One of my favorite things. Peas blossoms!
Frost 3 nights ago. 80 today. Yikes. Connecticut weather is nuts. Never thought I would see a last frost date this far into May.
So there is a good reason I have held off on tomato planting. I am only doing a few Roma plants this year anyway, but there is no benefit to planting tomatoes (or peppers) too early.
This weekend will be the right time. I will also getting corn planted and all the pepper transplants in. For now, lots of greens, beans coming up, peas climbing, romaine ready, carrots sprouting.
And one child hoeing!
Peas are among my favorite things to grow. They go in early, they have gorgeous flowers, they are delicious.
And they feed the soil! Peas and beans are nitrogen fixers and will pump your soil full of great stuff that your other plants need.
The thing is, it actually takes friendly rhizobium bacteria to make it happen. Pull some happy pea plants up and you’ll see white nodules on the roots. That’s the magic!
Hitting your peas with some inoculant will help them get a good start. The inoculant is safe bacteria tuned to your peas. Beans too.
When I am getting ready to plant my peas, I create a little inoculant slurry. It’s easy. Buy some pea inoculant, put some in a bowl, add your peas and some water. Let it soak in the thickish slurry. Done.
In some cold seasons, like this one in Connecticut, I will soak in the slurry and then lay the peas on a damp towel to sprout them before planting.
Here’s a shot of the peas in the slurry.
I am not a handy man. I can not fix things or make things. I do not understand cars. Or electrical things. Or tools. Or wood. I lack the vision to see how things should be structured to work or look good.
My neat little garden beds? Simple as can be, right? Well I had help. That’s right. I needed help to figure out how to make big rectangles.
So when I’m telling you that you can make a potato bed with big ol’ removeable slats for potato growing/harvesting, you need to dig on my simpleton bona fides.
Okay here it is.
- Build a big rectangle using 2 x 10 wood plank thingies. Mine is 12 feet long by 2 feet wide.
- Put some soil in that thing.
- Plant your taters.
- Now, take some railing spindles and drive a few on the inside of the bed up against each side. Drive a few more on the outside. These will be where you slide down additional wood planks to make the bed higher as the potatoes grow.
- Hill up your potatoes as normal. When they are big enough (in my picture they are too big… what can I tell you… I waited too long. It will still work.) drop in another 2 x 10 on all four sides. You just doubled the height of your bed.
- Hill up more soil.
- You’re done. Or you can keep on building higher. Whatever floats your boat.
- When it’s harvest time, you can either pull the big slat away or just dig down.
Gorgeous weather here in Connecticut and I was able to get every bed planted. Tomatoes are in. Peppers are in. And I built a little cucumber bed and trellis and got some picklers in.
Things are growing, but a bit slowly. Oddly I’m having some trouble getting spinach going. I’m guessing that there’s something a tad off in my new soil. I haven’t tested it, but it’s all new soil and compost and most of it is not of my own creation. We’ll see.
Here’s what we’re looking like.
Well holy cow! I didn’t put a single blog entry up last gardening season. It’s like I disappeared from April on.
Many people sent messages asking if all was well.
Yes all was well and is well. It was nice to hear from so many of you wondering if I was okay!
Why wasn’t I writing? I’m not sure. It wasn’t the best gardening year for me, but it wasn’t a total disaster. I had wonderful luck with beans and the garlic was the best ever.
Still, there was no question that my soil is very, very, very tired. You could practically feel it wheezing. To compensate heading into next year, I have made the most compost ever. For me anyway. I need to get that soil nutrified. (yes that is a word that I made up.)
My plans for next year are (for me) ambitious. I’d like to add some space for at least another row. I’d like to dig out a better and more permanent fence that will angle into the ground with chickenwire. The voles… must… be… kept out! I can’t stand my garden without carrots and potatoes.
For the extra row, I’d like to do more with my kids and devote some extra crops for our food bank. Seems like a good thing to do and a nice thing for my kids to participate in.
Otherwise… things are great!
I do have another blog going if you are interested. I’ve been working with a bunch of my lifelong friends on a comedy improv group we call The Sticks… since we’re way out in the sticks.
And I sure do tweet a lot on my personal account. If you’d like, you can get pretty regular updates from me here.
My goal this gardening season is to get some small hoops up over at least one of my garden beds. I’ve been reading about how to grow greens through the winter and it’s really about two warm and comfy layers – a warm row cover and a greenhouse. It’s simple enough to create a small hoop house covered in greenhouse plastic. Even I should be able to construct that!
And it’s equally easy to use row covers. You can see a couple of my garden sections covered with a light row cover in this picture. These row covers add some protection against the cold. It’s not a lot of protection (these are very light row covers) but it’s enough to protect against the cold nights for my lettuce and broccoli.
Using these light row covers at this time of year is a good idea – mostly because they keep out pests and blowing weed seeds. If you’re not using row covers, give it a shot. There’s nothing to it. They allow in water and sunlight and keep out the bad stuff!
We’ll see how it goes this winter when I build the layer system. But for now, the light row covers are helping my plants get a jump start.
Many of the people that I respect and follow in the gardening world make it clear that you should dig out your lawn completely and just plant vegetables. I wish that I could go there. I wish that I was not hypocritical. But… alas.. I am shallow. And I like a nice green lawn.
Why? Why do I like this symbol of the suburban chemical warrior? Why do I aspire to a lawn like Augusta?
I don’t know. I just do. I like to walk in my lawn and feel the thick grass. I like to see the sprinkled (and NECESSARY NITROGEN-FIXING) clover. I like to watch my dippy dog roll in the dew. I like to wallow in the gorgeous green.
But, after many years of not knowing better, these days I most certainly do not like using the vile, evil, soul-stealing rotation of Scotts fertilizers.
Before I knew any better, I believed in the petrochemical miracle of seasonal fertilizing. How could you not think that weed killing, bug killing, summer stabilizing, fall fertilizing was a good idea?
Well, those fertilizers require tons and tons and tons and tons of gasoline to happen. Creating that magic mixture of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. And the weird pseudo ecology that they create in your lawn… well, it turns out that it’s not so good. Back in the day, I wanted to believe that I was doing the right thing – especially when suppressing (gasp) weeds and (holy shit!) ticks and fleas.
But, and this is important, it’s not doing the right thing. There are better, easier ways to get a good healthy, green lawn. Paul Tukey and the SafeLawns.org have been showing the way for a long time now. I follow a few of the simple things that they suggest:
- Compost in the Fall. A good spread of compost works wonders.
- Aeration every other year or so. My soil is pretty compact. Aeration helps a lot and is great thing to do when overseeding.
- Cut it high. Most people cut their lawns way, way too low. Let the grass come up. It stays healthier and can smother out the growing weeds.
I do feed the lawn as it is waking up. For this I use corn gluten meal. It is a crazy source of nitrogen and is very safe – no crazy pesticides or petrochemicals. If you watch carefully, you can tell the right time to apply it. Here in Connecticut, when the crocus come up and when the forsythia start to bloom, I spread it. It has a component that will inhibit new seedlings from establishing sufficient roots and will therefore prevent many common weeds from getting started. Just be careful not to spread it near your garden starts until they are established.
So. I’m not a total lawn crazy person! But I do like it green.