Prepping for the 2013 Gardens!

digit(ID/WA)February 17, 2013

Building that shed and attached greenhouse is coming along. I began last week!

"Building a Small Shed" Here is the drawing from that thread:

I will cut the studs for the 4th wall today as soon as my neighbor is off to work this afternoon. Remember? I'm building the shed & greenhouse in his garden. Some of the fence boards that I've removed for access will be included in the shed construction. He doesn't leave for work until early afternoon so I can wait for the freshly fallen snow to melt before climbing thru the fence - give him a little more time to sleep.

It isn't that I raise so much dust over there (more like mud - I'm still wading thru December snow in the corner of my yard to get there). It is kind of lucky that I've only got a couple of hours to work on it - my left thumb is soooo sore! No, I didn't hit it with the hammer . . . yet. Let's just say that this is a good project to get me in shape for the gardening season!

Taking the new polycarbonate greenhouse out of boxes and attaching it to the shed is no longer in the plans. It turns out there isn't enuf room over there! So, I'll go with another hoophouse and this one with a little more "engineering" to it from what I've learned by using the hoophouse in my own yard for about 10 years. I hope neighbor Ken is happy with being able to visit it thru the season.

He is a single guy and claims that he is in his last 10 years before retirement. His grandkids show up in his backyard every now and then and he seemed to just be growing a garden for them before abandoning the use of the ground the last 2 years. Yeah, I've gotta a lot of weeds over there to contend with!

There are several flats of soil with onion seed sprinkled in them in my still unheated greenhouse. Other garden seeds arrive in my mailbox almost on a daily basis. More will go in the starting mix next week! Where are you in the preparations for your 2013 garden??


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Steve, sounds like you have ambitious plans.

I'm working on a few things right now. One is setting up a new coldframe. The top should be ready to go on in the next day or two. Then I'll start hardening off some of the herbs for their move into the new frame. In the below picture you can see the new base. Right behind the new frame is the asparagus bed which is covered by a large mulch pile/ compost pile. I've probably gone overboard with that. Originally it was just going to be about 12 inches of mulch but it's become a small compost pile. I'll be needing to move that sometime in about 6-8 weeks. In the background are the 2 older coldframes which have been producing enough greens for 2 large salads every day. Under the row covers are a bed a lettuce and a bed of carrots in the back left corner. I had let one lettuce plant go to seed last fall and they started growing in December so I transplanted them a couple weeks ago and covered them. They look ok but still rather small.

In the below picture is the indoor grow area. Lots of herbs including variety of thyme, rosemary, mints, sage, tarragon, lavenders and then onions on the bottom shelf. Lots of time making sure all are watered evenly.

I was hoping to get a tunnel coldframe put together in the next month though there really isn't a good location right now something I'll need to consider more about.

Happy Gardening in 2013,

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 12:19PM
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mstywoods(z5, Westminster, CO)

Impressive Greg! I'm very interested in your cold frames - so you are able to keep lettuce and carrots growing all winter in them?! Would love to be able to do that, so hope the answer is yes :)

Digit - can't wait to see your finished greenhouse/shed - quite the project!!

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 8:51AM
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Marj, I may have a little pause here to wait out the snow that covers the landscape and continues to fall this morning! There looks like only 1 chance of a day with some sunshine this week. I hope it isn't too sloppy trying to make a little progress here . . .

That is a good indoor/outdoor system you have, Greg. I've only used supplemental lighting, here in the south window and in the greenhouse. Both locations proved to be quite a bother. I am sure that, fundamentally, it is worth the bother - since this part of the world gets so little spring sunshine.

The shed roof deck went on during the final moments of daylight, yesterday. Since I used cedar fence boards, I'm not concerned about the snow & wet but I am really anxious to get back to the project and seal the little structure with roofing, siding and doors. When I was building a log cabin many years ago, an old fellow walked across the newly-built floor over my freshly-poured concrete cellar and foundation and declared that I really should have built the roof first so that I could "work in the shade ." I chuckle every time I think about him saying that.

