A First Harvest of Bok Choy and Chinese Cabbage was caused by the unexpected bloom of the Bok Choy. At least, I believe that it is Bok Choy. Perhaps it is one of the smaller versions of Oriental Greens which one might expect to reach maturity so early in the season.
Soon to be sauteed greens, (with millet, garlic and tofu). Yum.
Also in the basket are parsley, oregano, onion leaves, chinese cabbage and chard. All these plants are waiting to get into the garden. These lucky volunteers are going straight into the kitchen.
In the greenhouse, the bok choy (AKA ?) was living in good soil in a two and half inch pot, along with its fellows, awaiting a seemingly good time to enter the outside garden. I thought they'd wait until after the freeze and at a time when I'd have the energy and tools to put up row covers as the first fabric bug screen of my life in the buggy Ozarks.
Here's a good reason (from last year) why I know that protection is necessary:
June 10. 2008 in the upper garden. Catepillars also are rampant, but invisible in this photo.
Do you have an idea what that Oriental Green might be? I have been unfair to those developing plants. Couldn't find a single closeup photo to show, whereas the lettuce has many. Thanks for sharing your ideas.
An Answer to a Gardening Question from a Reader
Hi Rachel, How are you and the garden these days? A question. I wondered if I used cardboard right over my lawn to make a new planting bed then added compost and dirt over that would it compost the lawn turf below or should I remove it or till it first? -H
The answer to this question lies in the timing in which you wish to transform the lawn into usable garden. Also the amount of effort that you wish to put into it is important.
In my post on breaking new ground, some of this method is mentioned. The description of laying down cardboard and covering it with straw is the first step. The straw at first has the job of holding down the cardboard. One must put enough on top to keep the winds from dislodging it. When I don't get enough on, I have to run around the field gathering up the cardboard, or sometimes paper. When we run out of cardboard we use sheets of newspaper. I've heart that the paper is enough to keep the weeds from growing up through. Of course, again the straw is useful as a weight.
Later on, as the cardboard breaks down, (and this takes quite a while), the straw becomes home to the worms and other beneficial soil critters who help break down the straw into humus, that is, soil.
March 19, 2009 The edge of the potato field as its built.
The boards are holding down the newspaper, waiting for the next layer of straw. It was a very windy day.
I have a new field laid out with paper and straw that I am going to be using this year, but not for the soil beneath it. I'm going to plant potatoes IN the straw. Their roots will likely go down through the straw and somewhat into the soil as they age. But right now, the job of that paper is to keep the weeds and grasses from growing. Hopefully as that green material spoils and rots, the bugs that make a living out of eating live roots will get all they can out of that plot and will move on somewhere else. Some sources say to leave a field for 2 years so that the lawn bugs will leave before you can use it without problem for a garden.
In the garden where we started with tilling, I spent all Summer dealing with the bugs that normally live in a pasture. Afterward I researched a bit and I found that those who know (can't remember the reference now, sorry) say that a plot of pasture or lawn needs to be repeatedly tilled, once or twice a week for several weeks until the plot would be ready to plant. Of course I didn't do that. On one day the site was gone over three times with the neighbor's tractor's tilling attachment.
March 17, 2008 The Plowing o' The Green
Tilling seems to be helpful to start a garden. However, all the plant matter that is cut up and remains on the surface has to be removed so it doesn't grow up again. Also many worms are killed and the soil becomes very disturbed. Keeping healthy soil is a science in itself and studying this usually leads to the development of a "no till" garden. This is what I am using now. Keeping a good mulch of straw over everything holds down the weeds, keeps in the moisture, gives good eating to the worms who increase the health of the soil in innumerable ways.
Another question is regarding the type of grass that will be covered up. Grass which is tame and only spreads by seed is much easier to deal with than grass which spreads by the roots (or are they called rhizomes?). If you have what is called Bermuda Grass, or Crab Grass it is much more difficult to get rid of. If you put cardboard down over it, the shoots seeking out will go to where the cardboard is not and will continue to spread. I've been told that the only way to get rid of that is to put black plastic over it, to remove the light and burn it with the heat that is trapped in the black.
Now your idea, Heather, is very interesting, to suppress the lawn and then cover it with soil for planting. Hmmm. I guess you'd want to put a frame around the edges to keep the soil in. You'd also want the cardboard to be thick enough for the roots not to break through it right away until the weeds died. That is, use cardboard from boxes rather than from shirts. (Do they still fold shirts around flimsy cardboard?).
