Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Garden chores: Planting!!

Finally, finally!! The Victoria Day long weekend arrived and it was spectacular. Mother Nature, all is forgiven! It was the perfect weekend for doing what we in Southern Ontario traditionally do -- plant our gardens.

This weekend is one of the busiest for garden centres in the region, so crowd-adverse as I am, I bought everything I needed ahead of time and stayed put in the peace and quiet of my own back yard.

In a previous post, I mentioned the concept of "square foot gardening" as described by Canadian gardening guru, Mark Cullen, in his excellent book "The New Canadian Garden". As its name states, square foot gardening involves dividing a garden plot into equal 1 foot by 1 foot squares and planting different things within each square.  This provides an excellent opportunity to practice another great gardening concept: companion planting.

First things first, though. I needed to divide my garden beds into 1-foot squares, so using bamboo stakes and some twine, I did just that:

The soil looks so dry in this photo, but it's only the surface because it's been in the sun all day.  The garden itself has been well watered and is still quite moist beneath.

Now that I have the grid laid out to guide my planting, I can sit back with a glass of wine and plot out where to plant what.

Sitting on my deck in the shade of my gazebo, I first draw diagrams of the two garden beds I am going to plant using the square-foot model. Next, I list all the various seeds and plants that will populate these two beds and, using the convenient companion planting chart in Mark's book, I mark on the diagrams where to plant or sow each plant or seed. Fortunately, nothing I am planting (tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, peas, peppers, rosemary, Italian parsley, garlic chives) are antagonistic to one another -- they are either beneficial to one another (carrots and tomatoes, for example) or neutral (any of the vegetables versus any of the herbs). So, laying out where to plant what was more a matter of how many seeds/plants I had of each type and how much space each would need as a fully grown plant.

That done, I decided it was late enough in the afternoon to call it a day and so I poured myself another glass of wine, sat on my deck, put my feet up and relaxed into a glorious spring evening.

The next day, I got busy and, using my diagrams as a guide, gathered all the seeds and seedlings together and brought them down to the garden to be planted.

I placed the pots of each of the seedlings and purchased plants in their assigned squares so I could go around planting each of them in turn without having to continually reference the diagram. I placed cages around the determinate Oroma tomato seedlings so they would be identified as such.  In this post from last year, I mention how determinate varieties of tomatoes like Oroma only produce fruit for a certain length of time before the plant dies off whereas indeterminate varieties like my Roma, Opalka and Black Brandywines will keep on producing fruit as long as you keep harvesting up until frost finally kills the plant.

I now have 5 different heirloom tomato varieties, all non-GMO:  Oroma, Roma, Opalka, Black Brandywine, and a cherry version of Black Brandywine that appeared in my garden on its own for the first time last year.  I saved seeds from it, along with my other varieties, processing them for storage over the winter. I am thrilled that all the seeds I started earlier this year have grown into strong, healthy seedlings and I am terribly excited to see if the Black Brandwine cherry tomatoes actually produce cherry tomatoes again in a second generation. Stay tuned.

For now though, in order to identify the various types of indeterminate tomatoes, I borrowed from the masking tape flag manoeuvre I used earlier on clothes pins to identify started seeds. Since indeterminate tomatoes grow on ever lengthening vines, I find these handy metal spiral stakes make great supports for them as you can wind the plants into the supports as they grow. Consulting my planting guide, I've selected enough spiral supports for each of the indeterminate tomatoes I am planting and I have marked each at the top with a masking tape flag identifying the tomato variety.

Once all the seedlings and plants have been planted and any necessary supports installed, I again consulted my planting guide and sowed seeds for heirloom rainbow carrots, non-GMO Scarlet Nantes carrots (large, nicely cylindrical and great for slicing and freezing), red, green and mixed heirloom lettuces, dill and garlic chives.  Using cedar woodworking shims bought in a bundle from Home Depot and a black permanent marker, I made and installed name tags for each of the planted areas.

And again, labours done for the day, I sat on my deck with a glass of wine and admired my efforts! Looking at similar shots to this one above from last week and the week before, I am again struck by the difference a week makes and how the garden has filled in.

According to the weather forecast, we are supposed to be in for a lovely week with higher than normal temperatures and only the occasional shower. I'm hoping it turns out to be true, but frankly I'm just happy to be on vacation this week and now that the vegetables are planted I can turn to cleaning up the rest of the yard and planting the marigolds and thyme to keep the raccoons at bay.  It may be still early yet, but I haven't noticed much evidence of them yet. I like to think that it's all the garlic I've planted around the yard (I even threw some over the back fence and into the bushes and I see it's starting to flourish there in the shade), but that's probably just wishful thinking on my part. The urban raccoons of Toronto are legendary in their craftiness, so it's just a matter of time before they pay me a visit, I'm sure!

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