No rest for the weary

You know that, “get back from vacation and feel like to you need a vacation to recover from your vacation feeling?”  Yeah, that.

We enjoyed a fabulous week in the Smoky Mountains (except for that part where a bee stung me on the arch of my foot and the subsequent itching like crazy and swelling that engulfed my ankle bone) and returned on Saturday so that we could have a day to recover before heading back to work spend all day Sunday gardening.  Hard core gardening.

I whipped eight (or more?) rows of potatoes into shape with the help of my friend the soil miller (see here for more information), and Matthew planted forty-eight tomato plants, along with peppers, eggplant, and tomatillos.  We staggered back into our apartment shortly before eight o’clock last night, and somehow found the energy to make dinner.  (I was seriously considering finishing the last few pretzel thins from our road snack stash and going straight to bed without dinner.)

I will post vacation and garden pictures soon, but top priority right now is unpacking/reclaiming our apartment and getting back on track so we don’t eat sandwiches for lunch all week.

Save the tomatoes

Getting big and looking good
Getting big and looking good

We haven’t had the best luck starting seedlings this year.  In January, Matthew planted cruciferous veggies.  They germinated decently, looked healthy for awhile, and then bit the dust.  We noticed lots of little gnats around the grow trays and thought they might have been transmitting some kind of fungus.

We moved on to warm weather crops (tomatoes and peppers).  Guess what?  The gnats returned!  I investigated and we most likely have fungus gnats.  The gnats lay eggs in the soil, which hatch into larva.  The larvae consider the tender roots of seedlings a delicacy item.

I instituted remediation steps immediately after identifying the problem on Monday.

Step one: Stop the over-watering (ahem, honey) and let the soil dry out.  The gnats and their larvae love really damp soil.

Step two: Work to eliminate the gnats.  There are a few suggestions for this, including shallow dishes of beer or sticky traps (made with petroleum jelly).  We tried both.  Finally, a good use for beer!

Step three: Get rid of the larvae.  This one is trickier.  One place suggested putting potato slices on top of the soil to attract the larvae.  We tried this overnight and didn’t see anything in the morning.  That could mean that 1) the larvae weren’t there; 2) the larvae do not like potatoes; or 3) the eggs are in the soil waiting to hatch.

We started a RIDICULOUS number of tomatoes, most of which are looking pretty good at this point, and I’ll be really upset if we lose them like we lost broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower!

Info on fungus gnats and how to get rid of them:

Weekend edition

Despite the wicked wind of the south, I biked my way through the weekend. Friday presented an exhausting combination of biking and gardening, followed by more biking and more gardening. I planted beets, carrots, and sugar snap peas. I used our new soil miller for the first time — this garden tool rocks! You buy a handle, and whatever interchangeable tool heads you want. If you’re in St. Louis, head over to Home Eco to check out their selection of these great tools. I added a plastic crate to my biking ensemble so I could easily haul the garden tools.

On Sunday, we fit in a little bit of very early season morel hunting — an Easter mushroom hunt, in place of the traditional Easter egg hunt. Sadly, although not all that surprisingly, we found zero morels. However, we did find this guy. Yep, we’re pretty sure that Matthew almost stepped on a copperhead. Fortunately, he saw it when he was about three or four feet away, but he’d been headed right in its direction, focused on scanning for mushrooms, not snakes. We kept our distance, and the copper slept right through the near miss. No doubt I will be slightly on edge during upcoming ‘shroom forays.