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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello again,

It's still 'way too early to do anything outdoors. My garden is under three feet of snow and the temperatures are still sub-zero. Sorry but even the cold-tolerant stuff won't like that!

What I can do however, is get the seedling table ready. It'll be March 1 in a few short weeks, time to plant the broccoli and cauliflower that I plan to grow this year. Since I'm reusing supplies from last year, this means washing both trays and pots in water plus a bit of bleach:

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I'm leaving everything to air dry:

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I'm setting up the seedling area similarly to last year. It's in a different location in my house so I can use the area for the second crop. I haven't put the light fixture up yet since I don't need it, but you kids are very smart. You know what the strings and the metal frame are for. :D: I'll use the S hooks to stabilize it as I did last year. Since I'm planning 16 each of cauliflower and broccoli, the pots will just fit. The heat mat did very well in this position last year. The styrofoam will insulate my coffee table from damage.

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As an aside, I tried indoor winter gardening this year. I'm not really happy with the results of that. Even though I chose cold-tolerant crops they haven't grown well, not even in my south-facing window. Using the heat mat to warm the soil didn't help much. My lettuce would sprout and damp off right away. The spinach is growing on the third try, but very slowly. The tomato is also growing but not very well, and not a flower in sight.

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The idea here is to grow without power post-SHTF. Doesn't seem to be the greatest idea I ever had. :upsidedown: I've been researching cold frames and that kind of thing, but the homesteading/prepper types I know around here have said that yes it can be done but do I really want to tromp out there in the -40 wind chill? There's a reason we garden intensively during the growing season evidently. I do have the plastic tents that I used last year, which will serve as a temporary cold frame to lengthen my growing season.

If you remember this setup from last year:

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This year I'll be using that extra height on the right as a fourth bed. Potatoes and beans will be going in the two next to the garage, partly for crop rotation purposes. The beans will love the trellis too I think. The two beds in the foreground (what's a double stack in this pic) will have the broccoli and cauliflower. I'm not sure what I'm going to do about putting a second crop of those in those same beds since I understand that they'll just rape the soil of nutrients. Perhaps turning some soil from my compost heap. I'll have to order a minimum of three feet anyway so I should have some. I did plant a cover crop that I'll turn into the soil but that's only once not between plantings.

Basic plan for the deck is the vine stuff and salad greens. Pumpkin, cukes, melons, tomatoes, lettuce, bell peppers, and spinach. If I keep trying the spinach I'm bound to succeed! That will be going in the upper two monkey pots this year. Bunches of pumpkins, a few of the rest. Not sure about the herbs. Can't wait to see what comes up out of my garlic bed, which I planted in fall! The greenhouse will be used largely to harden stuff off since it didn't work well for the herbs last year. Nix on the Topsy Turvy.

I'll keep you posted! I hope you find my garden thread both interesting and helpful. Questions and suggestions are welcome.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
Since I can't garden outside right now I thought I would show what progress my indoor winter garden is making. In two words: not much. However, it does seem as though I could get an actual bowl of spinach in another month or so.

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This is seriously the closest I've come to a bowl of spinach from my garden! I purchased a new variety for the deck garden this year, and I plan to put it in the higher monkey pots. Hopefully that will work!

This is the tomato, still healthy but not a flower in sight.

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It had been my idea to see what I might grow without grow lights in the event of a loss of power that lasted more than a few days, as in SHTF and no more power. My porch faces south and the window is sealed off with 3M plastic and a thermal drape at night to protect the plants from the cold. Plants yes, tomatoes NO. I'm guessing that the winter sun simply isn't strong enough to produce flowers.

My bay leaf OTOH seems to like it by that window. It's not flowering though.

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I set up my seedling table today, filling the pots I'll need with seed starting mix and hanging the light. That looks pretty much the same as last year, it's just in a different location. This picture is from last year.

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Sadly, that's all for now. I'm really sick of winter! I WANNA GET OUT IN MY GARDEN!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
This will be the second year I've used them. They were somewhat easy to put together but stacking them was a bit more difficult. They have to be lined up really really carefully or they won't quite slide together and the plastic thingie that holds the joints won't fit right. I've yet to inspect them closely too see how they survived the winter. I purchased them on Amazon when they were on sale. Also, the tent structure works well as a temporary cold frame though it doesn't close off the bed completely. I used bed sheets around the sides to close those edges. It does heat up under those structures very quickly. I skipped using the plastic holder thing although it wasn't difficult to attach and just sunk the poles into the soil. When the weather warmed up I removed them. I'm planning to use them again this year when I get my broccoli and cauliflower out, which will be about mid-April, as needed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Not as far as I can tell, but I haven't been able to inspect them closely yet. What little I can see that isn't snow-covered does not appear bulged, but I'm looking at them from several feet away. So, I don't totally know just yet.
 

