Archive for April, 2010

Growing Vegetables by Seed

Last month, we planted several types of annual vegetables by seed indoors in containers. We planted corn, eggplant, tomato, habanero pepper, cantaloupe, and cucumber seeds. We have been watering the indoor seedlings by spraying them with distilled water in a spray bottle. Seedlings don’t need much water, and the spray bottle avoids overwatering and having to drain out excess water.

Most of the seeds we planted sprouted and grew well while they were indoors. However, as soon as we planted them outside in our raised beds, they started to have problems. Most of the tomato, cucumber, cantaloupe, and pepper seedlings that we transplanted outside a few weeks ago have died already, and the leaves of the corn seedlings are turning yellow.

I think that the problem lies with the seedlings not adjusting well to the sudden change in climate conditions from indoors to outdoors. The last few weeks our weather has been very changeable from warm sunny dry days and cool nights to cool rainy days like today, which is a big change from our stable indoor conditions. Several of the seedlings I transplanted outside during a dry sunny spell soon started to turn white as if they were getting sun burned, even though I was watering them every other day. Our low temperatures have not been dipping below about 45 degrees F, so I don’t think it was exposure to cold, although that could have been a factor as well.

I decided to do some research online, and I came across this website on hardening off transplanted seedlings from Washington State University. This website has some good pointers about gradually exposing your seedlings to strong direct sun and cold temperatures for a few hours a day. We still have some tomato and eggplant seedlings that I have not transplanted outside yet (see picture above). I intend to try gradually exposing our remaining seedlings to the sun and colder nights.

This website has some good suggestions, but I don’t agree with all of the advice on this site. One of the issues I have with the site’s advice is the minimum recommended temperatures for tomato, cucumber, and muskmelon (i.e., cantaloupe), which are 65, 60, and 60 degrees, respectively. In March, I planted 3 tomato transplants I bought from a nursery in one of our outdoor raised beds, and they are all growing rapidly even though the low temperatures here have consistently been below 50 degrees. In fact, we rarely have low temperatures above 60 degrees even in the summertime, and yet our tomato plants have thrived here in past years.

I had some left over cucumber and cantaloupe seeds. So last week, I planted them directly in our outdoor raised beds where the seedling transplants from indoors had just died. Those seeds have already sprouted despite the relatively cool temperatures. Most of these seedlings look great. None of them are looking sunburned or yellow even after a few warm sunny days last weekend. However, some of these new cucumber seedlings look like they have been picked at by birds or possibly eaten by snails, so I covered the bed with two layers of bird netting. I used this technique last year after the birds ate my first set of outdoor cantaloupe seedlings, and it worked to protect the second set of seedlings.

April 28 2010 | Vegetables | 1 Comment »

Still more spring flowers

These are photographs I took this morning of some of the plants blooming in our garden.

This is a photo of our Blaze climbing rose. I planted it as a bare root rose about 7 years ago. It’s so heavy with flowers and new growth right now that it’s about to fall over. I forgot to prune it last winter, which really needs to be done to reduce it’s new growth in the spring. Now I’ll either have to cut off many of it’s flowers and buds to keep it upright or add a new support to it.

This is a photo of one of the many California poppies growing in our yard this year. I planted a California poppy transplant I bought from a nursery several years ago. A few new seedlings sprouted from that plant, but each year we had less and less of them. Last year, a few of the seedling grew and bloomed more than in the past. Those few plants must have spread their seeds widely, because this spring, poppies are growing all over our backyard. Our yard is covered with bright orange flowers, and they look amazing.

This is a photo of some lavender blue bearded irises that we’ve had in our yard for a long time. They bloomed for the first time last year, and they have even more flowers this spring. I attribute that success to the fertilizer my partner has been putting around the hydrangea that is growing behind these irises.

This is a photo of a Sensation lilac bush that is blooming in our yard. I bought this bush last year from a nursery, because I was enthralled by the look of the flowers, which each have a deep lavender center and a white border. This is a French hybrid lilac which is supposed to bloom best after a cold winter. Although last winter seemed chilly to me, I didn’t know until about a month ago when the buds started coming out if our climate was cold enough to stimulate this lilac to bloom. Last spring, our lilacs had very few flowers. We fertilized them with an all-purpose fertilizer 2-3 times last spring and summer to try to get them to bloom more. This spring all of our lilacs except one are covered with flowers.

April 24 2010 | California Poppies and Flowers and Irises and Lilacs and Roses | No Comments »

More spring flowers

These are pictures of some of the spring flowers that have been blooming in our yard the last few weeks.

Red camelia bush.

Lavender alyogyne bushes with blue lithodora and white alyssum underneath.

Dark purple tulips.

April 11 2010 | Alyogyne and Camellias and Lithodora and Tulips | No Comments »