End of the off-season

Springfield, OR(Zone 8a)

Yeah, baseball too, of course. But I feel as if I/we have been hibernating, and I miss you all. What's anybody doing right now, plant-growing-wise?

This is my first year, at least in the last 18 and I can't remember any further back than that, my first go at starting my own tomatoes from seed. I have ten varieties and I am wing-flapping excited. Better than that measly four of last year.

For my birthday my DSO and I designed and built two kinds do seedling heat trays, and they're working. Yay!

I think I could live on tomatoes and pecans, cherries and green peas. Forever. Period.

So, anybody???


South Lake Tahoe, CA(Zone 6a)

Hey turtle.... been busy here in the Tahoe Sierra's with more snow. Another 10" and freezing temps. Have 2 greenhouses with starter plants from last year doing well, along with lots of plants outdoors covered in snow. Bulbs are planted in individual containers to establish their root systems with bulb booster.

Our growing season is so short. Greenhouses help to extend the season a bit.
Have lots of seeds to plant, but germination unfortunately will be much later this Spring.

SeaTac, WA(Zone 8a)

Oh tomatoes from seed! I tried last year but ended up getting starts from a friend.. but I want to try again maybe next year!

I have a Japanese exchange student who will be living with me for the next year so this last weekend I had her come to the nursery with me and pick out what she wanted to grow while she was here, so we planted a goumi tree (elaeagnus multiflora) which she said she loves to eat in Japan, as well as two varieties of table grapes (I can't remember what they were off the top of my head at the moment though)..

One thing I noticed however, in my garden it seems.. everything blooms at least 1 week to 4 weeks later than everywhere else!! I can't for the life of me figure it out. It is across multiple species of plants too.. For example, my mother and I will purchase the same plant and we planted them at the same time in our gardens in similar conditions (ie. amount of sun etc). Her plants always bloom first, and noticed that other people who may have the same plant will bloom before mine as well! I was thinking it must be because my house is on a slope on the water? Just one mile down and the neighbors flowers will be done before mine even start! Although, I only use organic methods so maybe since I feed my plants with banana peels over fertilizer makes the difference.

I planted a 3 grafted dwarf cherry tree roostalk from raintreenursery.com last year in February "ish", and noticed this week the blooms opened for the first time!

One of my early tulip varieties has just bloomed this week.

It has been raining so much here the water level is actually hitting my bulkhead, when it normally sits around the 2nd dock piling.

My rhubarb has taken off like crazy! I can't wait to harvest it for rhubarb fruit leather!

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Vashon, WA(Zone 8b)

Ros, your pictures look great! I also have rhubarb going strong that I planted last year. However, the stalks seem very short on large leaves. I hope I get longer stalks later on.

Turtle, I'd be interested to hear more about your seed heat trays and how you made them. Everything is so soggy here in my heavy clay soil, I'm not sure I can seed anything directly yet.

We have been busy here with baby pigs, just born Tuesday morning. My garden has been neglected over the last few months, but I hope to get it going again soon.

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

Hi Ros- When I lived right on the Lake I had the same delay- I finally figured it out- The lake is in a basin, and in the fall it would 'hold' the heat and the cold air would blow over, so the garden stayed warmer. Also the water itself 'held' some heat as it took a long time to cool down in the fall. Frosts were therefore delayed a week or two. In the spring it was reversed-the warm air blew over top of the cold air that was held in the basin, and the cold water took a while to heat up. In the summer it was often a couple of degrees cooler by the lake. The thermometer in the car would show these differences (usually just a few degrees) , as I came over the hill and down to the house. Now I live halfway up the hill, about a half mile from the lake, and things grow quite differently here. You might have some similar microclimate thing happening on your lake. My tomatoes were really quite pathetic growing 10 feet from the lake. I recall those I had in Ohio that grew up over top of the garage!

Springfield, OR(Zone 8a)

Hi everybody!

Geez, SPG, any sign of the earth yet?

Ros, rhubarb leather?!! I'll be over shortly...

And mlm, yes, I'm happy to tell you about my seedling boxes. It's gotten to the point that it's keeping 76-80 degrees consistently, and the seedlings are coming up. I'm so excited. Not the tomatoes that I just planted tonight though.

We used incandescent rope lights, which I couldn't believe still existed, but there they were. For the first one we made a frame that sat in place of a shelf in a bookshelf, then stapled chicken wire to the top of it. We then zip-tied the rope light to the underside of the chicken wire. We used a six foot light for a one-flat-sized frame. Then the tray went directly on top of the chicken wire.

That did raise the temperature but we thought we could do better. So for the next one we made another frame, about 3inches deep, and put a solid bottom on it. We wound the rope light into a rounded M shape then used the little clips that came with the lights to attach it to the bottom. We silicone sealed the frame to the bottom after nailing it, just in case, and drilled a hole in one end big enough for the light connector to pass through.

The seedling tray rested on the edges of the frame so that it was lowered into the box, but not all the way down to the light. This raised the temperature, but not enough, so, after sealing the exit hole of the light, we poured kitty litter around the rope light and covering it. Now the tray sits right on top of the kitty litter.

It seems to have taken several days for the kitty litter to absorb enough heat to make a difference, because the seedling medium didn't make to 80 degrees until yesterday, but now it is maintaining. And voila, things actually do grow/germinate.

