April 30, 2011

Early Identification of Perennials

When I used to garden at my parents house, they would always give me the same old excuse when I asked them to do some weeding...basically some permutation of "we don't know what to leave and what to pull". Here are some photos (pay attention Mom and Dad) of the early spring growth of common perennials in my yard.





Wild Ginger

Bleeding Heart


April 29, 2011

My Seed Starting Area

Far Left: brassicas; Middle: tomatoes; Right: cacti and herbs.

My seed starting area in the basement is filling up fast! Now that I have my peppers, tomatillos, eggplant, groundcherries, and tomatoes all potted-up, lighted space is at a premium (especially because one of my five shop lights stopped working all of a sudden). Next weekend I will be starting gourds, pumpkins, cucumbers, and zucchinis, so I'm going to need a lot more space, and fast! Maybe I'll have to break down and buy two more shop lights (one to replace the broken one, and the other to maintain my 1-new-shop-light- per-year growth pattern that's been going on the last few years).

Left: perennial flowers and cilantro; Right: peppers, tomatillos, eggplants, ground cherries, and more perennial flowers (in humidity dome).

April 28, 2011

Cactus and Lithops Update

My cactus seedlings seem to be do especially well this year. I wonder if it is due to the added heat from my seedling heating mat. The cactus and succulent seedlings got to hold the coveted heat mat position for about  a month...until more important things (like tomatillos, peppers, and tomatoes) came along. Maybe just a few weeks of heat really did the trick.

Some of these seedlings are already larger than the ones I started a year ago! 

I was worried that my lithops seedlings weren't going to make it, but a few did. I think I kept them under the humidity dome for way too long because some of the seedlings got damping off. I thought maybe I would get a few more seeds to germinate if I kept the tray in the humidity dome, but it ended up harming the seedlings that had already germinated!

I didn't manage to kill all of my lithops seedlings.

April 27, 2011

My Garden Right Now

The bed in the foreground is the only bed I've had time to work on yet. I added a bunch of compost from my leaf pile and sowed some mache and lettuce (no signs of germination yet).

I've got a lot of work to do...lots of weeding, new beds to be dug, brush cleared, paths mulched, etc. If only the weather would cooperate!

April 26, 2011

Transplanting Tomatoes

After two weeks in their communal trays, my tomato seedlings were ready to transplant. I started about 220 seeds and I will be keeping about 105 plants. It's a good thing I started so many extra seeds because I had some pretty erratic germination in a few cultivars (namely Taxi, Principe Borghese, and Matt's Wild Cherry). The excess seeds that did germinate are being donated to a Professor in my department. Hopefully they will find homes in one of three places: 1) his garden, 2) the demonstration vegetable garden, or 3) my local community development association for one of their many new community gardens. It's nice to know that these seedlings won't just be tossed out!

Lots of baby tomatoes!
Halfway done transplanting in this 50-cell tray.
I also transplanted about 9 cells of eggplant 'Black Beauty' and 9 cells of ground cherry 'Pineapple Tomatillo'. Post-transplant, my single tray of crammed-together seedlings now take up about three times as much space...hopefully I can find enough space under my light setup for them all!

April 25, 2011

Chicks Night Out!

My (not so) little 8 1/2 week-old chicks were recently moved out into the garage coop (with their heat lamp since it has been so cold) and are spending all day in the garage now. They haven't quite figured out how to use the ramps to get inside or outside, but that doesn't matter since it has been too cold to let them out into their run anyway. They also haven't mastered the roosting pole. I did manage to catch one of them sitting on it at one point, but other than that, they don't seem to use it out of choice (they seem pretty happy sleeping on the floor nestled in leaves).

The chickens are still not quite sure what to do with the ramp to the outdoors (despite sprinkling food up the steps as an enticement).
Scratching around for cracked corn...hopefully this will help incorporate the poo into the leaves.

April 24, 2011

Marshmallow Peeps

Happy Easter! 

