Pea Trellis & Plans Gone Awry

The garden isn’t called Rock farm for no reason.  The beds are raised and bed rock is about a foot down, less in some spots.  This can make putting up posts for a pea or bean trellis somewhat of a challenge.  I left the posts in place from last year’s early peas but last years fall broccoli is growing between them now.  They will hold the netting for pole beans later on.  The short row of peas needed it’s own posts.  I picked up a couple of small t-posts for that and hooked a 3/8″ green landscape bar across the top to hold the netting.  Pretty sure I got them in the ground far enough to hold.  The trickiest part was getting the netting on the top bar and attached to the side.  Tricky but I did prevail.

I had to pull all of the cauliflower and the single perennial kale today.  Something had gotten to the roots (root maggots?) so that meant digging out the soil in the area surrounding each plant for disposal.   My guess is that since they were planted so early, before anyone else had anything in the ground, the adults that were out looking for a good place to start a family all ended up there.   I put some Lisbon White Bunching green onion starts I picked up at Bainbridge Gardens .  I also put 8 Aspabroc “Baby Broccoli” in the Pak Choy bed.  This was sold as a ‘natural broccoli/asparagus’ hybrid aka broccolini.  We shall see.

I also found an ‘Egyptian Walking Onion’ at BG.  I used to grow those back in KY so I picked one up and tucked it in a corner of the garden.

I laid a perimeter of sluggo. and will probably go back tonight to plant either bush beans or zucchini.  The plan calls for zucchini but I am not sure it has warmed up enough for that.  I’m thinking I’ll swap the two on the plan.  I haven’t been adhering to the garden plan 100%.  Still learning and adapting as I go along.

April’s Lessons Learned: Do not start brassica from seed too early. They may bolt.  Being the first to plant means the bugs will be in your bed first.

Bolted!

I don’t know if it was started too early or if it was the days getting longer fast this time of year or both but the Pak Choy has bolted. Anita said the same thing happened to her last year. It was pulled today. Guess I’ll plant some broccoli transplants in that spot this weekend.

2015-04-30 19.10.13Had my first big harvest of the first planting of spinach. The lettuce is ready to harvest some leaves and the second planting is in desperate need of thinning, another weekend project. The perennial kale is on the way out. It looks like a root issue, perhaps some maggots. A couple of cauliflower are showing the same wilting symptoms and will be removed in the net day or so. The carrots, beets and some flowers (can’t remember what they were right now) and peas are up and looking good. The dill is coming along nicely as are the radishes. All in all it looks great.

Catching Up

April 12th saw a planting of a kale/Brussels sprout hybrid thing and  some broccoli-raab I found at the local garden center.  The broccoli-raab I attempted to start from seed never came up.  The 12th also saw the second seeding of spinach (Palco), radishes, carrots, Early Wonder beets and a beginning of the harvest of the purple sprouting broccoli.

2015-04-12 14.19.12

The lettuce transplants are doing wonderfully as is the spinach. The dill is coming up thick but the pak choy isn’t heading.

The peas seeded for the Helpline rows had spotty germination and what did come up was finished off by cutworms. They were reseeded today. Hoping for the best.

Sluggo

The Perennial Kale I ordered online was planted as was some cauliflower in place of some of the flowers.    The spinach and lettuce mix is coming up  The slugs have found the Pak Choy but have pretty much left everything else alone.  I did a line of Sluggo around the perimeter of the garden and alongside the steps.   Crossing my fingers.

Starting Again

One problem with a community garden is well…community.  There are a lot of people in and out and while I have been very lucky for the most part, occasionally a well meaning gesture goes awry.  Suffice it to say that the peas had to be replanted today.  Seedlings can withstand a lot of things but being stepped on isn’t one of them.  A couple of other issues were discovered today but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that all works out well.  The intent was good and intention does go a long way.

On a brighter note instead of throwing around the kettlebell this afternoon I shoveled compost into a couple of wheel barrow loads and spread it on the unplanted areas of the garden. It was quite wet and the shoveling and raking more than made up for the lack of structured exercise.

