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PNW: March 2014

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Re: PNW: March 2014

Post  gwennifer on 3/13/2014, 1:33 pm

@gwennifer wrote:Actually maybe someone can help with this:  We have an old broken leaf blower my husband wasn't able to fix.  He finally purchased a new one so I'd like to dispose of the old one.  I was thinking I should dump out the gas/oil mixture that's in there but not sure how?  And what to do with the gas/oil mixture I collect?
Ha! Never mind on this. I posted it for free on craigslist and my phone was ringing of the hook with people who figured they may be able to fix it or use it for parts.  cheers 

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Re: PNW: March 2014

Post  Marc Iverson on 3/14/2014, 1:07 am

Came back from class today. Divided into a few parts; the main one was Part 2 of garden entomology. Boy what a lot of ugly bugs! We learned how to identify types of spiders by the numbers and patterns of their eyes. Frankly, I don't want to get close enough to know the difference. We've also been learning a lot about herbicides and insecticides lately. Great stuff to know, but the kind of thing you'd have to (or anyway *I* would have to) think about frequently in order to retain in any depth or with any reliability. There's just so much to know. And when it comes to application, it's actually illegal to use otherwise than as directed on the labels, so a person really wants to be careful and have a zero tolerance attitude toward mistakes. Hard to do when the info is all new to you.

Signed up for the plant clinic, in which we answer questions from the community, today. So we'll need to be able to parse and relay that knowledge in short order. Luckily, the attitude of the program is that you are not responsible for having a botany or chemistry Ph.D., just for being able to know where to look to find out the information. Nobody expects you to have it all at the tip of your tongue.

Stopped by the neighbor's garden where I do most of my gardening on the way back from class. The weeds have been loving the warming, the rain, and now the sun -- a lot! Weeds everywhere. Did four beds, but there are more to do, and I know I'll have to start making regular trips to weed down there. Our weeds love our winters just fine, thank you. Under one of my two hoop houses, weeds had gone berserk. HUGE. Plucked 'em all out. They liked the protected environment as much as my other plants there -- sole survivors of the winter being three red brussells sprouts and two daikon radishes. There are some mystery plants there that make me wonder if they're volunteers from past growing years -- like an artichoke, I think. Will get neighbors to tell me if they recognize some of the mystery plants as weeds. Glad to see my brussells sprouts are still okay! Wish I had more of them, too. Cabbage moths are supposedly due to come out any day now though ... so leaving the fabric off the hoop houses is a very dangerous business.

Someone growing june-bearing strawberries very successfully brought a few of her extra plants to give away. I got and planted two. She says they spread very nicely and should take over a few feet of bed rapidly, if I let them. Sounds fine to me.

Found a mint that had snuck into a hoop house and flowered. I plucked it out and will plant it in a pot. I am crazy for mint, especially in coffee and tea.

I've got a lot of planting chores to do ... onions ... tomatoes ... spinach ... creating more vertical bottle towers to tie up to the chain link fence ... the "overwhelming" part of spring is start up ...


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Re: PNW: March 2014

Post  sanderson on 3/14/2014, 1:59 am

Marc, I'm so sorry you've got so many weeds in your beds. But, it looks like spring is about here. Your classes sound fascinating but kind of hard. More like a 4-5 until college class.

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Re: PNW: March 2014

Post  gwennifer on 3/14/2014, 1:31 pm

@Marc Iverson wrote:We learned how to identify types of spiders by the numbers and patterns of their eyes.  Frankly, I don't want to get close enough to know the difference...

... creating more vertical bottle towers to tie up to the chain link fence ... the "overwhelming" part of spring is start up ...

Marc, I'm with you on the spider identification! But can you tell me more about your vertical bottle towers? I thought I've followed most of your posts on here but can't remember reading about these. Do you have pics?