Here are some photos of my homegrown marshmallow peeps.

My beautiful aracauna is currently in charge of the flock. Of all my birds, I'm most worried that this one might end up being a rooster (partially because of size and partially because of the gorgeous plumage). I haven't heard any crowing yet!
My barred rock is finally showing barring.
Did I just see an earthworm?

Ready To Pop (almost)

Spring has been VERY slow to arrive this year (we got snow on tax day), so hopefully these forsythia buds will burst open soon.

Are there any spring flowers that you are anxiously awaiting?

April 23, 2011

First Garden Harvest of 2011!

My first garden harvest of 2011 goes to...drum roll please...Chives! Although this "harvest" is fairly insignificant, it sure is nice to have something fresh and homegrown this time of year.

What I did last weekend...

It has taken me an entire week to download my photos from last weekend (there were a lot!). I can finally share some photos of the Spring Show and Plant Sale that I worked at last weekend. My graduate student organization sells ornamental grasses at the plant sale every year to raise money for scholarships, invited speakers, and group activities. Our ornamental grasses are just a small fraction of the total plants for sale. The undergraduate horticulture organization also sells trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials, hanging baskets, fruit plants, and a few house plants.

This year's grass sale was another success! Many of our grasses were featured in the landscaped display that the undergraduate students build each year. The grass looked great and I think it helped customers envision how to use these plants in the landscape.

Our ornamental grasses in the landscaped conservatory display.

These forsythia sold quickly.

Students build everything from adirondack chairs to retaining walls. They even put down sod!

April 22, 2011

Garlic Getting Bigger

My garlic has been growing really fast lately! I can't wait to replenish my dwindling garlic supply.

April 21, 2011

And Then There Was One

I'm down to my last Jarrahdale pumpkin from last summer. The second-to-last finally turned mushy a few days ago. I chopped it into big chunks and threw it in the compost pile. The next morning I found little orange bits all along my driveway...apparently squirrels like raw pumpkin.

I'm completely shocked at how long these pumpkins have lasted indoors. This is especially surprising considering I've had them in sitting in the house as decoration rather than storing them in the cool basement.

April 20, 2011

Onions: Seeds versus Sets?

I've never grown onions from seed. I guess it's something I should try one of these years, but popping onion sets into the ground seems so much easier. Not only do you get to avoid the ~10 week seed starting process for the onion seedlings, but sets are ready to harvest (for green onions) incredibly fast. I still depend on the grocery store as my main source of storage onions. They are just so inexpensive that I couldn't justify taking up precious garden space to grow hold enough homegrown onions to last me the whole year!

Onion sets are cheap and easy...but do they grow as well or taste as good?

How about you? Do you buy onions at the store or grow your own? Do you sow onions seeds or start with onion sets?

April 18, 2011

Starting Perennial Flower Seeds

This was a slow week for starting vegetable seeds (nothing seems to need to be sown ~5 or 6 weeks before last frost), so I took the opportunity to start some perennial flower seeds. Every year I intend to start some perennials from seed mid-summer for planting out in the fall, but I always get too busy and forget. This year I decided I'd just get them sown now while I'm thinking about it. Unfortunately, that means I'll have a little less space under my grow lights for vegetables.

Here's what I started today:
  1. Lupine 'Tutti Fruitti' (this one is supposed to flower the first year)
  2. Lupinus Perennis (a spectacular blue, wild lupine)
  3. Hollyhock 'Country Romance' (I've always wanted some yellow hollyhocks. This is one of the few mixes I've found with yellows)
  4. Columbine mix
  5. Foxglove 'Excelsior Hybrid' 
I also started some herb seeds a few days ago (parsley and oregano) and some fennel seeds.

April 17, 2011

The Perks of Being a Horticulturalist

My current experiment involves 12 species of bedding plants including snapdragon. Once I finish collecting my data, I've been cutting the snapdragon plants back and saving the flowers (about 45 stems so far, and several bouquets). The plants will be going into my garden once they acclimate to outdoor temps (which are much cooler than the greenhouse).

