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Turnip sprouts

Have you ever sprouted turnips from seed? These seeds are the same size as mustard seeds. I planted them Friday night. I had to take the lid off my tabletop greenhouse today (Monday morning) so they wouldn't hit it! They're 2 inches tall already.

And, shockingly, two tomato plants have sprouted already.

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State of the Spring Garden

Finally some seasonably warm weather.

The peas are shooting up rather quickly. The lettuce has sprouted. Beets are up. Turnip are getting their second set of leaves so I will be thinning them out this week. Radish going strong. And I believe I saw the Swiss Chard starting to break the soil. It's all good!

Interesting bit of something in regards to the beet I have 6 squares. All were planted at the same time and all are the same variety -- Detroit Dark Red. The 3 squares that were planted with Burpee seeds were slower to germinate and I have fewer seedlings from each pellet. The other 3 squares that were planted with Botanical Interest seeds came up quicker, stronger, and with more seedlings. So note to self -- next planting of beets stick with Botanical Interest seeds.

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Chiles, chiles, and more chiles

I finally found the seed packets I ordered from Made in New Mexico last fall, and have started jiffy-pots of Big Jim, Hatch Green, NuMex Joe Parker, and ChimayĆ³ chiles.

Basically , I want to be able to make chili verde and salsa verde anytime I want this summer. And since green chiles don't seem to make it across this side of the Mississippi, I'm going to have to grow them myself.

Oddly enough, there is no option for 'hot pepper' or 'chile pepper' as far as I can tell, so I've got them listed under 'cayenne pepper', which is misleading, at best.

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Another week, another heap of things planted

I really should've got started on winter planting sooner, I think. Everything in the garden is in a lull right now. Although people near me are still blogging about the last of their crops from summer, all we have still going are some chillis and some basil. Lots of things died off in the summer's last heatwave a month or so back, and some of our crops were either disappointing in the first place (zucchini) or succumbed to powdery mildew (cucumbers). Sigh.

Anyway, everything's paused right now while we wait for the winter crops to come up. I've been planting things in seedling trays rather than direct in the tubs outside, partly because I need to do some work to clear out the dead remains of the summer crops and perk up the potting mix in the tubs for a new season, and partly because there are birds out there who love to scratch around in any bare dirt they can find, which makes direct planting a bit of a challenge.

I have two Ikea mini greenhouses (these ones), which hold 9 standard seedling punnets exactly, with no room to spare. Two weeks ago I planted the first one with various green leafies, beets, and celeriac; those sprouts are now starting to push out their second sets of leaves (except the celeriac, which is barely up). Today I planted another 9 punnets, again with green leafies and some celeriac and chives. I'm hoping to keep up an every-two-weeks schedule, and always have some advanced seedlings to replace any crops we harvest.

Today I also planted snowpeas, in three large tubs with three stakes set tripod-style in each one for them to grow up. I'm not sure how they'll turn out. I'm a little worried about the potting mix, as one of the tubs previously had some beans in it that really failed to thrive. So I took the mix from that pot, split it between the three I'm using, then topped up with a mixture of secondhand potting mix from other tubs, a bit of bought compost, and the composty-soily underlayer that I shoveled up when I dug up the messy old garden scrap heap last week.

I've been reading up a bit on potting mix and things that can go wrong with it, and I'm wondering whether my mix is too dense/wet/badly drained from repeatedly using it and adding compost each time? Perhaps I should add a bit of vermiculite or perlite or something next time round? Something to consider. Of course the other possibility is pH or nutrient imbalance. I did a very rough pH test over the kitchen sink with some vinegar and baking soda, but didn't see anything conclusive. Eventually I womaned up and bought this soil test kit from the Diggers' Club, which not only does pH but also NPK. And yeah, I finally got a Diggers membership. It had to happen sometime. (Can't help wondering whether it's a valid business expense. Hmmm!) Anyway, I guess when that arrives we'll see what's what.

In other news, last week when I cleaned up that compost corner, I also attacked a dead shrub in the front yard, which is the last shrub in the garden bed along the front fence. The landlords originally planted the yard with a bunch of low-maintenance rental-style shrubs which I mostly hate (except the lavender) but some of them haven't survived the dry summer. I can't say I'm very sorry. I wouldn't have ripped them up otherwise, but since they are dead I can now put that front garden to some useful purpose.

