Sunday, February 28, 2010

Seriously?

We're under another Winter Storm Warning tonight and tomorrow. It's unimaginable. That will make three "winter events" in one year. Never can I remember anything like it. At least this time, the streets are too warm so I doubt they'll be any accumulations on the roadways.

The radishes I planted a few weeks ago are peeking through the soil now. This new compost I bought is almost like a tough concrete exterior although it's nice and loose beneath. None of the carrots have come up and only some of the radishes have. I wonder if it's just too thick for them to bust loose.
Bring on the winter weather if you want to. I've got my milk this go around.

The morning comes early. Sweet gardening dreams.

Help Plan My Garden Expansion!

This past fall we got rid of my nemesis and it was a good thing, too. My nemesis was an oak tree that overhung the garden and the house, putting both into shade around 1:00 PM during the summer and dumping its weight in acorns on the garden in fall. We decided to only take the one overhanging branch off, but when the tree climber went up, sure enough, the whole tree was split and would have come down on its own...right on top of the house. I feel like we dodged a bullet AND got more sun for the garden in the process.

So, this more sun means I may be able to get one or two more 8x4 beds in that could be trellised. Now, my problem is two fold. I'm just itching to get out there and put the beds in. I hate having something in mind and not being able to act on it, but I know I need to have patience. I need to wait until the leaves fill in so I can see exactly how much and where the additional sunlight has been granted, because it would be my luck to put the beds down directly in the shadow of the remaining trees.

My secondary problem comes with how to place them since I'm notoriously spatially challenged. My garden now is laid out more for aesthetics, not taking into account the shading of one box on another. So....help me plan this out, hypothetically assuming it all remains in sunlight in spite of the tree growth. I can adjust it from there. Here's the garden as it is. Usually there is a trellis on the back of the last box, if you need that to account for shading.
The sun travels over on the far left from front to back. It doesn't cross right over it. I volunteered the boy and the neighbor's boy to stand in for the boxes since I'm not good at any mapping programs to do it digitally. Here we go:
I could do them in rows:

I could do them next to each other in a line:I could also do them L shaped:

Any thoughts? I also suppose I'd have to do them in line with the back bed or the trellis would shade them out if I placed them behind it, right? Or maybe not if it was far enough to the right.

This kind of stuff drives me nuts until I have everything in place. I just can't afford to make a mistake on this one.

Thanks for the advice!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Wish Me Luck!

Today I started my first tomato seeds ever. I have no idea how they'll do or if they'll even sprout, but it's something I've been looking forward to since last year. Today I started:

Cherokee Purple - from Dan
Bradndywine
Black Cherry -from Dan
Beefmaster Hybrid

I started five of each even though I'd only need two. I'm sure some won't sprout. I put them up on the refrigerator to germinate, but then they'll have to go under the light in the basement, which can get rather cold. Hopefully they'll still fare well, if not just grow slowly.

I also started some Bok Choy from Thomas and those German Blue radish seeds from Stefaneener. I direct sowed those, so we'll see if they germinate or not. I'm hopeful.

The shared seeds from everyone has also made it possible for me to fulfil another one of my goals this year - branching out! Thanks, everyone.

The strawberry bushes made it through the cold snap just fine. I still need to transplant that one last one now that it seems like the ants have moved on, but I don't have soil left. I may just rogue some from one of the raised beds since it's not that large of a pot to begin with.

Send me sweet tomato sprouting vibes! I'm very excited.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

So, What About Those Hanging Pots?

Last year I had the idea that I was going to run cucumbers and beans out of hanging pots to vine around my deck rail. It so didn't work. The cucumbers were curled for some reason and the beans just weren't having any of it. We just can't have empty pots hanging around, now, can we? Seriously, though. So while the boy and I were picking up the potting soil to repot his blueberries we picked up a few strawberry transplants as well.
I have three hanging pots of strawberries hanging from hooks on the deck and another one that I haven't transplanted yet....when we got the transplant home we noticed it was infested with little red ants. I've left it in the original container in the front yard hoping that the ants will find a new home over the week. I'll try to fit them into their final pot this weekend.

I've heard that strawberries grown in pots are virtually tasteless, but I think it's more about just seeing them grow that will entertain the boy. Who knows, we may get lucky. That is if they survive the 28 degree lows over the next two nights. Shoot, we were in the 60's this weekend. This new cold snap is a cruel joke.