Liberty Classic Cherry Snapdragon

30 pots of Snapdragon for the spring garden. Can't wait to get them in the ground!

April 16, 2011

Garage Chicken Coop Progress

I made some progress on my garage chicken coop lately. I installed the 8 foot long roosting pole and one of the two homemade chicken ladders. I also finished securing the netting around the enclosure, built a welded wire door at one end, and filled the enclosure with the leaves I saved last fall in the garage. To finish this project off, all I need to do is remove one pane of glass from the window, install some sort of guillotine-style door over the opening I create, and install the second chicken ladder on the outside to connect to the chicken run.

Roosting pole.

Blue roosting pole and blue ramp

April 15, 2011

2-year anniversary

P.S. Today is the 2-year anniversary of closing on my house. That means two years of fantastic gardening, home improvements, lawn mowing, and property taxes.

Yes, I did in fact close on tax day.

Photo Friday: Spring Bulbs!

My flower garden is slowly coming back to life, starting with some cute crocus, tiny daffodils, and a variety of hyacinths.

These daffodils are so tiny, I almost didn't see them.

Hyacinth inflorescence waiting to plump up.

April 14, 2011

Rain Barrel Up and Running

I thought it was about time to install my rain barrel for the season. I was pleased to find out that it only took about 10 minutes to install this year (and most of that time was spent digging through drawers searching for my roll of pipe tape). I also didn't have to worry about taking a hacksaw to my downspout like last year.

I would like to try to hook up some sort of irrigation system to the rain barrel this year. I never give my flower beds enough water (partially because I don't care about them as much as the vegetable beds), but I'd really like them to look a little nicer this year.

April 13, 2011

Starting Tomatoes and Eggplant

This past weekend I started my tomatoes, a few eggplants, and a few groundcherries. This was probably my biggest week for seed starting because I will be growing approximately 100 tomato plants this year. I will be keeping about 50 for my garden, giving away about 25 to my family, and the remaining plants will be sold at the farmer's market. 

In order to get 100 plants, I started about 200 seeds in case some of the seeds are duds. This was probably a bad idea because I have a really difficult time throwing away excess seedlings. Knowing how I am with plants, I'll probably end up potting up every last seed that germinates and be completely inundated with plants (and have no where to plant them in the garden). Here's hoping I have the willpower this year to throw away the extras!

Here's what I started this year (the number on the right is the total number of plants I want to keep, not the number of seeds I started):

Kellog's Breakfast 1
Bloody Butcher 13
Japanese Black Trifele 4
Aunt Ruby's German Green 5
Principe Borghese 5
Martino's Roma 10
Pruden's Purple 11
Taxi 11
Green Zebra 3
Black Krim 12
Brandywine 13
Moonglow 3
Cherokee Purple 4
Matt's Wild Cherry 4
Polish Linguisa 2
Amish Paste 2
San Marzano 2

Part of my collection of heirloom tomato seeds. Some are saved from last year, and some are new to me this year.

I'm starting to really like these "communal" seed trays. They save a lot of space during the early stages of seed starting.

April 12, 2011

Transplanting Peppers and Tomatillos

After about 2 weeks in their starter trays, my peppers and tomatillos were ready to transplant into cell packs. I was pleased by how well they had rooted out. 

Quick Tip: When transplanting seedlings, always pick them up with the cotyledons, not by the stem. While they can survive with a torn cotyledon, they cannot survive with a broken or crushed stem.

If you start your seeds in a "communal" seed tray, carefully tease apart the individual seedlings using a pencil or other pointed instrument.

April 11, 2011

Almost 7 Weeks Old!

