Strawberries Showing Spring Signs

Although some people cover their strawberries up in the winter, we don’t.  We don’t feel like it affects the berries either way so we just let them be their natural selves and collect the snow on top of them.
Here’s all the strawberry buckets now with their crisp leaves.  Each bucket has 3-4 strawberry plants, aged from 1 year to 3 years.  There’s about 40 strawberry plants here total. 
We started to see signs of green spring in the younger plants…WP_20130331_039.jpgWP_20130331_038.jpg
And then finally some green in the older plants this past week.  photo 3.JPG
Hopefully I will have some plump berries in my hands in a few months.  They truly are the sweetest strawberries I have tasted!
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If are you thinking about growing strawberries, I would definitely recommend trying the bucket method.  We’ve had great results.  I talk more about growing strawberries in this video (starts around 0:35).

Carrot Weekend

This post is going to be about carrots.  Tomorrow is Easter which means 2 things:  bunnies and the 3rd season of Game of Thrones premieres.  So you get the bunny connection with carrots, but what about Game of Thrones?  There is no connection, I’m just really excited and wanted to tell you.

First, let’s talk about the old carrots.  We planted some carrots right at the end of Fall seeing if we could get another batch of carrots before winter hit.  We thought it was a failure, but look at what was under the soil.
Most were pretty scrawny, but we got some some big ones too.  I am planning to use them in a stir fry soon.
Carrot seeds are tiny so we use pelleted seeds.  This allows for more accurate sowing by hand.
As usual we are doing 3 rows of carrots this year.  We love our carrots and they store so well.WP_20130329_029
Row by row we place the seeds…
Hey, you missed a spot.  Just kidding.
Then we cover them back up with soil, give them a good pat and water them.
See you soon carrots!

Remember I like lettuce?

Do you remember when I used to hate lettuce? Then do you remember last year where I started to eat lettuce by itself? I’m a silly girl, what can I say?  So this year we will be growing lettuce again – both outside in the garden and inside in the window farm. I guess I can’t get enough! My 8 year old self rolls her eyes at my  kindness to lettuce.
We are planting 4-5 heads of lettuce in the garden this year.  This is all Bibb lettuce.  The seedlings looked like they were strong enough to be planted in the ground so they each get planted directly in their cups.
Then I give them all a good pat down and clean them off.  They don’t like looking dirty.
Grow strong little lettuce guys.
Let the sun shine down on you!

Spring Onion Planting

Today we did alot of work in the garden which I will break up into separate posts.  This one will be dedicated to the enemy I love, onions.  What does this mean? I don’t eat onions – I cry if they are in my food. I am that person who takes very long in line because I request everything be made without onions, and if they ignore my request, then I will send it back.  I will pick the onions out of salsa even if it means it will take 20 minutes and everyone will be done eating already.  I don’t like the smell of onions, I pout and moan when I have to make something with onions for Matthew.  But with that said, I am the garden mother of these onions so I cherish and worship them.  No, I won’t eat them, but I want them to grow big and strong.    Even though it’s the one thing in the garden that I will not eat, somehow I am always stuck sorting and planting them every year.  Matthew calls me the “onion whisperer” because he says I am good at the meticulous job of picking all the onion seedlings apart.  Man, I hate that job.  It’s the worst.  And let me tell you something, even if they are onion babies right now, they smell of onions.  I totally overreact too. I will sit on the ground with those onion seedlings, crying, pretending I can’t breathe, holding my nose (which really makes it worse because I have onions on my fingers). It’s tough work, but it’s all for the love of one of my children, the onions.
First, let’s look at the box where all the new onions will be planted in.  These onions off to the left have been there for a few months over winter, and they look like they are bouncing back so we are going to leave them and see.
Speaking of onions that made it over winter – will you check out this box of onions that are looking amazing? Matthew had fears they wouldn’t survive, but I told him to keep some hope in these onions, and look at them! Look at them!
No bulbs were spotted (yet) but they are looking strong.  They’re all about 1 foot high.  When they get bulbs I am going to do the happy onion dance.  They deserve it. 
Back to the onions we planted today.  Here are all our onion seedlings.  Each little soil cup has a bunch of onion seedlings in it – anywhere from 5 to 8. 
Then comes the fun (not fun at all) part of sorting these onion seedlings out, one at a time.  While holding each one delicately you try to untangle all the roots. 
This take some time, but I have worked out a system of shaking them so they come loose pretty quickly.  Onion whisperer I am.
The seedlings already have pretty intense roots going on.  Each seedling grew into a big onion last year and produced a bulb larger than a baseball.  Matthew said they were delicious. We are hoping for similar results this year!
So now they’re all planted. There’s 38 onions here, not counting the ones in another box.  We’ll check back on them in a few months…

