Snatched From My Seed Tray

I’m sprouting my beloved Hungarian Wax Pepper seeds and can’t wait to get them in the ground, once threat of frost has passed–AND I’ve returned from spring break vacation. Never a good idea to transplant your lovelies without proper supervision, if you know what I mean. Meanwhile, these babies are sitting outside my patio and are quite coveted in my household. Every single one of them count. So when I awoke to discover that some PREDATOR had snatched some of my seeds, I was horrified. What the heck?

That empty square in the middle–not sure if you can see–but there is a scoop-out where no scoop-out should be. What kind of creature would do such a thing?

Squirrels run rampant in my yard and will dig relentlessly as they bury and unbury their nuts. But seeds?

Who would have thunk it? Whatever it was didn’t seem to want my tomato seeds, located one tray over. They’re bushy and thriving and oh-so-happy. As am I, of course, knowing I’ll have dozens of plants to move into the garden later this month. But shucks I’m not happy about this latest development with my Hungarian Wax seedlings.

p.s. Yes, I realize my mulch is in need of replacement. I recently cleaned out the area and am waiting until pollen season ends before I reinstall.

Microgreens and Greenhouse Production

I live in a rural area. I’m out in the fields or anything (thought that would be nice!), but I do live on six acres and have access to a small downtown within five minutes. Let’s call it semi-rural. One of the benefits of where I am is that several of my neighbors have livestock–cows, goats, horses, chickens… You get the picture.

Well, some of them also have greenhouses which I find fabulous. Actually, I’m quite envious but accept the fact that it’s not in my cards. While I want to be a farm girl, I’m really not. Maybe when the kids move on and I need something to do, but right now, my plate is pretty full and farms require work. Fun work, but time committed nonetheless. Plus, my husband knows that if I’m having problems maintaining said greenhouse, I’m going to slide my gaze his way.

Not gonna happen. Speaking of plate, full–his is overflowing!  **sigh**

Which is why it’s nice to have neighbors. Mine provides me with wonderful eggs and possibly greens–if I weren’t growing a bounty of lettuce on my own. However her set up is so cool, I asked if I could share. This is her greenhouse full of lettuce in varying stages of growth.

I learned that the fan perched in the upper corner is crucial for air circulation. Without it, fungus can become a problem. And while this photo appears dark, it was QUITE bright inside, despite overcast skies outside. So bright, I had to don my sunglasses!

But the view was amazing. Look at all those gorgeous greens! Now I’m sure you’re thinking, Wow, that’s a lot of lettuce. Who’s gonna eat it all?

How about the entire community? Every weekend, she lugs this produce straight to our Farmer’s Market. Did I mention she’s a pseudo commercial grower?

This woman doesn’t mess around. Those are hydroponic tubes you see and not cheap to construct and maintain, unless of course, you think of how much can be produced. She begins with seed cubes that range 1-3 cents per cube, depending on how many you buy at a time. One tray = $1.50 – $3.00 Now imagine the lettuce heads you can grow!

When they grow a couple of inches, she transfers them to the tubes by breaking the cubes into individual sections.

She can also stop right here and sell–or better yet, consume–the greens at this stage–as microgreens. You might have heard of this new phenomena raging at restaurants across the country, but basically these seedlings are POTENT with nutrients. More so than if you wait until the lettuce forms those full and fluffy heads of green were used to seeing. (See above)

And, you don’t have to wait months before harvesting! We’re talking days, depending upon the type of seed your using. Wheatgrass is a good example of the powerful nutritional value of sprouts.

Very healthy, and easy to grow. I know cancer patients who swear by it, as well as many fitness buffs. The second tray is sunflower sprouts. Delicious and fresh-tasting!

So next time you’re in the garden, consider growing and consuming microgreens instead of waiting for a full head of salad–they pack a powerful health punch. And you don’t need a fancy greenhouse to grow them. Simply scatter your seeds over a tray of dirt, or in a bed of dirt, cover with a light dusting of soil or perlite and you’re off to the races. Some of the most commonly grown plants for use as microgreens: amaranth, arugula, beets, basil, cabbage, celery, chard, chervil, cilantro, cress, fennel, kale, mustard, parsley and radish.