It won't be enuf room for much work in there altho' I may use it instead of the greenhouse for potting. Haven't decided that yet. The important "feature" to the shed is the additional, insulated space that is still exposed to the south and opening into the new hoophouse. I will be doing some temperature comparisons with my old hoophouse that I set up every year over 2 garden beds.

That little 9' by 20' structure has no shed altho' it is very low, with an excavated center path. Yes, I should have incorporated all of these features: low-profile, excavated pathway, and attached insulated space - to get a real idea about moderating outdoor temperatures.

I suppose that these are all some kind of "passive solar heating" techniques but they certainly lack much of the engineering that go into most of those kinds of buildings. This is more of a by-gosh-&-by-golly effort.


    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 11:06AM
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Marj, it's very easy for me to grow lettuce through the winter in the coldframes. They're finally starting to takeoff though I've been cut and come again harvesting since November. Maybe I should have done carrots in the coldframe but I did not. The carrots were started in October under my mini tunnel. The mini tunnel is quite simple. Approximately a 3x5 foot of galvanized wire fencing, which already has a rounded shape, covered with row covering. The row covering is hold down with bricks. I'm not sure how the carrots will turn out but I'll find out in a few months. I also have lettuce growing under the other mini tunnel. Like I said above it started growing from lettuce that I let go to seed. I transplanted those into a mini tunnel. I was surprised to see them growing in December. Lettuce actually is very cold tolerant. The variety that went to seed was deer tongue though it very possibly crossed with other lettuce.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 1:23PM
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I let some of my lettuce and mustard go to seed each year in the hoop house and about 3 weeks ago it started growing (sometimes in a bunch). I then transplant those in rows for a really early start and planted some lettuce, spinach and turnips this past week and will plant some more this weekend along with pac choi and chinese cabbage though it looks like there are a few of those coming up also. Need to dig in more leaves first. But when I see them growing without any help then I start planting and I will put a row cover over them when the seeds sprout for awhile. It is still snowing off and on.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 2:04AM
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Margaret, the onion seed has been in flats of soil in my unheated greenhouse for about 14 days now and there were 5 spouts as of yesterday! It isn't showing up too quickly, that's for sure!

33oF for a high. There is a 16mph wind with gusts above 25mph, a 23o windchill, and about .25" of precip (snow and rain) has been falling continuously, today.

I am sure that it is on its way, over the hill towards you!


    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 7:03PM
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Lovely morning sunshine after all that wind yesterday, 35+ mph by afternoon. I gotta have good weather later, tho'. Neighbor Ken sleeps until noon, then goes to work after 1pm. . . .

I remember starting garden cultivation tasks about this time one year. It had been a real dry winter but I had to break thru a little crust of frozen soil with my spading fork every morning. Risky, getting out there too early. One year, I had to go back over nearly everything after 3 weeks of spring rainstorms settled the ground right back to nearly the same condition it was in before I went over it!

Patience . . . a matter of balance in the gardening experience. At least, some seed will go into some starting mix real, real soon!


    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 11:39AM
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treebarb Z5 Denver

Impressive projects, Digit and gjcore! I wish I had a greenhouse or even grow lights. I'm still relying on my east facing bay window for seedlings.It's a little too soon for me to be starting peppers and tomatoes but I have sown pansies and violas. Cabin fever was setting in and I had to plant something!

It's good to see the season extending techniques you've adapted to and thanks for sharing them!


    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 12:42PM
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Two weeks ago I got a little antsy too and started my onions in a flat already (inside from 2008-2009 seed, living on the wild side) with pretty good germination so far. I have some that started right away while others are just poking their heads up.

Last week I started cabbage, Brussels sprouts and broccoli. So far only the broccoli is doing really well. Hoping the others start up soon.

Planning to get a flat of cauliflower going today and starting tomatoes and peppers next week. Received quite a bit of snow on Wednesday into Thursday so the garden is pretty well buried.

My DH never got the greenhouse done last year :-( Hoping it will be done for this fall. Have too many projects to list, but working on them one at a time. Hope to have them done before the kids inherit the place :-)


    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 2:40PM
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I planted saved leek seed, planted the entire proceeds of 3 dry heads. Hard to judge the amount since it was still mixed in with the chaff.

