Monday, February 28, 2011

Tomato Update

Our hydroponic AeroGarden tomato seems to be slowing down.
The grow light is as high as it goes and I'm worried that the leaves will get burnt, but there's nothing I can do about it.

The root system does seem to be really healthy. It's soaking up water so much that we have to water it every day to keep it at the high level.

The flowers are a hopeful sign though. We'll see what happens.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Orchid Help

My orchid was doing really well.

That extension off the main stalk was growing well and it seemed to be thriving.

Then one morning I woke up to this leaf.

Should I be concerned? A quick Google search says that yellowing of old leaves is normal, but I'm really nervous.
Does anyone have experience with orchids?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Compacted Soil

It's so heavy!!!

(I'm pretty sure he's saying "Seriously? You're taking a picture? Help me!")

And once you start scraping away at it you get a lot without making much of a dent.

Definitely worth the money.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Before we joined a CSA last year I'd never had kale. Now I'm addicted. Kale chips. Stewed kale. Kale with bacon and garlic. It's so incredibly delicious. And did you know it's one of THE best vegetables for you? So many vitamins and nutrients that keep you healthy and raring to go so you can tend to your ever-growing garden. Yum.

So when I went to plan my first garden kale was first on the list.

And according to my planting calendar it's about time to sow the seeds indoors, so off we go.

Tiny little round seeds. In the seed started mix in the seedling tray. Light on. Cover on. Heat pad on. Grow babies grow!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Transplanting Peas

The peas were getting huge. I knew it was time to transplant them to a larger container. We apparently sowed them just a bit too early so they'll be living inside just a little longer. I'll still have to acclimate them to the outdoors eventually, but right now we still can't get our porch door open because of the GIANT snow bank in front of it, so that's not going to be happening soon.

We got the pot - one of the MANY five-gallon black plastic pots from Griffin - and filled it with our fluffed up soil (that we mixed with some of our fertilizer in a big trash can) and wet it down. Then we gently massaged the seedlings out of their tray. I was thrilled to see some extensive root structure, but was a little shocked at how dry the soil was, despite my regular watering.

We used the dowel rods to create a trellis to give the pea shoots some support. I think some plain dowels and a hair band make a pretty awesome trellis, no?
Since we had six plants and 3 dowels, it made sense to put two by each dowel to offer support. Planting, watering and we're all set!

Oh, and I put some of those fertilizer stakes we bought in. The package suggested putting in 6 around each plant. Gosh, can't imagine why they suggest that you use so many all at once. Couldn't be so you run out and need to go buy more of their product, right? Whatever. I put a few in around the dowels and called it a day.

Right now they'll be living in the front room by our big picture window to get the light and hopefully they can move outside in about 2 weeks. We'll see how they grow!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Gardening Watchdog

So as a newer gardener, and one starting a garden far away from anyplace I've gardened before, sometimes it's hard to choose where to go online, or around town, to get the best supplies.

I happened across this site the other day and it appears to be good.

Has anyone else used it?

People have gone on and left reviews about products, customer service and general opinions for well over 2,000 different suppliers. It seems like a great resource.

What did people do before the internet?

Monday, February 21, 2011

So Many Supplies

Well the time came to buy all of our supplies. I know a lot of people go around their neighborhood and try to find things they can use as containers, but our neighborhood is mostly residential and families and it's the dead of winter and people aren't putting things out. And I like the idea of having the correct size container and knowing it will work. I do plan on looking around college campuses during move-out in May to see if I can find containers that can be used next year though.

We also needed potting soil. Obviously you can just dig up your backyard and put it in a container and hope it works. Oh, and we have no yard to dig up anyway so that's out. We wanted to go to a place that would have things in our price range and would have everything in one place. In the end we did well on one of those two. I did some research and found a greenhouse and nursery supply company about half an hour away. I pored over their online catalog and determined that they definitely had what we wanted. Which is good since we don't own a car and had to rent one. But Zipcar makes that pretty easy.

