March 30, 2011 by Leah
By special request, here’s a garden update. (Sorry about the iPhone photos, the batteries to our only nice camera we have actually seen the connector cable for since we moved are doing double-duty in a bicycle headlight.)
Here‘s where things stood two weeks ago.
Here’s where things stand now – the prettiest bed first:
Bed 3 is 26 days in. I love the color contrast between the electric green baby lettuce, the deep green of the collards, and the bluish tinge to the poppies between them. You can also see one of two sprouted watermelon seeds at the left end of the photo. The things between the lettuce and the peppers are marigolds. There are some leeks interspersed with (they were supposed to be to the right of) the poppies.
Theoretically the lettuce will be ready in two weeks. That would be kind of amazing, although I was reading yesterday that certain cucumber fruits can double in size in a single day.
Bed 2 is 28 days in. You can see broccoli up near the top by the tomatoes, cucumbers in little mounds towards the right, beans and corn interspersed down the middle, and squash and aubergine towards the left. There are some tiny snapdragons among the tomatoes (which are cranky because it’s been chilly), and I haven’t seen any lavender yet. The onions around the border are growing impressively.
(I read that planting members of the Allium genus around garden borders can ward off pests. My friend David just read that it’s best to keep Allia – Alliae? – away from legumes. I will try to keep this in mind in future garden plans.)
I thinned the plants in both beds several days ago, having learned from the winter garden that not thinning means crowded plants with less room to grow and access to nutrients.
It’s really fun to watch these plants grow from seeds. The broccoli and collard green sprouts look almost exactly the same, and yet they grow into such different, delicious plants.
The potatoes have sprouted:
I don’t quite have a handle on what to do with these guys yet. I’ve been adding mulch as they grow. Apparently I’m only supposed to allow one inch of plant above the surface of the mulch because the potatoes grow between the leaves and the seed potato, but that’s difficult when all your plants are growing at different rates.
Bed 1, which provided us with some surprisingly delicious vegetables (we ate the spring garlic in scrambled eggs every day until it was gone, and the carrots have gone into several dishes), has been redesigned and replanted. I looked up the principles of crop rotation for the home gardener, and am loosely rotating my crops based on whether they are grown for leaves, fruits, roots, or are legumes. It’s a little difficult when you have a five foot by ten foot bed and your plants need space.
This is what I came up with:
Yes, I actually map out plans for all my garden beds. With a ruler. And, usually, a beer to keep me going.
If you noticed “quinoa” on the plan, I’m trying to grow it more for the novelty value than as a crop. It’s supposed to have gorgeous flowers and grow between four and six feet tall, so I thought it would be pretty along the fence, although the instructions were a little complicated. The planting instructions even suggested putting the seeds in the freezer for a while before sowing. Me being me, I tossed caution and complexity to the wind and just put the seeds in the carefully prepared dirt. (Oh, I bought a hand tiller. Exhausting, but effective.) Several have sprouted. Perhaps this is the miracle of the Long Beach micro-climate my yoga teacher mentioned the other day – pretty much anything will grow here.
Everything but the okra and tomatoes were planted six days ago. I have a fuzzy little bean sprout (maybe) and a cabbage leaf, plus some quinoa sprouts and a bunch of garlic shoots.
I planted okra and tomatoes in little pots because our nights haven’t been consistently above 55 degrees. And then I put the little pots on the lawn to get some sun (we don’t get a lot in our house) and brought them in at night. And then I stopped bringing the seeds in after night one, so they might be dead. Not sure. I was actually planning to direct-sow tomato seeds in the garden once things warm up a little more, and was going to use the tomato seedlings to replace early crops coming out of the other beds. The okra really is supposed to be started indoors, though, so I might have to pull out another seed tray and grow okra seedlings in our guest room/my office, where it actually gets sunny.
Now I’m just waiting for the weather to warm up to really get my plants growing. I know, that sounds ridiculous to most of you (especially the Alaskans), but according to our Saturday dinner guests, the last twelve months have been about the coldest year in Angeleno memory.
I’m also waiting to see whether the “maturity dates” printed on the packages could possibly be correct. Lettuce in two weeks? Squash and broccoli within a few days after the lettuce? Collards, beans, and cucumbers at the beginning of May? This could be amazing.
I’m discovering that, as with cooking, timing is one of the hardest things to learn in gardening. Someday, I’ll be harvesting year-round. For now, I’m cutting myself some slack, because I remember being frustrated by never being able to get dishes on the table at exactly the right time, and then, suddenly, one day, I just knew what to do. Experience is an excellent teacher.