Monday, May 25, 2015

Transplant complete!

I have been working so hard on the garden the last several weekends (and some weeknights) that I haven't had time to blog. I have several things to update, including transplanting of most vegetables and flowers, potting up my tomatoes and corn, and my tomato cloche. I also made a delightful discovery.

The last two weekends, I built my tomato cloche, completely by myself. I am very pleased with how it turned out. I don't get as much sun as I'd like for my garden, so my tomatoes need all the help they can get. I have always covered them to hold in warmth and prevent blight (rain splashing up from the soil and getting things that cause blight onto the plants). In the past, I have had a wood and PVC frame that I covered with plastic. Try as I might, it just never looked very nice, and the garden is what I see outside my kitchen window. The plastic just kind of ruined the view.

I was determined to build something that was 1) more sturdy, 2) nicer looking, 3) walk-in height, and 4) easily disassembled and reassembled. The roof panels were the costliest part of the project, which prevented me from making one for my peppers, too. Overall, I like how it looks and I think it will serve the tomatoes well. I still have to put the white backing on. After brainstorming with gardening friend, Nicole, she suggested I repurpose white shower curtains. The white backing will reflect light back onto the tomatoes. The shower curtains come tomorrow. I am hoping I can pull them tight and have a clean look.

I painted the wood on the cloche white to match the picket fence around the garden for a clean, bright look.
My husband grabbed one of the verticals and shook the structure. He was satisfied that it was solid and would withstand the summer winds. I can walk inside the cloche and will be able to access the plants easily. I still have the front row to plant, and then I also bought three white hanging baskets to plant the cherry tomatoes in and hang from the front. I intend to take the structure down in the fall and store it away, and then reassemble it on the bed in front of the one it is currently installed on.

I have transplanted nearly everything I started in my greenhouse. The only things left in the greenhouse are melons, cucumbers, corn, tomatoes, delphiniums, pansies/violas, coleus, and petunias. I hung my hanging shade baskets on the back of the house and planted cosmos and nasturtiums in their pots. I potted up the corn and tomatoes. I always thought that the roots got too crowded and then the pot was too small. That's part of it, but what it's really about is the nutrients being used up, so the plant's growth is stunted. Kind of a duh! moment, but I just read the purple-leaved tomatoes are phosphorus deprived. All mind were purple. I repotted them, and the purple is nearly gone. I readily transplanted the corn, too. In a few weeks, I'll plant everything outside.

Earlier transplants like the cabbage, beets, and lettuce are thriving, while the direct-sown onions and potatoes are experiencing a growth spurt.
I grew shade flowers and transplanted them on the north side of the deck along with some phlox I dug up from an overgrown bed on the southeast slope of our lawn.
As for the delightful discovery, I ordered some seeds from a rare seed website and they sent me some free seeds. I didn't know what they were (black vernisage). I thought I'd plant them and see what I get, assuming they were flowers like the other seeds I had ordered. Turns out they are tomatoes! They grew taller faster than the ones I tried so hard to grow under the special light. So it goes.

We had our first garden salad last night, enjoying buttercrunch, and green and red leafed lettuces along with some volunteer mustard and chives.
I hope to update in the next few days with my finished cloche. Until then, happy gardening!


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Catching Up

Since my last post, I have been busy! We have had great weather much of April, especially the last two weekends. I've transplanted sunflowers, nasturtiums, lettuce, spinach, beets, leeks, kale, chard, cabbage, broccoli, peas, cilantro, and celery into the raised beds in my garden.

Kale and shallots have a shady spot beneath the kiwi. 
Cabbage, beets, and carrots grow on the left, while onions, leeks, lettuce, spinach, and radishes flourish on the right.
Peas begin their climb up the trellis while celery and broccoli take hopeful root at the end of the bed.
I have also planted corn (twice), delphiniums, collards, and more sunflowers.

My collard greens are growing fast.
The beans are thriving, from bush to runner to pole varieties.
The corn has popped up, while just beyond, the watermelon seeds I saved from a local mini melon sprouted behind the pumpkins.
Meanwhile, we had a busy weekend with an excavator we rented, which we used to place rocks onto a pond liner for a water feature on our patio, as well as place our pizza oven. The latter was a bit scary but after careful thought and much prep work, we finally have the oven in place.