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Looking good, citykitty! We should meet up and have a plant swap this summer. I'd love to get a clipping from your bay laurel! I've never grown that before. Excited to see what you try out this year.

I'll be following this thread!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks! A plant exchange might not be a bad idea. In the meantime, I bought my bay laurel on Amazon for $10. Just toss it into a pot, it'll do fine. It IS a perennial, but it's native to the Med, so it won't like our subzero winters. I had originally planted it in one of my raised beds when I read that little detail, and decided to learn that lesson the easy way. Into a pot it went!

My big experiment this year is growing artichokes. I've ordered Imperial Star, which are bred to be annuals for growing in our cold climate. I'll have to cold-stratify the seeds (unless the package feels cold when it gets here, Nature might have already done that for me) and some misc other messing with so they're going into the VegTrug on my deck. I'll keep all of you posted!

Cold-loving broccoli and cauliflower are being started indoors this weekend. :D:
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I used seed. Unfortunately I planted them in between my potato rows so even though the seeds sprouted, they got shaded out by the potatoes. I tried sowing seeds into one of my deck containers but they never sprouted there.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
OK folks it's time for another update! I still can't get outside to work the soil but I did get my seedlings started this weekend. I use paper towels to germinate my seeds and it works very well. All of my broccoli and most of my cauliflower germinated in two days. They're lying on my heat mat in this picture.

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This year's seedling table. You'll note that every pot has its marker. This was one of the lessons I learned last year. I had moved the pots around since some seedlings grew faster than others and I didn't want the smaller ones crowded out. When it came time to plant in the raised beds well ya, those broccoli and cauliflower seedlings looked incredibly similar! While it wasn't the end of the world I would rather do things a bit more neatly this year.

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The Artichoke Experiment. This variety is bred to behave as an annual so it can be grown in the colder climates, such as mine. The seeds are cold-stratifying in my refrigerator as I type.

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I threw the entire pack in because I've read that the germination rates can be a bit poor. My luck they'll all germinate and I'll have 'way too many. They're going into the VegTrug on the deck because it's a big container and the deck is more easily accessible. Another thing I've read is that artichokes require some extra work so they'll be in a good spot for it. Plus that tiny seed will grown into a 4 foot plant with lots of artichokes on it. Hopefully.

Regarding my winter gardening experiment, check this out! My tiny tomato plant has flowers. I might see a 'mater yet! It's only taken five months so far!

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And the spinach is growing well. I might keep it indoors in that pot. It's also growing extremely slowly so some is still growing in the upper monkey pots, away from too harsh sun and better drainage. I hope. This year will be my third attempt at spinach so I suppose I get a P for persistence anyway.

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That's it for now! Like I've said, the rest of my garden is still snow-covered and too cold for planting. Spring has to come though. Right? :thumb:
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I've just put some of the artichoke seeds in paper towels for germination. We'll see how it goes! So far I've got only 4 containers out of 32 of the broccoli & cauliflower that haven't sprouted. It's kind of nice putting a germinated seed into the pot! At least I know that the seed got that far. Usually only a few days until I see the sprout after that!
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I've been misting the seedlings with a small amount of MiracleGro in the mist water. After learning last year how shockingly little nutrient potting mix contains I figured that it couldn't hurt! I'd like to think that seed starting mix has more but without testing it I can't know.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 · (Edited)
It's time for another update! The seedlings are coming along very nicely. Of 32 pots planted with germinated seeds, only two haven't sprouted. Two more have kind of sickly seedlings, which I might replace. Some are slower growing but look strong enough. This picture was taken a few days ago:

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These pics were taken today. As you can see, there's progress.

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I have artichoke sprouts! So far only three of eight germinated seeds have sprouted but it's a start. It also has taken a week. I put eight seeds in four pots last weekend.

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My spinach is growing well. I haven't thinned it, so sue me. This is the most spinach I've had to date.

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My tomato has flowered but I'm not sure that it's forming fruits. I've tried shaking the plant, rubbing flowers together, and rubbing my fingers along all of the flowers in an effort to pollinate them. This pot will probably go out into my garden anyway. At this rate I can't really say I got tomatoes in winter!

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One person asked earlier how my plastic raised beds had weathered the winter. I haven't taken a picture, but the snow has melted pretty well and I have a good view of all three beds. They seem to be fine. I'm going to have to top off the soil, not to mention loosing it up etc with my brand new hand aerator but I'm sure they'll serve very well. The chicken wire trellises also appear to be fine. Good old chicken wire! That and duct tape are household staples. The only thing those two things won't fix is bad aim. :D:

Until next time!
 
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