My first plan is to plant it with lupins and sweet peas, immediately, to grow through the winter and flower in early spring. Then I'll slash them down -- they're nitrogen fixers and should make good mulch -- and grow sunflowers and beans a pumpkins there for the summer. At least that's my current thought. I'm a little worried because the picket fence to the north may give a bit too much shade at first, but the more we get into summer the less shaded it is, and the taller the sunflowers/beans get and the sprawling the pumpkins get, the less they'll be affected anyway. At least that's my theory.

Apart from that, not much going on. I've been trying to do regular Harvest Monday and Thursday Garden Gobble posts over at my domestic blog though I missed TGG last week and I might miss HM this week unless I go pick some chillis or basil just to say I've got something. (Hmm! Makes me think of a Thai stirfry, now I say it like that. Hmm hmm hmmm.)

Work on Growstuff-the-site is slowish this fortnight because we have a lot of bureaucracy and business stuff to slog through, but I'm hoping I can get some coding time in later this week.

I think that is all. Phew.

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So far I'm getting worried about my berry bushes. They aren't doing anything and I'm wondering if they're just too damp at the roots.

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Seeds a-starting

I've started seeds for several kinds of pepper and one kind of tomatillo. Also, horehound and catmint in pots.

My alpine strawberry seeds have finally germinated, and I have tiny wee seedling popping up in peat pots!

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Transplant day!

I originally wanted to do this yesterday but it rained in the morning so that kinda put a damper on things.

So I did it all today instead! A bunch of the seeds I wintersowed in the milk jugs and soda bottles were getting crowded so it was time to move them to their bigger (permanent) containers. The ones I transplanted were: the mesclun mix, spinach, mizuna, arugula, tatsoi, pak choi, freckled lettuce, radicchio and broccoli rabe.

I also (finally) tended to my garden beds. Lots of earthworms in them, yay! That said, I also found a couple cicadas as I was tilling the ground, boo! I wonder how many from Brood II are going to be coming up from my backyard! :O Anyway, not to be deterred, I sowed alogbate (Malabar spinach) and okra. I was a little late in sowing the alogbate this year but it was so cold late into the season, I just didn't want to go out. Should be okay though.

Thanks to the warm weather, the parsley and anise in the herb garden have recovered and perked up from their overwintering and I cleaned them up a bit, pulling away the debris and dead bits. I also see that my lilies have started to come up in their place by the stairs.

Tomorrow, I'm going to go out and spread the sluggo. I saw some slug eggs while I was tilling (smashed them) so I know they're around somewhere. Now that I've popped the greens out of their wintersown containers and out into the open, I need to be vigilant about that.

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I'm way too excited about this for somebody my age.

There are a lot of beets coming up. In fact, way more sprouts than seeds I planted?? Do "beet seeds" actually each have more than one seed in them? Am I going to have to figure out how to thin them earlier than I expected? Possibly I should have done more research than just reading the backs of the dollar-store seed packets.

There is also a bean that does not quite have any leaves showing but I can see the white neck of the sprout just under the soil, about to unfurl.


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All the seeds I ordered this year have shown up. I've got seeds for 7 kinds of dye plants, though I won't be planting all of those. Some of them get too big for the space I'm allocated.

I got Burpee's heirloom seeds for summer squash, purple-top white globe turnips, chioggia beets, big rainbow tomato, black krim tomato, brandywine pink tomato, and supersteak hybrid tomato. I'm about to start the seeds indoors, but the internet has just informed me that turnips are to be planted either in the fall 2 months before the first frost or in the spring a month before the last frost. They are not summer-weather-type plants. Oops. Well, I've got 3000 turnip seeds. I'll just start a handful and see what happens. The internet also says beets should just be started outside for the same taproot reason as carrots, but soak them for an hour first.

Now um...hmm..which dye plants am I starting?

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I was meant to be working on paperwork type stuff today, but instead I went outside and did violence to a couple of ugly shrubs and dealt with the huge sprawling mess of our alleged "compost" pile.


Messy shrubs and a big spreading heap of garden refuse


Shrubs removed, area cleaned up, two neat compost bins

Many parts of me hurt. It feels good.

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My Garden to date...

I currently use my wordpress blog to record what is happening with my garden, including progress pictures.

