Speedy little plants!
All the seedlings are doing well. They’re healthy and happy and sturdy and BIG. They’re growing WAY faster than I expected, and it’s becoming a little rainforest in the room. They are quickly approaching their recommended transplant height of 6 or so inches, and since we’re in Zone 3A here in Calgary with a last frost date of May 23 so I have no idea how tall they’ll get in three weeks or so before they go outside. The cukes seem tiny and undeveloped in contrast, but they’re sturdy and healthy so I guess they’re okay. All are heavy drinkers, and now I find myself watering pretty much every day or two. Every two weeks I feed everyone with the 1/3 diluted fish and kelp fertilizers, and that seems to be working.
What is not working is the light situation. This spring has been rather crappy in the cool, cloudy kind of way – we even got some snow in the last two weeks, and the awesome T5 fluorescent strips I got are simply not enough anymore. All the plants are twisting towards it, just about hugging the bulb, and now that they’re BIG and LEAFY it’s just not enough light. Bravely navigating the world of grow lights I found a Hydrofarm 125 watt Grow Light that’s supposed to be adequate for a 9 X 9 area. Of course it wasn’t cheap, but at least it will last a good decade, and it was still WAY cheaper than the proper plant set ups with the tiers and the sodium/metal halide lamps. Since I’ve been enjoying myself immensely with this seedling operation I figure I’ll likely grow something or another every spring. That’s the story anyhow.
This past weekend I also started a bunch of alpine strawberries – about 20 plants or so. I have no idea if that’s enough or too few, but that’s about the amount of plants I want to take care of, so seemed okay to me. Strawberries are perennials and apparently don’t produce much their first year, so this is more of a long term plan anyhow. And they take a hundred days to mature, so it’ll be a while before I see any berries. What they will need though, is a straw mulch (hence the name – learn something new every day J) and I have no idea where to get a small amount of straw around here. I mean, this is the prairie and there are monstrous hay bales not two minutes from my house, but I’d need something akin to a few garbage bags, just enough for a 2 inch layer of mulch. The mulch is there to keep the roots at an even temperature and to prevent the leaves and berries from touching the soil, as I guess they’re quite susceptible to soil borne diseases. I’m googling strawberry mulches as I type this, and it seems that pine needles make an excellent mulch as well. They’re slightly acid which strawberries like, and more inclined to lay flat which gives more access for suns’ rays. Thanks to http://leslieland.com/blog for this one. Now pine needles are beyond plentiful here, you could call them abundant, so at least supply won’t be an issue.
Now it’s mostly a waiting game. It’s supposed to rain for the next few days, shocker, I know, so we’ll begin building the 4 X 8 raised bed that we just picked up the materials for. And by me, I mean my significant other who’s quite handy with tools and not liable to kill himself. On a different note, we ordered a cubic yard of compost for the newly cleaned up garden beds (post coming) to be delivered by the very helpful Western Canada compost. They’ll be driving up with some garden soil and compost on Monday, which will mean quite a workout to haul it into the bed. Check out http://www.westerncanadacompost.com/first.htm if you need a large quantity delivered and don’t feel like shoveling all day to fill your topper covered truck and making multiple trips. We’re nothing if not lazy around here. A big thanks to http://www.calgarygardencoach.typepad.com/ for lots of local knowledge and tips.