This was the dreary sight that awaited me yesterday when I at last began to try to get things readied for spring.
I went around and gathered up all the plant identifiers, picked up the landscaping fabric that escaped me last fall, yanked up trellises with dead beans and peas still attached, yarded out the corpses of last year’s efforts. There is still a whole lot to be done. I’m contemplating having a person come till it for us – I’m not sure I can stand the thought of that battle again.
There were some very strange-looking dead plants out there. In places it looked as though a school of dead squid had rained down from on high:
I found remnants of carrots that had made it through the winter – in a very squishy state.
Already, lettuces and onions (and OMG WEEDS) are re-sprouting themselves out there.
Nature doesn’t wait for anyone to have the energy to get started. She just goes.
Thus, realizing it was move it or lose it, last night, after a half-hearted go at the exterior gardeny parts, I bit the bullet and began the tedious process of planting my seeds.
I’m getting a late start; last year at this time, seeds had been sprouted for almost three weeks. In fact, this is a photo of one of my tomato plants from April 8th, 2010:
I felt as if I got a bit too early of a start last year – the tomatoes were of a nearly unruly size before it was time to take them outside. I’d planned to get things in the potting soil a week and a half ago at the latest… but life happens and here I am.
Last night, I planted lettuce and other greens, a few onions, cabbage, broccoli, kale, collards, and other stuff that doesn’t come stampeding to mind. I used three different seedling systems, only one of which I had tried previously.
First, we have the Burpee Eco-Friendly 25-Cell Greenhouse Kit. In general, Burpee is a no-no for me – they use GMO seeds and are not the most environmentally-conscious company. However, this little kit seemed nice; everything is organic and compostable, including the watering tray, which is made of bamboo.
Next up, and also from Burpee, is the XL Ultimate Growing System. This is a more complicated, self-watering gizmo with a capillary mat underneath the cells. Ostensibly, it means I’ll have to water less, but I’m not entirely convinced – this is why I’m experimenting. It comes with little peat pellets, as the Eco-Friendly Kit does, that swell up when doused with copious amounts of water (shown here partially expanded: (Forgive the photo quality – the Canon is on loan to Travis, who is making good use of it. These are all Droid camera photos.)
Then I picked up a Jiffy 5262 Self Watering Professional Greenhouse 70-Plant Starter Kit for good measure. I used this type of device last year for the tomatoes, and they did really well with it. This one has smaller cells, so I put smaller plants into it. One discouraging bit about this system is the netting surrounding the peat pellets does not seem to decompose. I didn’t discover this until yesterday, when I was pulling dead plants out of the garden and found the netting under the tomato plants, basically intact. This year, I’ll tear it off before I place the seedlings in the ground.
In addition to these pre-bought systems, I am also using standard fiber pots in watering trays, along with some left-over plastic pots from stuff I bought last year. Tonight, I’m putting the tomatoes and peppers into larger pots in the hopes they’ll develop better root systems. Heck, I hope the peppers germinate; last year, I got squat. Then again, I think I took the directions too literally about not over-watering – they probably dehydrated.
I’ve got some carrots planted, and some herbs. In the next few days, I’ll get some peas and beans started – I didn’t bother starting those indoors last year. Maybe some cukes and melons.
This is the part that blows my mind; the stuff I planted 24 hours ago? Already sprouting! A few of the broccoli seeds didn’t get properly covered (so hard to tell with dark seeds against dark substrate,) and I can see tiny little rootlets shooting out. That’s just incredible!
I was so tired when I was planting last night, I actually stopped labeling things as I went. Most stuff won’t be terribly hard to tell apart, and I’m not going to go to the lengths I did last year, trying to put BFF plants together and “enemy” plants at opposite ends.
I’m mostly using last year’s seeds, and if I really do some self-examination, I find a teeny part of me saying, “it’s ok if they don’t come up; it’ll mean less work. Maybe they won’t all sprout, right?”
But I learned some good lessons last year, the hard way and through good old-fashioned advice, that should help me this year. I hope it will be a bit easier.
Tomorrow’s job will be getting the grow lights properly hung in the basement, and the tables set up underneath them. I think I can do a better job with that this year. Last year, there was not enough light to go around, which led to leaning, spindly plants.
Still, even with all the leaning and spindliness, I was overwhelmed with how successful everything was last year (a happy problem to have,) so maybe it’s not rocket science, eh?