Saturday morning we took off to Tewksbury. The showroom of Griffin Nursery & Supply wasn't anything super showy, but it had the basics. I knew what I wanted.Or at least that's what I thought I wanted. The very helpful guy in the showroom suggested we go with something a bit more basic because it's cheaper and serves the same purpose. We convinced me that it was a better way to go, which worked well since you have to buy by the case/sleeve/pack at a nursery supply company. So we ended up with 45 five-gallon pots. There is NO way we'll use all of those this year, but we can give them to friends, we won't have to go back for approximately 80 years. They aren't quite as aesthetically pleasing, but we have some ideas to fix that. ;)

We also got saucers to go underneath them. That will protect our wooden deck from getting water logged.

Next up was soil. Again I went with the suggestion of the Griffin employee and got baled potting mix. It's compacted which means it's only 3.5 cubic feet, but once you've "fluffed" it up it can fill about 250 two-gallon pots. Seriously! I think that should absolutely keep us in business. Then we got some fertilizer to go in the potting soil to keep it going until we can add our worm castings.

The only thing that Griffin didn't have was trellises and cages (for peas, beans, tomatoes and peppers). The plant cages can wait a bit since it's too early for the big plants, but the peas are ready so we needed to stop somewhere for a trellis. Home Depot seemed to be the solution with some cheap dowel rods. While we were there we saw some Fiskars plastic tools for just 99 cents. They looked great and it can't be bad to have a few extra tools, right?

And they had some interesting organic fertilizer stakes and I love trying new things, so I grabbed those too.

We'll see how it all works, but now that we have all the supplies it's really time to get planting!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Taking Over

Hmmm... once long ago I had a dining room that was clean and sleek and modern.

Now it's full of plants and planting supplies.

Looks so much better this way!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sci Fi Flower

The amarylis seed bub is getting bigger and bigger. I'm somewhat convinced that a small dragon is going to emerge from it in the night and eat us. Either that or there's a fairy city in there. Because that's way too big to just be seeds. Right?

Does anyone watch those fantastically terrible movies on the SyFy channel. (And really what's with the "y"s?) I think they should do MegaSeed vs. DinoRoots or something similar. Anyone have other titles for a movie starring this beast?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Memory Lane

A little trip down memory lane for Friday.

My parents recently sent me this when they found it cleaning out their house. It's from a project I did for French class in high school. The translation of my wonderfully advanced French at the time is:

The garden is magnificent in summer. My family works in the garden. We plant tomatoes, corn, potatoes and peppers too. Once, our friend Anne h
elped us. She planted beautiful flowers.

I'm so glad my French improved before I moved there. :)

I was looking at the photo remembering the garden my parents have. Then I really looked at the photo...

The sunflowers look great. And, wait a second, I'm so skinny! I'm so TAN! When was I ever that tan? I'm blonde. I look out a window on a mildly sunny day and get sunburned. How did I manage that? And why am I wearing a bandana on my head? Was that a good look?

Oh memory lane. Maybe I'll get that tan this summer working on my urban container garden! Hmmm... the full time job in an office might interfere with that tan.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I Lost

So I lost the battle against the seeds.

It was a rough day at work and apparently I don't eat my emotions, I buy seeds with them.

Two different companies and 11 different types of seeds. When I get them in the mail I'll let you know what I got.

Anyone want to guess? They're all pretty random so you have a good chance of getting at least one right.

I should work on my self-control or I'll be wading through a sea of seeds.


Ok, I've spent too much time looking at seeds online.

It's so tempting to buy one of everything I can possibly find and try it all. And with the gro-light and heating pad it's even more tempting because my chances of successful seedlings are so much higher.

For example:
How cool are these? They don't even look like plants!*seeds/m.html?_nkw=&_armrs=1&_from=&_ipg=&_trksid=p3686

And how about this? Heirloom vegetables from Italy? Delicious!

I think what my living room has been missing all these years is a banana tree.

Someone stop me before seeds take over my house!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

So the worms...

