Is it Spring yet?

It’s been a very mild winter in Utah this year.  Here it is March and it is feeling like spring already.  What is a good gardener (or average one at least) to do with this situation?  Why, get the plants started of course.  I have already had the peppers planted for about a week and a half.  They are all starting to sprout.  I have several different varieties that I chose to plant this year like Ancho, Jalapeño, Anaheim, Chinese Giant, Socrates, and California Bell.  I was a little worried that I was planting a little late.  The peppers usually like it to be warm when they germinate so I plant them a week or two early to give them a little extra time  With the rack being in the basement it stays between 60 and 65 degrees in the winter.  As it turns out this is just perfect for the peppers.  Another few weeks and they should be ready to pot up. 

At the same time that I planted the peppers, I also planted the broccoli and cabbage.  They didn’t take long to sprout and were the first to come up with the new season. 

Today I just planted the tomatoes.  They usually take about a week or two less than the peppers.  There are several different varieties of those as well.  I planted Big Boy, Margherita, Roma, Better Boy, Beefsteak, Yellow Pear, and Cherry.  Last year’s tomato crop did not do so well.  We are hoping for a much better crop this year. 

Last fall I got some cuttings from a coworker’s grape vines.  He has a few different varieties and we took cuttings from two.  It started as an experiment to see which cuttings would root faster.  We took some of the green vine and stuck them in water, and then took the wooded stem and cut it into sticks with about 3 buds.  I thought the green stems would root the fastest just based on my experience with other vines.  It’s true they did root the fastest, however they didn’t survive.  The wooded stems took a very long time to root.  In fact I had nearly given up on them when I started to see them callusing in the water.  I let them start to develop roots before actually planting them in the soil.  As a result I now have grape vines that are growing in the rack that I will plant this spring.

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Posted in Broccoli, Cabbage, Garden, Grapes, Grow Rack, Peppers, Seedlings, Spring, Tomatoes, Uncategorized, Winter | Leave a comment

Surviving the Winter

Winter just won’t let go this year.  Good thing the plants that I have started have the new rack to keep them warm and safe.  Since I have had people ask me about the construction of the grow rack I thought I would explain how I built it.  First off, let me start by saying it has made a huge difference in how the plants have been growing.  I have had much more success this year than last.  I was so concerned about getting larger tomatoes before planting out in the garden that I did them a little earlier this year.  Well because of the conditions of the grow rack I could have started them later and been just fine.

The rack in built out of 2×4’s and OSB.  I had some 2×4’s left over from working on my basement.  I drew up a plan on how I wanted it to be constructed and for the most part I followed the plan.  Here is an image of the plan.

I followed the plan pretty closely.  The only change was that I used a full sheet of 8’x4′ OSB for the back for structural stability.  I originally planned for 4 shelves with 24 inches of height.  I didn’t take into account that my basement height was only 90 inches.  So I had to make the height of the shelves short a little bit.  They each ended up being around 22″ high.  The shelf supports are made of 2×4’s for the side with a 2×4 going across for stability.

Each shelf has 2 lights hung above it on chains so that the height of the lights are adjustable.  The light fixtures were only about $10 a piece from Home Depot.  I ordered two plug strips from Amazon that had build in timers.  One strip runs the top two shelves and the other runs the bottom two shelves.  They are set to run the lights around 16 hours per day.  Here is a shot of a single shelf with some of  the plants on it.  If you look in the back you can see the timer.

To hold in the heat I covered the sides with plastic.  I used velcro to secure the plastic to the sides of the rack.  For the front I put velcro all the way up the sides of both the plastic and the rack.  This was to be like a door that I could open from either sides or remove completely.

The last part of the rack is the ability to monitor the temperature.  I bought a indoor/outdoor thermometer from Wal-Mart.  I mounted the outdoor temperature sensor inside the rack and then left the main part of the thermometer upstairs so I could check on it.  With the lights on it would raise the temperature about 10 degrees from what the temperature in the room was.  I also positioned the rack under a heat run and opened it up to get some more heat.  The peppers and tomatoes like to germinate in warmer temperatures and this was a cheaper solution than buying warming mats for all the shelves.

All in all this design worked really well.  I actually thought I would have plenty of room for everything I planned.  As it turns out I pretty much used up all the space and I am about ready to start hardening off some of the plants so that I can make room for the next batch.

