Monday, May 15, 2017

not quite planting time

It's been too cold to plant. I mean, it's been really cold.
Giant kettle of soup cold.

Stodgy-meal cold.

I've even turned the heat on for the past few nights so Piper won't think Winter is back. Heat on in May! Good gracious.

Despite the weather, watching the spring wildflowers appearing and the trees blooming and beginning to leaf out is endlessly exciting.

Unfortunately, the cold nights and overcast days have meant a struggle for some, like these Solomon's Seal plants you saw earlier:

These greening and fast-moving days make me feel I'm late getting the vegetable garden started, but in fact it is still too cold for the things I intend to plant. That said, between the rainy spells there's plenty of prep work to be done in the gardens before anything is planted. A couple of weeks ago I marked out the six upper rows in the terrace vegetable garden, and my helper rough-dug the rows and reinstalled a section of garden fence we had taken down in the autumn.

This is what the rows look like after the soil is just turned over...I think you can see a few rocks there?

So I have to go over each row, foot by foot, sifting the soil through my fingers and tossing the rocks into a bucket. I got one row done last week, on a day when the rain held off til evening. This row is ready to plant as soon as the weather warms up:

Only five more rows to go!

Then there's a new little experimental raised bed in the works, for a hill of either squash or cukes - something that will grow on a trellis. It doesn't look like much yet:

This little bed is on a stony bit of slope and I am trying to support the downhill edge of the bed with rocks sifted from the planting rows. A first layer of organic material has been piled up around a 5-gallon bucket, and there will be some soil added to the top. The bucket has holes drilled in it near the bottom, and my plan is to use it as a waterer, to help roots find deeper moisture in the summer.

I don't plan to buy much seed this year - maybe just summer squash and pole beans. I've saved seed from some of last year's success stories: the candy roaster squash, suyo long cucumbers, and popcorn. I also have Egyptian "walking onions" and field peas ordered last Autumn. All of the above came from Sow True Seed - the Appalachian seed company I learned about from Tipper at the Blind Pig and the Acorn blog. You may recall that Tipper kindly allowed this Yankee to participate several times in her annual seed-testing project, which has been great fun.

This year, Tipper has become a Sow True Seed affiliate: here is Tipper's brand-new affiliate link to the Sow True Seed online catalog, in case you'd care to visit. I really appreciate what these folks are doing to preserve and distribute heirloom varieties.

How about you? How are your gardens - or garden plans - or next year's garden plans, for those readers living in the southern hemisphere - coming along?


  1. Rocks...hardware cloth over a crude frame from scrap wood makes it easy to sift the larger rocks out that can be used in drainage ditches and to weigh down planters.
    I'm looking for watercress seeds and a nice small beet for greens. Will check out the seed websites.
    Thank you
    Spinach likes cool weather. My plantings from seed never did do well though.

    1. I've got an ancient sifter just like you describe and it certainly is useful, but I find it works best when you've got a big pile of soil to work with. For rows like these, I'd be moving each shovelful so many times I'd be worn out pretty quickly. I may try the small round sifter I picked up at a tag sale, though...slower than just using my hands, but it may be worth it. Thanks for making me think of that!

  2. It's supposed to snow later this week here so I understand your "lateness". I, however, grow only cold-tolerant stuff so I've planted two raised beds so far - with mesclun greens and carrots. My back is horrifically painful for now so I may not get anymore in until after the snow (I like to plant before the snow so that the seeds get a nice wet start while under the soil).

    Rocks like yours are why I use only raised beds! I don't have the spine or strength for removing the rocks.

    I'm going to visit your friend Tipper's site!

    I hope that it warms up soon for you and for your plants!

    1. I'm surprised we didn't have snow last week. It was certainly cold enough! I think in about 10 days I'm going to be trying to plant lots of things all at once, but it's all about how long I can do anything on any given day. Just taking the rocks out of that 15-foot row took two sessions of about a half hour each, with a long rest in between. And like weeding, I do it all jack-knifed from the hip because that's the only position I can use to reach the ground. Just glad I can do it at all! I dream of building waist-high beds, but can't really imagine the expense. Maybe someday :)

  3. We've planted everything except corn and pumpkins, and the gardens are looking pretty good. The peas, cabbage, lettuce, beets, carrots, etc are doing great. The tomatoes are growing well so far, as are potatoes, broccoli, onions, peppers, and so on. We started new strawberries as the barrel is a disappointtment. Also new blackberry patch, some more blueberries and a couple new grapes. Herbs are planted as well. Now fingers are crossed that the summer delivers just the right amounts of sun and rain.

    1. Wow! Every time I read a garden report from you or Tipper, I try to figure out how I can get down there for a visit and try to find a nice little home to move to!

  4. The before and after of the rock removal is impressive. I don't know what I'm planting, if anything. But I'm excited to get out walking in this warmer weather!

  5. I admit, I was ridiculously pleased with myself over that row ;)
    Today was a beautiful day here - I hope it was for you, too! I got out early and spent an hour working on Operation Goutweed. It's just me and the kittens actually IN the garden; Piper's job is to keep hawks away.

  6. It was cool here up until yesterday when the temp suddenly shot up (it was 32 degrees Celsius when I went out in the afternoon). Now it's supposed to cool down again by the weekend. Just hope we don't get frost!!

  7. We have a few early plants in but are waiting with the tomatoes since the temps dropped this last week - not freezing, but definitely colder.


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