The morning comes early. Sweet gardening dreams.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Peer Pressure Is a Powerful Thing

Yes, peer pressure isn't something just for school children. We gardeners are affected by it also..and probably more so because there really isn't a good reason for why we can't plant just one more variety of tomato or why we can't just expand the garden just a teeny bit more.

I caved to the pressure of growing potatoes. Everyone has such beautiful potato pictures and I wanted to share in the potato joy. My problem is that I just don't have the garden space to dedicate to potatoes, especially when I hear so much about bins and covering them with more and more soil as they grow, but I do have pots. I have a TON of pots that I used while container gardening and now that I transplanted the blueberries, I have more pots. I thought to try to grow bin potatoes in a pot...wouldn't it really work out the same? Hopefully?

So I put the cut seed potato in the bottom of the pot with a few inches of soil.
Then I covered the potato with another few inches in hopes it will sprout. As it grows, I'll put some more soil in the pots The only problem is getting that sun way down in the pots. So I tipped them all to the side.
Yeah, I'll be hearing from the HOA about this one, won't I?
Please let it work, please let it work, please let it work.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Be Proud Of Me, Mom. I Asked For Help.

You may remember the last time I went to try to fetch compost or potting soil in bags. It didn't work out so well.

Earlier this week, the boy and I bought three containers to transplant his blueberry bushes into. We needed tons of potting soil to fill these mammoth pots as well as to take care of other container plantings. I needed those huge 2.5 cft bags. I almost hossed it out myself, but then remembered what happened last time I tried to be awesome (note sarcasm) and asked for help. After I watched two grown men struggle getting the five bags I bought into the truck, I was glad I asked.

The boy got these blueberry bushes for his third birthday. He'll be six next month. The man ordered them through the mail for him and they arrived as bare, almost dead twigs. We've transplanted them into larger pots each year, and they sure are looking good. Last year the boy got his first few blueberries off of them. He only got a hand full over all, but he loved them. This year, hopefully we'll get more. He's got four plants and I've never pruned them. I know I need to do that, but they'd be so sorry looking if I did. I'll most likely begin the pruning process next year as they'll likely remain in these pots for years as I don't think I can buy any much larger.

We also planted lavender and strawberries for the boy and started some potatoes in pots for me. I really hope those work!! I'll post on everything throughout the week.

The morning comes early. Sweet gardening dreams.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Green Grows Again!

It's been beautiful here for a few days now and I decided it was time to allow the seedlings to stop bathing periodically in the sun and get moved outside for good. We're supposed to have a week or more of beautiful weather, so I'm hopeful they'll get acclimated enough and not be too shocked when cold weather comes again, which it undoubtedly will.

Here are the lettuce seedlings. They look really nice, but their roots were awful shallow and made them difficult to get out of the cell packs.

Below are the cauliflower and cabbage seedlings. This will be my third attempt at cauliflower. I'm so hopeful that they'll work. If not, I think I'll just concede defeat.

Stringing the grid with one piece of yarn is one of the best things I learned last year. Last year, the first time I strung the grid, I cut it into sections and stapled it down every foot. That didn't last and just made things difficult since I was so worried about dislodging the string.

This is so much better. I drive in a small nail every foot and anchor a piece of yarn to one corner nail. Then I wrap it around the nails to make the grid.
It's super easy and it stays all season. Now, the nails are a bit hairy at times. You can't prop your tuchus on the edge of the bed, but they work so well that I've just learned to be careful around them. Not the safest thing, I know, but terribly effective.

I took the cabbage and planted it in every space. I learned last fall that this was too close of a spacing, but this is supposed to be a tiny, dwarf cabbage, so I'm helpful it will work. I then checker boarded all of the broccoli and cauliflower.
I can't speak much for the cauliflower, but I've tried the broccoli checker boarded and then planted every square. The checkerboard was certainly the way to go. They all grew large and had beautiful heads. When I got greedy and planted them every space this fall, some didn't even grow heads since they were so shadowed by the others. I think SFG spacing is good for many things, but not broccoli for me.
I'm not happy with that compost I tilled in earlier this month. Now that it's dried out, it's just tough and chalky. Certainly not the quality I picked up from this place last year. I'm worried that it doesn't seem to hold moisture very much, but it may just possibly be that the top layer dries out quickly since when I was digging holes for the broccoli, it seemed to at least be somewhat damp down in there.
Now, if I can just keep the dog from eating the seedlings, I'll be doing pretty darn good.
Woohoo! It's gonna get green out there, my friends!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

"Expect Nothing But a Dusting To an Inch"


Very cool, indeed.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Yes, I'm "that" Southerner

Recently, we down here in GA had an "Ice Event." Nothing to write home about, but the roads did stay icy for a few days and school was canceled for one. This, in GA counts as a catastrophe. Today we had our second such Winter event. It's snowing, and you know what that means. All of the Southerners run around like Chicken Little screaming that the sky is falling. Then, they descend on the grocer for white bread and milk.


