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.

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Starting Over, Sort Of

So last time we revealed the problems we encountered with this year’s crop of seedlings — that’s to say, they just weren’t making it. While things initially looked like they got off to a rip-roaring start, all was not well, and the bulk the seedlings that had come up were dying. So this past weekend, we decided to start over, in a sense, despite it being late in the seedling, um…season. This involved saving the seedlings that were doing okay and replanting the trays.

After reviewing the trays, we counted a few dozen seedlings — mostly tomato seedlings — that looked okay to move out of the trays. They still had leaves and weren’t too wilted. Then we made a trip to our favorite dollar store to pick up about a million…or maybe just 50 little terra cotta pots. (In the past we used dixie cups to hold seedlings that were too young to put outside but too big for the seed trays. This year we decided to go with something more reusable, hence, the terra cotta pots.) And we also got a few plastic trays to hold the pots. We already had plenty of coir/seed starting mix, as well as a stash of soil, so we we’re ready to go with our dollar store haul.

Small, yes, but the perfect size for holding small seedlings.
Small, yes, but the perfect size for holding small seedlings.

Back at the abode, we divvied out the pots onto the plastic trays and set about labeling them, filling them each with a bit of fresh soil, and moving the “good” seedlings to their new homes. Once that was done, we fully replanted most of trays according to our trays maps. We had to make a few adjustments, as in some cases, such as with the tomatillos and the special Planet Hybrid peppers, we didn’t have any more seeds. In their places we planted more tomatoes and arugula.

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Go, little seedlings! Go!

So here we are, keeping close watch on the transplanted seedlings and waiting to see what comes of the newly-planted seeds. We’re back on track with watering and aren’t using the mylar “blankets” to keep things overly warm. Instead, we ‘re just going to hope for the best. Frankly, in a couple of weeks we’ll be able to start planting seeds of lettuces, other greens, and peas outdoors. And shortly after that, it’ll be time to plants beans, cucumbers, squash, and transplanting any tomatoes and peppers. So whatever makes it indoors, makes it, and we’ll be grateful enough for that. 🙂

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Part of gardening is accepting the challenge of gardening. Nobody said it was going to be easy!

 

 

It’s go time, for real! (Part 1)

Alrighty, let’s get planting!

That was our motto for the the past week. As much as we had hoped to get to planting last week, it just didn’t happen. Aside from a few pockets of rain here and there, we had a week of really fine weather. (And with it being sunny and in the 80s today, we couldn’t have asked for a better start to this week!) Over the course of several lovely evenings, we got a number of new plants in the ground — tomatoes, peppers, greens, and ground cherries, along with cucumber seeds and scattered flower seeds. In all of the planting beds we’ve interspersed a number of different flowers, mostly different varieties of marigolds with morning glories and violas. (As well as sunflowers, but we’re counting most of those among the plants we can eat.) Mixing flowers and vegetable plants expounds upon the notion of companion planting and hopefully, it’ll bring all the bees to the yard. (No milkshakes, please.) All. The. Bees! Or, we wish. It’s no secret that honey bee populations have been in decline; we’re happy to host lots of bumblebees. The wasps…those we could do without. Anyhoo, it’s too soon to know if any of the flowers have taken, but maybe we’ll have some very pretty beds in a couple months.  Here are just some of the garden beds with their new tenants. (Sorry about all the netting, it’s our initial countermeasure against all the birds and squirrels. And goodness, the yard has been full of them lately!)

