Saturday, February 28, 2009

Transplant Day

It's been two weeks since I sowed seeds indoors for the lettuces, broccoli and cabbage. They've been growing really well under the lights and have their first true leaves, so today I transplanted them into larger pots. The cabbages and broccoli went into 4-packs that were 2x2 inches, and the lettuces went into a 72-cell flat. They also got their first dose of half strength fish fertilizer.

I was a bit surprised at the broccoli. I was expecting that the hybrid broccoli would be off to a faster start due to all that "hybrid vigor", but it was the open-pollinated Umpquah that had the biggest root systems and sturdiest plants.

I'm a little worried that the full flat of lettuces won't get enough light, being that the flat is so wide, but I find that lettuces can do with less light than other plants.

Why did I plant a full flat of lettuce? I figure that I'll harvest the babies for salad a couple weeks to a month before they're fully mature. It's not that much more work to do a flat than it is to do a dozen.

I plan to set these outdoors in a couple of weeks, depending on the weather, to let them harden before planting them around the first of April. We're due to get more snow this week, so we'll see how this late winter/early spring progresses.

In the meantime, I'm starting my tomatoes a little early since the lights seem to be such a success. Usually I start them around the 15th of March, but they've been so pale and wimpy I have to set them outside during the day so they get enough light. Even then, they sunburn a bit even under the protection of Kozy-Koats.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

WHO Invented the Automobile?

Just finished watching Obama's speech. The car was invented in the US? Karl Benz is rolling over in his grave.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Is it Spring Yet?

It sure felt like spring today. It was sunny, over 60 degrees, and you could smell pollen in the air. I opened the windows to the boys' rooms to let in the fresh air, but had to close them too soon since someone decided to burn.

I took the opportunity to weed 16sq ft of herb bed, and get out in the front yard and plant the azaleas. 'Mother's Day' is the variety, and they're supposed to be crimson red. Thing 2 helped water them in, and I think more water wound up on him rather than the plants.

I cleaned up a bit in the area around the azaleas, but I need to wait just a bit longer before I prune back the red hot poker plants. So it still doesn't look so great. I also need to move a rose bush. The flowering currant got much bigger, much faster than I thought it would, and it's smothering the rose bush.

The sedums are starting to bud up, and the flowering currant is about to burst. The chives are a little late, but have about an inch of new growth, as does the garlic. The next time I go outside I need to side-dress the chives, garlic and shallots with blood meal.

The seedlings got their first watering today. It won't be long before I'll need to transplant the lettuces. I can already see the first true leaf starting. The lights seem to be working well. The seedlings are all a nice, deep green, and the Red Sails lettuce is tinged red as it should be.

I'm disappointed with myself that I didn't get any maple spouts for my trees this year, so I wasn't able to get make any maple syrup. One year I used elder twigs, but they had a tendency to clog. The sugar maples are a little too small yet, so I suppose it's for the better that they get another year to grow.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Of Cabbages and Broccoli and Peas

Even after a relatively dry February, my soil still isn't ready for digging in. After scooping up a handful of soil, squeezing it, tossing it in the air about six inches and letting it hit my hand - I still had a hard, cold ball of soil. And as it's supposed to start raining on Saturday night and be a cold, wet March, it'll be quite a while longer before I'll get the peas in. "Patience is a virtue," my father always says. Sigh.

Good thing I can get my planting fix indoors.

My babies! From the left, cabbage Early Jersey Wakefield, broccoli Tendergreen, broccoli Umpquah, and then two rows of mixed lettuces, Red Sails, Salad Bowl, Forellenschluss, and Black-seeded Simpson. Danish Ballhead cabbage is my fall cabbage (duh) so I won't be planting it quite yet.

