"She refused to be bored, chiefly because she wasn't boring." Zelda Fitzgerald

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Garden Fever

Am having a major garden day. Time to make spring happen by sheer force of will. I just ordered my raised beds for our vegetable garden. It will be my very biggest veggie section yet and I'm extremely excited. I bought cedar beds from this company. There will be four beds: 3 feet by 5 feet and then a big pole bean teepee in the center of it all. I am imagining an idyllic little hideout for the kids in the middle of the vegetable garden + the perfect vertical support for Kentucky Wonders.  Here's a little sketch of how it will all fall out. 
I am so excited about growing pole beans this year. I usually grow bush beans (nothing wrong with them) but I just found out that pole beans produce supply and demand, for as long as you continue picking the fruit, whereas bush beans put out one big round of beans and call it good. I have a really pretty looking packet of triple color pole beans....gold, green and purple, all mixed in one seed packet. Can't wait to have that first summer dinner of tender pods with a dollop of melting butter.

I also started seeds for the garden this morning. We've got 11 kinds of tomatoes going (I'm not insane, I promise), eggplant, sweet peppers, lettuces, cucumbers, melons and even a couple artichokes just for kicks.

The only big things I'm waiting on are the arrival of the beds, and the removal of five diseased trees along the back border of our property. We've finally decided on a tree service and bargained for the best price we can so now we just need to get a date booked. Once the trees come down I'll be out marking out the paths, assembling beds and filling them up and maybe, maybe we'll finally be getting some nice warm weather. We sure are having a slow, cool spring. Last year at this time we had dandelions in the grass, and the cherries trees were in full bloom. This year we're just starting forsythia season and I haven't even laid down my crabgrass pre-emergent.

In the meantime, I have been watering my flat of seeds, sorting out the ones I'll direct seed instead, collecting cardboard for the bottom of my beds and buying what supplies I need to make it a gangbuster growing season. I've also taken to making long phone calls to my fellow gardener sister, Foxy and talking through my edible garden issues with her.

So far I have discovered the following brilliant ideas:
  • You should hand pollinate your corn for better ear development in the small home garden. (Hah! I know the secret to avoiding those puny, underdeveloped ears!)
  • Carrots crave steady moisture so you must water faithfully during the three freaking weeks they take to germinate and it helps to put a board over the seeds to keep moisture in the soil...just lift the board daily to peek for signs of green and when the sprouts show, take it off. (I think I tend to dry mine out so, I can't wait to try this) They also want soft soil to make long straight roots instead of gnarled stunted versions and apparently straight manure in the soil will make their roots split.They also love wood ashes so I know which plots will be getting our fireplace leavings! They are a cool weather crop so you can plant them before the frost free date, which I didn't know.
  • Potatoes need cool weather too and it's a good idea to start them indoors if your summer goes above 90 degrees F so that they will have enough time to complete their growth cycle before it gets hot. (and yes, that would be our summers) I'm total ran out of the room to go start the organic Yukon Golds that were sprouting in my pantry when I found that out.
  • Making crisp homemade pickles means picking cukes when young, soaking them in an ice bath, canning them within 24hrs off the vine and raw packing them in the jars and pouring in boiling brine to cover. (Aha! I hope to conquer the dill pickle and banish the mush this year. )
  • Asian eggplants are more tender and thin skinned and contain fewer fibrous seeds than the Italian variety. Eggplants are my most recent discovery...I love how they melt in the mouth when cooked well.
  • You can grow scallions in your garden using the chopped off roots from your grocery store purchase. Is that cool, or what?
  • Watermelons will set fruit more readily when multiple plants are present. A single hill can support three plants at a time...they'll twine all over each other. The secret is that they are not self-fertile and you'll have much better pollination odds with several plants. So great to know! I also need to make sure I get some black plastic down around those guys as they love all the heat you can muster. A watermelon is ripe when the two small tendrils closest to the melon turn brown and the underside of the melon is a creamy color.
  • There are a lot of options out there for supporting tomatoes that will work work better than the traditional and ever-insufficient tomato cage. See the following: Exhibit A, Exhibit B, Exhibit C. Gonna have to figure something cool out.
  • Beets are slow growers, just like carrots. Each beet seed in a packet is actually a cluster of seeds so you need fewer than you think you will when sowing. Beets like to be thinned...they need room to develop that big root.
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