Leggy Seedlings

Seedlings

My first attempt at growing from seed indoors: not so successful. Something I’d read said to expose the seedlings to light very gradually, but apparently? In Seattle, full light is probably not even enough for seedlings.

They got leggy. Tall, thin, and flopped over. The basil in the top row isn’t so terrible, and I’m starting a new batch tonight now that I know what the problem is. I’ve got these guys sitting on a desk in A’s room, and since there’s already a table lamp in there, I’m running out and buying a fluorescent bulb for it this evening. Short, fat stems: here we come.

Cloches! I Made Some.

Plastic cloche

The six raised beds have two half-circle metal rods criss-crossing the “inside” 2/3 of the structure. It makes for some very odd trellises and cloches, I’m finding out. I decided that since the rods made an X over the bed, that was essentially four triangle-shaped sides, which flattens to a perfect square.

Here, in case you need a visual aid: . Imagine the X in the center is a top-down view of my criss-crossing rods.

Now, this doesn’t take into account that two corners of my raised bed stick out beyond the square edges of my X, so I erred on the large size for each plastic square. A 10′ x 25′ roll of clear plastic sheeting got me two covered cloches, and I have almost enough plastic left over for a third. I plan on using it over another bed when it’s warm enough that I want to vent the beds but still protect the plants a smidge.

Because the plastic was a bit big, I used binder clips (I replaced these fancy guys with ones I found in the boat a few days later, plus neatened up the folds and arrangement overall. As you can tell, I’m using bricks to hold down the corners where there’s nothing to clip the plastic to. It’s handy, because I can just shift these bricks, fold back the plastic, and water my seedlings.

Speaking of, I’ve started a few hardier plants and so far, I’m seeing Green Arrow pea, arugula, and radish sprouts. I pruned back my tarragon to the ground, and it’s sprouting up nicely as well…along with some of last year’s damn borage, which I didn’t even notice until I uploaded this photo (the more rounded leaves you can see below are the borage sprouts). Too bad I don’t plan on putting the tomatoes anywhere near here!

Tarragon and some borage

First Indoor Starts!

First seedings!

Last Saturday my order of seeds arrived and I couldn’t help myself: I started a few seedlings using a kit I found at McLendon’s Hardware. I figured I’d be starting the majority of my indoor sowing later in February, so this was my trial run (and, an attempt to learn how best to stagger yields this year).

There’s a good mix going above, each plant is seeded in four peat…pucks? After soaking them for a bit, I put three seeds (well, two for each shallot, I ran out of seeds) in each puck and covered them with peat using a chopstick. I plan to pull out/snip off the weaker seedlings as they pop up.

There are three types of tomatoes: Siletz, Brandywine, and Mortgage Lifter. Obviously, I love tomatoes and would extra love to grow a million of them this year.

Next row down, there’s some Wild Garden kale (sprouting like mad by Wednesday, some of the others are still napping it off or playing it all cool-like, but not the kale), some chives, and Belstar broccoli. I already yanked out a couple weak kale starts, simply because they were already so obvious!

Finally, the bottom row uses up the last of 2014’s Megaton leek, Conservor shallot, and Walla Walla onion seed. I’m not so sure the ones I planted in the fall made it through the winter, and I’d really rather not go without.

Why’s the tray in such an odd spot? Well, between the dog and the cat, both of whom like to investigate and eat anything remotely green, A’s off-limits room near the heat register was the only safe, warm-ish spot in the house. A seed warmer arrives today! Along with some black mulch to whip the “other” bed into shape once and for all.

The Other Bed

Murray and the Other Bed

The six beds in Trivial Pursuit formation are what I focused on for the first year in the house. But there’s another bed on the south side of the garage, surrounded (and filled) with weeds and a long distance away from where the hose reaches. That photo above? That’s after the first weeding sometime last summer, which was exhausting. Most of it was filled with waist-high dead grass (you can see a little of it left in the upper left corner, I think I’d found a giant millipede on my shoulder and given up a little early that day). I also found a not-insignificant number of clumps of gone-wild garlic, from which I used the tops in whatever I was cooking that night.

This weekend, we had a small break in the rain so instead of taking the dog for a long walk (sorry, dog) I decided to weed out this bed for good. It was easier this time (and less millipede-y, although there were some REALLY fat grubs), and the number of little garlic clumps were fewer.

I was planning on planting my tomatoes here, but I’m less sure of that plan now. For one, the water situation—although on my long list of to-dos is to take advantage of Seattle’s RainWise program and put in a rain barrel. However, the more likely spot for the barrel would be over near the Trivial Pursuit beds, so…problem not solved. The other reason this was going to be the tomato bed: the previous owners cautioned us against planting tomatoes too closely to our other beds for disease reasons. The Internet seems to be calling bullshit on that advice, though? I’m not planning on growing peppers or eggplant or potatoes this year anyway! However, it’s a good amount of space for all those tomatoes I do want to raise, and I think the sun exposure back in this bed is wonderful.

Time to do a little research into what doesn’t mind being slightly neglected in a super sunny area, it seems.

I’ve ordered some black plastic sheeting to put down and halt those weeds (and warm up the soil), and some clear sheeting to create cloches on the Trivial Pursuit beds. Look how much I got done today!

Grass-free bed

Drying Herbs

Drying herbs, sage and thyme

The above photo is from my first drying session, late summer. Pick your herbs mid-morning, when their oils are strongest but they aren’t all dew-covered OR wilted from the mid-day sun. This is especially key for sage! I rinsed my herbs to get rid of any bugs, threw them in the salad spinner, and let them dry a little more while I prepared the bags. You don’t want any mold-causing moisture. Actually, for this drying session, the sage was still pretty damp so I gave it a session with my hairdryer in the bathroom (and got side-eye from Nick for it, if I remember correctly).

