Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hens and Seeds Don't Mix

Last week of May = lots of rain.

In a break in that weather yesterday, Mia, Max, and I planted seeds in the damp dirt: soy beans, beets, green onions, lettuce, spinach, cukes, zukes, watermelon, peas, winter squash, sunflowers. Later in the day, I went out back to close up the hens and discovered that one had promptly scratched up the melon, zucchini, and squash seeds. Anyone craving chicken stew? So they're staying in their pen until the garden is completely closed off. We have a fence but not a gate yet.

I need to harden off my tomatoes, so they won't go in for a few days. Still to plant: hot peppers, basil, corn, and pole beans. I'm going to wait a week on the corn so the soil can heat up just a little more. Today, I'm heading up to Arcana Gardens and Greenhouse, an organic farm in Jericho, VT, in search of some interesting hot pepper plants.

Above the soil, the asparagus is done for the season. I left a few stalks to grow tall and bring energy to the roots for next year. The three-dozen garlics are at least a foot tall; we should see scapes in a few weeks. And the potatoes have finally broken through. It also looks like we're going to have a good blueberry year, as my bushes are loaded with blossoms.

The forecast isn't working in a gardener's favor: possible showers today and for the next four days, at least. Such is Vermont in the spring.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Weekend 2009

Memorial Day 2009: A perfect gardening weekend. Breezy, 60s, and where are the bugs?

Thanks to Husband, the fence around the vegetable garden is nearly complete. The tiller didn't want to work today, however, and we wanted to till up a swatch of dead grass (four weeks under a dark tarp) that will add about 33% more space to the garden. It wouldn't start, and I even saw him kick it. The machine belongs to Husband's uncle, but we keep it in our barn and are the only users anymore. It must be 50 years old, is as heavy as a small tractor and as temperamental as a old cow.

I should've planted the garden this weekend, but I've been waiting for the digging of the fence post and the tilling of the dead grass. Another week won't hurt. The seeds will still grow, and the plants will still produce. Patience, once again.

I spent most of the weekend cleaning up a perennial garden along our front walk. Moved some peonies that weren't getting enough sun, and so far, they don't seem to have skipped a beat. Will be interesting to know if they bloom.

My tree peony is blooming. It grows three giant white flowers with pink inside edges every year.

Finished off a 1.5-yard pile of hemlock mulch. I'm a big fan of this shredded wood mulch. (The hens are too, as they've already dug up the mulch I put on a coral bells garden.) Keeps the weeds down, the soil cooler and more moist, and makes the gardens look nice-n-tidy. I don't like the price of the mulch, however. We paid a whopping $48 a yard this year, and I need another three yards or so.

I have about 10+ perennial beds around my yard, and I started another today. Our front porch has been hidden behind evergreens and a huge, round cedar shrub, and today, Husband cut out and dug up the cedar. It left a huge hole, of course, which I now need to fill. I'm thinking something colorful like hydrangeas or rhodies. Or sweet smelling like a daphne. Any suggestions? Morning sun, and I'd like to keep it under 4 feet.

My body aches. A good ache. A productive ache. Tonight I go to sleep happy with what I got done instead of fretting about what I didn't.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Let the Blooming Begin

A great week to live in Zone 4...mostly because the lilacs are blooming! I spent the better part of today clearing weeds from the vegetable garden, listening to "This American Life" podcasts on my iPod, with wafts of lilac breezing over me. The second highlight of this coolish, windyish day: no black fly bites!

All over the yard, lots of spots of color, including bleeding heart, apple blossoms, creeping phlox, forget-me-nots (which grow profusely in my woods), new rugosa roses, and blueberry blossoms...

Goals for the week: Plant peas, spinach, lettuce, kale (probably a week or two late); start mulching the perennial beds; support Husband in his effort to build a fence around the vegetable garden.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Jealous of Jenson

Husband and I visited our friend Lucas Jenson's new pigs today. He has three that he's raising to butcher. Cost him $65 each, and he built the pig house and pen himself, so the price is right.

Still, I'm not sure I could raise something then look it in the eye, send it to the butcher, and cook it for dinner. (Babe is one of my all-time favorite movies.) I guess I'm just a gentleman farmer after all.

Husband looked at them, smelled them, then looked at me and said, "I don't want any pigs."

Lucas is also getting bees. His boxes are ready; he's just waiting for the combs and bees. Now this fascinates me, given that bees need a little extra boost in the species survival department these days.

Husband is allergic to bee stings (not deadly allergic), so his comment on bees was, "That's one project you won't get any help with." I don't think I'd really become a beekeeper, but it is an interesting idea. Maybe if it turns out to be effortless for Lucas...

