Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mother Robin

I spent the afternoon outside yesterday doing some yard cleanup and putting a fence around the spinach. It was a little cool, much cooler than it has been over the last couple of days, which was a relief to me. After having 30º C temperatures just two days ago it seemed almost like t-shirt weather at 12º yesterday. In the end I did have to go in and get a long sleeve shirt.

When it was time to come back inside I happened to look up at the robin's nest on the back yard light. Just I looked up mother flew in and was greeted by 3 fairly large heads. I don't know how many eggs she laid but three have definitely hatched. I couldn't see very much of them but they looked very naked and were not making a lot of noise so I am guessing they hatched sometime in the last 48 hrs. I can't wait to watch them grow up and learn to fly.

Monday, April 27, 2009

More Planting Done

Saturday was very hot, 29ºC, for April. It was actually pretty difficult to breathe when we first went outside, but outside we did go. PeterC turned the last bed in the garden and spent the rest of the day cleaning up the yard. I spent the day planting the rest of the first two beds. I was supposed to start planting in the third bed but just couldn't get up the energy to do it.

I mentioned earlier in the week that I had set out the seed potatoes to develop the eyes. The eyes developed nicely and by Saturday I was able to plant the potato bed. I planted them in the space left after I planted beets and broccoli, neither of which has sprouted yet, in the second bed. That gave me just enough room to plant all my eyes as long as I planted them only one foot apart. If I had planted them two feet apart as directed on the box I would have required a lot more space, space we don't have.

I did try something new with the potatoes this year. Usually I plant the potatoes in a deep trench and cover them loosely with an inch of so of soil. As the plants grow I pile dirt around them until we have a small mound around each plant. This year I planted them in a trench like normal but I only covered them with a little dirt. I could still see the majority of the eye when I was done. I watered the soil heavily and placed a 6-8 inch layer of straw over the trenches. I have read this is a great way to grow potatoes so I thought this would be the year to give it a go.

I also managed to get my snap beans planted in the first bed. I only had two rows left to plant in which worked out great for the Fin de Bagnol snap, bush beans I planted this year. I've never grow this variety of bean before but the seeds looked like long, skinny, pinto beans. I made sure to coat them liberally with nitrogen inoculant before I planted them and watered them liberally after I planted them. With any luck we'll see sprouts soon.

Speaking of sprouts, the spinach as sprouted. At first I thought I was seeing little grass sprouts until I realized they were in my spinach rows. Now that the spinach has sprouted it is time to get out the fencing and protect the garden from grazing rabbits.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Preparing for Major Planting

The weather has been wet the last few days but the temperatures have been staying above freezing even during the night. That means it is time to finish the planting and watch the garden grow, while keeping weeds and insects to a minimum using good old fashioned elbow grease. The weeds should be easy this year as I plan to use straw to mulch between the rows. The bugs will hopefully be kept down by the companion planting and the flock of birds we have visiting us each day.

To prepare for this momentous event, I have started the plants that require a little extra growing time. I have planted the cucumber, squash, and all four variety of hot peppers in a starter tray. The tray is sitting in the warmest place in the house, namely the top of the dryer, waiting for the plants to sprout. Once they have sprouted the tray will be moved outside to the mini-greenhouse we set up in the garage. There they will get grow-lite and warmth thanks to the fluorescent tube lighting we set up for each shelf.

Other major preparation is to chit the seed potatoes. According to My Tiny Plot, potatoes need the eyes to be developed well before planting in the ground. I didn't do that last year and got luscious plants but few potatoes. This year I am using her instructions to chit my potatoes before they go into the ground. Essentially they are sitting in a tray in the mud room where they are getting indirect light from the window. They've only been out there a few days and I am already seeing huge development in the eyes.

This weekend's weather forecast is warm and dry so the last bed will be turned and my beans will be planted. I want to get the trellises built this weekend too but they may have to wait a couple of weeks. It will depend on what wood scraps we have in the garage. Usually we only give the pole beans a 5-6 ft pole to climb but this year I am going to try a lean-to design. I'm hoping this lets the plants have 8-10 ft climbing distance while making it very easy for me to pick the beans once they ripen. I'll post pictures once I get the climbing trellis built and installed.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Lettuce Sprouts

I didn't get to spend as much time outside this weekend as I had hoped but I was able to spend a couple of hours outside yesterday. It has been very dry here the last few days so I had to hand water the area I have already planted. This is the second time this week I had to water the newly planted garden and the lettuce in the barrels.

The first time I watered I used a bucket and was a little overzealous in my watering. The lettuce in the barrels got the brunt of it and I was sure I had destroyed my planting efforts when I let to much water wash the top soil around in the barrels. Yesterday, when I watered using a proper watering can, I was delighted to discover that the lettuce had sprouted regardless of my carelessness earlier in the week.

I am amazed by cool weather plants. They will sprout and grow even under our harsher and unpredictable Canadian Springs. We've had monsoon amounts of rain followed by near drought conditions and the temperatures have ranged from 20ºC to -6ºC over a period of just a couple of weeks. Now that the lettuce has actually sprouted I'll have to watch the weather more closely and cover the barrels if it looks like we will get freezing temperatures or frost conditions again.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Easter Weekend Planting

We had a long weekend for Easter with lots of outside work planned. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't really cooperating. It was cloudy and cold most of the weekend but Monday did eventually get warm enough, later in the afternoon, that we were able to get outside. PeterC turned two of the raised beds and as much as I tried to resist the urge, I ended up doing some planting.

