Wasilla Alaska Garden Adventures

Wasilla Alaska Garden Adventures - learning about gardening up north.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Seedling Update

It is now the end of March and my seedlings are coming along just fine. I have my seedling rack pretty full and hope to move some of the larger plants out to the greenhouse in a few weeks. As soon as I can get the propane heater hooked up. I built my rack out of readily available items. The shelf unit is a large 18" X 48" 5 shelf wire rack with wheels that you can buy at Costco, Lowes, or Home Depot. The grow lights are 48" florescent shop lights available at Lowes or Home Depot. I use 6500 degree daylight bulbs connected to a timer set for 16 hours of light per day. I also use a heat mat under my Bio Dome seed starting trays to accelerate germination. I hang inexpensive mylar space blankets on the front and back of my rack to act as light reflectors and promote compact growth.

I recommend 3 shop lights per shelf that will take 6 bulbs to give your plants plenty of light. This will promote healthy compact growth and avoid tall spindly weak plants. 3 shop lights are connected by simply screwing a short board to the top of the 3 fixtures and adding a screw eye to the center of the board and using S hooks to hang the lights by a chain for easy hight adjustment as your seedlings grow.
Grow light diagram

It is interesting to note the different leaf shape between the Glacier tomato on the right and the Beaverlodge Plum. The Glacier tomato leaves look almost like a potato leaf unlike the usual scalloped tomato leaf that I am used to. I have had good luck with Glacier in the past. It produced small golf ball sized fruit and survived repeated cold nights down around 25-28 degrees F with only minor leaf damage and very early fruit production.

I started eggplants and peppers 2 weeks ago and transplanted the seedlings today and they seem to be doing as well as the tomatoes. I haven't had very good luck with eggplants or peppers as they prefer hot summer weather and the past 2 summers have been cool and rainy. I am hoping for better weather this year and will keep some plants inside the greenhouse and grow the rest inside my grow tunnel once again.  I also have broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage seedlings that will be ready for transplant any day.

I also started some flowers and the fine Lobelia seeds were simply broadcast over potting mix and kept under a clear cover until sprouted. They are also looking very good so far.

The weather has been a little warmer then the past few years so far. But you can never look too far ahead. We had a nice warm May last year then 40 continuous days of rain with temperatures only in the 60's for the rest of the summer. We could still get another snowstorm any day in April. Daytime highs have been in the 40's F with lows between 10 and 25 F at night. We now have 13 hours of daylight and on a sunny afternoon my greenhouse can reach 100 degrees or more with the vent fan turned off. I could move plants out to the greenhouse as soon as I get the heater running - but it is still a little too cold at night and I am afraid this will cost too much in fuel to run the heater. As the days keep getting longer the cold nights become shorter and the time the heater would run also becomes shorter and less expensive. So now it is just a waiting game.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

2011 Garden Season Begins!

Well, I may be a few weeks late getting this posted, but I started some of my vegetable seeds a few weeks ago and today I potted up my tomato seedlings. This year I am trying Oregon Spring and Beaverlodge Plum tomatoes again, along with the hardy Glacier tomato that has done well for me in the past. I am giving Oregon Spring one more chance. I have not heard many good reviews of this variety. It is a hybrid parthenocarpic tomato from Dr. Jim Baggett, formerly of Oregon State University. It is supposed to set fruits in the absence of pollenization. This should be great for greenhouse growing and cool spring locations such as we have here in Wasilla. We shall see how it does this year. I am also trying Beaverlodge Plum tomato one more time. It is a Canadian variety that is supposed to be early and cold tolerant also.

I still love my bottom watering germination trays and order new grow plugs each year. Seedlings are transplanted into soilless potting mix set in standard flats and bottom watered.

One of my favorite seed starting tools is a battery powered sprayer. I have used this for several years and it sure beats a manual sprayer.

I use the sprayer to keep the soil moist. It is gentle enough not to harm even the smallest and very delicate seedlings. Even with bottom watering under grow lights the soil top always seems to dry out and I try to keep it moist. It is very useful for watering fine flower seeds that are broadcast over flats.