Hardening off & planting out

I am sure many of you spent Mother’s Day weekend filling shopping baskets with new baby plants to bring home and fill your garden with, it is a Mother’s Day tradition,  (and it may be the only day of the year you can get the whole family to help you in the garden without complaint).  I received the wonderful gift of my son and mother planting a brand new climbing rose for me while I took a nap!! Heaven!!

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However around these parts Mother’s Day week and weekend is also famous for snow storms, which is why the last frost date is in fact May 15th- not May 5th!  Transitioning things outside and toughening them up enough to go from lush nursery conditions to exposed windy high desert gardens is an important step to protecting your investments.

IMG_3382Here is a post from years back that talks about the hardening off process and why it is important.

IMG_3379Here is another on with ten transplanting tips.

IMG_1946And lastly one about transplanting tomatoes, which is what I will be doing this weekend… and for many days to come until these babies are tucked cozy in the ground!  If you are planting according to the Bio-dynamic Calendar, Friday and Saturday are not only fruit days but (specially good!!) So hope you are hardened off and ready to go!

 

 

Spring Greens

IMG_1658What a spring we have had! Erratic whether, moisture, crisp cool air, and really spring greens like nothing better!  I have begun harvesting multiple pounds of Lettuce, Spinach, Kale, Chard and Chinese Cabbage every week and just wish I had more garden space to plant more.

IMG_1666If you are doing succession planting in your garden planning, timing and leaving space for the future is everything!!  You have to think about how long it will take for a head of lettuce to produce,(about 60 days in the spring) and then plan what you will pop in its place once harvested.  In these pictures above and below you can see I planted Cabbage babies among the cut and come again Lettuce, so that by the time the Lettuce is bitter the Cabbage will take over.

IMG_1799I usually plant a lot of cut and come again varieties of Lettuce, Spinach and Kale and Chard so I don’t have to keep planting…but this year I knew I could sneak in a bunch of head Lettuce before the warm season crops needed the square footage, so now the garden is full of butterhead and romaine varieties so I can remove the whole plant and put in warm season crops the same day…..lots of salad ahead for Mama’s Mini Farm CSA!

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The next three days are leaf days, so in go the last of my greenhouse Romaine starts and I will be sowing directly more Cilantro, Spinach, Arugula and Lettuce.  Possibly for the last time till mid July, as once my attention and garden space goes towards the warm season crops I simply don’t have enough room or time for greens…not to mention when the weather heats up many of these spring babies go bitter or bolt quickly.  Luckily my Chard and Kale keep pumping through the heat and I may not even need to replant them if I care for them right…

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Which is to say I have found that if you shade cool season greens in the high summer they really like it and last longer.  As you already know I am a huge fan of row cover for a long list of reasons… but when it gets too hot and plants don’t get enough fresh air they can get very flimsy and over succulent.  So much so that they couldn’t survive one day in full exposure and they will just turn to mush before your eyes, so I try to gradually remove the row covers for more and more hours at a time to toughen them up to the real world.

IMG_1810I often raise the row cover so wind and beneficial insects can find their way in on the ends, because another set back of having your crops under constant cover is pests, namely good old aphids can take over while you aren’t watching.

At some point when cool spring breezy days shift to hot summer days, Often around June 1st.  I take the row cover off all together and replace it with shade screen.  This lets light, water, and beneficials in, but it takes the edge off those sweltering afternoons that will cause a cilantro to bolt in one day!

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I have found in full sun gardens these shades are very helpful for almost all crops even warm season crops, throughout the whole summer. I have learned my lesson with more than one June hail storm destroying my precious babes!  More info on what to use is in  this previous post.

So if you aren’t out there already….get sowing!! You can plant pretty much any cool season crops, flowers and roots right now and in a few short weeks it will be tomato time!! Hooray! IMG_1670

 

 

 

Easter Sprouts

IMG_1081 (1)I have written many times about growing sprouts at home cause it is just so darn easy and rewarding.  I have lots of friends out there who simply can’t start vegetables indoors but sprouts only require attention for 10 days or so and really only need heat and water and a little sunshine.

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You can grow them with kids and they just love it and you could just keep that going and forgo a garden altogether and still get a constant supply of yummy fresh food for your table.

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Field Peas Day 1

Here is last years link on growing sprouts and Micro greens. But seeing as today and tomorrow are leaf days I thought I would remind you to sow some sprouts indoors.

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Field Peas day 7

If you do they may just be ready for Easter salads, and Easter baskets for that matter.  Why not grow peas shoots or sunflower sprouts this year instead of grass and when the thrill of Easter morning has worn off, snip the sprouts into salad and get double your money…

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Field Peas Day 13

Happy Spring everyone and Happy Sprouting!!

 

Homemade Potting Soil

I make potting mix every year for my greenhouse seedlings.  I have written about it many times here & here, but every year I refine it, learn more, change things, or get my hands on something new.  This year I learned it is probably best to gather my ingredients in the fall, when it is warm and lovely and my compost is harvestable and not freezing as it is today.

