Tuesday, 17 May 2011
Crazy Time in the Garden
The next two weeks are crunch time in the garden. Almost everything should be in the ground between now and around June 1st. There are a few things that can go in after that date, but not much later if you expect to get a harvest by fall. In other words we need to get out there and dig. (Not that we haven't been!)
Right now lettuce and spinach are still going strong from last year's fall planting under hoop houses. However, they will have to be pulled right around June 1st and replaced with the melon, cucumber, squash and tomato plants that are growing in pots inside right now.
That's actually an easy job compared to some. This bed, for example, needs a touch of weeding. Okay, really it nearly has to be completely re-dug. We are making a concerted effort to get most of the beds edged in plastic this spring, and this is why. It's expensive, but it removes three-quarters of the work of weeding the beds between crops. This bed is particularly bad because it contained onions, which are a crop that stays in the ground for a long time, allowing the twitch grass plenty of time to move in and make itself at home. How long do onions stay in the ground? Well, I planted them last spring and I am still pulling out quite a few! But they will all have to come out in the next couple of days.
On the other hand, progress is being made. This bed is ready to go and contains snow-peas. We have learned some things since last year, and made some changes.
The trellises now have braces along the bottom as well as the top, to hold the strings. Last year we just attached them at the top and let them hang down. This worked well for a while, but as soon as we had some windy weather (i.e. not long) the peas caught the wind and and the whole mass of vines would shift and end up hanging mostly over the paths.
Also, last year we planted the peas in blocks, from one side of the bed to the other. This year we have put taller peas in blocks down the middle of the bed, and shorter peas in blocks on either side. The hope is that this will allow the peas in the middle to get more sunlight and produce more peas, and that it will be easier to pick peas in the middle of the bed as well.
The tall beans have also been planted - I am worried a touch too early, given how chilly it has been - but the trellises still need to have the strings put in place. We are still planting these in blocks across the bed mostly, rather than keeping tallest ones in the middle. Beans seem to be more open plants than the peas, and we didn't have as much problems with reaching the middle as we did with the peas. However, we have added the bottom bracing here too. There is one section where we planted shorter beans; they're in the spots without bottom bracing, on the outside of the near bed.
Meanwhile, the bed next to this one is still fairly full of leeks, and like the ex-onion bed is a mess. As soon as it's cleared out and edged, it will be planted with short bush beans.
We tried starting a lot of greens inside, early, this year and they were mostly a failure. The one thing that seems to have made a good transition to the garden is the chard. We had it under the hoop house for a little while, but it is getting warmer and it seems to be settling in nicely, so it's been exposed to the elements for at least a week now. The leaves it had when it was planted are going to die off, but it is definitely forming new ones so while it doesn't look all that great I think it is actually fine, and we should have Swiss chard at least a month ahead of last year, in spite of the much slower start to this season.
Not shown; our carrots are actually germinating not too badly this spring. It helps to have had some actual rain. I hope a little more is on the way! I was talking to a waitress in a local restaurant about the general lack of rain in Meaford, and unfortunately, she was able to confirm my theory: rainclouds get stuck on the edge of the escarpment on the west side of town, drop their rain, and then move over our area without dropping any rain on us. She lives halfway up the hill, and says she often sees it raining on the other side of her road - while her garden is left high (er, low) and dry! Yikes! So we are working on the idea that water will always be in very short natural supply in our garden and we will have to find ways to make watering easier and more efficient.
Asparagus is doing so well this year you can almost see it in a picture! As ever, and in spite of being edged with plastic last year, this remains our worst spot for weeds. The perennial nature of asparagus makes it hard to weed, and having once been allowed to be completely engulfed in weeds, the weeds are in some ways better established than the asparagus. However, they are not completely out of control and again we feel like we are making some progress.
We started soooo many onion seedlings this spring we ran out of places to plant them! So we stuck them on the plains at the foot of Mount Manure. We'll take our manure from the other side of the mountain now, and see how onions do in lots of manure. Yes, right now they are such feeble little grass-like strands that you can hardly see them. Hope that changes!
And finally, our largest and most daunting project for the year. Off to one side of the vegetable garden is a long narrow field. Unlike the rest of the property this is close to a creek and stays wet, not to say soggy, for a long time in the summer even without rain. We decided we would try to put four beds in here for the vegetables that like the most moisture. Unfortunately, there's a catch: the soil here is very, very, very different from the nearly pure sand of the higher garden. This is nearly pure clay, and it's a horrible job to dig it. We hope to raise the beds a bit with sandy topsoil from higher up along with manure, but in the meantime, the beds have to be dug. This was also never really a lawn, and the field is full of little shrubs that have been mowed for years. They don't look like much above ground, but they have massive root systems that must be dug out.
So far we have just one bed dug, which has also been trellised and planted with peas. Three more to go, ugh. Triple ugh. Not looking forward to it. I'm also not expecting a great crop from these beds this year, but I am hopefull that after a couple seasons of working on them they will actually be very good, rich moist beds.
Well, I guess you know where I am today, and all week too. I could have an enforced day off tomorrow if it rains, which it might. Let's hope so! Although on the other hand that's one less day to get things planted... hmm, typical gardener: never happy (although I am, really.)