Saturday, April 30, 2011

I'll Be Busy

Yesterday was more about getting more work than actually doing it. The first order of business was to go out in the morning to Weston Nurseries. The front yard of our landscaping was going in this weekend. Well the rest of it at least. The edibles in the front had already gone in.

We got: a 'Radsunny' Knockout Rose, a Callicarpa 'Early Amethyst', three 'Mountain Fire' Andromidas, three white creeping phlox, a 'Jelena' witch hazel, 10 'Sulphure' epimediums, and five 'Mrs. Moon' pulmonaria. This will fill in most of our front yard foundation plantings and the small bed at the end of the rock wall garden in the north corner of the yard. We will have to come again and pick up the side and back yard plants next week.

When we got home my townhouse mate asked me if I wanted to go for a bike ride. I hesitated since I wanted to plant up the end of the rock wall garden that will just have flowers. But then I remembered that I needed my seed potatoes. I called Wilson's Farm yet again (I've been doing this every day for a week now and weekly before that). Finally they said yes. They had their potatoes in. The bike path goes right down to Wilson's Farm so I said yes to the bike ride. I'll plant the bed another day.

Now the potatoes are chitting by the back door (Kennebec, Yukon Gold, and Russet). I can see some signs of life from them already, but a week in the sun, or at least a few days ought to do them good.

When we got back from the bike ride there was a package by the door. My last fruit trees had shown up. Ginger Gold and Honeycrisp apples for the back yard and a Green Gage plum for the rock wall garden. I guess we will plant those this weekend too. I've got a lot of work to do, but for this I'll have help. All four of us will be out working this morning.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Planting Up Herbs and Flowers

I'm still working hard in the garden every day. Yesterday I put together my two herb/flower beds. Which involved turning over the soil and mixing in compost and fertilizer. The first one is the foundation bed. It is three feet wide. I wanted to easily be able to pick the rosemary that will someday show up and be put in here. So every four feet I put in stepping stones. Three feet is too wide to reach across easily.

From left to right the bed has my climbing rose. Then three mint pots. The area around the mint pots has concrete and very shallow soil. It is where the gas lines come into the house and landscapers didn't give me much soil to work with. It is a perfect place for the mint pots. I did underplant the pots with some borage and forget-me-nots. I'm hoping they self seed in that spot.

Farther on I ran some sweet alyssum across the front of the bed. Between them I'll put some dianthus once they get bigger. But they are still only an inch tall and under my lights. In the back will be two rosemarys and then will be some sunflowers that I have to start germinating. At the end I'd like a sage plant. The sage plant is less than an inch tall so it will be a while for that one. I'm contemplating under planting the sunflowers with some cilantro. I don't think things grow all that well with sunflowers, but I'm hoping it works. Cilantro would get plenty of light and would self seed there every year.

View from my window

The next bed was the driveway bed along the fence. I wanted some pretty flowers in here as I see it from my hall. But then I remembered. That empty raised bed you see - well it will have my tomatoes this year. So the back cages will be six feet tall. I don't think I'll see a lot of those flowers from my window.

From left to right in the bed I planted a bleeding heart in the shady corner. They die back in the summer so I also planted some nasturtiums in front of it. Next is the anise hyssop that isn't here yet. Then five Cerise Queen Achillea.

Then a nice set of annual flowers. In the back are tall zinnias, in the middle is a row of cosmos. In the front are two rows of chamomile. I want them to self seed and continually come up every year. And right by the arbor I wanted a few feet of black-eyed-susans. However even though they self seed invasively all over the garden, I can't get them to germinate in my house. I tried both in the house and wintersown. This week I have one plant that just germinated. I wish I'd known how slow they were. I would have started them earlier. I might have to plant the area with extra zinnias and then pull them later.

Then I remembered one of my favorite plants that wouldn't overwinter well at my last house. Sweet Dreams coreopsis. I loved the different bees and wasps that came to that plant. The green metallic bees especially loved it. But it didn't like the heavy clay soil of my last garden. So maybe these will go there. And yes I ordered them. I hadn't seen them at any of the nurseries I visited.

Two hours later I was cleaning up and noticed my fava beans. Even though I turned over the soil a little in the bed after planting, it looks like most of them made it. They aren't as evenly spaced as before, but they weren't bad. It looks like I will get to try favas for the first time this year after all. Someone was asking about showing my netting tent. Well can you see it in that photo? I thought not. It drapes over the peas in the back and over the favas in the front. Bird netting is pretty invisible.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

On Pots and Pots

Yesterday was all about potting up. The first order of business was potting up the tomatoes that had grown big enough. Not all of them had. My tomatoes have been germinating sporadically, but I think I finally have enough to fill out the garden. There aren't enough of the Heinz, but I'll just add more Market Miracles since there are so many of them.

I grew the tomatoes in the 1 1/2" soil blocks. They are usually ready to plant up when I see the second pair of true leaves. But it is the roots that tell me when to pot up.

