Tag Archive | Plant

Project 365 – Poinsettia Perspectives

I found the cutest miniature poinsettia at my local grocery store a few weeks ago and have wanted to photograph it ever since the day I brought it home.  And, since I am laid up with what I think may be a broken toe, I decided I would spend the day reading photography books and practicing macro photography.  So, with my camera attached to my tripod, I set the shot up on my coffee table and fired away.  Although I am really bummed about my toe and the fact that I won’t be running for a while, I have been having a grand ole time listening to Pandora Christmas music and playing with my images in Photoshop!

Here are just a few of the images I’ve created so far.

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PoinsettiaAs always, please leave your comments, suggestions, and critiques below.  Thanks for looking!

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Hydroponic Happenings: July 11, 2013

Hydroponic GardenWith so much going on in my corner of the world this year I’ve really struggled to find time to put together and update for my hydroponic cart, or anything else for that matter.  I am working on so many different projects (some of which I plan to share here eventually) and I am even taking a couple online classes (photography and Photoshop) to further feed my penchant for creativity.  🙂

Since my last hydroponic post I have transplanted, planted, rearranged, and generally tinkered with my cart quite a number of times.  There have been successes and failures, but all in all it’s proved to be a wonderful learning and culinary experience!  We’re enjoying the fruits of our labor almost daily, pinching off bits of herbs, lettuces as well as countless juicy tomatoes.  But I’ve also successfully transplanted many plants to the outdoor garden including lots of peppers, lettuces, herbs and even some flowers.

There were many vacant station in the cart since my last mass transplanting session, so last night I decided to fill them and take some photos for an update.  If you’ve been following along on my hydroponic journey you might be shocked to see the incredible growth, especially with my tomato plants.  We actually had to rearrange the entire cart because the massive root system of the tomatoes clogged the pumps!  Until we have some type of filter in place I have positioned plants with a less aggressive root system over the pump station.

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My little one harvested lots of tomatoes before I had a chance to take my photos, but here are some of the ones he missed.  You can see one of the zip ties I used to anchor the massive branches to the side of the cart.  I also used some old pantyhose (it’s great to finally have a use for them because I certainly won’t be caught dead in them!) on some other branches.  I prefer the pantyhose method, but I ran out and I keep forgetting to get some more.

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My basil is looking wonderful!  I just planted a lot more in anticipation of the coming fall and winter months.  I have pinched and pinched these guys to death as I waited on my outdoor garden supply.  I have a secret love affair with Margherita pizza!  I make grilled mini pizza crusts and keep them in the freezer for “quickies” whenever I have the urge, which is at least twice a week!

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Here’s a pepper plant, some dill, arugula, lettuce and, hiding in the back, is a purple basil plant.

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One of the blossoms on the pepper plant,

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the purple basil,

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and a closer look at the lettuces.

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The empty spots in the center are the stations I just seeded.  I added a number of herbs and lettuces.

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It’s a bit of a balancing act to keep up with all the outdoor and indoor gardening with everything else going on, but I am not complaining.  It’s so awesome having fresh tomatoes on hand since my garden tomatoes aren’t yet ripe and, as it’s getting too hot for my outdoor lettuce I love having it on hand right in the cart.  I can only imagine how wonderful this will all be in the dead of winter!  Mmmm… I am dreaming of Margherita pizzas with loads of fresh tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, and garlic on a cold winter day…  Shoot!  Who needs a cold winter day?  I am up for a quickie right now!

Making A Basic Tincture

DSC00571 copyAh, summertime!  It’s my favorite time of the year, hands down.  I just adore the hot summer sun and nearly every conceivable summer activity.  Preserving the fruits of my garden labor is one of my very favorite summer activities.  I find it so rewarding and even therapeutic to make jams and jellies, can veggies, and freeze and dehydrate our produce.  It is really no wonder that discovering yet another way to preserve my garden harvest has me just as giddy as a school girl.  But tincture making really goes beyond just being a method of preservation, it’s a way to extract and concentrate the healing and beneficial properties of an herb and preserve them for a long time, often for many. many years.  Cool, huh?!

