Archive for March, 2012

Last Saturday, the East Row community gardeners got together for our first work day of 2012 and expanded the garden from 18 beds to 27. In just a few hours, we assembled nine 4′ x 10′ plots out of cedar, then filled them with leaf compost and soil. It was a gorgeous day and so nice to meet and welcome new members of the community garden!

The beds were constructed out of cedar.

Leaf compost is added first to the newly constructed garden bed.

I chose compost duty. You can't trust me with power tools!

Everyone pitches in!

Many hands make light work.

Mary, one of the new plot owners.

A few of the compost brigade.

We all got quite a workout!


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Goodbye, Squirmy!

On February 20, I enthusiastically started an indoor worm bin and posted about vermicomposting. Before starting, I had consulted books and attended a workshop given at the Civic Garden Center. I was thrilled to begin the process that would use my fruit and vegetable scraps to make nutrient-dense compost tea for the garden. And I was happy about keeping those scraps out of the landfill.

Sadly, I had to evict my little wormy friends today. They brought with them some uninvited guests that were having a party in my kitchen. Yes, I’m talking about drosophila melanogastere (even their name sounds horrid) … otherwise known as the dreaded fruit fly. I had followed all of the recommended preventative measures — I buried the food scraps and put dry bedding on top. Once I noticed them, I set fruit fly traps and even stopped feeding the worms for a while. Absolutely nothing worked, but rather, got worse.

Fruit flies aren’t very smart, so were easy to smash. I sucked up plenty with the vacuum, stepped on a few, clapped my hands and got some in mid-flight. But mostly I smashed them with my finger and deposited them onto a paper towel. But I was out-numbered and they all just had to go. The Civic Garden Center volunteer who taught the workshop is taking them from me, bin and all. They are in the trunk of my car, ready for tomorrow’s trip. I couldn’t keep them inside one more night.

Sorry, Squirmy. It’s been real, but I’m going to look for another composting method that will work OUTDOORS.

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Popsicle sticks make good (and cheap!) plant markers.

In zone 6 where I live, it’s time to start those tomatoes and pepper plants indoors. To get ready for gardening season, I attended a class at the Civic Garden Center back in January called “Seed Starting Basics.” Some of the info presented was WAY more than I cared to know about the science of seed starting. (Like, don’t even ask me about scarification and stratification! I think I fell asleep in class.) But, I did learn a few practical things.

  1. The seed starting mix should be sanitary. Don’t re-use seed starting mix.
  2. A good seed-starting mix is part peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite. It will be light and have good air circulation.
  3. Plant the seed as deep as it is wide.
  4. No fertilizer until after you see the first set of leaves, and then use fertilizer only 1/4 strength.
  5. Watering should result in soil that is as damp as a wrung-out sponge. To lightly water, mist your seedlings with a spray bottle.
  6. Warming pads (or heating vents) help with germination. Generally, 70-75 degrees is ideal, but look at germination tables for your type of plant.
  7. You don’t need grow-lights until your seeds germinate. Then, put the grow-lights as close to the plant as you can without touching it.
  8. To harden off your young plants, blow a gentle fan breeze, or gently run your hand over the seedlings from time to time. When getting close to planting time, put outside for brief periods of time, and gradually increase. Ex: Set outside for 1-1/2 hours each day for a few days, increase to 2-1/2, to 3-1/2, etc. Or use a cold-frame.

So, now I’m ready to get started! I’ve bought some tomato seeds: Brandywine, Mortage Lifter, Sweetie cherry tomato. Plus, I’m experimenting with tomato seeds I saved from last year: Cherokee Purple, Luann’s cherry tomato and Roma varieties. I also saved seeds from an organic red pepper that was store-bought. Last year I successfully grew a red pepper seedling this way, but the plant didn’t make it in the garden due to a crazy pumpkin vine that ran amuck!

On Sunday, I dug up the winter rye to get ready for planting. I have 2 garlic plants growing, and on the far end of the garden are my mulched-over strawberry plants. You can see my neighbor's beautiful winter rye in the plot to the left.

Down at the garden, it was a sunny day this past Sunday, so I dug up the winter rye in preparation for the early spring plants. It was actually snowing a little on Sunday, so maybe I was a bit over-eager. But the earthworms were fat, happy, and very active. Can spring be far away?

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