Monday, April 23, 2012

Let the Gardening Begin

I am so grateful for the nice weather we've been having. My plants have been loving it too. My seeds are sprouting quickly and my tomatoes and peppers already have flowers!

Last year, it snowed 3 inches the week after I planted my garden (and I waited until May to plant!). I lost most of my plants to the freeze. Cucumber? Gone. Peas? Gone. Pumpkin, squash, watermelon? Gone. Tomatoes and peppers? Froze but came back with a bang! I got TONS of tomatoes and peppers last year. I attribute my success to a few things. First, I planted my tomatoes in black pots and buried them a few inches into the ground. We had just moved in and didn't have a garden area set up yet, so I couldn't put them in the ground. (The peppers were planted in the ground near my back door in direct full sun). Second, I doused my plants with fish emulsion early on, and again right before all the flowers came out. My tomato plants were enormous! Lush and full of leaves, each branch held 5-10 tomatoes at a time. People that came to our house commented on how huge the plants were and how much fruit was on them. Seriously, these plants were all more than 6 feet tall! I have used fish emulsion already on my plants and they doubled in size in just a week! It's really stinky when you put it on, but after a few days the smell goes away. I had some trouble last year with Blossom End Rot, where the bottom of the tomato gets brown and leathery. I found out that this is due to lack of calcium, so this year I mixed in egg shells and oyster shells in my soil. I will probably make an eggshell tea (see below) later in the season just to make sure the BER doesn't happen again this year.

Eggshell Tea: Take a few eggshells and crush them into a pot of water. Boil for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Use "tea" to water tomatoes and then till crushed shells into soil at base of plant (future watering with help release any remaining calcium into the soil).

I didn't do well with sugar snap peas last year because they were in pots and dried out too fast. This year I made a proper bed for them and built a trellis out of bamboo and string. My kids LOVE to pick the peas and eat them straight from the garden. (I do too.....).

I planted my peas by seed, but not directly into the ground (just in case it snowed again this year). I transplanted them when they seemed sturdy enough. I learned a new way to start seeds this year. You take an empty gallon milk jug (which are easy to obtain when you have three kids) and cut around the jug just under the handle. Leave it intact at the handle. Poke some holes in the bottom and top and, ta-da....... Mini greenhouses! Fill the bottom with dirt and plant some seeds.

They are protected from snow, but still get plenty of light and water. And because they are started outside (as opposed to an indoor windowsill), they are hardier plants and transplant to the ground easier. I had such success with my peas that I planted broccoli and beet seeds in them. They have begun to sprout after just 3 days!

And here's what they look like after a week:

The other thing I had trouble with last year was zucchini. I always thought of it as the easiest garden plant.... but when it snows and freezes, it's pretty hard to bring back. That, and I planted it in a spot that was too shady. I hope I do better this year. So far, it looks pretty healthy:

This year I am planning on not using any chemical pesticides. There are so many natural remedies out there that I am excited to try. I will keep you posted if I use any of them..... and let you know if they work. I'm sure I'll have to try the snail and slug repellant this year. Supposedly, if you set a lid of a jar on the ground and fill it with beer, the snails and slugs will be drawn to it instead of the plants. They will drink the beer and then die. My grandmother swore by it. I'm going to try it this year and see what happens. This probably wouldn't work for you if you have an outside dog, though, because dogs like beer too. :-)

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