Posts filed under ‘March 2011’
OK, so now I’m getting a little frustrated by the weather.. I had been wanting to get out and sow some cold weather plants this week (and last week) – but it has been so cold that I thought it may be a little premature for them to be able to germinate – plus it is going to snow again this weekend! Arrrgh! I expect soon enough we will be complaining about the warm weather.. I think I’m going to take the extra lettuce seedlings from the cold frame and plant them out in the garden instead of eating them!
On the side of progress, I did manage to sow a good variety of seeds indoors last week – the rest of my tomatoes (4 more varieties – I’m trying out a determinate this year – Marinara – as well as the indeterminate heirloom favorites Amish Paste and Brandywine and Peacevine cherry tomato). I also sowed some celery, some companion plants – borage, calendula, four o’ clocks, dwarf sunflowers and some herbs – cilantro and summer savory. I now have two shop lights on and I use christmas lights to provide a little heat to aid germination – seemed to do the trick!
I bought a new pair of boots for gardening last week – my fancy wellies from Target had given up already after only 2 years (can’t get the quality these days) and I had destroyed the soles of my make-shift gardening shoes by excessive digging, so I splashed out on a pair of leather working boots from Tractor Supply (that should last me for many years).
Anyhow, I was wearing them (with the tag still on) deciding whether the size I had chosen was right and was messing about with the compost pile when I noticed Cheyenne (our fluffy dog) doing her business down in a rough part of the garden. So over I went to pick it up. I approached carefully, but couldn’t immediately see the poop but then became distracted by some litter. Still thinking I was being careful, I stepped towards another piece of litter and thought “umm the poo must be nearby I can smell it” – but guess what – the inevitable had happened, I had stepped right into the poop with my new boots!
After a few choice words and scraping my boots over the grass and other vegetation, I had to laugh at myself and thought – “I guess I’ll be keeping the boots then!” Luckily the fit is OK.
After a short break to pull together the final pieces of organization for the Lehigh Valley Green Home & Building Expo and to work the event itself, I was back in the garden this afternoon – and what a beautiful day – 50F and sunny! (Snow is on the way tonight though).
I did manage to plant my peas last Monday (3/15) – I needed to get them in, in order to hopefully have them ready before my trip to the UK in June. I put in a total of 100 seeds of four different varieties – I soaked them all first for about half an hour and then rolled them in innoculant to help them fix nitrogen from the air.
I started today by harvesting compost from a tumbler composter and my “Darlek”-like container. I got a wheel barrow full and spread it under my fruit trees and around the asparagus – and guess what – there are some tiny spears starting to come up! Hurrah! The compost adds some nutrients but also helps fights any diseases lurking around the base of the trees.
On the seed starting front, I did sow some Early Girl tomatoes last week too – they have germinated already, so we are on the way to having tomatoes by July 4th! (That’s the plan anyhow). The cosmos and marigold seedlings are doing well, but the beets are not looking very happy and the parsley has not shown any signs of life. I fed them using a weak solution of fish emulsion. In the cold frame, things are going a bit better – pretty much everything I sowed is coming up – I thinned the seedlings out (by snipping off the weaker seedlings with scissors so as not to disturb the roots), but may have to transplant some of the lettuce into the garden to give everything enough room.
The big news from the garden this week is that the ~80 garlic bulbs my son & I planted last October are poking their little heads above the mulch! How exciting! At the same time though, I am a bit worried about the asparagus – I thought that might be showing some signs of life by now, but alas not.. I always remember that scene in Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” where they rush out to uncover and cut the first asparagus. This is my asparagus’ plants third year – I grew them from seed in 2009 and haven’t tasted one bit of them yet – you have to wait to let them get established – can’t wait to have our first spears coated in butter and ground black pepper – ummmh!
This weekend I am going to sow some onion seed, pot on my seedlings and sow some peas – can’t wait – it is supposed to be a good weather weekend! Oh and we still have to finish off harvesting the honey (we just received our new freezer to store the frames in!).
The big news of today however, was that we decided to do something about the hive full of dead bees that we have been mourning for the last couple of months. We started beekeeping last Spring (I’m not sure now that we are “keeping” as much as vacationing the bees – with a final deadly trip), and everything was looking good (with exception that the colony had Varroa mites – but apparently that is pretty normal) and they had plenty of honey to get through the winter. Unfortunately though, it seems they starved to death anyhow, because of the prolonged cold weather. They need a break in the temperatures to be able to move upward to get to the stored honey – ours were still in a huddle at the bottom of the hive still. Sad but true.
Anyhow the light at the end of our tunnel (not theirs) is that we get to harvest the honey that was supposed to feed them through the winter! So far, just from one deep frame we got 3lbs and there is a lot more where that came from! We just need to do a lot of sticky work to extract it and then work out how to store the honey frames between now and when the new package arrives in April (bees are the best cleaners for this kind of situation – live ones are more effective though). (More research needed – or perhaps the purchase of a chest freezer may need to happen sooner rather than later!)
Well, I’m so happy! I attended the last Soil Management class last night and all my wishes came true! I can now determine which organic fertilizers and how much of them to use on my garden (after a soil test). The key to the mystery is three data tables that we were shown how to use last night. I hope to get them electronically and I will edit them to be more small garden friendly – at the moment all the data are per acre – at the scale I garden I need per foot – not too difficult to change on a spreadsheet! Maybe I could post them on the blog – have to find out if that is possible.
I must say even I find it a little strange that this makes me so happy, but I think I was so frustrated back in 2009 when I got a recommendation for my fruit trees for using 10-10-10 fertilizer and I couldn’t work out what I should use as an organic alternative. I ended up using chemical fertilizer which annoys me every time I think about it.
Well miracles do happen! The marigolds I sowed only 3 days ago have germinated already! I didn’t use any heat under them – only a fluorescent shop lamp over the top. Once they come through, if they have any signs of fungus (damping off), I sprinkle a little peat on them and that seems to do the trick.
The warmer temperatures also have kicked things off in the Cold Frame – I checked in there today and the kale was poking its little head through and some other seedlings (but I didn’t have my book with me so I’d forgotten what I sowed there – really should get some markers!
In the garden itself, I covered the area where I will plant peas in a couple of weeks with black plastic and a spare window I had lying around! Hopefully that will warm the soil up so that the pea seeds don’t rot. I may try germinating them in the house before setting them out – I heard that tip on Mike McGrath’s radio program this week I think.