Saturday, June 18, 2011

june 11 2011: packing problems

On the morning of June 11, I approached the day’s plan with some anxiety. Entire beds were empty, their rows of earlier sown seeds stillborn, victims of poor watering and unseasonable chill. We seemed to be behind schedule. I voiced my concern to Dave, who diagnosed me with having the early season anxieties that beset almost all gardeners, even professional ones such as he. He thought that we had planned well enough, and then recommended that I coordinate the day’s planting of seedlings.

When I reviewed the flats that were arranged in the shade of the plum trees, I understood the reason for Dave’s confidence. There were at least two full flats of kale, three flats of peppers, a flat of basil, and another donation of tomato starts from Slow Food Chicago.

I started to lay out seed pots in the empty beds. As I have been doing with tomato starts, I arranged the pots of pepper and kale plants in a triangular grid pattern in the beds. Matrice and Ian next transplanted the starts to the beds and watered them in.

This year, we avoided mixing sweet and hot varieties of peppers. Most of our nearly four beds of peppers are of sweet varieties: Chocolate; Red and Orange Bell; Beaver Dam; and Bullnose. The hot varieties that we planted should be sufficient, though. We have a half-bed of rare Rooster Spurs, as well as a half-dozen Fatali peppers—with a heat rating range of 125,000-350,000, the sixth hottest pepper in the Periodic Table of Scoville Units.

We soon filled empty beds of stillborn spinach and mustard with kale and peppers. We wound up with a few stray pots of each. We also still had the tomatoes and basil to plant. I had a new anxiety: where to put the rest of our seedlings. Our packing problem was complicated by the need to respect the growing habits of the current occupants of beds. It would not, for example, make sense to plant kale starts in the dodecahedron bed, where they would be overtaken by the butternut squash.

We planted the remainder of the kale plants next to our bunching onions. The Fatalis went between rows of radishes and turnips in this year’s beet bed (14). We planted a tomato start in each space in the dodecahedron bed where a planting of Bloomsdale spinach had failed to germinate. We stuck a few tomatoes in large pots that we arranged at the feet of raised beds.

When we had finished, almost every bed in the garden had been planted. We kept a small section of bed 14 open for sweet potato slips that Dave Short is growing in his kitchen.

While we fit seedlings into available nooks, Dave made the first delivery of the season to Vital Bridges: radishes and herbs. When he returned, he and Annie removed flowers from the radish plants and weeded.

After all of the seedlings were in, we started to put up fences. Thinking that we were out of fencing, John and I went to the nearby Ace Hardware and purchased what turned out to be two surprisingly expensive lengths of chicken wire. It didn’t help that I later found two rolls of wire hidden in the ferns behind the shed.