Sunday, March 20, 2011

Happy Spring!

First day of Spring arrived in splendid fashion. Big full moon last night, clear skies today & it's starting to feel warm & looks like it's drying out (there's probably rain in the forecast now...)

I couldn't hold back any longer & started getting the veggie beds ready for true planting.

I had noticed that the deer prefer to walk through a raised veggie bed instead of around it - plus they had eaten the tops off all my onions back in February, so I threw some plastic sheeting over top & now that the weather is warming up, my husband very kindly build some frames for the plastic to be draped over. Later on we will remove the plastic & attached fish netting to keep the deer out, but for now this seems to be doing the trick.

Since I'm trying a 'new method' of gardening this year (the 'no-dig' method) I layered up my amendments. I sprinkled on some lime and then some alfalfa pellets. Realizing that the alfalfa pellets smell JUST LIKE DEER FOOD, I then put on a layer of steer manure & since that wasn't enough, I emptied my 2 totes of compost - pushing it through a screen first.
That last bit was stinky & messy - the totes allowed the compost to continue doing its thing & there was a bit too much moisture, so it started to smell bad. But it's now on 3 of my veggie beds, with the plastic draped back in place. The addition of a nice healthy population of earthworms should get things moving along & in a few weeks, I'll be seeding lots!

After I was finished with this project, I realized I had neglected to test my soil's pH - which I had wanted to do with a simple little kit I was given. (The 'giver' wasn't too impressed with the test kit, indicating it didn't work very well, so this was going to be a fun little experiment for me...forgot to do it!) But, I have another couple of beds that haven't been readied, so I will give it a shot with them. I already have a feeling that the results will indicate that the soil is too acidic - one bed is for potatoes this year, so that is right where it should be, and the other is a new bed from last year that didn't produce well. Can't wait to see what the kit shows.

And I found the first of the dandelions - in my yard. I know they've been popping up elsewhere, but since this is the year I take my revenge on weeds by eating as many of them as I can, it was nice to see their golden heads appearing. They are also a good sign that the bumble bees should be arriving in full force soon. Dandelions are one of the first & last blooms that are an important food source for bees - I try to leave a few around at all times just for them.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patty's Day - Time to Plant some Peas!

Well, I just checked the soil temperature in my raised beds & today it is between 6 and 9 degrees Celcius. That's up from only 1 degree Celcius on February 28th! Shows what a good layer of leaf mulch & some plastic can do.

But that's still a bit chilly for planting seeds. Even some of the early ones (other than onions) prefer a bit warmer temps & a whole lot more sunshine. Plus, the rains that we've been getting lately would just be too much punishment. My plastic system needs some work - it mostly just sits on the top of the soil & while I see things sprouting, when I move the plastic to dump the water, all that cold water flows into the beds... Maybe I'll figure it out one of these days.

Instead, I decided to plant some peas in plastic clamshells indoors. I'll move them into the greenhouse after they've sprouted & then transplant them into the raised beds when the soil temp increases a bit more.

Since I'm such a collector of things, I'm never short of items to use in cases like this. I punched holes in the bottom on a clamshell (this is what spring greens come in) & put it into a 2nd clamshell. I added some sterile potting mix, water & poked the seeds in. I added a bit more soil to the top, labeled them & loosely put the plastic lid on top & have them in my window sills.

I did plant some of the snow peas in the greenhouse at the beginning of the month, but they might need a few more days to sprout. I've got Cascadia snap peas, Mammoth Melting sugar (snow) peas & some Striped Butterfly Blend sweet peas.

I hope the sweet peas come up this year - I tried others last year (after having grand success the year before & falling in love with the silly things), but they didn't do much. Maybe I should have put the sweet peas out sooner... but with all the rain, I think they may not have remained under the soil for very long.

Well, it's a start!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Starting Slowing Indoors

Along the west coast, it's hard to believe it's still technically winter. I'm really trying very hard not to over-do the early seeding this year, but one plant I rather enjoy having inside right now are the tomatoes.

I've got 6 Yellow Pear tomatoes, 4 red Moneymaker tomatoes & 4 early yellow Taxi tomatoes. Sounds like a lot, but I'm going to have the Taxi's in pots on my deck - they should be done fruiting by early-mid summer, which will allow room for a couple others. I'm going with the smaller variety of tomatoes - cherry types. Maybe then I won't have bucketfulls of green tomatoes at the end of October again...

I'm trying peppers for the first time and know that they will be quite a bit more tricky than the tomatoes. I've got an idea of a greenhouse-within-a-greenhouse to make sure that the peppers get the heat that they require (& that my greenhouse can't provide). I thought I had messed up the seeding - I used the wrong mix of soil when filling the pots. But, after another week of waiting patiently, they are starting to sprout!

And yesterday my seed potatoes arrived in the mail. I'm going to do it 'proper' this year (instead of putting store-bought spuds in buckets with inadequate drainage). I'm going to try Russian banana fingerling potatoes. I've seen lots of stories about the blue potatoes, but think I should start 'small' with my first attempt. I just remember when I first moved out here & inherited the raised beds in the rental house yard that there were potatoes all over the place & it took many years to rid the garden of them (so I could grow other veggies undisturbed). But maybe that's part of the fun of growing potatoes... I think I might wait til the end of the month before planting these, but at least I know NOT to add lime to that particular raised bed as taters like rather poor soil (or soil that is slightly acidic or soil that needs to be crop rotated).

Today is a very strange day - I didn't sleep very well & it might have had something to do with the earthquake that happened outside Japan yesterday. All along the west coast of Vancouver Island we were (still are at this early hour still) under a tsunami advisory; low level waves (60 cm) with strong currents. I didn't notice or hear of anything here in Bamfield (it was scheduled to occur at 7 a.m.) but there certainly was a vibe in the air. My thoughts are with those overseas who are affected rather than on my soggy gardens...

Friday, March 4, 2011

Slightly Delayed This Year

I ventured out for a walk yesterday afternoon while the sun shone for a few brief moments. It was a good day to bump into other 'spring anxious' people & talk a bit about green things. Here's a few photos of things I discovered:
witch hazel - still in bloom!
One of the earliest rhododendrons to bloom here - a few weeks behind schedule.
Another early bloomer that is behind - a plum tree (maybe with the delay in bloom time this year it will produce fruit!)
Willow blossoms - still not open all the way.
But the snow drops are still going strong.
The ground temperature in my raised beds is still very cold - about 1 or 2 degrees Celcius. I will have to wait another week or 2 before tempting the Fates with my radish, pea & early lettuce seeds. I take solice in my greenhouse where the temps are slightly warmer (haven't actually checked to see what they are yet).
My fava bean & pea cover crop have reached the end of their days. I'm pleased to see that they grew so well (planted in very early November when I closed down the tomatoes) with all the snow & cold weather we've had this winter. I hope that the nitrogen nodules on the roots left in the soil will be of benefit to the tomatoes that will be planted in a few months.