Monthly Archives: May 2013

Heidi Mae’s Garden: Sprouting!

It’s been a little over three weeks since I got my garden started; it’s looking happier all the time!

garden 5-18-13

A lot has happened in the time since I blogged last–from my garden journal:

  • April 29:  Arugula and lettuce sprouted 
  • May 2:  Basil sprouted in my unheated greenhouse, and radish sprouted outside.  Everything survived 2 freeze warnings
  • May 3:  Buttercup squash in the greenhouse sprouted, beets and spinach sprouted outside.  I seeded Cherokee Purple tomatoes in the greenhouse, expecting them to sprout between May 8 and 13
  • May 4:  Round zucchini and California poppies sprouting in the greenhouse, peas outside
  • May 7:  Aunt Ruby’s German Green tomatoes, cilantro and patty pan squash sprouted in the greenhouse
  • May 13:  Cherokee Purple and parsley sprouted in the greenhouse
  • May 14: Potatoes finally showing a bit of green above the soil
  • May 15:  Peppers, tomatillos, tomatoes from MGG planted, cauliflowers starting to form
  • May 18:  The first strawberry!
  • May 19:  Planted green beans and fava beans (an experimental crop!)  Expecting beans to sprout in 10 days.

“Cold season” crops were planted outside toward the end of April, while warm season crops were planted in my unheated greenhouse.  Because it’s unheated, I wait to plant in it until most frost danger is past.  A greenhouse gets enough light to keep seedlings nice and stout, and I start a variety of warm season crops in there, growing plants for myself and my neighbors’ gardens.  Warm season crops should NOT be planted outside until frost danger is past; for the Grand Valley that’s usually Mother’s Day weekend.

In the greenhouse, I seeded most everything April 26 (later than I usually seed due to the cold spring) and by May 8, most had sprouted.

greenhouse sprouts

True leaves were appearing by May 18.


When seeds sprout, the first leaves are the “seed leaves,” because they come from the sides of the seed.  (Corn is a bit different, it only has one seed leaf.)  True leaves are leaves typical for the particular plant–the ones you recognize as squash or tomato or lettuce.  Look for the seed leaves and the new true leaves of these squash and tomatoes.

squash true leaves

tomatoes true leaves

Let’s look at some baby pictures from May 8 (the first) and see how they’ve grown by May 18 (the second).  First the arugula.



Now beets.  This is my first time planting beets; so far they’re pretty slow-growing.



Here’s lettuce.



And sugar snap peas.  I need to get a trellis for them to climb on soon!   I planted tomatillos in the same bed.


peas and tomatillos

Here are the radishes.  They’ll get thinned as I pull them to munch on.



Let’s check in with the potatoes.


Here’s my pepper bed.  I have green, orange, gold and red bell peppers, Big Jims, and poblanos planted in the same bed as the green onions.

peppers and onions

I’m trying grafted tomatoes this year!  I chose San Marzanos–paste tomatoes, and Mortgage Lifter–an heirloom that makes huge tomatoes that when they were first bred, were popular enough to pay off the originator’s mortgage!  I’ll plant the Cherokee Purples and the Aunt Ruby’s German Greens when they’re ready to be outside in this bed as well.


The marigolds are there because I like them, and because they help keep bugs away.  How is your garden growing?





Filed under General gardening, onions, tomatoes, vegetable gardening

Heidi Mae’s Garden: Getting Started

If you’re new to gardening, it can be helpful to have a gardening buddy to help you know what to do, and what to expect.  Even if you’re a gardener from way back, it’s fun to compare notes about what works and what doesn’t.  So, here I am!  Your online gardening friend, Heidi Mae. (Mae isn’t part of my given name, but one given to me by one of the greenhouse owners, and it just stuck.)  I’m one of “the girls” who work up front at the cash registers at Mt Garfield Greenhouse.

happy and tired


I’ll share what’s happening in my garden in a sort of step-by-step way with pictures of what I’m doing this year.  My garden changes a bit from year to year, as I like to try new varieties of veggies and I like to rotate crops in my raised beds.

ready to amend

I live in the Whitewater area.  The soil here is NOT garden-friendly, so my fabulous husband constructed these beds, we lined them with plastic to keep the alkali from leaching up, and we filled them with 3-way mix from Mt Garfield Greenhouse.  Some of the beds are made from 6×6 lumber, some are plastic build-it-yourself kits from  The wooden ones work the best–you’ll notice in some of the pictures that the plastic ones bow out–I don’t like that.  I also have an assortment of containers that expand my plantable space.

I garden organically, using companion plants to help with bug eradication, as well as hand picking some of the beasties and squishing them–eeewwwww.  More on that in a later post.  The pictures and happenings in this post took place April 25, 2013.  I keep a garden log to keep track of where I plant what and when I can expect to see germination.  I also record what varieties worked and which ones I should skip next year.  I start some veggies from seed and some from plants.



