Wednesday, April 22, 2015

How to Start Vegetable and Herbs From Seed

 

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When I first really got into gardening I read a ton about starting plants from seed. I had done it in the past without really knowing what I was doing and still had success but I wanted to up my game. There are so many options for starting seeds so I’m going to tell you what works best for me.

Supplies:

Seeds

First you need to start out with some seeds. You can hit up your local Lowes/Home Depot, Walmart/Target or gardening supply store to find seeds. A chain store isn’t going to give you much variety in the way of seeds. This is the way I used to buy all my seeds but eventually I got tired of the same old selection and wanted something more.

Enter the internet. There are some great sites for buying seeds online. My favorite right now is Pinetree Seeds. There is an amazing selection of stuff you will never find in your local stores and you can actually checkout with your Amazon account. (As a complete Amazon junkie that was a special bonus for me this year.) Another site I really like is Gardens Alive. They also carry a lot of other great gardening products too so I order from here on occasion.

Plants that are good to start indoors are ones that require 4-6 weeks to grow before the last frost. This includes tomatoes, peppers, basil and parsley. Plants that are better direct seeded are beans, zucchini, cucumber, carrot, radish and peas. Root, vine and quick growing vegetables do better directly in the soil but you can have success planting inside if you don’t do it too early. I’ve found they do better when planted directly outside so that’s what I will do this year.

Soil

Now that you have your seeds you need some soil to plant them in. You want to use a mix specific for seed starting so it doesn’t contain any fungi and bacteria that could sabotage your tiny seedlings. I have used Jiffy seed starting mix in the past but I am not particular to any one brand and you can pick it up anywhere that sells gardening supplies.

My tip for using the seed starting mix is to wet it down before you fill up your containers. It is very light and hard to get it to absorb moisture at first so if you wet it down in a big bowl first it is easier to get it at the right consistency before planting.

Containers

Now that you have your seeds and soil you need to put them in something. I have tried just about everything. I was on a big budget gardening kick at one point and made my own containers from newspaper. It worked but I found they started disintegrating after being wet for a while. I also saved yogurt containers and drilled holes in the bottom. I planted in those with pretty good success although they can be a little larger than necessary for some plants. I have also used peat pellets before and they were a disaster. They are wrapped in a fine mesh that I didn’t realize you have to remove and it distorted a lot of the roots of the plants I grew. Plus they are kind of pricey.

My latest endeavors have been with peat pot six packs I got at a garage sale in a brand new kit someone never used. I found I was successful with them but I peeled much of the peat sides away before planting my seedlings outside. Another idea is to use little paper or styrofoam cups to start seedlings. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on containers to get these seeds going and there are a million and one links out on Google for ideas on random containers to use to start seeds.

Other supplies

Something else useful to have is some kind of tray to set all your seeds, a watering can, some kind of plant labels (I am using popsicle sticks right now) and a sunny window with an optional additional artificial light.

Time to Plant

Once you have all your supplies, place the soil in the container and punch a little divot in the soil at the recommendation of your package (you can use a chopstick or eraser side of a pencil for this.) Place 2-3 seeds in the soil because not all seeds will germinate. Cover the seeds with soil and once you have all your seeds planted, wet from the bottom by pouring water into your tray. This is why it’s good to pre wet your soil. You ideally don’t want to pour water in the top because your seeds can wash away and once your seedlings sprout you can drown them.

Now place your seeds in a sunny, preferably warm place. If you have an overhead light to use as an additional grow light this will make your plants grow faster and stronger. I have used one in the past but it’s not a necessity. If you can cover your seeds to help them germinate do that now too. Once the seedlings pop up though you need to remove the cover or they will be too wet.

Now is the fun waiting game. Your seed package will tell you how long a seed will take to germinate. Some happen in a couple of days and some can take weeks.

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This is what my seedlings looked like 6 days after planting them.

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Lincoln’s 17th Month Update and Atlanta Trip

 

I’m rolling Lincoln’s 17 month update up with a post about our recent trip to Atlanta to visit Mike’s niece Heather, her husband Kevin and their son Landon (who is five months older than Lincoln.) Lincoln learned so much from his trip it seemed fitting to share them together.

We took our first airplane ride with Lincoln and he did really well. He definitely got antsy but we gave him lots of snack and watched Old McDonald on the Kindle about a billion times. He just loves that silly video from a kids app I downloaded. On the way back he was a little more wiggly but I’m not sure if that was because it was early or there was a man sitting next to us and we trying not to bother him.

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The first day in Atlanta we took it easy and the kids played with Landon’s electric car, the water table and ate popsicles. Mike grilled dinner and it was such a beautiful relaxing day. Lincoln was in love with Landon’s toys and quickly figured out where they were located and claimed his favorites.

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The next day we went to a completely overcrowded zoo but the boys had a great time (even if the parents were a bit overwhelmed by the crowd!) We ate lunch in a huge covered area and there was a pack of kids running around. Lincoln had to be a part of it all and he really started to come out of his shell. I feel like we have been so cooped up this winter he hasn’t got to experience what it’s like to run around and be a kid outside.

After the zoo and naps the kids took another turn on the water table and we had another yummy grilled meal. Lincoln also became especially fond of Landon’s Y bike and it had to be his favorite toy. He also loved running out onto the back deck and playing outside.

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Day three was a trip to the aquarium. It was pretty spectacular and I definitely enjoyed it the most. Lincoln felt a little discombobulated by the thicker walled sea tanks but started to get interested in the jellyfish and the river fish tanks. He also came home with a stuffed penguin which I let him hold and he wouldn’t let go. He held on to that thing for dear life so we had to get it :)

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It was raining when we got home so Lincoln and Landon played in the puddles out in the driveway. They were too funny and both had a blast. Lincoln was unsure about it at first but was stomping around by the end. That night it was yummy pizza for dinner. Lincoln killed a piece of pizza so clearly he enjoyed it.

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The last day we were there we went to an art show at Piedmont Park. It was another busy event and because of the rain the day before it got a little muddy so we headed back to the house and played with the water table again. Then we went out for froyo. Landon is a froyo eating champ and felt compelled to sample from our container. Lincoln practiced eating with a spoon and did really well. We also bought him a Jelly Cat stuffed animal which is brand of super soft toys. Landon had a bunch and Lincoln fell in love so he picked himself out a rabbit to take home. Now he calls the penguin and bunny his babies and carries them around the house and loves to lay on them.

After the kids were in bed, we had a sitter come stay with the boys so we could have parents night out. We went to a really yummy restaurant called Wisteria and had an amazing dinner and dessert.

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So that was out trip. We had the best time visiting and it was nice to stay with family we don’t see often and also understand what its like to have a toddler. The cousins played really well together. There were a couple of slaps and a bit of jealousy but what else would you expect from one year olds? It was really good for Lincoln to get out of his comfort zone. It has been hard to go out with such a cold winter so it felt great to be out in the world. We even came home to spring weather and the bulbs are blooming everywhere.

Other things Lincoln has been doing the past month: He is getting really silly. He laughs at himself and does silly stuff like smooshing his face in the back door. He loves to run and be chased. He loves being outside and playing on the deck or taking a walk down the sidewalk. He loves his books. They seem to be the thing that entertains him the most lately. He loves to take a pile and flip through all the pages of every book.

He has started saying lots more words too. New words he says are outside, water, please, mine, cookie and Spot (like the dog in his book.) He is starting to ask for more things too. His latest is “outside?” “cheese?” and “water?”

He still loves to eat but has been getting a little more finicky. Sometimes he will eat something all up and then the next day he wants nothing to do with it. He is starting to like spicier and more flavorful food a lot. He also loves to feed himself anything out of a bag or cup. Sometimes he doesn’t want something until it goes in a cup and then suddenly he is interested in it. He has taken a liking to nuts and even ate wasabi almonds because Mike was eating them the other day.

We are looking forward to the warmer weather that is finally here. We are planning on having tons of fun with our silly and sweet little boy.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Vegetable Garden Plans

 

The crocus is my front bed bloomed last week so I know it is officially spring. This spring and summer I am not pregnant and I don’t have a newborn baby so I want to focus on my veggie and herb garden. I’ve got my seeds ready to go and I’m ready to plan out my garden. I talk about my garden every year but it usually revolves around my flowers and not as much about the vegetables so I’m going to dedicate some time to those neglected veggies so get prepared for some veggie love.

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I love gardening and I developed a real passion for it after we moved into our house 8 ½ years ago. I read one million and one books at the library and countless articles online about how to create a veggie garden, planting flowers, gardening on a budget and more. It was a lot of information and I’ve gone through a lot of trial and error to figure out what works for me. I do believe that gardening is personal and a lot of it depends on what works for your lifestyle and the space you have.

Our veggie garden has gone through a few different variations. First we potted in planters, then we dug a garden in the ground, then I had three square raised beds and now I have a rectangle raised bed combined with pots.

I bought a whole bunch of new seeds this year to get me excited about planting. I actually trying out almost all new varieties. I am a huge fan of Pinetree Seeds and I’ve ordered some great stuff from them in the past.  They have lots of unusual and heirloom varieties with great prices.

In the rectangular bed I’m going to plant:

3 tomato plants- These will go along the center. I’m trying two new varieties Polbig and Gardeners Delight. Polbig is supposed to be compact and an early variety maturing at only 56 days. It’s also determinate which I’ve never tried before. Gardeners Delight is a cherry tomato maturing at 67 days so still pretty early. Tomatoes take a really long time to mature in my garden so the number of days to maturity was a pretty big factor for me. Since both varieties produce smaller fruits I’m hoping that helps too. I am counting on having a volunteer spring up from my Sungold plant since that one will come back if I leave some tomatoes on the soil in the fall.  Love the taste of that variety although they are prone to splitting if you pick them too late. I’m still searching for my “holy grail” tomato so I will continue trying new varieties until I find it (if it exists.)

