Sunday, April 29, 2012

April 29

The completed garden

This is basically it, the bones of the new garden.  There will be some new shrubs at the back, and of course the bio-scene will change over the seasons, but the yard is now officially Made Over.  It actually looks better than I had imagined it, so I'm pretty pleased!

What's growing today?  Lady's mantle:

Brassicas under protective fabric:

Crocuses, just starting to bloom:

A hungry visitor:

Kabocha squash (started indoors, with the sprouts planted in mini hoophouses):

Tatsoi, an amazingly hardy winter green, started indoors and thriving unprotected through cold, rain, and snow after being planted out:

The long-suffering primula:

Pattypan squash under its cloche.  Time will tell if there's any use in planting these warm-weather plants out so early, but they sprouted so very fast, and apparently larger plants don't transplant well at all, so I thought I'd give it a try.

The radishes in the exposed section of the garden are up!

Tulips, of course.  After all the digging I've done, bulbs are scattered everywhere.  It will be interesting to see what finally ends up where...

Lion's bane:

Delphinium.  Who knew?

Some kind of giant sedum:

Chives, first harvest!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Building the hoop house

This project is certainly keeping me busy.  We've also had some extremely cooperative weather, and so I've been able to spend a lot of time outside.  Here are the hoops for the hoop house, which I constructed out of five 10-foot lengths of 1/2" PVC pipe bent over 2' lengths of rebar pounded into the inside of the raised bed, each PVC fastened to the side of the bed with extra-strengthening metal pipe strapping.  Under the hoops is a supporting backbone and legs of 3/4" PVC pipe, also supported with rebar and pipe strapping at the ends of the bed.

Instructions on how to make hoop houses are all over the Internet, but the important points are to keep the hoops inside the bed, and the supporting backbone under the hoops.  I fastened the hoops to the backbone with plastic ties that allowed me to make adjustments and move the joins around a bit to even them out.  The Tomatoman, whose house I'll be seeing tonight, isn't as concerned with aesthetics, and connected his hoops with duct tape.

With the plastic on.  I used two long sheets of heavy-duty plastic sheeting from the hardware store and laid them lengthwise on either side of the house so I can open the top as well as the ends.  This also leaves me lots of extra plastic to wrap around 2x4s at the bottom of the house to weigh the plastic down somewhat (you also need extra weights, such as rocks, on top of the 2x4s, to keep the plastic from unraveling and flapping in the wind).  The plastic is attached to the hoops with some special plastic U-clips from Lee Valley sold for precisely this purpose.  I'd experimented with other kinds of clips, but my advice is, just get them from Lee Valley and save yourself some grief.

Those clothespins at the top aren't going to cut it--they're not strong enough.  Later, I replaced them with giant metal binder clips.  I built the house on April 18, then kept it closed for three days to warm up the soil (and it does get warm in there) and assure myself it wasn't going to blow away or collapse or anything.

Then...we really were having some nice weather, and the plants I started indoors were getting pretty, I planted something in almost every square of every bed.  It's early, but this is an experimental year.  Peas went into the unprotected beds, as well as arugula under the teepees, and I planted beets and carrots and lettuce as well as the radishes and spring onions already in.  Cilantro's on the far left, in the "wild" part, which doesn't look so wild now, but believe me, it will; I can't poke a trowel in without uprooting something, so other than a little cleanup I'm going to make an effort to leave that area alone until I see what comes up!

Inside the hoop house.  I even planted a few squares of snap beans, just to see what would happen:

The day I planted was boiling hot, and then, of course, it got cold...and the hoop house is really being tested.  This picture was taken on April 22.

The hoop house, open:

Next time, what's growing?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

We have infrastructure!

Phew!  This was a job and a half, and took me a day and a half to do.  When I returned from Victoria on Monday, it was to a pile of boards that Tomatoman and the Moon Goddess had so kindly purchased and cut for me, and delivered to my yard.

I was so excited...and then I had two more days I spent them doing this.  The weather cooperated--it was windy but warm and sunny!

Wow, what a mess I made, though most of it is cleaned up now.  The most heartbreaking thing was the bulbs I kept turning up.  I tried to plant them again, and we'll see how they do.

Meanwhile, the weather, beautiful for my two days, is scheduled to turn rainy tomorrow.  Bring it on!  Rain, I'm ready for you now. 

Here's an aerial view, from an upstairs window:

There's still a lot to do--finishing the pathways around the beds, the side shade garden project I haven't even started (because, as you can see, the ground is still frozen over there), actual planting of stuff, which I could do now but I am just...too...tired...and besides, I don't think it's time yet, as even the reseeders haven't sprouted yet--but this is the part I was all hot and bothered about.

The perennials are coming on.  It all looks brown and grey, generally, but there is a little green in there.  Crocuses:


...and how are the plants doing under their new lights?  Splendidly!  Check out one of my tomatoes:

Happy and healthy, hooray!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The garden at 6:00 a.m.

...when I had to leave for work.  How I wanted to take the day off to take photos all around the neighborhood!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Getting organized

My capacity for organization on this project continues to astound me.  In past vegetable gardening efforts, I'd pick seed packets more or less at random out of a bag, wing it on planting day, and hope for the best. 

That approach never worked too well...

So here are this year's seed packets, sorted alphabetically.  The ones in the little area on the right are the packets I won't be needing again this year.

On the landscaping front, the Tomatoman and I went out on the town last weekend and bought a whole bunch of stuff.  Well, okay, I bought a whole bunch of stuff.  Tomatoman bought some stuff and consulted with me on lumber and other matters.  Tomatoman grows his tomatoes hydroponically, but he also has a vegetable garden, and while I can't get him as fired up as I am about extending the season into the fall, he's all over starting early in the spring, and is going to try a hoop house and a few other things this year.

The most expensive thing I bought was this:

As I thought when I saw the pitiful little fellas down there, my basement is no place for living things.  Except maybe spiders.  They like it.  I wanted something nice enough looking that I could keep it upstairs.  If things go well, I'm hoping to have it in production all year long; my house is small and there's no tucking anything like this into an out of the way corner.  Besides, even with the full spectrum fluorescents, the plants were so happy to have access to some natural sunlight.

Plants?  Why, yes!  How about oriental greens, that germinated in two days?


And my little field of mesclun greens:

I am so excited to get out into the garden itself I can hardly restrain myself, even though the ground is still partly frozen and the other part is muddy wet, we're expecting a snowstorm tonight, and I don't yet have the final ingredient, the lumber, to make my beds.  Unbelievably, the hardware stores in my neighborhood, Home Depot and Rona, no longer cut lumber, except, as the apologetic young men explained, with a handsaw; "Er, how many cuts do you need?"  It's a hardware store.  They can't liberate a power saw?  Nobody who works there knows how to use one?  So we went home, did some math, and the saintly Tomatoman is going to pick up the boards for me and cut them while I'm on vacation with my brother Bert this weekend.  The pause gave me time to think up some new ideas, though, so it wasn't at all all bad.

Next post I'll be dishing the real dirt, I hope!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Oh, well

...back under the snow.  It won't last, though.  It can't, can't last!

In other news, I've been working on my database, and the garden plan, and have bought most of the rest of the seeds I plan to plant this year.

The database:

Why, yes, it is an Access database, albeit a very simple one...though with lots of fields, most of which you can't see in this screen capture.  To be honest, I can barely use the program, so this is giving me an opportunity to gain a few basic skills.

The garden plan has developed, too:

This is the current "July" version of the plan.  On the Vegetable Garden Planner, you can account for succession planting, so the "May" version shows greens and radishes growing in the pots on the patio and around and about instead of the heat-loving things like tomatoes and peppers.  I wasn't totally sure about this program until I started moving things around.  Since no doubt I'll be doing a lot of this, as well as updating the succession stuff later on, I'm really beginning to feel a warm affection for it.

And, finally, I planted seeds of peppers, tomatoes, parsley, and Thai basil today:

View of my not very lovely basement wall cleverly disguised via Photoshop
Honestly, I can't believe any of these seeds will ever sprout.  Even though I've been sprouting kitchen beans and seeds for sprouts all winter.  These seem different somehow.  For the record, however, because I read that tomatoes and peppers like to germinate in very warm soil, I've got a heating pad under them, in the middle of four layers of thick rag rug.  Will this:

(1) Bake the plants?
(2) Cost me millions in electrical bills?
(3) Set my house on fire?

Tune in next time...

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Seedy Sunday

We did quite well today!  This was the first Seedy Sunday event I'd ever attended, and it was very well attended, so crowded we had to park three blocks away and once inside it was hard to get to the vendors.  But we asserted ourselves, and did. 

I came home with a sheaf of pamphlets, business cards, and information, and quite a lots and lots of self-pollinating and/or heirloom seeds.

Cheeta was pretty curious.

Or possibly a cat, and thus insisting on getting in the way as much as possible:

Cheeta generally wears this "I have a migraine, leave me the hell alone" expression, even when she's happy.  She is a photography challenge.

Anyway, after I got home I was pretty stoked, and went out to take a look around the garden:

Quite a bit of melting has gone on since last week!  And guess what?

I don't know how it is where you live, but this made me want to scream with excitement!  Daylilies in mid-March!  Wow!  I believe this is lion's bane:

And finally, a humble little primula I've had for over 20 years:

The earliest usual suspects!  Happy day!  Next post: the database.  Yes, I'm going to geek out all over this project...