Thursday, May 29, 2008

Oh Snap!

If you want an instant gratification garden, plant sugar snap peas.

My sugar snap plants have taken off. These first two pictures were taken about a month ago, on April 27. 

Here they are today. I filled this container with several snap pea plants, and planted nasturtium seeds around the border. I thought it might get a little too crowded, but everything seems to be thriving so far. Fast and easy, sugar.  

Sugar snaps grow best in cool weather, so I don't think they will survive the summer heat. They can also be planted in late summer for a fall crop. 

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Outer Banks Arboretum

This Saturday was the Coastal Gardening Festival at the Outer Banks Arboretum. Chris and I donated our extra plants that we started from seed to the Master Gardener's homegrown plant sale. It was a relief to get the extras off our hands. Chris's apartment was starting to smell like one big peat pot. 

I helped my Mom with her container gardening display for the festival. We assembled containers as demonstrations, and then they were raffled off. I think these containers were the reason that they ran out of raffle tickets. 

One of the best things about the gardening festival is that it draws attention to the Outer Banks Arboretum in Kill Devil Hills. Not many people, even locals, have visited the arboretum before. This is one of my favorite containers in the arboretum (also created by Mom). 

This is one of the containers at the entrance to the arboretum (yep, Mom again--isn't she fabulous?). 

All of my efforts to be kind to the planet were cancelled out this morning when I stopped to fill up with gas on my way to work. I was too busy selecting my gas grade to notice that whoever filled up with gas before I did failed to release the lever on the pump. Before I placed the spout into my tank gas started spraying everywhere--fast. Judging by my receipt, over a gallon of gas sprayed all over the back of my car and onto the concrete. What a waste, not to mention a mess. Has this ever happened to anyone else?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Duck Rabbit Craft Brewery

Well-loved kegs. 

Chris and I made a pilgrimage to The Duck Rabbit Craft Brewery in Farmville, NC. Where? Farmville. It's right outside of Greenville, NC. Chris called ahead, which we'd been advised to do by a sales rep at Pigstein. She said if we just dropped by and it happened to be a bottling day, no one would be available to show us around. 

When Chris called the owner told him to come on by. When we arrived the owner himself, Paul Philippon, gave us a tour of the brewery. He was very charming, and never once made us feel like we were taking time away from the million other things he had to do. Which we were. Paul and one other brewer, Ryan, are currently it for the Duck Rabbit Brewery staff. Paul told us he just hired a third brewer from Wisconsin. The guy brought Paul a few New Glarus beers to his interview, so of course he got the job. 

Chris and I have done several brewery tours over the last few years and this was just the best. It was great to hear all about the brewing and the everything else that goes into running a small brewery right from the owner himself. We asked about everything, including the logo, which is a nod to Paul's previous career as a university philosophy professor. 

Duck Rabbit beers are available in North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee. They produce an Amber Ale, a Brown Ale, a Porter, and a Milk Stout, as well as seasonal brews, which have included a Baltic Porter, a Scotch Ale, and a Russian Imperial Stout. See the beer geeks do their thing at Beer Advocate. I just know that I like these beers and I love that they are made with such care by such nice people. 

Before Duck Rabbit we went to B's Barbecue in Greenville. It is located at 751 B's Barbecue Road. The pork (whole hog) and chicken is cooked over an open pit with charcoal. Chris and I had chicken plates (half a chicken each!) and Phil had the pork plate. With three sweet teas lunch for all three of us came to $20.75. B's cooks in the morning and when they are out of food they slap a sign on the front door and close it up. Fortunately we made it in time, but the sign was on the door when we left. 

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Movin' on up

It was time for my little seedlings to grow up and get a place of their own. Last year Chris and I used plastic cups to step up the plants into a larger container before finally planting them into 5-gallon pots. This year we wanted to try to be a little more eco-friendly so we decided on peat pots. We bought them online here. They were cheap, which was good because we ordered 125 of the 4.5" pots, plus some wooden plant markers and more peat pellets. It would have been even cheaper to make our own containers out of newspaper, but we didn't discover this until after we placed our order. Maybe we'll try that next year. 
I prepped the pots like this:

I filled the pots about halfway with a soil mix. I watered my seedlings, which made them easier to work with and helped minimize any transplant shock. Each of the peat pellets has a netting, which I either removed or loosened. The roots were already growing through the netting on most of the seedlings. I planted most of the seedlings so the soil just covered the top of the peat pellet. The tomatoes I planted a little deeper, as there are little bumps on the stalks that will eventually be roots. 

My brilliant idea this year was to keep the plants in boxes, making it easier to tote the plants inside at night. But this is rapidly turning into a cautionary tale, because the peat pots are staying damp and starting to grow mold on the outside. Here's how I packed them originally:

This morning I found a few more boxes and spaced everything out so that air can circulate around each pot. Apparently this is a common problem with peat pots. I read online that mold is specific to what it consumes, so if it is growing on the (dead) peat, it won't grow on the (live) green plant. I never knew mold was so discriminating. 

Seedling Snip

Once I had a tray of healthy seedlings, it was time for my least favorite part of growing plants from seed: the snip. In each peat pellet I originally planted two to four seeds. Now that all my seedlings developed their true leaves it was time to thin them out. The true leaves are not the first set of leaves that come up, but the second. In my earlier post you can see how the first set of leaves all look the same, regardless of the kind of plant. The true leaves are particular to each kind of plant. This is a tomato plant. 

I trimmed all but the strongest stalk. It's a little sad. I hope he makes it.