May 29, 2007

Safety First

Memorial Day Weekend is the unoffical tomato planting weekend for my area but, since I was away for a wedding in D.C. I had to wait until today. The wedding was lovely and congrats to the happy couple by the way!

My flight landed and less than 2 hours later I was in the garden getting the seedlings, that had been pretty much just surviving on my porch, into the ground. These included 6 tomato plants (5 varieties), 4 eggplants (2 varieties), zucchini, and basil. I also borrowed my brother's car and got marigolds and rosemary.

Since all my seedlings came in six-packs I selected a few healthy ones and gave the rest to a friend who gardens in a nearby community garden and a new gardener who happened to be clearing out her plot while I was working.

I might have gone a little overboard but, here's what I did for maximum seedling survival:

1) I staked AND caged the tomatoes. I know that everything I read says that if you do one you don't need to do the other but, my experience last year (with just staking) was that everything just got out of control and ended up on the ground. I only had 5 stakes and 5 cages so two of the plants only have one support thingy but, I'm planning to add the extra reinforcements as soon as I can get to a home depot. Most of the time I'm glad I don't own a car just every once in a while it would be pretty handy.

2) I planted everything inside toilet paper rolls as a defense against cutworms. This was kinda tricky since the soil and roots for the seedlings was often bigger than the width of the cardboard roll so I really had to cram them in there. I'm worried that this will be a little suffocating for the plants although I know that the roots can grow through the bottom of the roll, it just seems like a long way to go at first. Hopefully it will all work. I will say that the chard I planted a few weeks ago seems to be doing ok in the tp rolls so I suppose that's encouraging.

3) I layed out Enriching Mulch around all the seedlings that I planted (not in the photos) which will help retain moisture, prevent splashing and keep the weeds down a bit. I assume the "enriching" aspect of the mulch is a good idea. I sure hope so.

4) I watered with diluted fish emulsion which is supposed to provide really good nutrients for seedlings -- especially tomatoes.

By the end I was really filthy, smelled like fish and had a really bad and funny looking sunburn (due to my racerback tank top). I stupidly ran outside and stayed in the sun for hours without applying sunscreen -- pretty dumb move I know. Safety is important for plants and gardeners alike.

May 14, 2007

No Pineapple!

I picked up all my seedlings from the shelter/farm on Saturday. Although I was excited to get them, I was a bit disapppointed because:

1) I was really excited about getting the Pineapple tomato seedlings that I ordered but, when I got there the farm dude said they weren't able to get the seeds or something and he had to give me something else . We had a nice bonding moment over the fact that the Pineapple are THE BEST TOMATOES EVER and an even better moment (for me) when he mentioned how hard they were to grow and how you're lucky if you get one from a whole plant. That was exactly my experience last year but, seriously that one was huge and beautiful and the most delicious tomato I have ever tasted in my life. It would be worth it to try again. It's nice when the experts agree with you. It makes me feel like I know what I'm doing. Still, being denied the Pineapple is yet another reason why I need to figure out how to grow my own seedlings.

2) They didn't have the marigolds I ordered either. They let me switch them out for some other herbs or veggies ( I chose leeks) but, I'll still need to get marigolds from someplace.

3) Overall the seedlings didn't look that great compared to last year. I'm not sure why since the weather last year was MUCH worse but, c'est la vie I suppose. Some of my "six packs" had only 3 or 4 viable seedlings. Still, the price is right (most of the six packs were about $3) and it's a good organization.

I planted the parsley, leeks and chard so far and I got some purple sage and planted that too. I'm trying to baby the rest of the seedlings on the porch. I hope they can survive until it's warm enough to get them in the ground.

PS: Very special thanks to my cousin Darth Green Thumb to whom all the credit is due if I end up with carrots in about 55 days.

May 10, 2007

Soil Temperature Maps

I've been dreaming of a soil thermometer lately and I still might get one but, I just found a link with current and 5-day soil temperature maps by region!! Should I trust this? Its been really warm the past 3 days, will the soil cool off again?

Looks like its warm enough to plant my snap bean seeds and maybe even tomatoes but....probably better not to push it.

May 5, 2007

Moving Day

Today (Saturday) was amazing!!!
I worked in the garden from 10AM to 3:30PM today. It was a scheduled workday so most of that time was working on community projects like digging holes and pounding in borders for new plots. I also spent a lot of time asking for advice on the layout of my plot and talking about the garden shed. I think we're close to a resolution on the shed issue. Fingers crossed.

I did settle on a new layout though and got it all set up. This involved some aggressive hawking of plants to assuage my guilt over giving them the boot. A few plants got tossed in a heap, a few were "adopted" and a few got moved around. The biggest victims were the daylillies (tossed) and the strawberries (half and half).

I moved the coreopsis, blackeyed susan, and purple coneflower out of their respective corners to concentrate all the perennials into just 2 areas. Oh and I got some free bee balm from a vacated garden plot. It pays to tell your friends the plants you want so they keep an eye out for ya!

I also created a back row that will become "Tomato Lane" to hopefully keep the tomatoes from shading everyone else while giving them enough room to get air and be happy. I still haven't figured out exactly where everything else goes but, I'm getting closer.

The garlic I planted in the fall is coming up! See the photo to the left. Not all of it made it but, I have at least 4 potential bulbs making their way in my little garden plot.

I haven't included a picture but, for those of you following along, its safe to say my porch composting experiment was a big fat flop. It just looks like dried leaves now. Luckily we got some of the good stuff delivered and I added about 5 wheelbarrows full into my plot today.
I feel sure that this will be my best gardening season yet!!