Initial planting & disaster!

seedlingsThis year we tried to grow our own produce from seeds.  I set up a light bar on a timer in our spare bedroom, along with a heating mat.  We planted lots of different types of seeds.  We planted just after Christmas.  By early March, our results looked like this.

And then we tried to transplant them outside.

That sentence has just made experienced gardeners wince.

The results were a disaster.  The new plants flopped around during the planting, and by the next day they had all turned white and wilted.  It was a total loss.

Here’s what I should have known.

When growing seedlings in greenhouse conditions, it is necessary to use a fan to circulate air around them.  It doesn’t have to be a heavy wind, but it does need to be enough to cause the plants to move a little.  And it should oscillate, so it is never coming from just one direction.

This air movement allows the seedlings to develop strength, so they are not so floppy during transplanting.

Next, greenhouse seedlings are delicate, and suffer transplant shock if they are just stuck outside.  To combat this they need to be, “hardened off”, by gradually introducing them to the great outdoors.  To do this requires about 7-10 days of gradually increasing exposure, in the shade for the first 3 days, and in the sun for the next 3, and finally late or early in the day leading to an overnight stay.

There are other methods to harden off plants too.

But without this “training”, a poor seedling raised in a sheltered environment has little chance of survival.  All my pepper plants died.  My squash plants were hit pretty hard, but they look like they may pull through.

But there is a lot of good news!

First, I cut a plastic 55 gallon drum in half to use as planters for my onions.  I got these drums for $11 each, used.  They were used to transport soy sauce before I got to them.  A little soap and water and all the soy sauce residue was removed.  I added holes in the bottom for drainage, and placed them on bricks next to my bags of potatoes.  I filled them with Mel’s Mix.

I had also filled my “Quick and Dirty Deck Planter” with Mel’s Mix, and planted a third of it with carrots, and two thirds of it with spinach.  The idea is to have fresh spinach all summer.

click for bigger imageThe spinach sprouted very quickly.

Since late January, I’ve been busy doing some pretty major work around the yard.

The goal is to always try to plant food.  I don’t always do this – we have succulents and pots of flowers on the porch to the East of the house.  I’ve planted lavender in the ground to the East too.

The house came with two orange trees.  The orange tree in the back yard was a nuisance, so I removed it completely.  The orange tree in the front yard produced a LOT of oranges this year!  About 300 pounds of oranges.

The house also came with a mystery tree in the front yard.  Here are some images of it.  I’ve done a little asking around and have discovered that the tree is a Glossy Leaf Privet, aka a Ligustrum lucidum.  I was hoping for an Elderberry, but unfortunately the berries on this tree are not edible.  They can be toxic.  The tree is somewhat invasive, and it tries to propagate by sending out shoots everywhere.  I’ve been keeping the shoots in check with my lawnmower.

So now I’m considering tearing out that tree and planting something I can eat there instead.  It’s too early now to decide – I won’t be able to order a decent fruit or nut replacement for it until late fall.

I’ve taken the time to update the layout of my house, and what is being grown where.
Click to make bigger


The blue spots around the house are potted plants.  You can see the cherry tree and blueberry bush in the back yard near the future deck.  You can also see the placement of my garden shed here.

I’ve named my North and South gardens, and the South patio garden.  I also started work to mulch in areas of the yard that I didn’t want to plant in.

The most work went into the North Garden, and into the mulching of the fruit orchard to the North East of the North Garden.  Before I mulched in that area, I had to move the irrigation pipes and add a border.  You can see an album of me doing that here.

The North garden also requires soil amendment, as did the South Garden.  I’ve already weeded and amended the South Garden, and planted my first pepper plants there.  Weeding was pretty bad since I’d let the Bermuda grass take over there.  Removing that was back-breaking!  

More on this in my next update.