Monday, April 29, 2013

Hoping for more fair weather

Hello all--

We had some lovely spring (and somewhat summery) weather this past weekend, and there was a lot of activity in the gardens!  From casual conversations with a few of our gardeners, I know that quite a bit of spinach, lettuces, brassica (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage), and other spring crops were sown.  Bulb flowers are popping up everywhere as well.
Crocuses blooming.

Miniature irises.

Before we know it, it will be time to plant our summertime vegetables and fruits: tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, basil, beans, and many others.

Speaking of summer crops, our second transplant sale from Garden-to-Be will take place next-next Sunday, May 12.  A list of the Garden-to-Be transplants was shown in an earlier blog posting; in case you missed it, there will be:

  • Tomatoes
    • Cherry tomatoes
      • Sungold
      • Red
      • Black
    • Roma/paste tomatoes
      • San Marzano
      • Juliet mini-roma
    • Slicing tomatoes
      • Big Beef
      • Valley Girl
      • Lemon Boy
    • Heirlooms
      • Golden Sunray
      • Brandywine
      • Striped German
      • Pruden's Purple
      • Aunt Ruby's German Green
      • Green Zebra
      • Cherokee Purple
  • Peppers
    • Sweet
      • Snapper (sweet bell)
      • Italia (Italian frying)
    • Hot
      • El Jefe (jalapeno)
      • Highlander (anaheim)
      • Habanero
  • Eggplant
    • Galine (globe)
    • Orient Express
  • Basil
    • Genovese
    • Lemon basil
    • Thai basil
    • Purple basil
    • Pistou tiny leaf
  • Herbs
    • Parsley
    • Lavender
    • Sage
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Napa cabbage
  • Cucumbers
  • Summer squash
    • Plato (zucchini)
    • Sunburst (pattypan)
  • Winter squash
    • Red Kuri
    • Butternut
  • Swiss chard
Please keep in mind that the transplants available may vary slightly from the list above due to variables out of our power (the weather, availability, etc), but all major categories will be represented.  If you would like to know more about the varieties listed, there is a wealth of information online and a google search will tell you more than you need to know.

We hope to have compost available at this sale as well, as long as the weather cooperates.  If we have another long spell of heavy rain, the extremely heavy load of compost will sink our delivery truck hopelessly into the mud.  I'll post more information when we are certain of the compost sale date and time.

Now that the season is really starting, our registrar will be sending out notices regarding work days.  As an EHCG gardener, please remember that you are obligated to either work one official EHCG workday or pay a no-workday fee ($32 for a large plot, $16 for a small plot).  Whether you decide to do the workday or pay the fee, it is better to do it earlier in the gardening season as every year many gardeners wait until it is too late.  There is a fee if you neither work nor pay the workday fee by the end-of-the-season deadline in late September or early October, so be sure to take care of this on time.

I hope to write another blog post this week regarding organic gardening practices.  One new gardener at the cool weather transplant sale had several questions regarding which soil amendments were and weren't appropriate for EHCG.  This is an important topic so I would like to devote some time to this over the next few days.

Good luck with your gardening!  Remember to wear sunscreen!

Friday, April 12, 2013

A change of plans

The weather continues to disappoint; unexpected low temperatures and practically nonstop rain have forced the EHCG Garden Committee to postpone the cold-weather transplant sale as well as the compost sale by one week.  If you are a gardener at EHCG, you should have already received an email from the registrar explaining this change in programming.  It's not ideal but I suppose that we all have to meet Mother Nature halfway; we are on her turf after all.

I'm going to a strategy/planning meeting with several first time EHCG gardeners later this week, some with previous gardening experience and some without.  Altogether we will be drawing up the plans for three plots: two half-plots, and one large plot (mine).  After this meeting I will record the final decisions, and post the plans here to serve as general guides or springboards for those who may find it useful.

Try to stay warm and dry this week; if we get lucky next weekend (April 20-21) will be better suited for starting our spring crops.

