Blog Absence Explained; Seedling Progress

Charlotte is something like the second or third worst city in the United States for seasonal allergies and I happen to be the second or third most allergic person in Charlotte. Not a very happy situation. Since we had such a warm winter, the pollen started very early (late February) and we still have brown strands of irritants covering our front yard.

The bad news is that I have fallen off the wagon of tracking our seedlings’ progress and planting new seeds due to uncontrollable sniffling, sneezing, and general allergy induced sickness. The good news is we hardened off our first batch of seedlings and they are thriving on our back deck! We’ve also had a lot of rain and haven’t really needed to water our plants. Nature is finally doing something in our favor.

I believe it might be time to say goodbye to the weaker plants and transplant the stronger ones to larger pots. Today would be the perfect day if we hadn’t wasted the entire morning watching Yard Crashers and wishing Ahmed Hassan would come make our backyard an oasis instead of the jungle that currently plays host to the boldest squirrels that ever lived, several bird families, fearless neighborhood cats, and raccoons and possums who wake us up in the middle of the night by walking around on our deck. But that is a story for another day.

Off to figure out container size and whether or not I can use companion planting in said containers. This container gardening stuff is pretty complicated!

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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!