Thursday, February 23, 2012

More Gardening Shenanigans

Everyone has their own opinion on when to start seeds.  Every time I think about starting seeds, I feel like someone jumps up and says "NO! Stop! Not yet!" A Way to Garden says not to start tomatoes until April 15, but spinach can be started from seeds in the ground as soon as the snow melts.  But she's in Zone 5, and I'm in Zone 8.  So I shouldn't listen to her about planting times.  Then I made a chart with planting times from the backs of my Territorial Seed packets.  These say to start tomatoes the first of March.  There is a garden planner on the Territorial Seed website that I used, and that says according to my zip code I should sow my tomatoes indoors in February.  Another resource I found for a garden planner, is the Westside Gardener, out of Sumner, Washington.  He says to start them in the first half of March. 

At this point I have thrown up my hands and now I just do what I want.  I have plenty of seeds, and can always buy more or buy starts from the nursery if I fail.  So, based on a rough average of all my planting times, the assumption that after a potential for lowland snow this weekend we will have a warmer than average spring and summer (based on Cliff Mass Weather Blog), and a broad grouping to make it easier on me, I started some seeds in toilet paper rolls over the weekend. 

I planted three rolls of each seed, with 2-3 seeds per roll to make sure I didn't waste a roll. I also planted some of the Sunset tomatoes I started last year.

I googled the Ace 55, and it is a determinate slicing tomato.  So now I will have round slicers, romas for making sauce, and cherry tomatoes for snacking, salads, and salsa.  Assuming I get any of them to produce fruit.

Pretty little toilet paper rolls, all in a row.  I had two rolls left over, plus some dampened seed starting mix, so I decided to just go ahead and plant two more rolls of kale. I love the stuff, and know a gal who will take some off my hands if need be.

The kale was the first to sprout, after just a day or two. Yesterday afternoon, four days after planting, all of the kale and broccoli seeds had sprouted.  ALL OF THEM! Now I have to debate whether I should snip off the extra sprouts to let the strongest survive, or if I should gently pull them out and plant them somewhere else. 

I think I made my first mistake already - I kept them too moist and didn't give them enough air circulation, so some of the rolls have some white mold growing on the outside.  I did some research and found that it happens quite frequently to peat pots, and generally isn't a problem.  I will scrape it off before I transplant up to yogurt containers, and maybe peel off some of the roll if it's really bad.

I did follow one old Seattle adage - plant your peas on George Washington's birthday.  Yesterday I got home early from work and spent a sunny afternoon in the yard.  We pulled up sod from around the fence for my flower beds, and tilled in almost a full yard of compost into the vegetable beds.  The soil was perfect for planting peas, so I filled a trough along a fence with seeds. If the survive the squirrels and the coming rains, I'll stable some twine to the fence for a trellis. I really love peas, so I'm hoping for 100% viability!

On the knitting front, I'm almost done with my chunky sweater.  I stitched in quite a few of the ends a week ago and was a bit disheartened.  It's really difficult to weave in ends when there are large gaps between stitches.  You can see every move the yarn makes.  I'm planning on ignoring it for now.  Sleeves will be 3/4 length, so I don't have too much left to do before I can count this sweater towards the stash count down.  I'm pushing for February, but keep getting distracted by other productive things.... Like planting even more peas in a pot for a dining room table center piece.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Germination Testing

Regardless of the Groundhog, spring is poking its head up in my garden.

Tulips from the Master Gardener (aka Dad) are popping up in the yard.  I'm pretty sure the squirrels found all of them planted in one area, but I keep finding more poking out of the earth.  I also have crocuses budding and more tulips in a pot from the boyfriend's mom. They're getting me amped for some gorgeous blooms this summer.

 Over the years I have acquired a bunch of flower seed packets.  And when I say over the years, I mean I have packets from 2006. I did a little research on the life expectancy of seeds (aka viability) and found that some are only good for a year, some up to five years, so I decided to do a germination test.

I tossed some of the packets because they had so few seeds, or weren't something I really wanted to plant.  I decided to test cosmos (2007), hollyhock (2010), nasturtium (2010), blanket flower (2006), bachelor's buttons (2006), columbine (2006), zinnia (2010), and daisy (2007). 

I wet a paper towel, placed 10 seeds inside, rolled it up with a marker indicating what kind of seed it was, and placed is in a plastic bag on top of my refrigerator.

This year I'm keeping track of all of my planting, germination, blooming, and harvest dates in a notebook. I set up a page for the germination test before I checked it for the first time after two days on the fridge.

