Wednesday, March 31, 2010

All in a Day's Work

Bottling the Homebrew
We made a lovely batch of beer last month based off of a recipe from our beer making how to book. It took a bit longer to carbonate than we expected and we drank the first few bottles prematurely. Now that it's nice and bubbly we have a near-perfect brew. We experimented with different hops and went a little lighter on the malt and came up with something that is very drinkable.

Lap Warming
Mao Mao never misses an opportunity to spend some quality time with Josh when he's working at the computer. She keeps his lap warm and in return he protects her from her annoying little sister. I don't think Cha Cha even knows that Mao Mao hides here.

Sink Patrolling

Sink Inspecting
While Mao Mao is busy warming laps, Cha Cha has taken an interest in plumbing. She's been discovered hanging out in the wet kitchen sink, staring blankly into the depths of the drain, and emerging later on with a damp coat. She is also the first to inspect the shower post-use and has taken Mao Mao's post at the side of the tub where the cold spigot drips.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Cabbages and Cats (not my cats)

I visited the garden last Friday to check the progress of the seeds and to see if anything had begun blooming in the common areas. My plot had apparently been used as a litter box by some of the local kitties and it seemed as though the more recently planted peas had been disturbed. After removing the stinky stuff I replanted some seeds just as insurance and snapped a photo.

The cabbages are happy and there are seedlings popping up but it is too soon to tell if some of the shoots are vegetables or weeds.

A little narcissus popped up and bloomed this year. This is a group of bulbs that Sarah planted two years ago. Last year I accidentally dug them up before they had a chance to get going.

The first group of peas are doing well. After I took the photo I found out temperatures were going to dip below freezing and I hoped they wouldn't mind.

The largest Chinese cabbage has a little floret in the center. I'm not sure what that's about but I'm anxious to see what will happen.

The big cabbage is getting bigger. I'm looking forward to some homemade coleslaw. Maybe I should make the mayo for it and go all out.

All of the cabbages have new leaves and look like they are going to thrive once we get some more sunshine.

I passed by a beautiful magnolia in bloom on the way to the garden.
In the garden there are lots of daffodils blooming, the peach tree is budding, and the various shrubs are showing signs of life. I picked an assortment of budding branches for a bouquet.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Garden Update

We made it home a little earlier last night so I was able to stop in the garden and plant some seeds. It had rained REALLY hard over the weekend and the soil looked somewhat compacted when I arrived. It was hard to say where I had planted the first row of lettuce. My markers were all over the place and nothing was popping up yet. I gingerly added a few more rows of lettuce all the way to the left, careful to leave space for garlic (I hope it pops up). Thus far, I've sown green leaf, "gourmet blend", and a frillier green leaf that was leftover from last year.

Between the largest cabbage and the lettuce, I added one row of spinach stretching front to back. Peas from March 9th are planted under the left half of the trellis and I finished the right half yesterday. Many rows of beets are between the trellis and cabbages. I plan on harvesting their greens throughout the season as last year we nearly picked them clean without harming the beets. In the top right corner I planted three rows of radish and in the bottom right I planted 2 types of carrots.

The whole arrangement is slightly different from what I had originally planned. I reworked the plan after getting there last night and laying in some rows of seeds.

I figure the lettuce will be replaced by bush beans, the peas will be replaced by cucumbers on one half and squash on the other, the beets will be doing their thing through fall, ditto with the carrots, the radish will be replaced by tomato plants, the spinach will be a surprise (first year growing it), and the cabbages will fill out the rest for most of the season. In the picture above, the small cabbage-like thing farthest to the top right is cauliflower. Who knows what will come of that guy.

Oh, there is also the plan to have an eggplant seedling go in somewhere when we get the tomatoes. I am hoping to find either a Thai skinny or round variety. I don't think we'll be able to produce any of the big Italian varieties by the end of summer. I have seen other people successfully grow smaller types in neighboring plots.

Here are the traditional cabbages (two) and the brighter green Chinese cabbages (three). I expect to be harvesting the Chinese first, hopefully by summer.

Now we just have to wait and hope for a pleasant spring with sun all day and light rain at night.

By the way, there were lots of yearling kittens in the garden when I was doing my thing. A really wild looking long haired dark brown/black one with big green eyes was watching my every move.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Gardening After Work

With any luck, I'll get home before sunset (after 7pm now!) and will be sowing more peas, more lettuce, spinach, radish, carrots, and beets.

I took a look at my master gardening 2010 schedule and it turns out I'm ahead! I had planned to do all this by April 1st but with the next few weekends being out-of-towners for us, I'm hoping to have a little more done by the end of the week.

I've gotta get some pictures of the cabbages too for posting. It has been in the high 60's for the past few days after A LOT of rain, so I bet everyone who is in the ground already is very happy.

Hooray for Spring!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Gardening 2010

I began the new gardening season at the beginning of the month while the last snowstorm was melting away and the garden was buried under several inches of slush. Last year I had made some notes at the beginning of March (that I never followed up on) that were helpful in planning this year's adventures. I also had a list in my head of things that seem to be working and stuff that I just want to try.

Last spring I noted in a book the dates when the first seeds went in the ground (March 9, 2009) and the location of the crops in the plot. Although I am interested in the concept of crop rotation, it is just too hard to do that in my tiny little garden. I always want to plant tall and hungry tomatoes. I will always begin the season with peas on the big trellis. Sunflowers are just too pretty and beneficial to pass up. More than anything, my garden planning is a careful orchestration of space and the path of the sun. I am lucky to have a great position in the community garden in terms of light: I get it morning, noon, and night in the spring, summer, and fall. Still, I will not make the same mistake I made the first year when some huge cherry tomato plants shaded the entire plot by mid July. My tomato plants will again be in the southeast corner of the plot and I made sure to heavily compost that area last fall in anticipation of their arrival.

Surprisingly I did get some seeds in the ground the same day this year as last: March 9. We had some beautiful weather last week with temperatures in the low 60s. I picked up a packet of English peas ("prolific yields" it said) and planted half a row under the trellis. Last year my early planting was a gamble and I was a little cautious this year, choosing to stagger my plantings under the trellis. I also planted a row of green leaf lettuce on the west side of the plot. I will go back this weekend, finish the pea row, add another row of lettuce, and begin the sowing season for real.

Getting back to that plan I put together way back when we still had snow on the ground, I am scheduled to begin serious gardening mid March. That means now! I drew up a schedule first of desired harvest dates and then a corresponding schedule for planting dates. It is always difficult to have things constantly in the picking stage. Last year I had a gap in July partly due to the very wet spring but also because of poor planning. The tomato plants went in late. The beans had already peaked. I was persisting with a waning chard and kale crop that should have been pulled. This year the word to know is succession planting. When the lettuce is done, the next crop goes in. When the bush beans are getting bushy, new bean plants should be started. When the peas are reaching up the trellis, cucumber and squash seeds must be sown. If I stick to my schedule and the weather is reasonably cooperative, I should be enjoying fresh produce throughout the season.

This weekend I will sow: red leaf lettuce, green leaf lettuce, peas, radish, 2 varieties of carrot, beets, and spinach. I am working around a green cabbage plant that wintered over, 3 chinese cabbages that wintered over, and garlic that I planted around the south and west perimeters last fall.

I will have images next post and probably an amended list of what went in the ground.

Share with us what you have planted indoors and out! We all want to know!