Wild Gourd Farm

Organic Gardening in St. Louis City

Tag Archives: seedlings

Amy’s Farmhouse

We’ve been spending a lot of time at our newest garden at Eric’s sister’s new house.  It turns out the previous owner, Wendell, had farmed the yard and sold his produce from his driveway! We’re excited to continue the farming tradition.

2013_05_12_356We got Eric’s family together on Mothers’ Day to help us plant the narrow plot (pictured above are his parents hard at work). Eric used our walk-behind tiller to carve out the space between each row, then mounded up the rows using a hoe. This also incorporated the compost, gypsum, and organic fertilizer I had added on top of the soil earlier.

2013_05_12_352For planting tomatoes, we always bury the stem as deep as possible to promote deeper root growth and stability. The timing was perfect. Usually it would’ve been a little late, but this year the weather really delayed everything. The tomatoes we’d planted earlier in Sunset Hills and our Iowa Ave. gardens are stunted compared to these.

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With Eric’s family’s help, we planted 60 tomato plants and 40 pepper plants, mulched with grass clippings around each plant, and seeded basil, calendula, and other flowers throughout.

2013_05_16_379Last week Eric and his folks installed a drip irrigation system for the tomato and pepper plot. The system connects to the exterior hose with a battery-operated timer, which we’ve set to allow water flow for two hours every other day.

2013_05_15_373We also started planting the big plot last week. Like the narrow plot, Eric used our small tiller to carve out the spaces between rows, then I used a hoe to mound each row up. We mixed in some free leaf compost and seeded the first three rows with several types of salad greens and lettuces because they are shaded by the garage for most of the afternoon.

2013_05_15_371This is the back of the garden. The squash pictured above were started from seeds I saved from a huge pink banana squash last fall. We also seeded the next row to the right with several varieties of pumpkin and the last row with watermelon and cantaloupe.

2013_05_16_374As you can see, there’s still lots of space to fill. We’ve got some some sweet potatoes sprouting inside and zucchini plants we started from seed about ready to transplant. We’ve been researching other types of squash to grow, specifically some that are pest and disease resistant.

Also on the agenda: installing drip irrigation for the big plot. We bought the rest of the supplies we need, but we’ll have to set it up in two separate zones and reconfigure the part we already installed. It’ll be worth it though, not only would watering by hand take forever, it’d also be difficult to navigate the hose without running over plants.

This is our biggest contiguous garden space, at about 1/4 acre, but we haven’t neglected our other gardens! More updates to come!

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It’s funny how drastically different this spring season is compared to last year’s. We enjoyed such a mild winter and early spring last year, we were able to get a lot done. The only reason we waited until May 2 to plant our tomatoes last year was because we hadn’t yet acquired the land for them. This year has been so cold and wet that a lot of things have been delayed.

2013_04_28_204We finished planting our tomatoes in Sunset Hills on April 28. However, this may still have been too early; we’ve also since planted some at Iowa Ave. and they seem to be faring better.

2013_05_06_314Along with tomatoes in the back section of our Iowa Ave. garden we also transplanted some pepper plants last week. Because of the invasive grass, we planted the peppers in holes we cut through burlap coffee bags and lined all the paths between plants with burlap and straw.

2013_05_07_321Here’s the whole back section, complete with burlap and straw. Between the peppers and tomatoes we planted parsley, nasturtium, thyme, and other herbs.

2013_05_07_319We also started a new tomato container garden in the section by the west fence where we were growing nothing but tall grass and weeds. To keep the grass out, we laid out a tarp and plastic sheeting before placing the pots and topping with wood chips. This method worked well for us in a different section last year.

2013_05_06_2992013_05_06_312Besides dealing with the terrible grass, we’ve also found evidence of pest damage to some of our newly-sprouted bean plants (above is an Italian pole bean seedling). It happens every year, the beans and peppers are the first to be eaten. We’ve used Dawn dish soap in the past but  this year I got some Dr. Bronner’s castile soap- more natural. Mixed with water, I’ve been spraying the tops and bottoms of the leaves and stems of all of our bean plants, and the damage has been limited.

