Sunday, April 27, 2008

It's showing some green.

This week the garden finally began showing some green. Most of the seeds we planted are emerging, albeit, slowly - except for the peas. For some reason they are acting as if someone shot a starting gun at a race, whereas last year we had a poor germination rate. We've planted several varieties of onions, hoping to score with a couple and to have plenty to harvest early. The next step is potato planting.
It's time to plant a second wave of greens and radishes, so if someone is interested, come over.
Mickey's making plans for the herb garden and we purchased a few plants for it. That garden will be established in stages as is appropriate for each herb.
We will soon need some straw. Now that we have a better idea of how much straw we use in a season (10-12 bales), I think that it may be easier to purchase all the straw at once. If someone has access to a truck and is willing to tackle this, let me know.

Temple of Awesome
OK, so what's with the Temple of Awesome? Let me try to explain while I try to avoid offending the creators, one of which is a close family member.
A few New York artists are midway through an art project that involves their friends and acquaintances. The basic idea is that they are making thousands of small white origami cubes, which they will ultimately inflate and assemble into the Temple of Awesome.
Upon visiting the website, Penny's response is probably typical. She thought that I might have sent another incorrect web address. She responded with, "that web address just had someone making a cube from paper."
The project was inspired by a Japanese temple, and of course there is the link between Japan and origami . . . but WHAT?!?!?!?
Well, here's how I interpreted the project.
Humans have an innate need to assemble. Back in the day (way back) we used to do it out of physical necessity for protection, to gather food, to share resources or shelter - to satisfy genuinely basic needs. Now, we no longer need close community involvement to meet those needs. We are now free from the necessity of relying on close personal relationships to sustain life, but we haven't lost the psychological need to interact with others.
The need is fixed so firmly in our makeup that you see evidence of it in many of the institutions we create. Think of an antique car owners club, for example. Can you imagine one of these poor souls toiling away in their garage all alone and never going to one of those shows, never sitting under the tree watching people admire his (is it ever a her?) car, and never talking about his car with people that share the same passion? It's hard to envision the hobby apart from a group.
I suspect that sometimes the primary purpose and motivation for gathering is not the stated purpose of the event but the gathering itself. The TOA artists and their friends meet, interact, have fun, talk about what they are up to - and fold paper.
Similarly, a community garden's greatest benefit is not the fresh vegetables, the knowledge we gain, the exercise we get, the new food practices we develop, its reduced ecological impact, etc. It's that it provides a setting for forming and nurturing personal relationships. It's simply an excuse with plenty of other benefits.
PS (for Penny) - No snake sightings this week.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Sunday Afternoon Planting Day

Hi boys and girls!
This weekend was a big one for the garden. We are starting to see seedlings (lettuce, peas, spinach, beets) emerge. The lettuce and cabbage transplants from Stan are regrowing after transplanting. We planted radishes, more onions, even more onions, and broccoli raab. (Every update is a spelling challenge for me. Know why? I think it is because so many of our plants are from other regions of the world and they take their local names.) The little garden is >1/2 planted. The back garden is 1/3 tilled but nothing's out there yet.
Indoors, Stan and I have planted lots of crazy stuff, and we are stumbling through growing viable transplants. We have some successes and several miscues as well. One lesson we learned this year is that the cold weather transplants can get spindly to the point of not being able to support themselves when placed outdoors. For cold weather crops, this is possibly due to too little light and too high a temperature, common conditions indoors.
Today Mickey and I purchased some herbs for the back herb garden, a new project this year.
Maybe the big news is the success with the compost pile. It's hot! Actually, this was pretty amazing. As you know, our compost bin - well, it wasn't a compost bin because it wasn't composting anything. It was just storing our compost material until we figured out how to kickstart it. On Friday afternoon it was cool as ever and packed with lots of leaves. I've seen non-mulched leaves take ~3 years to decay, and I couldn't bear to think of fiddling with those leaves for the next few years. So, I took everything out of the bins, placed it on the back garden and mowed the dickens out of it. Then I placed everything back in the bin, added some 12/12/12, and watered it. I had no expectation of any other outcome. But Sunday afternoon, we witnessed the magic, the pile was actually steaming.
I included this little story for a couple reasons. First, it's amazing how some things work so well under the right conditions, but only under those conditions. After all, last year we tried everything we did this past week. But we didn't have the formula quite right. When we got it right, we got almost instant results. Second, this incident illustrates one of the reasons I garden - it's that I am inquisitive. I love to understand how things work, and often a garden is a puzzle to work on.
Here's another lesson learned this week. Last year we had a HUGE onion harvest. Remember that? Probably not because you didn't see many onions because they all rotted 2 to 3 weeks after the harvest. We found out why, we think. We used onions that are intended to produce onion greens, not bulbs. The curious thing is that the bulb-looking baby onions (sets) produce onion greens. If you want to produce bulbs, you plant the ones that look like they'd produce greens! They call these "slips". Who'd a thought?

