By LYNNE IRONS
My kitchen sink is clogged! I am using the time while waiting for the plumber to monitor my water usage. I have been hauling the dishpan outside and emptying it on the garden. I use a biodegradeable soap (Shaklee Basic-H) so it is perfectly fine on the still dormant plants. I have, for years, been priding myself on being very thrifty with water. I turn it off while teeth brushing, take ridiculously short showers, never let it run while doing dishes, and have installed a water-saving toilet.
While growing up in Rew, Pa., we had a town water supply that was less than dependable. We were always taught that there was not an endless supply of the resource. In this day and age it is becoming more and more apparent that water will become more important and politically volatile than oil.
At any rate, to my horror, I discovered that I use gallons of the stuff just to clean a few dishes and scrub my supper vegetables. I took the experiment into the bathroom and placed a little pail under the sink, only to find I use quarts just to splash some water on my face in the morning. I have made a vow to become hyperaware in the future. I like to do my part in good stewardship of creation.
My chard and radishes have emerged in the large planting tubs in the unheated hoop house. I neglected to label anything so it’s still too soon to identify exactly what is happening. They are the same size as the spinach and lettuce I planted three weeks prior. It just goes to show: I never learn. I just continue to be amused at my impulsiveness.
Last July I seeded some beets in those tubs outside. Because I had used sterile compost they grew relatively weed-free and were ignored. I brought the tubs into the greenhouse in November. They froze solid for a couple of months but this past week I wrestled the beets loose and was rewarded with several meals of nearly tennis-ball-sized roots. They were not mushy as they tend to be if left outside in the ground.
I started all my onions and leeks from seed and now have to drag the flats out into some cold frames. There is simply no more room in the inn. I need the space since I have begun transplanting snapdragons. I never have good luck with them since I usually start too late and am loathe to thin them. This year I am determined, as many of my customers are fond of them and I need a cash crop to justify my garden expenditures.
Luckily my cold frames are on the north end of the garden with wonderful southern exposure. The snow melted in that area right away while the other side is still the tundra. Note in your own garden where the thawed patches are located, and place a tarp or black plastic to collect even more heat and hold down new weeds. That will be your area in which to plant your first crops.
I saw my first dead skunk along the side of the road. I wonder if they hibernate very long here. I already have my old nemesis, the raccoon, back every night on my upstairs deck. He actually tries to open the sliding glass door. I think he might succeed if it weren’t locked. The creepy thing is that I do not have a staircase up to that deck. He climbs up the side of the house. Think twice about open windows even on the second floor. I wish I were making this up! If you have chickens you must close them up every night. He will kill every one just for sport. I loathe them!
I ordered blueberry bushes from the Nourse company in western Massachusetts. You don’t even want to know how many. I am putting them in my new garden. There are early season, mid, late mid, late and very late varieties. Naturally, I purchased some of each. My friend Sharlee bought 24 plants over 10 years ago. They are now enormous and she picks all season. Her freezer is full of them. I am jealous because I bought them at the same time and managed to kill mine. I am committed this time, or is it I need to be committed? Remember, blueberries need an acid soil, so do not lime; the use of wood chips is encouraged. Six mature plants will feed a family of four for a year.
Homegrown met last Sunday afternoon. There were over 25 in attendance. Abigail brought a couple of favorite tools to show and tell. We talked about getting started on home fruit production. The soft fruits are a good place to start: strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and currants occupied quite a bit of our own conversation. We moved on to the trees and talked about pruning and removing some of the baby fruit early on, to encourage growth of the fewer remaining.
April 10 at the Polly Hill Arboretum, John Bunker from Fedco will be conducting an apple-grafting workshop. Sounds like it could be an interesting event.
Next meeting we will share some seedlings and seeds. We talked about the pros and cons of black plastic mulch, especially on tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. March 8 was our target date for seeding our peppers. They take a good while to germinate and grow very slowly.
I was amused this past week with the British journalist who spent a bit of time speculating about Vice President Joe Biden’s forehead. She wondered if he had suffered an injury but was then taken aside and reminded that it was Ash Wednesday. She remarked, “I’m a terrible Catholic — I hang my head in shame!” For some reason, I got so tickled by it that I have laughed all week. Pity her when her mother calls.