Seedling Update!

Just four days after planting and it’s here! The first sprout!

Sunflower Sprout

Sunflower Sprout

I believe this is the first moment you feel the satisfaction of gardening. You have carefully and tenderly placed two or three seeds in each dirt-filled pod, watered, and you wait until your efforts are rewarded with a simple little green sprout. It’s that feeling you get when you’ve put your heart and soul into that paper for school and you get a large A+ written in red at the top of your paper in return; when you’ve slaved over a hot stove, burned yourself a few times, sliced and diced 10 million vegetables, and finally see the faces of your guests melt with pleasure at their first bite; or when you’ve sacrificed your personal time to do overtime to get your project done at work and your boss–who rarely recognizes hard work–takes the time to tell you you’ve done a great job. This is why I garden, my friends. And the feeling only increases as you watch your plants grow bigger and bigger until you’ve make your first fresh meal with goods from YOUR garden that YOU’VE worked hard for.

But along with this sprouting, I found something else sprouting that is not good–you may have spotted it in the picture. Mold! This is the first time this has happened to me so I quickly researched what to do. I found a few people who recommended to scrape off the mold as best you could, and sprinkle cinnamon on your seedlings (that’s the light brown stuff in the picture). This process may have to be repeated a few times, but it’s the most natural way I found to get rid of the mold without using a harmful chemical on my fragile seeds that I spent so much time searching for without being chemically altered.

If you have another way to get rid of the mold, using natural products, please let me know! Until then, we’ll see how this works. I’ll keep you all posted.

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Seedlings!

It’s begun.

The time when you eagerly check your little dirt squares encased with germinating seeds every morning; making sure they’re watered correctly, ensuring they’re getting the right amount of sunlight, and waiting impatiently for that first sprout of green!

This is what I’ve been doing every day since last weekend when Jordan and I planted our seeds. Last year I used a tray with dirt pods that expand when you pour water on them, and it seemed to work, so I did the same this year.

Things I didn’t mention in the video that should be mentioned…
1. Cut or poke vents in the lids if you’re going to use them. The plants need ventilation!
2. Place you’re seeds in a sunny spot after you’ve planted.
3. It is a good idea to start your seeds inside if temperatures outside still reach freezing, or gets below that. Once the temperature starts warming up and your little plants have grown a bit, start putting your plants outside during the day or for a few hours to get them used to the temperatures outside. Once you’ve done this for a few weeks, and there is no more risk for freezing temperatures, leave your plants outside all the time for at least a week or two before you plant so they won’t go into shock from the elements when they’re in the ground.
4. This is my first video, woo hoo! But if you have any other questions on starting your seeds, feel free to comment and ask! Also, for those of you who’ve use this method and also the more traditional method where you buy and empty tray and fill with soil, have you found that one way is better than the other?

Plan for Your Garden’s Design Pt. 2

With a heat wave wiping through the Midwest this week and the extra hour of sunlight, I am on the edge of my seat as I pray there will be no more days below 32 degrees (Fahrenheit for all you metric system peeps). Because as soon as you have a day above 60 degrees it means it’s summer, right? I wish. But lo, I live in Nebraska so it will indeed get below freezing again. I will just bask in the warmth for now and plan for preparing my soil and what materials I will need for the upcoming planting season.

Because my garden will be new this season, there is a bit more work involved to make the ground ready for seedlings. I’m Jordan is going to have to take out the grass and pull out any left over weeds (just kidding, I’ll help!). Then, because the soil hasn’t been disturbed we will till about a foot down. Tilling up undisturbed soil is important for gardens because your plants need to be well drained and aerated for them to thrive. I am thankful Jordan’s family owns a tiller because with the size of our garden, that would be A LOT of work. If you don’t have a tiller at home, you can always rent one for a few hours at your local hardware store. I know Home Depot and Lowes definitely rents them out, but it is common for smaller hardware stores to rent them out if you don’t live near a Home Depot or Lowes. And if you can’t do that, or your garden is of a smaller size, you can always double dig. Double digging is where you dig about a foot down and a foot wide in a row down the length of your garden. You place the dirt from your first row off the side, and when you move to your second row (besides your first), you place the dirt into the first row. This continues down the line until you’re done.

It is also common to add organic matter (or store bought planting soil) within the rows as you double dig.

This brings me to the next thing on the list to have prepared for your garden: compost. Composting takes quite a bit of time as the matter you place into it needs to decompose so this would be something you would want to start months before you plant (depending on the size of your compost). I have planned a post completely dedicated to composting so we will go more in depth with it then. For our garden, we’re going place the composting materials in as we’re tilling, along with some planting soil from the store because we don’t have enough compost for the entire garden.

As you plan your garden, you may come across many different ways to create your garden bed: raised bed, standing garden bed, or in-ground. Ours is going to be an in ground because we don’t have enough compost, and don’t want to buy the amount of planting soil it would take to fill a raised bed. If you did want a garden bed that was above ground, another material you want to plant for is creating your borders. This can be done with wood, concrete blocks, bricks, or anything you can find that will separate your plants from the un-tilled soil surrounding it.

Ensuring your precious plants are protected from pests you also need to plan for some sort of deterrent; in my case I’m using left of chicken wire from my garden last summer because it seemed to work nicely. I will just have to be sure to get some wooden stakes to staple the chicken wire on. How are you going to protect your garden?

As you can see, there are a lot of choices to make and materials to buy before you start planting. I didn’t even mention plant supports, materials for paths, mulch or rocks for the top layer, or weed barriers. These are some more of the many choices you have when creating a garden.

A lot of gardening is learning by doing and by making mistakes, but that is what makes a gardener prideful in watching his or her work bloom; knowing you have faced and overcome trials along the way. But I do hope that you will consider some of these things before you take that shovel to the ground to save yourself some initial frustration!

Plan for Your Garden’s Design

Let’s pretend it’s finally nice outside. No snow, biting wind, or frozen ground. Your seedlings are almost ready to be planted so you decide, today is the day you’re going to plant! As you walk outside you smell the warmth in the air as the world comes back from its winter hibernation. The birds are out again, singing an ode to new life springing up from the earth. You walk into your yard, determined with shovel in hand only to stop suddenly and ask yourself, where are you going to dig? How big is your garden going to be? Where would be ideal locations for certain plants? What materials will be needed?

These are the questions that should be raised before you pick up the shovel, and arguably even before you select your plants. Because digging a plot from scratch actually takes a lot of work and it pays off to be prepared and plan ahead. You can get an image in mind of where you want to place certain plants and what you may need for those plants (e.g. arbor, supports, trellis), then  you can start collecting the materials you need instead of scrambling to find or buy them at the last minute. For example, I know I’m going to want an arbor for my cucumbers so Jordan picked up a large pallet from our local furniture store that we could use to create our arbor with.

Plotting:

I took the picture of the part of the yard I’ll be using to draw out where I’ll be planting certain things. This is what I came up with:

IMG_1573 - Copy*click on image to enlarge

The main reason these plants are placed where they are in this image is based on sun and shade. Mostly all of my plants need sun except for the lettuce which I put on the right end of the plot because it gets shade from a neighboring tree. When you’re looking at the garden, you’re facing north so the sun comes up from the right side of the garden and down on the left.

I want to plant the cucumbers on the left side of the garden because the arbor I will use to support them will cast a shadow. Because they’re on the end, the arbor won’t be putting any other plants in the shade. I will be planting corn in the section to the right of the cucumbers because it is also a tall plant and it’s shade will be cast only on the cucumbers (which will be higher on the arbor by the time the corn gets big) and on the fence behind the plot. Beans will be to the right of the corn because they will be supported by a wire fence, which by the time they vine have crept up the fence, will cast shade on the already tall corn. I have not grown green beans or sugar snap peas before so am unsure how tall they will actually get. If any of you more season gardeners out there think they’ll cast too much shade on the corn, please let me know! This is the type of support I’m thinking of using for the beans (the fence) but the fence will be facing the opposite direction in my plot:

beans

Source

As my drawing of the plot shows, the tomatoes will be next to the beans because they  will have tomato cages for support and will also cast shade. Move on down the drawing to the right and you will find the hot peppers, sweet peppers, strawberries, green onions and lettuce. These are on the right side because they don’t require any sort of support that will cast a shadow on another plant. Another thing to note, most gardeners do not like to put hot peppers and sweet peppers next to each other because they often cross pollinate and your sweet peppers get a small kick of spice to them. I decided it wouldn’t be a big deal if my peppers cross pollinated because, once again, my family enjoys spicy!

Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about the sunflowers. I have planned to place these to the back of the garden so when they become the 6 feet tall they’re supposed to be, they’ll only be casting shade on the fence behind them.

Next week I will continue my planning for my garden by talking about materials. Stay tuned! Until then, please post any suggestions or concerns in regards to where I am placing my plants.