Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Narrated Visual Journey of this Weekend in the Garden

We started Saturday morning, Pup wanted to help. We packed up all of the plants and drove down to the garden.

We arrived after breakfast, and were shocked at how quickly weeds grow if you let them.

So we hoed and raked and hoed and hoed... And finally we were able to set out the plants and get started.

I planted while Kurt weeded, watered and carried buckets of mulch. Back to the left of Kurt next to that wooden thing is a "Little House on the Prairie" type water pump. It seriously gets your muscles working. I give Laura Ingalls credit.

Once the plants got in the ground and were mulched, it started to look like a real garden.

Here's Kurt carrying more mulch!

Notice the neighbors' plastic-covered gardens? Yesterday, several of them shared with us the "best" way to plant/mulch/take care of weeds/etc, which we found pretty annoying (since it's pretty much the opposite of how we want to do things), and a couple of them were making fun of one of our other neighbors who wasn't there because apparently he's a lazy gardener. I think I thought that the gardens would be a kind of peaceful, communal, accepting place where everyone was friendly, but I guess it's just a bunch of regular people - of all types. We decided that we shouldn't let it get on our nerves, for our own benefit, otherwise we'll just end up angry and upset. Our garden will be a peaceful and friendly place. See how happy I am? This is after 4 hours of work!

Sunday, today, was great. All of the plants, which were a bit droopy yesterday had perked up, and our neighbors, Ron and Janice, who remind me of my childhood neighbors Mae and Paul, were very chatty and funny, and laughed a lot.

We laid out newspapers along the pathways, watered them, then sprinkled straw down and mulched around the garden beds to keep weeds at bay.

Things we learned today:
  1. When choosing between hay and straw, note that hay has seeds and straw does not.
  2. Mice can get pressed into straw bales.
  3. The farmer down the road sells a giant bale of straw for $5.00, instead of 3 mini-bales that we got for $12.50
  4. Wet mulch is way heavier than dry mulch.
  5. (still not sure about this one) Priming the pump means pouring water into the top of the pump when it seems to go dry. I guess this creates more suction or something.
  6. Jeans can get really dirty

Check out the before and after:

Before (Saturday AM):

After (Sunday afternoon, about 8 hours of work later):

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Turning Soil on Cinco de Mayo

This evening was beautiful weather for working in the garden. It was sunny and breezy, probably in the high seventies, just gorgeous! We came tonight to turn in the bags of organic soil that has some hummus and chicken manure in it to enrich the topsoil there.

We had originally bought 3 bags for the whole plot, but probably should have had about 25 bags. Once we saw how pitiful one bag looked dumped out on one row, we decided to mix in 3 bags per row, so after working on the first row, we left and went down the road to the old Depot and bought 6 more bags.

It was hard work. We raked out the fresh topsoil into an even layer and then went around each row, turning the soil, mixing the natural soil with the new. It's supposed to be well mixed so that there isn't just a layer of the nutrient-rich stuff sitting on top of lesser soil.

The turning of the soil was hard work, and I could really feel my muscles working! By the end, I went down a whole row, turning the soil without stopping, and my back muscles felt like they were about to give out - it was kind of awesome. I'm going to be so strong by the end of this. Kurt and I were talking about how we're going to miss this soil digging, and I said we should section off a corner of the plot that's just dirt so that we can dig it up for fun and exercise!

Friday my transplants are coming (12 pepper and tomato seedlings), and we're planning on planting them and the home-grown seedlings and direct-seeding the rest of the plants that we haven't started. Saturday we're going to mulch and put up fencing of some sort - to keep out those bun-buns!

Speaking of bunnies, my pup-bunny has discovered a great new napping location - in the dirty laundry basket! She goes in there when Kurt and I aren't on the sofa and she's sleepy at night. Here are two of the cutest views I captured.

What a cutie!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Some trouble, but also some progress!

So who knew shoveling dirt was very tiring?!

Kurt and I went over to the garden plot yesterday to view our plot. This past week the Department of Recreation roped out all of the plots, and I saw online that they were ready for planting May 1st. So today we went over and dug our beds and paths. We have a path all the way around the 20' x 20' square, and 2 paths down the middle, so it's going to be 3 rows of 4' x 20'.

We started this morning at about 10:15, and left by 11:30. It was super hot, humid, and sunny, and we were working like crazy! I seriously haven't exercised since high school, and it was like jumping back in. My body is so tired!!!
But we got a lot done in that little bit of time.  Later tonight we're planning on going back over (once the sun starts to wane a bit) to mix in some organic soil we purchased yesterday.  If we have time we'll plant some of the seeds as well. Hopefully Kurt will be up to it - he's at an outdoor picnic for work this afternoon and I don't know how excited he'll be to go BACK outside tonight!

Two things that have been worrying me about my seedlings are that the kale is looking too leggy and they are falling over, and the cucumber leaves are turing yellowish. One is really bad and might die (see the left side of the picture).

From my researching online and in my organic gardening book tells me that the cucumbers are going through one of the following:

  • Over-watering

  • Under-watering

  • Too much nutrients

  • Too few nutrients
My guess is that they are big and over-crowding their little peat pots and have sucked up all of the nutrients that the soil provided. Tonight I'm going to conduct an experiment and use the organic plant food I bought, and see if one or two of them turn around.

Regarding the kale, I feel that they probably somehow needed more (or REAL) sunlight, and that they strained themselves to get closer to the light. I'm going to plant more from seed directly into my garden anyway, so I'm not too worried. It will be interesting to see the differences once the garden-planted ones grow.

Our garden plot "neighbors" are nice. One side is a couple with two young children who seemed like they've got some experience - they have the narrow rows with the black paper covering them for weed control, and were already planting seeds today. I think that they have 2 plots. The other side is a nice man named Gary who talked with us about how his tomatoes didn't come in last year because of all the rain. He complimented us on our rows, which was nice.

Hopefully we'll have everything in the ground by the end of this week, tomato and pepper transplants included!! They're shipping tomorrow, I think, from Wisconsin.