The bug has bitten me! A little late, perhaps due to the cold days of spring, but I am getting started. All of the little signs are there as the wild plants pop up with new surprises on the homestead. Three years ago I had collected Coltsfoot herb seeds from along the roadway and the puffs were scattered about the east side of my hill. Now the small plants are up and doing well. Coltsfoot is an old time serious herb for respiratory infections but must be closely supervised. Other interesting plants are noted, especially delicious and healthy violets. The comfrey is near cutting and other medicinal herbs are just blooming along with the fruit trees and quince.
Bumblebees are up and flying about, the big males zooming back and forth in front of the wood shed and barn, looking for old boards to bore into for their nests. Bumblebees are quite beneficial, pollinating red clovers and flowers that the honeybees cannot successfully reach into. Bumblebees do not like the cattle fly and they will zoom in and grab them out of the air-quick. It is amusing to have a big bee buzz in front of you and study you like and alien spaceperson. As long as you do not squeeze them they will not sting you.
My Early Jersey Wakeful cabbage was started in the greenhouse in February, and in late March I set it in the larger experimental Grow Haus© This design structure has been so successful I will hope to cover it in fiberglass this year, which will enhance the growing possibilities. One side is all cabbage; the other side is already started with Bok and Chin Choy. Ithaca lettuce will be put in today and zucchini and yellow squash next giving me an early-early start on my Garden Fever. Where I am located I have learned not to start the big garden until the 2nd week in May as we can get ice and snow that late.
The underground water system worked well last year and with this damp spring continues to provide moisture down deep. I do top water my starter plants as their tiny roots need a drink before reaching down a foot or so to the water pipes. Mulching with shredded paper is important as earthworms, the master gardeners of life, like paper. You can collect earthworms by laying a sheet of cardboard on open ground and in a couple days remove the cardboard scrap and transport your starter worm colony to the Grow Haus©. More information on the Grow Haus© is found in the archives.
Inside the big solar greenhouse lots of new plants abound ready to set out in May. Tomatoes are all started, usually about six weeks so that means April 1, is my target day. After many years I have found for my paradise favorite tomatoes to be: German Red Strawberry, Stupice, The big Russian Pink, and for sauces the Amish large Romas, I save the seeds each year although I always read and order some new variety from www.TotallyTomato.com .
Peppers I start a week after the tomato seeds have popped up in the garden flats. The flats are an assortment of heavy duty plastic and wood with drain holes at the bottom filled 3” deep with potting soil. My favorite peppers are Jupiter and of course the standby: California Wonder.
Mostly my solar greenhouse is already bursting with herbs; Basil being the most sought after for its lovely fragrance and enhancement of dishes. This is a fast growing plant, sensitive to cold so do not set it out amongst the tomatoes and peppers until it is warmed up nicely. www.horizenherbs.com offers many exotic cooking Basil herbs and teas you will want to try in your kitchen.
Although I start seeds in the flats, I transplant each seedling into a dog/cat food can for further growing with rich potting soil once the true leaves sprout indicating roots are starting to spread. The cans, for which I have plenty, feeding all my pets and opened smooth with a roller can opener leaving a slick side and no burrs. The bottom is now punched with a claw hammer making two holes neatly and safely. I fill with rich potting soil, bottom water the cans so they are soaked. Take a pencil and make a hole, in the soil. From the flats I lift the “starts” and drop one at a time into the can filled with potting soil and press gently to close the hole around the tiny delicate roots. Then I place the cans, all lined up in the empty flat under a grow lamp till I set them out. I use grow lamps, as the early spring late winter greenhouse growing the sunlight is not strong or long enough. I also use bottom heat pads when it gets a bit chilly due to no sun for several rainy days.
I was fortunate to find at the Wal*Mart© two big fat boxes of tongue depressors in the arts and crafts section. I placed all of these, perhaps a thousand in a large plastic ex-cat litter container with the top cut off and poured Copper Green wood preserver (read precautions) over them. It is important when using copper green or copper brown wood treatment to have safety goggles on as it can blind you if it gets in your eye. I let them soak for an hour, pour the excess liquid off the sticks, pull them out to dry and I have nice low cost marking sticks for all my plants. Each can needs to be identified if not for you with your trained eye, but for the person you are giving a start to. With a Scripto™ black marker you can write on each wood piece. Being treated they will not rot off, nor hurt the plants.
While pre-tilling the garden for potato planting and to loosen the soil I could see thousands of little jumping spiders scurrying about. Although the digger wasps will take many home for lunch I reflect on the benefit of having the little spiders to catch unwanted pests in the garden. Had I used chem-kill the garden would be just a sterile wasteland.
Asparagus I had set out last year started some nice tasty samples. Next year I ought to be able to take more cuttings. Remember that the spears grow up tall if not eaten, and they gather energy for the roots to grow in the fall. So for the first couple of years we only take tasty samples. I grow the “super male asparagus” from www.MillerNurseries.com.
Baby rabbits and kittens abound. My helper, EJ, and I, have been spreading about 80 cubic feet of Bunny Berries in the garden to get ready for the big growth I envision. I would hope that everyone’s garden is up and growing shortly.
Next week or so we can talk about corn. That is everyone’s favorite right after tomatoes.
COPYRIGHT: 2011, Back2theLand.com, Mark Steel