Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Topsoil

We've ordered some topsoil, to arrive tomorrow. We plan to add it to the goat manure, peat, & old hay we've got to create our beds for planting.

It's kind of sad to give up some of our plans, but good. We need to cut back. For the most part, we'll still grow most of what was planned, just fewer of each vegetable, and it will be much easier to manage, on only one side of the yard. I need to carefully look at the size of each bed now and determine how many of each item will fit, so I'll know which seedlings to repot and which to kill or give away, etc.

I'm putting plants out daily that will be planted into the garden asap, to "harden them off". They seem to like being outside.

I think "garden" almost all the time now. I lay awake at night then wake up in the morning thinking about what I should do. I'm in trouble now!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Rethinking

We are rethinking our garden, and making some changes to our plans. We are finding that we will need a lot more material to amend our soil, and have decided to purchase some topsoil to add to our sheet mulching process. It is not cheap. We've also been thinking that perhaps we are "biting off more than we can chew" our first year by planning to plant so much.

The artichokes are definitely out, cute as the little seedlings are. They take up a huge amount of space and resources for such a small crop, and may not even flower in our climate. It was going to be an experiment just for fun, but now appears too costly.

We will still plant in our terraced beds on the east side of our garden, we will still plant the perennial corner of asparagas (and companions) at the lower west side. At this point, the strawberry and melon sections are iffy, and the "three sisters" (corn, beans & squash) will be limited to a small area. It will still be a lot of effort and harvest!

There will be a large, unplanted section that we may begin to prepare for next year by planting some cover crops, then working them into the soil and sheet mulching in the fall.

The vegetables we eat this year will be expensive, but the amended soil will be used for years to come, with less expensive methods of keeping it up in the future as we recycle yard, kitchen, and horse waste efficiently from now on.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Snowy

This weekend we had hoped to get the beds ready for the plants that can be planted before the last frost date, kale, broccoli, endive, lettuce, spinach, asparagas, & artichokes. However, it was cold and yucky, and we decided we will need more topsoil to complete the project. It's a good thing we waited and didn't plant, because this morning it is snowing. It's just as well that the tender seedlings aren't out there! I'm still hardening them off, so another couple of days of that treatment will be good for them before planting outside.

I'm very bummed that I planted tomatoes too soon. They are definitely to big to be indoors, and beginning to hit the lights at the top of the growbench. I need to prune them, but want to do a little more research as to how to do that. One resource indicated that the "suckers" are non-flowering and that I should prune them off. What I'm not sure about is lopping off the top--if I do that will it grow out another non-flowering sucker, or a fruit-bearing stem? I'll need to look for that info.

I need to start a few more seeds, and had hoped to have the new space made available by the other plants going outside. I also wanted to make more soil blocks, but it's pretty cold and gloomy outside, so I may put that off another day or two.

We also did some re-thinking about Lucky's pathway, for a number of reasons. We've decided NOT to have her run the perimeter, but to give her part of the yard by the house and downstairs porch, and a path
closer to the house to get to the front yard. I wasn't planning to plant anything there anyway. This will mean less fencing, and non-electric and probably less expensive. Tim blocked off the area under the gate where the bunnies come in, so we will watch to see if they can still get in. If so, we'll put up smaller chicken wire around the base of our current fence.

Meanwhile, perhaps I'll proceed with my search for a kitten (or two).

Saturday, April 25, 2009

WEATHER: We've had some very nice, warm weather, then a few cold days with a lot of rain, then more very nice weather. For the next few days it will be cooler with the possibility of rain off and on, but not freezing. There is still that chance, of course. The average last frost date is around May 10, so hopefully we can do our major planting after that.

PLANTING PLANS: Our plans have been to prepare Tier 4 and three beds on the West side of the yard today, and start planting the things that like it cooler, such as asparagas, parsley, artichokes*, broccoli, kale, lettuce, spinach, calendula. Soon we'll start peas, too, but need to build the trellis first.