Beacause I wanted potting soil in January and my compost was yes freezing, I bought compost this year.  It is Bio-dynamic compost made with Cow manure from Terra Flora and it looks pretty darn good.  The creator even sent me pictures of it’s microscopic crystals.

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Because I like to deepen my practice of gardening every year I plan to do trials with my seedling mix ingredients and watch and learn, that is once my compost thaws.  I plan to try a mix I got from Santa Fe Greenhouses (during their going out of business sale) a mix with the Terra Flora compost and a mix with my own.  I will of course let you know how it all goes.

So to make your own soil mix for your wooden planting trays (that is what I use and what I think this mix works best for) You must gather you materials–

Compost from your own pile (or another source if not is available)

Soil from your garden

Sand from your arroyo

Peat moss or Coco Peat from your Nursery…(unless of course you have homemade leaf mold composted and ready to go, by all means use that first!!)

I get all this stuff in advance and store it in bins so everything is ready to go when I need to mix.

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Plastic is gross, I know, wooden bins would be ideal, but for now this is what works for me.

Once I have everything gathered I get my wheel burrow, a 5 gallon bucket, my 1/4 shifter screen, a shovel and a hoe.IMG_8859IMG_8870IMG_8860IMG_8863

Here is my the recipe I use, from my Alma Matar, CASFS.

It is a parts recipe, but if you use a 5 gallon bucket as your measuring cup and follow this recipe you will get a full wheel burrow, which will be enough soil for 6 2x1ft seedling trays.

Pour into wheel burrow through a 1/4 screen

1.5 Buckets-Compost

1Bucket- Garden soil

1/2 Bucket-Sand

1 Bucket Peat Moss or Coco Peat

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Anything you shift off can be saved for potting soil for plants that will live only in pots, or can be added back to the garden or compost pile.

Mix everything well with a hoe and sprinkle occasionally with water.

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The moisture level is key, not only does it cut down yucky dust, but you want a nice moist mix in your flat before you seed.

If it is too dry it will actually repel water and you tiny seeds will float away in the run off.

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Give it a squeeze and release

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If it stays in a loose ball and breaks apart when you bounce it in your palm you have got it.  Now store it in a bin with a lid to keep that perfect moisture, or put it directly into you flats and sow away!

And that is that.  Once you have your flats made & potting mix made, now all you have to do is decide what and when to sow…..more on that soon.

Planting into pallets

Is there anything you can’t make out of an old pallet?  Yes, it does take more time and a bit more know-how to upcycle a pallet into a totally different and functional thing, but luckily I have an expert on my side.  Yep, Joel does it again.  This time he made me a new seed planting flat out of recycled pallet wood.

(Note: I do also do make these out new wood too, see here)

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Cool Huh?  Want to try? Here is how he did it.

First, he tore the pallet apart with a flat bar to get the the lumber in order. Image

Then he used the cross pieces which were 3.5inches wide and 1/2 to 3/4 inches thick.  There was mix of oak (harder, longer lasting, heavier) & pine (softer, easier to work with lighter)

 

Then he cut off the split tips with the nails in them- to have clean, split free ends and not to bother with pulling out the nails.Image

Then he cut 2 pieces at 1ft long and 6pieces at 2ft long

He nailed 2 of the 2footers & 2 of 1footers into a rectangular box.  The 2 footer edges over lapped the edges of the 1 footers.  Unfortunately he moved so fast I didn’t get to photograph every step… but I hope you follow.

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Then he nailed the remaining 4 2footers to the bottom of the box using 4d galvanized nails. These are rust resistant and small enough that they will keep the wood from splitting, but large enough to hold your box together when it is full of heavy, wet soil.  Because the wood was irregular enough he just pushed the bottom slats together and nailed…but it is important to note during this step to leave a little space between the slats for water to drain out, but not soil.  I usually stick a quarter between the slats which has always proven to be just right.

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And there you have it.  Here is one I made from Redwood and screws in 2010 (in front) and the new Pallet one (in back).  Image

Similar—-but there are few subtle differences.

*The new one is a bit wider than the other.  As far as size go, I pretty much try to maximize my table space.  If you table is a 3×6 (which many tables are) you can fit 9 2×1 flats on it.  That should be more than enough (much more in fact) for all your seedling needs.  Remembering, when you start seeds in wooden planting flats you will need to divide them or thin them before they reach the garden, so leave space in you table(s) for transplants.  This is basically bio-intensive gardening, but more on that later…here is the next step if you are eager.

*The other difference is that my new flat is mostly oak and the older one is Redwood.  Both have their pros and cons

Oak- Hard, Heavy, Durable,Rot Resistant, Brittle-(Available in Pallets)

Pine- Soft, Not Rot resistant, Light weight, Cheap or free-(Available in Pallets)

Redwood- Light weight, doesn’t spilt easily, VERY Rot Resistant-(Must buy)

Wooden Flats are a great thing to add to your garden shed if you find yourself starting seeds every year.  They are pretty simple to make, relatively cheap and last many years, not to mention they are NOT plastic.  They work beautifully to hold moisture and give ample space for those babies to grow.  Many farms use them, which is where I learned about them.  Here are a few I stumble across while ambling through a sleepy farm in Colorado last spring.

