Posts Tagged ‘Germinate’

Weekly Garden Update: Happy May Day!

May 1, 2011

May Garden Inventory

I’ll finish this week with a passel of pictures, a visual inventory of the garden.  We just got back from 10 days out of town, and the amount of growth is shocking.  It reminds me of a 1950s B-Sci-Fi Movie of the Mutant Garden that Ate Cincinnati, with carnivorous carrots.

Harvest this week is massive, including Sugar snap peas, Carrots, Radishes, Beets!, Mustard and Kale (enough for 2 large pots, cooked), Lettuces (5 or 6 varieties including but not limited to Red oak leaf, green oak leaf, buttercrunch, frissee, mache), almost 2 pounds of fresh oregano (now drying in the oven), sage, parsley, cilantro, and fresh new mint (now being turned into mojito syrup on the stovetop).

You can click on any picture to view a larger version:


Carrots 1

Mound of Kale and Mustard and Spinach

Sugar Snaps


Bucket of Carrots

The potato plants are 2.5 feet tall.  The asparagus grew to 4 feet plus ferns and then leaned over, the squash seedlings we planted just before we left are expanding rapidly.  The snow peas and the sugar snap peas are growing like weeds.

4' Asparagus

Asparagus Box

Potato Box

Potato Box 2


Sugar Snap Peas

Snow Peas

ALL the kale and mustards bolted in the high temperatures we had while we were gone.  We’ll make multiple harvests this week, and process it all as fast as possible.  Most of the lettuce has bolted or is trying to bolt – we are sampling each to make sure they haven’t gone bitter before we eat them (most of them have been fine, but the frissee was wow bitter).

Mustard Bolting

Kale Bolting

Swiss Chard (in foreground)

Carrots & Radishes

Again lettuces, spinach in foreground

Melons and Tomatoes and Pepper seedlings are being planted today.

Also I planted the black peppermint plant I picked up today, and I’ll be sowing spearmint seeds on the other side of the house this week, near the blueberries.  What we have now is Kentucky Colonel mint – it’s very hardy but later in the season as the plants get bigger the mint taste is overcome by a bitter manure-like flavor.  I tried planting apple mint, and lime mint, but it turns out that these are really not very good as culinary plants – they don’t taste strongly of mint (or anything else but weedy) and so I have reverted to pure peppermint and spearmint varieties.

The haricot vert seeds we got from Burpee had a 99% failure rate on germination.   This is the fourth or fifth different set of seeds we have gotten from them in the past year or so that has had a terrible germination rate.  It is unlikely we are going to be buying more from them for some time.

The figs, apples, and blueberries are leafed out and doing well.  We have a broccoli forming a head, and also a cauliflower.  The cabbages are trying to head.  The onion plants are thicker and happier looking than I remember since we started planting onions.

Apple Trees




New Squash Box

Squash 2

Squash 3

Squash 4


New Lettuces

Garlic Boxes







even more Lettuces

Ha HAH! Guess What!?

Onions in the Background

Onions 2

Potatoes 3

Carrots & Beets (Carrots subsequently all harvested)

Seedlings 1

Seedlings 2

Seedlings 3

Seedlings 4

Question and Observation:  Why is it that the smallest carrot plants have the biggest carrots and the largest carrot plants have the smallest carrots?  Does this suggest that I should pinch out the top of any carrot plant that starts to get much larger than the others?


Weekly Garden Update 3/13

March 13, 2011

This week we harvested lettuce and kale.



Lettuce harvest

Lettuces & Mache


We got some extra top soil & compost mix to top off some of our boxes, as well as to fill the new boxes we’ll be making for the squash this year.  We figured out that last year that trellising squash just wasn’t for us.  We got good *plant*s two years a row doing that, but we only got good *squash* in those places where we didn’t trellis.  So this year we’re making multiple 2’ x 2’ boxes to put in other areas in the yard, with a nice 8-10 radius area around each one for them to spread out.

