Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Garden? Yes, garden

Sunday morning it was -24°F here. They're predicting 6-12 inches of snow today (update: it looks like most of the snow will go south of us; we're down to 1-2 inches). The garden is under between 3 and 5 feet of snow right now (Hey, it's down from 4–6 last week!).

So what do you do? Simple! You plant seeds! So, over the weekend, I started some seeds—5 flats worth. Tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, onions, watermelon, squash all nicely sitting around and getting ready to germinate.

Right now, they're in the study and office where it is warmer. Once they germinate, I'll move them downstairs under lights to grow until transplanting them into bigger pots and, eventually!, moving them outside to their permanent home.

This year I'm planning on using the greenhouse that Dave had built to grow some tomatoes. Last year I didn't get it repaired in time. I'll be using self-watering containers made out of 5 gallon food service buckets. You need to use food grade plastic buckets or all kinds of stuff will leach into your soil. Why grow your own if it's loaded with as many chemicals as the commercial stuff?

Meanwhile, in the basement, I've been experimenting with various stuff all winter. I've tried spinach, Romaine lettuce, mizuna, and radishes. Our basement has been running about 50-60°F this winter, what with the cold outside. The first planting in December didn't do too well except for the mizuna. In fact, the second planting in late December passed them by! Before we left for Wisconsin in mid-February, we had consumed all the radishes and spinach (only one cutting is worth keeping when you grow them in rain gutter). The lettuce was about half gone and we harvested the rest to take with us. Well, not quite all of it; I left about a quarter of it to die—or so I thought...

When we got back, 2.5 weeks later, I found out that the Romaine I didn't cut had survived without light or water! I turned the lights back on, watered them well, and they are growing! Amazing.

We haven't gotten enough produce from the rain gutter garden to keep us from buying produce, but it has been a treat to get fresh stuff to supplement. You can't beat the taste of a fresh radish in the middle of January—and I mean fresh as in pulled 2 minutes ago :)

But what of my hoop house? It didn't survive. In fact, it came down the first week in November. I didn't reinforce it enough, thinking that being in the backyard, surrounded by wood fence would control the wind. NOT! The wind took out a good percentage of it, so I finished taking it down. Just as well, Debbie was getting tired of looking out the kitchen window and only seeing the top of a hoop house! We harvested a good bit of lettuce and other greens before its demise, though. In fact, we took about a week's worth of greens with us to Wisconsin back in November.

Next year I will try low tunnels—3 foot high hoops with row cover and plastic. I've got to figure out a way to keep the snow from drifting over them though. Right now there is between 3 and 5 feet of snow where they would be. Of course, this winter has been unusual, but with the wacky climate change, who knows...this may be the new norm.

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