Our 2022 garden: morning disaster. Will they survive?

Not a good way to start the day.

One of the first things I do when I get up in the mornings is turn on the lights for the aquarium greenhouses.

This morning, I was greeted by this.

This is the tray we had just recently transferred out of the big aquarium greenhouse. A cat had managed to get through the box blocking the gap at the back of the chair, and into the tray.

The damage in some of them was really, really bad. The pots just disintegrated. Granted, they are designed to do that, but not until they’ve been put into the ground!

Some weren’t too bad. The gourds, in particular, were mostly just jostled a bit. I was able to transfer them into the Solo cups without too much trouble. These cups already had drainage holes in their bottoms.

Note the leaves on the Canteen gourd, with the almost white tips. That’s from the seed casing that I ended up breaking free of the leaves.

The remainder required much more care.

We still had some pre-moistened seed starting soil left, and I used it to help re-pot the remaining squished seedlings.

I think a couple of labels got mixed up, but I’m not going to worry about that right now. As long as the two varieties of tomatoes are labelled, it’s fine.

Once the seedings were cleared and in cups, I moistened some more seed starting soil. While mixing the water in, the remains of the Jiffy pots got mashed into the soil as well. By the time the soil was thoroughly moistened, there was no sign of the pots!

For some with still intact pots, like the gourds, I gently removed them again, added soil to the bottom of the cups, then put them back in. For the tomatoes, I basically just potted them up, adding the fresh soil around the stems. Those should recover fine.

It’s the eggplants and peppers that might have difficulties. I tried to add soil around them while raising them higher in the cups as best I could. Some were quite squished, but none looked broken or damaged.

With the tomatoes, I’m not too concerned, since we do have two more trays of them in the mini-greenhouse, but these are the only eggplant and peppers we’ve got. Even with the gourds, there are other pots that haven’t germinated yet.

Speaking of which…

To give them the best chance as survival, the repotted seedlings went back into the large aquarium greenhouse, where they will be on the heat mat and under the two light fixtures.

Which, unfortunately, meant the other tray had to go into the mini-greenhouse.

Before they did, though, my daughter flattened a cereal box and put it in first, folded so that half the box covers the gap in the back, and the other half is under the tray.

Pure chance that we had the box. We almost never buy cereal, but when we were last the Superstore, we purchased enough to get their freebie of the week. That week, it was a variety pack of cereals and breakfast bars. This was the largest cereal box in the pack, and just the right size to completely cover the gap created by the back of the chair the mini-greenhouse is tied down to.

Unfortunately, this means the items in the tray aren’t getting the light and warmth they were, in the aquarium greenhouse. The best we could do was set up a light on one side, shining into the bottom of the mini-greenhouse from the TV stand next to it. For those in pots, they need the warmth of that incandescent bulb more than the light, since they haven’t germinated yet. You can see the shallots coming up in the tray next to the pots. They will need more light, but not the heat.

*sigh*

Well, there’s only so much we can do, until things warm up enough to start using the sun room. Hopefully, before then, we’ll be able to switch the trays again, and have the newly repotted seedlings back in the mini-greenhouse, and the tray with seeds that still need to germinate, back on the warming mat. The mini-greenhouse itself should be closer to the living room window, but the closer you get to the window, the colder the room is, so that won’t work for probably another few weeks.

We don’t know for sure which cat did this damage but, really, there’s just the one that keeps trying to get into the mini-greenhouse, still. The others are content to sit in the sun spot on the chair seat in front of it.

I love the cats. I really do. But I am getting so tired of cat damage.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: shifting things around

Last might, my daughter and I moved some seedlings around.

The tray from the big aquarium greenhouse is now on the bottom shelf of the mini-greenhouse. The Cup of Moldova tomatoes in particular, were getting so big, they were getting too close to the lights. Plus, they really needed to be off the heat mat.

The bottom three shelves of the mini-greenhouse get direct sunlight in the mornings, so the tray with the tree seeds got moved to the top shelf, which gets no direct sunlight at all. The downside with this set up is that we no longer have a way to provide artificial light, so we’ll have to keep an eye on them, and rotate the trays as needed.

The pots with gourd seeds that did not germinate yet (including the one with just leaf starting to show along the side) got transferred to a new tray and remain on the heat mat. There is still only one Wonderberry sprout, so I took the outer cups off and put them in with the remaining gourd pots. Hopefully, the added warmth will help with those. I also transferred the shallots tray under the lights. There are two tiny sprouts showing!

I’m a bit perplexed over the bulb onions, in the small tank. They all seem to have dried tips. Especially the ones in the larger tray, where one entire spot of seedlings seems to be drying up. In one tray, most of the tips still have their seed cases on them, but the ones that don’t, have the dried tips. I’ve lowered the whole thing, so they’re not as close to the light, though I don’t see how this light could be the problem.

Any onion growers that have experienced this? Last year, we did have the one type that survived to be transplanted, and I don’t remember having issues like this at all, though it was in the other tank. I’m making sure the soil is hydrated, but not too wet, and the light on this tank isn’t as bright as the others, nor does it get as warm as one of the light fixtures on the big tank, so they’re not getting “burned”. We also put a fan on the tank, for air circulation and to help keep the seedlings from getting too leggy. We have just the one little fan, so it gets alternated between the two tanks.