The pizza oven is ready for curing fires. Just behind is the waterfall we placed rocks for as well.
A close up of the water feature shows the rocks the water will cascade over.
You can see the excavator from this vantage,
Additionally, I bought eight strawberry plants and put them in my new flower/vegetable combo beds.

This patio bed contains potatoes, nasturtiums, strawberries, gladiola, and columbine.
The bed has tulips, strawberries, spinach, and allum.
My tomatoes are woefully disappointing, (only six inches tall), so I bought four plants today. They are my usual from Soil Sisters out of Monroe. I also bought two pepper plants (not much to choose from) as they are only an inch high in my greenhouse. I will stop at the Carnation Farmer's Market on Tuesday to see if Soil Sisters will be selling their plants there as they have in years past. 

These are my pitifully short tomato plants.
The ones I bought from Soil Sisters are 12-24 inches tall.
The oxalis is the pride of my greenhouse. 
My basil is looking good, too!
I planted cilantro with the pepper plants. I only have two so far.
Next weekend I will be planting beans and getting the tomato and pepper cloches ready. We will be building a frame that is six feet high in back and eight in front. The roof will be clear plastic rigid roofing, and then there will be either a piece of mylar coated insulation as a back wall to reflect light, or we will use some wafer board that came as part of the pizza oven secure packaging and paint it white.

I have lots of figs coming already. They are looking great!

Each branch is loaded with little figs, around five on each. I expect over 100 figs.
All for now.

NG Gardener

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Time to transplant?

I've just returned from spring break at the beach, and I'm wondering if next weekend will be a good time to start transplanting cool crop vegetables to the garden. The weather has been nippy the last few weeks, topping out at 50 degrees despite the sunshine. Friday climbs back into the 60s, so I am hoping to transplant next weekend.

I got the beds ready today, weeding and connecting the soaker hoses. I also took stock of the plants in the greenhouse. The cosmos and nasturtiums are ready to be planted, as are peas, beets, lettuce, chard, kale, and broccoli. The beans I planted a mere week ago are sprouting already. I saved my own bean pods for Sunset runner beans and they are germinating!

The cosmos are tall and skinny. I think I will pinch them off to encourage bushier growth.

Some of the Sunset runner beans stand tall.

The tomatoes, especially the ones directly under the grow light, are getting bigger.

The basil is looking great.

The spinach seeds I bought last year (Territorial) never germinated, and again this year they didn't. I bought some new seeds and presto, they came up. Bad batch, I guess.

More of the Sunset runner beans.

The peas are getting tall enough to plant outside.

One sugar pumpkin is popping up. I saved all my squash and pumpkin seeds.

The shade seedlings are doing well. They will be the flowers in the baskets on the back deck and flower bed.

More of the shade seedlings--balsam in front is getting big. 
I planted seeds directly into the basket that will hang outside the kitchen window, which faces north and is in full shade. I mixed the various seeds together.

I had nearly given up on the impatiens, but there are about six seedlings in each basket. I hope they make it.

John cut the stump out of the middle of the garden. Now I have a huge circular bed we plan to frame in with landscape bricks. John installed copper pipes vertically and stuck them into the remaining roots of the stump. The wind chimes hang from one. The other two will have artwork.

Onions and shallots are growing.

White icicle radishes volunteered at the opposite end of the onion bed. I consolidated them (after the picture was taken) to one row.
Next weekend, I'll transplant. A week ago, I direct-sowed carrots. Nothing yet. I am pretty sure I planted some collard greens in the greenhouse, too, but I am not certain! Here's hoping for sunshine and warmer temps!

NG Gardener

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Seeds update

It's been a busy few weeks. I had a race two weeks ago, and then a yearbook deadline, and now I am leaving for spring break. Never fear! John is staying home with the pups and he'll take care of my garden. All are in good hands.

Last weekend I planted the remaining seeds: beans, squash, pumpkins, and corn. For beans, squash, and pumpkins, I saved my own seeds. For the beans, I just saved some bean pods that I had let get too big. I left them outside under cover on the back porch. Just a week ago, I popped them out of their pods. Despite the moisture of the Pacific Northwest, only a few were moldy. Success! For the squash.pumpkins, I rinsed the seeds and then let them dry on a paper towel on the kitchen counter. Once dried out, I put them in a plastic bag. My mom saved seeds in empty plastic spice jars.

