More Copra Onion & Celery Plantings

According to the University of Illinois website, our average last frost date for Central Illinois is between April 14th and April 21st.  To play it safe, I plan all of my plantings based on the April 21st date.

That means just a few days ago, there are 13 weeks until the last frost date!  I’ve been actively getting celery and onions seeded.  Yesterday I seeded another 12 Ventura celery seeds in three-packs.  I got a smaller half-width growing container while at the store yesterday – so it is only about six inches wide instead of a foot wide.  This is all that is needed to have four 3-packs in – and it still is longer than needed – but I only have so much space under the ‘germination station’ – which is why I needed to get this half-width growing container with a clear plastic cover to keep in moisture.

The Ventura celery seed was soaked in water for about 36 hours before putting in the three-packs.  I then fill the tray with water and the soil in the three-packs will pull the water in – that way I don’t have to water from the top and keeps the disease/damping off possibility down.

About 9 days ago, I planted 200 Copra Onion seeds.  I didn’t think I had this many left over from last year – but I did!  I still have maybe 20 seeds left.  I put in an order for FedCo Seeds just for more Copra Onion seeds since the Varsity Onion seeds were sold out.  It doesn’t look like I needed to purchase these – but that means I’ll have a supply for next year.  That means I won’t need to purchase seed next year!

Well, in nine days, over 50% of them have sprouted so far.  The growing area ranges between 59 degrees at night – up to about 73 degrees during the day with the fluorescent lights on.  The count of seedlings – as of yesterday around 5 pm – was right at 110.

Copra Onion Seedlings

As you can see above, the half-width covered container is in the background – which the new celery was seeded in.  Then you can see all of the onion sprouts.  I chose to simply fill one of the large trays with soil and then seed the onions in it – instead of using 9-packs like I did last year.  This will allow the roots of the onions to spread out more and not be contained within the 9-packs.  Sure, the roots of the onions may get tangled, but when transplanting, I’ll be able to separate them.

In the right-corner of this tray (not pictured), I have a small cup with holes in the bottom submerged in the soil.  This allows me to pour in water to this area and it will soak into the bottom of the container – keeping me from watering the top.

Here are some Copra onions that are now 40 days old.  They are still growing strong!

Copra Onions

Behind the onions are the Ventura celery plants that are between 15 and 40 days old as well.  The celery are now all in 3-packs to give them more room for growing; I just hope I don’t need to transplant them again – because my ‘germination station’ is almost full already – and I haven’t even started the lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, and cauliflower!  I may have to build another section if this keeps up.

Ventura Celery

Above shows the Ventura celery.  The first four containers from the left have the celery that is around 40 days old.  On the far right are the newer celery plants that are about 15 days old.

Pulling away from the garden for a moment – and here is some wine updates.

The wine on the left is wine that has now been fully stabilized.  It is “bulk aging”.  Notice the color difference between the two carboys of wine.  The wine that is now stabilized and done fermenting is much darker.  The one on the right is still in the fermentation process and is only two weeks old at this point.

Wine Fermenting

No Gardening In This Weather!

Nope – I certainly can’t do any gardening outside when it is going to be -1 degree out tonight – and with six inches of snow on the ground!  The carrot bed in the background of the image below – and the herb/lettuce bed in the foreground are fully covered!  Luckily we have a snow blower so I had to wake up early this morning and clear the huge driveway – and then do it again when I got home today.


And the garden behind the garage.


And then there is the front yard.


Now, it is a different story down in the basement at ‘germination station’.  Monday – I was the proud recipient of a UPS delivery.  This box weighed quite a bit – certainly it couldn’t be seeds.

Seed Order

Oh my!  It is seeds!  Look at those HUGE packages back there!  The one in front is Honey Treat corn.  This is the last year that FedCo Seeds will be selling it.  It is a new variety that I’m trying this year – mostly because it is one of the first to mature with large ears.  So I am going to give it a go.  That is an 8-ounce package of seed.  Behind that – I have a 1 POUND package of Cascadia Snap Peas (also new this year) and a 1 POUND package of Bush Blue Lake 274.  I didn’t know there would be this much seed honestly!  Hopefully I can baby the seed because it should last me 10 years – and that is without saving seed.

In the front, there are two piles.  One of them is for a friend that I work with that wanted me to order for him – so it saved on shipping.  The other pile is additional things I’m trying this year.  Here is what I got:

  • Crimson Sweet Watermelon (first time growing this but it is recommend for Central Illinois)
  • Little Leaf H-19 Pickling Cucumber (hopefully I can move away from the Burpee Pickler cucumber for this open-pollinated version)
  • Scarlet Nantes Carrot (half the cost of the Sugarsnax carrots – trying it against the Sugarsnax carrots for taste this year)
  • Easter Egg Radish (noted for being pretty large – more yield out of the same square feet is the goal)
  • New Red Fire Lettuce (A red lettuce – going to try this variety since the Red Salad Bowl lettuce didn’t work well last year)
  • Parris Island Cos Lettuce (A romaine-type lettuce that I am going to try this year)
  • Premium Crop Broccoli (mostly purchased for when I ran out of Green Goliath broccoli – hopefully it does just as good as Green Goliath)
  • Snow Crown Cauliflower (Going to try growing cauliflower again; wasn’t impressed with the Snowball X variety I tried two years ago)
  • Ventura Celery (Grew this last year – this is to backfill seeds for next year)
  • Anaheim Hot Pepper (A bit more heat than the California Wonder varieties that we will add to salsa)
  • Rosemary (Hopefully I can find a place to grow it; always wanted to try this as an herb)

Unfortunately, I also ordered Varsity Onion.  It sold out.  So, I had to send back the form with $2 for shipping to order Copra Onion again.  I simply do not have enough onion seed this year – I might have another 30 – 40 seeds – when I need 100 onions.