And by all means, enjoy. That’s what gardening is all about!

Ingenious AND Easy!

Okay, you know I’m always looking for an easier way to garden. Not that gardening in and of itself is difficult, but it does require time and effort. How much time and effort depends solely upon the gardener. Enter smart new idea…

corn channelsPlant your seeds in channels instead of holes. Yep, that’s it! Create channels down the length of your raised beds and drop your seeds–kernels, in the case of corn–and cover with compost. Done. (Told you it was easy, didn’t I?)

Look at those gorgeous lines in the dirt. And all I had to do to make them was drag my tiller through the dirt. Because I have sandy dirt in this section. My sweet potatoes used to be located here and those gals LOVE sandy soil, although corn doesn’t. Which is why I filled in my channels with compost. Composted cow manure will work, as will mushroom compost. Anything to enrich the sandy soil will do and is an absolute must. Corn won’t be happy without it.

corn channels filled with seeds and compost

Oh, and don’t forget the fertilizer. An all-purpose organic fertilizer works well but do remember to keep it handy. Corn plants are heavy feeder. Real oinkers in the garden, so keep them fed–especially with lots of nitrogen–and moist (channels work well to keep the water directed toward the roots) and your corn will provide more ears of pleasure than your heart could desire. Additionally, dusting with dipel dust worked so well for my tomatoes, I’m convinced it will also prove to be the secret weapon for my corn plants so I’ll dust my corn to keep the varmints at bay.

corn sprouts in channels

When thinking about the nearby plants in your garden, remember that corn and tomato don’t get along. At all. So keep in mind to keep these two away from each other when planning your rows.

Planting Sweet Potato Slips

Wow. It’s finally happened. My sweet potato slips have sprouted!

sweet potato slips have sprouted

Aren’t they wonderful? Now mind you, not all of them have sprouted. As with humans, you have your early bloomers and your late bloomers and so it goes with these little beauties. But don’t dismay–Mother Nature has a plan! By allowing only a few to sprout, she’s encouraging you to “stagger” your planting.

“Stagger my planting? What the heck does that mean?” More

Let’s Celebrate Earth Day!

This Sunday I will be joining my friends over at WindHorse Wellness Center in Eustis, Florida to celebrate Earth Day.  Festivities will range from yoga to folk dancing, solar cooking to growing your groceries plus a whole lot more.  Fun begins at 9:00am.  For a full schedule of events, click here: Events schedule Celebration Earth 2012.

As for me, you know I’ll be entertaining the kids with some take home sprout cups and pine cone bird feeders ~~ always the popular attraction and fun for the whole family!  Be sure to stop by and say hello and while you’re there, grab a sample of my rosemary lemonade.  Not only is this a new twist on an old favorite, but it’s delicious!

And if you’re not in the area?  No worries.  We can celebrate together in spirit.  How about using the day to start a compost pile?  Create a worm bin?  Make your own pine cone bird feeders at home—you can do all this and more to pay homage to this beautiful planet on which we live.  If we each take a moment to think about ways we can reduce our negative impact on the earth, we’ll all live in a happier world. 🙂  I LOVE happy!

So what are you waiting for?  Get hopping and be happy ~ it’s spring!

How’s YOUR Garden Growing?

Mine is growing GREAT.  Take a look-see for yourself? I have carrots. Popping up as we speak!

And you remember my tomatoes, dressed in red and soaking up the rays.

And my sweet onions. As they brown at the tips, the bulbs are rounding, plumping with juicy goodness.

Garlic look almost identical, just not as full right now. They have a way to go. But more than veggies, I have flowers.  Gerber daisies, to be exact!  New mulch, old mulch…you can tell what I’ve been up to this spring. 🙂

And I transplanted Bird of Paradise.  Along with a few zinnias…

My herb garden is in full bloom (those are my Hungarian Wax pepper sprout trays in the background).

Love my herb garden. Steps outside my door it’s the perfect location for cooking use.

