Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Talk about confusing

Like many people, we have been hit with late winter storms. In fact, if you look out the back door right now, you will see well at least 4+ inches of snow. That doesn't count the ice that came before it.

Rosemary, Lavender, Audrey's empty pot
Basically, our dog loves it, Pooka went out and played in it this morning for a few minutes before deciding it was cold.  I am okay with it, (but I desperatly need a snow day), but it reminds us that winter is not yet over. Although one would think heading into March we would be past most of it. The rosemary in that small red pot is pretty much dead, the lavender in the green pot may come back and the stuff in the tan pot was the dirt from Audrey, so I have nothing to worry about in it.

On the flip side you walk into the house, and you see spring everywhere. Pooka's Grow um seeds are very busy sprouting left and right. Daily I go through and turn them 90 degrees since they are reaching for the sun outside.  Here you see the lettuce, bok choy, Peas, broccolli, cilantro all fairly well established. The basil is just starting to really grow.
Half the grow ums.
At the other end of the table you will see the rest of the Grow ums.  The oregano has tiny tiny sprouts. I didn't see them but Pooka did since she takes her magnifying glass to them daily to watch for changes. This is her favorite part, she loves planting the seeds on top so she can watch the roots come out and go into the dirt. I also placed the clearanced herbs here so they are all in the same spot.
Rest of the grow ums and clearanced herbs
We have been very busy around here. We also got most of our veggies seeds started. I was worrying that the peppers would take too long to germinate, so I wanted them done early. Pooka and I did it very rushed on a Saturday night in those 16 cell starters. Those are an interesting contraption and I will get a post up on them later.
Seeds seeds at least they are started.
Then I realized I was well into the window to start tomatoes. Except I didn't realize till after I started to hydrate the pellets, did I realized I grabbed the 72 cell starter instead of the tomato starter, so Pooka and I just went with it and spent an entire afternoon on Monday starting the tomatoes, sunflowers, and well everything else. Now we wait. I still need to start the snapdragons, and most of our herbs, but those will go into peat pots probably this weekend. Right now, Pooka is having plenty of fun watching her plants change and grow, and I am running out of places to put seeds. Plus, I think if I have to use a third card table, Daddy may have something to say about it.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Pooka's are lucky lucky creatures

A few weeks ago, we went to our local Lowe's for a kids building day. Pooka and Brother have been doing these for years and about 4 or 5 months ago, Brother finally broke the 100 projects completed mark. As a result, we end up at Lowe's every other week.

Anyway, while we were at Lowe's we needed something... I don't even remember what, but we of course stopped to look at clearance. And what happened to be on the clearance rack? An herb starter kit and a Pooka saw it. For over half off, we decided to give it a try and see what happens.

For half off, we will take a worse for wear kit.
It took a couple of days before we had a chance to get the setup together. Its a standard "Mix dirt stuff with water to rehydrate set and then plant the seeds" set.

What you need... Laundry basket optional.
Once we opened the kit, we saw why it was probably on clearance. The seed packs and the metal containers were showing signs of water damage. I am not as concerned about the rust in the container. These seeds may end up in the front herb bed depending on how they do and how well they hold up between now and the end of the snow/frost.

A bit of water damage
The seed packs looked alot worse for wear. I have had some concerns on if the on on the right would even grow. The paper was gone in places. The plastic holding the seeds wasn't.

Thats more water damage
After following the directions we sprinkled the seeds and now await the results. I will say it seems that they both got a bit more water then they needed, but that may again be due to the earlier water damage. 
I forgot to write down which is which, oops.
 Its been a few weeks since we did this, and the results are surprising. I am hoping to do a post later this week on how all our seeds are doing, and how the seed starting is going. Keep an eye out for it.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Making our own

As you all know, last year was our first year with carrots. While we had an okay yield, part of that was due to them being too close together since Pooka kinda just through the seeds at the pot. Our radishes had a similar issue.
Radishes                                        Colored Carrots
I knew there had to be other ways and I had read about people using seed tape. But when I went looking for Pooka's colored carrots, they didn't come on seed tape (and the orange ones were so much more expensive). So that was out and I was seeing me and Pooka trying to use a measuring tape to plant the carrots.

A bit ago, I was reading another blog and they did a post on making Seed Mats. The lady there had been doing this for years and I knew I could adapt her napkin method into seed tape. This method would work for radishes too, but I don't see us growing those this year.

