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The Toy Box (the return)

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The Toy Box (the return)

Post  Lavender Debs on 2/12/2011, 3:19 pm

Happy birthday Mr. President.....
Humm, too cold out for the slinky Marilyn outfit, a baggy WSU sweatshirt and gritty old garden gloves will have to do. No matter, it is Lincoln’s birthday, the day my gram’ma and I went out, whatever the weather, to plant a row of peas.

Today was nearly balmy. Fifty degrees (F) with a light breeze.

First things first. Before replanting in last year’s MM I did what I always do, stirred up a bucket of lovejoy, named for the Seattle gardener who shared her secrets. I know that Mr. Mel say's I only need to add compost, but the worms seem to like lovejoy. (shhh, the secret blend is 1 part home-grown compost, 1 part bagged steer manure, and 2 parts alfalfa meal or pellets). I have used it for years to refresh my potted plants so it makes sense to my stubborn head to use it in the Toy Box.

Gardening Tools. Not quite as traditional as rake and hoe. The twine looks familiar. I wonder what has become of my rake and hoe. I wonder if Ray wonders where his boys left the hammer this time.

First sprinkle on a layer of lovejoy, than fluff the mix as you work in the lovejoy... wait, what’s this? What grew here last year? I never ran into these kinds of surprises the first year. Happy happy!

Nice neat pea squares. There is Golden Sweet Snow Peas, Super Sugar Snaps, Canoe shelling peas, Dakota shelling peas, and my all time favorite, Maestro shelling peas. Writing it all down, it sounds a little ambitious.

There's peas, and peas, and peas, and, oh look! Fava Beans. Are these not the prettist seeds you have ever seen? I've never grown Fava beans before. I am just a tiny bit worried that the Toy Box will be too shallow, but I'm gonna give it a go any way. Why am I suddenly wondering if I should open a bottle of Chianti for Mr. Lincoln's birthday.

There are two kinds of Fava's. The pretty pinkish seed is Broad Windsor. These darker seeds are called Nigeretta, (I'll have to check on the spelling). The grow four to a square. The pink seed is advertised as getting about four feet tall. The darker seed should be about a foot shorter.

If the weather holds, and it is not supposed to, I'll spread a little lovejoy around the leeks and strawberries, maybe over the asparagus beds and in the blueberry pots too. It is cold out despite the warm temperatures. The wind is picking up, but the peas don't mind. They are tucked into bed. There is something normal about my life once again.

Deborah....sipping tea, more for the heat the mug gives my hands than the taste on my tongue (oh look! There’s dirt in my fingernails!)

The early part of the day will be calm before the storm. Heavy rain with too much wind to make an umbrella of any use this afternoon. Those who are paid to say so are saying heavy rains will soak us at least until Valentine’s Day. Highs to 52, only dropping to the low 40's tonight.

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Re: The Toy Box (the return)

Post  Furbalsmom on 2/12/2011, 9:04 pm

Glad to see the Toy Box again. I really enjoy your adventures in the garden.

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Re: The Toy Box (the return)

Post  miinva on 2/13/2011, 10:46 pm

Your garden looks wonderful! Tomorrow I'll be planting some peas Smile

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Re: The Toy Box (the return)

Post  Aub on 2/14/2011, 12:45 am

Just curious... Why is it called the Toy Box?

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Re: The Toy Box (the return)

Post  Lavender Debs on 2/16/2011, 6:16 pm

A pretty, balmy day in Western Washington. Good video weather. Had to scold my shadow a couple of times. That has not happened in a while.


@ FBmom...thanks!!
@ miinva...did you get your peas in?
@ Aub...I started my first SFG at the same time a cyber friend in Texas started her French intensive garden. Hers is fifty feet by fifty feet. She refers to her garden as "small". If hers is small than mine is no more than a toy box. The name stuck.

What a skitzo kind of a day. Beautiful clear skies for sunrise, pelting rain for lunch. We are supposed to get T-storms before dinner and snow for breakfast.

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Re: The Toy Box (the return)

Post  Furbalsmom on 2/16/2011, 6:56 pm

It's nice to be able to find you shadow in the PNW this time of year.

