So my big plans for the garden are still more plans than plantings.
The starts for the watermelon (8 of 9 seeds) were about 4-5″, and straining with roots wanting more dirt than the starting cell. But the luffa (loofah) – 3 of 9 seeds – was what got me motivated. The first start was starting to throw a creeping vine, about 12″. The 2nd and 3rd seeds popped out of the dirt nearly two weeks later, and I lost one of those two while “hardening off” the flat. That gave me three hills (three starts each) of watermelon, and one of the luffa with two starts.
I tried disking up the garden space. An offset disk, 15 feet wide, is a heavy piece of machinery, not well suited to preparing a 25 by 50 foot space. That is, I used up the space under the disk, 4 to 8 feet, off the east side, getting the disk into the dirt and started tearing off sod. Then it worked fairly well, to the 50 foot end of what I wanted tore up. I made a couple of passes, last Monday, and much of the sod died off over the following few days. Except the east part, where I had set my sights on putting the Watermelon, and, in the northeast 6×10 spot, popcorn. I hacked it up some, weedeated the prairie grass a bunch, gathered compost.
I want to start a compost pile, really I do. But for now – I went into the pony’s yard, and scraped up some of the decade-old piles where hay bales had been set, and ancient layers of favorite spots for droppings. With the wheelbarrow full of clods and dirt, I screened out fines with a 2 foot square section of half-inch mesh hardware cloth. The big pieces, and any grubs I spotted, entertained the chickens something awesome. You would have thought they were getting tickets to Ironman 2 (or maybe Letters to Juliet, depending). A few buckets of screenings and the next day all there is is a bit of loose dirt (compost) waiting to be scraped up and re-screened – or maybe fill in some holes in the chicken pen.
I am jealous of my neighbor, Jim. Jim has a nice, big 15 by 50 foot oval space where an above ground swimming pool was taken out. Leaving a nice, deep bed of sand. Sand will be much easier to hoe than my heavy clay prairie sod.
For each of the four hills I dumped a bucket of the clods where I wanted the hill, then a bucket of screened compost. Next I combined peat moss and vermiculite with some of the fines, and made a bit of nest for each start on the top of the hill. I found a kitchen butter knife works pretty well to lift starts out of the starting cells, and used an old butter knife for the watermelon and luffa. For the watermelons I tried to set one of the biggest three starts in each of the hills. Then the water hose and start wetting down the hills. This turned out to be a bit time consuming, trying to get all that peat moss and vermiculite saturated the first time. It seems that using materials intended to absorb water, for some reason, means that they, um, absorb more water than I expected.
I am working on sod and dirt condition for putting down peppers and tomatoes. They would do better in the sun than under my grow light. I managed to find homes for most of my starts, but the remaining list still seems daunting. I wanted to try four Poblano/Anzo peppers, but somehow ended up with some of the seriously hot peppers – that I don’t care for – three Jalapenos and a Hungarian Yellow Hot. I suppose those last four might just get “lost”, I haven’t decided.
Of the sweet peppers, I gave away another of the Sweet Chocolate and a Red Cheese yesterday. That leaves me six of each. Maybe I can open a road-side stand or something. There are four Purple Beauty starts, and then I “rescued” some distressed peppers at TSC – two “Better Belle” and two yellow peppers. The color variety interested me, and the green bell peppers (how did I forget to order seed?) are the only ones I have actually used to cook.
Most of my starts, and all of the tomatoes and except the last four rescues, have been heritage varieties. Open pollinated. I could keep seeds on the peppers, except they cross pollinate when different strains are grown within 500 feet of one another. The tomatoes should make good seed-keepers, and won’t be propagating the tomato blight of last year that so many people got using commercially started plants.