Here’s how things are growing as of May 17, 2017. The cabbages are just about ready to harvest. We will roast one for lunch tomorrow! The beans and peas have something nibbling at them. The tomatoes are tiny still, as are the peppers. This hillside was planted in snake gourds and water dipper gourds! A Beautiful garden box filled with lettuces of all different maturity. Lush carrots with cucumbers starting to climb the trellis. Larger tomatoes weaved into the trellis. Beets under, hoping to enjoy the shade the tomatoes will provide. Onions with red lettuce planted under a trellis that has purple hull peas planted alongside. Peas, still producing!!! Lacinato dinosaur kale, a favorite!
Watching a plant grow from a tiny little seed is nothing short of witnessing a miracle. That’s why I was so sad that my tomato seeds never came up. What happened? I ordered a tomato growing kit from Old Time Tomatoes because I had a coupon to get it free. It came with a solution to soak the seeds in to ensure quick germination. But after planting those seeds, nothing came up. It also came with a peat pot tray that I used to plant peppers in. Again, nothing came up. At first I thought perhaps I burned my seeds. We had a really warm spring and the greenhouse got over 100 degrees on quite a few days. So I re-soaked and replanted the seeds. Again, nothing came up. I’ve grown my own tomato plants for years, so I know what I’m doing. But I can’t figure out what went wrong. I talked to many other people who ordered that same kit and there seedlings are doing fine. But in my mind, I thought, that’s the only variable. So I tried yet a third time. This time I did not soak my seeds. And they all came up. My peppers came up too. I planted them in my normal seed trays. Now I have healthy looking, albeit small, seedlings. But I am so behind schedule. After waiting a couple weeks for each batch of seedlings to come up in vain, I lost over a month. I know that Tennessee has such long, hot summers, I’ll still get a bumper crop of tomatoes. But I’m anxious to get them in the ground to enjoy all this spring rain we’ve been enjoying!
Gardening in April! A little rain shower brings on a happy dance. Little green shoots pushing up through the wood chips! Planting vines and pops of color in the containers! Here’s some pics of what’s happening in the garden in Mid-April.
Wow! We have been enjoying such an early spring! The temps have hit 80 some days already. I’ve had to keep my greenhouse doors open so my little cabbages don’t wilt in the heat. I’ve put in raspberry bushes all along the south fence in the garden and mulched them with pine straw from our friend’s woods. I also put in a row of raspberries in the orchard. Jeremie tilled the portion of the hillside that is not yet mulched and I planted a cover crop to hopefully help keep down the weeds and enrich the soil. I planted oilseed radish, poor man’s clover and buckwheat. I know the bees will love all those! My garlic is growing nicely. I’ve enjoyed seeing the green all winter long. I have 2 rows of onion sets under the far arbor and 3 rows of onion plants by the strawberry plants I put in during the late fall/winter time. Some snow peas are just peeking up through the chips. I never get a great harvest of peas because it gets too hot, but I try every year. They are so yummy to munch on fresh from the garden. Today (March 7 ) I planted out my young cabbages and brussel sprouts. Susie and Roo helped me and it only took about 10 minutes. Gloria helped too, by walking all over my little beet sprouts. I guess Roo did more climbing around than helping, truth be told. I ended up burning up all my tomatoes and pepper seeds. I was really on my game and got them started in Feb. But the temps got so high in the greenhouse, over 100!, and they were on a heating mat, I think they just got fried. I know I could just direct sow them, but I like to have something to fuss with in the greenhouse. So I re-planted today and hope to see little sprouts in about 5 days. My little herbs are also very cozy in the greenhouse for now. I’ve got some carrots sprouting outside and some chard, lettuce and spinach just peeking through. I’ll bet they just love the rain we’ve had the past two days. I’m glad, with the wood chip mulch, it’s not a muddy mess out there. This is something I love most about gardening the BTE way. I can be out in the garden with my kids, working and playing together. I don’t have to worry about mud. I don’t have to worry about compacted soil. Planting is quick and easy, so they enjoy doing it with me. I’m so glad I get to share my favorite hobby with those I love the most!
