Monday, March 17, 2014

In the beginning

We keep our seed packets in a wooden index box in the refrigerator, and it's an exciting moment every year when the box comes out to be gone through for early planting in the potting shed/greenhouse.

This year, for perhaps no very good reason other than that I like to, I've put a lot of greens seeds and roots seeds in an herb shaker, swirled them all together, and shaken out seed, as one might in salting one's dinner, over a flat of potting soil, to see what comes up. 

And again, two weeks later.

Things have indeed come up, and while I recognize the lettuce, the kale, collards, cabbages, joi choi, chard, beets, radishes, spinach and so on all look much alike to me. You cannot try this sort of laizzez-faire foolery in the garden if you're not good at telling your vegs from the weeds, but in the potting shed it does not seem to do much harm. 

In the garden, these potlings may well be planted out, more or less on a grid, as I come to them, kneeling by the beds. It results in a bit of a polyculture, where a plant may find a nutrient it prefers because its neighbor doesn't, or can find water because its neighbor's feet run deeper or shallower than its own, or a bug gets tired of having to travel so much to find its favorite lunch special.

This does not lead to the efficient harvesting beloved of industry, but may be its own kind of resilience, and to me is much more fun.

Today I pricked out some of the bigger items (many of whom, no doubt, are the French Breakfast radishes) and medium items (among whom, I hope are the Cracoviensis and Forellenschluss lettuces) and moved them on to three inch pots in leakproof flats, suitable for bottom watering. I want to get things past the point where they can vanish in the garden in one day (birds) or night (slugs) without my having a chance to defend them.

There is a swaying-swishing sort of slow dance to this, and I like to have Chopin's Preludes playing in the background as I do it.

In the photos, you may notice a blender sitting on the bench in the background. It's a dedicated garden tool (i.e., not borrowed from the house, which has its own). They can be quite inexpensive from the local thrift store. What I do is fill the pitcher about half with water, add a little bit of "yellow liquid," and some chopped comfrey and perhaps a few other herby things as the fancy takes me.

Bzzzzt. Instant tea.

Decant into a watering can through a sieve or strainer, and let sit a few days in a sunny spot in the greenhouse window. Serve to the bottom-watering pots, but only a very little bit, maybe one part tea to five parts fresh well water. Pow'ful stuff.

Seems to do some good.

But what the blender is really for is to make tea for the garden, when the plants are established there.

Soon, soon. One cannot do everything at once, especially in the beginning.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

What to do when it's mucky out

Not much is doing at Stony Run Farm. We are spring cleaning indoors mostly; it is just too wet out for a lot of infrastructure maintenance, construction or farming.

Beds laid out
We did have a dry spell. I used it to make up the main beds, add some compost, plant sugar snap peas and broadbeans, and bring out and sort the seed potatoes. We only plant one 3X50 foot bed of these a year, and though our method is one of benign neglect, we get enough that this year, for example, although we lost a third of the stored spuds in the garage to the big -9F freeze, we planted a third of the remainder in the bed and still have two thirds to eat, plant elsewhere, boil for the chickens, or otherwise find a home for. The bad ones have gone to the compost, the best of the good ones into the ground, and the remainder went back into the garage, with, hopefully, the slime from the bad ones hosed off.

We had a spectacular late killing frost last year in April, so all this is a gamble, but with clean spuds in storage we feel we can afford to give it a try.

For the peas, we made short trenches across a bed with a hoe, dropped the seeds down a length of pipe, and covered with potting soil. For the broadbeans, we trenched, dropped the big seeds down the pipe (they were too large for our usual pipe, so we went with a 1.5" diameter one) and simply dragged the leaf litter/soil over them.

Covering broadbeans
It's supposed to be too mucky out for all this, and the clay in the paths certainly speaks to that, clinging to our boots, but the ever-so-slightly raised beds and, in the case of the peas, the potting soil, are a help.

Comfrey is coming up along the duck fences as planned, but it's also come up where we "moved" it from, so I am planning to lift them from along the north side of the house and add them along yet more fence. The blueberry bed and raspberry bed have cut down our veg options, so the volunteer Egyptian onions and garlic need to be moved to that north wall, where some of them already seem to be doing quite well. This will open a little space for summer crops. We're also digging up and giving away some rhubarb.

But I will wait for the rain to slacken a bit. Good thing I have a few books to serialize and then tweet about, neh?

Risa's Scriptorium