Sprouted Seeds!

My vertical garden has sprouted seeds! I thought this would work and it does! Look at this!

sproutedseed2_4-30
Sprouted seeds! Whoda thunkit! Click to see it big! No clue what it is . . . I didn't note what I poked in where. Doesn't look like it's a coleus, but it might be vining black eyed Susan. Nasturtiums come up dark bluey green, so it's not a nasturtium. Ooo! Maybe it's vining spinach!
sproutedseeds4-30
See the black arrow? These are probably coleus. Click to see it big! They're a bit bigger than the coleus planted in my seed starter at the same time.

I’ll take pics again next week. I have a couple spots where I’m still waiting for the seeds to sprout.

Plant corner

plantcorner
This is the reason you only get to see bits of the vertical garden. Our temporary living space is small and this is the only spot for big plants. Some of these plants go outside when the danger of frost is past and some go into the sun porch once it's constructed.

Terry got my bucket lid painted.  The addition of the lid really reduced the sound of falling water and disguises the presence of the bucket.  I swapped out the water as I’d sprayed the top couple inches of my beach oleander for aphids and didn’t want to chance overspray ending up in the fish tank.  I dumped the bucket of water used to feed the vertical garden and started afresh.

I’m still seeing the startling rate of growth.  The dumb cane in the upper left corner has a new leaf that is now almost 3″ long.

The plants in the corner include:

Spring planting

For the last couple weeks I’ve been running batches of seeds through my seed starter.  I’ve started three kinds of tomato, three or four kinds of pepper, marigold, zinnia, squash, cucumber, two or three kinds of lettuce, two kinds of egg plant and . . . can’t remember what else.  The tomatoes and peppers have already been repotted into bigger pots.  Some have gone off to my neighbor who has always started seeds for me in the spring, some have gone off to my friend LouAnn.

This morning I’m starting coleus, lobelia, vining black eyed Susan, soapwort and nasturtiums in the last of my peat pellets.  The soapwort is a perennial, but all the rest are annuals.  I’ve got a tray of delphiniums that are just sitting there . . . I have no clue as to whether they are going to sprout.  All I can do is hope.

plantwall4-16
Here's the plant wall in its entirety. Near the center bottom you can see a new slice with a bit of peat moss stuffed in. That's got two vining black eyed Susan seeds.

I’ve taken some of the left over coleus, vining black eyed Susan, vining spinach and nasturtium seeds and planted them in tiny pockets of peat in the blank spots in the plant wall. I’ll let you know how it goes.  I’ve also stuck in a beach oleander leaf.  I’m fully confident that sucker will sprout!

Terry found the Laguna Statuary 2 pump.  I scrubbed it up, switched to a 3/8″ nozzel and swapped out the pondmaster 160.  The Laguna is the perfect size,  and because it’s properly sized it’s much quieter than the Pondmaster.  I’ll use the pondmaster outside for Terry’s aquaponic system on his big fish tank.

Growth

The plants in my vertical garden are already showing new growth in just 4 days!  How cool is that?!

vggrowth4-10
Click image to enlarge! This is an excerpt of the picture I took on 4/10. I've color coded the circles so you can see a few examples of the growth achieved in just 4 days. Amazing!
vggrowth4-14
Click image to enlarge! See how much bigger the leaves are! The ivy is stretching for the light!

Vertical garden

plantwall1
Look way to the back behind the potted plants to the gray thing with the black thing under it. That's my vertical plant wall. It looks really sparse right now because it's newly planted. You're looking at the bottom left corner. You can see a tiny spider plant baby stuck in below a nephthytis. The green bucket holds the water bailed from the outside fish tank and acts as the catch basin for the wall. I'll swap the water out weekly. It's been running two days and it's already down an inch from it's original level.

I have my vertical garden up and running.  I’m not thrilled with the plants I have in it, but this is an experiment and I need to know what will and won’t work.  I’ll do it differently next time, leaving the wall laid on the table until I get everything planted, assuming the wall is as small as this.  That will make organizing and stapling easier.  I may even map my layout on the felt using a Sharpie.  Yeah . . . that’s what I’ll do.