There's a book on my shelf which I have not yet read, called Lasagna Gardening, which I believe has a recipe similar to what you are suggesting. Layers of paper, cardboard, compost form a bed in which to plant, feed and grow one's vegies.
All in all, I'd say that you have a good idea brewing. How about taking pictures and letting us know how it goes?
And the other question you asked "How is my garden going?" Tonight will be a freeze, with possible snow, so the plants that are eager to be planted have decided to shy away from the winter experience and are still taking up room in the greenhouse. The tomatoes would like bigger pots, however in their little cells they can all be under the lights, high up in the warmth. There doesn't seem to be enough room yet to repot them (a job that is high on the list), as the Bok Choy, Kale, Chinese Cabbage and Lettuce, refuse to leave the nice warm and protected greenhouse. As soon as I plant them outside I'll have to construct insect proof fabric tents for them too.
Look at this bug that I found IN the greenhouse!
On the other hand, it IS Spring, and there is joy and beauty here.
Much Joy to You, Dear Readers!
So Spreadable - Its Incredible! Raspberries Multiply Like Maniacs.The Gardener had to move the raspberries out from the garden to the yard, way far away from everything. Many viable clumps of roots and shoots were happily given away. Very quickly garden club members and neighbors came by, visiting the greenhouse. They left fresh eggs, tomatoes and peach jam, taking home lettuce and small plants too.
Roots and shoots excavated and placed in a pan.
This photo is among the best from the garden in 2008.
The raspberries were packed as bare root, wrapped up in newspaper envelopes and kept damp. The paper is about torn through now, but fewer packages are left. Hopefully they will be all gone soon to good homes and can quickly take over the world.
Raspberry flowers and leaves
This gardener's sense of "right to life" is lovingly granted to almost all plants, save weeds in the garden. Sadly, she still practices preemptive attacks on plant-eating bugs.
The raspberries are fall bearing, sweet and delicate. The books say they are best for eating when ripe, without trying to save or put them up. The plants could use a little support and reportedly like a little potash (wood ashes). They expand exorbitantly through the root system. Give them lots of room, far away from every other plant!
Bugs that bothered these raspberries in 2008 included some kind of red-headed black-bodied cut worm (I think), grasshoppers, blister beetles, and a large two-legged fructivore that stopped by between garden jobs to graze.
But let's not think of frost
or a season time has lost
as we eagerly coax seeds to sprout
hoping soil will dry out.
And for you who plant a tree to fruit
in five years or in ten,
Radish will adorn your salad sooner
than a dream of future "when" ...
Uncovered Strawberry Plant Survival Rate in 28 Degrees
Who shall live and who shall die? It really is no mystery which plants will live through a Spring Freeze. First, I was told by an experienced gardener, warned by other garden bloggers, and my inner sense also planned to assist in the survival, but was caught short by exhaustion which circumvented functioning brain cells. In short, I forgot to cover the strawberry plants the night before the freeze was expected.
In a photographic post on March 15, a strawberry plant is shown growing its way up out of the straw winter covers. Curious, I lifted away some straw from another fully covered plant to see how it was doing. It looked good, a couple of crowns were full of new growth and I gently pulled off the dead leaves and stems, see below. It was warm and sunny for many days so I left it to grow, knowing it was a risk.
One gardening expert says to leave the plants under straw until all possibility of frost is over. This way the extra energy stored in the roots will be used for new leaves and blossoms that have a good chance of fruiting. If they freeze, all is lost. If they frost, but still live, the strawberry will have less root-stored energy to put out new growth. It sounded reasonable to me, yet it is difficult to cover the little one that enjoyed the sun so much.
I knew that the weather report was for a cooler night. I could feel it in the late afternoon as I planted peas in the bed right next to the uncovered strawberries, but I was cold and tired. I think I even left a portable phone out there, came out later to look for it, but my inner blinders did not allow me to notice the strawberry plants I had promised to cover up again. So it spent the night, down to about 28 degrees, shivering, and sadly, one of them died. Of the two plants that I willfully uncovered, one survived.
The strong self-motivated growers, which had fought their way to the sun, still look wonderfully comfortable no matter what temperature. The lesson in this is obvious, something my grandmother used to say, "Leave well enough alone." Or it might be to "Let sleeping strawberries lie."