The chicks are nearly 7 weeks old now! That means I'm going to try to get them transitioned outdoors in the next week (weather permitting). It has been either cold or rainy, or both the last few weeks, so the chicks haven't gotten much outdoor time. In fact, this weekend they finally got outside for the second time ever!  Luckily, our all-day-long thunderstorm that was supposed to occur on Sunday never happened. It was gorgeous, sunny, and about 76 degrees! 

The chicks seemed a little shy at first (sticking together in a herd and hiding in the box I move them with), but they seemed to relax a bit after I started feeding them earthworms. I got so distracted by the fun of feeding them earthworms that I temporarily forgot about weeding my vegetable beds and spent about 20 minutes digging through the soil will my bare hands collecting worms in a bowl. The chicks also got to meet some neighbor children who were very curious about my new pets. 

My Buff Orpington seems to be the leader at the moment. Where she goes, the others follow.

The aracauna seems to be second in command and currently is the largest of all the chicks.

Nice beard!

Enjoying the sun and the breeze.

April 8, 2011

Photo Friday: Browns and Grays and GREENS!

With the snow melted and the temperature slowly rising, my garden is starting to come back to life. Garlic, onions, and tulip and daffodil bulbs are all starting to poke out of the ground, color up, and expand. 

Onions left in the ground last year will make a nice early harvest this spring.

My garlic seems to be doing very very well. Not a single bulb seems to be missing. This is fantastic considering I planted grocery store garlic that is probably native to California.

Garlic sprouts
Tulips in my front flower bed.

April 7, 2011

Weekend Plans

I've been looking at the weather forecast a lot lately, hoping for a break from the cold and rain (and cold rain). I really hope the 63 degree cloudy day that is forecasted for this Saturday will actually happen. It has been weeks since the last time it was warm enough to let my chickens outside. Hopefully I can get them outside again this weekend.

I  will probably try to move the chickens to the garage coop soon, assuming I can find time to finish building it.  Maybe I'll find time this weekend in between starting hundreds of tomato seedlings, studying for my comprehensive exams (eek!), finishing a lecture on daily light integral, and collecting data on my greenhouse experiment. 

I know I won't have time next weekend because I will be attending the 2011 Spring Show and Plant Sale at the Michigan State University Plant & Soil Sciences Building.  Over 8,000 plants will be for sale with over 400 species including annuals, perennials, shrubs, and trees. There will also be ornamental grasses for sale grown by your's truly!

If you are interested, the dates and times are:
  • Saturday April 16 from 9am to 6 pm
  • Sunday April 17 from 10am to 4 pm

April 6, 2011

My First Quiche

I can't believe I've never made a quiche before, but it's true. With my impending eggy-abundance, I'm trying to find new egg recipes that I actually like. The challenge is that I don't particularly like eggs. I don't like them fried or scrambled, or any of the usual ways. I do like them hard-boiled, scrambled into pad thai, dropped into hot soup, or incorporated into baked good (although that doesn't really count). I guess I can add quiche to my "likes" list because this was delicious!

Crustless Quiche with Bacon, Spinach, Shrooms and Swiss

1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
4 eggs
6 oz swiss cheese, shredded
6-8 oz bacon (omit, if you want your quiche vegetarian)
6 oz mixed sliced mushrooms (button, oyster, shiitake)
1 cup cooked spinach
salt and pepper to taste

Fry the bacon and drain on paper towel. Chop the bacon into small pieces once cool. Drain off most of the bacon grease and saute the mushrooms in the remaining grease. When the mushrooms are almost done, add the spinach and cook until wilted. Layer the bacon, mushrooms and spinach, and swiss cheese in a nonstick pie pan. In a large bowl beat the eggs, cream, and milk together (I used an electric mixer) until well combined and custardy.  Pour egg mixture over the filling. Bake at 350 for approximately 30 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean when poked in the center of the quiche. Let the quiche rest for about 5 minutes before cutting slices.

I would suggest serving this quiche with a side salad because it is very rich. It reheats really well, so don't worry if you have leftovers.

Before baking

After baking

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