April 2009


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Boy, are my peppers looking sickly or what? I’m baffled.

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Luckily, they’re the only plants that seem to be struggling. I wouldn’t believe it if I didn’t see it with my own eyes, but last night I raised the grow lights to at least 1″ above all of my tomatoes. This morning when I was leaving for work I walked past them and did a double-take. They were all touching the lights! And when I came home from work tonight, they were growing inside the lights! I think the warm (read: HOT) temperatures outside this weekend translated into not-as-cold temps in the basement where the plants are. It must have been enough to give them a little growth spurt. Amazing.

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I’ve got some little zucchini and yellow squash plants growing inside now, and cukes have just broken the surface. Those will go out in a couple weeks.

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Outside things are really hopping too. We had very warm temps this weekend, 85 on Saturday and 88 on Sunday. It really set things in motion for some of the slower plants. I hope everything will stay happy until it cools down again later this week. I know prolonged heat wouldn’t be good for the lettuce and spinach. But I think the sun has warmed up the soil temperature so that the plants could thrive.

Snap Peas

Snap Peas

Harmony spinach

Harmony spinach

Sugar Snax carrots

Sugar Snax carrots

Valmaine (I think) lettuce

Valmaine (I think) lettuce

Packman broccoli (the new growth looks really good)

Packman broccoli (the new growth looks really good)

Bed 1 (and Calvin)

Bed 1 (and Calvin)

Bed 2 (and Calvin)

Bed 2 (and Calvin)

I got my Dixondale Farms long storage onion sample pack on Friday. They estimate approximately 20 plants of each of three varieties. Listen to this…I got 60 Copra, 60 Red Zeppelin, and 40 Sterling plants! I split them up into three groups, gave a third to a coworker, mailed a third to my cousin, and still had enough to fill a 4X4 bed with 4 per square, plus two empty squares in another bed. And they cost $10.50 including shipping!

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What a difference a week makes….

Well okay, before I start getting into the problems, let’s look at some things that are going well.

Let’s start outside, shall we?

It was a very foggy evening tonight…the yard looked so serene. Except for the PVC obstacle course!

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On Saturday I planted more seeds: a second round of spinach (2 varieties), a second round of lettuce (4 varieties), a second round of carrots (first round sprouting now), and leeks (already sprouting). I planted the second round of broccoli and cauliflower plants as well.

The peas are starting to send out their tendrils! It won’t be long now before they’re climbing the trellis.

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The spinach is progressing slowly, but I do see some growth from day to day.

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The garlic is growing like gangbusters! I think there has been a burst of activity since I hit it with some seaweed fertilizer last week. The forsythia bloomed overnight as well.

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Not everything looks so good though…..

…..am I the only person in the world whose lettuce isn’t showing any sign of growth after surfacing two weeks go? I mean, all four varieties…nothing!

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And the cauliflower has some red leaves. After some reading I think this is a boron deficiency. Here is one of the affected Cassius plants:

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This started happening inside to both cauliflower and broccoli. I doused the younger seedlings with seaweed fertilizer before it started affecting them and I think it might have done the trick. Here is a younger Snow Crown cauliflower:

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Has this happened to anyone else? The plants are still strong. I hope the newer growth will look healthier and that this won’t affect the heads when/if they develop.

Let’s venture into the basement….

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Here is one of 3 Orient Express eggplants that germinated:

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The tomatoes are all looking really good, if a little short. I’m keeping the lights so close on them, I think they’re building up their stems and spreading out their leaves instead of growing leggy. I’m really pleased with the stockiness of the plants so far.

Sungold:

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Brandywine:

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Now here’s the 64K question. What is happening with my pepper plants? They are strong and healthy, and yet they’re developing purple leaves!

Here’s an unaffected Marconi:

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But then here’s a California:

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And a Jimmy Nardello:

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See the veiny purple sections on some of the leaves? They are much more purple than the pictures show…..Wordpress sure does desaturate the hell out of pictures. They look so nice before I upload them. Anyway, there are a few more affected plants as well. It doesn’t seem to be bothering the plants, I just can’t figure out what it is! I read one website that said not to put peppers on a heat mat, which they are, but another site said to keep them warm. One site said it could be a phosphorus deficiency and another site said it’s stress and it happens sometimes but it’s nothing to worry about. I’m sure if I dig around the internet long enough I’ll find someone who thinks aliens sneak in during the night and inject the leaves with a purple radioactive dye. Can anyone give me any insight? I don’t want to blindly fertilize without knowing for sure that they need it for fear that I’ll overfertilize them and stress them even more.

