"The tragic reality is that very few sustainable systems are designed or applied by those who hold power, and the reason for this is obvious and simple: to let people arrange their own food, energy and shelter is to lose economic and political control over them. We should cease to look to power structures, hierarchical systems, or governments to help us, and devise ways to help ourselves." - Bill Mollison

Monday, February 27, 2012

What's Up...

While the outside world is still covered in snow and ice, inside our little greenhouse celery and onions are beginning to germinate...and oh so slowly do they grow.

On the porch, temporarily under lights, peppers and eggplants have emerged as well. It will be many months before they can be planted outside, but it's a start. Our eventual goal is to expand the length of the greenhouse and install a small wood stove that I have in order to free myself of electric lighting and heat altogether...eventually.

I am using a mix of my own composted soil and sand with a small amount of wood and bone ash mixed in for potting soil again this year. Thyme leaves that were collected and dried last fall are steeped in water, mixed 2 cups per gallon with rain water this concoction helps to stave off the dreaded dampening off disease. As they begin to emerge the plants are sprayed with this for the first couple days to help combat any unfriendly pathogens in the soil...keeping the soil warm also helps prevent these issues. I use rain water because it seems to help the soil stay soft compared to our tap water that, due to it's high mineral content, sometimes causes the soil to form a hard crust.

These plants are growing in cut off milk jugs that have been placed in larger plastic containers to act as a sort of mini solarium under the lights to help hold in the warmth while growing on our much cooler porch.

We are also experimenting with many hard and semi-hardwood cuttings from holly, service berry, hawthorn, cottonwood, climbing hydrangea, various grapes, cherry, plum, mulberry, juniper, black elderberry, and blue elderberry. I have had a lot of success with many of these cuttings in the past, but some new experiments, like hawthorn, are supposed to be somewhat difficult to start from hardwood cuttings...we shall see. More on the results of this later.


...and, I watched and greatly enjoyed the below video this morning. From http://www.nfb.ca/film/my_urban_garden.

NFB's Synopsis:

In this short film, Halifax gardener Carol Bowlby harvests a mouth-watering crop from her small backyard plot. In considering soil quality, lack of space and a short growing season challenges rather than obstacles, she offers a wealth of practical growing tips for urban gardeners. By heeding Bowlby's advice, bountiful organic gardens work equally well on apartment balconies, in small or large city lots or in a rural setting

52 comments:

farmer said...

love reading your posts!
So nice to see new seedlings.
I have a few things started as well but thank goodness I read this as I forgot to put my celery on!! thanks for the reminder :)

Dani said...

Mr H - I was worried at the silence on your blog. Glad all seems OK and you were just taking a winter break :)

Thanks for the thyme mix info - will have to try that too :) Can't harm now, can it?

So funny - you need a greenhouse to protect your plants from the cold, and I need a shadecloth house to protect my plants from too much sun.

Would grapes be classified as semi or hardwood?

Ida said...

Carol, this video is so very inspiring. And after all that work, it's wonderful to see such luscious harvests. Thank you for sharing this video, Mr. H.

Oxray Farm said...

Nice! I've got my onions started too but not much else. I kinda fell behind on that.... best get to it!

Thanks for the video, very cool and so awesomely 70's! I am using my own growing soil this year for the first time, I remembered you had a recipe for preventing dampening off and I trolled back through the old posts to find it. Thanks for mentioning it again because it sure does help to combat that!

Mrs. Mac said...

I'm glad to see your seedlings are sprouting .. I've got to get busy now and plant some too. I take it you have a little heater going perhaps at night in the green house?

Daphne said...

That first photo is so pretty. We didn't get snow here this year. We may have set a record for the lowest snowfall (we still have march to get through though).

Geno said...

Glad to see your making it through the winter as well! Nice little storm to deal with. We are thinking of getting our seedlings going soon, and I was going to start building our raised beds this week, but that is a bit hard to do now.

Alla said...

