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Start cheap herb garden this thanksgiving using cuttings

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Each thanksgiving I always end up buying rosemary and sage for our turkey dinner always having thoughts that I should plant some next spring…winter happens then of course I forget until next thanksgiving…

This year I got a bit more proactive and decided to just start the plants now using cuttings from fresh herbs I purchased from the grocery store.  I have done this before with mint and actually have done again if you look carefully in the same picture above since I remembered bringing some mint with me when I moved…though no where to be seen…maybe it is possible to kill mint who knew…

So process to clone take a cutting from an herb usually goes something like this:

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Step #1: Get some herbs from your grocery store…or if you notice a nice neighbor with some growing in their yard you can ask nicely if you can take a cutting

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Step #2: Cut the stem just under the node (place where new leaves are coming out…I typically cut at around a 45 degree angle with theory there is more surface area for root growth but probably doesn’t matter all that much.

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Step #3: Remove all leaves except last couple and those cut about half of them off.  This ensures that energy is going towards root growth and should help with moisture loss.

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Step #4: Couple ways you can go at this point…you can just drop them in water and check on them every few days and make sure they still have water…or you can plant them directly in soil and possible water a couple times a day to keep soil from drying out…prone to being easily distracted I pretty much 100% go with option 1 but if you were creating dozens of these then soil may be a better option.

Step #5: (Optional) To preserves moisture you can place a plastic bag over the glass or even better get one of those shower caps you took from the motel and really had no good use for and place that on top.  I normally skip this step since I live in Western Washington high humidity has some advantages…

Step #6: Wait a 2-3 weeks until the plant develops some pretty solid roots then transplant into some soil and be sure to keep well watered until it gets established.

Hopefully if I did all this correctly I will not be buying Sage and Rosemary next year…oh and for Rosemary you might be able to tell, I cheated and just paid the extra dollar and got a live plant with its own roots already…though probably will still take a couple cuttings for “fun” and backup just in case…and not a bad edible ornamental plant for the yard if I end up with a couple extra…

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When to start garden seeds indoors: Seed starting calculator

When to start your vegetable seeds

When you start seeds indoors in a vegetable garden, it can be difficult getting your schedule down to ensure that start your vegetable seeds with enough lead time that they are mature enough to venture outside but also not so large they take over your growing area.

Personally this has been a difficult part for me where I am really good getting the early vegetables started on time (onions, peppers, tomatoes) but when it comes to the later plants and/or second/third plantings is where I begin to get forgetful.  Over the years I have come across a couple of great tools to make this easier that I thought I would share.

No matter which option you choose to start garden seeds indoors you will need to determine an important date, your last frost date. There are many sites/tables out there that will give an estimate I actually have a couple posts on the subject but at the moment my favorite site that makes this very easy is WeatherSpark, it uses historical data with great visuals to easily determine when the best probability of picking the right date. Here you can take a look at this historical data and make your call of what date you think will be safe.

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1. Create a garden schedule.  Just by figuring out your last frost date and doing a little math (Excel works great for this) you can determine the optimal seed starting dates and even get a general idea of when your plants should be ready for transplanting.  What I love about this technique is you can tweak it each year as things worked well (or not so well) in previous years to get the schedule finely tuned to your particular garden and the micro-climates within it.

In addition knowing an estimate of when these plants will be venturing out in the wild can assist in your space planning for your seeding area as well as having a reality check if you see your peppers will be ready to be transplanted in March when it doesn’t get above freezing until mid-June.

Here is my schedule for starting seeds indoors my area and estimated last frost date (April 20th), though sure everyone that is reading this will not have the same date as mine so thanks to my infinite nerdiness I made the following table so you can adjust the “Last Frost Date” to yours and see how my schedule would look in your area.