The only thing we had to buy was the rope light; everything else was just scrap, so I think each box cost us $9? Pretty good deal, I think. Plus we were able to customize the size to our shelf-frame, which happened to be about one flat big.

Oh, we also lowered the original chicken wire mat to about an inch nd a half above the surface of the seedling mix. I believe this helped too. We used those 3M sticky hooks to set a new shelf support height on the metal frame.

I hope you can use this idea too. If I've left out anything just let me know.

I hope everybody's feeling springy, or at least that your seeds and plants are.


Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

Turtle- what you left out is pictures! Any chance of that? It sounds really clever.

Springfield, OR(Zone 8a)

Lol. I've got digital pictures. I will see if I can upload.

Springfield, OR(Zone 8a)


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Springfield, OR(Zone 8a)

First time showing pictures, and without any technical help. I'm quite pleased, in a surprised way. I hope those show something.

Springfield, OR(Zone 8a)

Today we started making the fluorescent 2-bulb fixtures, since things are now popping up. It's pretty simple and it's going to work. My shelf space is only 24" wide, so not too many "cheap shop lights" around, and this is going to be cheaper anyway.

I also laid out three new garden beds, with ADL wide paths and turn area, in case I or somebody else turns out to use wheels full time. In the meantime I can use my scooter if I'm having that kind of day. The beds are still 12 feet long; yahoo! and I went with 42 inches wide, since I am shorter than the average caucasian male.

I also came upon some unplanted but sprouting camas bulbs, so I am thrilled thrilled thrilled.

A very good Earth day for me; hopefully for all you all, as well.


Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

Turtle you did great-both the rope light thingy AND the photo uploading. My camas is about a foot high already so hopefully you can get those planted soon. I am especially impressed as it is hard for me to imagine accomplishing so much if I sometimes needed a scooter.

Springfield, OR(Zone 8a)

Oh, thank you. I'm rather surprised myself. Maybe because I keep 'amending and building up' my partner? who went from complete concrete environs to holding up a worm then saying "oh look honey, it's pooping goodness." ?!?!! I've been waiting to tell someone that one, lol. I'd say patient waiting works; I just hope the same goes for my backyard dandelion garden.


Springfield, OR(Zone 8a)

Oops, forgot to add that I got the camas planted.

Springfield, OR(Zone 8a)

So, I put the tomatoes under the home-grown grow lights, and they are not getting spindlier so I'm counting them a success. They've not grown taller at all, so I hope that means they're getting stockier. We used CFL bulbs because they are supposed to put out more light than tubes, but because of that they are leaning quite a bit towards the center. I turned some of them tonight; I hope that doesn't make them get all kinky like my indoor oxalis. The grow lights look like miniature aluminum hoop houses, hopefully directing all the light to the plants.

Two varieties didn't germinate, so I'm giving them a second go.

I sowed peas indoors to see if our system was going to work, and those are now some good looking plants. Now my outdoor peas are showing, along with lettuce and my over wintered kale. Some of said kale looks like it's trying to bolt ? though. I'm still wearing a jacket; is it really that tender?

I think I've sown 17 different food crops, which I find so hard to believe I keep going back and re-counting, and my guardian flowers. More guardian flowers to come; I gave 20 away at a celebration last night.

How's anybody else doing?

Camano Island, WA(Zone 8a)

Last year as an experiment I grew some tomatoes from seed (determinate and indeterminate) as well as starts from Territorial Seed (determinate and indeterminate, both grafted ). The indeterminate mostly did not get tomatoes ripened before the end of the summer. The determinates did better, but I have to confess that the starts from Territorial did better than the ones I started from seed.

Springfield, OR(Zone 8a)

Yes, I am a little afraid of that myself, especially because I think I was late in starting the seeds. So I purchased one cherry - Pink Butterfly? - as a fallback. I may buy another. I didn't know Territorial had starts; did you order from them or go visit them someplace?

Are you growing any tomatoes this year?

I figured out I have about 50 peas growing out back, two kinds, plus I put some in my hanging baskets. Maybe by the time the hanging peas are done I'll have gotten some annuals to germinate. Either that or the starts'll be cheap at that point.

Camano Island, WA(Zone 8a)

Ooooooh! 50 peas! I need pics!! Is Pink Butterfly a really good cherry tomato?

I should have mentioned that our days are warm in the summer but the nights often get below 50 degrees, even in July and August. That means I can use only tomato varieties that can take the coldest weather and the shortest growing season.

I mail-ordered the starts. They arrived just fine and I could pick the delivery date (for me, later is better). They were pricey but, for me, worth getting a few. Those few extra days of ripening time made a difference.

I love cherry tomatoes but my DH hates them and I've always avoided them. In the future, however, I'm probably going to grow cherries with a determinate regular thrown in here and there.

I bet your annuals will germinate well. What are they?

I am unfortunately not growing veggies this year. Last year was great and very productive, I canned a lot and we ate wonderfully all summer, too. I was sneaking around at night leaving zucchinis in unlocked cars (ok, just kidding). But I got laid off in September from a 30 hour per week job. Then I got hired for a 40 hour per week job. That 10 hours a week is the difference between having fun gardening and not quite making it. I decided to pay somebody to help in the flower beds with the extra money I'm earning. I even have considered paying to have someone make a veg garden but that seemed a little extreme...but I don't know...now that I think about it...slurp...I'd love to have my own fresh produce...

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