It is living in the greenhouse as part of a seed saving experiment. As a biennial, seed can only be saved after it flowers, is pollinated, makes seed and has not been exposed to other like-species of plant.
An intense schedule of getting outdoor beds ready has kept me from my books. It would have been smart to research in advance what to do with this flower once it blooms. Even now, I sit before the fire with this computer on my lap, too tired out to get up and look it up. If the experiment goes no farther, still the joy of looking into this flower has ben worth the effort of caring for it.
An amazing color to greet me today. March is lovely, but there is no natural source of bright purple in my yard. Others may have crocus to jump start the eye's ability to process brilliant pallet of joy, but this is the first, this year for this gardener.
On a tall stalk, it opened facing the sun, and then remained in that position during the day.
In the late afternoon, it closed up again. I don't know what will be next.
Three days ago, the bud looked like this.
Salsify and carrot (above) on 2/6/09. These are root vegetables which are both biennial. I took the best roots that were harvested in the Fall. Instructions say to keep them in a root cellar all winter, and plant them again in the spring for them to grow tops and flower. Not having a good root cellar, and not being good at following directions, I took them into the deeper greenhouse beds and planted them there, open to whatever happens.
The Salsify is big and bushy now, as are the invisible carrot tops right next to them. I promise, I will read up on the seed saving technique for them. Everything I've read says that salsify seeds are viable only for one year. I'm hoping to be able to save most seeds, to grow or to share.
The root itself is close to a white color with a very delicate flavor, and stringy roots all along it. I didn't love the taste that much, but it doesn't stop the pseudoscientist within from attempting an experiment.
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
In the climate change department, I noticed today that the quince blossoms are opening. Checking the digital record from last year, there were quince blossoms on 4/5/08 . They are at the same stage today, 3/19/09!
Wishing for you, in your garden, that the climate of Joy only Grows Brighter!
BLOTANICAL READERS MISSING TEXT, the pick setting NOT to see the original formatting also takes away all but the first line of some of the paragraphs. If you wish to read and see this post, you'll want to choose to put a check in the pick setting "SHOW POSTS AS ORIGINALLY FORMATTED."
The beneficial flowers is a wildflower mix that draws the beneficial insects that feed on the bugs that devour the vegetables. That's the theory, we'll see how well it works in the next couple of years. I bought the mix from Bountiful Gardens, a bioentensive gardening organization which teaches sustainable gardening practices around the world. I like them, they are always helpful, and they sold me the widger tool which I enjoy using.
The new home for the berries was inspired by a post I read on Blotanical, an online community of garden bloggers, where I learn a lot about gardening. I'm sorry I don't remember whose post it was, but the gentleman gardener showed his raised bed gardens with a large blackberry bed. He said that the runners were coming up all throughout the garden and that he had to dig them out. This brought some awareness to me of my less that thoughtful plan which had berries planted within the fence of my 75' X 60' (approx.) garden space.
Winter is over, the ground is dry, the beds are needed, the home planning commission (my husband & I) determined the locations, and the neighbors came over with a rototiller. A week and a half later the weather was right to take some time to do the next step, and our favorite helper arrived to participate.
Here's the flower bed project. On the left is the outside back of the garden fence. The bunch of straw there is from last year, laid over cardboard as grass and weed prevention. Next is cardboard laid over the grassy boundary to the tilled area (just a foot and a half wide). Then comes the pasture grass. It is miraculously wonderful soil for the Ozarks, for which we are very grateful.
On top of the cardboard should be more straw to hold it down. Our helper was working hard with the shovel to break up the grass clumps. Now comes my job, removing the chunks of grass and roots from the tilled area by hand. Down onto the stool to dig and sort, up again to move the stool. Throw the stones and rock and old tractor parts behind and pick them up after to move to the rock pile. Up and down, reach and throw. Then placing the newspapers covered with hay, in the breeze took a lot of team effort. I opened the papers, held them for him, then passed over a lump of straw while he held them down. Up and down, another load, back and forth, get more water to drink, its hot out here!
I see now in the photo that on top of the cardboard is the grass and dirt which was removed while clearing up the soil. Now that mess is going to have to be cleared that out again and replaced with straw to hold it down. Oh no.
By the time we got to that stage of the job, the weather had turned to Summer temps and sizzling sun. I guess wearing a shade hat instead of my thinking cap was a mistake. I didn't even notice that we'd missed a step. Just have to get that moved out before it rains again, or it will be a wonderful rooting medium for the grasses!