The roots start to grow out of the soil block. They have totally filled up the block and I want to give them more room for more roots. Tomato plants are all about how big of a root system they grow. The bigger root system you get the bigger plant you will have. It's all about making more roots. When I grow transplants I never let them get much bigger on top than on their root. I make sure they grow fast. So once I see roots coming out of the block I replant. Those six packs you buy in the nursery just don't grow as well. They are always root bound and have too much foliage for the roots they have. Yes you can recover them to an extent by picking off the lower leaves and burying the stem to make more root, but being root bound is a major stress on the plant.

I transplanted them into newspaper pots. I make the pots 4" tall and about 2 2/3" wide. I like pots that are taller than wide as again it makes for a better deeper root system once planted. I don't make newspaper pots like others do. I consider the newspaper to be an aid in making the soil cylinder. I do not put a bottom on the pot. I just roll up newspaper - only two layers thick. I don't want any newspaper to be in the way of the bottom roots when I plant. And I don't want to encourage the roots to wind around the bottom. I tack the top together with paper clips or masking tape. I don't even bother with the bottom. Then I take enough moist soil to fill up the bottom of the pot and pack it down well. It has to be compact enough to hold together when lifted. Then I drop in my soil block and fill in the edges.

I plant about 1/2" deeper than in the soil blocks. The plants when transplanting are small and don't have much stem to bury. In addition the roots will still fill out the whole paper pot before transplanting. That is the sign they are ready to go into the garden. The roots are coming out the bottom and coming out the sides.

While I was in the nursery I started some cucumbers. I didn't start all of them. I figure with the weather I'll do them in two waves. So in another week I'll start some more. The ones I started this time were the Diamant cukes. I've been growing these for years. They can produce in cool years if we get one. I'm also trying a new cuke. Little Leaf H-19. Both are parthenocarpic. So I don't need the bees to be active. Even periods with a lot of rain can set cucumbers. I'm hoping the latter one works well. I'd like to switch to it if possible. It has a lot of resistances, is open pollinated and doesn't ramble too much. We will see. I'll start those next week.

I also started some more green stemmed bok choy. I thought about the white stemmed one,but it bolts too fast if the weather heats up. It is really a better fall plant, but I like its flavor more than the green one.

My afternoon chore was to get the pots ready for the mints. I don't have the mints yet, but I will soon and they can go right into their new home. I mixed up soil for them. I used equal parts garden soil and compost then added some vermiculite and fertilizer. I know from soil tests that the soil they brought in is high in nitrogen and potassium, so I added extra bone char to even it out.

The one pot I did plant was the one next to the front steps. It still needs the mint in the front. Yes the non decorative ones I'm putting in front. I'm strange that way. In the back is a golden sage. I didn't get it for culinary use. I'm growing a regular sage for that. But it looks so dang pretty and I wanted something to grow tall.

I looked at the forecast and the lows won't be lower than the mid 40Fs for the next 10 days. I'm guessing April 9th was our last frost. Which is pretty unbelievable for the cold spring we had. We just haven't had any large temperature swings. My old hill had a frost on the 17th of April. This place is warmer than my last in spring. I could be planting tomatoes out now. They aren't nearly ready, but I'll have to plan for earlier planting dates at this location. The city really heats up faster. If I make a plastic tunnel for the tomatoes I can really plant pretty early I think.

But then can you trust the weathermen? Yesterday they all said the temps would be about 72F. My weather station said it got to 81.5F. Ten degrees over what they predicted. I've seen a lot of errors this spring that were 10F off. That is a lot to be off by when you are predicting in the morning for that afternoon. Sadly it really was hot and humid yesterday. I was going to plant any of the flowers and such that were big enough already since I suspect we won't get any more frosts. But after hauling dirt around for the pot, I went in to the coolness of my house. I'll have to get to that and weeding the paths, and planting my rose today or tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


I spent a lot of time "gardening" yesterday but that mostly meant visiting the local nurseries and checking out their pots. I needed three pots for my mints and one pot for my front steps. I wanted a really pretty pot for the front, but I wanted plastic as it won't crack and won't suck out water like clay does.

The first stop was actually a hardware store. They didn't have any plastic pots, but they did have a large bag of vermiculite which I snapped up. I also looked at their plants and picked up a bleeding heart. I have a shady spot in the corner of the fences where it would be perfect. And I love bleeding hearts. I'll have to plant a hosta in front of it eventually. Bleeding hearts die out early and the hostas comes up later. So they ought to be happy together. But the hosta will be from a split of one of the hostas that we are already buying so it will be a year or two before I plant it.

Then it was off to Mahoney's. I had a good time looking at the plants they had, but bought nothing. I didn't like their cheap plastic pots. I liked the faux stone one they had, but I knew Pemberton Farms had one the exact same one. So I bought all my pots at Pemberton Farms as I liked their cheapo pots for the mints. While I was there I looked around for plants to put in the big stone one. I bought a pretty variegated yellow sage for height. I'll put one mint in that pot too, but I'm not sure which one yet as they haven't come. I also bought a couple of small yellow dahlias and some purple petunias. They call the petunias blue, but really I think they look more purple. The mint will have some competition.

The side undisturbed by the birds

I also got to pick the first of my lettuce. No heads were chopped off, but a leaf or two from all the plants were taken. In addition I took some chives, some Fun Jen, mizuna, and tatsoi. Not much from anything, but enough to make a nice salad. While I was under the row cover, I thinned out the turnips. I ate them as micro greens, but they weren't heavy enough to weigh.

