Sunday, July 21, 2013

Update - Seeds, Garlic, and mint tea

Well, it's been an eventful summer here on my little garden.  The Zucchini I tried I put out too early and it got bitten, and hasn't done well at all.  I'm ready to pull it out when the next flower just drops off.

I ate my first 12in long bean, which was probably a bit early even for it, these things are supposed to get really long.

I picked out all my garlic, let me see if I have a picture somewhere:

I can't stress how helpful these greenhouse posts have been.  They're perfect for hanging the garlic to dry, and also nice for reaching the middle of my raised beds without stepping on the dirt.  Very very awesome.  Notice the garlic bulbs are a little sad, but still it's the first year i've ever tried it, and I put them in late.  Hopefully this years will be better :).

I got out several multiplier onions, all ranging from about ping pong ball to a small baseball size.  Looking forward to putting the ones that last the winter back in in the spring.  A few that came from seed have grown, a couple that look pretty nice, i'll try and grow them all next year to see if any of them are promising.

The lettuce has finally gone to seed, and i've gotten about 200 black seeded simpson seeds so far from 1 plant, we'll see how many i get total, it's not slowing down.  I also got about 100 romaine lettuce seeds, we'll see if they mix at all.  I'm going to plant them pretty soon when I get the zucchini out.

I planted some new kale seeds in the front where there's a lot of shade, we'll see how they do in the summer.  I was planning on planting another plant or so every week to see when the best time to plant kale is in my yard, I'm hoping to get as much kale as possible :).  I'll keep this updated with pictures and all that in it's very own post as things progress

I got some more basil and cilantro planted out in the front yard.  The mint in the front yard is growing well, and one of them isn't, it's odd.  But today I picked some mint, about 5 or 6 sprigs, and boiled them in a few cups of water to have my first herbal tea from the mint.  It's pretty good stuff, with just a little honey.

I'll keep everyone updated with images and all that, but it's been a while since my last post.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Garlic Scapes :) and Garlic flowers

My Martin's Heirloom Garlic bulbils have been growing really well, and pretty much all of them have scapes (well, they did until I cut them all off and attempted to make garlic scape pesto).

I've been reading up how to get garlic to go to seed (not a normal process, normally they go to bulbils or whatever it's called).  I decided to take a few pictures of the process.

One of the things that I've found is that scapes are smaller than i thought, they're a little bigger than a spagetti noodle, but not much.  The heads at the end are about the size of an eraser when I pulled off the outer protecting and began pulling the bulbils out 1 by 1.  It's a hard process, especially with the mosquitoes, and often ends up in a few of the flower heads falling off.  But in the end the bulbils are plucked out and the flowers are left so that they can grow and become seeds.  I'm hopeful that they'll get better and better about going to flower so that i won't have to pull the bulbils out as much.

Anyway, here are the pictures:
Here you can see the scapes on all the garlic.  Note that
because they're bulbils i've been able to place them very very close together.
This is what it looks like before I start pulling
off the bulbils.  I have to cut through the outer
protective layer, and then pluck off the bulbils
one by one.

See how small those little flower buds are?  it's difficult to remove the
bulbils without pinching out the flowers as well.

This is the finished product.  There might be 1 or 2 bulbils deep in
there, hopefully some of the flowers still go to seed.

All in all it takes me about 5 minutes or so a garlic scape.  I've done about 9 of these, and I left on 4 or 5 to grow to bulbils and the rest I cut off to make pesto out of.  It's been a fun little project.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Pictures from the garden, early 2013 - radishes, onions,blueberries, and beets (going to seed)

Hey, I just wanted to get together a bunch of the photos i've been taking here and there in the mornings as I wander round the garden.

Newly planted blueberry bush from lowes (it's now got some
blueberries on it, though i'm not sure if i should pick them off or not, i'll have to look)

My other new blueberry bush

This is a new method i'm trying (lots of work, but it's fun).  The cardboard holds the cups steady, and they're inside a normal black planter box.  These cups have been growing really really well for me.  At some point i'll show you the tomato plants downstairs. These are green peppers, sage, and daisies.