SOIL: Since we didn't start the sheet mulching in these areas, we will need to use a quick-start method, mentioned in "Lasagna Gardening", of layering lots of peat along with other organic materials and plant directly in that. We have a lot of soil in piles that was removed from the yard in the leveling process, but are hesitant to mix it in due to weed seeds in it. The soil in the yard has already begun to sprout weeds, so we know they're there!

Last week we found a listing on Craigslist for free "garden manure" which turned out to be well-aged goat manure, right here in Wellington. We've picked up two loads and may return for more. We also have a friend who has offered her alpaca manure. Neither of these need to be composted, and are supposed to be good for the garden. We will use that in addition to peat and the old hay we have. Much of the goat manure is compacted into sheets, so we'll put those through the shredder--it comes out nice & fine.

HOT TUB/PATIO: We've been talking about getting rid of the hot tub, and don't even care about money. We just want someone else to do the work of hauling it. So, I placed an ad on Fort Collins' "Freecycle" site on Thursday morning, offering it for free if anyone would pick it up. By the afternoon I'd received about 7 requests for it. I contacted the first person, who came to look at it that evening and plans to pick it up today. It'll be nice to have it gone since we aren't using it and it's just in the way. Now we can fix up the patio there with a table & chairs.

SEEDLINGS: The tomatoes are huge, since I transplanted them into the larger pots. They really like all that soil. I transplanted one of the endive plants into a larger pot, thinking it would get bigger and we just may eat it. Sure enough, it's a LOT bigger than the ones still in the smaller pots. Too bad I just don't have the space to transplant more things into bigger pots. I'm sure the peppers would like it. Too bad I can't get those tomatoes outside yet! I really goofed, starting them so early. Other things are doing well, but sadly, the seeds I planted two weeks ago haven't sprouted. Several different things: same result. I wonder if I did something wrong with the soil? The only other difference I can think of is that they've been under the lights the whole time, whereas last time I kept them warm at first and not so light, by laying them on top of the light fixtures. Maybe that's the problem? I'm thinking that today I'll go ahead and put new seeds in the same blocks and see if they sprout.

SOIL BLOCKER: I received my 4" soil blocker to transplant the 2" size into them. It took a while to get the process down to make them without falling apart when I eject them. But, a better job of packing the soil in with a stick, wetter soil mix, and very carefully lifting the blocker up straight all helped. I think I've got it down. It's very fun to put the little guys right into the big boys. I'm only transplanting the best plants this time, and not so shy about throwing out the least healthy.

MORE SEEDS: I'll be planting a few more seeds in small blockers, now that there's more space under the lights from the things that are going out this weekend. A few things could use a 2-3 week head start under controlled conditions.

LAYOUT: I've revised the layout plan a bit for where things will be planted. We'll be putting the corn/beans/squash (three sisters) on the NW corner, instead of the NE. There's more room there, and the heighth of the corn won't produce shade for anything else. Tim began to cut down the tree that was there, but left the trunk up until we decide whether we might use it for something like a bird house or scarecrow support. Don't know yet, but we'll probably just take it out.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


I planted tomatoes in our Topsy Turvey Upside Down Tomato Planters yesterday and today. It's been nice enough I can have them out for awhile during the day, then bring them in at night. I'm a bit challenged to find a place to hang them on bad weather days in a window where they can get some light, which are coming soon, but we'll figure something out. I don't want to drill any holes in the ceiling or walls or wreck anything for this interim arrangement. In about a month we should be able to leave them out all the time. I put two plants in each one (three varieties=three planters) because the instructions said I could. The one planted yesterday (left) has already begun to curl its stems and leaves upward. It should be fun to see them grow like this. It was a little tricky getting the tomatoes carefully into the planter, but I don't think I damaged any stems. The planters took a LOT of potting soil, and I left more room at the top than was recommended. I'll add more soil later if need be.

