Sunday, March 31, 2013

Trying to involve everyone

Happy Spring everyone.

Yesterday was a busy day partially becuase it was a nice day and partially because we will be spending today with family. One of our trips out including going to Lowes. This is a scary place for Daddy this time of year since Pooka (and I) get a bit excited with the new plants coming in.

Well, I realized earlier this week that Brother's strawberry plant didn't survive the winter. We had 3 of 4 containers of strawberries survive, but his just didn't make it. I honestly felt bad since that was HIS plant in this whole garden.

Skip ahead to us walking into Lowes. I looked at Brother and said "Hey, I meant to tell you your strawberry plant died, sweetie."

He did look rather upset, which I couldn't blame him. Daddy gave me the "Why are you bringing this up now?" look. So I looked at Brother and said "Now, I didn't get a chance to talk to Dad about this, but if you want to get another plant to be YOUR plant, we can do that."

This cheered Brother up, but he had no idea what he wanted to grow. For a bit he wanted to grow more strawberries since he wants us to make him more strawberry syrup (a new homemade favorite that has surpassed storebought syrup in his world), but we decided to look at a plant that would be his. He and I walked the garden area alone, and he found some blueberry bushes that he liked.

Brother's new blueberry bush
I agreed after making sure we could container garden it (I am not ready to put one in the ground) and he picked one out. We also picked out a brand new pot that would be his pot. They didn't have a blue one, but he was happy with a green one.
Brother's new pot with dirt
Later that afternoon, Brother and I got it in it's new home. It fit really well, and hopefully this will provide us with at least a pint of blueberries. If we get that much out of it over the course of the summer, and if it like the strawberries where we get one or 2 a day, thats enough for snacking on.
A happy new little blueberry plant

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Finally one job done.. 800 to go.

The nice weather Thursday evening was too good to ignore. In fact, I had already worked that day and the call of spring got me. Pooka and I both had energy to burn. With Daddy home, we decided to finally tackle one of those small jobs that will make a huge improvement.

As you remember, we replanted the garlic bed due to the garlic having come up over the winter and a fairly large weed problem.
A replanted garlic bed.
Well, being as this is at the front of our house, there were a few reasons we wanted to make it look better. Part of it was that we really didn't want to have to continue to fight the weeds, while we hoped to have to water less this year. Part of us even we wanted it to look nice. Now, if you know Daddy and I, we are not really form over function people, but the front was in really bad shape before we pulled out the bushes.

We decided to mulch the bed and we hoped it would look more "finished" after that.Daddy opened and poured the bags of mulch while Pooka and I used rakes to spread it out. I admit, I forgot to get a picture of it as we were working, but I think the finished product looks a hundred times better.

Now with Mulch.
We did lose a good chunk of our craft stick markers while we were raking the mulch out. Pooka loved being able to go collect them out of the bed. So now we will have to wait and see where the garlic pops up.

Garlic bed, other view and a bit of a Pooka with her little rake
While we were laying the mulch, we did try to be careful while laying it around the existing garlic plants. Hopefully this helps them snap back and we will get a good yield of garlic. Even if we don't the front garlic bed looks alot better. We are talking of next year maybe putting a it more stone work around it to finish it out like the rest of the beds. However, that won't be done till next year. One project down, 800 more to go. Please stay spring, we have alot to do yet. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Spring surprises

It seems we have finally found the begining of spring. The air outside is 54, the sun is shinning the snow is finally melting away and we have plants out in the sun.
Plants enjoying the spring sun
This is only some of the pots and the ones that have been in and out a bit. The peas may even go in the ground as soon as Monday. Turns out those guys handle cold better then I thought, so might as well get them in and let them go to town.
Lilacs are alive...
The larger of the lilacs is happy and budding away. We knew this one would be strong and happy. The littler ones seem to have had a harder time with the winter, but I still hold out hope they will come back.
Strawberry are still with us

I went out front to check some things there and found that our strawberry plants had survived the winter. Not all are unscathed, and some had a nice coating of dead strawberry leaves but they looked really good.
Even the seeded strawberries are alive
I was even surprised that the baby strawberry pot we planted last year still had some signs of life with green leaves. Its only one or 2, but I am wondering if we can nurse it along and keep it. We did lose brother's strawberries as far as I can tell, but it is still early enough, I will let him pick something else to put in it. Who knows, maybe he will try blueberries or something.

