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Mid-Atlantic February update

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Mid-Atlantic February update

Post  Megan on 2/6/2011, 6:01 pm

Hello February! Smile

Temperatures are very cold here and we are still digging out from the last snow/ice storm, and I'm sure many of you are doing the same. Mother Nature has been taunting me with a few days into the mid-40's, but I know it's not over yet by a long shot.

My two ornamental kale plants appear to still be alive in the front yard, if rather sorry looking. I have a few shoots of onions showing, but that's about it in terms of signs of life. Indoors, I have one sweet potato in a mason jar that's got some nice roots going, but no shoots yet. I'm hoping to get some slips from it; we'll see. I am not starting seeds indoors. May change my mind later, but I didn't do it last year and it didn't hurt me any; my plants seemed the stronger for planting them direct where I wanted them. (I must admit, though, if we didn't have Snowmageddon last year with tons of snow late into spring, I might have done it differently.)

The big news is that I am going to try to shift operations to the backyard this spring. That is going to be a huge project. It is a mess right now (downed tree branches, a tree needing trimming, etc.) and at least part of it is my fault; I told the dh I would take care of the front yard if he'd take care of the back. (You can guess where that went.) So I am faced with starting over... first of, making the back yard useable, then building boxes, more Mel's mix, irrigation, etc.

The backyard trees are my first obstacle. There is the big one that needs trimming (or perhaps taken out), and then another several between the shed and the fence which need to come out. Anyone local got a buddy who does tree service? Very Happy

I'm also working on my plan for the front yard. (For those of you new to the story...my HOA threw a fit last year over my front-yard SFG, so I will have to be very cautious this year in what I plant out there.) I've already got numerous herbs out there and would like to expand that, along with more flowers. I've got some milkweed seed from Nancy that I'm looking forward to trying, and (I hope!) can probably get away with leafy, fairly low-lying plants like lettuce, mustard, basil, chard, etc. I planted a hollyhock last year and it should bloom this year--looking forward to that!--and I'm thinking about putting in a Mexican 'torch' sunflower or three. These can get big from what I've read, but not sure how big. Any thoughts on that?
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Re: Mid-Atlantic February update

Post  jerzyjen on 2/6/2011, 8:41 pm

I'm not sure about the mexican torch but most sunflowers get pretty big. I don't know the background on the HOA but if you are trying to keep things low but still want some sunflowers, Burpee makes a short sunflower, I believe its called the Elf Sunflower. It only gets about 12" tall.

Regarding clearing your trees. I'd bet there are people in your neighborhood that you could get to clear the wood for free. I have 2 people I can call that will come and cut up down trees and take it away, they both have wood burning stoves and love to put the effort in for exchange for free wood (and you get your wood taken away for free - its a good deal!). I don't know how close the trees are to your house (or your neighbors), you might want to take responsibility for cutting trees down, but I'm sure if you don't know someone with a stove, you could probably run an ad in craigs list, I'm sure you'll get some help.

Here's my update....

It was so warm today (45ish?) and sunny that I HAD to get outside. I've had bad cabin fever. I've basically ripped out every box I had and started a whole new layout. Some boxes I took out in the fall and hubby made me 2 nice table tops. I never got to finish the rest and still had a 4 x 6 box left, right where my 3 new 2 x 6's will go. So I took the opportunity with the weather today to get that all ready. New boxes are made (i think I just want to paint them before I set them out) but lots had to be done to get them placed.

Here's an overview from 2 weeks ago. 4 x 6 and the wheelbarrow full of extra MM is covered in plastic


Here's an overview at the end of the day today. The random bamboo sticks are guidelines for where my new boxes go. I now have an overflowing wheelbarrow, a vermiculite bag, the fabric weed bag, a compost bag, half of a recycling bucket, and my mini wagon full of Mels Mix, all waiting for the new boxes. This was stuff from the old boxes, not new mix.


Here's one of the new boxes, with a short PVC frame that will hold the plastic for a "greenhouse" and then act as a sort of cage for the tomatos. Can't wait to put them outside!
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Re: Mid-Atlantic February update

Post  Furbalsmom on 2/6/2011, 11:59 pm

Jen, it is looking good.

I really llike that frame for your mini greenhouse on the new box (is that one of your 2 X 6's?)

Wow, that is a lot of Mel's Mix. Glad you took the time to reclaim it from the boxes you were not going to use. Though, it probably was a lot of work. Enjoy those Table Tops

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Re: Mid-Atlantic February update

Post  Megan on 2/7/2011, 2:56 am

Wow, Jen, that looks fantastic! You are way ahead of me.

