Monday, February 28, 2011

February 28, 2011

What a blessing to get rain after planting spinach last week... much better than battling gale force winds with a mist nozzle!  Soaker hoses also help.  Will SC break its long-standing pattern of drought?  I hope the Almanac is right calling for a wet summer!
Bloomsdale Long Standing (our favorite) likes cool growing conditions; here in SC spinach turns bitter by end of April, so an early start is required.  But seed tends to rot in cold soil, making consistent germination a challenge.  This year I experimented by sprinkling seed on top of my rows just like nature would sow them instead of burying them according to package directions.  I patted them in firm contact with soil.  They will be harder to keep consistently moist, but I hope to see better germination in 7-10 days.

Last autumn I planted a cover crop of red clover (shown above) where my sweet corn will grow.  Gardeners call this "green manure" because it is a natural way to add nitrogen and organic matter into the soil.  It's growing well--with a few weeds in there too--but hey, they're kind of pretty.  This will all get tilled under in time to enrich my soil.

Cardboard topped with fall leaves has been keeping weeds down all winter and will stay right in place through the growing season.  As I removed some to plant, I saw dozens of earthworms at work making castings (beneficial natural fertilizer!).  Leaves make great free mulch but should not be tilled into the soil because they bind nitrogen as they decompose.  I plant right through this layer.  By end of summer it will finish composting and will be incorporated into the soil next spring.

March is upon us.  This week I will be planting crops that can take frost: carrots, and yellow onions--planted from sets... (think mid-July salsa).  Carrots are even more difficult than spinach to germinate in our unforgiving red SC soil; not only are they naturally slow, but they are so fragile; any "crust" on the soil surface prevents them from breaking through. 
1.  Use a garden shovel to spade down 8 - 12 inches.
2.  I add a generous amount of Black Hen composted chicken manure for natural nitrogen, till it in, and rake smooth. 
3.  Then I sprinkle a 1/2 inch layer of any cheap potting soil down the row where I will plant, lay my seeds on top, and sprinkle another 1/8 inch layer of potting soil over that.  Gently pat it down to ensure good seed-soil contact.  This needs to be misted or gently sprayed at least once and better twice a day until germination is complete.  Carrots easily sprout through it.  Last November I enjoyed harvesting a fall crop of rainbow blend carrots in red, purple, white, yellow, cream, and orange.  They were so sweet.  I'll be trying them again with traditional orange Tendersweet.

Here's a close-up of our garlic.  This was planted last October and will be finished by end of May.

It's time to start saving empty milk jugs.  These make ideal individual greenhouses set over new garden transplants with the bottoms cut out.  Rinse them out with hot water a couple times to clean before cutting.

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Dedicated to the responsible production and preservation of healthy home-grown food to the glory of God. Isaiah 55:10 The rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater. Organic, or not? We try to raise vegetables organically, using compost and manure. The addition of chickens to our hobby farm means plenty of organic nitrogen to compost! This site gives credible reference to planting information contained in the Farmer's Almanac (