Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Rain Rain

The weather forecast does not look promising for tilling this weekend. Forecasted rain on Wednesday and Thursday will leave my garden to wet for tilling. I have already laid down extra compost and lime two weekends ago. I think I may have missed the March dry "sweet spot" for tilling and planting spring crops.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Lead and Soil Testing

I had always heard that soil-testing was a good idea to improve the overall harvest, but I became motivated to actually do this when I heard that urban gardens may be more suspectible to lead contamination. Although the risk is relatively low, it suddenly seemed like a good idea to actually know what my ph level was because lead contamination is less likely to occur above 6.5 ph.

The University of Minnesota's Extension service has a good article that can be found here.
Lead Contamination and Gardens

University of Ohio Extension Office FAQ

DIY grow light system vs kit in small spaces

My master-gardening-mom learned from her classes that a successful grow-light system needs to emit at least 40 watts to give the tiny seedlings the boost they need to grow strong. This new tidbit has finally convinced me that my makeshift system purchased on Saturday at a big box hardware store was not going to work. Thus, I have decided to buy a 2ft ready made kit from Hydro-farm and accept my DIY defeat.

Many garden bloggers have discussed making their own grow light systems using 4ft fluorescent lights, and I have definitely been inspired by their success. However, I live in an apartment and the 4ft fluorescent lights were just too long for my urban dwelling. I had hoped to recreate a similar system with 2ft lights, but I soon realized that there were no plug-in fixtures associated with this size that had the appropriate wattage. After spending several intimidating and vexing hours trying to understand the merits of plug-in versus direct wire lights, I walked away with two, 2 ft, 13 watt plug-in fluorescent lights. After speaking with my mom, I realized that 26 watts were not going to cut it.

So I am going to be a little less thrifty when it comes to my grow-light system. Sometimes living in a smaller space means that the economies of scale from purchasing 10 - 4ft bulbs all at once are just not possible.

The model that I am going to try can be purchased Amazon.com
2ft Hydrofarm Grow light System

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Ordering Seeds

I can't believe that it is February, and I may be a bit behind in my gardening tasks. I just purchased my tomato and pepper seeds yesterday online. I have had really good success with Southern Seed Export and the US distributor of Franchi Sementi seeds, www.growitalian.com. I am going to try growing my tomatoes and peppers from seeds for the first time.

I have received varying advice on when to start. It appears as though one needs to get started anytime between 8-12 weeks before the last frost date. D.C. registers the last frost date as 4/23, but I think I have had more success waiting until May 1st. I still need to buy a light and growing set as I don't have enough natural light to keep them from growing spindly. I hope to have everything set up by February 23rd.

Monday, August 20, 2007

An ode to southern vegetables

There are times when I wish DC was a bit further north. A little less burning sun might prevent my tomatoes from dropping their fruit when they get too hot (see explanation under Chicago Gardener) and might just convince my eggplants that they didn't need to put all the energy into producing leaves.

The hot humid August days do make DC a suitable climate for growing butter beans and okra. I didn't grow up regularly eating these tasty delights. I do have a vivid memory of having okra soup on a plane ride between Atlanta and Orlando at age 5. It was probably the only memorable plan meal I have ever eaten. I don't think I had ever tasted butter beans until I moved to DC five years ago. I'm not quite sure how those Southerns keep butter beans a secret. Perhaps, we northerners were cleverly duped into avoiding them under their the "nom de plume du nord" "lima beans". Homegrown butter aka lima beans are just sublime, and one soon forgets the annoyance of husking after a couple bites.

Is the butter bean a lima bean?

Ask wiki
The first and official butterbean festival says ...