Today I had to do one of the things I hate most about raising plants from seeds: thinning.

Once your seedlings get going, it is important to thin them to make sure the little dudes have enough room to grow strong enough to handle the transplant outside. This is especially important if you, like me, planted 2-3 more seeds per peat disc than is recommended or necessary. I think that this behavior stems (badum-bum) from my irrational fear that I won't be able to nurture a plant from seed to fruit. In all honesty, raising seedlings isn't that hard, but I remain shocked every time I manage to make it happen. Yet every time I try to hedge my bets by planting a few (read: many) extra seeds here and there.

However, by planting more seeds, I invariably produce more seedlings than I can handle/raise, necessitating the thinning (which, as I mentioned, I hate). It's a vicious cycle, really, and it breaks my heart to kill any of the plants...

That others might live...

My eggplants have been moving right along. Many of the seedlings are just starting to get their first true leaves, which are the second set of leaves that appear. In reality, the first leaves you see on a seedling aren't leaves at all. They're actually called cotyledons, or seed coats, which essentially come from the seed's original casing. I read somewhere (I can't remember where; bad historian!) that cotyledons are actually food storage for the plant until it starts photosynthesizing. But I digress. A few of my eggplants now have their first "true leaves," which means that they're almost ready to be transplanted.

So thin them, I did. I picked the strongest/most developed seedling in each of my discs to let grow, and chopped the rest. McGee and Stuckey recommend using manicure scissors to cut the discarded seedlings off at the base, as trying to rip the seedlings out may damage the root structure of the seedlings you are saving. As I had no manicure scissors, I used my pruning shears, which was a lot like cutting butter with a machete. Whatever.

We are supposed to have some very nice weather this weekend, and I am tempted to transplant some eggplants outside, but I should really wait until our frost date. This springish weather is deceiving...


Week 1

I am calling this "Week 1" mostly because it is the first week I have had things planted outside.

Just a few quick updates in seedling land.

First off, things are starting to look less dead outside. I planted some pansies alongside the (probable) weeds and in a hanging basket trio I got from Ikea and never used last season:

The lettuces are coming along nicely, as well:

In case you missed it, look! Little lettuces!

Lastly, I am uber-impressed with the indoor seeds I planted last weekend. To be honest, I can't remember which half of the tray is tomatoes and which is purple coneflower, but somebody is on the move!

I suspect that it is the coneflower, but who knows? I am excited to see things growing in that tray already!

Last night, Hank and I took a trip to Lowes to get project supplies and garden stuffs. I am going to put up a clothesline outside and needed to get hardware for that, and I needed soil and a new pair of gardening gloves (winter ate one of my old pair). In addition, I bought another 17" plastic pot and a packet of bush bean seeds. I didn't set out to purchase more seeds, I just couldn't resist! Those won't get planted for another month or so.

Finally, we got our worm box! More details to come, I swear! Hank promised to write a guest blog about it, we just need to gather the rest of the supplies.


more planting

Well. Spring has definitely sprung in Philly. It has been a glorious 70 degrees here for the past few days, serving as a reminder to get my act in gear with the garden.

I'm running a week or so late on my original schedule. It's somewhat intentional, as I wanted to make sure that I wasn't pushing the frost date too much, but lately time has been getting away from me, too. The end of the semester is fast approaching, and this coming week will be especially hellish. So, because I had an extra few hours today, I got cracking on the next few steps.

Today I started my cherry tomatoes and echinacea in my 2nd greenhouse (no photos for now. Trust me, they look exactly the same as the others did when I got them started), and planted my lettuces, chard, and chives outside.

In order to save myself from Zipcar-ing to the (unbearably crowded) Home Depot today, I decided to re-use my potting soil from last year. I have no idea if that is totally kosher in container-gardening world, but oh well. Thembi thinks it's cool, McGee and Stuckey don't expressly forbid it, and I really hate Home Depot on Saturdays. So, I dumped all the soil out, sifted through for the bigger roots, re-fertilized, watered, and back into the containers it went.

I hate to say it, but I am hoping that it cools down a bit in the next few days. Chard and lettuce are supposed to germinate in slightly cooler weather, and it's, uh, 73 degrees right now. In any event, I have the planted containers in the shade to keep them cooler for now.

In other news, I found this while cleaning up the old/dead plants last week:

Green growth! That somehow survived three feet of snow! Anyone know what they are? The one in the back looks like it may be a plain old thistle or something, but the one in the middle is odd. It has soft furry leaves and no smell. Both might very well be weeds, but I am so excited to have green in the garden, that I'm going to just leave them there for now.



I have sprouts!

I returned from California to find a tiny little eggplant plant started, proof that Hank did his job while I was away. Now there are three plants started, and I am having a good time checking on their progress.

I will be starting the echinacea and the tomatoes in a week or two, and a few of my outdoor-starting plants can go out toward the end of this month. That means I need to start preparing the containers and soil, something I haven't yet put much thought into. A project for this weekend, perhaps.

Not much else to report here, other than that the drifts of snow have turned to buckets of rain. Hopefully we will get some nice weather soon!


it begins!

It's early March. You know what that means! I finally get to plant things!

I decided to back everything up one week toward the safe side of the frost-date spectrum. We have been having some wacky weather lately, and I don't want to risk frost-bitten seedlings in April. Therefore, I got the eggplants started this afternoon.
It went a little something like this:
First, I assembled my supplies:

1 12-pack Jiffy greenhouse (because I'm only planting eggplants on this go-round, I reserved four peat pellets for later use)
1 3/4 c. warm water
1 pack seeds of your choice (mine are Black Beauty heirloom eggplants)

The directions that come with the greenhouse are super-simple. Those little discs are dehydrated peat moss surrounded by a very thin netting.

1. Add water. When you add water to the tray, they blow up kind of like grow sponge pills (please tell me I wasn't the only one who had those).
2. After three or four minutes, the discs are about 1.5 in. tall and ready to be planted.
3. Rip the netting back from the top of the disc, and muss up the peat a little bit.
4. Place your seeds (3-4 per disc). Don't worry too much about where they fall. The peat is uber-fertile and you'll find that seedlings will sprout up every which direction.
5. Cover the seeds back up with peat, and voilĂ ! You are done.

The whole process takes less than 10 minutes. I usually save my extra seeds in a ziplock as insurance, but that's just me being a little crazy. I have had very good success rates with the Jiffy discs, so don't worry about saving every seed

The seeds in their cozy new home:

I also set up Kitten Defense: Version 1.0. It's low-tech, but I have to start somewhere.
As eager as I am to start watching these suckers grow, I am leaving Hank in charge of the seeds while I go home to California for my spring break. He has promised to keep an eye on them, and I have charged him with the responsibility of taking daily photographs if they start sprouting. As I recall, the eggplant seeds took a long time to sprout last year, so fingers crossed, I won't miss anything.

Hooray, spring!

(Apologies for the ridiculous formatting and general lack of excitement in this post. I'm working off an unwelcome head cold, and it's also way past my bedtime, which happens to be 11PM on Fridays. I'll be back in a week, and maybe I'll be able to get Hank to do a guest blog on WORM BOXES! Oooh, aaah)