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Yes, I take pictures of other people’s planting flats, I told you I was a farm tourist.

Good Luck and I hope you help rescue one more lonely pallet from the back of your hardware store and put it to good use.

When you are ready here is a link to how to make potting soil for the flats and one on how to plant into them properly.  Let the sowing begin!!

Elm seeds and mallow leaves

I know you all have been muchin’ salad lately.  The fresh greens of spring are something we look forward to all year. Baby lettuce, spinach, arugula….and what of the wild greens?  My lettuce is there but often hidden under handfuls of french sorrel, dandelion greens, chervil, arugula (leaves and flowers), rocket, mint leaves…all of which I wrote about last spring here.

Arugula Flowers are Edible, a spicy delight

Arugula is in the Cruciferae family ( as in cross, see the flowers, they are all like that) though now the family is called Brassicaceae after it’s most popular member, broccoli. Arugula flowers, as well all the other Cruciferae cousins flowers are edible, just look here.  This season I have added Siberian Elm seeds and Mallow Leaves to the mix.

Young Siberian Elm Seeds

I know the Siberian Elm can seem a great nuance, and that it is when those seeds go flying and take root just about everywhere…but if you pick the seeds before they fly, when bright green and brand new, they are sweet and delicious.  I have heard they can be eaten later too, cooked with the papery seed hulls rubbed off according to eattheweeds.com

Mallow Leaves -Malva

My newest friend, ground cover, medicine, and munchy is Malva.  It has been used for everything from headaches, to poultices to post- partum cleanses.  The leaves can be eaten young and are medicinal.  This sweet little blog tells you even more.

So as your greens come up, don’t forget to eat those weeds!!

Each Peach, Pear, Plum, I spy….Which one?

The world abounds with blooms right now, no leaves just pure bloom!!….at least where we are (In Northern Colorado), and the bees and I are in heaven.

Bursting with blooms- Nan King Cherry

While my husband teaches (a Permaculture Design Course) babe and I wander the blooms, bathing in their glow, snapping shoots and smelling the fragrant air.  It truly is dreamy, I must say…But oh so interesting as well.  I am sure you have noticed blooms along the road, on forgotten farms and maybe even in your own backyard and wonder Who are they?‘…

Well maybe I can share a few tips for at least narrowing things down.  Plants are identified by their leaves, bark, habits, structure and of course flowers.  All these characteristics are important in truly knowing who you are dealing with.  When I was learning plants someone along the way told me you can do all you want to I.D. a plant but the truth is in the flower…

Can you guess which Rosaceae this is?

So now is the perfect time to figure out just who those blooming guys are.  I won’t go into and thorough Botany lesson, as I am no expert….but here is a great book if you want one.

Botany in a Day- Great resources for teaching yourself Plant Identification

What I can share is some basics…. the trees and shrubs right now that are blooming abundantly are the Stone (ones with big pits) and Pomme (ones with little seeds) fruits, all in the Rose Family.  You can tell because the all have five petals, five sepals and lots of little stamen (the little tiny hairs with pollen at the tips).

Rosaceae is the third-largest plant family. This family includes many ornamental landscape plants, fruits, and berries, including apples, cherries, raspberries, and almonds, characterized by the shape of the hypanthium (the part of the flower where the seeds develop) and by petals in groups of five. Roses are members of the plant genus Rosa.”

Interesting right?  So here are a few Rosaceae that are blooming right now…..

Apricots

Bloom first, light pink, almost white petals with very rich red pink sepals that are very distinct after petals fall, creating a dark pinkish red glow. They are often bigger than other fruit trees, and even when young have a distinctly tree shape with a few thick branches and the rest smaller

The next to bloom are the Shrub Cherries, which are bushes really, producing clusters of tiny cherries that the birds love– great for hedgerows  and wildlife habitat, & tasty too…these are Nan King Cherries

You can tell this cluster of little flowers will produce a bundle of little berries

Nan King Cherry

Next you have the Pears

Pears have large white blossoms with fewer in a bunch than other blooms right now. Pear trees are often tall and skinny, pruned to have one thick branch at the middle like a christmas tree, called the central leader

Then we have the Peaches and Nectarines (just peaches without the fuzz)

Peaches have super pink blossoms and big round petals

Another Peach, possibly even a Nectarine

then you have the wild plums

Beautiful white flowers that almost look green because of the light green stems. Cluster of many flowers and smell like welches grape juice,truly pungent

Next come the ornamental plums & pears, the tree cherries, apples, strawberries, quinces, raspberries, black berries, and then by June we will have what we all know as the classic roses. Maybe I will document those as the bloom next too, but in the meantime enjoy those gorgeous blooms, many the bees find them and the frost not, may it be a fruitful year!! If you want to plant some Rosacea of your own this year, might I recommend Tooley’s Trees in Truchas, NM. Good folks, Good trees!!