Radishes always do great :).  You can see some of the red bulbs
if you zoom into the picture.  I'm going to leave as many as I can,
6 or 8, to go to seed so i can get radish sprouts.  Sorry about the shadow :) it's early morning

The spinach is starting to come up.  Will have to
thin them a little when I find out which ones are the strongest

I'm happy with the shallots, they're doing well.
This shallot only has 1 onion, but it's the largest stalk by far.
It's even got a little scape growing on it (that's what it's called
for garlic :) not sure what it's called for onions)
these 3 beets are getting ready to start the year

Notice this picture a week or so after the one before,
it's growing well.  These are beets in their 2nd year going to seed.

This is what the early stages of a beet flower looks like.  The beets
are full of these little flower heads getting ready to burst.  Should
get plenty of seeds out of these 3 beets.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

How to grow sunflower sprouts

I like to watch youtube videos on how to grow stuff, and about a week or so ago i was watching a particular video about how to sprout sunflower seeds, and so I decided to try it out.  I tried last year only to grow a bunch of mold and so I had given up, but this particular video gave me a new idea, and so I tried it out :) i'm glad I did.

I only currently have photos of my sprouts that are basically to the eating point (though they're a bit of work right now to pull of the shells I still am to impatient to wait).  I'll try and get photos of every step so you know what to expect day after day.

I used normal bird seed here, they're ridiculously cheap.  Since these are so good, i'm going with Raw Shelled Sunflower seeds from amazon so that I can start cutting them as soon as they start to get tall enough.

Note, I've hand picked this ad thing below it's the sprouter I use, and the one they mention on here. I've heard for several people that this is the best, and it's proven to be very very nice.  So i'd recommend getting it.  Amazon might be cheaper, but I highly recommend getting it.

Note on this video, skip to 24 minutes or 25 minutes in.  The growing your greens guy likes to ramble on.  I enjoyed the whole video, but the sunflower stuff starts at 24 minutes.

Stuff from the video that is extremely important:

  • Soak the sunflower seeds overnight, 8 to 12 hours
  • Use good garden soil, i got mine from lowes, $3 for 2 cubic feet which is probably 10+ trays worth
  • Use a tray underneath, and a tray with dirt that has holes.  This was my main failing, the water absolutely must not sit in the dirt or you will get mold!!!
  • at 29:00 on the video he mentions that Sunflowers like pressure, this was a big one for me, put another tray on top to push down on the seeds, I put a book inside. So this is 3 trays total, 1 to catch water, 1 to have the dirt and seeds, and 1 for pressure.
  • Water it every day, and then just empty out the container below when the water has gone through.
So, it should take about 1 week for a complete set of sprouts.  at 33:00 minutes he talks about knowing when they're 100% done.  You can eat them before they're 100% done, but they shouldn't be allowed to go after the point he mentions at minute 33.

At 36 minutes he talks about how much light you need.  These aren't under grow lights or anything.  I've left mine just right in the kitchen and they've grown perfectly.

Here's my photos so far, i'll switch these out with daily photos.


These are pictures are about 6 (turns out it must have been more) days I think :) I don't remember exactly when i started them.  This next set is starting today.

Update - Just harvested the last 1/2 pound today.  A few started to get their second set of leaves so it was time to cut them down.  These things are awesome.

Daily Photos:
Day 1 - Starting Soaking, at 2pm

Day 2 - Put the seeds on the dirt
Day 2 (3 minutes later than the other picture) - Put
pressure on the seeds (the bottom 2 trays are this new set)
Day 3 - Look at all those little tails growing
Day 4 - Looks like the other one wasn't 6
days.  But these are growing pretty well.  I'm
also starting some seeds not in the seeds.
Day 5 - Starting to become something
Day 6 - :( sucky lighting, sorry

Day 7 - Almost time to cover these the other way

Day 8 - Covered the other way, and these
things are growing very quickly
Day 9 - Uncovered, and starting to turn green.
Moved to the dinner table, tomorrow I should
be eating these for lunch
Day 10 - Ate my first bowl full.  Everything
is green now, still lots of husks
Day 11 - Most of the husks are off, but the
ones underneath still have a lot

Day 12 - It's now a pretty easy job to
eat a bowl full (which i do right after this picture)
There are still a few husks on the plants that are
under, but it's not as often.

