Introducing ‘Grow with Me’

If you were to visit a nursery right now (and many other brick-and-mortar stores with gardening sections) you can’t help but notice that there is an energy of anticipation in the air – spring is approaching, and nurserymen are shaking off the dust of fall, ushering in the new season as quickly as they can.

As experienced gardeners know, if you are interested in growing your own plants for the summer’s garden – now is the time to start. Even with 6 inches of fresh snow on the ground, planting season isn’t that far off – only 8 weeks really.

Usually I start my warm season crops like tomatoes, peppers and eggplants in late January or early February so that they are ready to start blooming within a week or two after they’ve been hardened off and transplanted into the garden after Mother’s Day.

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The kit I used to start this seasons ‘Grow with Me’. Just add water and wait until the pellets have fully expanded, plant and cover until you see sprouts.

This year, I’m off to a late start – the beginning of the semester has been more scattered than usual due to changing job requirements and the kids needing more help with their schoolwork and activities than years prior

This delay has another benefit in that it’s also an excellent opportunity to create with you, kind reader, and a virtual community garden.

Before we relocated to Fort Collins, whenever we would move to a new town, I’d go about finding a community garden, and through socializing and observation I’d learn how to grow in that particular climate or soil type. Through those communities we’ve swapped our excess tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and other veggies for other folks surplus and everyone who wished developed neighborly friendships That sense of community is something that I’ve missed, as we’ve had our own plot since arriving in Colorado.

Using the idea of a virtual community garden, I’ll be posting on the growth and progress of three different tomato varieties as well as a couple pumpkins and a couple of watermelons over the course of the growing season.

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Rehydrated and seeds tucked in – these guys are ready to be covered and put onto a seed warming mat for germination.

For us, gardening is a family activity, and in keeping with that one of the tomato varieties, the pumpkins, and watermelons were at the request of my son BW and my daughter JB. We will be growing many other things over the course of the growing season, but for this series, these are the ones we will be posting about on a regular basis.

I invite you, kind reader, to join in participating alongside of us at your own home or farm, or if life is too chaotic and full, you can join in the observation and conversation. Whether you are growing on a window ledge, in a garden plot, or dozens of acres, I’d love to see what you have planned, and how the season progresses for you.

If you are an old hat at prepping and growing your own garden, I’d love for you to join in and share your hints, tips, and hard earned wisdom – for that is truly the heart and spirit of  ‘Grow with Me’.

Even if you’ve never grown before but you’ve always wanted to and you aren’t sure where to start, or you’ve tried before and didn’t experience much success – there couldn’t be a better time to start or try again.

Grow with Me, or #GrowWithFFC  is the hashtag that I’ll be using when I post updates. If you’d like to share your seedlings progress, please use the same one so that everyone can follow along.

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Germination already? It’s only been five days. Some varieties take up to two weeks to sprout – so if your’s take longer, don’t worry, these guys are anxious.

Having read this post, you are amongst the first to see the start of the promise of summer’s bounty.

For the sake of simplicity, I opted to use the Jiffy Tomato and Vegetable kit that contains the grow pellets. It’s an extremely easy kit to use; all you need to get going are the seeds and warm water to rehydrate the moss filled pellets.

After having spent years tripping over flats of seedlings clustered around the patio doors and covering the heat vents to provide additional warmth for the growing media, Karl suggested at the start of 2013 that I invest in some grow lights and seed heating mats so that instead of commandeering the dining area I could move the entire operation down to the family room.

This gives me a particular advantage in that germination happens faster and the grow lights help keep the plants from getting too leggy and flopping over under the weight of their own leaves. But never fear – we’ve had some beautiful gardens and some of the best results using seedlings that were started on windowsills in cold and drafty apartments.

These seeds were started on March 8th and they germinated by the 13th. As soon as several of the pellets sprouted, the clear ‘greenhouse’ top was removed to allow for air circulation and they were placed under the lights, with the lamps hovering only a few inches above them so that they didn’t get ‘cooked’ but at the same time had an healthy dose of much needed light. The most recent photo is from today, March 18th.

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Full germination after only 10 days! Wow. Notice the difference in the seedlings from last time; dark green seed leaves and deep red stems. These guys are photosynthesizing like crazy. (And a pumpkin or melon has sprouted too!)

As with years past, I can’t help but marvel at how quickly these little guys grow and change. Already they’ve transitioned from nearly translucent little sprouts to red and hardy little guys that are just about to don their first true leaves. The leader roots on the melons and pun’kins have made their appearance and need to be transplanted already in order to have a better-developed root system.

In the next several days I too will be getting ready for spring. I’ve several materials to pull from storage and prepare for planting the rest of our summer crops and surrounding yard.

Until next time, I look forward to seeing what you are starting, and hearing about your plans for your growing adventures.




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