Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Vegetable Garden Takes Off

Now that I’m convinced there’ll be no more frost, it’s time to plant our vegetable seedlings. You may recall our traumatic experience with fungus gnats. I’m happy to report that there was no root damage to our precious crop, and we’ve spent the last week hardening off.

Hardening off is the process of acclimating plants from indoor temperatures to the outdoors. After being pampered all winter in a perfectly lit, temperature controlled guest room, they need to be introduced slowly to the elements of wind and intense sun.

It’s best to introduce them to the outdoors by placing them in a semi-shaded area for a few hours each day, gradually increasing their exposure. Our seedlings spent about a week getting used to the sun.  It's best to transplant on a cloudy day, but given our heat wave, I decided to put them in the ground on the coolest day forecast this week.

In order to fit all of the seedlings into our small space, I cleared out some of the kale. It had gone to seed, which was actually quite lovely. Juniorette harvested a few radishes, which were taking up space alongside the peas (almost ripe!). We were then able to place the tomato cages at the back of the bed. We planted a few more carrots around the perimeter of the cages, where they’ll exercise a “beneficial relationship” with the tomatoes. This thinking is a bit folksy, but sometimes the best wisdom comes from folks. The science behind the concept states that “beneficials” draw in good insects to pollinate plants, while repelling pests. Two of my favorite books on the topic are Great Garden Companions and Carrots Love Tomatoes. We interplanted a few marigolds and basil with the tomatoes, also considered beneficial for mutual growth.  We put the peppers and eggplant towards the center of the bed. Bush beans fit nicely on the opposite side. There’s still enough space for cucumbers to creep behind the bed, where they’ll climb the stair railing.

Last year, potatoes grew wonderfully in these potato grow bags. The vines soon hid the sack, and they were great fun for the kids to harvest. Mixed greens do really well in the self-watering pots, though the self-watering aspect is never perfect. An added bonus is that they’re taking up space where we once had weedy lawn. We’re going for an ornamental edible border between the raised beds and our newly created path, and the greenery fits right in. We moved the parsley and green onions into the foreground, where we also planted marigolds, nasturtium, echinacea, borage, thyme, bachelor’s buttons, and dianthus. All of these are either edible or beneficial partners.

Our challenge is now keeping everything moist and fairly warm. Of course, after a weeks of heat, we’re expecting temps in the 30’s tomorrow night. We may need to pull out the cold frame cover.  To keep things from drying out, we’re using drip irrigation in the form of a soaker hose snaked through the garden. This beats having to stand there and water the base of the plants every day in the middle of the summer. We’ll turn it on for about 30 minutes and let the ground soak. Hopefully, we’ll remember to turn it off.  Finally, we’ll cross our fingers and hope for a good harvest!


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  2. Thank you. Please let me know how I can reach you.