Sunday, May 30, 2010

May 30, 2010

Wow, nearly a month has gone by.  You wouldn't have known it from the shape of the garden though.  The weather's been more like late fall than late spring.  Cool, wet and windy.  I haven't planted cukes yet but I'm fairly certain they wouldn't germinate in this weather anyway. 

Other things I haven't done include planting my tomatoes in my Self Watering Containers.  The containers still sit there ready to go, but there appears to be no hurry to get them in the ground.  They're not growing much anyway.  I have picked off a few flower buds to encourage more green growth.  Last year I didn't do that with my first flowers and the plant size suffered tremendously.  This year I've been more cautious. 

I also haven't weeded my Bed 1.  The overwintered carrots there had gone straight to seed rather than form good roots.  Shame as my kids don't have carrots for a while.  My new plantings are about 2 inches tall.  Let's see, my trellis is still in the shed.  The only thing that would need it now are my peas, which are about a foot tall now.  I think that will go up soon to give them something to grab hold of. 

Lastly, I haven't hooked up my rain barrels.  I need to build the platforms for them, nor found the right way to hook it up.  I am still considering the Gutter Adaptor here though I am not sure how well they work or how long they'll hold up.  However, considering the deluge of rain we've been getting of late, I'm in no hurry to store water.

Speaking of all the rain, look what I found on the way back from running my eldest to the bus stop... Note the paper is just for comparison, though it is really good that folks are trying to figure out how to improve the park behind our house.

Oh, and I haven't had a chance to mow with all the wet grass, but here is the composting action from my last mowing.

First I mix and dig a trench while I'm fluffing the aging compost. Then, while I'm mowing I occasionally throw down a sheet of news paper in front of the mower to mix in some shredded browns.  Tis the season of all greens and no browns.

Then I simply dump the new stuff into the trench, wetting the layers and adding heaps of the old compost for variety. It still needs to age and cook more.  Doing this creates a heaping pile of hot compost in action...

Speaking of the lack of browns, I have been adding small amounts of cat hair, lint from the dryer and the like.  I don't like to have too much of those, but they do help out and create a great diverse compost.  And while we're on the compost subject, if you've seen the Sun Chips commercial, I'm trying out to see if their chip bags are really compostable.  We got them for an outing as they're a healthier alternative to potato chips or Doritos.  When finished, I cut the bag into little pieces and put it in my home compost bin.  Give it a chance to cook a bit inside before being added to the bottom of my next compost build.

Oh yeah, I was also planning on bagging up the remaining finished compost and doing a two-bin system.  That hasn't happened.  Too busy playing with the kids and doing the job search.

Lastly, the kids have been getting in the action.  One warmish day my eldest took some discarded peat pot egg cartons and trying to grow cut flowers... Cuter than all get-out, but not going to work.

I hope you all have had better weather than I and have been more active in your gardens!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

May 2, 2010

Well, the weather is definitely working along the idea that April and May showers bring flowers...  I got out in the morning to start working on the Self Watering Containers.  They had been crudely stored for the winter and needed to be cleaned up and filled for planting.

The first order of business was counting.  I've got 10 viable tomato plants that are all hardened off and ready to go in the ground.  Unfortunately, even if I use my 32 gallon SWC for tomatoes and not mellons, I stil only have 4 bins.  My solution?  The 32 gallon scrap container that held my failed corn last year.  It's behind my blueberries and in great sun.  So what if it's not an SWC, it's good enough.

It was sprinkling off and on, so I worked fast.  I know that dirt used to grow tomatoes can carry diseases from year to year, so it's good to rotate, especially since I'm growing heirlooms with horrible disease resistance.  So I did some musical dirt.  Using a small bucket as a big scoop, I transferred the tomato dirt (Mel's Mix) to my sons' scrap SWC bin gardens and took their formerly carrot dirt and augmented my scrap tomato bin and a little into my SWCs.  My goal with the tomato bins was to keep the mix as diverse as possible to allow for the best possible nutrients for the heavy feeders.  I'm still going to fertilize, but it all starts with good soil. 

Next up for my crazy concoction was copious amounts of home made compost.  It's very dry because of the cover over the compost bin for the last year, but that's ok.  It will hydrate soon enough.  It's also not what I'd call finished compost, at least not in the way Cedar Grover uses a chipper on theirs.  Again, I don't mind.  I love seeing bits of egg shell and news print that isn't quite done.  It's all good for the soil.

After that, I mixed in an equal amount of Cedar Grove compost.  I know, cheating.  At least I didn't buy it.  My Aunt got 6 yards delivered to spread out all over the yard at their new home.  She got too much (minimum orders) so she's been giving it away.  I just bagged four left over compost bags and brought them home.  I used three of them to fill all my bins.  Actually, rain stopped me before I could finish.  I basically left everything right where it was when the sky opened up.

Over the next few days, not much gardening got done.  If it wasn't rain, it was horrible wind storms.  So bad in fact that I actually brought in my tomatoes overnight.  I could do that since mine are still in pots.  Unfortunately, my brother's plants are in the ground already.  I got a call at 8 the night of the storm asking if I had anything he could use to protect them.  Thankfully I've been slowly collecting junk over time for use in the garden.  I had 5 empty 2-liter pop bottles in the garage for just such an occasion.  He cut the bottoms off, drilled a few vent holes in the top and put them over the plants like mini-cloches.  He's leaving them on to heat the plants a bit.  Can't wait to see how they fair.

Hold onto your hat and enjoy your garden!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

May 1,2010

Happy May Day!  Time for all good gardners to get their gloves on and work the dirt!

We celebrated a showery May Day by taking a walk by the chickens with the kids.  Nobody was home, but we did get to see the little chicks nearly all grown up.

If you recall, the chicks we saw just a month or so ago fit in my 3 year olds hands and were about the size of your fist.  Now look at them!

It's insane how fast they grow when treated with care.  I also wanted to share this picture because it looks like a great size for a home gardener that only wants two or three chickens.  I believe this is called The Egg.  I showed it before but this is the first time I saw it in action.  You can clearly see the mini coop with the panel on the side for getting to the nesting box. But what I really like about it, is the whole thing weighs less than 30 pounds so it can easily be moved from spot to spot in the yard so the hens don't do damage to the grass and keep everything nice and trimmed.  IF I can get the Mrs. to cave on chickens, this is high on my list of things to look into purchasing.

In case you want to see the size and scope of this set-up, I took another shot with a yard waste container as perspective.

Tiny, I know, but two, maybe three chickens would fare well in there, especially if you let them free range most of the time.  We have a coon problem in our area so it would definitely be necessary for night-time protection.

I have been out in the yard, especially trying to maintain my compost bins.  Unfortunately Spring storms have utterly destroyed my cover.  It needs to be rebuilt, but I'm not certain I will.  My compost is VERY dry and I could always just cover with blue tarps in the winter to avoid nutrients leaching out into the soil.  More later.

Enjoy your garden!