 Last Frost Date:  
Vegetable Name Seed Start Date Estimated
Transplant
Date
Estimated
Harvest
Date
Celery 1/19/2013 3/18/2013 4/24/2013
Onion 1/19/2013 3/25/2013 5/24/2013
Leeks 1/19/2013 3/21/2013 6/3/2013
Kale 1/26/2013 3/7/2013 3/22/2013
Artichoke 1/31/2013 4/27/2013 6/20/2013
Kohlrabi 2/9/2013 3/15/2013 4/5/2013
Pak Choi 2/9/2013 3/6/2013 4/10/2013
Parsley 2/8/2013 4/6/2013 4/24/2013
Lettuce 2/9/2013 3/6/2013 4/5/2013
Broccoli 2/9/2013 3/15/2013 4/20/2013
Pepper – Jalapeno 2/9/2013 4/28/2013 4/25/2013
Pepper – Bell 2/9/2013 5/4/2013 4/25/2013
Swiss Chard 2/16/2013 3/20/2013 4/7/2013
Cabbage 2/16/2013 3/31/2013 5/7/2013
Brussel Sprouts 2/22/2013 3/31/2013 5/23/2013
Collards 3/2/2013 3/24/2013 5/1/2013
Tomato 3/2/2013 5/4/2013 5/21/2013
Spinach 3/9/2013 4/23/2013
Peas 3/9/2013 5/13/2013
Turnips 3/9/2013 5/8/2013
Watermelon 3/16/2013 5/27/2013 6/14/2013
Basil 3/24/2013 5/14/2013 6/22/2013
Potatoes 3/30/2013 7/8/2013
Radish 3/31/2013 5/5/2013
Beets 3/31/2013 6/4/2013
Carrots 4/9/2013 6/23/2013
Corn 4/9/2013 5/7/2013 6/28/2013
Cucumber 4/9/2013 5/16/2013 6/8/2013
Okra 4/9/2013 5/11/2013 6/13/2013
Pumpkin 4/9/2013 5/7/2013 7/28/2013
Summer Squash – Sunburst 4/9/2013 5/16/2013 6/3/2013
Winter Squash – Hunter 4/9/2013 5/16/2013 7/3/2013
Zucchini 4/9/2013 5/16/2013 6/3/2013
Lettuce 4/13/2013 6/7/2013
Beans 5/4/2013 7/13/2013
Dill 5/11/2013 7/15/2013
Carrots 5/27/2013 8/10/2013
Broccoli 6/22/2013 8/2/2013 8/31/2013
Cabbage 6/22/2013 8/2/2013 9/10/2013
Kale 6/22/2013 7/22/2013 8/16/2013
Kohlrabi 6/22/2013 7/29/2013 8/16/2013
Cabbage – Napa 7/24/2013 8/21/2013 10/7/2013
Pak Choi 7/24/2013 8/21/2013 9/22/2013
Onion – Bunching 7/24/2013 10/2/2013
Turnip 7/24/2013 9/22/2013
Lettuce 8/3/2013 9/27/2013
Spinach 8/10/2013 9/24/2013
Corn Salad 8/10/2013 9/29/2013
Garlic 10/12/2013 2/14/2014
Pak Choi 12/14/2013 1/26/2014 2/12/2014

* N/A because vegetables should be sown directly in the ground.

 

2. Create a garden plan online and get reminders.  My favorite online vegetable gardening software is GrowVeg.  It is very easy to use and provides some great visuals when to specifically plant seeds and transplant your seedlings outdoors, which you can see below.

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In addition you also can recreate a virtual copy of your garden and plan exactly where you want to plant your vegetables, to ensure your ambitions for growing a huge crop this year does not exceed the reality of the limited space you have to actually grow.  It also remembers where you planted vegetables in previous years to help enforce crop rotation to ensure pests/diseases will be forced to remain in check.

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Though one of my favorite features is the weekly reminders, once a week you get a simple email letting you know what plants you should be starting/transplanting that week.  This was very helpful later in the season where I probably would have completely forgotten about my carrots without this helpful reminder.

 

3. Buy a garden planning book.  If you want something that you can really get your hands on you might want to check out the Week-by-Week Vegetable Gardener’s Handbook helps with this problem by providing weekly reminders of what vegetables you should be order/planting and what preparations you should be doing in your garden.  This can be a very helpful tool in getting a little more organized in your vegetable garden.