2013_04_30_210Some of the popcorn we planted sprouted, but not all of it. We want to make sure it grows close together enough for sufficient pollination, so we reseeded some of the areas where germination was low.

2013_05_07_323We have two new raised beds at Iowa Ave.  (as seen in our garden outline) this year.  I planted horseradish, mustard, and kale in one, and Eric planted ginger (pictured above) in the other. We grew ginger last year in our side yard after sprouting it in shallow pots first. This year we direct seeded- the smaller pieces are our ginger from last year, the bigger pieces are organic ginger from Local Harvest.

2013_05_01_221The other thing keeping us busy this spring is setting up a new garden space at Eric’s sister’s new house. She found a house in the city with a 1/4 acre lot, and she’s letting us farm it (thanks Amy!). We tilled up this section of her yard literally the same day she closed on the house, May 1.

2013_05_01_233We called on our Sunset Hills gardening buddy, Tom, to till the area. It was just too much space for our little walk-behind tiller.

2013_05_01_239After several hours, Tom had mowed the overgrown grass and tilled up these two big sections for us. Unfortunately we were losing daylight, so he was only able to pass over each area once with the tiller.

2013_05_08_330To really remove all the grass, we needed it tilled again. Of course it rained for the next four days straight, so it took a week before Tom was able to come out to finish the job. As he tilled we worked to pull out grass clumps, and we returned yesterday to continue pulling them out.

2013_05_08_333Here’s a view from the other side of the yard. In this big section we’ll grow sweet potatoes, squash (summer and winter), pumpkins, melons, and whatever else we can fit.

Today I applied some fertilizer and crushed gypsum to the longer, thinner section where we’ll plant tomatoes, then covered with a layer of free compost. Eric is planning to return tomorrow with our little tiller to work the compost in and space out our mounded rows, then plant tomatoes and peppers! We’re also hoping to install a drip irrigation system to help with watering.

The weather has really forced us to be super productive in the short periods of time between rain. The forecast for this coming week looks pretty clear, thankfully. Lots of work ahead of us!

Babying the Tomato Plants

It’s cold and rainy again, calling for lows tonight in the mid 30s and gusts of wind as strong as 20 mph! So we’re doing our best to protect our tomato plants, both in ground and in pots.

2013_04_23_154This morning I went out to Sunset Hills to protect our newly-planted tomatoes. It gets colder out there in the county than it does in the city. Thankfully, Eric’s mom was willing to help me in the rain! We wrapped plastic sheeting around all of the tomato cages and secured it with staples, clothespins, and wire.

2013_04_23_151I don’t think we’ll get any frost but we wanted to be extra safe. Along with the straw, the plastic should be a good wind break and provide more insulation. We’ll just have to remove the plastic on Thursday before it gets too warm!

2013_04_23_157Here at home, Eric helped me build a windbreak for the potted tomato plants. Most of our plants are safe and sound inside our half hoop house but many are outside hardening off. This tarp attached to wooden stakes driven deep in the ground should protect these babies from strong gusts of wind. 

On a side note, we’re now selling our tomato plants! All organic, many heirloom varieties including Arkansas Traveler, Costuloto Genovese (our favorite), a bush Beefsteak variety, all colors of cherry tomatoes, and several others. In 3″ or 4″ pots, $3 each. Let us know if you’d like any!

Edit: We only sell locally in the St. Louis area. We are not able to ship plants at this time. Thanks for understanding!

How We Spent Earth Day Weekend

This weekend was dedicated to the gardens.

2013_04_19_110It all started Friday night, when the forecast called for a chance of frost overnight. A few days earlier a surprise frost nipped a few of our tomato and pepper plants, so we didn’t want to take any chances. Thus began the great plant shuffle of 2013- all of the pepper plants and the tomato plants that hadn’t hardened off yet (they were in the half-hoop house) were brought inside. As you can see above, we had hundreds of plants inside, covering literally every available surface in our apartment. The plants we’d had outside hardening off were put in the hoop house. Then, about 12 hours later on Saturday morning we put them all back where they started.

Most of the rest of Saturday was spent at our Sunset Hills garden working on our tomato patch.

