Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Repotting the Seedlings

We repotted the seedlings on Sunday.   We filled up a few more large containers, as we did in the 

Containers and More Repotting post.

We amended some organic choice potting mix into the other soil to give it better moisture retainment.

I put four of the leftover peat pot tomato plants into larger peat pots.  They may go into our garden plot.

We planted one roma plant and one basil plant in the 10.2-gallon pot.

In the larger, 13.6-gallon pot we put one hillbilly tomato plant and two basil plants.

An awful picture of the resulting layout.

For fun, I added some stats about gardening that I stole from Wasatch Community Gardens.
Apparently, I have something in common with several educated, 45+ year-olds.   

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Seedling Update

This is an update for our seedlings.

One of the basil babies died.  The other ones have up to four leaves.

The hillbilly tomato plants have upwards of four true leave that are growing.    We plan on transplanting them with the basil next week. 

The romas are also doing well.

The transplanted cucumbers are growing much better than the ones in the peat pots.

Garden Plot Design

In the last post, we figured out what to plant and when to plant, but we didn't finish the where to plant section.  My biggest snafu was accounting for plant spacing and lacking proper measurements for the garden plot.

I went back to our plot, snapped some pictures, and measured the plot size.  It measures 3'9" by 20'.

Our extremely awesome extension agent friend came by to visit last night and recommended a great program for us to try.  You can find it at: http://www.squidoo.com/VegetableGardenDesign#module35832802

It allows for proper spacing and quantity of plants and will even give you a planting chart to follow.  Best of all, you get a thirty day trial before you have to even give anything other than an email.

Here is our resulting plot design (click on image to see full size):

We made sure to check the compatibility chart before finalizing the design.

Here are the pictures of our area:

Plots on north side of the garden.

One of the raised (container) plots - ours is like this. Note the irrigation lines going into the box.

More of the north side of the garden

Rainwater harvesting

Also, during random web browsing, I found 40 tips to help increase plant yield from mother earth news.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Plot Planning


As mentioned in an earlier post, we were able to get a garden plot through the 1st Unitarian Church in SLC.
Yesterday, we started thinking about our plot, and realized how much planning can go into a garden.
I will outline the steps we went through below:

1. What to grow:

We love most vegetables, and we have a limited amount of space in our, so we narrowed our selection down to 10 vegetables.  We might narrow it down more if we do not have enough space.

We decided on:
  • beets
  • sweet white onions
  • tomatoes  (we love tomatoes)
  • spinach
  • kale
  • brussel sprouts
  • bell peppers
  • chili peppers
  • butternut (winter) squash
We could have also decided the best variety for our region based on the 
Home Vegetable Garden Variety Recommendations for Utah
publication distributed by our extension office.

Corn - Maple Sweet
Tomato - Pole King

However, this year we did not have the foresight or patience to order from a seed catalog, so we will take what we find at the stores.

I like the idea of heirloom plants, but I don't think I am prepared to preserve their heirloomness yet.

2. When to plant:

As far I as can tell, the plant hardiness zone that you are growing in determines when you should plant.  I am sure that techniques such as greenhouses and hoophouses can allow for modification on growing times, but for now, I will stick with the basics.

The plant hardiness maps are a function of latitude and elevation, two geographical variables that determine temperature variations. Here is a little blurb by the USDA on how they make these maps

The Home Vegetable Garden Variety Recommendations for Utah also has a chart to time your planting.

3. Where to plant:

So, apparently you can't just toss a handful of seeds onto fertile soil and get a productive garden.
Some plants are jerks, and don't like each other, while other plants seem to have semi-symbiotic relationships.  We call the plants that get along with each other "Companion Plants."

Wasatch Community Gardens posted this awesome chart on their Facebook:

As you see on the diagram, marigolds and borage have some deterrent effects, although some take issues with that claim.  Even if they are not completely effective deterrents of garden pests, they have pretty and edible blooms.  In fact, I think most of the borage plant is edible

Borage Flowers

French Marigold

That being said, we still do not have an entire layout for our garden plot, mainly because we don't know the dimensions of the plot and we don't know a decent spacing scheme for the various plants.  I will do some research an get back to this....


1. Pick what you want to grow
2. Find out the best time to plant
3.  Figure out where to plant (I know, I didn't finish this part).

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Seedling progress continuing.

So, a quick garden update: so far, the pepper sprouts have not come up.  It might be the lame soil I used, but I have yet to have success in germinating peppers.

However, the basil, tomato, and cucumber sprouts are doing well.

Basil sprouts (in foreground) are doing well.  There true leaves are developing more each day. 

The tomato sprouts are also growing well, although I am skeptical of the soil in which they are growing.

The repotted cucumbers are doing marvelously, even though the bag of soil I used told me not to use the soil for containers.  I am beginning to think that the reason is that the soil drains too effectively.  As soon as I pour water into the pot, almost the same volume comes out of the bottom.  Oh well, at least the seedlings are looking healthy.  There are third leaves growing!!!

Monday, February 20, 2012

New Garden Plot!

We were graciously accepted into the Wanda's Whispers Community Garden, which is owned by the 1st Unitarian Church here in Salt Lake City.

We plan to continue our indoor container garden, but now we have an excellent outdoor garden plot, and we get a chance to interact with members of our community. 

We will begin planning for our plot space soon.  

The original, northern section of the garden.

This is the southern part of the garden.  The Unitarian Church (background) is currently undergoing some remodeling, hence the construction trailer.  I think our plot is the raised bed next to Brooke.

Some kale and brussel sprouts braving the snow!   That is some hearty stuff.