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Re: PNW: March 2014

Post  sanderson on 3/14/2014, 2:59 pm

Spiders - like I'm going to use a magnifier! I know what a female Black Widow looks like (before I dispatch it). I've never seen a live brown recluse but I know all the others besides these 2 are okay. Their bite may hurt (if the mouth parts are large enough to bite a human) but I won't keel over.

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Re: PNW: March 2014

Post  gwennifer on 3/14/2014, 7:40 pm

Out of pure boredom...
Radish sprouts.  
11 days since planting and I'm at 31% germination.

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Re: PNW: March 2014

Post  Marc Iverson on 3/15/2014, 12:54 am

@gwennifer wrote:
@Marc Iverson wrote:We learned how to identify types of spiders by the numbers and patterns of their eyes.  Frankly, I don't want to get close enough to know the difference...

... creating more vertical bottle towers to tie up to the chain link fence ... the "overwhelming" part of spring is start up ...

Marc, I'm with you on the spider identification! But can you tell me more about your vertical bottle towers? I thought I've followed most of your posts on here but can't remember reading about these. Do you have pics?

No, but I can take some.

I learned about them by watching this youtube video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9vN2eudWcQ

This guy does them great. He also has a harder to find video on there about growing in bags, and I think maybe a third one that shows people in the Philippines who grow out of soda bottles laid on their sides in a rack. Great videos, all.

Last year I grew herbs in them -- basil and oregano did great. I planted spinach in them this fall and winter, but our cold winter first stunted them and then finally killed them off. This spring it will be lots and lots of spinach and maybe some lettuce. I found basil tends to develop really big root systems, and though they it grew well there, maybe basil might be better elsewhere. Also, basil gets so tall it can shade out other leafy greens.

Basically, as the video shows, you cut the bottom off 2-liter soda bottles, turn them upside down and fill them with soil, and nestle them in each other. The top of one, where the spout or nozzle is, goes into the dirt-filled bottom of the next. I took it a step further by running wicks up through the middle, right through the nozzle of the bottle, the same wick through each bottle. I tore up a nasty old cotton t-shirt.

The first bottle on the ground was a water reservoir and the last one on top was just used to slowly filter the water into the actual growing containers beneath. When it was raining too much, I turned one of the cut-off bottoms upside down and stuffed it into the open top of the stack.

Two or three holes made with a big nail allowed water to seep down from the top through the rest and into the reservoir. An overflow hole was pocked into the reservoir so the water would have someplace to go if I (or the rain) overwatered the stack. Also, I wanted the water to be sucked up easily, and without an overflow hole, a vacuum might have slowed that down.

A horizontal slit was cut into each bottle toward its bottom with an exacto knife, an inch or so above where it rises over the lip of the bottle beneath it that it is nestled in. This is where you will plant your seed. A little extra above the rim of the lower bottle is good to allow for soil settling, which might make the whole bottle sink too deep. Iit's a good idea to water the whole set-up in before planting in case you need to add more soil when things settle in.

A downward slit goes on each side of that horizontal slit. That lets you pry open the plastic enough to stick a seed in. Unlike the video, in which merely pulling back the flap and putting the seed in seemed to work fine for the guy, I eventually cut out at least a small horizontal hole. That's because the plastic that you pry out to make room for the seed pushes very hard to try to get back tight against the rest of the bottle, which can throttle or even slice through delicate seedlings. So some pressure relief is in order.

I tied my stacks easily to our chain link fence.

The process is a bit of a pain, but it results in a lot of plants in a very tight space at the cost of zero dollars apart from the soil. A stack of a half dozen only comes out to ... I dunno, four and a half feet or so vertically, in only the floor space taken up by a standing soda bottle. And it's even easy to cover with row cover in the fall/winter. Bugs and some diseases find far less entry to the plants, too, as they are off the ground and the root area is not easily accessible. You'll never have to worry about cautions like "Don't water the leaves!" because you'll never be watering except through the top bottle of the stack.

All in all, I like the idea and plant to have at least 20 bottles going this year.

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Re: PNW: March 2014

Post  Marc Iverson on 3/15/2014, 12:57 am

@sanderson wrote:Marc, I'm so sorry you've got so many weeds in your beds. But, it looks like spring is about here. Your classes sound fascinating but kind of hard. More like a 4-5 until college class.

It is kind of hard. Interesting though.

And I found out today that the weed we get the most of is not only edible, but delicious! Very Happy When they see me comin', they better run!

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Re: PNW: March 2014

Post  Marc Iverson on 3/15/2014, 1:15 am

Went on a tour of five local elementary schools, for some reason called "The Progressive Garden Party." Took most of the day. Each school has a master gardener mentor, and they're hoping for new recruits. Helping with programs there or initiating them can help us work off the 70 volunteer hours we owe the program.

Each school has different resources. All but one were bright and so much more attractive than the schools were when I was a kid. I saw a Jerry Seinfeld interview recently which that brings to mind -- he said everybody spoils their kids so much these days that everything is a major event requiring massive parental participation. Like getting the kids to bed. You know what our bedtime story was when I was a kid?, he asked. "Darkness!" haha! Myself, when I was a kid, if an adult valued your opinion, it was because he'd already told you what it was going to be. Otherwise, kids were warehoused and nobody cared what the schools looked like.

The only one that wasn't bright and beautiful looked kind of dark and sullen. Unfortunately, a mentor is very interested in getting me to help out at that one. It's pretty neglected by parents too, and it's hard to get anyone interested in helping the gardening program there out. "Margarita Fridays!", wisecracked I. That'll get participation up.

People are drawn to sex, food, drugs, and drink. We can only provide one of those, so I suggested trying to organize some events around food, including the food grown in the school's raised garden beds. Everybody likes food, young and old. And instead of making it seem like the participating -- weeding, planting, etc. -- was just another in a long list of life's potential obligations for parents, the idea of participating might sell better if the gardening was presented as something social. With maybe a few chores on the side. A series of potluck dinners, say, where people can chat with each other and enjoy a feeling of community in the company of their kids, and see the gardens their kids have worked on and talk about them in a hands-on way. Put the camaraderie front and center rather than the chores.

I dunno. We'll see. Truth is, motivated people motivate me, and I found the other schools so much more bright and cheerful, and all supposedly had better parental involvement. I think I'd be most needed at the place I'd least enjoy helping at, but I'm not sure how much of a "lost causes" fellow I am in this regard. The school staff is a little dicey here too, so I'm not sure I want to sign up for an uphill battle.

Greenhouse tomorrow.

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Re: PNW: March 2014

Post  Marc Iverson on 3/15/2014, 1:28 am

@gwennifer wrote:Out of pure boredom...
Radish sprouts.  
11 days since planting and I'm at 31% germination.

Good luck! My radishes didn't do so well this last year, but I'm hoping this spring sunshine will start to make a difference.

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Re: PNW: March 2014

Post  sanderson on 3/15/2014, 2:37 am

Marc, that's admirable that you would consider the most depressing school. It's all about the kids, right? Do their parents even have to be present? I guess I'm thinking that an after school activity with SFG could actually draw kids to it. Sort of a build it, they will come. Check out the SFG Foundation for information and help. The school should have a budget for supplies.

If the school's attitude doesn't improve, then you have given it the old try and you can move on to brighter environments. Best of luck.

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Re: PNW: March 2014

Post  gwennifer on 3/15/2014, 1:31 pm

Marc, thank you for the video link and the description of the bottle fence. Not at all what I thought so that was very helpful. I had seen another YouTube vid of people making a greenhouse out of water bottles, so I thought perhaps that's what your water bottle fence was for.