My backyard: The tree is huge, right on the fenceline with the neighbor (it's gotten so big it's pushed the fence out of place) and it is maybe 10 feet from the back of the house....so while it'd be great to just call someone one over, I'd feel better having someone licensed and insured to evaluate and work on it. It has the potential to do serious damage if it comes down wrong.

Mexican torch is a smaller sunflower from what I understand, seems to grow more as a bush and maybe 4-5 feet tall. I'll have to do some more googling.

What did you use for the bottoms of your tabletops?
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Re: Mid-Atlantic February update

Post  jerzyjen on 2/7/2011, 6:08 pm

My table top bottoms are plywood with holes drilled in the bottom. This was made from repurposed treated lumber (long story short, made a mistake in the backyard and was glad to recoup some of the money by repurposing). So... yeah there is the whole treated lumber thing but I did line the bottoms and sides with plastic before I drilled the holes, then drilled right through the plastic. I'm not too worried about it, heck I live in New Jersey the air I'm breathing is probably much worse than anything the plastic or treated lumber can do to me lol. I'm hoping it will hold up for a few years at least. I could have never built them without hubby, I can make a ground box but thats about it for my skillz.

Megan I hear ya about the tree, you don't want to take a chance with someone thats not insured & bonded.

That last photo is one of the 2 x 6's. I do have a TON of mel's mix, I have a feeling I will have some extra when I get the new boxes filled but who knows. My back is a little sore today from relocating the MM but its worth it when I think about how much time and money I spent it on that first season (and again last season when I had to make more for new boxes). If I have too much extra, I may have to think about adding pots around the back deck or something... I'm sure I'll find a use for it Very Happy
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Re: Mid-Atlantic February update

Post  Dunkinjean on 2/7/2011, 10:12 pm

Hi Jen and Megan,

It was in the low 40's here today and partly sunny which is extremely warm in comparision to what it has been.

We are still snowed under here in Central NJ. Our street which is a side street is finally clear.

I want to start planning my garden, but it difficult when my SFG's are under 1' of snow.

Luckily this past fall we made another 2 4x6's which I now have 3 boxes.

The forecast for tonight and tomorrow is rain changing to snow - but only about 1" if that.

We are all so tired of this long winter with alot of snow! We broke a record in January.

I can't believe what a difference there is between here and Jen's location.

Here's hoping spring will come alot sooner...... flower

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Re: Mid-Atlantic February update

Post  jerzyjen on 2/8/2011, 4:25 pm

Wow I can't believe you still have snow on your boxes after the weekend. I'm in burlington county, I can't be too far from you. We got rain on Saturday which washed alot of it away but it was close, a few more degrees lower and it could have been more snow, maybe thats the difference. Soon enough we will all be pushing seeds into our mels mix Smile CANT WAIT!!!!
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Re: Mid-Atlantic February update

Post  Megan on 2/8/2011, 5:44 pm

We still have snow, too, not much but it's there! I am getting the spring itch, too, but I just remember what happened last year.... a wonderful warm snap in February, and then boom! Three feet of snow! TWICE!

I spied a pallet next door at work tonight. I'm going a-hunting tomorrow!
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Re: Mid-Atlantic February update

Post  camprn on 2/8/2011, 7:47 pm

I hear pallet hunting, whilst waiting for Spring, is good for one's Health. What a Face
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Re: Mid-Atlantic February update

Post  Megan on 2/8/2011, 7:54 pm

If I was to eat one (not that I would), would that be good for my palate?
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Re: Mid-Atlantic February update

Post  camprn on 2/8/2011, 7:57 pm

Hmm, I suggest you give it a try and get back to the group with your results...Who knows, they might grow on you.
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Re: Mid-Atlantic February update

Post  Megan on 2/8/2011, 7:59 pm

Mmm, yes. What kind of ammunition does one use for a pallet, anyway?
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ready for spring in zone 6b

Post  Weatherkid on 2/9/2011, 12:57 pm

Hi everyone, I'm Joel from Maryland. I've been SFGing since 2009, but this is my first year starting seedlings inside this early in the year (broccoli and onions). I was wondering if anyone had any tips concerning starting veggies inside.

Thanks
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Re: Mid-Atlantic February update

Post  camprn on 2/9/2011, 4:15 pm

Weatherkid wrote:Hi everyone, I'm Joel from Maryland. I've been SFGing since 2009, but this is my first year starting seedlings inside this early in the year (broccoli and onions). I was wondering if anyone had any tips concerning starting veggies inside.