Compost & Top Soil (dirt)



Turning Over

We turned over several beds, burying the clover we planted last fall.  The soil mix we have is so easy to work that you can do it with your hands if you want to.  We put more stakes around some of the beds and then fenced them in.

Onion sets

Onion seedlings


We also planted leek seeds, 2 “volunteer” cauliflower or broccoli (probably from dropped seeds, but we’re not sure yet which they are).  We also planted out our onion seedlings.   Did we plant our short-day onions at the wrong time of the year?  We’re reading that we should have planted them in October for harvest in June.  Oh well, we’ll try these, and perhaps plant another crop in October and see what happens to those.  We also planted out our cabbage seedlings.


Carrots with new Growth

We are concerned about our pepper and tomato germinations this year.  The rate of germination is low and the seedlings seem weak compared to last year.  We don’t think we’re doing anything different.  We’ll probably reseed all these in the next couple of weeks.

Snow Peas


The figs, blueberries, and apples are all budding out.  I was particularly concerned about the smallest apple tree, which was hit hard by deer and other things last year, but it seems to be doing fine.

Kale new growth


Next week is potato planting time!  Our seed potatoes are starting to get covered in little green sprouts.





The horseradish plants have started to come up again.  The sage never did quite die, and has new growth.  New tarragon plants are coming up amongst the dry sticks of last year.  I’m watching the dill to see if it reseeds itself, and we trimmed the lemongrass plants back in their annual pruning.




We’re sprouting sprouts.  The current mixture includes:  alfalfa, radish, mung, lentil, and broccoli.  And the sprouting is working better this time.  The last time we used the new cap and mason jar arrangement for the 1st time, and we had problems with mold developing (ugh).  So this time we tilted the jar for more surface area on the sprouts and better drainage, and didn’t cover it over, and it worked much better.

We ate the last butternut squash this week.  And we’re still working on our tomato sauce, our green beans, etc.

Weekly Garden Update: 2/27/11

February 27, 2011

A Harvest at last.


Carrot Harvest


We got back from a little road trip this weekend (which is why we didn’t have a post last weekend).  We immediately harvested kale and mustard for our braised greens at dinner on Saturday night, and we also harvested a nice little group of carrots.


Kale & Mustard

The flavor in the produce from our garden has to be tasted to be believed.  It’s like the stuff in Wonka’s factory, everything is better:  the carrots, celery, greens, *everything* in the garden has more flavor than even organic fresh produce from the best grocery store.  Only the items we get from other local farmers can compete.


Our celery that we blanched and froze this past summer is holding up beautifully.  I wouldn’t use it as crudités, but it’s great in tuna salad, and is perfect for any cooking application.  The dried tarragon from the garden (as well as all the other herbs) are retaining their flavor throughout the year easily.  I used a bunch of the tarragon in the béarnaise sauce I made last week.

Our first broccoli and cauliflower seedlings didn’t make it, probably because they needed more care than being abandoned for 7 days while we were out of town.  But the celery, leeks, and cabbage seedlings are doing well, and the onions this year look better than they ever have before.


Onion seedlings

Celery, etc.

Today we prepped several other boxes.  Also, since we’ve never yet been able to grow beets, we decided to follow some advice that suggested that we might need a magnesium supplement, and we diluted Epsom salts in water and treated all the relevant boxes.  As we plant other boxes this spring we’ll finish that process, and then reapply a couple times during the growing season.




The garlic is looking great.  Also the letting up in the weather has encouraged the kale, mustard, lettuces, and the few cabbages, brussels sprouts, and broccolis that have made it over the winter.  The carrots are getting new greenery, hopefully that will be accompanied by more carrot as well.  Some of the cilantro and some oregano also survived.  We tasted the cilantro and wow, it tastes more strongly of cilantro than any we’ve grown so far.  There are apparently advantages to letting some poor plant live on another 4-6 months.