I am really interested in how the Winter Sowing of Artichokes goes. I started mine inside a couple of days ago.

Did you use pea inoculant? My peas and beans will be going into a brand new bed and I have read that they do better, especially the first year if you use the inoculant. Some articles indicate that once you have grown peas or beans in a particular area, you don't need the inoculant anymore.

If you did use the inoculant, did you just dust the peas/beans or did you actually add the inoculant to the soil? What is your experience with them?


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SFG Cloche

Post  Lavender Debs on 2/16/2011, 8:15 pm


My son Chris made the first (I hope it is just the first) SFG cloche custom fit to snug into the grid. They were going to be made of PVC but he said it was too hard to get the angles right (I wonder how long he has been working on them). This one looks to be made of 1x2" wood, covered in storm window plastic, the clear kind that shrinks with a hairdryer. Thanks Chris!

@fbmom...It has been so warm in Everett this February that I did not use inoculant this year (or last year). Do you have a copy of Steve Solomon's book, Gardening West of the Cascades (subtitle has the word Maritime in it... cannot find the book just now). He was the founder of TSC back in the day. He wrote that inoculant helps when it is too cold for microbial activity in your soil. If your soil isn't frozen or close to it neither helps nor hurts. I was fine last year but I'm right up the hill from the sea. I use enough home grown compost that I seem to be fine.

When I have used it (you probably know how to do this already.... ) I drop the seeds in a jar of water, drain the seed and drop them into a plastic bag of inoculant, give it a shake and plant the coated seed. You can also make a furrow (like you might in a row garden), put the inoculant in the bottom of the furrow, put the seed on top of the inoculant and cover it with soil. For me it is easier to get the seed wet and shake them in the bag of inoculant. Every little breeze sends the dust flying.

Deborah.....thinking a few lettuce seeds under that cloche would be a good idea.

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Re: The Toy Box (the return)

Post  miinva on 2/17/2011, 10:13 pm

Wow, I loved your video! Very Happy

I planted peas yesterday, as well as some greens like mizuna and miner's lettuce and tatsoi. I can't wait to see the peas come up! Speaking of which, my winter savory and epazote sprouted in their little yogurt cups on my kitchen table weeee

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Re: The Toy Box (the return)

Post  FarmerValerie on 2/18/2011, 8:44 am

Thanks for the video Deb, I loved having coffee with you this morning, even though I'm an hour or two ahead of you!!!

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They said it was coming...

Post  Lavender Debs on 2/22/2011, 4:18 pm

I should have put my pot of thyme under the cover, but no, I left it out to split into two. Gurrrr! Stupid job that keeps me at my desk!

The pot at the far end of the deck is the thyme. Poor thing.

There must be a hole in the clouds somewhere. The sun is so bright that it hurts to look at anything but the flakes are still coming down.

Fruit trees and infant peas. Sometimes spring snow comes as late as April. Late February doesn't really count as spring in the PNW. When snow comes in April I start worrying about losing tree blossoms (and the fruit that comes after). The blueberry buds are swelling but nothing else. Even the blues are nowhere near blossom time, just fattening up.

Just yesterday I started three new containers of micro-greens in the kitchen. In a few days there will be something fresh. Leeks have not been moved yet. I'm thinking that is a good thing. Maybe if I have containers I'll start some broccoli and more artichokes tonight.

Deborah....praying for the sailors and families of the Somali disaster. And while I'm at it, I know that the Riggle's and Mrcay's families would love that I honor the martyrdom of their parents by praying for the pirates to come to Messiah in much the same way those who killed Jim Elliot did. Elohim have Mercy!

Been snowing since early this morning. More is probably on the way. Smart money is betting on snow for the next couple of days, wet and heavy; then comes serious cold.

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Re: The Toy Box (the return)

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 2/22/2011, 7:01 pm

Is this sort of a personalized thread for your garden....along with miscellaneous comments and commentary? If so, I think it's great. Didn't know it was allowed, but we should all be doing something like this instead of starting jillions of separate threads. Makes it easier to find who's garden you are following....and makes it easier to backtrack to last week.

