Monday, February 19, 2007

New Life in the Garden

It's been a long and cold winter. On New Year's Day it was beautiful and I planted some seeds for winter vegetables like radish, lettuce, Oriental greens, and more. And about the time they should sprout we had a hard frost for several nights. I still have some of the radish spouts, but they never grew. I'm waiting to see if the Oriental greens that sprouted will grow. Meanwhile, on Feb 4, I planted another batch of everything. Still no new spouts. I think I may have dampening off in the raised beds. I planted some brussel sprout plants in Feb., but they have not grown much. Five went into the raised bed with a row cover. The other went into a pot with no covering. The one in the pot disappeared. The five in the raised bed are still there -- just not any bigger.

The January frosts seemed to kill eveything -- even the gazanias which I transplated in January -- just before the frosts. I had taken the plants from my other house in a neighborhood. Almost everyone in the neighborhood had them. And after the frosts the neighborhood was a depressing place. It seems most of the plants were heaps of dead leaves. There's not much that looks worse than mounds of dead gazania leaves.

Today, after about two weeks doing very little in the way of garden care except laying papers and cardboard to block weeds before the rains, I decided to hoe some of the weeds I couldn't get covered. I could only handle about three minutes of that before wearing out, so I decided to hand-weed my herb bed where I had planted all the gazania transplants. Almost everything in that bed had looked pretty dead except the irises and the rapidly growning weeds, and the carnation I had planted in a pot. At least I could kneel to do the weeding. And when I got close, I saw some fresh green shoots coming from almost all the plants I thought were dead. (See picture above.) I cut away the dead parts, pulled the weeds and noticed a few new poppy seedlings popping up. So far one borage plant remains from last year. The frost didn't kill that. But a gopher knocked out the other one last week, so I have a feeling my borage, about to bloom, is not long for this world. I'll have to plant one in a pot if I want it to be able to reseed, I guess.

After I finished the bed by the kitchen window, I moved to the bed by the pumphouse wall. Most of what was planted there survived. When I saw how destructive the frost was in the other beds, I covered almost everything in this bed with dry leaves. It seemed to work. And I also got my first daffodil blossom there today, with another about to bloom. All the daffodils I planted in the fall are started to emerge.

There still may be a few weeds in my beds I didn't get out, but I got the worst of them and gave the other plants breathing room. Now the big project is to hoe weeds before they get too big to hoe, spead all the cardboard I can get to block as many as possible, and start vegetable seeds indoors. The garden centers already have leggy tomatoes, but I wouldn't dare put them out until I know what the weather will be doing. So I guess I'll grow my own. I hope to grow at least tomatoes, sweet peppers, cukes, squash, and lettuce. I'd also like to grow root vegetables, kohl rabi, and chard. And, of course, flowers.
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