Garden Update

I never managed to take pictures of the garden bathtub we’ve had for the last few months. Ours was no subject of a fancy realtor’s description but was actually a garden bathtub, with three waste baskets full of sprawling potato plants a sweet potato plant in a milk jug and a plastic bin of pea plants. Finally this past weekend, with Spring weather here (and hopefully here to stay for a bit), I moved all of this downstairs, some of it even outside.

The potatoes may be a wash. One potato had begun to stick out of the top of the soil, but there were no more in shallow soil. There may be many potatoes lower in the container, but we decided just to leave them be for now, after adding a little more dirt. If they don’t grow, there’s really not much harm done. We planted the last few potatoes in a batch of Yukon golds that seemed near the end of life anyway, so it was a crap-shoot anyway.

The sweet potato I grew from the end of a potato that had a couple of purple-tipped eyes on it. It started out in a little ramekin on our kitchen counter and ultimately grew well beyond the capacity of a topless gallon milk jug, fanning out its broad green leaves and digging its roots to the bottom of the jug. I planted it in a deep pot on the front porch yesterday. Even if it yields nothing, it’s been fun to watch it grow. Sweet potatoes really are lovely plants, especially early in their lives.

I think the peas too had outgrown their container. They crept throughout the shallow bin, a tangle of delicate stems and leaves, and I finally transplanted them tonight, after giving them some time in the sun yesterday. I also dropped a dozen or so unsprouted seeds in the ground in a new bed along the lattice of our back deck. The bed is a yard deep by maybe 10 or 12 feet long. I’ve now got 8 or 9 pea plants ranging from 6 to 10 inches tall clinging tenderly to the lattice, with the others (with any luck) burgeoning underground. We’ll see how that works out.

My garlic is looking great! I’ve got 8 or 9 plants out under out trees in the back yard that I planted when I first got my garlic bulbs months ago. Then I’ve got maybe 20 plants I had planted more recently that really aren’t lagging that far behind in terms of growth. They’re 10 – 14 inches tall, and it’s hard for me not to go dig one of them up to see how far they’ve come.

I had started a few dozen carrots in egg cartons a month or two ago, and they were moving right along. I was worried about transplanting them because they’re absurdly delicate plants when young. I just knew I’d break them when I tried to remove them from the egg cartons. I was spared the agonizing task, though, as we stuck them outside for a bit a couple of weeks ago when we had company, and we forgot to bring them back in. So I sowed carrots to finish a half-row of garlic and planted a second row in front of them. I may plant a row in front of my peas as well, and we plan to grow some herbs in that bed too.

And finally (on the vegetative front at least), I have tomatoes coming up at last. I had winter sown 7 or 8 varieties in milk jugs and soft drink bottles weeks ago, but had written them off because there was absolutely zero progress. But when I returned this weekend from a week out of town, I checked on them and found that five varieties had sprouted. So I may have some tomatoes after all. The Brandywines, which I was the most excited about, have done nothing as yet. I’m holding out hope for now that they’re just late bloomers and will arise soon.

In digging our new bed, we used a bunch of homemade compost. Our bin had gotten pretty full, but we kept adding to it. A couple or three weeks ago, we decided no to add to it any more, so that what was in there could decompose without further disturbance. So I moved the bin out from around its contents. The dog was really interested in the newly exposed pile of waste, so I built a really ghetto enclosure of chicken wire and 2-foot wooden stakes (three panels hammered end-to-end in a rough circle around the pile) to keep him out. We watered the pile and let it sit for a few days. Then I watered it again before heading out of town for a week. When I got back, it seemed pretty darned close to ready for use. So we folded it into the new bed we made. Here’s hoping it’s not so hot a mix that it kills the plants. It’s mixed with a lot of clay, so I think it’ll be sufficiently diluted that it’ll work out.

Our next-door neighbor has an impeccably-kept lawn. While I go out to mow my lawn as if I’m going to battle, with the blade adjusted as low to the ground as possible and heaving the machine about the yard, almost audibly roaring at times while I do it (I hate the task so), my neighbor trims his lush yard delicately and uses a fancy edging tool and all but whispers sweet botanical nothings to it as he communes with the grass. He chalks the quality of his lawn up to having inherited a sodded yard, but I know it would have gone to pot like mine had he not shown it the loving-kindness he has. Which is fine. But it has always bothered us that he fills 6 or 8 garbage bags per week with clippings that go to the landfill. So my wife went begging for grass this week, approaching his wife and telling her that we’d love to have all that grass for our compost and saying what a shame it was that it was going to the landfill (I’m sure her approach was less cumbersome than how I’ve portrayed it). And lo and behold, when we got home from an afternoon engagement on Saturday, we found that he had filled our newly-emptied compost bin with fresh green grass.

