Growing in Strange Things, Still a Garden, Right?

So the last polling of a few social groups, and again, out in town from just plain folks I caught in the “Gardening Mood”, I have compiled yet another list. This time it was “What is the weirdest thing you have ever planted in?” They range from things to stuff, and a few were actually done by many. Here is the responses.

A mixture of compost, native dirt, egg shells, kitchen waste and beard when shaved off,  grew hens n chicks in a pair of Victorian high top ladies shoes, the kitchen sponge (and there were many replies), dryer lint, bean plant growing up out of the drain after a camping trip, Parrot food caught in the drain, sprouted, gave back to Parrots. Is that “up-cycle or re-cycle?” Newspaper strips and a hat, Baby Carriage, sand box as a kid with nice corn, 55 gallon plastic barrel and burlap bag full of elephant poop, a commode (several replies, and all in the front yard), old sinks, a maple tree sapling growing out of a joint in a bike, Marijuana around a police station, this was an answer I swear, wash rag after cleaning up salad counter, wheel barrows, old garden carts, and 2 used old grills so they didn’t have to bend over. A “Bagster”, cinder blocks, light bulbs, birds nest, Wasp nest, abandoned of course, Conch Shells, and remember that “Talking Bass” years ago? Well, someone used that too. A few tree stumps, forgotten culled bulbs that grew next season every which way in the bag and another in the box, shot glasses, jeans, socks, onion bags, bones, jars, purses, spike heels, tires, and disposable diapers. Holes and cruxes in trees, old fountains, fire pits, lamp shades, steer manure bags, straight coffee grounds, with success. Then there was, “Children”… But then this explanation, which I had completely forgotten about, which went… “But, then again, you could read Mrs. Piggle Wiggle who used the Radish Cure for getting a child to bathe … she planted radish seeds on the kiddo and they sprouted!” I never did that with mine, but would have bet it would work sometimes.

The way I see it, if Ma nature can grow a Maple tree in a bicycle joint, then everything is open game to plant in.

Composting Surprises, A Poke At The “Dirty Job” Folks

A few days ago I posted on several social sights, garden groups, and just asked folks in the street, a query. Simply put it was, “What was the weirdest thing you have ever found growing in your compost?” The results were numerous, as well as humorous. Some folks were actually wondrous of what they had found before. Some had just quit, because.. So here’s the compiled list, and I’m sure I will be adding more later. So here it is.

What is the weirdest thing you have ever found growing in your compost?

Black Soldier Fly larvae,  mushrooms, Snakes, Grubs, Peach trees, this years garden from old seeds, baby Rabbits, Mice, Rats, Raccoons, various Snakes, more snakes, Pumpkins, 6 kinds of Squashes, 9 types of Tomato, Melons, Potato, “Squashcumbers”, Zucchini, Apple tree, Avocado, Peanuts, Coyote, well, it was on the poll, Dahlias, Amaryllis, Day Lillies and other assorted bulbs, Juan Valdez’s donkey, (I guess there was a lot of grounds there), Almond tree, Cherry tree, Peach tree, Mango, Marijuana, (hmm, really? I need to check in on that soon?), Peppers, various Herbs, Praying Mantis, Hornets, Turtles, Opossums, Gourds, Toads, re-sprouting House Plants, things they thought were dead, Strawberries, several types of knives, and funny, a few said when it was missing, they knew it was in the compost, and found it, the “compost turning tool”, a t-shirt, old plant tags, supposedly “biodegradable trash items, kitchen utensils, an egg to see if it boils in 140 degree compost (bored gardener?), it did, trowels, 4 times the right glove, never the left, wedding ring (whew!!), Worms, and Lizards. Then there were 9, “nothings”. They had access to free composted horse and cow manure. Hmm. Wondering about where the livestock owner gets their hay, if there was 2-4D involved with the crop.