The supplies
Remember when I said I had family here a week ago, well thats when I made the seed tape. I sat at the kitchen table and measured and glued away while chatting. However, all that family togetherness seems to made me forget to get in process pictures. Oops. What you will need is super cheap toliet paper ($1 a roll here), elmer's school glue (which having kids you tend to have), a tape measure and carrot seeds (the 2 packages cost me $2.50 since I bought them when they were 40% off).

I made them in about 4 squares of toliet paper lengths since I wasn't entirely sure how big a planter I am using yet. This gives me some flexiblity. My carrot seeds need about 3" between each other, so I was able to do a row at the top and the bottom of the paper.

I put my first dot of glue down and put about 2-3 seeds on it. Then using my tape measure (since I am not great with spacial relations), I went 3" and put another dot of glue, then another, then another. And the same with the bottom row. Place 2-3 seeds on each dot and move to the next one. You may end up having to thin once they start sprouting, but this way you have a better shot at at least 1 sprouting per spot.

a good morning's work
In about an hour of just chatting with family and what not, I was able to make 4 lengths of colored carrot and 4 of orange carrot. I will probably need more, but this at least gives me a starting point to work from.

I had the plastic on the table from the night before (it saves clean up when we have guests), but I would recommend putting something down to protect your work surface. A couple of times the toliet paper tried to glue itself to the table, but with a gentle tug it usually popped free and I didn't rip anything. I then folded them up and put them in ziplock bags to hold them until planting time.

Awaiting warmer weather

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Trying to control seed chaos

If you have ever had kids, or lived with someone that wasn't you, well you know it can be hard to control other people's chaos. I am kinda a type A (The world is ending if something doesn't have a home) person. I will NEVER say my house is clean. I stink at cleaning, but tell me to organize something, find a home for something, find a way to handle something, that I do a bit too well most say.

The reason I say this is that a bit ago, I started freaking out. I think I ran around like Kermit the frog flailing my hands above my head saying "Pooka has seeds, and seeds will be lost, and they are everywhere" Pooka's love of gardening doesn't seem to be going away.... I REFUSE to find seeds everywhere.
Seeds everywhere
The first part, which was easy was finding a place to store the seeds and the garden stuff and the general "Where is the seed tape/shears/watering cans?" About mid last summer, the family was at Lowes, and we found a clearance rolling tool chest for like $75 (regular price was almost $250). I could tell you the long story, but in the end, Daddy gave it up to his little girl's gardening stuff so I wouldn't keep leaving/losing things on his workbench.

Well, fast forward a bit and the seed packets were in a ziplock bag. Not the best use of them, but it worked. Then Pooka and I found the clearance dill set. The wooden crate they said to plant it in is the perfect size for seed packets and fits wonderfully in one of the drawers. The crate is also great for pulling it in and out of the house, or the yard, or wherever we need to take the seeds.

The big crate of seeds
Now I went through a few weeks ago and realized that I didn't like this system. I was always afraid I would have seeds rolling everywhere. So I divided the seeds into 3 binder clips. One for flowers, one for herbs and one for vegetables. If I need a certain plant, say Roma Tomatoes, I grab the vegetable clip and I know they will be in there somewhere.

Sorted seeds
There is also 2 baggies in the crate that are labeled. These are our homemade seed tape that I will hopefully get around to telling you all about on another day.

Seed tape ready to go
The nice thing is this whole system is flexible.  Eventually, if Pooka keeps up with this, or if I take over it, we may need more crates, or I can just binder clip the tomatoes together, or the peppers. I always love being able to find what I need, know it will work in the future, and it means I can deal with other means of chaos, like 2 kids and the animals.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Grow ums

I have other posts I mean to put up today, but this afternoon, I went over to let the dog out (the seeds we have started are next to the back door) and low and behold, we found a surprise...

Lettuce sprouts
The lettuce and the bok choy from Pooka's Grow um's kit were growing.

Bok Choy sprouts
What are Grow um's you ask. Well, they are a little like combining gardening with the interwebz.  They give the kids and animated character of each plant, so the children can see what the food will look like once its grown. The kits Pooka got for her birthday did not come with a pan to hold the seeds. The directions said to use a pie pan, but we are using muffin tins since I didn't view the videos before I picked up the supplies. Plus, I could make the arguement that this way they are less likely to be mixed up.
Pooka recieved the Taco garden, the Herb garden, the Stir fry garden and the Ratattouille garden
They come in these little kits that contains 4 types of seeds, 8 dirt pellets, and the tags (although our herb set was missing the tags) and you plant them. However, to get the directions on how to do this, you have to go online and it has animated videos with the vegetables talking to the kids about how to care for them.

