One of my ongoing interests, especially as we get into spring, heading into the summer months, is that of agriculture. There is something fascinating about exploring the patterns and processes that go into the plant lifecycle, including the ability to harvest produced fruits and vegetables to supplant some need to externally source items from the grocery store.
I've found it is one of those endless rabbit holes, where there is always some new angle to explore, some new path to tread.
Based off past year experiences, which involved establishing infrastructure, attempting various plants, and resulting outcomes based on weather, I am going into the 2018 growing season with the following in mind:
My main growing infrastructure consists of a set of four planters:
The nice thing about these is their water reservoir, allowing me to focus just on keeping that basin filled, and letting the roots of the plants take what they need, vs. figuring out if the soil is moist enough. In a way a form of passive hydroponics. I can also experiment with adding various minerals into the basin in dilution to further aid plant growth.
Last year I also picked up some additional planters via an indiegogo campaign for some all-in-one farming kit. Unfortunately it was delayed and arrived well past the 2017 growing season, so it will get its first use this year. With its inclusion, my core growing infrastructure is likely doubled.
To shield against the excessive elements and creatures in search of an easy meal, I have secured the following outdoor enclosure:
The interesting thing will be to see just how well my planters mesh with the greenhouse. They are similar in size, but also just a bit bigger. I hope to make them work together.
Also, having 12 growing spaces (4 planters), I can also seek to fill out additional spaces with more growing capacity. Maybe do some custom plantings (ONLY a certain thing in certain growing areas), versus the mixing I have historically done.
I initially meant to start on the 1st of April, to give a full 2 months lead time before full outdoor deployment.
I ended up not starting my first batch of seeds until the 11th of April. We'll see how well things work out, and I can adjust for future iterations.
From top to bottom (left to right):
|20180411, carrot||20180411, carrot||20180411, swiss chard||20180502, orange chard||20180420, rainbow carrot|
|20180411, sweet pepper||20180411, sweet pepper||20180411, sweet pepper||20180418, purslane||20180420, rainbow carrot|
|20180411, pea||20180411, pea||20180411, swiss chard||20180418, purslane||20180420, rainbow carrot|
|20180415, chia||20180418, flax||20180415, chia||20180418, flax||20180420, rainbow carrot|
|20180418, broccoli||20180418, broccoli||20180502, kaleidoscope carrot||20180502, kaleidoscope carrot||20180420, rainbow carrot|
|20180422, geranium||20180425, redrunner purslane||20180502, kaleidoscope carrot||20180502, napoli carrot||20180502, sweet pepper|
|20180422, marigold||20180425, napoli carrot||20180502, kaleidoscope carrot||20180502, napoli carrot||20180502, geranium|
|20180425, sweet banana pepper||20180425, napoli carrot||20180502, kaleidoscope carrot||20180502, napoli carrot||20180502, geranium|
|20180425, sweet banana pepper||20180425, napoli carrot||20180502, kaleidoscope carrot||20180502, napoli carrot||20180502, marigold|
|20180425, sweet basil||20180425, napoli carrot||20180425, fenugreek||20180502, napoli carrot||20180502, marigold|
I started 12 plantings today:
I also started sprouting some chia seeds.
Chia seeds have sprouted enough to attempt planting, so to the above list, I add 2x chia.
Here is a picture of current growth:
Definite signs of growth on the swiss chard (impressive: although a reliable crop for me, it usually takes a bit longer to get started), chia (no surprise there), and pea (when I used to sprout for juicing purposes, pea sprouts were a regular go-to for fast sprouting). Nothing yet in the sweet peppers, and I think there is the start of some growth in at least one of the carrot spots. 20180416 update: both carrot spots are showing definite sprouting, and the first hints of at least one (maybe two) of the three sweet pepper spots is also showing some growth.
There may be slight growth in the blueberry. This was a Wegmans acquisition (out front as you enter the store):
Trick to sprouting/growing chia is to start the seeds in a damp paper towel, keeping them damp for a few days. Then transplant into soil (as you can see in at least one of the chia pods- bits of paper towel as I just embedded it in the peat).
