Monthly Archives: April 2013

Geranium Revival

This is a picture from last spring of the Geranium maderense in front of Chicken Coop 3.0. This beast is a mutant sibling of all the sweetly sized geraniums that one usually finds in the landscape. It is a biennial that grows with great vigor and little care here in Zone 9. The first year you get a mound of fantastic foliage- a single leaf makes an impressive arrangement in a vase. The second year the leaves are pressed to the ground so that the thick stems can support the absolutely gigantic inflorescence of flowers that springs forth. After the show is over this guy reseeds with enthusiasm and babies pop up all over the place. This particular plant was indeed a volunteer from prior years.

Please excuse the crappy picture. This plant was struck down in its prime, before any good pictures were taken.

That sprinkling of pink flowers above was just the beginning of the huge bouquet that was soon to come. This is a plant that is hard to kill. It loves everything- sun or shade, wet or dry. We found out that it can be be thwarted, however, by the crushing weight of a 5″ diameter redwood limb falling from the heavens upon its head. The bouquet was severed in half and we figured the whole plant was a gonner as it had already begun to set seed.

Wrong!

In a form that befits the spirit of this plant, it came back twice as fiercely. Letting this happen has meant multiple years of having to shimmy our way in to the door of our coop, but you just can’t disturb a plant that takes a death blow just days before it should have died of natural causes and springs back better than ever.

Finally this spring we have the double flower explosion I’ve been waiting for.

DSC_0142

Each a little smaller than the daddy, but pretty great all the same.

That little mound to the right, by the way, is a normal sized geranium called ‘Ann Folkard’.

DSC_0147

Here’s to meeting the next crushing challenge that lands on our heads with double bouquets of fierceness!  Happy Spring!

Growing 50 Plants From a 6 Pack

Although I will certainly lose some of my street cred as an urban homesteader by revealing that I do not start all my edibles from seed, this info is important stuff for the newer gardeners among us. As a beginner veggie grower I assumed each cell in a 6 pack held one plant and should be plunked right into the dirt. My friend Claire Woods, who also happens to be a propagator at the beloved Annie’s Annuals Nursery and an all around expert plant lady, set me straight on this situation.

DSC_0072

In fact, each of these cells holds about 10 viable kale plants.

DSC_0122

If you put each cell right into the ground you’ll end up with 10 big plants trying to grow in 1 square inch of dirt- no good! The trick is to tease each seedling apart so they can be planted at a proper distance from one another and mature to normal size. I usually start by pulling out a cell and tapping the side against my palm to loosen the dirt and roots. In cells that are as congested as these, it is then usually necessary to make one drastic tear down the middle to get the untangling process started.

DSC_0129

After that, with more gentle tapping, shaking and teasing apart, you can pull out each individual seedling. Go slow and be gentle! Doing this with bare hands helps a lot. I was trying to keep my hands clean to take pictures, so I have gloves on here. Some seedlings will end up without enough roots to support themselves- compost those guys.

DSC_0134

Just be sure to pick starts that are not too old or the roots will be so tangled you won’t be able to separate them. These kale starts are about as tangled as I can handle. If you don’t have any choice and are facing a complete snarl of roots, just snip off all but one of the babies at soil level, gently loosen the outside of the snarl and plant. Plants like kale, broccoli and cabbage can be planted deeper than they were in the cells to help support those reachy little stems. I usually put them in so the soil level is just below the cluster of leaves.

This process is terribly satisfying. After a good amount of culling, I ended up with 50 kale plants from this particular 6 pack. Pretty good for a few dollars worth of starts. Doing this also makes me feel far less guilty about not having started my own seeds at the right time. Next year all will be on time and my garden will be perfect! Next year!

A word of caution: don’t do this to baby plants with roots that hate to be disturbed, like melons and squash. They will struggle and pout.