The contents of one grow ums kit
Pooka loves watching the videos and while she knows what they are doing, it is important to her to keep up on the directions. (In fact, she just came back and told me none of our seeds had any water at the bottom like Tomas Tomato said they needed).  The directions are fairly good, although I did have to go through a BUNCH of different areas (luckily they let you look ahead if you so desire) to find out what kind of spacing each plant needs, how much sunlight and other information you would normally find on a seed packet. They were very easy to plant (well as easy as most seeds are) although when doing 4 kits with 8 seed pellets per, it took a bit of time. Pooka had a very late night that day.
The first set done, we ended up with 6 muffin pans
I will say as of right now, they are giving Pooka a ton of fun. She is enjoying them and has already taken her magnifying glass to the new sprouts to see them up close. I suggested her microscope, and she was afraid she might damage the sprouts, so we decided to wait until later.  
Science anyone?
Hopefully the rest of these do well. I know Daddy is all excited since one of the gardens comes with Bok choy, something I didn't know he liked, and he is hoping to make stir fry out of it. If not, well even the grow ums say sometimes seeds don't start and to try again.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Color and Hope

Today is one of those cold, snowy nasty winter days. Not so nasty that you get the ever fun (and often dreamed about) Snow day but just those days that make you wish you could crawl back into bed with a couple of very warm children and go back to sleep till spring comes. These days are even worse when as a child, your parent seems to work more then they are home, and as a parent, you have to agree.

Today is one of those days. But, you're not here to read about my can't keep warm, that wind chills you in the house, grumpy mood. Nope you are here for the garden, and I thought I would show you how Pooka's holiday flowers are doing. They are doing quite better then I thought they would.

On Saturday Pooka woke up to this, the first bloom on her flower.

The first sign of color.
On Sunday, she awoke to twice as many blooms. That little girl was so excited to see something growing and changing. She decided that Green Thumb must be back from her vacation (or that maybe this was something Mommy couldn't kill)
Twice the color
Today Pooka woke up to a third bloom, and a kinda leaning plant. My sister who was in town over the weekend told me I might want to stake it up since apparently these things like to fall over. May I just say, she was right. You see, I went over to take the pictures for the blog, and well, it was leaning a bit. Okay alot.

So after a bit of thinking and braving the cold garage, I pulled out my trusty plant tape tying stuff and a bamboo stick I had planned to use with Pooka to make some art for the garden. 5 minutes later its looking alot better, if you ignore the brown rod and funny green tie on it. The stick should still work for crafting once the flowers are done.
No one said it had to look good.
While I was tying it up, I noticed something strange. Remember a bit ago when I said I thought my black thumb had returned and killed at least one of Pooka's flowers. Well, I may of been wrong since it seems to have rebounded slightly. It has no leaves, but maybe it will still bloom. It has grown quite a bit in the last few days. Maybe Pooka will still get some nice flowers from it. Maybe I just need to stop giving up on plants. I don't know. But in the end, she will be happy with whatever she gets, and I will maybe get a tad bit more hope that this cold NASTY weather will leave, soon and I can get some veggies in the ground since I am tired of buying them at the store.
I'm not dead yet.....
I hope you have some color around you and it reminds you that this weather will end eventually.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Busy busy busy

Sorry that there hasn't been an update recently. We sure have been busy here, and while busy seems to be our base setting, this last few days have been busier then most between my birthday, Valentines day and some family coming to visit.

I am planning on a more indepth post of a few things, but for now, lets just play catch up with what is going on here. I also got a minor game plan in place for the garden. But I am still trying to figure out how many we need to plant.

First off, Pooka managed to find some clearance herb seeds at Lowes about a week ago. I will get a post up on how we did them and how they are doing now in a few days. At least one set is already sprouting

$3 for the plant kit.. OKay
We also had our first Amaryllis bloom from Christmas. It has captured Pooka's attention and she is very interested in it. I think I may need to stake it up soon. Aunt T was here over the weekend and took some "art kid" shots for me. I admit her picture looks way better then anything I would have been able to do. I will admit that it has been nice to have some color while the outside world tries to decide what season it is.

Aunt T's Art Kid shot
Also on Saturday night, we started some seeds. Pooka was so happy to finally be able to get her hands dirty. We got the grow ums in seed starters.  Pooka got these from her scientific birthday party from Grandma. Now to see how well they grow. I know Pooka is excited to see how many eggplants we get. I may be starting these way early, but the website doesn't say when to start them, just to do so, and I figure I am starting it now, so they may be a tad too early yet.
Time to plant the grow ums

Last but not least, I was finally able to pick up some extra plastic for our table. This meant even while we had family here, I sat down and chatted to them while making our own seed tape. We made tape of the colored carrots and the regular orange carrots Pooka asked us to buy for Brother since he didn't like the colored ones.

