Monday, May 26, 2008

The Weekend Chores

It may still be too cool to get the rest of the garden planted, but that doesn't mean other chores aren't possible. So, this weekend I put up trellises for the growing peas and for the yet-to-be-planted pole beans.

Reading through my notes, I discovered that potatoes should be planted almost as soon as the ground can be worked, like peas. I guess I was confusing potato requirements with corn requirements. Anywho, I remedied my failings by getting the potatoes in the ground on Friday. Four varieties this year: German butterball (my favorites), Austrian crescents (interesting), Carola (also good), and, new this year, red gold. Not only did I plant the 'taters I ordered, but also the ones that had sprouted from last year's harvest (and I never got around to eating this winter). All told, I have three beds of potatoes.

That leaves me only three small beds for the rest of the produce. Not enough. True, there are also the two new beds I created last weekend just piling manure on top of newspaper, but I am leery of using them (what if the manure is too strong, even though it's been rotting almost a year, or what if it provides way too much nitrogen and not enough other nutrients). So, I dug into the compost heap from last year and tossed some of that (still not completely composted, but maybe 70% there) on top.

I peaked under the plastic I put down in April to kill off more lawn, thinking I wouldn't be able to utilize that area until late summer, and it actually looks nice and brown underneath - I may attempt to till up beds there this next weekend (if it doesn't rain). I should be able to get another 4-5 beds out of that plot!!!

Lastly, I started to install my drip irrigation system. Ran out of the clips/staples that are used to tack the dripper lines to the ground, so I had to stop. Installing driplines is really not difficult (aside from trying to get the coiled tubing to lie flat). I had opted for 12" spaced drip line, even though the catalogue recommended 6" for veg gardens, and now I'm thinking they probably knew what they were talking about (but the 12" lines were significantly cheaper). My timer only has four settings per day (rather than the desired six), so I've upped the watering duration from 9 minutes to 15 minutes each time. It works great...except in the spaces where there is no water dripping. I suppose I should dig down to see just how far the wet zone spreads from each dripper, but I hate to disturb the stuff I've planted. I think my next option will be to run two lines down each bed, rather than one snaking its way over the surface. This is how we learn - from our trials and mistakes.

Meanwhile, the crabapple blossoms are starting to open! And two apple trees (Haralson and Northern Spy) have flowers - at the very tippy top where the deer couldn't reach this winter. The Jonagold, which gave me my first apples last year, has no flowers this year - I suspect too much trauma from browsing pressure. The remaining trees (Milden, Black Oxford, and Keepsake) are all too young to have fruits yet (and were also heavily browsed; must find a solution for this).

My azaleas (Northern Lights varieties) are also starting to bloom, just as the rhododendrons (also Northern Lights) are shriveling up and calling it quits for the season.

And, as a final note, the bluebirds are being quite vocal these last few days. I checked my nest boxes on the golf course last night, and found only one with a potential bluebird nest in it. One box is full of twigs - signs of wren occupation. Another had twigs, but they are now covered with a layer of moss - chickadees? I have one enterprising chickadee who was sitting on her nest yesterday when I peaked in; when she flew I counted a whopping eight eggs!!! She's an over-achiever. One other box was stuffed with grasses - I suspect a red squirrel. The rest of the boxes were all empty. As for my boxes at home, well, I've seen bluebirds around, but apparently none have chosen to take up residence (yet). Even though eggs have been laid and chicks are hatching out in the banana belts of the Park (Lake Champlain area and the St. Lawrence Valley), our bluebirds haven't laid their first eggs yet - some haven't even chosen nest sites yet. Yes, we are a good several weeks behind the rest of the state.

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