As I was picking the lettuce I noticed that the birds had been in to it. I also noticed they had plucked up a few of the cilantro seedlings. The birds are back. The birds in my neighborhood are vicious. There is a flock of European sparrows that are like locusts. A neighbor a few doors down keeps a constant supply of bread for them on the road. Well bread is a boring diet and they love to come to the garden and mow it down. I loved the birds at my last house. As I was telling Villager the other day, at my old house my birds were nice. They ate the insects. They never mowed anything down, and only occasionally stole things like a cosmos seedling for their nests. Here we don't have a nice mixed flock of birds. These are city birds. They hear about a sale going on in Daphne's Dandelions and brawls break out.

Needless to say I had to do something and I was really worried about them finding the peas before they were big enough to withstand the attack. So out came the netting and the old tent stakes. I covered most of it up. I hope that saves my poor plants. They can still get to some of the peas and can get inside the netting if they try, but I'm hoping it is enough of a deterrent. I want to make sure to get the netting off before the peas start climbing though. I would hate to have the netting tangled in the pea vines.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Yesterday I had a couple of things to fix. The first was two tears in my row cover. I'm using Agribon 15. In the past I've always used 19 which is much sturdier. The 19 would last years. But the 15 is very fragile. We had a very intense wind storm last week and two of the spots that had clips on them ripped.

I played tag with the intermittent rain to get the row cover fixed. I'd go out and start getting rained on then I'd come back in and it would stop. Eventually I fixed both holes by just ignoring the almost nonexistant rain. I wonder if I'm going to be doing this all summer long. The fabric is very light and won't heat up the plants as much, but the fragility might be an issue.

As I was walking through the garden I noticed that some weeds were growing up between the beds and that paths. I figured big weeds would be hard to get out so I'd better clean them out fast. I swept the paths and especially the edges where bricks meet bricks. I got out all the little germinated weeds. I'm going to have to buy one of those thin weed control tools for when I do let the weeds get out of control. I'm sure it will happen. It always does. Maybe not this year, but some year it will.

Then it was the compost pile. The pile was distinctly smelly. It had gone anaerobic. I needed to turn the pile to get some air in it and add some dry leaves to dry it out a bit. I'm shocked it was so wet. We put in kitchen waste and leaves. The leaves that were put in were mostly dry. I would have expected the pile to be too dry and not too wet. This is a covered compost pile so it doesn't get any rain. But blech! Turning over a compost pile that has gone anaerobic is disgusting. But it ought to have solved the problem. I'll have to keep on top of the issue more.

I also found a pack of cheese in the pile. Cheese does not belong in a compost pile. It won't break down and just gets disgusting. So I fished it out and tossed it. Then sent an email off to all the others that use the pile to remind them what doesn't go in it. I'm guessing they already knew that and it was just a mistake or some guest tossed it in, but the email was just to make sure.

Once that disgusting chore was done I got a nice surprise. The UPS man - who is now my friend again - delivered my rose. It is Zephirne Drouhin an old rose that grows on its own rootstock. This rose ought to be perfect for the spot. It is a climber but is mostly thornless, which is good for the entrance to the garden. I don't want to be stabbed too many times. In addition it is a fragrant rose. I hate roses that aren't fragrant. I'll be planting one, but still it is so wrong fro a rose not to smell like a rose. It was in a pot so I didn't have to get to it immediately. I watered the pot and put it outside with my transplants. It will have to go in sometime this week when it isn't raining on me.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Harvest Monday - 25 April 2011

This was a great April harvest week. Once again I had spinach. This was enough for three meals for me. I had two salads and still have one serving left in the fridge.

But I also had a new harvest. Above are my dwarf bok choys. I planted them all too close together so I could harvest the baby ones.

Now a baby, baby boc choy doesn't weigh all that much. But it was good for a nice little harvest. I harvested four of them. Two of the white stemmed variety and one of the green stemmed.

And had a nice vegetable stir fry with the boc choy. Also in the stir fry are onion, broccoli stems, and mushrooms - all from the grocery store. But the garlic was from last year's harvest. Garlic keeps so well, but a few are starting to spout.

So the harvest totals this week are:

  • Bok choy 2.9oz
  • Spinach 10 oz
  • Weekly Total 12.9oz
  • Yearly Total: 2.13
  • Still in the hole: $-490.01

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Basement Gardening

I'd put it off way too long. We moved last June mind you. But had I put together the gardening portion of the basement? Nope. I just tossed things in the corner. But now that I'm actually gardening, I need to be able to find thing when I need them.

The first order of business was to put together a storage unit to hold a lot of the crap I have. These things go together very easily with two people. With one it is a touch harder, but not too bad. I made the bottom shelf tall enough to hold the bags of fertilizer standing up. We have never had water in the basement, but I didn't want to risk anything so it is now all off the ground except for some tomato cages and some old flats.

