April 2010


gooseberries before weeding

Gooseberries before weeding

I had to force myself to take this picture, it is so unsightly. However, it is fantastic for comparison with the *after* weeding picture below:

gooseberries after weeding

Gooseberries after weeding

You wouldn’t have known they were there before, would you? What I’ve learned:  no wonder people who have large/enormous tracts of land to keep weed-free resort to Roundup weed-killer:  It took me all day to de-weed just along this row of red raspberries, a couple of red currants, gooseberries, peaches, and a couple of blueberry bushes–not a greater length than, say,  50ft. by about 5 ft. wide. I did notice the bluebirds watching me closely–as soon as I moved, one would swoop down and make off with a freshly exposed earthworm! I also saw our fox close-up, around 2PM, in the middle of the day. Mr. Fox made off with an old 1/2 banana, after nosing around in our compost pile, and deftly left out front, easily fitting through our deer fence!

Peaches after de-weeding and transplanting blue borage

Peaches before finishing de-weeding

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For planning what crops will go into which bed, it behooves me to keep track of what starts are currently in our greenhouse:

  1. 9 DiCicco broccoli starts transplanted into 4″ sq. pots from “Oldies but Goodies” lady (purchased from Andy’s market ~7 April 2010); rest went into Bed 0 — this shd. take up ~15-17 sq. ft. of a bed.
  2. Purchased a dozen bush sweet pea stars today from same source as above.  Could plant these around a bamboo “teepee”, since they are bush, and not pole, sweet peas. ~5 sq. ft or so.
  3. Purchased 2 orach plants–Wikipedia say it grows 2-4 ft., so I’ll leave about 1 ft. on either side of each plant. So, 2 sq. ft.
  4. Sowed a 1/2 flat of Pioneer sweet peas from seed saved in 2008 + a 6-pack of them (that wouldn’t fit in the 1/2 flat). About 118 seeds total. These are best planted in double-rows, 3 inches apart, so, assuming 90 germinate, 45 x 3 inches =135 inches, 10ft. 15 inches. So, good for running down a little longer than ~1/2 the length of a growing bed.
  5. Sowed 4 6-packs of “Bloomsdale” spinach, sold for 2006 planting by Botanical Interests. Sowed 4-8 seeds in each compartment, we’ll see if/how many germinate. John Jeavons recommends planting spinach on 6-inch centers. Assuming 24 plants, this should take up ~ 4 sq.ft (make it 5) of a growing bed.
  6. Sowed 4 6 packs of “Genovese” basil–2 seeds/compartment. Source: Botanical Interests, sold for 2007. Again, we’ll see how many germinate. These are destined for wine barrel planters, not growing beds.  Basil do way better in planters, than in the growing beds, I’ve discovered.
  7. Purchased a 6-pack of celery starts at the OAEC plant sale yesterday, that I have yet to plant. Again, John Jeavons recommends planting on 6-inch centers, so leave about 4-5 sq ft.
  8. Purchased a 6-pack of red onions at OAEC plant sale. Of course, that is always way more than 6 onion starts. Planting onions on 4-inch centers, as recommended by John Jeavons, I’ll guesstimate about 5 sq. ft. of bedspace.

In summary, have (or will have, in ~1 month-6 wks.) enough starts to cover ~35 sq ft. (+4 sq ft) + the 11 ft. 3-inches x 3 inches of peas.

So, less than 1/2 of a growing bed, thus far. Let’s plan to plant these in Bed 1, for now.

Lettuce, Chard, Cilantro in Bed 0

Lettuce, Chard, Cilantro in Bed 0

Today was the first day of the OAEC Spring Plant Sale. I could not resist getting a jump on Spring planting. Actually, I had hoped they’d have sweet peas and spinach. All they had were snow peas, which I don’t really like. I have no idea why it’s been so hard to find real edible (not decorative) sweet  pea starts this year. I’ll have to sow my own, although most of last year’s crop had to be trashed due to some unidentified bug that is born inside the dried sweet pea, and eats its way out, once it’s an adult, leaving a hole in the pea. What they DID have were lettuce starts, chard, and cilantro. So, I purchased these and immediately transplanted them into the remaining fallow portion of Bed 0 (behind are the cereal rye, planted as a Fall cover crop). The irony is, that the cereal rye (and other fall grain “cover crops”, like wheat and oats) don’t actually mature until late summer, so, if you let your cover crops mature, you’ve lost your sping/summer growing season! To my credit, I single-dug the last 20 or so sq. ft. of Bed 0, amended it with 2 x 5 gal. buckets of our wonderful, home-made compost, and transplanted

  1. Six butter lettuce starts (back row)
  2. Six Romaine lettuce starts (closer to the camera)
  3. Two rows of six chard plants (two varieties, Rainbow & forgot the other one)
  4. Closest row are six cilantro starts

I learned something: Chard are biennial, just like carrots, parsnips, curly-leaved parsley.  Today (4/11/2010) it’s raining, which is superb for the plants. That’s also the artifact you see on the picture: raindrops on the camera lens.