Oh boy. There are a lot of viable seeds in 3 leek heads.

Candy onions are up and running, saving the seed in the freezer is the way to go, this packet is now 5 yrs old and onion seed isn't supposed to last much over 2 years. I can buy 2500 seeds for the price of one bundle of plants from Dixondale.

I also planted some ornamental alliums, saved the seed from some plant that miraculously appeared two summers ago and sends up one flower head after another. They too are up and running.

Peppers - having trouble germinating the, um, 'custom genetic mix' sweet peppers, the CGM hot peppers are doing well.

Other than that, its cold, snowy, and I'm busy saving lots of bark off my firewood for containers and mulch.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 3:43PM
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We tripled our seed germination area this year, 2013. I started a bit earlier this year on planting tomatoes and pepper plants--shockingly at the end of January. I know some say that's too early, but for the past 3 years that I've been starting my own, my plants are very healthy when they go out to the garden, but I just wish they were a little bigger. We'll see how it goes. Other starts are onions, herbs, and assorted flowers. This year I've been covering the pots during germination with the plastic covers that you can get to cover bowls. They have elastic around the outside; like a shower cap. I got a package of these in my stocking at Christmas from my sister and they work GREAT for this purpose. You can probably get them at the dollar store I suspect.

The lights are all on a Christmas multiplug timer from 7 am to 8 pm. You probably can't tell from the picture below, but each of the sections has doors. The top one is held up by hooking a wire from the basement rafter to a large eyelet on the door. The middle one, I just prop up with a piece of PVC. The bottom one, the doors open up to the sides. The different heights give me flexiblity to move the plants around where they'll do best. The top section is going to be useful when those early start tomatoes and peppers get really tall! Onions are in the top area right now as I ran out of room in the lower areas. I love this and I have my better half to thank for all the work in making it.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 6:21PM
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treebarb writes:. . . I wish I had a greenhouse or even grow lights. I'm still relying on my east facing bay window for seedlings.It's a little too soon for me to be starting peppers and tomatoes but I have sown pansies and violas.

Pansies and violas are good choice for early starts.

These pictures of systems and grow lights look wonderful ! I've only done a little of that sort of thing, thru the years. A little supplementing - but haven't done anything lately.

What would it be like NOT to have indoor lights during the wintertime? Oil lamps, candles, something! Oh, it would be so dim and dark and dim . . . I think I'd start a fire right in the middle of the floor! Oh yeah, I guess that was what we did before indoor lights . . .


    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 10:10PM
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I diug the other half of the narrow bed in the hoop house. Nice to work in there this time of year. Windy outside. When we took down the large hoop house we moved the smaller one and the area needs a lot of improvement. Digging in leaves and compost every year to help loosen up the soil. It has 3 raised beds where we plant in the ground. In the house under grow lights are peppers, brussel sprouts, petunias and pansies. Won't start tomatoes until middle of March. Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, cukes, winter squash started inside in April. Sometimes it freezes the first part of June. It can and has frozen every month of the year! That is where watching the weather, hoop house and row covers makes such a difference.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 10:31PM
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I start my tomatoes on the 15th of April, using a heat mat and dome. Germination is in 4 days, like clockwork.

And I still end up with 12-18" high plants by the first week in June.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 12:11PM
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Agreed. About 6 weeks is plenty for tomato starts. Any earlier and it involves multiple potting ups. It seems whatever difference with starting earlier is made up quickly once they're planted outside.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 12:33PM
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Margaret, do you keep your peppers in the hoophouse thru the summer?

I have wondered if they wouldn't be ~ generally ~ the best crop to have under cover during the growing season. I have had basil in my little greenhouse right thru the heat of summer. Of course, it likes it. I wouldn't think that peppers would even need to be special varieties for greenhouses.

Snow today but the wind fairly well blew it away in the afternoon. I may pick up a bag of bark to put down near neighbor Ken's fence. I'm tired of nearly breaking my neck walking thru there on the snow & mud!

