Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Last average frost date

So I have found a last average frost date for the Philadelphia area ranging from the 6th of April to the 20th. Which would probably explain why this: is what my thermometer looks like at 9pm. And we are nowhere near the predicted low of 27 degrees. Apparently I should keep my boots out as well.... They are predicting snow/sleet again. Ah, spring.

Jenkintown Seed swap event

Look Mom I'm a lead volunteer in my community!

Seriously though come join us at the Jenkintown library April 9th at 2pm. We're having a seed swap event to launch they’re new seed saving library.

For those not willing to come out here there are a few unaffiliated swaps in Philly I'd like to show support for. Info here: Philly seed swaps

Monday, March 28, 2011


They are getting a little leggy, but other than that, I think the tomatoes are doing wonderfully! I am kind of wondering if the legginess is because I started them in non-organic soil that had added fertilizer. Much non-organic (and some organic) fertilizers just want to get your plants as big as they can be, as fast as they can. Often at the expense of the soil, and in the long run, the plants themselves. Kind of like the tortoise and the hare, slow and steady wins the race every time in my book! Next year it is back to organic or non-fertilized starter soil, and a few extra lights to help keep them compact.

The peppers are looking fine and dandy as well. I started them in the peat pots and am debating if I am going to pull one out of each pot (I put three seeds in each), let them go, or re-pot all but one. I have had them on a slow and steady diet of fish emulsion water (weaker than recommended for full size plants) I feed them about every 3rd time they get watered, so about once every week and a half.

I seem to have brought in a bug or two with the plants that I overwintered in my greenhouse box. I have been fighting a mild case of leaf miners. The chew on the insides of leaves, leaving translucent holes, with little green blobs of bug poop inside. The only real way to get rid of them is to pick the affected leaves off so the bugs can emerge and move on to another leave. So far, so good. I think I will be more careful about what I bring inside next fall though!

The forget-me-knots haven't seem to suffer much from the bugs. I think I did have them a little too close to the light, or let them get a little too dried out though, because I did have a few dried out baby leaves. Not that I can't handle losing a few (this is HALF of how many I planted) but I hope I don't have any other disease/ problems that I am mis-identifying as too dry/ too bright, and end up spreading to my garden come spring.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Snow, sleet and rain are in the forecast for today. I don't mind the rain, but snow? sleet? what is this? still winter? How am I supposed to play in the garden if it is 45 degrees and sleeting? I guess I will just have to sit at the kitchen table and get a few sewing jobs finished before I start wanting to play in the garden every evening and get nothing else done!
It's a little better view than previously, but those pansies had better get growing!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I was rotating the baby plants so that their stems grow sort of straight (really need to install those other lights in the greenhouse box!) and I got a whiff of the scent of a tomato plant. With the warm weather, being able to plant my peas and lettuce outside and coming and going from work with it light enough to require sunglasses, I think I can understand why poets wax poetically. I'm no good at rhymes though, so I will give haiku a try...

Baby plants in pots
Love the smell of tomatoes
Spring came to Philly

Monday, March 21, 2011

Who's out there?

Amy found a cool ap that tracks where people are looking at our site from, the map at the bottom of the page. Many of the locations are where we expected to see parents or friends logging in from, but other places I didn't know we knew anybody.

So, anybody out there want to let us know who you are and where you are?

Thanks everybody for reading! I'm glad to know that people are reading!!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Brassicas are now outside

The weather man said I'd have a few days with out rain so I thought I'd put my cabbage and broccoli outside. Each is covered with a bottle to keep them warm in case of a cold snap. I guess it looks a little trashy but no one has complained and if they do they are welcome to donate to the cost of Victorian style glass covers. I also started peas, spinach, radishes, kale, and the turnips that came free from some purchase. The spinach is what is under the plastic lid in the picture. Hopefully it will all still be alive when i get back from my trip.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Is that you, Spring?

The clocks have sprung forward, my cabbage plants have moved outside, the tomatoes and peppers have real leaves and today I saw my first robin of spring. He? She? (according to the bird book the female is orange underneath rather than red, but who can really tell without a side by side comparison?!) sat above me while I put the hoop and cover up for the chard and even sang me a little song... Ah, spring =)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

too many?

