Playing in the dirt.

Archive for May, 2013

Zoom! Like a Rocket

Okay, yes, it’s a terrible pun.  Of the seeds I planted a week ago, the arugula was the first to sprout, with several little green faces showing up by yesterday morning.  It got close to freezing last night, but never quite got there, which is good, because I did not cover the bed.  I wasn’t feeling particularly well yesterday, and decided that if it was only going to take a week to sprout, I’d just replant them if they got nipped.  It did rain off and on all night, so I did not have to haul water this morning, so I won’t know how it went last night until I get off work this afternoon.

The cucurbits were planted indoors on Friday, and this morning brought two moldy zucchini peats, two moldy watermelon peats, three cantaloupe sprouts, and the suggestion of sprouts in all the other peats.  I’m planning to plant one squash bed in seedlings and one in seeds for each of the cucurbits, then compare the results between the two at the end of the season, to see if I need to bother with starting them early in future years.  Cucurbits don’t like to have their roots disturbed, so tend to make poor transplants, but our growing season is so short, and our nights so cool, that careful transplanting might be the only way to get fruit for most varieties.

It’ll be an experiment!

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We Are Go!

It’s official, there are seeds in the ground.  Repeat, there are seeds in the ground.

Yesterday, I pulled all the staples holding down the chicken wire, watered the soil, then raked in two bags of compost to make up for what I took out in produce last year and what settling there was over the winter.  Then I ran out of steam.

Tonight, I re-strung my square foot markers, and planted one square each of:

  • Onions for greens and sets for next year
  • Shallots for the same reason, though some of these might actually get large enough to eat
  • Parsley
  • Dill
  • Cilantro
  • Kale
  • Radicchio
  • Parsnips
  • Turnips
  • Carrots (Paris Market)
  • Carrots (Dragon)
  • Daikon radishes
  • Radishes (Early Scarlet Globe)
  • Radishes (French Breakfast)
  • Spinach
  • Lolla Rossa lettuce
  • Bunte Forellenschluss lettuce
  • Iceberg lettuce
  • Red Romaine lettuce
  • Arugula
  • Mizuna
  • Kohlrabi

All of those should be okay even if we get another freeze, and some are supposed to be planted before the last frost, anyway.  We’re technically a month away from our average last frost, but the forecast for the next week at least is 70s during the day, and above 40 at night (Fahrenheit, for my non-USian readers).  I have plastic milk jugs to cut down for cloches, and I can throw sheets over the bed cover if the weather turns on us again, so I’m pretty confident.  This is a little earlier than last year’s first planting, which happened on May 27.  I’ll be planting additional squares of most of these after I get the new beds built.

Inspiration and Influence

Most recently, Gayla has asked who or what we look to for inspiration in our garden, with Grow Write Guild prompt #4.

For me, that would be Genevieve Mason, a woman I came to meet when my high school biology teacher tracked me down at the end of my senior year to ask if I’d like a job over the summer working in her stepmother’s garden.  Mrs. Mason, in her mid-eighties and frail health, was ordered by her doctors to have someone else tend her garden for her, lest she overwork herself.  I would have gladly done the work as a favor to one of my favorite teachers, but Mrs. Mason would not hear of it, and so we settled on a polite arrangement where once a week I gave her two hours of pruning and weeding, and she would give me a five dollar bill.

She was a delightful woman who had traveled a great deal, mostly to French-speaking countries and most often to France, having been a French teacher before her retirement.  Her husband had been gone for several years, and I expect that our three hours of conversation each week were a greater service to her than the two hours I spent in the garden before she would kindly insist that I come in and have a drink and rest a bit before walking home in the heat.

One of the first things she had me do was plant a flat of pansies right up against the house, and while I do not currently keep pansies, I always think of her when I see them, and if I ever get my Someday and have land of my own, pansies will be tucked in somewhere in her honor.  She had the most amazing climbing roses, which I pruned under her direction.  By mid-summer, when she wanted to add some soil amendments, I told her that I’d bring her a couple of bags of rabbit manure for free, so she could just buy enough pretty “dirt” to cover it with.  She was pleased with the offer, and so the next week, I spent the first hour spreading rabbit manure around flowers of every description, and the second spreading garden soil over the top of it.

She introduced me to Queen Anne cherries, and she had an impossible number of herbs in a tiny herb garden just off her kitchen.  Mint had escaped its bed near the garage, and I spent one week doing nothing but digging it out of the lawn.  She told me to take as many of the cuttings as I wanted, with the suggestion that I keep it in a large pot as she looked over the lawn to see if she could see any other strays.

She had two overgrown evergreen shrubs of some ilk on either side of her front door–which I never used, having been directed to the kitchen door ’round the side–but that she wanted to prune to clear the doorway of encroaching branches.  When I told her that I hadn’t the first idea how to prune evergreens, she said that she didn’t care, she hated the things, anyway, and to just cut it all back so that the doorway was clear six inches all the way around, as high as I could reach.  It was a hack job, but she was happy with it, and I have still never learned how to properly prune evergreens.

I left for college at the end of August, and that last week, she told me that her garden had not looked so lovely in many years and thanked me for helping her get it back into shape.  Then she gave me her suitcase, an old and battered light blue hard-side with her initials writ large on the side in red electrical tape, saying that her traveling days were over, but she hoped the suitcase that had served her well for many years would be of use to me as I packed to move several states away.

Mrs. Mason died that December, just three days before my great-grandfather also passed away, and news of both reached me an hour before a chemistry test.  I failed the exam, but I’ve had more use for the things I learned from her, anyway.