Sunday, March 20, 2016

Gardeners' Holidays 2016: First Sowing

According to the calendar and today's Google Doodle, today is officially the first day of spring. But apparently, the people in charge of the weather didn't get the memo. Ever since mid-February, the weather has been unseasonably warm—occasionally even verging on hot—and all the trees and flowers have been budding much earlier than usual. As of two weeks ago, the crocuses were up, the trees had their first hints of green, and the magnolia blossoms were starting to appear a full month early—but now that it's officially springtime, the local weather report is calling for "a coating to an inch of snow, mixed with rain at times, late this afternoon through late tonight." It's not quite as much snow as we got on the first day of spring last year, but I'm still starting to sense a pattern here.

But no matter—if my garden schedule says it's time to plant the peas, then by golly, I plant them. (Hey, that's why they call them "snow peas," right?) We haven't had time to fully prepare the bed yet with a fresh load of compost, but Brian cleared out all the detritus from last year's crops, along with the biggest weeds, and I dug a narrow channel with my trowel and dropped the peas in. The seed packet says to put the seeds two inches apart, but Brian suggested planting a few extras this year, since last year we lost a lot of the seeds to birds and ended up with fewer plants than we'd hoped for. So I opted to err on the side of planting them a little bit closer together, and with luck, that should mean that we end up with an average of four plants per foot that actually come up.

While Brian was cleaning out the bed, he also took the opportunity to extract a bucketful of our nice, rich garden soil for seed starting. Our new method of starting seeds, with a layer of sterile potting mix atop a thicker layer of sterilized garden soil in the seedling tubes, gave us excellent results last year, so we'd planned to carry on with it this year...but unfortunately, Brian realized a week or so ago that he the batch of soil he had wasn't going to be enough to handle all the seeds we had to start. Luckily, we had an alternative method to hand: for my birthday, a couple of friends gave me this handy seed-starting tray, complete with ready-made plugs of starter mix, so all you have to do is poke holes in and pop a seed in each slot. The only catch is that the little slots in the tray aren't nearly large enough to grow the seedlings to full garden-ready size, so they'll still need to be transplanted to bigger tubes at some point. But Brian is hoping that he can simply fill the tubes partway with the sterilized soil and then remove the entire plugs from the seed tray—seedlings, starter, and all—and just pop them in on top. So he gave that batch of dirt a couple of hours in the oven, with the exhaust fan going full blast to fight the smell, and moved it downstairs to cool, ready to receive these small seedlings and the few other seeds we still have to start next week.

In addition to clearing out the bed ready for the peas, Brian did a little bit of work on the beds where we keep our perennial crops—asparagus, rhubarb, and walking onions. After clearing away the leaves and other debris, he discovered that early as it is, both the rhubarb and the onions have already started to come up. So no matter how the rest of the garden does, that's two crops we're guaranteed to get a harvest of this spring. And, on top of that, we actually have a bit of last year's crop left over: in the front right garden bed, amid a clump of weeds, there's a small patch of scallions that somehow survived the entire winter. At some point, we'll have to pull out the lot to make room for new crops—but in the meantime, we can continue to enjoy produce out of last year's garden even while this year's is in progress.
Post a Comment