As is true with many of my adventures I share on my blog, I am about a green as a bean when it to working with herbs outside of a culinary setting.  But, as is also true, I absolutely LOVE learning new things so I am finding studying herbalism and all about the healing properties of herbs utterly fascinating!  But please, please understand that I am not a certified herbalist and I don’t play one on T.V.!  Don’t take my word as gospel when it comes to working with herbs and please do your own research and consult your doctor before making and using your own herbal medicines.  Herbs are powerful healers, but they can also be dangerous depending on your medical condition and dosages.  Okay, end of lecture.   Moving right along…

About a week ago I started my first tincture using one of my absolute favorite garden herbs: lemon balm.  I am really excited about using this particular tincture.  I often drink lemon balm tea at bedtime as I find it really helps ease me to sleep.  But I don’t necessarily enjoy the middle of the night bathroom run to relieve my swelling bladder.  My hope is that the lemon balm tincture will serve the same sedating purpose as my tea, but without the middle of the night potty run.  Though it’s still steeping away and not quite ready yet for the final step of straining off the plant matter, reading all about the helpful properties of so many of my garden herbs had me anxious to get busy starting more herb tinctures.  I began tackling my ever-growing list of herbs today and would have kept right on going if I hadn’t run out of vodka!

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The first tincture on today’s to-do list, red clover, was actually not something I have growing in my yard, but rather something that grows all around me in the empty lots around my neighborhood.  I first started learning about this wonderful “weed” last year during my wine making research.  I had really hoped to make a red clover wine, but sadly missed the blossoming boat so it’s been in the back of my mind for quite a while.  When I read about it’s wonderful healing properties I just knew I had to tincture it!

My littlest helper and I didn’t have to go far to find enough blossoms for our tincture.  We had just what we needed in no time and came right home to prepare the blooms.

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I wasn’t sure if the leaves and stems were acceptable for the tincture so, just to be on the safe side, we set about trimming them away from the blossoms.

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Once we had trimmed away most of the stems and leaves we put the blossoms in our mason jar.

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I had pre-measured 2 cups of vodka to cover the blossoms according to a recipe I was following, but found I needed to add a bit more to submerge them completely.  Mold and bacteria can develop and ruin a tincture if the plant matter isn’t completely covered.

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The only things left to do are label our concoction, shake the jars a few times a day to assist the extraction process, and allow it to steep for a few weeks before straining off the plant material.   It’s also important to “top up” with the alcohol as the plant matter expands or alcohol evaporates.  Yes, it really is that simple!  The healing properties of red clover are extensive but include helping with respiratory problems, cancer, cleansing the liver, cardiovascular health, treating colds, infertility, digestive problems, and skin issues such as acne and psoriasis.   Now that’s just super cool as most people just look at it as a lowly weed.  🙂  I am hoping I will have soon have time before the blossoms fade to gather more red clover to make a syrup and perhaps even enough to finally start a batch of red clover wine.

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For our next tincture I decided to tackle my chamomile.  I planted this last year, but sadly never did anything with it besides watch it grow and admire its beauty.  I was aware of its renown for its calming and soothing properties, but that was the extent of my knowledge.  But as is true of many herbs, the healing properties of chamomile are vast including being an anti-inflammatory, assisting with healing wounds, fighting colds, and soothing the stomach.

I particularly enjoyed the task of harvesting my chamomile blossoms.  Their petite, daisy-like appearance coupled with their sweet, somewhat earthy scent was balm to my very soul!  I couldn’t help but sniff and sniff the contents of my mason jar over and over as I collected the delicate blossoms.  No wonder there are always so many little critters flittering about these lovely plants!  They are utterly delicious and oh, so pretty!

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After collecting and sniffing, sniffing and collecting I covered them in vodka.  Aren’t they lovely?  I can hardly wait to try the tincture!  I plan to mix it with a bit of water, some lemon balm and lavender tinctures as a soothing bedtime sleep aid.

