I Think My Gardening Style Is Best Called “Chaotic”

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April 7, 2012 by Leah

So, it’s probably good that my first year of gardening since about 1999 (not including container gardening on an apartment balcony) happened in Southern California. All this business about starting seeds inside and frost-free dates and whatnot is crazy.

I ordered seeds around February 18th. They came. I planted several (tomatoes, aubergines, kale, broccoli, celery, leeks, onions, cabbage) in seed trays sometime around the beginning of March. The tomatoes and aubergines that I had in our pantry did really well. The hardier things that I had out on the sun porch did fine. The tomatoes and celery on the sun porch just started coming up a week or so ago.

Tomatoes and aubergines that were sprouted indoors.

The scene inside the sun porch. I've got to get a counter or work table or something.

Aaron made us a new garden bed. We learned from last year that raised beds were much more productive that beds we dug out of the ground, and we decided that if we’re going to be ripping up lawn, raised beds might end up being more attractive to potential buyers in a few years. After doing some research about chemical leaching and deeming the idea safe, Aaron decided to try using cement blocks for our first bed. I thought this was a good idea and said we could plant herbs in the smaller holes around the sides of the bed. Aaron asked if I’d read this somewhere, because he’d seen just that suggested on the internet. I said no, but it seemed like common sense.

Fancy schmancy raised bed.

So, I planted some things in the outside bed on March 26th. Our average frost free date is March 27th, 31st, or April 8th, depending on which source one refers to. Needless to say, we’ve had two hailstorms, at least two snowfalls, and a lot of below-freezing nights since then (including last night). So, the broccoli I transplanted out there a couple of weeks ago is doing well. The lettuce is actually starting to come up, too (yay!). The other things that were supposed to be sown directly (peas, carrots, beets, chard) – I have no idea. The tomatoes died, of course.

I changed plans and the garden bed now has cabbage, kale, and broccoli seedlings, as well as tiny sprouts of spinach, lettuce, and parsley. All cold-weather crops that should be just fine through however many more hailstorms and freezing nights we get.

The rest of the seedlings are all in various states of care in our covered sun porch and seem to have survived their first move from seed trays (which I bought, btw, since I’m bad at scavenging) into newspaper pots. On Wednesday, I set out some experimental onions and leeks in a bed to the side of the house, just to see if they’d survive. (For those of you who like to give me advice and then wonder why I don’t follow it – are you getting the idea here? I learn by doing.)

Jaunty tomatoes and aubergines in newspaper pots (and one four-cell seed tray I found in the yard).

When we said we were moving to Walla Walla people kept telling us how hot it gets here, but I’ve been cold since we got here (except for two sultry days in September and all the time I spend in the bath). I can’t wait for the weather to warm up enough so I can set out my tomatoes and plant corn and melons and squash. I’m beginning to wonder what I was thinking, planning a garden of such scope (three or four beds and some containers) during the growing season when we’re expecting our first child, but there are two of us. I’m still mobile enough to re-pot and set out seedlings (I’m supposed to be squatting, after all), and dig out established beds for new plants, although doing so now leaves me prostrate for the next day. Aaron’s doing a good job with the hard tasks like removing grass and creating raised beds.

And, if we don’t manage to grow anything this year (which seems highly unlikely), the seeds all have a shelf life of at least two years. For now, though, we wait.


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