Posted in Grow Rack, Seedlings, Spring, Tomatoes, Winter | 5 Comments

The Madness Begins…again!

 

Oh the weather outside is frightful,
But the growth spectrum bulbs are delightful,
and since we’ve a place to grow,
Let it snow, Let it snow, Let it snow.

As you can see it has been a while since I have last posted.  There’s really not a whole lot to do during the middle of winter.  Last month my project was to get my grow rack built.  I came up with the plans on my own and started putting it together.  When all was said and done it wasn’t terribly difficult to do and it only took a few hours.  It will definitely increase the growing space that I will have for this year and my wife will be happy that I won’t take over the laundry room again.

Well now it is February and while most people are thinking about skiing or sledding, it’s time to start thinking about getting ready for the garden. 

I have already ordered my seeds for this year.  I checked out a few books from the library and have been putting together a schedule for this year.  I have already started some of the seeds that we will be planting.  I have planted the cauliflower, lettuce, spinach, jalepenos, Anaheim chiles, green peppers, artichokes, green onions, and brussel sprouts. 

The first seedling of 2011

 

In the next couple weeks I will be planting the broccoli, cabbage, and tomatoes.

Posted in Broccoli, Cabbage, Garden, Peppers, Seedlings, Snow, Tomatoes, Winter | 6 Comments

Ok! Now It’s Over!

Well that’s it.  The garden is officially done for this year.  Coincidently this is the latest that we have worked in the garden.  Usually we are done the second week in October.  This year has definitely been a little stranger. 

Tonight we freed the tomato plants from their cages or fences.  Then we watched the horror as the sharp metal tines tore them apart and buried them like they were a memory. 

It’s kind of bittersweet for us because we are happy to have the time back each week to start working on all the stuff around the house that did not get done but on the other hand we are going to miss getting together and working in the garden. 

I am very pleased with how well the seedlings worked and how many tomatoes we got.  Everyone had plenty to bottle and it worked out great.

I am already working on my plans for next year.  I will be taking some time this winter to build a grow rack to start the seedlings on for next year.  I would like to do more seedlings, at least a bigger variety of things.  My goal is to make it so that we don’t have to purchase any plants from the local nursery. 

As a parting gift I leave you with the following videos of my father-in-law (aka. Breezley) taking care of the corn stalks:

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

It’s Not Over Yet

I finally had a few spare moments so I thought I should probably update my blog.  Tonight I was out looking at my tomato plants and I found some unwelcome visitors. 

I did a little bit of research and guessed that it’s probably aphids.  So I mixed up a solution of dish soap and warm water and gave them a good cleaning.  Hopefully that will make them feel very unwelcome.  Aside from that our tomato plants at home have been producing quite well.  In fact I was teasing my wife with the idea of canning the small yellow tomatoes. 

The garden is almost done for the year.  The only things we have left to pick are apples and grapes.  There are still tomatoes, peppers, and jalepenos still growing but I suspect now that it is getting colder that won’t last for very long.

This week we picked all the pumpkins.  There were 26 and that was enough to make sure all the kids had one to carve and there were some left over to can or freeze.  This means we can have pumpkin pie all winter long.  We also picked all the squashes as well.  The picture below shows the beauty that we brought home.  Hopefully you can get a good idea of it’s size. 

Take a look at this picture.  Can you see what’s missing?

Yes that would be the raspberry patch.  This year I tried so hard but it just wasn’t meant to be.  So we cut all the raspberries out and we will be tilling up the area where they were.  Don’t worry though, all hope is not lost.  We are planning on planting new plants in a different location in the garden if we can find some better disease resistant varieties. 

I am going to be planting garlic in the near future.  It needs to get in before winter and mid fall is the best time to plant.  I was going to try taking some of the cloves we harvested this year and plant them to see how they do for next year.

In answer to the comments on the last post, here are pictures that show what we do with some of the proceeds that we get from the garden.  I could lie and say that I did all the canning but that would only get me in trouble.  It was my beautiful wife that did the canning this year.  The pictures only show a sample of what was done.  It’s nice to be able to have all that produce filling up the shelves in our food storage. 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Finally Some Color

I guess I should get back to blogging after all that recreating.  Here is a run down of what has been going on. 