Funny, the one thing no one said, and I have never seen it either, was someone else, turning the pile, just me. Some said, they just quit the garden bed, and let Ma Nature grow in the compost, and had spectacular gardening pleasures just from the “grab bag” idea. Things germinate as the weather permits. My experience is if it’s growing in there, I leave it or transplant it. I’ve never seen Ma Nature shop in a “box store”, and I know, I worked as the on site Garden Specialist at one for over 13 years. Never waited on her. Most people are ad followers, and simply over-comfort their gardens to failure. Sometimes, benevolent neglect, is the key.

This was a fun poll, especially since I had over 350 responses in 2 days from all the groups and face-to-face encounters. Most were seasoned gardeners, and knew their dirt. The beginners were wonderful in admitting their failures, and are learning, “eh, just toss it in” techniques. Wait until those folks learn “Soil Solarization”, like composting on steroids!! So thank you to all the likes and answers, obviously, this is a matter that needs to be enhanced on.

Seed Starting Time

Seed Starting Time!!
Yes, It’s that time again. Days are getting longer, Seed Catalogs are in the mail, and we are, OFF!! Only a few short months, and we are in the ground, and there are some chores to do beforehand outside, but for now, we shall grow, something.
Racking, table top, pantries, under the stairs, in front of the window, doesn’t matter where, it’s time start looking for that out-of-the-way spot. There are several options, several methods, and the seed catalogs are in the mail. Some of you already have your first shipments. Some are “Old Hat”, others, “new-at-it”. Let’s talk basics.
First is where. Finding that “spot” that is out of the way, not near a cold entry, and not under a heat vent. Somewhere that is a constant temperature above 54 degrees. Seems chilly but it will work. If you know Forsythia, it blooms when the soil temperature is 54 degrees at 4 inches for 5 days, and we have gained 2 hours of daylight. Most germination occurs soon after. I have my main rack in the laundry room. 4 shelves, 2 light fixtures. Plenty of room. As I do laundry, I tend to the seedlings. I have seen nice set ups in an unused pantry as well. The “Pantry Thing” usually works great with the Apartment Folks, or in a big front window or patio doors. Just make sure to turn them weekly.
What to use to start the seedlings. Egg cartons, plastic salad containers, newspaper cups, toilet paper tubes, old plant flats, bottoms of milk or soda bottles, store bought starter flats. As long as it fits under the lighting fixture and holds soil or dryer lint… Also, how do you sow the seeds? I save empty spice shakers. They all have different sized holes, and there are different sized seeds. I get the flats ready, put the seeds in the shaker, and “season” the flats. So much easier to shake and sift.

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Next, lets chat about proper lighting. My fixtures are 2 gang, 4 foot florescent fixtures. I never use high dollar “Grow Lights”. I have  one Cool White and one Daylight bulb in each. With that combo, you will get the color spectrum of light from reds and oranges for germination to the blues for leaf production through photosynthesis as they emerge. And way cheaper. They are on a timer, 8 hours on 16 off per cycle, 2 inches above the seed flats. As they grow, I raise the lighting fixtures. Remember, if you only have a window area, make sure to turn the flats weekly 180 degrees, they will be doing that “lean to the light” thing, making them leggy. Notice the difference in color in the bulbs below? This tabletop rig is about $7.00 in PVC pipe and the light fixture is around $17.00 including bulbs. No need to glue it together so it can be easily disassembled for storage.

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1979500_292175280932085_201411916_n    This is a FREE rack from a store I found that I currently use.

Always a question from my readers is “What soil?” Here’s the deal about germination. No Potting Mix. No NPK. Just about any seedling, as it emerges from the seed, produces 2 leaves, which are not “true leaves” but seeking light to perform photosynthesis. The root does not want any food yet, not until 3 to 4 leaves emerge, that’s when they are forming feeder roots. I have used straight Peat Moss in the past, but in the last 4 years, I save all my dryer lint in coffee cans, and use last seasons seeds to start. That equals FREE… As the seedlings get those 3 to 4 leaves, then I feed with home made Manure Tea that I start “steeping” when I see mostly 2 leaves. And I always feed from the bottom, so the nutrient is wicked up through the dryer lint, and the roots have to go deeper to get to it. I make my plants work for it!! More root, more bloom! Below is a comparison between a starter soil and dryer lint.