I took a tip from Laura at (not so) Urban Hennery, and got some different lights for my cheap-o light set-up in the garage. She uses sunlight bulbs. I'm trying one sunlight, and one plant/aquarium bulb to see how it works out. How cheap-o is my light set-up? I use old 2x4s underneath the flat to prop up the plants, then remove them as the plants get bigger. I planted the babies on Feb. 14th, and they were up and running after 3-4 days on the top of the refrigerator. I have high hopes that this year my started plants won't be quite so spindly, and won't get sunburned quite so easily once they're in the garden.

Why do they call it plant husbandry, anyway? Seems like it should be called plant mothery.

Elsewhere in the garden, I finally, with Thing 1's help, yanked out the three miniature rose bushes that always look like H-E-double toothpicks. Tomorrow I'll clean up the area and put in the five azaleas I have waiting to go in their place.

I'm trying to pace myself in the garden this spring. I have a tendency to go all out and put in eight hours in a day, and then not be able to move for a month. So this year, I'm calling it a day after about an hour. That way I can work a little every day, enjoy it more, and strengthen my muscles gradually.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Seeds are Here! The Seeds are Here!

I finally received my order from Fedco. Sounds like they're getting hammered with orders - up 31% this year. Glad to know someone is seeing more business in this economic climate.

Unfortunately, one of my choices was sold out - parsnips of all things. So I'll need to pick some up at the nursery. I'll see what they have of Territorial's, but it looks like I'd better be quick about it, even if I don't plan on planting any until August.

Folks around the blogosphere are beginning their seed-starting. I'll be starting lettuces, broccoli and cabbages this weekend. They'll all go into the garden the first of April.

I found the most excellent containers for starting seeds. Full flats are too huge for the few rows that I start at a time, plus they're unwieldy. So I'm going to use the plastic containers that the pre-washed greens come in. They're just the right size, nice and deep, but not huge, easy to pick up and move, and there's a lid that I can use to keep them covered until germination.

Sowing this weekend:
Cabbage: Early Jersey Wakefield and Danish Ballhead
Broccoli: Umpquah and Tendergreen
Lettuces: Red Sails, Forellenschluss, Salad Bowl, and Black Seeded Simpson

Monday, February 9, 2009

Anticipation and Planning

I put in my seed orders back in January. My Territorial order arrived promptly, but I'm still waiting on the bulk of my order, which is from Fedco. I think that they may be holding on to my whole order until a couple of backordered things come in. I thought that they'd send out all but the backordered items, but I guess not.

It's still too cold to plant anyway, and will be until March. Even then, the only things going in the ground will be the more cold-hardy stuff like spinach, peas and lettuce. I used to plant my peas in February, but realized that they do just fine, if not better, if planted in March. But for now, the sun is out, and there is a light dusting of snow on the ground - planning days, to be sure.

What? Still planning? Yes. Last night I decided that after all the mapping out I've done, I'm not going to plant potatoes this year. The voles are just too plentiful, and since potatoes seem to be their favorite food, I'm not going to help them out by providing for them. Hopefully over the course of the year their numbers will dwindle to the point that it'll make growing potatoes worthwhile again. Until then I have a whole lot of space to fill.

I brought home The Complete Kitchen Garden by Patrick Bowe from the library this weekend. In it, he claims that 100-150 square feet will be large enough for salads and tomatoes for a four-person family, 200-250 square feet will add beans, onions and fruit, 600 square feet is a "full-sized domestic kitchen garden," and not until your garden is 800 square feet should you look at planting potatoes. I have 400 square feet of vegetable beds, 64 sq ft of strawberries, and about 240 square feet of herb garden. So I guess I don't quite make the 800 square foot limit for potatoes anyway.

Those numbers seem rather small to me, though. I think Steve Solomon said his garden was 3,000 square feet for 3 people, not including row crops, and Rosemary Verey's potager was over 5,000 square feet. I often see the question online "How big does a garden need to be to feed X number of people?" Obviously, geographical situation, fertility and gardener experience will affect the size of a garden, but how about a ballpark estimate? No one wants to give one. This is the best I've been able to find.

More cold and wet is forecast for the week, so it's time to snuggle around the fire with a cup of tea, my plans, and an eraser.