OK it doesn't look like much but you should have seen the before

Now I can find things again. Did you know that I have two unopened bags of bird netting? I have a roll of black plastic and a roll of IRT mulch. I have two bags of diatomaceous earth. I found a small bag of bonemeal. Why it wasn't in the blue container that holds my bone meal, I'll never know. Surely I cleaned all this out when I moved.

On the other side in the corner of the basement I have my poles stacked up. They were crying out to be used. I wanted to make an arch over my path near the back with them. I wanted it about 3 1/2' wide and spanning the brick path. I want to grow the runner beans up and over the path. I think it would look really pretty like that. So I got started in making it.

It's not done yet, but the two end pieces are mostly done. They might need more bracing. Before I put them up I'll run string up and down one end for the beans to grab hold of. I hope they can get all the way over the top in a summer.

I didn't spend my whole day in the basement however. I finally got the row cover on my spinach so I won't have to pick off leaf miner eggs. That would be way too much of a chore for this large patch.

Now I have two white caterpillars in my yard. I really hate the look of row covers. If they didn't work so well I'd toss them in a second. Sadly the nasty wind storm of yesterday tore part of my other row cover. I'm going to have to get out and patch it sometime in the next few days.

After I came back in I decided to do one last chore. I seeded the lawn with some white clover. The smallest bag was two pounds. Do you know how much two pounds of clover is. Well way too much. The bag of innoculant was too large for me too. I was only over seeding the lawn a bit. I wasn't trying to cover it all up. So hopefully soon they will germinate and then we will have a nice mix of grass and clover. My townhouse mate was happy when I showed her the first dandelion in the lawn. I know most people hate them, but I've always loved them in the lawn and so does my neighbor. So they get to live happily here.

Friday, April 22, 2011

This and That

Yesterday was a very cold windy day. I had planted out some seedlings on Tuesday and I worried about them. My weather station doesn't seem to do wind correctly. It claims that our gusts maxed out at 19mph. I'm guessing much higher. My husband is convinced that the speed measure is too low also. Though I'm not sure how to calibrate it as what is the real speed?

I feel really sorry for my seedlings that are outside at this point. I should have brought them inside during the wind storm, but I didn't. They really got whipped around. I'm a bad mom sometimes. One of my wintersown containers even blew away and scattered the contents everywhere. This was not a tall water bottle either. It was a short wide container.

We had a frost warning last night. Since Laura told me that celery doesn't like to be frozen I figured I'd better protect it. This wasn't an easy thing in the wind. I was going to take a photo of my upside down barrels with cement blocks. With the wind the cement blocks were necessary. But of course I forgot. It turns out we didn't get a frost. But the four that were under the pails look beautiful and large this morning. The one single one that I didn't protect looks pretty ragged. I guess it must have been a windy night too. Poor little thing. Maybe today will be easier on it.

And speaking of weather, Tuesday they say we will get a nice warmup. Whoohoo! Some say upper sixties, but one weatherman says in the 70s. Either will be a nice change from our cold rainy weather. I can't wait to not shiver when I go out to the garden.

And speaking of shivering. Notice I have to wear my down coat when I go out in the morning ot check on my spinach. Just look at those leaves. This is not some gigantic spinach variety either. It is just Space spinach. But some of the plants are just growing huge in the wet cool weather we have been having.

Or maybe it was just the threat of the trench that got them. They saw their poor tossed off brothers as I was digging in the asparagus. Maybe they figured they had to start growing or that would be their fate.

And to totally switch the subject again, my peppers just aren't germinating well. The last couple of years I've chitted them before planting and they all came up well. I never used my heating mat and I still got them to germinate. This year they are on the germination mat in blocks and they just won't come up. Especially the sweet peppers. I've taken them off the mat in hopes that they will start coming up. The tomatoes are having issues too, but I think I might get enough of them. So I've started to chit more seed. I don't have much time before planting season though. I might just be buying pepper seedlings from the nursery this year. I know I will for the sweet peppers and I used all the seed up in the first round. Note to self: next year don't use a heating mat, just chit the peppers and tomatoes.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Planting in the Rain

Bunching onions and parsley

Yesterday was a nice drizzly spring day. Usually this weather is pretty normal in the spring. I just wish the temperature had been normal. It was a chilly day and the next few will be chilly too. Drizzly days are great for me to get out and plant a few things. I planted up the leek and herb section of the garden. I have three major rotations in the garden. The warm weather crops have two rotations - solanums and the three sisters crops. The last major rotation is my leafy vegetables, peas, and root crops. Within that rotation has its own rotation. One is my brassicas, that have a bed of their own so they can be covered. Another is my lettuce, garlic and onions.

Bed that was planted up
Left to right, seeded dill, celery, leeks, cilantro (hard to see), an empty spot where the cumin goes, parsley, and bunching onions

But the bed I planted up this time was the one with all the leftovers. So it is a mish mash of a bed. Already planted were my peas, favas, and carrots. Yesterday I planted up the leeks, celery (though am I too early for that? I've never planted it before and they were big enough to go out so I did), bunching onions, and some herbs. The herbs that go in here are the annual herbs. I'm still debating how I want the rotations to go, but for now I seeded some dill and transplanted some parsley and some cilantro. The cilantro was just barely up as the tap root doesn't like to be disturbed. the funny thing is that I could see the root coming out of the bottom before the top shows.

