Thursday, September 22, 2011

End of the season

Summer is almost gone, but it's sure going out with some beautiful style, with sunshine and nice cozy temperatures. I've been keeping an eye on the garden—and really enjoying the food I've gotten out of it so far, including my first potatoes—but have been too busy with other things to blog. The sun was up early today and when I looked outside about 7:30, it was coming through the trees and lighting up a bunch of stuff, so I grabbed the camera and went outside.

Bulbless kohlrabi
I had a few failures this year. The big one was the kohlrabis, which never developed bulbs. They ended up with inch-thick stalks and tons of leaves--this is a shot into the base of one—but when they started flowering and still didn't have bulbs, I dug them all up. I found one clue on the web that may be the problem—it said they won't develop bulbs if they're too close together. Mine were about 8" apart in two rows a foot apart. By the time they stopped growing they were really crowded, their leaves all tangled together, so maybe that was the issue.

My broccolis may still turn out to be a success, but I'm going to have to wait till next spring to find out, because they didn't get big enough to flower before the day length started to get shorter, and I think they just decided to wait till next year. They got really big, chest high and 18" across. Yesterday they both fell over:

Recumbent broccolis
I staked them up this morning. I'm sure the reason they fell was because the soil is so shallow there. I thought I had planted them over a spot where I had broken through the hardpan, but apparently not. So I'll wait and see if they make it through the winter. If they do, I should get a lot of broccoli in the spring!

The zucchini I had problems with early in the spring, with blossom end rot. I didn't know squash could get that, but I learned it's a problem in many cucurbits—squashes—including zucchini. It can be caused not just by insufficient calcium in the soil, but a number of other problems that keep the plant from being able to get enough calcium, even though the soil is fine. Among those are cold soil, and insufficient or irregular water. I know the water there has been hard to manage this year and I'm going to put them in a better spot and handle the watering differently next year. I've gotten 3 zukes off of it so far and there's one more on there now, but the clouds are coming in, the temperatures are going to be getting cooler soon, and I think this last one is going to be the end.

My big success was the peas—so many I could hardly keep up with them for a while:

Peas are just too cute
They were supposed to be snow peas, but I ended up eating most of them as peas because I left them on too long! And in my opinion, the peas were way tastier than the pods, even the ones that were young and flat.

My potatoes were the size winners—in fact, they got too big. I planted them in north-south rows, and they all ended up falling over and smothering whatever was east of them—garlic and onions, beans, fennel and squash. So next year I won't be planting quite as many, and I'll plant them in east-west rows, so they'll just fall over on each other. I did talk to a woman who grew potatoes in straw over in Bend, and she put 18" of straw on top of hers as they grew up. That would probably help keep them upright. The only ones that have died back completely have been the All Blues, and I've been pulling them out of the ground for the last week one or two at a time. I've gotten 4 so far from one plant, and have just been amazed at how much flavor they have. With olive oil and garlic salt on them, they're like the best potato chip I've ever eaten. Awesome.

This morning the other two rows, the Pontiac reds in front and the Rose Finn Apple Fingerlings on the upper right, are obviously winding down. The Pontiacs were 18" tall a month ago and 3 feet across (I'm not kidding), now they're only a few inches tall and you can see how much they've thinned out:
Tired potatoes and mildewy squash
I expect I'll have enough potatoes to eat for several months!

I don't have a picture of my garlic, either, but it did well for only being planted this spring. I dug up a couple little 3-5 clove heads two weeks ago to make garlic toast out of them, and they were great! I figure I'll just leave them in the ground, and maybe plant another 10 or so next month—when they're supposed to be planted! The onions I don't know about yet--they're under the potato plants, so I'll be able to get to them soon. The rhubarb grew really well all year, except they had some water problems too at one point. But I think I'll be able to get a good harvest from them next spring, most of the plants developed 6 stalks or more this year.

One other bit of garden eating I got to do was when I made the garlic toast, I garnished them with chopped sage and rosemary from my garden—and some store-bought parsley. Next year I'm definitely going to grow some parsley! Parsley, sage, rosemary and garlic—mmmmmmm! 

As far as the hay mulch is concerned, as a weed supressant and a moisture retainer it worked really great. The places that got too dry were places where I didn't have enough hay down. I did end up having to water 2-3 times a week when it got hot. Next year I'll try to do a better job of getting both the hay and the water distributed evenly. I also need to either get a different kind of sprinkler or use a soaker, or plant my plants better. The broccoli got so tall it ended up blocking the water to the rhubarb. The zucchini didn't have enough hay around it, but by the time I discovered that, the potatoes were overtaking both squash plants and it was really hard to get to anything.

I had one other success, that I haven't done anything with this year except enjoy looking at them—the cardoons:
I love the little artichoke buds! I keep thinking I'll cut some off and try cooking them—there are certainly enough to make a meal for me, even though they're small. Next year. They're beautiful plants, I love their leaves and their big size. Like the other stuff, I didn't put them in the most convenient spot, but they have done well in the crappy soil zone. I'll cover them with hay when they die back, and hope they'll make it through the winter. I definitely recommend them just for their looks! I have noticed their leaves seem extremely fragile—they make cracking noises every time I bump into one hard. Not for traffic lanes.

One more treat that's coming, if the deer don't jump in and eat them before they're ripe next month:

Liberty apple
I have three little apples about 2" across, on my Liberty apple. They've been slowly growing all summer and should be ready to harvest in a few weeks. I'm really not sure how to tell when they're ready if they don't fall off or pull off easily. They've been somewhat red since they were an inch across, so I don't think the color is going to help.

And one more treat that's technically outside the Ruth Stout garden, although I do mulch it with bark:

Canadice grapelets
My Canadice grape newly planted this spring surprised me with four bunches of grapes a few months ago. I broke off two of them and the two I left have been slowly growing. They're quite tiny—the big ones are pea-sized, not as big as this photo makes them look—but maybe they'll ripen. Don't know. Hope they do. They're red seedless. I don't even want to think about how sour they are right now.

So all in all, it's been a really interesting year, and a really interesting garden. I love Ruth Stout! I love hay mulch! I love my garden!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Visions of beauty everywhere

 Last weekend I was fortunate to attend some of the open gardens during the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon Study Weekend in Portland, and I saw so many beautiful things, I'm still full of them. I wanted to share some of them. These are all from gardens in Portland except the peonies--they were at the Portland Saturday Market.

Bronze Japanese Maple
Garden Guardian
You can't see me—I'm hiding
Rugosa Rosebuds
Papaver rhoeas and Stachys
Too lush for words
Allium christophii and Camassia
Rose arbors
Every week from mid-spring through mid-fall, members of the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon open their gardens for visiting. You can find them by joining HPSO, which you'll find at this website.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The orchard has landed!

Yaaaayyyyy! The fruit trees I've been holding in pots for two years since I bought them bare-root, are now in the ground! The weather has been really gardener-friendly the last couple mornings, and yesterday I went out and took another whack at the weeds. This morning it was 59º and thickly overcast, even had a little breeze, so I went down early with my tools and started digging out the holes I laid out last fall. I had to cut out a few roots left over from the since-departed cherry trees in almost all the holes, but the dirt wasn't really that bad, so I got all five trees planted in an hour and a half. In addition to the Shinseiki asian pear in the foreground, there are now a Liberty apple (with 3 little apples on it), a Chinese apricot, an Italian plum, a Bartlett pear, and a Montmorency cherry. They're all semi-dwarf, and I'll be keeping them all pruned pretty low, so there won't be any need for ladders. The ground is sloped enough that ladders would be a pain.

I'm really happy this is all done because this was a project four years in the making, from the time I first started wishing the big cherry trees could go away. All the potted trees had nice solid root balls except the apricot, which turned out to be sharing its pot with an ant colony. I expect they'll be leaving now that there's going to be a lot more water around. I hope so anyway. I would really like the apricot to be happy and healthy. And make me some apricots some day.

Five of my young cardoons are big enough that I'm pretty sure they'll make it. I'm keeping them sort of rabbit protected till they really get spikey and nasty, another month or so. They didn't do much of anything till a couple weeks ago when the temps started creeping up.

My potatoes grew another 2" this week! All of the plants are bigger, even the Rose Finn Apples, which shot up and are finally starting to look happy. I thought everybody had topped out last week when the first flowers appeared, so I have to wonder just how big these guys are going to get.

