GEARING UP FOR THE GARDENING SEASON/SANITIZING TRAYS AND SEED STARTING EQUIPMENT

WASHED AND SANITIZED SEED TRAYS, SOIL BLOCK INSERTS AND CELL CONTAINERS

I just completed one of my least favorite gardening activities; washing and sanitizing seed trays and inserts. My wife Catherine hates it as well. I take over her kitchen on sanitizing day, for the whole day. I own the sink, the counter next to the sink, the island top and 24 square feet of floor space. I would love to have a full function potting shed with hot water, long waterproof counters, a half bath and a quality music playback system. OK. I don’t have that. I make due.

I lay down a contractor sized trash bag on the counter, lay a large towel on top of that and place a large tray (20″ x 30″ x 6″) on top of that. If fill the large tray with a water/bleach solution with a 9/1 water/bleach ratio.

I first wash each piece in soapy water, rinse and dry. Then, I soak each piece for ten minutes in the water/bleach solution. In order to save time, I soak both a tray and an insert at the same time. After drying off, my stuff is ready to rock.

Are you tired yet? I know that I am. Note to self: Research an easier way to do this.

I use a quart size measuring cup full of water to weigh down the trays and inserts

I try to look at this exercise philosophically. This is the test you have to pass every year to prove your resolve and passion for gardening. Weeding sucks just as bad as sanitizing trays. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” , right? Are you a gardener or not? It’s not all veggies, fruit and flowers.

Part of the process is the triage operation of repairing minor holes and cracks in the trays.  Shoe Goo for the holes and duct tape for the cracks works pretty well.  Trays in the worst condition get tossed.

ONE MORE THING:  I just found a cheap source for heavy duty 1020 seedling trays.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve been disappointed with the quality of the 1020 trays that I purchase from my local garden center and Coop.  I will let you know what I think.  Until then,  get it going.  Gardening season is here, now.

All the best,

Greg Garnache

 

Garden Journal – Last Week of April

Garden Journal – Last Week of April

It was another busy week here at “Greg’s Garden Party”. My spirits have been lifted by the site of the season’s first asparagus shoots (see photo above). Mache season is almost at an end. Fortunately, we have Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce almost ready to pick.   This variety prefers growing in the cool temperatures of early Spring so we start every
season with this old favorite

First Lettuce of the season, Black Seeded Simpson

Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce almost ready to eat.

Ultra Early “Glacier” Tomato

Earlier this week I transplanted my “Glacier” tomatoes to six inch
pots. One very important tip that I’ve learned over the years is
to make sure that your tomato plants don’t ever get root bound, as
this will stunt their growth leading to lower production.
I picked up this valuable information from a booklet entitled
“Grow the Best Tomatoes” by John Page from Storey Publishing.
It’s only thirty one pages, but packed with great advice.

Glacier Ultra Early Tomatoes

A couple of my Glacier Tomatoes, almost ready for the garden

Last year, I ate my first Glacier tomato on June 8. Considering that  I
garden in zone 6A, that is phenomenal. These tomatoes are a great way
to extend your tomato season and they taste pretty good for an early
season variety; for sure, better than store bought tomatoes.

Starting Hot Season Vine Crops

This week, I started nine different varieties of vine crops in 2″ soil
blocks. Here is the list:

GOLDEN GLORYyellow zucchini – We love the texture,color, foliage and productivity
SPACEMASTER cucumber- compact plant, nice production
RUSSIAN BROWN cucumber – I love the crunchy texture, my personal favorite
BARESE cucumber – This was a freebie from Totally Tomatoes – can be picked like
a traditional cucumber or allowed to grow as a melon – interesting!
SWEET GRANITE cantelope
AMY melon – lovely yellow exterior with sweet white flesh
METRO butternut squash – love this variety, quite prolific (14 squash per plant)
SUNSHINE kabocha squash – lovely orange/red color
CHARISMA pumpkin – nice Jack o’Lantern sized pumpkin

I started four seeds of each except for the pumpkin (5). By starting the seeds in the sun shed I will gain at least a couple of weeks on starting seeds out doors. This is the perfect use of 2″ soil blocks. When large enough, the plants will go out to the garden with minimal transplant shock; the best reason to use soil blocks in the first place.

2" SOIL BLOCKS

A TRAY FULL OF VINE CROP SEEDS PLANTED IN 2″ SOIL BLOCKS

I would love to hear from you about what you are growing in your
garden this year.
All the best,
Greg Garnache

TOTALLY FRESH BREAKFAST

THIS MORNING’S BREAKFAST, FRESHLY HARVESTED MACHE WITH TWO FRESHLY GATHERED EGGS FROM OUR OWN CHICKENS WITH A FRESHLY BACKED BLUEBERRY SCONE.  NOW THAT’S
A GREG’S GARDEN PARTY BREAKFAST.

 

 

 

 

GARDEN JOURNAL – 1st Week of April 2015

GARDEN JOURNAL – 1st Week of April 2015

Starting Main Season Tomato Seeds

This has been a very busy week.  First of all, I started my main season tomato
seeds in a 20 row seed tray (see image above).  I used a commercial seed starting
mix, filled each row to the top and gently compacted the soil with my finger to
create a 1/4″ trough.  I watered each row with my favorite spray bottle and then
planted approximately 10 seeds in each row.  I then covered the seeds with more
seed starting mix and watered again with the spray bottle.

This year, I planted 14 different varieties;  8 heirlooms, 2 varieties of plum
tomato, one determinate hybrid (still looking for a tasty short hybrid), a stuffing
tomato, Green Zebra and Matt’s Wild Cherry (our favorite cherry tomato). The remaining rows were planted with marigold seeds.