Day 13 - Final Day, look at how big they got.
Note, there are still husks on the ones below
most are gone, but not all.  This is why I
attempted the ones with the husks removed

Day 13 - same day as above, nice the 2nd leaves
starting inside.  Now it's time to be sure to eat them all.

Day 13 - THE END.  Notice how big of a salad you get.  I had
cut about 1/3 before I did this bowl.  This, with other veges,
what a major portion of my wife and I's dinner (the kids don't like it :))

These lasted until Day 13, when they started to grow their second set of leaves, and I had a big salad :). Note, On my next batch I waited a few days and the second leaves got a bit bigger (not full sized) and they were still fine to eat.

I've also since grown another set out of deshelled raw seeds which I figured would make it much better because I wouldn't have to remove the black seeds all the time.  I WAS WRONG.  It's not better if you're using dirt like I do, and probably isn't either way.  The raw seeds have many broken ones, which won't sprout but will start to stink.  They also have dirt on the leaves as they grow making them harder to clean.  Also, for some reason they didn't grow as thickly meaning I ate through them faster.  All in all, i'll be eating my raw sunflower seeds, and growing ones with the shells still on.

I'm convinced enough at the quality of my salads with these that I will be starting a new batch of sunflower seeds every other day.  I throw in some cheese (usually feta or crumbled goat cheese), diced up onions (green onions would be good too), tomatoes, carrots, and whatever else sounds good at the time.  I've been using italian dressing, but some olive oil, basalmic vinager, and raw pressed garlic would make an awesome alternative (i'll update if this isn't the case :)), we just got our garlic press last night so hopefully I'll get to try this out when my next batch of sprouts are ready.

UPDATE (and probably final post):
Ok, the basalmic vinager with oil and raw garlic is AWESOME :).  If you're like me and enjoy all 3 of those ingredients, then you really need to try them together.  We've got 3 sets of sunflower sprouts, and 1 batch of wheat grass going on right now and have really started to integrate it into our normal meals.  It's cheap and healthy.  Wonderful stuff.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Help, i'm a noob where do I start?

I was talking to a friend yesterday about some of the more basic parts of gardening, and although many people have written on where to start, it's not always easy to find.  So the goal of this post is to go over some of the basic details if you're just looking to start already.

This is the kind of cool stuff you get to see with gardening.
Where do I start?
Step 1 - What kinds of plants do you want to grow?  Most people start with tomatoes, peas, squash, and beans.  These are all great, they're easy to find, and there's a lot of info about them.  But are there other things you want to grow?  Asparagus, onions, :) garlic :), that's fine too, i'll show you how to look up the needed info. START SMALL - pick 2 maybe 3 things.  For sure pick tomatoes :), and if it's fall pick garlic :).

Step 1a - If you know you're going to want strawberries, blueberries, grapes, asparagus, any fruit trees, or most other kinds of fruits, you'll need to get these in this year too, because they take years to get fruit from.

Step 2 - Now that you have your 3 things go to's Zone finder.  Find your zone.  Your zone helps you know when you should plant things.  So you need to find your zone.  In gardenate, click the zone that works for you.  Missouri is 5b.

Step 3 - Click on your zone on, and then click on the veges and herbs tab at the top.  Find your 3 plants 1 at a time.  In zone 5b, peas should be planted in march, april, and/or may.  So now you know right when to plant your plant.  I would also recommend that you read through the info on the page, it's pretty nice.

Step 4 - Deside if you want to do a raised bed garden, or just til up some land and plant.  Either is fine just depends on how you want things to look (there are other reasons to do each, but this isn't the post for it).

Step 5 - Get as much compost as you can get your hands on :).  There are often places on craigslist that sell compost by the yard.  If you have a truck get a truck load or 5 :).  You can't put too much compost (depending on if it's manure or not, you don't want too much manure) into the ground, plants love love love compost.

Step 6 - Plant, and make sure you keep it watered.  You should water, in general, at least 2 or 3 times a week unless it rains.  Don't let things get dry.

Step 7 - Pick food :).  No really, pick the food.  With things like tomatoes and peas, you need to pick the food as soon as it's ready.  The plants whole point in life is making seeds, they make seeds and then die.  The pea pods are the seeds, the tomatoes are the seeds, if the parent plants think they got the job done, then they feel free to die to allow their kids to take the place.  We don't want that.  So as the tomatoes get red and juicy pick them, if they get beyond juicy the plant may stop fighting to make more tomatoes.  So pick your food.  With peas, make sure to check them every day when the pods start coming.  And don't feel bad getting early pea pods for your stir fries.