Every year, I amend my soil.  3-way is a fabulous garden soil, but veggies rob nutrients from it each growing season that need to be replaced.  In the past I used a combo of Soil Pepe, Mesa Magic, and Earthworm Castings; the last few years I’ve been using Happy Frog Soil Conditioner.  I like that it’s organic and I like the boost it gives my plants.  I distribute it out among the beds and containers–a bit of  process because those bails of Happy Frog are heavy!  🙂

conditioner divided

Then I spade the amendment in (troweled in in the containers), and smooth the surfaces with a rake.  Then they’re ready to plant!

spade in conditioner

beds are ready

I planted my potatoes on the outside edge of one of the beds, a different one than they were in last year.  The outside edge because they’ll be growing for the whole season and they’re kinda out of my way there.  I dug a trench as deep as the garden and spaced the potatoes in it.  I’m lazy and leave them whole.  You can cut potato sets so that each section has an “eye” to create more potato plants.  If you chose to do that, be sure to let the cut edges dry overnight before planting so the raw edge won’t rot.  Anyway, then I just cover them up, pat the soil on top of them and mark the row.  Later, I’ll plant green beans next to them.  Beans and potatoes are companion plants–the potatoes keep bean beetles off the beans while the beans keep potato beetles off the potatoes.

planting potatoes

marking rows

I also planted snap peas, lettuce, spinach, radishes, onions, cabbage, and beets directly into the garden.  These are considered cool season crops, pretty much unaffected by late spring frosts.  Each veggie was seeded/planted, marked and watered in.


watering in

I have rhubarb, planted years ago, in a half wine barrel.  I scratch in a bit of amendment and time-release fertilizer each year, but otherwise leave it alone.


I lost a lot of strawberries over the winter, but those that had rooted in the gravel outside the garden as runners survived!  I dug those up and placed them in the container where the others had been, scratched in some soil conditioner and fertilizer and watered them in.


Amending and planting just this much took the better part of my day.  I was sore (sooo out of gardening shape!), tired and happy.  There’s just something wonderfully satisfying about starting a new garden each year.  I can hardly wait for a fresh salad or a radish sandwich–an old Iowa favorite from my childhood.  🙂   The next post from Heidi Mae’s garden will be about the veggies I started in my unheated greenhouse.


Filed under amendments, General gardening, soil, Uncategorized

Using Ladybugs to Control Aphids

Aphids are often the first pest to appear in the Spring, covering the growing tips of roses, aspen trees and columbines, sucking out the plant’s juices with their straw-like mouths.  Aphids secrete a sweet sugary substance that attracts ants–often the first indicator of an aphid infestation.  Curled leaves are another aphid indicator.  Most aphids can’t fly, and can be dislodged with the spray from your garden hose.  However, those not dislodged can give live birth to up to 100 baby aphids each, replenishing the population in no time.  Aphids can also be controlled using sprays, systemic insecticides and ladybugs–the method being discussed here.

ladybug eating aphid


Photo Credit

Ladybugs are a natural predator of aphids, capable of eating up to 5000 aphids in their 3-6 week life span.  Ladybug larva don’t look much like the adults, but are responsible for the majority of the aphid-eating.  They’re not very pretty, and actually kinda creepy, but don’t squish them.  Here’s a picture of one I took in the Greenhouse last year:

ladybug larva

Mt Garfield Greenhouse sells cartons (prices determined by the vendor each year) of live ladybugs starting in the spring and up until the weather starts getting hot.  Each carton contains over a thousand ladybugs!

ladybug carton

Here are steps you should take to help keep these aphid eaters around:

  1. Mist the top of the carton with water and keep them in the door of your fridge until you’re ready to release them.
  2. At dusk, spray the aphid-infested plants with water.
  3. Sprinkle the ladybugs at the base of each plant.  (Ladybugs don’t like to fly at night, and will move up the plant drinking water, eventually finding the aphids.)

As long as there are aphids to eat, the ladybugs should stay around!  Ladybugs are insects, and will be killed by insecticides–don’t use ladybugs if you’re using an insecticidal spray.

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Filed under General gardening, pests

Planting Bunching Onions

Mt Garfield Greenhouse sells certain onions already sprouted from seeds in packs, such as Walla Wallas and bunching (green) onions.  These onions must be separated from each other before planting in order to achieve the sizing you want.  Here’s a quick “how-to” for doing just that.

First of all, set yourself up with the plants, a bucket of water, and if you want, something to sit on.  An upside down bucket works nicely as a perch; I recently treated myself to this groovy little tractor-seated scooter thingie.

set up

Next, pop one of the cells out from the pack.

pop out

Swish the cell in the water to loosen the soil from the root ball.  You can use your fingers to gently help the soil out.


Starting with an onion from an outside edge, gently tug it from the root ball with its own roots still attached to it.  Set it in the water as you separate the rest of the onions from that cell.


Plant them in a prepared spot with the white part just under the surface.  Green onions can be spaced rather closely, an inch or two apart.  Larger onions should be spaced about 4 inches apart.


Repeat with the other cells, water them in and voila!  They’ll be standing up and growing for you in no time.  One pack of bunching onions usually keeps my family in fresh green onions for salads, omelets, and nacho garnish, etc. all season long.

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Filed under General gardening, onions