Before I planted I did something different this year. Each year I always plan for and plant far to much in the space we have. Some years it works out OK but most years the beds just get to crowded and we don't get as much produce as we should. This year I took some nails and some jute cord and defined planting rows before I put the seeds in the ground. Most of the rows are 10" apart but at least three in each bed are 12" apart. I hope this will give all the rows plenty of room to spread side to side ad will make it easier to weed since anything not along the string is a weed, even if it isn't.

After marking each row with the cord I pulled out my seeds and decided what to plant. The soil was still fairly cool to the touch, except where the sun was touching the surface, and we are still expecting frosts for another two or three weeks. With that in mind I decided to plant Oxheart Carrots and Lutz Leaf Beets, both root crops able to handle heavy frosts for the three weeks it takes them to germinate.

While digging around in the seeds I found packages of Bloomsdale Spinach and Munchkin Broccoli from a couple of years ago. Both spinach and broccoli are cooler weather crops that we have a hard time growing because it seems to go from frost to bloody hot over a 24hr period here. Since they were extra seed anyway I decided to try planting them a month early to see if they can handle the frosts and grow to harvest before it gets to hot and they go to seed.

We use companion planting at Sparrow Haven with great success. Some things work really well together and some things not so much. A little research showed that beets and broccoli do well together so I planted them in alternating rows, three of each, in one bed. The plan is if the broccoli doesn't come up or is killed by a frost before we can get anything useful I'll go back and plant more beets so the crop comes in spread out through the summer and fall.

Carrots do best with tomatoes but we aren't planting tomatoes this year. Research showed that carrots and lettuce do well together and, in my mind anyways, spinach is like lettuce. So, I planted the carrots and spinach in the other bed. I didn't alternate the rows like I did in the first bed. If the spinach doesn't do well I can turn it under and plant something else in its place without disturbing the carrots.

Over the next few weeks I'll be planting Scarlet Creepers, Cranberry Beans, Green Bush Beans, Sweet Potatoes, Yukon Gold Potatoes, Summer Squash, Bush Delicata Winter Squash (Sweet Potato Squash), Hot Peppers, and English Cucumbers. Of course, I will be adding extra plantings as room allows but I suspect I'm already planning far to much for the space I have left to plant in.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Windy River

The wind has been blowing hard, crashing the river against the community wharf. The sky has been dull and grey since Friday afternoon. The weather man says we received our entire allotment of rain for April on Friday and Saturday. I can tell we've had a lot of rain. The wild garden is completed flooded and water is standing around the furthest of our raised beds.

A robin decided he was going to build his nest on top of our back yard light. The wind took it down three or four times but he persisted and we now have a cute little nest above our back door. It is smaller than expected, being only 4 inches across. Hopefully, he will accept our using the door and won't turn into a bomber pilot every time we are outside in the yard.

The crocuses are blooming all over the yard, and some in places I'm sure I didn't plant them. It seems the squirrels were helping me transplant them around the yard. The other bulbs- daffodils, lilies, and the sedum are all starting to show their tips above the ground. A couple of days of sun and they will start to bloom, too.

Here are pictures of the Scarf, and a baby spoon I finished this weekend.

The scarf, which I call Windy River, is 41 inches not counting the fringe. It is very flexible and wraps nicely around the neck, face, and head. The name comes from the white ripples that flow throughout the pattern.

The baby spoon is carved from basswood. As seen in the picture the handle is wide giving it a firm grip by adults and children alike. I sealed it with tung oil to help it wear well against lots of use and abuse.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

First Seeds and Bees

Saturday was warm and sunny so while PeterC played with his guitar I fussed about in the yard. I cleaned up a few fallen sticks, looked at the tiny little crocus blooms, and watched very groggy honey bees stumble from crocus bloom to crocus bloom. Apparently the bees were hungry, too. They swarmed the bird feeders and crawled all over the bird seed. I don't know if there was enough pollen on the seeds to make a difference so I put a shallow plate of sugar water out for them to sip at.

After I fed the birds, and bees, I decided to take a look see at the garden plots. The large raised beds were very wet and the soil still quite cool but the half barrels were perfect for planting. Usually we use the barrels for potatoes but since I had some early green leaf lettuce seeds ready to go I sprinkled them on the soil and lightly covered them. Luck would have it that it rained for the next four days and the air cooled off, which should be good for the lettuce.

Today is warm and sunny again. I'm almost tempted to go out and check on the lettuce but I know it takes two weeks to sprout. The other beds are even wetter now than they were so planting is definitely on hold for a couple of weeks. It works out in the end since the birds are stealing twigs and stems, left in the garden last fall, to build their nests in the trees and hedges around the place. We have standing water in the wild garden area because the ground is still frozen back there and we've had so much rain. I'm hoping that means we will have a large crop of baby toads in the yard this year, but I fear it means mosquitoes too.