The lettuce, pak choy etc I planted last month in the little paper cups is rocking along.   I will probably plant out at least the lettuce tomorrow.

Fingers Crossed

Over-wintered Broccoli
Over-wintered Broccoli

The broccoli is going like gang busters. There are three plants remaining and all three are between two and three feet high. Given their height and the fact that the more they grow the more top-heavy they will be, I decided  to stake them. All three are a purple sprouting type so while there won’t be any large heavy heads to weight them down they will probably appreciate the added support. That being said a good wind might still knock them over.

On the 2015 gardening calendar I had set aside this weekend to plant peas and spinach. Given the amount of rain we tend to have this time of year most gardeners advise against seeding anything for at least another month. When I was plotting out the calendar I decided to live dangerously tho and go ahead and try getting some things in early. If they rot I can replant later but if the weather cooperates I will have an early crop. It seemed like a win-win.

While I was there I decided to use some short sticks to mark out the planting areas based on my map. I was happy to see that my guestimation of where the overwintering items were located was spot on.

Overwintered Kale 2015-02-21
Overwintered Kale 2015-02-21

I found that I had lost a kale plant since my last visit. The space appeared as tho someone had weeded it. One of the drawbacks of a community garden is that the powers that be sometimes get to things before I have a chance too. I appreciate the effort but would have liked to have seen what the issue was with the plant if it was still there at weeding time. It could be that it had been eaten or died down to nothing by then. I’ll never know. In any case I am glad that the three that are left are in line with each other. This gives me an extra space to plant something else. Of the three that remain, one has very few roots. It came out of the ground very easy when I tugged on it. I could see new root growth and didn’t see any larvae but at this point I am not sure it is going to live and not sure what the problem is. I fertilized around all three and tucked them in snugly and am hoping for the best.

2015 Garden Map
2015 Garden Map

The seeds I planted in the container a week or two ago are mostly up.  I’ve thinned them once to two individuals per cell.  They are enjoying all of the sunshine we have been having.

Aaaaaand We’re Off

After some false starts I was finally able to get a garden map created for 2015. The garden is 10’x20′ with a narrow walkway situated in the middle that is about 3/4 of the length of both plots. This effectively gives me two 4 1/2′ x 15′ beds and one 10′ x 5′ bed. I’ve broken these into smaller sections and have come up with a plan I think will work. It includes multiple plantings in each space, hopefully giving each the time they need. I tried to pad several weeks on either end of each crop to cover weather delays, elongated harvests etc. I took the information and plugged it into a chart to tell me when each crop needed to be started from seed, direct seeded or transplanted. I could be way off the mark with my expectations but as this is an experiment in learning, whatever happens is knowledge to help make next year’s garden plan more on the mark.

Several of the early season crops like lettuce, broccoli-rabb, pak choy, chives and kale can be started early and planted out when the incessant rains stops. The ground is entirely too wet to get into now but there are some things that could be planted now, given our avg last frost date of the third week in March. These I decided to start in little paper cups on the balcony and plant them out when the weather is more cooperative. I saw a ‘tool’ for making the planting cups in a gardening magazine several years back. It was basically a small round piece of wood in the shape of a small bottle and another small piece of wood with a depressions. The idea was to wrap paper around the larger piece of wood and use the smaller to create the ‘cup’. At $15 it seemed a bit steep and just something else to have to keep track of. I decided I could make due with a small pill bottle and the cup of my hand. I made these paper cups last year after and they worked wonderfully.

Paper Transplanting Cups on the Cheap.

Since these are made of paper you will need something to hold them. I used a plastic container that held some mandarin oranges that we recently picked up at the local grocery. It already had ventilation holes, was on the tallish side and had a tight fitting lid. A large container used to hold ‘greens’ would work fine too as would anything that will hold your cups fairly tightly, allow drainage and possibly some protection from rain, birds etc.

