I got more spring planting done this week! I planted the broccoli bed and the container potatoes. I also did a little more tending of the ornamentals.
Planting the Broccoli Bed
As you can see from the photo above, I did buy broccoli seedlings. (Remember, I told you I would in my last post because I had started the broccoli seeds too late.) No, I did not buy organic seedlings. However, they will get nothing but organic cultural practices under my care, so any traces of synthetic chemicals in these baby plants will be long gone by the time they are full grown and ready to harvest. I could fit up to 8 broccoli plants in a bed, so I bought just one 6-cell pack. I put them in my covered plant stand for hardening off until I could plant them.
Laying out Soaker Hoses
Once again I began by removing the black plastic cover from the bed and then leveling the soil in it–so nice and rich with llama manure from last fall! Because the broccoli plants would remain in this bed all summer long, I put a soaker hose down in this bed. I do not lay the hoses out in straight lines and hold them down with wire pins because those wires can cut gashes into the hose. I prefer work with the natural curve of the hoses (they’re stored wound up) and arrange them to fit the plants that I will put there. When I lay out the hose, I use bricks and stones to weigh it down and hold it in place. These can be removed later when the hose gets used to its position. I also put the input valve, where the water pressure will be highest, at the higher end of the bed. Sometimes I mark it with a flag when the plants have grown bigger so it would be easier to find. (I’ve explained more about how to use the soaker hoses when watering in a previous post: Watering, Watering Everywhere.)
While the broccoli will grow to fill this bed, I want to use the rest of the space here as much as possible. Therefore I plant other plants around the broccoli–some that could be harvested sooner and some that could handle the shade of the full grown broccoli plants later.
I also like to make my beds look pretty, so I plant them in designs. Last year, for example, I put leeks all around the edges and down the middle of the broccoli bed. I also planted radishes by the leeks, figuring I would harvest them before the leeks grew. However, I forgot about or did not see the radishes that I’d planted down the middle of the bed until I was pulling up the leeks in the fall. Those radishes had grown to the size of turnips! That made me think it would better to plant beets down the middle this time because I really do want them to grow that big. I sowed a line of golden beets to the left of the hose going down the middle of the bed. On the right side of it I sowed red beets. Just outside those rows I planted onion sets.
Next I planted the broccoli seedlings, each one inside a loop of the soaker hose. I sprinkled some organic fertilizer in each planting hole. Then all along the hose near the outer edges of the bed I planted Swiss chard, plus a little more between the broccoli plants. I didn’t have any Swiss chard seeds left, so I transplanted many of the ones that had come up in my first cool crops bed. They needed to be thinned out anyway! Later, I checked a good companion plant guide and found I had made very good choices when I picked the plants to intercrop here. Broccoli, beets, onions, and Swiss chard all grow well together.
To give you an idea of how those plants will grow as the season goes on, here are pictures of last year’s broccoli bed.
Protecting the Snow Peas
While I was out there, I couldn’t help but notice that the snow pea seedlings under the pea fence were looking more ragged than the pea shoots without supports. After I saw a bird nearby, I remembered the disturbing discovery I made last year: birds were eating my pea and bean plants! I had to do something now to protect the little pea shoots, or I wouldn’t get much of a harvest.
With the pea fence in the way, however, I couldn’t just put a tunnel of netting over the snow pea plants. Besides, when I used to put netting around all my raised beds to keep rabbits out, I always hated pulling pea and bean vines off the netting. (That was years ago–before we added the bunny fence around the kitchen garden.) I looked in the shed to see what I could use and found the wire shelves I’d saved from greenhouse shelf tents. I tied them onto the pea fence. Birds could still get under there if they wanted to, but I’m hoping they will be deterred. For added measure I hung metal flowers with bells (from the Dollar Store). Hopefully their sound and movement will scare the birds away from my snow peas!
Last year’s potato planting experiment went well, so I decided to do it again. This time I went with white potatoes (russet I think) rather than purple ones. The purple ones were neat, but I couldn’t use them to make things like potato-leek soup because I was afraid the color would look bad. Besides, these were on sale! I paid about $1.50 total at Big R for both seed potatoes and onion sets.
I’m still rather new to planting potatoes, so I went inside to check how deep to plant them in the containers. I couldn’t get to my computer without taking off my gardening shoes, so I picked up my phone and said, “OK, Google.” It worked! I asked my question, and this is the answer I got.
I mixed organic fertilizer into the potting soil in these containers. Here they before and after I covered the seed potatoes with three more inches of soil.
I now have started planting three of the beds in my vegetable garden. One of them, the broccoli bed, is nearly finished. I will plant marigolds all around it and the other beds after all danger of frost is past.
Besides the chives from my herb bed, which I’ve used in several dishes, I’ve already harvested the first vegetables of the year: rhubarb and asparagus. The rhubarb went to my friend April who had strawberry rhubarb pie on her Easter menu–but no rhubarb in any of the stores she had checked. The asparagus was cut up, pan roasted in a little butter, and added to our dinner a couple days ago. Now I’ve marked the calendar so that I’ll know to stop cutting the asparagus after eight weeks.
What’s in Bloom at Chez Rea
I’m delighted to see blooms on the pansies I overwintered from last fall. I just LOVE edible flowers! I’m also delighted to see violets blooming in our side yard lawn (not so much the dandelions and Creeping Charlie, which are also blooming). Because we haven’t sprayed the lawn, those are edible, too! I managed to pick the violets before my husband mowed the lawn, and I crystalized them and the pansies.
Here are the other flowers I spotted outside.
I know–I need to remove the rhubarb flower stalks! I just thought it would be fun to include a picture of those blooms, too. I hope you’ve enjoyed your virtual visit to my garden!