Edit: one of our gardeners and fellow Garden Committee member Karen ran into the folks at Garden-to-be and confirmed that the following plants will be for sale this Sunday:

Broccoli, Green cabbage, Red cabbage, cauliflower, lettuces, kohlrabi, kales, collards, violas, sorrel, and some herbs.

I look forward to a nice turnout this weekend!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Seed fair and the effective beginning of the gardening season

Hello all--

We hosted the annual EHCG Seed Fair this past Saturday morning, opening our doors at 9:30 AM for residents and students, and 10:30 AM for faculty/staff/community members.  About 300 plots were accounted for, each plot allocated 15 tickets (or equivalent 15 seed packets), and an estimated 700 people were in attendance throughout the day.  We hosted a gardening workshop as well as several orientations around the garden; the weather is very fair now and I actually had to remove my coat while showing new gardeners around.  Spring is here!

I don't know about you, but I have been noticing tulips and daffodils emerge from the cold dark earth for several weeks around my neighborhood.  I am pleased to report that the bulb flowers are coming up in the gardens as well; the next time you pass the arbor, you might sneak a peak of the dormant life awakening.  Strawberries and garlic are showing their springtime spirit as well.  I promise to add some photos after my stint in the garden this coming Saturday morning.

We are expecting a good deal of rainy days this week, although it appears that the rainfall may be a bit on-and-off throughout the day.  The cold weather plant sale is scheduled for Sunday morning (April 4) at 11 AM to 1 PM.  You can expect early/mid spring staples such as broccoli, kale, and cold-tolerant herbs.

Before planting these transplants, make sure to prepare your beds--there's no sense in transplanting these little guys into hard, cracked clay.  It's nice to give your crops a leg up in life by supplementing your soil with soil amendments.  There is a nice pile of what is loosely referred to as "mulch" between the weed pile and leaf pile at EHCG.  This is mostly decayed/decomposed plant matter which can be added to the topsoil to loosen it as well as to add some nutrients (NPK as well as micronutrients).  This soil amendment is not as nutrient-dense as true compost, and even less so than fertilizer.  You will find, however, that your cool weather crops need less pampering than summer crops such as eggplant and squash; the material in the mulch pile is more than sufficient for now.

One final note about these transplants: depending on the condition of your soil this Sunday (it may be very wet and dense), you may consider waiting a week to relocate the plants into the soil.  The current temperature is generally OK for cool weather crops, although we may dip down around freezing several more times.  I may play it on the safe side and keep my own transplants indoors by a well-lit window for now so that I am not risking my plants or the garden tools (or my back!) to force crops into the mud.

I will start concluding each blog entry with a short list of what I'm personally doing in my plot at the moment to give you a general idea of when and how one gardener progresses through the seasons.  Please consider this a very open-ended guideline, as all gardeners are different and many very experienced gardeners use tricks I won't describe here.

What am I growing now?
  • I sowed peas on Friday; I think they will be okay even in the compacted soil.  I will wait until this coming weekend to put in my supports (pictures to come) because the ground will be better thawed by then.
  • I also sowed very small trial patches of spinach, lettuce, beets, and carrots.  This was pretty risky of me, but I have many many seeds so I can resow in two weeks or so if need be.
  • My tulips, daffodils, crocuses, strawberries, and garlic are waking up after winter's slumber.
  • I want to start Johnny Jump-Ups outside ASAP but will wait for the ground to dry a bit.

What else am I doing in the garden?
  • Like many gardeners, I put down heavy leaf cover (mulch) at the end of last season to prevent weed growth and protect my perennials.  I am slowly removing the leaf cover as the days warm up, but it is difficult while it is still wet.  I will do this gradually.
  • Early weeding.  I saw tiny weeds last weekend, which in a few weeks time could get out of control.  It is always a better use of time to pull out little weeds and cover problem areas with leaf mulch, than to allow the weeds to reach critical mass to deal with them.  
  • General clean-up.  I kind of threw my tomato cages etc into ugly piles in the middle of my plot last October.  I want to straighten up so that my plot doesn't look abandoned.
If you have questions or comments, please leave them below and I will be happy to start a conversation here with you.  Happy gardening!