Welcome spring, we have missed you.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Deep thoughts

In the past, I have tried to keep this blog lite and fun, but today, I find it hard. The real world is closing in on our little Science Experiment. Not only is winter still here and arguing about leaving, but the world goes on out there.
Winter storm Virgil's little present
As I face the things around me, I find it hard to be cheery. I am sure come Saturday when I get at least the pea plants in the ground (it is suppose to be in the 50s by then), I will be cheery. But until then, I am just going to post things that make me smile. Things that I am hoping the foot of snow on my back broccoli beds melting will turn into a reminder that life goes on. So until then we wait to see....
Snapdragons from

Snap dragons that remind me of summers in my Grandmother's yard.

Stargazer lilies that remind me of the day I married the man I love.

 Butterflies that the kids raised and are looking forward to doing so again.
Tomatoes, tomatoes and fresh produce everytime I walk outside. Hopefully these images can get all of us through until we see some warm weather and some signs of summer.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Snow..again... ON SPRING BREAK

Like most of the midwest we are digging ourselves out of winterstorm Virgil. All I keep thinking is I had asked for a snowday, I had hoped and a couple of times begged for the elusive snow day. That one day where you get a break from the hussle and bussel of life, even if it means you are stuck inside with kids having personal space issues.
Snow hiding my lilacs
Well, I finally got my snow day... The first day of Kiddo's spring break. Does anyone else see the issue here. Pooka said this morning it shouldn't be spring break, it is winter break.
The garlic is under there, I think
The local radio station reported that it was about 10" deep as of 4 am this morning. I can believe that and probably more since it is STILL snowing. At least we went from a winter weather warning to a "Special weather statement".

The deck before I shoveled for the dog
I have spent part of the morning shoveling a walk way out the deck for our dog. She is big enough to walk on/through the snow, but this keeps snow from falling into my house and since she adores snow, even in her advanced age, she will be in and out alot today. I don't really want to spend my day using a spoon to get snow out of the door track or cleaning up avalanches of snow.

Pooka's picture of the same spot after I shoveled.
The funniest part, I shoveled this really nice walk way for the dog, she comes up the OTHER stairs and then tries to go over the drift. She eventually went around the table to get to the "path" but that was as far as I was willing to shovel. Maybe I can send Kiddo out later to shovel the deck, I mean enjoy it.
Part of the dog's snow path
Fortunatly for me, I don't have to work today due to my job being one of the many places that closed, especially since the interstates are closed. So I am going to use my free day off and try to be productive, or maybe I will just cuddle up with the kids with a bowl of popcorn and some cocoa and watch a movie.  While I finally got my snow day, it is suppose to be almost 60 on Friday, so someone somewhere is rather confused.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Pooka's sunflowers vs. Commercial ones

Last year we tried saving sunflower seeds. Thinking this would be a good test and we wouldn't be out much. We had planted commercial sunflowers, but the volunteer sunflowers (the ones that grew from seeds left there by previous plantings) seemed to have done better. Being that we didn't want to discriminate, we harvested all the seeds. Some Pooka and I roasted about half of them and saved the other half. 

The Pooka's sunflowers
Pooka's sunflowers as we have come to call them have been given away. They were in the goodie bags for Pooka's party and some were given away at our impromptu seed swap. But the real reason to keep some were to start our own seeds. Maybe one day I can stop buying sunflower seeds.

Well, this year I wanted to see the difference between a Pooka Sunflower vs. the mammoth sunflowers that we had planted last year. Being the scientists we are, the experiment was born to test for differences. First Pooka's sunflowers and the Mammoth sunflowers were planted in the same seed starter (next to one another) and both were given 9 cells with 2-3 seeds per cell.

Mammoth sunflowers vs Pooka's sunflowers
On first glimpse, you can see there is a very large difference in the germination rate between the Mammoth ones vs Pooka's. The Mammoth ones (seen on the left) almost all sprouted and grew quite well. The Pooka sunflowers only about 3 of the cells sprouted. Or so we thought.

Given a few days, a few more sprouted. All have survived their transplants into the pots. They don't stand as high due to the bit of a light issue we have (aka, they are doing alot of reaching towards the sun).

Pooka vs. Mammoth sunflowers
At this stage, the Pooka sunflowers have now reached 4 pot which holds the sunflowers from 6 of the 9 cells as compared to the 8 pots that holds 8 of the 9 cells from the Mammoth sunflowers. The Pooka ones are smaller, and there are fewer in the same spots. The mammoth ones are growing fast and seem to be doing very well. The real test comes when we put them outside and see how they do and how they flower. But for now, I think the Pooka sunflower's are doing okay for a first attempt.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The groundhog was on the take.

I am really done with this whole winter thing. I woke up to ICE on my car yesterday. I swear it is as if Mother Nature said "Haha, you have every single one of your pots in use and more plants to put in them. I am going to mock you by being 18 degrees when you woke up this morning."

Now, I try not to get upset about things I cannot do anything about, but when you have a 2+ foot tall pea plant growing in the house, as well as 12" tall bean plants. I think I get the right to make one small grump.
26" tall pea plant.
Not to mention the bench that goes under our front room window is now accross the room and has broccoli sitting on it. It is keeping some random toys, Darth Vader and Pooka's magnifying glass company.
Newly transplanted Broccoli sitting on the bench.
I need the weather to warm up at least some. I am not ask for 70 degree days here, (although we did have them this time last year). Nope, I am just asking for 40 degree days where I can put the peas and the beans and the broccoli outside, since they all love those temps. I need my pots back for other plants. I really don't want to have to buy more pots, but I am starting to think I may need to.
I am all out of pots and tables.
I think the groundhog that said spring was coming was on the take. I bet he got paid a nice big salad for lying to us. The little liar.

Now if you will excuse me, I need to go buy some pots and a couple more tables... 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Garlic, Garlic, Garlic....

Today Pooka and I replanted the garlic bed with 88 cloves of garlic. We tried planting some garlic in the fall, but after a very... unusual winter (warm and cold spells alternating almost daily).  The garlic had sprouted early and had been looking pretty sad. The lady at the nursery thought our garlic might pull through, but I have my doubts. Especially since we were having problems with weeds in that bed.
The Garlic looking fairly sad in Early Feb
The general decision made by Pooka, Daddy and I to hedge our bet. On Friday while I was at worked, Daddy and Pooka tilled up most of the garlic bed.  Some garlic was left to see what would happen with it the stuff that we had planted earlier. Pooka and Daddy even went through and placed some weed block fabric on it while cutting holes for the established garlic. The plan was as soon as we got the garlic planted we would mulch and see if it helped with weeds and watering this summer.

Garlic bed tilled and weed fabric in place
Pooka and I tried Saturday to plant more garlic, but we found the weed block fabric was causing more troubles then helping, so we decided to skip the fabric.

Sunday Pooka and I went out in a chilly 38 degree weather and planted most of the garlic. The ground was dry enough, but we wanted to make sure the garlic was in before the cold snap coming early this week. Pooka was out there in a hat, and mittens and her winter coat running and playing and collecting rocks and sticks for her "collection." She did help with a good chunk of the garlic, but being 5 digging a hole while Mommy measures the spots is not so entertaining for a kid.

We got it all in, I was going to use our spoon trick, but ran out of spoons. Pooka grabbed her trusty craft sticks and now we have a little graveyard in the front yard. By the time we finished, we were all a bit frozen.  We did have to remember to leave a spot for my Grandmother's lilac that will be going in once it warms up. It is the bigger looking knife with some white rocks in it. I know the garlic maybe close now, but as the lilac gets bigger each year, we will be planting less and less around it.
88 bulbs of garlic ready to go.
The mulch is going to wait till after the "wintry mix" on Monday to see if it helps kill the weeds in the established area. If not, hopefully the mulch will. Let's hope we finally get some luck with the garlic.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Our little seeds are growing up

This week we have been super busy here at the science garden. We have started to seriously transplant the larger plants into 6" pots to "hold them over" until they can go outside. Some I am hoping to get outside sooner rather then later, others well, they will need to wait a bit longer.

