Tag Archives: heat mats

Falling Head First Into The Garden — The Usual Early Season Psychosis

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April is a heady time of year for me.   Passionate discussions about all aspects of gardening (in-person, on the phone, via text message), frequent visits to local nurseries, intersecting projects and conversations, early morning inspirations and a parade of dirty shoes, gloves and digging clothes littering my floors are all signs that my brain and energy are focused on one subject – THE GARDEN.   Fortunately, the days are getting longer, I have time to work on a myriad of projects and garden geeks eager to talk and share surround me at every turn.

Making Lacto Bacillus Serum – organic fertilizerIMG_9452

  • Contacted John Swain, the horticulturalist for the Denver Golf Courses and designer/planter/co-manager of the donation garden at Harvard Gulch Golf Course and passionate home gardener.   A winter has come between our last fact filled gardener conversation so we had a lot to talk about.   As always, he is a fountain of enthusiasm and information and turned me on to two important sources as well as the benefit of using lacto bacillus serum in the garden (labs for short):
  • The Unconventional Farmer:   http://theunconventionalfarmer.com/
  • Build a Soil:  https://buildasoil.com/blogs/news/8634877-gil-carandang-lactobacillus-serum-recipe
  • Labs are a workhorse of beneficial bacteria (which is edible) and has multiple applications including — speeding decomposition in the compost pile, unclogging drains, treating powdery mildew on squash plants, eliminating odor in animal bedding and most importantly,  “Improves growth of plants when applied as foliar spray and soil drench. Improves their efficiency in uptaking nutrients so naturally, growth is enhanced. With the use of these microorganisms, the nutrients you spray or drench to feed your plants become more bio-available and easily absorbable by the plants. Technically, you can say that plants do not use organic nutrients directly. Microorganisms convert organic nutrients to their inorganic constituents which the plants utilize. Utilizing microbes, you will notice better plant growth and health.”   -The Unconvential Farmer.
  • Labs recipe:  I mixed myself up a batch and its still incubating.   Its easy to make and the recipe can be viewed on the link about from the Build a Soil website.   Basically, you wash rice and take the water and fill a Ball jar about 75% full and cover with a paper towel — make sure air can get in.   Store it on top of the refrigerator and after a few days, the liquid will separate.   Siphon off the center layer adding 1 part serum to 10 parts milk and put in another container, cover tightly and let sit for another few days.   Once curds appear, you can strain the liquid with a cheesecloth (the curds can be fried up and eaten).    You add 1 part serum to 20 parts water to spray in the garden.   Store in the frig or add molasses to store at room temperature.  Stable for about a year.

Garden Hacks

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  • Strawberries and asparagus grow happily together; plan to add strawberries to my new planted asparagus patch
  • Used my mole cages to sift compost into my cold frames
  • Sprinkle carrot and beet seeds together every few weeks to have a continuous crop
  • Marijuana growers have to dispose of growing mix are harvesting the plants; the vermiculate and soil less mix is great mixed into raised beds and helps lighten the soil
  • Dryer lint can be put in the compost pile
  • I used paint stirrers for marking seeds and plants.   Pick them up for free every time I stop at Home Depot or Lowe’s.

Progress at Rosedale Garden – my 19th year in this community garden!IMG_9438

  • Planted purple and green asparagus in two 8 inch deep trenches this week; once sprouted will cover with 3 inches of dirt
  • Peas planted on March 15 finally sprouted, planted a third row on April 7
  • Prepped more beds and mapped out where everything is going
  • Seeded pumpkin bed with winter wheat; won’t be planting there for two months
  • Garlic planted in frozen soil in late December is up and growing; looks like its going to make it!
  • Susan has been making videos of me at the garden and I am learning how to edit them!

Opening up the St. Philip Donation Garden

  • Scheduled a work day for this Sunday to get started prepping the beds at St. Philip.
  • One volunteer came and we cleaned up two beds, added fresh compost and planted peas, onions and a variety of cold crops.   Watered and talked about plans.
  • Three plots are spoken for with another two gals potentially interested in volunteering in the donation beds.
  • This is our third year and I’m sorry that I’ve lost my partner of the first two years, Lerae Schnickel to another church ministry.   She was great to work with and its hard to move forward without her support.