Nice seedlings. So wish I had a greenhouse. I've got my seedlings growing on my kitchen table under grow lites I made. My cabbage, broccoli and brussels sprouts are amost big enough to plant outdoors but the outdoors isn't ready. LOL.

Mr. and Mrs. Hoosier Homesteader said...

I always look forward to reading your blog, so a new entry is a special treat. Best of luck with your wood-heated green house. I can't wait to see your progress. Everything you share keeps us motivated and gives us some great ideas too!

Ohiofarmgirl said...

look at those cute little seedlings!!!! great work and cant wait to hear about the cuttings - especially hawthorn. i just put some onion sets out today - so happy to be outside!
:-)

Liz - Suburban Tomato said...

That looks like an awful lot of snow. Great juxtaposition to go from the snow to the green shoots of your seedlings. Growth is an amazing thing.

Mr. H. said...

Farmer - Yes, it's that time of year again, especially for those of us in colder climates to get an early start on some of the slower growing plants. I would forget the celery too if I had all those adorable baby animals to look after.:)

Dani - If we could just divide that sun of yours up and do a little exchange...some of my snow for a little bit of your warmth...brrr, only -12 C this morning.:) As to grapes, we take hardwood cuttings off grapes from dormant, mature stems in late fall, winter, or very early spring. They can also be propagated from softwood cuttings during the warmer months from soft, succulent, new growth or semi-hardwood cuttings from new but slightly more mature growth later in the growing season. I suppose that simple leaf cuttings would work as well but I have never tried this.

Ida - It was a wonderful gardening video filled with informative and inspiring information...I'm glad she took the time to have it made.

Oxray Farm - It's hard to think of such things as starting plants when it is so darn cold out isn't it.:) The thyme works great, even cheap store bought thyme. We use it for all of our cleaning too as it is such a fabulous disinfectant.

Mrs. Mac - I have a small plastic covered hoop/s that attaches to the shelf in our greenhouse, underneath sits an oil heater. This allows the heat to flow up and be concentrated in a small area and can keep the plants inside from freezing as long as it stays above 7°F outside. We normally start using this for our onions and celery after they begin to germinate in mid-February and only use the heater if necessary, usually during the night and early morning.

Daphne - Wow, no snow at all is pretty amazing considering your location. We have not recieved that much snow either but did get dumped on pretty good a couple days ago.

Geno - It was quite a little storm the other day, our yard is a mess filled with branches off all the trees that came down from heavy snow and wind...oh well, can't last that much longer. I look forward to hearing more about your garden and wish you the vwery best of luck with it this year. Check out Cliff Harris's weather reports at http://www.cdapress.com/columns/cliff_harris/ He is predicting a fairly nice spring and hot summer...I have been following his reports for a few years now and his predictions for north idaho are pretty accurate. Fingers crossed for a good gardening season.:)

Alla - They always grow up and are ready to be planted before the outside world is warm enough don't they.:) But it's well worth the hassel once those first vegetables are ready to be picked in the garden.

Mr. and Mrs. Hoosier Homesteader - Well I have the wood stove and the inclination to do it now I simply need to find the time this summer and make it happen.:) Glad you are enjoying the blog, I appreciate your comments.

Ohio - Yes, it will be interesting to see what happens with some of the cuttings that are not supposed to easily root...or so the books say. I never really believe what I read until I have tried it myself anyway.:) Glad you are able to be outside and I hope you do not have another horribly rainy spring this year...although it sounds as though you have a good drainage system in place. Of course, according to section 3 code 8 of Murphy's Law that means it won't rain at all this year.:)...leastwise that is how it would work for me.

Liz - I have the poor little plants in the greenhouse covered up in plastic so they will stay warm and can't see what it looks like outside...I wouldn't want them to give up hope once they saw how cold it really is in the big wide world.:) But yes, new growth is indeed quite fascinating and never ceases to amaze me.

Heiko said...

