Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Ordering This Year's Seeds (and a Carrot Update)


Not too much going on right now. We had another ice storm! But that was a few days back, and things are melting off nicely now. There are a lot of small branches down in the yard, and I could always go on a poop patrol and get the yard cleaned up a little for spring, but it is WET out there, and none of that stuff sounds really fun right now.

These are mid to late winter chores that need to be done before spring rolls around:
1. The grape vines need to be pruned. Also, one of the wires came loose, and it needs to be repaired.
2. Sticks and twigs and branches need to be taken out of the treed areas.
3. Pet droppings need to be taken out of the yard.
4. Ruts in the yard from bringing in loads of wood need to be sodded, rolled, and seeded.
5. Mulches need to be taken off strawberries and borders after really cold weather is over.

Not a lot of stuff, really, but the first week in April is eight weeks before the last frost, and things tend to get busy right about then.

I went out today and sorted through my junk in the garage and got things ready to go the the recycling center. Since I was dirty already, I decided to go and get some carrots out of the coolers. If anyone actually read some of my original root cellaring posts, I was receiving conflicting reports about whether to store carrots in damp sand or nothing. I would have to say that the nothing box won. About halfway down the sand in the cooler with the sand, the sand went from damp to all out wet, and most of the carrots in that storage box rotted. In the box with nothing, a little water had accumulated, but those carrots were still nice and crispy. Oddly enough, in the sandy storage box, the storage varieties of carrots fared the worst, and the white carrots from the rainbow carrots seemed to come through all right. I still got a nice big bowl of carrots that I can cut up later, but just about all of them are gone now, so I'll be buying carrots again soon.

Speaking of carrots, I decided to try a few new kinds this year instead of sticking with all the same ones I planted last year. I'm still sticking with bolero for storage, but I'm really excited about the Touchon carrots from the Burpee catalog this year. And I'm splurging on Japanese Momotaro tomatoes which is reduculous, because I like tomatoes cooked and sauced but not raw, but I still think it's fun to grow all the neat varieties of tomatoes.

I'm most excited about turning part of my wildflower and tall plant garden into a "Three Sisters" garden. I'm not sure if I've described that before here, so I may be going to repeat myself. First: You dig down about six inches and put in a fish. (I can think of some unfortunate bullheads who are going to "volunteer" for that job right now!) then, you cover up the fish and mound up about five inches from level. Plant the corn seeds. When the corn is about hand high, plant the climbing bean seeds (I'm probably going for Kentucky Wonder Waxed unless I get some free seeds from a catalog special for a different kind of climbing bean. I may also try some peas.) Then plant squash (or melon or pumpkin) around the sides of the mound. The beans use the corn for a pole, and the scratchy vines and leaves on the squash (or melon or pumpkin) surround the corn and keep critters from getting it. Also, the leaves from the vines cover the ground and keep the moisture regulated better than just bare dirt. Underground, the corn is taking the nitrogen from the fish and the ground, and the beans are fixing more nitrogen in the soil, and everything that one plant uses is replenished by the others. It's the Three Sisters! The mounds should be about three feet apart.

Basically, It's hard to get excited about anything this time of year, but I am pleased to have found some white alpine strawberries from a company called Pinetree Gardenseeds, which brings to four the total number of kinds that I have: two red and one yellow plus the new white ones.

This year, I will plant more than ten different kinds of tomatoes, four kinds of cucumbers, five different melons, and lots of sunflowers, too, along with my favorite old beans. My seeds for ground cherries finally germinated during their test period, and I need to find a good place to grow them unlike tucking them into the edge of the alpine strawberry patch like I did last year. Luckily, I have space in the tall plant garden for climbing vine plants and I expanded my lower garden by about a third. and I wasn't just being lazy and bad planting tomatoes in the asparagus bed last year! Little did I know that asparagus and tomatoes are excellent companion plants and serve as pest repellents for each other. And you don't have to rotate tomatoes as stringently as some other plants. As long as they are staying healthy, they can stay put, so a lot of garden space is getting freed up by having the raised bed for the asparagus open to tomatoes, as well.

Seed starting begins in about a month and a half, and I'm looking forward to it!

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