Spring is here in full force, whether the calendar agrees or not. Every time I look outside at the garden I feel like I’m in a marathon race with the ever growing weeds. The soil around here is clay, so there is a small window of opportunity to easily pull weeds after a rain shower. Our window was late last week and on Saturday. By Sunday our window was up. It feels overwhelming, this big vegetable garden full of weeks. Sometimes I feel defeated already, that the weeds have already won this marathon, but as Scott reminded me the other day, we just need to work at it little by little everyday and we’ll get rid of them.
Meanwhile, let’s turn our heads away from the weed filled veggie garden down to the weed filled narcissus and daffodils that popped up this late winter. There are about four rows at the front of the vegetable garden that popped up and many large clumps that appeared all over the yard. I wasn’t all that familiar with narcissus before now, but their smell is out of this world! So fragrant! Put them on your must plant list!
The asparagus is also shooting up, everyday we go out and pick a thick handful. This is only one of two large, long rows. We’re spoiled. We planted three meager asparagus plants at our last house, now I have learned that it’s best to plant more than you’ll think you’ll ever need. You can always share with friends, right?
Above is a sign of progress that makes me a very, very happy woman. Drip tubing! Installed in two flower beds with a thick layer of mulch over the top.
Year after year we plant our summer garden from seeds that we order from a mail order company. We plant the seeds, watch them sprout with awe and tend to them all growing season long. I’ve never really felt a connection to where the seeds come from until this year. We have done seed exchanges through Seed Exchange before, but still we didn’t know the people, so it was just as personal as if we had ordered from a catalog.
Last summer, a blog I’ve read for a good while now, Down to Earth held a little blog contest where the winner would win two bars of her handmade soap, two hand knit dish towels and a homegrown loofah along with seeds to grow the loofah. Of course it was too late in our hemisphere to plant them, however a few weeks ago we were sorting through our seeds and came upon the little folded envelope. I couldn’t wait to see if they would sprout and they did! Now every time I walk by these two little pots, it is such a neat thing to know that someone, halfway around the world, in Australia, saved these seeds from her garden, packaged these little seeds up and sent them to me so that I try them out in my garden.
You can be assured that if we are able to grow these successfully, then I too will have to throw a little giveaway with a loofah and seeds. And maybe a hand knit dishcloth and who knows, maybe even a bar of soap…the lye is in the mail!
In the past we’ve always grown our potatoes directly into the ground. But this year we got a little crazy in our thinking and tried them out in our raised beds and wouldn’t you know, they are our most successful potatoes to date. Well, at least the tops of the potatoes are the most successful, who knows what’s going on underground. We ordered our potatoes (and shallots) from Milk Ranch as we do most years. What you are looking at here are the Rose Finn Apple potatoes and behind that are small square beds of Russet Norkatah and Red Gold. We planted all of these on February 27th and have mounded them up a few times since they’ve sprouted.
If you are new to potatoes, you should download this great potato growing guide straight from Milk Ranch themselves.
We also ordered shallots this year. We’ve never grown them before, but we liked the name of them. Old German Shallots. In my imaginative mind, I had half hoped they would sprout up with beer steins and big strawberry blond beards, but alas, all we are getting are leaves. They are pretty though. Fast Grow the Weeds recently wrote about her shallots too. Can’t wait to see these when they are ready. Shallots are something we are frequently buying so it will be nice to have them from our own garden this year.
How about you? Any shallots or potatoes in your garden this year?
tomato seedling riddled with damping off
Scott and I aren’t experts at seedling fatality diagnostics, but we’re pretty sure that for the last two years in a row at least one of our tomato seedlings has succumbed to ‘damping off.’ Damping off or seedling rot is caused by fungi that live in the soil. When you keep the soil continuously damp, give it some high humidity and maybe some cloudy days it sets that fungi in action and ready to destroy your fragile little seedling stems.
How Do You Notice Damping Off?
We first notice it when the base of the 1″ stems get thin and white, the next day they fall over and die. Sometimes the damping off will affect your seedlings before they even sprout.
How can You Prevent it?
