes that they will survive and become vegetable bearing plants this summer. The next step is to get the outdoor beds prepared so they are ready to be planted once the last frost date passes.

Still on track for tomatoes by the 4th of July!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Allium Patch

A few weeks ago I purchased some onion sets with the intent of getting them planted sooner. I finally prepared a plot and planted them last Sunday. It was a bit rainy, but I was determined to get the onions planted. As I was out digging and building the bed, I remembered that I also had a bag of garlic bulbs that would be good to plant in the same patch. Onions and garlic are both members of the Allium family so they grow well together. This is what the patch looked like before covering the rows with soil. I also put a light layer of grass clippings on top as a mulch to keep the weeds down. I peeked out at it this morning and there was one sprout emerging from the mulch. I think it is a garlic based on location, but I will have to wait a while to be sure.

Dampening off and recovering

As I have been carefully tracking the progress on my seedlings several times a day, I noticed that something wasn't quite right. It was on Monday 2/9. I had to yet to remove the plastic greenhouse cover from the seedlings, so the humidity was still high. Also, the heated grow mat was still in use. I saw that some of the plants were shriveling up and falling over. This worried me because it had only been a week since I planted the seeds and I was afraid that they all would shrivel up an die. I immediately suspected that they were "Dampening Off" which was a term I had come across in some gardening articles. Not knowing exactly what conditions caused it, I googled and found some useful information.

The first result took me to Dave's Garden, where I decided that there was too much humidity for the seedlings. I immediately took off the plastic cover, unplugged the heating mat, and put a fan next to the plants. My thought was that I would reduce the humidity and maybe stop the fungus. I also read that anti-fungal agents such as solution of hydrogen peroxide or chamomile tea and water could be effective in countering the fungus. I didn't have any peroxide, but I did brew a large cup of tea to have ready when the time was right. Although I wasn't quite sure when that would be.

Returning to google for a second opinion, I went to the Pioneer Thinking link. On this site I confirmed the moisture and chamomile tea facts. Additionally, there was a mention that ground cinnamon is also a natural fungicide. With this new knowledge, I took the cinnamon from the cabinet and sprinkled it generously over the seedlings (after turning off the fan).

I left the fan blowing over the uncovered, cinnamon coated seedlings for the rest of the day. I didn't use the fan on Tuesday since the soil was drying out and the greenhouse cover was not going back on to increase the humidity. Late Tuesday evening I checked the plants again. Things did not look better. Some additional plants had fallen over and looked like they weren't going to make it. I decided to try the chamomile tea (same one brewed from the day before) and water the seedlings from below. I poured the tea into the bottom tray and added a little water to make sure the base of the plants were barely covered. As I went to bed that night, I was telling myself that it wouldn't be so bad if I had to start over.

Then to my amazement, yesterday some of the previously fallen plants were standing upright again. It was unbelievable. Today they are still going strong. I plan to carefully monitor the moisture level and only water from below with a solution of chamomile tea. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Our Mandarin Grove

Mandarins are a favorite crop for Loomis and the surrounding areas. There is an association dedicated to the locally grown citrus and a festival to celebrate it every year. For the past several years we have been purchasing 3-4 brown paper grocery bags full of mandarins each season. We really enjoy the fruit and wished we could grow our own. I planted 1 tree in our suburban backyard last spring in hopes of capturing a little bit of that taste from our own land. Fast forward 11 months and here we are living in Loomis, with plenty of space to grow our own mandarin supply.

Today we transplanted 5 trees into the ground. We have chosen to grow the Owari Satsuma variety of mandarin for its frost hardiness (to 24 deg F) and the fact that they are a pleasure to eat (seedless and easy peel). We are hoping to get some additional trees, but apparently the Satsuma variety isn't purchased in large quantities at the local home improvement stores. We were told last night a Lowes that we can order specific trees through their store. We still need to get in contact with their plant buyer to confirm.

I am very excited because I can overlook the grove from my desk. Since they are all dwarf trees, they have a very cute look about them.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

First sign of life

So it’s been a little over two days since I started the seeds for this year’s vegetable garden. There are 20 different seed types that fill my 72 slot starter. Of those 20, five are varieties of Basil. The Basil seeds fill 16 slots in the bed (yes, I know it’s a lot of Basil). Tonight while eating dinner, I was checking out the seeds and saw the first sign of life. I removed the plastic greenhouse cover to take a closer look, and saw the little plant. A few minutes later my husband saw a second (15D). Then we both noticed that the soil was doing something strange, it was being lifted. After gently poking at the soil, we noticed that there were many little seedlings beneath pushing it upwards. There were are few other areas that were demonstrating a similar behavior. I am suspecting that I will be seeing seedlings there shortly. This is an exciting day – the first seedlings emerging for the season.
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