We caught him out in the yard later (whispering sweet nothings to it under the guise of trimming his bushes), and he said he had more but didn’t want to overload us. It turns out that bagging the stuff is a real pain for him, so he’s happy to dump it in our bin. Symbiosis achieved! He had several bags more of grass and then a bunch of bags of what would be considered browns in the world of composting, straw-ey, weedy type stuff. Heretofore, we’ve had mostly kitchen scraps and leaves. This season, I get to experiment with high-mass green content (which I’ve wanted because it gets really hot and apparently makes for great compost) and lots of brown content, which is apparently good for providing aeration for the green content. Since we used up our dumped pile in our new garden patch, we’ve now got a cube bin and a ghetto chicken-wire bin full of alternating layers of green and brown matter. I stuck my hand down into a grass layer of one of the bins today and it was good and warm (I’d guess 105 – 110 degrees). Can’t wait to see how it turns out (though I guess I’ll have to). My prediction for the moment is that I’ve got too much brown content right now, that it will provide good aeration for the green but that it won’t break down very well itself.

And there you have it. Two or three months’ worth of gardening packed into one probably very boring blog post. The next few months should be lots of fun. I finally bought a battery charger to replace the camera battery charger I’ve lost, so maybe my next report will include pictures.

5 thoughts on “Garden Update

  1. Heh. Your paragraph about lawn-mowing and the botanical sweet-nothings made me grin. I may have to go begging for some grass clippings, too. What I really want are some leaves. Of course, there is no compost pile yet. Jason’s parents have offered some space for one there, and we will do that because Jason’s mom flat cranks out the vegetable waste (and ours here goes to the worms), but I want one HERE, too. Jason is reluctant, because he doesn’t want to overload the HOA with applications – you know, we just did the garden and fence one. I may make an outlaw compost pile, unfenced, in that weedy no-man’s-land right beyond our yard, hidden by the sedge.

    Say, speaking of compost, have you decided, or not, to try vermicomposting? If not, would you mind sharing some worms when you come? M says you have lots, and they look like beauts! I just bought another three pounds, should be here in a week or so, but I’m really trying to crank up production, and will take any worms I can get. If you don’t mind driving a few worms here, I’ll tell you how to package them up so they survive.

  2. Heh. Your paragraph about lawn-mowing and the botanical sweet-nothings made me grin. I may have to go begging for some grass clippings, too. What I really want are some leaves. Of course, there is no compost pile yet. Jason’s parents have offered some space for one there, and we will do that because Jason’s mom flat cranks out the vegetable waste (and ours here goes to the worms), but I want one HERE, too. Jason is reluctant, because he doesn’t want to overload the HOA with applications – you know, we just did the garden and fence one. I may make an outlaw compost pile, unfenced, in that weedy no-man’s-land right beyond our yard, hidden by the sedge.

    Say, speaking of compost, have you decided, or not, to try vermicomposting? If not, would you mind sharing some worms when you come? M says you have lots, and they look like beauts! I just bought another three pounds, should be here in a week or so, but I’m really trying to crank up production, and will take any worms I can get. If you don’t mind driving a few worms here, I’ll tell you how to package them up so they survive.

  3. Oh, and I had a Brandywine sprout, and then some. I think I’m only going to do one plant of each sort, assuming I have one surviving sprout of each type. Would you like any that I would otherwise thin out? By the time you get here, they should be well-established enough to not just move, but to actually transplant once you get them home.

    Oh, and finally, pictures, please, as many as you can muster and as soon as you can. Your descriptions have me salivating for photos.

  4. I’m not getting your feed for some reason so I’m just popping over to see if you’ve written anything…glad to hear all is going well in your garden! I just wintersowed some more tomatoes and peppers yesterday…..slow, I know! The seeds from WinterSown.org that I put in 3 weeks ago are coming up. Remember, it is a bit cold for tomatoes yet and you’ll likely have more come up as the weather warms. At least that’s what I’m hoping will happen!

    Like Pamela, I’m waiting on pictures too. Oh, and I’m sure your sweet potato will produce. Wait until it is warm…..well into May….before you put them out. They need WARM soil and WARM weather.

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