A show on our local PBS station – called Illinois Gardener – answered one of my e-mail questions on the show last week.  I e-mailed asking when onion and celery seeds should be started inside.  They answered by saying it was almost time to start them now – end of January to the beginning of February.  Last year, I waited until about February 11th to begin planting onions and celery – then did later sowings into March as well due to damping off and other problems.  This time, I will be starting the rest of the onion seed I have available in the next few days – and will also be starting another batch of 12 Ventura celery seeds.

I started growing some celery and onions back in December to test seed viability.  So far, those plants are still living and doing well.  As long as I can keep that up for another three months to be set out in mid-April, I’ll be ready!

I also planted another batch of 12 Ventura Celery at the beginning of January.  Just like I indicated last time, celery seed MUST have light to germinate and grow.  I had horrible germination with celery seed last year – and that was because I was covering them with a little bit of soil.  To germinate celery seed, I fill up some growing containers with soil and then I place them in a black tray with water in it.  The water will wick up into the soil over a period of 24 hours and fully saturate the soil.  Then, the celery seed is placed right on top of the soil and very lightly press the seed into the soil to make good contact.  Then place a clear plastic lid over the top of the entire tray – and leave it that way until your celery germinates.  This locks in the moisture and helps keep the seed moist and then it germinates!

Out of 12 seeds that were planted at the beginning of January, 10 of them sprouted!  So I have more than enough to plant outside right now – but I am going to make another sowing of 12 just to have enough in case any don’t make it.

Here is the “germination station” downstairs.  The onions are now a month old.

Copra Onion Seedlings

And the celery that is a month old:

Ventura Celery Seedlings

And lastly, here is a look at the celery that was planted within the past 20 days.  Note that it took between seven and 15 days for these to germinate – so they are very new.  The larger celery and the onion below were transplanted to the larger containers – but the small celery are just behind those.


Well, that is all that is going on currently in the gardening area.  I am hoping for an even more successful year – as long as the weather cooperates and it isn’t as hot as it was last year!

First Garden post of 2011 – Seedlings

Let’s start the first garden post of 2011 just a mere day after the new year!

The pictures taken below were actually taken on the 1st – and one of them taken on December 19th, however.

I continue to keep the original seedlings alive that I started to test seed viability – which the previous post discussed.  So far all of them are doing very well and I haven’t lost any of them due to damping off – but have thinned a few.

Right now I have my “germination station” sitting on the floor with one fluorescent light fixture over the top.  I don’t need all three fixtures right now since all of them are comfortably fitting under one light.

Germination Station

The above photo was taken back on the 19th of December.  You can see the ‘warm’ glow of the Grow-Lux bulbs and some seed trays underneath.  I just constructed a simple PVC hanging bracket that I can hang three fixtures from – very simple and inexpensive.

Grow-Lux bulbs… I don’t recommend them.  I really don’t think they work.  After taking this photo, a few days later I exchanged one of the bulbs out for a Cool White Premium bulb (40 watts – not 32 watts which is common now).  Within a few days, the small plants began leaning to favor the Cool White Premium bulb.  What does that tell you?  That says the Grow-Lux bulbs are not liked by the plants and the plants like the Cool White Premium bulb!

Below is a photo of the Copra onion seedlings on December 19th as well.

Copra Onion Seedlings

They are not too terribly large.  You can see the Cool White Premium bulb (although it is white and blends with the background of this page), but it has been changed!

Thirteen days later, here are the Copra onion seedlings now:

Copra Onion Seedlings

Amazing what they can do!  At this rate, I’m not sure if I will be able to keep them alive and healthy until it is time to plant out in April.  That i is still three months away.

How about the basil?  Well, the basil got off to an extremely slow start.  Apparently basil takes a lot longer to germinate.  Here in the past week, I’ve had five more just begin to germinate.  Then you can see the large one that germinated quite some time ago.  The seed used was from seed saved from last year’s basil crop – therefore proving just how easy it is to save basil seed and use it for your next planting!

Basil Seedlings

And lastly – the Ventura celery.  The celery is doing well – and I have thinned some of them out a bit.

Ventura Celery Seedlings

Again, this seed is a year old now and still has great germination rates.  It still is too early – I think – to be starting celery seed inside – but I actually just got 12 celery seeds soaked overnight and am going to plant them very shortly in larger containers.  The celery above was planted in square black trays with nine areas in them.  I’ll have to transplant these later – if I plan to keep them to plant outside – because they will become root-bound.  So the 12 seeds that soaked overnight will go into black plastic trays with only three growing areas in them – so there will be much more room to grow in!

What am I watering these with?  Well, I brought in my big container of compost tea.  This tea is several months old now.  Is it still good?  I don’t know – but the little seedlings seem to be growing just fine!  I will get a one-gallon ice-cream bucket and put some compost tea in it – then take each black plastic tray and let the tea soak in from the bottom for a couple minutes.  Then I’ll take the black plastic tray out and place it back under the light.  By watering from the bottom instead of the top, it helps prevent damping off disease – which little seedlings can quickly succumb to!

I also plan to get just a small fan that pushes a little air movement around the growing area.  This will also help to prevent damping off disease from occurring – amongst potentially other diseases!