I may be able to finish my wall and door tomorrow. The section of fence will come down but that won't help with the footing, going and coming. Ken's door is finished and just needs to be hung. Oh yeah! The asphalt roofing is on it so that it now sheds water.


    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 8:38PM
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Yes, the peppers, tomatoes and cukes are in the hoop for the summer and fall until it freezes in there. In the spring I grow lettuce,spinach,pac choi, chinese cabbage and turnips. I grow early jalapenos, about 5 varieties of bells mostly the big and early ones like Gurneys Giant, Big Bertha, Marconi, Big Bell. Jalapeno Jelly!
One year I had beautiful chocolate bells but they didn't ripen the next so I gave up on them. Big Chile an Anaheim type. I have grown cherry peppers but had to ripen in a pot in the house last year. Also banana and Hungarian wax. Have grown a lot of bells and those are the ones that grown with thick walls and good size with the cold nights here. Usually about 30-35 pepper plants and cut down to 25 tomatoes and maybe 20 cukes.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 11:50PM
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I start toms and peppers in one pot and keep them there (I don't have a half-acre though). Will start them soon and bury half the toms when they get set out inside WOWs. Always seems likely the peppers will get damaged somehow if I'm away - hail, wind - so I like them big when I set them out. Not 100% sure that's the best idea.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 12:11AM
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I grew small plants so long in my "limited" little greenhouse and utility room growing that getting larger plants to set out became important to me. I mean, when a pepper goes out into the garden and it is only 4" tall - it always seemed like I could do better.

More room and a greenhouse furnace made things better. But, I've found it necessary to do things like remove tomato flowers from 10 & 12 week-old plants, else they slow their growth and produce a couple of tomatoes on small plants, then try to catch up to their bigger sisters, later. Do I gain 2 weeks for an extra 2 weeks indoors, or 3 or 4 weeks -- day for day???? No. I've come to figure that I gain about 1 week for every 2 but I've still gotta realize that the plant can too soon move into fruit production stage, not making good growth outdoors.

Margaret, I just looked at the pages of peppers in Johnny's and then at their "Recommended Hoophouse Crops" linked below. Essentially, all they are talking about are cool-season crops and they've got 1 (count 'em, one) pepper variety they are suggesting for greenhouse culture!

You know, they've got whole pages for greenhouse tomatoes & cucumbers. That makes sense but what about the peppers?

Johnny's has a webpage on strawberries in hoophouses. With the degree that fungus can move in on that fruit -- I'm not so sure . . . Peppers? Peppers struggle in my garden during the 1st few weeks they are out there! They don't even really like how cool I keep my heated greenhouse. They don't have much trouble with molds & such.

I once visited a little country home in a canyon. The claim was that they could have frost at anytime of the year but, since it was quite a bit lower in elevation than where I garden, I'm not so sure. Maybe - you know how cold air moves downhill.

Anyway, they had a hoophouse on the slope below their house. Running down the hill. It was the darnedest thing! With doors open at both ends, on a bright sunny afternoon, the temperature must have been 20o warmer on the up-hill end! And, no fan was needed to move the air!

I've often thought that if I find myself gardening at, what I think of as a too high elevation - I would build my hoophouses up & down the hill (cool-season crops downhill, warm-season crops - uphill :o).


Here is a link that might be useful: Recommended Hoophouse Crops

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 10:11AM
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I'm finding that the bigger the pepper plant I can set out, the better. A foot high, well branched, 1 qt pot with good roots, looks to be optimum.

Which is why I'm starting the seeds now.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 11:10AM
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Posted by digit on Sun, Feb 17, 13 at 10:55. . . He doesn't leave for work until early afternoon so I can wait for the freshly fallen snow to melt before climbing thru the fence - give him a little more time to sleep. . . It is kind of lucky that I've only got a couple of hours to work on it - my left thumb is soooo sore . . .

No, I still haven't hit it with the hammer but I'm the one not getting enuf sleep - because of the thumb! I didn't expect a sore thumb to cause me so much trouble at night. I am considering traction.

