Buddha’s back 

Buddha has turned his back on the lettuce, and who can blame him? Long turned bitter, Lettuce is no longer interested in being pleasing to anyone’s palate. 

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As luck would have it…

Saturday I could hardly believe my luck. Again? Weather and kiddo and energy and cough? Glorious. I’m not sure I’ve ever more enjoyed pulling thistle (and henbit and dandelion.)
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Besides, it gave me the good fortune to witness the opening of these…wild crocuses? I do have some Prairie Crocus here and there, but the centers of these little wildlings look different (more like a cone), as do the leaves. Any ideas?
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I also managed to sneak in some seed sowing (even if I had to keep my phone on me for a little work wrangling.)
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In case you couldn’t tell, I’ve never been one to invest in actual labels. I’m not sure why. Instead, I tend toward taking pictures of what went where and the metadata of the photo captures the day and time for me automatically. Perhaps I’ll treat myself to labels soon enough. (I did receive some lovely ones as a gift this year, so it really is only about actually using them at this point…brains are silly things.)

And just as I was about to sow something on the heads of where I’d planted the potatoes because they were obviously not doing anything themselves…
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I took a closer look.
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Now if only the peas I planted in their midst would sprout…

A winter’s promise.

The same day we put in the starts, we kept going. I couldn’t very well leave more than half of a newly turned bed empty! Now there are a lot of options out there for labeling your plants, marking your rows, and otherwise organizing what-went-where in such a manner that you can recall what’s what when it comes time to evaluate who is a Re-do and who is a Poo-poo for next year. My favorite methods are generally simple, geometric, alphabetical, cheap, and biodegradable. If you didn’t guess already – I use sticks.

Why, what do you use?

Stick borders
Sticks marking out different planting areas for different seeds to be sown.

A lot of my gardening enjoyment comes from this very stage of the process. Sprout identification is fun for me. As soon as the first sprig of green appears, I’m guessing what it is and holding tight to the knowledge in my memory banks from past sowings. Part of it is pure nerdy pleasure, and part of it is not wanting to pull a “weed” that would actually be a beautiful, productive, or otherwise enjoyable volunteer. That, and surprises and mysteries are fun!

Lettuce mob
A mob of lettuce sprouts. I sowed maybe…five? varieties of lettuce this year. Some Cimmaron, some Little Gem, some others I’ll remember when they grow bigger…

Peas
There’s no mistaking a pea sprout for much of anything else. I’m holding hope they won’t die in a frost (or be nibbled) before finding the daylight required for a full-on growth spurt, but I’m also mentally prepared to resow during the “proper” time window awhile into the calendar yet.

Carrots
This year I’m attempting to follow conventional wisdom in more ways that rows. “Over-sow and thin” has always felt odd to me. A loss of preciously saved seed. A death of little plants that could grow into food. A waste.
After as many feast or famine years as I’ve had with carrots and lettuce, I’m giving it a go this spring. We’ll see how I feel when it comes time to actually thin them though…

Yarrow
The yarrow is alive! This is my third attempt to time sowing (and remember to water properly) to get these stinkers to sprout. Yarrow is supposed to be a wonderful attraction for beneficial insects, and I’ve sown a decent patch of two varieties smack dab in the middle of the bed.

Beets
I’ve honestly lost track of how old these beets are. I think they were softball-sized last spring? We’re harvesting the greens at this point, the beets having loooong ago gone woody. I’m curious when they’ll finally go to seed…

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In the meantime, I have more (purchased) beet seeds making elegantly hued sprouts a few steps away.

Broccoli
And I think more broccoli…or it could be cauliflower. My brain has lost track of that memory and I don’t yet have the knowledge bank to differentiate between the two sprouts…if there even is a way.

What seeds are you sowing (or going to sow) for your first spring garden bites?

Seed Tray Labeling

When I first started gardening, I wanted row labels. I fell in love with the polished brash signs on sticks. They were out of my price range.

Channeling my inner child, I looked into Popsicle sticks. While researching types, sizes, pricing, and local sources, my mind wandered. Did I have some Popsicle sticks in my craft shoebox? I went to look…nope. What did I have that might work?

Colored toothpicks!

Things I (re)learned (that)day:

  1. Things that are on hand are often better than specially made things that cost money and take up extra space. (I like relearning this in new areas of my life.)
  2. Reusable is important. When I’m done with this tray, I’ll simply brush off the toothpicks and put them back in their (designated garden usage only) jar.
  3. Color is fun, but not necessary.
  4. Save the gardening budget for things that actually grow, or directly feed things that grow, when at all possible.

But wait a minute, you say, how do you remember what’s in each row?

The answer is simple: Magic.

Or a camera phone (or other digital camera, or pen and scratch paper)

It’s important, I’ve found, to do nothing else with my brain in between placing the seeds, laying out the packets, and taking the pictures. I can’t move the tray (I might rotate it and if it’s just rows, or quadrants, I may not remember which way is “up.”) That sort of thing.

If you notice, the toothpick layout does not exactly match the seed packets. That is what happens when you want to make sure you take the picture before going for your nightly walk…and forget to lay the last two seed packets down.

So even though I laid out my rough “grid,” laid out my seed packets to “match,” and took my pictures, I could have still had an “oops surprise” later on trying to remember what those last two spots on the right with the orange toothpick were.

Mystery solved!

Now you may be saying, that picture is small, from a cell phone, I can’t read the fine print – what’d you plant?

Pictured above (left to right, top to bottom as you move left to right):

  • Lark’s Tongue Kale
  • Even’ Star Land Race Collards
  • Dark Green Italian Parsley
  • Lemon Basil
  • Cumin
  • Amish Deer Tongue Lettuce
  • Cimmaron Lettuce
  • Gentilina Lettuce
  • Little Gem Lettuce
  • Mignonette Rouge Lettuce
  • Rodan (Chadwick’s) Lettuce
  • Rouge Grenobloise Lettuce
  • Cracker Jack Mix Marigold
  • Red Cherry Marigold

I liked the romaine I grew last year in flavor, but not in production, and the other varieties of lettuce I grew I didn’t want to eat. That makes this season a Try Again one when it comes to greens. From this myriad of choices, I’m hoping a few stand out as delicious, productive, and happy plants. If I luck into a few such species, they’ll be rewarded in my Fall 2012 garden with more space. Whereas some of the underperformers will have joined other packets in my Trade Box.