My next weekly batch of plantings, another 9 pods in the starter, bringing my total count up to 20.
Today's plants include:
Also, as one of my pepper pods (I did 3 last week) was showing no growth, I planted some yellow (banana?) pepper seeds in that (the middle one). We'll see what happens.
An amazing amount of growth since even Sunday, with pretty much everything showing growth save for 1-2 of the peppers, and one of the cucumbers.
I picked up some potting soil and some larger pots today (for my blueberry bushes).
Ended up getting another blueberry bush (a different variety, bringing my total count to 3, with a fourth planted last year– we'll see if it grows again).
Grabbed some strawberry roots and asparagus. Got them all planted.
And started 5 more peat pods of seeds. Rainbow carrots.
I also potted my two cucumber attempts, both of which are showing growth.
My purslane attempts are also clearly sprouting.
Things are growing at a fairly decent clip. I may need to look into planting sooner rather than later.
I transplanted some more pods into starter pots, and moved some more items outside.
I also started two flowers: a geranium, and a marigold.
Both have certain insect-deflecting qualities.
In the eleven days since commencing, I can report significant growth, with the increasing need to transplant items into pots. From the seed starter:
I think some additional peppers are on the way. And you can see the purslane is really kicking off. I probably will end up thinning them out a bit.
And there are two very distinct flax sprouts coming up.
At this point still waiting on the purple broccoli to show signs of life, along with the lettuce. And the middle pepper attempt. But by and large, I'm seeing some very nice progress on things.
There are two missing items… the peas had grown so large that the roots were coming through the other side; I had to transplant:
The chia are coming along nicely:
And so are the blueberry bushes (I also planted strawberries around them):
And from another angle:
I'm excited to see how well these do.
At this point, at least for the next week, I plan to put them outside during the day, and bring them inside at night, unless the nightly low is expected to be ABOVE 40 degrees.
Finally, of the two cucumber attempts, one is really starting to show growth:
Whereas the other is just starting to poke through.
On my next planting session, I will look to plant some more lettuce, peppers, perhaps carrots, and try to kick off some watermelon or cantelope, along with whatever I may fancy.
Looking ahead, if I'm aiming for an approximate start of June full-time outdoor deployment, with my 23 + 36 + 36 remaining seed starting pods remaining, I'll likely look to:
At which point we should be good to go. Depending on how well the carrots do, I'll consider planting enough where there could be upwards of seven or more planted a week. I'm investigating which planters may do best with the carrots.
Another planting day! Today saw me sowing:
The flax is really starting to come along, so are the (green) broccoli sprouts (possibly on par with peas as far as vigorous growth from planting).
I think I'm seeing the first of the rainbow carrots I planted last week start to break through the surface.
Last night it remained warm enough, so I kept my blueberry bushes outside. All are really showing signs of further foliage, and most of the strawberries I planted are similarly thriving.
Sweet peas have also been placed outside, along with cucumbers. They all seem to be adapting well to full sun exposure.
I gave the chia and orange chard sprouts some sun exposure, but they couldn't take a whole day, so I took them back inside and will likely get them on a more gradual outdoor exposure.
The only 2 things not showing any signs of growth are my middle sweet pepper attempt (the third has since sprouted and showing good growth), and the lettuce attempt. I've ALWAYS found lettuce harder to start, but if I get it going, it does quite well.
The marigold I planted has also sprouted. That too lines up with past experiences.
I received some supplies to start setting up some of my planters; I'm considering allocating some for certain crops (like carrots), or perhaps an additional planting of strawberries. Things that I know will certainly deliver.
One round of planting remains on this seed starter… then onto my bigger 72-seed starter, for the remainder of May into full-out growing season.
With still no signs of sprouting in the 2nd initial sweet pepper spot, I found a sprouted flax seed independent of any existing effort, so I transplanted it there.
I planted the broccoli sprouts into intermediate pots, as they look like they are ready for something more.
A grand weekend of agro-adventures!
