Monday, April 1, 2013

Dirty Hands

I miss gardening, at least, right now I miss gardening. I used to have a rather large plot at the back of the yard. We grew strawberries, peas, lettuce, zucchini, cucumbers and attempted corn. The raccoons always seemed to get the corn before we did. I remember radishes and attempts to grow carrots. The latter never got very big. I enjoyed gardening until about mid-August, and then it felt like a chore to trundle out to the garden to weed. By September, I was seriously wondering why I convinced myself this was fun. Yet, every spring, I would start with hope and promise.

What I really like are peppers fresh from the garden. I love orange flesh peppers. They have this sweetness not found in green or red peppers. It's amplified if you grow them yourself. This year, I decided I would see what I could do about that.

Left to right: red, orange and chocolate peppers. Yes, they are called chocolate peppers. They are green peppers that, when allowed to ripen fully, turn a velvety chocolate brown. They have a spicy taste to them. I think it's spicier than regular green peppers. I'm not fond of the jalapeno or other similarly spiced peppers although I grew banana peppers, a pale yellow, thin shaped pepper, one year. Those were okay.

I probably should have started these at the beginning of March, when the seeds arrived. But the best of intentions don't always translate into actions so it was this weekend when they were actually planted. I dug the stuff up from the basement and it sat on the living room table for 3 weeks. I think I need to credit having to do things with Flat Stanley for my actually getting around to planting these.

I had the small square peat pots but knew they wouldn't be very good for my peppers so I bought a couple stacks of the large circular pots. Then, as I was putting everything back in the basement, I found a box of circular peat pots. Oh well. If this goes well, maybe I can be inspired to do it next year. The dirt is seed starter mix I have on hand.

Peat pots should be soaked in water before you add the dirt. They absorb and hold water for the seeds and emerging plants reducing damp off, a problem where plants keel over and die because they rot where their stems meet the dirt. I will still have to watch these and reduce the water in the tray if I see signs of damp-off. You add the dirt to the wet pot and then wet the dirt.

The back row contains three pots of four seeds each of the peppers. I'm also starting two pots of those Teddy Bear sunflowers I like so much. The squares contain flower seeds from packets I've had for a long time; two kinds of nicotania, three kinds of marigolds, lobelia and one other whose name escapes me at the moment. Six of these seeds were purchased at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home. He had extensive gardens and imported seeds from France. I've had these seeds for a long time and am not sure they are going to sprout. If they don't, I'll add the whole mess to the compost pile. If I go visit Carole in Virginia this year, maybe a trip to Monticello is in order to buy fresh seeds.

In the box containing seeds, I have quite a few mixes. Once the weather gets warm, I'll put those in pots as I did last year with the seed mix Patt sent me. We'll see if they sprout. I see I don't have any zinnia seeds. I like zinnias. That's a purchase for next year.

The tray the seeds sit in is actually a plastic top used to cover actual seed starter trays. I used to have two of those but could only find one and the geraniums I overwinter are sitting in that. Oh well, necessity is the mother of invention, so to speak. The tops I ordered last year came 4 to a box. I simply put two together, taped them sort of shut and stuck them on the ironing board in the south window.

In theory, the water contained in the tray will evaporate in the sunshine and this will provide moisture and warmth to sprout these seeds. I'll need to check on it every day to make sure there is adequate moisture in the tray, just enough and not too much. The girls won't jump up here and knock it off or try to lay on this.

All of these will go in containers on the deck. I bought a large bag of potting soil that's supposed to be specifically designed for containers. I was looking at the plants in the living room, the ones I've had for a long, long time and thinking they could use a repotting once the weather warms. And repotting the geraniums wouldn't be a bad thing either.

So, wish my little sprouts luck. If all goes well, my hands will be dirty for the month of May.

Beverage: Irish Breakfast tea


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