Saturday, April 12, 2008

Saturday and Gardening

A quick rundown of the day:

Got up, got the family going, took firstborn to sporting good's store. Bought him a new pair of shorts that fit, bringing his total of shorts that fit up to 1. It doesn't seem like he's growing exponentially, but I bought all his clothing last year big, so I know he is. We looked at tennis rackets, with no intention of buying, but trying to get a feel of what is out there so we can compare it to what they have at the Ralleyball lesson.

As it turns out, they have pretty much the same racquets at Ralleyball. I was impressed. These things weigh a fraction of the weight I remember as a kid.

I chased ball and even hucked a few. During the actual Rally's, I kept score. Apparently, I was also getting a really great sunburn, but there was a strong breeze through the whole morning and I had no clue. Next week I go slathered in sunscreen and I look for my straw hat. It's got to be around here somewhere. I didn't know we were at that point in the season yet.

We went home, changed into fresh clothes, picked up the rest of the family at Gaye's house, dropped off Max at the practice recital, and drove out to Tait's farm, which is my source for good vegetable seeds and sometimes, good vegetables.

I bought a six-pack of broccoli and some of the veggies I was looking for.

I went home and worked in the yard. Mostly, I raked. But in the process of raking up the side yard, I decided to add a bunch of the dried grass and leaves to the compost heap. And when I got back to the compost heap . . .

A few years ago I picked up a tumbler compost bin from freecycle. The tumbler part was in good shape, but the bottom was nearly rusted out. It's in pretty much the same condition. I couldn't ever seem to get it to really WORK though. My contents mixed up just fine, but they were composting as near as I could tell. After about 6 months, I gave up. It froze, it thawed, it froze, it thawed. And sometime this winter I decided that when it did thaw again, I would scrape out the contents, hose it down, and see if a scrap metal place might want it. So today as I was adding more "brown" to my compost pile, I decided the time had come to at least scrape out the contents. I had finished raking the front and side yard and when else was I going to do it? I went and got my pitchfork and began scraping.

And discovered to my astonishment the most pitch-black, fully composted, omigosh, you-could-really-grow-something-in-this . . . material. It's very compacted and there are a few signs of dried mildew, so I don't trust it in the vegetable garden. But I have a spot along the side of the front porch where I like to grow climbing, flowering things. I have two big things whose name has escaped me since ten days after I bought them. Last summer I had morning glories and I hope to have those again this year. And this year I'm also planting sweet peas. In the past, I've grown herbs there, too. But I find that mostly I don't use them. So instead I spread out the compost there, will plant the morning glories and sweet peas in them, and then after the plants are up, will pile mulch over the whole thing. There are bulbs there that look pretty all summer (I didn't plant those) and the compost will help them, too.

Then I uprighted the old composting barrel and that's as far as I got with that. I don't have the outside spigot turned on yet and I didn't want to deal with the hose today, so I left the hosing out of it for another day.

I checked the time. Still another hour till the birthday party the twins' were attending, so I worked on my vegetable gardens in the front yard. I planted the broccoli, with some queen anne's lace around them. I left the center section of the raised bed garden empty, just cleaning it out and making note of the onions that had survived the winter (which is all of them. Apparently that's what they do.) I think at this point I just wait till they grow a bit, use them for green onions, and then when we're past the last frost date, I'm planting some beans in that spot. In the last third of the box, I again saved most of the space for beans, but planted two rows of radishes just for the fun of it.

After the raised bed, there is a spot of thinning grass about 2 ft by 4 ft, and then another garden bed where I have heavily amended the soil, but it is not actually a garden box. Early in the summer last year, I let a twink plant some "chocolate mint" in the far corner of this spot and I filled the rest of it with beans. The beans struggled as they were besieged by beetles and it took me awhile to find an organic response that gave them any real respite. But the mint took hold.

A week ago I'd pulled all the mint out of the garden bed so I could use that spot for something else, and I sort of noticed that while this was easy enough in my garden where the soil is very loose and the roots pull up in long strings, at the spot where the roots entered the native PA clay soil--those roots weren't going anywhere.