I also transplanted some nasturtiums in front of the garden fence and planted some dahlias and some glads. The daffodils are amazing! The paler yellow ones are just about done and the bright yellow ones are full on now. Plus the tulips are starting. It's really pretty.

All the flowers I planted a few weeks ago are up now. Today, I planted some violas, pansies, and collards. I hadn't thought to plant these until I saw the seeds in the store Thursday (and my mom was looking for collard seeds, so I figured I try them, too. I also added fogger/misters to the drip system so now every flat has water. It was a little tricky to get the pressure just right.

The slug problem seems to be under control now. I expect to transplant more flowers when I get home from Alabama. The cosmos are ready, too.

All for now.

NG Gardener

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sprouting seeds

The columbine seeds I planted in the new garden beds in the patio have sprouted, and some of the flower seeds in the greenhouse have newly sprouted, such as balsam, white cosmos, and sweet pea. I am having a slug problem in the greenhouse. We killed four in there yesterday evening! They have destroyed some broccoli and sunflower seedlings. I still haven't had a chance to test my drip system in the greenhouse. The weather was so dismal last week that there was no need to water. This week does not look much better. It's been rainy and in the 50s with more of same to come.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Rainy days

I am not sure what to expect for humidity inside my greenhouse when it's raining outside. Sunday, it rained so hard we set a record. The humidity was 91% in the greenhouse. Yesterday, there was a lot of condensation on the ceiling and it was 85% humidity even though it didn't rain. My husband turned the fan on. Today, even though it was raining, the humidity was 78%. The plants are getting bigger, so perhaps they are using some of the moisture in the air for growing. Anyway, I was pleased with today's percentage.

The zinnias are up already! I am excited because these are from seeds I save last fall. I have never done this with flowers before (only winter squash). Also, more tomatoes are up, this time Black Plum and Cherokee Purple. Meanwhile, my goji berry plant arrived in the mail, and my potatoes and onions are due tomorrow.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Drip system is complete!

I spent a sunny Tuesday installing the mister/foggers (one per flat) and a drizzly Saturday making the rest of the connections for the hanging baskets in the greenhouse and the flats on the second shelf below. I learned a couple of tricks along the way.

I attached the 1/2-inch mainline to the metal supports on the side of the greenhouse and used a plant hanger to arch it up over the tomatoes (toward the back).
Inserting the connector into the 1/4-inch tubing is a bit of a challenge. I learned to stick one end into a knot and then push with both hands to get the tubing over the connector. The knot held the tubing in place, freeing up my other hand. I got them all on, all the way. I also had a tough time getting the tubing going to the flats on the second shelf to bend the way I wanted them to, so I wrapped them in wire and then bent them into position. It worked moderately well.

For the hanging baskets, I ran 1/4-inch tubing from the mainline over to the baskets and used fogger/misters attached to a stake on each except the one above the fan. I don't want to spray the fan, so I used a dripper there. I haven't tested it yet since nothing needs water and it has been raining all weekend. In fact, I noticed that the self-operating vent does not quite close right now, so water drips in when it's raining and drowns one of my baskets. I slid the basket attachment up the ceiling so that the drips would miss it. The mister/fogger on the stake is angling upward now; I am hoping it will still do the job and not miss the basket entirely.

Today, I dug out a chicken light fixture to put my special grow light for the tomatoes in and hung it up. I not only have a cherry tomato up, but also a yellow tomato. There are also three others coming up in other places. I think they are in flats that had dirt in them last summer, so the tomatoes I had in the greenhouse all summer and fall must have dropped a few seeds here and there. Excellent!

My 24 tomato plants to be are bathed in the purple glow light. At 12 watts, it doesn't seem to be heating up.
Right behind and to the left of the Black Plum tag is the cherry tomato, and the golden tomato is to the left of the Ancho tag.
I put the light on a timer. It comes on at 2:30pm and goes off at 10:00 am. That way, it won't be on longer than 18 hours (recommended for the light), and the time that it is off is the brightest time in the sunroom and also when I will be watering. The timer I bought will do 20 on and off cycles. It would be a good one for the fan.I may switch it out with the one in the chicken barn because it apparently has two plugs I can program separately (i.e. one for the fan and one for the grow light).

