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Archive for February, 2010

Good use for a spare fridgeIt’s been close to a week since I planted the container garden starter pots.  So far, I’ve relied on the windowsill and clam-shell greenhouses to support germination.  As of this morning, the only things that have sprouted was one tomato, two of the herb planters, and some of the lettuce mix.

To help kick-start the seedlings, I placed the mini-greenhouses on a heating pad in front of a larger South-East windows.  Within two hours three more tomato seeds sprouted.

Happy with this success, I’ve since moved the heating pad setup into a spare (unused) refridgerator we keep in the garage.  This unused fridge will provide an environment where it will be easy to regulate and maintain temperature, light and humidity.

I used a couple of old flurescent lite fixtures to provide the light.  They aren’t grow lights, but they put out a lot of light.  These simply rest on the adjustable metal shelf.  I placed the heating pad, wrapped in a towel, on the bottom.

The digital thermometer I keep in the garage was reading 48degrees F.  I put this in the fridge and will monitor the temp throughout the day.

This setup looks like it is going to work great!

Update:20100301- The heating pad did not generate enough heat to raise the temp in the fridge.  I have since added a hanging shoplight (with a 100w light bulb) inside the fridge.  This provides more light and generates the required heat.  The temp is now nearing 60 degrees F and rising.

Since last night, a second variety of tomato has sprouted.

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Looking forward to summer…

Having spent a lot of time in the great out-of doors, I was aware of the synergy that the web of life provides, but I never gave much thought about the inter-relations within the home landscape.  Jack Spirko, and his TSP podcast, helped enlighten me to principles of Permaculture.

I’ve been hooked on Permaculture research ever since.  From watching videos on YouTube, reading books and web forums, listening to Podcasts, and most recently watching distance learning college classes on iTunes U, I can’t learn enough quick enough.

This has totally up-ended my plans to expand our landscape.  I had some loose plans I wanted to accomplished this summer, but they are all on hold until I have a better understanding of what we already have.  There’s a lot of established landscaping here at the new homestead, but a lot is in semi-neglected or stressed state.

To help educate myself, I’m reading the following books-

Gaia’s Garden- A Guild to Home Scale Permaculture” by Toby Hemenway (a great book- I’m planning on posting a review when I’ve finished)

and-

Permaculture- A Designer’s Manual” by Bill Mollison (I’m still paging through this monstrous hard bound book)

I purchased both of these books via Abebooks.com, for less than $100 delivered!  That might sound like a lot, but I’ve seen new copies of the Principles online for nearly $200.

I like Abebooks because you are often purchasing from smaller, independant bookshops.

Another great Permaculture resource is the iTunes U class “HS432- Introduction to Permaculture” from North Carolina State University.  This is the distance learning course taught by Will Hooker.  There are 36, one-hour long, videos in the series.  They are very informative and inspirational.  Will has really opened my mind to how complex, or simple, Permaculture can be.

This class isn’t the easiest to find.  You can find it is through the iTunes store- search for HS432.  It’s a free video series.  Google searches don’t seem to find it.

So much to learn, but it’s so much fun….

Do you have any suggestions for other Permaculture resources, etc?  Please post a comment letting me know.

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I’ve got the first round of seeds started for the 2010 container garden.

The first set of seed starts includes several variety of tomatos, sweet and hot peppers, salad green blends, green beans, and zucchini. 

I’ll be planting some ever-bearing strawberries in hanging strawberry planters very soon.

I made the starter pots out of toilet paper rolls.  To make the pots I flattened the rolls, cut them in half, then slit the bottom into quarters.  This allows the pots to be assembled like little open ended boxes.  They are a perfect size for starters.

These little pots are free, easy to store, fun to make, and biodegradable.  When they get wet, they wick up water like a sponge.  Plus, you can write on them with a permanent marker to make them easy to identify.

I like to start them in old clamshell containers from the grocery store.  These little greenhouses make it easy to care for, transport, and water.

When the time comes to transplant, I’ll tear the flaps off the bottom of the pots and plant them in their new home or containers just as they are.

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For Valentine’s day, my lovely wife bought me a three pack of mini pots for our kitchen windowsill garden. I didn’t waste any time getting these filled and into the sunlight. These three pots will be the first herbs in the windowsill garden. We’ve decided to start with Oregano, Sage, and Dill. I’ll be adding more herbs to the outdoor container garden I’ll be starting this week.

Material list-
Instead of using rocks, pebbles, or broken pot shards in the bottom of the containers, I prefer to use coffee filters. For these small pots, I fold them in quarters and trim them down to about a six inch diameter. This fits these small containers very well. I find that this works much better at keeping the integrated saucer free from debris.

For the potting mix, I’m using Schultz’s Garden Safe- Natural/ organic potting mix. So far I’m very impressed with the water retention and quality of the mix. Menard’s has this mix on sale this week, with a $1 per bag mail in rebate. I purchased the six bag limit (for the rebate). This will be the primary mix for our veggie and herb containers this season.

The seeds were all old packets I had in my seed bank. The oldest packet being from the 2005 season. They have been stored well, so I don’t expect any problems.

I’ve covered the pots with plastic wrap to create a mini-greenhouse.  This works very well to help raise soil temperature and retain moisture,  I poke holes in the plastic to allow for some airflow and remove the wrap as soon as the seeds spout.

Growing location-
As Springtime draws nearer, our kitchen window is getting better and longer sun exposure. This window faces East-Southeast.

Update on the green onions-
Since the last green onion post, we’ve added some more green onions to the mix. We’ve harvested the onions two or three times. After the second cutting four of the plants have failed. While the five others are still growing back they are much weaker.

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