The corn harvest is now over.  It was really only a period of about 3 weeks.  There was plenty of corn and the space reserved for it in our freezer has now been filled.  The stalks still remain and some people will use them for decorations for Halloween.  We usually don’t because I hate the mess they make.

Here are the things that we have been harvesting over the past few weeks:

-Tomatoes

-Peppers

-Jalapeños

-Red Cabbage (purple actually)

-Cantaloupe

-Onions

-Potatoes

-Zucchini (will it ever end…)

-Yellow squash

Last night we actually picked all the peaches and pears.  We didn’t think we would get very many peaches because it was so cold so late that we lost a lot of the blossoms.  It turns out that we got a fair amount (enough for each family to take a heaping bucket) and they were a lot bigger than they have been in the past.  Maybe losing some of the blossoms was not that bad.

We have gotten quite a bit of tomatoes.  They finally started turning red and over the past 3 weeks everyone has had their turn taking home at least a bucket’s worth if not more.

We still have a lot of things growing in the garden.  The pumpkins are all turning orange (we usually don’t harvest them until mid-October). 

The squash are also getting pretty big.  This banana squash is probably close to 3 feet long.  I haven’t checked on the squash that are hanging from the corn.  The corn stalks are all still standing so I have reason to believe the squash are still hanging.

The grapes are all turning a deep bluish-purple.  They will get harvested around the same time as the pumpkins.  The apples aren’t ready yet either.  I believe that will be closer to the end of this month. 

I have cut several of the herbs out of our garden at home to and put them in the dehydrator to dry.  It made the house smell very interesting during it.  The tomatoes at home have been turning red/yellow for about a week (maybe more for the yellow tomatoes).  The yellow pear tomato plant is threatening to take over that section of the garden.  It is huge and continues to grow.  I keep thinking I should trim it back so that it will grow more tomatoes and less foliage but instead I do nothing and just let it go on it’s tirade.

Posted in Apples, Cabbage, Canteloupe, Corn, Garden, Grapes, Herbs, Peach Trees, Pear, Peppers, Pumpkin, Squash, Tomatoes | 3 Comments

Bring On The Corn

This week marks the beginning of the corn harvest for us.  The first planting of corn is ready to be picked and pick we did. 

We estimated that we picked somewhere around 200 ears of corn or more.  We didn’t even pick all of the first planting either.  We only picked what was ready.

While we were picking we came across this.

Most of us thought it was disgusting.  If you lived elsewhere in the world you might have thought you hit a gold mine.  My brother-in-law told us that it was a fungus that was considered a delicacy in Mexico and South America.  We all thought he was joking and offered to have him eat it to prove it.  Well it turns out he was right (and he didn’t have to eat it either).  If you are not sure what I am talking about you might want to check out this Wikipedia link.  Apparently the disease that affects this corn is called “huitlacoche” or corn smut (nice name!).  In fact some farmers there try to grow it intentionally because they make more money off of it than they do the regular ears of corn.

Here’s another interesting thing we came across in the corn.

Apparently the squashes, which were planted three rows away from the corn, decided they were not happy with their alotted space in the garden.  So in retaliation they decided that they were going to use the corn stalks as footstools and are growing across the rows of corn.  Every so often we would be in the corn row picking corn and come across a little squash growing overhead.  I am sure that at some point the corn will give in and bow down under the squash’s weight but for now it is a standoff. 

Here is a picture of my sister who is roughly the same height as me (5’10”) standing in the corn to give you a frame of reference on the height.  Keep in mind this is the first planting that is not as tall as the second.

Our tomatoes seem to be coming on slowly.  I can’t remember when exactly we harvested them last year but it seems like we had plenty by now.  This week we only picked 6 (7 if you count the single yellow pear tomato that I picked and ate).  The plants all seem very healthy and strong and we have several tomatoes on each plant, they just aren’t turning red (or yellow as the case may be) very fast.  We have been warned, however, that the onslaught is about to hit as there were numerous ones that looked like they were just starting to turn color.  So stay tuned…

Oh and for those of you who weighed in on the mysterious bugs from last weeks post, here is what I think they are.

Posted in Corn, Squash, Tomatoes | 2 Comments