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So with two tinctures brewing I was on to the next!  My lovely lavender plants have been covered with blossoms for a couple of weeks and I was anxious to harvest some before they passed their prime.  So a few days ago I gathered a bunch and put them in my dehydrator.  Once they had dried I separated the buds from the stems, all the while taking full advantage of the free HBO and Starz  preview weekend on Dish!  Bonus!   When it was time to make my tinctures I had nearly enough from my harvest to make a full batch.  I added some purchased culinary lavender to my harvested buds and topped it all with vodka.

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Finally, my last tincture of the day was sage.  This poor herb is so infrequently used in my garden and yet grows so well that I was delighted to discover its many touted healing properties.   Useful for not only its antiviral, antiseptic, astringent, and anti-fungal properties, sage is also great for memory issues as well as a beauty aid.  Yep, they had me at “memory issues”!  I just gotta try this!

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I didn’t have to snip for long before I had all that I needed for my tincture.

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This last shot is of a few Plantain leaves I found while collecting the red clover blossoms.  This powerhouse herb that can be found just about anywhere as it’s one of the top three weeds found in yards everywhere.  It is a remarkable healer for all types of skin rashes, insect bites, cuts, bee stings and even snake bites!  I plan to go plantain foraging in the near future, but decided the best way to preserver these for now was to dehydrate them.  Once I collect more I plan to make a tincture and an oil to have at the ready in our first aid kit.

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With so many more healing plants growing in my garden and beyond, I am excited to learn more about them and how to use them not only for culinary purposes, but to begin understanding and harnessing their healing properties for myself and my loved ones.  Thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave comments below about your experience with the healing properties of herbs, tincture making, or using herbs as medicine.  Also, if you have any corrections or suggestions for my blog, please let me know!  I welcome your input.   Blessings!

Raised Bed Garden Update: June 14

Olympic Games Opening Ceremony 2012-3 copyWell, after quite some time away preparing for my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary celebration weekend I am finally settling back into a normal (whatever that is!) routine.  During my extended blogging absence we tackled some big garden projects and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the results.

My favorite change in the garden is our newly mulched pathways!  The transformation is astonishing, well at least it is to me.  This rather enormous project wasn’t really planned, not for this year anyway.  But because mowing and trimming between the beds was such a royal pain in the patootie, especially since we don’t yet have an in-ground irrigation system, I knew it must be done.  Our snaking soaker hose watering system, though not yet in place for this growing season, makes the task of mowing most disagreeable.  But when DH decided to rent a chain saw and chipper shredder to tame our ever-encroaching mess of a woods-line, I seized upon my good, free mulch fortune and bumped said project up a year.  🙂

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After a rather Herculean effort  to remove the thick sod myself and none too few rather unsavory words passed over my lips, we ended up renting yet another piece of power equipment: a sod cutter!  Though the sod cutter didn’t quite put an end to the utterances of four letter words, at least not on my DH’s part, it certainly made the considerable task much easier.   Then, down went rolls of weed block and lots and lots of mulch.  We ended up having to purchase more mulch to finish the job, but happily most of the much came right from our own property!

Another of my favorite projects of late was making these awesome solar lanterns!  A Pinterest project come to life, I just adore how these mason jar lanterns add a touch of class to my garden.  (Unfortunately when I made these I didn’t have time blog about it, but I will try to put together a how-to post on how I made them some time in the near future.)  Making them was pretty easy, but I did have to get DH to crimp the chains to the metal band and screw them onto the jars.  The only problem with how I put them together is that I didn’t seal the gap between the solar disc and edge of the jar so it collects water whenever it rains.  The next time I make them I will try sealing them with some type of epoxy.

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These awesome bamboo tee-pees were yet another of my fun springtime projects.  I found the bamboo poles at Walmart and already had the netting leftover from making my vertical trellises last summer.  I used zip ties to attach the netting to the poles.  It was definitely a two-man job, but they didn’t take very long to assemble.  One package of netting wrapped quite neatly around the bamboo frame with a little left to spare.  If you plan to make these, just be sure to shove the poles deeply into the ground or they will tumble right over in a big windstorm!   Um, yeah.  Duh!  I am growing lettuce and spinach under the trellis while my bean plants are making their way up out of the ground and finding their way up the netting.  In addition to these crops, I have a number of other plants growing in this bed including tomatillos, carrots, nasturtium, Brussel sprouts, bok choy, and Thai basil.

