Sunday, February 21, 2010

Potatoes and Peas!

There were some beautiful organic little potatoes from California on sale in Publix about a month ago, so I bought two bags. I put one bag in my cupboard and forgot about it. Upon discovering the potatoes in my kitchen a week or two later, the tubers had already sprouted little "eyes", or buds. So I put a few on a kabob skewer and elevated them in cups of water. You can use any container for this, but recycled yogurt cups work quite nicely. A week or two later this is what you have! Students met at the arboretum this morning and we planted 16 potato tubers into a large, well composted bed that we prepared at the end of last semester.

Camille and Lizzy dug two trenches about 8 inches deep and 2 feet apart. They spaced each potato about 2 feet in the trench and alternated them with the potatoes in the other trench so that they are not exactly parallel in the rows. This saves space. Lastly, cover the tubers with compost and straw to prevent soil erosion and increase water moisture retention in the bed. These potatoes will not require much maintenance until the plants come up and start to bloom. This is the first time students have planted potatoes in this community garden, so we are all excited to see how they will like their new, temporary home.
Meanwhile, Matthew and Chelsea worked to complete installing the wire fence around the wooden fence. This serves multiple purposes. The wire fence will prevent rabbits and other critters from jumping into the garden and will provide trellis support for the peas and other vineing veggies. This activity works up a sweat!

Along the opposite corner of the fence, students already installed the wire trellis, so today we direct-seeded climbing sugar snap peas a few inches away from the fence so they can latch on to the fence when they are ready. After the row of peas, we inter-cropped a row of carrots with radishes. Carrots and radishes are good companion plants because while they can grow in the same space, they grow at different rates, so you can harvest the radishes just in time before the carrots begin to thicken up and need the extra space. In the 4x4 square-foot garden plots, our bush peas have finally made an appearance. The recent snow and cold weather made them delay in sprouting, but they have pulled through. The thick straw mulching might have been a help to them. The strawberries are still dormant, and we will soon say goodbye to the last few kohlrabi as we prepare that bed for the spring garden.

Students are experimenting with the effectiveness of double-digging. Along one side of the fence, the bed was double-dug and compost was integrated. Along the other side of the fence, the soil was not double dug, just turned over with a pitchfork and amended with compost. We planted the same vegetables along both sides, so we will see which do better, also taking into consideration any variation in sunlight exposure between the sides. The next beds we prepare will be double-dug and amended with colloidal phosphate and possibly greensand, and recommended in the results of our soil analysis done by Timberleaf Soil Testing.

In the greenhouse, the tomato plants are doing fantastic. The spinach, however, were very dry and clearly suffering because no one watered them on Saturday, so students soaked them for an hour in a warm shallow tub. This perked them up a good deal. This was a reminder that seedlings need to be watched every day, and we all need to help keep each other accountable for coming out when we say we will. If something comes up and we cannot make it to the garden, that is fine, we just need to call and let others know so that someone can go check that the seedlings have enough moisture.

This is am image of what you don't want your seedlings to look like. These spinach babies are lacking water, but a good soaking in a shallow warm tub zaps them back to life. Constant communication helps keep students accountable for staying organized and checking on the seedlings every day..yes even saturdays :)
It has been decided that we will no longer use peat pots because they dry out very easily and do not decompose in the soil very quickly.

The empty tray has marjoram seeds in it but they have not sprouted yet. The cabbage, lettuce and beet are all doing well, and we have started gradually exposing them to the outdoors by setting them in a shady spot for a few hours at a time. This will help acclimate the plants to the sunlight and wind before it is time to transplant into the garden.
Today, students planted 24 eggplant, 24 sweet red pepper, and 20 cayenne long hot pepper seeds in the greenhouse. The trays are on the heating pad because these nightshades germinate at an optimal temperature of about 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit. They will be ready to transplant into the garden after the last frost of the season, which we are estimating at April 15.

1 comment:

Joe Brown said...

hey y'all:
Let me know how y'all are set for seeds and things for the spring - now's the time to be starting, and you can already direct seed a few things as well. I've got extra seeds and seed trays as well as seed potatoes and onion sets I can donate. Let me know.

Blog looks great!

Joe Brown