Seed Tape for Carrots


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Return of my black thumb

Try as I might, it looks as if my black thumb may be returning, or maybe it is just that winter is here. I am not entirely sure which.

I know I haven't updated you all on how Pooka's garden has been fairing. Some of the indoor plants are doing... okay. Some, less so.

The indoor plants
These are Pooka's plants that are living next to our sunniest window. They seem to be doing okay most days, but I do try to remember to turn them every few days so they don't arch too much. None of Pooka's flowers from the holidays have bloomed yet. Only one has what looks like it will turn into a bloom. Sadly the one in the red pot lost a leaf after a kid ran into it. The plant was fine, but the leaf cracked and had to be removed.
Inside the root viewers
So far the first root viewer we planted has nothing but white mold growing in it. There are a few TINY sprouts, but they haven't really done much. Pooka is still checking the roots hoping to see something. These may be tried again once its warmer out and we get more sunlight on a regular basis. The second view came from Aunt Stephie for Pooka's birthday. Pooka planted some colored carrots in it, but they have not yet sprouted. Of course, we only planted those less then a week ago, so no surprise it hasn't sprouted yet.
Garlic.. doens't look so good.
The garlic seems to have finally been hurt by the temperature swings. Who knows, it could rebound and be fine, or I may be turning it into fertlizer in the next few weeks as I start preparing beds. The temps here have been rather extreme. One day its in the mid 60s, the next it can be below zero with windchill. As a result, I think the plants, the animals and the humans are all very confused on what season it is.
Sad looking pots
Here is what is still in pots on the back deck. The 2 lavendar plants are still holding on, but look rather sad. I am not sure if its they have too much water from all the rain, or the cold, or what, but they aren't dead yet. I have tipped them over a couple of times, but no water is coming out of the pots.  The little red pot of rosemary I am pretty sure its dead. The pot itself is cracked in half, probably from ice forming in the pot and the rosemary lost all its needles. The snapdragons in the black pot are holding on, but even they have seen better days. They are also the only plant still green besides the Christmas swag that we have yet to take down.

 The Lilacs however seem to be doing the best. The bigger of the 2 plants is doing wonderful and even has new buds on it. I am hoping to transplant these to their new homes this spring. The littler lilacs are doing okay I hope. They seem to be handling things okay. Of all the plants we have, these ar the 2 I cannot replace, and I do not want to lose. Please cross your fingers that they survive.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Begining again

Well, I suppose its time to begin again this year. While this doesn't mean we haven't been doing some fun things around here, it does mean I need to actually start thinking about the science garden. I think after last year the expectations have been raised.

2012 Tomato plants
Now, I know I won't be able to replicate the 13 foot tall tomato plants (at least we hope I won't), but we are hoping for a good yield. Our goal has always been to at least get out of the garden what we put in.  As such, I have started a cost into garden spreadsheet as well as we are going to weight the harvests on my new scale that I got for Christmas.  Hopefully, this will teach Pooka how much food costs and will work on her math skills as well as finding a quantative way to measure what we produce.

This year we are also adding a few new beds. First, the front yard had these "professionally" landscaped bushes right in front of the house. We never really liked them because A) they were planted too close together and B) they had great big sharp pointy thorns that loved to get embedded in my feet since I am a barefoot kinda Mommy. As a result, in the fall, we tore them out and have been giving the soil there a rest before we plant our herb garden out front.  This should (in theory) cut down on the number of pots we have on the back deck.
Goodbye evil bushes...
We are also extending Pooka's veggie beds around the shed as more "landscaping" beds. Putting a 2 ft bed all the way around 3 sides of the shed should give us an additional 50 sq ft of veggie space. This will probably be needed after Pooka's birthday and all the new seeds she got.

What does all these changes mean? They mean that I actually have to plan the garden this year. No more flying by the seat of my pants, or in this case plants. (I know, bad pun). So while I bury myself in paper and plans and seed packets to figure out what we are doing, just know that Pooka keeps looking at her catalogs and asking "Mommy, can we grow this too, and this and this..." Then I look at her, and throw away all I have done, and start over with the new plant added. The things we do for children.
Some of Pooka's seed catalogs. They are still increasing in number