You may remember that last week we got our next shipment of worms. The ones that are supposed to eat a pound of food a day - give or take. So we put some food in. Not tons, but some and hoped they'd go to town. We did our best to leave them alone for an entire week, but we didn't do too well.

We checked and they seemed really sluggish and the bin seemed really cold. We do keep our apartment close to 60 degrees (hey, gas is expensive - putting on another sweater is not) so we moved them a bit closer to the electric heater we have so they'd warm up just a bit. It definitely seemed to improve them. They were much more active and again, I really tried to leave them alone.

I have a habit of making my expectations unachieveably high and I guess you could say at least I'm consistent? I wasn't really expecting to open the tub and see perfect compost, but I was expecting to see some significant changes. Not so much.

Original food put in on the left and after a week with the worms on the right.

You can tell the worms have done their work, but not quickly. I wonder if it's because we put in full size food and worm mouths are really tiny. We've been saving food scraps all week and happened to have the food processor out from a recipe earlier in the evening so Jared suggested just putting it all in the food processor and making a smoothie for the worms.

I think it was a good idea and I think they'll like it, but trust me you're glad I didn't take a photo of it. I babysit enough that not a lot grosses me out anymore, but J's gag reflect was working overtime. What's tasty for worms is definitely not good-looking for humans.

I'll let you know how the worms do from here on out...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tomato Update 4

The most exciting update this week about the tomato is the new growth. Not just leaves and stems and stalks...

... but flower buds! That means blooms and then tiny tomatoes!

I've read that lightly spraying the buds and blooms with water will increase the overall yield of the plant (does anyone know why in non-super-science terms?) so I've been gently spraying the plant every other day or so.

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this about the Aero-Garden, but there's nutrients that come with it. They come in small packs and you add them every two weeks. We've been good about adding them, but the leaves still look a little droopy. I'm hoping it's not a bad sign. I just want some homegrown tomatoes!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Eat More Veggies!

Alanna over on A Veggie Venture just had a great post about how to eat more vegetables. I think it's really easy to grab something on the go and it might taste good, but not be great for you. And with so many delicious vegetables and fruits why not eat more?

I think the best way to eat more veggies is to get more connected with your food. If you don't have space for a garden (I didn't last year) try joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Knowing where your food is coming from and trying new veggies will definitely get you eating more. And if you know you have another delivery of veggies on their way you have some extra motivation to eat up!

If you do have a little room, even just a porch like me, try planting a pot with a veggie plant. Watching it grow, tending to it, seeing how awesome it is when seedlings come up and then get flowers and finally food is so rewarding. Oh - and homegrown just tastes so much better you'll really look forward to it!

5 Days Later

The seed packet days peas take 10-15 days to sprout.

I must have some seriously over-achieving peas.

It's only been five days!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Garden Center

Gayla over on You Grow Girl has a great blog. I loved her book Grow Great Grub, so I guess it makes sense I'd like her blog.

She had a post about her lithops seedlings. I'd never heard of Lithops so of course I had to check it out. They're amazing little succulents that look like rocks and then bloom. The "rocks" are actually the leaves.

So of course now I want to try my hand at succulents. An Ebay seller was recommended and I think I'm going to buy some seeds, but that means I needed the correct soil which meant a trip to the garden center. Such a dangerous place.
I found some amazing examples of succulents, but I'm hooked on the feeling of planting and then seeing a seedling, so I'll let you know what I buy and plant!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Flower Sex

I think I need to find my boyfriend a hobby.

In November I bought an amarylis bulb and planted it indoors. It bloomed right after Christmas and had two gorgeous red and white striped blooms.

I know after it blooms and the blooms die you're supposed to cut it back so it can regenerate the nutrients and bloom the following year.

But I was lazy. I kept forgetting to cut it even though it sits in the living room and I saw it every day. Almost two weeks went past and then I noticed something odd. Underneath one of the dead blooms (that fell off a few days later) was a large bulbous growth.

