Sunday, May 31, 2009

More planting

The weather the last 2 weeks has been sunny and warmer than normal for the end of May, so I took advantage of that to get in more hot weather veggies a little early.

- two squash (Bush Delicata)
- two zucchini (Raven)

- 12 potatoes 2' apart (red, blue, russet)
- 4 bush cucumber 2' apart (Bush English slicer)

- 6' bed carrot (Nantes variety)

- 6' double row radicchio (Early Treviso)
- 6' double row summer lettuce (Slobolt, loose leaf)

- 6' double row summer European lettuce mix (Redina, Nevada, Cardinale)

This is my first try at potatoes.Two "Red Pontiac" starts from my mom, and seed potatoes from the feed store down the road. I put the seed potatoes in a sunny window for a week or so and got them sprouted.

Dug a 8" trench down the center of one bed, then hoed in steer manure and fertilizer 6" deeper. I added about 1" of soil to cover the compost (apparently, having seed potatoes touching compost or manure when planted can cause potato scab), then dropped in the potatoes and covered 3" deep. When the shoots emerge I will hill up soil around them continuously about 6" high, so the potatoes can form along the covered growing stem. I hope I get a good crop this year!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sowing seed in the garden

I have been working on getting more beds made each week, and sowing seed as I go.

This week I put in:
- 12' double row of snap peas (Sugar Snap)
- 4' bed of spinach (Olympia Hybrid)
- 12' triple row bulb onion (Yellow, from sets)
- 12' double row runner beans (Scarlet Emperor)
- 12' double row pole beans (Tri-color mix, Blue Lake, Yellow Pole Wax, Purple Peacock)
- 24' of 3 plant clumps 2' apart of corn (Earlivee Hybrid)

I also transplanted some things I started from seed:
- one row, 7 plants, tomatoes (in walls-o-water)
- 12' double row leeks (unknown variety grown by a friend)

Whew. Lots of seed to keep wet.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Making a compost pile

Every week at our new house I have 2 or 3 wheelbarrows full of weeds, bags of grass clippings, and access to as much dry hay and straw as I need - the perfect materials for making good compost. So I decided to make a compost pile, using some pallets I got for free to form a large bin.

The main ingredients: rough soil mix in the upper left, greens in the upper right, and dry straw/grass at the bottom.

These lesser ingredients are not required to make good compost, but they will ensure a rich result (from the steer manure), and help ensure the pile heats up like it should (microbes in the compost maker). Extra water is added to keep the pile moist - it should be as wet as a squeezed-out sponge.

Making the pile is easy.
1) A layer of dry material 3-6" thick. This is very important because it helps keep the pile loose and aerated, which is essential for providing oxygen for the microbes to do their work heating up the pile. If the pile is un-aerated and stays cool and wet, you end up with mold and anaerobic decomposition (it stinks!).
2) Next a layer of green material 3" thick. Weeds (avoid those going to seed), some grass clippings (not too much, they tend to clump), and vegetable scraps. Water to the correct moistness.
3) Last a thin (about 1/2") layer of dirt/manure mix, a sprinkle of "compost maker", and repeat until the pile is gone.

That's as simple as composting gets - layer some greens and browns and let it sit for 6 months. There are many technical factors operating in the background (temperature, carbon to nitrogen ratio, proper oxygenation, dozens of different microbes working together, etc) and all these can be explored and controlled if one wishes to make REALLY good compost.

Last but not least is the proper site for the compost pile. Mine is near the garden (easy to throw on weeds and trimmings) and under the branches of deciduous trees (shaded in summer so it doesn't dry out as fast and exposed in spring to the sun to warm up more quickly). We'll see how it goes.

Friday, May 15, 2009


I've noticed a bit of slug damage on the new transplants this week. Last night I went out at sunset to see if I could catch any in the act. I found quite a few right away, so I started picking them up. Pair of pliers and a cup of water with soap (keeps them from climbing out). About 15 minutes later I had swept through the whole garden: 197 slugs.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

More transplants

I dug two more raised beds this week and got the brassica seedlings in. I bought some steer manure/compost mix and an all-purpose organic fertilizer and have been incorporating both into the top 6 inches of each bed as I go. Really need some organic matter in this soil.

Kale, kohlrabi, two kinds of cabbage, and broccoli mix, ready to go in.

I'm using wider spacing this year than I have before. I've always been limited by space, so I've used "intensive planting" to fit as much in as possible. Intensive planting can work well, but more plants per square foot means more frequent watering, heavier fertilizing, and smaller plants due to crowding and competition. Now that I have plenty of room, I'm giving each plant plenty of real estate.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

First transplantings

I was finally able to get some starts in the ground this weekend. Took some doing though. I've seen deer here a few times and there is an easily identifiable game trail running along the side of the yard past the garden, so a 6' fence deer/orchard fence was necessary. Finished that on Saturday. Saturday was also the day to begin digging my raised beds. They are 30" wide and 25' long, with a 12" (one shovel's-width) path down the middle. That was hard, tiring work and slow going, so I made it through 5 (out of an eventual 12) beds. Two gates built on Sunday finished off the fortifications. Still have to set the split cedar posts and hang the gates, but staked in place they'll keep most things out until I finish.

Makes me sweat just looking at them. Shovelfuls from the path go right on top of the bed, which get smoothed out with a hard rake. This knocks the bigger clumps into the paths and smooths out the bed top, leaving a level and fine seedbed.

Got in the snap and snow peas started 50 days ago, and pricked out my earliest lettuces started at the same time. I have 3 flats of brassicas ready to go in next weekend, and lots of direct seeding to do to get the second round of cool weather veggies started. The garden will look WAY different in about a month!