Cherries. Now here's a way I might be able keep up with the guy. He loves his cherry trees and has inspired me to consider a couple. You can grow only sour cherries here -- not sweet. I can't match him on apples yet. He has about a dozen; I have one. I did pick up my peach ("Reliance") and plum ("Mount Royal") trees yesterday and will plant them this week. Maybe I should take a drive out to Elmore Roots this weekend and check out their cherries.

I asked Lucas to be a guest blogger here. He hemmed and hawed, but I'll nudge him along so we can follow his progress with those bees, pigs, and fruit trees, a sizable vegetable garden, and hens and chicks. Not to mention his zip line, tree house, and pond. The guy's got everything but a teepee. Maybe I should get one...either that or a goat. Or a wind turbine. That'd get him.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Early May Status Check

A good week for nature. The brown of winter is gone, and everything is green -- fields, leaves, weeds. We've already cut our grass twice.

We're stuck in a rainy spell. Heard what may have been the first thunder of the season today, and the dog has remembered that he's afraid of thunder.

My apple tree hasn't blossomed yet. Others in town have, but I'm just a bit higher than town.

I planted potatoes today. Felt good to finally put something in the ground. I bought seed potatoes a month or so ago and experimented with cutting them into pieces to see if they'd "greensprout". They didn't. Instead, they shriveled. So I spritzed them. Then they molded. So I put those in the compost pile and bought more seed potatoes.

In the greenhouse, about 25 tomato plants that have sprouted. They're much smaller than what the nurseries are offering, but I'm pretty confident they'll eventually give fruit. Nothing else has thrived. The peas seem to have rotted in the soil, so I'll just plant new ones in the ground as soon as it stops raining. The lettuce in the hydroponic system is half-heartedly trying to gain some momentum. One broccoli came up, and no flowers or surviving peppers. Old seeds, maybe?

Needing extra days in the week to get ahead of the happy weeds...

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Priming the Compost

I applied compost starter to my compost pile and bin today. Both need it, as the pile is trying to process all the sticks and garden waste raked up from last fall, and the bin is full of a winter's worth of kitchen waste. I probably won't get much dirt from the bin this year; if not, next year I'll stike dirt gold.

I did spread two wheelbarrows of garden-ready compost on the garden today. A nice little boost for the tomato patch.

Read here for more thoughts about composting. I wrote this on my other blog a couple months ago.

Railroading the Weeds

I wanted to spread mulch yesterday -- to smell the hemlock (which makes a yard seem so organized and well tended) and keep the weeds at bay in the beds I've cleared. But there is a bigger priority back behind the barn: the vegetable garden, where weeds love the lack of competition in the spring. If I don't tackle it now, they'll be a foot high when I'm ready to plant in a few weeks. I know because this has happened the past two years in a row.

I have four can't-do-without weeding tools:

1) A hori hori knife. This thing readily removes weeds and rocks. While I've never timed myself (because that would be weird), I'm sure this thing cuts hours off weeding time:

2) A tubtrug. In this, I carry the weeds to the compost pile. I have about five of them and use them for any number of things. Max uses them to pick up pine cones from the yard. (I pay him $1 a bucket.) My friend Michelle uses hers for laundry. I purchase mine at the Gardener's Supply Company.

3) and 4) Gloves and a kneeling mat. These go without saying.

So I weeded Phase 1 of the vegetable beds yesterday. Satisfyingly so. We made this bed about three years ago. I've mulched it with wood chips and straw over the years, which we've just integrated into the bed, and the soil is rich and loose. I'll probably plant potatoes (soon) and corn in this section, with cukes and possibly squash and melons under the corn.

Once the weeks are pulled, I have a small, handheld electric tiller that I run through the top five or so inches of soil to discourage any other weeds from setting up shop there, like in this bed, Phase 2 of my spring weeding challenge:

Phase 3 is an overwhelming work in progress. It's a five-foot wide swath of thick, healthy grass between Phase 1 and Phase 2. I'd love to spray it with Roundup, but I'm sure that will somehow contribute to the honeybees' Colony Collapse Disorder. So we're going to do this the natural way:

I'm not sure we'll use this section this year. It may just be a work in progress.

At this point in the season, very early May, it's hard to have patience in terms of planting when your dirt is ready. I will likely put a few hearty spring seeds in soon -- peas, lettuce, beets. But everything else needs to wait until Memorial Day -- the when threat of frost is usually/finally over and the real gardening begins.