Thursday, February 07, 2008

Because Of The Screwy Weather...

The Miller's Mills ice harvest has been cancelled for 2008.

Garden Rivalries

You know, I've never come across a snotty gardener. They are the most helpful, generous and all-around good natured people on the face of the earth. They'll grow something gorgeous and not bat an eye in their eagerness to share advice, seeds and even parts of the plant itself. True gardeners want to spread the wealth, so to speak. They want to get you hooked, to succeed, to enjoy every aspect as much as they do.

But when it comes to competitions - oh boy!

Can it get vile? You bet! Here's an example: So who really wins?

This is just one of the reasons I haven't joined Blotanical yet. Granted, Stuart has done one bang-up job on that site, but honestly, I really, really loath the fact there is a 'ranking' system on there. According to many blog comments and posts I've been reading recently, I'm not the only one who feels this way.
All those blogs linked in my sidebar? I like each of them equally. There is no 'better than'.

I even felt funny voting in the Mouse and Trowel Awards, but I swallowed hard and did it to, more or less, give Colleen my support.

Would I like to peruse other blogs that people think are great but I haven't stumbled on yet? Sure. But I think every gardener and garden blogger has a personal style that someone else might not like, but would appeal to me. Does it matter? I don't think so. Would hurting someone's feelings matter because they weren't ranked high? You bet!

Since when did blogging become a 'look at me! I am so fabulous!' sort of thing? Ick...

If I wanted the how to of growing a plant that looks like it should be in a garden magazine, well...I'll look in a garden magazine. I want the blogger's personality! The one that says, "Oops, I screwed up, the plant doesn't look all that good, but it made it anyway. I tried this or that method and look how well it worked/didn't work. It's snowing, raining, sunshining, freezing, God, I hate/love where I live. I tried that plant - it took over/is well behaved. I grew that watermelon a few years ago and the flavor is scrumptious/sucked. I pruned the spirea today (and maybe a finger) and think it was the wrong/right time. This shreader, pruner, glove, gadget is wonderful/sucks to high he**." I don't necessarily want it to be instructional or even helpful, as long as it's fun and an interesting read. You'd be surprised how many garden blogs I read with entries about dogs, cats, kids, husbands, wives, neighbors and inlaws. And I read them, because they're fun and interesting!

I want to read blogs of gardeners that are just starting, have mega-years of experience under their belt or the intermediate that is obsessed with growing something new to them (or me!). The ones with personality - not the one that everyone thinks they need to boost the ego of.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Forgotten Peppers

Well shoot! I started the Hungarian Wax pepper seed (with 100% germ. Yay!) and totally forgot I got some clearance Jalapeno M seed to start along with them. And no, the M doesn't stand for mild - they're 4750 Scovilles. Should satisfy youngest son without seriously burning his lips off, though he'll probably tell me they aren't hot at all.

I dug through my seeds for the other SIL last night (a little encouragement couldn't hurt!) and found them. 10 were plopped on a damp paper towel last night, so we'll see what happens.

The onion seedlings are up and wow, what a fabulous blast of bright green on these dreary days. The germination rate on those was about 60% so I just ended up throwing all of the seed left in the packages in with them. Still, not bad for 2 year old onion seed, considering the germ rate usually sucks worse than that after only one year. Is there anything better than sprouts to brighten any winter day?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

And Even More Free Seed

Free Seeds from TreeDazzled

Currently we are shipping giant sequoia (sequoiadendron giganteum) and sugar pine (pinus lambertiana) seeds. However, the seeds on offer may change without warning.

Wish I could grow them here.

Monday, February 04, 2008

From Bees To Bats

The New York State Department Of Environmental Conservation has released a new press report on the bat disease: Bat Die-Off Prompts Investigation

"Until researchers understand the cause and how it is spread, state environmental officials and caving organizations are asking people not to enter caves or mines with bats until further notice to avoid the possible transfer of the disease from cave to cave.

"What we've seen so far is unprecedented,'' said Alan Hicks, DEC's bat specialist. "Most bat researchers would agree that this is the gravest threat to bats they have ever seen."

Eastern pipistrelle, northern long-eared and little brown bats are also dying. Little brown bats, the most common hibernating species in the state, have sustained the largest number of deaths."

This is really alarming to me, even more so than CCD with the bees. Most people simply fear bats but, like bees, they are much more crucial to our environment than people realize.

The brown bat can catch and eat up to 600 mosquitos an hour and do a fabulous job of keeping our populations of Japanese Beetles under control. Their diets also include gnats, flies, moths, midges and mayflies.