2013_04_20_119We’re using a similar method as last year, utilizing burlap in between the rows and all plants to keep weeds down and moisture levels high. It’s been a cool, rainy spring here in St. Louis so we only planted about 1/3 of our tomatoes for the year, the rest to be planted later.  Most of Saturday was spent building trellises.

2013_04_20_121Last year we staked each tomato plant separately and tied them as they grew, which was a royal pain. The plants sprawled in all directions and we lost a lot of tomatoes that ended up growing on the ground. So this year we constructed individual 5′ tall wire mesh cages for each plant (about 50).

2013_04_20_126Though we didn’t plant all the tomatoes, we plotted out the rows and fertilized the spaces for each plant. We interplanted some borage, basil, marigold, and calendula seeds today and finished off with straw on top.

After a full day’s work at Sunset Hills we shot over to Iowa Avenue while we still had daylight.

2013_04_12_067Our bamboo teepee trellis stands 8′ tall and will support our favorite flat Italian pole beans. We’re going to tie string horizontally around the bamboo but leave an opening in front so we can walk into the middle to harvest the beans.

2013_04_20_129After several brainstorming sessions, we figured that purchasing nylon netting was the quickest, easiest, and cheapest way to trellis our new bean section this year. We planted a row of mystery beans (unidentified, collected last year), black beans, bolita beans, and burgundy bush beans, with carrots and salad greens along each row. The paths in between were lined with burlap and straw to keep the weeds down (the evil grass was already starting to regrow- UGH!).

2013_04_20_137On the other side of the beans we planted popcorn in rows. We haven’t grown corn before, we’re hoping we planted them closely enough to allow for good pollination. We plan to interplant seeds from a wild gourd that Eric found along the Meramec River.

We have a lot to do still, but the forecast predicts lows in the 30s again this week, so we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves. We’ll probably go and wrap plastic around the bottoms of the tomato cages in Sunset Hills to help protect the plants over the cold nights. As soon as the weather breaks, we’ll be planting another big wave of tomatoes, all our peppers, and the rest of our veggies. Can’t wait!

Up-Potting: It Never Ends!

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We’ve been up-potting tomato, pepper, and other herbs and veggie plants for several weeks, after starting over 800 from seed. From grow lights in the basement, the plants are transplanted into larger pots (4″ diameter) and placed in our greenhouse as an intermediate step before hardening off. We had a pretty hefty stash of plastic pots saved from previous years and managed to scrounge lots of pots from several other sources, but we finally ran out. So we bought some Solo cups from the dollar store and drilled holes in the bottom for drainage.

2013_04_14_102It’s been pretty cold here in St. Louis (especially compared to last year), so we’re glad we have the hoop house to help store them- temperatures inside have soared over 100°F, so we keep it vented.

 

2013_04_13_083We built this make-shift shelving unit from wooden crates and boards (all free). 

2013_04_13_079 We’ve designated the left side of the hoop house for the potted plants, and the right side has salad greens, cilantro, and kale, which we seeded last fall.

2013_04_14_103Here are some tomato plants hardening off outside of the hoop house.

We’re planning to plant about 100 tomato plants and sell the rest at the Cherokee Street International Farmers’ Market, which starts May 3rd! Varieties include our favorite yellow cherry and other cherry varieties, Arkansas traveler, Costuloto Genovese, black giant, a bush variety we’ve saved seeds from for years, and several other heirloom varieties.

Seed Starting: New and Improved!

seedling trays under grow lightsWe’ve upgraded our seed-starting operation for this year. From our homemade grow light fixtures, we’ve graduated to four fluorescent shop lights hung on a 6′ x 3′ metal shelving unit. Right now we have about 1,000 seedlings under these lights in our basement; last year our set-up only allowed us to start about 300 at a time. 

2013_02_05_123It all started when we acquired this metal shelving unit and all the light fixtures from Eric’s grandfather, who passed away last year. He was a talented craftsman, and his resourcefulness inspired us to create this set up.

We hung each fluorescent light fixture to the underside of the shelves using chain and wire to suspend them. This will allow us to raise and lower the lights as needed. We also lined the back with foil to reflect light.

