Sunday, February 16, 2014

Gardening: The Carrot Chronicles, part 2 (The do-over)

OK, you may recall my initial attempt at growing carrots in 1 gallon water jugs with the intent of starting a new jug every couple weeks to have a continuous harvest.

Well - it didn't work out so well. . . for two reasons.

The first was my own fault. It was raining light but steady the day I planted those first jugs so I didn't wet the potting mix down very much since I was going to sit them outside as soon as I had them ready. Think sink-hole in a bottle! The potting mix settled so much over the next couple days that the bottles were only 2/3 full and the surface, right where all those very tiny carrot seeds were trying to survive, was all cracked and turned over and just generally a mess!

The second reason it didn't work out so well was that a concern was raised about what chemicals might leach out of the plastic jugs when they were sitting in the sun. Now you can find plenty of proponents coming down on both sides of this issue (Turns out the initial report of this back in 2001came from a University of Idaho student theses and the chemical he claimed was leaching, DEHA, isn't even part of the makeup of water bottle plastics. It was later determined that the study was contaminated by the lab equipment itself, which does have DEHA in it.) but in the interests of playing it safe, I have relegated the water bottles to growing looking-at plants rather than eating plants.

So carrots, round two.

Today I prepared another one of my grow boxes and planted a small area of Danvers at one end and  Baby Fingers at the other. I marked the boundaries of the planted areas by embedding thin strips of wood in the potting mix.

The plan is to plant a couple more small areas in the same box in a couple-three weeks - assuming this experiment doesn't end the way the first try did! If all goes well I have enough room in one grow box for three different batches of each variety, which is probably about all I'll be able to grow to harvest before summer sneaks up and shuts down carrot growth.

Since this box is going to be sitting near the bird feeder until I manage to finish building the mobile greenhouse I felt like I needed to protect it a bit. If nothing else, in order to keep birdseed from planting itself among my carrots! Those birds are flocking the area right now, going through a full feeder of seed in a day and a half and they are messy! Seeds and seed hulls are all over the place!

The grow boxes come molded with 3/8" holes in the corners for adding covers and trellises. Looking around for something that would bend into a hoop and fit in these holes I grabbed some left over PVC baseboard and ripped 3/8" square sticks from it on the table saw.

By the way, the cut edges of the PVC are SHARP so beware of sliding your finger down the length of a fresh cut or you will have - well - a fresh cut!

I whittled the ends of my sticks down to something resembling round with a handy box cutter so they would fit in the molded holes and they worked great! Though I was careful to keep my body, and especially my face, out of the way in case one of the sticks was to shatter as I bent it into place.

The next step should have been to drape row-cover over my hoops and clip it into place with tiny little spring clamps (You can never have too may tiny little spring clamps!) but, of course, I don't have any row cover. So for now I used some landscape cloth, which I did have. I'll have to remember to get some proper row cover before the seeds sprout or they won't be getting enough light!

While I was in a gardening mood I started a third batch of broccoli and spinach seeds, transplanted all the tomatoes to larger containers, and, what the heck, started a new batch of the Flordade tomatoes, the first batch of which was a total flop with two of nine seeds sprouting and then barely hanging on. Maybe it was too early in the season for that first batch??? We'll see.

Not quite done for the day, I grabbed an old enameled coffee pot that's been sitting around ever since I had to remove it from my camper when it started to rust through, years ago now, drilled a couple holes an inch or so up the sides, filled it with potting mix, (Which I wet down well so it wouldn't settle later!) and planted a few Salvia seeds in the middle and Alyssum around the edges and in the spout. I can just hear the horrified gasps from gardeners that know what they're doing, but, in case you haven't figured it out, I don't know what I'm doing. Hey! all of life is an experiment, you might as well have fun with it!

Oh, and the two water jugs have now been properly filled with mix and one has been planted with some Johnny Jump-up's and the other with some California Poppy's.

In case you're wondering, my choices have nothing to do with a master plan or anything as sophisticated as that; they were just based on what seed packets we had laying around.

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