Saturday, March 24, 2012

Garden and Sun

What do you do when the first Saturday of your spring break is sunny and breezy and the first warm day in many weeks? You spend every waking minute outside, of course! Truly, I think I spent about seven hours outdoors today. As the clouds rolled back in in the evening, I'm really glad I did!

First thing in the morning, laundry was hung on the line in the backyard, for the first time this year!

I've missed this sight all winter!

We had planned to plant potatoes last weekend, but were thwarted by the fact that it was snowing...this morning we actually got to put our spuds in the ground- All Reds, Austrian Crescents, and Yukon Golds.

 The potatoes went here, in the border around our front lawn. Last fall, this was barren, compacted dirt. Six months of mulch, rabbit droppings, several trips around it with the turning fork, and a final dose of compost from our heap later, I have visions of this soil bursting with potatoes, tomatoes, chard, and flowers this summer! I was so excited by the soil quality around the front yard that I couldn't hold back- three broccolis and one cabbage went there, and in addition to the potatoes we put in a short row of beets, another of chard, and some radicchio.

My broccoli, cabbage, and onion starts have been hardening off all week on the front stoop, and finally moved into their new homes today. 

I had to re-start most of the onions, and the second batch are just now sprouting under the lights upstairs. I've never had great luck with onions. Next year I might go with sets from a nursery.

All of our garden beds have had a big batch of compost tilled in recently, and Matt added a layer of rabbit manure for another tilling. That stuff is amazing- high in both nitrogen and phosphorus, both essentials for growing veggies.

The brassicas now have cardboard sleeves around them to fend off cutworms, and a reemay tent over them for protection from weather and bugs until they are substantially bigger. 

Spending time amending and tiling your soil is probably the single most important garden task- the payoff is huge. Two of our raised beds didn't grow things particularly well last year. Having given these beds lots of TLC since then, we have high hopes for this season. We don't know the history of this soil, and we've put a lot of work into it (including a LOT of time pulling out rocks and gravel and garbage).

This bed did especially poorly last year. We cover cropped it with field peas all winter for nitrogen, added lots of egg shells for calcium and bunny poo for phosphorus, and the nicest, loamiest compost from the bottom of the pile, plus some composted bunny straw. Take that, poor soil quality!

The hens got several buckets' worth of weeds throughout the day. They can level a big heap of weeds in two minutes flat. They love finding bugs and slugs this way, and get good omega-3s from the greens.

We finally used up the last of the compost heap that was started last summer. There was a big pile of sticks here when we moved in, and we pulled out all the big ones before starting the heap, and hundreds more as we turned and used the compost. Now we've cleaned it out down to the bottom, scraped out all remaining sticks (and a fair few rocks), and it is ready to start another (stick-free!) heap. We'll keep the one on the left going for another month or so, then let it rest and begin again on the right. At the rate things break down with all the chicken and rabbit manure in, the bin on the left will be ready to use for plantings later in the summer. 

A nice fresh lunch on a quick break. 

This half bed will be a new planting space this year. It was in cover crops all winter, and we've pruned the tree back (a lot) and added compost and manure. It was so compacted here that it might take another season to get this bed in really good shape, but I'll try growing beets and flowers here this year.

Radish sprouts in the bed against the front fence. A prime example of the amount of gravel and garbage (see that piece of plastic right in the middle?) that rises up out of our soil constantly. At least when rocks "rise" to the surface like this, it makes them easy to scrape away into the paths with gloved hands. 

 The tent has come off the greens, which are all growing very well and now enjoying full sun.

Now if only we'd have more days like this-- spring seems awfully long in coming this year, what with all the snow and cold temperatures. Our winter wasn't bad at all, but now it seems to want to reassert itself. Anyway, I'm grateful to have had a day when I could work outside in short sleeves! 

Another couple sunny days, and the Asian pear will be blooming!

1 comment:

Heather said...

Wow! I am impressed how much you have already growing! Looks beautiful!