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Re: The Toy Box (the return)

Post  Furbalsmom on 2/22/2011, 8:05 pm

LavenderDebs wrote:The pot at the far end of the deck is the thyme. Poor thing.

You should be able to save the poor baby. My thyme has been pretty tough, I have divided it and it took a bit to brighten back up, but it did fine. Thyme is one of my favorite herbs, I use it on roasted chicken and almost always in my vinaigrette, when I am making romaine salad with feta cheese.

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Re: The Toy Box (the return)

Post  Lavender Debs on 2/25/2011, 1:56 pm



As fate would have it, the potted thyme seems to be just fine. I snipped a bit off for a cheesy garlic and herb bread that I made to go with the slow cooked spaghetti and meat balls. My reasoning is that I need to heat up the house. Home baked bread seems like a good idea while I can still wear layers of clothes and no one can see how much I am growing. Baking bread (using that handy-dandy feature that keeps the oven just warm enough to proof the dough) worked so well for me that I made cinnamon rolls yesterday (February 24). Everyone loved their mommy. Baking is an activity that gives me a solid connection to those who came before me. The deep questions of life can be considered, like, "Is one fresh from the oven roll really enough?" or "Is four too many if you only frost one of them?" (There may have been Merlot involved)



The only thing showing off in the Toy Box this early are the leeks that should have been dug up, moved to a new square refreshed with lovejoy, spaced and set deeper with mulch to blanch the stems. A late February snow storm gives me permission to be a little on the slothful side. Suddenly it seems that there is no rush to finish the chores that seemed rather urgent just a few days ago.



The Artichoke is stuck inside with the new batch of Micro-Greens. It seems like it is a good day to live in a kitchen window, but Miss Artichoke longs to be where she can dance in the breeze instead of just distracting me from the dishes that I should take care of. I've put off starting more seed because I am out of starting mix. All my extra MM is frozen in a bucket and the bag of commercial potting mix that I use for the micro-greens has too much bark in it to give a baby a strong start in life. I'll pick up more starting mix today (Friday, February 25) and if no other chores call my name tonight than maybe those broccoli and artichoke seeds will actually get started.

Deborah.....singing salsa music to encourage happy babies to grow! (and to dance off the cinnamon rolls)



Fire and Ice. The clouds have parted to reveal a wide expanse of blue sky but the chill pushing in from the Frasier River Valley (and the fact that it IS still February) keep the night too cold to spend much time star-gazing. Highs in the mid 30's when the thermometer isn't directly in the sun, lows are promised to be in the teens tonight.

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My Parsley has sprouted!

Post  Lavender Debs on 3/3/2011, 9:05 am

That might not be a big deal to most gardeners, but MY PARSLEY HAS SPROUTED! I have the worst time getting a pot of spring parsley going but using the winter sowing method worked for me. Yeah!

Spent yesterday afternoon rolling paper pots, filling them with a starting mix and planting a ridicules number of Tomatoes. A sweet nurse from NH sent me some of her tomato seeds which have gone missing. I have the envelope that they came in but the seeds are gone. Yikes, I was so looking forward to trying those. Did you know that if you have one of those Peat Pot containers, the green house type, that you can make a paper pot from a "shooter" type glass and the pots will fit right into the divots for the peat pots. Who knew?

Even though I don't like transplanting broccoli, I started nine small pots, which are showing signs of sprouting. I've been trying to figure out how to balance out the nitrogen in my boxes. My reading up on growing broccoli seems to indicate that the small-ish heads on lush plants is a high nitrogen problem. I still have a month to figure it all out. Just in case I do not get it taken care of, I have a broccoli-kale cross that is grown for kale like leaves and sweet, tender broccoli like side shoots in lovely shades of lavender and green. Gardeners who grew it last year are raving about it. It goes by the name "Purple Peacock".

One year ago today I started the "Toy Box" thread. The weather on that day was bright and balmy, though the year turned out cold and gloomy in the PNW. You just never know what a year will bring.