Today we also planted onions, carrots, beets, six varieties of radishes, lettuces, more cabbages and broccoli, and I reseeded the two pea boxes in those places where our germinating (inside) experiment didn’t take off.  I’d say that the experiment was a limited success, but might work better as we get more practice.  At least *some* of our pea boxes have a head start.  We also planted cilantro, radishes and carrots from, more products of our seed exchange.  We attempted to transplant some of the densely planted cauliflower that survived the winter, giving each plant more room.  We’ll see if this works.

We started seeds indoors:  5 varieties of tomatoes (41 plants), 2 varieties of eggplant, 16 varieties of hot and sweet peppers (115 plants), some of which were home saved seed.

We gave away all of our extra seeds yesterday at the Carrboro Farmer’s Market Seed Exchange, so we don’t have any extras to share at this time, though we are looking forward to doing more of it later this year.




Brussels Sprouts






Wild Flowers

Boxes - side view

Boxes 1



2011 Garden Beginnings!

January 2, 2011

For our weekly update this week, we have the beginnings of our 2011 Garden plantings, and a Seed Exchange!


We spent part of the week planning out what (and how many) plants we need to start in the basement to be transplanted out in the Spring.  We’re expanding the garden a bit this year to the front yard to grow melons and winter squash where they can spread out and not be in the way.  Doing so opens up some of the main garden’s boxes for more PEPPERS.  We figure we have room for 86 pepper plants at the dense planting we tried this year (and it worked out great).  We have 16 different varieties we’re going to try to grow next year (some are even home-saved seed!).  The first number in the list below is the number of plants of each variety we hope to end up with; the second number is the number of plants we’ll start in order to (hopefully) end up with the desired number:

HOT Peppers:

Tabasco:  2, 3

Habanero:  5, 7

Ancho:  7, 9

Thai Hot:  1, 2

Cayenne:  5, 7

Jalapeno:  6, 8

Serrano:  4, 6

El Chaco:  2, 4

SWEET Peppers:

Cherry:  5, 7

Anaheim:  7, 9

Pimento:  3, 5

Yellow Pimento:  3, 5

CA Wonder:  11, 14

Red Marconi:  8, 10

Yolo Wonder:  9, 11

Italian Relleno:  8, 10

We’re cutting back on tomato varieties this year to only four (2 paste, 2 slicing) plus tomatillos.  We’ll be planting (and starting):

Better Boy:  9, 12

Early Girl:  5, 8

Amish Paste:  5, 8

Roma (seed gotten from Mimi):  5, 8

Tomatillos:  3, 5

Tomatoes/tomatillos will take up 3 boxes, as they did last year and we thought we had a good amount for eating, canning, and sharing.


In other plants, we had way too much celery last year, even though we lost a number of plants to voles.  But we had so much we actually sold some to a local specialty store.  Next season, we hope to have 25 celery plants and we’ll start 32; all one variety this year (Tendercrisp) – it’s our first time growing this variety so hopefully we’ll be successful!

Eggplant:  we lost all of our eggplant seedlings to the voles last year and had to plant store-bought seedlings.  Four plants survived the voles and we thought this gave us a reasonable number of eggplants through the growing season (basically, 1 per week).  We’re aiming for 4 eggplant plants again next year so we’ll start 8 since we have trouble getting eggplant to germinate well.

Onions:  this year we’ve finally figured out which onions grow in our area!  (Maybe we’re a bit slow…).  We’re growing Yellow Granex from seed.  We’re going to start half of the seed inside and direct sow the other half to see which methods works the best for us.  We may also pick up some Candy onion seeds from Southern States if we decide we need more than one seed pack.

Broccoli and cauliflower:  we’ll try again but this may be the last time we do so.  We do not have good luck growing either of these vegetables to maturity, regardless of whether it’s Spring or Fall.  But we will start two varieties of cauliflower (8 of each, hopefully to end up with 6 of each) and three varieties of broccoli (7 of each, hopefully to end up with 5 of each).