Garden Thoughts

Preparations are beginning…
Tonight is the first night the broccoli/cauliflower/kale/onions/lettuce/spinach/cabbage/brussels sprouts seedlings are spending overnight outside by themselves.  I tried to talk Matthew into giving them a blanket so they feel safe but he just frowned at me.  Maybe I will take his blanket away tonight in bed and sneak it up to my baby seedlings. 
We just planted them and already we’re seeing the tomato and green pepper seedlings!
We wrapped the sugar snap peas up to add some humidity to hopefully have them pop out of the soil sooner.  None have shown us their faces yet, but don’t worry, I’m checking every single day.WP_20130326_023
We grew these onions last Fall and somehow they survived Winter, without being covered up.  How did they survive? I like to think it’s because I provided them so much love they made it through the cold. We thought they were goners when winter hit, but suddenly they’re beautiful green and growing strong. Go onions, grow.  I won’t eat you but I will still cheer you on.WP_20130324_001
I bought all the Perlite Home Depot sold.  Perlite is light and easy to carry as it’s not soil like most people walking through Home Depot thought I was carrying.  People thought I was so strong I was just carrying 6 bags of this in one hand.  I felt like a warrior.
Home Depot is also selling these garden containers.  So cute.  I tried to talk Matthew into planting all of our vegetables in ceramic frogs this year instead of wood boxes and plastic containers.  Again, he frowned.
This means gardening season is very close when I see flowers in the store…
I used my last bag of frozen whole roma tomatoes a few days ago to make diced tomatoes.WP_20130319_024
This summer when it’s raining tomatoes I will be sure to stock up on frozen diced and stewed tomatoes.  Freezing whole tomatoes is a great idea too.

Are you preparing anything for the Spring garden season?

Sugar Snap Peas Are Planted!

The sugar snap peas are this years first plants to be covered up by soil in the garden.  Yesterday, while shivering in the cold sunlight, we took our pre-sprouted peas and planted them.  It is still cold out, so even though growth might be slow in the beginning for them to emerge, hopefully we will see them big and strong soon.
This year we are changing things up and are growing them not up the fence, but instead around our gazebo like trellis.
Here are the peas that we pre-sprouted. 
Nature, isn’t it amazing?  If you haven’t tried presprouting, give it a shot.
Holes are made with our fingers, then peas are inserted in.
This year we are trying this pea booster – hopefully it works well. 
So that gets sprinkled in each hole…
Then we do a little song and dance involving lots of cheering and the words “love” and “grow big” before covering them up with soil.
Then we get some water that was collected from the rain.. Can I tell you how freezing I am in this picture? My hands felt as red as the water container.
Then each pea spot gets watered.

Now we wait… hope to see you soon sugar snap peas!

Garden Tomato Planting

Last year we planted the tomatoes and green peppers seeds on March 1.  This year we planted them March 14 (yesterday).  Time is running by quickly here at the moment, and thankfully we realized this 2 weeks late and not 1 month, 2 weeks late.  So yesterday we got out the supplies and planted our tomatoes for the year.  You know the usual characters:
There’s the roma, sweet aroma, beef, cherry tomatoes.  Then there’s the green bell peppers.
See the container to the left? ?That’s Burpee’s eco friendly self watering cell seed starting system.  It’s magical. We thought it might have been a gimmick when we bought the bigger cell version for our other seedlings, but those seedlings in it have grown so much bigger than the other seeds not in a self watering system. If you can find this, get it.  It’s great.
Beautiful soil, get your hands dirty.  I love the feeling.
I know I say it ALL the time, but these 2 little sees will turn into full blown tomato plants. It amazes me every single time.
We also are getting the sugar snap peas ready by presprouting them inside.  This always works better for us than planting them directly in the soil as we are never quite sure if they all are growing to sprout or not, and if they don’t you are left with a few that need to be replanted.  With presprouting, you are guaranteed to know they all will grow into plants.   I did a post on presprouting sugar snap peas last year if you want to read it.
I would like to give a shot out to my gardening helper, Xanadu Pluto, who climbed into the seed starter box…
But realized she couldn’t fit all the way and just stayed like this. No shame.  <3

Start of Garden Season 2013!