I've been working hard the last week or two, to concentrate all my annuals on the top two terraces,compressing the space for it and therefore have a lot less work and a more compact watering area. I'm starting more and more on cuttings as well, saving myself having to buy from the nursery. It's only those damn exotics that I can't easily find here, but I still want to grow. Best of luck for your new growing season, spring has now caught up with us, it'll get to you soon too!

Mike said...

So are you heating your greenhouse right now?

kitsapFG said...

Is that really a recent photo of your property with all that snow?! We are still getting some intermittent snow showers but nothing by way of accumulations now. I am amazed at how much you still have on the ground.

Lovely bunch of items you ahve growing. It appears your seed starting mixture works really well. I have your instructions for that on file - something I want to give a try in the future just for the experience if nothing else.

Glad to see you do a post. Been missing your garden musings.

Dee Sewell said...

Oh, you have snow! We've had the mildest winter here with about a week of frost only! It's throwing us all a bit off kilter tbh. Thank goodness for undercover for you.

Mr. H. said...

Heiko - You have been very busy, glad to hear that spring has arrived and the weather is holding steady for you. Keep us all updated on your progress, sounds like you have some good plans for this season.

Mike - Yes I am, I have a small plastic covered hoop/s that attaches to the shelf in our greenhouse, underneath sits an oil heater. This allows the heat to flow up and be concentrated in a small area and can keep the plants inside from freezing as long as it stays above 7°F outside. We normally start using this for our onions and celery after they begin to germinate in mid-February and only use the heater if necessary, usually during the night and early morning.

Laura - That picture was taken just a couple days ago, we had quite the little wind and snow storm up here. What a mess, the snow was so heavy we had large tree branches and a few trees crashing down all over the place...will make for lots of spring clean-up. The home made potting soil works great, keeping in mind that the soil is not sterile so you have to deal with a few weeds and soil bacterium issues.

Dee - We have had a fairly cold winter, the grounds been frozen solid since November, but not too much snow until recently. I must admit that it starts to wear on the gardener in me about now as I am chomping at the bits to get busy with the growing season...just another month or so and the soil will be thawed enough to work.:)

Anonymous said...

I hope no one is using railroad ties nowadays for garden beds!

Norma Chang said...

Your seedlings are looking happy and healthy. I got tired just reading about all the things you are doing.
Got to try that thyme mixture.
Had snow on Friday, grounds are still snow covered.

Mr. H. said...

Anonymous - Yes, the ones in the video were used, I assume, before it was realized how toxic they can be.

Norma - Been snowing here too, won't be long now though and spring will have it's way and all that snow will soon be gone...I'm looking forward to it.:)

Silke said...

It's so strange for me to see snow covering the landscape - here everything is exploding to life and spring seems to be imminent! By the time you show your beautiful spring photos, we will probably already "enjoy" the beginnings of our looooong summer... I'm glad all is well with you and Mrs. H!! :) Silke

Mr. H. said...

Silke - Yes, we are a couple months behind you but catching up fast.:)

Lrong said...

Mr. H, looks like your seedlings are coming on very well... I should be starting my seeds soon... also, thanks for the information on the video...

Mr. H. said...

Lrong - I look forward to hearing about your vegetables and other gardening adventures this year.:)

Malay-Kadazan girl said...

Whoa there still so much snow there. Now I am certain that there are so many celery seedlings popping out in our garden at the moment. Thanks for posting that cute celery seedlings pic.

Contadina said...

Wow and brrr Mr H. It's nice to see you will be ready to start transplanting when spring eventually arrives.

I'm not sure you want to know this, but I was out planting potatoes and chickpeas in shorts and a T-shirt at the weekend :-)

Tiffany @ No Ordinary Homestead said...

What a cute growing seedlings. Thanks for sharing your own composted soil. So, you store rain water for your plants? I actually host a weekly gardening link up every Friday on my blog. I'd love for you to drop by and join in.

Mr. H. said...

