Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Experimentation season begins

Every year, my gardening adventures include at least one or two experiments. I learn and adapt my approach as needed for better future success. This year I’m incorporating lessons from past gardening seasons and trying a few new tactics.

Greenhouse growing
We received a small, plastic-covered greenhouse as a gift a few years ago and enjoyed it immensely. It turned out to be a wonderful location for growing our seedlings to planting size. We also sprouted some of the seeds in the greenhouse once the weather warmed. Plus, on the cooler days, one of my joys was walking into that warm greenhouse.

However, our greenhouse only lasted two years. We originally placed it too close to the edge of our garden where Jim ran over a piece of it with the mower. Once the plastic ripped in one place, no amount of taping repair could keep the rip from growing and replicating in other places.

This time, we’ve placed the greenhouse further into the garden. When we no longer need it for spring growing, I can take it down to spare it standing in summer weather it doesn’t need to endure. Then I can put it up once again when I need it for the fall. Since it doesn’t take more than 30 minutes to assemble, once I know what I’m doing, it isn’t a big job to re-locate it.

There are seedlings in it right now and on sunny days I need to raise the door flap for awhile to cool it off. The herbs, cabbage and broccoli inside look happy, just as I am when I enter that warmth.

Vegetable choice
Two weekends ago I was thrilled to spending one of my sunny weekend days planting seeds in the garden instead of working inside my heated house to fill pots with soil and seeds. I made spaces for spinach, kale, kohlrabi and rutabagas. One of the spinach varieties (Dolce Vita) is new to me and I’ve never even eaten a rutabaga, much less grown then. When they sprout, I’ll need to find photos of what the leaves are supposed to look like to I don’t weed out the actual plants, a problem I had the first year I tried to grow jicama. If my experiment makes it to the harvest stage, I’ll also be searching for recipes for this root vegetable.

Lasagna gardening
Three months ago we built a “lasagna garden” bed on one-third of our garden. After laying out the cardboard, we covered it with compost topsoil then straw. Now it’s time to begin planting there.

My plan for this year is to use it for seedlings rather than seeds; I assume the straw layer would prohibit germination. So I’ve started with a few cabbage, brussell sprout and onion plants. When I first separated the straw to find the soil into which I could plant the onions, I was surprised at how difficult it was to work through the straw. Eventually, however, I found a good routine and became less fearful of moving some of the straw so it would be easier to make a space for the plant. So far, everything looks happy.

Experimentation adds fun to my gardening adventure. What experiments are you trying in this year’s garden?