Monday, March 21, 2011

The trial and error of spring

This is the season when I have a very difficult time working at my desk on sunny mornings. The garden, the weeds, the flowers—they all call to me as a gentle breeze blows on this first day of spring. As Margaret Atwood said, at the end of a spring day we should smell like dirt.

I certainly did smell like dirt this weekend as I planted beets and mesclun mix, planted more tomato seeds to sprout inside, dug up weeds from a raised bed and put up a greenhouse. But I also spent some time researching information I need to know for this year’s garden. Besides being a time of outdoor activity, spring is also a time of trial and error for any gardener who likes, or needs, to shake things up a bit each year.

Our greenhouse is new and definitely in an experimental stage as I’ve never used one before. I bought a thermometer with humidity meter over the weekend so I can monitor the greenhouse temperature before trusting any of my tender plants to it. I checked out a few books from the library to learn about growing seedlings in a greenhouse and I’m still reading on the subject.

Besides seeking out information about greenhouses, I also searched for a solution to the crabgrass that invaded one of our raised beds last year. We started the season by digging it out and putting down black plastic in hopes of killing it. It didn’t work. One of the problems of gardening organically is that the solutions that others report don’t always translate to your garden patch. The crabgrass spread so thickly last year that it choked out a good number of strawberries. I think I’ve lost a couple of blueberry bushes, also, but I’m trying to be patient as I watch them for signs of life.

Thus far, I haven’t found an organic method for controlling the crabgrass. Most sources of organic information don’t even address it, at least not what I’ve found. I fear we might have to resort to some sort of herbicide if we want to save that raised bed and the plants that have weathered the invasion.

Another experiment this season is growing jicama. After about three weeks, it still hasn’t sprouted. It’s a slow-growing Mexican vegetable that I so enjoy that I decided to try growing it even though I’m not sure it will be happy in this climate. Rather than seeding directly in the garden as the package suggested, I put the seeds in small pots inside. I feared that if I put it in the ground, I wouldn’t be able to distinguish it from a weed. Perhaps patience will eventually pay off.

Yes, it’s a season of trial and error as well as dirt-caked fingernails and briar-scratched skin. I love it!

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