Thursday, May 21, 2009

Laboratory, with Emphasis on "Labor"

I know I've been somewhat absent around these parts lately. It's only because the temperatures are pushing 80 and my garden calls to me and my computer prefers to sit on the desk rather than schlump around the garden with me.

And then there's the fact that I leave for Oregon in less than a week and I have an incredible amount of work to get done before then. I feel like I can easily just work outside from the time I let the chickens out in the morning until I close their coop again at night. There are so many tasks to be completed that I can't even keep track of them all.

Oh, and then there's the fact that I've been playing nurse-maid to a chicken with a prolapsed pooper-shooter. (I'm being glib here, but honestly, I'm worried about her. I'm afraid she may not make it, and then I'll have an orphaned chick on my hands, and this chicken funny-farm is getting out of hand fast.)

But back to the garden.

(Sorry about that.)

(Oh, maybe not that sorry...)

(Just a little.)

I'm being a little experimental in my garden this year. Well, I always have to be a little experimental. Keeps things interesting. Even when I was a kid and I helped Dad in the garden, I liked to experiment. He used to let me have my own little spot and I would pick what I wanted to plant and try them out to see how they did. One year, he let me try some blue potatoes in the potato patch. They turned out to be pretty neat-- well, at first anyway. When you cut them open, they had great color, but when you cook them? Not so appetizing. My brothers didn't want anything to do with the mauvish-gray mashed potatoes for supper. So maybe some experiments are more successful than others, but isn't that the point? Try new things and find out what works.

So my tomatoes desperately needed planting a week or so ago. I had to get them in the ground, since they were getting a little leggy and sad. So I did. And here's the experimental part-- I'm really sick of flimsy tomato cages, so I'm trying something new. Nathan put up a long piece of woven wire fence that has large openings, and I planted the tomatoes along it. As they grown, I'll weave the branches through the fence for support. In theory, this will make easier picking and less disease. I guess we'll find out!

So I got those planted, and then we had some chilly nights. In fact, we had a frost. Ack!

I'm so glad that Nathan reminded me to get the tomatoes covered. They were already look a little droopy, so that frost would have done them in.

I feel like I'm looking at my Grandma's garden. She always used to use milk jugs to protect her tomatoes.

See? They're pretty happy in their own personal greenhouses.

This year I'm also trying leeks. They're a little on the fussy side. They especially dislike getting trampled on by a small child right after planting. Sheesh. So picky.

When we tested our soil this spring, we found that the soil is deficient in nitrogen. So one thing I'm trying is planting beans here and there throughout the garden instead of just in one spot. Ideally, they'll "fix" nitrogen in the soil for the plants nearby.

So instead of a stake to make my cuccumber and melon plants, I'm using a bamboo pole with a few pole beans planted next to it. We'll see how that works.

I was very excited to find sweet potato slips at a nursery in bundles of 25 for 5 bucks! Score! So I got those planted, and I'm praying that we'll have no more frost now or they'll be lost in a hurry.

Another experiement is one of my garden extentions. Instead of having Nathan pull up all the sod and till, I decided to just spread a heavy kill mulch a few months ago. The idea was that when I came time to plant, I'd just put holes in the cardboard where plants needed to go. It was working great, until we locked the chickens in the garden. Then they decided to tear up my mulch. I know they couldn't help themselves... In short, it's a mess, and the grass is coming through.

I went ahead and planted some cabbage, broccoli, and brussels sprouts in there anyway. I just need to add mulch. Well, I think I planted those cool-loving things too late and now they look pathetic. In fact, they're barely alive.

Poor things.

Oh, and I'm now the proud owner of my very own asperagus bed!

What? You can't see it? Well, try not to pay attention to my freakish claw-handed shadow... there are asperagus plants there... I promise...

I'm in the process of putting in a flower bed on the north side of my kitchen. I've been digging out the hard clay subsoil that came up when the foundation was dug, and I've been hauling in some topsoil to replace it. So far I have a few hostas and some weak little ferns in there.

Someday... it's gonna be great. Really.

The clump of Plantation Hostas that I put in is made up of three smaller clumps. Jonah dubbed them a "Mother and a Daddy and a baby! Oooohhh... hooow sweeeet..."

It has just now occurred to me that I should make sure that the chickens are not out there undoing my day's work, and who wants to be inside on a day like this anyway?

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