Monday, May 2, 2016

Garden chores: transplanting rhubarb, sowing peas

With another beautiful Saturday upon us, I got an early start to the day because there was I lot I wanted to accomplish. While the coffee was brewing I got busy and set up my portable greenhouse.

I bought it at Lowes and I've been using it now for a few years as a sort of cold-frame in which to harden off seedlings in after they come up from under the lights of the nursery. I initially set it up in the dining room to hold court until later in the month, but after checking the long-range weather forecast (like THAT'S ever right!), decided to take a chance and put it out on the deck where it will get full sun.

Tomatoes, zinnias and marigolds out in the morning sun!
I only had managed to up-pot my Black Brandywine cherry tomatoes at this point, so I brought them up and put them out in the greenhouse.  I am keeping the zinnias and marigolds in their cellpacks until I plant them in the garden, so I brought them up and put them in the greenhouse as well.  I cut open a white plastic bag into a flat sheet and ran it over the top of the greenhouse frame, but under the clear plastic cover to act as a diffuser to protect the seedlings from the harsh mid-day sun.

Meanwhile, back in the nursery there's space now for me to start some more marigolds, some pickling cucumbers and a bit of dill to go with them. I made a killer batch of garlic dills a couple of years ago and I'm hoping to do it again this year!  It rained on Sunday so I spent it up-potting the remaining tomatoes and putting them out in the greenhouse and then got busy and planted the marigold, cucumber and dill seeds as well as some mystery seeds my friend Colin gave me.  He thinks they may be Russell Lupins, but we will see.  It will be interesting if they are because I have never had much luck with them.

Anyway, I had the greenhouse out on the deck and the tomatoes, zinnias and marigolds were now in it and the coffee was ready, so I poured myself a mug and took it outside to survey the site.

This is where the rhubarb has lived for the past 3 or 4 years and it's never done very well.  I get lots of stalks, but they are all small and skinny.  This spot doesn't get much sun.  It was about 8:30am when I took this picture and you can see the shadow from the shed already starting to creep over the bed. I had been wanting to move them for a few years now and today was the day!

This is where the rhubarb will live from now on.  I used my trusty garden claw to turn over a bed alongside the cherry tree.  This photo was taken at the same time as the one above and within an hour or so it will be in full sun.  Since rhubarb is a rather heavy feeder and likes compost and composted manure, I will dig some of each into the bed prior to moving the plants.

My compost pile hasn't seen much action over the past couple of years, so it was ready for a good digging. A couple of wheelbarrow loads of compost and three bags of manure and the bed was good to go!

Snug in their new home!  And you can see the sun is just about over my neighbour's fence and it's not even 9:30am at this point.  With all this sun and lots of nutrients, I'm hoping to get some glorious big rhubarb stalks this year.

Next up were the peas.

I've been reading an excellent book by Canadian garden guru Mark Cullen called "The New Canadian Garden" and a couple of points have inspired me.  One is raised beds.  Although it would be a bit too much for me to build raised beds for this year, I will look into building them this fall in time for next year.  So, in preparation I decided to measure out plots where the raised beds will go in the hopes of maximizing the available garden real estate. Three feet wide seems to be optimal which allows you to reach all plants without having to bend or stretch too far.  I've decided to make mine 18" high instead of the usual 12" to allow me to accumulate more good soil and lessen the amount I have to bend to tend to my plants.

So, using a tape measure and a long stick as a guide, I mapped out and dug a 3-foot wide bed for my peas.

I used the garden claw to loosen and turn over the soil as well as remove weeds (which it does wonderfully!) and dig in some more manure and compost.

A couple of years ago, I devised this system of drilled wooden posts strung with twine to act as supports for the peas as they grow.  This picture shows everything in place with peas already in the ground.  I will continue to sow a few more peas every 2 weeks until the end of June so I will have a supply of peas throughout the summer.

This coming weekend, weather permitting, I will dig the other beds and plant some lettuce and carrots using the other point I picked up from Mark's book: square foot gardening.

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