Saturday, June 12, 2010

Plastic Reclaimation Project

I again begin by apologizing, its been 2 months, I know.  And lots has happened.  As it stands, the following are alive and in various stages of growth out on the deck: tomatoes, onions, carrots, bell peppers, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, garlic, cilantro, nasturtiums, and lupine (the last two are more for looks).  The rest of the story is in the pictures:

The two big pots on the right side are the flowers, not much too them yet, but hopefully with the warmer weather we are having, that'll change soon.  Center rear are four lettuce starts, the ones with plastic bottles over them.  Its been chilly recently, I'm hoping creating mini-greenhouses will spur some more rapid growth.  Up front we have 4 spinach starts, and chives.  The left side shows carrots and onions.
The tomatoes have taken off like weeds.  I had them staked up with bamboo the last couple of months, and just removed that today.  The stalks have gotten pretty thick, and the cages are helping support the branches.  I moved some of the bamboo stakes to the pepper plants (right in front of the tomatoes).  At ~6-8 inches, they are doing ok, but I'm hoping to see some more rapid growth soon.
 Here's a closer look at the pepper plants.  Again, these were grown from the leftover seed pod from a green pepper purchased at the grocery.  I'm surprised the put up plants, still not sure if I'll see any peppers come out.

Here we have the two cucumber transplants, both are about four inches tall.  Same as the lettuce, I just reclaimed some plastic drink bottles and enclosed the cucumbers with them, hoping to see some decent growth.  I also plan on building a lattice work using the deck siding and bamboo for the horizontals.  I haven't added the bamboo yet, waiting for the cucumbers to grow a bit more first.  

On the north side of the tomatoes, I have my cilantro and a test run of a transplanted philodendron.  They both need partial shade, so I'm hoping that the tomato plants will help with that in the early afternoon.

  These are what I'm using to start my seeds in.  Right now I have the cucumbers and lettuce I didn't transplant still in there, in case one of the transplanted starts doesn't make it.  I got the plastic trays from my grandparents, who got them as 12-pack apple containers from Costco.  All I needed to do to use them as seed trays was cut a drainage hole in the bottom of each indentation.  The great thing about them is that they have tops that seal over them, giving me a great little 12-pod mini-greenhouse to start my seeds in.  Today is so nice an warm, I'm leaving the tops off and giving the starts some fresh air!

  Here is garlic row (I also thought about calling it garlic cove, but garlic row sounds less stupid).  Like the peppers, I simply planted garlic cloves we had gotten from the grocery.  They had sprouted already, so hopefully they grow and become usefull.
So here is a picture taken a few weeks ago of my cilantro, chives, thyme, and basil.  The cilantro and chives are still going strong, but soon after I took this picture, the basil and thyme both withered and died.  I don't know why, they were doing great before that, and they both suddenly turned brown at the same time.  So that one is leaving me scratching my head, and rather sad at the loss.  I'll get some more thyme and basil, but not yet.  It's too soon.

Yes, of course, Ophelia.  And a great flower arrangement I got from Vander Geissen Nursery!  They were a gift for my dear wife, and have really filled out the color palate of our otherwise predominantly green-plant themed deck.

So again, I apologize for being silent for two months.  But, here is proof that I am starting to see the fruits (veggies) of my labors!  Yes, they are small, but they are a half-long breed, and are planted in six inch deep planters, so I'm rather happy with them!

And now that I'm starting to see significant progress, I'm going to try to put up more pictures, I promise!!

See you next time!
The second-story gardener

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Early April Update

Sorry for the delay, out-of-town visitors took priority over blogging there for a few weeks.

What I've learned so far:
One packet of tomato seeds will produce enough plants for you, your grandmother, your friends, random strangers, and leave enough plants left over to nicely supplement your compost pile. 

Young carrot plants are often mistaken for parsley by visiting family and friends.  

Carrot seed packs come with way more seeds than you can dream of planting if you only have planters and a ~100 sq ft deck.
There is no need to plant more than one carrot seed per hole.  They will all grow.
Weeding out carrots because there are too many planted in one spot is bad for this gardener's morale.

Garlic planted from an old garlic clove will grow.  A pepper seed pod from from a store bought pepper may not grow (I'm on attempt #2 at the moment).
You can kill thyme by either planting too much of it in a small pot, or by over watering it (the jury is still out deciding the exact verdict)

 Transplanting tomatoes can be hazardous to their health.

 Yesterday, I bought 200 Red Wiggler worms, and put the in my compost bin.  I'm still really feeling my way around this compost thing.  As you can see, our cat, Ophelia, is quite eager to help...

  Here's the whole gang!  (plus Ophelia, of course)  Sorry, its a bit hard to see everything.  Roughly speaking, from top to bottom, we have tomatoes, garlic, thyme, basil, hopefully pepper, onions, carrots, and our philodendron plant.  I just clipped off the tip of one the philodendron vines, and placed it in a mug of water.  I'm hoping to propagate some new growth and spread the plant around the apartment.