Below is the partially finished job, with newspaper and straw on the right being the new grass barrier. The newspaper showing between the two piles is going to be the planting area. I'll take the seedlings, poke a hole in the newspaper and lay them in the soil beneath. There are a few amendments in the already excellent soil. A little calcium lime, some organic manure compost mix, and a little Azomite, (an A through Z natural source of minerals and trace elements supplement mined from rocks somewhere in Utah. All this work gives those flowers a good chance of thriving.
Below is the tilled area for the cane fruit, the black, yellow and red raspberries and the blackberries. That's the worst part, before yesterday's labor.
Below, the plot has been processed with a cardboard barrier on the downhill side, a trench for the berries' roots, and the cleared out soil to place around the canes. On the cardboard (uh oh) is the grass and root debris.
The difference is that working on this part of the job, it was late afternoon and we were both tired from the up and down, and I thought ahead to how to finish up the day's work. I realized that the little bit of debris wouldn't hold up in a wind, to hold down the laboriously placed cardboard.
So we scooped up the dirt and grass mix and hauled it off to a concrete pad to dry up. Hauled more straw over to hold down the cardboard, and here it is. Ready to be finished up today.
In a few minutes the helper will arrive. We're going to do the potato patch today, which will be Part 2.
I've got to get busy now, watering the greenhouse before he gets here.
Best wishes for you to have a Joyful planting day too!
This purple lilac begins to release her shyness and show her budding beauty to the world.
(We are hoping she will live through whatever late frosts or freezes may come.)
This Hyacinth below thought she was hiding in the grass, but this year (my second Spring here) I knew where to look for her.
White Lilac is a bit more reticent than her purple sister. But still she swells more each day.
The strawberries below overwintered in the greenhouse.
They seem ready to go outside, but Momma says, "Not until all danger of freeze is past."
The strawberries below slept beneath the straw outside.
This one woke up with so much strength it wouldn't wait for the gardener to determine when to remove the covers, but kicked the straw off itself - from its own growth.
It is true that the forecast for the next several days is all above freezing. But my garden coach suggests that if I uncover them and they put their crown (root) energy into growing and blooming and forming fruit, and then a freeze or ice storm (oh no) comes, they will have misused their winter rest vitality.
I feel sorrowful to keep them covered when they obviously want out. What do you think?
Who was the culprit who ...
Made holes in the greenhouse soil bed?
Made holes and trails in the greenhouse soil bed?
The spinach looked lovely on February 13. I could not figure out what was making these holes. I dug and wondered.
The post on Zaatar on February 14, came about through digging it up, in the hopes of finding the culprit in that process.
I'd been seeing a lot of crickets and cricket young in the greenhouse, moving into and out of the soil near the very thick foliage of the zaatar. I thought maybe the crickets were the problem and the zaatar was their hiding place. I did not find any cricket creche in the soil. But come to think of it, I did find and destroy a couple of grubs then. I didn't consider that they may be the source of the holes. Not being familiar with the growth rate of spinach, I didn't know if it was growing slower than it should have. Now, I believe that even in the winter light, it might have developed faster if its roots had not been eaten away. It is kind of like spending principle - it doesn't leave much for later meals. But I'm getting ahead of my story.
Below, on Feb 19, before harvesting, the spinach was as good as it got. I also had to trim it back to almost nothing as aphids spread to that bed.
After the spinach was trimmed back I knew things had gotten way out of hand with my mystery bugs. Spinach is near the top of the photo below. Some of the little ones survived and began to green again. However, many of them just disappeared, right through into the hole that they had been growing in. Then one dear one with new leaves on it seemed to be sinking deeper into the soil than it had been. Gingerly I reached to see if it would pull back up into place. Alas, the whole stem came up, nibbled away from any roots it might have had. That does it! Forget the all the other jobs that need to be done! 1. Put amendments on the new area opened up for bramble transplant. 2. Cover the new flower garden area with paper and straw so weeds don't take over. 3. Set up the new potato patch. 4. Process finished batch of compost. 5. Process finished batch of worm castings. 6. Start more seeds! 7. Tear and soak newspaper for new worm bedding. It's time to deal with this urgent problem NOW.
I removed the herbs that had been growing in that bed (zaatar and french tarragon) and potted them up. Also the remaining spinach and lettuce plants from half the bed were potted. The soil was combed through, all the worms were saved. I wondered if the destroyers could have been the red wigglers that were dropped into the bed. Did they run out of debris to eat and were they starting on the good plant roots? It seemed far fetched, but I kept exploring.
