Thursday, March 15, 2012

Growing Food

Some of it, anyway.

A few weekends ago I decided that, February or no February, this weird warm winter meant it was time to plant some things.

I've gone about things all backwards. Though I planted a bunch of cool-weather seeds outside, I have yet to start my indoor transplants--which should have been done in the middle of February, except that it was so nice out in the middle of February that I did all the outdoor stuff instead.

C'est la vie.

So! Without further ado, here's what's going on in the garden:

False advertising.
Let me start with this picture of the garden from last spring. Lovely, no? Let's pretend it still looks that way and that weeds didn't grow straight through the weedcloth under the rocks and that the dogs didn't chew through my irrigation hoses. Mmkay?

Layers of expansion.
A space about as big as the garden itself in front of the garden has been covered in cardboard, soil, compost, leaves, rabbit litter, and a big ol' black tarp. In the next month or so we'll fence it in, hopefully do the gravel path deal, and presto! doubled our "acreage."

Lots of crops do well in cooler weather and can tolerate cold temperatures and even a light frost. These include cabbage, kale, broccoli, lettuces, chard, peas, and carrots. Some, such as kale, even get a flavor-benefit if you let them get a bit frosty. Some of these do better when directly seeded (as opposed to being started as transplants) than others.

Chard seeds.
So far, I've planted three kinds of lettuce, five-color Swiss chard, one row of kale (it's recommended that you start this as transplants, but I figured it was worth a shot), carrots, and peas.

After about three weeks, here's how they're doing:

A row of Forellenschluss lettuce.

Baby chard.

Nascent kale.

Carrots (bottom center).

A pea plant.
I am thrilled that my pea plants are looking so lovely, as I've never tried growing them before.

All three kinds of lettuce are sprouting; the Forellenschluss seems to be doing the best so far.

The chard and the kale are growing encouragingly well.

Really the only disappointment is the carrots. Last year I planted ollllld carrot seed as an afterthought in a corner of the garden when I was getting impatient but it was too cold and wet to really plant anything out. They grew like gangbusters and Meg enjoyed the bounty for the next almost nine months:

Some were as big as she was.
This year, those two tiny tiny sprouts pictured above are it. After three weeks! And this was brand new seed. I'm disappointed, but I'm not sure what the problem is. My guesses are either not enough water or being planted in rabbit litter (last year I planted them directly in our very clay soil). The litter compacted when water more tightly than expected, and I wonder if the carrots are too small and weak to break free, or if maybe enough light isn't reaching them.

But since I used my entire packet of carrot seed (grumble), I'll have to buy more if I want to try again. So I'm hoping I just need to be patient.

And then there's these beauties:

Bad angle on those pictures; they look smaller than they are. But those are my two plots of garlic that I planted back in November. They've been growing all winter. At this point I can snip off some of the greens to use in cooking, and by the time the tops die down in, oh, July, I'll be re-stocked on delicious homegrown garlic. I used the last of it a few weeks ago and store garlic is just not the same.

I also have these little volunteer garlics growing:

They've sprung up from heads I must have missed harvesting last year. It's unlikely they will develop good quality bulbs, but the greens are good eating and I'll probably harvest them for the young garlic bulbs later this spring.

Do you keep a garden, vegetable, flower, or mineral (rock gardens totally count)? Do you have an outdoor space or do you do containers? What foods do you like to grow?

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