News from the garden

So the onion seedlings were a total fail.¹ They’ve slowly withered over the last couple of weeks, I think for a couple of reasons. Even though they were in a sunny, south-facing window, the temperature was too cold since our thermostat is generally set at 64 degrees. If I try it again next year, I’ll have to invest in a heating pad.²

Gonna be choppin' broccoli

The other problem was keeping the soilless potting mix moist but not saturated. I poured water in the bottom of the holding container every couple of days, allowing the plants to soak up what they needed. That worked great until one day, inexplicably, those little things sucked up a ton of water all at once, and they never got over it. Alas, the tiny, sad-looking plants went in the composter yesterday, but I’m not giving up. Many gardening forums say don’t bother starting onions indoors in the South, so I sowed more seeds directly in the raised bed. Fingers crossed.

Carrot seeds also went in the ground last week, a little earlier than originally planned. But this unseasonably warm weather was too great a temptation. I’ll post photos when they begin to sprout.

Started three types of tomato seeds indoors yesterday (Yellow Pear, Rutgers VF, and Principe Borghese) as well as herbs and native flowers (purple coneflower, butterfly weed, anise hyssop, and lemon bergamot) for the eroding bank in front of our house. To prevent saturation problems with the soilless potting mix, I dumped the bag into a large container and added a little water, just until the entire batch was crumbly but not soaking wet. Once the mix was fluffy and evenly moist, it went into the flats for seeding.

The broccoli (above) is looking good, despite fifteen inches of rain (literally) in the last couple of weeks. And I wedged a few Bibb lettuce seedlings in a bare spot in the wildflower garden, but they haven’t enjoyed the rain nearly as much. They’re a bit yellow but seem to be hanging on and drying out, so I’m hopeful.

This week’s most exciting development? Our first Jerusalem artichoke has surfaced, and now I’m dreaming of a wall of sunflowers in the back yard.

Are you prepping your garden yet, interwebs?

Brad’s footnotes
¹ This is not completely true. Like two of the onions were still standing upright. But she transplanted those outside, where they’ll probably just die. So maybe she is right.
² We don’t even have a heating pad for ourselves. We use hot water bottles circa 1932. Is it a sickness that we treat our veg better than ourselves?

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  • Do you think your onions got damping off?

    My onion seedlings are doing fine and we keep our house cold. I’ve got mine under fluorescent lamps but no heating pad. They are next to an interior wall, not a window, though.

    I’ve been cutting off the tops of the onions to add to our dinners.

    I’ll probably start my tomato and pepper seeds this weekend. This year I’ve got the following tomatoes: Ultimate Opener, Amish Paste, Henderson’s Pink Ponderosa, Illinois Beauty, Gold Medal, Woodle Orange, Cherokee Purple, and Gypsy. Peppers are Golden Cal Wonder, Lipstick, and Jalapeno.

  • That’s my guess, especially considering the weird water suckage event. What kind of fluorescent lamp are you using?

    Those tomatoes sound divine. Since both of our raised beds had nightshades the last couple of years, I can’t fill them with tomatoes or peppers this time. I’m going to try using Topsy-Turvys, even though they’re difficult to keep watered. They were only $2 each on clearance, so I’m hoping they’re worth the risk.

    Curious about that Principe Borghese – it’s supposed to be great for drying, and Brad wants to try his hand at a solar dehydrator. Do you dehydrate any of your veggies? If so, which varieties work best?

  • I’m using regular shop lamps with fluorescent tubes. They are suspended on a wire shelf with hooks and chains so I can raise and lower the lamps over the plants.

    I have an electric dehydrator and I’ve used it to dry tomatoes. I think I may have dried them too much in the past and ended up turning them to powder with a food processor to add to recipes. I’m not real clear about storing the dried tomatoes; do you pack them in olive oil? I had put them in freezer bags and put them in the freezer, hoping they’d be good on homemade pizza but they were just too dry. Maybe I should have soaked them in oil before using them? I’ve used the dehydrator for drying herbs and it works great for that. I’d like to try drying some other veggies to make ready-to-use soup mixes. Have you done that? I like to grow a lot of paste-type tomatoes because they have less juice. I can tomatoes in jars and make sauce that I keep in bags in the freezer.

  • We’re definitely going to need to invest in some lamps, but we don’t have anywhere to set them up. Hmmm, there’s got to be someplace where we can have a wall of shelving like that. Ponder…

    Aiyiyi, I have tomato envy! I’ve canned tomatoes and stored them in oil (along with peppers) but never used a proper dehydrator. Brad’s going to try to build a solar version for the deck. I wanted to have dried veggies around for soup but never thought of packaging ready-to-use soup mixes. That’s a great idea. If the solar dehydrator actually works, we’ll send you the design.

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