Garden Action!

The rain finally stopped and we have nice warm and dry weather. Yeah! Time to get some gardening on!

I think when we last left off I needed to finish filling up the raised garden bed. So, surprise!, I had to mix up some more Mel’s mix (from the All New Square Foot Gardening book)!

Making Mel's mix.

Making Mel’s mix.

Mel’s mix is equal parts peat moss, vermiculite, and compost (just in case you didn’t know). Seen in the photo to the left right is 4 cu ft of compost, 4 cu ft of vermiculite, and 4 cu ft peat moss. **I just read, after mixing and using it my garden, that using peat moss isn’t environmentally friendly. While peat moss is still in its bog it stores great amounts of CO2 (carbon dioxide). But once it is dug up it releases all that CO2 into the air and perhaps contributes to Global Warming. Plus it isn’t a sustainable product. It takes centuries to make. You can read more about it in this article by Organic Gardening. In a way, using peat moss is a lot like using fossil fuels.** For future garden beds I’ll just use compost…and maybe vermiculite. No more peat moss for me. I am trying to lower my carbon footprint, part of my trying to be more self reliant.

Mel's mix mixed up.

Mel’s mix mixed up.

On to happier things…mixing!

I’ve seen where you can lift up edges of your tarp to mix the soil. You lift one corner or edge up high enough so the soil spills over itself, then go on to the next corners/sides doing the same all the way around until it is mixed. But working by myself, with my husband helping by keeping the kids occupied, I’m not strong enough to lift the soil loaded tarp high enough to get it mixing. So I got to mix up the soil using a shovel. SO MUCH FUN!  Actually, it wasn’t all that bad. It was a nice workout (and any way to get some exercise in is good, right?). It is also very satisfying to see it mix into a beautiful looking soil with each shovel full you turn over and mix back in, turn over and mix back in,…repeatedly. Um, yeah, so it was very mind numbingly exciting. To fill the bed, I just shoveled directly from the tarp the the garden, finally lifting the tarp up onto the bed and dumping out the mix once it was light enough.

Bed filled.

Bed filled.

Once the bed was completely filled up, mounded up in the main bed, not in the holes, yet, I used the shovel to carefully scrape it into the holes. (The line “I shovel darn good” from the movie “Mystery Men” went through my mind at this point.) After I got the soil looking about even with the cinder blocks I used a scrap piece of 2×4 lumber to skim the soil level with the cinder blocks and scrape the excess into the holes. I think, all told, I’ve put 36 cu ft of Mel’s mix in this bed. Mixing it up 12 cu ft at a time.

BUT, annoyingly, I still didn’t have enough Mel’s mix to fill all the cinder block holes. Gosh darn it! Oh well…big breath… I think I’ll fill the rest of the holes with compost, sans peat moss…and vermiculite, just to get it done. I won’t decide until I go to buy more. Can’t think about it anymore right now. (As a side note: I’ve been buying my compost. I have a compost bin, but it didn’t produce enough for this whole project. My compost bin has been compromised and is constantly raided by hungry squirrels, which I’ll talk about in a later post.)

Bed covered.

Bed covered.

After I filled the bed, with what soil I had, I pounded in 8-2 ft lengths of rebar, 4 on each side, until the tops were flush with the tops of the cinder blocks. Then I cut 8-2 ft lengths of 1″ PVC and pounded them down around the rebar (one length for each rebar stake). I decided to keep them high, around 7 inches, so when I add the 1/2″ PVC hoops the plants underneath the edges will have more space. It looks kinda funny right now with all those pipes sticking up. But hopefully it’ll look better when the hoops are up.

As I think I said in a previous post (of which there are far too many for me to remember :P) I’m trying the square foot gardening method this year. You’re supposed to put down a grid marking your square foot sections, using string or strips of something, across the bed. I really didn’t want to do that so I went around my yard and cut 21-16 inch lengths of the straightest pinky width branches off from the multitude of honeysuckle in my yard. I used those to stake the corners of each square foot section. I have an idea and I might go back later and replace those with some lengths of PVC (putting a cap on the bottom end of a PVC tube and drilling small holes all the way around) to water the roots. Still thinking on how well that would work.

After that I planted! This was the fun and exciting part! Well, for me at least, you get to look at the list…

I transplanted, from seeds I’d started inside a couple of weeks ago:

  • 12 yellow onions
  • 12 red onions
  • 3 purple cabbages
  • 2 strawberries

Then I direct sowed some cooler weather loving plants. We’re only one month away from last frost date, for my location, so I think they’ll be fine from what I’ve read. A bit nervous about this because I’ve never tried planting before last frost date before.

I sowed seeds for:

  • 18 spinach
  • 1 scarlet kale
  • 13 boule d’or turnips
  • 10 purple top rutabagas*
  • 18 detroit dark red beets
  • 9 red romaine
  • 16 european mesclun mix
  • 4 rainbow swiss chard
  • 1 black mustard
  • 1 cilantro

This year I’m using all heirloom varieties. This year is seeing how I like them and how they do in my yard. *I’m not sure how the rutabaga will do. It isn’t a heat-loving plant, and it gets hot here. I’m hoping it’ll do ok with me planting it early enough. I really like rutabaga and my local store doesn’t always have it in stock when I want it. Probably just wishful thinking that I’ll be able to grow my own.

After I finished stopped myself from getting carried away by my excitement and planting everything all at once (even the warm weather loving plants), I draped a frost protector cloth over everything to keep the birds and chickens out. I was going to use tulle, but I found a package of this cloth in my basement. I must have forgotten that I’d bought it when I was deciding to build the raised garden bed. OOPS, oh well. The cover is very lightweight so I weighed down the edges with rock I’d pulled out of the ground when making the garden bed. (It really was a lot of rocks.)

That’s it for now. I’ll be back later with boring updates of seeds sprouting, pictures of my ruined compost bin, and whatever else comes to mind by then.

-Lorelei

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