Today felt like the official start of the garden season.  It was 50 degrees out, we were shoveling soil, taking care of seedlings, building boxes.  I was complaining that my  back hurt.  It’s just like old times, meaning every single year we’ve had our rooftop garden.   Our main goal today was to get the greenhouses rebuilt and if time permitted build a new box to replace one that was falling apart. Not only did we get all that done, but we were able to remove the soil from all the boxes to turn it over and feed it compost.  Woo!  I won’t be able to move tomorrow. 
It was sunny and nice out today.  Since there is so  much empty space on our roof we are able to have lots of room to build.
Garden 2013: commence greenhouse rebuild
First up was the long greenhouse that had some holes in the plastic, so the plastic was ripped off.
And then replaced. 
Woo! I’m excited too. Greenhouse is built.  The broccoli and cauliflower will probably hang out in here soon enough.
Then it was the smaller greenhouse.  In this picture it’s off to the left and it was destroyed by the wind.  It had a few holes in it, then suddenly the wind just ripped it apart.
So we covered that up with some new plastic..
Then it was all set to protect when the seedlings go under it…
Speaking of seedlings.  Say hello to them! I will do another post focused on them. :D )
Then it was time to replace this box.  This has been with us since the beginning of the garden and it’s seen it’s last days.
So I hulked up and shoveled all the soil out of this box.  My heavens, there is alot of soil in one box!
Box is now all empty.. time to take it apart.
Before we put the new box down we built we put sponges down.  This will protect the roof so the wood won’t lay on it.
New box all filled back up now! High 5. I’m exhausted.
Then we had to empty every single box to turn over the soil.  This is such hard work.  I almost took a nap.
This is Mr. Pumpkin who has been with us since October.  He’s finally saying goodbye and needs to be released back into the soil.  We will miss you Pumpkin man who has brought me so much joy every single day seeing him in the kitchen
So I did the sad honors of cutting him open so we could compost him. 
Isn’t the inside of a pumpkin amazing?
While Matthew was smashing the pumpkin up I pretended to be the pumpkin and said things in my pumpkin voice such as “Oh don’t hurt me”, “OOO that feels good”, “hehehe that tickles”.  I amuse myself.
I saved some pumpkins from him.  I will try to grow these.  I like keeping it in the family if possible.
Then we brought over the compost that has been working it’s magic all winter.
Oh delicious compost soil that the garden loves.  This will cause big strong plants!
We worked hard this afternoon.  So hard that by 5PM I already had my Fuel Points goal!
Excited for the new year of growing..  Happy gardening!

Seedlings Update – 1 Month

So it has been a full month since many of the Spring seeds were planted.  How are they doing? Well I’m glad you asked.  I have been waiting to do a post on this.  I have been very anxious.  I would like to post every time they grow a centimeter but I know that probably isn’t very exciting to you.  So I wanted a whole month.  I really keep things riveting here!   Here they are today…! WP_20130214_007
But let’s go on a journey.. back to January 2013 to watch the progress… On January 15, the first one decided to pop up and greet us: WP_20130115_009
Then on January 16, more of it’s friends came out to play.. WP_20130116_002
On January 24, we had alot of growth action that already happened in the 12 days since they were planted:
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Then on January 28, the onions decided to start growing quick. WP_20130128_007WP_20130128_005
Check out this amazing guy, isn’t he beautiful? It’s New Zealand spinach. WP_20130128_013
Then on February 6, we had to pick favorites.  This is always so hard.  I don’t do it, I make Matthew while I sob loudly on the floor yelling “IT ISNT FAIR”. WP_20130206_051
Check out the broccoli roots! They are already growing out of their cups… WP_20130206_053
And this is yesterday.  Hey  spinach and kale – how are you guys doing? Kale, man I’m excited to see you!
Onions, I won’t eat you, but I’m very happy to see you looking so well. WP_20130213_033
Everyone this is cauliflower.  Cauliflower this is everyone.  Say hello! WP_20130213_032
Broccoli – you beautiful people. WP_20130213_035
So everything came up….. so now we just keep watering and giving hugs. WP_20130213_038 WP_20130213_037
This was taken a few minutes ago.  I almost fell off a chair, but I’m ok. The onions and cauliflower are so big they are in the light.  Good luck guys.  Also note the fan to the right that we put up in mid January.  This keeps it windy so they aren’t shocked when they hit the roof.  It also makes them very strong as they are growing wind muscles (my term, not technical). WP_20130214_007 WP_20130214_008
How’s your seedlings?

