It’s been only a week since we celebrated seed-starting day, and already this gardening season is on its way!
And we mean “cooking” in the figurative sense. We will certainly be cooking, literally, later on in the summer once all of our lovely vegetables appear, which we’ve now fully planted! Well…almost. Though we still have at least one plot to plant, over the weekend, we met our goal to have the majority of the rest of the garden planted. This included our tomato and pepper seedlings, along with cucumbers, squash, and beans.
While we didn’t need to get everything in the ground this past weekend — our planting calendar’s last viable day for planting is May 31 — we didn’t want to miss out on the perfectly perfect weather. Okay, so it was a little on the cooler side generally, but we’d much rather be working outside when it’s in the breezy 70s than in the heat of the 90s. Plus, a big rainy storm just passed, and we wanted to get things in the ground before any more mudiness ensued. So we set to work last Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. And it paid off!
First off, we planted our cucumber bed. And though you can’t really tell from the picture, there are little mounds all around the edges from which cucumbers will soon sprout! We also uncovered a couple volunteer cucumbers that you can see at the bottom and right-hand edges.
Then, we seeded the entire bean bed. In the horizontal rows are all of our bush beans, and then pole beans will eventually take over the cages in the middle. At the far end of the bed, we ended up planted more peas. That particular spot is very shady thanks to a neighboring tree, and nothing we’re ever put there has seemed to do well. In the past, we’ve tried beans and cucumbers, and their yields were mediocre. This year, we decided on peas. If nothing else, they might just save the beans! We know from past experience that rabbits really like bean shoots, but they really, really like pea shoots. So if any peas do come up, we’ll happily sacrifice them as long as they distract the rabbits from the beans.
Moving on, we planted eight groupings of tomato seedlings along the edge of our first stone bed. There’s still asparagus coming up on the other side, so we’re avoiding planting there for the moment. (That may change as we have lots of tomato seedlings.) (Also, sorry for the sideways picture. A couple others are probably coming up. We were a little tired at this point.)
In the second stone bed are all our squashes. After getting way too many traditionally large zucchini a couple years back, we didn’t plant any zucchini seeds this year, save for a small golden zucchini variety. The volunteer squash at the end of the bed is still a question mark, but hopefully we’ll get some nice variety this year — acorn, butternut, pattypan, long pie, and so on.
And along the back, our barrels contain an array of peppers and tomatoes.
(Seriously, the sideways pictures are bit much. Going to have to look at these camera settings!)
All in all, we had a great weekend of planting, and it’s a relief to have just about everything in the ground now. As we mentioned, we still have at least one more bed to plant – not sure yet what’s going to go in it. Probably more tomatoes and peppers, somehow. But that decision will have to wait until next weekend. Also, it looks like we may be harvesting strawberries soon! Probably not within the rest of the month, but hopefully next month. They’ve been a little slow to grow and ripen, but it looks like some warm weather is once again on it’s way, which will really help them along.
And finally, check out what else we found growing:
This is a tall red poppy that we found growing in our yet-to-be flower beds at the edge of front yard. (By “yet-to-be” it means that the beds need to be weeded and planted. More tasks for Memorial Day weekend!) The funny thing is that we’ve never specifically planted any poppies in these beds, ever. However, last year we got some free wildflower seeds from our of our seed companies, and we scattered them in these flower beds. Nothing came of them last year, but we think this poppy was part of the mix, and somehow the seeds survived the winter. It’s a very pretty flower, and the plant looks like it contains a few more buds, so maybe we’ll see a few more flowers show up before its demise.
So it seems that this year, March and May decided to switch places. During March, temperatures round here were moderate to above average. Now here was are in May with days barely reaching 60 degrees! While it’s nice to not suddenly be in the 80s (June will be here soon enough), this weather pattern has put a damper on gardening activities. And the rain isn’t helping either. Well, it is helping of course, but you know what we mean.
Last Friday we had a dreary day full of rain, and it soaked the backyard through and through. The idea then was to hope that things dried out enough, and got warm enough over Saturday so that we could start some tomato and pepper transplants on Sunday. What actually happened was that it was cold and showery on Saturday and even colder but less showery (though it still rained a little) on Sunday. So our ground has been too cold and too soggy for anything much, though some of the lettuces and green that we planted that time around have started showing small sprouts. Nothing too exciting is happening yet, however. If things dry out a little this week, maybe we ‘ll have something fun to show next time.
These past couple mornings, we’ve been waking up to temperatures in the 40s! Yes…four-zero. In May. And the daytime highs have only just broke 60. As long as it doesn’t rain between now and the weekend, the ground might be warm enough for the tomato and pepper seedlings, but we’ll just have to wait and see. (According to the current weather report, it’s possible that we’ll have another cold wash-out this coming Saturday…so that’s just great. 😦 ) It’s certainly not warm enough yet for in-ground seeds, such as squash and cucumbers and beans. However, it does look like some of our early pea plants might just make it…if they can survive the two silly rabbits we keep seeing around the yard. (And where there are two rabbits, there are bound to be little ones eventually.) Ah, such are the trials and tribulations of gardening.
By the way, it’s not like we’re just sitting around twiddling our thumbs as we wait for the weather to warm up. We just started renovating one of our bathrooms, and it’s been more than enough to keep us busy inside. In fact, the process turned up some troubling insulation problems that need to be rectified. Do you know what mangled and decaying 50-year-old insulation looks like? Friends, it is gross and dusty. And gross. And really, really dusty. After dealing with it, working outside in the cold rain sounds like paradise.
We’ll sign off with a look at our seedlings. How we hope that they hold out long enough to see the outdoors!
Well, this year, we’re doing things differently.
For one, we’re skipping the planting maps. Well…we’re skipping preparing them in advance, anyway. Driving this is the seedlings.
