Saturday, May 8th.
Today began with lots of sunshine, cool temps and a pleasant breeze. A perfect time to be outdoors and take care of the garden and other yard work. Remember the free mulch we received from the tree trimming service? We are moving large amounts of it to our garden. This morning, Joe's parents dropped by for a couple of hours to help. Joe's Mom shoveled mulch into the 2 wheel barrows. Joe's Dad then would bring the mulch to the garden. I worked at spreading it out between the garden rows and around the plants. We have about 3 inches of mulch layered there now. This should be plenty to help hold moisture around the plants and also to prevent weed growth. Having a large garden, we are hoping that this will make it easier to maintain.
After lunch, it is back to the garden. I am wanting to get as much planted as possible. The weather service is saying that we have a chance of rain for the next several days. I need to at least get the beans and peas planted. I am losing the window of opportunity to plant them. If not in the ground by the end of this month, it will be too late. The temperatures get too hot in June. The tender young plants will have a difficult time managing to grow and produce once the 100*+ temperatures arrive on a daily basis in late June. They need as much growing time as possible so that the plants are well established.
We managed to get a bit of preparations done in the garden while the little ones were napping. Joe is shoveling trenches and piling the soil from the trenches on the garden rows to form the raised rows. The raised rows are averaging about 12-14 inches wide. After Joe forms the mounds, I go over them with a hoe or shovel to break up any large clumps of soil. I then rake over the soil to smooth it out in preparation for planting. I am able to plant 3-4 parallel rows of a vegetable in each row. Things like root crops (carrots, beets, radishes) can have 4 rows planted per raised row and not be too crowded. I like doing this as it saves the extra work for Joe in making the mounds. It also helps with weed control. Carrots and beets need to be thinned, but I thin them when they are large enough to use as baby carrots or the small whole beets for pickling. To me, this seems a good way to prevent waste. Radishes can also be thinned once they are about 1-2 inches tall. With the roots removed, the remaining stem and leaves can be used just as you would radish sprouts on a sandwich or in a wrap to add a bit of extra flavor. Vegetables that can be planted in 3 parallel per raised row are peas, bush beans, spinach, chard, many of your smaller leafy greens, and larger root crops such as onions.
I know that some may fuss about how I plant. Gardening books and articles often state that you should plant your rows of beans 12 inches apart. Why? I have planted this way for 20+ years without any problem. The gauge that I use is the seed spacing. If I am able to plant the seeds 2 inches apart, then why do rows need to be 12 inches apart? My Dad used to plant double-rows of beans or peas, spacing the 2 rows about 2-3 inches apart. This produced a thicker bushy row of beans that shaded the ground enough to prevent most of the weed growth. I plant my root crop seeds far enough apart to allow the vegetables to grow to proper size. By eliminating the extra distance between the rows also allows me to conserve space. If we are using from the garden throughout the season, then the closer planting becomes even less of an issue.
This week, as we are able we will be adding even more raised rows/mounds and Joe will be filling up some wood crates with mulch, old hay, compost and soil to prepare them for me to plant into. I have decided to plant my leafy greens in those to prevent the rabbits from having a banquet. In future seasons, these will also be used for many of the root crops also. It will allow me to plant more of the bushy plants in the raised rows.
We are making the raised rows in the front section of the garden and the hills for the squash, pumpkin, melons, cucumbers, and any large vining plants will be in the back section. As we are preparing the garden, I am looking forward to it being fully planted. With the mulch layer on top, the garden will be so easy to tend to! The wood shipping crates that we are using for planters are a nice addition. I already have plans to plant in them earlier next season and then cover them with clear plastic to form a makeshift cold frame.
I love watching the progress that we are making. Each day, we are getting closer to being finished. Abbie has been helping with the planting and has fun giving the tomatoes a "drink of water" each day we don't have rain. Micah plays out there as we work. We find it very important to have them out there and involved as much as possible. Not only to teach them how to garden, but to teach them to work together as a family to get things done. We want them to grow up with a strong work ethic. One of the best parts of the gardening is that family time together. Working as a family on a fun project that will benefit the entire family for months to come.
May the Lord's blessings be with thee,