It’s remarkable that FrostyGarden.com is just over a year old this month. As of yesterday, this blog celebrated its first birthday!
We’re starting to take the blog a bit more seriously this year and have put time into what are hopefully helpful reads. I think it’s more that we now have a super-successful sub-arctic garden behind us, so it’s a bit easier to be confident in what you’re saying. It’s one thing to know what you need to do, it’s another to have done it.
Our 2017 garden is starting to take its shape too. We’re up to two full trays of seedling plugs and many things are coming along nicely. This brings us to 400 total planting sites so far, with at least another 400 to go. These will eventually be selected from for transplant into 72-site trays or 3.5 inch pots.
It’s always an exciting time when the tomatoes are finally seeded. We did these last weekend and planted a half-dozen varieties to grow this year. Just as with last year, these will be a strictly outdoor crop. We seeded Gold Nugget, Japanese Black Trifel, Delicious, Plum and the trustworthy Stupice and Polar varieties. And of course, ground cherries which are delicious and grow super well in Alaska’s interior! The Gold Nugget and Plum varieties are new tests for us this year and we have high hopes for them in Interior Alaska!
We’ve had our share of mishaps, too. Some of our seed stock is getting a little long in the tooth and for some things, we’re just not seeing the germination we’d hoped. We’ll be fine, though, and had planned to buy a few nursery grown veggies anyway. We like to support our local greenhouses, mainly because it’s an amazing effort they put in starting thousands of plants in greenhouses when it’s -30F outside. I think we really need to start tracking our seed stock better this year, maybe even follow my own advice!
I’m hoping we’ve started everything on proper schedule, but it’s still probably not perfect. It’s such a delicate balance to make sure things don’t get out of control. Made more difficult by growing some varieties of flowers that just don’t have planting schedules for the 65th parallel north!
One thing we’re focusing on doing even better this year is planting flowers. This is a common practice for us, but we’re aiming for even more this year. Flowers are so special when grown near the arctic circle. For some reason, which some day I’ll study, the midnight sun makes flowers more vibrant than anywhere else they are grown. The colors just come on so strong and vivid it’s almost unreal.
All of this has us truly longing for summer time and growing season. We’ve had almost five solid days of above freezing so far, we’re finally starting to see the thaw. I can’t tell you how good 40 degrees feels when only a weeks ago we were battling -35F temperatures. We will still be seeing sub freezing temperatures outdoors for another month plus, though. Best to not get too far ahead of ourselves.
On the LED light front, I am super impressed so far. There’s still more to be seen, but it’s clear the DIY COB LED can grow plants. We’ve definitely seen better growth compared to our T5 lights, especially on some house plants we’re rehabilitating. I am really hoping this was a smart choice as it was a costly investment based on not much real world data.
As a test, I moved one of our seedling trays under the LED. These still have their humidity domes on, so the plants are still quite vulnerable at this stage. We have the light tuned to provide 25,000 lux to the top of the humidity dome. The seedlings are probably getting 20,000 lux or so. So far, this hasn’t murdered our seedlings after several days. This seems to be about perfect and is about 25% stronger than the T5 output. Our seedlings are strong and many are starting with their first true leaves.
What’s most interesting about this test, though, is that the plants on the tray’s edges aren’t leaning in for more light. This was a common problem for us with the T5. Fluorescent light’s weakness is that it tapers off extremely quickly. The edges of the grow light just simply didn’t have the intensity that directly underneath the bulbs do. The LED, though, can push 15,000+ lux to the edges of our trays easily. If this performance keeps up, I’m all in on the COB LED bandwagon.
And lastly, I had what I thought was a pretty brilliant idea this year. I’m going to buy a pressurized spray canister for watering our garden starts in the later stages. This is always such an awkward time because the plants are still vulnerable. That and they need far more water than you want to spray out of a common spray bottle. I think this will work fine and if it does, we’ll write a bit more about it in the future.
I think that’s it for our early April 2017 update. We’ll try to give you another update on our progress in a few weeks.