As long as they keep growing, I’m not too worried. Eventually, they’ll be getting hair cuts, anyhow. But if they all start shrivelling away, I’d like to know why! We used all the seeds in the packets in these trays, so it’s not like we can start over, either.

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: starting shallots and transplanting tomatoes

Okay, for better or for worse, we now have stuff in the mini-greenhouse! Let’s see if we’ve succeeded in making it cat proof. 😀

The first thing today was to get the shallots started.

There are a lot less seeds than I remember from last year. I’ll have to look back at last year’s photos and double check.

The container is a mixed greens salad container from the grocery story. It has drainage holes in the bottom, and the seed starting mix is pre-moistened.

With such easy to see seeds, after scattering them I used a chopstick to separate any that were right up against each other, and spread them out more evenly. Then they got a spritz with water, a light layer of more soil mix, then spritzed again.

The container’s lid is recessed, and I didn’t want it too close to the soil surface, so I just plopped it on upside down. I then left it in a tray with water under it, to be absorbed from below. While it was sitting, it was time to work on the aquarium greenhouses.

The red and yellow onions are doing quite well. I rotated the trays after adding more water below them. The reflective light from the aluminum foil at the back, which is closest to the trays themselves, is clearly making a difference. All the sprouts were leaning towards the back of the tank! 😀

We have our first Wonderberry sprout! These were taken out and got more water added to the outer cups, as well as a spritz, then set aside for later, so they wouldn’t get knocked over while the seedling tray was being moved around.

You can just see that a new luffa gourd is starting to sprout! It’s right against the wall of the pot at the top of the photo.

I very carefully removed the seed covering from the leaves of the canteen gourd. Normally I would avoid doing that, but I’m glad I did this time. It was really solid, and had to be broken apart to get it off.

Here are the tomatoes, on either side of the eggplants and peppers.

The tray usually gets water on the bottom well before the pots dry out this much, but when the pots are damp, they are difficult to move. They feel like they’re about to fall apart. Which will be good when they get transplanted into the garden, but not so good when I need to move them around!

With the eggplants and peppers, they were thinned to 2 plants per pot. As they get larger, we will probably thin them to one plant per pot. We don’t need a lot of either of these. Three plants each should be fine to meet our needs.

The plan was to transplant all the strongest tomatoes to thin them – but there were a lot of them! Especially the Cup of Moldova. They’re doing really well in here. In the end, there was just one seedling that didn’t get transplanted because it was so tiny.

We half-filled red Solo cups with soil and used a chopstick to make holes for the transplants. Then I ended up using a steel poultry trussing needle (which never gets used to truss poultry; I’m not even sure why I originally bought them!) to loosen and tease out the transplants as carefully as I could. After they got tucked into their new pots, more soil was carefully spooned around them to about half way up their stems and gently pressed in, just enough to make sure there were no air spaces, before they all got a spritz of water.

Each of the original pots was left with one tomato plant. With the Cup of Moldova, we ended up with a dozen transplants, making 15 altogether. These cups were used last year, too, and already had drainage holes in the bottom. If we needed to, we could double cup them, but for now, they fit into the baking tray, in one of the higher shelves of the mini-greenhouse, above the back of the chair it is tied to. I’d rather it was lower down, but with the wider baking tray, that’s where it fits.

With the Sophie’s Choice, there were only 7 strong enough to transplant, and they fit in the tray with the shallots container.

When it’s daylight, we’ll assess whether or not we need to set up a light from the other side. There may be an issue of the high tray shading out the lower one.

Then the original tray went back into the big aquarium greenhouse, on the heat mat, and the tray got a generous amount of water added, to moisten the pots from below.

In doing the transplants, the tomatoes also got moved to one end of the tray, while the eggplants and peppers are now next to the gourds. That was just because it was easier to reach the tomatoes while transplanting them.

Hopefully, these will survive their transplanting well. It should be interesting to see the difference between how the tomatoes in the mini-greenhouse do, compared to the ones in the aquarium greenhouse. There is going to be a substantial difference in light and warmth.

But first, we’ll see just how tempting the trays in the mini-greenhouse are for the cats, or if they will be left alone!

There are still two more shelves open in there. The next time we need to start seeds, which should be in two or three weeks, we should be able to move things out of the aquarium greenhouses, into the mini-greenhouse, and have the new seed starts put into the aquariums. If the weather co-operates, by the time we’re ready to start more seeds in April, we should be able to transfer the biggest seedlings into the sun room. I’m sure these tomatoes will need to be potted up by then, too.

This is the first time we’ve had so many seeds to start indoors. It’s going to be a juggling act!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: first canteen gourd sprout!

Well, it looks like shifting things about in the big aquarium greenhouse made a different.

The very first canteen gourd sprouted, yesterday evening!

