February 29, 2012

What Do You Do with All Your Extra Seedlings that You Don't Have Room For?

The tomato plants have germinated at much higher rates than expected. Hmmm. What to do. What to do. Do I give half of them away? Or do I plant them all out and change my planting schedule for the year? I had wanted to experiment with planting greens and herbs like my grandma who always grows a nice big patch to wrap eggrolls, spring rolls, and banh xeo with. Actually I had a gigantic growing schedule planned which you can see at the bottom of the page. But I do enjoy growing plants that produce huge amounts of produce that are fairly carefree, because let's face it lettuces, greens, broccoli, etc. require more weeding and more watering when it starts to warm quickly. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy weeding but I enjoy harvesting vegetables more.

The new planting list:
  • tomato
  • leek
  • sweet and hot pepper
  • eggplant
  • summer squash
  • zucchini
  • okra
  • bush green bean
  • pole green bean
  • cucumber
  • luffa
  • bitter melon
  • cushaw winter squash
  • lettuce
  • basil and dill amongst the eggplant and squash
The other cool weather crops will just have to be planted in the fall, perhaps September or October.

February 26, 2012

Growing Green Beans from Seeds for Your Vegetable Garden

Golden Hubbard winter squash blossom on a bed of clover.

Vegetable gardening is a pleasure filled pass time, where else do you get the chance to listen to the wind, feel the sun and touch the soil in the quietness of nature. I find the peacefulness similar to running or jogging where you can feel the blood pulsing in your body and the wind touching your skin.

If you are just starting out gardening, I find the easiest to grow and gives the most vegetables in return is the bush green bean. Plant when the soil feels warm to the touch and the soil temperature is consistently over 60 degree Fahrenheit (15.6 degrees Celsius), otherwise the seeds may fail to germinate and rot in the ground. If your soil is heavy with clay, plant your seed shallow because they may have a difficult time breaking through the heavy clay crust that can form after rain. If you want even heavier yields, plant pole beans around bamboo stakes or fencing where they will twine around and grow up till they cascade over the top. In my old garden in the high desert known for blistering heat in the summer and freezing cold in the winters, I had a three foot tall fencing surrounding the vegetable garden which I used to grow pole beans, Scarlet runner beans, and cucumbers on. Runner beans actually prefer cooler weather in the 60s and 70s (15.6-21 Celsius) and are a popularly grown green bean in England. And remember, always keep up with picking your green beans because if just a few beans are allowed to ripen on the vine, the plants will shut down production and put all their efforts towards ripening the pods.

Really hot temperatures for an extended period of time will sterilize the pollen and may even cause pollinated fruit to abort. The few kinds of green beans that grow well in intense humid heat are the yardlong asparagus beans which are subtropical and tropical plants, they grow very quickly and once they start producing blossoms the beans grow astonishingly fast. The green beans of the yardlongs are cooked by frying, or they can be quickly parboiled and then fried in a little oil with some garlic. Yum. Cowpeas and pinkeye purple hull beans also grow well in hot humid areas as they are an important food crop in the semi-arid tropics but they are mainly tall bush varieties that are grown for their beans rather than their pods.

Most gardeners grow both bush and pole beans as bush beans produce close to twenty days earlier than poles, but poles will yield much more beans per plant and can be spaced closer together.

Some varieties I have found to have great yields and wonderful flavor. Keep your bean plants picked and they will keep producing for you:
  • Romano bush bean - there are many varieties of this green bean but they all have wide flat pods that are stringless and can be allowed to get long and a little plumped up with half formed seeds while still retaining eating quality, so you get higher yields from their larger size. The flavor is delectable and distinctive.
  • Dragon Tongue bush bean - the color makes the pods easy to find with large broad pods that are pale yellow with purple streaks, and they are considered a wax bean. The flavor is sweet and crispy.
  • Scarlet Runner pole bean - the vines grow very long with beautiful red flowers that grow some of the largest green beans that are thick long and broad. Juicy and sweet. The plants enjoy cooler weather and will shut down pod production when it gets too hot.

February 25, 2012

Germinating Eggplant and Sweet Peppers

Bride Eggplant
Malaysian Dark Red Eggplant
Green Raveena Eggplant Hybrid
Santa Fe Grande Hot Pepper
Aconcagua Sweet Pepper
I spent the day transplanting the tomato, eggplant and pepper seedlings from the seed starting tray and peat pellets to individual styrofoam cups which are reusable. Bakers Creek Seeds suggests planting the seeds for eggplant and peppers shallow because light helps them to germinate as well as bottom heat. This year I used a simple inexpensive clip-on shop light which is kept on twenty-four hours a day to speed growth and kept them in a warm room. In the past I have been able to get very high germination rates close to 100% for both peppers and eggplants by using a combination of very warm bottom heat, domed seed starting trays that keep the humidity high and water from the bottom, and by using houseplant potting soil which doesn't contain any peat moss. This year I didn't have the bottom heat and the soil contained peat moss, so germination was low with only 19 eggplant and sweet pepper sprouted out of 42 seeds planted which means less than half germinated.