Ah well, as the garden turns….

I regularly read a blog created by a man in Northern England. He has extensive gardens of varying kinds (raised beds, row gardens, poly tunnels….) and he grows giant onions for competition. I just noticed that he started a new section for his first attempt at growing long carrots for show. He posted some pictures of his friend’s past attempts:

He will be attempting to grow 4 footers! This guy reminds me of my grandfather in terms of coming up with ingenious contraptions to serve a specific purpose. He’s definitely got the brain of an engineer.

Here’s his setup for the carrots….bottomless carrot tubes!

I would encourage you to spend some time checking out the whole blog. He takes a lot of pictures of his gardens and the step by step processes he goes through from seed to harvest. Even though he’s in England he seems to have a similar growing season to mine, so I can actually follow along and know I should be following roughly the same schedule.

My tomato plants are looking really strong since potting up. They aren’t leggy at all, which must be because I’m able to adjust the lights to be right on top of them without touching. My husband’s idea of having 3 lights parallel to each other, and hanging the lights from long chains has worked out very well. Moving them up one link at a time, each side independent of each other, has allowed me to adjust them to keep almost all of the plants within an inch or so, whether they are in short seedling trays, 4″ high peat pots, or 6″ cups. I’ve really noticed that the growth spreads out instead of up, making the stems thicker and more sturdy. Here is a Sun Gold, for example:

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And here is a BHN-624 cherry (catchy name, huh?):

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And here’s a super hairy Bloody Butcher (which sounds disgusting when I think about it!):

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I have a weird occurrence on one of my Red Knight pepper plants. the cotyledon leaves are all rusty looking. I don’t really see it on the true leaves, so I’m not concerned yet.

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This is my other Red Knight plant, which doesn’t show the same discoloration, although the cotyledon leaf ripped. I think it happened when it was trying to shed the seed case.

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There isn’t much to report out in the beds since my last post, except that all the peas are now starting to grow leaves. I think now that they’re roots are established I should start to see some upward growth. I can’t wait! Here is the line of peas on the right and some spinach on the left of the squares.

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Things are falling into place, I think!

A brief description from pottingblocks.com:

Potting Blocks, also known as soil blocks, are free-standing compressed cubes of potting soil which hold their shape without any container. Potting Blocks are made from a zinc coated stainless steel Soil Block Maker, much like an ejection mold. The block maker metal form is packed into a tub of pre-moistened potting soil and then discharged into nice, firm, blocks with a pre-drilled seed or transplant holes formed right into the top. Potting Blocks are used for seed starting or germination, and transplanting. They have an amazing success rate due to the volume of soil compressed in the cube. The roots are naturally “air pruned” due to the air barrier of the “container-less” cube. They become the growing medium and the container! They are used for everything; herbs, flowers, vegetables, cuttings, and other transplants.

Potting Blocks have many advantages over traditional potting methods. First, they eliminate transplant shock! The
seedling and root system stays intact and protected, a “home away from home”. They will not become “‘root-bound”. They eliminate root circling. They replace plastic pots, trays, inserts,etc. They contain more cubic volume of soil than pots of the same top dimensions. They promote great air circulation. They have a major increase in space utilization than round pots. And, studies in Europe have shown that Potting Block transplants are superior in performance than container-bound transplants.

I’m definitely going this route next year. I love the idea of not having to sterilize and reuse old pots, or buy new ones each year. Use this with a capillary mat to provide water when needed and you’ve got a great compact arrangement without dealing with actual pots. I especially love that you can get a 5/8″ blocker to start small seeds and then a 2″ blocker that will make an indentation large enough to slide your pre-germinated 5/8″ block right in!

In the image below, the top square is the 5/8″ block made with the small blocker, slid into the middle block, which is made with the medium size blocker, and that one is slid into at 4″ block, made with the largest size blocker.

I’d be able to fit so much more under my grow lights this way, and I can keep an eye on the moistness of the soil, which I’m having a problem with monitoring in my seed starting tray.

I’ve seen some people have made their own, however I am not that crafty. So hopefully someone will buy me a couple sizes for my birthday. 🙂

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