Do you want to build a garden? (Part 2)

My predictions have come true. I’m spending so much time on garden stuff, I can’t even find time to blog about garden stuff!

In good news though, my little seeds have mostly all sprouted so I’m spending my time watering and monitoring temperature!

When I last left you in Part 1, I was just getting ready to make a couple hundred little newspaper pots. I successfully made my little pots and this time used a brick of seed starting material and added water to that. It was SO MUCH easier and I got about half of a 5 gallon bucket of material with about 2 minutes of work. Once again, I used a play kitchen measuring cup to put about 1/4 cup of soil in each little newspaper pot. I then grouped all the pots of each variety into 1/2 steam trays. I got a pack of like 50 at Costco for about $4.50 and we use them for so many things when I need a disposable pan! I use them for BBQ’s and taking burgers and dogs off the grill. I use them to collect glitter and mess in kids crafts. I even helped Sweet Girl learn to tie dye in one recently!

If you recall, I started with all of my little seeds in my craft room.

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Eventually, he made me a shelf in the garage and outfitted me with a 8′ florescent light. We put the strongest florescent bulbs in it to simulate sunlight. The bulbs put off very little heat compared to an incandescent bulb, so I took some batting scraps from a recent quilt project and wrapped the shelf to provide some insulation. I was still a little worried about the heat, but if you put your hand into the box, it’s about 10-15 degrees warmer than the ambient air. Since it’s our downstairs garage and it’s closed in on 3 sides by the ground, it was maintaining about 50-55 degrees so keeping the seedlings at 60-70 degrees is a little cool, but should be fine. If you didn’t know and just walked into the garage, you might be a little confused as to what the heck the glowing shelf is!

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I had some sheets of 12×12 thin steel so I lined them up across the back of the shelf. I think this helps reflect the light and also the heat.

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I was super worried about heat loss so for access I cut these slits into my batting. I then covered the whole slitted section with another square piece of batting. So, to access, you fold up the “door” and then fold back the slitted access.

 

 

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CORN! These guys have shot up about an inch a day and are now at 4″! ┬áThe other benefit of using the newspaper pots is there is no transplanting involved and I can just plant the pot as is. I still didn’t risk planting seeds like carrots who are super picky about getting their roots disturbed. I’ll direct sow those. And I’ll direct sow the herbs since I want them to fill up some areas and I don’t care as much about them. I might plant some herbs in newspaper pots too so if anyone local wants mint or oregeno or cilantro or whatever else I might have bought let me know and I’ll put your name on a pot!

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In the meantime, we got a nice afternoon and he worked on the picket fence. We still need to repair one whole section that is missing and then add in the rodent netting. But this is our garden. The pallets are being stored for one brother and both brothers helped me till. It’s on the SE side of the house and gets spring sun about 10 hours a day. I figure in summer, it’ll get 11-12 with some morning and late afternoon shadowing because of the fence.

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Water access in the garden!

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Electrical access in the garden!

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The only thing in the ground right now is the strawberries. I made sure not to bury the root head part, but I still need to mulch. Google tells me I can use straw, but I am thinking I might try to find some rubber mulch. Not sure if I will have things leaking into the soil with the rubber? Do I have any other options for keeping the berries off the ground? I know strawberry farms use plastic, but since these little guys aren’t established, I want to leave some room for some little runners to come up.

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Next on the schedule: Get the blueberries and raspberries in the ground! I’ve had them for about 11 days and I know they are getting to the end of having their roots wrapped in paper towels and misted. But, since they will be planted along the fence, I need the rodent protection up first so we don’t disturb the plants while we attach it.

I’m also watering my little seedlings every day. They are taking up much more water than I expected. I’m not sure if it’s just the warm box I put them in, or if it’s normal, but the one time I skipped a watering night, the next night, the soil was almost completely dry on top. In both my systems I have an excellent way of making sure they aren’t over watered. In the little trays, the top tray lifts off and there is a water reservoir on the bottom. It’s been dry every night in all trays. In the newspaper trays, clearly, the water that isn’t needed will leave through the bottom of the pot. Since I have no pooling water and the newspaper is drying out up top, the watering nightly is a necessity as well.

Community advice – when and how do I thin these seedlings? i.e. I planted the broccoli seeds in a little row and some cells have 4-5 little shoots. I would assume I should remove 3-4 of them and go for one healthy plant per cell? Do I try to pull them or do I clip them? Do I need to wait until they get bigger? Do I need to worry about thinning the dahlia’s? I want them to grow big and bushy – will thinning them now mean they get bigger later or should I let them all have at it? I don’t know if they are stealing resources from each other right now or not!

I think our last frost just passed, but I’m likely to wait until mid-april to plant my seedlings and herbs just in case!

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