I started setting up my various planters, and scoping out locations to set up my green house (which I'm hoping to deploy this coming weekend).
I'm VERY quickly reaching critical mass. Almost too many things to store inside at night (although by the weather forecast, it looks like we'll have smooth sailing after Monday with respect to warm enough nighttime lows).
On Saturday I made a trek to Home Depot to pick up a 5 gallon bucket to hold some water in, and they had an array of plants out; I couldn't resist. I picked up a blackberry bush, some more strawberry plants, a sweet pepper, romaine lettuce, and more established broccoli (I should definitely have more than enough broccoli and lettuce this summer, likely far far more than I will be able to eat).
With both these more established plants, and the growth I've had from seeds, I got many more things established in planters. Following will be some pictures of what I'm working with.
At this point I've got 5 more planters to set up (all larger than what I've currently set up, 4 of which are detailed in one of the top diagrams on this page).
Saturday I was also scoping out green house possibilities, and discovered some blooming of some bushes I planted last year. First up, my black currant is still showing signs of life:
Next, a black raspberry is showing way more life this year than it did last:
Then on Sunday, I got more things planted.
Here's the latest look of my 4 potted bushes (3x blueberry, 1x blackberry), all surrounded with strawberry plants on at least 3 sides:
Then onto the planters, where I established a lot of my recent romaine lettuce and broccoli purchases, along with some other strawberry plants, and a few seed pods that had grown enough:
And then filling random other pots with things. Here's a lone romaine lettuce plant:
Finally, a seed kit I picked up from Wegmans, with some additional varieties of plants I've not yet planted (beets, arugula, among other things). Let's see if it delivers:
A considerable amount of time was enjoyably spend on these endeavors. I still have 2 more full bags of dirt to take on the other planters, and I'm still planning on starting a bunch more seeds in the coming weeks.
Likely heavier on the carrots, which I plan to dedicate a number of planters towards, hoping for a spaced out, productive harvest throughout the summer (we'll see).
The nice weather enabled me to start some other planting preparations, setting up some additional pots for growing things, including discovering volunteers growing, in the form of 2x chives, 1x dandelion, and 1x of something not yet identified (possibly lettuce).
In all about 5-7 terra cotta pots set up, and initial waterings done.
I also took the opportunity to water my black currant (very much alive), mulberry (not yet showing signs of life), blueberry (also not yet showing signs of life), and black raspberry (showing signs of life, but not nearly as much as the surrounding and wild red raspberry, very much kicking into action).
I anticipate setting up the greenhouse this weekend.
Another Wednesday, another planting session.
Some pods haven't shown any signs of growth, so I have replaced them with new plantings. A big carrot day, also planting some chard, sweet pepper, and another batch of geraniums and marigolds.
Outdoor pots and planters are generally thriving. I've lost a few things (first marigold attempt, sprout wasn't durable enough yet), but everything else still seems to be doing quite well.
The warm weather this week should really boost growth overall.
Finally got around to some core growing infrastructure, namely greenhouse enclosures and additional planters.
First up (sideways), my other set of planters (with included greenhouse enclosure):
More growth on some black raspberries:
My black currant bush showing more growth:
And putting together the greenhouse:
And with cover:
Mulberries showing some early signs of life, along with various wild strawberry plants showing up.
And some volunteers from last year (chive), and what looks to be lamb's quarters (wild spinach).
A while since updating, although that isn't to say I haven't been taking pictures (just haven't been timely about getting them updated and entries posted!)
I'm posting this on the 28th. Amazing that only 12 days have passed (not even 2 weeks), and yet it feels like an eternity. So this is even interesting for me to see growth, what has changed, etc. on a broader scale, vs. the day-to-day details I deal with.
So here we go:
The greenhouse has proven to be quite the viable investment for my agricultural endeavors. Be it rains or lingering cool temperatures at night (thinking back around the 16th), it has effectively allowed me to commence my growing season much earlier into May (versus JUST getting started at the start of June, as I usually do).
