Tag Archives: onions

Taken Over By Dirt

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how to keep your garlic fresh: put it in dirt and forget about it (except for water)

LETTUCE FAILURE

The last couple weeks have been packed with seemingly insignificant progress. While I learned that the best and easiest way to keep garlic fresh is to sprout it, I haven’t had time to make a grow light, or construct an organizational scheme for the planting. In the mean time, as seen below, my lettuce plants are suffering.  According to several online sources, they are “too leggy” and this is apparently caused by lack of proper lighting.

leggy lettuce display 1

leggy lettuce display 2

Also, as you can see, cut in half, gallon milk-jugs with holes sliced in the bottom make excellent medium table pots (and are readily available throughout the neighborhood on recycling day).

Lettuce Lessons Learned

  1. Do not attempt to grow lettuce indoors without a grow light or excellent windows.
  2. They sprout exceptionally well, so there is no real need to put them in a starter cell and then transplant them through various containers. In fact, this is more likely the damage their extremely thin roots than to help them. Just throw 1 seed in a medium bin of dirt (the cut in half milk-jug is just about perfect), water it for two days, and watch it sprout nearly 100% of the time.

WORMS

In other news, I solved my worm bin problem (they were all crawling out at night and dying on the kitchen floor). I bought a very fine mesh cloth for $2 and it seems that the worms are incapable of crawling on it. Since putting this in, not one worm has been found crawling up the sides.

worm bin tutu

A side note: it’s taking a while to get the European Nightcrawlers to eat regular kitchen scrap compost. They wouldn’t touch it to begin with, so I started covering it in this “worm food” I bought from the worm dealer (which appears to be some sort of grain ground into fine flakes) and mixing this whole concoction with finely crushed egg shells. As soon as I added the egg shells, the garbage started disappearing.

Important Recommendations Based on Experience with Nightcrawlers so Far

  1. Give them finely crushed egg shells with each new feeding
  2. Place the food on the surface and don’t mix it in. First of all, European Nightcrawlers are especially sensitive to the acidity of the soil and you may unwittingly be throwing it off for them when you mix it in. Secondly, they are surface feeders and naturally come to the top to feed and mate. Third, you don’t want to overfeed these little guys and the only way to make sure you aren’t putting too much in there at once is to keep it all where you can watch it.
  3. The majority of the food should be grains or non-acidic foods, such as green vegetables. You can feed them used coffee grounds and coffee filters (also on the surface) BUT make sure to mix egg shells in with this stuff and to keep it on the surface!
  4. Keep the soil moist by dampening it morning and night when you first get them. My bin drains really well, which seems to be working out for the worms- I haven’t found one dead worm since the great escape.  But this means it also dries out within a day and a half. Which brings me to my next point.
  5. Keep a large bucket of water that was drawn at least 24 hours before use next to the worm bin (the chlorine in tap water kills off the bacteria that help your worms do their job and enhance your soil. Letting the water sit out overnight allows the chemical to evaporate). Use this on the worm bin and your plants. Most likely, you will find that some of it collects in the container under your worm bin after draining through and under your plants. Collect this before anyone or anything is flooded and dump it back in the bucket. Over time, this water will turn into worm tea and you will already be in the habit of using it on everything. In addition, you wont have to refill the bucket more than once a week if you’re like me and have a fairly small indoor operation taking place.

MORE SEED REVIEWS AND A PLEASANT SURPRISE

A wonderful man in Oregon sent me these and five other packets of various seed types thanks to the seed exchange site (which I linked onto here a while back)

Seed Review

I ordered broccoli, pearl onions, and two-star loose-leaf lettuce off of the Territorial Seed company website. So far, I’ve only had time to plant the broccoli, but it immediately sprouted! By the way, these are open-pollinated seeds (all of the ones I purchased from this company). I’ve also received my seed order from Sustainable Seed Company, but have not had time or resources to plant any. This should change in about two more weeks and I’ll have more to update with.

Territorial Seeds. The website sells them for less than the price listed on the packet.

Sustainable Seed Co.

Worms, Green Onion and Garlic Green Harvest

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My European Nightcrawlers arrived a day before I thought they would and I had to throw this together at the last second.

I forgot to put a cloth or something similar in it to prevent the worms from crawling through the holes. This resulted in the great worm escape of 2012.

All that dirt on the side is the result of them scaling the walls. Some  died on the kitchen floor, but the majority were put back in the soil and placed under light so they’d crawl back in. I’ve had the lid on ever since and now they seem to be congregating by the food and not trying to go crazy. The guy I bought them from (who sounded like Larry the Cable guy age 80 over the phone), said they would be kind of crazy for the first couple days until they settled down from the trip

In other news, I enjoyed my first “harvest” today. I took the tops off my some of my green onion and garlic plants.

and made this:

The trick to harvesting salad shoots from these plants is to cut at least four inches from the base of the soil. The rate of growth increases the taller the plant gets. The onions in particular, started with about 1/5th of an inch of growth a day. Now they are growing nearly a half inch a day and this rate seems to keep increasing the taller they get.