If you enlarge that photo, you can see that my hollyhock seeds germinated after only two days!! I was impressed. I used all of the seeds that were left in the seed packet (12), and five of them germinated.  I rolled them back up with the rest to see if any more would germinate.  I checked again Monday morning, and I still had only five hollyhock sprouts, but I had six nasturtiums and seven zinnias that had all sprouted.  Pretty good numbers considering I only had six nasturtium seeds to test, and two more zinnias looked like they were about to sprout and the last seed pod looked empty.

I have been keeping pretty much anything that will hold liquid and or soil for the last month or so to start seeds in.  I planted all of the spouted seeds, including the two zinnias that were thinking about it, in an 18-count egg carton. 

It's still getting cool at night, and we might get some lowland snow this weekend, so they'll have to live under my grow light for a few weeks.  I hope they know how to share, because some romaine sprouts are doing their thing in peat pellets under the light, too.

I plan on waiting for another week on my germination test to see if any other seeds decide to sprout.  I was a little disappointed that was all that came up, but then last night I was gifted by a very generous friend some sweet pea and snapdragon seeds she collected from her flowers last summer.  Between those and some poppy and maybe other seeds collected by the Master Gardener, I should be set.  Hopefully this summer the bees will be loving my flowers and doing their duty to pollinate my veggies.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Cold Frames Finished!

We have had some unseasonable warm weather the last week.  Snow one week, 50 degrees the next! Crazy town.  I took the opportunity on Saturday's sunny afternoon to finish the cold frames.

We attached the sides together by screwing two nails into a 1x2 for each end. Before we put on the last wall, I pulled out the windows to see which one fit. The first one was too small, but the larger one looked like it was perfect.

We added two hinges to the back and a handle on the bottom.  Voila!

Then we started number two.

We started the same, adding the sides to the front.  As before, I put the window on top to make sure it fit. And HOLY CRAP it's a good thing I did.  We must have done them backwards. Or something.  Because there was a good spare 7 inches or so of length on the sides. I am completely in awe of how off our measurements/cuts were. Luckily we were able to saw off the excess, then adjust the height of the back panel to fit. 

Then there was a new problem.  The bowing of the plywood meant that the end panel was a couple inches too long.  So we hit the board with the saw again and screwed it all into place.

Then there was a new problem.  The bowing of the plywood made it... more of a trapezoid, really.  The window, which we are pretty sure is square, was definitely not the same shape as the box. We managed to make it "good enough" when putting on the hinges, and the gaps are small enough that I'm not too concern.

Doesn't mean I didn't buy some foam pipe insulation at Home Depot on Sunday just in case....

In a couple weeks I'll start my kale and broccoli inside in my new grow light area, then in a few more weeks they can go outside to harden off under these guys.  In the mean time I think I'll start some lettuce.

Not bad for less than $15!

Groundhog Day Knitting Update

So far this year I have completed my first adult-size sweater, one hat, one baby sweater, and started another hat (my own design) and a cardigan.

I still haven't taken any pictures of my finished sweater.  Suffice it to say that it fits, but is bulky and certainly not flattering.  The sleeves seem really thick. I think it will become a house/yard sweater.  But as far as milestones go, it was a big one! I'm not intimidated by sweaters anymore, and will certainly pick designs that have finer gauge , or at least better sleeves, in the future. Which is funny that I say "finer gauge" when the cardigan I started last week in Sacramento is with bulky yarn on size 17 needles.... Opps!

Earlier in January I finished my third Unoriginal hat.

Pattern: Unoriginal Hat, by Yarnharlot
Yarn: Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick and Quick, Lemongrass
Needles: US Size 15

I wanted to use up the last skein of lemongrass left over from the Sutter's Mill Afghan I made last Christmas, and knew the only way to use up one skein of such brightly colored yarn was a hat.  I still absolutely love my baby alpaca Unoriginal hat. I wear it all the time, so I decided to share the love.  Not sure yet who will get it.  It knit up quite nicely, but is obviously not as light and fluffy as my alpaca version.

My second baby sweater, knit for a baby shower last weekend is also from stashed yarn.

Project: Baby Sophistocate by Linden Down
Yarn: Filatura Lanarota Chunky Wool Blast, color 816 (Greenish-Brownish-Purplish)
Needles: US 9, 29 inch circulars

Cutest sweater ever.  Again. Recipient doesn't know the baby's sex yet, and I thought this color scheme might be appropriate.  I couldn't tell if I liked the color variegation just by looking at the skeins, but I really like the way it knit up.

I'm feeling pretty good about my start to 2012.  Only one month in and I've already finished three projects, and am well on my way to two more.  This could shape up to be my best knitting year ever.  Especially since I keep finding out more and more of my friends are pregnant!