Monday, March 30, 2009

Strawberry Seeds

Planted Alpine Strawberry seeds (Fragaria Vescans) purchased from Target One Spot (Buzzy Seed Co.) in a shallow, glazed ceramic dish half-filled with potting soil and topped with seed starter mix. Placed without mulching in south-facing greenhouse. Will most likely grow indoors.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Tomato Sprouts

Beefsteak tomato seeds sprouted today in south-facing greenhouse.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Repurposing Project

Many people think being ecologically responsible means recycling. While recycling is certainly important, even more important is repurposing. Repurposing basically means giving new life to the items in your house that you might have otherwise discarded into the trash or recycling bin.

Repurposing often involves creative, out-of-the-box thinking. For example, we're fixing up our basement right now and have gobs of old fiberglass insulation stuffed between the floor joists that make up the basement "ceiling." We've wanted to remove it for a while now but have agonized over the thought of throwing all that nasty stuff into a dumpster. Then my husband had an idea: why not take that fiberglass and use it to insulate our tiny mowhawk of an attic? The small space above our bungalow's second floor is under-insulated, and for months now we've tried to figure out the best way to insulate our attic so we can retain a bit more heat in the winter. Repurposing our old basement insulation solves two problems at once: the problem of waste disposal and the problem of attic heat loss. Seems like the best kind of win-win situation to me.

Anyway, I noticed a couple weeks ago that I had a growing stack of empty Play-Doh containers. The yellow plastic cups sat on my kitchen counter for a few days waiting to be dealt with; that's when the idea struck me to use the little cups as seedling planters.

Last year was my first summer getting my feet wet with vegetable gardening, and although I didn't get much, I had a bumper crop of cherry tomatoes. I managed to save some of the seeds, and a few weeks ago I planted them with the intention of growing some indoors. My idea is to eventually plant them in hanging baskets in a couple windows and then let them flow over the sides of the baskets.

The seedlings were growing nicely in the biodegradable egg carton in which I'd planted several seeds on Feb. 16. But Saturday, March 28 I noticed their leaves looking a little discolored. So I knew the time had come for a transplant into a larger container.

I started by washing remaining bits of dried Play-Doh from the yellow cups. Then I used an Awl to poke four holes in the bottom of each.

Next, I filled each container with a 50/50 mixture of seed starter and potting soil and added 1/2 tsp. of crushed egg shells to each cup (when I cook with eggs, I wash, dry and crush the shells; I've read it's good to add egg shells the soil of many plants, including tomatoes, as the calcium in the shells can help prevent certain leaf diseases).

I carefully transplanted each of my seedlings from the biodegradable egg carton to the larger Play-Doh containers.

Finally, I covered the soil around each transplanted seedling with finely chopped sphagnum peat moss. I placed the Play-Doh lids at the bottom of each cup to catch water drainage. Then I watered and misted them and put all except for two in one of my mini green houses. The remaining two cups were placed under growlights in the kitchen.

My seedlings seem much happier now that they have more room to stretch their roots! Some of them did lose the yellowing lower leaves, which tells me I should have transplanted these little guys about a week ago.

On a related note, I repurposed a flat biodegradable eggroll tray from Trader Joe's to start about 15 spinach seeds, which I also intend to grow indoors. After rinsing the tray lightly, I layered it with potting soil, then seed starter, then laid the seeds on top of soil. I covered the seeds with a very light dusting of well chopped sphagnum peat moss (mostly the particles at the bottom of the bag). Then I spritzed with my mister and and put the tray in my southern "seed starting" greenhouse.

Incidentally, I have two greenhouses I bought for about $30 each from Harbor Freight on Greenfield Avenue in West Allis. They aren't the sturdiest of structures, but for the price, I'm pretty happy with them. They're great for starting seeds in a warm, moist environment. I put one in front of my eastern-facing sliding glass door and one in my southern dining room window. Haven't decided yet whether I'm going to keep them indoors year round or move them outside just before the last frost date to harden off my seeds.

If you're looking for repurposing projects, try googling the keywords "repurposing ideas" and you'll find all sorts of information. Have fun!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Raising Luna Moths

The nine Actias luna cocoons I ordered from Bill Oehkle in Canada arrived in my mailbox today, packed in a small cardboard box. They seem to be active within their cocoons! I put them in an old 2.5 gallon aquarium for now. Should emerge in 7 to 14 days. I am hoping to raise my own five cocoons indoors. Four will go off to two friends in the neighborhood. I hope to have them mate, save the eggs, and raise a new brood. If I can, I'll eventually release some into the wild (after the city sprays for Gypsy moths in May/June). I know it's a lofty goal, but I'd love to replenish the silk moth population in Milwaukee County!

In case you've never seen a Luna moth, here's a picture from Bill's site:

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Cabbage Sprouts

Cabbage seeds sprouted!

Chamomile Sprouts

Chamomile seeds sprouted!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Starting Seeds Indoors!

Spring is here!!!

Well, kind of.

Still, despite the "sprinter" weather we have in southeast Wisconsin, the time has come to start some of my seeds for this year's outdoor harvest.

  • Sugar baby watermelon

  • Early golden acre cabbage

  • German chamomile

  • Poblano peppers

  • Pepperoncini

  • California wonder peppers

  • Jalapenos

  • Beefsteak tomatoes (saved seeds from West Allis farmers market purchase)

  • Coriander

  • Planted seeds in recycled pulp (paper) egg cartons filled with a mix of seed starter mix and potting soil. Mulched with peat moss. Put in greenhouses (added second): some in south-facing greenhouse and some in east-facing greenhouse.

    Spinach and lettuce are growing but looked pale and wilty, probably from overmisting and heat inside green house. Brought them outside for afternoon in full sun (it's approx. 55 – 60degrees outside) for about two hours. The spinach looked much happier afterward. Not so sure about the lettuce.

    Friday, March 13, 2009

    Mango Seed

    I'm always looking for new things to try growing. So when I noticed a forgotten mango ripening to the point of rotting in my fruit basket, I decided to do a little googling, see if I could find out if one can grow mangos from the seed obtained from grocery store fruits. I certainly don't have the tall ceilings and sunlight to grow a fruiting mango tree (from what I've read, they get pretty tall) but I still thought it would be fun to see what I could come up with.

    So I cut open the soft mango, composted the peelings and squishy, overripe fruit and removed the inner core. Then I rinsed the core, using a knife to remove the extra strands of mango that clung to the hard white seed. I nicked the seed with the knife and placed the seed in a plastic bag with moist seed starter and peat moss. Then I put the bag on bottom shelf inside my mini green house, rolling down the sides of the bag for ventilation.

    If you'd like a mango tree "recipe," google the keywords "growing mango seed" and you'll find plenty of information on the subject.

    Friday, March 6, 2009

    Indoor Spinach and Lettuce

    Selected approx. six spinach and six lettuce seedlings and transplanted them to two flats filled with potting soil mixed with dried, crushed egg shells. Added about five red wigglers from my vermicomposter to each flat. There's no drainage in these flats, which could prove to be a problem. Mulched flats with peat moss and placed inside newly assembled One Stop Gardens 4 tier mini green house. The green house is facing east in front of the large sliding glass doors in the kitchen. Hope to grow spinach and lettuce indoors, if possible.

    A note about the red wigglers: from what I've read online, there's conflicting info about whether intentionally or unintentionally adding worms from one's vermicomposter to potted plants is beneficial to the plants and to the worms (here's one such discussion). I'm curious about this, so I'm going to do some of my own experimenting.