Peas, beans and sunflowers..oh my..
As you can see, we have been transplanting alot. This table shows all the sunflowers, Pooka's saved seeds from last year as well as the commercial "mammoth" sunflowers.  The differences between them is another post.  This also has our pea plants as well as some of the green beans. I am hoping in the next week or so it will get warm enough I can start taking some of them outside to get better light.

Snowing on the peas
I tried briefly on Wednesday to put plants outside. I had the newly transplanted sunflowers and the peas outside to get some of the precious sunlight. I had noticed it was clouding over so I pulled the sunflowers in. Not 5 minutes after I had put the sunflowers in the house we got snow, in MID MARCH. At least he peas didn't seem to mind.
Green beans with the seed starters
This is the front room. It is a bit crowded currently with seed starters still floating around and the green beans that are living on that table. We had 8 green beans that were ready for tranplant out of 9. I noticed yesterday it looks like the 9th is starting to sprout as well.
More transplants withs the tomato and pepper seeds
Here is the third table we had to put up this week. We were running out of horizontal surface in front of windows. In front you see the tomato and pepper seeds, but in the pots are the Growum's tomatoes and half of the cilantro starters from Growum's. All seem to have taken to their transplant well, but I do worry they may not be getting enough sun there. Come on warm weather so we can move some things outside.

Remember the flower Pooka got from her birthday from her Great Aunt. Well it flowered this week, giving us a very pretty red bloom. Pooka loves that it is red since red is one of her top 2 favorite colors (purple being the other one). I swear its a red, even if the picture makes it more orange looking. It has been nice to have a real spark of spring while we wait for the real spring to come.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Well, its official... I have a problem

I think Pooka and I both need a 12 step program for buying seeds.

It is spring break for half the family around here (Pooka's spring break does not line up with Brother's break) so Pooka and I have had a bit of extra time on our hands. It's been nice being able to get caught up on silly things like dr and vet appointments, transplanting, ect. It has just been nice being home.

On Tuesday, Pooka and I had to go to Walmart. Normally not a place I am likely to get into trouble (mostly due to the fact that I hate that place), however this particular day, I did. We went intially for dirt (we were planning to transplant sunflowers and green beans), and a few other odds and ends. Turns out, the dirt is so wonderfully located next to the seeds.
More seeds... again
I told Pooka no more seeds the instant we saw them. In fact, we walked away to find the dirt we needed, but we had to walk back past the seed display to get the rest of the things we needed. It was then, I had a moment. Call it a moment of insanity, call it a moment of stupidity, call it a moment of weakness, call it a moment of emotional breakdown.. I am not quite sure, but in that moment, I had to make her happy. Especially when Pooka asked for $0.50 red sunflower seeds. It was a whole half a dollar for something she had been asking for awhile about. She even said she would hold onto them for next year. She would put them in the box and wait, but could we just get them now.

Next to it was $0.20 zucchini seeds. Again, not something we wanted to grow originally, but the ones Pooka recieved as a birthday gift in the grow ums still have not sprouted a root or a leaf. Pooka has been watching them daily and worrying what we will do if they don't grow. I swear part of me felt like if I just pony up the 20 cents, maybe I could protect her from the other bigger hurts in the world. Hurts that are coming, and that can't be solved with a simple package of seeds.

New seeds and new seed pots

We walked out of there, with 2 new sets of seeds and some new peat seed starter cups. I was looking at them and Pooka got very wise and said, "Mommy we can save the rest for next year."

I realize that you get what you pay for when it comes to seeds, and I don't expect much from either set, but for $2, I can't get one zucchini for that price. If I get 1 zucchini and 1 sunflower I will consider myself paid back. If we don't get anything from either, well its not like I am out $10 or more.