I really hope these succeed. It takes such a very long time to dry out gourds like this, before they can be used to make things. Our first year trying to grow gourds, they got decimated by frost after transplanting. Last year, we had the drought and the heat waves, and they just didn’t get a chance to mature. Hopefully, we will have a good growing year this summer, and starting these so early indoors will give them the time they need to fully mature. Then they’ll need probably at least a year in a cool, dry place to fully dry out.

We shall see!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: first seeds started

Though it is very early in the year, we have our first seeds started indoors today. A lot of people in our zone have already got seedlings, while still others are saying, it’s way too early.

So which is it?

I happened on a video today, talking about planting peppers and eggplants, which we are doing for the first time this year. Both are plants we never grew when I was a kid, so I have zero familiarity with them.

This particular video mentioned something I’ve never heard before, yet had wondered about.

When reading the seed packets, they say things like “start indoors 4-6 weeks before last frost date”.

Last year, we had a lot of issues with some things not germinating. Some took forever to germinate. Others never did at all. This was particularly true of various squash, plus all the Hope Black Dye sunflowers – with did finally all germinate, when I started taking the trays outside, while hardening off other seedlings.

What got mentioned in this video, is that when they say “4-6 weeks before last frost,” it’s actually from germination, not from planting the seeds. So if you have something that needs to be started, say, 6 weeks before last frost, but the packet says the seeds take 7-10 days to terminated, then the time to start them indoors is 6 weeks, plus 7-10 days.

That actually makes so much more sense to me.

I’d already made a list of which seeds needed to be started when, and these were the ones that needed at least 8 weeks.

The gourds were started first, as they needed extra steps. Among the things recommended that I wanted to try was scarification and pre-soaking.

So that’s what I started this morning.

Of the gourds we will be trying to grow this year, I chose the Canteen gourd to start early, as the gourds are supposed to get quite large. The other gourds I want to grow are smaller at full maturity.

Which lead me to another thing. With the luffa, we’re not after “days to maturity”, which is 110 days, if I remember correctly. We’re after the sponges, so we need for those mature gourds to dry out. That puts them at 200 days. Even starting now, we might not have that long for them. It will depend on whether or not we get another really long summer again. Of course, in the end, everything depends on the weather.

I chose 6 of the plumpest, healthiest looking seeds from each, then carefully snipped their outer shells with a nail clipper, before putting them inside the folds of a paper towel.

Then they went into sandwich baggies, and the insides were sprayed with water, before being sealed and left to sit. Most places recommended leaving them overnight, but I left them “overday” instead. 😉

Then they went into planting pots filled with pre-moistened seed starting soil. My daughter used a chopstick to push them the inch into the soil they needed to go. Once covered, the tops of the soil got sprayed with water.

Then it was time to take a look at the rest of the seeds and see what we had to work with. None of the packets have a lot of seeds in them, but we are not after a lot of individual plants.

The Sophie’s Choice tomato was a conundrum for me. Everything I read about them said they needed to be started very early; a couple of weeks earlier than other tomatoes. Yet they are an early tomato, with only 55 days to maturity. At only 55 days, we could start them outdoors and they’d have plenty of time to mature. Odd.

For all but the Wonderberry, we decided to plant about 5 seeds per pot, and three pots each. With the gourds, that filled an entire tray.

The Wonderberry got planted using the double cup method. I reused some of the Red Solo cups we used last year, with the inner cups having drainage holes in the bottom, so they can be watered from below, using the outer cup.

We still had seeds left over, even with how little was in each packet, so that’s nice.

We used more boxes to bring the tray and cups closer to the lights, inside the big aquarium greenhouse. The heat mat fits under the tray. I’m hoping that just being near the mat as well as close to the light fixtures, one of which does warm up, will be good enough to adequately warm the Wonderberry in their cups.

The double cups got water in their bottoms before they were put in place, and water was added to the tray once it was settled on the heat mat. We do still have a little fan blowing into the tank, though it’s over the orchids and aloe in the other corner. We won’t be able to cover these with a plastic dome, as typically recommended, so I’ll be making sure to use a spray bottle to keep the tops moistened, since the smaller seeds are so much closer to the surface. There’s quite a bit of water in the tray so, with the heat mat, that should help increase the humidity levels, with the fan hopefully keeping things from starting to mold.

The heat mat doesn’t have a thermometer, nor do we have a soil thermometer, so we’ll have to monitor these fairly closely. Everything is plugged into a power bar, which gets shut off every night, so there will at least be that break. If it seems to be getting too warm – unlikely, for what we’ve got planted in there – we can put something under the tray to elevate it. Once the seeds germinate, we can probably take the mat out entirely.

The next things we’ll be starting are the onions, which won’t need the heat mat, but when it comes time to start the rest of the tomatoes, and all the squash, we’ll need both the heat mat and space – and space is going to be harder to come by! We do have a mini greenhouse, the frame of which we are currently using in the sun room to hold the heater bulb for Butterscotch and Nosencratnz, as they recover. We did try to use it in the living room last year, as it does have a zippered cover, but the cats still managed to get into it. If we could find some way to keep the cats out of it, it would go a long way to helping with our space issues!

We’ll figure something out.

The main thing is, we’ve got stuff started that need that extra time indoors.

Yay!!

The Re-Farmer