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Already falling behind on your seed planting here are a few great options to get a great selection of seeds without spending a lot of money:

  • One of my favorites is Burpee Seeds, they have been around since 1876 and definitely know their stuff. The actually have a seed sale going on now where you get $15 off on order of $75 (just use code AFFB4A35) expires on 1/15.
  • The name is not too exciting but Generic Seeds offers no thrills packaging with quality seeds and very reasonable prices and if you spend $20 or more shipping is on them.

Opening weekend at the farmers market

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We actually had some great weather the first couple weekends of the farmers market.  We got our typical early season purchases (kettle corn and apples) though also got some strangely slightly higher priced flowers for mothers day.

Though we did learn something important after our first visit…be sure to not eat right before going to the farmers market and stay hungry for the great food.

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Chicken coop and chicken update

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Well good news I got the chicken coop done just in time for the little guys to move out there this weekend.  In all I like how it turned out and for now feel it should be pretty secure with the solid floor, elevated coop, and entirely wrapped in 1/2 inch hardware cloth (a bit pricey but probably worth the cost of waking up to raccoons in the coop…)

 

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I did have a couple additions after taking this picture by adding a little window at the bottom of the clean out door so the kids and take a peek at the chickens without having to open the door.  I also installed the ramp to get from the coop to the run.

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Inside the coop I went natural with a simple stick to use as a roost since I have so many of these around the property…though at the moment the chickens are more interested in pecking at it than standing on it.  I also have a standard light with 75 watt bulb which I am keeping on all day and a infrared heat lamp I am just turning on at night in case they get a little chilly.

Once they get a little less “chicken” and actually venture outside during the day I will turn off the light during the day and as they get a little bigger will wean them off the heat lamp as well (possible bringing it back this winter if we get some colder than typical winters.

Will plan on creating another post eventually with some specifics of construction and the cool features I added as well as things I probably would have done differently.

Countdown for chicken coop

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This weekend we picked up our chicks at Keep It Simple Farm.  Our three kids, my two nieces, and one of my daughter’s friends each picked out a chick and we ended up with one Silkie and five Ffrizzles.  They are currently two weeks old so I now have four weeks to finish building a chicken coop.  Fortunately the first weekend was very productive.

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My design is to have a chicken run that is six feet by ten feet with the coop being four feet by six feet giving a decent amount of space to explore.  Given we have raccoons hanging around in out backyard having the so plan is to have a solid wood floor and wrap the entire chicken wire in 1/2 inch hardware cloth to help protect those soon to be grown up chickens.

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Mantis 4-cycle tiller/cultivator review – Day 1

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A week before I was about to move to my new house with a much larger yard I got an email from the nice people at Mantis asking if I would like to review their 4 cycle tiller/cultivator.  Given I needed to start from scratch of a new garden and had a decent amount of land to use it on it sounded like a great idea.

The tiller came in the box requiring some basic installation requiring some basic tools.  This was pretty easy though guessing it was from some of the long days moving/unpacking but I had some trouble handles put on the right way.  Brain kept forgetting I had the thing upside down :)  Though after probably about 30 minutes I had the tiller assembled ready for its first mission…expanding the garden.

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I previously pulled this ivy-like ground cover away with a rake and some gentle massaging by yanking on it pretty hard and was hoping to have the tiller do some of this heavy work for me.  The tiller had some serious power though the ivy just wanted to hang onto the tines and eventually had to remove them to get the mess I created cleared.

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Though it had the power to clear this ground cover out this is probably not exactly its designed use so results probably should have been expected.

After clearing some ivy I decided to try digging into the ground a bit by pulling the throttle and walking backwards with it.  This caused the tiller to dig deep into the ground where I remembered that my new yard has rocks 3-4 inches down which one ended up getting stuck in the tines where I again had to remove them.  In the future I should reverse the tines to use as a cultivator unless I have cleared the rocks deeper ahead of time.

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Though I was not too successful with my first use I admittedly was pushing the intended use of this tiller but I was very impressed with the ease of starting (after reading directions) and the power this tiller/cultivator has while still being light enough to pack around with minimal effort.

What is also pretty cool about this tiller is there are optional attachments such as aerator and dethatcher which gives some options to extend it’s functionality without having to take up much extra space in your shed.

My next mission for this tiller is to clear an area of grass under my youngest daughters playset before laying down some wood chips which I expect will go much smoother than this mission…

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