Deborah....Looking forward to the new moon on Friday to start spinaches and salad greens


The weather is acting like an adolescent girl who can't decide who she is, Sun breaks, rain, sleet and hail, wind to 25 mph (which is nice after it got up to 60 mph and coming from all directions yesterday) Spring must be fixen to sprong.

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Re: The Toy Box (the return)

Post  jumiclads on 3/3/2011, 11:06 am

Great video Debs, I enjoyed watching that. I may try one of those soon if I am not camera shy.

Look forward to seeing more episodes.

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Garbanzo Beans and Leeks

Post  Lavender Debs on 3/5/2011, 6:49 pm


In my quest to grow calories this year, I was delighted to find that Uprising Seeds offered all kinds of choices. But when I read that the black garbanzo beans they offered were producing in cool soil AND were to be started at the same time as peas, there was no holding me back! As of today I have filled the four center squares of box 3 with garbanzos (nine to a square).

There were a few more leeks in the nursery square of box two than I thought. After lifting them from Box 2, I put 12 into one square and six more into another square of Box 3.

If you have never transplanted onions or leeks before, you may not appreciate why this humble vegetable is so expensive. A nursery box of thread size seedlings (started from seed in a square the previous late summer) is allowed to overwinter. The following spring I take a hand shovel and loosen the soil under the plants that are now anywhere from yarn to pencil thickness. They get both a root trim and a leaf trim just before being put back into their new bed. They like a rich soil mix. A fresh shovel full of lovejoy was worked into the soil.

I've never done this in a SFG. There is more room to work in a row garden. This was a test! Instead of making a ridge to set the trimmed plants on, I had to dig down and make little mini strawberry like cones to spread the roots on. I also had to have a bucket of MM at the ready to make sure I had enough soil to work with.

It is a pretty, early spring day out and I still have all kinds of greens to poke into the soil. Before I was able to get to that happy chore Ray stepped out the kitchen door and asked if I'd like to go get the lumber to make the two new beds we had been talking about. Oh ya!

Deborah.....maybe I still have time to get those greens into the ground today
The day started out overcast but the bitter wind was gone. The valley was filled with birdsong. Their melody is so beautiful that the clouds parted to allow the angels a closer listen. 48/36. Moon phase picture from Accuweather

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Re: The Toy Box (the return)

Post  Megan on 3/5/2011, 8:44 pm

How beautiful, and inspiring, Debs.... thank you for sharing! Really good information, too. I don't think I'm ready for leeks yet, I am just hoping I will not kill my potato onions.

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Re: The Toy Box (the return)

Post  Lavender Debs on 3/6/2011, 3:17 pm

Thank you so much Megan, that is really kind!

So, we went and bought lumber yesterday. I kept saying, 8 or 10 inch is really big enough. He'd say I think you'll like 12. Me, sure, but I've got to fill the box with hand mixed MM, I think 8 or 10 is good. Him....not really talking to me, because of course 12 is what I want. .....but all that mixing and blending and dumping.

It is true, making Mel's Mix is a one time job. When filling the box is finally finished this will be absolutely awesome. Even fava beans should grow well in here. The reason I have not started yet is because it still needs to be leveled. One side is about seven inches lower than the other. Leveling has always been the guys job. Filling is mine. I gotta get me a cement mixer because I'm not getting any younger. Another, just like it, is sitting on the deck waiting to be put together.

This is that cloche that Chris made for me. I'm still hoping that it is only the first of many. This one has a nursery bed of nine broccoli starts (4 different kinds including a broccoli kale cross called Purple Peacock.) It is not as warm out as it was at this time last year but it has been warm enough to let everything stay out during the day. The natural light keeps my seedlings from getting leggy.

This is not really part of my SFG, but it is IN my SFG. My itty-bitty cold frame sits in box 4. These are micro greens that have moved out here. They were just getting too leggy in the kitchen. They all have a week or so before they are ready to use. I think this will be the last batch of the season. I plan to crowd some of my greens and use the thinnings from the SFG for the next round. I did actually get my red spinach and baby bok-choi into the ground yesterday but had not yet thought about over planting for thinnings. With the peas, leeks, garbanzo beans and favas, box 3 is nearly full. I have about 3 squares left for mixed lettuces and mescaline mix.