Two more pieces of good news—I have 6 healthy fennels and two runts, and my snow peas are blooming! So I should get a few pods soon. This warmer weather—and soil—are really making a difference.

Happy 4th of July, and happy gardening!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Warm enough for beans (I hope!)

I planted my bush beans today! I didn't check the soil temp at the garden, but it's 58º at the house, which gets a lot less sun. That is at the bottom end of the range for beans, but I've got a big package of seed if these don't come up. I'm afraid they're a little late to be much good as companion plants for the potatoes; I would have to plant the potatoes a month later for them to be growing together.

Here's what the spread looks like now:

The new little collards at the far left are unfortunately bolting already; I'll let them flower until I get some kale started. I won't bother with store-bought collard plants again, but I may try starting some seed again, around August, for the fall season.

Everything else is growing pretty well. The broccoli twins aren't showing any sign of heading yet. The one that went early is blooming nicely now.

The kohlrabis are big, but not showing any sign of forming bulbs yet. Wonder when that's supposed to start happening.

The peas are taller than the 39" fence, and I saw one flower bud today.

Five of the seven fennels I planted are still alive and seem to be growing well enough. I'm looking forward to harvesting them this fall.

The daikons were a bust! They're already flowering so today I dug up 4 of the biggest ones, and the only "radish" was an inch and a half long and no thicker than a pencil. Oh well. More flowers. Right above the radishes on the left you can see my baby zucchini clump. It's definitely growing like a zuke.

I put more hay up around all the taters—it's 10-12" now. I'm really not sure how well hay is going to work for keeping the spuds in the dark, but I'll know in a month or two. Front to back, these are the Rose Finn Apples, the All Blues, and the short row of Pontiacs. Took this before I planted the beans.

I saw how much bigger the Pontiacs were than either of the other two, and I thought, Wow! They must be a lot more vigorous!

Then I remembered that they're the only ones planted in the old manure pile soil—the other two are in the dusty sand of the corral. The All Blues still look pretty good, but the Rose Finn Apples look like they're struggling by comparison. They sprouted so much later than the others, maybe there's hope for them to catch up, they really are delicious little babies.

The hardy golden oregano I planted on two sides to block weeds is just wonderful—what a great, bright ground cover!

The big lupine is really showing off. Later I'll move him out to the orchard where he can have a permanent spot. At one point this was a single plant, and yet it now has three different kinds of flowers. Both it and the smaller one in its shadow were both volunteers.

As far as my hay mulch, I love it more than ever. I pulled apart several of the old soggy flakes today and this time I didn't find a single slug. Maybe the sluggo got a lot of them, but it's also obvious that even the formerly soggy flakes are now starting to dry out, and dry hay is no place for a slug. In contrast to the occasional spindly weed I'm finding now in the hay, they just keep sprouting all around outside, in the bare dirt.

This is the 4th crop of weeds in this spot just this year, I keep whacking and they keep coming. These guys' days are numbered. The hoe is coming! Beware the hoe!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The secret of hay

I spent another afternoon in with the veggies a few days ago, and I think I understand the secret of using hay for mulch. If you take compacted hay, like that pressed into a flake or a bale, and let it get wet, it will hold the water just like a sponge would. How quickly it rots probably depends on how much of it is stem and how much is leaf, but my grass hay is not rotting quickly, even the flakes I'm using for paths and borders which have soaked up and are holding so much water it runs out when I touch them. Grass shoots sprout from their edges and will root where they touch the ground. You can throw another flake on top of it to stop the sprouting, but eventually it will sprout too, if it gets wet.

On the other hand, if you take the same flake of hay and pull it apart into loose strands before it gets wet, you can pile the loose strands up 8" deep, at least, and no matter how many inches of rain fall on it and through it, it will stay drained and dry, and will not sprout. Only the thinnest layer touching the ground will rot, and if it's thickly enough covered to keep light from getting through, none of it will sprout, and no seeds underneath it will sprout either.

That's why it works as mulch. Compressed hay—bad. Loose hay—good.

And it's still early in the season, I probably have more to learn.

Monday, May 30, 2011

So, how well is the hay working?

