Surviving the gardening blitz

Going into it, I honestly wasn’t sure how I would hold up during Saturday’s garden blitz.  We had one shot to get in our potatoes and spring crops — one day where the soil was dry enough (barely), we had a tiller, and all of the stars aligned just so = tons of work!

With only one tiller and three helpers, I spent I good bit of the morning waiting for the ground to be ready to plant.  Matthew and Pam did all of the tilling — there’s no reason I couldn’t have joined in, but the machine scared me a bit.  I did help spread some soil amendments, including lime, gypsum, and some alfalfa-based fertilizer.


That's not just dirt you're looking at -- it's four rows of potatoes, plus a bed of garlic!

Once the soil was prepped, we planted six rows of potatoes, a bazillion onions, some cruciferous seedlings (sadly, we had to buy these, as ours bit the dust once again, but we have a plan of attack for next time), and artichoke seedlings.



Other than playing photographer (and a little help with clean-up), planting the artichokes was my last garden-related act for the day.  After that, my aching lower back and I retreated inside to bond with a yoga mat, while Matthew and Pam toiled for a couple more hours, planting peas, carrots, and more onions.

From left to right . . . far upper left corner: artichokes; then seeds: carrots, lettuce, peas; potato rows; the biggest green things = Egyptian onions; then rows of onion starts; a cage of broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower; our low tunnel.

They finally called it quits when dusk turned into full dark, and the raindrops grew a bit more insistent.

We finally arrived home, feeling more zombie than human.  A hot shower and a hot meal (PTL for leftovers!) only slightly eased the zombified state for me.  I finally made it into bed, and despite not-so-great sleep, I woke up Sunday feeling surprisingly good.

How I survived:

  • Hydration
  • Frequent snack breaks
  • Frequent breaks
  • Stretching my back at the end of the day
  • And, last but not least, being the gardening slacker — from skipping some garden days altogether, to taking it easy when I’m there, between the three of us, I win the slacker award, hands down 😉  Matthew and Pam are the garden super heroes!

Seed starting: Make a functional, affordable heat box

Special guest post by Matthew

Functional, Affordable Seed starting heat source . . . I’ve used this one with great success and reliability for four sets of plants now.  We set our thermostat pretty low in the winter, so the heat box helps keep the seeds cozy (i.e., at an ideal temperature for sprouting).

The basics:

  1. Build a 5 sided wooden box to hold the heat, sized to fit your light source (or your tray size)
    1. Four 1”x4″ s (or whatever wood you want) for the sides
    2. Very thin plywood (or planks) for the top
    3. I left the bottom open, just set it on #3
    4. Nails or screws to join
    5. I made two boxes, each 10.5″ x 32″ x 3.5″
  2. A string of nightlight (4 watt) bulbs (or other incandescent lights) as a variable heat source (screw them in or unscrew some of them to get the soil temperature you want)
    1. Optional: Tack the wire of the nightlight string to the sides of the box to keep the bulbs out of direct contact with the box or radiant barrier –be careful to avoid damaging the wire’s insulation
    2. You may want to add a timer; I only use heat during the 16 hours of light I give my plants
    3. We have a string of lights that have a little metal cage around each bulb, so they sit directly on the reflective material
  3. A sheet of reflective radiant barrier insulation (see photo above) for below the box
    1. I used a scrap left over at the hardware store from someone’s home insulation project

Set your seed starting trays directly on top of the heat box.  When starting with this, put a thermometer into the soil of your seed starting tray and adjust how many bulbs are on in your box until you get the right temperature for your seeds.

Strange bean

I really want to tell you all about the amazing time I’m having at the Pro Walk Pro Bike conference and how much fun I’m having exploring the host city (to be revealed in a later post), but time is short, so I bring you a little garden tale.

While picking a very large quantity of green beans on Sunday, Pam remarked, “I’m just glad I haven’t picked any of the black with green stripes variety.”

Only a short time after making that comment, she came across this guy.  Harmless, but not exactly what you want when you’re expecting a handful of green beans!

Garden helpers

Matthew worked on our raised bed at the community garden . . .

. . . while I photographed our furry friends.

I wielded a tool other than the camera at some point, but there is no photographic evidence.

Bed prepared and ready to plant.  It looked so pretty with the soil all turned — no gross gasoline-powered tiller required!  We planted carrot and beet seeds.  The before and after planting pictures look the same.  If all goes well, we will see evidence of life soon.