Tag Archives: planting

Planting in the greenhouse

This is from a month ago, May 1, but I  was so demoralized by how the day ended that I didn’t finish posting.  Until now.

The chickens no longer live in the greenhouse, and it’s time for the green things to go in.  I got in there with the broadfork, breaking up the rows.  Tomatoes first, against the north wall.

After having all the birds wintering in the “chicken dome”, the soil looks, well, awful.  It looks compacted and desiccated.  It would have fooled me.  But that´s not the case. 

The top quarter inch or so is dry, and compacted.  When I crack it with the broadfork, that top crust breaks up in scales, and right underneath, the ground is wet as anything, no harder than anywhere outside where chickens haven´t been trampling, and so very full of worms.

Worms everywhere.

Really big worms.

 

So the hens got very excited.  They were following right on my fork, poking their heads down into the holes to fish out worms, and vigorously scratching up the flakes of crust.  They were feasting.

Until I decided they were being a little too hard on the worms, who didn´t have a fair chance, and I evicted the chickens.

I hung up a sheet of row cover (if there´s anything else around I use for so many things it wasn´t intended for, I don´t know) the length of the greenhouse to wall off the side I was working on from the side I wasn´t going to get to today.  The birds can play on that side.

I let one chicken stay with me – my favorite low chicken. 

She can use some extra worms.  She was actually perturbed at being alone with the others on the other side of the cloth (they could see each other through it), but she was consoled by the worms.

You see, it was a rainy day.  A drizzly morning, forecasted to be a thundering downpour day, so I didn´t have the heart to shut my birds out of the greenhouse to crowd, disgruntled and soggy, under their coops.

The guinea´s thinking about it  Looks drier in there.

As it got wetter, the birds steadily found their way into the vast shelter of the greenhouse. 

Inside, I kept working, attended by low chicken, while the rain drummed on the plastic and the birds all trickled in, chirruping and shaking off, pleased to be let back into the greenhouse.

 

 

 

It was really very cool to spend all day with my birds.  It´s nice to listen to them chat, complain, brag;  I could peek over and see what they´re up to.

They´re always doing something funny: piling up on the hay sacks, trying to have a bath in the roots of the fig tree (naughty!)

Planting the tomatoes out is a big day.

From past experience, I just break up the ground a bit with the broadfork, and plant directly into the ground as is. No turning! After I drew the rows with the broadfork, it was time to plug tomatoes.

Here´s where I found out how well my newspaper pots made out: the answer- excellently.

I tore off the top ring where I had written in Sharpie the kind of tomato, and left that by or around the plant as a marker.  Then I tore off the rest of the paper and was left holding a tall root ball.

On the other side of the wall, the chickens had the time of their life shredding all that scrap newspaper that I´d put in a box, and littering it all over the room, the scamps.

Chickens, I´ve observed, spend a lot of time lounging.  Most of the afternoon is devoted to sunbathing, dirt bathing, combing their feathers, or napping.  On this rain day, they were piled up, murmuring, dropping their heads for a nap or settling right down into sleep pancakes.  Others would be active, picking at something – they never all fall asleep at once, but it seems like someone´s always contentedly napping in the afternoon.

 

At the end of the day, tired, with 70 tomatoes and a few pepper plants planted, I turned in.  It was still pouring rain and the chickens were awake, so I just left them in the greenhouse.  There´d been no attempts on the wall, or breaches, so I was confident.

I was working on this post, before going out to close them up.  There had also been a surge in squawking I was wondering about. …

Disaster!  Carnage!

The wall was breached- one end down, and every single tomato plant was defoliated- not a leaf left!  Just a roomful of puny green stems.  A couple of hens not gone to bed yet, finishing off the devastation.  Next time you can get wet, you ingrates!

Before I went to bed I planted some more tomato seeds, but to say it was a major loss is a major understatement.  I had some spare plants, but not an entire spare crop.  I was NOT HAPPY.  Completely defeated, more like.

As it turned out, despite the significant trauma of being beheaded, the same day as transplanted, almost all the tomatoes survived.  Only five were broken off by the hens and therefore terminated.

It was a definite setback, but in the next couple weeks they regrew some awkward leaves, and then left that early bad memory behind.  Now you wouldn´t know it had ever happened, although they might be a week or two behind where they might have been.

Tomatoes today:

 

 

 

 

Garden plan!

My brain is melting!  I’ve been working on my garden plan for 2017.

What do I want to grow?  When do they go in? (Work backwards from last spring frost date- a wild guess semi-informed by the average of the last 7 years)  When do they need to be started inside?  How much to I hope to produce, therefore, how many plants?  How many starts should I attempt to be sure to get enough, and how many square feet do I need to allocate?   Gah!  I’m not even at examining crop rotation and where they will be placed this year yet.  I don’t have a clean system for that yet.

After a page full of tiny digits, math, and an eraser, I’m sure this is the sort of thing I should definitely do a spreadsheet for.  Then all the dates will adjust to an input frost date, and the square feet will output from a desired quantity.  But it just feels wrong to do it with a spreadsheet, and I don’t need to spend any more time staring at a screen.