My kids' school is dreary. The primary and middle school share the same campus and are the oldest schools in the district. They don't even have cafeterias. They were built in the seventies and everything is laminate with an orange and mustard yellow color scheme. As a matter of fact, week before last the kids got sent home early because they feared the roof was caving in over the library at the middle school. They removed an HVAC unit to take the stress off the roof, but the library is now closed. It's truly depressing. But our teachers and parents more than make up for what the facility lacks. For instance, we have one of the biggest PTA's in the state and our middle school is currently ranked number one in the city (not just the district). Fancy buildings, extracurricular programs, free breakfast, etc. - none of those things make up for lack of parental involvement and/or just pure apathy. I wish you luck on whichever route you go with your volunteer hours.

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Re: PNW: March 2014

Post  gwennifer on 3/15/2014, 1:35 pm

St. Paddy's for Kids today at Shorty's Garden & Home on Mill Plain in Vancouver. Also the opening day of Vancouver's Farmers Market downtown. Gonna be a beautiful day!

Two pea sprouts coming through this morning. Yea peas!  cheers 

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Re: PNW: March 2014

Post  Marc Iverson on 3/15/2014, 7:33 pm

@sanderson wrote:Marc, that's admirable that you would consider the most depressing school. It's all about the kids, right? Do their parents even have to be present? I guess I'm thinking that an after school activity with SFG could actually draw kids to it. Sort of a build it, they will come. Check out the SFG Foundation for information and help. The school should have a budget for supplies.

If the school's attitude doesn't improve, then you have given it the old try and you can move on to brighter environments. Best of luck.

In the programs, the kids spend a short part of each lunch period or some other period in the garden areas, which are generally fenced off. Even if kids don't destroy stuff, around here, wandering deer do, so most everything is fenced if you want to keep it. After school would be difficult because then the kids couldn't get on their buses and go home; instead their parents would have to make special and more onerous provisions for getting them back home. That probably wouldn't happen unless it were a "let's get together party" kinda thing like I was talking about, which parents could come to after work, along with their kids. But the lunchtime thing is commonly the way it is done around here.

Groups of kids get let in with an adult, generally about 6 or 8 per adult, or it gets too overwhelming to keep track of the kids and what they're doing. More than one group may come in at once, and then new groups get rotated in after them. Developmentally disabled kids also get to come in and plant and water and get gardening lessons and plant and harvest things, but they need fewer children per adult so as to guide them better.

Never thought of asking the SFG foundation for help. Because the soil is generally decomposed granite in this part of Southern Oregon, raised beds are extremely common, and were the foundation of every school garden. There was no row planting whatever. I think putting a grid in would be very helpful in getting kids to visualize how gardens grow, and as in Mel's book, it would help to turn gardening projects into opportunities for math lessons --yields per box, per foot, planting density, etc. That can all be done regardless of the existence or lack of Mel's Mix, thankfully. But the grid would be a great starting point for lessons.

SFG would be very good here because of our long hot dry summers too ... and because we have no snowpack this year, water will be extremely tight, and some people are choosing not to garden at all. I know the vermiculite and peat really helped a lot last summer here in my own garden, to the limited extent I could afford to use Mel's Mix.



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Re: PNW: March 2014

Post  Marc Iverson on 3/15/2014, 7:39 pm

@gwennifer wrote: Fancy buildings, extracurricular programs, free breakfast, etc. - none of those things make up for lack of parental involvement and/or just pure apathy.

Yup. Although I think the free breakfast is something I wouldn't have the heart to deny children, if they need one. There are a lot of hungry kids out there, and kids going hungry in one of the richest countries in the history of the world just strikes me as wrong. Plus it has proven negative development impacts, both physiologically and mentally.

Thanks for the luck wishes. I'm not committing to anything yet, and will have to know more of the story behind every school still. There's one that's a private school, for example, and it gets plenty of money and participation from parents and the community and the church, so I'd like to go where one more good thing is not just gilding the lily for the already most fortunate. It's great that they're well looked after, but I'd be needed more elsewhere.