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The rest of the photos are just a few snapshots of my garden beds.  This bed has some kale, broccoli, eggplant and lemongrass.  But most exciting is the row of plants closest to the trellis: Sugar Baby Watermelons!  Though admittedly I may have been overly ambitious to think these will make it to our dinner table, I just couldn’t help but try.  I will keep you posted…

Olympic Games Opening Ceremony 2012-13This is my pepper bed, but  I also have onions growing at the far end of the bed.  They are all looking terrific!  There are blossoms and even some small pepper appearing, and my onions look great which is a first for me.

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This bed has many plants, but pictured here I have sugar peas, lettuce, arugula, swiss chard, nasturtium, and onions… or garlic… or shallots.  I did a terrible job marking my plants this year.

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I decided to dedicate two of my squares to flowers and cutting gardens.  I was disappointed that my seedlings and bulbs weren’t in full bloom for my parent’s party, but they are certainly growing quickly now.

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Looks like someone needs to tend to the weed wacking!

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Some of my MANY tomato plants in the right hand bed, as well as lots of herbs, flowers, and onions.  The flower beds are the two center squares and the far left one is the one with the snow peas, lettuces, onions, etc., as well as chamomile, tomatoes, dahlias, basil, and, well I forget the rest.  🙂

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And last but not least, today’s harvest!  Our strawberry patch is pretty much done producing, but our strawberry harvest was beyond incredible!  I was blown away with the vast amount of berries we were able to harvest day after day.  I planted the patch last spring so I really wasn’t sure what to expect.  I assumed we would have to wait a few years before it really began to produce, but I am so happy I was wrong!  Most of the berries went into the freezer for a future jamming session, but we enjoyed every single juicy, homegrown bite of the ones that did make it into our mouths.

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So there you have it.  Our beautiful summer garden is growing fabulously along with very few issues… yet.  But the hot, humid dog days haven’t really hit us yet.  I suspect there will be plenty of pesky issues to deal in my near future.  But for now I plan to grab an iced cold glass of lemon balm tea and plop down into one of my newly constructed  Adirondack chairs (oh yeah… another one of my springtime projects) and watch my crops grow.  🙂

Hydroponic Adventure – Day: I Have No Idea!

SONY DSCMy hydroponic garden is humming along beautifully!  I’ve been completely swamped with lots of home and garden projects and shop orders so I’ve hardly had a minute to breathe let alone update the cart happenings here.  And with my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary party here in just over a month I doubt I’ll be able to update the happenings very frequently, if at all. I’ve tried to put a post together a few times over the last few weeks, but I have been too busy to finish one.  I will include photos I have taken over the last week as well as today’s.

Sadly, we’ve had our first casualty in the cart.  We lost one of the African violet cuttings to rot and the other one just didn’t produce any roots so I gave up.  I am assuming they didn’t take because I don’t think they like their feet wet and in the cart they are wet all the time.  Also, one of the rosemary cuttings started looking like it was having some problems so I ended up transplanting both of them into some soil.  They are doing fine now, and now that my rose bushes are out of dormancy, I plan to try propagating them soon too.

I’ve transplanted lots of the original seedlings out of the cart and started lots more for the outdoor garden.  My original plan was to start most of my garden plants in the cart, but in actuality that really wasn’t reasonable considering the size of my garden.  In the end I decided to start most all of my seedlings the “old fashioned way”: Jiffy pellets!  I purchased a wonderful little greenhouse on wheels and I absolutely love it!  I position it over a vent in my sunroom when the heat is on and with the sun beaming in it is the most wonderful little nursery!  In addition to all of the seeds I started in the Jiffy pellets, I also have some transplants from the cart in the greenhouse (second shelf from the top on the left).