Kebun Malay-Kadazan girl - How interesting that both our celery seedlings are coming up at the same time considering our locations.:)

Contandina - I'll catch up with you eventually, it is supopsed to start warming up later this week and with any luck much of the snow will be gone. We had a big storm not too long ago and I have a lot of debris to clean up before I can even think about toiling in the soil.

Tiffany - Thanks, I'll stop by and check it out. Yes, I do use rain and melted snow to water our seedlings...we store the water in 50 and 30 gallon tanks.

WeekendFarmer said...

Nice! I love that greenhouse you built!!! Way too early for seedlings for Jersey...but I am itching to plant something : ). Do you own a log splitter. Just curious. How do you manage all the wood you need? I spent an afternoon splitting wood and barely harvested enough for 2 weeks : )

MikeH said...

Mike,

How do you keep your hardwood cuttings from breaking into bud?

Regards,
Mike

Eliza @ Appalachian Feet said...

Great post! I wonder if it is too late for me to start some hardwood cuttings. My mom is about to prune her bay pretty heavily and I'd love to turn it into extra trees.

Love the potting soil mix idea, might have to try it. Just need to find someone who will let me harvest a bit of sand out of their creek.

Mr. H. said...

WeekendFarmer - I split all of our wood by hand with an 8 lb maul...slowly but surely. We go through an average of about 6 cords a year. I actually enjoy it quite a bit using it as a form of meditation. There is an old zen saying -"Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.
After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water."

Mike - The best way to get the plants to form roots before the buds break is to apply bottom heat while keeping the top cool. Eventually the top buds do leaf out and the trick is to keep this from happening for as long as possible allowing for the roots to start developing before too many leaves begin to form and if they do form before you think rooting has taken place they can be misted or covered in plastic to keep moisture in. Many people recommend doing this in a cold garage with a heating mat.

I am doing mine a little differently this year. I gave them 10 days of bottom heat in covered totes next to our woodstove...not to close. after that they went on to our porch that has a temperature ranging from 40°at night to 60°during the day. I won't know if I was successful with this for another month or so but I can see that the elderberries and junipers are starting to form roots (I have kept the junipers bagged the whole time to keep the leaves moist).

Next year I would like to do this whole procedure in our barn during the winter using a heated compost pile.

Eliza - I would give it a try, what have you got to lose. I have read that bay is difficult to propagate this way so you might want to take lots of cuttings and use rooting hormone in order to increase your success rate.

Tanya @ Lovely Greens said...

I had no idea there were such things as blue vs black elder trees. And the thyme and water tip is amazing - thanks for that :)

Mr. H. said...

Tanya - Yes, there are black, blue, and red elderberries...although the red varieties are not suppposed to be very palatable.

Elizabeth said...

can't wait to watch the video.
I cannot get over that snow!!!
We are frying down here.
My garden is almost gone. The bananas are going crazy though and today I picked 5 peppers and I still have one tomato plant--yellow ones!! Sooo tasty.My kitchen garden is currently sprouting wheatgrass, fenugreek, sunflower greens and red clover sprouts.
Peace and Raw Health,
Elizabeth

Mr. H. said...

Elizabeth - Bananas are too hard for me to imagine although there are some minature cold hardy varieties that are actually supposed to produce fruits in my climate...very tempting to try. So glad to hear that you are enjoying the garden and all of the wonderful foods grown therein.

Bee Happy Farm said...

Thank you once again for the inspiration. Your blog is a treasure chest of ideas. I love reading over older posts. Can you tell me how the tater lids worked out for you? And are you planing to graft your apple trees? Seems like you and I are exactly the opposite. I have always grown flowers, lots of them! When we bought some land the first thing I did was plant an orchard. I have about 60 fruit and nuts trees that are 5 years old now. We will finish building our house and move to the property this summer (dream come true!) when I plan to start my first serious vegetable garden. Thanks to your blog posts I have planted 20 comfrey plants, brought home seaweed each time we visit the beach and purchase seeds from Fedco (who I hadn't known of).