Favas coming up

The fava beans in this bed are starting to come up. As I said before after I planted them I mixed in the fertilizer forgetting they were there. So I was hoping some at least would still be close enough to the surface. I didn't really turn the soil over, but did use the fork. So far I have about half a dozen coming up. I planted 32 so I still hope for more.

Spinach is getting its first true leaves

On the next nice day I have to get row cover over the spinach. I don't want to have to pick off the leaf miner eggs from 50 sqft of spinach. That would just be too much of a chore. So I'll put on a row cover. I didn't do it before because it is so much easier to water without a row cover. I would water every day when they were germinating. They seem mostly up now. There are a few gaps as to be expected, but in many places they came up well.

And in other news, I no longer hate the UPS man. My arm doesn't hurt anymore and I'm looking forward to my next package. I hope it is the apple and plum trees. I hope they come this week. And the rose. Yes I'd love to get the rose in. Hmm and my mints and herbs would be nice to get. OK so I'm hoping for the UPS man to come this week. I miss him. I'm fickle.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Harvest Monday - 18 April 2011

If you remember from earlier this week, I got a nice spinach harvest. I was digging the trench for the asparagus and the over wintered spinach was in the way. I probably had to pull a little over half of it out to dig the trench. It was sad to do it, but it did get me a harvest.

I got 8.5 oz of spinach.

It made two meals for me. The first was a salad for lunch one day with homemade honey mustard dressing (using my homegrown garlic). The second was cooked with a bit of balsamic vinegar on it. The chicken in the salad photo was a really yummy smoked chicken breast that I bought last fall from the farmer's market to stock up.

Currently I have two pounds of hamburger, two whole chickens, three double chicken breasts, and two more of the smoked chicken breasts (just one breast each, not a double one). This week we will get a quarter of a pig to add to that (though I've been told the smoked things will take a couple of weeks). A friend of my townhouse mates is a farmer and the pig is from her. I occasionally get her eggs (which are better than the free range eggs at the farmers market). This is the second time I've gotten meat from her. In January she had two extra chickens she was trying to get rid of, so I bought them. My husband called them gamey, but OK. I thought they were delicious, but I guess I had wild birds growing up. My dad hunted and the birds my mom raised had a large pen to roam in. And I'm guessing this farmer's birds are very free ranged birds.

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Mid April Garden

GrafixMuse was talking about her seedling shuffle. It is a term I've heard before, but to me it isn't moving the plants and getting them outside and into the ground. It is moving the soil blocks around so that they are near more appropriate plants. I had two flats that had been up and growing for a while. But some plants were bigger and some I wanted to start hardening off outside. So all the blocks got moved around. I pruned a few roots that were growing out the bottom of their screens.

One flat went outside this morning and one stayed inside with plants that aren't quite as hardy. From left to right we have Achillea Cerise Queen, Krausa Parsley, two rows of cosmos, nasturtium (saved seed), borage (saved seed), forget-me-nots, Redventure celery, Bodegold chamomile with a couple of ground control marigolds in the corner.

I also have another flat that has been out for weeks now. Part of it is leftovers from planting the brassicas the rest are my bunching onions, leeks, and sweet alyssum. I tend to put the flats out by the lettuce as it is right outside the back door and in full sun. I can bring them in every night that frost is predicted. In fact a freeze was predicted last night, but we didn't even get a frost. The long range forecast is for highs in the 50Fs mostly with a couple of 60Fs thrown in. And lows in the 40Fs. It will be very strange if April 9th ends up being our last frost date. But if the long range forecast holds up it is certainly possible. I just don't believe it though. We have had such cold weather this spring.

The brassicas are doing very well. All except the only cabbage I'm growing - Ruby Perfection. It hasn't grown at all. I expect a thinning out harvest in about a week or two.

My Golden Sweet peas are all up. The other peas are up in scattered places. I'm wondering if the different way of soaking the peas made a difference in the speed that they germinated or if it is just varietal differences. The Golden Sweets were soaked in a puddle of water. The others were put between wet paper towels.

The spinach is coming up well this year. I'm very happy about that. I have a little over 3/4 of the 4'x16' bed seeded in spinach. The rest is in radish which is also coming up. These all have to be pulled when the beans, corn and squash go in, but I think they will produce before then. Usually spinach starts to bolt in mid to late May so they will have to be pulled about then anyway.

Areas of the turnips are germinating. Interestingly enough it is all the areas that get more shade than the others. I probably have to water more to get the rest up. These are under the row cover so I don't water every day like I did for the spinach and the carrots. And no the carrots are not yet up. As usual they are taking their own sweet time.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Carrots and Gooseberries

My husband came home yesterday and wondered why I had gone out in the pouring rain. It was the garden of course. He told me that I had put it in black and white on my blog that I would be resting and I wouldn't garden. What can I say? In all the major planting that I've been doing, I forgot to check my carrots. Remember my experiment?