For a back dated view, visit my blog.

The whole blog includes food posts too.

I currently work/grow out of pots and I'm a growing season behind with the raised beds because I fell ill at Christmas 2012. I'm learning lots of lessons about growing vegetables in pots too.

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Best place to buy seeds?

Where do you buy your seeds?

I live in Melbourne and I'm wondering where the best places to find heirloom seeds are? Farmer's market? Local nursery?

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Growing Status

I have been concerned about my pea planting because we had some unseasonably cold weather after I planted them. But I see a few sprouts from the Cascadia and Mammoth Melting snap peas. The Green Arrow shelling peas have no sprouts so I replanted them today.

Turnips have sprouted heavily. Radishes have sprouted heavily. A few beets are starting to peek through the soil.

The weather has gone from too cold to almost too warm. Today is near 70F and Monday/Tuesday look to be even warmer. But that should really kick start the seeds.

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Trying Again

I am a terrible gardener but every year around this time I get a bee in my bonnet anyway, so I have tried again! (I am also the world's laziest gardener, which doesn't help.)

We've had late frosts (and snows!) this year, so since today finally felt like spring, I put in some dollar-store seeds. I've not had much lcuk growing vegetables from seed, so this year I'm actually starting them in peat pots! Maybe that will give them a chance.

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Warm weather has arrived! Our spring has been unseasonably cool here, which was a marked change from last year when it was unseasonably warm! I looked at my gardening log from last year and I had happy tomato seedlings I'd wintersown in milkjugs already separated out and transplanted into red solo cups by this point! I have nothing right now going on in the tomato milkjugs.

This weekend, I'm going to start prepping my garden beds and probably buy a couple bags of potting soil for the wintersown seedlings I'm going to transplant into containers.

As for today, I ripped off the duct tape and cracked open the milkjugs with happy sprouts in them so they could get acclimated. Here's a photo. As usual, the mizuna is eager and wild.

I also got more milkjugs from friends and I have to think about what to sow in them. Maybe eggplant and basil, since it's now warm??

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Yay, seeds arrived. Gonna go on a planting binge tomorrow. Especially since tomorrow is tomato day!

Got: Golden purslane Watercress Yard long bean Blackeye pea Charentais melon Cantaloupe (Minnesota Midget) Shelling pea (I ran out)

I've never grown melons before, it will be an adventure. I prepared a little raised bed filled with potting soil far away from the other beds so that they have plenty of room, though I haven't decided between sprawl and trellis. Possibly I will trellis the cantaloupe since they are supposed to be small.

I probably could've planted tomatoes two or three weeks ago the weather has been so hot. (And of course now driving all the way out to descanso gardens for the tomato festival doesn't sound like fun, and I'm tempted to see what they have at the local nursery. But I had such good yields with the kinds that I got at the tomato festival last year. I grew Sunsugar and Jetsetter and they both produced like crazy from the beginning of june to mid-october. Almost half a year of tomato season. I also got decent yields from Copper River and Mister Stripey, but I planted the wrong Mister Stripey somehow and the tomatoes just weren't good. And I don't really like green tomatoes. This year I'd like to grow Sunsugar and Jetsetter again, a paste type, and one random long-season heirloom, whatever looks interesting at the time. Maybe I'll grow Brandywine even though everyone says it never grows well in SoCal.

(Looking at tomato pr0n online is making driving to the festival seem less of a pain, at least...)

At least one edamame plant from the first planting looks like it may actually survive/grow. Second planting, of course, was only a week ago and hasn't come up yet. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Will this be the year I actually successfully grow beans?

Transplanting the cauliflower in early march looks like it was a good idea (aside from the fact that the horse broke into the garden and ate all but one). The one remaining plant has set properly instead of growing tall and weedy, so I will probably have one decent cauliflower this year and a better idea for what to do next year. Growing brassicas here is a little like trying to get blood from a stone, the climate just isn't suited, but homegrown cauliflower is just so much better than store-bought.

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I want to grow food!

Okay, I've had some failed gardening attempts in the past, but this year I'm going to try again, but in containers this time. (The community garden across the street from me has too little sun, so I'm going to put containers in the sunniest spots around my house, which is yardless.)

