Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What Doesn't Kill Them Makes Them Stronger

My sun room is empty.  I don't have to remember to plug in the lights in the morning and unplug them at night.  I feel a little bit like I have an empty nest!
I won this water resistant power strip on a giveaway over at The Cheap Vegetable Gardener two weeks ago and it came very quickly in the mail.  I look forward to using it on next year's seedlings.  Ava likes to "help" water things, so this will allow me be a little less nervous about it!

Yea!  I won something!

I have eight flats of seedlings currently going through the hardening off process, waiting to be planted...maybe this week...if the rain ever stops enough to till the garden.

Unfortunately these brassicas will have to be tossed on the compost pile.  I will have to try for a fall crop instead.

I'm afraid my cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower seedlings are a loss.  They were supposed to go in the ground over a month ago.  They are looking rather lanky and I'm sure they are root-bound by now.  Soon they will bolt.  They've missed the prime opportunity to grow during the cooler spring weather.  I am really bummed out by this, since they were the nicest brassicas I've ever grown, now that I have my grow lights set up to my satisfaction.  :(

A repurposed countertop and multiple fluorescent shop lights on adjustable chains
make it easy to provide seedlings with sufficient lighting.

Other than snow peas and onions, I was completely unable to get any of my cool weather crops in this year because of the relentless rain.  Next year I plan to have several raised beds ready and waiting for spring.  I will not be thwarted again!  Ha.

The dahlias are starting to look a little floppy too, but I will be putting them into their own flower bed this week and hope they will take off quickly.  We've had a couple of dry, sunny days and the soil in that bed should be ready for me to work it with the shovel.

Lots of dahlias, a few different varieties.

Today I'll work on potting up the tomatoes into larger containers.  I like to move them into cottage cheese containers filled with potting soil for their last couple of weeks.  Our last frost date has passed today, so they can go in very soon.  I deliberately started them two weeks later this year and the timing was much better.  They haven't had to sit around too long.  More rain is in the forecast, so My-Bright-and-Shining-Farmer will have to be ready for the first opportunity to till the garden.

I always plant a bunch of tomatoes.  Is there such a thing as too many?

I always have more tomato plants left over than I can manage to give away to my family and friends, so I think I will put the extras into my yard sale.  They are almost all O/P heirlooms.  If I can make a few bucks off of them, that will cover my seed starting expenses for this year.

The several varieties of peppers I planted are still plugging along.  I lost half of them very early on by accidentally leaving those that were late to germinate in direct sunlight and I cooked them.  The first half which escaped disaster have reached a very nice size now, but those that I replanted are maybe a third of their size.  I guess they'll just have to catch up as best as they can because I'll go ahead stick them in the garden with the others here soon, weather permitting.

Several varieties of peppers in the back, snapdragons in the front.

Something new for me this year are the fancy ruffled snapdragons I started from seed.  Let me tell you, there is no smaller and more frustrating seed to start than those of the snapdragon!  I really had a hard time thinning them out.  These are the tall cutting variety of snapdragon, so I'm sure they will be worth the bother.  :)

Eggplants, ground cherries and scallions finish out the rest of the bunch.  Last year was my first time growing eggplants and I found that I really like them.  Their firm texture makes a nice substitute for mushrooms in my homemade spaghetti sauce.  Yummy!

Eggplants and tomatoes waiting to be potted up.
Scallions (bunching onions) do better thickly seeded.  I'll separate them into little clumps to plant.

I've finally gotten very good at starting seeds in flats, but the hardening off process is the tricky part.  You need to expose them to wind, nighttime temperatures and sunlight a little at a time until they become accustomed to living outdoors.  It can be perilous at times and all your weeks of hard work and careful attentiveness can be lost in a couple of hours if you forget to water them soon enough or a freak thunderstorm comes by and pummels them.  So far so good... I'm trying to be very diligent and stay on top of these things this year.  ;)

I'll leave you with this poem that I heard last Sunday evening at church.  I really liked it and honestly, isn't it true -- what doesn't kill us makes us stronger.  That may be the case for seedlings too...to some extent!  But as for people, God can always use our trials to make us stronger, wiser and more useful for Him.  (2 Cor. 4:17)

by Douglas Malloch

The tree that never had to fight
For sun and sky and air and light,
But stood out in the open plain
And always got its share of rain,
Never became a forest king
But lived and died a scrubby thing.

The man who never had to toil
To gain and farm his patch of soil,
Who never had to win his share
Of sun and sky and light and air,
Never became a manly man
But lived and died as he began.

Good timber does not grow with ease:
The stronger wind, the stronger trees;
The further sky, the greater length;
The more the storm, the more the strength.
By sun and cold, by rain and snow,
In trees and men good timbers grow.

Where thickest lies the forest growth,
We find the patriarchs of both.
And they hold counsel with the stars
Whose broken branches show the scars
Of many winds and much of strife.
This is the common law of life.


  1. Ooh, I like the poem. Your plants are coming along very nicely. Some of mine are doing great - tomatoes, basil, etc but some are awful spindly (my peppers) or just didn't sprout (some flower seeds. Is there a trick to peppers because I've only tried growing them twice and both times they were spindly and slow.

  2. These were the best peppers I've managed to grow so far. All I know is that they like lots of heat. I've heard that a heat mat is helpful. I don't have one though. I think maybe the black counter top helped hold a little extra heat for them and also I added a third shop light so the flats are completely covered by the lights. That's my best guess anyway! :)

  3. What a beautiful poem. You are doing a great job with your plants. I would never have that kind of patience.

  4. Thanks Debbie, glad you enjoyed the poem!

  5. (Blogger seems to have lost a few comments that were on here? I apologize if yours was one of them. I'm not sure what happened...)