Summer squash:  we normally do not have room under the seed starting lights to start them early but we’re going to make room this year.  The plants germinate so easily when direct sowed but the squash bugs pose such a problem here in NC that the plants die long before they’re even thinking about giving up.  We want to plant transplants this year to give them a bit of a head start on squash bugs and hopefully get a bit more production.

Winter squash:  we may direct seed the butternut varieties since they seem to have a bit of resistance to squash bugs but the acorn squash we want to grow needs an early start indoors if we hope to get any fruit before the plants succumb to bugs.  We also ordered some “Lakota” seeds from Burpee and will likely start those indoors as well.

It’s looking like we may need to expand the indoor seed starting operation!  Maybe I’ll go down to the basement soon and figure out what we can do…

More Seeds!


We’ve culled the seed collection and decided what we’ll be growing next year so we have the following seeds to either just give away if you need seeds but don’t have any to trade or to trade for seeds we’d like to get.

Seeds we’d like to get:





French Breakfast radishes

something you have that you think is particularly worthy

Seeds to give away/trade:

Old Dutch Half-Runner Beans (a great, tasty, prolific green bean that we’ve grown for 3 years and will continue to grow but we have too many seeds.  Stringless when young.  Although a 1/2 runner, it grows to 8 feet in our garden).

Heirloom Iceberg Lettuce (iceberg lettuce can be hard to get to germinate)

Parisian Carrot (small-ish round carrots)

Green Zebra Tomato

Greek Basil

White Sweet Spanish Onion (long day)

Walla Walla Onion (long day)

Bianca di Maggio onion

Ruby Queen beet

Chioggia beet

Plum Purple Radish

Watermelon radish

Chinese Red Meat radish

Chinese Green Luobo radish

Black Spanish radish

Japanese Minowase Daikon radish

Baby eggplant

Russian Tarragon

Utah Celery

Beefsteak Tomato

Bloody Butcher

San Marzano Tomato

Send us an e-mail: foodgardenkitchen at gmail dot com if you’re interested.

It’s May! It’s May!

May 1, 2010

Tra la! It’s May!

The lusty month of May!


That lovely month when ev’ryone goes

Blissfully astray.

(end singing now)

Lettuce in Harvest Basket

Och Aye, It’s May.  Today we shopped at Carrboro Farmer’s Market and the South Estes Farmer’s Market, buying beets and carrots and biodynamic strawberries that taste like Vanessa Redgrave’s voice sounds.


This afternoon we spent in the Garden.  We harvested green garlic, which makes great garlic bread, and oodles of radishes and enough lettuces to satisfy the entire Efrafa warren.  We harvested young spinach, and the last of the wintered cauliflower.

Trellised Peppers

Then we transplanted peppers to a box, only 21 of the ones we have ready to go.  We harvested lettuces and thinned the rest out by transplanting them so they had more room.

Pepper Seedlings

We have Sugar Snap Peas!  Not many, but enough have come in for a dish.  And we have blueberries growing!


And lit-tle ty-ny apples.  We have half a dozen tomato plants blossoming, plus both our tomatillos.  The snow peas have lovely purple and pink blossoms.

Tomato Blossom

We transplanted winter squash that we set to germinate last week into a box, and the summer squash are starting to unfurl from beneath the top layer of dirt.  The haricot vert are germinating as well as the cucumbers.

Squash Seedlings

Below are photos of many of our herbs we have growing in railing boxes and by windows and in large containers outside scattered amongst the Garden.

We’ve been growing mung bean sprouts from beans purchased at our local Co-Op, and have gotten nicely efficient at having them on hand most of the time.  Mostly they go into the salads.

Sometimes I feel redundant; shooting what seems to me to be similar pictures over and over.  Then I remind myself that a year from now it will be nice to have a visual record of the weeks passing in the garden.

