Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Let's Get it Started in Here! Peas are in the Houuuuuse!

As much as I'd like to host the Black Eyed Peas at Chez Pleasant, it's just not going to happen.  It has been a crazy couple of weeks!  I've been working on seed starting, but boy, have we been through some stuff these past few weeks!  Emily started it off with a crazy stomach virus that eventually worked its way through the rest of us, and between doing copious amounts of laundry and making sure kids were not dehydrated, everything else was at a standstill.  I think we all have times like this, so you'll forgive me for not posting, right?  Right.  Okay, let's move on, because like Fergie Ferg says, big girls don't cry.

This past week, I've managed to get the tomato and pepper seeds planted and they're finally sprouting.  I'm growing 8 different varieties of tomato and 9 pepper varieties... 7 of which are spicy.  I do like a hot pepper.  Okay, I love them.  Since peppers crave heat for germination, they're on a toasty heating mat in the dining room.  I'm going to have to move them under the lights, though, to prevent them from getting leggy and unmanageable.  We can't have floppy seedlings.  

I love the names of tomatoes.  I'm planting
"Crimson Sprinter", "Matt's Wild Cherry"

Peppers... and Robb Stark (Winter is Coming!)

I learned a hard lesson in plant starting.  Remember those 125 strawberry plants that I ordered?  I planted them in the Topsy-Turvy Strawberry Planters.  They were doing great and just taking off like I would have a million strawberries in June.   Then I brought a basil plant home that I picked up from the grocery store.  You know, the ones that they put right next to the tomatoes that smell so good and you think, "Mmm basil.  I'm going to make marinara tonight!"  Only you bring it home, and make marinara that night, and a pizza margherita the next night, and that basil plant still has some tiny leaves on it so you think, I'll just stick this under the grow lights so that it can grow and while your head fills with dreams of bruschetta....

You get a fungus gnat infestation.  

See those black dots?

Said fungus gnats moved into my delightfully moist strawberry planters and wreaked havoc.  When I saw the first little cloud of black gnats fly up when I watered the planter, it was far too late.  I've lost about 80% of my plants, and have managed to control the rest from spreading elsewhere by hanging sticky traps next to my seed trays and fig tree.  

In the garden, I've discovered that the weed barrier I first purchased disintegrated as soon as weeds began to grow under it.  I've been holding off on purchasing mulch, as I've been trying to find a mulch that isn't dyed red or black or dyed at all.  You'd be amazed at how difficult this is to do in my area.  Locally, along the side of the highway, crews have been clearing brush and small trees from the sides of the roads so that drivers can see deer that jet across the road.  There are plenty of wood chips there, and I might just call and ask if I can haul some of it away.  If not, I swear I'm going to resort to cedar shavings that is used for hamster bedding.  Anyway, one corner of it flew up during a windy rain storm and when I attempted to put it down again, it just disintegrated in my fingers.  I'm not happy about that.  I got some heavy duty weed barrier at Big Box Store and I intend to weed the underlying layer of vegetation that has sprouted and replace it with the new and improved barrier.  I'm testing it under my potato towers, first, since it has a money-back guarantee to block weeds, I don't want to put it all down if there's a chance it'll peter out in a couple of weeks.

Outside, I've planted beets, peas, kale, lettuce, and red onions--all crops that can stand a little bit of cold.  I started my All Red, All Blue, and Rose Finn Apple potatoes using a tower method.  This is a great way to grow a lot of potatoes in a little bit of space.  I built mine with plastic chicken fencing which I cut horizontally, affixed in rounds with zip ties, and filled with a combination of hay and compost.  
Front to back:  1: kale & lettuce, 2: Spanish onions,
3: beets, and in the 4th box, peas... which are NOT in the house.
On the very right, looking like piles of hay, are the potato towers
Here's a better look at a potato tower:

The side yard, and now the front yard, are plagued with the weed of all weeds-- Bishop's Weed, the variegated form is known as Snow on the Mountain.  Both are illegal to plant in some states due to its ability to invade and choke out nearly everything in its path.  The moment the snow melted, there it was, an inch high.  Of course, I dug out what I could, but two weeks later, it's nearly a foot high.  

No, I haven't weeded the walkway yet.  This used to be a perennial flower garden, until the weed spread from the neighbor's house.
The weed spreads via an extensive runner root system, the tiniest bit of which can sprout another plant.  You cannot just pull it out, as it has bits that shred, spawning-- you guessed it-- more plants.  It's like kudzu, the vine that took over Florida, but shorter.  For years I have mulched, put down weed barrier, newspaper, applied vinegar, and done everything in my organic bag of weed-fighting tricks to keep it from taking over, to no avail.  It doesn't look terrible, but I'd like to be able to have flowers in the side yard.  My friend Kim said the only way to get rid of it is to move out (she has it too).  In fact, it is all over our town.  My goal this season is to try to contain it to where it is, and work with it where it stands.  It does get some lovely Queen Anne-type flowers, so I think I can work with it as long as it doesn't penetrate the garden beds.  Okay, well, it's already in the garlic bed, but once that garlic is harvested, there will be some digging and weed barrier action going on.

Garlic, kale, and weeds
I have plenty on my to-do list for this summer, and I'll be working on that and of course, keeping you all updated.  More to come, and I promise not to get buried under so much work that posting becomes impossible. 
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