Three out of five varieties of eggplant have sprouted after being planted 4 weeks ago which include exactly four Malaysian Dark Red, three Green Raveena hybrid, and three Bride Eggplant. So I have ten eggplants all growing well and forming their first set of true leaves. The size of the seedlings correspond with when the seeds first germinated as the Green Raveena's were the first to sprout and are the largest. The main reason the eggplants were started so early was in the hopes of getting them to a large size before planting out, so they will be strong enough to withstand the flea beetle infestation that occurs every year. I actually have a three prong plan for the eggplants:
  1. get the plants large before setting out
  2. lay newspaper at the base of plants to prevent larvae in soil
  3. interplant with basil, coriander, and dill.
Seven varieties of sweet peppers were planted but only five Aconcagua and two Red Cheese plants have germinated. Aconcagua are large thick-fleshed sweet peppers with fruit growing up to a foot long borne on tall three to four feet plants that may require staking or caging as heavy rains can knock down plants heavily laden with fruit. Red Cheese sweet peppers are a pimento type that produces small thick-fleshed peppers that are somewhat shaped like little tomatoes and are borne on smaller plants. Peppers are perennials in warm areas of the world so it is possible to dig up a plant and pot it up to protect in the warmth of your home, and when warm weather arrives again the plant can be placed back into the ground where it will grow into a large bush and produce loads of luscious fruit. Although, depending on the variety being potted up for the indoors leaf drop sometimes occurs.

February 19, 2012

Germinated Tomato Starts

The Malaysian Dark Red eggplant are just forming their first true leaf.
The Aconcagua sweet peppers are also starting to form their true leaves.
The dainty Calabrese broccoli
Tray of tomato sprouts and sparsely germinated Calabrese broccoli.
Tomatoes are growing quickly.

Tomatoes tomatoes galore. About fifteen varieties were planted in peat pellets:
  • Costoluto Genovese
  • Ingegnoli Gigante Liscio
  • Pantano Romanesco
  • San Marzano Lungo #2
  • Break O Day
  • Granny Cantrell German Red
  • Jersey Giant
  • Riesentraube
  • Large Red Cherry
  • Beefsteak
  • Cosmonaut Volkov
  • Brandywine
  • Burpee Beefsteak
  • Djena Lee's Golden Girl
  • Red Grape
In eight days all the tomatoes have germinated except for the Large Red Cherry and the Beefsteak, which makes for over forty tomato sprouts.

Only two Calabrese broccoli have sprouted out of the twenty peat pellets that were planted, if the rest haven't sprouted in three days I'm going replant the broccoli with fresher seed.

The eggplant and tomato will need to be transplanted this week into their own individual cups.

February 13, 2012

Starting Hot Peppers

Started serrano, anaheim and jalapeno peppers, as well as grape and mystery tomatoes.
After starting tomatoes in peat pellets there were a few mystery tomato seeds left on the counter which were potted up in paper pots along with my favorite peppers for salsa which include serrano, jalapeno and anaheim. Mixing the three varieties of peppers makes for a complex and rich salsa which is processed and jarred for future posterity. The secret to a sweet and thick salsa is the addition of tomato paste and cooking the salsa so the flavors meld.

I went ahead and started some grape tomatoes which are a favorite for salads. The seed starting mix may have been a mistake, since it contains peat moss which can inhibit the germination and growth of peppers. Normally I just use common house plant soil which tends to be corse and contain a great deal of bark dust.

February 11, 2012

Sprouting Eggplant and Peppers

Eggplant and peppers starting to come up.
The first peppers to peak up out of the soil are the spicy Santa Fe Grande peppers.
Malaysian Dark Red eggplant peaking up out of the soil.
More Malaysian Dark Red eggplant straightening up towards the light.
The Green Raveena eggplant were the very first plants to sprout.
Replaced the cover that came with the Burpee Self Watering Planting System with plastic wrap.
Styrofoam shipping containing planted with Carantan leek seeds.
The lid from the styrofoam shipping container makes a perfect tray.
Peat pellets planted with Calabrese broccoli and fifteen varieties of tomatoes.
The eggplants and peppers are starting to come up from the soil after being planted fourteen days ago. Which is actually pretty good considering the house is unheated during the day and it can drop to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Out of the seven varieties of peppers planted only the spicy Santa Fe Grande peppers have sprouted from seed purchased at Baker Creek Seed Co. Peppers are notoriously difficult to start but bottom heat and a planting medium that doesn't include peat moss seems to help. Peat moss truly seems to inhibit the sprouting of peppers, perhaps it's the high acidity. The Burpee self watering planting system uses a coconut alternative planting medium, which seems to be working well as I've only needed to water once in two weeks but I had to press the soil down firmly into the container to make sure it came into contact with the bottom watering mat. I also replaced the biodegradable clear cover that came with the Burpee system with plastic wrap which could be tucked under the container, otherwise it kept flying off with any breeze from a closing door. The plants were just moved into a warm corner of the bathroom under a bright lamp, hopefully this will hasten the growth of the rest of the sweet peppers and eggplants which can take a month to sprout.

Green Raveena was the first eggplant to sprout and it is a F1 hybrid started from seed purchased from Pinetree Seeds. Flea beetles wreak devastation on my eggplants every year which means very low yields of eggplants. Last year not a single fruit was born from three plants and the plants stayed pitifully tiny. So in an effort to get large beautiful harvests of eggplants and to outsmart the flea beetles the plants have been started very early which will require transplanting to larger pots, I will be trialling five varieties including one F1 hybrid, dill and basil will be planted around the plants, and newspaper will be laid at the base of the plants.

At work we get many items shipped in styrofoam coolers, so I thought it would be excellent to use them to start Carantan leeks in and the lid made a great tray for little fiber pots filled with seed starting mix. The styrofoam containers would probably make great planters or grow boxes too.

I went ahead and planted fifteen different varieties of tomatoes today in peat pellets: Costoluto Genovese, Ingegnoli Gigante Liscio, Pantano Romanesco, San Marzano Lungo #2, Break O Day, Granny Cantrell German Red, Jersey Giant, Riesentraube, Large Red Cherry, Beefsteak, Cosmonaut Volkov, Brandywine, Burpee Beefsteak, Djena Lee's Golden Girl, and Red Grape tomato.