Thursday, June 16, 2011

Gardening on the balcony?

My dad and sister both have green thumbs. Green hands, in fact. They can grow anything, it seems, if they put their minds to it. Me? I'm one of those "Oh yeah, I'll grow something! Oh...well...I don't really feel like watering'll be alright" types. After a visit home this year I came back with a renewed interest in maybe growing something on our balcony. My friend Carol just happened to bring in a bunch of seeds last week - packages of Heirloom tomatoes, different types of peppers, basil, cilantro...all sorts of things! I took a few lettuce, spinach, tomato, banana pepper, cilantro and basil seeds. I had planned, honestly, to wait until next year because I thought it was too late in the season to try to grow them now, but my sister said, "Just throw them in some soil and see what happens!" I call it "Gardening Kindergarten Style." I threw them in some soil in Dixie cups and watered. Lo and behold...

Left is the pepper plant, which only sprouted earlier this week.  Right are the tomato plants (2 have sprouted in there).  The back ones are spinach and lettuce, neither of which has made an appearance.

I just noticed this today - pretty sure it's the basil, although cilantro seeds were planted in here too.
     I am letting them hang out outside during the days now - and I might leave them out overnight soon.  The basil has been out the whole time, which could account for its slow sprouting...I've poked holes in the bottoms of the Dixie cups so the soil can drain.  This weekend I plan to get some bigger pots for the peppers and tomatoes, and some new potting soil.  Mine is old and I think I need something with more nutrients in it.  We'll see what becomes of these little guys!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Georgia Outdoors

     Last week I travelled to the deep South for a trip home to Georgia.  I stepped off the plane and thought, "Man it feels wonderful here."  It had just finished raining and the air was warm and a little less-humid than normal.  The next morning as I was huffing it up a hill on the family's morning walk I thought, "Am I inside some sort of steam room?"  The moisture and humidity just hung in the air.  Still, it was beautiful.  Georgia is so lush and green that, even when it's hot and humid, I can barely bring myself to go inside.  Eventually though those damn horseflies drive me back in.
     I promised my friend Carol that I'd take pictures of Dad's garden and would also get the answers to a few questions.  So, first the pictures:
The sign above Dad's garden says "Gitmo Garden."  I think the security around it rivals Alcatraz!

Cucumber blossoms


Squash vines

Tomato blossoms

     I do have pictures of the various rows of plants, but I thought these were prettier.  Now for the questions:  When do you begin planting?  What do you start indoors and what do you start outdoors?  As for outside planting, the year starts around the first of Febuary with seeds (planted indoors) for the early spring plants; (lettuce, arugula,mustard, brocclli, cabbage, chard,early tomatos for the upside down planters)... all these will stay in the greenhouse til around March 15.  Around the first of March I plant red potatos and snow peas in the garden  About mid March I plant my seeds (indoors) for the peppers and tomatos,  they take 30-45 days until they are ready to transplant into the garden.  Most of the seeds that I plant directly in the garden are planted in May,  (squash, green beans, okra, cantelope, watermellon).  Some of these I start in pots 2-3 weeks ahead of time to give them a head start, and to give a more uniform stand.  Also I use succession planting , ex  I will plant purple hull peas in the row where the lettuce is when it finishes up this week.  The peas will make and be done in about 60 days (August 15) then I can plant a fall plant in that row around September 1...greens, collards, etc.  I try to chose something different to follow a plant so that you don't have pests and disease from the previous plant waiting on the tender new plants.

Tell me about your composting methods. 
On composting, to be very general, you need: 1. A carbon source, (dry leaves, dry grass clippings, sawdust, tree bark etc)  2. A nitrogen source (green leaves,  green grass clippings, leftover salad, vegetable peelings), and 3. Microorganisims to digest the carbon and nitrogen.  The easiest source of the microorganisms is plain ole garden soil, or compost.  There are commercial compost starters that you can buy, but they are expensive and hard to find.  Start the pile with about even amounts of carbon, nitrogen and soil.  The bigger the better, but at least 3'X3'x3'.  Water it well and keep it evenly moist.  Turn it about once a week to areate it and speed the break-down process...this is where the multiple cell bins are nice, you just shovel the compost into the next cell of the bin.  Once the pile is going, you can add kitchen waste as it accumulates...almost anything of vegetable origin, as long as it's not too greasy.  Also; egg shells (calcium) are great, coffee grounds, tea bags, left-overs.  Compost is ready when all the ingredients have decomposed so that they are un-recognizable (usually 6 weeks to 6 months depending on the weather.  I send mine thru one additional step.. the worm bed  I let the worms hang out in it for several months to really work it over.
Here are a few more pictures from my trip.