The almanac told me that yesterday was a good planting and transplanting day so I spent the morning in the greenhouse and garden. Do you like my new light set-up? I didn’t order any seeds this year (except for spinach ;)), so I had some garden money set aside and found this for sale for a great price. I love that the lights can be lowered or raised so easily! I’ve got some little cabbages and brussel sprouts under there. This year, I started seeds a little differently. I’m always trying something new, seeing how it works. I filled plastic trays (like you buy lettuce in from the store) with dirt (from the pig pen) and just sprinkled my seeds on top. Then I closed the lid to keep in moisture until they germinated. Once the little seedlings had a couple true leaves, I lifted up a bunch of them with a spoon, disentangled their roots, VERY CAREFULLY!, and transplanted them into larger cups filled with really loose soil. Surprisingly, a cuticle pusher tool came in really handy! It is metal with a little scoop at the end and it was perfect for supporting the little seedlings and depositing them into their new home, while pushing away the soil to make room for them. I’ve got a fan by the grow light system for better air circulation and to help the stems get nice and stong. This method of starting seeds didn’t cost me anything, so it’s very economical. I’ve also started tomatoes and peppers. I put those seeds into a little tray with a lid that I used last year and I didn’t cover the seeds with soil at all, but with vermiculite. Vermiculite is a super light medium that serves to keep in moisture and prevent the seeds from floating away when watering. I shouldn’t have to water these, though, until the baby plants push up through the vermiculite. I also direct sowed some things into the garden. Onions, beets and carrots were planted under the trellises. I simply raked back some wood chips, sprinkled the seed, and loosely threw some chips back on, to keep in the moisture. I also put in spinach, chard and lettuce in my new garden box. Today is rainy and overcast, so I’m glad the little seeds are getting a good watering.
My little pets have been busy! In return for cozy digs, they have transformed all my bunny poop into beautiful, black, light, fluffy, vermicompost. But, how to harvest all that goodness, without having to touch the icky worms, is my problem. I’ve enlisted the help of my brave kids, who laugh at their squeamish mama. Tommy made the base of this contraption, and I sewed the hardware cloth tube and Jeremie riveted the bucket parts for strength and screwed a bolt in the end. I can use a drill to turn this tumbler, watching the compost sift down onto a tarp, or into a wagon. It was quite cumbersome to have to turn the tumbler by hand, because it’s very heavy with a couple shovel loads of stuff in there. There are still a few kinks to work out in the design, but I’m excited to separate the worms from the finished compost and prepare new beds for them where they can get back to work!
While I love Back to Eden Gardening, I’ve always struggled with poor germination with my lettuce seeds. I think the seeds are just too tiny for the coarse wood chips. And I have a problem with creeping Bermuda grass on this fenceline. So, to remedy both of these problems, I asked Jeremie to build me a raised bed. A friend of ours had a huge cedar log on his property, so he took it to the local sawmill and we got the boards for $1/foot. Jeremie had to dig out the ground because the box is going to be set on such a steep incline. This box is nice and sturdy and very pretty. I say that because we have had boxes in the past that are not nice and sturdy or pretty Then we filled the box with old rotting wood. Ever heard of hugelkultur? It’s a method of building raised beds by mounding the dirt over piles of rotting wood. This feeds the soil and the plants with nutrients, moisture, organic matter and it makes it much easier to fill the bed. This bed is deep! We packed dirt around the wood and then I topped it all off with vermicompost from my worm bins. It still needs some more compost on top, but I can’t plant seeds for another couple of days, so I have a little time.
It’s that time of year again! With the mild winter everyone is thinking of gardening season which lurks right around the corner. The soil felt so good in my hands today as I planted lettuces, kales, asian greens, cabbages, broccolis and brussel sprouts. So happy to be working in my greenhouse and Gloria was happy to hanging out in her playpen in there as well!