Saturday, May 21, 2011

Planted, Covered, Waiting.

Covered Tomatoes

 It's Saturday afternoon. It's cloudy. The predicted storms do not seem to be materializing just yet. But we're supposed to get more this evening and again tomorrow. Over the past week, I've nearly doubled the size of the garden. Yesterday I figured the garden was up to about 1700 square feet, and today I added three new beds, bringing it closer to 1800 square feet. While this is far larger than any garden I've had before, I realize that I have only planted just over a quarter of the garden space that is disced and ready. I also realize that, compared to most of the other farms in the Growers Association, I'm still small beans. Undaunted by my size, though, I've been planting some of the first pepper and tomato seedlings that I started indoors in April. And a lot of beans. I've also got all of the corn and potatoes in the ground. We're growing three kinds of potatoes: Kennebunks, French Fingerling and what I'm calling Rich's Folks'. These last are three leftover potatoes that Rich's parents brought us at Thanksgiving. Just three potatoes is going to give us quite a few potatoes, I'm hoping. As for tomatoes: today I planted a dozen Brandywine heirloom tomatoes. Yesterday, I planted a variety called Illini Star, as well as Matt's Cherry Tomato, Amish Paste, Thessaloniki (an heirloom from Greece!) and Opalka. And of course, the Oxheart tomatoes from my neighbors. Peppers in the ground right now are Jalapeño, Anaheim, Joe's Long Cayenne and Marconi Red (a sweet red pepper). As for beans: Calypso (they look like little orcas!), Asparagus Yard Long, Jade Green, Kentucky Wonder, Jacob's Cattle, Provider, Black Valentine, and Rattlesnake. It does seem that I'm going a little overboard with beans. Especially since I've never grown them. But there were so many cool varieties to try, and I know that last summer we bought a lot of beans at the Farmers' Market, so I figured, why not try to grow them. And I must say, they, along with the squash and cucumbers, are the stars of the garden. They are growing so quickly!

Covered Peppers & Tomatoes
In fact, the garden is starting to look much more like a garden, and a lot less like a plot of overgrown weeds bordering hard, dead clay. The rains of April pretty much wiped out any chance that the early vegetables will be producing early. The peas have finally gotten their wits about them, and are growing surely daily. The arugula, lettuces, onions, carrots, beets and sorrel are all starting to look much more likely that I'll be able to sell them in June. A few of the early beds I planted, though, look like they might not be worth much of anything. One bed, containing beets, tarragon, mace, onions, parsley, cabbage and dill is still pretty much dead. Not even weeds are growing in that one! Weeds. Rich has been helping weed this week, and the effects are surprisingly immediate: the crops I'm growing in beds we've weeded have mushroomed in size, again giving me hope.

The house we rent sits on 40 acres of land. About half of that is leased to another farmer who alternates growing soybeans and corn. I'm assuming he grows genetically-modified seed. Last night and this morning, in about two hours total, he disced and planted both fields with soybeans. I felt decidedly old-fashioned hoeing the ground, watering with my watering can as he drove by with his wide & tall tractor trailing huge equipment to quickly plant his crops. But I take comfort in the fact that I am growing real food. Food I will eat this summer and winter, and food I will happily and proudly sell at the Farmers' Market. I know that his soybeans and corn aren't edible. I don't feel superior, especially standing there, sore, drenched in sweat and covered in gnats & biting flies. Nope. Right now, aside from focusing on trying to get everything in the ground as quickly as possible, I'm keeping my eyes on the beauty of this garden come next month, when the plants are established, and I'm out there watering and mulching and battling insect marauders. And enjoying the flowers and the fruits of all this labor. I must say, though, that working from the lush confines of a tractor looks pretty good. Especially over the past two days, when the gnats and biting flies have come out in droves. I read that a mixture of water and vanilla works at keeping them away. And it does, for about ten minutes. Yesterday was warm and I worked in shorts and a sleeveless t-shirt. And I have bites all over my body to prove it. This morning I worked in pants and a long-sleeved t-shirt, and was able to work without as much bother. I have never seen such aggressive little bugs.

The garden this afternoon.
So the plants are covered. They're still awfully small and over the next few days, the weather service is predicting pretty good chances of severe storms, with high winds, heavy rains and hail. I would hate for all the work I've put in over the past two weeks to get pummeled into the ground or blown out of it. So when Rich suggested he help me cover up all the seedlings, I saw the wisdom in his plan. I'll keep them covered probably until Monday morning, and hopefully they'll be more established and happier plants for it. And in between all these storms, I am hoping to get a lot of weeding and even more planting done. I've got about sixty more tomato and pepper plants waiting to go in the garden. And more beans! And more herbs. And all of the melons and pumpkins and okra. That's next week. Right now, it's time to clean the house, something that has been woefully neglected lately...

Me, decked out against gnats.


  1. i think you have on all that you can against bugs: clothing. anyway, it makes you look like you've been doing this for yonks.

  2. It looks great Joe! So much progress since we were there - so amazing! Can't wait to hear about your first Farmers Market and how that goes.

  3. Annie...thank you! Sometimes working out there, I focus mostly on what needs to be done, or what hasn't worked too much... It's good to hear there's really progress!