The light has red and blue lights, so looking out at the greenhouse, it looks purple. Kind of pretty!
Besides the golden tomato being up, I have a teeny tiny impatiens up.

I don't even think you can see the little green seedling (the impatiens, it's to the right of the stake), but you can see the mister/fogger on a stake.
I noticed some slug damage on these little broccoli seedlings, so I put some organic bait out. I finally found the culprit, too. I think I see evidence of slug damage on the other side, too, so I'll have to put some over there, too.

For those of you unfamiliar with slug damage, the seedlings on the left should have leaves. Even the leaves of the one in front have bites taken out of them.
The daffodils we planted on a cold, rainy day in November burst open this week.

Wouldn't you know it? As soon as the daffodils start to bloom, the rain comes and weighs them down. I snapped this photo before the rain set in.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Humidity simplified

Today, I talked to Jay, a chemistry teacher in my building, about humidity. I explained what I was up to, growing vegetable and flower starts in my greenhouse. I learned a couple of basic points from him:

  1. Generally, I won't want my greenhouse to be more than 70 percent humidity.
  2. If it is too humid, a fan is best for exchanging the air.
  3. If a fan is not enough, or if I find it is raining endlessly, I should get a dehumidifier.
  4. If it's raining outside, humidity outside is 100 percent, so it won't do me any good to use the fan to exchange inside air for outside air.
  5. There are charts that will tell me relative humidity if I know the temperature and humidity. Update: I can only find charts where you know the temperature and the difference between the wet bulb and dry bulb temp. I don't think I'll be using a chart because I don't have such measurements.
  6. Regardless of temperature, the humidity will be within 10 degrees of the relative humidity.
  7. Only meteorologists are concerned with relative humidity. I will be just fine knowing the absolute humidity.
  8. I just need to get a feel for what my greenhouse feels like when the humidity is too high. Not only will I feel it, but I'll be able to see a good deal of condensation, not only on the glazing, but all surfaces.

It's raining right now, and it has been on and off since last night. Temperatures are warm--48 this morning and in the 50s today. One hundred percent humidity!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Humidity and the greenhouse: a tale of two variables

Moisture and temperature. That's what I somehow have to balance in my greenhouse.

I found out first-hand last year that humidity is important to control in the greenhouse. I am growing vegetables and flowers to transplant into the garden later this spring, so I need to find out what conditions are best for these plants.

Too much humidity
While there is no ideal humidity, you don’t want your plants to be too wet. Wet leaves can lead to fungi, such as Botrytis, or powdery mildew. When moisture builds up in the greenhouse, droplets form on the ceiling and drip down onto the leaves of plants. The splash can cause the fungus to spread to other plants, or it can hit the soil and splash up onto plants.

Botrytis blight on a peony leaf (
Powdery mildew on a squash leaf (
When the greenhouse heats up during a sunny early spring day, moisture evaporates and the warm air holds it. When the temperature falls at night, the air cools and the moisture condenses—back onto the leaves, soil, and greenhouse surfaces, causing drips from the ceiling. It is crucial to keep the plants dry from dusk to dawn.

Controlling humidity
Keeping the air moving during the day by way of vents and doors helps the suspended moisture leave the greenhouse. My greenhouse has one self-ventilating window in the ceiling, but one open window is not enough. You need to have moving air, so opening a door to create a cross breeze will help the moisture escape. However, if you want to keep the temperature up in your greenhouse (because inside it’s 80 degrees but outside it’s 45 degrees), opening the door is not a good option. That’s where a fan comes in. It will help move the air, especially if you point the fan toward the open vent from across the greenhouse. The other option is to keep your greenhouse warmer at night so that the temperature does not drop too much. This can get a bit expensive though.

My wall-mount oscillating fan
The self-opening vent in my greenhouse
Complicating matters is relative humidity, which differs depending on air temperature. The warmer the air, the more moisture it can hold. The higher the relative humidity, the higher the temperature at which condensation will occur.

