Patio gardening for the weary

The dog days of summer have arrived in the Tri-Cities. We just survived a week with temperatures lingering past 100 F. While the garden has indeed exploded with lush greens and harvests, the intense heat has made it difficult to work outside. Additionally, my garden plot has become conquered by weeds despite my (and the stirrup hoe’s) best efforts to keep them at bay. So to continue enjoying a garden, I succumbed and purchased some planters, dug up several plants, and started a mini garden on my patio. Funny that the planters were more costly than an entire 15′ x 15′ plot at the community garden. Yet, I do find having the plants right outside my doorstep immensely more enjoyable. This also gives me a chance to grow the plants that got attacked by rabbits and voles.

South-facing patio garden: 2 chili pepper plants flanked by 2 brown planters containing Casper eggplants (front), Bountiful Beans in the rectangular planter, Dragon carrots (back).
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Chili pepper (my seed starts didn’t fare well, so I inherited these)
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Casper eggplant, transplanted from the garden plot
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Bountiful green beans (direct seeded in the planter)
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Dragon carrots (direct seeded in the planter with sowing markers)
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North-facing patio garden: fall seed starts and herbs (front), cilantro, lettuce, trellised peas (middle), worm compost bin (back)
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Fall seed starts (plus a late second attempt at watermelons)
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Thai basil (left), Sage (middle), Lemongrass (right), Thyme (not visible), transplanted from the garden plot
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Cilantro (front left), Speckled lettuce (front right), Golden Sweet peas (back), all direct seeded
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Spring transplants and summer seed starts (part 1)

It’s easy to fall behind when tending to a big garden. Several spring starts already grew rootbound and were overdue for potting up.

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Note to self: check the bottoms of the seed trays more frequently. I was able to re-pot the rootbound plants without tearing too much of the overgrown roots in the process. Within a week the plants grew reestablished in their new containers with the help of vermicompost.

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After the spring starts were re-potted and hardened off, they were finally transplanted into the garden. The cloches have been working well for the first set of spring transplants thus far (see previous post), so I acquired bags full of two-liter soda bottles through the local Freecycle group and used these (with the bottoms cut out) to shelter the new transplants.

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I wouldn’t recommend this recycling center look for a front lawn. This setup would probably provide more visual appeal with row covers or hoop tunnels, but I’ll save that purchase for a future growing season. Anyway, I digress. Hopefully the next batch of peas will survive this time around:

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Now that I’ve cleared space in the seed trays, I sowed the first set of summer seeds (herbs, flowers, eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes) to raise indoors. The fun continues!

Getting ready to go outside

A calm, sunny day in the 60’s is like a diamond in the rough weather of the Tri-Cities. So when a place like this gives you a day like that, you make the most of it…because you never know when you’ll get that day again. Today was a such a day, which made it perfect to start hardening off the seedlings. The seed trays were covered with humidity domes and left outside this morning for a few hours to bask in the sunshine.

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And now, a shameless plug about these humidity domes: these can make the transition from indoors to outdoors for seedlings easier by serving as mini greenhouses. They’re 7″ tall to accommodate bigger plant starts, with adjustable vents on the top and sides. Plus, I found these for a good price ($5 each) at Portland Nursery.

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When I checked on the seedlings at noon, I noticed that some were wilting from the heat. It must have been a bit much for their first day out, so I re-watered them and returned them indoors under the grow lights for the remainder of the day. They eventually perked back up. I’ll have to harden off the seedlings more gradually so I don’t end up killing them prematurely.

Lastly, I started a new batch of seeds to practice succession planting. My spring garden plan allotted space for more bok choy, lettuce, onions, and peas. Staggering the plantings will also provide a more continuous harvest instead of one large lump sum of produce. Let’s see what happens.

Indoor seedlings: 3 week update

The seedlings are about 3 weeks old now and have flourished under the grow lights.

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Like whoah.

Since I sowed a couple seeds per cell, I thinned out the plants by cutting out the weaker seedlings, leaving the strongest one in each cell. Oh, the tough decisions a parent must make.

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The peas were the exception with just one pea seed in each cell. They grew big relatively fast, so I transferred them to larger containers (reused yogurt cups with drainage holes cut out at the bottom, filled with vermicompost for fertilizer). They are in dire need of trellising, but the weekend weather hasn’t been conducive to garden work thus far.

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My spinach seeds are taking their sweet time though…3 weeks later, and still…RADIO SILENCE…

Seed starting for the spring garden

First, some useful videos on seed starting:

Top Tips for Starting Seeds Indoors
Growing Seedlings

Last year, one of my mistakes was starting summer seeds too early…in February, that is. Coming from SoCal, I thought the days would be consistently warm beginning in March and thus safe for summer starts, but that was totally not the case here in southeastern Washington. It’s hard to win against this desert climate. My year of living here in the Tri-Cities so far has taught me that spring and fall are actually just steep transitions that each span approximately 7 days between the three-digit summers and single-digit winters.

I digress, but the lesson I learned is to utilize the pre-summer months to grow cool season vegetables such as Asian greens, beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, kale, lettuce, onions, peas, radishes, and spinach. Fortunately, I received all my seed orders from my favorite heirloom seed companies:
Seed Savers Exchange
Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

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$54 total. Heck yeah. Grow big and grow home, yo.

My germination kit includes the following:
72 cell seed starter tray with lid (pack of 4 for ~ $10 from Park Seed, these are wonderful to reuse)
Soil-less seed starter mix ($5 for a large bag at Woods Nursery, lasts around 3 years)
Heating mat (~ $20, but I inherited this from a friend)

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Got my spring seeds in and the waiting begins!!!