Well, some experiments are a success and some are not. Some are planned, and some are not. But regardless of whether the weather decides to cooperate or not, I still start sowing things directly and inside and they have to go out or be eaten approximately 2 weeks later. If the timing is off when they need to go out- the timing is off and I have a decision to make.
I've never transplanted during a cold snap. I've always started things around the end of Jan. (cold weather crops only), but I've been lucky to hit a transplant date at a time when the night temps have been close to freezing- which means inside the tunnel (under a row cover) it's not and the plants have a few days to get established before we hit cold again. Well, not this time. Last year, according to my records, I started plants on the exact same day inside - Jan. 27th. I planted them out in the tunnel on Feb. 18th. But last year the night lows were around 33 or so going in each direction, for a few days at least. This year we experienced our fake spring really early, but the timing didn't happen. The starts weren't big enough to go outside during that time. I could have eaten that flat- but instead I decided to try and see just how far I could push these varieties. I started 4 kinds of kale, one lettuce, Komatsuna, Tat soi, Ruby Streaks mustard, beets, mibuna. The night temps were supposed to dip into the teens- yikes! So what was the outcome?
A surprise. First I'll talk about the successes- the lettuce (Garnet Oak Leaf) didn't mind. I was surprised since it's an oak leaf. So this variety will go on my very hardy list! And the mustard shined- it's fine.
The kales- not so happy. Some worse than others but I ended up pulling a lot of them and kept a few that the younger leaves looked okay- we'll see what happens. Surprising since kale is know to be a winter lover- and that is true, but you have to transplant above freezing and give it a week or so.
All the others- Komatsuna, Tatsoi, beets, mibuna, all didn't fare well and were pulled. The mibuna and beets I thought would be okay, but they just didn't look good so I pulled them eventually.
Now I want to be clear about this- these crops have all done well growing them through the worst of winter as long as they're given time to establish first before cold temps move in (with the exception of Komatsuna- I've only grown it once before and didn't keep records.) Starting crops from about mid-Aug to mid-Nov and continually planting out until the temps and light hours are too low is the key. And don't forget the direct sowing too- I do that between what I transplant. If you look at last year's post on March 14th I was picking my first salad of the year - and it had kale, tatsoi and more in it! http://dirtcandy.blogspot.com/2014/03/so-much-to-do.html
Since I had some others to go out and I've got a couple days only of some lows around freezing (outside- which means warmer inside), I'll try again. They are all lettuce- different varieties, and I'm mulching. In the mean time, the spinach and radishes are up that I DS a couple weeks back, the claytonia is up and growing everywhere (a great self sower) and even some lettuces, and I've planted more radishes. We're past the second week of Feb. when the light returns to above 10 hrs a day- so let the growing begin.
This experiment isn't a total loss- I never look at it that way when I walk away with some tid bit that will help next year...as long as I'm keeping notes! And there is always the next batch!
Yep, that's me- a slacker! I can't believe a year has gone by and I've not posted! Terrible! My apologies for not being as diligent about this blog as I was my old one. Gardening in my new location has been a challenge, but one I expected (well not so new by now- going on 6 years!)
So the challenge- the soil. By far the soil has been the hardest- growing in a cold climate was a piece of cake (at least in winter) compared to the soil problem. I've been getting a handle on it slowly, but it is never ending and won't ever be either. I've purchased a lot of compost, that's for sure. Now I'm building up- or composting in place. I've managed to get some great resources locally for bunny poo, leaves, and compost and it's all coming together...slowly.
The mandala is coming along nicely. There is still a bit of the "bones" needing to be finished but that will take place this year.
I ended up growing more than I'd planned, even though by the time the growing season came along I was burned out- remember I'd started this project in the fall of 2013. I look forward to growing this year and my plans are to focus on fruit- berries, trees. And of course the perennial flowers and insect hotel.
I recently recovered the high tunnel and I plan on planting out some seedlings I started on the 26/27 of Jan. in a week or so. I've made some soil blocks today and I'll probably sow some spinach in multi-plants and Tat soi. Here is a post I did about multi-plants on my old blog- click me. I'm hoping the break in the night time temps will hold out- that's the only way they can safely go out.
My light set up is about to change- since finding out last year that they're no longer manufacturing T12s I've been trying to decide on a replacement- T8 or T5. There is a great discussion going on on my G+ community Gardening Under Cover if you want to add your thoughts- so far, even though the poll is saying more people are getting T5s, I'm leaning towards T8s. The reason? I think the T5s are overkill possibly. The G+ Discussion here.
My year is starting, and I look forward to it!
Well, at the end of this post I think you'll know why I haven't posted...if you click the link anyway!
Since September of '13 I've been working on this project, a mandala bed. A huge project- yes, I'm famous for biting off more than I can chew, but this is too much! It could all blow up in my face with pests and weeds this year, but onward I will go anyway!
Here is a link to all the work from start to finish.
A picture really does say 1,000 words- much better than I can.
We are just now adding a deer fence- as of today we have the posts in. Yay!
