Monday, April 13, 2009

lots and lots of seedlings.

Living in Wisconsin, we have a later last frost date than many of you probably do. But even with our cool wet spring, I have a lot of garden work to do! We have been starting all of our seeds on schedule and have many flats started so far. In addition to the seedlings below, I also have a tray of mesclun greens grown only under lights for 30 days, fully grown and ready to eat! Yum.

Seeds started so far (many more to come):

peppers: sweet chocolate, patio red marconi, tequila sunrise
swiss chard: five color silverbeet
purple tomatillo
tomatoes: orange fleshed purple smudge, brandywine pink, green zebra, riesentraube
cabbage: early jersey wakefield
fruit: ground cherry, wonderberrry ,
greens: tah tsai mustard, mesclun, lacinato kale
kohlrabi: azur star
other spinach type greens: red malabar spinach (asian vine 'spinach'), strawberry spinach
herbs: lovage, parsley, basil, shisho, stevia

I have multiple light setups - partly because my basement has only one outlet, but also because I like to use natural light when I can to help the seedlings grow strong and healthy. The basement setup has two long shop lights and a large heating mat. That is where I start the seeds. Once I get the true leaves, I move them upstairs to our window setup. That is an open wood shelving unit setup in front of a window, with shop lights hung from the top of each shelf. That gets a lot of natural sunlight in addition to the tubes. From there, as the plants are ready to be planted out, I will transfer them onto my back deck to harden off before going into the garden.

I am growing a lot of seedlings this year because it is our first year planting in a community garden as well as our yard - and in addition to those two gardening spaces, I am also starting seeds for our kids garden plot! That is a lot more than I have grown at one time before - but so far everything is going great. I think being organized has helped me keep track of when to start, when to plant, and how many of each to grow based on square feet needed per plant! Now I just hope that all of my grids and plans and sketches work out as we transplant! :)

Since our community garden is not open for spring planting, I am using our yard garden areas for all spring goodies, such as carrots, radishes, peas, cabbage, greens, and anything that goes out before last frost. All of these areas will be re-planted with different fruits and vegetables as the season progresses and the spring veggies are done! I also have garlic, chives, and several types of herbs in ground from last year which will be coming in soon, in addition to the red currants and raspberries which are already budding or showing some green.

With my back out, I have had a wobbly two+ weeks where I could not get up and down the stairs as often to check and water my seedlings. My lovely husband patiently let me describe how to check if water is needed, when to remove covers, when to turn on or off lights...and while I am more mobile now, I am still not able to do much of the yard prep since I am unable to lift or bend much (I have an MRI next week - wish me luck). I am sure I'll be up on my feet and ready to dig once we get closer to last frost in early May. And with my two happy mini-gardeners and a willing husband, we will be good to go for our early spring plantings over the next week or two! Ahhhhh. Love it.


Stephanie said...

We have mesclun, too. Julie gave it to us. :)

Good Luck on the mri test!!

Oof, I hope everything is good news.


TheOrganicSister said...

MRI?! Eep! I really hope they find good news - like a simple solution to get you outta pain. Nothing major!

I have a Q: what kind of starter mix do you use? Purchased, homemade, regular old soil?

Everything looks great; nice and bushy and healthy. I think I need more lights on my seedlings. We're getting ready to plant them outside (tomorrow I think). Some are way too leggy and might not make it - mostly my jalapenos. Most of my broccoli was the same way and some did okay and some didn't so we'll see. Must get more lights!

Still sending you healing vibes,

denise said...

Thanks! Yeah, the MRI is mostly to confirm nothing new is going on beyond what I know has been wrong with my back for the past 15 years. Then I can do some PT or therapy or something so hopefully this won't happen again. I did cave and have to go to urgent care last weekend...not fun. But getting better. :) But the hardest part for me is being claustrophobic and the MRI is a small enclosed space. Eek.

Tara - we tried many different mediums this time so that the boys could test and see what worked best. It is interesting because different mediums seem to work better for different plants! We are using coconut plugs, tree bark spongy plugs, and some leftover peat pellets (trying not to use any other peat from now on). I am transplanting up my tomatoes and peppers into an organic soil mix. I fertilize with a kelp mix, an organic root booster, and the grow big, depending on where they are in the cycle. I keep the lights really low right over the trays - only 2" above the seedlings. I don't have that many lights, because I hate the buzz and power suckage, but I have 2 large shop lights with warm/cool bulbs in the basement setup, and 1 shop light with warm/cool bulbs per shelf upstairs - and that unit gets a LOT of afternoon sunshine.

I don't know your email address...but I can send you the soil I am transplanting up to, and what my fertilizers are, if you are interested. We can compare notes! :)

Anonymous said...

Good luck on the MRI. Too bad they don't have an open MRI you could use!

One of the kids at my son's school did a science experiment growing seedlings. They tested how well the beans would sprout with the water input as the variable: tap water, plant food, "acid rain" (not sure how they obtained that!), motor oil and water, red dye and water, and sugar water. Surprisingly, all of them sprouted -- even the motor oil one! But the tap water and plant food ones did the best.

