High Intensity Spinach and Lettuce in Containers

My biggest disappointment of the 2017 garden was that I didn’t plant enough lettuce and greens for daily salads. We did get salads, just not nearly enough by my standards. That said, having PLENTY of leafy salad greens is high on my list for 2018.

I told you that story so I could tell you this story: I’ve been binge watching garden videos on YouTube while doing housework this past week, something that began after finding a couple of videos by MIgardener on growing high intensity. Being a container gardener with limited space, this obviously appealed to me.

The video that hooked me is entitled Grow 500% MORE Vegetables in 5 Times LESS Space!. You can also see the results of he high intensity planting on this video, and if this method of planting interests you, check out The 3 Requirements for Successful High Intensity Gardening. I could hardly believe the amount of lettuce Luke says you can get from one small space of high intensity, cut-and-come-again lettuce. Sold.

So that’s what I spent my Saturday afternoon doing.

I emptied a couple of pots of last year’s dirt into an old recycle bin, adding a little extra peat, perlite, compost, and slow release organic vegetable fertilizer.

If you’re messing around with dry peat and perlite, I highly recommend wearing a dust mask and covering your eyes. You don’t need that dust in your lungs or eyeballs.

Then I pulled out a bunch of containers I got for FREE from the recycle bin at a local nursery (yes, that’s actually a thing, praise God!), filled them with my soil mix, and watered them. Then I got to try something I’ve been wanting to do for a while:

I put a thin layer of seed starting mix over the soil in the containers and patted it down. Then I sowed my seeds very thickly.

After that I sprinkled more seed starting mix over the seeds, patted it down, and watered the containers again. I will keep all eight containers in the garage until they emerge and then haul them out to the cold frames. I sowed the following varieties:

  • Olympia spinach
  • Space spinach
  • Two different lettuce mixes
  • Parris Island COS lettuce
  • Grand Rapids lettuce
  • Buttercrunch lettuce
  • Garden Babies lettuce

Needless to say, I am really hoping this goes well. I’ll try to keep everyone up to date on the progress as the season moves along. I really hope you will take a few minutes to check out the MIgardener channel. Luke has some great videos with tons of useful info. And just in case anyone is wondering, I’m not getting anything for mentioning MIgardener. I just found the videos very helpful and wanted to share.

Hope everyone has a blessed Monday!

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Deck Farm Update

Here in Michigan we are in the middle of a decent snow dump. Though it’s by no means the worse we’ve ever had, Mr. Awesome decided to work from home today. Praise God we were able to get stocked up on groceries earlier this week!

I thought today might be a good day to post an update on what’s going on with the Deck Farm and what’s happening with the winter gardening experiments.

The first winter gardening experiment I tried was sowing pansies on January 9 and sticking them in the garage. Since then I’ve sown several more in small paper cups set in a plastic shoe box (those were stuck in the fridge January 29 and set out in the garage February 3). Neither set of pansies has emerged yet. My guess is the soil is still too cool even in the garage at 40 F for them to want to come up. Hopefully when the weather begins to warm they will respond accordingly. For now I just keep checking on them to make sure they are still moist and in the dark.

My second experiment of sowing a flat of cold hardy greens (on January 15) is coming along nicely. The majority of the varieties have emerged and are ready to be thinned. I originally tried to stick the flat out into a cold frame when I put the frames together, but decided against it and brought the flat back into the garage and stuck it under a shop light, where I will grow them on until something needs to change, or the weather improves.

I really don’t have much to report about Winter Gardening Experiment #3, my sowing Tonda di Parigi carrots and Cherry Belle Radishes in deck rail planters. Both planters were placed in a cold frame on January 31 to await warmer temps. The Cherry Belle radishes were just barely starting to come up. Worried that they might come up too quickly, I thought it would be best for them to be allowed to stay good and cold outside until the weather turns. To me it seemed a better choice than having to find space under a light and need to run it for sixteen hours a day or so for the next several weeks. No carrots emerging yet, and I’m not surprised. Once things warm up they should pop up when they’re ready.

The Winter Gardening Experiments weren’t the only things I managed to get sown, however. I started some Royal Blend and Zinfandel sweet peas on January 31. This is my first year trying to grow sweet peas, and I’m very excited for them! No emergence yet, as you can see. I’m giving them the same treatment as the pansies: making sure they’re moist and in the dark.

On January 31 I also planted another flat filled with toilet paper tubes, this set planted with Sugar Snap peas, Tendergreen mustard spinach, Tatsoi, Grand Rapids lettuce, Parris Island COS lettuce, and a winter lettuce mix. The flat is also in the garage for the time being.

I know that the traditional opinion is that peas do not do well started indoors and transplanted out, however, after doing a little research, it looks as though several people have done it with few problems. A couple of years back I started peas in TP tubes and set the flat outside and many of them came up just fine and transplanted just fine, so we will see how this goes. Fortunately I have plenty of peas that I can use should these fail.

I really put a lot of thought into how I was going to start the peas. Should I soak them, nick them, or pre-sprout them in paper towels? I was worried that if I pre-sprouted them, they would emerge much too early and I would have issues either with growing them on or planting them out too early. If I soaked the seeds, I was worried I wouldn’t get them planted after soaking them and waste the seed. So nicking it was, and I employed the help of a pair of nail clippers.

Other Deck Farming goings on: I FINALLY got a thermometer for the garage!