It was dry yesterday and I was able to spend more time with the veggies, looking at the grass sprouts that were coming up all over. Most of the grass clumps came right up when I pulled on them—they were actually growing out of the hay, and didn't have any roots in the ground at all. I pulled the hay apart on some of those, separated out the green sprouts, and laid them on top of thick hay where they might have a chance to die—if it stops raining long enough to dry them out. In spots where the hay was thick, I did what Ruth recommends, I turned the hay over and put the green stuff on the bottom where it won't get so much light.

In places where the hay was thin I found both sprouted hay, and seedlings coming up from my dirt. The rooted seedlings were the same mix of annual and perennial grasses I've been fighting down there for 5 years. I pulled a few up, but I need to get in with the hand hoe and get them out while there aren't that many. Where the sprouts were coming out of the hay, I piled on more hay, thick enough to cover them up. I found quite a few areas where I hadn't put enough hay down to begin with, and I used up several thick flakes of fresh hay covering those up.

I only found a few new broadleaf weeds poking through from the soil, and got those out. All in all, there was far less trouble than I expected to find. I'm feeling at this point that the hay is working great.

I am sorry to say that neither the fennel seed nor the salsify ever came up. I'm not sure if the soil was too cold, or if I did something else wrong. At the Wilco store in town, I found a 4" pot with half a dozen young fennel plants all jammed together, so I'm going to try to separate those and put them down in the fennel row, so I can get at least some this year.

I did get one surprise. I was down there earlier in the morning than I've been going out, and while I was walking around near the barn I heard some critter bigger than a cat making a bunch of noise moving around in the stall where I keep the hay. After a few seconds I saw a big fuzzy coyote pup climb out through the open window in the back, and exit my yard through a section where I only have a 3-rail fence. I think that explains where all the feral cats I don't see any more have gone to. I've heard coyote packs periodically at night for years, but this is only the second individual I've ever seen, and the first pup. There used to be feral cats that practically lived here. I hope the coyotes are picking up the slack going after the voles and moles in my yard. I was glad it wasn't a bear. Ah, wilderness!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Potatoes Everywhere!

I'm beginning to see the wisdom of planting cool season crops in the Willamette Valley—it's almost the end of May and my soil temperature is only just now getting up to 52º—that's ten degrees too cold, at least, to plant beans. But my peas, broccoli, potatoes, kohlrabis, onions, garlic and radishes are doing great! It's too cold to plant the zucchini and pumpkins I want to, and of course melons are out of the question.

You can see the long row of potatoes in the middle, and if you look hard you can see the short row on the far right, and the three smaller, scattered potato plants on the left side of the thick hay. The short row was short by design—those are the 6 Red Pontiac sets. The row on the left was attacked and disrupted by something that burrowed under the hay, made it look like the dirt had been turned over in places, and disappeared most of the ten sets there. A potato-eating mole? It didn't disturb the hay—I didn't discover the damage till I started poking around in the row looking for sprouts. I don't know for sure, but I think that's the Rose Finn Apple Fingerlings, which makes me sad. I think the long row is the All Blues. The onions you can see are growing really nicely, and I finally figured out how to tell them from the garlics: the onions just have leaves, but the garlic has a stalk. The garlics I put up in the blueberry patch are doing just as well as the ones down here.

Some good news on my overwintered broccolis—two of them have decided to grow for a while longer before they head, so I might get more than the fingertip-sized head I got from the smallest one.

The kohlrabis suffered a bit from slugs before I put out bait last weekend, but they're looking a lot more robust now and I'm thinking they'll make it till harvest—if something else doesn't get them.

The snow peas just keep getting taller, but they're starting to fall over. The package says they don't need any support, and also said not to thin them more than every 2 inches, so I'm not doing anything else to them for now. The slugs didn't go after them, which surprised me a bit.

And last—and least—the daikon radishes have really started growing now. Just a few weeks ago they were nothing but seed leaves, and now they're starting to look like plants. Looks like they need a bit of weeding.

I did get my cardoons planted out a couple weeks ago, but they're not very exciting yet, still putting down roots and not growing up yet. I've tried to protect them from deer, rabbits and slugs, I'm not sure who would eat them but they look pretty vulnerable to me.