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The tomato plants are growing beautifully and are a gorgeous deep shade of green like nothing I’ve seen before from even the healthiest of tomato plants.  A few days ago I even noticed some buds!  Looks like we should have some fruit growing before too long.  🙂

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We had some delicious baked tilapia the other night with a fresh dill sauce.  This was one of the original seeds I started and it’s doing quite nicely.  Here’s what’s left of the dill plant after our first harvest.

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It’s taken some time, but the parsley is coming along now.

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How awesome does this lettuce and pak choy look?

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Her are a couple “root shots” from back on the 18th.  Notice how the lettuce has grown in the last week!

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And the roots of one of the tomato plants, also from the 18th.

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These are the first transplants from the cart.  I love the tree bark plugs that we used to plant the seeds in in the cart.  I just plopped them into the pots and added more soil.  You can just see one of the rosemary cuttings in far back left.  The other one is hiding next to it behind a bush basil plant.  (Notice my raised bed garden in the background.  It’s currently undergoing a major renovation.  Hopefully in the next week the pathways will be mulch instead of grass…. hopefully!)

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Here’s a shot from back on the 18th.  You can see how much my lettuce and pak choy have grown since then!  I’ve never grown pak choy before so I don’t really know when it’s ready for harvest or really even what to do with it.  Do leave me a comment if you have some advice.

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I am pretty new to starting my own seedlings.  Last year was my first really successful attempt.  I was pretty surprised when most of them actually sprouted, and in most cases, lived a long, full life producing a nice harvest!  So, feeling like a pro I decided to start even more seedling this year.  They are doing pretty well, but I think I may have overwatered some of them, but I am hoping for the best.  I’ve started way more than I possibly have room for, but I went a little nuts when I ordered from the seed catalog. 🙂  Everything just looked so good!

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So there you have it.  I have no idea when I will find time to post again.  I am completely buried with projects and there will be a whirlwind of activity until after my parent’s party the first part of June .  In the meantime, I plan to enjoy the fruits of my labor and look forward with great anticipation to planting my outdoor garden in a couple of weeks!  Hopefully I will find enough time to put up a few pictures as I’ve had a few fun additions to the garden this year (you know you’re getting old when adding garden ornaments gives you the feeling of giddiness much like Christmas morning!)

Hyroponic Adventure: Day 17

SONY DSCUnfortunately I have been rather delinquent in my updates as life has been extraordinarily busy lately.  But the activity in the cart is so exciting I had to take some time to show you what’s been “growing on”. 😉

On the 31st I decided to try new seeds in the stations that were not showing signs of life since planting on the first couple of days.  Some of my seeds were old so it’s had to know what caused the failure to germinate.  Nevertheless I was anxious to start some transplants for my spring garden.  As you can see from this photo the Purple Broccoli (front left), Rapini Broccoli (next two plants in the row) have already germinated and are growing quite well in just four days!

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Here we have two Slender Eggplants that were also started four days ago.  They are the two littlest sprouts that are sort of diagonal to each other.

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In the front right corner of this photo we have some more Purple Broccoli.  Just behind that and in the same row is a Red Robin Tomato plant.  On the left is a Dwarf Bush Basil.

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Here’s a photo sort of looking back on the previous plants, but you can also see how my purple basil is doing and my tarragon just to its left.  Parsley is pictured in the left hand corner of the photo and a buttercrunch lettuce leaf is sneaking into the shot on the right.

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Here are the same plants but at a different angle.  The third row from the right is one of my favorites as it will likely be among the first I harvest.  The first two plants are buttercrunch lettuce and the back three are arugula.  The arugula seems to love living here!  However, the buttercrunch lettuce seems to be a bit weak stemmed.  I hope they will strengthen over time.

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Here are my two sweet basil plants.  Their growth is slow but steady.  I do so hope they experience a growth spurt soon, however.  How I long to have an endless supply of this delectable delight!

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The Micro Tom Tomato (front left) is doing fantastic!  In fact, all of the tomato plants appear to be very strong and healthy.  The leeks (tall slender plants… there are 3 here, but 2 might be difficult to see) are also growing well and I hope to be able to move them out of the cart to prepare them for outdoor transplanting before too long.