Carrots starting to germinate

One of the ways I was planting carrots was in TP that had been soaked in water and the seed allowed to germinate inside then planted out. I noticed the little green head of a carrot poking up. Whoops. I was supposed to plant when I saw the first hint growth. You know I was supposed to check on them. I didn't. Some of the roots were already over an inch long. So they had to get in the ground right away. It was hard planting in the cold rainy weather. The worst part really was that I was running this strip down the middle of the tomato bed. My arms barely reach in that far. So I was straining to hold myself up and not fall into the middle. But at least they are planted. I hope they survive their neglect.

Today was a beautiful day. In the 60Fs and mostly sunny. My townhouse mate and I were going out together this time to plant. I let her dig the holes for the three gooseberries (Hinnonmaki Red, Invicta, Trixia) from Nourse Farms. OK I still shoved dirt back in and raked a bit, but I was trying not to strain my arm too much. I did OK.

Two of the plants were beautiful. Well the roots were beautiful. Above is just a stick. The last one was pretty sad. They obviously start them in plugs about 1 1/2" x 3". Then they transplant them. Well the plug was obviously root bound and they didn't do anything about it when they transplanted. The roots had grown too and they were starting to strangle the plant. The root system just wasn't very healthy. I carefully unwound the poor kinked roots so they could grow straight again and not be twisted into their neighbors. I hope it works.


Then we went to plant cranberries. We moved half of the piles of pine needles off of the area and into the front where the blueberries are. Both will be mulched with those. Hopefully it will help bring the pH down. The planting on my side went smoothly. The planting on the other side was slower. I had said to mix the peat moss into the soil when they prepared it, but it was just on top. So I had her mix it in before planting and remoisten the soil. The layer of plain peat had just shed all the water from yesterday. It didn't soak it up at all. Peat can be such a pain when it is dry. Mixing it with the soil helps keep it from happening.

While I was out I planted four rhubarb plants. I was going to get some from a friend, but I couldn't resist it at the garden center. The problem with having a garden that is all planned out and all the plants ordered is that you can't just pick things up when you see them. It has been killing me this year. I see something fun and I can't just buy it. Like mints. I saw a whole bunch of mints (I forget where) and I so wanted to buy one, but I have them coming in the mail, so I'll have to wait for them. So far that has been my one spontaneous plant purchase this year. I'll only get more if something dies or I decide to plant something other than what I have under my lights.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

No Rest for the Weary

I figured Monday would be a great day to take a break from physical work. I had a lot of errands and calls to make. I would mostly stay out of the garden except for a little watering. As I watered, I noticed one of my spinach plants had come up. Whoohoo! On Tuesday many more had popped up, but still it wasn't enough to see if they would totally fill out, but now at least I know that I will have some. With spinach that isn't always a given. Then I noticed little pea shoots starting to come up. Just a tiny top of many of them, but in a few days - especially with the all day soaking rain we are getting today - they will all be up. Again Whoohoo!

My day went right as planned. Until 4:00 came around. The UPS truck pulled in front of the house. I prayed it would be for my townhouse mates. And it was. Then the FedEx truck pulled up 15 mins later. Again I prayed, but this time my prayers weren't answered. I had a box on my doorstep. Usually I LOVE boxes on my doorstep. But dang it I wanted a day off.

The box was from Pinetree. It had 30 strawberries, 22 asparagus, and 5 raspberries. Sadly my husband was off on a business trip or I would have begged him to help. I thought for a minute, but figured if I didn't get them into the ground right away it would probably be the next night or Thursday. Sadly I had to go into the store to work on Tuesday or they would have just waited over night.

Strawberries planted

I power dug all those nice plants in. First came the raspberries in the back yard between the foundation, two bulkheads and the walkway. My last raspberry patch would try to take over everything it was near, but this time they are contained.

Then the strawberries were planted in the rock wall garden where the figs and plum tree will go. Earlyglow (8) is between the gates, Sparkle (8) is next down on the rock wall. And the photo above is of the last bit which is Seascape (10) which is an everbearer. I've grown Sparkle in the past and it is an amazing tasting strawberry. I hope the others are just as good.

The last bit to do was the asparagus. The bed is about 33' long. And I needed a trench 8" deep.

The first issue were the over wintered spinach plants. I harvested all the leaves from the plants in the middle of the bed, but the ones that were off to the side I left. I'm hoping they survive getting their roots cut. I would hate to lose my only early spring producer, but the asparagus is worth it if necessary.

Asparagus planted

Then I planted them all in the trench and covered them with about 2" or so of soil. I took this last photo at just after 7pm. So I was out digging again for 2hours and 45 minutes and about as fast as I could while the light lasted. I was so tired after that.

That night I had trouble sleeping. Over a week ago I injured my bicep somehow digging. It doesn't hurt all the time. But occasionally it sends out sharp pangs of pain. This doesn't make sleeping very easy. A low steady pain is easy to sleep through, but sharp stabs that I'm not expecting wake me up. I ice and heat it every night to keep it from doing so, but Monday's chores were just too much for it. I figured at least on Tuesday I could rest. I had to work the store (an artist's coop), but that involves sitting in a chair for hours, so that wasn't an issue. I even took the bus in and back so I wouldn't have to walk that day.