You can prevent Damping Off by sterilizing everything before you plant your seeds. If you make your own seed soil mix you can sterlize your seed soil in the oven with this tutorial. Make sure to wash your planting flats thoroughly too. When seedlings are crowded together that also will activate the fungi, so try to only plant one seed per planting cell.
What to Do When You Spot Damping Off.
Believe it or not, there is a slim chance that you can rescue your poor seedlings from damping off. When you first spot it stop watering right around the base of the plant. Give the seedlings as much light and air as you can. However we’ve had our seedlings our in bright sunlight with low humidity and they always die on us. My recommendation would be to start new seeds immediately when you spot it because chances are slim that you’ll save your new growth.
This year due to all the house renovations we’ve undertaken and our battle with damping off, we’re going to be buying most of our tomatoes and peppers. That’s just fine, it feels good to take a year off from nuturing seedlings in pots.
Have you had any seedling fatalities this year so far?
Last year we learned our lesson early, the chickens ate all of our spinach starts. All of them. In a matter of moments. It was a complete masacre. So the poor chickens were relegated to this smaller picket fenced yard within our yard. However they can easily jump over that, so we built up this really attractive layer of wire fencing over the pickets to make the fence higher. But still they were able to get through the fence somehow. Which means that while already watching a three year old and a one year old, I often had to go flying outside to shoo chickens out of the garden. A lot of days I’d just give up an leave them in their coop, and while that it’s a very nice coop, it just felt like animal abuse that they could run around like ‘spring chickens’.
This year, I got creative. Over our new pea, spinach, lettuce, and daikon radish seedlings I put mounds of wire. First a layer of old flat wire fencing, then on top of that our big round metal tomato cages. It looks like these poor seedlings are doing time behind a prision fence, but at least it keep them safe. And the chickens can roam free and we can keep their egg yolks that insane orange color with all the bug and weed eating. We need their bug eating ability now to get the first harmful bugs out of yard too.
I don’t know if we are going to have enough intimidating wire to cover our entire backyard this growing season, but at least during this early spring start, I can rest a little easier.
Have you found any tricks to keep your chickens away from your seedlings?
So were we, so we grew some:
It’s windy today, and sunny but with big huge clouds looming in the sky. I wish it were just plain sunny and warm because tonight is the farmers market in town and the new Ben and Jerrys on the square is giving away free ice cream tonight! Now of course I’ll take free ice cream in any weather, but wouldn’t it be so much nicer if it was warm? Anyway, I’m taking you on a tour of the middle of our veggie garden today, please don’t mind the weeds. It was recently covered in favas and vetch, but now that those have been pulled and tilled, its full of little seedlings. Oh and one more artichoke plant:
Behind the artichoke and the new raised bed (that’s waiting for cucumber seeds to sprout), we have the melon row. Here’s one of the few melons that survived the frosty mornings, a crenshaw.
Behind the melons is tomato alley:
In the tomato bed is a sea full of volunteer amaranth, wonder berry and purple haze carrots (those we actually planted).
As you’ll notice in all of our pictures we have those purple amaranth and little wonder berries. Both of those things we started a few years ago, just with one plant and now they come up *everywhere*! The wonder berries were advertised as being just like huckleberries, but I’m here to report that they are not at all like huckleberries and I wish those stinkin’ little sprouts would just go away already. The amaranth, however are a beautiful and welcome surprise to find around the yard. Both the leaves and seeds are edible. You can eat the leaves young in salads, older steamed like spinach and the seed is a grain that you can eat like rice or quinoa.
Behind the tomatoes is our new three part bed that Scott just made. This bed receives quite a bit of shade in the summer because it’s right by three huge cedar trees and our weeping santa rosa plum tree. So in go the cooler season crops like another lettuce bed (lettuce is so easy to grow, its a sin to have to pay for it at the store):
and French breakfast radishes:
Throughout this middle section is a scattering of borage (again another one we started with just one plant and now have little volunteers everywhere):
Well, the little ones are up, so I must go. Next up, the right side of the garden.
..and the peas are up!