Avoiding excess water
It is important that water does not puddle in the greenhouse during the day, which would then evaporate and cause unnecessary additional moisture. The amount of water plants get during the day needs to be just right and will depend on how hot it gets inside your greenhouse. You don’t want the top of the soil to dry out, for example, if you have just planted seeds. Also, it is better to water early in the day to allow plants to dry before evening.

Apparently it is best to alternate between venting and heating your greenhouse at least two to three times per hour in the morning and evening hours. For me, I have decided to only use the heater to prevent freezing temperatures, so I will likely see what kind of relative humidity drop I can achieve without dropping the overall temperature too much. In other words, I won’t be cranking the heater up just after using the fan. I will have the fan on a timer, turning it on low (the leaves should move slightly) and then off, on and then off, several times in the morning and the evening. I am thinking that I will only need to have the fan on for two or three minutes at a time to start, and then adjust as the weather varies.

The chart below indicates the temperature and relative humidity that is adequate to prevent fungal growth and/or disease:

A few questions remain:
  • My humidity gauge only gives me humidity and temperature, not relative humidity. How do I figure out the relative humidity?
  • If my temperature is 86 degrees and my relative humidity is 90%, is that good?

Today, I installed the foggers and misters in my greenhouse, as well as my fan. I preferred the foggers but used two misters and three foggers on each side. I tested their reach out today and ended up with way too much humidity in the greenhouse. I still have some finessing to do, but I am pleased with the layout. Details of the foggers/misters' spray radia, as well as pictures, will follow soon.

Seedling update: lots of basil up now! And one lonely cherry tomato. I have them in the highest, warmest spot in the greenhouse.

The basil is tiny but doing well.

One little tomato planted finally popped up (in back).

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Planting journal

One of the things I really like about blogging about my garden is that it is a place for me to keep track of what I have planted when--and then I can refer to it next year. And hopefully, somebody out there on the world wide web benefits, too!

Many new seedlings came up in the last week:
  • Sunflowers (Monday)
  • Lettuce (Monday)
  • Leeks in full force (Tuesday)
  • Peas (Tuesday)
  • Cilantro (Wednesday)
  • Celery (Thursday)
  • Turnips (Thursday)
  • Beans (Saturday)
  • Basil (Sunday)
The cosmos were the first seeds to come up, and they are getting their true leaves. Behind them are the leeks. I read about planting them in the garden today. Dig a five-inch trench and place them in it. Keep them trimmed to three inches to increase girth, and gradually add dirt as they go to increase the blanched area.
All of the peas popped up this week. It is not recommended to transplant them. so I am going to see how this goes. If not well I will direct sow again this spring.
It took a few weeks, but my two varieties of Cilantro finally came up. 
Whichever kind of lettuce I planted in the front is slow to germinate. The rest is coming upwell.
I had a hanging basket that I planted purple bush beans in last year. I saved the pot in the greeenhouse over the winter, and I discovered that there were some dried bean pods. I shelled them and planted them and if you look very closely, you'll see two beans sprouting!
The nasturtium seeds I save from last year are finally coming up, too, in addition to the ones I bought from Territorial Seeds.
I took time to save specifically the red nasturtium seeds, since they seem to be a little more rare. They are coming up, too (left side). They were a bit moldy so I was worried they wouldn't come up.
I am still waiting on
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Spinach
  • Impatiens
  • Most of the basil
The Brussels sprouts have not shown their faces yet, but the sunflowers in the background sure have.
I call these the mystery seeds. I found them in my dad's shop garage. My mom had saved them several years before but she didn't label them. I can't tell what they are, so I planted them and then placed the container next to the planting. There are more seeds in the container, so once I know what they are, I'll label them.
Today I planted lots of flowers:
  • White cosmos (from seeds I saved)
  • Aster
  • Coleus (both from seeds I saved and purchased)
  • Balsam
  • Oxalis
  • Browillia
  • Petunia
  • Zinnia (from seeds I saved)
Many of these plants are shade flowers, which I will use in the baskets and patio area. I have a deep shade spot right next to the deck.

When I opened the door to the greenhouse, the humidity was 39%; with the door closed, it was 55%.
My tasks on Tuesday (I have the day off to go to my physical therapist) are to install the watering system, direct-sow some flowers in a new patio bed, and install my fan. I need to figure out what the ideal humidity is for a greenhouse.

Until Tuesday,

NG Gardener