Garden, End of March

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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, March 30

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, March 30

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:

Potatoes

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:

Spring 2011 garden plan, bed 1

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.

Garlic, March 30

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.

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7 thoughts on “Garden, End of March

  1. Marla says:

    personally i think you need to keep way more than 1″ of potato leaves above ground. the theory is not only to have a long stem on which potatoes actually grow, but to have enough leaves to feed them. also, i agree that beer is an excellent accompaniment to garden planning (as well as weeding, harvesting, eating and contemplating).

  2. Lizza says:

    Ok gardening fairy – I am intrigued and jealous of your awesome gardening plots – so since I have decide you have become a sage of the gardening ways (I was going to say no pun intended, but it is rather funny) I would like some advice. My garden was rather pathetic last year in crops actually harvested – although some of that may be due to my periodic ambivalence to watering, etc. So what should I plant? I have a little garden area, although I believe I may have unintentionally converted a small sandbox to the gardening plot as I discovered black bag like material under particularly sandy soil prior to dumping multiple large bags of potting soil on top which in my mind created a garden. ๐Ÿ™‚ So I am not positive about whether the soil itself is super happy about being a place for growing rather than a place for playing which may also cause issues. Next problem – not a ton of sun due to trees in my backyard which think they are weeds and grow exponentially faster than I can trim them back, causing there to be a significant shade issue in the garden. Also, as previously mentioned I am not always the most mindful of watering, and other useful gardening techniques, although I have faith I could get better! Final issue would be the lack of consistent sun/rain depending on our lovely Alaskan summer. So what hardy, self-reliant little plants might you recommend, my friend?

  3. leahkathlyn says:

    Hahaha. I know nothing. I can grow plants in Long Beach, sorta. Actually, I do have Alaskan gardening experience. First, your black plastic stuff sounds bad. You want your plants to be able to send roots down deep if they so desire. What about turning your current bed into a little flower bed (pansies or nasturtiums or some other small, edible ground-cover-y flower where you won’t worry about deep roots – although you might then need to worry about drainage) and building a new bed on the sunniest patch of lawn you have? It helps if it’s close to the house, because then you remember to water/check on it more often.

    Plants I had luck growing in AK (from age four to age approximately 27, but only encompassing like five growing seasons total) included: carrots – I found it really helped if one used a Tonka Truck backhoe in the carrot garden, peas, beets, lettuce, strawberries, and some herbs. I know Swiss chard can just go nuts up there (and, you can cut it early and it will sprout new leaves again once or twice), and I think we had broccoli and a bunch of other stuff in the ’90s (coinciding with my high school biology classes). Chives do great, so maybe try a hardy onion? Summer squash (pattypan, e.g.) does very well. Whatever you want, really. Even though it can be overcast, you have light for 20 hours of the day, which is a plus. Go to Mill & Feed and ask for advice or buy seedlings, because they’re not going to sell you stuff that just won’t grow in Anchorage. Check the little tags in the seed trays to see what kind of sun and water the plants need (the same info is on seed packets, of course). I know there are also books on gardening in Alaska, maybe check Title Wave (it’s not like the information gets outdated) or the library.

    Oh, re: water – do you have one of those long-handled hose nozzles? I got one (it’s called a watering wand or something) and it makes watering faster and easier (so you’re more likely to do it) and is also great for accessing Duke’s feet after walks. If Dimitri needs a project he could lay in a drip irrigation system and put it on a timer, too, but somehow I think he’s probably got enough projects, what with Aloysius’s impending arrival and everything.

  4. leahkathlyn says:

    Also, if you want to go the fancy technological route, I’ve read good things about this garden planner from Mother Earth News. http://www.motherearthnews.com/garden-planner/vegetable-garden-planner.aspx

    It will tell you frost-free dates, what to plant when based on where you are, how to space things, how much space you will need depending on what you want to plant, allow you to play with designs, and then print everything out in a tidy, professional manner (much more tidy and professional than my pencil, paper, ruler, and beer). They have a 30-day free trial. Hmm, maybe I should actually try it and review it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. leahkathlyn says:

    Oh, last comment: Bell’s would be an acceptable alternative to Mill & Feed, and I know it’s closer to your house. xoxo

  6. Lizza says:

    YAY! Thats fantastic! I will definitely check that all out! Although we are allegedly getting 5-9 inches of snow today (I don’t believe them) so it may have to wait a while to actually get the wheels in motion! ๐Ÿ™‚

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