Thanks
Hi Weatherkid, Welcome back to the forum. Your question is quite broad and i just don't know where to start, so I will direct you to the search feature where you will be able to find a number of threads that may hold answers for you. If you have a more specific question I can try to answer it as best I can. Again, Welcome back! Glad to have you here! happy hi
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Re: Mid-Atlantic February update

Post  Megan on 2/9/2011, 7:07 pm

Hi Joel, welcome to the forum! Smile Getting any snow tonight? We seem to be getting a little dusting here.

I tried starting seedlings indoors last year and did not do very well at it. Here is what I learned:

* It's best to let the peat pucks (if you're using those) dry out a bit, don't keep them soggy.

* I found out later I should have had the lights very low, close to the soil surface / tops of the seedlings. (Which wouldn't have helped me in my case, as I didn't have the sort of light that I could adjust very well.) I didn't, so my seedlings get extremely leggy. I tried transplanting those and direct seeding, and honestly, the direct seeding beat the pants off the leggy seedlings. (Properly started indoor ones may have been a different story.) The good news in my case was that I had a great season with seeds I planted directly, even if some crops were a little later.

Are you wanting to use the onions as big chives, or as actual onions? I am still a bit fuzzy on this but I think if you start onions from seed you may not see a harvest for a couple of years. (I would be glad to hear from someone more experienced on this topic.)

Happy gardening! flower
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Re: Mid-Atlantic February update

Post  Weatherkid on 2/11/2011, 4:51 pm

Thanks for the input, I'm using a sunny window for light... (maybe I should switch to fluorescent?). The broccoli has just sprouted and so have the onions. I was planning on using the onions as real onions, but if they'll only be ready in a couple years... I guess I'll use them as chives/scallions.

Last year I had trouble starting a couple vegetables from direct seeding (namely beets and radishes), the rest seemed to do fine. I got broccoli seedlings from the store and they worked great, I just thought I'd try starting them from seed this year.

Oh, can you plant tomatoes directly into the garden and still get a crop?

Thanks again for the comments.

Joel
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Re: Mid-Atlantic February update

Post  Furbalsmom on 2/11/2011, 5:29 pm

Weatherkid wrote:Thanks for the input, I'm using a sunny window for light... (maybe I should switch to fluorescent?). The broccoli has just sprouted and so have the onions. I was planning on using the onions as real onions, but if they'll only be ready in a couple years... I guess I'll use them as chives/scallions.

Last year I had trouble starting a couple vegetables from direct seeding (namely beets and radishes), the rest seemed to do fine. I got broccoli seedlings from the store and they worked great, I just thought I'd try starting them from seed this year.

Oh, can you plant tomatoes directly into the garden and still get a crop?

Thanks again for the comments.

Joel

Check the following links to discussions on lights for starting seedllings.

Lights

Leggy Plants

Trouble starting radishes by direct seeding? When did you try to start them? They are usually pretty easy to start around the last frost date, but they do not like frost. They also do not like heat, so they are better in the Spring or Fall, rather than summer season.
Beets also like cooler weather. They can be planted a couple of weeks before your last frost date.

Unless you have a really long warm season, it is usually better to start tomato seeds inside about 6 - 8 weeks before your last frost and transplant into your garden a couple of weeks after your last frost date. We have had members comment that they have succesfully direct seeded in their gardens, with a short delay in getting ripe fruit. Perhaps they can comment on direct seeding tomatoes. I would think the biggest concern is how long is your warm season
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Re: Mid-Atlantic February update

Post  Megan on 2/11/2011, 6:24 pm

Joel,

It was I who direct-seeded the tomatoes. (I tried starting them indoors, too, but that didn't work so well.) I am just a little south of you but essentially same area.

The tomatoes (and peppers) I direct-seeded took their own sweet time about sprouting. Not too surprising considering the HUGE snowpack we had in April...plus my beds were on the north side of the house and did not get the direct morning sun that would have helped the soil warm up faster.

Once they sprouted they were VERY sturdy...the stems were very thick for their height, nothing like the ones I'd tried to start indoors (same seed.) Here is a photo of one that I took on May 12th. If you look at where the two leaves come together and just left/up from that (around 10:30pm-11pm on the clock dial) that is the stem. The big thing next to the sprout is a cut twig I stuck in to mark where I'd put the seed.



I covered it with the top of a small water bottle to help protect it and conserve moisture:


Here it is again, 4 days later on 5/16:


And again 5/31, lower left. (I think I moved it closer to the trellis.) There is another tomato plant 2 squares up but it's hidden by the borage.


June 22:


July 15:


So, you can see I had a slow start. However, I got to laugh at my coworkers who were crying about their tomato plants drying up and dying while mine were just getting started. They were still bearing at the end September. I had fresh tomatoes (ripened from the greenies I picked when my HOA insisted I tear the garden out) into early December.