Since this is a shady bed, these crops ought to do well in this Bed, unlike green beans or tomatoes, which require long hours of sun each day.

Left to do: You guessed it! Bird-netting!!!

Here’s the status of the items listed in my 8 April 2010 blog:

  1. Have yet to compose letter for soil test report and to mail in the soil samples. Hopefully, will get to this on Monday, 4/12/2010
  2. Much to my consternation, I cannot locate my jar of Hungarian poppy seeds!!!! Will keep looking…
  3. After a humungous amount of de-weeding (by hand & trowel, with gardening gloves on, of course) of the border next to Bed 0, nearest the swale, transplanted 6 beautiful marigolds in a ring under the Santa Rosa plum tree, and another 6 in a row, before the first peach.
  4. De-weeded the strawberry bed (=Bed 9). What a chore! Had to de-weed the pathway around it, too. Michael mowed the weeds in that part of the deer-fenced in garden today, too.
  5. While de-weeding Bed 9 (currently “the strawberry bed”), I noticed that some strawberry plants were doing well, whereas the majority had rotted/dried out and died. I used to think it was the poor soil. Now, I realized it has to do with drainage. This is the one growing bed that was not graded to be level. A level growing bed is essential, so that water drains down to the roots of each plant, instead of draining down to some plants and rotting out their roots by too much constant moisture. Before cultivating and further preparation of this bed for spring planting (I purchased 4 new strawberry plants at Western Farm Supply, for instance), it will be necessary to pull the strawberry plants in there already, re-grade the bed to be level, and only then proceed with bed preparation. Items 6.-9. — see above.

Apart from preparing/eating the fennel harvested from Bed 0 (our bunny, Attila, adores the fennel fronds), I’ve more or less completed all of the chores listed on April 6, 2010.  Here’s my action item list:

  1. Compose & print out cover letter for soil test, package and mail in 3 soil samples for this year’s soil test reports.
  2. Sow Hungarian poppy seeds in the greenhouse.
  3. Transplant 1 dozen pretty marigolds purchased today.
  4. De-weed Bed 9 (strawberry bed)
  5. Cultivate/single-dig Bed 9 as much as is practicable
  6. Amend Bed 9 with compost
  7. Transplant 4 new strawberrry starts into Bed 9
  8. Cover with cardboard around strawberry plants, and later with rice straw, so ripe berries don’t rot by touching moist ground
  9. Plant garlic and shallots in rest of Bed –Garlic are great companion plants for strawberries (keep bugs away).
unpeeled carrots

Carrots Harvested from Bed 0

These carrots are teensy:  they’re close to microscopic! I planted them as companion plants around last year’s tomatoes in the Southern 1/2 of Bed 0. Guess what I learned ? Carrots are biennials! Do you know what this means? It means that if you want decent sized carrots, you have to wait another year! (And, as a bonus, your plants will go to seed and you’ll be able to collect seed for planting). This is similar to my experience with parsnips, which are also biennial, and with curly-leaved parsley.

Peeled carrots

Peeled carrots from Bed 0

OK. For all that effort, I got 3 lbs. 1-1/4 oz. of carrots from 50 sq. ft. after ~1 year. You have to rinse the carrots many times (to get rid of the silt), and then peel them, before you can eat them.  This was ridiculously (~1-1/2 hrs) time-consuming. However, they do have a strong taste, quite unlike the water-y or no taste carrots at the market. What to do with them next? Ideas: Blanch and freeze in 8 oz. servings for future use. Carrot cake…

Broccoli in Bed 0

Bed 0: Planted w/28 DiCicco broccoli starts

OK. After having finished de-weeding the Southern 1/2 (~50 sq. ft.) of Bed 0 today, I “single-dug” (e.g., loosened 1 ft. down w/a spading fork) this portion of the bed and added ~5 x 5 gallon buckets (a bit more than 3 cu. ft.) of home-made wonderful compost (e.g., black gold). I then transplanted 28 diCicco variety broccoli starts (from “Oldies but Goodies”, a local lady who delivers starts for sale to Andy’s market). These are spaced 15 inches apart, except the closest row to the front which is spaced 12″ from the previous row.

Netted broccoli for bird protection

Bed 0: Broccoli starts are now safe from birds

You’d think I’d have been finished by now, wouldn’t you. But, while I was transplanting the broccoli starts, the birds were fighting amongst themselves as to who would get to decimate all those wonderful, tender, broccoli leaves first. Don’t think I didn’t see and hear them! So, this is war! I placed the netting immediately after transplanting the starts, to save them from the birds!

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