Saturday, April 3, 2010

Spring has Sprung!

My computer's been down; luckily, I have my own personal, live-in IT guy - with benefits! It was a HUGE job to get it sorted out - Thanks, Rick!

Meanwhile, life goes on! Here's a little photo essay of some of the season's earliest growth in my garden. The first is (look closely!) lettuce coming up.

I planted pots of Bronze Arrow and Emerald Oak, as well as some baby leaf spinach and left the pots outside. I knew they would take longer to germinate there than inside under lights, but transplanting is always tricky and it's a pain in the ass to "harden off" plants.

Basically, this means dragging them in and out for a week or two, gradually leaving them outside for longer periods of time, so they can adjust to outdoor temperatures, light, and wind. I'm trying to avoid all that and minimize my use of grow lights by planting everything I can outside. I'd love to have a little greenhouse, and not use fossil fuels to start any seeds, but that's down the road a bit.

Besides conserving space under the lights, I'm also trying to conserve precious garden space by growing these in pots. Plus, I'm trying to get around the usual problem of having too much lettuce all at once in early summer, and then having it bolt as soon as the weather really warms. I'm thinking I'll plant a few at a time, move the pots to cooler spots when the weather warms, and hopefully, space my harvest out over a longer period of time.

Here you can see garlic coming up in the long containers, and maybe if you squint, see the spinach coming up in the clay pot.

I'm very pleased with the garlic. I planted it in the fall, when I planted garlic in other places in the garden - among the roses, in the herb garden, and a few in places I now can't remember!

Anyway, after I planted it, I checked "the bible;" i.e. McGee & Stuckey's The Bountiful Container and learned that garlic is one of the few crops they recommend against planting in containers. Oh, well.

I left them in the garage over the winter, stumbled across the pots a few weeks ago, and was pleased to see them sprouting! I think I will carefully transplant them soon, into the ground. Or maybe just one container, and leave the other - see how it works out.

Here is the current state of my herb bed. I should have taken a "before" photo; before I let the chickens dig here, and then pruned things back. You can see a heavily pruned clump of sage in the back, between the tree and the window.

To the right and forward of the sage, you can see chives coming up. To the left of the chives is a clump of oregano, with clumps of thyme in the left foreground. The right foreground has two seemingly bare patches that actually have mint and the only clump of parsley I left from last year coming up.

Parsley, as I'm sure you know, is a biennial. That means it will come up again this year, but quickly go to seed. I started new seedlings indoors, but left one of last year's so it can seed the garden for next year. Hopefully, that will be one less set of seedlings I'll have to start indoors next year.

Here's something fun - "volunteers"! I like this name for seedlings that you haven't planted, at least not this season, that sprout in unexpected places. These seedlings look like curcubits of some sort, but what I do not know. I don't remember ever planting cucumbers in one of these planter boxes, but it's entirely possible that compost I dumped in there had cucumber seeds in it.

The more I think about it, though, the more I think it's spaghetti squash. The reason is that, during winter, I gave one to the chickens. The hay you see on top is from the chicken pen. I wanted to keep them active in winter, as our extension agent advised, so put a flake of hay in there.

Normally, I wouldn't do this, because the hay, like their droppings, is high in nitrogen. The goal with a chicken pen is to keep the carbon (wood chips, e.g.) to nitrogen ratio high. If you have too much nitrogen, you end up with a very nasty smelling pen.

In the fall, they had a blast in the yard scratching apart flakes of hay. But in winter they just stood on it. I finally realized it was keeping them up off the cold frozen ground. So I gave them more, thinking I'd take it out as soon as the weather warmed - and before I ended up with a nasty mess on my hands.

A couple of weeks ago, I raked up the hay (which by now they had scratched apart), together with their droppings and other matter, put some of it in these planter boxes, and covered the planter boxes with plastic, thinking to speed the composting process. Yesterday, I took the plastic off, and voila! Curcubits.

The potatoes (that I wrote about here) sucessfully transplanted out. You can see one of our two potato towers in the background of this photo. In the foreground are three raised beds with dwarf blueberries.

What else? The raspberries are starting to leaf out. Indoors, I have Juliet, Amish Paste, and Brandywine tomato seedlings just sprouted under lights, as well as parsley, cilantro, basil, and eggplant. The bell peppers are just starting to lift their heads, and I'm still waiting on the poblanos and jalapenos.

What about you? What's sprouting in your neck of the woods?

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