I've joked lovingly about these people before post 1 / post 2. At least the news media got it right this time. It snowed AND they interviewed people standing in lines at the package store instead of the grocer.

Then I come home to realize this:
And, had to turn around to go get this:
Yup. I'm one of "them." I did make sure to tell everyone who looked at me and snickered that it was milk day anyway and it wasn't just the snow, I would have been here regardless and they knew they were there panicking just as I was, because really, did they seriously need those two bags of chips and those ho-hos if it wasn't going to snow?

I think not.

It is rather pretty, isn't it,


and it's still coming down.

The morning comes early, and this one will be a cold one. Sweet gardening dreams.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Seed Sharing

I think we've all got seed fever just about now. I've seen pictures of shoe boxes, totes and cardboard boxes full of seeds in the recent months. We gather and collect these seeds knowing darn well we don't have places for them, but if we had them, we could entertain the notion that we could plant them....if we expanded the garden a bit, which wouldn't be such a bad idea in the long run.

Thomas from A Growing Tradition sent me these lovely bok choy seeds. This was one of the many varieties that I wanted to buy, but just couldn't justify. Now I can. Thank you, Thomas!
Way, way, way, way back last summer, my best friend (her website) sent me these seeds to try:
The Lagos spinach is supposed to tolerate really hot weather which is perfect for our GA summers. I'm thinking with this seed and the heatwave lettuce mix, I may just thwart the veggie gods this year and have an integrated salad. Yup. I said it. I just smacked Mother Nature in the face with a glove and called her flat out. I'm getting an integrated salad this year.

Hopefully.

I've found people are so nice and generous in the gardening world. It renews your faith in humanity.

The morning comes early. Sweet gardening dreams.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Gardening Template Test Run

The intensive gardening templates went for a test run today. I looked back on my calendar from last year and this was the weekend I planted my carrots and radishes, so I decided to take my gardening templates out for a spin. I don't have wooden slats on my SFG and usually run a grid from string, but this year we made gardening templates to help with the spacing and to keep the rows nice and straight.

Here is my 16 hole template that I painted to help protect it from the elements.
I decided to plant three sqft each of orange, purple and white carrots in this bed. I'll plant more in two weeks in another bed. I used a pencil to tap a small depression, put in one to two seeds per depression and topped it off with vermiculite to make it easier for the seedlings to sprout through.
You can see, now that I've finished my three rows, how nicely they're spaced out even without the grid!
Looks like I got a bit heavy handed with the vermiculite towards the end, but it will do. We seem to be in for a good 10 days so I figured to go ahead and get these in the ground now when there's only one day that looks rainy in the next 10, which is unheard of around here recently. My spring carrots didn't do anything for me much last year, but the fall ones did relatively well. I'm hopeful this spring's carrots will do a little better.
I also planted two, three sqft each, rows of each french breakfast and a red radish. Tomorrow I'm putting in a row each of the black and German radishes. I'll do subsequent rows of these in two weeks as well.
It's just so good to have things in the ground again!
The morning comes early. Sweet gardening dreams.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Drainage

The drainage simply isn't happening since I tilled in that new compost. The compost itself was already absurdly water logged because of our 2-3 days a week of fierce rains since August. I was worried this would happen. I tilled it all in with the new tiller, waited for a rain, and then tilled the stuff in again, but it's still collecting water.
This one is a little worse. You can see it's on a slight incline, but it's what I had to work with.
I'll have to figure out a way to ensure better drainage before I plant things out there in a few weeks.
The morning comes early. Sweet gardening dreams and try to stay dry out there.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Signs of Spring: The Gardener, Herself's, Edition

Signs of Spring are not isolated to flowers and birds alone. The gardener, him or herself, can also add to the spectacle.

Crufty soil, dirt, mud, encrusted gloves:
Yes, I borrowed my daughter's pink gloves to wear inside the garden gloves since it's still blasted cold outside at night.

The crufty gloves are not to be outdone by the fabulously filthy sweatshirt and jeans:
I've been filling and tilling the garden. Signs of the new gardening year are everywhere and I'm eager to be a part of it.

Yes, Mom. That's real dirt and it may or may not perfectly wash out. It's perfect.
The morning comes early. Sweet gardening dreams.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Decision Rendered

I've made a decision. Like it or not, I've made the decision.

Now I've just got to stick to that decision. I think I can; I think I can; I think I can.....

I've been looking for advice (okay, more like peer pressure) on the Garden Web SFG forum recently concerning my neurosis with having perfectly topped off, leveled beds. I know when you have 12-16 inch beds that an eighth of an inch under the top of the boards isn't going to harm you, but it hurts my brain. I want it perfectly leveled with the top, blast it.

I ran out of compost to fill all of the beds to the brim, but I think instead of filling everything right now, I've got an alternative solution: I've got enough to make the EG-perfect-pitcher's-mound in my established beds and to fill the two smaller beds in the other corner yard. These are the only ones I need for the fall planting. Project Completed. Check!

That leaves the large bed in the other corner yard half empty and the side yard beds have yet to be amended, none of which I'll need until late April, May. I was also waiting to see what the sun exposure was like now that we've cut down my nemesis (parts 1 and 2). I may very well get enough sun to add another box, which would mean traveling to fetch more compost anyway.

Drum roll..........I've decided to fill what I have to perfection, and leave the large box in the other corner yard unfilled until I see if I can add the additional box which would require the trip to the supply place anyway. I've enabled my neurosis and planned for the future. It's perfect.

It doesn't help that because of the absurd amount of rain we've been getting, the compost looks like this:
Seriously, it was like modeling clay. This is the same mix that I bought last year that was so friable and beautiful. This was mud. Same mix, just overly waterlogged. Tilling it in with what I already have will be fine, however, but it was a beast to lift, shovel and break the clods. If I wait until May to fetch the rest of the compost, there's a good chance that this wet spell will have passed and the warmth will dry out the mix some. I don't know if that's scientifically logical, but it sounds good to me, so that's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

So there you have it, sports fans. I'll mound and level my beds to my heart's content now, sacrificing a bed that wouldn't be filled or used anyway this spring, and then fill it in the summer when I may be building another bed and have the chance for the compost to be a little more workable.

Game on.

The morning comes early. Sweet gardening dreams.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Because It Doesn't Rain On a Monday Night.

"Because it doesn't rain on a Monday night" was the best answer I could think to give our neighbors who wanted to know why I was blinding them with shop lights and dragging wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of compost into the garden at 8:00 in the evening.

Here in GA, we've gone from absolute, destitute, worst drought on record for a ridiculous number of years running to rain. Heavy, consistent rain every three or four days, and that three or four days just always seems to fall on the weekend. Always. However, it wasn't raining tonight, and the man was kind enough to fetch me a cubic yard of compost mix during his lunch hour today and I set out to begin to disperse it through the garden this evening.

Now, last year, the man bought me a wonderful gift. I'll wait why you go look. It was a thing of beauty, but I've never gotten the chance to use the tiller until now. HOLY GOODNESS. I didn't know what to make of a tiller for beds that are tauted to be 'no till' but that sucker tore right through that compressed bed and fluffed it all up so beautifully nice and pretty and I only think I killed myself once while trying to use it. It did a job in five minutes which would have taken me forever to do, and quite honestly, I'd never have loosened it up deep enough by hand.

I caught a flash in my eye while tilling and saw the man had snapped this shot. Look at the bed on the lower right (not the garlic bed) and compare it with the others. Look at how beautifully tilled it is. I was a happy girl.
My holiday gift this year was a wheelbarrow, but I still found out that you can't fill the wheel barrow half way and still expect to maneuver it down the hill to the garden. Yup. Forget the tiller, this, my friends, is how you die. Instead, you need to shovel only 10 shovel fulls and then take it down. Yes, it's tiresome, but it's better than carting it down shovel by shovel as I did last year.

So as it got darker, the shop lights came out and I worked a while longer. I only got about two hours of work in, but I did manage to till up and amend all of the beds in the corner yard.
Tomorrow I'm going to work on filling the boxes we just put the addition on and then if there's any left over I'll do the side yard. If not, a few bags from the store will do just fine. I had to leave it for tonight, however. Why, you ask? It's supposed to rain, of course.
The morning comes early, and thank goodness the Tylenol will be there to greet my sore back. Sweet gardening dreams.