Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Slow Start to the Early Bed

I really should have gotten my peas and lettuces seeded by now, but this Census job has turned into a full-time gig the past few weeks. The weather has been iffy to work around too. It seems whenever I've had some time to work outside, it's either been raining, snow on the ground, or horrible winds. So I'm trying to get things done in bits and pieces when I get the chance.

Half of the 50' long Early bed was composted last fall. About half of that was planted then too, with garlic, shallots, and seeds of spinach and arugula. They were all up and growing by the end of February, and in fine shape now. In fact, the arugula was starting to bolt, so I pulled most of what was left and gave it to the chickens. One thing that slows me down is having to protect whatever I've been working on from the birds, both domestic and wild, at the end of each day. Then, before starting again later, all the wire has to come off again so I can get at the planting bed.

To date, I've managed to get the rest of that bed composted, turned and raked smooth for planting; the soaker hoses laid out, with all connections fixed up with new rubber washers; pea posts pounded in (and topped with cans to support the netting), fencing trellises attached with twist-ties. Tuesday afternoon, I was out there on my hands and knees setting in tiny little Copra onion plants (a last-minute order from Dixondale Farms - my onions, seeded inside a couple of months ago, didn't germinate reliably enough). I put the dried-out little plants to soak for a couple of hours in a weak fish emulsion tea while I got everything ready. Using a dandelion digger as a dibble, I'd make a loose little planting hole, use my finger to poke an onion down into the dirt, and then give it a little pull upwards, getting the roots started in the right direction as I firmed the dirt around each little plant. I know they're probably hard to even see, set out in a 6" spacing grid, but I know the Copra onions are really good keepers. The sets (little bulbs) you buy in the big-box store are fine for summertime fresh eating, but I want onions that will last in storage until at least March, or even better, May. Onions are tough - these guys are starting to perk up and green up already. The last few I planted into clumps to pull for fresh eating later in the summer, but most of these won't be harvested until mid-September.

We've had quite a bit of wind the last few days, but Tuesday, when Aries was home to lend a hand, I managed to get the netting suspended over that bed then. Every year, I seed my little greens and peas, watch eagerly for them to start poking up out of the dirt, and then, one fine morning, go out to find everything chomped right down to the dirt. The sparrows and quail devour everything - they can jump right down under the wire I use to protect everything from errant chickens. Then, a few years ago, the guinea fowl developed an addiction to pea blossoms. They'd be out there calmly plucking every one on a daily basis. I was going to all this work and getting nothing!!

So last year, after losing everything once again, I tried draping a big piece of netting over the entire bed - held up by the t-posts holding bits of fencing for the peas to cling to, held down by bricks around the outside edges. And got my first beautiful salad harvest in years (the netting applied too late to get much from the peas). So now, as I get the time, I'll duck under the netting to plant my peas (English, snap, and Chinese) on either side of the center bits of fencing, and greens along the edges. The greens shade the pea roots, the peas climbing their fences shade the greens, and I should still manage to get some decent harvests of both before the summer heat fries everything. That's the plan, anyway.

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