This is the right time to be doing a garden plan, since the first seeds need to start inside on Feb 2, apparently, and I know for sure that if I don’t do this possibly too-meticulous planning, that half my starts will be ready to go out too early, the other half not early enough, and I’ll get not enough potatoes and far too many spaghetti squash.  What is up with spaghetti squash?  They grow like zucchinis! 

If I do do this detailed planning, then climate change will sweep through to put me 2-4 weeks off; slugs, rabbits, and other emergencies will happen and it will be all thrown awry anyway, but, it won’t be my fault:)

Fun task-planting strawberry runners

I love doing something at exactly the right time, since I so often don’t and am surrounded by a trail of mistakes.

I started planting the strawberry runners on time, right at the end of strawberry production.

Many of them I pegged down in the existing patch, for replacement and more density, after separating the mulch cover for them to be able to touch the dirt.

But I hope to be able to cut these off their umbilical cords once they get established, and move them to start another row of strawberries, so I am encouraging them to take root in my pots.

Supplies: dirt, scissors, and a pile of forked twigs
Supplies: dirt, scissors, and a pile of forked twigs
Snipped to make one strawberry "staple"
Snipped to make one strawberry “staple”
2015-07-16 10.22.41
Pegging down a running sprout
2015-07-16 10.21.50
Now it just needs watering

 

Planting in the greenhouse

Finally, I’ve planted the greenhouse.  Sheesh.  Embarrassingly late, but it is a season extender, after all.

We had to build screen doors for the greenhouse to keep the hens out before I could plant in there, too.

A while ago, we threw a truckload of wood chips in there, hoping to mitigate the baking of the already packed down bare soil (post chicken habitation all winter).

It worked far better than I expected.  The chickens have been in there still, especially on rainy days, kicking around the chips, which are so light and crispy dry in the heat of the greenhouse that I worried if it was a fire hazard.

However, when I raked away the chips from a swathe of dirt for a garden bed, the soil was dark and moist.  Wow!  Best of all, no sod!  The hens took care of that this winter.

Exactly as planned.

The top crust of dirt is very black (due to hen fertilizing, I’m sure), and since there is no meaty layer of tangled roots, the broadfork worked completely differently.  Instead of lifting out a big chunk of sod, it just sank in and made a line of neat holes.  Like sticking a fork into a pumpkin pie.  More or less just a big aerator.

So I did a pass with the broadfork/sodbreaker, and then a once over with a pitchfork, to lift and loosen it a bit.  I did not bother turning it, or making it all fine and crumbly garden soil, just disturbed it a bit.  Lazy.  Plus I think the soil is super moist and properly strata-ed already, so the abundant worms will keep it as loose as it needs.  time will tell.

The chickens were in the greenhouse with me, very well behaved (ie, ignoring my starts).  I had one sharp-eyed shadow, though, watching every plunge of my fork for any glimpse of a worm in the cracks of the upheaved earth.  She’d pull them out as neatly as pulling a sewing needle.

2015-07-06 09.12.28

Garden beginnings

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We are beavering away at the task of putting in a garden.  Priority one: attention to food.  Even though we have no illusions about productivity this year, it’s important to start.

We got off to a poor start- an unusually late frost took out all the tomato starts we’d put in.

We’ve tried a couple methods:  1) digging small holes to put a plant in, and surrounding it by cardboard and mulch.  Over time and continued mulch-piling, ground around will soften up into a bed.  Saves time, but no good at all for seeds.  Good for squash.  2) plastic mulch. Pure experiment.  Neighboring farmer offered us the waste plastic off of his hay bales – those ubiquitous white haybales that dot fields in the fall – and we spread it around to see if it would knock back the sod cover.  So far, the results are not conclusive, nor impressive.  The plastic,is multiple layers of white plastic like saran wrap, only layered up a quarter inch thick on a finished bale, and cut off so the waste plastic has an open clamshell shape.  It’s heavy and insulating, but may be letting light through because it’s white.  3) digging.  We have our labor-saving, painless technique down pat now, with this wicked sod-breaker from Lee ValleyIMGP6853

H.W. goes through with the sod breaker, standing on it and tipping it back and forth, three widths of the tool wide and as long as the bed.

H.W. has to do this part, because I can’t.  I’ve tried, and I’m not strong or heavy enough to plunge the tines into the dirt.  I  jump up and down and get it a whole three inches deep in the ground and teeter there on it, and H.W. laughs and laughs, and calls me a “little feather”, which I can’t say I’ve been called before.  One of many things it emerges I can’t do without him.  IMGP6861Then the sod chunks fall apart and we shake the soil out of them with our hands and digging fork, and shape the bed. IMGP6867 Makes a picture perfect, sod and root-free bed of soil that you’d never guess was just broken from ground unworked for 15 years.   IMGP6879Then we seed it.  If we maintain our beds compaction free, heavily mulched, top-dressed and cover-cropped, we will never have to till again.

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Rooster approved

It’s not horrible work and doesn’t take very long.  Well, after rain it’s much less easy and fun – the sod is heavy and matted; yet it’s still doable in the rain, and we are aiming for steady continuity, not to do it all at once and burn out.

We are aiming for four garden beds a week in June, and that will break a respectable area for this year, easily on top of all the other work we need to do.  Next year we can do the same and double our garden.  So far, six beds.