Winter Garden

After a little snow storm this weekend I decided to take a look at the garden to make sure it was still there.  In the winter time we don’t see  it everyday as there’s not much going on, so today I wanted to take some time to say “hi” to it.
We didn’t get that much snow from Nemo, probably about 5 inches.  What’s left though is either slush or ice.  In this picture it’s one sheet of ice in front of the garden.  I risked my life for these pictures!
In these boxes shortly there will be sugar snap peas growing!  It’s always funny to compare this month to June when things are green and beautiful.
This is one of our flower plants we keep covered in the winter, but some of it decided to poke out and get some sun.  It will be shining bright soon!
Some people cover their strawberry plants but we don’t.  If it goes great in the wild, then it can grow great in our wild too.  This would be a good shot to compare in July when it will be full of juicy berries.
I took a quick look under the greenhouse and saw the onions although the problem was it had ants, so we needed to get a power ant control service to help with this. I couldn’t reach all the way down to see if they have bulbs or yet.  Will probably check them out again in the next few weeks..WP_20130211_014
Even though we picked the broccoli a while ago, it’s still been growing small little heads in the winter.  What a surprise!
A view from the garden:  Stay warm whenever you are!

Window Farm Cleaning

Our Window Farm has been feeling neglected the last few months.  It had a few basil plants that were drying up naturally and a swiss chard plant requesting love.   We kept saying we were going to clean it out, but we got busy with other things.  So last night we planted new herb and vegetable seeds and today I cleaned out what was in it.
Here’s the Window Farm before.  The good part of this is the majority of the basil was already dried so I just collected it, crumbled it and now have dried basil for recipes.  Not like I need it though. I have 6 jars of it still left from the summer.  Does anyone need dried basil?
There was still some green fresh basil on some of the plants.  These were picked and will be used for pizza later this week.
Swiss Chard is so pretty isn’t it?  It’s the best shade of pink.  WP_20130130_011
Here is proof that hydroponic roots can grow big!  This is the roots of a basil plant.  If you have a Window Farm you have to be sure these don’t clog up the bottles or your plants below it won’t receive water.  Also you will have a flood. Trust me on this one.  
Dried and fresh basil all picked.

Here’s the seeds we planted for the next round.  There’s plenty of basil, buttercrunch lettuce, black seeded lettuce and dwarf pok choy (Thank you Wanda for the seeds!).WP_20130130_017
So now we wait.  Once the seedlings are big enough to stand on their own, then we will sprinkle off the dirt from their roots and transplant it in a rooting sponge.  The dirt like sponge has great aeration, it’s made from composted organic materials with a special water based polymer that ensures just the right amount of moisture is maintained