We have so many potential tomatoes and peppers that we want to plant them all! So, outside of the beds where we’ve been planting beans, cucumbers, peas, squash, and greens — those will remain — we’re going to transplant all the peppers and tomatoes first, in all available spaces, and then we’re going to fill in any extra spaces with other crops. At that point, we’ll fill in our planting maps just to keep track of what’s been planted where.
Because of this, secondarily, the garden may be a little less diverse than it has been in past years. We’ll likely skip planting a number of things that have been hit-or-miss, such as okra, soybeans, brussel sprouts, broccoli, and possibly ground cherries and radishes. But we’ll see how things go. A lot will depend on how well the pepper and tomato seedlings take.
So what’s going in the garden this year will be mostly tomatoes and peppers, along with our usual complement of bush beans, pole beans, cucumbers, various squash, greens and lettuces. Additionally, we’ll be planting a variety of flowers as rabbit-proofing, as well as a few surprises. It should all be very interesting, at least.
If there’s one thing that we’ve learned about plants since starting this whole gardening thing, it’s that it is possible to be too fussy. Granted, many plants require lots of TLC and looking after in order for them to grow strong and healthy, but many don’t. And once fussiness sets in, that leads to worry, and that leads to stress. We keep bringing up our dismal seedlings of last year as a reminder to ourselves that sometimes it’s simply best to let nature do its thing. Because this year, we’ve done just that with the seedlings…and look…!
Last year, as things with the seedlings only got worse and worse, we completely stressed out over them. We found ourselves planting new seeds every week through March and April in the hopes that something, anything, would happen. We watched the seedlings like hawks and were constantly switching trays to different shelves, trying out new light sources, watering too much or too little, and adding and taking away heat.
This year, we’ve practically ignored them. And look how good it worked! Oh, but seriously, we have been tending to them like good plant parents, but not only did we find non-fussiness to be an answer, we also found that taking the simple route is the way to go. Water the seedlings only when they are dry. Remove the “runts” regularly. Keep them generally warm, and only add extra heat only on especially cool days. And most of all, check on them once a day, but only check. If things look dour, take action. Otherwise, enjoy the little seedlings as they continue on their journey. After all, this is only the beginning. 🙂
Can you believe it’s Spring, officially?! Over the past week, we’ve been battling the remnants of Winter Storm Stella, which included a days-long bout of dealing with snow melt and refreshing. Nope, we didn’t get much snow from the storm — a few inches at most — but we did end up with lots of ice. And because we were in the deep freeze for most of the week, the same own that did fall stuck around much longer than expected. In fact, the past couple days we’ve enjoyed some very Spring-like weather with temps in the 50s, so most of the snow is gone by now. Unfortunately, it left our yard a muddy mess. We had though we might get out over the weekend to do some clean-up, but it didn’t happen. Maybe this coming weekend, if it doesn’t rain. Ah well, it’s always something.
Anyhow, while things remain unsettled outdoor, indoors our little seedlings are coming along quite well. Let’s take a closer look!
Starting on the top shelf, we have the pepper tray, Tray 4. It’s up here because peppers like warmth and this shelf gets the warmest (hot air raises and all that). And unlike last year when most of the peppers were no-shows, we have pepper seedlings! Well, somewhat. Interestingly, all the seedlings here are hot peppers –chiles, cayennes, and rellenos. The rest of the rows contain seeds of sweet peppers. No signs of life there yet. We know that pepper seeds can be slow to germinate, and honestly, we didn’t expect to see even the smallest hint of anything from this tray til the end of March, at least. So it’s nice to see the early risers, but we’ll be keeping an eye on them to make sure they don’t die off early.
This tray contains a few rows of peppers and mostly flowers. We took a picture of the side that’s showing the most life, which happens to be the flowers. Things aren’t looking too shabby, though we did have a row of marigolds die off. But that’s okay — they’re easy enough to plant outside. Plus, we have enough seeds to replant this row of need be. Starting the flowers here was just an experiment. If they take, great! But no harm if not. We’re more concerned about the peppers, so hopefully we’ll see some seedlings on the left side of the tray soon!
Tray 2 and Tray 1
These are the tomato trays, and they’re both doing great! And this is after only two weeks of growth. Needless to say, we’re both happy and a little wary. Last year our tomato seedlings all came up like champs, but then the majority died off before replanting. So we’re watching these very carefully. We’re keeping the warm but not to warm, and watered enough but not too watered. We’re also going to try some intermediate transplanting — placing some in small clay pots. To add to the testing, we purchased a few plastic garden cloche. We’ll place the seedlings under them and see how they do. But that process is a little ways off. These seedlings remain fragile newborns, so we don’t want to disturb them too much.
Keeping an eye on the seedlings is just one task of many; there’s no shortage of stuff to do…we just need Mother Nature to remain calm for awhile so we can do it!
As much as we’ve been hemming and hawing about the lack of “spring” in this year’s Spring, not everything has gone sour. In fact, if anything, this year is turning out to be late and slow, which isn’t all bad. Though it seems like the un-sunny and un-warm weather has put a kink in things, maybe we’ll luck out and have a sunny and warm Fall, which would help extend the growing season past our usual ending in October. Or maybe we’ll have a great summer that’ll kick things into overdrive! All we can do is wait and see. In the meantime, indoors, we’re still caring for tomato seedlings, putting them outside when the sun comes out. Maybe they’ll get in the ground before the end of the month. We also, finally, have some pepper seedlings! They are still so tiny at this point, but a good dozen or so of the full tray that we planted have been steadily growing. It better than nothing.
How are things outdoors? So glad you asked! Because we’re about to get on with our first of out monthly updates in pictures. Let the gallery commence!
Thanks for joining us for this first trip around our 2016 garden. Hopefully things will just get better from here on out!