Tim finished back-filling the dirt behind the bricks and is almost done leveling out the rest of the area on the west side of the yard. After we take out the hot tub I think it will be very cute to have some flowers right there alongside the bricks, and a table and chairs on the patio (currently under the hot tub). In the corner we will begin amending the soil there for my asparagas plot where I will also plant some of the tomatoes, basil & parsley, which are supposed to benefit the asparagas. The asparagas are perennials, so I'll let them grow big this year and leave them alone there in the corner to sprout next spring.

I never knew I'd be so excited to see worms, but when Tim was digging and leveling the soil, we saw worms pop up and it was a lovely sight. We wanted to know they found us and are working our soil under our sheet mulching project. Now we know they're there!

The
"kids" came to check out what's going on. Come veggie time, they're probably going to want to come into the garden for sure!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

I must say, the seedlings started in the soil blocks (with the soil recipe found in the Burpee book) are doing MUCH better than the ones I started previously in store-bought soil starting mix! I will not go back to the previous method! The soil blocks are so handy (and cute) and the bottom-watering process is easy. I lift out my tray with holes in the bottom, pour water in the plastic tray underneath, then dunk the soil blocks in their holey tray back down into the water. I either spray the tops or drizzle a little extra water on top if the tops appear dry. These new tomatoes (started 3/20) are very cute, eh? The empty blocks are some seeds I planted in some of the blocks that didn't germinate--I figured it would be worth a try to re-use them.

Peppers: Small pot seed planted 2/20. Soil blocker seed planted 3/20. The soil blocker plant is swiftly catching up with the one planted in the small pot!

I made some more soil blocks and started a few new seeds, some for things I hadn't started yet (sage, summer savory), a few more tomatoes for a later season harvest, some more spinach (some of the ones I'd started never germinated--this way I'll have a few more to harvest later on, some more endive and lettuce, and some sweet peas. At least I'm being smarter and not planting too many of any one thing all at once. Next year I'll know better right from the start.


Soon we will need to get some soil ready to plant a few things that can go out previous to the frost date--then I'll have more room under the lights inside to transplant other seedlings into larger pots.

Tim is working on the raised area on the west side of the yard. It had previously been held up by some old railroad ties that were in bad shape and leaning.
He took out a raised bed that had been supported by large bricks, so he put these bricks alongside the new raised area and will fill that in with dirt (photos to come). He also began to take out a small pine tree that was there, then stopped limbing it so we can think about doing something clever with the tree trunk--put a birdhouse or feeder on top? String wires to it like a maypole and grow pole beans or something from it? Hmmm... Here is a "before" picture from last February, I'll add some photos tomorrow of what it looks like now.

We plan to get rid of the hot tub that is currently set on a brick patio, and replace it with a nice table and chairs. In front of this I might plant some flowers and ground cover, and enjoy this cute little spot. Tim warns me that it will be hot there in summer and too buggy to enjoy, but I'm sure there will be some times that it will be nice. I envision enjoying coffee there in the mornings!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Clay

I know that the soil here is not good for growing, and that it is a very clay-like medium.  It's been really noticeable this week after it snowed and melted.  It is so gross!  Mud and muck everywhere. I have shoes saved for the purpose of walking in this stuff, but I still can't get used to all the mucky stuff that gets stuck to them.  It's slippery, too.  And you can't always tell it's mud until you step in it and slip. The water doesn't drain well.  It just stands on top of the clay before it mixes in.  We have (had) some wood chips on our walkway area, and they've already gotten mixed in with the mud and are seemingly useless.  Bleahhhhhh.....  I am not used to this.  I liked the soil (and mud) much better at my house at Lake Tahoe.  (It had its limitations too, but the mud wasn't like this!)  OK, I've vented. :)

It drives home to me the point that we will have a lot to do to amend this soil and get it ready to plant.  I wish we'd started this project last summer or fall, and started our sheet mulching then or grown some green manures, etc.  Oh well, we'll just have to make do the best we can.  Next year we'll be ready to go in tip-top shape.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Tomatoes

By now it's no secret, I planted way too many tomato plants and started them way too early.  They are big enough to be planted outside, but I can't put them out there for another month.  I decided to take drastic measures.

