Vegetable Growing Tracking Chart

Having planted our first set of seeds two weeks ago, we have seen lots of growth from all three plants we started. I’m feeling a bit like Mother Earth right now when I see the little shoots folded over and busting out of the soil. We were just minding our own business last weekend and all of a sudden the seeds just popped up and started to exist, just like that! One of the tomato seedlings in each of the two cups at the bottom of the picture have already started to grow “true leaves.” Proud mama!

I think there are only two seeds that haven’t emerged out of the 15 we planted so our success rate so far is 86%. That’s a B in seed starting. Not too shabby for beginners. Holla.

I’ve also started tracking the process in an excel spreadsheet because I need all the information from the seed packets in one place. I can’t just expect to remember what I’m supposed to be doing for each individual plant on my own at this point. So I’ve divided the process into phases that seem to make sense.

Phase one is Planting and Germination. The planting columns include information about soil depth and planting date and a place to record when we actually planted the seeds. The germination section includes when to expect green shoots busting out of the soil, how many days it actually took to happen, and the actual date for future reference. So far, making this tracking chart has been one of the more fun tasks for me. That’s kind of sad. Moving on!

The next logical phase is Thinning and Transplanting. I’ve read conflicting accounts about thinning and transplanting and I have to say I’m a bit confused about this part of the process. I don’t think any of the seedlings are ready to be thinned or transplanted so I’m just not going to worry about it for now.

I think phase 3 will be Care which will include watering, fertilizing, and mulching rules. It might also need to include ways to kill bugs or a record of what went wrong if all of our plants die because they are attacked by evil bugs or diseases. Each plant deserves individualized attention in order for it to succeed in producing its fruit.

The next phase will be Harvest and the phase after that will probably be Preparing for Winter.

I bet there is a template somewhere out in gardening blog world and I need not have spent my entire morning building this spreadsheet. But what’s done is done! Does anyone out there have a notebook or spreadsheet filled with notes in order to track growth and organize information?

Seed Starting in Zone 7b

Jordan and I finally did another gardening activity together: we started some seeds! It was time to start growing the first of our babies–bell peppers, tomatoes, and jalapenos. (I almost forgot about the jalapenos because they weren’t included in my Sprout Robot schedule! What kind of Robot are you??)

First, we read the back of the seed packets just to be sure there wasn’t anything special, like seed scarification or soaking, that needed to happen. Jordan also read the starting soil bag and later told me to “water gently.” (Success! He’s learning on his own!)

Next, Jordan filled our sterilized Trader Joe’s yogurt cups with the starting soil and I placed three seeds into each container. We decided to start an Orange Bell Pepper plant this week and start a Red & Yellow Bell Pepper in the next two to four weeks so our potential yield will be staggered. We like bell peppers, but not so much that we want three varieties producing at the same time.

We also planted two cups of jalapeno and tomato seeds. Since we’ll only transplant the healthiest of the seedlings, we thought we might want to try two jalapeno plants and two tomatoes, just in case. I’m actually starting to wonder if we should start another tomato; growing up with an Italian home chef for a mama taught me one can never have enough tomatoes.

After we pushed the seeds into the appropriate depth in the starting soil, we “watered gently” and placed the cups in a plastic container and placed the container in the sunniest spot in our house. Supposedly we should have a fancy grow light for our seeds but we don’t. I’m sure people started seeds indoors before grow lights were invented. We’re just kickin’ it old school.

Are we naive to think we can start seeds indoors without a ton of constant light? Will our 20 minutes of seed planting be in vain? Oh, the fears of seed starting!

Purchasing Seeds for Container Gardening

Another beautiful Saturday and we couldn’t stand to stay inside. We also happened to run out of coffee so instead of just going to the store to buy new beans, we went out for breakfast. Yay!

Since we were already out and since we hadn’t purchased any seeds yet, we decided to visit the coolest hardware store on the planet, Blackhawk Hardware (I didn’t get paid to say that, I just love the store). It’s probably not the cheapest place, but at least it’s locally owned with friendly, helpful workers who can point lost puppies in the right direction. Plus, they carry lots of heirloom varieties and no GMO seeds.

Upon reaching the seed aisle, after the fast-panting and tail-wagging subsided, we looked at all the vegetable seeds and chose the ones that would work best for us. I really wanted to buy the weirdest stuff like kohlrabi, amaranth, bok choy, and multi-colored beans but I was convinced to stick with what we actually eat the most often. Sigh, it’s good advice but not nearly as fun.

Here’s what we ended up with:

PEPPER chile, Early Jalapeno, Capsicum annuum
We buy jalapenos all the time for use in soups, salsa, and guacamole and we always have to buy too many at Trader Joe’s. We’ll probably just have one plant and use the leftovers to make hot pepper jelly to eat with cheese and crackers. Mmm.

TOMATO bush, Better Bush, Lycopersicon lycopersicum (hybrid)
This was a no-brainer. Everyone knows that tomatoes from the store are just gross. They’ve been genetically modified to withstand long bumpy rides across the country and to be the same size (huge) and same color (orangey red). I’ll probably sneak back to the store and buy three more varieties because I like tomatoes so much.

RADISH, Easter Egg Blend, Raphanus sativus
Totally succumbed to the drawing of purple, white, pink and red radishes on the packet. Radishes with a little bit of salt are like heaven to me. These will be eaten as a snack at work every day that they are available.

PEPPER bell, Jewel-Toned Bell Peppers
Bell peppers cost $4 each at Harris Teeter. Nuff said.

LETTUCE leaf, Salad Bowl Blend, Lactuca sativa
The lettuce we buy always gets slimy before we have a chance to eat it all. I hope this will particular mix will work as a cut and come again plant so we have lettuce all season long!

CARROT, Carnival Blend, Daucus carota sativus
Again, the yellow, pink, white, purple and orange carrots on the packet made me do it. I’m not sure how well these will do in a container but I’m willing to give it a whirl for pink and purple carrots.

CUCUMBER, Spacemaster, Cucumis sativus
“Spacemaster is the solution!” I will keep my cukes in their own container so they don’t overrun my garden and harvest small guys to make pickles and eat the others raw with my radish snack.

SQUASH Summer, Black Beauty Zucchini, Cucurbita pepo
I wasn’t originally going to get zucchinis but the packet said, “this highly productive bush type plant takes up little garden space” and I’m a trusting person.

PARSNIP, All American, Pastinaca sativa
I think parsnips are underrated. I like them best in chicken soup with carrots, but I also plan to mash or fry them up with other root vegetables like rutabagas, beets, and potatoes. Why not?

BRUSSELS SPROUTS, Long Island Improved, Brassica oleracea (Gemmifera group)
I couldn’t resist! I don’t even know if this is possible. I just love brussels sprouts so much that I had to try it. If I can get one stalk with a handful of little sprouts I’ll have succeeded. I want everyone in the world to love brussels sprouts as much as I do and I am on a mini-mission to convince the world that brussels are the best. That should be a bumper sticker.

One question remains: did we bite off more than we can chew? I haven’t even started planning the herb/edible flower portion of the garden. Eek.