Rebecca and Libby stopped by this past Monday evening, and we had a great time planning her garden. Somehow Mickey and I ended up coloring with Libby and Rebecca. We had at least as much fun coloring as we did planning. (Libby, thanks for the color selection tips.) This experience is related to the "Temple of Awesome" that I mentioned last week.
OK. "Temple of Awesome", what's that? It's an art project that Asa is helping a friend create. It's most easily understood by visiting and seeing things for yourself. You can even participate if you like. The artists have their idea of what the project means, but it means something a little different to me. If you give the project much thought, you could quickly conclude that it doesn't have much of a point. To me -
Well, it's getting late. I'll tell you in the next update.
Regards, Kim

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Garden Update April 8th, 2008

Hi, everyone! Hope you are enjoying the spring's return. Over the past two weeks our landscape has transformed. All the plants are bursting out. You may be thinking it's a bit early for vegetable gardening. Actually,this is the busiest time of the year.

The most important lesson I learned in Master Gardening classes is that you need to do things at the right time. Sometimes that window is really narrow, like the application of pre-emergence to control crabgrass or the application of certain pesticides to control a pest at its most vulnerable state. The window could be as narrow as just a week or so. Fortunately for gardening, most timing is not that critical.

But lots need to be done in these first few weeks. We've cleared some of the garden as it is drying. Then last week I tested the soil. I'm not sure why, but the last couple of years the soil is quite deficient in Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphorus. Based on a book's recommendations, I scattered 40 lbs of 12/12/12 on the small garden. It seems like a lot! The back plot needs the same treatment. I made the same mistake this year that I did last. It's not so good to apply all this fertilizer right before you plant seeds. A seed doesn't require fertilizer to germinate; the seed itself has all the nutrients the new plant needs until it develop its first true leaves. Adding fertilizer, which is a salt, only makes germination more difficult. I should have added the fertilizer weeks earlier, but I didn't because I hadn't tested the soil - because the ground had been FROZEN and not easily sampled. That's why you do this is the fall - in the right time. Oh, well.

Stan has once again started lots of plants indoors. Also, he purchased some fairly mature tomatoes (Better Boy, Sweet 100's, Early Girl) and I took them to the Freescale greenhouse in Kokomo. I also planted some lettuces, beets, parsley, coriander, etc indoors. Some of these we've always planted directly in the garden, so we are experimenting a bit.(This might be a way a couple of you could help. Some gardeners plant most of their crops indoors and transplant as needed. This could be away to ensure successive plantings of lettuce, for example.)

Today I took advantage of one of the timing "windows". The soil in the small garden was dry enough to plant peas, 3 types of lettuce and 3 types of beets. Stan and I also planted some cabbage on Sunday, "so we got that going for us" (Bill Murray quote).

What's next? We have a few things. First, our composting is not going very well. The pile never gets hot like it's supposed to. If someone wanted to become the Queen or King of Compost, do a little research and straighten us out, that would be great.

Second, we need a plan of attack for the cucurbit family members(cucumbers, squash, pumpkins). The crops last year were destroyed by the squash vine borer and the cucumber beetle, which spreads a disease that thickens the fluids in the plant's vascular system and chokes the plant. Any takers wanting military experience without going to Iraq?

Third, someone could take on the task of growing seedlings, as I mentioned above. Don't know enough to do any of these things? Sorry, with 10 zillion webs pages and fantastic search engines, pleading ignorance doesn't cut it anymore.

FINALLY, some of you want to be more involved this year. Here's how you do it: Every week Kim thinks that things are best done in their time. So, I usually start on Saturday morning to ensure the necessary things get done that week. So, I suggest that you call on Saturday or even Sunday to see what's going on - or just drop by. There's almost always something going on.

Next week I'll tell you how we've changed our strategy this year. And, I'll try to mention the "Temple of Awesome". Bet you can't wait.