As for radishes: I had no problem with them. They do not like hot weather or hot soil, though. Direct-plant early spring or mid-late fall; they do not like to be transplanted.

I didn't plant broccoli last year because a local friend told me they'd had trouble growing it. I grew rapini (broccoli raab) instead, and it did wonderfully. (It's also, relatively, a much smaller plant that broccoli, you can get 4 in a square.)
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Re: Mid-Atlantic February update

Post  Weatherkid on 2/13/2011, 9:45 pm

Thanks for the wonderful advice...the pictures were awesome. I think I'll be starting at least some tomatoes from seed this year. Smile

Joel
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Re: Mid-Atlantic February update

Post  Megan on 2/14/2011, 7:30 am

Welcome, and me, too! Wink (Especially since I want to try some of Camprn's Gilberties.) But I do want to head over to DeBaggio's this spring. They had a great selection last year, I just got there a little late in the game.
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Re: Mid-Atlantic February update

Post  jerzyjen on 2/14/2011, 8:49 am

No wonder you had so much pesto Megan, look at all that basil! I haven't had that kind of sucess with basil yet, so if you have a secret please share! I actually bought a new packet of seeds this year hoping a different variety might help. I'll be trying an organic Genevese. I learned my first year that you have to pinch or harvest often in order for it to "get bushy" but even doing that I still didn't get all that much last year.

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Re: Mid-Atlantic February update

Post  Lavender Debs on 2/14/2011, 9:04 am

Megan wrote:Mmm, yes. What kind of ammunition does one use for a pallet, anyway?
Nail gun
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Re: Mid-Atlantic February update

Post  Megan on 2/14/2011, 6:15 pm

I have to laugh... that was before the basil got big. Those 3 squares were CHOCK FULL of basil... I think I planned them 4 to a square. Here are the little monsters in September:


A week later, I had this. I am certain many of you have had bigger basil harvests, but since all my previous ones were absolutely zilch, I was very excited!


When I was harvesting I actually got tired. I'd pull a huge plant and realize, well, that didn't dint the supply much, now did it?!

I used the Genovese myself, from Baker Creek. This was the first year I had ANY success at all with basil. :scratch: For years I'd tried to grow it from starts bought at box stores, and every last time it failed to thrive and died a nasty, yellow, spindly death. Indoors or outdoors, didn't matter. Outdoors it seemed like something was eating it, too.

The only thing I did this time is to plant from seed, and I planted directly in the soil...did not transplant. I pinched any bloom spikes I saw, as soon as I saw them start to form, but other than that I left it alone. It was well watered along with everything else.
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Re: Mid-Atlantic February update

Post  jerzyjen on 2/14/2011, 10:53 pm

That's a beautiful bowl of basil Smile

So...slowly but surely I'm almost there. The bad news is I have to make more mel's mix Sad My least favorite part . I'm a little more than half a box shy. Here's photos from today. It was so warm and sunny today (crazy wind though) it was hard not to start planting.





So besides planting, I want to paint the table tops white, paint the strawberry squares (on the end) brown to match the others and general cleanup and fresh mulch. I'm going to put some companion flowers in small pots in front of (or maybe a little bit under) the table tops. They will only be shaded in the morning. I also am adding some of the white ladder looking things to hide my meter box with climbing flowers, morning glories and clematis. I'm really focusing on how the garden looks this year, not just how it tastes. I'm going to do some of my veggies in rows, more like a french garden bed. I'll still be doing everything else the same, just no grids.

That's my v-day update. I love my garden.
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Re: Mid-Atlantic February update

Post  Dunkinjean on 2/16/2011, 11:38 pm

Hi Megan & Jen:

I can not believe that Jen's garden has no snow and it is that warm!

Jen, your garden looks lovely!!

Here in Central NJ our snow is finally melting but has a ways to go. We still have alot of snow around the yard.

This week the temps have been increasing - Fri is to be 60 degrees (then drop again over the weekend.

I am going to West Falls, NY (1/2 hr from Buffalo, NY) with hubby for a week - of course they have snow! We are going to visit our grandson for his 3rd birthday - can't wait! (The pic is of him) in my avatar.

While there, I am going to start planning my gardens on paper - we added 2 more 4x4s in the fall without any MM's along with purchasing the Vermiculite. Now I need to get the additional Peat Moss and Compost when they are available.

Last year I grew basil and it did well., so I might as well grow it again.
I don't grow any seeds indoor.
I grew most of my veg's from direct seed in the ground in the spring except for the tomato and pepper plants.

Hopefully, when we return the snow will be gone......

I am still dreaming of spring...

Dunkin Jean

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