Thursday, April 14, 2011

Wanted: Gardening Advice

I've always wanted to have a garden. I love the idea of it. The thought of just stepping outside and having fresh veggies that I know haven't been sprayed with who knows what or traveled how far or cost I don't even want to know... it's so appealing to me.

But I've never actually succeeded.

Three years ago (four?) I had an area in my backyard created to be my garden, but other than keeping it relatively free of weeds and successfully growing chives gone wild, it hasn't amounted to much. Every year, I say I want to do it, but the time gets away from me.

This year is going to be different. This year, I'm finally home full time and not working, so I don't have the excuse of not being able to keep up with weeds or to water. I can clear the ground of weeds and prepare it before it's too late to grow anything.

Besides, you should see the seed collection I have in my garage from past good intentions.

So I gathered up my egg and strawberry and blueberry containers. I bought new potting soil. I went through the seeds with the wee ones who thing this is the coolest idea ever and wanted to help me decide what to grow. Together, we put the seeds into the soil, as directed on the packages. We covered them gently and watered.

Altogether, we have French beans, kohlrabi, carrots (oops, learned just now I'm supposed to only sow those in their final spot to keep the roots from being crooked), peas, green beans, spinach, basil, parsley, cilantro, tomatoes, and roma tomatoes.

I'm worse than a new mother. I'm determined that my little greenhouses will sprout the best little veggies and herbs (and fruit, ahem tomatoes, I'm not forgetting you!) possible. I'm monitoring the soil level at least once a day, and I have checked the dirt to see if anything is sprouting more times than I can count.

Plus, I want to make sure they get plenty of sun. So I'm ahhhh moving them around my house. In the morning, I open the blinds on the east side of my house and set them in the sun. I shift them over a bit as the sun moves. Then I move them to the south side of my house to get the late morning/early afternoon sun. By 1:30, they're on the west side of the house soaking up the rays there, being shifted every hour or so to ensure they remain centered in the peak of the sun.

I've even taken them for an outing on the deck the two beautiful, warm, sunny days we had. Just for a few hours though - I wouldn't want the wind to damage them at all....

I'm insane.

Worst part? I've yet to prepare the ground, although it's currently 42 degrees and snow is forecast for Saturday. I have some time yet. I've bought new topsoil in addition to the Miracle Grow potting soil to mix with my current soil. But I'll get there.

Oh and umm, I don't know what to do next. How do I transplant seedlings? Do I really have to kill some of them to thin them out, or can I move them to other containers to continue growing? How big do they have to be before I move them? How warm does it have to be? How big do the holes have to be when I move them? Do I have to keep watering them when they're outside and the rain helps? Do I fertilize them once they're outside? How do I make my little babies thrive and be the best yummy carrots and tomatoes they can possibly be when they grow up?

I wasn't like this when the wee ones were born. I swear. So ummm, anyone have any gardening tips? Or better yet, want to come over to help me?

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Kori April 14, 2011 at 11:58 AM  

You shouldn't take the lids off your mini-greenhouses until all the seeds have sprouted; they will stay plenty moist, too, so no worries there. When it comes to pulling the weaklings, YES, do it, and be ruthless. It really is the best for everyone, killing one or two for the greater good and all that. :) And mostly, have fun! I have my own little greenhouses going, too, and can't wait to transplant! (in like two more months, here!). You just tap the bottom of your containers gently and they should come right out-but don't forget to "harden" them first!

Pat April 14, 2011 at 12:07 PM  

Adding to Kori's comments: Amen to thinning, or you'll end up with lots of not very big plants crowded together. You should have one good strong plant per hole. I dig the hole the size that the seed packet reccommends, and then add a little fertilizer at the bottom of the hole, then a little on top after they're planted. Make sure all chance of freezing is over before you plant them in the garden, and do let them harden outside first before planting. Also, definitely follow the seed packets' recommendations for spacing the plants. If they get rained on, you don't need to water them.

The roots are very resilient--if some of them break off while you're removing them from your seed beds, it won't kill the plant.

Pat April 14, 2011 at 12:08 PM  

OOps..recommends, not reccommends!

Raevyn April 14, 2011 at 12:34 PM  

if your town, or one near your town has an independent nursery, or feed store, they often have great information on local gardening recommendations and guidelines as far as when to transplant, etc. I used to live in a tiny town that was surrounded completely by a larger city, and had its own water supply that played havoc on certain plants and shrubs, the little organic gardening center nearby had wonderful information on what grows best in both the city and the tiny town with their different water issues.

Debbie April 14, 2011 at 2:32 PM  

Arden is desperate to grow a garden and as you know, our urban living is not conducive to much agriculture. I will help her witha few pots of herbs and maybe a tomato plant here but can we come out to your house and help you plant? I try to do my planting/ transplanting on the weekend after Mother's day, because that is official end of frost risk in Chicago.

Not a Perfect Mom April 14, 2011 at 5:17 PM  

wow...I wasn't that committed to keeping my kids in the sunlight when they all had jaundice as a newborn...
good luck...

Tara R. April 14, 2011 at 7:38 PM  

I have a brown thumb... I won't be of any help to you. I still haven't prepared my garden beds and it's been in the 70s around here for weeks. I need to get started too.

Anonymous April 14, 2011 at 11:53 PM  

I cant garden. Seriously, I suck at it. The only thing I can grow are tomatoes - and I dont like tomatoes!

Susie April 15, 2011 at 8:38 AM  

You have gotten some good suggestions. I would add to start with some good soil with good drainage will help:-)

septembermom April 15, 2011 at 3:24 PM  

I need to read through all these comments. I need a lot of help in the gardening department :)

Michelle April 17, 2011 at 10:08 PM  

Kori - I actually opened the lids to see if anything was sprouting and ... it was. But not my seeds. The soil was actually MOLDING! I crossed my fingers and hoped that the seeds would still sprout and mold would dry up, and thankfully it did :)

Pat - I haven't been able to bring myself to thin... yet. I'll update pics soon. How do you harden them? Do you mean just to let the soil dry out more so it's easier to move them?

Raevyn - That's a great idea. My church actually has one coming up, but it's a time I can't go. I'll have to ask some more places!

Debbie - YES. And .... YES. Yes yes yes yes yes! Miss you guys!

Not a Perfect Mom - Ummm when my newborn had jaundice... me neither. That's partly why this cracks me up. But don't worry, I've gotten better about it once the seeds sprouted. :)

Tara - So do I, which is partly why I'm paranoid about this. Wish me luck.

The Blue Zoo - I would love it if my tomatoes grew, even if they were the only things. I've since added tomatoes actually!

Susie - I have no idea how to see if my soil is good, but we'll hope so. I actually bought some good topsoil to mix in with what we have naturally, so I'm hoping that will help, or at least the combo of new good soil and loosening everything up will.

Kelly - Me, too. Wish my luck on my journey :)

Pat April 18, 2011 at 7:03 PM  

Harden the seedlings means leaving them in their pots outside day and night for several nights (when the temp will not drop too close to 32 at night)before you plant them in your garden. It causes their stems and leaves to grow thicker and harder than when they were new little seedlings, making them hardier for life in the garden.

A good tip for tomato plants, which I learned from our local nursery guy, is to plant one third of the tomato plant's stem in the ground (below the surface), leaves and all. It will then send out many more roots from the underground stem, causing it to flower and bear fruit sooner. It works better when the young plant (before planting it in the garden) is over a foot tall.

Michelle April 21, 2011 at 8:28 PM  

Pat - Ahem. Yes. Of course. That's exactly what I thought hardening meant. Yep. Just testing you. Good idea on the tomato plants though - I'll have to file that one away!

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