These are artichokes. The one in back was started in the kitchen. The one in front has been sitting in the cold frame with the other wintersowing containers since January. Can you see the little sprout coming up? Just when I was thinking everything probably rotted, up comes a pretty green sprout.

Deborah....whose neighbor looked over the fence long enough to scold Ray about letting me "push the season"....I'm not sure what he means.
The sun kept peeking out. It felt so good, I didn't even want to wear my sweater. Rain if fixen to come back tomorrow. Think I'll just live in the moment for today. 47/34 (shhh, it got up to 50 this afternoon)

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Re: The Toy Box (the return)

Post  janine on 3/7/2011, 12:56 am

A newbie question for you, Deb:

The Book (somehow I feel like that it should be written that way Smile says to plant peas five weeks before the last frost. The Victory Seeds website says that last frost in Seattle is on 4/20. So you were planting your peas more than two months ahead of that. Clearly it's ok to deviate from the guidelines, but when you do that, how do you know when it's the right time?

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Wanting That Purple Peacock!!!

Post  bettyd_z7_va on 3/7/2011, 1:38 am

Oh Deborah!

You have that Purple Peacock that I have on my wish list!

It sounded so delicious in the TS catalog.

I'll be anxiously waiting for updates on it. lol

Betty

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Re: The Toy Box (the return)

Post  boffer on 3/7/2011, 10:09 am

@janine wrote:...Clearly it's ok to deviate from the guidelines, but when you do that, how do you know when it's the right time?

You never know it's the right time until it comes and goes! And then it's too late to do anything.

When it comes to cool crops, I practice the theory that earlier is better in the PNW with the understanding that sometimes I'll win and sometimes I'll lose. I moved up my outdoor seeding to late January this year, and I'm losing. This has been a cool/dark Feb. and stuff is a lot slower than last year. Oh well...until I get a greenhouse, that's the way it is.

But, occasionally we have a glorious Feb., and it's fun to be eating fresh from the garden in late March.

(This is strictly my approach; not suitable for everyone's temperament!)




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Leeks

Post  ander217 on 3/7/2011, 10:15 am

Deb, I am growing leeks for the first time this year. I have the little green threads growing in my window flat. Can I plant them directly to MM in my 4 x 4 box?

I plan to grow some in mid-summer for fall harvest. Can I direct-sow those or should I be starting them now inside?

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Re: The Toy Box (the return)

Post  Lavender Debs on 3/7/2011, 10:27 am

@Betty; What stopped you from getting Purple Peacock? I've never grown it either. The few bloggers I found writing about it seemed delighted with it. I'm also anxious for it to get all grown up. I have enough seed to send you a micro sample if you like.

@Janine; That is actually a good question J. I am not a scientist, I like to say that I roll more by faith (which is usually seen as the opposite of science) but really, the whole Pea planting thing is actually tradition, approved by neither faith nor science. It is more dumb-luck than anything.

There does not seem to be any real advantage to planting so early. The Creator has given even lowly seeds the sense to wait until the time is right to sprout. This forum is dedicated to "The Book" and you will not go wrong following it. It was my gram'ma who used to take me out to plant peas on Lincoln’s birthday. Imagine my surprise, learning at school that President Lincoln was remembered for more honorable things than when peas should be planted. Peas are hardy. I have seen them survive hard killing frosts, snow and light hail. The only thing that seems to kill them every time is Stellar Jays who don't want to eat them so much as see what is under them. Putting up a tepee and hanging a mesh bag of peanuts from the top keeps these amazingly intelligent birds occupied (make sure the mesh is large enough to get a peanut out but small enough to prevent them from getting their head stuck in the bag!). It is also a good idea to put a chick-wire tunnel over the square.

