Mari's Dirty Fingers

A Newbie's Garden Experiment

The Updates are Coming! The Updates are Coming!

I like visiting blogs as part of my gardening research. The big websites have valuable tried and true methods, but I love the innovation and experimentation of individual  people.   What I don’t like about some blogs is that you only see the enthusiastic beginnings of projects and never the end results.  I’m as interested in the failed attempts as I am in the successes.  There are lessons to be learned with both.  So, here’s where all my  pre-spring manic gardening attempts are as of today.  You can click on the bold title to link back to the original post.

Children of the Corn

Recap: Started corn indoors on 2/21/13 in newspaper pots for later transplanting in school garden.

Of the 45 corn seeds, only 37 germinated  (82%) and survived to be planted in the garden. We cleared a 7′ x 7′ section of lawn and mixed in a couple of wheelbarrows of compost. At almost 3 weeks old the corn roots were just starting to break through the newspaper pots.

corn growing

Corn at 2 weeks

Future home of the Corn

Future Home of the Corn

Students planted corn about 1 foot apart and then gave them a nice deep watering on 3/11/13. The teacher also planted some of the corn.  She is convinced she has a black thumb and says she kills everything she plants. She is very excited (but doubtful) to see the corn grow. 

Corn ready for transplanting

Corn ready for transplanting

Corn Field in the Morning Sun.

Corn Field in the Morning Sun

Prepping for March

Recap: Started tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and squash indoors in anticipation of warmer spring weather.

This update is mostly about yield.  I read that eggplant and peppers are difficult to grow from seeds and have low germination rates.  They require 1-3 weeks and 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit to germinate.  I kept my seeds covered with saran wrap under a 60 watt bulb. Here is a picture of what germinated (below).  Some eggplant and pepper seeds germinated after a few days and others are still emerging after 2 weeks.  All the squash emerged and will be planted into the ground next week.

Column Left to Right: 1-2 Eggplant, 3-4 Grand Bell Pepper, 5 CA wonder Bell Pepper, 6 Zucchini Squash

Germination Rates:

Eggplant 5 out of 12 (42%)

Pepper Grand Bell Mix 6 out of 12 (50%)

Pepper California Wonder 3 out of 6 (50%)

Zucchini Squash 6 out of 6 (100%)

Germination rates were actually higher but some plants died a day or two after they sprouted, so I’m not including those.  Even though the rate for eggplants and peppers are low, it’s still a great deal to grow plants from seed. I paid $0.25  for each seed packet at the Dollar Tree and I will end up with 12 plants for the school garden that would  normally cost me a few dollars each.


The Black Plum tomatoes where done in 2 batches. The first batch was started in egg cartons then transplanted to milk carton pots after the first true leaves appeared.  The second batch was sown straight into the milk cartons.  As you can see, the transplanted batch made for small weak plants while the second batch are all bigger and stronger.  If you have the space then I recommend you start individual seeds in larger containers over egg carton transplants.  I have never tried using commercial seed starting plugs so I have no opinion on those.

Left side: sown in egg carton then transplanted to milk carton. Right: sown straight in milk carton.

Left side: sown in egg carton then transplanted to milk carton. Right: sown straight into milk carton.


1 Comment »

Children of the Corn

In the Mayan origin story, God tried making people out of mud and wood but these peoples sucked and he destroyed them.  Then he made people out of corn and we were pretty cool and here we are.

corn people

As you can tell, corn was pretty important to the Mayans.  Fast forward a few generations to me trying to figure out how to grow corn at my son’s school.  I have a few problems:

  1.  I’ve never planted any before
  2.  Corn is planted in March in my zone but take 90 days to harvest, which means end of May/beginning of June
  3.  Josh’s school year ends the first week of June

I’m not supposed plant before March because it’s too cold, but if I wait until March then we will be harvesting the last day of school which realistically would be pure insanity. Not to mention that I want to clear the corn and plant pumpkins and watermelon that last week so they will be ready to harvest the next school year.

Solution: start them 2 weeks earlier indoors and transplant them in the garden in March. This will give me a 2 week window to harvest and replant new crops.

This is the corn I’ll be starting indoors.

photo 1

I made newspaper pots using a toilet paper roll mold. Corn is not supposed to do well when transplanted from plastic pots. They have a long tap root from which many smaller roots grow from. If the tap root is damaged during transplanting then the whole plant may die or be weak sauce. The idea here is to give the tap root room to grow and then plant the whole paper pot into the ground. The roots should grow through the paper.

photo 2

I filled the paper pot with Bumper Crop soil builder.  I’ve never tried a seed starter soil. It’s more expensive. Bumper Crop is pretty chunky stuff but I’ve had small tomato seeds germinate without a problem. It has tons of good stuff in it like Dolomite. I don’t know what Dolomite is but it sounds pretty bad ass.

photo 3

I put in a corn seed in each pot and covered them with an inch of soil. This is what 45 of them looks like.

photo 4

I covered them with saran wrap and placed them in a sunny spot. I’ll update the progress.

photo 5