Helping at a Jovial Gardens Neighborhood ProjectIMG_9480

  • Jovial Gardens is a really cool Denver-based organization that helps build gardens in neighborhoods.   One of their goals is to decrease food scarcity in the urban environment and  grow food for local food banks.  The group originally started in Edgewater, a suburb on Denver, and organized gardens in more than 40 yards in the neighborhood.   https://jovialconcepts.org/about-us/
  • My friend and master gardener, Teri Connelly is working with Jovial to install gardens in the yards of a number of her neighbors in Arvada.   Today, I had the chance to visit on a work day and saw work in progress in at least 6 yards.   The enthusiasm and excitement of the neighbors and volunteers was awesome.   Teri shared that in one front yard garden they harvested almost a 1000 pounds of organic produce last year.   I would love to start such a program in my neighborhood (Trailmark)  in Littleton.

Seedling Update on the Home Front

  • My experiment of seeding tomatoes and peppers for the first time has had mixed results.   All but one of the 12 varieties of tomatoes I planted has sprouted.   It took less than a week.   I learned that they need a heat mat and lights!IMG_9484.JPG
  • 8 of 11 peppers sprouted this week.   More time needed?
  • The tomatoes are very leggy but John Swain told me that they need grow lights and that its not too late for them to stabilize.
  • I only have one grow light so I’ve set it up for 14 hours alternatively above the trays of peppers, then the tomatoes.   Ordered a 4 foot rack with light from Amazon yesterday so hope it arrives this week.
  • Nothing has sprouted in the milk jugs I planted last week.  Time will tell

 

 

 

 

 

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Heat Mats, Seeding Trays and Milk Jugs: Sowing Spring Crops

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Heat Mats, Seeding Trays and Milk Jugs: Sowing Spring Crops

IMG_9147In between the last of the winter snows and the increasingly balmy days of Spring, I am a frenzy of activity – enjoying the season’s last ski days, March break with my kids and preparing to garden.  By early March, I am staging my seed packets of cold crops for planting, cleaning up the winter debris blowing around my yard and making the season’s first trips up to my community garden in downtown Denver.   St. Patrick’s Day approaches as the optimal plant date for peas and I often find myself shoveling aside snow and chiseling away at frozen earth to bury the precious seeds on or near that date.   This year, Colorado had an unexpectedly warm and dry March so my garden partner and I were able to turn our beds and slide the pea seeds in with ease – a welcome surprise!

Seed Trays and Heat Mats

IMG_9376On the home front, I planned to start seeds after taking a few years off.   In the past, I grew a ton of seedlings but found that transplanting them brought mixed results.   Was it really worth it?, I asked myself.  Generally, I find that direct sowing works best for most of my crops – greens, broccoli, cucumbers, pumpkins, basil, flowers, squashes, gourds, beans, etc.   But since I still have to purchase hot weather plants like tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, I thought about seeding them at home.   The only sticking points for me is the fact that these hot weather plants need special conditions to germinate; namely warm soil and more light.   Armed with a heat pad, a sunny window and packets of a dozen varieties of tomatoes and peppers, I decided to go for it.

So on March 24, I planted two trays of peppers and tomatoes; one with a heat mat and the17309369_10210917844015519_6103681504834658385_n other without.  Most of the varieties I planted need to be started 6-10 weeks before transplanting into the garden when the soil temperatures rise above 60 degrees at night. No matter that the average last frost date is generally considered to be May 15 in Denver, I don’t ever put in my tender crops before May 22 or Memorial Day weekend.    And even then, I’ll use Walls of Water just to make sure.  I can tell you stories about getting the plants all in on May 20 and an ice storm arriving that night.   Better safe than sorry.   By March 29, the tomatoes on the heat mat had sprouted but none of the peppers in the cold tray.    Was the soil not warm enough to germinate or do the peppers take longer?   Just to be safe, I found an inexpensive heat mat at Walmart ($24.99) and set it up.   As of today, March 31, no peppers have sprouted.   We’ll see what happens this week.

Milk Jugs Make Green Houses

After posting a photo of my seed trays on Facebook, my friend Maggie Leyes shared that she starts all her seeds in milk jugs and sets them outside.    She shared a link to a website with instructions which I promptly checked out:

http://www.agardenforthehouse.com/2012/01/what-to-winter-sow-and-when/

I was surprised to find that even tender crops stay warm and toasty in the milk jugs (even when covered in snow) so I thought I’d give it a try.   Following directions, I cut the milk jugs almost in half leaving a 2 inch “hinge”, punched some drainage holes in the bottom, and added soil less potting mix.   I put two varieties of seeds in each “greenhouse”, taped the pieces back together, labeled the jugs, nestled them in a recycled lid and placed them outside in the rain and impending snow.  We’ll see what happens!IMG_9375