Sunday, February 28, 2010

Rain barrel construction begins...

As my little seedlings become larger, proper plants, it's becoming obvious that I need more grow-lit room in which to house them until planting time. So the first part of this weekend was spent expanding my "Guest Room Greenhouse" setup to accommodate many more plants. I added two freestanding racks and my dad built some shelves to span the distance between them. Installed about 6 fluorescent fixtures and still have some more to go, but I'm back to having more lit space than plants (for now...). If all these plants get to produce (big "if" there), I'm gonna have a bunch.

As both a boon to my soon-to-be garden beds and an aid to keeping my basement and foundation dry once spring rains arrive, I'm working to put together a somewhat extensive rainwater collection system around the house. This system, along with a re-grading of the land around the house and repair of the existing drainage system, should help keep water going only where I want it.

I'm sourcing the used 60-gallon barrels from a local winery. The 5-gallon buckets are (obviously) from Tractor Supply Company, and the spigot hardware is all from the local big box hardware store. It took some foresight and searching to come up with the right combination of parts to cobble together a watertight spigot that would marry to a standard garden hose, but I think we did it.

The last picture is the barrel with some standing water in it, not leaking a drop. Hopefully that continues as it becomes more full. We made four barrels, meaning we've got 12 more to make. Then I'm probably going to go back and add overflow capability to each one, so that any extra water beyond what fills the barrel can be automatically diverted into a proper drainage area or to garden beds.

Some warmer temps have finally arrived and brought with them the melting of some of the seemingly ubiquitous snow drifts... is spring finally on the way?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Cattails come at a price...

stopped by the Applebee's today in the freezing wind and driving snow to harvest some wild cattail seed heads that were growing in the ditch between the parking lot and the road.

onlookers seemed perplexed at the bundled figure using a pocketknife to hack off cattail tops and put them in a plastic grocery bag in the ditch by the road.

come spring, i'll have my own ditch, and my own cattails. "free seeds" are now two of my favorite words, when combined. :-)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Tomatoes Go Crazy...

My tomato seedlings are doing very well... so well in fact that I'm wondering if I didn't start them way too early. If all the healthy little plants I have turn into healthy big plants... my guest room (a.k.a. "the makeshift greenhouse") is going to be mighty thick with foliage by the time it's warm enough outside to get them in the ground.

Spent a bunch of hours tonight going through the labor-intensive progress of repotting the more vigorous seedlings from the seed flats into 5 oz party cups, using the technique i learned from a friend of our family. The 5 oz cups fit inside the 1020 nursery trays perfectly, but I'm starting to realize that I'm going to run out of grow-lit space pretty quickly at this rate.

I picked up some cheap Daylight spectrum (6500K) fluorescent bulbs to go in the 4' fixtures i picked up at a yard sale over the summer and some CFL's of the same wavelength and am going to have to rig up some more lit areas in my guest room. I'm gonna have light blasting out from under the door in there like some terribly sci-fi movie at this rate. :-)

Also picked up a bunch of small square peat pots to sow basil in and then direct-plant wherever i want clumps of basil once th weather warms. I'm trying to remember why I thought it would be efficient to sow an entire seed flat full of basil, one seed per cell... can one even transplant basil once it gets going? Why would I even try this? I suppose it was kind of an experiment to see if the old Large Leaf Italian Basil seed I purchased a few years ago was still viable... so far the germination rate appears to exceed 90%, so let's hear it for weeds!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Planting season 2010 begins!

As the temperature hovers between below-zero and freezing, and the snow drifts damn near up to the windows, inside I've been busy getting the first seeds of the 2010 growing season planted.

I planted 22 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, 1 variety of tomatillos, and about 450 basil seeds in flats which are getting bottom-watered and top-lit inside my super-futuristic LED grow-rack.

Eggplant and peppers are up next.

I may have also pioneered the Puppy Snow Cone... seen here in it's raw form, but soon to have low-sodium soup stock added for extra nom appeal. Even just with snow, it was a pretty big hit for the teething pup...

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Telegraph UK

Found an interesting article on the Telegraph UK today that, despite a few blundering explanations, essentially echoes the longtime concerns of Wes Jackson and the folks at the Land Institute that we are destroying the only true basis for our continued existence on this planet (our usable soil) at an alarming rate.

Unfortunately, according to the Digg ticker on the page, the most popular articles of the day have more to do with "Lesbian Albatrosses raising a chick" and "Adorable Baby Gorilla Pictured Relaxing in Human-like Pose."

I'm going to go put my head down and weep now.