The little peas-periment

While the weekend before last might have been a showstopper, this past weekend was nothing to sneeze about…unless you have allergies. In which case…sorry. Necessary medication aside, it was a good time to get back out in the yard to finish all the clean-up work. Namely, cleaning out the beds of most of the leaves from last fall and checking out the state of the soil. While it looks like we’ll have to invest in a few bags of new soil, all in all, we’re pretty much ready to go. Now all we need is a couple weeks worth of above 60-degree daytime temps. Looking at the extended forecast, things are looking promising.

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When all is quiet

Should we use this space to complain about yet another snowstorm? Eh, at this point, it seems quiet redundant. But yes, along with everyone else, we survived our fourth Nor’Easter of March. And though this one dumped them most snowfall of all the storms this month, it really wasn’t that bad. Our local road crews did a good job of keeping the streets clear, and we really only had to shovel out once. Plus, warm temps that followed made quick work of the snow generally, though even now there are still a few stubborn piles here and there. An d this week, Mother Nature has changed her tune significantly towards a Spring-ier song! Warm and rainy is what’s promised…we’ll see how that all pans out.

Another snowy day, as seen from our screened-in porch

Meanwhile, there’s little else to report. Our new sump pump has been working like a champ, and we’ve had no further plumbing mishaps *knock on wood* since. The seedlings are doing nicely, and we made a first pass at thinning out the tomatoes (more on that next week). As we head into Easter, it’s a good time for some quiet reflection anyway. And right now, we’ll take all the quiet we can get!

Is there such a thing as “cold fatigue?”

Boy, has it ever been chilly around these parts lately! If this March has proven anything this year, it’s that it is in no way ready to relinquish that whole “In like a lion…” thing. We’ve had our share of warm snaps this winter, but March has been steadily in the 30s and 40s (if not colder) for most of the month. And now we’re facing our fourth Nor’Easter …yes, big ol’ numero FOUR… of the month! As it’s now just the First Day of Spring, if we aren’t ready for some warmth, we don’t know who is!

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Now we’re cooking!

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.

In a holding pattern

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.

Maybe.

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!

The pepper seedlings are looking quite robust. No really…they do compared to the poor things from last year!
Things are looking very sparse now in the flowers/pepper tray. We’re hoping to get these seedlings out in a couple beds once the weather is better.
These tomato seedlings look okay, except for the spindliness and droopiness. But neither is too troubling yet. We know if we plant these seedlings deep enough, they should take off quite nicely.
The second tray of tomato seedlings looks much better. They’re ready for transplanting…but we have to wait on the weather for now.

 

What’s going in the garden this year? Good question!

Around this time each season, we’ve worked on preparing our planting maps. Using, umm…highly sophisticated drawing software (read: MS Paint), we outline our planting beds and decide where to put everything from beans to kale to tomatoes.
Just one example from last year. See, highly sophisticated graphics and all.

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.

Lookin’ good!

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.

Now, because we’re replacing the wood raised beds with concrete blocks, we’re hoping to take advantage of the spaces within the blocks themselves to try planting a few underground items in them, such as carrots and radishes, that need the extra length.
While the aesthetics might leave something to be desired, the practicality is where it’s at.

 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.

We sign off with our lovely strawberries, which just started blooming. June can’t come soon enough!