Saturday, May 7, 2011

Update May 7, 2011

This week has finally seen some nice weather.  The nearly continuous cloud cover of the last two weeks cleared up on Tuesday and since then sunshine has been abundant.  Thursday I picked up a yard of compost/soil mix and resumed work on the flower beds in front.  The new dirt was added, turned over and tilled.  I’ve got most of the planting complete.  The beds face south, but the porch is flanked by pin oaks and the beds are in shade more than sun.  The predominant plant is the hosta.
Even though some of the vegetable beds are still empty, things will change really fast this month and it’s a good time to do a progress report on the future edibles.

The seeding operation is not much – a shop light and two flats.  Mostly it’s used to start onions, which are already in the beds, lettuce,  brassicas on a 12 day stagger, and about this time to start cucurbits, eggplant and okra.  I buy tomato and pepper plants at the Bloomington farmers market.  Many of the vendors grow heirloom plants and sell the seedlings to generate income early in the season.  Since I have only one grow light and not much space indoors buying the seedlings at the market works out well for everybody.  For peppers, the Chile Woman has a stall at the market.

There are two sets of brassicas in the trays, one set recently germinated and the other set about ready to go into the beds.  The squash – butternut (Metro), acorn (Tiptop), and Sunburst pattypan -  are about ready to go out.  I also seeded kabocha (Green Forest) but the seeds, from 2009, did not germinate.  The eggplant and okra were seeded a few days ago.  I used red beverage cups for the squash because they’re deeper and squash sends roots down very quickly.  I also seed a backup set of squash, cuke, eggplant and okra about 10 days after the first set in case we get a killing frost.  Of the heat-loving vegetables, I’ve found that eggplant is especially intolerant of cool nights and can be stunted if exposed to much cool weather. 
The trapezoidal bed is the brassica bed this year.  Right now this bed has three plantings of cole crops in it, staggered 12 days apart – broccoli, kohlrabi, cabbage, bok choi, cauliflower, and one brussel sprout at the acute corner of the bed.  I’ve been planting Grand Duke and Early White Vienna kohlrabi side by side, and so far the Grand Duke has outgrown the White Vienna in every planting.  Three more sets of brassicas are planned for this bed, so all of the bed space will see two rotations of plants.   The cloud cover over the past 2-3 weeks has really slowed their growth.  The first set of brassicas in this bed won’t be ready to harvest for at least a week, so I’ll have to find space for the next set in another bed.  Sugar snap peas are growing along the trellis with some bamboo stakes to guide them to the trellis. 

The greens/greenhouse bed is where spinach and lettuce overwintered.  The portable greenhouse was on the bed from November to April 1. The first planting of brassicas, bok choi and kohlrabi went into this bed on March 12.  The bok choi are long gone, the kohlrabi are ready to pick.  There’s still two nice overwintered Double Choice spinach in this bed, lettuce, a few spinach seedlings that were direct sown, carrot seedlings, and cilantro.  Later I’ll probably put some bush beans in open spaces in this bed which should hopefully boost nitrogen levels.

There’s not much else to see at this time.  The parsnips germinated really well.  I guess that’s because the cage kept out the squirrels.  Nearly all the potatoes, Red Pontiac and Yukon Gold, emerged on Friday and I’m anxious to see how growing them in cages works out.  The onions are behind schedule since the initial planting of Copra did not germinate but they have been growing really well this week.  I’m hoping the leaf mold in the bin will be sufficiently composted to go into the solanacae and winter squash beds in a week.  And it would be REALLY nice if the wet spots in the yard would dry out enough to mow. 

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