Thank you so much for sharing your journey, truly.

Mr. H. said...

Bee Happy Farm - Thanks for your kind words. How very exciting to already have established an orchard before even moving onto the property, that is how it should be done. As they say, the best time to plant a fruit tree is right now...and so you did:) I have a lot of "wild" apple tree in the 6-8 year range that I will be grafting other varieties on to for a variation of both wild and "normal" apple varieties in the near future but have not done so as of yet.

As to the tattler canning project, while I did purchase them I never got around to trying them out as of yet and used the regular lids instead but do hope to start experimenting with the tattler type this next fall. We were just too darn busy this past year and I just wanted to get the canning done without any new distractions so we both decided to hold off on trying them until this year. Thanks for stopping in to say hello and best of luck with your new property.:)

Wendy said...

I just composted a bunch of dried thyme after garden clean up. Wish I had known that trick! How great to look at and see winter but have all that great stuff going in the greenhouse!

Mr. H. said...

Wendy - The ground is still frozen but the snow is almost gone...almost. I'm looking forward to doing a little outdoor planting, hopefully within the next few weeks.

Lynn said...

Don't you just love starting the new garden year?! I have seen snow in your area lately and always wonder how you manage!

I would be interested in some updates to your greenhouse extension if you care to share some photos later on.

Loved watching the video....it's always enjoyable to see how a dedicated gardener can reap such a wonder harvest in such a small patch of ground.

Mr. H. said...

Lynn - Glad you enjoyed the video. As to snow, well I'm looking out the window this morning and everything is once again covered in white, won't last too much longer though...I hope. When I add on to the greenhouse I will definitely post some pictures. Might be a while but it is a project I hope to accomplish this year.

GetSoiled said...

Where are you Mr. H? No postings for a while...hummm...you all doing alright? Hope so! Miss the postings!!! :)

Mr. H. said...

GS - I know, I know, I have been slacking off a bit but hope to get back to the blog soon.:)

Jason Dingley said...

The weather is starting to get cooler here in Australia, so I assume things are warming up there? It is always a great contrast reading your blog. You are talking about installing a wood heater for your seedlings and I am talking about keeping mine in the bath tub. Do you also get hot dry summers?

Marbarry Mountain said...

confused as to where to leave comments. for winter heat - check out solar heating panels. cheap to build and will help to heat. m

Marbarry Mountain said...

try solar heating panels. look up on the web and you'll get a ton of ideas. the screen and the down spouts work great. to heat your greenhouse in the winter. i'm going to try it next winter. m

Mr. H. said...

Jason - We have had record rainfall this month and the soil in our garden is still frozen but it should start warming up around here pretty soon. We do often get hot dry weather in July, August, and sometimes September. I like what you did with the seedlings in the bathtub.:)

Marbarry Mountain - Thanks for the advice, I will read up on the possibility of using solar panels in th egreenhouse. The issue with that is that there is often very little sun around these parts during the winter and early spring months.

garden techniques said...

Awesome to see your garden techniques. My wishes you to get successive harvest.

Elie said...

Thank you for sharing all your videos. I particularly enjoyed this one. And the 80s look really makes me nostalgic. I don't know if life in general was simpler back then, but my life certainly was.

In the film she plants pea sprouts around a tomato plant in a bucket. It looks like she sprouted the peas much like sprouts for eating. I'm wondering if you have any experience with this. I need to start my peas in the house due to fighting the birds endlessly and 3 summers with out peas. I was particularly surprised by the great size of her sprouts and I'm sure they would do well quickly.

Mr. H. said...

Elie - I have used young pea plants as sprouts before, they make an excellent addition to a salad and the older leaves are also nice in salads and stir fry dishes. Hope you have bettter luck with your peas next season.


Elie said...

Thank you for your response. I suppose I'll try planting sprouted peas, pea starts in soil and chicken wire next year. I'm thankful for a new idea to add to my list. And I have often enjoyed your posts over the last couple years.

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