Other things to consider:
Write down what you do, when things happen, and what days plants die.  Write down when they first let fruit, when the lettuce leaves first become big enough to enjoy, etc.  You'll want to know in the future how long things take in your garden, and a journal helps you year after year.  And, during the winter :) on days like today :) read more and learn more for the next year.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Improving on the hoop house 2013

Well, it's winter time and i have to work on something, but can't really plant so what do I do?  I come up with new ways to work on the hoop house.  I'm hoping this year to find out how different plants do in the hoop house.  Some of which i'm planning on planting tonight to put outside early february.  Just to see how they do.  I'll plant a few every couple of weeks, and see which ones actually live :).  But that's not really what this post is about, i'm sure i'll post on that later :).

This post is on an idea that i had last summer to make the hoop house plastic much less painful to work with :).  And that is, i'm adding some weights to the sides of the plastic to hold it down.  Last year I put cement blocks on the plastic to hold it down, and it worked great, except the 1 night I had to take them off because it got so hot last year (it was 90 degrees inside the plastic like in early march) I never wanted to put the plastic back on, it was simply too much work taking it on and off.  As a result the plastic never got put away properly, and got cut up to be used as a super awesome slip and slide which the kids absolutely loved (our property is a big hill).

Stuff I had to buy (per 10ft raised bed)

  • 1 package of grommets - like Brass Grommet Kit Size 4 (1/2 in.) (Google Affiliate Ad) (though lowes had it a bit cheaper, just make sure to get 24 grommets and a kit)
  • 6 mil plastic (though I already had plenty :))
  • 2x 3/4 inch electrical conduit pipes.  The metal ones, slightly larger than the ones i bought to build the hoophouse supports.
Other items to get
  • 1 sheet of cardstock paper (normal sized sheet)
  • some other large square measuring device (i used a cardboard box from christmas that was flattened, you could use anything that's got straight edges and is 2 ft or so tall.)
  • a hammer to work with the grommets
  • a piece of wood to go under the plastic so that you can cut out the holes
How to build half #1
This is "the finished product" of half 1
  1. Cut off a piece of plastic roughly 16-18ft long, by 10ft wide.  That gives an extra 3-4 feet on each side of the raised bed.
  2. Take your sheet of cardstock paper, and put 2 marks on the edge, at 1inch and 5.5inches.  This paper becomes your guide as to where to punch the holes, and it made things super nice.
  3. Every 1.5 feet or so use the cardstock to mark the plastic.  So that there is a mark 1inch away from the edge, and then one at 5.5 inches.  Use the side of the sheet of paper on the side of the plastic so that you know your cuts are "square".  This helps make it so the plastic doesn't twist and pull funny, and it's why we used a piece of cardstock.  Use a perminent marker to mark the spots.
  4. Use the hole punch that comes with the grommet set and punch out a hole where you have your marks, cut out every mark.  
  5. Use the grommet tool to put in the grommets by folding the holes and matching them up.  This will make a pocket for the conduit pipe to fit into.  This is why the holes needed to line up, so you fold the plastic over, and put a grommet through both pieces at once.
  6. fold the plastic in half length wise, and put a mark on each side 5ft from the middle.  This gives you the marks for where the pipe should go.
  7. Slide your first conduit pipe into place
  8. Done
How to build half #2 (requires you to have the hoops setup on the hoop house for steps 1-3)
  1. The most annoying step :), go outside (for me it was tonight, which is about 20 degrees outside and snowy).
  2. Put the plastic over the raised bed, put the side with the conduit on the ground, and pull the other side over the hoop house.  Make it nice and straight, and make sure again that the conduit is just barely on the ground, but that the plastic is nice and tight.  I hope someday to get a video of this to make it make more sense :).
  3. Make a mark on the side that doesn't have the conduit right at the ground, this is where the other pipe needs to go to so that each pipe rests on the ground and there isn't any slack.
  4. Go back inside with your plastic, whew.
  5. Take your box, and put a mark 3.75 inches below that mark, and another one 2.75 inches below that mark.  Why 3.75 and 2.75?   That mark is the center point where your pipe will rest, and so you want that to lie right in the middle of the 1 inch and 5.5 inch.  If your box is long enough you should also make a mark at 2.75 inches above the mark, mine wasn't, and that's not too bad, i can always use my cardstock to make the other mark.
  6. Use your box to make a bunch of marks on the plastic on the other end.  you should make all 3 marks on the box (using the cardstock if u were only able to make 2). 
  7. Use a straight edge to make a line between the lower marks, you only need to do this if you're going to cut off the extra plastic like i'm going to.  If you're not going to do that, then don't worry about it.
  8. Punch out your holes and install the grommets just like on side #1
  9. Add the pipe to side number 2
  10. Done

