Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Garden Beginnings

Here is the progression of the new garden:

Started on July 4th:
We have 5 lanes that are 40' x 16" with 1' wide lanes in between. This time around we are following Dick Raymond's (of Joy of Gardening fame) wide row method since it is much back friendlier and more efficient in terms of time (weeding, watering, etc). The lanes run east to west with some shade on either end. We did this on purpose because we have excruciatingly hot summers here and I am tired of everything bolting in mid-June and having sun scalded tomatoes.

Verdict so far? The wide rows and the shading worked great. We need to make the paths a bit bigger and we need to add at least two more rows but that is the beauty of this system. Since there are no 4' x 8' wood borders, I can till everything under at the end of the season and start all over with very little fuss. The narrower rows have made it a bit more challenging to place the row covers over the lanes but we arranged them parallel which has worked so far.

 July 4th, 2013

Fast forward to early Aug:

And today:

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Hello again!

Apologize all for the blogging break, but we had a good reason. We found the yard of our dreams and bought the house attached to it. Most of April and May were devoted to this effort and left little time for blogging (or gardening). Sadly, our promising tomato and pepper starts are a little worse as a result, having only finally found a permanent home this past weekend. While we now have an enormous yard that will allow us to avoid the space limitations of the community garden, it has thick grass over dreaded Virginia clay. If you aren't familar it is great for making bricks, adobe houses, or growing trees but not great for gardening until it has been lightened up a bit. We will spend at least the next year (who am I kidding, years plural) trying to turn it into something resembling soil, and we invite you to read along as we start a new gardening journey.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Seedling Progress

 We are a bit behind in blogging. Here are the updates. We re-potted the tomato starts on 3/25/13 and moved them to the windowsill 4/6/13. They were simply too tall for the light set up, and their leaves kept getting burned (which gives me tomato guilt). Due to life events we never started the second group of tomato seedlings, so these are it for the year. Good thing I started all the Cherokee Purples in the first group.  The Blondkopfchen seedling (below) is the best tomato start we have ever had. This gives me warm fuzzies because it is from the seed I saved myself. Overall the tomato starts are sturdier than lasts year's were by this point.

The peppers were also re-potted on 3/25/13 and are now enjoying exclusive rights to the plant light. We started all of them at once instead of in two staggered groups because we realized it was easier to get them all done while we had all the soil, etc out. We are trying the "Red Mini" this year from Baker's. I love the thought of mini red bell peppers and the number of red mini seedlings is in equal proportion to my excitement.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Seed Starting Update no. 2

Today we sowed:
  • Peppers: Beaver Dams (4), Garden Sunshines (4), Mini-Bells (4)
  • Kohlrabi (6)
  • Broccoli (3)

  •  Potted out early tomato starts
    • Starting tomorrow we will keep them under the grow light during the day and put them out on the patio at night so they can be exposed to cooler night time temps. Apparently keeping them at 50-60 degrees at night will encourage early flowering.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

It looks like we found a new seed company to try. A colleague made us aware of the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. They are a Baker Creek-esque seed company based in Mineral, Virginia that focuses on gmo-free, untreated, open pollinated seeds suited to the inland plains of the mid-Atlantic (our zone, 7a) and the mid-Atlantic region writ large. They describe this area as "generally characterized by high summer heat, humidity, numerous plant diseases, uneven precipitation and occasional high temperatures in the early spring and late fall. Soils are predominately clay except in the sandy coastal areas." Add in the plagues of Egypt-magnitude insect problems we experience at the community garden and this precisely captures our growing conditions.
 2013 Catalog Cover
Am I in love? Very possibly. I am withholding judgement til we grow some of their seed, but all indications are positive. 

For starters, their catalog is lovely. Just the type of seed catalog a garden hopes to get in the middle of winter: one filled with planting and seed saving tips, planting calendars (again, for MY zone...how great is that?!), planting quick references, and great information about seed exchanges and preservation programs. It has a great mixture of plant photos and old-timey drawings. All the seed descriptions include indicators identifying varieties "especially well-suited to the Southeast," heirlooms, ecologically grown, and USDA certified organic. They are up front about the specific plant seeds they carry that are hybrids (only four of them). They even sell seed-saving supplies that are usually difficult to find, such as muslin bags and seed vials.

They have a "safe-seed" pledge that says they do not "knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants." I'm happy to see this. While it doesn't necessarily mean they go as far as Baker Creek does to ensure their seed is not GMO tainted (for example testing each batch of heirloom seed), it is still a far cry better than most seed companies out there. 

