Friday, April 24, 2015

I’m Ready to Garden, Is the Garden Ready for Me?

Holy cow, it’s almost May. Who knew that old saying, April comes in like a lamb and goes out like a lion, is actually true? The 8 feet of snow have melted and left everything kind of boggy. Luckily I garden in raised beds which are workable if still a bit wet. The 2-3 inches of rain Monday-Tuesday didn’t help, but at least it watered in the onions I got planted on Sunday. But now it is cold with high wind gusts and overnight lows near freezing, just like winter weather. We even lit the wood stove today to take the chill off the house.




I did get all but one of my planting beds weeded and prepped, ready for planting season. Peas are in, and Thursday and Friday I planted the rest of my onions and shallots. Above are some of the Red Zeppelin and Candy onions. They look kind of shaggy and pathetic, but that is because they are still dormant. It will take a few days for them to rehydrate and send out new roots. The Red Zeps were the biggest of the onions from Dixondale, almost every one the size of a pencil. The few small ones were tucked in here and there for green onions.




I planted the tub of larger shallots, the ones originally started from seed back on February 26. Due to poor germination, I threw a bunch of seeds on a wet paper towel and pre-germinated them. This produced an additional quantity of seedlings in another pot which are still a little too small to transplant yet. Those will get planted in a week or two.




Given the weather, I tried to get a jump start on the spinach by planting seeds in 3/4 inch soil blocks. I have heard that spinach does not transplant well and is prone to bolting. I figured if I could get quick germination I could whisk them into the garden before they knew they were being transplanted. So why, with fresh seed, did only two germinate quickly? After another week I now have 8 plants out of 40 cubes, almost enough to plant one square of the 4 I planned on.




I adjusted my seed starting schedule to assume that maybe this planting season might be delayed a week or two, given the horrendous winter. Given the weather this week, that is looking like a reasonable decision, except for one vegetable. Peppers. The things are so slow to germinate and so slow to grow, delaying starting them does not pay off. I believe it is better to deal with potting up peppers than wondering if you will get any plants this season. And I believe peppers should be healthy, actively growing plants when set out in the garden. The fact that a runt might improve and actually grow in the garden does not mean you will get any fruit from it, so it is just wasting space. This is particularly true for certain long season peppers, which of course are the interesting ones I want to grow.


So here it is almost May and you can see my peppers above, planted on March 29.  I have enough germination that I should get a couple of plants from each of the 9 varieties planted, so I declare success! But none have a set of true leaves yet and they do not seem to grow at all. Everything seems to be in slow motion this season. The brassicas are progressing but the peppers, the toms, and even the lettuce just seem to sit there. I’m getting tired of babysitting these guys and want them out in the garden, the sooner the better.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Gardening Finally Begins for Me

I have a seasonal tax prep job that is now over, so I can finally concentrate on gardening. A week of 10-12 hour days ended with a 14-hour marathon on April 15. Why do people wait until the last minute? I don’t understand the psychology.  They certainly can not be gardeners, because we have to plan ahead if we want a successful garden. Planning for this garden started last growing season and is now being implemented, albeit a little delayed by the job. Anyway, Spring is here, my daffodils are up, the onions from Dixondale Farms arrived, and gardening is under way.




This is the shady corner of the community garden last week. I met some new gardeners last Sunday before work to show them around. There was still snow in the corner and things looked pretty beak and monochromatic. You have to be an optimist if you are going to garden. I did manage to plant some snow and snap peas while waiting for the new gardeners. This week the snow is completely gone and the ground is a bit drier.




My raised beds are looking good despite the rough winter. The winds and heavy snow have taken down most of the netting on the trellises. Fortunately I planned ahead and added a 60 foot bag of netting to my seed purchases this winter. The kale did not survive. The only sign of life is the garlic poking its way through the straw mulch. But the soil in the beds is dry enough to work, in contrast to the muddy soil you see upper left. That’s good because I need to get the onions planted in the raised beds. That’s bad because I also need to get my Brassicas planted in the soil in my other plot.




The onion beds were prepared by first fluffing up the soil. Doing that is controversial because you disrupt the soil flora and fauna, but it gives me a chance to find and remove any weed rhizomes and wire worms. Then I spread a couple of inches of compost over the top and sprinkled on the amendments and stirred it all in. This year I am with the program! The beds were amended with (purchased) crushed crab shell, (Pioneer Valley basalt) rock dust, kelp meal, Plant Success Granular fungal mycorrhizae and Chickity Doo Doo to provide additional nitrogen for the onions.




This is the first year I purchased onion plants from Dixondale. Purchasing plants means one less thing to do during the  busy winter months. More expensive than a pack of seeds but a lot less trouble. I was very impressed with the plants I received. Above is less than half the bundle of Copra onions I received. They are very large, some bigger than pencil width. There is no way I could grow plants this big myself.  Of course the test will be to see how well they grow.




These are the Rossa Lunga di Tropea onions I have grown for several years. I was impressed that Dixondale offered such an unusual onion, so I had to buy a bunch of these. Again, they are huge for plants, much larger than I could grow myself.




On Sunday I managed to get the Copra, Tropea, Super Star and Red Candy plants into the ground. I was hoping the rain predicted for Monday would hold off until I could get the rest planted, but it was raining by 8 A.M. so planting will have to wait. The rain is not a bad thing since the pumps at the garden are not yet connected and I would have to haul water from home. Anyway, the gardening season is now officially started for me with plants in the ground.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Next Up, Tomatoes




My attempt to salvage my shallot growing season has somewhat succeeded. With poor germination rate and the suicidal tendencies of my shallot seeds and seedlings, I tried pre-germinating some additional seeds in a damp paper towel in a plastic bag. They were kept warm by placing the baggie on top of one of the lighting units. After about a week, I had seeds sprouting. It was a bit challenging to get the sprouts into soil. The roots grew in a corkscrew pattern, as you can see below. Trying to get the sprout into a planting hole with the root downward was made harder by the shape and the fact the seed head was heavier. Simply dropping the seedling caused the seed to flip around and land in the hole with the root pointing skyward. I finally tried enlarging  the hole and laying the seedling in sideways.




The shallot seedlings did figure out which way is up, with a little help from gravity. These are planted in Lambert’s All-Purpose Potting Mix amended with a little kelp meal, and I am hoping it does not crust as bad as the McEnroe potting soil.



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