And, finally, this is the latest addition to our deck!  A lovely bistro set from my parents-in-law, which we got as an early 1st anniversary gift!  As with our other possessions, Ophelia is very adept to helping herself to its use.  Between the new bistro set, and having all the planters outside (once it warms up just a bit more), I believe I'll be spending a large amount of my free time out on the deck.  Such a lovely thought.

This is where things stand at the moment.  Now that our weather is getting more spring-like, I'll be moving the planters outside soon.  I'm hoping to get a few more things planted as well, I'll update as that happens.

Til next time, The second-story gardener

Sunday, March 7, 2010

What a load of crap!

My lovely wife came home from running errands yesterday morning and told me she had a present for me in the trunk.  When I went to claim my prize, I found out it was a 30 lb bag of cow manure!  If ever there were a symbol of love :).  A few short hours later (and after a run to Target to get a 20 gallon Rubbermaid tote), I have a compost box set up!  I put about half the manure in the tote, and added a gallon ice-cream container's worth of food scraps from the kitchen.  I haven't added worms yet, I want to wait a few weeks and see how it does without them.  From what I've read, this setup may be a bit small, and thus may not produce the heat needed to properly compost.  But, its the best I can do at the moment, considering I don't have the space for anything bigger, or the yard waste to build it up.

In other news, most every plant is springing forth quite nicely.  My experimental garlic clove has produced a nice, green stem above ground, and is growing quite fast.  No sign of growth from the pepper yet, but I'll give it time to see what happens.  I pulled out some onions that had died (I still have more than enough left), and replaced them with some carrot seeds, which I have in abundance.

I checked the forecast for the next month, and only saw two or three days that are supposed to drop down below freezing!  I'm playing it safe for now, and keeping everything (except the compost) inside on the window-sills.  But if our beautiful weather continues, I may move things out on the deck within a month or so!

Ahh, the joy of manure under my finger nails :)

The second-story gardener 

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Here is the space I'm working with!  I had grand plans for hanging homemade wooden planters over the railings, but after checking Craigslist and the ReStore for used wood, I opted for cheep/free planters and pots instead.  Always room to build up the collection later!

This is next to the sliding glass door that leads out to the deck.  It's south facing and is a great place to put planters to catch the morning and early afternoon sun.  Here we have two snake plants that used to reside in one small pot, a future pepper plant, future garlic, and the bottom planter is onions.  No, I haven't seen that much growth yet, I got them already started.

This window is directly above the sliding glass door, and is another great place to catch the sun (and keep the planters safely out of reach of my overly-curious cat.

And here's the first proof of success!!  Ok, it may be a bit early to declare victory, but I was quite excited to see green!  This is the thyme, which only took a week to start appearing.  Since then, I've seen growth from the basil, carrots, tomatoes, the onions that I transplanted.

Hope this gives you an idea of how it's going!

The Second-Story Gardener

Sunday, February 28, 2010

One week in

I've discovered green, leafy growth!!  The thyme is sprouting nicely (and is very crowded), and I see the starting of carrots and tomatoes!  And in only one week's time!  I expected it to take longer than that.

Yesterday I got seven new pots of varying sizes from the ReStore, just down the street.  Its a great home store that sells reusable household items (everything from used nails to claw-foot bathtubs) and donates the money to charity.  The planters are listed as a donation item, so I donated $10 (running total of $60 invested into the garden so far) and had a new project to work with!      

With my newly acquired planters, I planted another 15 or so onions today, and re-potted a very crowded snake plant into two separate (and larger) pots.  As an experiment,  I buried half a pepper in a pot, and a garlic clove that was already sprouting in another pot.  These may do nothing but take up valuable planter space, but they were both past the point of being edible, so its worth the experiment!

Another one of the planters was a shallow, but wide pot.  I plan on getting some soil and worms (thanks for the hint, Al!) and starting our compost "pile" in it.  This better happen soon, the food items we're saving are starting to look a little moldy.

I know I promised pictures (and have already taken them), but the computer isn't letting me post them yet for some reason.  I promise to get them up as soon as I can.

Til next time! 

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Gardening Experiment

Here starts my gardening experiment.

A little background:

I live in a second-story apartment with a south-facing deck (~100 sq ft) and three south-facing windows with wide sills. Besides planters and planting soil, I have no access to a garden plot.

My goal:

To better understand gardening, and to move one step closer to self-sufficiency.

How I'm starting:

It's February 21, 2010, and over the past two days I've bought 7 planters, 2 cubic feet of Miracle-Gro, and planted Danvers Half-Long carrots, Heirloom Rainbow Blend tomatoes, thyme, Basil Genovese, and Walla-Walla Long Day onions from my father. Total cost so far is just under $50. I plan on buying more planters (hopefully from second-hand stores), and planting spinach, chives, and peppers.

I'm using an old ice cream bucket for storing food scraps from the kitchen with hopes of starting a compost pile. This is going to be a challenge, given the lack of outdoor space.

Sadly, I have no pictures of the project yet, but will try to post some soon. Feel free to comment with any suggestions or advice!