Last edited by Marc Iverson on 3/15/2014, 8:00 pm; edited 2 times in total

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Re: PNW: March 2014

Post  Marc Iverson on 3/15/2014, 7:58 pm

Ate some more Little Bittercress weeds while weeding today -- kinda fun eating while you weed! Also was delighted to find that one of the big plants among my brussells sprouts was a Miner's Lettuce, which I had heard reseeds itself easily and which I had had a taste of in a "weed salad" a gardening mentor shared with our school groups the other day. It was really good; nice firm leaves and good flavor. Weird-looking; sort of a boxy leaf with corners on top and a tiny little seedling-looking leaf coming out of the middle of each much larger regular leaf. I'd be very happy to eat plenty of it and to add its shape and color to salads. Maybe next year I'll just leave that bed to Miner's lettuce when it's in season. Have to find out more about what that season is.

At greenhouse, we transplanted sweet peas and tomatoes. Nice to feel ahead of the curve for a change; classes can give an overwhelming amount of information, but replanting tomato seedlings I can handle. Greenhouse is tough on the back, though. The benches are all low, and too wide where they jut out toward the central walkway. That means you have to both stoop and stretch to check moisture levels on each individual plant, which is a no-no to my back just on principle, but also in terms of actual discomfort in very short order. At least I now know how not to build and arrange greenhouse benches.

Also bought some "Perennial Swiss Chard" from the Territorial Seeds rack at our local grange. Supposedly they can become perennials in the PNW. Asking for cultivation tips, I was told that they will produce through summer, even though chard is normally a cold-weather crop, but production will slow down. But that their becoming perennials was a real possibility. If so, and if I like the taste, I'd love for that to work out. I'm all about low-maintenance whenever I can get it. I didn't take up gardening because I felt a soul-crushing lack of sweaty unpaid stoop-labor in my life.

So far I'm thinking I might be able to set up perennial beds for strawberries (two types in the same bed, a june-bearing and an ever-bearing), raspberries, miners lettuce, and now swiss chard. I'm not sure how much I like swiss chard, though, because I've only had it once or twice. We have lots of neighbors, though, and it meets one of my criteria for growing -- it strikes me as absurdly expensive in the store. I also have oregano in a couple of beds that overwintered just fine, so I didn't and I guess I won't pull it out. But ... that partially depends on whether it starts to taste like anything. Last year, it didn't.

I wouldn't mind getting a bed of asparagus too, but my budget is too tight to do any more buying this year. Though I did break down and get a tiny chocolate mint plant, after being told a few times how great it was. There was also orange mint available, but I passed on that for now. Being a huge mint fan, I'll probably get around to it some year soon, I'm sure.

Saw clumps of rhubarb root at the grange. I hear so much about people loving it, but my experience with it is limited to it making a sort of very sour pie, which isn't a great recommendation for it. Whatever there is to this veggie that's so great, I guess I haven't encountered it yet.

Oh, I was PM'd about what edible weed I found yesterday that was so delicious. That one was Little Bittercress. Miners Lettuce was the one I identified today. It isn't nearly as ubiquitous.

Also, saw my first cabbage moth yesterday. Back up went the remay over my hoop house, after being off for all of two days. But I need new hoops of some sort. On this narrow bed, my brussels sprouts are already touching the top of the hoop fabric.

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Re: PNW: March 2014

Post  Marc Iverson on 3/16/2014, 7:48 pm

Brutal day. Hauled lots of chainsawed logs up the hill to our firewood shed. Dug out some overfilled raised beds and wheelbarrowed the soil uphill to my neighbor's approved dump area. Out in the sun all day. The upside of it: it was nice enough to be out in the sun all day. I started off at 9 a.m. in my thermal underwear under some jeans, and ended the "working" day in shorts.

Finally planted the last of my onion plants. Last fall I planted sets. So now I have two kinds of yellow onions -- the giant Alisa Craig's and another one I forget the name of right now, and two kinds of red -- Red Westerfield and Red Zeppelin. Filled two long beds with them. Now that's a lotta onions!

