Category Archives: Potting Soil

Two in One Day

01ReadyImagine, two posts on the same day! This one, instead of being delayed like most of my others, is actually about today. Mostly.

This was a good morning to stay inside doing housekeeping – it’s cold out there. After lunch it warmed up quite nicely – low 60s. As long as I was working, and in the sun, and wearing a sweatshirt and a hat, it was quite comfortable. Did I mention I was also wearing long-johns? No, I’m not kidding. It doesn’t bother me to work outside under the summer sun when it’s 95° and 100% humidity. Cold is another story.

Just to get caught up to date, last Monday I cut my first head of broccoli. It wasn’t very big, about 6 02Fillounces. Yes, I ate it before I took a picture.

Today I worked on the compost heap, adding lots of kitchen and garden waste that had been building up. I decided to “seed” all three of my compost bins with worms. These aren’t garden worms, but compost worms (a.k.a. red worms). I’ve been neglecting raising them in a plastic bin in the sunroom. I’m curious to see how they take to living in the wild. They probably won’t start breeding with 03Plantthe weather this cold but one never knows. Tomorrow it’s supposed to reach 70.

I went to Home Depot to check out vegetable plants – they looked pretty good. I picked up nine each of Packman broccoli and Bonnie hybrid cabbage (a new variety for me). Each nine-pack cost $3.89. That’s only 43 cents per plant.

Before transplanting them I washed the 6 inch pots with hot soapy 04Back Fillwater. That’s just a precaution in case the previous potting soil had any nasty fungus or microbes. Note: as a general rule it isn’t best to reuse potting soil. Toss it in the compost heap to take care of any nasties that might have taken up residence.

Once the pots had air-dried I laid them out on a card table in the sunroom.

The first step in transplanting is to water the plants enough so their root balls will stay together.

I filled each pot about 05Donehalfway with the soil I prepared last weekend.

After placing the seedlings in the pots, I back-filled with more soil.

The Brassica family does not like loose soil very much. I firmly pressed down the potting soil around the root balls.

Finally I gave each pot 2 cups of dechlorinated water. The potting soil was pretty dry.

I’ll keep the plants inside tonight but tomorrow they go out in the cold, cruel world.

That Didn’t Work Out

Tree FrogI know I said that I was going to post more often – but that hasn’t happened, has it? The pictures I’m sharing today really should’ve been posted on January 18. What can I say? I got distracted doing other things.

The weather has been quite chilly. Though we haven’t had any frost this winter, average temperatures seem below normal. Check out the tree frog I found when I popped the lid off a bucket of worm castings. He’s so cold that he never budged. I’m afraid that the global warming thing is a lot like the Affordable Care Act. The government invented it and then couldn’t get it to work!

IngredientsI need to get some more Brassica planted before the end of the month. I also want to start some seeds for the spring garden. Becky gave me some heirloom seeds from Monticello. I’m really looking forward to seeing how they do.
Unfortunately, I’m all out of potting soil so I needed to mix up some more.

The recipe I used here is six parts each of vermiculite and compost, plus three parts of worm castings. I also tossed in a small handful (1/3 cup?) Of slow release nitrogen fertilizer (20-0-0).
MixingMy measuring cup is an old Folgers plastic coffee canister – it has a volume of about three quarts. The final mix almost filled two five-gallon buckets.

The pictures show how I mix it. I dump the ingredients on a large piece of plastic sheet. For purposes of this web post I put the ingredients in separate piles because it looks more interesting.

To mix all the ingredients together I simply “walk” the sheet back and forth. That is to say, I pick up one end of the sheet of plastic and walk toward the other end. This causes the ingredients to tumble together. Then I put down the first end, pick up the second, and walked back the other way.

It doesn’t take long before everything is thoroughly mixed.

As far as produce goes – I picked one small eggplant (about 5 ounces) and two small green peppers. I think the eggplants and green peppers are about done for the season.

Quick Update

Sweet potato flowerLast Weekend  (November 10 and 11)

Messing around with WordPress occupied much of my time. I had jumped into blogging without any idea how it all works. Now I’m no longer completely clueless (just mostly).

During the preceding week I harvested a handful of (small) sweet potatoes. This was the result of overenthusiastic weeding. They were First fruitsquite good (stir-fried). On the weekend I got my first Jalapeño and my first ripe tomato. The pepper wasn’t quite as hot as I prefer but it tasted good. The tomato was delicious—the best Florida-grown tomato I’ve ever had. We’ll see if this continues.