Then at 5pm. The damn FedEx truck rolled in again. Sob. I swear I used to love the UPS and FedEx guys. Now I curse them. It was my order from Miller's. I had six cranberries (Thunderlake) and two peach trees (Red Haven and Reliance) . I put the peach trees in a pail of water to soak their roots. My husband was there early that day. He had a conference call he was taking at home at 6pm. So he went out and dug two large holes for me. After dinner I went out and planted them. I'm ignoring the cranberries right now they came in small pots so are safe for a while. Luckily the soil was prepared a couple of weeks ago. Peat moss was already dug in. But I figured I didn't have to go out in the fading light. Another day is just as good.

I have three more mail order deliveries to come. I have one rose that is by itself, so easy enough. I have the order for two apples and one plum. Then I have the order for three gooseberries from Nourse Farms that I know will show up today. They were the only ones that emailed me the tracking number. They won't go in today though. It is pouring rain. I'll have to let the soil dry out a bit before they can go in. Thank God for rainy days. Maybe tomorrow. Who knows. But today I have off. I swear. When the gooseberries tell me to put them in as soon as they arrive, I can tell them I'm waiting for their own good.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Harvest Monday - 11 April 2011

Tried overwintering my Asian greens last winter. Mostly everything died. What didn't die was obviously going to bolt almost immediately. The only thing I left under the row cover was some Fun Jen and some tatsoi. I didn't expect anything from them at all. They looked miserable. So I ignored them. Well I'd been ignoring them for a month when I took the covers off more to clean it up than to harvest anything.

But lo and behold what grew looked beautiful. The Fun Jen especially looked very nice. Yes both were bolting, but just because an Asian green is bolting does not mean it is inedible. The flower stalks can be rather tasty. I'd eaten both plants after bolting, but only from spring grown plants before.

I taste tested both plants. The tatsoi was still good - not as good as spring grown tatsoi, but still quite good. No heavy strong mustard taste so I used it in a stir fry for lunch that day along with my own stored garlic.

The Fun Jen is very strongly mustard flavored. A bit too much for my tastes. I could use it in small bits in something, but I think it will just see the compost pile. At least when I get a chance I can add 3.2oz of tatsoi to my tally.

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Best of Intentions

The plan for today was to seed those all my tomatoes and my one eggplant. In addition I needed to get the bok choy and the Fun Jen into the garden as they were all hardened off. For the rest of the day I could just rest. My body aches. This morning my husband asked me if something was wrong. He claimed I was walking funny. I just don't heal up like when I was younger. I'm getting old (now quit laughing Granny).

Well anyway that all happened. I got my tomatoes in. I have Amish Paste (from Emily), Cherokee Purple (from Dan a year ago), Black Cherry (as I didn't like the chocolate cherry last year even though I did the year before), Heinz 2653, Market Miracle, Sungold, Sungold F4 (to be named GabrielleAnna as I'm only growing one), and last but not least Purple Calabash. The last one was all listed as Pruden's Purple on my planting sheets. I haven't a clue why. Emily sent me Purple Calabash not Pruden's Purple. And we can't forget Galine Eggplant. It is a varitey I'd never heard of before. Fedco described it as good tasting as Rosa Bianca but a lot less fussy and one that produces well in our short season. It isn't as pretty as Rosa though since it is an all black eggplant.

Then it was lunchtime. I figured it was time to go out and pick my first spinach. I went out basket in hand the first time this spring. And stopped short on my doorstep. I had a package. My blueberries from the St. Lawrence Nurseries had arrived. These are all bareroot dormant plants that should be planted right away.

Scott (my townhouse mate) was leaving with his wife to go somewhere and I asked if he was free to help plant this weekend. He said he was free Sunday. So we made plans for Sunday morning. I went in to open up the package and get the roots a bit of a soaking before putting them in the basement.

I just couldn't do it. I soaked the roots really nicely. But some of the buds were starting to open on a couple of the plants. They were crying to me to be put in the ground. So I just had to. Now I know this is the second time in a week I've told you that my plants were talking to me. I'm not crazy, I'm just a gardener.

I went out again, shovel in hand and planted all 15 of them. There are six Northblues, six Northskies, one Northcountry, one Friendship and one Patriot. The first three kinds are hybrid lowbush/highbush blueberries. So they grow between a foot and two feet tall. Northcountry can get a bit bigger. They will surround the currently nonexistant dwarf peach trees.

Doesn't it make my front yard so pretty. OK yes you can't even see them. All you can see is where I watered, but they will grow. It is a step up from the bamboo stick garden I had marking the spots where the blueberries would be planted.

I really did have the best of intentions to rest today. I won't get to tomorrow either as I'll be out walking with some friends. I guess I'll have plenty of time to rest when I'm dead, but now it is gardening season.

Friday, April 8, 2011

And Yet Another Busy Day

View from the second story over my kitchen
All planted up except the herb bed in the middle

OK. I'm ready for a break now. My right arm hurts. It has been hurting for a week on and off. I have to give it a rest soon. This morning I was inside getting some soil blocks ready. The peppers were planted four days ago I think. It seems forever ago, but it wasn't. I wanted to have the bigger 2" blocks ready once they germinated. I made 72 of them. I don't think I'll need that many, but I'm ready one way of the other. They should germinate anytime now. Also this weekend I want to start the tomatoes and eggplant, but I don't know if I'll have time to do it, so I figured I'd have blocks all ready and they would be set to go. In addition I started some more cilantro in the 1 1/2" blocks. 18 more of those planted.