Step 1. Cut paper strips
Step 1. Paper strips should have a length approx 2x the circumference of your container and the width should be a little longer than the height + the diameter

Step 1. Cut Paper Strips

I am using a small pill bottle. It is possible to use a larger bottle but my plan is to start these in a small sized cup and transplant to a larger cup only if I absolutely have to. I hope to get these in the ground rather than have to plant them up. It is important to use newspaper rather than glossy paper from ads or magazines. The former uses soy ink whereas there is question as to what the latter contains. Cut the strips so that the length is roughly 2x the circumference of your container and the width about the height + the diameter.

Step 2. Roll paper around container and fold bottom to create a paper cup.
Step 2. Roll paper around container and fold bottom to create a paper cup.

Step 2. Create the cup

Wrap the paper tightly around the container and fold over the bottom. It is important the wrap is tight, if it is loose, the soil will get between the layers of paper and make the cup weaker. Be careful when you fold the bottom over. I’ve had it tear at the corner which makes the cup pretty much useless for holding the soil in while I am trying to position it in the container.

Step 3. Fill cup with potting mix.
Step 3. Fill the cup with potting mix tamping down as you go.

Step 3. Fill with soil

Holding the cup in your hand and supporting the bottom with your little finger, fill the cups with a good, light seed starting mix. Don’t use soil from the garden for this, spring for the light airy stuff, it is worth the few dollars. As you fill tamp down the soil. Don’t overdo this step. You aren’t looking for a little brick here but something that won’t shrink to half it’s size when you water it later. I found that dry mix is much easier and less messy to work with than premoisted soil.

Step 4. Place soil fillled cups in container and water.
Step 4. Once the filled cups are placed in the container, water and let sit to allow the soil to thoroughly moisten.

Step 4. Place in container and water gently.

Getting the little cups to stand up in a large container as you fill it can be an exercise in patience and dexterity. I found that by creating little sections that have room for 4 cups works well. Any cardboard will do. Tho it isn’t removed, the cardboard is only needed for support until the continer is full. Had I had another large plastic container I would have cut it up and used the pieces to create my dividers so it could be washed and reused next time. Since I didn’t have one I used some cardboard from a soda box that I fished out of the recycling bin.

Once your continer is full, water gently. The soil will settle a bit, this is good within reason as it will provide room for the soil that will be added after seeding. I give several light waterings rather than one hard watering. The latter tends to liberate the soil from the cups and makes a general mess of things. Let the container sit and absorb the water, I generally give it about 10 or 15 mintues.

Step 5. Plant and wait.
Step 5. Plant seeds, cover and wait.

Step 5. Plant and Wait

Once the soil in the cups has moistened sufficiently, you can begin planting. It is important that you either create little labels or create a map of your container (I take a picture of it with my phone so I’m not frantically looking for it later when everything starts sprouting). If you do create labels keep in mind the height of your container when it is closed. Depending on what I am planting, I generally sow 2 or 3 seeds to a cup then thin out the smaller seedlings. If I am feeling particularly generous I’ll transplant those into another container, if not they go in my salad assuming they are edible. This time around I left some empty cups to recieve the extras later on. Cover the seeds with some potting mix at the depth suggested on the seed packet and lightly press into the cup. It is important to follow the depth recommendation for each type of seed. Some seeds need no covering while most others do.

I generally keep my container closed until the seedlings are up unless it is going to be a very sunny and warm day. If your container doesn’t have adequate ventilation, it is easy to cook your seedlings. Once they are up and almost tall enough to touch the cover I remove the top. If the nights are going to be on the cool side I might place the entire container in a larger clear plastic bag and place it up against the house for the night. Not typically an issue here but it was often required where I lived in KY.

As the seedlings grow you may need to separate them if you can’t get them in the ground while they are still small. Depending on what you plant, some of the slower growing plants may be shadowed by their faster growing neighbors. For this reason it is a good idea to have a couple of smaller containers on hand so that as they grow you can (carefully) move them to a new home if necessary. Once the cups are wet they tend to be very fragile. I usually leave mine where they are unless there is a compelling reason not to. If you are starting a number of different types of seeds it isn’t a bad practice to use several containers, planting the ones that have roughly the same growth rate and watering needs together in the same container.