The days (and weeks) are flying by so fast...my intention is always to write about something each day, but that's not how it is currently working out.
So a few odds and ends....on Monday Sue and I took a walk in the Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh, and it was well worth it. We finally got to see some of the earliest flowering trees in bloom. Sue is blogging about it, along with some nice pictures - I will post a link once she gets to it. I suspect most people miss them, but the flowering nectarine and apricot trees are just stunning. The other star of the day was the various Hellebores.
As we walk around our neighborhood, it is clear that the flowering fruit trees everywhere are about to burst into bloom - perhaps due to the recent warm days. I just hope that a surprise frost doesn't come in and nip them, turning their blossoms brown...something that seems to happen quite often here.
I am pretty pleased with what I've germinated so far, in terms of percentage and health. I will provide a full update in a blog entry soon.
The 2011 Northern Hemisphere part of the Dwarf tomato project is underway - all seeds are now distributed and it is all about waiting for the many reports that will come in. I am just about to tackle the challenging task of finalizing my own grow list for the year, and hope to get my seasonal experiments planted tonight - tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. Again - topics for future blog entries. And tomorrow I hope to start transplanting lettuce and greens.
I know we are not out of the potential frosty temps woods yet, but the near term forecast looks pretty good, and I've got plants that are pining for a nice spell in the sun. So.....I just finished moving them back outside and giving them a good drink.
Here are pics of the seedling flats - the ones amongst the azaleas in semi-shade are the lettuce, pansy/snapdragon, sweet pea and Asian greens flats.
Here are some closeups of some of the cells - lettuce, mustard, mizuna, pansy and snapdragon.
The other two sunning flats (actually currently in the shade) are the initial hot pepper/eggplant, and the herb/flower flats.
Finally, there are the flats under the grow lights - one of peppers and eggplant, the other two tomatoes. These just came out of the office and off of the heat mats a few days ago, and need a bit of time before I ease them into the sun.
So, just a little bit of work lies ahead! Today I hope to start transplanting some lettuce and greens into 4 inch pots or plug flats. Also, I want to do one more flat of slow poke or no-show tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.
Then....next week I start thinking about the projects and experiments and get those seeds planted - as well as dig a few rows in the garden in preparation for beets, lettuce and greens.
I am a bit tired just thinking about it all (not really! THIS is fun!)....
So the dance begins....we get teased by warm days and above-frost nights - then Mother Nature remembers that it is winter, it is February, and the sub-32 lows appear again. So, out of the garage goes the lawnmower, and in go the Oleander, Lantana, Roses, Sweet Peas, Ferns, Walking Iris - and the flats of lettuce, greens, and flowers. Oh well....
I returned to find really good germination with my second eggplant/pepper planting, and both flats of tomatoes. The two tomato flats are in my office on the heat mats, but the peppers joined the other peppers and flowers under grow lights. I've got a half flat of seedling sales tomatoes to plant - and may fill it in with the stubborn eggplant and peppers that are no- or slo-shows in my flats.
Thanks to our good friend Margie, Sue and I (along with Mocha and Buddy) enjoyed a beautiful Fri-Mon at Sunset Beach...just a few pics below.
These are about a week old, but with the frost-free recent evenings, a few flats are living outside night and day.
Shown are the lettuce and greens flats, with close up of some of the lettuce, and Swiss Chard Bright Lights.
Now it really feels as if spring is on the way! I've been sunning the seedling flats when it is warm enough....and actually did some transplanting yesterday.
So...I am mostly done distributing seeds to various other gardeners and friends, which means those involved with the dwarf tomato breeding project have what they need to move things along this season.
I planted, today, the rest of the hot peppers, eggplant and tomatillos - as well as all of the sweet peppers for our seedling sales. I also planted the flat of flowers and herbs.....what remains are all of the tomatoes, as well as the usual eggplant and pepper experiments for my garden this year. By the way, the initial planting of eggplants and peppers is starting to show signs of life - about 1/3 of the varieties have germinated (today is day 6).
Yesterday I decided that, though small, it was a good time to transplant the pansies and snapdragons into individual plugs, and sweet peas into individual 3 inch pots. They are all now recovering under the grow lights.
That gets me caught up pretty well. I hope everyone else is looking forward to their gardens this season!
It is amazing how greens and lettuce can't wait to explode from the seed...but it takes patience with eggplant and peppers (though not much more patience - I expect to see signs of life in some of my cells any day!).
Here is what I planted on February 7 - the corresponding plug flat nestled on a heating mat, loosely covered with plastic wrap, in front of the south facing window of my office.
