First, we had the great reframing. Then, the great refilling. Now: we are ready for the season, which starts off by putting the irrigation lines back in place and continues with transplants and direct sowing of certain things.
The above is part of the rear garden, and at the time this was taken, the irrigation lines had just been tossed in/near their rows. I’ve since fixed these; the lines for half of the front garden remain to be straightened out, as can be seen below.
I pulled the flats out of the barn and into the great wide world, to get them started on hardening off so they’d be able to survive. While they are in the barn under the lights, once they’ve germinated and have about two weeks of growth, I start an oscillating standing fan to blow across them. This is done for two reasons: one, there is generally wind blowing out here on the ranch all the time. We have a lot of open space in the garden areas, and we’re a bit of a funnel here – it’s one of the reasons that the minor storms head off around us, as if we’re a weather breakwater. Two, even if it were not windy here on a regular basis, forcing the seedlings to deal with the breeze generated by the fan strengthens the stems, the very same way that lifting weights, for us, will strengthen our muscles. This helps them withstand the stress of the transplant process itself, hold themselves up as they begin to grow heavy with fruit, and also better withstand attacks by pests until we find them and squish whatever is gnawing on them.
I began the transplanting the other day, and as it turned out, it was a fine day for it: a bit breezy, overcast, and not too warm. It had also rained the night before pretty heavily, so the soil was moist, and I didn’t have to water them in. Often when transplanting around here, it’s so hot that the plants start to wilt by the time you’ve finished, so you have to hustle to get the water going as soon as possible when a row is finished, either completely or for the time being.
I also started the direct sowing: last Sunday, I started corn, peanuts, and okra up front. The weather turned cooler than usual, which slowed the okra a bit, but that’s up as of today. The corn out front was up as of Friday.
“Up front?” you ask. Why yes: in addition to planting corn out front, I’ve also put in a round of corn out back. In both cases, I’m doing something differently than in previous years, when all the crops have failed. The first year, before moving things to frames, and without fencing, the entire stand of corn was run through by deer, knocking it everywhere and uprooting so much there wasn’t much point in continuing with it. Subsequent years have suffered because of massive tropical storms, and in 2010, was part of the huge overall crop failure due to the rather untimely lung cancer diagnosis and surgery to cut out another piece of me. Last year’s crop was dismal due to worm infestation – but the chickens loved it! In previous years, I’d also planted the corn at six inch intervals. This year, it’s twelve inches, as I intend to try the three sisters approach to it: in the spaces between the corn, I’ll sow beans and squashes directly. Because I no longer use sprayers for watering and use driplines instead, the longer spacing between the corn kernels was necessary so that the other two sisters could be watered reliably.
Previous to all of this, I had built (and filled) five rows up front on my own, and two of those frames right now hold garlic that was put in last October/November (one other frame was half planted with garlic, and that row was redone as part of the great reframing adventure). Others are holding shelling peas: three varieties, to see what we like best, what is hardiest, and so on. One of the varieties is touted as being heat tolerant, so we’ll get to see just how tolerant it can be of our heat once spring ends abruptly and summer is upon us. The peas had begun setting flowers, and are now setting pods, so in a couple of weeks we should be able to start taking the first (small) harvest and then the larger harvest when they really get going.
Our back, I direct sowed sorghum so we can make syrup, squash and zucchini, carrots, snap beans, flat italian beans, and cucumbers. A bunch of tomato plants got transplanted to their new home, but a bunch of things remain to be put out, and tomorrow I’ll be back to work on that. Today on a quick stroll around the front garden, I stumbled across a couple of asparagus spears. You have to be quick with them around here, because they’re kind of like the okra: if you miss them at the right time, the next day they will have shot up (or grown two inches, in the case of an okra pod) and not be fit to eat. These two I handed over to my mom, who ate them both raw.
Some of the strawberry plants are making a comeback from neglect and harsh freezes. This one in particular is doing very well, and we’ll have to keep watch on these in order to be able to snatch them before the birds get them.
Overall, while we got a very late start on getting things outside due to both the strange weather and getting hired help lined up to do some heavy manual labor, we’re starting to hit our stride and working to roll these things done as quickly as possible while the weather is still relatively mild.