Stephany said...

Finally someone in my zone or close at least. How old are your seedlings under the lights?

I sure do hope that they figure out what is wrong with your back, soon.

denise said...

anthromama - Oh yes, my mom has had one of those. I asked specifically if they had one, you know, with a window, mirror, clouds painted in it or something (my mom has seen all of that here in town) and got a clear NO. ;)

Stephany - The seedlings are at different stages. Peppers/wonderberries are at 5 weeks. Cabbage/kale/greens, 4 weeks. Tomatoes 2 1/2 weeks. :)

Lisa said...

I am so impressed with your entire set-up!! Looks like you will have quite a delicious spring and summer! I really hope your mri goes okay and you are up and about with your little gardeners asap!

Dawn said...

Best wishes with the MRI... Think of happy wide open spaces... fields with wild flowers flowing in the breeze.... I know hard to do with that wonderful sounds they make!! :)

Your seedlings look wonderful!! Looking forward to seeing the yummy meals you are going to make with all of that wonderful food!

Kudos to hubby for keeping all alive and well!

Brimful Curiosities said...

Impressive! Maybe someday when the kids get a little older we'll try and start our own seedlings.

ladybug-zen said...

ugg! poor you with that back. but even still you're going gangbusters on the spring gardening.

hope you're feeling better soon.

Sarah said...

I learn so much from you about gardening! I really hope you back is better soon.

Astrid said...

I just posted about some of the seeds I just planted as well. I'm surprised your community garden doesn't allow for spring planting.

Where do you get your planting mediums?

Funny- all these many years and I hadn't thought about starting lettuce indoors to eat them sooner rather than later. I've just been so anxious to get everything planted in my garden! I've got tomatoes and pepper seeds planted this weekend. Hopefully they'll come up as the seeds are all old (worked last year and the year before that!). I need to get some vermculite for my seedlings.

Do you make your own compost? I haven't had much luck making any but I keep plugging away at it - adding this and that.

I hope your back goes back to normal soon! It's really no fun to have a bad back. Good luck with the MRI.

TennZen said...

Ooh, those mesclun seedlings are just beautiful! I hope you have a big bountiful garden this year!

And good luck with the back - heal up quick!

Tara said...

Hope the MRI reveals a solution for you...

Your gardening posts are so helpful. Our starters are getting a little too big and leggy but that's o.k. I guess.... all in the name of enthusiasm :)

Joy said...

Those seeds look amazing. Good luck with the MRI. Well wishes are being sent your way.

Dawn said...

The names of the different varieties of your seeds are fun read. Best wishes for you on the test and continued healing for your back!

denise said...

Astrid - Yeah, this community garden decided to expand, and they won't have the landscaper there to dig ALL NEW plots and berms until APRIL 26. Then it needs a few weeks to settle, etc. So we can't start until about last frost there. Very late. They are not very organized, and our plot ended up only half the size we thought it would be, but it is too late to switch since all other gardens are full, so we cross our fingers and hope this year works out here. :)

I get a lot of our supplies from Paradigm, which is an gardening and hydroponics store on the far east side off of Stoughton Rd. They have pretty much everything you need to start seeds. We don't have room to do much in the way of compost (and HOA rules means we have limited places to put it)...this year we are trimming a bush to clear a spot for a larger bin...but still won't make that much!

Tara - I just pot up into larger containers as they get bigger so they transplant fine still. And if they get leggy I try to get the lights closer. After they start getting their true leaves, I find a fan on low blowing on them a little while each day helps too--strengthens those stems! :)

Lisa Anne said...

Nice little seedlings, we are up to our armpits in seedlings and still doing more everyday, it is all good...

I really hope everything turns out well with your MRI, I am sending you "no more pain in your back" healing thoughts. I am so sorry.

Christie said...

Wow! I love your seedling set up! Isnt this a exciting time of year getting ready for summer!!
Good luck with the MRI!

Karen Maezen Miller said...

My back hurts just reading this. And I thought the grass grew by itself!

Fanny Harville said...

Can you tell me why you no longer use peat pellets? We started seed for the first time this year and used them. Thanks!

denise said...

Fanny - We try to use environmentally friendly supplies and materials when we garden.

Peat harvesting is one of those industrial-scale mining operations that is depleting ancient peat bogs - making it one of the planet's most endangered wildlife habitats.

Also, peat bog cover something like 3% of the earths surface, but store twice as much carbon as all of the world's forests. I read once "Destroy the Amazonian rainforest and we're in trouble; destroy the peat bogs and we've had it." When it is mined it releases a LOT of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere too, which is bad. And we are using more and more of it. Of course I'm simplifying it (greatly) here t o be brief, but there are a lot of things that just make it not my best choice for planting...

There are many options::

• buy compost and potting soil labelled 'peat free'
• use seed starting medium make from coconut husks, tree bark or crushed rock - or mix your own from a peat-free source!


Fanny Harville said...

Thanks for explaining this. I want to be as environmentally responsible as possible (that's the whole reason I grow veggies!) and I didn't realize this about peat. Good to know.