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We started our seeds on February 9. We use the Jiffy seedling trays, which contain 72 cells for individual seedlings and come with greenhouse lids to help with germination. We’ve reused ours year after year. We speed up germination by putting some of the trays on heating pads made specifically for growing seedlings. We only have two of these pads, so we got creative. In the left photo, we put a milk crate upside down over a register and placed a seedling tray on top. The right photo shows a small side table with a wicker bottom shelf we placed over a register, which housed two full trays.

seedlingsThe majority of the tomatoes germinated within 1 week. We removed the lids and put the trays under lights once germinated. This photo was taken February 16.

2013_03_02_233For our onions this year, we planted our seeds in a tray without cells. Half of the tray is planted with red onion, the other half is green onion. We’ll buy slips for white or yellow onions, depending on what we can find locally.

2013_03_02_235These are some of our pepper seedlings. This year we’re growing jalapeno, banana peppers, an heirloom variety from Baker Creek called lipstick, Marconi, and chocolate bell. The peppers take a little longer to germinate than tomatoes.

2013_03_02_236We planted an entire tray with one of our favorite varieties of tomatoes from last year- Costoluto Genovese. If you look toward the right side of the photo, you can see a seedling that shot up faster and taller than its fellow seedlings; we’ll be documenting this plant’s progress throughout the year, and if it lives up to its explosive beginnings, we’ll make sure to save seeds for next year!

2013_03_02_241A sea of tomatoes… we planted a tray of Arkansas Travelers and a bush variety we’ve been saving seeds from for years. We also have two full trays of cherry tomato varieties, including our favorite yellow, as well as some sungold, purple, and red. In smaller quantities, we started heirloom varieties Millionaire and Pierce’s Pride from Baker Creek (given to us free last year), Black Giant, Black Pineapple, and White Wonder.

We plan to plant about 100 tomato and 50 pepper plants this season. We’ll be selling the rest in the St. Louis area. We’ll be up-potting these soon and will continue to document the progress!

What’s Growing On? Iowa Avenue Garden, Fall 2012

This year, with our expansion into Sunset Hills where the majority of our tomato crop was grown, we unfortunately ended up putting the Iowa Avenue (not Street, as we’ve been calling it!) garden on the back-burner. We built the Iowa Ave. garden two years ago, and it turned into our experimental and seed garden, whereas Sunset Hills became more of a market garden.  With the changing seasons and the tomatoes slowing down, we’ve been spending more time on Iowa Ave. First on the agenda- fighting the evil, invasive grass. Second, building fences around all our raised beds to keep out chickens and dogs. Third, planting cool-season seeds and transplants!

We seeded two different varieties of spinach on September 25. We took this photo today, a month later.

On the other half of the spinach bed we sowed a mix of spicy Asian greens from seeds we’d saved previously.

We love radishes, especially because they grow so quickly! This fall we’re growing icicle and French breakfast radishes. These are just babies, but they’ll be plump and ready to harvest in no time!

If you look closely you can see part of a row of carrot seedlings we sowed from seeds we’d saved. We’ll have to thin out some of the carrots, since they were planted close together due to the small size of the seed. Note: these were planted at the same time as the radishes.

This cilantro self-seeded from plants we grew in the spring. Cilantro is quick to bolt in the summer, so when it flowers and goes to seed we harvest some of the dried seeds for coriander seasoning, save some to plant later, and leave some on the plants to self-seed.

Our transplanted Red Russian kale is doing well.

Here remains the only sign of our failed potato tower experiment- a few potatoes left in the ground have started to sprout.

We can’t wait to dig up the sweet potato bed, coming soon!

From a distance, this looks like a tangled, weedy mess of stocky tomato plants. The grass was so thick in this area of the garden, and we didn’t have the resources to get it up, so we laid out a tarp, planted tomato plants in pots, and mulched around them. As we said, we like to experiment.

Up close, you can see this patch has been pretty successful, considering they lived in pots through the extreme summer heat and drought. This variety of cherry tomato has been very prolific, hardy, thick-skinned, and a hit at the market in combination with our sweet yellow cherry tomatoes.