Lessons Learned

  • Put a cloth in the worm bin to keep them from crawling out of the holes
  • Harvest green shoots 4 inches from their base

Green Onion, Garlic, Parsley, Bean, Pea, Squash, and Lettuce Growth

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As you can see, my green onion experiment is coming along nicely:

This is what we started with. These were the bottoms of green onions I’d bought for a salad. They were placed in water for about four days and then placed in this. I’ve been watering them twice a day from above and now they look like this:

The garlic cloves (also taken from a bunch I used for cooking) were planted upright and mostly covered in soil. I sprinkled parsley and cilantro seeds around them. Originally they looked like this:

Today this is what they look like (if you squint, you can see baby parsley!):

Also, you might remember my seed review on the Bentley brand. I saw nearly 100% germination within the first two days! Well, now we have 100% germination and, as you can see, the lettuce seems to be thriving in the seed starter wells. This is about three day’s growth:

Lastly, remember those several-year-old beans I had sitting in my cupboard that had the really great germination rate? Well, this is what they look like after only ONE week’s growth:

On the left hand row closest to us is one of the two peas out of 18 that I planted (BURPEE brand= terrible germination rates for me!). On the back row, on the far right, you can see the squash plant slightly falling over under it’s own weight.

I’m seeing GREAT results so far! Now I just need to build a couple grow lights!

Indoor Onions, Garlic, and Giant Sequoias (the new Christmas Tree)

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My germinating vegetable seeds continue to fester in their rain-forest, plastic environment. This should continue for the next three weeks. So, other than letting you know that I’m keeping them extremely moist, there isn’t much to say.

Three other projects are currently in the works:

1. Onions- Apparently, all you need to do to grow green onions indoors is to take the white bottoms from the ones you buy at the store and place them in a jar of water.  They will grow their green tops, which you can cut off and use, indefinitely (kind of like grass in your yard that keeps coming after you mow it).  I will be buying a bunch of organic ones to try this. Here’s the website responsible for that idea. I’ll take pictures of my efforts and we’ll see if this is as great as it looks.

Update later that day(4/2/12): I set the first six stalks in a tiny, old food processor base I unearthed from my junk drawer, added water 3/4 of the way up their little, white bulbs, added two drops of fertilizer, and wondered if I was crazy. This is a pretty weird looking display.

Update 3 days later (4/5/12): Some of the plant cuttings have sent out a few wispy roots and there is a tiny amount of fresh green pushing up through the cut areas of each plant. This is not a fast process. So far  I’m getting about a fifth of a centimeter of growth every day. At this  rate, it will take a month to grow two salad’s worth of green onions. I’m hoping this rate will speed up once the plants grow a better root base and am also wondering if they’d grow better in soil (more nutrients). Once they’ve grown better root balls, I’m going to transplant them into dirt.

Update 5 days later (4/7/2012): As you can see, I transplanted these into potting soil. I used an old yogurt container with holes punched in the bottom and the lid used a bottom to catch the water (and to bottom-water). I’m watering both the top and the bottom and hoping these things sprout roots.

All of the information I could find regarding large onion bulbs in containers was aimed at growing them outdoors. Also, apparently they have a very long growing season. This doesn’t seem like a good candidate for an indoor garden due to its extreme time and space requirements. That’s a bummer; I really love onions. My boyfriend, who hates them, will undoubtedly be stoked to learn I wont be cultivating them in mass.

Update later that day (4/2/12): While at the grocery story, I discovered “pearl onions”, which I didn’t think of when trying to figure out how to grow onion bulbs indoors. These may be the key to obtaining onions by your own hands in an apartment. On the other hand, I couldn’t find any good information about how to grow them in containers. All I learned from this was that increased day length promotes bulb formation. The rest was like reading a foreign language.

2. Garlic- Now this looks like it’s going to be a successful addition to any indoor garden! You don’t even need to buy special seeds! Just buy a regular, organic garlic glove from your local market and plant the individual cloves according to these  instructions . You can replant one clove from each successful plant and, thereby, never have to repurchase garlic in your life! Might as well give one to a friend while you’re at it!

Update 4/6/2012- Above is a picture of four cloves of garlic beginning to sprout. Basil and cilantro seeds were sprinkled around the gloves. We’ll see if these species can grow together. Below is a picture of how I cover the container with a gallon freezer storage bag to keep the humidity high near the dirt’s surface.

3. Giant Sequoias- This last Christmas I purchased a giant sequoia seed off of amazon.com because I thought it’d be cooler to sprout and grow the world’s largest tree than to cut down a little measly farmed one. Sure, I was slightly motivated by the idea of being earth-friendly, but mostly, it was the bad-ass aspect of the plant that I loved. I accidentally stratified it for 2 months instead of 20 days and now the first sprout is coming up less than three days after being removed from the fridge. I’ll continue to update concerning this little guy’s progress. Right now, he’s too small to even show up in a picture. This is where I bought his seed.

Also, you’ll note that I basically failed at the terribly easy instructions that came with this plant. This should go to show that I am not the least bit talented at gardening and any success I achieve should be reproducible by anyone.

Update 4 days after being removed from fridge (4/5/12): This little one is growing like a weed!!! Every time I look at “him”, he’s different. Yesterday, this little one’s cotyledons were still tucked away in their protective, waxy coat. Their head was buried in soil and the stem was gradually drawing them out through its own growth. Halfway through yesterday, they finally broke free of the soil and popped open. Today, there are four little pine-leaves, as opposed to the two he started out with. I haven’t watered him since removing him from the fridge, as there is still water visible under the container when I lift it.