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!