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Posts Tagged ‘spring’

Garden Friends

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I had a few friends join me in the garden today.

The frog, pictured above, was happily hibernating in one of my “summer” rows. Luckily I didn’t hurt it when I was digging some clover into the soil.

Froggie found a new place to sleep near the newly planted squash.

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Luckily for the frog, Patches the cat was settling down for an afternoon nap on top of my deer fencing!

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In contrast to last weekend’s cold, wintry weather,  this weekend was balmy and spring-like.  I took advantage of the sunny conditions and let my seedlings sit outside for the day.  They loved the sun!

Everything seems to be growing nicely.   The peppers, pictured above, are getting big enough to transplant to larger containers.

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Last weekend, I moved the first flat of tomatoes to larger pots and gave them a dose of fish emulsion.  It looks like the seedlings have already doubled in size.  The second flat of tomatoes, started last weekend, are already sprouting.

I also started a flat of squash last week, and the zucchini, below, is beginning to appear.

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My snow peas and sugar snaps had grown so big, I just had to transplant them.  They are now living in pots, pictured below.

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Next weekend, I’ll start some green beans and eggplant.  And if I’m really brave, I’ll start the purple hull peas.

Until then, I’m hoping the rain lets up some so I can get in the garden beds to weed and dig in the cover crop so I’ll have somewhere to plant all these lovely seedlings!

 

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In an effort to distract myself from the upcoming 10-degree weather, I pulled out my seed catalogs and started browsing.   Browsing, of course, led to purchasing.  Lots of purchasing!  Which now will lead to work.  Lots of work!

Yes, I

bought way more seeds than I  have space to plant in my garden.  But here’s my reasoning:

  • I bought only one small packet each of the fall seeds and many of the seedlings did not survive.  I’d rather have more seeds than less, since I can always plant the leftovers next year.
  • I like to plant several different varieties of things. Take beans, for example.  I’ve purchased four different varieties (Landreth Seedless, Mountaineer Half-Runner, Purple Podded Pole and Snow Cap from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds), though unfortunately I forgot to buy my standby favorite (yard-long noodles).
  • I like to can.  So I bought pickling cucumbers as well as slicing cucumbers from Johnny’s Seeds.  And paste tomatoes as well as slicing tomatoes.
  • I like to try new things, such as spaghetti squash, striped tomatoes and melons.  Technically, melons aren’t new to me, I just haven’t had luck with them.  But the description of  Collective Farm Woman Melon in the Cook’s Garden catalog caught my interest:  “With a peach-pineapple flavor, Ukrainian heirloom..”    Yum!  And speaking of “yum”:
  • I was looking at the catalogs before lunch and I was hungry.

So tonight, as the temperatures drop and the winds howl, I’ll be dreaming of warm sunshine, delicious vegetables and cheery flowers.

 

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One of my favorite things about winter is having the time to pore over seed and bulb catalogs and order what I’m going to plant the coming year.

I used to go hog wild and buy way more than I had the time or room to plant. The crocus below were part of a 1,000-bulb order a few years ago.

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After really struggling to get those bulbs planted (and to be honest, some never made it in the ground), I’ve been a bit more restrained in my ordering.

This year’s order was perhaps the smallest in awhile, though I do have quite a few seeds left over from last year to plant. I basically ordered only things I had no seeds for; in other words, no new variety of tomato when I’ve got numerous packets on hand.

So this year’s seed order included only peas, sugar snaps, snow peas, lettuce, okra, peppers, beans, kale, corn and cucumber.

I haven’t had much luck with corn, but I’ll try again this year. I have basically given up on cabbage due to never getting it planted in time to beat the bugs. I’ve also given up broccoli, due to aphid infestation, and carrots, at least until my clay soil is better emended.

I plant a few cut flowers — sunflowers, marigolds and zinnias mostly. I’ve got some wildflowers that reseed each year and create quite a show. I’m hoping the cosmos I planted last year will do the same.

I’d like to expand my flower growing, but for now I’m focusing on the veggies. And I’m definitely not allowing myself to order any more bulbs unless a designated space has already been prepared!

That being said, few things in life make me happier than the first blooms of the season.

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I also get great joy from watching my seeds grow. The peas I planted a few weeks ago are more than ready for transplanting.

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This coming week is spring break, so I’ll be taking a few days off to work in the garden. I can’t hardly wait!

So when the dog bites and the bee stings, and my team gets blown out by an arch-rival, I simply remember the joy I get from gardening, and then I don’t feel so bad. (Apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein.)

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I love home-grown tomatoes. I also love to grow said tomatoes from seed. There are so many varieties from which to choose, and it’s not that difficult to do. Plus I can grow so much more from seed at a fraction of the cost of buying already established plants.

However, I must admit to feeling a bit lacking when I see those tall tomato plants at the garden center in April. They are at least four times larger than my seedlings!

I think I’ve figured out how to prevent my early spring tomato blues. First, I just need to remind myself of last year’s situation: I planted my puny seedlings the same time my friend P planted her much-taller store-bought plants. I vigorously fed and watered my seedlings, which resulted in my plants fruiting at the same time as P’s.

So this year, I’m going to be better about fertilizing the seedlings while they are living in their trays. I’ll just have to learn to love the smell of fish emulsion!

Of course, I’ll continue to fertilize once they are in the ground.

The other thing I need to do is start the seeds in a timely manner. Today I realized that I really needed to get some seeds started if I hope to compete with the store-bought plants. Problem is I have only one heat mat and limited space on the dining room table.

So, the dilemma before me: which seeds to start now and which to wait another week or two?

I pulled out my seed-storing box and located the tomato seeds. I currently have several varieties left over from last year: Daniels, Granny Cantrell, German Johnson, Bonny Best, Ozark Pink, Barnes Mountain Yellow, Big Mouth, Goldman’s Italian-American, and Bison.

Using a very scientific method (“eenie meenie miney moe”), I chose the first four listed above.

Today was sunny and warm, so after planting, I left the flat outside to bask in the sun. It wasn’t until late afternoon that I realized there was room for one more flat on the heat mat. Oh well…It’s supposed to monsoon (and perhaps snow) tomorrow, so the seed starting will have to wait for another day.

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I woke up today and realized that spring break for the university where I work is about three weeks away.

During spring break, students are off sunning themselves on tropical islands, while I’m spending the week working in my yard. That means planting spring crops, as well as digging up new garden beds.

I planted some seeds last fall that are currently overwintering outside (chard, greens, broccoli raab, kohlrabi), but I really needed to get going on the peas.

I usually start a round of peas indoors and have them fairly tall and hardened off before spring break. This way, there’s less of a risk of the birds nibbling the tender shoots.

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So I pulled out four varieties of pea seeds: Corne De Belier and Mammoth Melting Sugar (snow peas) and Tall Telephone and Blue Podded Blauwschokkers (shelling peas).

Next, I filled my seed-starting trays with soil. My gardening partner, Patches, made it his mission to repeated knock against my arm right right as I was trying to place the seeds in the trays.

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He finally tired of that game and went to lie in the sun. I was then able to actually plant the seeds.

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After watering the trays, I moved them inside to the dining room table, where they will live for the next few weeks.

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I figure I’ll start harvesting peas in April and May. Until then, I’ll just have to enjoy a nice, comforting bowl of split pea soup.

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