Monday, April 12, 2010

A First For Us

Addition to Post: Hey, All! I've written a guest post over on Dig the Dirt. Go take a peek and leave a comment if you wish. (After arriving on the site, scroll down in "Popular Member Posts" and click on Mama Pea. I believe you cannot comment on my post without being a member, but that doesn't entail too much.)

I know what I'm going to blog about today will seem ridiculous to those of you gardeners in more temperate climates (who have your tomatoes in the ground already, for Pete's sake!), but yesterday I planted out one of our garden beds. It was the earliest I have EVER put seeds in the ground here in northern Minnesota.

April 11th! In a normal year, we would still have snow covering the beds. Because of our winter's scant amount of snow melting so early this year and warm(ish) temperatures also gracing us earlier than usual, I've been debating for some time whether I should try some cold hardy veggies in one of our garden beds.

Yesterday the sunshine and 60 degrees got the better of me, and I just went for it.

I had my choice of about 21 beds to plant in, and I chose this one. Some beds have permanent plantings in them, and currently we're using three for compost making. This one didn't have too many weeds growing in it yet so I deemed it THE ONE.

I turned the soil over with my trusty spading fork (lots of earthworms --- good sign), smoothed it out with a rake, and started planting.

Here I am making a furrow for planting radishes with my pointy-little-furrow-making stick.

Ta-dah! The bed totally planted and watered.

Our beds are 4' x 8' and I plant in 4' rows. The soil in the beds is good enough that I plant very intensively with only 6" of spacing between the rows. Granted, some veggies require a wider spacing, but for salad greens and such, I get by very nicely with only 6".

I planted 5 rows of lettuce, 5 rows of radishes, 4 rows of spinach and 1 row of arugula. That equals SIXTY feet of veggies in a 4' x 8' garden bed. It truly is amazing what you can do in a small space if you have good soil.

Because it wouldn't be uncommon to have an occasional frost at night all the way through May, I got hubby's help to put one of our cold frames on top of the bed. Now all I have to do is remember to water the bed regularly, open up the frame for ventilation in the morning so the little greenies don't suffocate and/or get fried by the sun (the cold frames overheat very easily), and then be sure to close it up at night to keep chilblains from setting in.

Yup, way, way early for gardening outside in northern Minnesota. Will my efforts turn out to be worth it this year? Or will it have been an exercise in futility? Only time will tell . . . but I'm already salivating just thinking about those fresh-from-the-garden salads!


Erin said...

Hehe I am not stalking you by waiting for your blog to post, it just happened to post at the exact time I refreshed my Reader, LOL! Soooooo, "I'm going to pare back on my plantings this year"... how's that working out for you MamaPea? SIXTY FEET OF VEGETABLES and it's only April!! In all seriousness, I am eager to see what you get, I have much to learn about the zone differences so I will be ready, and your experiment with your early plantings will prove very useful, and I am really looking forward to seeing how you get a tomato out of the growing season there. I sure love my tomatoes, but we gardeners also appreciate a good challenge, don't we? It makes things seem all the more successful when it works!

Mama Pea said...

Hey, Erin - "I'm going to pare back on my plantings this year." ERIN? GO AWAY! Well, I really am!! (Gonna pare back. Honest.) But everybody knows we gotta have adequate greens for a big salad every day. Right? And a few beets. And carrots. And, of course, potatoes. And peas. And beans. Oh, poo. I just CAN'T keep growing as much as I have been 'cause we're only two people trying to eat the bulk of it!

I'm not planting a single full-sized tomato this year. Not ever gonna fool with them again until we have our greenhouse up and going. But I can grow oodles of cherry tomatoes without much trouble at all. I think we're gonna have to wait for you to get up here to show us how to get the full-sized ones to mature outside. (Somehow I have a strong feeling you'll do it, too.)

Erin said...

I'm sure I'll do it, but I may get the county at my door wondering what all those grow lights are peeking out from behind the drapes, LOL! I'll have to start drawing up plans for a greenhouse on the cheap! (The "law" would be disappointed if they came and all they were able to confiscate was heirloom tomatoes :)!!!)

Mama Pea said...

Erin - HAHAHA! I can just hear the big, burly guy with the badge questioning you: "And you're trying to tell me that all those big green plants in your back bedroom are . . . Brandywine TOMATOES!!??" said...

Wow -- your beds look incredible! So tidy and organized... especially compared to my 'let's wing it in the garden and see what happens next!' approach :) And I love that mobile cold frame.
P.S. Your digthedirt post is awesome -- gave me some great info on what to do with my small patch of raspberry canes. Thanks!

Mama Pea said...

Thanks, Fiona. But stop with all the compliments or I'm gonna get a big head. (And that I don't need 'cause my head is big enough. I always have to laugh when a hat is listed as "One size fits all." I have to yell, "Oh, no it doesn't!" Not my honkin', big egghead.) :o)

Katidids said...

Wow, I love those cold frames! Maybe next year..little bit at a time right? Off to check out the other link!

Mama Pea said...

Hi, Katie - Unfortunately, we really NEED the cold frames up here. I keep things like my tomatoes and peppers, and cucs in them all during the season. We just don't get the sustained warm weather to grow some crops without them.

And although I have plenty of them now, we too made them as we could find the time.

MaineCelt said...

We're planting early here in Maine, too! Patriot's Day (April 19th) is our traditional pea-planting day, but I put them in two weeks ago. Yesterday we used a broadfork to prepare six of our 4'x4' raised beds, and this morning I did some initial--though hesitant--planting: "mokum" carrots and "Aurora" mixed orach. More planting tomorrow...I really want to plant lots of beets, more carrots and turnips, too, but we have had trouble with wire worms. Do you know any organic tricks for discouraging or getting rid of wire worms?

Mama Pea said...

Hey, MaineCelt - I've never had any trouble with wireworms (knock, knock, knock on wood) but in checking a couple of my gardening books, here's what I came up with.

They are more prevalent in soil that has been newly turned and will disappear in a few years as the soil is worked more. (Not good news for those first few years.)

Before you plant, cut a potato in half and poke a stick into the half to serve as a handle. Bury the potato(es) in the soil in early spring. Wireworms will be attracted to the potatoes. Check the potatoes every few days and destroy the worms. The worms only have one generation per year so the more you kill this way, the less there will be to affect your crops.

Rotate crops. Don't plant veggies affected by wireworms in the same spot each year.

This isn't much, but might help a little. Good luck.

We had TERRIBLE problems with cutworms our first few years gardening here but as our soil got healthier, the cutworms disappeared. I think there is a lot of truth to the fact that the healthier the soil, the less problems with ugly-buglies.

MaineCelt said...

Love the potato trick! I shall try it immediately! Glad to hear they tend to diminish. We only have one area with really well-drained soil, and I'd hate to think I'd put the garden there in vain. We are gradually improving the soil and rotating crops between beds, so hopefully these efforts and the potato lures will do the trick!

Thanks for the help!

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