Here’s the parts list:

  • Something to use as backer board.  Mine is a scrap piece of 3/4″ utility grade plywood.  It was already longer on one side than the other so no cutting was necessary.  Serendipitous.  You probably won’t be that lucky, so you’ll need about a 1/2″ difference between the length of the two sides to ensure enough slant for proper drainage.  Make sure whatever you use, it is something that can be left out in the rain.  You’re not going to leave it out in the rain, but you are going to staple a rain forest to it.
  • 2″ diameter poly pipe 3 1/2″ longer than the backer board is wide.  This will be slotted to fit over the bottom of the vertical wall.  The length is important.  You don’t want the end of the slot tight against the side of the board or you’ll be providing a path for water to flow outside the pipe.  You also need enough room for the tubing to be tucked into the poly pipe and out the end into the drain bucket.
  • Flooring felt (laid under carpet for stairs and heavy traffic areas) 1″ wider and 2″ taller than the backer plywood.  Mine is a left over from when we carpeted my office.  I can make three more walls this size with what I’ve got left over.
  • Pond pump.  I’m using a Pondmaster 160.  Whichever pump you choose, it has to have at least a 6′ head.  Don’t buy more pump than you need because you’ll have to throttle it back anyway.  I have a Laguna Statuary 2 pump around somewhere that I was going to use, but can I find it?  Not even close.  I finally gave up and bought another pump.
  • Programmable timer that allows for programming in 15 min increments (I bought mine on eBay, $1+$7.50 shipping).
  • 6′ of tubing to fit your pump (black so you don’t get algae buildup in the tubing) and a barbed elbow (for the corner at the top of the wall).  I’m using 3/8″ ID tubing.
  • 9/16″ staples and staple gun.  A staple hammer won’t work here.  Precise application of staples is required.
  • Pliers, 16 penny nail and a candle for putting water outlet holes in the tubing.
  • 6 sheetrock screws
  • Drill sized to match sheetrock screws
  • Screw driver to match sheetrock screws
  • Skill or saber saw for cutting poly pipe
  • Something to plug the tubing.  I used a short piece of doweling tapered to fit.  There’s not a lot of pressure here, so it doesn’t need to be fancy.
  • Something to use for standoffs so the vertical garden is held away from the wall.  Furniture feet would work.  I used 2″ hex head screws screwed in 1/2″ because I have it hung on an OSB wall.  If you’re hanging it on something you don’t want to mar, plan accordingly.
  • Something with which to hang the plant wall.  I screwed on ell hinges and put hanger wire through the holes and hung the whole affair on more hex head screws.  My wall only weighs about 15 pounds now, but I’m planning on it weighing more as the plants grow.  If you have to be careful of the wall, plan accordingly.
plantwall2
Right side showing hanger and hex screws at top.

Construction:

  1. Prepare the poly to act as water catcher by cutting 1/4 of the pipe away leaving 1″ intact at each end.  This slot is what the bottom of the wall and felt will fit into for water catchment.  If you have a hole saw, use that to create the ends of the slot, then use a saber or skill saw to connect the holes creating the slot.  Plug one end.  I used a tin can lid glued on using aquarium silicone.   Ugly, but cheap and it works.  Spray it black to match the pipe if it bothers you or spend the $ for a black PVC cap.
  2. Wax or oil the plywood HEAVILY on the side you will be stapling the felt to.  I ironed a wax and oil combo into the wood until it wouldn’t take any more.  I also ironed it into the edges.  I don’t know if the plywood will hold up.  It’s utility grade, so it might.  If not I’ll pull the staples and replace the wood with something else.  If you have something you think will work better, give it a try and let me know how it goes.
  3. Place the felt over the plywood and staple it on, running a row of staples around the edges at 3″ apart.  Do NOT wrap the felt to the back.  (You’ll need to figure out how you’re going to mount the length of tubing that goes across the top and feeds water down into the felt.  If I were to do this again I would do it differently.  What I did works really well, though.  I ran the tubing in below the top row of staples then ran another row of staples below the tubing to hold it tight up against the top of the wall.  If you look closely at the picture above you’ll see the hump the tubing makes under the felt.)
  4. Trim the felt leaving a bit of an overhang at the sides and a bit more of an overhang at the bottom.
  5. Place the wall felt side down with the bottom side extending off the edge of the table.  Slide the poly pipe onto the bottom edge and mark the screw hole locations on the poly pipe.  These will need to be drilled at an angle so the screws can go straight into the wood.  Make sure the plugged end is at the shorter end of the wall.
  6. Screw the poly pipe to the bottom of the wall.  I don’t know if it matters if the felt is touching the bottom of the poly pipe.  Use your best judgment.  The idea is to have the poly pipe hang with the slot level front to back and slanted toward the drain end.  Screw accordingly.
  7. Cut a piece of the 3/8″ tubing 1″ longer than the top of the garden wall.
  8. Using the pliers to hold the 16d nail, heat the nail over the candle flame then pierce one side of the tubing.  The holes should be spaced about 1″ apart and it’s best if the holes are in a relatively straight line.
  9. Lightly lubricate (I used olive oil) the ends of the tubing.  Insert the plug in one end and the elbow in the other.  Be mindful of where the row of holes is in relation to the elbow.   You want the water to come out of the tubing and go into the felt.  Don’t point the holes straight down.  When looking at the end, the holes should be at 5 o’clock, pointing down and toward the front for going into the felt.
  10. Connect the supply tubing to the elbow.  Olive oil will help the barbed fitting slide fully into the tubing.
  11. Run the tubing between the felt and the backer board and fasten it in place.
  12. Run the pump end of the tubing down the side of the plant wall and into the slot in the poly pipe, then out the drain end of the pipe.  This will help hold the supply tubing in place.  I added no additional fastenings at this point.  If I were building a larger wall, I might have to, but for how this works fine.
  13. Connect the pump.
  14. Now’s the perfect time to hang your wall and test it.  Put the pump in a bucket of water and plug it in!
  15. I use a large rotary cutter for cutting the planting slits, but a box knife will work.
  16. Put enough staples in around the plant to secure it, but don’t get carried away.  too many staples = not enough root room, so use discretion and common sense.

