Project: I decided this winter to set up my own mini-greenhouse on my kitchen counter and grow a few plants from seed. Salpiglosis, a beautiful annual that sounds like a diseased body part and ground cherries were on the menu. I started two small trays of seeds using traditional fiber pellets and two trays using a product called No Damp Off.
Since I'm home this week on Spring Break I've been taking the seedlings outside for the natural light and to start hardening them off. These are zinnia seedlings.
The ground cherry seedlings are still tiny but I have ten sturdy seedlings so I'm hopeful I'll have enough plants to keep me well supplied. I'll pass the extras on to friends and other gardeners.
Results: The No Damp Off was hard to keep watered and the plants grew weird. If I had watered it with a spray bottle every day, however, it might have worked better. They also germinated slower than the seeds in the fiber pellets. I ended up giving all the No Damp Off and the seeds to my worms and planted zinnias in the extra trays. The salpiglosis seeds needed darkness to germinate but must have germinated before I realized it because they grew tall and skinny. Worm food! The ground cherry seeds planted in the fiber pellets are growing well, even though they're still tiny. I read they don't like cool weather and will put out more growth once it warms up.
I put Texas Tufa's advice to good use and put up foil between the grow lights to reflect as much light back on to the seedlings as possible. It works really well!
Was It Worth It? Yes! Now I don't have to wait until July for my zinnias to bloom and will hopefully have ground cherry plants this summer. Plus, I get to start my day checking on my seed trays while drinking my morning vat of coffee.
Project: I planted 260 discount daffodils and Dutch iris in January, thanks to a ridiculously warm winter. I extended the width of my front garden beds by three feet to accommodate the bulbs and my ongoing redesign of the front landscaping. I'm planning on filling the bed with annual vinca this summer.
Results: Some of the bulbs are up, but not all of them. Those that don't come up this spring will hopefully come up next spring. A few of the daffodils are blooming and more are pushing up every day. Now that we're almost past daffodil season, I love the surprise of unexpected blooms.
There are still a lot of daffodils pushing foliage up through the soil. Purple Dutch iris are interplanted with the daffs. Naked lady lilies are planted at the very end of the bed near the lamp post.
Was It Worth It? Yes!! Even though the bed definitely doesn't look the way I had imagined it last January, I'm confident it will be bursting with bloom next spring. The work is done and I have years of enjoyment ahead of me. Plus, it was incredible to get to work in the garden in January!!
Project: I really wanted a pond in my garden but didn't have access to an electrical hookup to power a pump. I considered a container pond but didn't have a way to winterize the container and didn't want to risk cracking an expensive ceramic pot with our usual winter weather. The solution was to sink a container into the ground and create a tiny in-ground pond. It was also exponentially cheaper than a regular pond. I bought muck buckets and feed scoops at a farm store, dug a big hole, lined the hole with carpet squares, and stuck in the buckets. I submerged bricks into the pond and added potted plants that would grow to cover the edges of the buckets. My goal was to attract frogs to the garden and grow aquatic plants.
Variegated water celery, dwarf horse rush, and a 'Fried Green Tomatoes' lobelia live in the frog pond. I'm hoping the water celery will spread to the point that it covers some of the edges of the muck buckets. Feed scoops hang over the edge of the buckets and provide a 'shallow end' for the frogs. This summer I'm going to float tiny balls of barley in the water to help control algae. Hornwort lives submerged in the water to keep it oxygenated.
Result: The pond and the plants all made it through the winter. Yay! A friend who lives close by brought over a bunch of frogs that have been hiding a lot but making enough guest appearances that I think they're still in the pond. I also added mosquito fish that I think may have been eaten by the frogs. On the advice of one of the plant specialists at our local garden center, I added guppies to the pond to eat the mosquito larvae. Guppies get along well with frogs and won't go after tadpoles. But between our low night temperatures and several blackbirds who have been using the pond as their own personal fishing hole, I think the guppies have been eaten or froze. The pond is definitely a work in progress.
A chartreuse heuchera brightens up the edges of the pond. It survived total neglect in a pot last summer and I needed to find a spot for it in the garden so I stuck it between the rocks and soil at the edge of the garden bed near the dog run. I'm not sure the name of this cultivar, possibly 'Lime Rickey' but it's tough as nails!! When I was filling in the hole around the buckets, I created areas for the frogs and toads to hibernate under the ground cover sedum and heuchera.
Was It Worth It? Yes!! I love having aquatic plants in the garden and can add more guppies when it warms up. When the water is warmer they'll be faster and better able to evade the blackbirds. I was really excited to see the native leopard frogs peeking out the water and sunbathing on the rocks. I turned the driest, most inhospitable spot in my garden into a teensy frog pond. Even the little birds like to hop around its edges. I love it!