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January 14th, 2009

Fun Stuff from OG

bio_billTest seeds arrived this week, at least a few of them; and believe it or not, I’ve already sowed a couple.

The red Romaine was direct sowed in the garden. It may have been wiser to start some in the greenhouse, but… A garden bed was all ready. Beets and cilantro were sowed down one side. Soil tilth was very good. Soil moisture just about perfect. And sprinklers were set out with an automatic timer ready to keep the seedbed moist. I’m pretty confident on this one.

Banana shallots went into the greenhouse in a 200 plug flat. Yep, shallots from seed instead of the usual method. The seed packet said I could direct sow them, but I’ve never had much luck with alliums direct sowed in the garden. Besides, these will probably run into some hot spring days before they’re ready, so a little head start in the greenhouse may help.

It appears cutting celery will need a little more attention, so they just may go on a heat mat in a covered flat. That means they’ll need to be started at home – another day.

Meanwhile, more fun stuff showed up from Organic Gardening today – my Zinio subscription to Organic Gardening Magazine! I enjoy seeing the comments from all the test gardeners even though we’ve had email discussions about our results all year.

I love my electronic subscription to OG magazine! The pictures are beautiful on the computer screen. Back-issues are always at hand, and they don’t pile up in the bedroom. Plus, all the links are click-able. Makes OG Magazine even more fun.

January 14th, 2009

Winter in Wisconsin

bio_kathyWinter in Wisconsin, I love this time of year.  Nothing urgently calling for attention; a chance to breathe and regroup after the rush of putting the garden to bed, canning, then Thanksgiving and the end of the year holidays.  The four feet of snow we’ve received and the below zero temperatures give us the perfect excuse to read before the fire.

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The seed catalogs started piling up before the end of November and I’m proud to say that I didn’t crack even one of them until after Christmas.  Now I’ve started reading each one cover to cover with my trusty highlighter by my side.  Everything I want gets circled.  Before the end of January I should be ready to pare the catalogs down to a final two or three and put a preliminary order form together in Excel.  That way I can compare the list to the seeds I actually have on hand whether left-over or collected and cross those items off of the order form.  Finally my husband Pat and I will go over the remaining items.  Pat is so good at keeping my feet on the ground when he asks “and where is that going to be planted?”.  If I don’t have a ready answer, out it goes.  Our goal is to place the seed orders no later than February 15 and usually it is in the mail a couple of weeks before that as I want to get the onion seeds started in February and we do order new seeds of that crop each year.

January 12th, 2009

Winter's Here. Summer's Coming!

bio_billThe temperature dipped below freezing about midnight on Sunday and stayed thereabouts until late morning. While not cold enough to cause any damage to the cold tolerant plants that are growing this time of year, the heavy frost put harvesting out of the question.

The sun pleasantly warmed my back as I worked yet seemed to not be doing the same for the ice covered veggies. Rather than risk damage to the frosty produce, I turned my attention to the empty beds in the garden. Today I transplanted over 300 Belstar broccoli plants out of the greenhouse into soil moistened by about an inch of rain over the holidays. About 600 cabbage and Napa cabbage went in just before Christmas and I expect I’ll be transplanting again in the morning.

As the flats going into the garden make room in the little greenhouse I’ll be refilling them with another succession for late spring harvest. And right on the heels of the last cool weather veggies it’s nearly time to start the first seeds of summer crops.

Last January I started with slow-growing eggplants and peppers. Using a heat mat at home to sprout the seeds measurably increased my success and each started flat was then moved into the cold greenhouse to grow out until early spring.

While my friends who garden in colder climates can only dream of summer veggies this time of year, I’m ready with seeds on hand. Here in Central California summer is always just around the corner. When the first hot spell burns up the lettuce and spinach and sends turnips and cabbage bolting it’s good to have tomatoes already on the vines.

Sure it seems crazy to think about tomatoes with such a chill in the air, but summer’s coming!

January 9th, 2009

Building My "Special" Raised Garden Beds

bio_leslied

Hi All. Leslie in Las Vegas here.
Because I needed some protection from our desert sun in some of my test beds I installed some “removeable” shade cloth.  Because these plants bloom better in full sun I only put it on a bed when I am collecting pollen for hybridizing or fertilizing; to protect me from the sizzling desert sun, then I remove it.

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This is how I made them:  I sewed a pocket seam in the shade cloth and put 1/2″ electrical conduit pipe through the pocket – then I hooked the conduit ends under nails hammered into the post. This keeps it tight and the nails can be moved down to tighten it further if the cloth stretches.  It also works pretty good as a wind break.  The shade cloth is adjustable up and down and easily removed.

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Linseed oil was brushed on the redwood to bring out the pretty color. In the desert the linseed oil took several weeks to lose it’s tackiness and a second coat was brushed on the next spring.  By the way, rags with linseed oil on them will burst into flames spontaneously if not left out in the open air.  Don’t put them into a trash can until they are totally dried – maybe for days.

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I adjust the strips of shade cloth up and down to give shade or sun on either side of the beds by pulling the conduit and hooking it under nails in the posts.  This is 60% shade cloth and makes too much shade for full sun flowering plants to bloom when using every strip of cloth for many days at time.






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