Y'day, I managed to get in 4 hours of work for the 1st time. Normally, I wouldn't feel guilty running a saw in my own yard by late morning but I can't very well be waking Neighbor Ken with a saw then climbing thru his fence with the board . . .


    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 11:41AM
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The person who taught me about hoop houses many years ago grew strawberries in 5 Huge ones. He covered the earth with black plastic and then planted the strawberries and probably had drip. sides rolled up for venting and the ends were vented. I just tried a lot of peppers until I found ones that did well. A lot didn't mature and a lot didn't have much thickness to the walls. I start them the last week of January and some have blossoms when I put them out. That doesn't seem to be a problem like tomatoes. I do transplant them up several times and keep burying part of the stem. The hoop keeps them from the wind somewhat and I usually don't put thm out until June. A good chill can really set them back. Grew the orange snack ones the past 2 years and they take a little longer to ripen than the bells. Hungarian are about 2 weeks later than banana.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 10:44PM
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Today, it begins! I will drop some seed in the starter mix for this year's snapdragons and peppers.

I will see the doctor soon, or I may - you know how modern medicine is. I've got a blood test and they may just send me an email. But, I was thinking of what I'd say about my thumb if I see the doc and get a question about when it hurts.

"Well you know when you brush your teeth and you are twisting the electric tooth brush and it's vibrating . . ." "Your socks are kind of tight and you've reached over your fat belly and you are trying to pull them up . . ."

Okay, I've got it: "Rolling up my shirt sleeves!"

Alright! Get the top of the fridge cleared and covered with foil & newspaper to catch any drips! Get out there in the garage and find the cookie boxes; punch some holes; fill 'em with soil mix; soak 'em for an hour; drain 'em for a couple of hours . . . Then, you can sprinkle some seeds! Okay. It is the day for the 1st seeds & sowings and my cookie boxes of soil are draining!

You know, both peppers & snaps are perennials. I've had snapdragons for a long time but seldom will any plants survive the winter. If they are right against the foundation of the house in a good location, they might. Bringing the peppers indoors before the first frost should/might mean winter survival. Other gardeners do this.

Both of them take a long time to grow. Snapdragon seeds amaze me! They are so tiny! The resultant seedlings are tiny, also. Peppers sure don't get in any hurry in my cool greenhouse. I will allow the overnight temperature to drop to 60oF, or just a little below. So many cool, cloudy days when it is 64o in there and it all means the peppers slow to a crawl. I can understand why Margaret can start them in January.


    Bookmark   March 1, 2013 at 12:14PM
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Aren't snapdragons biennials? I can get them to over-winter here as long as the soil doesn't totally dry out. I wish I had more. They bloom all season long.

I planted petunias and basil yesterday. Soon, its geranium cuttings.

The 20-odd baby clematis vines in their hanging pots around the greenhouse have started to grow, and some are roaring along at around 6" a day. I can't see setting those out until May - going to be an interesting greenhouse here in a couple of months.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 10:52AM
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They can reseed themselves like crazy, David.

That first year of blooms, if you leave several to mature seed, there may be a carpet of tiny green plants at their feet the next year. They probably do better than petunias that way.

Right now, it looks like I have one snapdragon in the yard. It is right against, and on the south side of, a wood fence. I have to admit that I don't know what is going on in the cutting garden but there is generally zero survival for the snaps there. I'd guess it looks like 10% in the front yard after a winter with no -0o temperatures. It may be more of an exposure thing.


    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 2:39PM
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There was a house across the street from the super market in town where in lived a little old lady who had a gravel yard, filled entirely with self-seeding snap dragons. It was fun to see all the combinations that showed up.

I think she's passed on, and who ever took over sprayed the whole yard and started parking their cars on the gravel.

Oh well.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 8:31PM
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My shed in Ken's yard is finished (complete with a rain gutter ;o)! Will move his boxed beds into alignment for the tunnel as soon as it quits raining and the soil dries a bit.

Meantime, here in the south window --



Soon to be joined by Sungold tomato seedlings, etc!