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Here’s how my Baby Romaine is fairing.  Like the buttercrunch, the stems are a little weak looking to me.  I think I may try harvesting a few of the leaves to see if that will help the plants put more energy into the stems and strengthen a bit.  In the back left you can see one of the poppies I planted back on day one.  I don’t know how much longer I will let those two plants take up residence in the cart.  I will need to begin the summer garden transplants very soon and the poppies were just a fun experiment when I had a limited variety of seeds to play with.

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These beauties (left) are a few of my peppers.  The back two are jalapenos and the one in the front is a Baby Belle.  They took a little longer to germinate, but now they are growing very well.  The arugula is on the right and in the far back corner is my dill.  It’s a little leggy and weak at this point.  I hope he toughens up a bit too.

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Here’s the Extra Dwarf Pak Choy and Outredious Lettuce I planted about 8 days ago.  They look wonderful!  In the back left you can see the Baby Romaine.

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The most surprising find this week was with my rosemary cuttings.  This first photo is of the older stem that was woodier and took longer to develop roots.  I was surprised to find such thick, healthy roots rapidly developing when I looked a couple of days ago.

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By contrast, this is the younger stem that rooted more rapidly than the other cutting.  It’s still doing well, but the roots aren’t nearly as developed and strong as the older cutting.  I think the next time I will use an older stem, but I will try scraping away a bit of the brown exterior before dipping it into the rooting gel to see if it start developing roots faster.  Interestingly, this younger cutting has developed 3 new leaves while it’s been in the cart.  I haven’t noted any new ones on the older cutting.

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I took this shot last night, and as the sun was setting just outside the window I had to lower the shade to take the photo.  Hopefully this full cart shot gives you a better perspective of the size of the plants.  I can just imagine the day when it is full to overflowing with mature plants of all kinds!

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Over the past weekend my brother-in-law came and we tested the nutrient level and pH.  No adjustments to the nutrient level was necessary, but we did add some water and adjust the pH.  That was a bit tricky for me as I am so new to all of this, but I am sure I will get better as time goes on and I have more experience.  I plan to do an entire post about that some time in the future.

So, that’s all for today.  I am buried with projects right now so I doubt I’ll have another update until next week.  Feel free to leave your thoughts and comments below!  I would love to hear from you!

Hydroponic Adventure: Day 10

SONY DSCHere we are at day 10 of our hydroponic adventure and we have a lot of new things happening, as well as some nice growth with our existing seedlings.  There was one day this week that very little seemed to be going on, but I know there was plenty of growth happening below the surface.  Our seedlings are busy developing roots and getting stronger day by day.

Within about 24 hours of filling our last four vacancies, two of the four seedlings had emerged.  The Extra Dwarf Pak Choy and Outredous Lettuce surprised me with their rapid germination and growth.   They are pictured here in the right front (pak choy) and right back (lettuce), along with the two baby romaine plants just to the left.

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I was also thrilled to see our jalapeno peppers finally sprouted.  These were planted on day one.

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The leeks are getting taller by the day, although there are still a few leek stations that have not germinated.  In a few days if I still don’t see signs of life in the stations I planted on day one and two, I will start some new seeds.  Our Micro Tom Tomato in the bottom left of the photo is doing well and developing its first true leaves.

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The first rosemary cutting that was added to the cart has finally started to put out roots.  I think the trick with rosemary is to use a younger, less woody cutting.  I also think I will scrape a bit of the woody part away before dipping it in the cloning gel and adding it to the cart.

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The younger cutting is developing some impressive roots!

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It looks like the African violets are starting to develop tiny roots, but I couldn’t quite get them to show up in the photo.  The leaves are still very healthy looking so I do expect the propagation will work, but we’ll have to wait and see.

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Our buttercrunch lettuce and arugula are doing nicely (left hand row) and the purple basil is ready to be thinned.

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And last, but not least our sweet basil are still humming along. 🙂

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So that’s all for today.  I hope to be back soon with another exciting (to me anyway) update!  Hope you all have a blessed and Happy Easter!