How to use
Now, each winter you can just stretch the plastic over the raised beds, and use the weight of the conduit to hold down the sides.  Ahh, much better.  Now, this whole thing is all theory, i'll tell you in later posts how this turns out :).

The finished product:

Notice how the poles fit nicely on the edge and there's no extra plastic all over the place.  Very nice :).  Also, It's snowy outside so I had to go put the plastic on by myself and it only took a few minutes.  So far i'm very happy with my upgraded hoop house.

Update 1/9/2013

I planted some of my extra garlic and onions out today (as a test to see how the hoop house works, and how much protection it adds, i'm planning on starting up some collards and lettuce as well to plant out next week, i'm hoping to get stuff in there early that dies, and plant more each week or so just to see which ones do the best). 

I add an update here because the pipe also makes it really easy to pull back the plastic to work in, it was extremely nice.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Building a raised bed

I've built 4 of these in the past, and so I decided these next 2 should be blogged about :).  The raised beds that I create are 10ft x 4ft and they are 10 inches tall.  I think that 6 inches would be plenty if you have decent soil, but if you're going to be composting a ton, or just adding new soil, then the 10 inches will be nice.  This article is explaining how I build them, and things that i've learned in the process of making these, and i'll have nice photos of you of my latest 2 i'm preparing up to go outside.

Materials Needed

  • 2*  10inch x 10 ft boards - i'm using treated in this latest set, i've used just normal pine but i'm sure that will break down in a couple years (which was a great idea for me because my first few weren't very good)
  • 1*  10inch x 8 ft board
  • 1 box of screws that are 3 or so inches long
  • 1 drill with a drill bit roughly the size of the screws you got
Price per box
Not counting the drill and what not the boards ended up costing me $35 per raised bed.  I always build them in sets of 2 because my garden is 20ft wide.

Things to consider
  • Most importantly get boards that are straight.  Some of the ones i got were warped, and they still don't lay quite right, it's definitely worth the few minutes to go through and pick out the best boards you can find.
  • Lowes, and I believe any other hardware store, will cut the boards for you, make sure that the 2 10ft boards are exactly the same length, and have the 8ft board cut down to 2 4ft pieces.  Just make sure that the 4ft pieces are exactly the same width.  The people at the store are happy to make the cuts for you, and they like making sure their work is good, it's why they work there.  Let them do it :)
  • you may need to level out your ground, there are several ways to do this, look into an A frame level, or there's another one that uses hoses and what not which is probably easier to build I just don't remember the name right now :) when i build one to level out my land i'll make a post about it.
  • Build the frame on a level surface, a living room works perfectly :).
How to build
This is harder to explain, and easier to come up with your own ways to do :).  The thing to pay really good attention to though is to make sure that you use a square on the corners to try and get as close to 90 degrees as possible.  I will often use one of the other boards because i don't have a square, but anything that you know is a perfect square (or close enough) can be used, just make sure that the edges line up nice and even.
Be sure to drill the holes in the side of the boards where you'll screw it to the other board.  When I didn't do this it made it extremely difficult to screw in, and worse split the wood several times.  Drilling the holes lets u line up things nicely and helps to keep everything even.  Make sure to only tighten the screws when you know everything is lined up nicely.  
My first time creating these I didn't follow any of these points, and my finished products were off by a few inches, which with boxes this large ends up meaning I can't get the boxes to be flat, and soil will often spil out the sides.

What does the finished product look like?
(insert photos here when i find my camera :))