Friday, 9 November 2012

Lunar Planting and Germination Rates.

My latest lot of seeds was bought on an on line auction. The price was great, the seeds were plenty and I could get a good 80% of the varieties I wanted from the same person. Win! I knew they were home collected seeds, so maybe they wouldn't be as stringently quality controlled as if I bought a commercial packet, but they were a third of the price and five times the quantity, so if there's a misfire, I'm not going to sob over it.

These seeds came with two additions:
1) A bible quote in each packet (alright, if that's your thing).

2) A caveat stating that if I planted on a full moon, I might only get 25% germination rate, but if I planted on a new moon, the rate would be around 90%.

The second one sounds a bit loony to me. (Yes I said loony on purpose: Luna/loony. Yes, I thought it was funny, yes you're supposed to laugh. Please laugh now at my weak etymological joke, OK? Cheers.) I've heard of planting by the moon before though, so I figured I'd at least look it up.

Without looking it up though, I'm not really convinced. If this were the case, surely seed production companies would have it written on their packets? They want you to believe they have the best quality products, so if you only get a 25% germination rate, maybe you'll try another brand if you don't know about this lunar stuff.

Another thing is, when I did look it up on line, most of what I saw said that, if anything, the opposite was true. Full moons apparently pull more water to the surface of the earth, where seeds and roots live, and so more growth happens. But it's purely a water thing, and I plan on watering my seeds well whatever time of the month I plant them.

So I'm going to do an incredibly basic experiment, just to check.

The next new moon is Wednesday the 14th, so I'm going to plant radishes. I'll plant them in a recycled egg tray that holds 30, and put 1 seed in each compartment, then count the germination rate, speed and overall growth rate.

I'm choosing radishes because they're just so darned quick and easy to grow, and we could probably manage to eat 30 radishes every two weeks once they're ready, without straining ourselves. Also, hopefully they'll be happy enough in the small amount of space an egg carton affords. If not, oh well.

I'll repeat it in a couple of weeks when there's a full moon, and then again during the next new moon just because there may be a temperature issue since we're moving into summer and I want to rule that out.

It's not a perfect experiment, since the weather won't be a constant, but it'll probably be enough to convince me if there's anything significant about the idea enough to make me change my current "plant any old time" practices.

In the mean time, if anybody out there plants by the moon, I'd love to hear your experiences! Let me know either on facebook, or in the comments section below.

Cheers! Knight N Daze.

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Image source

Sunday, 4 November 2012

My Plants Live in Toilet Rolls?

This garden was planted August 18th, It contains
celery, cabbage, carrots, beetroot and also gave us
30 radishes in the bare space, which is now
replanted with more carrots.
It's had no weeds despite the forest of them
surrounding it!
I mentioned in a previous post, that Square Foot Gardening is my plan of choice for an easy, productive garden, that I can remove in a matter of weeks if necessary.

Square foot gardening was dreamed up by Mel Bartholomew as a space saving, time saving way of growing plants. He quite literally wrote the book on it. This won't be the first time I've tried it, and I had some great success before, so I'm fairly certain of success going in.

What they are, actually, is raised gardens, built on top of the ground with none of your existing soil. This immediately gets rid of the hassle of having a bad soil type, and also the weed seeds that are impossible to get rid of.

The gardens I'll put in, are four feet by four feet, which is a pretty standard size. You don't want any part of the garden to be more than two feet from a walkway, because you don't want to walk on it and compress the compost mixture. I'm deviating from the growing medium Mr Bartholomew suggests, mostly because of price. He suggests an equal mix of compost, peat moss and vermiculite. I'm just using compost - a vege one from a landscaping centre - and I've not had a problem yet.

All the different items I'm using (so far!) to grow
Before I set the gardens up though, or even buy the compost (I'd use my own, but it hasn't composted yet) I need something to plant in them, and also a plan so I know what to plant. Well, I have a plan, but that's a whole other post - you get to see my geeky pictures - lucky you! So I know what to plant, so I know what seedlings I want.

One of them is corn, which should probably be in by now, but I'm not scared. The seedlings are sprouting right now, in recycled punnets from the pansies and tomato plants I bought, and in toilet rolls, when I ran out of other things to use. That'll be one whole garden done right there. There's also lettuce, broccoli, cucumber and cauliflower trying to germinate in the other various receptacles. Use what's available, I say! No point buying little pots when you have an egg carton available. I even caught myself staring questioningly at a bean can last night, wondering if I shouldn't put a few holes in the bottom and use it as a plant pot.

So, in another week, I think the corn will be ready to go, and in the mean time, I'll plant some more seeds and keep waiting, waiting, waiting...

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Saturday, 3 November 2012

Strawberries by the Basketful

I'm still mostly in the planning stages of this wee puppy. OK, I've planted some seeds to germinate, and I managed to put in a 1 square metre garden a couple of months back, which is doing really well, but basically so far, it's all effort for very little reward.

