Thursday, March 26, 2009

Rites of Spring

According to my planting schedule my onions were supposed to go in the ground on March 20th, but my trusty weatherman forecast lows in the teens so I waited. Those really low temperatures didn't quite materialize. We only had lows around 22°F (-8°C), but still too cold for my poor little onion seedlings. So I waited. Yesterday we started warming up and the weathermen (I actually look at several sites) agree that for the next week we would hover in the low 50°Fs (10-15°C) for about a week and rarely dip below freezing. We won't be quite as sunny as we have been, but we really need the rain right about now. We are way below our normal rainfall for March. We usually get over four inches of precipitation in March and have only gotten about one so far. We are in need of a good soaking.

Yes checking the weather several times a day is a rite of spring here at Daphne's Dandelions. Other rites include planting the first seed, which happened on St. Patrick's Day, and planting my first transplant. Yesterday that rite was lovely preformed. It started by me getting home from the store tired, but it was only 3:30pm so I wandered into the garden. I didn't change, but was wearing my skirt. I rarely wear anything that can't get garden dirty. This skirt was a stone washed grey peasent skirt made of cotton. I wasn't sure I really wanted to dig, so I just sat in my garden for a while enjoying the sun. I have no chair in my garden so when I say I sit in my garden, I'm right down in the dirt. I checked my spinach that still wasn't up. I put my hands in the dirt and broke up a few winter clods.

After a while I wasn't as tired. It was time. I took the onion packs out. Usually I would water them before planting, but somehow that was forgotten. I started preparing the soil. I forked it without turning it over, just to let a little air down to the root level. I put down a couple of handfuls of fertlizer and raked it over. The sea breeze was a tad nippy, but still it was warm and sunny enough that I took off my jacket while preparing the bed for my onions. The cool breeze felt wonderfully nice.

Then I planted out my onions, Copra, a storage onion, and Tropea, a red onion for fresh eating. I debated spacing. Both Mel Bartholomew and John Jeavons, masters of intensive planting, say to plant onions only 4" (10cm) apart. It seems so close to me. I buy onions that are 4" wide, but then they are the huge sweet onions. The onions I'm planting will probably only be 2-2 1/2" in diameter - 3" if I'm lucky. So I listened. Sort of. I have cells that have one onion in them and some cells that have two onions in them. If one onion needs 4", two need 6" to get about the same square footage. So the multiplanted onions were spaced 6".

I had one 6" space left over to finish a row, so I put a multiplanted soil block of bunching onions in. This had four bunching onions in the block. The blocks are so much easier to plant. The other onions you have to loosen the bottom and try to get the plant out without grabbing the stem (which is really bad for the plant). I've always found the process frustrating. Soil blocks are just plopped right in. No fuss at all.

There was one foot left in the bed. I wasn't going to plant leeks here, but I had them ready to go in and a leftover bed to put them in. I dug two small trenchs, then in the trenchs I dug holes and tried to bury about three inches of the stem. I wasn't perfect at it, but no big deal. I hope the leeks grow big enough before the rain washes all the soil back in. The rows are only 6" apart so there is not much room to put the extra soil.

To finish them off I watered them all in well and topped them off with a row cover. I will mulch them soon, but I want to wait until after a good rain which should be Sunday or Monday.

I contemplated my pea and lettuce bed, but it was 4:45pm and it was starting to get chilly as the sun went down. I wasn't sure I'd finish in time. And as planting peas is also a rite of spring. I'll enjoy that another day.


  1. You've done a lot, Daphne! Beds look nice, good job!

  2. Hi Daphne, as fascinating as the planting was, and I truly mean that, I love hearing about your exploits, I cannot get past the no chair in the garden! Get a crappy folding chair that lets the water go through it and leave it out there. They make nice ones for cheap. I am interested in the ease of the soil blocks, always having trouble getting the seedlings out of the pots without issues. I am also considering the newspaper pots, any luck with them?

  3. Isn't it amazing how rejuvenating a bit of time in the garden can be? I'm rarely too tired to do something out there, as opposed being easily tired by indoor chores!

    Your onion bed looks great. How fantastic it must be to get back out in the garden after a long cold winter.

  4. Well that's one thing you can check off your list Daphne. I agree with Frances, you really need a chair for your garden so you can take a proper rest.

  5. Feels good, doesn't it? I like sitting in the dirt ;-)

    The word verification for this post is quite telling. senfem. Would that stand for "senile female"? That's me!

  6. Your onion bed looks very nice. Makes me think I should start hardening off my onions for planting.

  7. Tatyana, thanks.

    Frances, yup no chair in the garden. I do have some plastic outside chairs that I could put in the garden if I really wanted a chair. They have been used maybe once in the last five years. I used to sit outside a lot when my kids were younger, but not so much anymore. The weird thing is that I like to sit in the dirt. I prefer it to the chair. I like to run my hand in the soil. I like to touch my plants. This time of the year it is safe too. No bugs or spiders to crawl up my skirt. Ick!

    Michelle, I know. It only took a little while to be rejuvenated by the garden and get me ready to work again. And it is absolutely wonderful to have some nice weather (even if only in the 40s) to play in the garden. Spring is wonderful.

    Perennialgardener, I did get a proper rest :> I like dirt.

    Annie's Granny, Yup can't beat playing in the dirt. Oh I had the verification. I wish they could come up with a spam blocker so I wouldn't need it. About 50% of the time I have to type it in more than once for it to take.

  8. Dan, Well my onions were planted earlier than normal, but hardening them off is always good. I found they grew much better outside then inside anyway - nice sturdy stems outside. Right now I'm keeping my cool weather crops outside in the plastic tunnel. I figure that they are better off there.

  9. All right! They're in the ground! They look really good, Daphne. I can't wain to see everything you'll have growing this year.

  10. Frances, whoops forgot to comment on the newspaper pot thing. Always forgetting something. I love newspaper pots. You can make them big or little, tall or short. They come with a built in cutworm collar if you make the rim high enough. I heartily recommend them. They don't have one of the flaws of soil blocks. They never fall apart. You can move them around to your hearts content. Newspaper pots have two flaws. The first is they take a lot longer to make especially if you want little ones. I usually only make big ones. The second is that if you leave the newspaper rim above the soil surface it can wick water from the soil. I actually like the rims though. I think of them as built in cutworm collars and try to make them an inch high. By the time the newspaper rots away, your seedlings are usually too big for a cutworm.

    Tessa, Yup all set in the ground. A little late, but none the worse for being stuck in a pot for longer. Some roots had just started to loop around. I untangled them and made them straight again.