This afternoon was outside. I watered the peas, onions and spinach. I noticed that I didn't plant any turnips or radishes. So I put the turnips around the broccoli and the radishes filled the bed with the spinach. I didn't have enough spinach seed to do the whole bed. Two and a half 8' rows were done with radishes instead. It is probably way too many all at once, but I'll deal with that if they all come up.

Then I was going to plant my carrots. I fertilized the bed and started to dig in the fertilizer, but whoops I did the part with the fava beans too. I noticed just as I finished and saw a fava bean. The good part is that they are germinating well. The bad part is I don't know how many are too deep to germinate now. I don't really turn the soil over when I do this so there is a chance they will survive. If not I guess I'll have more room for succession planting.

Carrots germinating under various things

The carrots are being experimented on. I decided I wanted to see what worked better to make them germinate. I've always direct seeded them into rows and put burlap on top. In the distant past I used boards to germinate them. I'd love to chit them like I do for my spinach which is also a hard germinator. So I tried several things - totally unscientific as I should have some from each variety in each way of germinating. But no. That would be too smart. Instead I made seed tapes a la Granny. But not blocks like she does since I like rows. So I used TP and cut it into thin strips and pasted a SugarSnax seed every inch. That is currently under the burlap. Next is the direct seeded Mokum which is also under the burlap. Next is the direct seeded Purple Haze which is under boards, or is now, but once the peas start coming up one of the boards will have to be removed as it is too long.

The next is not planted yet. I made some TP seed tapes by folding over the TP. Then I rolled it up with some plastic wrap in between so it would hold together better. Then I soaked the whole thing. I'm hoping I can unroll it without it breaking up too much. I'll wait until I see some sign of germination from them. Not much mind you as I want the carrot roots to grow down into the soil, but the first sign from any of them and into the soil they will go.

View from the second story hall, one bed doesn't fit in the photo
Two and a half beds are planted up already

And not to be forgotten. I noticed there was no place on my plan for the beets. I'm not a beet fan, but my townhouse mates are, so I'm planting a few. I decided to use those little corners by the onions that weren't planted.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Planting Up

My caterpillar protection looks like a caterpillar

Yesterday I thought I was going to plant up my brassicas and lettuce, but it didn't turn out that way. I was trying to get the hoops working. I finally did, but by then it was so dang windy I didn't want to put the little plants in the ground. I left them out under the hoops at night. I thought they would be OK, but it hit 28.9F last night. Whoops. Most of them didn't seem to care, but the Chinese broccoli and the Ruby Perfection Cabbage weren't too happy about it all. They are alive, but some of their leaves are a bit damaged.

But I never let a minor thing like slow me down. So today I put them in the ground. I put most of my Asian greens way to close. I did this on purpose so I can harvest every other one early. I figure that will give me a much earlier harvest than if I waited until they are all full grown. So as soon as they touch their neighbors I get to eat them. Yum.

When I planted out my onions earlier this week, the soil blocks fell apart as I tried to pry them apart without damaging their roots. These little 1 1/2" blocks really can handle only 3-4 weeks. The onions were in them for about two months. The roots had jumped blocks and had grown through the screen on the bottom. The brassicas on the other hand had been in their blocks only about four weeks. They were quite happy and all the blocks held together perfectly.

This is one of the joys of soil blocks. I soak the blocks before putting them out. Then I place them in the spot they will be planted before digging them in. I can get the spacing perfect that way.

As you can see most of this is pretty well planted up. I have 11 broccoli plants with three different varieties. I have 2 Chinese cabbage, 2 kinds. I have 2 Ruby Perfection cabbage that I hope live to head up. I have Kolibri kohlrabi which is a purple type. Then I have a mass of Asian greens - Komatsuna, Yakatta-na, purple mizuna, Chinese broccoli, Choy Sum, tatsoi. Am I forgetting anything? Maybe. I still have Fun Jen and 2 boc choys to get in there. I couldn't plant them as they were in another flat and haven't been hardened off yet. I'll get there. Oh and I mustn't forget that I put the chard in there too. Usually I don't put it under a row cover, but with the bigger garden I might not have time to continually pick off the leaf miner eggs. Hopefully the row cover will keep them at bay.

Then I still had the lettuce to go. I have four kinds this spring- Paris Island, Red Sails, Deer Tongue, and Little Gem. They went next to my garlic.

Now the view out of my kitchen sliding glass door is mostly planted up. Again I put some of the lettuce (Paris Island and Red Sails) too close together so I can pick every other one when they start to touch. Before I've always had to wait until the head got full sized, but now I can pick a bit early on. Later I'll start transplants for the summer lettuce. I have a few varieties I want to try. I also have some wintersown lettuce to put in the gaps. Right now that wintersown lettuce is really quite tiny.

All these plants will be really happy this weekend. The weathermen predict temperatures in the 60s. I can't wait.