Sunday, February 28, 2010

U-G-L-Y, You Ain't Got No Alibi...

My garden is so ugly right now. The weight of the snow totally destroyed my bunny fences and squirrels have been digging where I planted my garlic. And, it's still covered in leaves because I was too lazy to rake them up in the fall. Oh, and part of it is *still* covered in snow. Also? The tomatoes this year will need to be planted in the bed that gets more shade so I'm concerned that the harvest will be lackluster this year. My rosemary & lavender are totally squished under a bunch of snow. I hope they will recover.

So sad. I can't even bring myself to take a photo and post it.

Next weekend I vow to put forth a more concerted effort to tidy it up so that it both looks less pathetic and so I can plant arugula. Assuming the squirrels won't be disturbing the seeds of that!

Blah. I'm sure the winter blues will the slapped out of me soon. I should try problem solving; that usually makes me feel more in control of the situation.

Like: Perhaps I could put tomatoes in pots in the front yard? It gets more sun there. And maybe I could get some floating row covers or something to protect the things I'm direct sowing...

On the upside, the seeds I recently started have sprouted! That's something cheerful, at least. Recently sprouted seeds are the cutest for realz.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Review: Great New Book Out with Container Gardening Emphasis

I'm a big fan of Gayla Trail, author of You Grow Girl and now Grow Great Grub. My reasons for adoration are simple: She advocates paying lots of attention to soil health & fertility, she makes gardening both young & hip, and she truly believes anyone can garden anywhere. to my ears. Especially the "anyone can garden anywhere" part. There are many things that work in shade, scorching hot, drought, windy, wet and other conditions. Gardening, especially edible gardening, used to be such a part of our daily life. And now it's a past time often left for retired grannies or crazy cat ladies with piles of newspaper. Thankfully, I feel like this stereotype is slowly changing; I've noticed many Gen-X & Gen-Yers are showing a "budding" interest in how things grow. I mean, frankly, if I can grow plants, anyone can. I'm pretty lazy.

Her latest book really focuses on edible gardening and includes easy-to-understand sections on soil (how to have good soil, what to use in containers, how to increase fertility, etc.), profiles of edible plants (growing requirements), garden-related crafts and recipes. All of this is put into one beautiful, interesting and fun package. Love it.

So, I bought myself a copy. Most of the information isn't new to me, although she does have several recipes, crafts and general gardening ideas I am dying to try out. I would highly recommend this book for anyone just starting out with gardening in general (would be a great housewarming gift for new homeowners that have expressed an interested in edible or container gardening, for example) or maybe someone that has "gotten their feet wet" with a few vegetable crops and wants to expand their horizons.

This book has definitely rekindled my desire to work more edibles into my ornamental landscaping. If anything good has come from the series of Snowpocalypses that we had this year, it's that some seriously ugly bushes in my front yard got damaged beyond repair. I'm going to wait to see how the light is there over the next few months (I never bothered to notice before since the bushes were mature), and perhaps replace them with blueberries and raspberries.

A line of blueberry bushes would make a lovely hedge, don't you think? Would just need to net them somehow otherwise my over-zealous robins would eat them all out of spite for me!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

2010 Seed Starting Begins

While there is still a foot of snow over most of my garden at least at this point it is "a foot" and "most" instead of "feet" and "all." What can I say? Not having to wear a hat, mittens & 2 pairs of pants for my outside class yesterday gave me some hope that spring was slowly, but surely, coming. Thus, I decided to start me some seeds!

Now, I still firmly believe it's too early for summer vegetables like tomatoes & peppers. After going through all my seeds (again), I found that I had forgotten about some kohlrabi & turnips & kale & carrots from last year. Whoops. I've also realized that I'd prefer to put blueberries in containers to make netting easier. And, I decided that I want to plant perennial onions in the fall. So, the 2010 garden map has changed:

Note that I am growing turnips & squash in the same place. I'll sow the turnip seeds (outdoors) as soon as the snow is gone and then they'll be ready to harvest about the time that the squash goes in. Double duty! Likewise, I'll plant mustard, kale & kohlrabi in the same 5 squares, just planting what I want/need at the time (for kohlrabi, you harvest the whole plant)

Now, onto the seed starting! Last year, I did a rather comprehensive post on the subject. Today I followed the same steps at method one in that post. I'll use method 2 for peppers and tomatoes in March. I would like to emphasize the need to sanitize you containers, especially if you are re-using pots or using yogurt cups*.

Much like human babies, baby plants are susceptible to sickness and you need to make sure everything is as clean as possible. Along this line of reasoning, you should really use fresh potting soil or potting mix for your seed starting. I know it's tempting to reuse something from last year, but you don't know what's lurking in it. Also tempting is using soil from outside. Not only could this have pests or diseases in it, but if it's heavy clay like mine, it'll turn into cement in a pot. So, spring for some fresh stuff. Your "babies" are worth it!

And, finally, don't forget to label your seedlings. It's just a matter of time before you have so many that you forget which is which. Last year I used the wood stakes, but they barely survived seed starting before degrading. This year? I'm using the blasphemy that is plastic. However, I'll be able to re-use them next year! And probably the year after that. Make sure to include the date & the name of the plant.

And...this brings me to the cost of my 2010 Garden. I've already spent $54.85 on seeds for this year (not counting seeds I bought last year that I have leftover or didn't use). I recently bought:

2 bags of soil-less potting mix ($8)
1 bottle of fish emulsion/kelp fertilizer ($13 but I will likely only use 1/4 *total* this year. So, I'm going to say $3.)
1 packet of plastic labels ($2)

Grand total spend on garden that's not even in the ground yet:



I can't wait for the first harvest...

*If you use yogurt cups, cut a hole(s) in the bottom for drainage. AND, DO NOT use Yoplait yogurt cups. The tapered top makes getting the seedling out a PITA. Only use wide-mouthed yogurt cups.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Interesting Vegetable Garden Design Site

This time last year I was all excited about my garden. Now? It's taking a bit more effort to muster up primarily because this year spring seems so very VERY VERY far away. Like, impossibly far away.

But I have my moments when I forget about how cold it is outside (still) or how many feet of snow are covering my garden (still). I have moments where I lust after a crisp, just-picked salad, the smell of basil (oh my, how I miss the smell of basil!) or a handful of Sungolds still warm from the sun.

Le sigh.

However, this vegetable garden planning site is interesting enough to briefly bring me out of my funk. It's got different garden layouts which may give any novices out there some new ideas. I find the "Plant it & Forget it" garden a little bit hilarious in that I don't see how anyone could "forget" about fresh tomatoes! Although, that is an alarming number of beets (I detest them)!

Thus far, I have not followed my planting schedule for this year. I find it really hard to believe I'll be able to see my garden by March 2nd much less have nice thawed ground by March 11th.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Snow, Snow Go Away

A belated post from Snowpocalypse 2.0 and 2.1...

With a bit more snow expected today, I say this: Whomever has pissed off Mother Nature, please apologize. Stat!

This FL-native and fan of seasons, is not a fan of blizzards or multiple feet of snow or being snowed in or shoveling snow or anything like that. I imagine that the 18 or so inches still covering my yard will take forever to melt; it's just not supposed to be warm any time soon. Oh, and I'm on "ice dam watch." I was blissfully unaware of ice dams until this.

I shake my fist at winter!!!!

I hope everyone in the mid-Atlantic area is warm & shoveled out. I am wondering if I need to delay my seed starting. I imagine with a thick blanket of snow on my beds it will take longer for the soil to warm up...