Thursday, July 8, 2010

Le Jardin

As you no doubt are aware if you live in Saskatchewan (and for some even if you don't, dad says our weather made the news where he is) it was a wet spring. Wetter than...well, wetter than any spring has ever been. And it hasn't stopped, by the by; we're having a truly wet summer as well.

Being deeply addicted* to thunderstorms there is a part of me that is happy with this situation. I have, however, lived long enough in a largely agrarian province to have the pleasure mainly lost in sorrow for farmers, many of whom were not able to plant anything. And for many of those that did get something planted, they are looking at partial seeding (one co-worker who farms figures they planted about a third of their ususal crop) or fields that will never be harvested as the plants rot in standing water. Instead of all the fields around the city being green and vibrant - or yellow, where there is canola - the green has a fair amount of sickly yellow and dull red.

It's one thing as a hobby gardener to have a bad year, but it's not my livelihood. It's a loss of money, but really just what seeds and plants cost if nothing works.

We have - for the second year in a row - a plot out in the community gardens. I got off to a very late start- nearly mid June, as it happens. The delay was partly stupidity, partly vacation and partly rain. So:

I was going to be away from May the 29th to June 4th. I had seed potatoes sprouted and ready to go, as well as seeds for beets, carrots and peas. Also bulbs for garlic (which I've never done before and have no idea if home grown will make a difference) and spring onions. I bought some plants - mainly onions, but some tomatoes too that The Girl would be watching over while I was away. I was going to plant before I left but there was the possibility of snow on the 30th.

Here's where stupidity comes in: snow is irrelevant to seeds. Because they go underground. I should have planted everything - they wouldn't have sprouted in the course of two days anyway. But I didn't. Lesson learned for next year!

I didn't get back from vacation until the fourth, and the rain didn't let up long enough to plant until mid-June. The plot next to mine had potatoes several inches high already as I was putting mine in. Sigh. Bet she planted in May!

The planting itself was quite a bit different from last year. The plot gets rototilled every fall, and last year we decided to not get it done again before planting in the spring. With the heavy clay base that we have here that lack of a second turning made a difference so we got it done this spring. Quite a big difference, as it happens. We (The Girl and I) couldn't believe how easy the digging was. Easy as far as getting into the soil that is. Doing it all one-handed was not easy at all!

One handed, you ask? Why would you not use both hands? Well...because acres of standing water + heat = mosquitoes. More than one would ever think possible. Little did we know then that it would get worse, as the weather got warmer. It was bad enough, however, that we kept one hand free for waving the clouds of little biters away.

We both planted at first, but then I had The Girl take notes. That's one of the lessons we learned last year; remember where you put things! Last year we put the onions where we'd planted squash. Not a big problem since the onions were long gone before the squash vines had done much travelling but it left us with an empty patch of nothing where we thought we'd planted squash.

Last year we seriously underestimated how much you can put into a 15x25 plot, and ended up running to a local garden centre to buy more plants. We started with much more this year but ended up with leftover space, again. Mainly because we didn't plant melons, cucumbers or squash this year. And all I replaced them with was beets and extra potatoes. All of the former take up great chunks of space, so again we had to run out and buy more. Plants, not seeds as it was far too late to hope to harvest anything from seed started in mid June.

All in all, this is what the plot has this year:
Potatoes: Deleketess Fingerling, German Butterball, Pacific Pontiac and two Purple Viking that a neighbour gave me. Everything seems to be coming up - as of July 2nd - except for one row of the Butterballs. I don't know if I planted them too close to the surface (someone finally explained depth and seed size to me: the bigger the seed the deeper it needs to be planted. Ergo, carrots on the surface, potatoes deep down), or if I cut the seed potatoes too small in my greed to get as many plants as possible. One other possibility is mould. I read that it is a good idea to cut your seed potatoes a day or two before you plant them to let them scar up first. Less pest problems. They did scar over, but with all the heat and humidity they were also looked a little bit mouldy. Maybe. I thought they looked fuzzy, the kids didn't.

Onions, both Walla Walla and Spanish sweet. I didn't think we had a long enough season for the former but they were locally grown plants so who knows? Some spring onions as well, from bulbs.

Garlic - no experience with this whatsoever. Serious gardeners would be seriously upset if they saw how we planted them. They were the last things in, so we'd reached out limit of dealing with the bugs. The bulbs were flung in willy nilly, some as single cloves and a few with cloves stuck together. They're coming up willy nilly too!

Peas, carrots and beets. The peas are up, clearly they love the wet. No sign at all of beets and carrots but I'm hoping to get out there tomorrow to have a peek.

Tomatoes, lots. We had bought a few but when we realized we had space to fill we bought more. Some Roma, some field tomatoes and some cherry tomatoes to make The Boy happy.

Celery. I've never tried celery before, but bought six seedlings. There were doing fine on the 2nd. I haven't read up on it or anything so I don't know if they prefere wet or dry.

Lettuce, which we bought as plants to fill empty space. Six each of romaine and iceberg. The Girl is quite excited about the iceberg. She's asked me to keep an eye on it to see if it goes into a head by itself. She doesn't seem to take my word for it. Then again she is 15, she doesn't take my word for much!

I can't decide what excites me more: eating the fresh produce or cooking with it.

*I think addiction is the right word if you have to listen to a cd of thunderstorms during the winter to be able to fall asleep.

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