Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mini greenhouse

I like the stackable shelves, they allow me to do several flats of seedlings at the same time. The biggest drawback I have on the shelves is they are not adjustable. The plastic tubes are a specific length and you cannot adjust them without cutting the tubes.

So I studied the shelves and found a way to make them adjustable. I cannot say this is true on all shelves but on the sets I have purchased, where the tubes pop into the corner of the shelves is an opening. So the tubes actually rest on a thin lip of plastic.

Looking at this, if the tubes were narrower, you could move the shelves up and down. So I thought what could I use for the tubes. I love hardware or home improvement stores, and in my wandering, I came across white PVC pipes. They are stiff enough to make not only shelving but I have seen complete greenhouses made from them. They would work well for my shelving.

I had to do some adjustments though as the opening in the corners was not large enough to accomodate the pipe I purchased. So you might want to measure before you buy, but if you don't and you do as I did, there is an easy fix. You can grind out the plastic to fit the size of your pipe with either a file or a drill bit.

Then I had to find a way to make them adjustable. Most shelving units today have little wooden or metal pegs that hold the shelves, so I wanted something similar. I have purchased wooden skewers from the dollar store for many uses but they have come in really handy for this. I measured out increments on each of the pipes I used and then drilled holes with a bit just larger than my skewers. Now I had an adjustable shelf system.

Now I had to find a way to light it.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Growing space

An issue I have come across in my gardening is space to start my seeds inside. While they are germinating they don't take up much space. Once they are put into a growing medium they need a lot more room. I see a lot of talk of basements or spare rooms. I don't have either of those. I have 1 large window in my dining room.

When working with the basic trays you can buy at almost any store come spring, I usually need several when starting my garden. These trays or flats measure 10-1/2" x 20-7/8" and are not very strong, so they need support. So I had to find an economical way to have these in my dining room.

The answer I found was the stackable plastic shelving units. They consist of 4 or 5 plastic shelves supported by plastic tubing. I like the ones that have are not solid shelves but are more of a mesh type, they allow more air circulation.

After I found these, I did some modification to improve them for my gardening purposes, but I will continue with that tomorrow.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


This has been a week, I should probably say winter.

We have had a couple of large snow storms where the snow did not melt between them.  So the first snow was shoveled aside and then the new snow stacked on top of it.  It compacted the orginal snow into ice.  Then we got more snow.  I don't mind snow, good thing.  As a gardener in a dry area snow is a good thing.

Snow on ice is another matter. Getting a fresh skiff of snow on the ice makes for treacherous traveling whether in a car, on foot and as much and sometimes more so for our four legged friends.  This week has been a lot of ice.

Another phenomenon where I live is a wind called "chinooks".  This is a warm wind from the southwest normally. Chinooks often blow at speeds from 30 to 60 mph but they can reach over 100 mph, and as the name says they "eat" snow and ice. They also cause midwinter thaws (we have a very active freeze/thaw cycle due to this).

So this week, all the snow is gone and we have water on the ice, and even more slippery conditions.  Roads are clear, but driveways and walkways are not.  Luckily this is the second day of the chinooks and the ice is going too.

Stay safe and warm, no matter where you are.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Germination method I use

As I said I use a method I refer to as the filter or papertowel method. The filter method is also known as Deno method (Norman Deno). There are many other names for it too, I am sure.

The first thing you will need is your seeds and how many you need for your garden per previous calculations. The one that will require more than 1 baggy is peas and perhaps corn if you are doing that much. I don't know that you will do all of your peas at one planting or a series (which is what I plan to do). If you do it all at once, the recommended number of peas is 150. To give your seeds the room and moisture needed for germination, I recommend breaking this into at least 4 bags or even 6. Also since peas are larger seeds, I would use a papertowel instead of or in conjunction with the filter, just to give it enough moisture. In my series of plantings with peas, I intend to start 20-22 of each of my varieties.

Then I get out my filter (and a papertowel for moisture mentioned above), fold them to fit in the baggie (by laying it on the bag) and dampen them with unsoftened water - the water where I live is HARD so we have a salt softener and I don't want that salt in my gardening projects. I won't go into folding it, because each person has a preference, so use your own, but the seeds will be "growing" in this, so make sure you can unfold easily.

Taking your seeds place them in the folded filter, and with the papertowel (if using one) place inside the baggie. Wipe off the outside of the baggie with a dry towel so that you can label it with name, date and number of seeds. As I said I use a dry erase marker - some people use a sharpie. I just am careful when handling the bags so I don't wipe them off.

I usually start the germination process two days before the date I indend to plant. So I will do my starts on saturdays and planting (either indoor or outdoor) on Monday. Some people let them go longer than that, but I don't like to let them go beyond that as they mold or grow into the filter/papertowel.

A great hint I just picked up was to store the baggies upright. This is a great tip because then your seeds all germinate in the same direction, with the root going down and not into the filter/papertowel.

This method works for me, but if it isn't to your taste, use what works for you.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Germination supplies

Besides ordering seeds now is the time to get all of your supplies together and organized.

The first step in starting a garden is germination - I use the filter (or papertowel) method. For this method you need coffee filters (or papertowels, which I have not priced). The best buy I can find is the dollar store - most have 50 filters for $1.00. This makes it a cost of 2 cents for each set of seeds you germinate. Fairly cost effective.

The next thing you will need is a reclosable plastic baggie for each filter. The recommended size is 3x4 for the filter. The best price I could find for that exact bag is $6.75 for 1000 bags (should last you several years, unless you have a very large garden club). Also these are reusable, so after use you can wash out and use again next year. If you only used each bag once, the cost per attempt at germination is .68 cents.

I found the bags at 

The total for each attempted germination would be 2.68 cents. Divide that by the number of seeds you attempt to germinate and the cost is minimal.

You can also purchase dry erase markers at the dollar store for 4 fine tip for $1.00. I use these to label the bags and other things. Hard to calculate the cost of these due to multiple uses for these markers.

I will go into this germination method in my next blog...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

My Journal Pages

The first page I will share is a plant/seed journal page. This gives the specifics from the website I ordered the seed from. It includes product details, pricing information, seed starting and transplanting dates. I have a notes area and a large blank area for either the seed packet itself or copies of it to be pasted in. I will probably scan this information in and paste it to the spreadsheet. I will put this in a sheet protector so that I can have it in the garden but I don't want to laminate it because I will need to write on it. I will also add a photo protector page so that I can add pictures for future reference.

The second page is my daily journal - I started with March 12, 2011. This is the day I start my vegetable garden with soaking of the tomato seeds. I have the temperature, precipitation, and wind for that day. I can put in the low temp from the night before, but I cannot put the high temp in from that day until that evening or the next day. I will also have to do that with precipitation and wind as well. Then I have lines for each plant I chose to plant (including the seeds I have not bought yet, but will soon. Then I can note on each one how many seeds germinate, transplant, die off, height (if I get that detailed) and other little factors. When I have all this information completed after harvest I can go back and note the plant/seed journal page with my findings.

As I know when I will be starting my seeds, soaking, planting, transplanting or planting them, from my calendar entries, I can now go in and fill in days in my journal so I know what I am doing on a specific day. By filling this information in now, I don't have to do it later, leaving time for other observations and giving myself time to enter this into the computer each morning so I have a back up.

I know this seems like a lot of work, but if you intend to do this for any length of time, you will appreciate it when you know exactly what works in your garden, what you liked and what you did not. This will help you grow a garden with little extra work later and get what you like.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Garden Journal

I find keeping this information in a journal is useful because as I said in a previous entry a lot of areas are mixed zones, and you might be more mixed than you think. You might have a slightly warmer or colder microclimate than what the zone map shows. By keeping this record and comparing it to your nearest weather station, you can see the difference.

You can find the nearest weather station on the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration) website.

As of this writing if you put your city and state - say Bismarck, ND - in the box in the upper left hand side under Forecast it will bring up the stations in that area with a small map which you can click on to find the closest one to you. Above the map will be the radar images and just above that you can look at the last 3 days information for your weather station. So if you miss a few days, you can use this information to help you out.

For those who are into spreadsheets, a lot of this information is able to be put into a spreadsheet for your records. I like spreadsheets and actually use them for my journal/calendar. I will include samples of my journal sheets in the next entry.