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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Leggy Plants

After receiving a few comments from friends and fellow gardeners on Facebook, I decided to revamp my entire seed starting operation. I attempted to use the mini-greenhouses for a few days and decided that my plants still needed more light given how cold it was outside. With a few 20 dollar bills, I drove to Home Depot and confidently walked into our pantry with two plug-in T12 lamps. My wife glared at me with those, "what are you doing eyes" and I tried to explain with my best smile, but I don't think it went over real well. The results from using grow lights has got me excited about growing seedlings indoors next year. I cleaned up an old shelf from my shed and hung the lights with some additional S-hooks along with the chain provided. In addition, I also purchased two fans to encourage stronger plant growth given that they "have it too easy" inside the house without mother nature raising them. This whole "leggy plant" thing was a learning curve for me given that last year I direct sowed everything. I had thought, "Oh, I have a wonderful sunny window. Great!" Wrong...
I was able to finish all of my natural borders in the garden and trim up the muscadine and scupperdine vines. Hauling rocks tirelessly from the front yard to the back to create a 6" tall border around the garden bed was not my idea of a fun Saturday. For my 30th birthday, my parents bought me mulch and a wheelbarrow and it will transform the garden area. Whenever people asked me what I planned on doing for my 30th birthday, there was always a look of disappointment mixed with confusion when I said, "Laying mulch in the garden!" I suppose I was supposed to say "strippers and booze!" (Nothing following that last comment is going to sound right, so just keep it movin').
No mulch, but all natural borders are complete
Hardening off my seedlings
I'm anxiously awaiting the time I can plant my seedlings. They will need to wait until this coming weekend because I started the hardening off process yesterday. To start, my seedlings got around 2 hours of clouded sunlight, which is ideal from what I have read on the internet. They sat out for 3 hours today and I hope to increase the time that they are out by a half hour to an hour each day. 
The herbs from last year are screaming "SPRINGTIME" inside the screened in porch. I have added some wild onions that I found growing in the yard and these were particularly large compared the groups of small wild onions I have seen in recent years. They must be a different variety than the typical onions I see around the yard. 
Wild Onions
An easy, fun, and cheap way to start your garden is to grow your own ginger. It's as easy as putting ginger from the store under a light to get it to sprout. Once it has sprouted, (don't quote me on this because I'll be doing my own research before planting it) you can cut it up like you prepare potatoes for planting and let it dry before planting it in a pot. I can't wait to prepare some candied ginger for snacking and stomach health! 
Ginger starting to sprout
My chives have really grown up this year. I'm not sure if they are bigger their second year because they are biennial plants but it is hard not to notice the difference. I remember thinking how pathetic they looked last year after direct sowing rows of them. I have put some in pots and they are easily a foot tall. I've planted onions as well and looking forward to having a variety of herbs and vegetables such as carrots and potatoes from container growing. Container growing has advantages over raised beds given that you can control it with more ease. 
Mostly herbs still going from last year

I have gotten 5 lemon seeds to grow into seedlings and I hope that in roughly 3 to 4 years we can be picking ripe lemons for lemon meringue pie. 
Lemon seedlings
Flash back to 1 year ago... on March 1st, 2014. What an awesome year it has been. To be truthful, I have to say that gardening is spiritual and sacred to me. I feel more connected to this earth when I'm in my backyard, hearing my chickens cluck, watching my son eat strawberries by the fistful and yelling "I found one!", pulling weeds up, and the smell of the earthy ground. I can't fully put it into words and it doesn't go without saying that there are days where I want to act like the weeds don't bother me, but they do...If you haven't done this yet, try it, but start small. Help a friend that started their garden and maybe you'll appreciate it too!
Day 1
One of the many moments that make it all worth it!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Mini Greenhouse and Natural Borders

Here in Georgia, we are just seeing the ground again as we were given a wee-bit of snow from ol' mother nature. Eloise is my favorite hen, not that you could tell...
I was inspired to make these easy mini greenhouses for hardening off my plants and helping them get better lighting before spring starts. My seedlings have appeared leggy due to not getting enough light. I should invest in an indoor grow system with lights, but I can only do oh-so-much each year.
Each container has roughly 15 holes drilled into it for ventilation as it is an important part of any greenhouse. These mini greenhouses are not an ideal set-up, but for 25 buckaroos(got them at Home Depot), it suits me and my small garden just fine. They will only be useful for a short period of time, but they will definitely help.
I am re-purposing milk cartons for my larger seedlings that needed a larger pot. Given my experiences last year, I feel that I have one toe up on the season ahead.
I am excited about my new project of creating natural borders from dried out crape myrtle trimmings from my yard. It is free, but labor intensive. They are looking good so far, but they aren't done yet. I have a lot to do still including laying mulch and a rock border around the garden, EEEKKK! Traditionally, you would use willow branches, but I am using what I have on hand. These pictures are just a quick update of what is to come and what is being done as we approach spring! Woohoo!