Putting the "Green" into Green Wizardry
I haven't talked much about the "Green" side of Green Wizardry on this blog yet this year. Growing your own food is a core skill of being a Green Wizard and while not all will master it, you should at least be able to give good advice about a person's garden. Its a skill I've been working on for many years now and I'm still not even an informed amateur let alone a expert.
This year I've made a promise to try and start all of my plants, both my vegetables and my flowers from seed. I also want to continue my earlier experiments in micro greens as well as begin trying my hand at sprouts. This year I want to focus on four main vegetables, onions, carrots, peppers and tomatoes, though I will have a few odd plants, one offs that I am going to grow primarily to take pictures for the GW Book of Plants, I will also be doing an early crop of some outside lettuce, spinach and other greens, but I will focus most of my growing of those plants in my micro green experiments.
About two weeks ago I started my earliest plants, that is onions. Onions are a cool weather plant and like to be started early in the year. Last year I tried both white and red onions, but unfortunately I planted them with carrots at the same time. The carrots quickly over took the onions and shaded them too much. I had to dig the onions up and replant them into their own bed, with mixed results.
Let's look at what I've got so far.
(Lots of pictures in this post...)
I buy from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Somehow I got one of their seed catalogs a few years ago and found they have a huge variety of seeds, seemed reasonably priced and delivered my orders pretty quick. And they are Missouri natives too, so I've stuck with them. I have bought some seeds locally at Home Depot, but I'm going to cut back on that and try and go all heirloom in the future. In a small scale garden like mine, and a few years from now when I retire and move into my sister's backyard to turn it into a micro-farm, having plants that I can collect seed from and reliably replant the next year seems a better idea, than depending on commercial seeds.
Also I plan on having a small attached green house, that should allow me to extend my seasonal grow into the Late Fall and get an early start on seedlings.
Last year I planted white and red onions from onion sets bought at the local hardware store. They were ok, except for my earlier mentioned mistake of planting them with carrots. I happened to run across a "down under variety" in the Baker Creek seed catalog that showed some interest, Australian Browns. I also ran across a new onion, from Japan, a He Shi Ko-Bunching onions. I try and do a stir fry once a week and like onions in it, so they seemed a good choice. I planned on planting 2/3rds Australian Browns and 1/3rd He Shi Kos. When I got my seed order Baker Creek had included a free packet, which turned out to be another bunching onion, this one a Crimson Forest-Bunching onions. These seemed to be a bunching with a slight bulb. So I'm figuring something like 3/5ths Browns and 1/5th each of the bunching.
Just to remind everyone, here's pictures of my garden.
The Australian Browns will be planted in the entire back bed, with enough space for a later planting of carrots in between. The variety I'm planning to try are Parisiennes, which produce a almost round onion type of carrot.
There is a second similarly sized bed on the other side of the white containers, which I plant three tomato plants (in ground) and two pepper plants (in containers), but there's about 12" of forward bed that will get one of the varieties of bunching onions and then some Chantenay Red Cored (5 inch) carrots.
I have three varieties of tomatoes to try this year. For one side of the trestles, a small cherry type called Brad's Atomic Grape", and then for the other beds either Raspberry Lyanna, a variety out of Russia, or German Lunchbox, both smaller tomatoes. I've not had much luck with the larger tomatoes, either they crack or get pests. My sister likes large tomatoes sliced but I prefer to quarter mine and eat them in larger bites either in salads or as sides in a meal.
The front larger bed has about the same, a front 12" of free bed on either side of the fence. It will get four tomatoes and two pepper plants. Haven't decided the pepper varieties yet.
One side of the front bed will get Little Fingers carrots (3 inch) and the other Short n' Sweets (4 inch). And the other variety of bunching onions.
Like I mentioned I seeded my onions about 10 days ago with two garden flats (36 cells each) . The Browns are starting to come up.
I've always started via onion sets, that is small bulbs already grown. Its interesting to watch the onions come up from seeds. Apparently they grow a leaf in a loop, until at some point the top tip breaks free and then lifts up into the air. Here's a close up. Notice the onion on the left still has its tip in the ground, while the one on the right has broken free and now stand up.
The Browns were seeded about a half inch into the soil in one hole per cell, with two seeds per hole.
As well as the Browns have germinated, the bunching onions, also seeded into two garden flats, haven't sprouted AT ALL. Now I did surface seed instead of pushing them into holes. I'm going to stir the soil up slightly and see if I can get the seeds into the soil. Perhaps that will get them started. We'll see.
I've said that seed sprouts are the logical "first step" for new Green Wizards to get started in growing their own food. Well they aren't as easy as I thought...
Remember, this is about 10 days of germination. I also raised the lights. They have been sitting about 2 inches off the containers.
I wanted to start small, so I used some 48 oz (1400 ml) plastic food containers. I filled them with seed starter soil up to about an inch from the top. From left to right these are lettuce, peas , bush beans and sunflowers. The only one to disappoint was the beans, one three out of the eighteen seeds sprouted (though a few more look like they want to now). It might be that I choose beans that were too large. I didn't write down the variety at the hardware store. They have several other types and I'll try them too.
The sunflowers were clear winners followed by the peas. Almost all sprouted with large sprouts. i expect by the weekend (14 days of growth) I could harvest them for stir fry.
Here is a close up of the sunflower sprouts.
Strong sprouts and big leaves. Here are the peas.
Both of those, as well as the beans were seeded with 18 seeds. The lettuce on the other hand had probably 50-75 seeds.
They still have tiny leaves and stems so its probably 2-3 weeks before harvest for those, still I'll be interested to see what a full container of them looks like.
While the beans were a disappointment, the three that did germinate offered a picture perfect image of beans sprouting, with one breaking ground, one just opening, and one sprout with leaves to add to the Bean entry in the Book of Plants.
I also came across this at the grocery store after my seed buying trip to the hardware store.
I paid $2 for 3 ounces of bean and pea seeds, and yet here is 20 ounces at $2.50. Hopefully the company didn't spray these seeds with a chemical non-sprouter. Still I'm going to try some of these in a larger container and see what I get.
I decided to ditch the seed flats as a growing medium and plant this next experiment in 5 gallon self watering containers. They are doing pretty good for just 10 days, 6 weeks to harvest being the planned interval. The grow lamps are also down within a few inches of the tops of the containers. Someone had mentioned that the way I had originally had the lamps in the first experiment, about 10-12 inches, probably contributed to the plants being very tall and skinny.
Baker Creek has 4 different micro green seed mixes, I'll see how each does and report back.
That's it for this week, now go out and plant some seeds, lol.