There had been an explosion of sow bugs on one of the shelves, but as far as I knew, they only ate rotted stuff. And I'd seen (and squished) only three or four as I moved all the soil, digging through the bed.
The answer appeared as a bug that has the same shape and size as the holes and tracks I'd seen. In fact, when I watched them march on the concrete floor after being removed from the soil home in which they were illegally squatting, their movement pattern did seem to match the form of the tracks. Ah ha. Gotcha!
And I kept getting them. About 25 large hungry grubs came out of half of the four foot by seven foot bed with 10" of soil. Tomorrow I have to get into the other half, pot up the two chard and many lettuces that are doing well there (so far) and clear out the grubs that have been making holes in that part of the bed too.
How did they get in there? Why didn't they show up earlier? Can I keep them from "reseeding"? The soil has been there for almost a year. I didn't see them as the soil went in. These are questions that you the reader may be able to answer. Or more research in the grub life cycle may answer them.
As the other beds get harvested out, I will have to comb through them as well.
This discovery leaves me feeling a tad more grateful to the armadillos and skunks that paw through my yard eating grubs.
Below is one of the grubs on the concrete floor before his execution. So much of gardening, here in the buggy Ozarks, seems to be about killing, it is spiritually painful that my gardener's instinct and what seems to be necessary is killing.
Oh, just squash it.
Home Made Seed Propagation Heater Experiment #1
On one of my over-packed seed starter trays, the tomatoes, even the older seeds (from 1999!) were opening and extending into the light. But the rest of the nightshades, peppers and eggplants had not moved a bit of starter mix. Memory recalled that heat is a factor in starting these delicate things. I know one can get a professional store-bought heat source. But then I have something to store for 11 months of the year. I'd rather figure something else out.
Research on-line found some good ideas. The following site has excellent data on the temperature that seeds like to wake up into: http://tomclothier.hort.net/
This next page gives some great ways to make one - if you want to have equipment to store for 11 months of the year: http://www.gardengrapevine.com/BottomHeater.html
All the information on the RIGHT way to do it, and why is here: http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/556/
However, I'd like to do it now, today, without driving in to town, reconstructing something or waiting while it is delivered to the back woods from the internet distribution center. So, let's experiment!
In the RIGHT way they indicated that a heating pad wouldn't work because it can't get wet. Well, why not remove the tray to water it and dry the sides after watering?
Gather the ingredients first
Low flat heat is needed. Heating Pad! We have one with a digital control that goes off in 2 hours, and one with a dial which lasts as long as you put it there. That's the one.
Safe surface on which to place the heat - a rectangular roasting pan. Cheap metal, but its better than burning a wooden window sill.
Possible need to have air circulation to modulate temperature - a rack with tiny feet that came with the toaster oven.
The clear plastic canopy to hold in the heat.
Ready to Experiment!
Many different ways to try.
First with the heating pad directly under the flat, that was too hot!
Then, with the rack on top of the heating pad and the flat on that, hmm, seems to be just right! The soil is a bit not-cool to the touch and the tomato starts on the other side are getting no heat as the pad isn't as long as the flat.
We'll see if there's any green results from the seeds.
Here's how it looks:
And the rack which holds the flat away from the heating pad is show below:
On the inside, the tomatoes are all to one side, where the heat is not.
We'll see how it goes!
Please let me know if you have any thoughts, helpful ideas or suggestions!
(The shadow says that the gardener ate too much cheese and pasta this Winter.) Oh no, its just the late afternoon angle of the sun.
Below is the little rabbit sheltering under the steps, as seen through the green house window.
After my greenhouse chores, bringing fresh lettuce upstairs, I dropped some (literally) off for the bunny. When I got too close, he flinched, like a previously abused dog might from an unwanted advance. I didn't want to chase the bunny back out into the cold. But I wondered why not hole up in the shed (it has many open doors) and might be better shelter than where he was. Perhaps a less peaceful animal is making the shed their temporary headquarters? I'm not going in to check - at least not until this snow melts off, which may be a couple of days.
More Snow on a "Weed Stalk"
Do you know what this bug is?
Rather large, about 1 inch long (bigger?) It appeared trapped in the bottom of a pail in the greenhouse.
That's it for now. Exciting review/comparison of two fine-spray watering cans coming soon!
May all your plants grow ever more joyful!