Friday, April 29, 2011

Happy Seedlings & Root-Dragging Tomatoes

I'm getting a bit worried about the tomato seeds I put in on the 12th.  They're not UP yet!  There have been no floods or droughts in the cold frame, yet there they are, snuggled down in the $24/bag organic, gorgeous, super-nutrient-rich soil.  I - of course - want them up already.  Happy little green exploratory first leaves should be on them says 7-14 days and they're pushing it!  Today is day 17.  I'm wondering if they aren't coming at all.  It isn't just one kind though, it's two, so I'm pretty sure they just haven't hit the sweet spot in temperature yet.  Meanwhile, I'm putting in more this weekend just in case. *grumble*

The broccoli, cabbage and eggplant are all up though.  More each day, so I'm not completely neurotic about the appearance of seedlings.  Tomatoes rate so much higher on the taste scale though.

Outside under the bed hoops though, we have all kinds of lettuces up as well as the peas, five-color silverbeet and spinach.  In the Onion Region the seeds I saved last year from our onions have sprouted!!  Open-pollinated and haphazardly saved, but there they are just the same.  The Walla Walla starts (6" tall) I planted must have some roots out because they've perked up and are starting to grow, and they now have a large neighborhood of red onion sets next to them.  We will have plenty of onions this year.

Since the hoops are over everything but the rhubarb outside, the cold snow and wind we're getting right now aren't phasing the little plants that are under them.  This is a wonderful thing.  Had we known what cheap plastic and salvaged pipe could do, we would have started earlier last year.  Speaking of plastic, we're going to put an inner layer on the greenhouse this weekend in an effort to not use the space heater in there at night (and hopefully get those dang tomatoes going!).  Oh!!  And on Wednesday I made Richard very proud.  Our neighbor was tearing down his hoop house to move it out to his new home, so I asked him how much it cost him to build:  he said about $1,000 including all kinds of things we wouldn't be buying.  Then he mentioned he was building a bigger one at his new place, so I asked if he would be interested in selling the pipe from this one.  He not only said "yes" but also said we could "just have it!"  Sweet deal.  Even if it only lasts a year or two, it gives us an expanded growing area with a deferred cost. 

As far as the Harvest Potluck goes, Richard has gotten both beef and lamb commitments from some of his customers, and one of them has said he will BBQ also (the lamb man).  Just as soon as Rick finishes building his BBQ haha.

P.S.  The large, floppy paws of a snuffling, drift-y basset hound are not real helpful in the beds.  Seedlings can take the snuffling, but not the big 'ol footprint.  Good thing he's so cute and comical.  Not sure what we're going to do about it though...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Function Comes First

In response to people who are under the impression that they have to have "the perfect setup" in order to grow plants, I'd like to share some tips we've learned from our "setup" so far.  Keep in mind that we are not big-time market gardeners, so we do not need sparkly new things, we need functioning, any-age things!

Please don't get hung up in the details, the most important things for plants are soil, water, sun, and occasionally protection (hello, giant hail/wind storm).  Also, try to remember that plants have been around a long time, you are much newer to watching them grow than they are to'll be OK - so long as you read the tag or label that comes with them and follow it.  Just because you don't have a huge space of your own doesn't mean that you can't have a garden either.  People who truly want to do something can always find a way - sometimes it just takes a while to figure out the path.

Next month, we'll be hosting a planting box workshop of sorts.  We will provide resources for adults and small children to grow a tiny bit of food on their step at home.  They'll assemble their own boxes (we'll help of course) and - hopefully - will learn that gardening is mostly a matter of doing, not of science.

Try not to get caught up in buying the snazziest this or that unless you're food-gardening mostly for fun.  If you're doing it to save money and eat well, investing a chunk of change up front isn't in your best interest.

Learn how to ask people to sell or give obviously un-used items, such as:

a stack of boards nearly hidden by grass "out back" that would be awesome for raised beds
a roll of wire that you could use to trellis plants
a wheelbarrow in need of a bolt or two, or maybe a wheel (replacement parts are cheap usually)
shovels without handles
framed windows (hello protection for your plants - free!)
random piles of dirt from projects dug years ago (to fill a raised bed or planting box)
horses/chickens/cows with a shed of some sort - there's good fertilizer in there and it's probably broken down already (especially if they have chickens)! 

Most of these items can be found at homes/properties that have been owned by the same person for a long, long time.  This stuff collects and they are usually thrilled to have someone use it.  "Waste not, want not" and all.  This also applies to shared fences (train some peas or beans there and you get what's on your side, they get whats on theirs, then you clean up!), open space on the corner down the street, extra space in your neighbors backyard...offer to share the bounty and the water bill, and I'd bet on them letting you use their space to produce food.  Most people, given the option, will not pass up fresh anything...unless it's squash season and they have already been hit by desperately overloaded gardener-friends.  Lock your doors.  Anyways, the point is, don't be afraid to ask!  For the most part, as long as you respect people's privacy and property, you can find a place suitable for at least a bit of a garden.  And if you use your head, you can get started for a very small price!

P.S.  And as I've learned from Rick, keep your eyes open at the dump!  If you're lucky enough to have a FreeCycle in your area, ask for supplies on there!  It's a wonderful resource!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Bed Hoops & Seeds In

Yesterday was the first in a long time that Richard got to stay home and work outside with me (nap time is our "outside/work date").  We got some important things done!  A year or so ago, he snagged a huge roll of Pex tubing (think a cross between drip line and PVC, bendy but pretty hard) and yesterday he drug it out for the hoop supports.  This is one instance that I can honestly say I'm thrilled he's a stuff hound.  It's not a common emotion for me, I may have to mark this down somewhere.  Usually I'm trying to sneak things off to the dump!  Anyways, the front bed is half-hooped/covered with plastic and the others will be shortly (one has all it's hoops and no plastic yet).  Happy seeds/starts.

There are seedlings all over the section on the left, but my cell phone is only so skilled at detail-catching.  Note on the white labels you see here:  they are mini-blinds, cut to desired length.  Recycled due to naughty, blind-destroying children :)

We're pushing the season this year a bit, trying to get things growing earlier in an effort to feed ourselves well, earlier!  We have the following in the ground:

Chiogga Beets
Five-Color Silverbeet (chard, but the pretty kind)
Swiss Chard (green stems)
Lettuce Mix
Simpson Lettuce
Yellow Onion Seeds
Walla Walla Onion "starts" aka 6" tall sets
Amish Snap Peas
Sweet Peas

In the cold frame we have:

Siberian Tomatoes
Stupice Tomatoes
Cheyenne Pumpkins
Velvet Queen Sunflowers
Snap Dragons

I am planting in a different way this year in an effort to stem harvest insanity this fall.  The aim is for steady not sudden.  These are things you ponder when you're up at midnight harvesting or canning - "how can I make this less crazy next year?!" 

Next up, we're tracking down a rototiller and getting the "compost" area turned well and also tilling a 12'x60' +/- along one side of the lot, then the strip up front between the sidewalk and the street which is 4' x 120' +/-.  The big, long sections will be planted in sweet clover to prepare for next years production (it's very first).  I am REALLY excited about expanding our planting area by so much, next year is going to be amazing!