The church is five blocks from our house, on the crest of the Lake Bonneville Provo Delta deposits.

View Larger Map

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Containers and More Repotting


First thing we had to do is to choose the material type of our final containers.  Believe it or not, the composition of the container matters.  Here are a couple of links that discuss this subject in some detail:

We chose plastic containers because of the price.  The container gardening websites I read suggested that the containers at least 5 gallons in volume, to ensure room for adequate root growth and to retain moisture. 

Here are pot sizes from an Iowa State Extension office publication:

I think these sizes are a tad small, but the extension agents definitely know better than I do.

We selected two container sizes:

The containers we used.  The square shape maximizes soil volume per floor space used.

The bottoms of these containers did not have drainage holes.  Drainage is essential for plant growth; without proper drainage, the roots will rot.

We drilled several 1/4" drainage holes in the bottom of our containers.   Some websites recommend even larger (~1 inch) holes than this, but I didn't have a drill bit that large.  Here are some drainage rules (we broke some of them).
I added coarse-gravel-sized,  crumbly-vesicular, volcanic rock to the bottom 3 inches of my container to keep soil from seeping out of the drain holes.  Older sources indicate that rocks at the bottom of a container are good practice, but some websites say that coarse material at the bottom will inhibit proper drainage.  I guess we will see.

A pan (intended for muddy boots) to catch drainage water.

The soil and base rock that we used for the container.  We broke some more rules by using this soil, because the bag says "not intended for containers."  My guess is that the soil does not have the optimal fertilizer ratio and drainage/moisture retainment properties.

So far, we have only transplanted the cucumbers into our containers.  We decided to put two plants in the container; I am unsure if we are overcrowding them.

Hopefully, the small plant and aquarium florescent bulb provides enough supplemental light.


We depleted our previous seedling mix, so we decided to try something new.  Its not as fluffy as the other stuff, but it seems to do the job (though this garden forum might disagree).

We transplanted the hillbilly and roma tomatoes into peat pots filled with our new  starting mix.

We also made a second attempt at germinating California Wonder sweet bell peppers.  Our first attempt failed.

We tossed the red home-made germinator, but kept the other one (pictured), because it seems to do a good job.  We'll see how it does for these pepper seeds.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

New Lights


Today we went shopping and put down the majority of our investment into our container garden.  We significantly improved our lighting situation and bought most of the containers we intend to use.

For tonight's blog, I will focus on the lighting, because I left the containers in my car and am too lazy to go get them right now.

For the light, I decided to suspend a 48' florescent shop light from the top of my slanted bay window area.

I bought the lights from Home Depot.  The SLC Home Depot has a MUCH BETTER florescent light selection than Lowes.

The light was only $10.86.  For the exact model, check out this link

I was told that seedling require that the light source is very nearby, so I bought 10 feet of small-gauge, lightweight chain, cut it in half, and hung it from hooks I put near the top of my window.  I can adjust the length of the chain as the plants grow.

I used Plant and Aquarium bulbs in the light fixture to ensure that the plants get the proper spectrum of light.  The Wikipedia article on grow lights indicates that early growing stages of plants requires a blue color spectrum, while the later flowering stages requires red and orange colors.  The University of Missouri seems to illuminate the subject of lighting plants.  

I think the dual-bulb setup I have puts off around 500 ft-candles (crazy english units).

I couldn't find much information on how long to use the lights.  The best estimate I heard was 14-16 hours, and to leave them on during daylight hours, unless the seedlings show signs of excessive light.


The aloe plant that I am reviving had some dead-looking outer leaves.  I looked up some aloe pruning tips and clipped the outer leaves off near the base of the plant.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Transplanting the Basil.


So far, I have transferred basil and cucumbers to peat pots.

I have been giving the plants about 14-18 hours of light from a combination of window light, a florescent bulb, and a screw-in grow light.

I water the peat pots on a daily basis.

The basil sprouts have grown true leaves (smaller leaves), so I decided to transplant some of them to peat pots.  I documented parts of my transplant process.
The soil that I am transplanting to is a mix of Fertilome Seed & Cutting soil and Dr. Earth organic fertilizer.  I am using the Tomato, Veggie, and Herb formula, but they also make a special blend for starts (not available at Western Gardens).   I started this venture with an attempt to do organic gardening, but I don't think the Fertilome is certified organic.  However, I am not trying to get organic certification for my vegetables, just veggies that are not doused in pesticides and non-nattie fertilizer.

I am transplanting all of my seeds from the germinators to peat pots.  I like the peat pots because they will minimize stress on the plants when future transplanting is necessary.  Exposure of the root material to the atmosphere is very stressful for the plants.

I am using a very small amount of fertilizer (~1/4 cup) per 6 peat pots.  The soil (I was told to never call it dirt) was extremely fluffy.  I added enough soil to slightly overfill the peat pots, then I poked a little hole in the center of the soil in each peat pot.  I added a little water to each hole.  I carefully removed each basil seedling, trying to grab a little "soil packet" with each seedling to minimize stress to the seedling.  Some of the roots were bound to the wicking cotton twine.

I placed the basil peat pots into my tray, alternating basil and cucumber plants, in an attempt to distribute light fairly.  As of right now, I have many more plants than I will have room for, so if anyone wants some starts, hit me up.
The little dome germinator does much better than the larger, red germinator.  I think it works better because it has better connection to the heating blanket, so the soil stays warm.  I have tried the Hillbilly Tomatoes in the past.  They are delicious.

My aloe plant is slowly coming back to life.