I noticed this while we were watching tv and mentioned it to J. "Oh yeah, I got bored and tried pollinating it one day."

"What? Can you be charged with forcible sex act with a flower for that? So you're a bee now, is that it? What made you decide to try that?"

"I was bored and curious."

In retrospect, I'm glad he tried it. Google revealed that an amarylis doesn't take well to pollinating itself, but if it does work you get this bulbous growth which is actually several flat black seeds. The pod will eventually crack open so you can get at the seeds.

I intend to watch this thing until it cracks and then plant the seeds under my over-zealous grow lights and start my own amarylis farm. So thanks for your boredom J!!

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Along with the seeds came my blueberry bushes. My parents have two in their garden and I have memories of going out in the morning to pick fresh blueberries for breakfast. Back then I wasn't the biggest fan of the taste of blueberries, but luckily my taste buds have evolved. Another impetus for buying some blueberry bushes is the cost of blueberries at the grocery store. Fresh or frozen those little blue antioxidant balls are wicked expensive!! I'm not made of money, but I'd like to enjoy blueberries.

When I was ordering seeds I noticed that Peaceful Valley also sold blueberry bushes and it seemed like a great opportunity. Since they flower and produce fruit, it's important to get two bushes, so they can cross pollinate. And it's also important to get two different varieties. So I went with a miniature variety called Tophat that's actually made for container gardening, and I also got a variety called Patriot. It seemed fitting since I live in Boston, and it's also a very common variety that produces lots of blueberries. High yield is fine by me!

The bushes arrived in little bags, as you can see from the previous post about their arrival. We'd been expecting them (I may have been a little neurotic and been tracking the shipment several times a day) so we'd already gone out and selected large pots and soil from Mahoney's here in Boston. The pots had to be very large since we're growing entire bushes, but not so large that we'd never be able to move them once they were filled with soil. We picked a basic potting soil with the understanding that we needed to keep it acidic.

Blueberries are masochists, a bit like grapes. If you give them rich soil with lots of nutrients they aren't going to produce very good blueberries. They like to have a hard time of it, with acidic soil, not too much water and they generally have fairly shallow root systems. The best way to organically keep the blueberry soil acidic is to include sawdust. As it decomposes, it lowers the pH level of the soil, keeping the blueberries happy.

So we planted the bluberries, spread some sawdust around the top and gave them a bit of water. We're keeping them in our sun room, which isn't heated so they can finish out the winter. They need the cold and dark to feel like they're outside, so they'll be ready to grow like weeds in the spring. I'm not sure we'll get berries this first year, but we'll take good care of them and hope for some.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Sowing Peas

Since the seeds arrived it was time to figure out when I needed to sow them indoors for them to be ready for outdoors. Some seeds can be directly sown outdoors in the pot, but others are needy and want some time inside with a grow light and heat pad.

I'm all about pampering my plants, so I headed to to pick out a grow light and heat lamp. I didn't want anything huge since I'm only growing enough for my patio, and I didn't want a light that would suck electricity like mad - don't need the cops showing up asking why my house is causing a spike in the electrical grid... "Officer, it's just tomatoes and peppers, I swear!"

We also got seed starter mix which is a lot lighter than potting soil so that tiny baby roots aren't suffocated. Yup, plants need air just as much as light and water!

Grow Great Grub had a table in the back to fill out based on the last frost in your area (for Boston it's generally considered to be around April 15th). Then you work backwards on how long the seeds take to germinate indoors, how long it will take them to grow to a good size indoors, and then when they can be put outside.

Most of the plants we're doing this summer can't be outside until after the last frost, so we aren't planting much for a while, but there is one plant that likes the cold. In fact, this plant will stop producing food once it gets too warm. Peas!!

Not surprisingly, pea seeds just look like dehydrated peas. Using the instructions on the back of the seed envelope I planted, watered, turned on the light and the heat pad and put on the top to create a greenhouse effect. It increases the humidity and warmth. Time to let the seeds work their magic.