Saturday, February 28, 2009


I should have included this picture in the original post about the potting bench. This is the storeroom/potting shed before Scott put up walls, painted it sunny light yellow, put up pegboard, and built the sweet bench. The after photo is quite an improvement, huh?

The Raised Beds in Winter

The raised beds didn't get much of a workout this winter thanks to the seed tape disaster, but my herbs and a few overwintered plants are chugging along:

The strawberry bed shared space with shallots. The idea was that the shallots would be ready to harvest before the strawberries started taking over the bed this spring. We'll see! Here is a closeup of one of the shallots. Talk about an easy thing to grow.

Perennials sage, rosemary, oregano and thyme, and biennial parsley are pretty much no-care plants as well.

I dug the mint out of the raised bed after it started taking over. It's been living happily in a pot ever since.

Cilantro started from seed. I love cilantro and enjoy growing it during the cooler parts of the year, even though it's cheap to buy.

That great looking black dirt in the cilantro photo is from my compost bin! Other than adding homemade compost from time to time, I don't do much to the raised beds. I let the pinestraw fall where it may and it doesn't seem to hurt anything. The beds are full of earthworms despite the fact that I laid down some of that weed barrier matting when the beds were new! There are very few weed problems, but all of the beneficial insects you'd find in the ground. Can you tell I'm a fan of raised beds? Scott is a little concerned our backyard may turn into a maze of raised beds! Is that a bad thing?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

My Awesome New Potting Bench

Scott got a bunch of new power tools from his parents for Christmas/birthday. Uncle George also gave Scott some of his fancy tools that he didn't need anymore, and Uncle Bob gave him even more useful tools. The result? I now have an awesome potting bench in the storeroom! (Thanks Don, Cindy, Uncle George and Uncle Bob!)
Here it is:

It has a nice, big work surface. (To the right in the picture are some plants I am overwintering for myself and my friend Katherine, who is away on military duty.)

The bottom shelf is for starting seeds. We have a 4-ft. fixture with two full-spectrum fluorescent bulbs. It is hung by an adjustable chain and will be raised as the seedlings emerge and grow taller. I started some seeds today - tomato, bell pepper, eggplant, basil. Last year I started all of my seeds at the same time, outside in one of those tabletop greenhouses. It was the first year I grew all of my vegetables from seed. Everything grew and eventually prospered, but I learned some lessons for this year. Namely, not everything grows at the same rate! My cucumber vines were producing cucumbers before my tomatoes and peppers were ready to be transplanted to the raised beds!

This year I'm starting my seeds under lights, in the storeroom where it is a little warmer. I'm not starting the cucurbits until much closer to planting time. And I'm taking the time to do the little things that will pay off in spades later on:

1. Using a soil mix made specifically for seed-starting, and mixing in the appropriate amount of water to moisten it before planting the seeds.

2. Keeping a record of which seeds I planted where. Last year I thought I could remember, and ended up with about 20 good tomato plants, unable to determine (at transplanting time) which ones were the red better boys and which ones were the yellow clementines. I guessed and hoped for half and half. I ended up planting nine better boys and three clementines, which was too bad as the clementine tomatoes (seeds from Hannah at This Garden is Illegal - thanks!) were so delicious and much healthier plants. Lesson learned!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Seed Tape, Meet Squirrels, a.k.a Doom

Have you seen the seed tape they sell in seed catalogs and at gardening centers? It's supposed to help you space tiny seeds appropriately. It is best not to thin some seedlings, such as carrots. With this in mind, I made my own seed tape out of flour paste (flour and water), carrot seeds, and toilet paper, cut into long thin strips. I used a q-tip to dot the flour paste on the paper strips at the correct intervals, and then placed a seed on each dot. It was easy and fast. Here are the supplies:
And some of the finished "tape":
It was strong and easy to handle. I put the strips in my raised beds, covered them with a little soil, and watered. Unfortunately, the squirrels dug up and destroyed all the seed tape in days! I suppose they were looking for nuts. Not surprisingly, nothing germinated. Maybe next year I will use floating row covers or red pepper flakes sprinkled in the beds.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - February 2009

Yellow and purple crocuses. I planted these last fall and was so pleased that the squirrels ignored them!
Yellow pansies and a periwinkle blue hyacinth - the only one I have ever planted that the squirrels didn't eat! This is possibly because I planted it after forcing it last year, so it always had some foliage and roots.

Muscari aka Grape Hyacinths - they smell amazing but you have to get on the ground to smell them! I enjoy the green foliage after the flowers fade away.

The first daffodil to bloom this year.

This huge camellia has been blooming for about a month now.

I bought four blueberry bushes at Hutto's last week, and they are all in bloom. They aren't planted in a very sunny spot, so I may have to move them next year. I'll report back on that.

Lorapetalum - love the hot pink fringy flowers on this shrub.