I used a hole-puncher on folded up paper lunch bags, bundled the thyme and sage into little bouquets, and tied them off with kitchen twine before hanging them inside the bags (held near the folded top with a binder clip).

You want to keep these somewhere dark where air regularly circulates. I chose the bottom shelf of my pantry cabinet, which gets opened often. We’re a bit limited on dark, cool spaces around here.

You can check on their progress periodically, but I didn’t bother, I just processed them into little Mason jars a month or two later, when I had the time.

Thyme, rosemary, and sage, dried and packaged

Thyme on the left, rosemary up top, and crumbled sage on the right.

For my second round of drying, I grabbed more thyme, more sage, and newcomers parsley and rosemary (why, I’m not sure, since rosemary grows everywhere in Seattle…particularly downtown, where I’ve heard they plant it to cover up the smell of urine from the homeless—or possibly the evening revelers).

Parsley was a terrible mistake (it turned brown and didn’t really get crisp), which I’m bummed about because I ran out of dried parsley a few months ago and can’t bring myself to buy more when I KNOW the garden’s going to be overrun with it again this coming year. I also now have a food dehydrator on my wish list, but until then, I’ll be attempting to dry parsley in the oven vs. a bag.

The rosemary dried just as well as the thyme and sage, though. I’ll probably send some to my folks’ back east since no one around here needs it!

Seed Anticipation

Borage and The Bee

Borage from last year

I bought a crapton of seeds online (thanks, new job!) and am now impatiently waiting for them to arrive.

The one that gives me the most chuckles: I bought borage seeds, so I can plant it to attract bees to my tomato plants. Borage, the runner-up-scourge of my 2014 garden. I was pulling up borage seedlings for weeks. It doesn’t help that I don’t enjoy cucumbers in any form that’s not a Klaussen pickle (borage smells and tastes like fuzzy cucumbers). The previous owners told me it tastes good frozen in ice cubes destined for cocktails, but that sounds like something a gin-lover says.

An Update on the 2014 Plantings

Frosty fava beans

Fava Beans / Radishes

Sad trombone. We received some sharp frosts late fall, which totally murdered the radishes straight away. They had some mildly radish-y looking roots, but weren’t anywhere near mature. The frost also half-killed the fava bean plants…one or two might have recovered, but they depressed me so much that I decided to turn them under for the nitrogen mid-January.

Carrots

I was pulling these up throughout January, basically using that bed as cold storage until Nick was ready for more lunch carrots. They were a little stunted (averaging about 3″–5″ and not TOO thin) because I’d planted them far too close together, but friend/coworker Stephanie gave rave reviews of their flavor (they were pretty delicious).

I cleaned out/turned under that bed a couple of weeks ago, and pulled up at least 20 normal- to sad-looking carrots destined for the food scraps bin. The squirrels, too, had discovered them, so many were partially dug up and gnawed. Overall, though, a thoroughly succesful planting and next round I’ll be more careful to plant them in an organized, well-spaced fashion.

Tomatoes

Those were, indeed, the last harvest from our neighbor’s kindly gift.

Garlic

Several weeks after I de-stemmed the last of my garlic, I gave a bunch away (to the lovely garlic-loving vegetarian Breanna), and spent an evening breaking apart each head and peeling each clove. I now have a not-insignificant amount of peeled garlic cloves in a bag in the freezer, and it’s fantastic. I also planted the cloves from the few heads I saved for my 2015 crop, and they’re coming along fabulously!

Spinach

Back in September I said I should have minded this better, but after the frosts, this was what survived the best! It was looking decently healthy for being ignored for so long. I ate a couple leaves while turning the plants under in January.

Purple Green Beans

These guys were awesome. I will definitely plant them again, despite my mistake in thinking they’d be a climbing plant (they were bush). Such a pretty color on the bush, plus the bonus of knowing when they’re fully cooked by the color (they turn from a deep purple to a bright green when cooked).

Sugar Snap Peas

Nick’s daughter ate these by the double-fist-full every chance she got. Rave reviews of how sweet and delicious they were when I brought a gallon-sized bag of them to a Ladies’ Weekend, too.

Swiss Chard

A big fat fail. The Neem oil did not work. I will be nicer to you next year, Swiss chard.

An Update on What’s Already Truckin’ for 2015

Rhubarb

Aw, look how weird and charming baby rhubarb is. This isn’t red rhubarb, but green rhubarb, which tastes the same but is much more productive. Nick’s mother’s trick is to put red food coloring into her rhubarb compotes. My solution was to make a strawberry rhubarb pie (right, just for the color!). The pie’s from last summer. Nick prefers straight rhubarb pie, so that’s on the to-do list for this year.

Garlic

Every single clove I planted came up! Including two I thought weren’t going to after most of them sprouted, so I shoved a couple more cloves down into the soil a couple of weeks later. Since those turned out to be doubles, I pulled up the weaker of each set.

Onions

A late fall cold snap (which included a tiny bit of snow) did some serious damage to these poor little seedlings. I planted leeks, Walla Wallas, and shallots each in a corner of a triangle-shaped bed, and I think only the leeks have survived. They’re still pretty shrimpy, though. Also, next year? I’ll be better about noting what I plant where in a bed. Sigh.

Chives

I planted chives both early and late summer and they did not make it either time. I planted some inside, in a small planter in a window, and forgot to tell Nick to water the pot on his rounds. Thumbs down on chives for me. Unless, watch, those suckers take hold and run wild like the parsley and borage did in summer 2014.