If you have suggestions for my shopping trip this weekend, I'm all ears, but my inclination is to get tomatoes (which are the point of gardening, to me) and some kind of green vegetable. I don't have much money or time until school is over in June, so I'm trying to start small to avoid having pots of dead things all over my driveway.

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I suppose I should write something here

I just want to say hi to everyone who is checking out the site. Thanks for joining and helping to make Growstuff happen!

Once the weather is right here in Melbourne and everything is a bit more settled, I have plans to start using the site for gardening myself. As a mostly indoorsy sunlight-avoidant coder, hopefully this will at least be entertaining, if not wildly successful. I've already learned a lot so far working on Growstuff and I'm looking forward to learning more.

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Recent rains

The garden (not just the edible portion but the lot of it) has really been exploding recently thanks to the rain and my seedlings are starting to look like identifiable seedlings instead of teeny tiny leaves. Took some photos today and they're up on Flickr. We're got the golden beets, which you can see already have a nice lovely golden tinge to them, growing alongside the kale. Meanwhile, the bok choy is growing so quickly that I may need to thin again; I'm going to hold out as long as I can so I can make something with very small baby bok choy. (Would calling it fetal bok choy be in bad taste?)

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New features: logged out homepage, private messages, sun/shade data, and some smaller fixes

We just made another production push including the following features:

  • improved logged-out homepage: if you visit the homepage when you are signed out, you will now see a more dynamic page with community content on it, rather than the static page that was previously there.
  • privates messages: you can now send a private message to another member (there's a button on their profile page for this)
  • sun/shade metadata on plantings: when you plant something, you can now fill in whether you planted it in sun, shade, or semi-shade; this data will shortly be aggregated on the crops page to provide more information who are interested in growing the crop.
  • friendlier date formatting on posts/comments: posts/comments now have more human-readable date formats (rather than the database's ISO format that was previously shown)
  • bugfix: blank planting dates now work again: this got broken when we added the datepicker, but is now fixed; just backspace over the date if you don't know or don't want to list a planting date
  • bugfix: planting sorting on logged-in homepage: they now sort in reverse order of when you created them
  • bugfix: comment ordering on post page: there was some funky misordering of comments on some post pages, which should now be fixed.

Let us know if you find anything that's still broken, or have any further requests/suggestions. And thanks heaps to the volunteer coders who helped us do all this!

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A couple of minor UI things

The site is looking lovely! It's really exciting to be playing around with it.

I noticed just a couple of very minor issues that might be worth modifying. Apologies if these are already listed in the tracker and I missed them.

First, when I initially set up my account and went to edit my profile, the text boxes for both "email address" and "profile details" were pre-filled with my email address, even though the "profile details" box is actually asking for my location. Perhaps that box should be blank until manually filled in?

Secondly, opening links from Growstuff pages in a new tab seems to be a bit broken when using Firefox. I normally open links in a new browser tab using command-click. This works fine on Growstuff when I use Safari. But when I use Firefox 19.0.2 (on Mac OSX 10.6 or Ubuntu 12.10), command-click doesn't work for links on Growstuff. No new tab is opened, nor does the link load in the current tab instead. I don't have this issue on other websites, so I think it's something specific to Growstuff. I can open a link in a new tab using control-click-select-option-from-little-menu, but that's extra clicking between me and the page I'd like to read.

Thanks for all the awesome work!

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Uses for lemon peel

I've recently seen a couple of interesting ideas for using lemon peel and I thought I'd post them here and see if anyone has others.

  1. Peel the lemons with a fruit-peeler (i.e. into thin strips, avoiding pith) and then dry them in the oven on a low heat. Put the dried peels in a jar and use it for making hot tea/tisanes. For instance you could do lemon and honey using a couple of strips of the lemon peel, if you didn't have a fresh lemon handy.

  2. One blog I read (I don't remember which, sorry) said she does the above, then grinds them in her spice grinder. The resulting powdery lemon stuff is used as a flavouring in cookies, salad dressings, sprinkled on fish as a seasoning, etc.

  3. I think I saw this on Food in Jars recently. Take the same lemon peel strips and put them in plain white vinegar. When you use the vinegar for cleaning, it'll smell nice and fresh. (I think the example used clementine peels, and I can definitely imagine doing this with orange too.)

Anyone else got good ways of using lemon peels instead of letting them go to waste?

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Rhubarb in containers

I've got some rhubarb seedlings which I hope to plant out in containers. Does anyone have much experience with this? Any particular tips? I know rhubarb's meant to be a heavy feeder so I'm wondering particularly how to keep it happy in that regard. I've also heard it's a good companion to brassicas so I'm thinking of having it share a big tub with some kale (it's autumn here so the time is right).

Any other tips/opinions?

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New features: email notifications, password reset, date picker, and more

We just pushed a bunch of new features to the site, including:

  • Email notifications: when someone comments on one of your posts, you'll now get an email notification as well as it appearing in your Inbox. You can turn off email notifications in your settings
  • Improved date picker for plantings: The date now defaults to "today", and there's a friendlier calendar picker rather than having to manipulate three different dropdowns. The calendar picker is keyboard-navigable. You can also simply type in the date in YYYY-MM-DD format if you prefer not to use it.
  • Password reset: there was a bug preventing you from resetting your password (it was showing a blank screen with no form), which we have now fixed
  • Linkify crop image: On the crops index page, clicking on the image (ahem, or rather, the image placeholder) will now take you to the crop page. You used to have to click on the name of the crop, but this makes the target a bit bigger. (Thanks maco for the suggestion.)
  • Pagination links at bottom of page, too: on the crops, members, and posts pages, the pagination links now appear both at the top and the bottom of the page, so you don't have to scroll back up to get to another page.
  • Analytics tracking: this should be invisible to most of you, unless you review your cookies manually. We've installed some analytics/tracking code so we can keep track of how many people are visiting Growstuff, where they're coming from, and what they're doing on the site. This helps us improve Growstuff based on actual usage, rather than guesswork. We are using Clicky which is an independent analytics product not linked to any advertisers or anything like that. Their privacy terms are strong (see their terms of service for details) and furthermore, we have configured our tracking not to track individual IP addresses. We think this is the best option we could find to balance our operational needs and our members' and visitors' privacy.

I think that's all for now. Any questions or further suggestions, drop us a comment!

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"Nearby gardens" or similar feature?

I see from previous posts that a "friends" type feature has been suggested already. How about a "gardens near you" feature, for those of us who have specified a location?

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This was going to contain much more whining about our landlords

... but I'm tired of it, so I won't. I just wish our mutual understanding of the term "quiet enjoyment" involved fewer inspections and more autonomy in the garden.

Anyway. The other day I picked up some herbs from the CERES nursery, and on Monday I planted them along the front fence:

herbs planted in a narrow bed, with my shadow visible across them

There was already a small rosemary bush there, on the left. Reading from left to right, there's now also oregano, chives, and common and lemon thyme.

(Do you like my dorky gardening hat? One day I might actually take a pic of it that's not a shadow.)

I also did a bunch of weeding and made some weed tea:

bucket full of weeds and water

It's just a bucket of weeds and water, which I'll put a lid on and leave for a few weeks, then use the liquid as plant food and keep topping it up until it's leached all the goodness out of the weeds. Lots of weeds have deep taproots and are great at getting nutrients from marginal soil, so this helps get those nutrients back into the bits of garden where I want them to be. Once you've refilled the water a few times and a couple of months have passed, the weeds are supposedly very dead and can safely be used as mulch or chucked in the compost without risk of them reseeding/rerooting there.

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At the CERES Harvest Festival

We're at the CERES Harvest Festival today, sharing an information stall with the folks from Open Food Web (food-related open source project based in my neighbourhood -- it's like we're a hub for techie/sustainability projects or something). If you happen to be in the area, stop by! We're just near the visitor centre at the entrance (they put us here so we'd have wifi to do demos).

Oh, and I just ducked over to the nursery and picked these up:

box full of herb seedlings

Hopefully I'll get to spend some time in the garden tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

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New features: faq, delete gardens, nicer email, post improvements, pagination

We just pushed a handful of new features/bugfixes/etc:

  • new support/FAQ page
  • ability to delete gardens
  • more friendly signup email
  • crops, members, and posts pages are now paginated (i.e. broken into smaller results)
  • various small improvements/bugfixes to the posting form


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Crop page suggestions

I only have one for now, but for a bigger mouse target, I think the image, not only the crop name, should be linkified.

Any others?

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Personalized Avatars

I see that other people are able to upload images to use as their avatars, but I can't figure out how to do it.

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