I was on the verge of trying to start more collard seed when I  found a nice looking 6-pak of baby collards, so I bought them. Need to plant them. They look exactly like kohlrabis, just like the web article I found says. So much so that I'm wondering if my kohlrabis are really kohlrabis. All will be revealed....

Next month, I WILL try to start a couple zucchini plants and some yellow squash, and my tuscan Kale, and more of the dozen packages of companion flower seeds. My yarrows and chamomile are ready to put out; maybe I can put them out tomorrow. We're supposed to have another dry day.

You can see in the photos that there are many areas with a lot of grass sprouts among the veggies. Every place where I put a thin layer of hay—less than the 8" of loose hay—is pretty densely grassy. There are also more than I'd like coming up where the hay is actually thick, but there are also some areas that look grass free. When I get to it, I'm going to just dig up all the unwelcome grass, and now that I can see where the veggies are, I'm going to put down more hay everywhere. I need to start mounding it up around the potatoes anyway, they're getting taller every week. You could guess that the grass seedlings are from the hay, but I'm not so sure because I have grass seedlings coming up all over that part of my garden—for as long as I've lived here. I'm guessing that when I let the hay get wet, it did sprout seeds, so maybe it's half and half, mine and from the hay. Because I've got pastures on two sides of me, I'll always have grass seed blowing in. I do know that if I had not put the hay down, the whole garden would be completely full of weeds.

One thing I noticed when I was in there two weeks ago looking for potato sprouts, was that a very thin layer of the hay on the very bottom, next to the dirt, is staying very wet and looking like it's thinking about rotting. But that's no more at this point than the bottom 1 or 2 strands of the bottom layer. All the hay above that is dry and golden. The ground is so moist—as it should be from the amount of rain we've had this spring—that I don't even have to think of watering anything at this point. When we do start getting more than two dry days in a row, I'll be checking it regularly. The potatoes need to stay moist while they're forming, both to keep growing and to help prevent scabs.

I really do enjoy walking past it and seeing the veggies poking up through the shiny gold hay while I'm weeding elsewhere in the garden. That's pretty much all I'm doing now. I do hope to get caught up some day so I can get back to planting all the goodies I bought this winter. Big plans and little plants!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Early seed planting time

We got another dry day today, and I went out this afternoon and got four kinds of seeds planted and my kohlrabis in the ground. Some of the flakes I had left on the ground last time were dry-ish enough today to pull apart, and I made 6 short rows running east-west in the annex. I planted two rows of snow peas, two of salsify, and two of fennel. Just as Ruth advises, I left the ground bare where the seeds went down, and piled up the pulled-apart hay between the rows. As the plants grow (I hope), I'll snug the hay around them and add more on top.

About the middle of the annex, I planted my 8 kohlrabi pots. I was really pleased with their root development and hope they'll be happy in the ground. I wove a light layer of loose hay between the plants. They're 6" tall already so there was room to tuck a little bit around them. The bare strips along the fence next to the "retaining wall" sandbags and the south fence are now home to daikon radish seed. I've never eaten any daikon and I'm not sure that I will, although the package says they're really mild, you're supposed to harvest them when they're 3" across and 18" long—that's not a radish, it's a log! The real reason I planted them is that I hope they'll be a trap crop for flea beetles, keeping them off the bok choy and collards I still hope to grow elsewhere in the plot. What I've read on the web is that daikons are the only thing that flea beetles love more than collards.

I went through the remaining hay bales that were under the tarp, and the three on the bottom in the middle were relatively dry, so I hauled them off to permanent shelter. Three other bales were pretty wet, so I broke them all into flakes and put the flakes around as mulch, around my greenhouse and in a nearby ornamental bed. I also used a half dozen more flakes along the lower east side, next to the fence. Eventually I'll have that whole fenceline edged with a retaining wall of dirt-filled sandbags, but for now the hay flakes are saving me a little time and a lot of effort.

If nothing else they'll keep weeds from growing there. I'm halfway hoping they'll dry out as the ones in the garden did, and I'll be able in a week or two to pull them apart and use them as hay mulch.

