My boy is a quiet fellow and yet he can talk your ear off if given the right subject. We used to sit together in the backyard when he was a baby and watch the trees dance. He could sit still and just be even at such a young age. He can go for long periods of time on his own but not because he doesn’t like other people. In fact, he is one of the sweetest people that I know. One time when I was feeling sick and was laying on the sofa miserably he played contentedly with his toys on the floor below me. He stopped for a moment to tuck his very favorite teddy bear under my chin before heading back to his toys. This was when he was just about a year old but even now at age ten he has moments just like this one where he melts my heart completely.
My boy, nicknamed Mr. Peanut, is not always very expressive so sometimes it can be hard to tell if he is at all interested in a topic. Up until last week I really wasn’t sure how he felt about our family’s gardening project. Thanks to his magic bean plant, I can see the spark in his eye. He came home with his gangly bean plant planted in a clear plastic cup last week. Usually his response to my daily question about his school day is simply, “It was good.” That day he was fired up. “Good! Look what I brought home! My plants never grow when we do them at school but look at this one. It’s a bean!” When we got home he carefully staked it with popsicle sticks because one of his classmate’s plants broke. We did a quick search and found that it is possible to grow a bean plant in a pot though not really the ideal method. We found a suitable container and Mr. Peanut repotted his magic bean plant. Watching him care for his little plant turned my heart to mush, and I’m hoping, hoping, hoping that his little plant survives and he gets his magic beans. Will we grow a magical beanstalk?
My sweet tomato babies were bumping elbows and knees in their starter cells so my hairy adolescent plants moved on to bigger digs today. Fearing for the lives of my plants, I popped over to Organic Gardening to read up on the ins and outs of transplanting before getting started. I really liked the idea of newspaper seedling pots but I’m still sticking with baby steps. Plus, time was an issue since I work around the schedule of a one and a half year old. The goal in each nap period is to cram as much quality work time as possible into that short time frame. So when the little one's head hit the pillow today my 8 year old daughter Bella and I headed to the basement to tend to the wee plant children.
March is a tricky month and this year is proving no different. One day all signs point to “yippee spring is here throw open the windows and doors” but the next day our hopes are dashed and that white stuff falls from the sky again. You’ve gotta enjoy the good days outside when they are here and do some spring cleaning inside when the days dip back to winter. Or you can be one of those people that promptly throws on shorts and flops as soon as we get the first warm day and then never looks back even if winter creeps back for a moment. What? It’s only 40 degrees outside? Nah, I’ve got my shorts on so that thermometer must be wrong! Yeah, those people belong to a different flock of birds if you ask me. Dress weather appropriate ladies and gents! So, where are we on the green brick road? Let me give you a tour!
A quick peek around the yard on this sunny but still chilly day shows much work that needs to be done but also happy little signs of spring. The garden still has old vegetation haunting the raised beds and cages from last year’s garden. Some people would have cleaned all of that out before the cold weather hit. I will tell a small white lie and say that I left it all purposefully so that the old plants would leave all of their nutrients in the soil. In reality, I just never got around to doing it so let’s hope that my nutrient theory holds true for the soil. Speaking of the soil…I need more, more, more! The raised beds are only a couple of years old and the dirt has settled considerably. I know that the local garden store has bags of organic garden soil but it would be nice to find a source that would allow me to get a big truck full of nice, healthy, as toxin free as possible dirt. I really need a farmer friend! Are you a farmer? Be my friend. Well, if you live far away I guess that doesn’t help with the dirt problem but new friends are still nice. The moral of the story here is that we have two important tasks on the garden To Do list: clean out the old vegetation and find more dirt.
All that talk about dirt brings me to fond thoughts of compost. I love compost! Basically it’s a real life backyard science project that results in beautiful worm filled dirt all for very minimal effort. Supposing my compost pile were bigger, I could fill up my raised beds with it. Right now I should have enough to spread over the tops for a nutrient boost. Other composters are very precise about their compost piles but I take a more relaxed approach. After all, who wants to get all caught up in rotten banana peels and egg shells? What is my approach? A little bit of this (food scraps) and a little bit of that (brown, dry stuff like leaves) and then let it sit. By let it sit I mean really let it sit for a good long while. When it looks rich and dark in color and when hopefully wriggly wormies are living in it, you know it is garden worthy. The current pile in my backyard may look like that underneath but it has a very thick layer of food scraps on top that have accumulated over the winter. Also we see solid evidence that this family eats a lot of eggs, bananas, and apples and that our coffee consumption could keep Starbucks in business. We would have to actually buy Starbucks coffee for that to be true but you get the idea. I can easily bring the compost ratio to a healthier state when I clean out the yard. Never fear little worms!
The next stop in our garden tour leads us to amazing green things popping up from the dirt of their own accord. The process amazes me every year. How do the daffodils, tulips, and other early birds know when it is safe for them to make their entrance? However they do it, I am always so happy to see them!
A quick peek at my trusty planting calendar based on the planting chart from High Mowing Organic Seeds, and I was off to the basement today to get some seeds in the dirt. If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers how many peppers did Peter Piper pick? Well, what kind peppers was he picking? That’s what I want to know. It’s hard to answer the question accurately without knowing if old Peter was picking hefty bell peppers or tiny yet potent hot peppers. Nursery rhymes are so strange. Let’s not even get into the true story of Ring Around the Rosie! Anyway, more seeds have found new homes in dirt filled planting cells this fine Sunday and quite a few of those were pepper varieties. I also planted one more variety of tomato called the “Crimson Sprinter Tomato.” I picked that particular variety largely because it gave me a cute visual of tomatoes wearing sweat bands hopping along the race track. Additionally, I threw in some parsley seeds and Sweet William flower seeds today. Please see the garden notes below for the list of varieties planted today. And despite the snow still on the ground, the warm air and chirping birds outside gave a hint of spring. Can’t wait!