My greenhouse occupies 8 square feet of space in the basement, with 2 shelves, that means I have 16 square feet of seed starting area- theoretically. Currently most of the bottom level is used for storage. I plan to update the lights so that instead of only one 2x4 fixture, some day there are 4- 2x4 fluorescent fixtures, all hung on adjustable chains, 2 on each level, so I can really get intense light to get the little plants started. I don't however intend to increase the size. It's surprising really, just how many tiny plants I can get going in there. I fear that if I ever increased its size friends would stop speaking to me in the month of May for fear of having baby plants forced upon them. As it is I'm not sure what I am going to do with 20 tomato plants, an equal amount of peppers, along with the 70 or so (oops!) forget-me-nots and the 12 or so impatiens....

At this point I think my problem is more getting the proper number of each plant, rather than necessarily having too many, therefore, I decided this evening to start a few more. My parents were in town this past week, and my mom heard my plea for flowers that like shade. She found some colorful coleuses and a variety pack of impatiens, along with the marigolds that she always seems to have better luck with than I do. I also realized that I only ended up with 4 of my favorite cherry tomatoes, and since everybody else that I passed the extras off to last year had the same luck, I figured I had better start a few more.

The main shelf is full with already so I had to improvise on the lower level, and of course the kitties had to come inspect.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The hanging gardens of East Falls

The lightwell/alley is an essential part of most rowhouses. It brings light into the middle rooms while providing storage space for things like hoses and trashcans. While I have found a way to sequester the trashcans at the front of the house (and put a plant on top of it to boot), and am still trying to get my hose to re-coil in some neat and tidy way, the compost pile and a periodic firewood pile are what mainly occupies the ground level of our alley. Neither of these things provide the prettiest view to gaze upon while sitting at the kitchen table, enjoying one's morning coffee. With this in mind, I have been trying for the past 2 summers to come up with a way to get flowers or plants to grow in this narrow, partial shade location. I think that this year I have finally come up with a solution.For me, this is a tidy alley, the woodpile is around the corner near the firepit, hoping for one more fire before the summer heat comes on. That's the compost pile and dining room window in the distance, behind my dad who was in town for a visit, the kitchen windows are next to the rain gutter on the left.
With dad's help we built 7- 40" wide x 48" high sections of 6" deep shelves with 'modesty panels' on the fronts to hide the mismatched collection of pots. Since we built them from treated lumber, to keep from having to repaint or rebuild every few years, and treated lumber does not make for food safe planting, we used window boxes and spare pots to line the upper shelves, and rubber roof membrane to create a planter at the lowest level to provide stability. They sit partially on the small retaining wall at the property line, and partly on brick plinths built specifically for this purpose.

I have started coleuses, impatiens and forget-me-nots to fill the pots that will be in shade most of the day, and I'm sure that I will see some cool looking shade loving plant to add, hopefully something that will cascade gracefully over the edges. Since it greens are hardy, and actually prefer cool spring weather, I spread some lettuce and chard seeds in the pots closest to the yard where they get more light. Hopefully by the end of May there will be a lush green wall where once there was just a plain stained fence.

They aren't really hanging, and they probably aren't going to be remembered one day as a modern "wonder of the world" but hopefully they will bring a little more color to view from the kitchen windows, a place to plant more lettuce, and a reason for me to keep the alley clean. And of course, another thing to update you weekly on the progress of!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Soil testing

I used a Rapitest Soil test kit. I'm glad it was a multi-use because I tested each bed. Conclusion: I have depleted everything, alkaline soil...

Well I was planning on amending anyway and like I didn't want another excuse to go to primex or break open the gardens alive catalog.

the over winter survivor

Last Aug. I planted a few purple sprouting broccoli seeds, happily they all came up. Sadly I should have started them in July. As it started to snow in Nov. I made a note of it in my garden note book and put seltzer bottle Cloche over them. The weather was not kind at all but last month as the snow melted away I found I had one survivor.