They are even part of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) et al. vs Monsanto lawsuit which definitely scores them points with me. If you aren't familiar with the lawsuit, I encourage you to read about it here

Overall, I am excited to order some seed from these folks. We've been looking for some summer lettuce that can withstand our brutal June temperatures, and it looks like they have a few varieties that fit the bill. (I'm eyeing the "Jericho" which was bred for desert heat and which is "especially suited to the Southeast.") I will do a follow up post later this summer.

Tomatoes Started

We started our tomatoes on February 10th, along with some onions (see here for how we start seeds indoors). According to our garden plan we started the tomatoes a few days earlier than we planned and the onions about a month late. But whatever. We are doing this as we have a free second, which isn't often.

We started the following:
2 Cherokee Purples
1 Blondkopfchen (using the saved seed so tripled sowed it. All popped up right away)
1 Black Cherry
1 Cosoluto Genovese
1 Volunteer (also saved seed but only did one since we planned to sow more in the next go around)

Observations to date:
All of the seeds have germinated except the Cosoluto Genovese. I will give that one another day and then re-sow. The volunteer seedling is already an inch taller than the rest and is budding second leaves (the one all the way to the right in the picture). I am very excited to see how much this produces this summer since it seems to be a great example of natural (and now human) selection. I think putting the grow set up in the kitchen this year helped our germination time since the kitchen is the warmest part of our house. We put it there out of necessity, but it has worked out so far. (I cringe to think how our counter will look in 2 months though). 

We need to set up the fan to "tickle" the seedlings so that they spread strong roots. We've done that the last two years and have been widely successful. As long as I remember to mist them once a day and turn on the lights in the morning they should grow nicely. We plan to pot these out into yogurt containers when we start the next set of tomato seedlings (early March). Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Welcome 2013!

What better way to welcome the new year than with our 2013 sowing and planting schedule?

Garden Resolutions for 2013:
  1. This year we are going to single stem our tomatoes s bit more faithfully
  2. We are going to use deep watering in all the beds
  3. We are going to rearrange at least one of our beds to make better use of space
  4. We are going to add 2 more low tunnels with row covers
  5. We are going to turn our compost more often and add more brown matter during the summer
  6. We are going to make our garden pollinator-friendly
  7. And most importantly, we are finally going to build a new garden gate!

Tentative Schedule:
For our zone (7a), the last frost date is tentatively Apr 15th (but usually comes earlier) and the last frost is October 15th.

For a list of what we may plant, see here.

January 1-15:
  • Start onions and shallots indoors

Feb 15-30:
  • Start pepper seeds and first set of tomatoes indoors
    • 2 Cherokee Purples
    • 1 Volunteer
    • 1 Blondkopfchen
    • 1 Black Cherry
    • 1 Costolute Genovese

March 1-10:
  • Direct sow lettuce, asian greens, beets, radishes, carrots, turnips, peas, and mustard
  • Re-pot first set of tomato starts 
  • Start kohlrabi and broccoli indors
  • Start second set of tomatoes indoors
    • 2 Cherokee Purple
    • 1 Costolute Genovese 
    • 1 Riesentraube
    • 2 Smudges
    • 1 Volunteer
    • 1 Black Cherry

 March 15-30:
  • Transplant broccoli and kohlrabi

April 1-8:
  • Re-pot second tomato starts indoors
  • Start herbs indoors
  • Sow 2nd planting of peas directly in the garden. 
  • Sow 2nd lettuce crop and more beets 
  • Sow chard

April 15-20:
  • Harden off and transplant first tomato and pepper starts (under tunnel)
  • Sow pumpkin, winter squash, and cucumber seeds indoors
  • Direct sow more lettuce, beets, radishes, carrots, asian greens, mustard greens
  • Transplant onions, shallots, kohlrabi, and broccoli
April 30:
  • Sow last cool-weather lettuce, wax beans, and green beans
  • Harden off and transplant pumpkins, squash, herbs, and cucumbers to the garden if the soil is well warmed (under tunnel)
May 1-15
  • Plant flowers

May 15-20: 
  • Sow 1st summer lettuce
  • Sow 2nd crop of beans and radish in garden

June 15:
  • Sow 2nd summer lettuce
July 1-14th:
  • Sow summer lettuce
  • Sow 3rd crop of beans, 4th crop of radish in garden
  • Direct sow fall beans, parsnips, kohlrabi, brussels sprouts, broccoli and radishes
  • Sow collards
 July 14-28th (10 to 12 weeks before your first frost)
  •  Direct-sow beets, carrots, leeks and scallions, along with more cool weather lettuce and radishes

July 28th-Aug 11th (8 to 10 weeks before your killing frost)

  • Direct-sow lettuce, turnips, spinach, mustard, pakchoi and other Asian greens
  • Sow more radishes

Aug 11th- 25th (6 to 8 weeks before first frost)
  • Sow more lettuce, mustard, and beets beneath the protective tunnel