The felt stays surprisingly dry.  I have my timer set so the pump runs for 15 minutes, then is off for 90 minutes.  We’ll see how it grows.  I don’t hold huge expectations for the plants I’ve used filling in the wall completely, but this will act as a good test.  As with everything, YMMV.

Notes:

  • I tied one end of a piece of cloth on the end of the drain pipe and dropped the other end in the bucket to act as a pathway for the water and to reduce splash and noise.
  • I bought 7′ of tubing thinking I would put the wall up higher, but to get the best light, given the number of plants I already have in that corner, I dropped the wall down to just above the bucket.  I didn’t cut off the extra tubing, just left it curled in the bucket.  This allows me to install the wall up higher in future without buying new tubing.
  • I put the spider plant babies into the wall without any soil.  There’s one at the bottom left, but a whole row at the top.  We’ll see how they do.
  • I shook as much soil off the roots as I could before sticking the plants in their respective slots.
  • For plants with long loose roots I wrapped stiff paper in a tube around the rootball and pushed the tube into the slot, then held the plant in place while extracting the paper.
  • When the felt was dry water would follow the downwardly facing leaves of the spider plant and drip on the floor.  I put a temporary block behind the bottom of the wall to tip it out further so the drain pipe at the bottom would catch the drips.  As soon as the felt got damp this condition went away and the block was removed.

Rescue dogs

We have three rescue dogs.  Okay, we have five dogs, three of whom are the product of some sort of rescue.  We’ve pretty much always had dogs, but this is the first time we haven’t been dog snobs.

maxandchickens
Max and chickens, summer '08.

Wad bought our first collie in the 70’s before our son was born.  As each dog aged we got a replacement so the current adult could teach the newbee how things are done.  We’ve had collies right up until our last one passed away on Valentine’s Day a year ago.  Sam taught Patsy (Aussie/Collie cross – no relation) how to do her job.

In addition to Patsy we have Maxter, Patsy’s 3/4 Aussie son who is a truly awesome dog, intelligent, handsome, regal, calm and restrained.  He is the easiest of dogs because he is both smart AND willing to obey.

happydec2008
Happy, December '08.

Our first rescue dog is a part hound named Happy, because she truly is a happy dog.  We have had her about 2 years.    She came to us looking like a hat rack, horribly thin from being locked in an apartment with only toilet water to sustain her.  She’s an awesome dog, and until Chloe came, was our primary alert dog.

chloedec08
Chloe and her perfect weather, December '08.

Chloe came to us in good health but with significant behavioral issues.  She barked all the time, was aggressive and overprotective, killed cats and fought with other dogs.  She fits right in here.  Chloe is third in our pack’s hierarchy.  She tried to take on the two older dogs when she first arrived, but they’ve been a pack for a long time and take her on together which keeps her in her place.

Chloe’s got good role models in the older dogs and a real friend in Happy.  Though Happy’s been here longer she’s happy to have Chloe over her in the pecking order and as first alert dog.   Happy has a short coat and isn’t suited to laying out in the rain and snow on guard duty.  Chloe has a coat like a chow or husky, very thick with a dense undercoat very suited to northwest winters.  Her mouth is purple under the tongue which leads me to believe she might be part chow, though she’s quite a bit bigger than the chows I’ve seen.   She came to us as a shepherd/aussie cross, but I’m just not seeing it.  The disposition is wrong, the attitude is wrong and the coat is wrong for that cross.

