Saturday, June 18, 2011

Spring 2011 Wrap-Up

I intended to publish this post last weekend, but the same storm that changed our moisture situation sent a lightening bolt from the very heavens to fry our modem, router, and desktop computer. The Time Warner guy just came out today to fix the problem. So here's the post, updated and modified...
Solstice is less than a week away, and spring feels quite over. We'd been facing temperatures just grazing 100° F the week before last, and the sogginess of the excessive rain had long since worn off by the Thursday before last. In fact, for the first time this year it was too dry to dig. That's a problem we didn't face until mid July last year. Additionally, our 330 gallons of rain catchment were almost gone from watering seedlings.
That said, we were already in a much better place than we were this time last year. In fact, in terms of area dug and planted, we were in a better place than we were by the end of last season. As of June 7th we had completed 1,852 ft2, 44.1% of the total, which exceeds last year's approximately 42%. As of the 8th we passed the halfway mark, which, though it is only symbolic, is a great boost to morale around here. And by last Thursday, the 16th, we had 62.8% of the garden prepared and planted!
How is it possible that our completed area grew so rapidly? It's all because Margo was off doing good works for days at a time, Alten dutifully by her side. They were off site for about 8 whole days, and that allowed me to obsess about how much work there was to do in the garden. Most of that amounted to bed preparation, compost sifting, and miscellaneous projects like putting up fencing and a tool rack. It has, of course, been good to have them both back. Margo returned to plant flowers (our first nasturtium bloom is at right), harvest our alfalfa and clover, build compost, weed, and remind me of the order of priorities.

Weatherwise, in the past month we've had 8 days in the 90's, and a concurrent run of 13 days with no more than .25" of rain, which is only a problem because we have so many young plants out right now. That spate of dry was broken by the aforementioned storm, which dumped 1.7" on us. A bit much all at once, but far better than nothing. We are now up to a titch over 28" for the year, with more rain in our near future.

Most of the garden is doing very well. We were a bit late in planting our sorghum, amaranth, tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini, but they look like they are catching on well. The large sections that need to go in yet are sweet potatoes, sweet corn, 300 more ft2 of flour corn, and the dry beans that will be interplanted with that and the rest of the corn.

We've learned a few things already this season. We always try to keep experimenting in the garden, and often the experiments are results of compromise between what would be best for the plants versus what is possible for us. Our parsnips, for instance, which we flat and transplant. It would have required 10 or more flats for the area we planned, and we didn't have that many. We decided to plant 2 flats and broadcast the rest directly on the bed. It is clear at this point that we will get great results from the ones we flatted and transplanted, while the broadcast section has not come up well at all and is much weedier. At left are this year's flowers from last year's parsnip planting (since they're biennial), attracting beneficials.

Another lesson was compost in the flat soil. We don't currently have enough compost to either mix our ideal flat soil for all the flats or apply compost to all the beds, so we decided to use it on the beds that will produce our major biomass, like corn, millet, and sorghum. But it was becoming clear that our germination was suffering for the lack of organic matter and humus in the flat soil, so we started mixing it in for at least some of the important seeds. The result was much better germination, better drainage for the flats, and greater ease in removing seedlings when transplanting.

Along with flatting and transplanting, we have gained more insight into when seedlings have gotten too big to plant.

We learned the importance of cover-cropping, too. The one bed that was prepared last year but not cover-cropped for the winter has significant weed issues, in contrast with the cover-cropped ones, which have relatively few weeds.

The last example of lessons learned follows along with cover-crops. Our overwintered cover was a broadcast mix of wheat, rye, and Canadian field peas, the latter of which died without any significant growth. The wheat and rye, however, looked great (notice the yellowing band in the photo at top). So great, in fact, that we decided to leave many of them to grow to maturity. The learning is related to timing. The best-looking CC'd beds were planted on time. The beds we planned for winter grains, however, were planted very late. As a result the CC grains got a big boost and are healthier and fuller-looking (yield data will tell the whole story) than those planted specifically to harvest for grain.

And we came out of dandelion season with $116.46 worth of fictitious "Dandy Dollars", wherein each head plucked is worth 1¢ and each plant pulled is worth 10¢. Whew!

So we continue plugging away, proud of ourselves (and our cabbages) for the successes we're experiencing and the failures we're learning from.

1 comment:

  1. You have been finally successful in growing up these amazing veggies. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. This would be very helpful for growing my vegetables in garden.