20 March 2012

Spring Has Sprung!?

I don't know what to make of the last 3-4 months.  I have been waiting on winter and it never came.  We had a couple of instances where the highs were in the 40s and lows were in the 20s, but for only a few days.  The rest of winter felt like spring - chilly in the morning, but comfortable during the day.  And it has really skipped over spring and gone right to summer.  I know it does that around here, but it REALLY did it this time.

I planted potatoes and peas a month ago and they're are just getting started.  I even planted some experimental potatoes in compost bags, after suggesting to a yard-less friend to try it, and I'm starting to worry about the amount of warmth we're experiencing.  Potatoes aren't warm season crops - they don't produce if the soil is above 80 degrees.  (Sorry, Maria!)  I am already gearing up for summer and I don't have anywhere to plant - I'm laying out a new bed right now, as well as the two that I always talk about adding.  I'm even planning to take over part of the front yard - it'll be the easiest thing to do under the circumstances.

This week I've been starting some seeds, probably twenty flats or so.  Because I thought it was still too early to do this, I started with perennial flowers and seeds that I had little hope of them germinating.  Then a few days later, I moved on to tomatoes and peppers.  Now I ready to plant squash, corn, and watermelon, but I've run out of seed flats.

So, it's the middle of March, the high has averaged 80 degrees for two weeks and there are already tons of mosquitoes.  Where does it go from here?

08 March 2012

Garden Update

I just thought I would mention a few things that I'm experimenting with right now.  I expect to write posts on them later, but after the final results are in.

I suggested to a friend, since she doesn't have much of a yard, that she should try growing potatoes in bags.  I wasn't sure how this worked until I read a little about it on the internet.  I did a little research and make some recommendations, but there's really nothing like trying it for yourself.  So, after watching a couple of videos, here and here, this is what I did:

I took a $2 bag of compost from Charleston County.
I emptied it to about 1/4 to 1/3 full, and rolled the sides down
Stabbed it several times - enough for drainage, but not enough to fall apart.
Planted one potato per bag, a couple inches below the surface.
Watered well.

As the plant grows, I'll roll the bag up, filling with more compost.  When it's ready to harvest, all I have to do is cut the bag open.  I'll let you know in late May/early June how it turned out.

I was at a neighbor's house last weekend.  He's really into permaculture - something I know very little about.  One of his garden projects is creating multiple mandala gardens - in this case, they are circular gardens with a "key" path to access the center of the circle.  It could look fairly formal when it's completed.  I've gone through so many ideas about the landscaping in our front yard, that I really couldn't decide on one thing.  After seeing his yard, I returned to a more formal design, but incorporating vegetables into the beds, as well as annuals and perennials.  I've been playing around in the yard with a couple of different designs and I hope to settle on one by the weekend and start planting.

I can't end this post without mentioning the chickens, right?  The past few weeks have seen a little rooster drama - our (unexpected) Rhode Island Red rooster, Maximus, figured out that he was 2-3 times the size of our little silkie rooster, who was the alpha male.  Once Maximus became alpha, there was no peace.  He would try to attack Silkie when he could.  I started letting Silkie out of the coop first thing in the morning, before he could get attacked.  Once all the birds were out in the yard, there was less drama - Maximus chased, but Silkie was able to run away.  We decided to get rid of Maximus, for the good of the flock.  It took a little effort on craigslist, but we had someone come get him the other day.

I''ve got a number of posts in the pipeline - I just have to finish writing them.  In the meantime, I hope these suffice.  Stay tuned.

Plantin' Time

Every year I buy some version of the Farmer's Almanac intending to incorporate it into my gardening practices, and I never do.  I looked at it this past week and, if you believe in it, it was good that I did.  I've been trying to get out in the garden and plant potatoes, but things have kept me from it.  I checked the almanac and its recommendations were:

February 16-17 - Neither plant nor sow on these barren days.

I'm glad I looked!  I know it seems a little superstitious, but it can't hurt to choose one day over another, right.  One of the Farmers' Almanacs is online - I know of two competing versions - I was looking for another one to see if they have conflicting information, but I couldn't find the same information from the other one online.  I would like to buy the other one and compare.  The Almanac did tell me that this weekend would be good to plant potatoes:

February 18-20 - Any root crops that can be planted now will do well.

That's good because, being President's Day weekend, I had plans to do a lot of work in the yard, including planting spring vegetables.  I had to finish fencing off the garden from the chickens, fertilizing and actually plant.  I have a lot of chicken wire left over from building the coop.  My design for the fence included securing 2x4s in the holes of the concrete blocks that make up the raised beds.  I'll attach chicken wire to the posts.  I'm trying to use materials I already have - I have some wood in the garage, but I was able find several more good pieces in people's trash.  I couldn't decide how permanent I wanted to make this - I wanted it to be sturdy, but maybe not forever.  I dug out the concrete block holes as deep as I could manage and, after putting the 2x4s in the holes and leveling them, I added pea gravel that I had lying around.  After attaching the chicken wire, it's not that bad.  You can't lean on the posts, but it'll certainly keep the chickens out.  If I have a problem with it, I can always go back later and add concrete to the holes.  As I started preparing to plant today, I realized that making it chicken-proof, it also made it harder for me in the process.  One of these days we might fence off an area just for the chickens, but that day hasn't come yet.

I've never planted sugar snap peas before.  I figured out you're supposed to plant them in the spring, the same time you plant potatoes, onions, etc.  I had only heard of the kind that trellis and was looking forward to growing something on mine.  I bought some along with potatoes from Red Top Feed and I looked up the variety, "Sugar Ann", when I got home.  I discovered they were a bush-type plant and didn't need trellising.  That was ok - I still had to get more potatoes from the feed store, so I would get a different variety later.  When I went back and asked about a "running" pea, they had to call their other store, but afterward, they said the running pea was the "Sugar Snaps" variety.

...it's been a few weeks since I started writing this post and everything I planted is up.   I planted the potatoes a little closer than I have in the past, hoping to get more from the same amount of space.  I also planted both kinds of peas - I just noticed today that some of the "runner" peas are starting to look for something to grab onto - like a trellis!  I'll have to remember these varieties in the future so I know.

I have a good bit of peas left over, even after giving some to a neighbor.  I'm in the middle of designing the landscaping out front to incorporate vegetables into it, so I'm thinking of planting a lot out there - until I start planting warm season crops and perennials there.  Stay tuned for updates.

01 March 2012

February Rainfall

0.20 inches on February 10th
0.00 inches on February 14th - sprinkled, but mostly threatened.
1.60 inches on February 18th-19th, and more to come.
0.50 inches on February 19th
0.30 inches on February 24th
0.30 inches on February 27th

2.90 inches for the month of February

I know it's not rainfall, but I wanted to record a couple of cold nights, since we have had so few this winter:  Lows of 22 degrees on the mornings of the 12th and 13th of February.