We got a call at the Master Garden desk last week from someone who wanted to plant tomatoes outside already. We tried to discourage it, since there's a good chance we could get a killing frost in the next two or three weeks, but I don't know if the caller took our advice or not.
Although it is too early to plant tomatoes, melons, green beans or any other warm weather-loving fruit or veggie, it's a fine time to continue getting your garden ready. I've already spread compost, so decided to break up my bag of biochar and spread it in a few beds. I figured I had the right tool for the job.
After laying the bag out flat on the driveway, I took a swing with my sledgehammer. I was hoping to be able to break the char up into little bitty bits in the bag. Instead, the bag burst open on the first swing. Oops.
OK, not a problem. I poured it into my wheelbarrow, where it looked like a pitiful amount of soil amendment for $15. Then I tried whacking it into small pieces with my sledgehammer. I'm not sure how small the pieces should have been. During the master gardening class, the instructor who taught about biochar said not to pulverize it.
The amount in the wheelbarrow looked pretty miniscule, so I decided to spread it in only two areas. This bed is in the middle of my lawn (where it shouldn't be, but I couldn't resist, because it's so sunny and I wanted just a little more room to grow things). I added biochar to this bed because biochar is supposed to improve the soil's water handling capacity and this bed doesn't always get as much water as it should because of my irrigation system. I'm going to plant cowpeas, cucumbers and maybe a Kazakh melon in this bed, all of which are supposed to be climbers, so I'll put one of my trellises here, too.
I also added it to this bed because I decided to put my tomato trellis here, and I want big, honking tomatoes. Although I broke the biochar into smaller pieces in the wheelbarrow, once it was in the bed, I continued breaking it into smaller pieces with the shovel when I worked it into the soil.
With my husband's help, I put my trellises set up, even though I'll use them for warm-weather plants and won't be planting anything to climb on them for another three or four weeks. I'm rearranging things in the garden this season and wanted to see how much room I had with them in place. My husband thinks this looks kinda Beverly Hillbilly-ish there in the front yard, but I assured him that once green growing things covered the trellises, it would be the envy of the neighborhood. And if tomatoes climbed to the top of the tomato trellis he would be in hog heaven, and tacky would no longer be an issue.
When it comes to meal planning, is there anything better than coming home from work and deciding what to eat for dinner based on what's available in the garden?
Last night, I picked some spinach, which I had to wash thoroughly due to recent rain (yay!) which made it dirty.
Then I decided to add some green onion tops (from my walking onion patch) and some garlic scape (which is simply the green part of the garlic & is quite delicious). If you plant green onions and garlic in the same bed (which I did, in a couple places) you can tell them apart because the garlic is flatter.
I chopped the garlic & onion tops, as well as the spinach, then sauteed the green stuff with some leftover ham from Easter.
I was hungry & decided to go for simple, so I just scrambled some eggs and searched the fridge for interesting cheese. I was going to go for parmesan, but found some blue cheese that was a bit old, so figured I should use that. But seriously, what happens when blue cheese gets old? It's already moldy & smelly!
I love blue cheese and probably got too carried away with it. My scrambled eggs were a bit flavorful, to say the least, between all the garlic & the blue cheese. But they tasted great with the cheesy cornbread that was still left over from Easter.
I didn't use all the spinach I picked, so I told my son, who came home hungry later, where to find it in the fridge. He was impressed that it came out of my garden & used some on a ham sandwich.
If you haven't planted spinach yet, it may be too late, especially since we seem to be having an early, warm spring. Spinach doesn't like hot weather. In addition to planting it in the fall, I keep experimenting with planting it in semi-shady areas in hopes of having it last beyond June. So far, it hasn't happened, but at least I get to enjoy it often before the weather hits 90.
Since it's been so warm in early spring, I was lulled into planting a few more things before our irrigation water came in, even though it meant dragging a hose was in my future.
Clearly, I didn't drag a hose around enough, because the cress, which came up so quickly, also died just as quick.
I had two new seeds I wanted to try this year - rat's tail radish and a burgandy mustard. Both of the seed packets said to plant in early spring, so I did. I also planted lettuce, which didn't come up.
Now that my irrigation water is in and I've got the drip system in place, I decided to replant. That's when I discovered this.
I actually have two of them coming up. It's either the mustard or the rat's tail radish. When I replanted, I was certain it was the radish, so I planted a few more rat's tail radishes in the vicinity. Now I'm convinced it's the mustard. Just as an aside, since you normally cook the leaves of mustard (well, OK, I have never in my life cooked them, but I will this season) and call them mustard greens, would I refer to these as mustard burgandies?
I googled to find out more about the rat's tail radish, and I learned that they grow all season, producing a seed pod that looks like a bean, which is supposed to be spicy and delish. They also grow 3 to 5 feet tall. Oops... I spaced them like you would a normal radish.
This is why I love gardening and cooking. There's always something new to learn.
After chatting with other gardeners and hearing Curt Swift talk about irrigation, one of my goals in the garden this year was to change the way I water. We converted lawn to turn it into garden several years ago, but didn't change the sprinklers. I had oscillating lawn sprinklers spraying my garden and making my tomatoes unhappy.
Armed with a tiny bit of knowledge and a huge sense of purpose, I went to GJ Pipe a couple weeks ago and bought 500 feet of black hose, a bunch of bubblers and a bunch of micro-sprayers, along with a much-needed filter, which I promptly forgot to take with me and left on the counter. My husband finally had the time and the inclination to hook up the pump on Friday and he was going to install the new filter, too. That's when we discovered that although the receipt said there was a filter, there was no filter.
Fortunately, he called GJ Pipe and they remembered the woman who had no idea what she was doing but still managed to spend almost $300 and who walked away and left the filter sitting on the counter. I think they all got a chuckle out of the ditzy blonde.
So my husband picked up the filter and spent much of Saturday installing the pump and filters.
On Sunday afternoon, I asked him to help me take out the sprinklers and install the hose and micro-sprayers. Because my husband is the greatest guy ever, he did, even though he was hoping to go for a motorcycle ride.
I discovered that the bubblers aren't really going to work and we ran out of micro-sprayers before we ran out of garden. Fortunately, we had plenty of hose, so we were able to lay it out.
I also discovered that the micro-sprayers don't always spray, for mysterious reasons I'm sure I'll figure out. The nice thing about them is that it's possible to adjust them and otherwise mess with them while the system is running. You don't have to constantly run back and forth, turning the pump on and off while making small adjustments and trying to get it just right.
I was going to take photos of the process of laying out the hose, inserting the tubing for the sprayers and attaching the sprayers, but my husband was in work mode and I didn't want to annoy him by pausing for photos.
I've still got at least 20 micro sprayers to attach to all the hose that we laid out, but that should be a piece of cake compared to what we did over the weekend.