And the mache continues to do well:

That’s about all that’s been going on here garden-wise other than I’m trying to stir the compost every other day or so to make sure it’ll be ready when I need it. There are still a few things I want to get done and get planted this month, but I’ll save all of that for another post… or posts!

Hope everyone has a safe and lovely weekend! God bless!

Willow…Thursday?

I know, I know. Consistency isn’t my thing.

Willow and I were in the bathroom and she started begging to be put on the rim of the tub. She’s shown interest in it before, but not this much. I’m really hoping she will become more comfortable with it as time goes by so she can have the chance to get a proper bath instead of flapping around awkwardly in her water dish. Hey, a girl can pray.

Parrotphernalia: Items to Consider for the Bird Room

The inspiration for this post was something I literally tripped over. Our bird room/office space has a lot in it right now: two birds, two desks with accompanying chairs and computers, a filing cabinet, and a few things that we like to have to make sure the birds are nice and comfortable. This past weekend, not paying attention, I went to do something (turn on a light?) and banged right into our humidifier, spilling its entire contents all over the floor, traumatizing the birds, and making a massive mess. Since then it occurred to me it might be a nice idea to do a post about a few things Mr. Awesome and I have found useful in our bird room:

A humidifier. The whole house humidifier that is attached to our furnace looks like it’s older than me, and it didn’t age well, nor does it work, the result being that the humidity levels in our home during the cold months could get close to that of the Sahara Desert (not joking. Read this article). So after sandpaper feet, nose bleeds, and chapped lips, it was time to purchase a humidifier. Our Odyssey to create humidity in our home could be a post in and of itself, but I won’t bore you with it (for now). Suffice it to say, if you are suffering from lack of humidity, it is safe to assume your bird is as well. Compound this with the fact that your bird may be molting this time of year, and that could make for one uncomfortable parrot.

From what I’ve seen, humidifiers come in predominantly two types: the sort that produce hot steam, and the kind that work via evaporation and a fan. The humidifier we currently have in our bird room is a 1.3 Gallon Honeywell warm mist humidifier. It can be a bit of a pain to clean with our ridiculously hard water, but it does an adequate job and has a knob that lets you adjust how much steam you want it to put out. We also have another, larger, evaporating humidifier in another area of the house.

Two things to keep in mind: Obviously, the warm steam humidifiers can get hot, so if you have one near your birds make sure it is in a place where they will not be burned by it. If you are using the evaporating variety, be sure the fan isn’t putting your birds in a cold draft. And as always, be sure anything plugged into an electrical outlet is out of chewing distance.

***Side Note*** Before purchasing a humidifier, check how much energy it uses. I thought I was being clever and picked up three small, low priced warm steam humidifiers thinking if they worked well it would save us having to purchase a larger version. They did work well, and I kept them bubbling away for at least twelve hours a day. Then the energy bill came in, AND IT WAS ABOUT $100 MORE THAN USUAL. Mr. Awesome did a check online and discovered that the watts used by the things was enormous, which would be fine if you were just using it for the night to soothe a cold, but not for trying to run it nonstop for a month.

A space heater. Depending on your home and setup this one may not be necessary. Our condo is really more of a townhome in its layout. We basically live in a tower consisting of three floors, the result being each level you go up is warmer than the previous level. We keep our birds on the highest floor where most of the heat collects. This winter, in an effort to save on energy costs, we turned our thermostat down to 69 F during the day and 65 F during the night and set up a small space heater in the bird room to keep it in the low to mid 70s. It has worked well so far, and I’m really hoping we will see the difference on our energy bills. Even if your home is a consistent temperature all over, you may find a space heater beneficial to have on hand in case of emergency or illness. Of course, keep anything hot at a safe distance from your birds, and be aware of any fire risks.

A thermometer/hygrometer. Obviously, you’ll have no idea what the temperature or humidity levels are if you don’t have a way of measuring them. You can get thermometer/hygrometer combos that are pretty inexpensive. Even if you are confident of what the temps and humidity levels are in your home, it is smart to have one of these near your birds so you can be sure of what is going on directly around them. I recommend a digital version for the sake of quick, easy reading.

Carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. These should be in every home anyway for your own safety, but it is worthwhile considering where they are located in relation to where you are keeping your birds.

An air purifier. This is probably more for your sake than the birds, but air quality is important. As any parrot owner knows, birds produce and incredible amount of feather dust; grey and white birds especially. We have an Alen air purifier that we are quite pleased with. Neither Mr. Awesome or I are allergic to birds specifically, praise God, but we do have allergy issues, so not having to breathe in quite so much birdy dander is a big plus. If you do put an air purifier in your bird room, do make sure it isn’t putting any of your little guys in a draft.

A TV, computer, radio, or music source. Willow and Robin get to watch cartoons. As I said above, our computers are in the bird room (or are the birds in our office?), and many times I will pull up a cartoon on Netflix for them, just to keep things interesting. Bright colors, funny sounds, and frequent musical numbers keep the birds from having to spend their afternoons in silence while I am busy getting things done. Music is also something nice to have playing for them, even talk radio, so long as it isn’t too loud or unnerving. I recommend you not play anything for your birds that you don’t want them repeating later. Just in case.

I hope you found this list useful. Our bird room is quite crowded at the moment with all of the appliances, but at least Robin and Willow seem comfortable. I’m looking forward to warmer weather when we can put the humidifier and heater away for the season. Perhaps then I will be less prone to tripping over things…


Image Credit

Music Division, The New York Public Library. “The girl you dream about” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1896 – 1900. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-fc5d-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99