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Insects and fungus. Always a particular when starting seeds indoors. One of the things I always do is spray home made Insecticidal Soap in the starter medium for Fungus Gnats. I have also used a Bt solution as a topical spray if needed. To alleviate fungus conditions, a small fan about 5 feet away on low will help there. If you are using those Seed Starter Greenhouse kits, a pencil under one corner of the lid helps greatly for ventilation, or even a small fan.
The first seeds you want to start indoors are Tomato, Pepper, Eggplant, Lavender and Onions. They take the longest. Most packet seed has that “Emergent” chart on the back. For example, if it takes 3 weeks to germinate, add 3 weeks to that, and then subtract that time from your last “Killing Frost Date” in your zone. That’s when you would start indoors. This time frame will give you a week to 10 days in the end to get them hardened off before planting. Hardening off is not only to get them climate adjusted, but also natural sunlight adjusted. This goes for your Perennials as well.
Forcing bulbs and late Winter cuttings is always a fun time. Hyacinth and Paperwhites, Forsythia, Dogwood, Japonica Camelias, Azalea, give gardeners the “illusion” that Spring is coming. Winter has a bit to go yet, but my vases and grow racks tell me otherwise. When my Forsythia pops indoors, seed racks are planted.

Simple enough. Next month we will cover the “emergence of the seedlings”, and more info on the care after you see them, then the fun begins.

 

Garden Center Clearance Time?

Seed Catalogs are in the mail, compost is cooking, dreams and plans for the coming seasons are dancing in gardeners heads. All consuming our thoughts and making us just a bit distant to our friends. I myself have been out to the spent paradise, overlooking it’s new abilities. It’s Winter demise is actually picturesque to me, and I still get that Horticultural Therapy. I have my phone with me, looking at the pictures from last year as I am out there, planing.

But the big picture, the leftover products at box stores. The items in the overheads and last 3 things on a shelf, prices falling because they are discontinued from the new seasons product lines. Vendors don’t want them back, most times, and the store receives no credit. They get what they can, as the price tumbles, then toss in the compactor when the price is low enough to take the hit. Where does this leave you?

If you go to a big box store, and see the clearance items that are on the, let’s say, “Pot Wall”, the yellow “was/now” stickers, maybe there is a deal, or just the thing you were looking for. Same as the Hose Aisle, Bird Seed, Tools, and bagged goods, maybe even the Hard Scape Aisle. But in any case, with a little detective work, you can find some better deals. These aisles haven’t been as high maintained since late October, because of the Christmas Crash, and most of those other spots are considered “out of season”… Are ya seein’ it yet? OK, then here’s more. Most all of the merchandise for those aisles have been consolidated to the overhead where they belong on the racks. MOST box stores have been thru an inventory lately, so all the boxed freight in the overhead is plainly marked. Write down the SKU  or item number you see on a weathered box, search for it on the shelves, if you don’t see it, find an employee with one of those fancy phones and ask what the price is for that number. Maybe it’s not exactly what you want, maybe it will do, maybe, it’s a heck of a find.

On the fertilizer aisles, either large bags or the smaller boxed, check there too. Most, again, most of those stores can’t toss hazmat items away, and if it has gone to $.01, they most likely give it to you, it costs them a huge amount to send in a hazmat truck, away… Check the Chemical Wall too, same thing. Look in the overhead for anything that says, “Promo” anything. Then find that kid with that crazy phone.

It’s Gardening Deal time at the box stores. Right now, Christmas is on final clearance, there are Storage Events happening along with Vanities, etc, so no Gardening stuff is coming in yet. They aren’t even thinking about March. So give it a try, on the down-lo, see if you find some real deal goodies. You may even find some cheap racks in Flooring, and Light Fixtures in the Light Cloud. It’s time for deals folks!!