Chloe’s an excellent first alert dog.  Because the other dogs don’t bark unless there’s a problem they provide a good meter for the validity of her bark and she’s conformed her behavior to their standard.   She protects the chickens, doesn’t bother the cats and is really enjoying life on the farm.  She still flinches occasionally when I reach for her, a product of previous bad handling, but that will pass.  She stays in the truck with the other dogs when we go on rides and has attached herself to Terry as his dog.  Life is good.

chuck2
There's still some external scarring in the right eye, but he can see out of both.

Our latest rescue is our first inside dog, a little Toy Rat Terrier named Chuck.  He came to us as Charlie, but he really is a Chuck.  You’ll just have to trust me on this one . . .

Chuck had horrible ear mites, external scarring on both eyes, was in really poor health and was terribly afraid of people.  We didn’t think he had a voice for the first six weeks we had him.  He never made a sound.  Now he growls or barks if the big dogs bark, he barks if we have goodies he thinks we should share, barks if he wants up and I’m ignoring him, he barks if someone comes in who isn’t family or Terry comes in carrying something that looks strange.  I don’t mean to imply he’s noisy, but he does communicate, which can include bouncing his front feet noisily on the rug to get our attention.  That’s pretty awesome, considering where he started with us.

For the first two weeks we had him I had to chase him down to pick him up or touch him.  There are benefits to having a small house.  He didn’t have a lot of room to run.  After two weeks he realized I wouldn’t quit until I got him and stopped running so much/so far.  At that point he was okay if I only reached for him with one hand.  Try and pick a very unwilling 7 lb dog up with one hand . . . SO not happening.

It took about six weeks to house break him.  In the beginning I’d take him out, put him in a small pen in the yard, wait for him to do his business and then take him back in.  This went on through snow, storm, cold, wet, typical yucky northwest winter weather.  After a couple weeks I could open the slider and tell him to go out and he’d go . . . reluctantly if it was cold, even more reluctantly if it was wet.  If the weather was nice I could put a temporary pet door in the slider and he’d come and go on his own.

In the beginning I couldn’t do much to help him understand our house was not a bathroom.  He had already been so traumatized any discipline would add to the trauma.  At night I’d invert a laundry basket over his bed to keep him in it until I could put him out first thing in the morning.   The best I could do was get him out and give him the opportunity.  To clean up after him I filled a spray bottle with rug cleaning solution and a spray bottle of deodorizing enzymes and developed a routine: blot up the moisture, spray rug cleaner, rub, clean up with the hand steamer/vacuum, then spray the spot with deodorizing enzymes.  Fortunately our rug is cream colored and the spots showed up easily.  After weeks of telling him he MUST go outside, and cleaning up the messes he made inside, he “got it”.  He is now fully house broken and uses the cat door to go out.  No more accidents in the house, no more opening and closing doors.

Chuck’s a go dog.  If I’m going somewhere, he wants to go.  In the beginning it was separation anxiety, but now he’s having fun.  He’d like to be included in doing the shopping at the farm store and the garden store and the hardware store and . . .  He’s just not quite there yet.  He panics and heads back to the truck if someone approaches when he’s on the ground, though he’s okay if I’m holding him.  I’m sure time will fix this as well.  I can take the big dogs with me so he feels more secure but I may cut that down to just one dog, maybe Happy or Patsy.  All four big dogs is a bit much.  I can count on Happy or Patsy to take care of him.  Hmm.  Maybe Max would be a better choice . . . big dog role model instead of mother figure. Hmm.  Max is mister cool, calm and obedient.  He might be the best choice and it would be good for his ego.  Being the lone male in a pack of females can be trying.

Chuck’s taken to snatching naps beside Terry in Terry’s recliner.  He doesn’t want Terry to reach out and touch him, but he’s willing to share his chair.  That’s progress.

chuck1
Chuck in his bed on my desk with his sweatshirt and warm rice bag.

So we’ve developed a bit of a routine.  Because I’m at my desk most of the time I build a bed in the corner of my desk using a fabric wrapped sheet of foam around two sides of a foam pillow.  Chuck sleeps there covered with an old armless True Value sweatshirt and snuggled up to a warmed up rice bag.  When I’m not at my desk he’s in a bed in front of the quartz heater in the living room or laying in the sun inside the sliding glass door.  As the weather gets warmer/dryer he is spending more time outside.  I don’t know what he hunts when he goes on his forays, but his little nose is to the ground as he follows interesting scents.  I’m awaiting the day when he actually catches something.  That’ll be fun.