Also did some weeding.

I want to plant a few things in my container garden back at the house tomorrow morning. Still haven't gotten my peas in yet. Too many things to do! I could do it now, but I'm beat and more importantly, I'd want to water them in ... and it will be dark in a couple hours. I don't want to encourage bad things to happen by leaving them wet overnight.

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Re: PNW: March 2014

Post  Goosegirl on 3/16/2014, 9:35 pm

What a productive day!!!    

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Re: PNW: March 2014

Post  FamilyGardening on 3/17/2014, 1:04 am

Marc you have been very busy!! 

send some sunshine this way please....we are back to rain.....

if you haven't heard we have 6 new baby chicks!  posted pic's and stories on the who has chickens thread Very Happy 

happy gardening
rose

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Re: PNW: March 2014

Post  Marc Iverson on 3/17/2014, 1:29 pm

Ooh, how cute! Sometimes I like to visit our local grange and check out their baby chickens and ducklings when they stock them. Hope you enjoy your new babies!

We're back to winter-ish weather this morning. In the 30's, plenty wet but not raining. Let's see if it clears up. To tell you the truth, I could use a break and don't want to go outside! Cold I actually like, but for wet, I like being indoors.

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Re: PNW: March 2014

Post  boffer on 3/18/2014, 10:40 am

Spring is right around the corner.  cheers  We're just an inch shy of being the all-time wettest March on record.  I thought I was going to have to put pontoons on my lawn mower to get through the low areas that are holding water!  

First spring bouquet


Direct seeded late Jan/early Feb


Transplanted broccoli and  chard


Taters planted in Jan


Over-wintered celery


Direct seeded rads and bok choy


First peas

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Re: PNW: March 2014

Post  donnainzone5 on 3/18/2014, 10:45 am

It hit 15 F here this morning.  At least my new seed-starting set-up is operational.

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Re: PNW: March 2014

Post  Marc Iverson on 3/18/2014, 7:42 pm

Boffer -- looks nice. I can't wait for spring peas.

Donna -- yikes 15! That's the coldest it got at our place this winter, I think. At least while I was awake to check the temperature.

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Re: PNW: March 2014

Post  FamilyGardening on 3/19/2014, 12:49 am

looking good Boffer!.....your Swiss chard is so bright in color!

we were able to get all our cole crops seedlings transplanted under the hoops and plastic today.....32 broccoli, 20 cauliflower, 3 red cabbages, 3 green cabbages and 6 sq's of bok choi.....they are just now getting their true leaves....they are so tiny...we put a bunch of Slugo down in hopes the slugs don't get to them all!

our son transplanted 8 sugar snap peas in his self watering container filled with MM, and direct sown some carrots around the border......

in the SFG bed #2 direct sown some yellow and purple carrots.....sugar snap peas are doing really well and are grabbing on to the trellis.....

still need to transplant and direct sow some lettuce, spinach.....and transplant our onion and leek seedlings....in both SFG bed #1 and #2

in the back garden hubby planted the last of our seed potatoes into one of the corn 6x8 beds that we are going to companion grow potatoes and corn together....

seedling herbs are doing fine in the green house.....

tomatoes, peppers and celery are all doing fine under the lights in side the house....

our baby chicks are happy, healthy and so much fun!...they sure do grow fast!

happy gardening
rose

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Re: PNW: March 2014

Post  gwennifer on 3/19/2014, 2:12 pm

Having crazy mixed results with my direct seeding.  Never had such poor germination rates before.  Although my earlier stats on my radishes weren't fair because I actually planted four varieties:  
 Variety 1: two out of eight
 Varieties 2 & 3: seven out of eight
 Variety 4: zero.
Need to dig out my seed packets again to verify but pretty sure the ones with poor or no germination were older seed.

Peas I have only 21 out of 48 that have showed so far.  Brand new seeds.

Broccoli - one out of six.  

 Sad

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Re: PNW: March 2014

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