Tomato seeds sprout best when warmed with some bottom heat. I immediately placed them on a heat mat where they will remain until all the seeds have sprouted. I also covered the tray with a clear plastic dome to help keep moisture in.  These seeds will live on my plant stand under the lights for the next six weeks.  When the first true leaves appear, I will transplant them to 4 packs with 2″ x 2″ cells.  When the seedlings reach 6″ in height, I will transplant them to 4″ diameter pots and move them out to my sun shed where they will stay for a week or so.  Then, they will be moved outside to harden off before planting.  I know that it looks like a lot of transplanting.  It is very important to keep tomato seedling from getting pot bound.  That will retard their growth and future performance.

 Why I Use a 20 Row Seeder

One of the most useful tools I have is the 20 row seed trays that I use to start
tomatoes, peppers, flowers and herbs.  I can fit at least 200 seeds in an 11″ x
22″ tray.  At this time of year, room on my plant stand is at a premium.  These
seed trays buy me some time until other seedlings started earlier can be moved
out to the sun shed or into the garden.

Starting Flower Seeds

My garden just wouldn’t be the same without flowers to add color.  We love zinnias.  This year, I have started seeds of seven different varieties as well as
three different varieties of marigold and some calendula.  Again, I’m using the
20 row seeder to get seeds started.  When the first full leaves appear, I will
transplant them into six packs and move them out to the sun shed.  Generally,
I transplant flowers to the vegetable garden on Memorial Day weekend here
in zone 6a.

Planting flower seeds

Some of the Zinnias we will enjoy this year

Starting Herb Seeds

Of the nearly 600 seeds started this week, one third were herb seeds.  Most of those were either basil or parsley.  I also started dill seeds.  These are easy to
grow, and annuals here in zone 6a.  We use a lot of basil.  We make pesto,
basil butter, use it in salads for flavor and add it to many cooked dishes.
We prefer the classic Italian Basil, and flat leaf parsley.  Seeds were started in
a 20 seeder and eventually will be moved to six packs.

The Chicken Report

The chickens are loving the fact that our property is now 80% snow free.  We let
them out for a while every day so that they can forage wherever they choose.
It’s what chickens want to do.  We had our first double yoker this week.  What
can I say, “My girls Rock”.

A DOUBLE YOKER

OUR FIRST DOUBLE YOKER

 

All the best,

Greg Garnache

WHAT? ANOTHER SNOWY DAY?

WHAT? ANOTHER SNOWY DAY?

According to the Boston Globe, the greater Boston area has received in excess of
80″ of snow since the end of January and we are in the  middle of yet another blizzard.  Thankfully, I have a reliable and capable
snow blower.  It gets quite a workout every storm.  In addition to
our 100 foot driveway, I have to clear the path to the back door,
a path out to the chicken coop and workshop, a connecting path
to the garden shed and another path out to the equipment shed.
forget about a path into the garden.  Speaking of which, the  snow
has completely buried my three low plastic tunnels.  I’ll worry
about them in March when the mache is ready for picking.

The chickens foraging in the snow

The chickens foraging in the snow


Our chickens are not liking the extremely limited area available to them for
foraging. But, they have been laying eggs.  I like to think that it has something
to do with the time I spend with them every day and the treats that they find
every morning in the pen.  I give them a variety of good food.  Until the massive
snow fall I could still access kale and Brussels Sprouts leaves in the garden.  At
the moment I am spoiling them with “Party Mix” for chickens.  We’re talking
mealy worms with cracked corn.  Yum!  The girls seem to like it.  By far their
favorite treat at the moment is green beans.  I froze 10 bags this summer.  We
tried them and weren’t impressed.  On a whim, I tossed some into the pen.  That
had an immediate impact on them.  They began to display the worst of animal
behavior; stealing from one another, trying to muscle each other out to have
exclusive access, etc.  Needless to say, I was very happy that someone liked my
green beans.

This week I started some leek seeds indoors.  In order for the leek plants to
grow large enough to survive transplanting out to the garden, it is necessary for
me to get them started now.

20 row seeder

20 row seeder

72 cell tray

72 cell tray


I started my seeds in a twenty row seeder tray,
planting 10 seeds per row approximately 1″ apart.  When the seedlings get
large enough to handle they will be transplanted to individual cells in a 72 cell
tray.  The ultimate goal is to transplant 50 seedlings into the garden in mid May.  This year, I am growing a variety called BANDIT.  I like
the fact that I will be able to leave some of the plants in the ground
this fall to over winter for early spring picking.  It’s one of my little
season extending tricks. We celebrate Spring by making a
focaccia topped with caramelized leeks.  The leeks add subtle flavor.
I grow leeks because they are expensive to buy.  Buying seeds costs about as
much as purchasing own bundle (3 leeks)  at the market.  A packet contains 250 seeds.  Do the math.  In addition, our wonderful daughter-in-law,
Lauren, is allergic to onions so the leeks are a safe alternative.  Stay tuned for
transplanting instructions this May.

The snow fall may have dampened the party somewhat, but starting the first
seeds of the season has me thinking good thoughts about the future.    Think  Spring!
All the best,

Greg

gcgarnache@gmail.com

BUILDING A PLANT STAND

BUILDING A PLANT STAND

About fifteen years ago I began starting various vegetable seeds
indoors.  What made this possible was the plant stand I built from
a sketch found by my Dad in a stack of old handyman magazines
he found at a yard sale.  This is a very simple design that can be
disassembled and stored away at the end of the seed starting
season.  Check out the drawings below for more details.  If you
still can’t figure out how to put this together, send me an email and
I will be happy to walk you through it.