We came home and spent part of what was suppose to be transplanting time on planting her new seeds. Then I had to find space for them on the ever growing garden tables. I managed to get them all the peat pots in the roaster pans. I did have to remove a snapdragon cup in the process.
Everyone in their new home.
What made this whole scene worth it? The giant smile on Pooka's little face when I told her she could have her red sunflowers and even zucchini, and then later that afternoon once Daddy was home and I had confessed what I did (only to get the "this will be interesting" head roll). Pooka ran up, stood on a chair and hugged me and said "Thank you Mommy, you are the best Mommy ever." She even went as far as to have one leg up in the air. For part of one day, I made a little Pooka happy. I will take that hug and those words over all the money and the plants and the stars in the world. That is the reason we do this, to make her happy. The science, the learning, the food, is all second to giving her one thing that is completly and utterly about making her happy.

Monday, March 11, 2013

A different kind of tray

All our trays for seed starting this year were bought as clearance at the end of last year. As a result, I had a "take what you get" thought process (especially when they are on clearance for $2 a set). This also meant we had to branch out a bit from our usual trays and try new ones. One of the new ones was the Burpee Self watering XL Cell seed starting system.
A new kind of seed starter to try
The directions were okay, but it took a bit more prep then "rehydrate pellets and plant." First you have to put the "stand" in the bottom tray, then wet and place this mat over it, making sure the ends of the mat reach the water you place in the bottom.
Stand and Mat
 Then you place the seed starter cells on top of the mat. I will admit at this point I was getting a tad concerned that the whole set up would be a bit top heavy and would be an issue when a Pooka is looking at it. She is a gentle creature, but she gets excited.

Cell trays put on top
After the top is put in, then you rehydrate the pellets which expand to fill the entire cell. This is nice since you have a bit more room then a pellet, but it is also hard for a Pooka to keep her fingers out of. She loves getting dirty. We planted our peppers in the 2 sets of cells as well as the celery and some scallions.

Cells rehydrated
 The kits did come with this nice guide, but I didn't see the markings on the tray until after I used a sharpie to mark the letters.
Planting guide
We planted these cells about 18 days ago and I will say I have not had much "sprout" in them yet. The scallions started recently and the celery made an appearance yesterday. I started seeing roots come out of the pepper seeds yesterday as well.

This may be partially since Pooka loves to plant things on top of the dirt so she can watch the roots come out, but the "greenhouse lid" doesn't fit very tight either. As of this point, I am not sure I would buy these again. We have had less of an issue with white mold in them, but I think my complete decision on them will have to wait a bit longer to see what happens here.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Hello Peas and friends

Now that all the seeds were started, I realized that the pea plants were going to need more then a pellet fairly soon.  If you remember, it was already 8" tall in 6 days. Well by the time we transplanted it, it was closer to 10" tall.

8" tall in a few days

Well, I knew the pea plant wasn't going to last in that pellet much longer, especially since it was more then likely going to fall over and not get back up. So Pooka and I got some potting soil and decided to plant.

Clearance pots are good

 Earlier in the week we had been out and found these brown pots at Meijers for $1 each. I knew I would need some this size for that akward stage when the plant is bigger then a seedling, but not quite ready for the garden (especially if the winter continues to linger). Now it is true that I have pots very very similar to these in the shed, but remember, the shed is still snowed in currently.

Add a coffee filter

Add our signature coffe filter to the bottom of the pot. I am not 100% sure it works, but it has seemed to do really well for us, I don't have many problems of losing dirt, and I know they decompose into the soil, making a bit more compost with a reason.

A bit of potting soil.

Add a bit of dirt to keep them fed....

The bigger pea plant

Finally, we added the pea plants in 2 pots,                            

2 bok choy plants

The bok choy in 2 pots. They look a tad worse for the wear, but I did just water them with the spray bottle.

Lettuce anyone

and the 2 grow um's lettuce into pots. Now I do admit the lettuce and bok choy (once we had started to transplant them, turned out to not be as ready as we thought. However, they are still alive, so I am counting it as something.

The 2 pea plants also got a nice bamboo stick to crawl up. And how is the larger of the pea plants doing, well look for yourself. Here it is, over 12" tall and reaching for the stars. I think I need to get a meter stick.

Sunflowers awaiting their turn


What is next you ask... Well I think next the sunflowers will need a similar treatment as the pea plants. I think Green Thumb has returned from her vacation is is ready to be back at work.  But more about the sunflowers in another post.