First off, the cucumbers. Okay, so you can;t really see the mounds, but this raised bed is full of 2nd gen. seeds, pickling, and sugar crunch varieties.
First off, the cucumbers. Okay, so you can’t really see the mounds, but this raised bed is full of 2nd gen. seeds, pickling, and sugar crunch varieties.
Last yea, this little bed by the house was full of cherry tomatoes. Since the strwberry is taking over one half of the bed, only one tomato
Last year, this little bed by the house was full of cherry tomatoes. Since the strawberry is taking over one half of the bed, we’ve only put in one tomato plant to far.
In one barrel we have ground cherry seedlings and wax beans...
In one barrel we have ground cherry seedlings and wax beans…
...in the other we have more ground cherries and cowpeas.
…in the other we have more ground cherries and cowpeas.
And now the stone bed, in 4 parts. Tomatoes, peppers, and mixed greens.
And now the stone bed, in 4 parts. Tomatoes, peppers, and mixed greens, part 1.
The stone bed, part 2.
The stone bed, part 2.
The stone bed, part 3.
The stone bed, part 3.
Annnnd,,,The stone bed, part 4.
Annnnd,,,The stone bed, part 4.

As of today, we’ve only had to replace one tomato plant that didn’t survive the transplant. It’s tough watching the little seedlings right now as they all seem so small and fragile in the big, ol’ ground!  Some seem to be taking to their new homes just fine, while others struggle. (Mainly the tomatoes; the peppers seem to be doing okay for the moment.) After a big storm last night, a couple of the plants have broken stems, so we may have more replacements to take care of in the near future.

Come back next week as we show more wondrous stretches of dirt with seeds in them! Also, we’ll go over just what seeds were planted where. That’s probably little more exciting than dirt.

Maybe.

Preparing and Planting (A Little)

This past weekend was so absolutely GORGEOUS, we totally forgot to get a Sunday post done! Seriously, the beautiful weather we experienced over the course of 48 hours was something to write home about. Both Saturday and Sunday were magnificently warm and breezy, it was an absolute shame to have to be indoors at all. But we weren’t, not for the bulk of the weekend.

Most of the glorious day Saturday was spent readying two of the square, raised beds for the greens and romanesco. With the weather being a little wonky this month, we waited until the end of the ideal transplanting time (end of the second week of April) to move some (not all) of these plants outside. We raked up each beds’ cover of leaves and tilled up the existing soil. We found one bed to be in really good shape soil-wise, while the other left something to be desired. The massive rains of the past couple weeks did nothing to help soil erosion, that’s for sure. But we did put some of the compost to good use. Between that and some potting soil we had leftover from last year, we filled in one of the beds quite nicely.

After the hard work, it was time for the easy stuff — transplanting!  We chose the strongest of the greesn and romanesco from their temporary dixie cups and moved them to the beds. So now we have one bed of argula and romanesco transplants:

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Sorry for the blurriness…also the chicken wire. More on that in a bit.

And we have one bed full of kale, mesclun, lettuce, and spinach transplants:

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What the heck is that pole in the middle?? We’ll get to that too.

So far so good in each of the beds. In the one with arugula and romanesco we scattered a bunch of dill seeds (companion planting). The spinach in the second bed is looking a bit troubled at the moment, so it’s likely we’ll add more seeds to the mix in the coming weeks.

As for all the accouterments, you can thank the insanely active wildlife that’s taken over the backyard this month for that. Already the squirrels are out in full force, and the birds have become morning alarm clocks. The chicken wire makes for a great barrier and nothing has gotten in that bed. In the second bed, that stake is holding up a piece of bird netting, which is doing a fine barrier job as well.

In addition to dealing with the greens, we also transplanted or little basil seedlings into planters, and we placed a couple in the cold frame to see how it would do there. They seem to be fine in the warm weather, but with cold and rain on the way, we’ll probably bring them indoors for some portion of the week.

We also set about planting an early crop of peas in the bed with the trellis.

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The pea-trellis bed from last year.

Unfortunately, we did not think to cover that bed with netting or wire, and we found evidence the next day of squirrels digging in the soil with their little, squirrely mitts! Thankfully not many of peas had been dug up, and we have more to replace any that were captured. You bet your boot that a piece of bird netting now covers the bed.

The best surprise of the weekend came from our strawberry plant. Last year we planted two strawberry plants in a large pot with a decorative, iron trellis. One plant didn’t make it, but one soldiered on. Late last year we move the pot next to the small cherry tomato bed by the house so that we could keep an eye on it. Over the course of the winter we watched as the thing became frozen, buried, and defrosted. This past weekend, we removed some of the dead leaves from the cherry tomato bed and found that the strawberry had thrown out a number of shoots into the bed! Better yet, they were growing!

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The strawberry, taking over!

This situation is making us rethink the fate of that bed. We still want to plant tomatoes in it somehow, so we might try to carefully trellis the vines on the ground. Or we might just leave the whole thing to become a strawberry bed (no complaints!). Or we might move the strawberry elsewhere. Funny thing is we actually found more shoots on the other side of the pot growing in the teeniest line of soil next to the house. One way or another, that strawberry is determined to live, and we’re going to do our best to make sure it has a long and happy life!

Welcoming a Wonderful Weekend

This has felt like the nicest weekend we’ve had since…well…since last fall! There hasn’t been a raindrop in site for at least 48 hours, temperatures have been in the 50s, and it’s been sunny from dawn to dusk.  Couldn’t ask for more!

We had several projects in mind for the weekend, but really only completed one: transplanting our day lilies from inside the cold frame. This proved quite a task as the ground was still quite soaked. Our clay-rich soil was wet to the core; so instead of digging the lilies out of the semi-dense ground, we dug them out of what turned out to be mud. And that mud got everywhere as the traipsed around the yard. There’s more rain in the forecast this week, for which we are glad if only to wash away all the muddy footprints we left behind.

The cold frame surrounded by the spouting day lilies.
The cold frame surrounded by the spouting day lilies.

As we may have previously mentioned, before our time in this house, someone decided to plant day lilies along the sides of the house and garage. Frankly, they could have planted one or two of the things as they spread like wildfire! During our first Spring here, we were happily greeted  with the unmistakable green fronds and orange flowers. Well, the spot for our new cold frame  was mad with newly-sprouting lilies, and we needed that space for our seedlings; so after plenty of work and digging, off they went to spots at the front of the house.

Last year, this circular bed in the front lawn held corn, which was summarily destroyed by the squirrels. This year, they can have all the fun they want with day lilies!
Last year, this circular bed in the front lawn held corn, which was summarily destroyed by the squirrels. This year, they can have all the fun they want with day lilies!
More lilies are now keeping a bunch of daffodils company in a bed on one side of the front entrance.
More lilies are now keeping a bunch of daffodils company in a bed on one side of the front entrance.
And lilies now live in what was a dead space in a bed on the other side of the front entrance.
And lilies now live in what was a dead space in a bed on the other side of the front entrance.

While a few might not survive the transplants, we’re sure that the majority of these hardy plants will.

Meanwhile, our seedlings remain indoors, and probably will for at least another week. We want to wait out more rain storms this week to see how wet and warm it gets in the frame before setting the tomatoes and peppers outside. Plus we’re keeping a pretty close eye on the extended forecast. Frost isn’t likely here at this time of year, but below freezing temps aren’t out of the question either.

Tray #1 tomatoes are looking so good!
Tray #2 tomatoes are looking so good!
Tray #2 peppers are slowly but surely coming along.
Tray #3 peppers are slowly but surely coming along. Sad that not a single 2nd gen. seed has germinated (2 empty rows). None probably will at this point.
Tray #4 tomatoes and ground cherries are also doing quite well.
Tray #4 tomatoes and ground cherries are also doing quite well.
All the things from Tray #1 (greens, broccoli) are now in small cups. Giving them more room to spread out as been great for them.
All the things from Tray #1 (greens, broccoli) are now in small cups. Giving them more room to spread out as been great for them.
More temporary homes for Tray #1 items.
More temporary homes for Tray #1 items.
And the rest of Tray #1 in new homes.
And the rest of Tray #1 in new homes.

Forgot to get a picture of the basil seedlings this week, but it’s managing just fine.

Next weekend’s plans include plenty of soil-turning, so hopefully Mother nature will cooperate!