Sunday, March 21, 2010

Seedling hiatus

Business" was brisk yesterday. I believe about a hundred plants left my steps. There isn't much there now, and won't be for a few days. I'll let you know if more is available next weekend.


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Friday, March 19, 2010

Freebees, Spring!, Open Gardens

Gardening in shorts! Whoda thunkit a week or two ago? What will a week from now be like? Meanwhile, it's great for all sun worshipers. My daughter says everyone is a sun worshiper these days.

The lettuce I sowed in the cold frame in January has gone crazy. I'm potting it up in garden soil, just digging out whole patches of seedlings. The pots are now on the right side of my steps at 56 Gordonhurst Avenue, Montclair. Each pot contains enough seedlings for a decent lettuce patch. If you want maximum yield, place them at 6" apart. If you have limited space, they will bear okay at 4" apart. Remember that lettuce is good only for a few weeks, so if you want a continual harvest, sow seeds again every 3-4 weeks. Also, :( woodchucks love lettuce. These are "leaf lettuce," which means you cut only the leaves you are going to eat that day and let the others grow until they are too bitter to enjoy. These seedlings came from outdoors and I expect you to put them outdoors, but it isn't illegal to coddle them in your kitchen.

I will put celery seedlings on the left side of the steps tomorrow morning first thing. These hatched in my greenhouse window, and I'm carefully potting them in potting soil. I'd suggest letting them grow in a sunny window before putting them out. They are tinyly (is that a legit taking only the celery stalks I will eat "today" and letting the plant regenerate. Treated this way, each container will probably feed a family celery for some time, possibly the entire season.

I've decided to put things in alphabetical order: Celery on the left and Lettuce on the right since we read left to right. I'm going to do the same with Purple and Yellow irises, where you have no other way to tell them apart: purple on the left and yellow on the right side of the steps. They have been getting invasive into my vegetable garden, and I've decided they must go. The books say to transplant irises in July, but then the vegetables must be risked to do iris editing, so I'm digging
them today and tomorrow. They are in 6" pots, but you don't need to take the contents of an entire pot; please bring a bag to protect your vehicle. No guarantees on any porch offerings, of course.

There is also a black pot with a mystery plant. I think they are garlic, which are all over my back yard, but this is the first time they have appeared in the front yard. Why not? Anyway, they were cozying up to my great-grandfather's primrose plant, and I decided the plant needed to be relieved of the competition. If you put one back into your soil at about the same depth as it was before, I suspect you will have a garlic bulb late this spring. The alternative, I think, is that you will have a flower sooner or next spring. I bought one garlic bulb years ago, and these are the descendents. I have more than I can use, and give many away.

Necole offered to put her leftover seeds on my front steps for others to take, and I have accepted. I may put out some of my own if I get a round tuit. You are welcome to put your left-overs there, or take whatever you want. A friend brought weights, which are next to the steps, that we use for hand-outs at Open Gardens, and they can be used to keep seed packets from blowing away. I don't mind your putting LABELED seedlings (as well as seeds) on my front steps if you have some to share.

The next two open gardens will be Saturdays April 24 and May 22. My garden will be open from 9-11 AM those days with displays in the front yard. All humans over the age of three are welcome. There will be a tour both days from 9:00 AM to noon. If you want to open your garden at one or both of those times, let me know. Already I have two volunteers for both dates, but we are glad for many.

My Hakurei turnips have germinated. Spring is exciting! I doubt that we will have a blizzard again, but I do expect frost (incredible to contemplate today) so my dozen tomato plants are protected by
wall-of-waters. I have also planted out my pac choi along the fence to defend peas against woodchucks. I put arugula (which the woodchucks disdain) with my broccoli in the hope of harvesting some of the latter this year. Here's hoping we all have good harvests, eaten by humans!


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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Seedlings gone; collard plant-outs, toms

About 40 arugula and pac choi seedlings were taken from my front steps before dinner time yesterday, and that is that. Next week it looks likely that IF I have time, there may be some celery seedlings, germinating inside, and lettuce -- that I sowed in the cold frame many weeks ago! I guess they liked the warmer weather. I had thought that the moisture there wasn't enough for seeds. I had never before tried sowing seeds in a cold frame, where I don't water from above, but it seems they were just waiting for a better time. There are an atrocious number popping up now. I am, apparently, very wasteful with seeds. :(

I have now put out all my collard plants. I put out two on Sunday, and one was missing two leaves Monday morning. So I've put a floating cover over the whole collards bed, and they seem to like it.
Less confidently, I now have three tomato plants outside in wall-of-waters. They look very happy now. I do hope that the second week of March is okay in this new climate.
One of you asked how I keep the wall-of-waters from falling over. I don't always, but the tomato plants are amazingly tolerant of being crushed by a WOW. I try to make the soil as level as I can before I put it into place, and I try to even it around the plant so it doesn't lean in one direction. If you can't visualize a WOW, there are photos of them on both my website and my blog. I may be overly bold this year, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. Both early tomatoes and protected peas (because woodchucks don't like tomato plants and peas can climb up safely amid them) are worthy goals in my value system.