Well, after planting the radishes today I took the rake and again raked up all the leaves I'd pulled out of the garden while cleaning it up and THAT is when I saw the dozens and dozens of tiny little flowering heads peeking up out of the lawn and I realized that the mint intended to replace the grass. All of it. I was immediately alarmed and impressed. I don't really LIKE our front lawn and I'm not sure I'm completely opposed to a lawn of mint--except that it looks AWFUL over the winter. Smells good when you rake it though.

I discussed the issue with Chris later and he immediately came up with a perfect solution. So now I'm happy and the mint that has spread so far . . . gets to stay.

Then in the smaller bed I planted lettuce, red onion sets, and yellow onion sets.

Except for the beans, nearly everything else is going in the beds over at Grandma Gaye's house. We'll come back to that.

So then I ran in, jumped in the shower, jumped into clean clothes, realized I'd picked up a fantastic sunburn over the course of the day, grabbed the twinkies and went to a very noisy birthday party. I knit through most of the party, which is something because I have not been knitting as much lately.

By the time I got home I plonked the twinkies in bed and finished putting some seeds in a seed-starting mix. These are the last of the seeds I'll start indoors. And it mostly constitutes what we'll be growing this year.

The biggest difference this year is that I'm growing many few varieties of tomatoes (and honestly, fewer plants) and I'm growing more beans and gobs of flowers. The flowers are mostly to attract butterflies and birds to Gaye's yard and because the previous owner succeeded in taking reasonably good care of the least landscaped yard I have ever seen. He must really like taking care of his grass. Gaye would like a little more color. I don't blame her.

There was this big, decaying stump in the back yard, so I built a box to go around it and after I finish getting it installed (it's a big digging job), I'll show it to you. Most of this box will be a random mix of wild flowers from a bag that promises to attract butterflies and birds, but we've got a few things planted on purpose, too.

So, 2008's garden:

Hot Peppers: Heavenly Jalapeno Hybrid, Paper Lanterns, Fatali, habaneros
Tomatoes: Mortgage Lifter, Amana Orange, Black Prince, Red German Strawberry, Granny Cantrell's German Pink, Tobolsk, and probably more volunteers from wherever the critters burried tomato seeds last fall.
Corn: I have two SU varieties and two SE varieties and after doing some fancy google-fu, it would seem this means that I *can* plant them at the same time. The SU's are Hybrid Honey & Cream and Hybrid Silver Queen. The SE's are Ruby Queen Hybrid (for which I achieved 0% germination last year, but goshdarnit, I'm going to try again) and the Sugar Pearl Hybrid
Strawberries: I totally forget. I ordered them from Gurney's and 50 plants will be arriving some time later this spring. Max and I will have like 48 hours to get them in the ground at that point.
Lettuce: Black Seeded Simpson and then whatever else I bought on a whim.
Squish: Waltham Butternut, Early Prolific Straightneck, Zucchini, Wyatt's Wonder Giant Pumpkins, New England Pie
Onions: Red and Yellow
Melons: Moon & Stars, muskmelon, Rocky Ford Muskmelon, Sugar Baby Watermelon
Beans: Sugar Sprint, Black Valentine, Trionfo Viletto (Purple Beans?), Scarlet Emperor Runner Bean
And some radishes

Ornamental Kale
Bronze Fennel
Asclepias, Silky Formula Mix (milkweed)
Red Cored Chantenay carrots (for Eastern Black Swallowtails)
"Butterfly and Bird Mix"
and there are daffodils and hyacinths already out in Gaye's yard and I expect the daffodils to be up in my yard soon, too. The Idon'tknowwhat's that I love so much around the base of the pear tree and the sour cherry tree are done looking dead and are sending up green shoots.

And I still have about 4 hours of work left to do on raking up the back yard before I can fertilize the lawn and I'm desperate to get the boxes into Gaye's yard so they're not just standing there on top of her lawn, but I will take deep breaths and trust that it will all get done because the next seven days are packed to the gills AND I have to mail off my taxes.

So there you have it.

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