It may be a very long summer of crop loss and bug bites.

And with a little research, I've found that I'm not the only one with ants in January. Seriously, how long can we ignore the signs that nature is literally throwing at us?!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Don't Make Starting Seeds So Complicated

I keep reading questions on gardenweb from people who have never grown from seed before and it makes me wonder why they think it's such a complicated process.

Really, there is nothing, nothing complicated about seed starting. If there was, Mother Nature would be in big trouble. Mmm-hmmm.

Seeds want to grow. It's their job. They want to grow up strong and healthy and make more seed to make more plants that look just like they do.

I mean really, do people think that hundreds of years ago they ammended soil with peat and compost? Had cute little ready-to-go starter cubes? Seed starter soil? Vermiculite?

Nope! Man, oh man, the stress. No reason to go bald pulling your hair out over seed starting anxiety. It should be a pleasurable and fun experience.

This is how easy it is. Really!

Step 1: Get a good potting 'mix' (not soil-it's too heavy for those tiny seedling roots), starter cubes, peat pellets, those mini greenhouses, old - but clean - margarine containers with holes punched in the bottom, coffee cans, last years 6 packs you bought annuals in, whatever suits your fancy.

Step 2: Fill containers with mix - also whatever suits your fancy. Of course, if you have the little greenhouses or peat pellets, you're already set with this step.

Step 3: Moisten mix so it's saturated, but doesn't drip tons of water if you give it a squeeze. You want to give the seed moisture, not drown them. Tip: If you're using peat - use the hottest water from your faucet to do this, then let cool and pour out the excess.

Step 4: Sow your seed according to the package directions. (Not sure when to start them indoors in your zone? Try here: Grow Guide) This step pretty much depends on whether or not you're a control freak, worry-wart, whatever. You can sow one seed per hole, 3 per hole, one seed per inch, spaced perfectly or just scattered on the mix. Will it absolutely break your heart to snip off those little sprouts later? If so, give them space right off the bat.

Step 5: Cover with plastic, saran, whatever works to keep the moisture in, or you can just keep them moist with misting the top of the soil a little bit a few times a day if it seems to be getting dry. Air flow isn't going to be a problem at this stage.

Step 6: Keep them somewhere warm. Light doesn't matter at this point - it's a seed, it doesn't care one way or the other. (Unless it's a seed that needs light to germinate-read your seed package). You can stick them near a radiator, in a south facing window (careful with this - you could actually cook your seeds if it gets too much sun!), on top of the clothes dryer or fridge. If you don't care about spending the extra money, you can get a heating mat made for seed starting, or use a heating pad you might have laying around the house. Personally, I've found that just sticking them in the warmest spot in the house works just fine. Now, wait for those puppies to start showing themselves. Patience is a good thing to have here as some seed seem to take forever to germinate.

Step 7: As soon as you see the sprouts poking from the mix, remove the plastic cover!

Step 8: OK, this is where I think most people have problems - when the seeds do germinate, they have to have light! There just isn't any substitute to get them to grow. You need air to live = seedlings need light. Your normal indoor lighting from your ceiling fixtures just isn't going to cut it. You either need sill space by a window (South facing) or rig up a light stand of some kind. As I posted before, I used the plans from T's to make a great, cheap, disassembleable (is that a word? Well, you know what I mean) light stand - with some modifications. And yes, the regular shop lights from Lowe's and HD will work just fine for seedlings.

Step 9: Temperature isn't really a big deal at this point (unless you're growing tropicals, of course!). Normal house temps are usually fine as anything above 60 works well. Keep the seedlings watered, but not dripping. Again, you don't want to drown the poor things. Just don't let them dry out too much. If they start wilting, that's a good sign you're not watering enough, turning yellow and you may be overwatering. If you can keep your containers in some sort of tray, bottom watering is much better than top watering, but make sure the containers don't sit in standing water.

Step 10: A fan blowing gently across the seedlings a few hours a day will help with damping off and make the stems stronger for transplanting. And if you've sown them too close together, either transplant individually to larger containers or snip off the weakest sprouts with regular or cuticle scissors. Don't pull them out as this may damage the roots on the nicer sprouts you want to save. Now, watch 'em grow!

That's it! Not so much rocket science, huh? Fun, easy, and exciting! Just remember to 'harden-off' your plants before plant out and you'll be eating fabulous veg and smelling wonderful blooms before you know it. And the best part - you get to say, "Yeah, I grew that!"

For even easier starting (YES! There is an even easier way!) try winter sowing.