I decided I need to transplant them again into larger containers.  These will need to hold them until they go into the ground.  I've already used all the sour cream and cottage cheese containers I'd saved, so thought I'd try to buy some.  I didn't want to spend a lot of money on them, but went out to look for some--up until now I haven't noticed any cheapie plastic containers for sale, but wasn't really looking.  I went to Home Depot and didn't see any so I asked.  The guy I spoke to didn't think they had any and asked how big.  I saw a cart with some plants on it which were in some of the nursery type containers I was looking for, pointed to it and said, "Something like that."  He said those were dead plants they were going to throw out and perhaps I could have those containers for free.  He went and asked his manager, and sure enough, we got busy pulling the dead plants out
 of the containers and I came home with 26 recycled, free pots!  Way to go!

I transplanted several of my tomato plants, trying a couple of different things with different ones and keeping notes to know what I did.  If some do better than others, I may determine what works best.  I have plenty, so it's okay if I mess up and kill a few.  From my reading, I've found that when I transplanted them the last time I should have buried them deeper, cutting off the seed leaves and burying them above that spot so they'd grow roots there.  It may be late, but I did that, and in some cases also cut off the next leaves up from the bottom, burying them to that point.  In some cases I pruned off the top as well, to get them to slow down and bush out more.

Tim fixed the shelves under the lights so these can have more room.  The tomatoes seem to be happy on their new shelf and in their new big pots.  

I also plan to get a couple more of the Topsy Turvy upside-down planters and plant a few in those. According to the directions I can put two plants in each. They can hang outside during the day as long as it's nice, and I'll have to bring them in at night for the time being.  I still have more plants I haven't transplanted (see photo at left), so I'll need to figure out what to do with all of them--keep them as-is and see if they make it?  I'm sure I'll give a few away.  Unfortunately I don't have any more large containers, so whoever gets them will need to do their own transplanting.

I wish I'd read and/or processed all of the things I've read BEFORE I made mistakes, but with lots of different references and in some cases conflicting information, it will continue to be a "live and learn" effort, complete with mistakes.  Next year I should know better.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

More "Potting On"


In the past couple of weeks, we made a second shelf of grow lights for more seedlings and to make room for the larger size of pots for the seedlings I've transplanted.  I think I did about a hundred of these today!  Tim also rigged up some shades to cover them at night to deter the cats from messing with them.  Quite a setup!


The tomato plants are doing very well, nearing a foot tall.  I know that I planted way too many, too soon.  Live and learn!  I wish I didn't have to learn by making mistakes, but I guess that's the best teacher, in some ways.  I'm sure we'll give away some of the tomato seedlings.  I also planted some endive right at the beginning and they are doing well.  
At this rate, they may be full grown before I can put them outside.  The artichokes also seem to be doing well, as are 
the broccoli and kale and several herbs.

I'm concerned about the peppers.  
The leaves have turned yellow, and they aren't growing very fast.  
Perhaps the rate of growth is normal, but I sure don't like the yellow leaves.  Thinking they may have been overwatered, I've cut back on the watering and I think they're doing better.  
Now that they are in their new, larger homes, perhaps they'll do better.  I have plenty of them, so even if only a couple of plants in each variety make it, I'll have some peppers.  I also started a new batch for later harvest, so it'll be interesting to see how well they do and compare.


I'm still having lots of fun with this.  I updated my plan with clipart just for fun.  Really classy.  
Tim is helping me with a garden database in Access so I can track everything I do, plant progress, mistakes, and add notes of things I've read, etc.  I should have all my info in one place.  Maybe when we're done with it we'll sell it to other gardeners.