When my pepper sprouts are ready, they’ll head out to the garden.  Interestingly enough, some of my trays had tomato sprouts popping in, which meant my organic compost was a bit too young.  Oops!  Excitement can do that to a gal!



Potatoes a Foot High

Haven’t seen this before–potato plants over a foot high?  And this is after Ashley covered them!

Definitely a bit leggy, probably due to the warm weather. 

But if she hills them some more with composted manure and/or a mix of mulch and compost and they’ll be good to go.  Remember:  potatoes have an upward growth habit and will continue to produce so long as the conditions are right.

Julie’s garden is still in the beginning stages of sprouting, though she is having fun with it–as are the kids.  (Don’t look now, but I bet the Easter Bunny may find this a great spot to hide eggs!)

And her tomato transplant seems happy.  While technically a full sun type of plant, it should do well here.  If my students’ garden tomatoes are any indication–their tomatoes are already twice the size of mine!

All in all, it’s been a nice week in the garden for the gals.  More important than the flourish of green and the promise of produce, Ashley and Julie are enjoying their gardens.  Sure there’s a certain satisfaction to be gained from successful sprout but there’s the sheer pleasure of the process. 

Large or small, indoors or out, having your own garden is simply rewarding, in more ways than one.

Community Gardening

When you see a gal falling behind in her garden schedule, you lend a hand, right? 

Of course you do.  Why, it’s already April and she hasn’t the first seed in!  She bought a plant, sure, but nothing’s planted.  Agh!

But then, she received a little help from her friends.  While Julie did manage to get the dirt in on her own (independent woman that she is), she certainly wouldn’t turn down the energy of kids helping kids–that would be plain crazy-talk! 

Not only do they out-energy us, but kids have such a ball planting when they can do so with their friends.  I mean, isn’t everything more fun when your friends are around?  Of course it is!

Speaking of dirt, I would like to make a note here regarding the best types to use while starting your sprouts.  Since her husband only bought top soil for her new planter, Julie was eager-as-a-squirrel-on-the-hunt (with the hawk circling overhead) to get some composted cow manure to add to her planters, believing it would provide the extra *umph* she needed to get her seeds started off on the right root.   However–

CAUTION on the liberal use of cow manure with your new sprouts. 

While they do like to remain moist as they work through the germination process–and cow manure does hold its moisture well–they prefer a light, easily drained potting mix to begin their stretch for the sunshine.  Once they mature and begin to grow like weeds (we’ll talk real weeds in a minute), then you can amend their bed with manure.   Patience, my dear.  Patience.

Ashley’s garden is growing beautifully.  Her sprouts are becoming young plants and her potatoes are becoming quite tall–which means it’s time for “hilling.”  Once potato plants reach about 8-12 inches, draw more dirt and/or mulch up and around their base so that only a few inches of the plant is exposed. 

This will increase production by giving the potatoes more dirt within which to grow, and it will prevent green potatoes.  Exposing potatoes to sunlight will turn them green, and eating green potatoes WILL make you sick.  So hill your taters once or twice during their growing season.

As you can see, Ashley is loving her new garden and has added some herbs to her list of home-grown delectables.  She’s chosen to keep them in separate containers, but most herbs are compatible with other plants.  Something to consider though, is using them in a practical fashion, such as weed prevention.  I noticed the oregano in my herb garden grows like a blanket. 

Wonderful!  And since it make a great companion to tomato plants, I thought…

Why not plant oregano around the base of my tomato plants as weed prevention?  Sounds like a good idea to me!  In fact, rather than limit this beauty to my herb garden, I intend to incorporate it into my vegetable garden!

Gardening Slow But Sure

Or something like that.  Julie’s garden is progressing a smigden more slowly than she anticipated, but remember, she is a busy mom with two kids which means extra time is a scarce commodity in her life.  But where she lacks in time she makes up for in enthusiasm.  Just look at her go!  (She’s amazing, isn’t she?)  And don’t ask where her husband and children are–she’s a “can do” woman with a “can do” spirit.  She can take care of business herself.  Work, sports games, honey-do chores…  They all just get in the way of new garden ventures.  And someone needed to take the picture.

So she managed this step on her own (and you can too!).  Not only will she reap the benefits of healthy produce, she’ll reap the benefits of healthy exercise. 

The space has been dug!  Isn’t it beautiful?  What a lovely start.  (Remember:  lots of encouragement.  We don’t want to lose her when she’s made it this far!) 

She’s decided on an in ground garden as opposed to the raised planter bed being used for Ashley.   Now that she’s done the hard work, she can relax and engage in seed selection, though I have an idea she knows exactly what she wants to grow.  Had plenty of time to think about it during all that digging.

Can’t wait to check back next week and see how far she’s come!  Meanwhile, Ashley has sprouts!

Wow.  What an exciting time.  Almost as exciting as giving birth.  Okay, that’s an exaggeration.  It’s not even close in the “work” department and not nearly as painful.  Trust me.  This gardening thing is a breeze.  And so rewarding.  Look at all those sweet succulent lettuce sprouts!  Aren’t they adorable?

One note to gardeners living on lakes, streams or ponds.  Watch your step.  While photographing these little lovelies, a snake slithered underfoot–I jumped–it fled and all returned to normal.  Save for my beating heart and my daughter’s following drill,  “What happened?”

“Almost stepped on a snake.”

“Snake!  What?  Where is it?  Is it still there!?”

“I assure you, that black racer is nowhere near me at the moment,” I mumbled.

Are you sure?” 

It is my job as her mother to reassure her, so I gave her the usual line we give under these circumstances, “He’s more afraid of me than I (you) am of him.  Don’t worry.  He’s long gone.”  In fact, with two bositerous boys living on this property, I’m surprised he had the guts to show himself at all!

“Are you sure?”

Finished with my photos, I decided it was easier to “end session” at this point.  “Yes, baby doll.  I’m sure.  Now let’s get going, we have places to go, people to see!”

I neglected to tell her there could be more, it could have been a water moccasin–but then again, it could have been a lot of things.  But remember, gardening is an adventure!  We run into all kinds of wildlife when working in nature.

Kids Planting and Progressing

For the kids, this was a week of “seed fun.”  

With the warm wave of weather here in Florida, we’re taking our chances and planting now–to ensure our crops are ready before graduation.  We do have our priorities, you know and the harvest party is top of the list! 

To begin, we toured the garden to check on our plants’ progress.  The cilantro is turning coriander.  No longer content to remain in its original form, this plant is now shooting  toward the sky, sporting lovely white blooms.  Soon, these flowers will produce coriander seeds–which of course we will harvest.  I know there’s some parent out there ready and waiting with the perfect recipe.  And if not, the kids and I will find something to do with them.  (BTW, we’re open to suggestion.)

Our baby carrots are tender and sweet.  No, they’re nowhere near ready, but their greenery is quite delicate.

And just look at those potatoes.  The kids can almost taste those healthy potato chips and fries now.  

“Wipe off the drool, kids.  We still have a while to go.  And for increased production, cover those babies with dirt!”

And production we need if we expect to have enough potatoes for a party’s worth of chips!  Healthy of course, lightly coated with olive oil and herbs and baked to golden perfection.  (Food talk keeps the kids motivated.) 

Yet more fascinating than food are our beans.  Personally, I find the early stages of bean development to be the most visual examples of Mother Nature in action than most anything else.  More than leaves sprouting and stems growing, this life cycle literally unfurls before your very eyes. 

Why, just look at them!

You can almost feel the energy as it opens from the seed, erupting in a burst…

…exploding in green bloom.  Have you ever seen anything so beautiful?

Magnificent.  Not into beans?  We also planted cucumber and corn seeds, as well as transplanted tomatoes.

The kids learned tomatoes are best planted deep, covering the bottom two “leaves” as they bury the base.  By doing so, they’ll encourage stronger root growth and development for their small tomato sprout.  Important–as we anticipate big strong tomatoes come spring!  And on our way back to class, we spotted this early gem.

Delectable little devil, isn’t it?  Can’t wait to make preserves out of that little pumpkin!  Oh, didn’t I mention?  We’re going to learn how to can!  Berries, tomatoes…

It’s the simple things in life.