I noticed there were a few little sprouts coming up through the hay! They're either garlic or onions, I can't remember which I planted in that half of the row. I'll have to be more careful next year about writing down what goes where! My three little broccolis don't seem to have grown at all yet, so I'm half expecting they'll stay that size and have little half inch heads in a couple months--that's how my gardening exploits frequently end. Must think positive thoughts! I'll feel a lot better when I start seeing potato sprouts coming up.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The garden is now expanded

A couple days ago, in between showers, I was able to get the fencing up to extend the veggie garden all the way to the back fence. Today I went out and leveled half of it and planted my last potatoes, the red skins. For the record, they were sprouted to pretty much ideal, nice thick sprouts a quarter of an inch long, after almost 3 weeks. I'm hardening off the kohlrabis so I can put them out later tomorrow. Showers will start again tomorrow night so they should be okay. I think I have some seeds I can plant soon too. The whole garden now is 17' x 15', 255 sq. ft.. I brought over the wettest of the hay bales and broke it apart, and it was not good. The water had penetrated between every flake and there was very little that was actually dry. The dry stuff I fluffed over the new half row of potatoes, the wet stuff I pulled off in small clumps and laid out where I won't be planting for another month. The wet hay had not turned to mush, but it was really hard to pull it apart. There was nothing nice about it.

I find it very interesting that the fluffed-up hay I put out before—on the left side—looks wonderfully dry and clean, even though it's had several inches of rain fall on it. No mold there. Must be all the air circulation. Some of the other bales in the pile don't look too great.

The light areas on the two bales in front are mold. The dark areas are where the hay is wet. The side of the bale on top is dark because it, too, is wet. The bales in the other end of the pile look dryer. But even the very wet bale I broke open today is usable as mulch for between rows. As long as the remaining bales don't start composting, it should be okay.

So, lesson learned—no more leaving hay out in the rain.

And some really good news--my lettuce seeds are sprouting! After 13 days of rain, hail and freezing nights, there are about a hundred lettuce babies in my patio tub. I didn't intend to have that many, but the bottom of one of the seed packages broke completely open as I was trying to shake a few out the top. I scooped up as many as I could see, but I'm going to have lots of transplants.

The only other thing I've done is started some chamomile and yarrow seeds inside, for my companion plantings. Tomorrow should be another good day for gardening!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hay and Potatoes, Potatoes and Hay

Funny how quickly your plans can change when you get new information. I was on the phone today with Shari—friend of the blog—and she has a lot more experience with hay than I have. She was describing in very clear language what happens to hay that gets wet and stays wet. I can't remember her exact words, but I got a clear image of a big pile of moldy compost so wet and heavy you can't pull it apart to spread it, or if it's big enough to get hot, it catches on fire. Not exactly what I want to have happen, so when the showers broke for a while this afternoon I went down and threw a tarp over my bales.

My goal was to stop them from getting rained on but let air circulate enough in hopes that they will sort of dry out.

I also decided—since my potatoes are already sprouting after just ten days out in room light—to go ahead and plant the ones I have room for now, and start using some of the soggy hay. I planted the Rose Finn Apple Fingerlings and the All Blues, ten of each. Then I spread the hay—just about the outside inch all around was wet, so it wasn't hard or too disgusting to pull it into loose hay.

The really surprising thing was how far it went. I put 6" to 8" of loose hay over the whole fenced area except one path, and used only two-thirds of ONE bale! Unless the hay breaks down really fast, those eleven bales are going to last me a long time! At this point I just don't understand why Ruth's friend Dick Clemence would say you need twenty-five bales for a 50x50 garden. I'll have to measure my garden again. The third of a bale chunk I left sitting in the garden, where it will continue to get wet. I'm curious to see what happens to it as it gets wetter, and it's a small enough amount to not be a nightmare if it just makes a mess.

I did not check the soil temperature today, and after the 1.7" of rain we've had in the last three days, the soil was pretty wet. I hoed a shallow trench, popped in the potatoes, covered them with an inch of soil, then 8" of hay right on top of them. Sort of a compromised Ruth planting.

One thing I am really happy about is that there are lots and lots of nice big earthworms in the dirt where I put the mini-poop. More worms than in the surrounding soil that didn't get pooped.

I have more plants that will be ready to be planted soon.

