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2014 Garden – Update 4

I have been lax in updating, I know. It isn’t because I haven’t wanted too, it is because writing about the garden only happens when I am not doing something with the garden, which lately, has been just about non-stop. The weather is slowly improving here in the great Pacific Northwest. The nights are still getting cool, and the days are remaining in the low 60’s for the most part. Due to the improvements, I have been able to plant more plants outside, including sowing some direct into the ground. However, because it is quite cool still, I have planted other crops inside. I have also made some adjustments inside that, I think, have improved what I am seeing big time!

First, the adjustment. As I wrote about in this post, I had the grow shelf in the cool, unfinished basement. And, while the plants that I had germinated, specifically the tomatoes and peppers, where all doing well, they did not seem to growing as fast, or as large, as I would expect. I began to suspect that the cool temperatures may have something to do with this as I know tomatoes and peppers adore the warmer weather, and it takes temperatures of 70-80 degrees for their seeds to germinate. I also began to wonder why I had put the grow shelf in the basement in the first place. There was another, possibly better, site for it. That would be in my ‘office’. A room, upstairs, where I have my computer. My computer is rarely turned off, and as a result, the office remains quite toasty. Last Saturday, the 5th, I made the sudden decision to move everything to the office. It probably only took a couple of hours to move the plants, shelf, and light fixtures upstairs, and re-set it all up.Grow Shelf Upstairs 04-09-2014 The grow shelf, and four grow lights (plus extra ones, sometimes), caused my already warm office to get extra toasty. So much so, in fact, that I have had to begin using the window air conditioner to keep the temperature manageable. Based on the thermometer, it is usually between 71 and 78 degrees in the office now. I have seen the plants respond in a huge way! The tomatoes have exploded as have several of the other varieties. The peppers are also starting to put on some size. Of course, I also transplanted them into bigger containers at this time. This, also, had a big impact on growth. Very exciting, and I am glad I was able to remedy a situation so easily.

Next, the plants I have been able to plant, or direct seed outside:

Cabbage [transplants from seed]:

Cauliflower [transplants from seed]:

Greens [direct seeded]:

Onions [sets]:

Peas [transplants from seed/direct seeded]:

Radishes [direct seeded]:

Carrots [direct seeded]:

  • Purple Haze
  • Rainbow Blend

Potatoes:

  • All Blue
  • French Fingerling
  • Purple Majesty
  • Red Norland
  • Yellow Finn
  • Yukon Gold

Beets [direct seeded]:

Herbs [transplants from seed]:

The garden is starting to green up, and I could not be more pleased. I was able to plant a lot out in April, which last year I was not due to lack of beds. May will see, of course, another huge dose of planting. I am currently preparing for that in the grow room. Meet the newest additions to join the grow room family:

Cucumbers:

Corn:

Nasturtium

I began working, today, on hardening off the tomatoes. In my impatience, I think I left them out too long and some of them got a little sunburned. I do think they will recover quick enough, and I did bring them in tonight, as it is going to be in the upper 30’s, and I am not comfortable leaving them out all night in the hoop houses. I think that may still be a little chilly. The next few nights, however, the temps are supposed to stay in the 40’s at night, so I may try leaving them under the hoops then and see how they do. I am quite anxious to get the tomatoes (and peppers) in the ground, but I do not want to cause any undo stress or other issues for them. Patience is a Virtue, and All Good Things Come to Those That Wait. Those are the mantras I have told myself lately. 🙂

I do have a couple of other updates, but I will save them for their own posts, which, I hope, will not take me as long as this post took to get out. No promises, but I will do my best!

Until then, Happy Gardening!

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Why Don’t We Start at the Start

What better place to start, then the beginning? I figure the best way to know how I got where I am, is to see where I came from. Discussing improvements to the garden won’t mean much if there is nothing to base the improvement on. So let’s all get into the Way Back Machine, and we will get started!

We moved into our current home almost 6 years ago, and it was 3 years later that I started to throw around the idea of having a garden. At the time, it was just a vague idea. I wasn’t quite sure how to get a garden going, or even how I wanted the garden to be, if that makes sense.

So we talked about it a bit, and I thought about it a lot. The yard has a large amount of rocks just lurking under the surface. We live on a very old river bed. So tilling up the soil did not seem very feasible. Not only that, the “traditional” gardening motif, you know, long rows with a few feet between the rows , just simply would not work. We live in the city and the lot is normal size. Perhaps if I lived in the country and had an acre or more of land that would be doable. We simply did not have the space for that type of garden.

So 2011 passed without a garden. I continued thinking about it, talking to fellow gardeners, and doing some research on the Internet. During this process is when I realized raised beds was the way we were probably going to have to go. It remedied the difficulty of the rocky ground. There was still the concern of space, however. Even with raised beds, I would still need to have long rows for plants. That is just how gardens are done! That meant large raised beds, because I have a hard time doing things like this small. Also, the idea of starting small and building it up over time is a difficult thing for me to carry out. When I try, things usually end up being large in the end anyway. That meant monetary expenditure for lumber since I did not have very much scrap lumber lying around then. I would also need good soil, and other expenses. Expenses I could not really afford.

This is how 2012 passed without the garden coming to fruition. I made it a goal to make a garden in 2013. So, when March rolled around I started getting antsy. There were still some pieces that had not come together yet. One of my co-workers has a very nice garden. He also uses raised beds, and he is a great source of information and inspiration. I was talking to him about the problem of space. How was I going to fit a garden that produced enough food for my family and I into the backyard and still leave room for the dogs? He patiently explained that long row planting was not necessary. A gardener could fit more plants in less space by staggering smaller rows. Aha! Genius! That sealed the deal for me. And so I began to work in earnest to get a garden up. I had finally accumulated enough spare lumber to build a couple of 4’x4′ raised beds, but that was not enough. I found that untreated lumber isn’t really that expensive. I scraped together enough money to buy some 2x12x12′ and a 2x6x8′ pieces of lumber. The 2x12s I made into two 12’x4′ beds, and the 2×6 I used to tie my two existing 4’x4′ beds together. This gave me a total of three 12’x4′ raised beds. I could do something with this! Next step was to buy some good soil. I do not own a truck, so I figured it would be easier to order some and have it delivered.  I asked around and got a recommendation for a local landscaping company with good organic (this was important) garden soil at a fairly reasonable price. In order to have it delivered, I had to order 6 cu. yards of soil. That was way more than we needed, however, we figured any left over would be used. During the spring and summer we can always use some good garden soil around the yard.

To prepare the beds for planting, these are the steps I took:

  • In the 6″ tall bed, I dug down an extra 6″ and removed the grass and dirt (and rocks). I did not do this for the 12″ beds.
  • I put down a layer of cardboard and watered it well.
  • On top of the cardboard I placed a thick layer of straw, which I also watered well.
  • Once that was complete, I filled the beds with the garden soil.
  • Once I had the raised beds filled with the soil, I added some bags of organic steer manure and turned it in to the top several inches.

Ready to Plant 05-12-2013This is what we had at this point. As you can see, it did not take long for one of the cats, this one is Xanax, to make his way onto the fresh dirt. I had a fun time trying to keep them from using the beds as their new, large, kitty boxes. I am well aware that cat feces is not good for gardens. Needless to say, it is easier said then done. Regardless, the beds were ready to plant. I took this picture on May 12th, which is right around the average last frost day for my area, and I was anxious to get to it! However, I am going to save that for the next entry.

Until then, Happy Gardening!