I also go by seasonal ques. When crocuses sprout it is time to plant Fava Beans. Most cold weather food can be planted when Maples have their first tiny leaves. But tradition still rules my season. St Patrick’s day is for potatoes (and peas if I missed the Presidents Birthday). April Fool's for greens and the broccoli family (direct seed). May Day for starting tropical’s, like peppers and eggplant, inside so they are ready to plant out in mid June. Memorial Weekend for nearly everything else. If I go strictly by tradition, then corn has to wait until a man can sit in only a loin-cloth on the bare dirt for 20 minutes without pain. (One of my great grandmothers was a Blackfoot Indian, that one came from her). My guys are Scottish....maybe they will go out in a kilt (I've actually seen what they wear under them)

Gardening is a gamble. The government has tried to ease the pain of gambling for farmers who make a huge investment in one kind of seed (often covered by government loans or government money to banks). USDA Zones and their last frost dates are good science. If my small garden is destroyed by a killing frost or big hail, it is heartbreaking but it doesn't break me. I can start over. A farmer who has invested everything into her main crop may find it difficult to just start over. She is not a gambler, she is trying to make a living. If you are just starting the gardening game give yourself every advantage. Use every tool that has proven sound through the years. But if you want to have a little gambling thrill, stack the odds in your favor, learn everything you can about your target plant (like peas) and your personal micro-climate. Take some risks, you could lose, you could win. Last year was an exceptionally cool year in western Washington state. My early beans all tanked but my main season beans were lovely.

Debs….welcome to Wonder Land Janine!

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Re: The Toy Box (the return)

Post  FarmerValerie on 3/7/2011, 10:54 am

It is also funny that it is Lincoln's birthday that is remembered for peas (I think it's more for easy memory than anything) rather than the 3rd President who loved peas, Jefferson, but then Jefferson's birthday is in April. Jefferson planted several crops of peas, many different varieties and planted in succession so he had peas on his table from April till freeze. I got a copy of his garden book, more of a record book, and he kept more details on his peas than anything else in his garden, noting when they were planted, and when the first batch "came to table".

I keep a close eye on the Farmer's Almanac, the coats on the animals on my area, and the date of Easter. Around here when Easter is late, so is spring, and I learned last year most of those who have gardened to survive all their life wait until the pecan trees start to bud to plant seeds outside for late spring and summer crops. Another very good source of information is a local coffee shop, just sit and listen to anyone who has been in the area, and has gardened, or hit up the local feed stores, you will find all kinds of info there, my favorite are mom and pop kinds.

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Re: The Toy Box (the return)

Post  Lavender Debs on 3/7/2011, 11:06 am

@Ander; I have been gardening in the PNW for the whole of my gardening life. I am at a loss anywhere east of the Cascade foothills and south of the Applegate River.

In the PNW you don't actually need multiple seeding dates. Leeks are harvest as you go plants. I take the largest to my kitchen and let the rest keep growing. If you were in the PNW this is what I would tell you....

Since your seedlings are "threads" don't clip the roots. Be gentle when you lift them (they will survive most other abuse). Prepare your square with rich compost. You can even make your planting cone of pure (homegrown) compost. Dig deep enough so that you can plant up to the first leaf joint (to blanch the plant). Clip off half the "thread" (to prevent transpiration), spread the root over the soil "cone" and fill in with mix.

There is no rush in the PNW to get spring started transplants into the ground. The longer they are crowded in a nursery bed the taller they will get. The taller they are the deeper they can be planted which means more of the nice white part of the leek for you.

You have to try really hard to kill a leek, even then they don't often die. Rookie mistakes will be forgiven by the hearty leek (and you are no rooky!)

I think you could get away with 16 to a square. I only went with 12 because I have 19 plants (more coming, they were part of a collection of starts I ordered from TSC). By August in the PNW they should be a fat pencil size (the kind you give to a 1st grader). You can mulch them with shredded paper or grass clippings (or any garden clippings like pea vines or potato leaves) to blanch them even more. Start lifting the largest in September; fill the hole they leave with compost. The rest will keep growing and may last well past Christmas getting bigger and bigger.

Deborah...Hope that helps.

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Re: The Toy Box (the return)

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