On the left front  are my five cardoons, and the rest (except for the suspiciously weedy looking ringer in the lower right corner) are kohlrabis, and one collard that got mixed up with them while I was potting up the peat pellets. Only one of my collards came up, and after I got them mixed up I found some pictures on the web that show that collards and kohlrabi are pretty much indistinguishable at this age. Oh well. I was really disappointed that the collards didn't sprout better, but I'm sure it was something I did, like planting them too deep. I'll try again. I checked my seed packets and I've got eight more different kinds of seeds that I can plant outside now, before our guaranteed frost free date.

Obviously, I need to make putting up the rest of my fencing for the second area a real priority. At least I know I'll have enough hay!

Sunday, April 2:
I just went out with my tape measure and measured the fenced garden, and it's not 13' x 15', it's only 8' x 15'. That makes it only 120 sq. ft. that I spread that 2/3 of a bale over. So if Ruth's garden was 50' x 50', that was 2500 sq. ft.! So my little plot is 1/20th the size of Ruth's! Well, yes, I guess I do have enough hay. The extension I'm adding (I got the fence up last Friday but didn't level it or anything else) is 9' x 15', so I'll have about 255 sq. ft. total. So if the hay amounts scale—and they should—then 11 bales is probably 2 years' worth for the whole spread. Not bad. Not bad at all—that's completely manageable for me.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sunbreak! Everybody outside!


Mother Nature wants me to get out in the garden and start working. I know that because she's giving me sunbreaks in the middle of the day when it's over 45º outside. In another couple months I won't have to put my work clothes in the dryer to warm up before I put them on.

Soil not so deep
Right now I'm working on getting the fenced garden ready for planting. Last year I only broke the hardpan where I was actually planting something, so this year I do have to do the rest of it. This is how far I can push my fork in—about 4"—probably not deep enough for most veggies. I'm not turning it, just breaking through the crust, which is 3-4" thick. Below the hardpan, the soil is fine. Devoid of humus, but fine. I was wondering if they rent girlie jackhammers at Home Depot, but fortunately if I stand on the fork and rock it side to side for a minute or so, I can get it down through the hardpan. I'm just hoping the fork holds up long enough for me to finish this task. This really uses the back of your arms.

Halfway dug
I can only do it for about two trips from border to broccoli before my arms give out for the day, but I'm about half done now, two more days will finish it. I've put in onions and garlic and I think I've got room for two rows of potatoes now, and the row of bush beans that will go between them later. The other book I've been reading all winter is Great Garden Companions by Sally Jean Cunningham, and she says potatoes and bush beans keep each other's major pests away. Works for me!

Potatoes busy thinking about sprouting

The potatoes are inside the house pre-sprouting because my soil is still languishing at 42º, and taters want 45º or 50º. Now this is different from what Ruth said—she put hers out without regard to soil temperature, however, she was tossing hers on top of the previous year's mulch. Since there's nothing but a thin layer of mini-poop on top of my very wet sandy clay, I'm going to wait those three more degrees. I don't want the spuds to think I don't love them. I hope they like jazz because I've got them right in front of the radio. Pre-sprouting is supposed to take 2-4 weeks in a medium-lit room;  I'm betting my soil will be warm enough by then, and everyone will be happy. I've indulged myself with 3 different kinds of sets—Pontiac redskins, All Blues, and Rose Finn Apple fingerlings. The Rose Finns have peachy pink skin and yellow flesh. I have lately become hooked on fingerling potatoes, nuking a few of them for supper and anointing them with olive oil and garlic salt. Little nuggets of potato wonderfulness.

Mulch making more mulch

My hay, in the meantime, is wondering when I'm going to do something with it. I'm taking Ruth's advice and waiting till I plant the taters, to get as much sun on the soil as I can before then. That's also why I poked the onions and garlic into the soil, instead of tossing them on the surface as Ruth did, same as with her taters. They don't need any hay on them yet, but they'll get it next month. The hay is growing nicely, though—I don't suppose it will grow me another bale...

My rhubarb has really taken off. Two weeks ago I was down there pulling up the giant weeds and saw this little thing next to the tiny 2" leaves that looked like a rounded, smooth, shiny, cherry pink grape. When I realized it was part of the plant, I figured it was some kind of new growth. Today I could see that it splits apart at the top and a new leaf comes out of it. Like a frost cover, I expect. Cool. Smart plant!

Happy rhubarb!