I guess there's no other way to start with vege gardening, unless you want to buy mature plants, which defeats the purpose somewhat. The plan, over the next couple of months, is to build four more Square Foot Gardens, which, despite the name, are not a square foot in size. These will hopefully, over time, contribute 75% of vegetable consumption for our family of five, without too much in the way of preserving.

But not this weekend!

Mainly because even if I did put them in, I'd have nothing to plant in them, so they'd just be a great big litter box for the neighbourhood cats. No one wants that, except the neighbourhood cats. So, while I wait for my seedlings to grow, I decided to play with:
I have two baskets just the same (you didn't need to see a picture of each, did you?) that I began a few weeks back by planting in the bottom of the hanging baskets. That's why there's more happening with the bottom plants; they've had a chance to settle in. The top plants, I got 'reduced to clear' this weekend. Shops have basically stopped selling strawberry plants for the season, which is a shame, because I haven't stopped wanting to buy them!

Baskets like this are really easy to do, but there are things I'll do differently when I add more hanging baskets to the collection after Christmas. (Why I say after Christmas, when the traditional planting time is winter or spring, is because there are a few strawberry farms nearby. After Christmas they open their fields to "pick your own" customers and also start selling their strawberry runners at very reasonable prices, just because their peak selling season is over. I plan on taking advantage.)

Next time, I'll plant 10 strawberries to a basket, rather than the six you see here. There will be three more spaced round the upper half of the sides, and one directly on the bottom. They don't mind hanging upside down. I'm not too worried about them running out of nutrients either, because as they're in coconut matting, a lot of the water I put in, runs out the bottom, leeching the soil of goodness. So I'll be feeding them regularly as it is. And quite frankly, I think a big ball of hanging strawberry plant will look fairly spectacular. I'm looking forward to seeing it!

Anyway, to plant them, you need to start with the basket empty, and the coconut matting waterlogged. Make small holes with your fingers, or a knife/scissors if the matting is too thick, and poke the roots of your plants thorough. Try to close up the holes as much as you can afterwards so the potting mix doesn't escape.

Now's a good time to say that I wished I'd taken a moment at this point to mix through water crystals/crystal rain into the compost potting mixture that I used to plant them. It would have saved me a job later when I realised that that kind of hanging basket is a real pain for not holding the water you give it. Crystal rain stopped the plants from shrivelling up, even though I was watering every day!

Now you fill the baskets with your choice of pot plant mixture, making sure the roots are completely surrounded with soil, and not pressed up against the coconut, as you go. Then plant the plants on top, and it's done.

It's a great way to grow strawberries, with benefits that you don't get when they are in a garden bed.
*The air circulates round them easily, so they don't rot and the fruit stays fresh longer.

*Many of the pests that get at your crops can't reach them (including little fingers!).

*They're very portable.

*And they do look pretty!

I'll take another picture mid-summer so we can see how it's changed with time, probably at the same time that I'm planting up the other baskets I want to have (can you tell I like strawberries?). Ultimately, we need enough plants to keep up with a few strawberries per day per person in our house, and then a few more to freeze for desserts and baking during the off season.

We won't get that this year, but for now, we'll get a taste :)

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Thursday, 1 November 2012


Hello, and welcome to my Weekend Garden Blog!

This is a branch-off from my original Knight N Daze blog, but since I decided to make a series out of it, to be updated in a weekendly-type manner, I thought it deserved its own place.

Every weekend, rain or shine, I'll do something to make our big back yard earn its keep. I like gardening, and I love seeing results. It's just another facet of my creative side that likes to come out and play. We're just heading into summer here in Auckland, New Zealand, so it's a great time to get started. For any Northern Hemisphere readers, you have the added advantage of six months' advance knowledge of how awesome my ideas are (or aren't - you never know with experimentation - but I'm pretty sure it'll be awesome) before implementing it into your own back garden, if that's what you feel like doing.

Or you can just laugh at my foibles. :)

Because we live in a rented property, and I don't expect to be living here long term (we have dreams of buying our own place) there needs to be some parameters for my wee project:
*It needs to be cheap. Since it's not long term, I might not have a couple of seasons for the garden to "pay me back" as it were. I want lots of good quality, fresh, healthy produce for better value than I can get from the store, ASAP.

*I need to be able to return the place to its original condition in a matter of weeks, if that's what's needed when we move out.

*I want all my long term projects to be portable. Fruit trees are fun, but leaving them behind is not, so if they won't go into a planter or pot, they can stay at the shop.

Also, I might spend a little more on my long term plans, since they are portable, but even then I'll try to do it for the lowest cost possible, because why wouldn't you?

I'll be reusing and recycling a fair bit too.

So follow along; we'd be pleased to have you! You can get updates on the regular Knight N Daze facebook page or twitter profile or by RSS feed, email or blogger from the links at the top on the right.

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