Friday, March 14, 2008

Thoughts of Spring

I woke up to a dusting of snow from an overnight storm, and it's been cold and windy all day. It's way too cold to be outside today, but I know it's time to start thinking about this year's vegetable garden. I rotate plantings through five different beds. Each slightly raised bed of untrampled soil is three feet wide and 50 feet long to accommodate one 50-ft soaker hose running down the middle. Each bed is a smashed "S" shape, with the three 15-ft long sections running across the slight slope of the property, a rake's width between them, and wider paths around and between the beds. Four of these beds make up the main garden, arranged in a four-square pattern, with a small ornamental circle in the intersection of the bigger paths. The fifth bed lies below.

In this year's Early Bed, prepared last fall, the garlic and shallots planted last November are now up. I scattered some spinach and lettuce seeds at the same time to winter over, and those are now starting to sprout as well. The garden is fenced with chicken wire fencing, buried in an "L" shape, 3" down and 6" out in a trench, then rising up a couple feet, and the top 12" left flopping to the outside. This may look sloppy, but works well to keep the digging and climbing ground squirrels out. Unfortunately, some of the chickens plus the guineas have learned to fly over it. The chickens mainly scratch holes, but the guineas have developed a taste for fresh little green plants, so I constantly have to figure out new ways to protect my crops. A mish-mash of salvaged wire over the early plantings has worked thus far.

I get out my seed storage box, a sturdy covered box that once held a case of Texas Lone Star beer longneck bottles, and my plans from years past. I go through what seeds still I have, making a list of those I need to get. Squash plants will cross-pollinate others of the same class, resulting in some bizarre fruits the following year from saved seed. I'm still picking out my favorite variety for each class with the hope of eventually being able to save my own seeds, but for now Carnival and Bush Banana are on the list. Joi Choi, a hybrid, is hard to find around here, but it's the only Bok Choi I've found that doesn't bolt when the weather turns hot. I might have to order it online. I need more snow peas and snap peas. They're something I need to protect better - the guineas just love pea plants, and have demolished my plantings before they even begin to flower for the past couple of years now, so I have no saved seeds for them.

Our last frost is usually late May, so it's time to start the Fruiting Bed plants. Those are the tomatoes, peppers, chiles, eggplants, and okra that will grow inside for the next 8 - 9 weeks. With seeds from the beginnings of my own heirloom varieties, a sweet bell pepper is the only one I need this year.

No comments: