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2016 Patio Garden Project: Seed Starting

Seed starting stationIt's that time of year again! Time to start thinking about what I want to plant on my patio. I'm fortunate to have an apartment with plenty of patio space, so last year I tried this and had very little success. The biggest problem was the incredible heat we had here in Mississippi in 2015 and on top of that I have to use pots which quickly dry up in the heat.

In 2015 I used a large produce crate and an expensive (leftover) aquarium light to start seeds, but I had really started the seeds way too late (April). In an effort to catch up and try to compete with my dad's backyard garden (I'm not fortunate to have my own home just yet!), I bought plants from the garden center. I had roma tomatoes, better boy tomatoes, bell peppers, summer squash, and cucumbers. They all grew well and fast until the crazy heat began. I might have gathered less than 3 tomatoes, 2 cucumbers, and only 2 itty bitty peppers. The harvest was horrible, but I can survive thanks to local grocery stores and something called Hamburger Helper.

It's 2016 and time to start again and I'm not going to procrastinate and start late this time. It's the beginning of February here (South, Central USA) and the perfect time to get a head start. It should start warming up more by March which is when these plants will need to go out on the patio. The first thing I'm going to do this year is build my seed starting station and start the seeds. Let's get see what I've come up with...

 
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2016 Patio Garden Project: Unnatural Selection

Seedling Crime SceneThings are moving fast with the gardening project! My tomato seedlings are growing fast and at least a week ahead of schedule. Today it's time to choose who stays and who goes. Seedling genocide.

Unfortunately, I don't have enough room for every seedling to have a life, or enough friends to give them to so to make sure each healthy plant get's it's own space to grow, the number of plants per pot will have to be reduced to one per pot. I really hate doing this, but to ensure I have the best plants I had to grow more than I needed.

 
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2016 Patio Garden Project: Upgrade

Before the UpgradeMy seedlings have grown and put out a second set of leaves, so that means it's time to upgrade their living arrangements. The peppers aren't quite there yet, but they are close enough. They're going to send out their second set of leaves within a few days. I didn't expect these seedlings to grow so fast! Next year I probably will not use the Jiffy trays, and I probably will not grow 100 plants when I only have room for a dozen on my patio!

I don't suspect the tomatoes will go through any shock, but the peppers seemed a bit more sensitive to being disturbed. I'll have to pick the cream of the crop and the rest will probably have to go in the trash. Time to transplant ...

 
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2016 Patio Garden Project: End of February Update

Primary Plants (Keepers)My artificial sunlight setup has turned into a success. I'm sure my newly learned discipline of not over watering has helped too. The plants have grown quickly, especially the tomatoes. The most successful tomato is the Juliet and the most successful pepper is the Mild Jalapeno. They're getting to be too big. I did not anticipate the height so I'm going to have to dismantle my entire setup and adjust the shelf spacing.
 
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2016 Patio Garden Project: Hardening Off

Hardening Off PlantsI've started hardening off my Peppers & Tomatoes to get them ready to stay outside. They're getting to be too large to keep under my light indoors and I really want to start some Herbs when these stop taking up space. When they're ready to remain outside they're going into some really large 18" pots.

I didn't do this last year so I'm really not sure if I'm doing it right, but we'll see how it turns out in a couple of weeks. For the past couple of days I've put them outside when I get home from work (about 5 PM). I leave them outside until dark and bring them back in. That's about 45 minutes. I've also reduced their watering, but today (two days later) I've had to water them to keep them from wilting. The main problem is the biodegradable pots that tend to dry out very quick. Today (Saturday) and tomorrow I plan on increasing their time outside to about two hours. Next week I'm probably going to leave them outside from morning to noon. Hopefully by mid-next week they can just stay outside 24/7.

TIP: Carrying plants outside two at a time is sort of exhausting; though my dog Squish loves the activity. To make it easier I've put most of the plants on low profile produce crates and trays.

 
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