Bride F1, Ichiban F1, Lavender Touch F1, Neon F1, Ping Tung Long, Prosperosa, Ripples and Zebra F1. My rationale for planting these was mostly seed that was a few years old, or was slow or difficult last year.
Billy Goat, Bird, Bolivian Rainbow, Long Red Cayenne, Datil, Festival (dark leaf), Festival (light leaf), Filius Blue, Fish, Chinese Five Color, Gemstone, Ghost, Golden Habanero, Habanero, Hot Paper Lantern, Hungarian Hot Wax, Camille's Italian, Jalapeno M, Jamaican Hot Chocolate, Leslie's Anaheim, Little Nubian, Pretty in Purple, Pretty Purple, Purple Flash, Purple Robe, Red Habanero, Scotch Bonnet, Serrano, Skinny, Spectral, Tabasco, Trifetti, Variegata, Vietnamese Multicolor, Yellow Peter. I chose these to start earlier because they are either slower growing ornamentals or chinense types (the Hab family are all very slow to get any size to them), or older seed.
Mexico Midget - because it always takes forever, or my seed doesn't germinate well....giving myself multiple chances of having decent seedlings early by starting early!
Cossack Pineapple ground cherry - which are also very slow growing early on.
Wish me luck! Updates to come....
I've been getting inquiries about our vegetable seedlings already. The lists for seedling sales are pretty much set - so without further delay, I started planting the flats that produce the babies that reside in our driveway during April and May, and that accompany us to the Farmer's Market on Saturdays.
It is still a bit early for tomatoes and sweet peppers, but I decided to get a start on the really slower growing peppers, as well as eggplant that were a bit slower or lower germinating last year - as well as the ground cherry Cossack Pineapple (also a slow grower), and the annually stubborn tomato Mexico Midget (I am determined to not be caught short on that variety this year!).
I will list the varieties that I started today soon....but suffice to say that the season is now underway in earnest!
Here are some pics of the three seedling flats that are underway. There is the pansy/snapdragon/sweet pea flat, the Asian greens/beets flat, and the lettuce/spinach flat - including some close ups.
They are clearly enjoying their lives under fluorescent lights in my cool garage!
On today's agenda - planting the first flat of veggie seedlings - focusing on the slower growing peppers and eggplant, and those for which the seed is a bit old, so could result in slow or low germination.
Yesterday was 70 degrees - talk about spring fever! Of course, it is just February, and today it barely broke 40. But....when you are planning and thinking about gardens, time flies, and there will be digging in the dirt soon enough.
Now, to complete the lists of what I've started already:
Swiss Chard Bright Lights
Osaka Purple Mustard
Sessantina Grossa Raab
Mustard HO MI Z
Da Cheong Chae
Beet Burpee Golden
Beet Touchstone Gold
Beet Ruby Queen
Brussels Sprouts Churchill
So I've got three flats thriving in my cool garage under fluorescent lights.
Other garden tasks - send out seeds for the Dwarf project, packing seeds for other gardening friends, finalizing what I will grow in my hot pepper development project....and then will starting pondering planting peppers, tomatillos, eggplant and tomatoes! We are well underway!
I've now seen it all - some of the Asian greens I planted germinated on ONE day! Just remarkable....pretty anxious to see the world, I guess.
Back to filling details on what I am growing. My second plug flat is filled with different types of lettuce - no surprise that we don't limit ourselves to just a few types. And when one of your best gardening buddies (my long time pal Jeff) is a lettuce seed saver, it provides many options!
Here are the lettuce varieties that I planted a week or so ago, and are now up and growing under lights in my garage. There are green leaf, red leaf, speckled leaf, romaine types, crisphead types, leaf types - it makes for quite the lovely salad!
Laitue Grosse Brune Paresseuse
Bioinda a Foglia Riccia di Taglio
Dark Lollo Rossa
Encore Lettuce Mix
Grand Rapids Concept
And in the same flat, a few non-lettuce greens
I will likely have mixes of different seedlings with me at the Market along with my usual peppers, tomatoes and eggplant this spring for purchase.
I start the lettuce densely using my typical technique - 20 or so seeds per cell. Lettuce is easy to transplant, and I move it to 4 inch pots, 6 to 9 plants to a pot, in which they reach a size that is suitable for setting into the garden. The earlier I get the lettuce into the garden, the better - it gets hot here quickly, and lettuce doesn't care for that at all!
Once the plants get a little bigger, I'll take some pics of the developing seedlings.