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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Freebees and planting out tomatoes

I can't believe that only one person was interested in free arugula or pac choi seedings; probably burying the offer in the middle of a long email did me in. Anyway, there are now arugula seedlings on the LEFT side of the steps at 56 Gordonhurst Avenue, and pac choi seedlings on the right -- looking for a good home. Both are in containers that may last a while in a south-facing window.
It probably wouldn't be outrageous (or murderous) to put them outside now, but I recommend a window until the seedlings are as tall as their container if you do have a south or eastern facing window sill.

Yes, we surely will have more frost, and possibly more snow. Knowing that, I am "taken in" by this lovely spring weather, and this morning Fred and I put out the large pea fence. My plan this afternoon is to put out some senior tomato plants, started in January, under wall-of-waters so that they can be large enough to protect the peas, which I will plant later than usual, from roaming groundhog arms. Groundhogs (aka "woodchucks") don't seem to care for tomato PLANTS, although they are happy to take bites out of large tomatoes. The tomatoes on these plants will be tiny, beneath the dignity of a groundhog.
I've been scrambling to finish up my pruning, much too late. However, pruning in heavy snow on the ground was unappealing, not to mention on snow-laden trees. Here's hoping!


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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mistake not punished

I didn't believe last week that we were going to have a serious snow storm. After all, we had already had enough snow for one winter. Furthermore, "my" radio stations were predicting only a light dusting. I did have the foresight to dig enough carrots last Tuesday for several days, but I didn't bother to close the cold frames. My poor babies! How could I? How were they doing under this snow?

Friday I went out and tried to budge the lids. No way. They were frozen in the slightly open position. Some of the heads that I could see through the slit weren't too bad, but anything under the opening was, of course, completely snow-covered. I shoveled and pushed what snow I could off the top of the cold frame out of which I am regularly picking dinner.
It was tricky to do with the lid at a slant while trying to avoid pushing more snow into the garden below. After the other snow storms I've had a flat surface where it was much easier to first push the major snow off and then brush the remainder.

Saturday I could move the lids, and I saw that disaster had not hit. Even some of the 2" lettuce plants were still standing tall. Two heads of Chinese cabbage looked near dead, and I cut them for eating what was edible. However, the biggie in the back, hard to reach, was doing just fine. It would be okay to harvest Sunday morning and show off at the ethical eating fair, although to pick it I would have to walk inside the cold frame, which I don't do except on special occasions.
Meanwhile, inside during the snow I was having a remarkable case of potting soil lust. I need far more potting soil this winter than previously, partially because I've decided not to buy any this year, but mostly because I started seeds so early and now have tomato and collards plants outgrowing their homes. One can't get top soil or compost from under a foot of snow!

Yesterday, I dug more carrots, and then easily dug a lasagna pan of top soil from that bed. Getting compost was another matter. WHERE was it under the snow? Fortunately, I guessed right, and was able to dig a decent amount to take inside. Next year I must remember to put bags of leaves on top of easily diggable compost, both to mark the place and to keep it unfrozen. My new gardening patterns mean that I need potting soil when it isn't trivial to acquire.
Sunday morning I took my one-foot-plus Chinese cabbage and went off (with hand-outs) to the ethical food fair. It was a delightful, glorious fair with many congenial people, both old friends and new recruits to my message. One aspect made me uncomfortable, and I've decided to share my discomfort in my compulsive effort to improve the world. The children were wonderful. I met a surprising number of not-full-grown, respectful people with whom I had interesting conversations.
However, the full-sized people had an amazing predilection to try to touch my beautiful Chinese cabbage. I felt like I was fending off a group of oversized toddlers. "That's my food! Don't touch it!"
I mentioned the experience to a friend, and she said this is common behavior in supermarkets. People touch the vegetables, even those they won't buy! Since Fred and I don't buy groceries, we don't know present customs about such things.
My friend added that she had been upset this week by a related incident. A customer decided at the check-out counter that she did not want to buy a bagel she had put in her order. The clerk threw it into the garbage, saying it was illegal to do anything else with it. My friend thought of all the hungry people nearby who would have enjoyed that bagel.

I said, "You mean it is illegal to sell a bagel that someone has touched, but it is customary for people to paw over the vegetables?"
I find myself reflecting that the fact that neither Fred nor I have had a cold (or flu) in the past three years. It might not be entirely due to our healthy lifestyle, including fresh organic food. How much are widespread infectious diseases due to customs in our supermarkets? The sharing of germs on vegetables? Should we be rethinking such customs?
Thoughtfully yours,

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