2013 Garden Has Begun!

The subject is very exciting – the 2013 garden has begun! Seeds have been planted for broccoli, cauliflower, onions, kale, spinach, cabbage, lettuce, brussels sprouts tonight.
Broccoli – 8 plants, hopefully as lovely as last year,  stay away aphids.
Cauliflower – 8 plants (2 different kinds – hybrid, giant of naples), hopefully as delicious as last year, stay away aphids.
Onions – hopefully as lovely as last year, this was matthews pride and joy last year.
Kale – hopefully will be monsters like last year, stay away white flies.
Spinach – i lied in this post, we are growing it again this year.  we have 2 different kinds – hybrid, new zealand.
Cabbage – never grew, please be successful so I can make halupkies.
Lettuce – never grew from seed, please be successful.
Brussels sprouts – never grew, please be successful because I  love you so much.WP_20130112_041
So there it is – what the Spring garden looks like so far.  Sugar snap peas and carrots will be planted directly into the soil on the roof sometime in late February, early March.  Whew!  Lots of greens, very excited.
I know I say it every year but it always amazes me that this little seed can turn into this big guy. Man, nature is amazing, I can’t even understand how it does what it does.  Thank you life. Thank you world.  Thank you to the plant gods that I love dearly and sing and dance to in the garden circling our plants, showering them with love and hopeful dreams of becoming big and strong.  I respect you nature.  You are A+ in my book. I give you so little and you give me so much.  Please love me back.
This is seedling box 1 of 2.  There’s alot of things going on.  I graphed everything out and wrote everything down but somehow a cabbage will get mixed up in the lettuce section and cause me anxiety for a week.  It always happens. I swear they come to life at night and move around.
Shout out to the best helpers in the world too, Brother Bear and Xanadu Pluto.  Xanadu just wanted a pencil I was writing with while Brother wanted every single seed packet.  We could not find the cauliflower seed pack anywhere, turns out Brother Bear laid on it and it was completely hidden under his belly.  He was also very fascinated with the Brussels sprouts.  What a guy.
This year we also got a new grow light system going on.   This used to be the old set up.  It was one small 24×12 shelf with 3 6500 CFL bulbs.
This is the new system.  It’s a 48×12 shelf with 4 4ft 6500 fluorescent bulbs.   We looked at premade kits on all the garden websites but they are so overpriced.  $200 for 2 bulbs and a light fixture? You out of your mind. So we went to Home Depot and bought our own supplies.  This setup cost about $70.  *High Five*
Have you started anything with your Spring Garden yet?  While at Home Depot we were overly excited to see they have a full selection of seeds, trays and supplies all ready to go.  Last year I don’t think they got their seeds until March.  I hope I had something to do with it as I constantly went there every single day pleading for potting mix. The garden section manager eventually just gave me his business card so I could call him for updates.  I felt both cool and pathetic.
Happy garden planning!

Garden 2013 Planning

You know why I love having a garden? Because it’s January, feels like 22 degrees out and I can look in my freezer, grab some frozen soy beans I preserved a few months ago and have fresh edamame in a few minutes. It feels like summer now! Minus the 3 pairs of socks I have on and that I’m sitting in front of a heater.
In just a few weeks the 2013 garden will be started.  We will start plotting the outline, and then seeds will be started inside.  This year we’re going to move some of the boxes around, try a few new vegetables, not grow some and continue to glare at the person who constantly shuts off our hose in the laundry room.

Here is a table on what we’re hoping to grow this year..
Yes Will Grow: The usuals, vegetables we have grown before.
New First Time: New vegetables we want to try growing.
No Won’t Grow: Grew them, but decided not to this year.

YES Will Grow NEW First Time NO Won’t Grow
Broccoli Brussels Sprouts Red Beans
Cauliflower Lettuce Spinach (maybe)
Onions Pickling Cucumbers Potatoes (maybe)
Kale   Flowers
Sugar Snap Peas    
Green Peppers    
Green Beans    
Soy Beans    

The yes column is pretty self explanatory.    These are the usual cast of characters and have grown successfully on the roof.
New this year we’d like to try Brussels Sprouts, lettuce and pickling cucumbers from seed.  Last year we had lettuce but it wasn’t from seed.  Also, we had success last year with regular cucumbers but I want pickling cukes so we will try Kirby cucumbers. I’m obsessed with Brussels Sprouts so that is understandable.
There are a few plants that we have grown but most likely won’t grow this year.  The red beans grew amazing and looked like tentacles, but we would rather green beans.  The spinach was successful as well but besides cupcakes we really don’t eat it.  Lastly, our luck with potatoes has been good and bad.  Some years they grow great, some years the heat kills them.  For the amount of soil they need, and how cheap they are to actually buy in the store (compared to the price of seed potatoes) it might be most economical to just not grow them this year (even though this breaks my heart).  Also this year I really don’t want to grow flowers unless they’re Rhododendrons or varieties like this.  Growing flowers just doesn’t excite me as much as growing a pumpkin.

What’s your garden look like for 2013?