April Ending

We're back to normal spring weather (60's and drizzly) after a weekend of unbelievable heat and sun.  The temperature was mid- 80's easily and may have even reached 90 a time or two.  

In planting news:

-I planted 'Tavera' beans.  A french filet bush bean.  I planted them in the same bed with the potatoes and carrots.

-The tomato seedlings are really getting big.  I left them outside the last few days, and mabe by this weekend could be ready to go into the garden.  I certainly don't want to rush it and have them taken out by a late frost, but I think that they're just about ready.

-With the unusually warm temperatures I was tempted to plant some the more warm weather seeds (corn, squash, flowers) but I'm glad I waited.


Deck = Done

Well, almost anyway.  I still need to build a step up to it from ground level, and a few other finishing touches, but pretty much it's done.  The weather was so warm today that we were inspired to drag our outdoor furniture out of the shed.  

In the garden today I planted "Garden of Eden" pole beans.

Earth Day Carrots

Carrots went in on Wednesday.  They are 'Napoli', a variety I bought from Johnny's Select Seeds last year but never got around to planting.  I planted them next to the potatoes per my companion-planting information.  

Because it was Earth Day we planted the carrots as a family project. The full story is on here on the family blog.


Questions and Answers

Steph A.- I wrote a long reply to your question in the comments section, but on the off chance that anyone else may have similar questions I decided just to post the reponse here instead.

Q. I've got a really small space to start a garden. What should I grow?

A. Really you could go for just about anything. It's just a matter of what you really want to eat/grow. Tomatoes would definitely work. You could try 2 different tomato types with some basil planted in between. They grow well next to each other and are good to eat together too. You could also do peppers or eggplant or beans- but tomatoes are my favorite so I would always recommend them first. If you only have limited space pick something that you know you'll be excited to eat (be it lettuce, watermelon, tomatoes, etc) as that'll give you motivation to stick with it.  

Q. Should I start plants from seeds or buy the already established seedlings?

A. As far as starting with seeds vs. plants. I would suggest that for most things just stick with buying the already started plants. Unless there is a very specific variety that you want that is only available as a seed, I'd say start out with the plants as they are much more reliable and easier to get going. However, I'd recommend against using the seedings available at the big hardware stores. They can be pretty unhealthy, and they may only have one variety to choose from. My advice would be to check out the West Chester/Phoenixville farmers market in may/june. I remember that there are a couple of vendors there that sell really great, healthy tomato seedlings that are ready for planting right away. Also, these are from local growers so they are types that are choosen to thrive in our local growing conditions/climate.  

Q. Should I try growing stuff in pots?

A. I would totally recommend growing stuff in pots. You really can grow anything in containers that you grow in the garden so, again, it's totally just a matter of what you are into. Plants like tomatoes, and peppers work great. Or you could do an 'cooking herb' pot, with oregano, thyme, rosmary, chives etc. Or a 'salad pot' where you get a couple of different types of lettuce and plant them together. Herbs are another thing that I'd recommend buying as seedlings at the Farmer's Market. If you do want to buy seeds (lettuce and salad greens are something I would recommend growing from seed) I'd again skip the hardware store and go to a garden/ farm supply store. I used to go the West Chester Agway- it's right near Kelly's Sports. They have a way better seed selection then Home Depot or Lowes. Lastly if you google "container gardening" you'll find as much information about the specifics of this as you'll ever need.

My basic advice: Keep it simple. You'll have a better chance of being successful, and you'll be more likely to try some new things the next time around. I hope this helps!


Some companion planting partnerships that I have found recently that I want to remember:

-Tomato- basil, marigolds, lettuce, onion, parsley

-Potato- bush bean, carrot, corn, marigold, peas

-Corn- beans, peas, pumpkin, squash

-Squash- corn, onion

-Beans- chard, corn, lettuce, pea, potato, sunflower, strawberry, rosemary


Porch and Potatoes

Planted potatoes today.  Only had space for half of what I ordered so maybe I'll try to find a spot to plant some of the leftovers.  This is the first time growing potatoes, so it'll be an experiment to see if they take.

The tomato seedlings are continuing to thrive on the windowsill. Pretty soon they'll be big enough to start spending some time outside.

The deck project continues.  I did about half of the decking yesterday, and hopefully later today I'll be able to finish the rest.


porch project

Improving and expanding our back patio has been on the to-do list ever since moving in to our house almost two years ago.  Well the time has finally come.  After a long time spent debating the merits of various projects we finally settled on a building a smallish wooden deck off the end of our existing concrete patio. This seemed to the best mix of maximum affordability and minimum complexity.  Plus it'll just give a lot more usable space.

Even though it's a pretty simple project I knew that I'd have to break it into a couple of weekends to make it more manageable.  So this weekend was Phase 1.  Here is the 'before' picture:

The things that I did today included:

-breaking up the flagstone and concrete step at the end of the sidewalk 
-digging post holes and placing support posts
-building base frame
-settings posts and frame in concrete

Here is the day 1 completed picture:

The things that still need to be done are:

-attach decking
-build built-in bench
-build step from deck to ground level



Seed potatoes arrived in the mail today.  'Russian Banana' fingerling type from Johnny's Select.  Hopefully I'll have a chance to get them planted this weekend.  Haven't had much time in the last few days to get out to the garden, and this weekend looks cool and wet, so I may not be able to get much done.


the greens go in

I had a productive hour in the garden this morning.  The weather was perfect for planting- overcast, a little cool, with rain coming in just as I finished up.  

And here they are.  The first peas of the spring.

I had two problems with my peas last year.  1) I planted them way too late. 2)  The rabbits came in and gnawed the tops off of almost all the plants, effectively ending my pea harvest for the year.

In order to fix these problems for this year I first made sure to get them planted nice and early.  Easy enough.  The other thing that I am doing is putting a very short section of wire fencing around the peas when they are in their earliest stages.  Once they are tall enough the rabbits won't be an issue so I can take the protection down.  For now though, they'll grow nice and safe in their little cage.

A new green that I am trying this year: Pak Choi.  Supposed to be great in a stir fry.  I also planted three lettuce types and Swiss Chard today.

I noticed quite a bit of this self-seeded lettuce popping up.  I'm not going to argue with that.

And also one lone Swiss Chard plant that looks like it is growing out of one of the stems of last years plants that had been left in the ground.  Interesting.


Potting On

The tomato seedlings have gotten big enough that today I transplanted them from their little tray into nice spacious plastic cups.  Here are all the supplies layed out on the kitchen table.

All I did was fill the cups partially with potting soil, drop the peat plugs into place ( after cutting off their thin net covering) and fill in the space around and above it with more potting soil.  

Originally I had 5 seedlings of each tomato type.  I don't need or want that many actual plants so only the best 2 seedlings were transplanted

The top 10, all transplanted and ready to grow.

The sad runners-up, destined for the compost pile.

And here they are all lined up in their new sunny window sill.  They'll stay here for at least a week or two.  After that they'll be slowly hardened off by being placed outside (and being brought in if there is a danger of frost.) Eventually, once everything has warmed off enough they'll be planted outside permanently.

You can't see it here, but way in the back of the yard, in the garden, the first peas are starting to poke up through the soil.  More pictures to come soon.