Daffodils? That means pea-planting!

Daffodil 2017 compressed  Long before the advent of calendars, farm folk had sayings to help recall when certain chores needed to be done.  I like following many of these old proverbs, because in my experience they are generally more accurate than dates.  Just because it is St. Patrick’s Day doesn’t mean potatoes should be planted if the ground is still frozen solid, or I can “feel in my gut” that it just isn’t time.  And St. Patrick’s is obviously too late for gardeners who live in the South.  Old-timers know that the time to plant potatoes is when the “pineys” (that’s peonies to non-Hoosier readers) are hand high (about 4″ tall) rather than any certain date.  Corn can be planted when the oak leaves are the size of squirrel’s ears.  Tomatoes aren’t planted outdoors until I see volunteer borage seedlings.

Another bits of lore is “When the daffodils bloom it’s pea planting time!”  Last year, I was impatient to get my new potager started, so I planted some peas March 7 when the first crocuses bloomed.  They did not do well at all.  Poor germination, lots of floppy foliage, few pea pods.  My first daffodil bloomed on March 14, 2016 so again I planted shelling peas, and these were beautiful and bountiful.

Needless to say, this year I  returned to the “wise ways” and waited.  Some daffys were budded weeks ago, but none had opened, so still I waited.  And waited, muttering to myself repeatedly, “Nothing is to be gained with rotting seeds in cold soil.”  The days clicked by on the calendar.

But finally, my patience was rewarded and these little beauties opened their frilly trumpets and surrounding petals!  They didn’t seem too thrilled at all, rather sulking, or maybe just shy?  But, I was thrilled to see them.  At last!  It was pea planting time!  So, along part of the potager’s west fence went an heirloom variety “Early Frosty.”  In two of the raised beds, wide bands of “Little Marvel” were sown.  Yes, I plant peas in 4″ bands, randomly, liberally scattered rather than spaced singly in rows.  Why?  Because back in the 70’s a wise gardener once said, “If you are stingy with peas, they will be stingy with you.”  He was right.  He probably learned it from a wise old gardener in his youth as well.  Good gardening lore is passed on from one generation to the next.

I was glad I hadn’t soaked the seeds before planting, as I’d barely finished when the rain began.  The light rain that evening turned into a full day and following night of noisy thunderstorms.  The daffodils are drooping even further today.  But, as soon as it stops raining, and the soil is ready again, I’ll do succession plantings with one of my favorites, “Green Arrow” and more “Little Marvel.”  Then two weeks later “Maestro” will follow, and lastly “Wando,” because it is the most heat tolerant.  Pasta with fresh peas, crisp bacon bits, cream, and parmigiano soon to come….ah, bliss!

Posted in gardening, kitchen gardens, planting, Potager, raised beds, Seeding, Uncategorized, vegetable gardening | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Insulating the Greenhouse Follow-up

Seedlings in gh 3-18 compressed  For those of you interested in how much difference lining my 10’x 12′ hobby greenhouse with horticultural bubble wrap insulation made, here’s the follow up story and data so far.  The night following exchanging the packing tape with official greenhouse tape was not a great success.  The outdoor temp was 14 degrees.  The indoor temp was only 17 degrees, and maddeningly, the greenhouse tape failed to hold on one of the major seams and therefore two ceiling insulation panels were sagging nearly to the floor.  Contributing to this low result was also my having dragged inside two large bales of commercial potting soil that were absolutely frozen solid earlier that day.  I’m sure they did nothing to help that thermometer climb.

Gh pin compressed

In an effort to reduce the pull on the tape and keep it in place, I resorted to corsage pins through the tape and wrap in strategic places to anchor it.  Not extremely elegant, but seemingly efficient because so far, they’ve held the tape and wrap panels in place.  Since the night-time forecast was for upper 20’s, I took a risk by moving 12 flats of plants into the greenhouse about 3:00 that afternoon (top photo.)  The sun had actually come out after lunch, it was just above freezing and late enough that the seedlings wouldn’t get too much sun on their first time out of the basement, since some were newly transplanted.  The movie title “They Were Expendable” was appropriate as I selected the flats:  Sweet peas, snapdragons, broccoli raab and violas.  The violas were first choice, because I started them so late they may not bloom before the heat arrives…we seem to have such short springs now and I planted way too many.  Last year there were germination problems, so this year I planted more and of course, every seed grew. The snapdragons also because I sowed lots extra, and the broccoli raab & sweet peas because I want to get them hardened off and planted outside asap.  Plus the last two were getting too tall for the light stand unless I lowered the shelf, which I didn’t want to have to do!  Out they go!

Over the years, I’ve had 6 different sizes and styles of greenhouses, ranging from 2 different home-built, lean-to double poly on recycled 2 x 4’s styles; a homemade step-down in-ground double poly (these first 3 houses seasonally heated with wood stoves or kerosene heaters);  commercial 22’x 108′ double poly hoop house heated with propane salamander seasonally ;  commercial polycarbonite sided 22’x 108′ heated year-round with 2 commercial propane furnaces.  I’ve learned that the smaller the greenhouse, the greater and faster the temperature fluctuations.  Small greenhouses are tricky, and generally not very efficient, and this is the smallest by far that I’ve ever tried to manage.

On to that night.   At 9 p.m. when I scampered out to plug in the heater, the temp was 24 degrees outside, 36 inside.  We’d had a fairly sunny late afternoon  and those frozen soil bales had warmed quite a bit.  I felt pretty safe having the seedlings in the greenhouse, but all night I wondered what the g’h thermometer would read come morning.

I am delighted to report that instead of a ONE degree temperature difference between inside and outside (prior to the insulation, with heater) the outdoor temp was 33 and inside the greenhouse (Tah DAH!…trumpets sounding here) was a balmy 60 degrees, a 27 degree difference!  Happy dance, happy dance!  As  more and more plants are moved in, and thus more soil to help hold heat, it may even improve.   And, I’ll add a couple of 5 gal. buckets of water, which will also help.  Confident now that the temperatures will hold, I’ll move lots more violas, snapdragons, calendula and brassica today because artificial light just isn’t as good as REAL light, even if it’s not entirely sunny.  Here are two “Robin Hood” favas, planted same day, same conditions, except the one on the left stayed in the basement under lights while the one on the right has been in the greenhouse for two days.  Of those two days, maybe there was 4 hours of actual sunshine.  See how much bigger it is in that short a time?

Fava compare compressed

If the costs are amortized over several years (not sure how long the wrap will last) it should be reasonable.  Also, I think if I am more aware of spacing where the seams are and do a bit of repositioning next season, that may help the tape problem.  And I know if the tape were applied when it was warm, maybe 65 or higher, it would adhere better than in frigid temperatures.  So, the plan will be to put up the insulation late autumn, before it gets so cold.  Of course, I will have to purchase tape each year, because I used the entire roll.  I’ll keep monitoring, but enabling me to move plants into the greenhouse with confidence that it will stay above freezing is definitely worth the hassle of installing it.

 

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Lettuce Rejoice!

