Monthly Archives: April 2012

Seed Starting & More Mexican Vegetables

We are still planning on getting things planted around May 15th this year, so with that in mind we had to get some seeds started at the beginning of the week. (If you are looking for step-by-step directions on planting seeds, here’s my post from last year:

Because each of our garden beds usually has a different arrangement of plants, we have to divide all the seeds into how many of each plants we need. You can also see my notation of 1 seed per pot. A lot of people will put multiple seeds in a pot “just in case” a couple don’t grow. I hate to do that, because then I’ve got a bunch of plants in a pot that I can’t easily separate without damaging the roots, and I have to snip the extras out. I prefer to plant 1 seed per pot, but then plant an extra pot or two of each (depending on how much extra space I’ve got). So the tomatoes pictured on the left say “Plant 4” and what we really need is 2 plants. By doing it this way I know that we’ve got up to 4 healthy plants, 2 that we need and 2 more just in case. If only 3 of the 4 germinate, then I’ve already used up 1 “just in case.” It is pretty rare with fresh seeds to have poor germination.

We have almost 100 pots of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant for the garden this year! Because of the planned late planting date, we are also starting  a few other things indoors that wouldn’t necessarily have to be. Those include the Red Aztec Spinach, culantro (not to be confused with cilantro!), and Aka Red Shiso. The spinach and the culantro are for the Mexican garden and the Shiso is for the Beautiful Vegetables garden.

Here’s a look at the seeds of the Red Aztec Spinach (aka Huauzontle). They are quite small and look a bit like tiny snail shells. We actually did plant multiple seeds in each pot for these, since the seeds are so tiny!

The culantro seeds are also extremely tiny. There seems to be a range of seed sizes and shapes, which is unusual. Maybe the seeds weren’t cleaned very well? Again, we went with multiple seeds per pot.

I took a picture of the back of the culantro seed packet, since it has some interesting information. It is supposed to be more heat tolerant than cilantro, but I find it interesting that the seed packet suggests growing it in the shade…we’ll have to see how that works out!

As of today (Thursday) the Red Aztec Spinach is already growing, as are the marigolds for the edible flower garden. Everything else is still waiting to pop up. Of course, the jicama, thunbergia, and roselle are still growing too. Hard to believe that in about 5 weeks we should be out planting in our brand new raised beds!


Garden Renovation: Days 19-20 – Gravel & Laying Pavers

It doesn’t look like there is going to be much action in the garden today since they are still waiting for a few spots to dry out after the rain on Saturday. It would be nice to get it done before there’s another chance of rain later this week!

They finished putting the gravel down Thursday afternoon of last week.  You can kind of see the beds taking shape with the gravel in place! This looks like there isn’t much planting space, but the gravel actually extends underneath the edges of the raised beds to provide a solid base and also help extend the drain field a little bid. The gravel will be covered with mulch to make it walkable.

The paver crew put a layer of sand on top of the gravel base and got in packed and leveled for the brick.

They made quick work of this section of brick! They still had the edging to put in place and the brick to cut to fit along the sidewalk at this point.

They finished this section of the brick by Thursday afternoon, as well as the plastic railroad ties that are edging the garden area along the lattice. There is still a little more of the brick to be laid on the far end of the garden where it was too wet last week. They will also be laying permeable pavers in the classroom area when it is dry enough to work under there.

Mini Friday PhotoEssay

I think this is the first offical Friday PhotoEssay of the year! Of course, you’ve been seeing a bunch of construction pictures, but I think it’s high time we moved on to plants, don’t you?

This is a bit of a “mini” photoessay because I’ve only got 3 pictures to share, and they are all of baby plants – seedlings. All of the seedlings I planted last week have germinated, so I thought we’d take a look since they aren’t your common, everyday seedlings.

This is the Thunbergia (aka Black-Eyed Susan Vine). Those big seed leaves look kind of chlorotic with the dark green veins and pale yellow areas between veins. However,  want to get some true leaves growing before I start with any fertilizer. You can see those first true leaves starting to unfurl. Since this is a vine, it is going to get rather gangly rather quickly. That will be a challenge with the lights!

This is the Thai Red Roselle seedling. It has its first true leaf already and while it isn’t red yet, you can see that tinge of red in the leaf petioles (stems) and starting into the veins of that true leaf.

This is the Jicama. If it looks a little bit like a pole bean, well there’s a good reason for that. Jicama is a member of the Legume family (the same as peas, beans, vetch, etc). Theoretically that would mean that it fixes a little bit of nitrogen from the air like other legumes, right? The seed packet does specifically say that it does not like too much nitrogen. I wonder….

After a quick internet search, it would appear that jicama does have the ability to fix nitrogen like other legumes. That ability results in a tuber that has more nitrogen than other edible tubers, theoretically making it more nutritious. I found a couple sources citing it as being more nutritious because of the nitrogen…I wonder if they are equating more nitrogen to higher protein? Nitrogen is an important building block in proteins.

So, even if we don’t get a great yield from our jicama plants this year, we should get some nitrogen for our new garden soil out of the deal!

Garden Renovation: Days 17-19 – More Drainage & Prepping for Pavers

Things have been moving right along in the garden this week. Tomorrow or Monday I will try to update about the paver laying process, which started this morning and is moving quickly. If the rain holds off, we might be in good shape by tomorrow afternoon!

The concrete top of the demonstration table is still curing. The signs say “do not touch” but I’m not sure how many people that is actually deterring at this point!

Except for the concrete that is still curing, the table is done! Doesn’t it look great? Obviously we’ve still got some work to do on the floor of the classroom space.

The drainage crew was back and added another drain line along the south edge of the garden. This line is technically at the same grade as the others, but because of the minimal grade between the line and the sidewalk, it isn’t going to be buried nearly as deep. This is going to change some of our planting plans along the lattice wall, but getting rid of excess water is more important. I will say that there was almost no water standing in the garden this morning after all the rain last night. I hope that is a sign of success!

The drainage crew also put down additional filter fabric around the drain lines which was then topped with a couple of inches of gravel to cover the whole area. The fabric and gravel cover the entire walkway areas between where the beds will be and also extend a couple of inches into the raised bed areas to provide a nice solid base to put the raised beds on.

Meanwhile the crew doing the pavers was marking their territory and putting down the first layer of base material to prepare for laying pavers.

The next step was compacting that base material down to get ready for the sand layer. This morning they are putting down sand, leveling it, and laying pavers. I’ll have those pictures and more either tomorrow afternoon or Monday morning!