In other news, I didn't grow over the winter for obvious reasons above, but I started some seeds in late Jan. I'm happy to report that the high tunnel is full- so let the greens and smoothies begin. We enjoyed our first salad of the year!
In this mix is three kinds of lettuce, 2 kinds of kale, mustard, spinach, and tatsoi...I think that it!
For continued soil improvement, I've gathered many leaves in bags that people around town wanted to rid themselves of- I just had to pick them up- close to 25 bags, I really didn't count. I did nail down a few people that would like pick up yearly! Yay! I also ran across an ad on craigslist for mulch and compost at $2/cu. yrd! I did some computer work for a friend so they helped me go get it- her friend has a hauling dump truck! Nice! We picked up about 5 yards and we'll be going back for more. The wood chips they had (mulch) was starting to break down nicely- I'm tempted to get that as the chips I laid down last spring everywhere was fresh and full of pine needles- not a concern in the paths, but for the beds I really needed broken down chips. I can't complain though as the fresh pile I got for $25 and it was close to 15 cu. yards! Still, I do need to continue adding it every year so I'm not sure what to do. They have about 5 yards left. Compost though is gold- especially at that price so I'll probably end up getting that.
For my down time I've been doing research on what I want to plant. I'd like this area to eventually take care of itself- and by that I mean it will be a system that works with little intervention from me- a food forest. Trees, perennial vegetables, nutrient accumulators to help bring up minerals from way down deep, good ground cover (eventually edible). A water feature will have to go in to bring in the frogs and others, and I plan on working on insect hotels first thing this spring. If you give the good bugs a place to live, they'll stay. The thing about the good bugs is there are fewer of them then the bad bugs, and they hatch at different times- usually after you find a few aphids getting out of control- planned that way so they have food! That's usually when the gardener gets out the stream of water or pesticides and begins killing their food. Since the aphids are sometimes born pregnant, who do you think survives the sprays? You guessed it, the aphids. So we essentially starve and spray the good bugs to death. My goal is to create a balance out there- letting nature take care of nature the way it does in forests. Calling in the good bugs, lizards, frogs, toads, etc. plus the chickens that will get out there occasionally and I'm hoping everyone will just keep each other in check. We'll see! This balance is not going to happen overnight!
So first things first- flowers, and lots of them. Ones that have tiny flowers for the tiny wasps that are great for pest control. There will be two insect hotel areas where a lot of these will be planted and they'll go here and there in the beds too. A big list and I plan on starting most of them from seed. Next is ground cover- mass amounts of white clover, which fixes nitrogen from the air, will go in- I will mass plant this and other ground covers to get them going before the native weeds get a foothold. Also any area or bed that will not be planted with crops this year will be cover cropped- I'll chop and drop that for soil improvement.
Next I'll be preparing the soil where trees and shrubs are planned. Possibly just making a compost bin in place. I have some trees coming this year that will go in the front of the house, so I'll be working on those spots too. These areas will become tree guilds...but that is another post.
I've set up my lights- very soon it'll be time to start. I'm planning on sowing some pansy soon- they'll spend a cold 2 weeks in the garage before going under the lights, which helps with germination. I'll scatter some seed around outside too.
A lot to do and a very tall order- one day at a time.
Here is a link to all photos taken as I've worked the field.
I also managed to get a couple Minnesota Midget melons and another- they were pretty good considering I neglected them somewhat :). At least I know they'll ripen in time. They are small, but sweet, and I'll try those again too.
The tomato varieties I tried from a high altitude seed company (much higher than I am) did pretty well- I still have some in the greenhouse. There was one that I'll try again next year, but I did get tomatoes a lot sooner than others here- so after I try them again I'll decide if they're worth recommending.
So, not much growing this year- but a lot of implementing some plans, soil building, and mulching. I've decided I won't be growing this winter and instead I'll add some good soil builder and let things rest- including me!
The other projects I have going are what is keeping me so busy that I've not had time to post- they are...
The chicken coop update: It's all coming together. I lowered the nesting box- which I think I already mentioned in the previous post, fixed the door, painted, added roosts, and did some decorating. I still have some to do before the winter weather sets in, but it's looking nice :). I named their home Cackle Shack- I have to make the sign a little easier to read, however.
The Field Project: Mandala garden- this is a 50' diameter circle with 11' diameter circular beds inside. Here is a pic of the plan-
And here is how much I've gotten done. The tilling is done in the circular beds and I'm in the process of laying newspaper down in the paths inside the beds, the interior paths surrounding the middle bed, and the path that surrounds the exterior of the entire mandala. A lot of work, but it's starting to look like something!
The last 2 are panoramic views, so be sure to click on the center icon and hopefully it will work! Next is sowing some cover crops that I'll chop and drop next spring before planting. The beds are circular so I can put the chickens in a chook dome that will be the same size- they'll spend a few weeks in there during the day- a plan that will come much later after I build a chunnel to get them there from my back yard!
I'll post progress as it goes- wish me luck!