Monday, May 19, 2014

Veggie gardening, Front Range style

We did very little vegetable gardening at our Chicago house. In our last couple of years there, we put in a small raised bed and successfully grew radishes, cucumbers, and lettuce, but then I got busy with other stuff and left the garden to go feral. (You're welcome, bunnies!)

Growing food has always been a desire of ours, and now we finally have the space to do it right. TMCH and I plotted (ha!) our ideas independently, and are gradually phasing them in. He put in a raised bed on one of the burn scars south of the house, for direct outdoor planting. Instead of planting in rows, he's following the principles of Square-Foot Gardening. The bed is surrounded with logs (of course) and filled with bagged garden soil. Long-term, we'll think about getting several yards of soil delivered, but Year 1 is for low-cost experimentation!

So far, TMCH has planted spinach, onions, carrots, and lettuce. Despite the often sub-freezing overnight weather and a very amusing 21-inch snowfall on May 11, his little seedlings are popping up and looking good!

Meantime, I decided to try starting seeds indoors for the first time. I invested in a cheap shoplight with daylight spectrum bulbs, a couple of plastic humidity trays, and some seed-starting mix. I also "liberated" some large aluminum baking sheet-type-things from a "Surplus" pile in the hallway at work. They make lovely sturdy drip trays. I set up in the laundry room with the light on a timer, and planted all sorts of stuff.

The tomatoes, cauliflower, and broccoli I recently transplanted into larger containers with soil and compost. I planned to do the same with the peppers, but time and weather have really not been conducive lately. When transplanting, I learned that one plant per cell really is ideal. If you have multiple seedlings in one cell, getting their roots disentangled is tough, and pinching off all but one seems so heartless! I water as needed with a weak solution of fish emulsion. It seems to do a great job but holy cow does it smell bad. On the plus side, the dogs love me!

Yesterday afternoon I started the "hardening off" process. Hardening off, it turns out, means "take your plants outside, totally forget about them, leave them out overnight, then shrug and say 'They didn't die so I guess they're done hardening off.'" I'm not sure this was the lesson I was supposed to learn, but whatever works, right?

Next weekend, I plan to get all these juniors into containers. I will probably keep them all inside the yard to protect them from the deer. The rabbits, however, are another story...