Little Gem Lettuce compressed       I have to admit that one of my favorite plants to grow is lettuce (Lactuca sativa).  Not because it is easy, although it IS one of the easiest plants anyone can grow, or because it is tasty—although it certainly is, and so appreciated early in the season.  That first harvest of tender green leaves is certainly something to celebrate!  I love to grow lettuce because it is so very pretty in the garden, and there are so many varieties to try!   It seems every year there are new, exciting lettuces to test, and old favorites to enjoy again.  (See the “What’s Growing” post for a list of this year’s selections for my potager.)  I use chartreuse-leaved Black-seeded Simpson sprinkled in the potager’s interior borders to hide dying tulip foliage.  I love using tidy rows of frilly “New Red Fire” to edge flower borders, especially where it is partially shaded so it is showy a long time.  Unfortunately, the rabbits love for me to do just that, so it seldom looks as perfect as it does in my dreams.  The contrasting varieties with red leaves,  (“Pomegranate,” “Gabriella,” or “Red Romain”) green leaves or speckled leaves (“Freckles”) around other, plainer and slower growing plants in the potager make the garden showy at once.  I love making patterns using the ruffly loose leaved-varieties next to the tightly balled, rounded leaf buttercrunches (“Tom Thumb” shown above, and “Garden Babies”), backed by a soldier-straight row of romaines.  I even just love the names of some of the varieties.  Who doesn’t want to grow some of the heirloom types named “Strawberry Cabbage Lettuce,” or “Merveille des Quatre Saisons,”  “Bronze Arrowhead,” “Red Leprechaun,” “Webb’s Wonderful,” or “Rouge d’Hiver.”   I just love growing lettuces!

fall-lettuce-compressed  Red Deer Tongue & New Red Fire

Lettuce probably takes its name from the Latin lactuca, or milky juice.  This white liquid is most noticeable when the plant’s seed stalk is broken, but can also be observed when the older leaves of the plant are broken.  There is lots of lore about lettuce.  The Roman gourmet Apicius watered the lettuce in his garden with honey-based mead every evening so that it would taste like “green cheese cakes.”  Old lore says that the lusty Frenchmen began their meals with meat and cheese, but ended it with mustard and lettuce to make them more virile.

lettuce-compressed  Black Seeded Simpson

The looseleaf varieties are some of my favorites.  Some of them are named because of their color.  There’s “Australian Yellowleaf,” “Mascara,” and “Red Velvet.” Many of them are named because of the shape, such as “Deer tongue,” “Oakleaf, and “Bronze Arrowhead.”  They can be grown as “cut and come again” crops or allowed to form large single “heads.”  Most looseleaf types are not very heat-tolerant, so plant and eat them first.

The Bibb types came along later.  Although many people assume Bibb lettuce got its name because the leaves are shaped like a baby’s bib that is not the case.  Actually, amateur gardener John B. Bibb developed this variety by selection and hand-pollination in his backyard garden in Frankfort, Kentucky around 1850!  (And, NO, I didn’t know him personally…I’m old, but not that old!)  It has continued to be an American favorite, although over the decades many other buttercrunch lettuces, as the type is termed, have been developed.  Breeders have continued to improve the original Bibb lettuce to get more heat tolerance.  Today, even a miniature variety called “Tom Thumb” and a red-leafed one called “Susan’s Red Bibb” are available.

Even the Romaine types now come in Red, speckled, and red-tipped colors.  I love the Romaines because they tolerate the heat a bit better than some of the looseleaf types.  The leaves have a heavier texture that hold up well in salads.

Breeders have worked hard to extend the lettuce season for those of us with hard-hitting heat fairly early in the season.  Now there’s “Heatwave,” and “Summerlong” to extend the lettuce season.

Bronze triangle compressed  Bronze Mignonette

I doubt that few reading this post have never grown lettuce.  But just in case, lettuce thrives in cool weather, so it is planted just as soon as the soil can be worked.  It works very well wintered or planted very early in hotbeds and coldframes, and can be successfully grown in containers of all sizes.  It plays well with others.  Good, fertile, loose soil and adequate moisture guarantees that the crop will grow quickly, which produces the most tender and flavorful lettuce.  By planting different varieties and doing successive sowings, any home gardener can have months of tasty salads and sandwich fixings.

My mother always pulled out lettuce as soon as it became too bitter or tough, to make room for another crop, such as beans or melons.  But, recently I’ve begun leaving some lettuces to mature in the garden, especially the Black-Seeded Simpsons.  They make frilly towers that make me smile, and if I am watchful, I can collect seeds to sow again in the cool weather of September for another autumn harvest.

I emphasize that I must be watchful, because I am not the only one that is interested in  lettuce maturing.  In many areas, the goldfinch is called the “Lettuce Bird” because the seed of that plant is one of its favorites.  Allowing lettuce to bolt and produce seed is a good way to attract this bright yellow songster, also often called a “wild canary” into your yard.

So, I hope I have whetted your appetites, and set your gardening urges to flowing.  If you have not already ordered (or you lucky people living in warmer areas that can already plant!  Sigh of jealousy here…..) a wide variety of lettuces, do so now.  You will be rewarded with both beauty and bounty for very small efforts.  P.S.  This is my “green” post for St. Patrick’s Day!

Posted in garden planning, gardening, kitchen gardens, Lettuce, Potager, Uncategorized, vegetable gardening | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

Insulating the Greenhouse

DSC03994Last spring, I was sadly disappointed in my new hobby greenhouse’s ability to hold heat.  It’s shown above on the day construction was complete, bereft of benches, shelving, pots, and other clutter that later accumulated.  It warms up greatly on a sunny day, but on cloudy days and at night the difference between the outdoor temperature and the indoor temperature, even with a small portable electric heater running was only  1 degree!  One degree!  That’s pitiful!  And certainly not efficient enough to protect my precious seedlings.  Luckily, 2016 turned warm and stayed warm, so it wasn’t a problem.  Having the greenhouse was still a blessing, because it saved young plants from damaging winds and freak hail.  It also quickened growth on all the heat-lovers, so it’s worth having, but my plants need protection from COLD, and I really want to start utilizing the greenhouse space earlier in the season.  Researching methods to improve the situation was required.

After much on-line reading, horticultural bubble wrap insulation seemed to be an answer, so I ordered the 4 1/2′ wide rolls from ACF Greenhouses ( http://www.LittleGreenhouse.com ).  I also ordered the plastic plugs that anchor the wrap to the metal framework.  The shipment arrived only two days after I place the order, which was amazing.  Excitedly, I carried the boxes to the greenhouse, and paused for a moment, wishing there wasn’t as much stuff already in there.  After moving a shelf, a wagon, a stack of pots, and the heater, I had access to the first wall, unrolled the wrap, lined it up, pushed in the first plastic plug and tried to get it in far enough to turn it to lock the wrap in place…and tried….and tried.  Finally, I abandoned the wrap, and just tried to put the plug into the empty metal track.  It wouldn’t fit!  Here’s the metal track the plugs are supposed to go into…

GH frame compressed  My metal framework is obviously thicker metal (it’s steel, not aluminum like most…we get 60 mph winds and heavy snow loads some years so I opted for strength) than the plugs were made for.  An attempt to fix the problem followed. Plugs compressed  Focus on the far left plug.  See how small the opening between the part that turns in the framework and the base is?   The top plug is one I filed slightly to make a larger opening.  Notice I did not weaken or reduce the post that holds the turn-in part. Filing a couple of the plastic plugs was not easy (I worked while I watched basketball so it was not a total waste of time!)  but it was do-able. However, I wasn’t looking forward to filing 100!  I bundled back up and went out to try again.  The plug would fit into the slot with the insulation, but when I turned it to lock it, the base snapped off the plug.  Obviously, this wasn’t a solution.  I tried everything I could think of including clothespins, bent wire paper clips, flat-headed bolts, wiggle wire, etc.  It must be something that is easy to install yet just as easy to remove.  After all, the insulation will only be in place until mid-May and then it comes down.  Plastic melts inside my greenhouse even with two roof vents and an automated fan vent.  Believe me, I learned that one last summer and won’t leave anything plastic in there again.  Finally, I remembered some metal clips in my husband’s desk and I “borrowed” them.  They come in assorted sizes.  The small 1/2″ ones fit in the track, but didn’t have enough strength and popped off.  Happily, the larger ones (1-1/4 “) also fit and for the most part Gh clips compressed   work  well!  (Happy dance here!)  They aren’t cheap ($4.79 for 15 at Staples and it took 9 pkg.) but I figure they will last the rest of my lifetime easily, and they are easy to use.   It still wasn’t easy though.  Climbing a ladder and holding the wrap over my head while trying to clip the clips wasn’t fun.  Neither was Gh bubble compressed  working the insulation around and behind my benching (which is WAY to heavy for me to move again… putting it in was hard enough and I’m a year older!)  but by crawling underneath and carefully pulling, climbing on top and carefully feeding it downward, I was finally able to get the wrap installed.  It would have been a lot easier if the greenhouse were empty, so I wouldn’t have to move everything a dozen times, but that will never be the case now or in the future, so it’s a just-do-it situation.  Once the wrap was all clipped up, I used inexpensive clear packing tape on the seams (overlapping the wrap a bit) to secure it and also around the vents.  (Another happy dance would have been appropriate, but I was too stiff by then to move!)  I did reset the thermometer, so I could compare the outdoor and indoor low temps.  GH bench March compressed  The next morning, I hurried to the greenhouse, eager to see how much difference the bubble insulation wrap had made.  Unfortunately, the sheets were hanging loose wherever there were seams.   See it sagging open just left above the potting bench? The packing tape had not held.  How can that be when anything that arrives wrapped in bubble wrap and fastened with tape is nearly impossible to open without a sharp blade?   Somewhat deflated, I ordered a roll of  4″greenhouse tape $15 (as suggested by ACF, but I was trying to save a few pennies, which were now spent on additional shipping costs of $16)  and re-taped all the seams.  I also ran a bead of silicone sealant on the outside, wherever there were little gaps between the greenhouse framework and the wood foundation, because when I was crawling around on the floor, I noticed cold air coming in here and there.  It was finally finished!

Gh insulation complete compressed  After 3 nights of temperatures in the teens, there is a 6 degree difference.  Still not great, but better than 1 degree WITH the heater.  Tonight it will be mid-twenties, so I’ll monitor the temperature with the heater running.  I’m hoping to see enough difference in heat retention to make it worth  A: the expense…$36.95 per 4.5 x 25′ roll, $55 shipping….it took 4 rolls for my 10 x 12′ house, plus the clips and tape,  and  B: the effort installing the wrap.  I’m already not looking forward to putting it back up for next season, but if it really, really helps I can grin and bear it.  Crossing my fingers that this works, because there are over 1,200 plants that need to come out of the basement… over twice that many more seedlings still to be transplanted, and winter seems to be hanging on stubbornly with bony fingers.

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I Don’t Care if it’s Snowing!

Really!!!  Just because last year I’d already planted 1/4 of the potager with early crops on March 7, and another 1/4 on March 13….and this year, I’ve planted zilch, zero, nada;  even though my team didn’t even make it into the Big Dance; even though the forecast is for even crappier weather in the coming week, I don’t care if it’s snowing!  REALLY!  Why?

Books 1 compressed  Because these wonderful treasures arrived in the mail today, and if it were beautiful and warm outdoors, I might feel a bit guilty about staying indoors with an entire pot of tea devouring every photo and sentence.  But now, I can read and absorb each and every page; mull over every idea and weigh its merit.

Books 2 compressed

Yes, I’ve been gardening for over forty years, and I’ve had the opportunity to design and plant numerous gardens.  My potager was months in the sketching/erasing stage before it was built, and I am delighted with it.  But, I know I can learn more, I can make it even better, even more productive, even more beautiful.  I’m old school.  I love books!

Books 3 compressed  I’m still amazed that I can order books on the Internet…..these are all used, and most of them were 1 CENT or 2 CENTS!!!  A couple were 99 Cents, one was 1.99, one was a bit more.  I think my birthday check from my mother was well spent!  Happy, happy hours ahead!  Let it snow!

 

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Tired of Waiting!

Potager March

Tired of waiting, tired of waiting, so tired of waiting…for Spring!  It’s been two steps forward, one step back over and over again.  I clear and tidy, and then wish I hadn’t because the temperature plummets again.  Last year I’d planted all the early crops (snow peas, peas, shallots, bok choy, spinach, lettuces, kholrabi, etc.) in the potager by March 7th!  Granted, that was record early, and in the previous three years we hadn’t even had a crocus by then.  So, I was spoiled and was definitely hoping for a repeat.  Yes, I know I should be happy with the bit of green provided by the autumn-planted garlic and the reliable clump of chives (bottom center)…..but…I’m…..not!  So, since I couldn’t do much outside (the temperature is to drop to 16 and stay in that general area at night for the next week! grump, grump, grump…)  I decided to make spring indoors.  Why not begin at the entrance, so here’s the “spring” look, just inside the front door…..

Entry spring compressed  The treadle sewing machine was my grandmother’s, and I still use it on occasion.  Sadly, the daffodils are artificial, but hopefully soon they will be replaced with real ones from the gardens.  I rummaged through my bookshelves for spring-looking covers, and found these favorites:

Spring books compressed  Left to right, the charming little “Betty Crocker’s Kitchen Garden” with illustrations by Tasha Tudor and a pretty olive-green cover.  If you find a copy, grab it because it is filled with good, basic information on growing veggies and herbs and the illustrations of children gardening are adorable.  Next, flagrant self-promotion, but justifiable because it’s a lovely spring green, my first herbal/gardening novel, “Herbal Beginnings,” which is filled with romance, mystery, garden info, herb lore and culture, and over 100 original recipes for herbal appetizers & herbal cocktails (the beginning course, of course!)  Next, the book that changed my life, Adelma Simmons’ “Herb Gardens of Delight.”  While feeling blue because I was living in the city and missing green space, I wandered into a small public library in Hartford, CT that happened to have a spring display of various gardening books.  I picked this one up only because it looked cheerful.  Her chapter on tea herbs opened up a whole new world.  My first 3 herb plants came from her farm (orange mint, rose-scented geranium, lemon verbena) and that grew over the years to my own full-fledged herb farm with 21 acres of field production.  Need I say more?  Read her book and you could become addicted to herbs, too.  Next, in another beautiful shade of green is “The Garden Tourist.”  If you love visiting other people’s gardens, you need a good guidebook.  And lastly, in cheery yellow, Beverly Nichols’ “Merry Hall.”  If you haven’t read any of his books (mostly written in the 1950’s) and you love gardens and quirky characters, he really does know his plant material, and you should give him a go.  Fun reading, but you’ll likely learn something as well.  Two more little spring favorites:

Daffodil doily compressed  Gardener nutcracker compressed  This daffodil doily my cousin, Phyllis made for me decades ago.  She obviously has much more patience than I.  It sits under the vase of daffodils, but I pulled it out to show it off better.   And, my favorite nutcracker looks ready to head to the garden.  He sits on the pretty, hand-painted by my friend Margaret, herbal cabinet that resides on the wall opposite the sewing machine.  Herb cabinet compressed   Very garden-y!

I did a bit more “sprinkling spring” throughout the house, but that will wait for an April post, when it’s definitely more appropriate.  Besides, the sun actually decided to show his face a bit today, so I’m off to do a walkabout to see what havoc the roaring winds and teen temps have wrought.  And then I think I will make a pot of tea and re-read some of these old favorite books.  Thinking spring, thinking spring, thinking spring…….

Posted in garden books, gardening, kitchen gardens, Potager, seasonal decor, Spring, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Seed Starting Stuff

Seed stand compressed  Yes, I’m repeating this photo from the last post because I had several inquiries about my seed starting “Facilities.”  See that tall rack?  I built it over thirty years ago out of scrap lumber and some aluminum sheeting.  A few finish nails and lots of wood glue and Voila!   You may note that the third from top shelf is beginning to sag.  Well, that happens as we age, but I think it will last as long as I do!  The lights are just standard 4′ shop fixtures.  Last year, I did replace a couple of the bulbs that had burned out with “Plant and Aquarium” bulbs, which are more expensive.  Not sure that it made a difference.  The seedlings are only under there for a few weeks, not their entire life.  The stand can hold 4- 10×20″ flats on each shelf, so that’s 16  (There used to be a 5th shelf, but it fell apart six years ago and I haven’t made a replacement since I don’t really need it that badly anymore now that I’ve downsized.)  The lights are so bright in the photo, it almost looks like there are domes on the flats in the lights stand, but there aren’t.  Each flat is just filled with rows and rows of baby seedlings, waiting to get big enough to transplant.  If you look carefully, you can see cipollini onions at each end of the second from top shelf.  One batch is Bianca and the other is Gold Coin.

This set up is in my basement, in what used to be the laundry room, so there is water handy.  When I closed the herb farm, I moved one of the 4’x8′ plant benches (in the foreground above ) to this area.  It’s generally my work/transplanting/seeding “table”, but until I get the greenhouse “improved” and the temps quit dropping into the teens at night, it is being used for transplanted seedlings.  It also holds the heating mat (it’s orange, under the domed flats)  heat mat compressed 2  This is a commercial sized one that holds 4 10×20″ flats.  I’ve had it 26 years, so even though it was $60, it’s been worth it’s weight in gold many times over.  Notice that each flat on the mat is covered with a clear dome….that’s because all these seeds need light to germinate.  If they needed darkness to germinate, I’d cover them with an overturned solid black flat. (That means you should group seeding rows in a single flat by their light/dark requirements, too.)  The domes stay on until the seeds germinate, when they immediately get moved to the light stand shown at the top of the post.  Note in the upper right hand corner of this photo is the thermostat that controls the temperature of the heat mat. I can plug 4 mats in at once, but I don’t need that many any longer.  I try to group my seeds according to the temperature they need, as well as the date they need to be started, since you can only select one temperature, but you can increase or decrease the temperature with each batch of flats as needed.

Now, back to that light stand.  Notice how very close those flats are to the light bulbs?  With artificial light, they need to be VERY close, like 2-3″ from the tops of the plants.  I can adjust the shelves and group taller seedlings together as they grow.  In reading many blogs of beginner gardeners, I see lights that are far, far above the flats.  Or, maybe there are no lights at all, just a bit of sunlight (on whatever days it may choose to be sunny) for a few hours.  This results in stretched seedlings that will never produce the way a well-grown, compact seedling will perform.  When I first began gardening, I moved my seeding flats from a “sunny” window to my kitchen counter every night.  I’d put shoe boxes or baking pans under the flats to raise them up to within 2-3″ of the under-counter kitchen lights.  Keep in mind that it takes at least 2 hours of artificial light to equal 1 hour of direct sunlight.  If a baby plant needs 8-10 hours of SUNLIGHT a day, that’s a lot of artificial hours.  I use a Christmas tree light timer to give my light stand 18 hours of light a day.  Buy them at the after Christmas sales cheap!

Seed stand 2 compressed

So far, I’ve transplanted 955 seedlings, so I’m about on schedule even with the late start due to traveling.  But, because of the greenhouse snag and our record low temps this coming week, I’m getting a backlog, so I’ve had to set up another shelf in another part of the basement.  Hopefully, the weather will settle and I can get the temperature problem resolved SOON, or I’ll have to add more shelves and lights 😦   And before you think I am TOO organized, I’ll let you peek at my poor winter-overed plants crowded in front of the sliding glass doors.  They get shoved out onto the

Wintered plants compressed  patio whenever it is warm enough, but otherwise, they have to endure these conditions.  You can see the lemon tree is still producing lemons and even has some new blooms, and the dwarf pomegranate is leafing out merrily, but some of the others are NOT happy.  Warmer days will come, children, and then you can all go out to play.

Posted in gardening, hobby greenhouses, Potager, Seeding, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 18 Comments