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Yikes! I’ve been slacking off with the blogging, even though there’s a lot going on in my garden right now. I’ve got peas, radishes, and salad greens coming up, and beans and cucumbers planted last week.
The seedlings that I started indoors are ready to be planted! I actually transplanted tomatoes and kale yesterday, and peppers will follow sometime next week. More pictures will follow, but above you can see some healthy tomato, pepper, and kale seedlings. AND, I finally found a good use for my atmospheric dynamics textbook…
In the last few days, the never-ending winter weather has finally started to break. (Punxatawney Phil gets an F in meteorology this year!) With the warmer weather, I’ve been thinking a lot more about my garden. Two days ago, I was able to get out and plant seeds in my cold frame. I’m going to try to get an early start on Beets (Crapaudine), Carrots (Dragon), Lettuce (Spotted Aleppo), Radishes (Saxa 2), and Arugula. This is the first time I’ve planted in a cold frame, so I’m still learning. The last several nights we’ve had nighttime lows in the upper-20s, and daytime highs in the mid-50s with plenty of sun, so I’ve been stopping at the garden twice a day to open and close the cold frame, to keep it warm enough at night, but to make sure the germinating seeds don’t cook during the day.
The seeds that I started indoors (6 days ago now) are germinating! Here’s a couple of little tomato seedlings coming to life! These are Opalka tomatoes, which are supposed to be a very good processing variety. I’ve never grown them before. I’m hoping it’s a good year for tomatoes this year, and we don’t have problems again with late blight.
My Kale seedlings germinated within 4 days – super quick! Here are the Dwarf Curled Blue Scotch, and Lacinato kales. I was in the Home Depot today, and I was amazed to see that they were offering Lacinato transplants. Two years ago, I couldn’t find transplants anywhere. Last year, I found them in limited supply at a local nursery/CSA. It’s cool to see some of the heirloom varieties start to become more accessible, especially as more people plant gardens. The Dwarf Curled Blue Scotch is supposed to be hardy enough overwinter in Zones 4-5, so I’m hoping it will survive the winter here in Zone 6a. I’ve started to become more interested lately in season extension. I think this year I’ll try to get a late fall/early winter harvest of lettuce and green using my cold frame, and anything I can be harvesting in the winter is worth trying to grow.
I put up a rabbit fence today around my community garden plot, and I also planted peas. Here’s what I’m growing this year: Desiree Dwarf Blauwschokkers – a blue shelling pea, Sugar Snap, and Kent Blue – an English heirloom with beautiful blue flowers (grown as either a snow or a shelling pea). I’m going to do some crossbreeding between these varieties to see what I get.
This year I decided to grow all of my tomatoes and peppers from seed. We have a number of local sources to buy transplants here in Central PA, and some of them have a pretty impressive selection of heirloom tomatoes, but heirloom peppers are hard to find. Also, I absolutely love Lacinato kale, and it’s not always easy to find transplants.
I also want to start saving more seeds from my garden, so I decided it was time to make some improvements to my seed starting setup. I’ve had a rough time with starting seeds indoors the last few years. I only have North-facing windows in my apartment, so there isn’t enough natural light to start seeds. Last year I used a small fluorescent “plant light” that apparently wasn’t bright enough, because my seedlings got very spindly.
This year, I’m starting my seeds under a 48″ fluorescent shop light. I built a simple stand for it out of 1″ pvc pipe. Unfortunately I didn’t have the foresight to take pictures during the assembly process, but here’s a look at the finished product:
To build something similar, you’ll need:
- 1 x 52″ length of 1″ pvc pipe
- 2 x 18″ lengths of 1″ pvc pipe
- 4 x 8″ lengths of 1″ pvc pipe
- 2 x 1″ pvc elbow joints
- 2 x 1″ pvc T-joints
- 4 x 1″ pvc end caps
In total, it adds up to a 10′ length of pvc pipe, which is pretty cheap. The 52″ section makes the crossbeam, and the 18″ pieces are used for the vertical legs. The 8″ sections are used to make the feet. Here’s a link to something similar, although I didn’t make the stand with an adjustable height; I adjust the level of the light just by raising or lowering the chain. The total cost was probably not much more than $40 for the stand, shop light, and fluorescent bulbs.
I also purchased a seedling heat mat, since peppers like warm temperatures for germination, and usually keep my apartment relatively cool. Here’s a list of what I’m starting indoors this year: