27 March 2008

smells like spring

it's rainy and warm today. crocuses and daffodils are blooming all over the neighborhood. ours still haven't popped open, but we are patient. yesterday was a glorious garden day for me. i was outside for hours and hours. i transfered the tomatoes to larger containers, and gave the remainder to my neighbor, lara. i set up a trellis for the peas (though it's going to need some reinforcement) and then cosmo and i planted a row of peas. we left room for the 5 plants i already started indoors, which i am in the process of acclimating to outside. cosmo seemed to really enjoy it, and recited his little pea rhyme to the seedbed.

the first salad box is filled with sprouting loose-leaf lettuce. yesterday cosmo and i filled the second, larger salad box with soil and then planted spinach, heirloom lettuce, and purple spring onion seeds. cosmo helped me sow the seeds, and he was really good at pinching the rows to cover them. i love to find ways to involve him. he already seems to be intrigued by the natural world. he walked up to a severely pruned bush in someone's yard yesterday, and gestured upward with his arms saying "grow! grow!"

20 March 2008

i dig it

the rain let up long enough for me to get out in the dirt this afternoon. i dug up half of the garden, and worked in some peat and composted manure. the soil seems ok to me, has decent drainage, and was easy to work. i was encouraged by the sight of a few earthworms, but there are also many small stones, and fine root systems in there. the roots probably come from the large oak tree to the west of the the garden plot. it felt so good to be out there, though i bet i feel it tomorrow (especially in my back).

cosmo was out there with me, pokin' around in the dirt, and examining the contents of the newest compost bin. "two flies," he stated. i couldn't really figure out what he was saying. it sounded like "two fries" and i thought, we never put fries in the compost, what is he talking about? i went to inspect. there were two flies on the food scraps. he stood there for a long time, just looking.

i'm still a bit nervous to plant any seeds outside. i think we have more cold weather coming. all the indoor seedlings look wonderful, and i am anxious to get my salad boxes started. i can always bring those in at night until it warms up.

18 March 2008

the glow

carl took this photo of the blue glow of the grow lamp, as seen from outside.
all the tomatoes came up yesterday, as did some pink cosmos, zinnias, and one marigold. today, i saw the tiny chamomile sprouts. all of these are seeds started indoors. the feverfew seed are several years old, they may not do anything. but then again, it has only been a few days.

in other news, i saw a pileated woodpecker in our tree, twice in two days! i was really thrilled, it was a first for me. yesterday, i could scarcely believe it. i saw it in the morning out our living room window. it landed, then quickly flew off, but not before i spotted it (the size got my attention) and identified it. this evening, i saw it again, from the kitchen window, on the same tree. it stayed a bit longer, i was closer, and i got a really good look. i called for carl, but he just missed it. i hope it hangs out in the neighborhood.

it is raining and raining and raining here in bloomington. we sailed popsicle sticks down the gutters tonight on our evening walk with cosmo. he loved it, and cried when we headed back up hill for home, and he couldn't float his boats anymore. he got to bring them to the bath though.

16 March 2008

day six: sprouts

the very first seedlings to sprout are the cherry tomatoes i planted monday night. i woke up this morning to find them beginning to uncurl and poke up through the soil. made me so happy.

i worried about them not getting enough light, so ran out to get a grow lamp. i ended up with a sylvania spot-gro 60w bulb, in a reflective shop lamp that i can clip to the window sill and position where i want. i was planning to get a florescent one, but that didn't work out (long story). this one is more like a regular incandescent bulb, but it's supposed to be for plants. it gives off and eerie blue glow. i have it a little over a foot away from the plants because it seems to give off a lot of heat. i'm going into all this detail because i'm secretly hoping someone reading this has used this type of lamp for seedlings, and can give me some pointers.

i also got a couple bags of peat and some compost. i am anxious to start working it into the garden. tonight i built our second compost bin, and poked around in the first one. i tried to turn it, but didn't fully succeed. from what i could tell, things have not broken down much, which makes sense given that we started it in the fall. there's not a lot of activity in the compost bin over the winter.

i'm completely giddy, and rather wound up over this gardening thing. i had some crappy dreams last night. thinking about baby tomato plants under a hot light, and fantasizing about fluffing up dirt seemed to ease my mind.

15 March 2008

bloom day

for garden blogger's bloom day i have a couple of photos. the crocuses are technically on the other side of the fence, in our neighbor's yard, but i was the first to see them, and none of ours are blooming yet. but we are excited by all the bulbs popping up, and since this is our first spring here, it is all a big surprise. the previous owners planted perennials in the flower beds so that there is something blooming from early spring to late fall. most if it we have yet to identify. i think these are daffodils about to bloom.

yesterday i planted more seeds indoors. mostly flowers, and today i started a few peas. i think i could get away with planting the peas directly in the soil outside, but we don't really have a bed ready in the garden yet. i started digging yesterday. it is going to need a lot of work. the little seed station i've set up in the sunniest spot in the office is quickly running out of space.

i've started mapping out the layout of our garden. our plot is 11' x 13'. i am looking into companion planting, and choosing herbs and flowers that will benefit the vegetables. it is surprising, even to me, how much pleasure this activity brings me. i am spending most of my free time on all-things-garden-related. of course, no time is truly free, and it is possible that this obsession has something to do with avoidance of other work...work that is less enjoyable, and a lot more frightening. even so, nourishing the soul has got to be helpful in the long run.

12 March 2008


i visited two antique stores today, in search of a wooden crate. i had read an article in organic gardening about how to make a portable, living salad box. it's a shallow wooden box, with a wire mesh and window screen bottom. you fill it with soil and plant lettuce and spinach, to be harvested as micro-greens for salads. i liked the idea of saving space in the garden by planting greens in a box, and i also liked the idea of putting them up on a table at night, to keep the rabbits from eating them.

i could picture an old wooden coke bottle crate as having the right dimensions, built in handles, and aesthetically appeal. i was ccertain i could find something cheap that was as good, or better than one i could make. the first place had several. they ranged from $15 to $25 each. i found an old wooden drawer that i thought might work, and bought it for $10. it was a bit small, and i wasn't sure about it, so i went to the only other place like this that i knew about in town, and found another drawer that was much bigger, and perfect for only$4. the second place was a lot more fun too, it was mostly salvaged architectural fixtures, doors and moldings, plus other items for restoring furniture or interiors. i had a nice conversation with the woman working there, about gardening, harvesting herbs and greens, and the time you can find in your life for gardening. she wondered what happened to that time during the winter.

this evening i drilled holes in the bottom of the smaller drawer. i plan to also line it with window screen, as the holes are rather large. i may plant some seeds in it this week. i am very happy with the solid, weathered and handsome boxes, even if one of them was over-priced. i enjoyed being in those shops much more than i would have enjoyed making the boxes.

11 March 2008

garden one

carl gave me a hoe for valentine's day. i can't think of a more romantic gift.

i've been itching to garden for so many years now. my grandmother was a great organic gardener in illinois, and my mother learned a few things from her, and passed them on to me. i will never forget the way the soil in my grandma's garden felt in my fingers. it was black, sandy, loamy, lightweight--rich. i loved to be in her garden as a child-- picking strawberries, tomatoes, pulling up carrots and potatoes--and i'd rip my fingers to shreds in her raspberry brambles in the summertime, for the tangy sweetness of those little red jewels.

i tended a garden with some other women in oregon back in the early 1990's. our garden was lush and fruitful, and i learned so many things from that master gardener from cornwall. but this is the first chance i've had on my own to plant more than a couple of flowers or potted plants.

we have a really small garden plot in the yard of the place we are renting. the soil doesn't seem great, but it looks like a pretty good location on the property. we piled all our autumn leaves on top of it, and they have been sitting there all winter, sinking in. of course, they haven't had a chance to compost or anything, so, most likely we will rake them off into a pile, and use them for mulch once we get things planted. we are looking into simple ways to enrich the soil, but don't plan to get too precise for our first go of it. i don't think we will test the soil or anything. our next door neighbor jack suggested working in some peat moss, and alfalfa pellets. i am also considering chicken manure, but what do i know? just guessing here. our compost bin is still too young to use, but we plan to start another one so we can let that one "cook."

i have a garden notebook, but i thought a blog might be a nice way to chronicle my early experiments with gardening. we are getting inklings of spring here in southern indiana, and i have garden fever. i can't stop thinking about it, and there just isn't enough to do yet. perhaps writing will help me manage all the excess energy.

last night i planted some tomato seeds in an egg carton. i can't decide if i should have them covered by clear plastic, to retain moisture, or if they should be open, for maximum air flow. the egg cartons i'm using have a built in cover, and right now, i have it propped up with a toothpick, at carl's suggestion. a sort of compromise i guess. i find myself touching the soil every couple of hours, to make sure it is moist enough. micro managing.

i have 6-13 days to wait still, before i'll see the first sprouts.