Date: Friday, February 22, 2013

December and January are over, the coldest days are behind us, and the days are getting longer. My plants are in their "crazy stages" where they start to grow uncontrollably into a jungle-like mess. A quick update on the state of my garden and also some commentary at the end:

Lettuce and cabbage. It has been about 3.5 months since I planted these things and I expected them to be almost ready to pick by now, but as you can see they are still only past the sprouting stage. We'll cover that in the commentary at the end.

Cauliflower, broccoli, and brussel sprouts. These plants have the same growth problem as the lettuce and cabbage. Makes sense since they are right next to each other. A clue to my theories below.

Snap peas and snow peas. These are the most disappointing, growth-wise. I mean, they've only grown a few feet past their cages. I would have expected by now they would have covered my house. They're not even climbing the walls for Christ's sake! What's a guy got to do to grow things around here?

Carrots and white onions. Again, I thought I might be harvesting these by now. Doing this for the first time, it is difficult to tell if this is normal, if I'm doing something wrong, or if I just have a bunch of anomalous poor growing plants.

Kale, bok choy, and michihli. Now here we go. The bok choy and the michihli were the fastest growing plants in my garden. So fast and so big that it's hard to keep up consuming them. You can see that some have already gone to flower, which means that they are pretty much inedible. You gotta move fast with these guys. The kale, however, is also one of the slower ones. Again, not sure if this is normal or me.

Arugula, lettuce, spinach, cilantro, and celery. Grow your own arugula. Do not pay for it. People treat it like some sort of elite leaf, but growing them is easy and prolific. They act like weeds. Speaking of weeds...

No, not marijuana. It looks like I have some bonus plants growing just outside my boxes. The size difference between the plants that were and were not actively taken care of is readily apparent.

My overall impression of the garden is mixed. I have some excellent and some not so excellent plants growing right now. Certainly, I have learned a whole lot from this first foray into cool season crops. One very important realization is the optimal temperature range of cool season plants is not 40-55 degrees like it has consistently been of late. In fact, I was given a strangely appropriate chart of planting periods adapted for my home town. Here is what it tabulates:

Jan-Feb: CauliflowerMay-June: Winter Squash, Watermelons, Muskmelons
Feb-Mar: Brussels SproutsJul-Aug: Cauliflower
Feb-Apr: CarrotsAug-Mar: Cabbage
Apr- : EggplantAug-Apr: Broccoli
Apr-May: TomatoesSep-Mar: Spinach
Apr-Jun: CucumbersSep-Apr: Peas, Radishes
Apr-Jul: CornSep-May: Lettuce
Apr-Aug: BeansSep-Nov: Brussels Sprouts
May- : Peppers, Summer SquashOct-Nov: Onions

Wait, carrots in February? Broccoli in August? Wow, I was way off. I planted everything in November. I guess "cool season" really just means "not-the-hottest" season. I have a new theory that these types of plants will thrive in temperatures more like 65-75 degrees. For now, I am attributing the slow growth of my plants to the weather, as well as the short days and shady areas which give them little sunlight. I am unsure if these factors have permanently stunted their growth, but I really hope not. If anything, I would at least hope these plants are able to flower so I can have some legacy seeds.

Another thing I want to comment on is plant spacing. I am starting to think that spacing only needs to be considered for plants with distinctive fruits, heads, or bulbs that are harvested specifically. Things like watermelon plants need a lot of space for the roots and vines to run uninterrupted, so that the biggest, juiciest melon can be grown. Other things like lettuce, arugula, and spinach do not need such consideration, because in these cases it is the quantity of leaves, not so much the quality of leaves, that is important. Next time, instead of distinctively spacing out my leafy plants, I am just going to spread them out in the dirt and lightly rake them in. This will probably lead to smaller plants overall, but twice the amount.

Some updates on various garden related things. The compost tumbler I have seems to be doing its job, although I'm not sure how so many bugs and flies get into something that is sealed most of the time. Adding a catalyst like soil amendment would speed up the composting process, but I have not done so yet.

My first bok choy and michihli picks. Michihli is not nappa, although they resemble one another. This was an unfortunate realization.

Celery, the oh so elusive and unrewarding plant, is growing rather nicely. If I can sprout celery from seed, I think I can sprout just about anything.

Last but not least is the pineapple plant, which after about six weeks has finally started to grow roots. It was a small and weak looking head from the start, which may be why it took longer to get going. Sprouting directions are pretty simple and I'm giving myself enough credit that I didn't screw up the process. Maybe plants just don't like me.

I haven't had too much time to update on a regular basis, though I suppose not that much has happened in the time between posts except for the plants got bigger. I'll try to work in some new topics and styles for some variety. If anyone needs lettuce or arugula let me know. Seriously.

The Mole Hole