Monday, April 29, 2013

Fava Beans are up




I planted my first ever fava beans on April 7 along with snow and sugar snap peas in the same bed. The peas have been slowly emerging for the past week but no sign of the favas until this weekend, three weeks later. I only soaked the seeds for about an hour and did not try pre-sprouting them. Given the large size of the fava seeds, I expected an event when they emerged and I was not disappointed. These things are huge, no chance of mistaking them for a weed. I now have to get some supports in place since these are Windsor favas and are supposed to get at least 4 feet tall.



A lot of work is going into the garden but not much to show for it yet. I have been working my way around the beds, preparing them for planting according to the schedule for what is going in each bed this year. The beds are filled with Mel’s Mix, a blend of equal parts peat moss, vermiculite and compost. The mix is very light and friable, but it does compact during the season and especially the winter. The beds are prepared by stirring them up with a trowel and adding additional compost, which supplies all the nutrients the plants will need for the season.




This weekend it was time for the carrots to go in. I am trying the seed mat technique from Annie’s Kitchen Garden to plant my carrots. The seed mat is made by unfolding a 6 inch paper napkin, marking seed placement, and then placing a seed on each mark and covering it with a tiny drop of white glue. I spaded the carrots 16 per square a la Mel’s book, but I see I could have fit in a fifth seed per quarter. Next time I’ll try that if I remember.




The key to making the seed mats work is to cover them with a thin layer of soil. I used some Mel’s Mix I have left over from filling a bed. The mats were covered with the Mel’s Mix and watered well, then mulched with chopped straw. One of the attractions of using seed mats, which should work for most kinds of small seeds, is you can prepare them ahead of time, say during the winter after the seed orders have arrived. Something to do in front of the TV, then store away in a plastic zipper bag for Spring.




On April 17 I set out all of my brassica and lettuce starts and I was happy to see how healthy and vigorous they looked. . This was after the scheduled planting date of April 12  for most, but a week early for the broccolis. About a week later we got a very cold night in the mid-twenties and all the plants were damaged. The escarole and endive above have rebounded, but the broccoli, tatsoi, and choi look very sad. I expected they would rebound but haven’t. Sunday I took a close up look at them and their foliage is totally perforated with pinholes, like flea beetle damage. I haven’t seen any flea beetles yet (although the black flies are definitely out). I’m not sure these plants will make it, so I am going to start some more plants to replace them. There is plenty of time and it makes no sense to try to nurse an ailing plant back to health.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Back to Gardening




I have been silent the past few weeks because I was so busy. I do seasonal tax prep and until April 15 it seems like I am a hostage, chained to the tax desk. And it gets crazy at the end.The tax desk becomes a confessional and Father Dave hears a lot of “bless me Father for I have sinned, I have not done my taxes for three (four, five, …) years.” And this year, April 15 was also a holiday in Massachusetts (you know, Patriots Day, Battle of Lexington Green, Battle of Old North Bridge, Red Sox Opening Day, and the Boston Marathon). A day that is normally a feel good day, a day of multiple celebrations, became a tragedy. We spent the day chained to our desks, listening to the radio and asking clients what they had heard.



All that is now behind me and I was able to spend my Wednesday gardening instead of doing taxes. In the morning I potted up my tomatoes and peppers, as I reported in the previous post. The afternoon was spent prepping the raised beds and setting out the lettuce and brassica starts, shown above. They are growing in 1 1/2 inch soil blocks made using Johnny's 512 Mix and I think they look particularly healthy, unlike the sickly starts I had last year using Burpee’s Seed Starting Mix made with coconut coir.




The raised beds were prepared by fluffing up the Mel’s Mix and adding compost. I also added some green sand, kelp meal, and blood meal to give the plants a boost and add micronutrients. The brassica starts looked particularly good.




Beedy’s Camden Kale.




Broccoli DiCiccio.




Broccoli Purple Peacock.




Collards Champion.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Potting-up Tomatoes and Peppers




Most of the tomato and pepper seedlings now have their first true leaves so it is time to pot them up into larger soil blocks. This is my first year using soil blocks and so far results have been good, using Johnny’s 512 mix for the blocks. Anything would be better than last year when I used Burpee’s seed starting mix made of coconut coir and perlite.




I got out my brand new, two inch soil blocker, lined  a 1020 tray with paper towels, and wetted some of the 512 mix in a bin.





Since my seedlings were started in 3/4 inch soil blocks, I installed the special adapters I purchased with the blocker that makes depressions in the soil block sized to receive the 3/4 inch blocks. These adapters are attached with a washer and screw that cuts into the plastic adapter. Given the difficulty I had installing them, they will probably remain in place and if I am not using 3/4 inch blocks, I will just fill in the hole with more of the mix and make my own depressions for seeds.




It took a while to fill the 1020 tray with blocks. I did this in the morning while it was still cold outside, before my visit to the garden. When I completed making the 2 inch blocks, I transferred the seedlings to the blocks, making sure there was no air gap around the 3/4 inch block to inhibit root growth. There was no need to water them in since the new blocks were quite wet from the block making process.





The tray of seedlings are now in their new home and looking a little puny in the larger soil block. I am hoping they will like it and I will have strong, vigorous transplants in another 6 weeks.

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