What about those tomato seeds from last week? They are growing taller by the day and are ready to be thinned. Can more than one sprout grow from a seed or were some seeds just sticking together? I’m not sure but some cells have a bunch of plants. Picking favorites seems so cruel but apparently it must be done. So sorry wee tomatoes.
Varieties planted today:
Hungarian Hot Wax Pepper – because the husband is Hungarian
Bangles Blend Sweet Pepper
King Crimson Pepper
Lively Italian Sweet Orange Pepper – because I am Italian
Electron Blend Sweet William – not exactly the right time to plant these but I’m doing it anyway
Crimson Sprinter Tomato – what a great name!
Darki Triple Curled Parsley
How excited is this girl!? Super excited! That’s how much. My kids went down to the basement this morning in hopes of an epic Nerf gun battle and discovered teeny tiny tomato plants popping out of the dirt. It seems these maters seem to be snow lovers – planted on a snowy day and sprouted on a snowy day. Hmmm, what conclusions can we draw from this observation? I have no idea, but I sure am glad to see those itty bitty plants. However, on a milder scale I have the same feeling I had after I delivered my son. The feeling goes something like this, “Oh my goodness now these little babies are all my responsibility to keep alive and I think maybe I have no idea what I’m doing!” You have to say it in your head just like the run on sentence that it is for the full effect. Welcome to the world tiny tomato plants!
Since today was a snow day, I took advantage of my home bound status to get some baking done. In our attempt to consume as much organic food as possible without completely emptying our bank account, we have decided to make the majority of our snack food and some breakfast items. I still buy some packaged organic products but usually only when they are on sale. This gives me a little more wiggle room in my budget to purchase fresh organic produce, dairy, and meat. On today’s list of goodies we had chocolate chip cookies, roasted chick peas, and graham crackers. If you want to give the recipes a try yourself, the links are below with any changes that I made. The majority of the ingredients I used were organic save for a few. This girl is ready for a sale on organic butter!
While it is likely true for all produce, I always say that you have never truly tasted a tomato until you have eaten one fresh from the garden. Store bought tomatoes are really a different species in taste and texture than from those plucked off the vine directly. Naturally then, tomatoes absolutely made the cut when deciding what to plant in our wee garden. Please refer to my garden notes at the bottom of this post to see which varieties I chose for this year. All of the seeds I will be planting are from High Mowing Organic Seeds.
After reading countless blogs and articles about how to start seeds and after becoming overwhelmed by the amount of seeds my novice gardener self purchased, I decided the best course of action was to cry. Well, not really. I may have cried but that was not the best course of action. The right thing to do as per my research, was to sort the seed packets into groups of when they should be planted based upon the last frost date. You can find this date by doing a quick search on the amazing World Wide Web – home to a plethora of both useless and useful information. The date for my zip code is April 19th. So, with that handy date in mind I printed a calendar and marked the dates accordingly. High Mowing Organic Seeds offers a great planting chart for reference by the way. Now all I have to do is check the calendar each week to see what vegetable is due for planting. I will also mark on the calendar when I should expect to see sprouts. Sprout is such a cute word, isn’t it? Sprout! I do hope I see some in about 7 to 14 days…
On this Sunday marked as tomato seed planting day the weather seems anything but spring like. It is cold, gloomy, and the sky is releasing a wet and gloppy snow. I’m certain ice will follow on the road ways as the sun goes down. This is why I sent my husband to our garden shed to look for seed planting trays that I had bought in a previous year but shamefully never used. Can you believe I live on the east coast and have no winter boots? This is mostly a strategic move on my part to get out of things like traipsing to the garden shed, cleaning off the car, or shoveling the side walk. It works out well for me.
And now let us speak about soil. It seems that each gardener has their own perfect mix for seed starting. Feeling overwhelmed and not yet having a good system down for this endeavor, I took the easy way out and purchased soil premixed and bagged. Maybe next year I will get into ratios of vermiculite and peat moss. This year I’ll stick with Jiffy Natural & Organic Seed Starting Mix.
Armed with a small plastic spoon, seed trays, and a bag of dirt I headed to the basement. Remembering that planting seeds is difficult without seeds, I headed back upstairs to retrieve my seed packets. Then back up again to find something to mark what I planted. If you recall, I did mention that I do not yet have a good system down. Roughly ten minutes later, 6 varieties of tomato seeds were in the dirt! Even though I have witnessed the phenomenon on countless occasions, I am still in awe that eventually (fingers crossed) plants will emerge from those tiny seeds covered by a quarter inch of earth. Amazing!
High Mowing Organic Seeds:
Bing Cherry Tomato
Sweetie Cherry Tomato
Yellow Brandywine Tomato
Black Trifele Tomato
San Marzano Paste Tomato
Pink Bumblebee Tomato
Have you ever heard the expression “fake it till you make it?” Well, I have decided to run with that idea when it comes to the whole green thumb philosophy. You would think that I inherited a green thumb based on my family’s success in the garden but I just don’t know for sure. Faced with a fear of failure I took matters into my own hands and um…colored my thumb green. I won’t tell if you won’t tell. Let’s hope the real green thumb emerges once I get a little experience under my belt. Hold onto your overall straps friends and let’s get started!
Welcome to The Green Brick Road. My name is Valerie, and I invite you to join me and my family on our gardening adventure. We hope that you will learn with us and grow with us. Pun intended!