Radishes- These will go along the outside edge. I bought cherry belle radish since my old seeds were depleted.  I think that is a pretty common variety. Radishes mature in about 21 days so I should be able to plant a couple of crops of these.

Green beans- These will also go along the edge since they are all bush varieties. They should be done before the tomatoes get big and if there is still room after they mature can plant another round. I am trying Bush Romano and Royal Burgundy this year plus I may throw in some Bush Lake and Burpee Tenderpods that I already have.

In the pots I am going to plant:

Lettuce-  Its pretty easy to grow but it always gets eaten by slugs in the main bed so I’m hoping to have more control over it in a pot. (Slugs can get into pots too though, I hate those slimy buggers.) One of my issues is always over planting so I will have to be more careful to control that.

Carrots- They do way better in loose soil and I had good success in pots last year. I am trying Napoli carrots this year.

Green beans- You have to succession plant bush green beans to keep them going all season so I will plant a couple of crops of them in pots. They are very easy to grow from seed and fun to pick. Lincoln enjoyed munching on them last year.

Zucchini- I’m trying a new variety of zucchini that is supposed to be more compact called Cocozelle. I’m hoping it will work well in a pot, which is something I’ve never tried before. My zucchini last year took over my garden so that variety will not be coming back again ever.

Banana Pepper and Red Cheese Pepper- Even though I have terrible luck with peppers, particularly bells, I’m going to try peppers again this year. I grew a Banana Pepper in the past reasonably well because the peppers are smaller and grow more quickly. The Red Cheese Pepper is a smaller red pepper that I also grew in the past but can’t remember how they did. One of the big issues I have with peppers is that they always get crowded out by larger plants like tomatoes or zucchini so I’m giving it another go this year in a pot. The definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over with different results right? Ok, kidding, I am trying something different this year with the pot because I love peppers and I just can’t give up until I figure out how to grow them.

Broccolini- This is something new this year and I’m probably starting it way too late to be successful but I’ll give it a try anyway.

Herbs- I will be growing basil, parsley, dill and cilantro. I have chives in a pot and in the veggie bed and I also have a patch of oregano growing in my front bed.

Things I’m not growing but kind of wish I was:

Onions- They are really easy but they take up a lot of space and are so cheap from the store I am going to pass this year.

Peas- I don’t have a trellis so this is not going to happen. Plus, I’ve struggled to get these going in the past. Spring veggies are a real struggle for me.

Cucumber- Again, no trellis but also I have been kind of jaded with the cucumber ever since I had a horrible cucumber beetle infestation a couple of years ago. I am still wary to bring them back although I think it was growing a spaghetti squash that year that really attracted them. I’m already doing a zucchini which is in the same cucurbit family so I will keep cucumber beetle attractions to a minimum.

Potatoes- Ok, truth be told I’ve never grown potatoes but I think they would be really fun and delicious. Maybe I can get Mike to build me a potato planter for next year...

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Lincoln’s Second Easter

 

I think this Easter should be called the year of the Easter egg hunt. We set up two Easter egg hunts and Lincoln was (mildly) interested in them. He kind of lost interest in searching though after he learned there was chocolate in the eggs. The way to this kid’s heart is definitely through his stomach.

On Easter we spent the day at Mike’s mom’s house and Lincoln had a great time eating, playing with his new Easter toys, eating some more and finishing the day off with another Easter egg hunt. He also enjoyed some doggie time and lots of cousin time.

He partied like a champ and came home to a super early bedtime since he only got about a 30 minute nap on the way home. It was a fun day and great excuse to dress him up in a tie. Although he busted the matching tie before we left so luckily we had a backup one. Mike also played around with styling his super short big boy hair cut. The jury is still out on if the family likes it or not lol. My sister in law- fan. My dad- not a fan. Haha. It least it grows fast. I’m getting used to it but I think it would be cuter a little longer.

 

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A family picture and we are all looking with open eyes. Success.

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Loving Maisie (or Abby as he likes to call her.)

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Matching bunny glasses for the cousins.

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Found one.

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I prefer the chocolate, thank you very much.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

A Blogging Rut and a Big Boy Hair Cut

 

I am in a bit of a blogging rut. I have written and scraped numerous posts in the past couple of weeks. I have ideas but then I'm not sure I want to blog about them so there are a whole bunch of un-posted drafts sitting around. I have been doing a lot of research lately on making my blog better and it's really just overwhelmed me. I find that too much research can be paralyzing sometimes. 

Something that is always easy for me to write about is my little man. We went in for pro haircut number three the other day and I did not realize what I was asking for and all his hair was cut off. I still am not good at articulating what I want from a little boy hair cut (or my own hair cuts for that matter) and the hair stylist trimmed it way shorter than I expected.  I actually think it turned out cute (mostly) although I am still in a little shock over how big he looks. Where did my baby go?

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He is learning new stuff all the time. He knows more words and is stacking and climbing on the couch. I have always enjoyed every stage more than the last one but wow it's crazy how far he has come. So I'll leave you with a few pre-hair cut pictures while I reminisce over how different he looked a few days ago. At least it grows fast…

(And Easter pictures to come this week.)

longer hair

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