The first flowers have appeared on the sweet potato vines. According to my research that means I can harvest in four weeks (December 7 and 8).

I mowed my front yard, probably for the last time this year. The dry season is under way.

I broke some more sod and planted four cabbage plants. I also began installation of a simple drip irrigation system. I used one-gallon-per-hour emitters for the eggplants and tomatoes. Everything else is still being hand watered. I think I’m going to add emitters to the compost bins. I haven’t been faithful about keeping them damp enough.

Then I stopped watering when, this past Friday (11/15), it began raining (sprinkling). This continued, off and on, through Saturday noon. My yard got a little more than a half inch.

This weekend (November 17)

Today I broke more sod and planted four broccoli and four cauliflower seedlings.

YpresMy planting method has changed slightly going into the dry time. After I prepared the bed I raked it nice and smooth and level—because it looked so nice. Then I took my shovel and scooped out a crater where each seedling will go. This makes it look not so pretty–more like Ypres in 1918.

Into each crater goes a measure of Compost teapotting soil (q.v.) and two cups of aerated compost tea. Remind me to tell you about aerated compost tea sometime. Simply marvelous stuff—I’ve been using it for the last month. Finally I press the seedling into the muddy hole and I’m done.

I’ve switched to the crater planting method because of the nature of our soil. Water tends to pool on the surface and, if there’s any slope, run off to water the weeds. The crater forces the water to flow toward the (desirable) plant and soak into the potting soil. This makes hand watering quick and easy—dump in a measure of water and move on. My soil is so well-drained that the garden must be watered every other day. Saving time is important.

I was almost out of potting soil so I mixed up some more. This is the third time I’ve made potting soil at my new house and I used a new recipe (that I made up on the spot—just like the last two times). This time I used three parts each of vermiculite and compost plus two parts of worm castings. I also tossed in a palm full of 2% slow-release nitrogen fertilizer. This made 5 gallons.

MeasuringMy measuring scoop for the ingredients is an old, plastic Folgers coffee canister ($0.00). When I plant, I use one 8″ plastic flower pot ($1.00) to measure the mix into the prepared hole. Finally I add precisely two cups of water (more or less) with an expensive Pyrex measuring cup. I know—it makes no sense.

In other news:

A roll of toilet paper lasts me 19 days.

I use one pint (about 5.5 ounces) of dried chopped onion every two weeks.

I’m afraid to find out how much coffee I go through!

And my clothes dryer stopped working this week! I will not post pictures of how I fixed it (the door switch failed). My solution is completely safe but definitely looks like a “don’t try this at home” solution. I need to find a new switch.


We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Updates

OverallOn August 25 I purchased 4 each of Eggplant (Black Beauty), Green Pepper (California Wonder), Jalapeño, and Tomato (Beef Master) from Willow Tree in St. Petersburg. These were four-packs of tiny seedlings. I’ve been buying from them for years and trust their quality and advice.

They suggested that it might be a couple of weeks early for everything but the eggplants but I bought them anyway.

The eggplants went into a newly prepared section of the garden. I decided to hold off planting the rest till mid September. I had a few 8″ pots lying around so the tomatoes and jalapeños got transplanted to new homes. I wanted to do the same for the green peppers but I didn’t feel like going to the store. They had to stay in their little nursery pack.

On a personal note: I really despise shopping! Once every three weeks I go to the grocery store. August 25 was the last time I’ve been to any other store. I wanted to go to one of the local home improvement stores this weekend to get some trickle irrigation supplies but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Maybe I’ll see if Amazon carries that stuff…

I mixed up some potting soil: 3 parts worm castings, 4 of compost, and 4 of vermiculite. Since the compost was from pile 1, mostly leaf mold, I added a quarter cup of 20% nitrogen fertilizer. I mixed everything by rolling the ingredients back and forth on a large sheet of plastic. It made about 7 gallons (approximately 1 cubic foot).

When I planted the eggplants I made holes in the dirt about the size of the pots and filled them with the potting soil. I figured it would help get them off to a good start. Seems to have worked.

So, mid-September came and went. I haven’t really got a handle on this whole homeowner thing (yet).

Last weekend, October 13, I finally prepped some new ground.   I also ripped out the remaining two okra stems (something had eaten off all of the leaves and branches). The Okra crop was very disappointing but that can probably be put down to neglect. The (now large) seedlings are in the ground. The rainy season is over so I’ve been watering them (almost) every day.