Fall Garden Overhaul

The Iowa Street garden has plenty of life left after this brutal summer. This year our main harvests from this garden were cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, cut flowers, garlic, herbs, beets, and onions. We’ve cleared out some of our beds to make room for cool season crops, and we’re looking forward to lots of fall harvests.

The amaranth and sweet potato bed held up well in the drought. The amaranth will be harvested when the heads dry out; we’ll dig up the sweet potatoes after the fall cold sweetens them up.

We found another watermelon growing outside of our keyhole garden- best surprise ever!

Also planted in the keyhole garden are a couple large stands of sunchokes, or Jerusalem artichokes, which we’ll harvest for their edible tubers.

Sunchokes are distantly related to sunflowers… so pretty.

We’ve also got a ton of tomatoes popping… ripening soon, if we’re lucky.

More tomatoes in the tomato bed.

Our two chard plants are still doing well. They’ve been cut back a bit to give us more growing space.

The rest of the garden is getting a fall makeover. We started seedlings indoors to transplant into some of our beds, other beds have been direct seeded.

Asian salad greens recently transplanted.

A whole bed of kale- most of it Red Russian- transplanted.

Tomatoes aren’t a cool season crop, but we still had some in pots that we’d started in the spring, so we figured we might as well plant them. We’re obviously not expecting much-if we get one green tomato from them, we’ll be happy. They’re sharing the bed with basil (also non-cool season), radicchio, and lettuce transplants.

We’re hoping to have another mild fall and winter, especially since we got a late start seeding for fall. From seed we’ve planted spinach, lettuce mix, carrots, beets, and radishes.

Iowa Street: An Epic Battle

We built our Iowa Street garden in a formerly-vacant lot in the city. To prevent erosion, the city seeds its vacant lots with some crazy, evil, invasive grass, which we’ve been battling since the beginning.

We’ve mulched around our raised beds to keep the grass down. Not only does the grass try to grow up in the beds, it also sends runners horizontally from the outside.

As you can see, the horizontal roots look like zosia on steroids. We’ve pulled out roots easily over a foot long.

The grass invaded our sweet potato bed before we had a chance to plant our sweet potato slips

Grass dug out, sweet potatoes planted!

We built our keyhole garden in the beginning of March and had planted some melon and squash seeds, but they couldn’t compete with the invading grass- despite the double layer of cardboard we had underneath.

With some help, we dug out all the grass so we could start over. The only remaining plants were Jerusalem artichokes. Today Eric transplanted squash and melon plants, which will hopefully be well established before the grass tries to return.

This grassy area was getting out of control, so we laid down a plastic tarp and burlap sacks, added a container garden with tomato and basil plants, and finished with wood chips. 

Iowa Street Garden Update

Here's an overview of our garden, showing the first two rows of raised beds

This is the back half of the garden, with two more raised beds to the left, our circular keyhole garden, and newly expanded growing space along the fence for tomatoes, peppers, beans, and cucumbers

We're growing hops in this little bed, with nasturtium to hopefully keep weeds and the ever-encroaching grass at bay

Sugar snap pea shoots getting their first grasps onto the trellis

Our beet and garlic bed. The larger garlic plants are a variety of elephant garlic we found locally- very excited for those

Jerusalem artichoke/sunchoke in the keyhole garden- it's our first time growing these versatile tubers- they'll be great raw, cooked, or ground into flour!

We built a little spiral out of chicken wire to act as a trellis for two types of cucumbers- a pickling variety and lemon cucumbers

We planted japanese cucumbers at our slanted bamboo trellis, but unfortunately the chickens broke out and ate all of them last week... It was a little too early for them anyway, so we'll reseed soon.

The black beans sprouted last week

The black beans are growing under one of our bamboo teepee trellises- we cut notches in the bamboo and strung twine for horizontal support. There are three more teepees for bolita beans, garbonzo beans (chickpeas), and Italian pole beans.

Tomatoes in the ground survived the cold weather we had a couple nights last week. We're still waiting to plant the majority of our tomato plants, but we wanted to get a head start.

Also, please vote in our poll to help us choose our garden name!