    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 11:54AM
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Today I dumped out all the old containers, mixed the soil all up, then refilled the pots with as much broken up pieces of pine bark as I could fit in, the old potting soil filling in around the bark. That took 3 hours. I'm tired, and dusty.

Its amazing how things are greening up so fast around here. All the grasses on the south-facing slopes are green, and thats only taken a couple of days.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2013 at 5:53PM
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I guess things are "greening up" here, David. The thermometer hit 55o for the first time this year. That was yesterday with a steady wind of 25mph! It wasn't really pleasant. But, it was that warm again today, without the wind!

The Weather Service seem to have really missed on the forecast of a rainy week. It really hasn't happened! It's okay. After my neighbor went off to his afternoon shift, I showed up in his garden. It was a day to begin killing weeds & shifting soil around in his framed beds so as to fit in the hoop house.

Enormous amount of work! Thankfully, DW helped. All that quackgrass & bindweed! Flagstones in pathways! The beds have store-bought soil over rotting landscape fabric. You bet! All those weed roots are all thru those beds - right up thru and entangled in, that fabric!


    Bookmark   March 13, 2013 at 10:57PM
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highalttransplant(z 5 Western CO)

Well, today I filled a wheelbarrow with the compost out of the tumbler and spread it out in the veggie garden. I may still have to buy a bag or two of compost, but it was enough to add maybe an inch of fresh soil across the whole bed. Plus, I know what's in my own compost, which makes me feel pretty good about my first batch of homemade compost!

Here is what my grow area looks like right now:

You can't really see most of the plants due to the grow light being in the way, but each of those trays holds 18 plants, so that's 90, not counting the ones I'm still waiting on to sprout. Yes, those are ALL peppers. I am planning to start some tomatoes soon, but haven't even made a list yet.

First year since I moved here that I didn't do ANY wintersowing. Not a single container! My life has just gotten too hectic for me to keep up with everything that needs to get done. I will be doing good just to clean all the flower beds up, and dig all the grass out of the beds this season. I doubt I'll have time to plant a bunch of new stuff. Besides, the beds are pretty much full now. I'm just going to focus on the edible stuff this year ...


    Bookmark   March 15, 2013 at 8:58PM
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it looks like you are inviting a crowd to the 2013 veggie garden!

90+ peppers?!!


    Bookmark   March 15, 2013 at 10:58PM
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highalttransplant(z 5 Western CO)

I ended up with around 80 pepper plants last year, and I'm sure I'll give a few away, or lose a couple along the way, so it's not really an increase.

The problem is where will I put the tomato starts???

    Bookmark   March 16, 2013 at 12:29PM
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Well, you are just going to have to sort that out yourself, Bonnie. (Personally, I will advise tearing up lawn grass if a neighbor's yard isn't a possibility ;o)?)

We have talked about wintersowing before and my decision to not even attempt it. I've posted a link to a Department of Energy map to show how little annual sun there is here. You can just delete one state's name and type in another (like Colorado) to see the abysmal difference between here and other places. I couldn't find anything on "winter" sunlight - the info would be even more depressing . . . probably compare to the Puget Sound . . .

I mean, there is plenty of summer sun! But, I'm having real trouble here in the south window finding enuf sunlight for the seedlings. They will have to go out to the greenhouse soon. Not that there's more sun out there - just that I can run the temperature lower than "room" so that they aren't encouraged to grow in this "under a rock" late winter/springtime environment!

who shouldn't really complain since this isn't march of 2012 by a long shot

Here is a link that might be useful: State Maps, Solar Energy

    Bookmark   March 16, 2013 at 12:55PM
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highalttransplant(z 5 Western CO)

I am sorry to hear about your lack of winter sunlight. Sounds depressing!

I have room for the tomatoes once it's time to plant out. It's the room inside the house that is the problem. Hence, my reliance on wintersowing all these years. It's probably not too late to wintersow a few tomatoes, but the past couple of years they were so slow getting starting that I think I may as well start them indoors this time around.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2013 at 1:11PM
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