Realization of the Day:
The most important thing you need to do in the garden is get your seeds and plants in the ground. Otherwise nothing else matters.
As obvious as it sounds, it's amazing how often I forget this simple fact, missing out on growing so many things each year because I'm focusing too much on all the prep work I need/want to do and not enough on the actual planting. Lettuce season in southern Missouri has come and gone, yet despite always telling people how easy it is to grow lettuce from seed, I don't have a single leaf to show for it this spring—and you know how much I love lettuce.
Your seedlings don't care if the soil isn't perfectly amended, or the pathways around your raised beds are full of weeds, or it's not the absolute ideal day for transplanting according to the lunar calendar. They just want to be put in the ground. And yesterday morning—after worming 30 lambs and before it got quite all the way up to the 103 degree heat index predicted for the day—some of the poor suffering seedlings I bought over a month ago finally were.
Along those same Just plant it already lines, I'm going to skip past several other blog posts that were supposed to precede this one in order to record—since this is supposed to be a garden journal, after all—doing something when I actually did it.
So here's what I planted yesterday:
—3 Quadrato D'Asti Giallo sweet bell peppers ('giant yellow bell pepper, beautiful and blocky, with very thick walls, sweet and rich outstanding flavor')
—2 Emerald Giant sweet bell peppers ('heavy yields of 4+" long by 3+" wide, thick-walled peppers that turn from dark green to red when mature')
—1 Yellow Monster sweet pepper ('gigantic, sunshine yellow sweet and meaty fruits can grow 8" long by 4" wide)
—4 Red California Wonder sweet bell peppers
—1 sweet basil plant (learn how to extend your basil growing season here)
The first six pepper plants were purchased for $1 each from a little rack outside a hardware store in town that a local gardener sets up each spring. They're all heirloom varieties from Baker Creek Seeds here in Missouri. The Emerald Giant and Yellow Monster are new varieties for me.
The Red California Wonder peppers are one of two 4-packs bought from the greenhouse down at the highway junction for $1.39 each. They're boring but reliable and aren't hybrids. I couldn't find any of my favorite Aconcagua sweet peppers for sale (a gorgeous variety from Baker Creek I've been growing for 14 years), but
beggars buyers can't be choosers.
I bought the basil plant at the end of March from a supermarket in St. Louis when I picked up my English friend Betty Western at the airport. I wanted to mix up some homemade Italian sausage during her farm visit, and the 'fresh' basil for sale in little plastic packets looked pathetic—and cost almost as much as the locally grown live herb plants they'd just put out. That choice was a no brainer.
And here's how I planted them:
1. On Friday morning, re-weeded the 4'x8' mini greenhouse raised bed I'd cleared out back in March, and then scuffle hoed a few weeks later, in preparation for planting lettuce seeds (which never got planted) and fed most of the green matter I pulled out to the chickens (which they mostly didn't eat). You can see photos of my raised beds here and read about the mini greenhouse beds in the comments section of that post.
2. Discovered several volunteer kale plants growing among the weeds, which the chickens do love to eat. (One of those previously planned posts is all about how to grow almost free green food nearly year round for your chickens. I'll get to it one of these days.)
3. Decided not to bother picking out all the little rocks staring up at me in the bed after weeding because it would take too much time, I was too lazy to empty out the nearby bucket already filled with rocks from last year or go find another one, and they always seem to somehow grow back anyway.
4. Used a hoe to turn the soil and then smooth it out.
5. Sprinkled the bed with 2 cups of granulated corn gluten, an organic method for preventing weeds from growing that really works (another previously planned post!—hopefully up soon) and worked it into the top two inches of soil with a metal rock rake.
6. Laid out the planting holes so they were at least 2 feet from each other, then adjusted because the kale plants were in the way. If any of the plants had had flowers or tiny peppers on them, I would have snipped them off so the plant would expend its energy growing bigger before fruiting.
7. Dug the holes with my beloved Korean style hand plow (also called a Ho-Mi Digger/Cultivator and an EZ-Digger), then in the interest of streamlining the operation, skipped putting any amendments in the planting holes. These would normally be most or all of the following: compost, sheep manure, granulated kelp (fed to the livestock), calcium mineral mix (livestock), two aspirin tablets, epsom salt, crushed eggshells, and probably something else I'm forgetting.
The plan is to heavily mulch the plants with sheep manure/bedding hay soon (like this) which will prevent weeds from growing after the corn gluten stops working in six weeks, while providing a slow release of organic fertilizer each time the plants are watered.
8. Picked up at least a couple dozen of the rocks while digging despite my plan not to, and since there was no bucket handy, tossed them in the corners of the raised bed, which means they'll still have to be picked up again and/or they'll just end up getting mixed back into the soil.
9. Built up little circles of soil around each plant to help hold water, then watered the seedlings and the volunteer kale plants with 4 gallons of water.
10. Clipped two old bedsheets over the mini greenhouse PVC frame to shade the bed and keep everything from keeling over in the blasted heat. Ideally, seedlings should be transplanted in the late afternoon or evening before a cloudy day, but if you can't, shading them helps tremendously. You can make a similar setup with bamboo stakes, which have countless uses in the garden. You can read more about making your own shade in my previous post, Gardening on the Cheap.
11. Looked with pleasure at a job finally done.
I really wanted to get some tomato plants in the ground first, but that mini greenhouse bed (which looks a little odd because it's missing a piece of pvc pipe at one end) was the easiest one to clear out, and the tomato plants would have been too tall for it.
Last summer my sweet pepper plants went into the ground so late they were still loaded with unripe fruits when the temperature started dropping in autumn. I picked a bunch of the green peppers and let them ripen indoors (yet another blog post), but my plan this year is to cover the mini greehouse frame with plastic and be able keep the plants alive at least through October.
During previous years, it seems like the plants I make the most detailed notes about usually end up dying. Let's hope that doesn't happen with these!
Did you know that you can easily freeze sweet peppers to enjoy all year long? No blanching required. Click here to learn how.
So how's your planting going this year? Everything in the ground? Nothing in the ground? Somewhere inbetween? I can't be the only one so behind with everything can I? I haven't give up hope yet (there's always autumn lettuce!), but I have to admit I've already started planning for next year.
© FarmgirlFare.com, the tired of the summer heat and summer hasn't even started yet foodie farm blog where I once read about a woman who got so fed up with the sun baking all of her plants that she spent a small fortune erecting a shadecloth cover for her entire two acre garden. I can totally relate.