Although I haven't been able to equip the greenhouse shelves as I would have originally liked, it still has worked out amazingly (especially to keep some useful items outside, nearer to the plants, like watering cans and the like).
Left side of greenhouse:
Right side of greenhouse:
My microfarm (4 tiers of planters), is also doing well, and benefits from its greenhouse covering (warding off excessive water and cold nighttime temperatures):
And a snapshot of the continuing growth of one of my mulberry bushes and my thriving black currant bush:
As I mentioned in the May 16th post, really only a relatively short time has passed, yet it has seemed to be nothing short of full-out summer for me. On May 17th, I commenced my summer off-grid adventures (basically, camping out and living with said plants).
Growth has only continued to explode, and my fights with various pests has commenced.
It would seem that the greenhouse enclosures are NOT successful in warding off slugs. I still suffer heavy losses from slug attacks (predominantly my lettuce, purslane, and less-so broccoli).
Although, it HAS been successful in warding off the chipmunks, so I have not only seen 3-4 strawberries ripen, I have have enjoyed unique access to them (versus last year, where I'd see an almost ripe strawberry, come back the next day and see it nibbled halfway).
I've started to try out some anti-slug approaches, like lining various pots or even individual plants with copper wire (I read they may have an aversion to coming in contact with it). This has apparently worked enough to allow some new purslane attempts to last far longer than the previous ones. Although I cannot say it is entirely successful… I lost at least 1-2 more lettuce plants due to slugs (to be fair, they could have slid on via other means).
So, some pictures:
Still small, but they've survived for days, a record. I am hoping they remain free of slug encounters, as purslane is one of my favorite plants to grow:
On known non-rainy days, I've started leaving select berry bushes out in the full environment. To the left is the very thriving blackberry bush (although its companion strawberries have all but died out).
On the right is one of my blueberry bushes, which is in questionable health (it suffers from irrigation problems, and has gotten overly soaked possibly one too many times… various branches have a slight mold on them). YET: all its companion strawberry plants are very much THRIVING:
I picked up 2 additional planters (mini-size, so I CAN place them on the greenhouse shelving), and have started to populate them.
Top row (from right to left):
Top row (left to right):
Middle row (left to right):
For whatever reason, best growth has been in the top planter. The lower I go, the more die-off I've had (maybe sunlight, although maybe also first place where slugs attack). I also had drainage problems with the lowest planter.
Top planter has thriving lettuce, broccoli, purslane.
Second planter has broccoli, pepper sprouts, flax, and a pea plant.
Also of note in this second planter:
Fungal growth! While this isn't likely an edible mushroom (it ain't a medicinal mushroom, and it certainly isn't a psychedelic), it IS quite valuable to overall growth. The mycelium taking up residence in the soil processes it and actually eliminates various things. Like worms help, mycelium growth augments the immune system of plants, allowing them to grow.
Some plants have stronger natural defenses, and can grow almost anywhere (kale, chard, broccoli, flax, purslane, spinach). These plants tend to have more oxalates.
If you've ever wondered why some plants don't take as easily as others, presence of beneficial mycelium growth may be the factor. We're not actually seeing the mycelium (the main organism, that exists entirely beneath the soil), we are seeing the fruiting body (the mushroom). So while the mushroom isn't edible, it is marking the presence of a very beneficial organism that will help the other plants grow. Nice.
Third planter has a bigger broccoli and sweet pepper (in back), and two very thriving strawberry plants in the front. In fact, these 2 strawberry plants have produced all my strawberries I've picked so far (you can see a reddening one in the left plant).
Bottom planter I will be attempting a replant.
And raised (orange) planter off to the right has another purple potato plant, and is one of the locations of my still-living purslane (off to the potato's left).
I likely will start some additional seeds in the coming days. My swiss chard has largely survived, but has yet to really thrive like the broccoli… it didn't suffer from slugs last year, so I have high hopes to get some good chard growth this year too.
Mulberry and currant bushes continue to thrive, I'll try to get some updated pictures. One of my black raspberry bushes got nibbled on. But now so many of the wild red raspberry bushes are growing.