More cilantro


More tomatillo blossoms

Tomatillo blossom







Tomato Blossom




The Seeds of Wrath

March 20, 2010

In December 2008, she started ordering seeds from the various organic, heritage, heirloom, and rare seeds sources, e.g.:

Baker Creek Seeds (

Heirloom seeds (

Botanical Interests (

Seeds of Change (

High Mowing Seeds (

And even Burpee Organics (

My experience consisted primarily of sowing seeds into the ground, or buying seedlings and planting them.  As a child, the Southern States store in my local town was a Mecca, along with the little red grain mill (mostly for corn meal), and the farmer’s market.  Farmer’s Market in those days meant the place where you went to buy a hog or a cow or some other animal on Wednesday at auction, it had none of the current meaning of the phrase.  Each trip was also likely to include a trip to the country store with my grandfather or my father.  We’d sit with the old men on rickety chairs and stools near the woodstove, and eat some hoop cheese and a few crackers, and maybe get a Nehi or an RC cola, or a piece of penny candy.  Talk consisted of farming, hunting, fishing, and local “news”.

What my experience didn’t include was germinating seeds indoors starting as early as January.  We did some research, read a book or so, looked at some blogs, and created our setup in the basement.

Our list of mistakes was awesome.

We bought what turned out to be sterile foam-like “starter plugs” to set in the trays and germinate the seeds.  Neither of us realized the “sterile” part, and as a result we spent weeks starving our seedlings of any nutrients save water and the grow lights.  In addition, these insidious starter plugs were a bit too foam-like, and none of the plants we started in them were able to easily or freely get their root systems through it.  Over a year later, those curs-ed plugs still lay in wait in the garden soil, though I throw out a few every time I rake the dirt.  They’re a bit harder now, but no less decomposed.

This meant that even the seedlings that survived the starvation had stunted root systems.  We were very proud of our 100% germination rate on our onions, and they looked great for the first several weeks.  Not one ever outgrew the starter plugs, and we had a 0% success rate on onions.

This year we used organic potting mix and soil-less seed starting mix.

In addition we did the following:

We left the domes on the trays for over a month after the seedlings germinated, reasoning that a terrarium like atmosphere would recycle the moisture in a positive way while keeping the temperature up.  This promotes the growth of mold, etc. on the poor seedlings and keeps them fragile which makes it more difficult to harden them off and stunts them once exposed yet again.

We left the lights on 24 hours a day so they wouldn’t get too cold.  Bad, bad.  Plants need rest from the light.  Now we have a cheapie timer and 12 hours of light.

Lack of nutrients.  Now we use fish emulsion and bat guano and liquid seaweed.

We did a poor job of hardening plants off, failing to expose them to breezes in addition to the temperature change, i.e., we still sheltered them too much.

We left the heating mats for germination on through the whole process, for months.  Don’t do this.  Turn them off as soon as the seeds get up above the soil good.

The lights were too far above the plants, resulting in spindly seedlings.  This year we put them close down on top, and used cheap 4’ shop lights with metal refractive covers instead of expensive short growlights.

Seedlings, 2010

Seedlings, 2010

The difference in the look of our seedlings from 2009 and 2010 is remarkable.  Our heirloom tomatoes look waaaay improved over last year, with much stronger stems and leaf systems.  The celery looks healthy, not anemic.  We’re even getting better germination on Eggplant, which bedeviled us last year.

Celery Germinating 2010

Celery Germinating 2010

We failed to transplant smaller seedlings into larger cups as they grew.  This year she has already moved the tomatoes to larger cups and they are responding happily.

Those items we have already transplanted to the soil outside in 2010  (onions, broccoli, cauliflower, and broccoli raab) appear to be doing well.  In 2009 they suffered, looked sad, some died, some recovered, some just never changed, appearing to be in some sort of un-dead state.

Germinating seeds and care of seedlings has been a real education, and we’re looking forward to seeing how 2010 goes.