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Incoming BYTES
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Friday, May 20, 2011

There's More to this Gardening Stuff than Meets the Eye

       Okay, I have to admit that I'm not  just a  thinker or an observer, critic or news-follower, and I'm not a socio-political junkie hell-raiser except at election time. I am not totally engrossed in  prospecting, watching the stock market or delving into the world of finance either. 
    I don't have much to complain about even if the price of gasoline is killing our economy and our pocketbooks both as we speak. Just forget all that stuff for now.  
 I actually have a soft spot, a hobby.
    I actually like gardening .  I like growing stuff.  It's in my blood. I have apple trees, pear trees, cherry trees,  and  bonsai trees, you know those cute little ones in pots, I graft stuff, and we even have some grapevines. It's in the blood.    I have a whole lot of natural  bush to look after too. I rescue and replant trees every year from locations they would otherwise  soon suffer death in, like under power lines, in ditches, and those in dire need of being moved because they have innocently chosen to sprout  adjacent to buildings. 
   I move those babies to a place where they're safe-- to my forest, the castle, you know, the place where you can't see the forest for the trees?  

      I like organic vegetables too. It's food.  We  like growing peas, cabbage, corn and carrots. I like seeing garlic sprout as soon as the snow is gone,  almost as fast as the crocuses.  The chives come up all by themselves, no problem there.  I even try to grow potatoes without a whole lot of luck. Don't forget tomatoes. The big Beefsteak type.  They're getting legs  under grow lights now and will be planted outside in the garden. Sooner or later.
As long as the weather cooperates, that is.  

     Summer is getting closer as we speak, but somehow  it sure doesn't feel like gardening weather.   I won't offer any excuses for complaining. Farmers always complain about the weather down at Timmie's  even if it's only tongue-in-cheek,  pragmatically or just a point of pride. A Farmer's right.    The truth is,  I  don't like cold weather much,  I  like being warm much  better than being chilled to the bone.   Okay, let's be TOTALLY honest. Seriously.  Cold is bad. There, the truth comes out. 

     Why?  Look at the calendar. it's May 19th.   There was heavy frost on the windshield a couple of days ago--and how can that possibly help grow  tomatoes and potatoes ?   The soil in the garden still  feels icy  cold. Only a few days away from planting, because  May 24th is our "usual" get-out-in-the-garden-and-plant-it-come-hell-or-high-water  planting date in our area.    
We're concerned. We'll need ear-muffs instead of a sun hat.  

      Is there a heat wave on the way?   We keep looking for one, but no,  it's still relatively cold.   Mother Nature, we need a weather miracle. Maybe we need one, but the world is supposed to end  on Saturday the 21st.  Did you hear about that?   No matter, the garden has to be planted anyway.
     As serious gardeners we always need to know stuff like the world is ending and   the temperature  of the soil and what kind of floods and  tornadoes are working themselves into a frenzy out Manitoba way.  We need to read the Farmer's Almanac and get gloves with green thumbs too.   Why?  We have enough agricultural  experiments on the loose out in the 100' long garden to satisfy any mad biologist. We have rototillers, big and small.  A Troybilt "Horse"  and a Mantis, the tiny kind.  Big and small, we grow it all. 
     We grow stuff.  We grew tomatilloes that are only supposed to grow in warm places. They seeded themselves down and grew like weeds here in NW Ontario. We made salsa. And more salsa.  We're trying for ground cherries next. I like pie, that's what ground cherries are for.  
     We mulched everything on raised beds, all 14 of them.  We don't have straw, so we use hay. We use leaves.  We use sawdust.  The earthworms love it.  The big 8" kind.  We noticed mulch kills off most of the weeds--not all of them by any means, but lots  of them. Mulch is good stuff for gardeners.  
     Our thumbs are turning greener by the minute, soon we won't even need gloves with green thumbs ---if the frost melts off of the rototiller, that is.  It looks like we'll have to wait for the pie. Go figure. 

     A few days ago we waited with abated breath for a parcel too.  It finally arrived.  We ordered  a special soil thermometer from those nice helpful  Lee Valley folks just  to test the temperature difference between mulched garden beds and garden soil that is not mulched;  a.k.a. real garden dirt exposed to what little sun and frost and other assorted variations of weather  we have had in the last few days. As an aside, we got an apple peeler too, for apple pie. You should see how fast that gadget peels  apples, cores and slices them in a flash.  Fast pie, no waiting for the weather there.  

"Wouldn't that let the frost in?? "
The difference in measured soil temperatures  was astounding.  Several readings were taken of each soil condition in comparable, close locations, and they were taken at the same depth,  just to observe sound scientific principles:   

  • Ordinary, bare but  undisturbed,  clay loam uncultivated soil  averaged: 14C
  •  Soil newly uncovered and cultivated 3 days previous, -- with no mulch averaged :   15 to 16C.
  •  Undisturbed garden  Soil with 4" of hay mulch left on it  was 10C to  11 C.
For the Celsius-challenged,at  zero in Celsius  water is ice--frozen solid.

      Clearly if we wanted the soil to warm up earlier, the mulch should have been pulled aside earlier.  Wouldn't that let the frost in?  Yup. Only a rocket scientist could figure that one out. 

      Regardless,  five degrees  (Celsius)   is  a LOT of  heat and makes a big difference to seeds. If they're not planted in soil that is adequately warm, they sit and do not germinate.  If the crows don't get them first.  Seeds can even rot and disappear before your very eyes, making you think you missed those few rows.      Corn  is best at doing that trick because it's tricky stuff. 
It's a conspiracy-weeds are best at growing at ANY temperature. 
     For added entertainment, and the advancement  of our agricultural know-how,  Lee Valley also sent an eye-opener along with that special Soil and Compost thermometer.  I suspected that right away. Something to read while we await the melting of frost.  It was a list.  A bucket list, maybe.  A list of  ideal soil temperatures  satisfactory for the planting of different types of vegetables,  transplanted or seeded directly. A list for waiting and dreaming.  
     Imagine that, a bucket list that runs from Asparagus to TurnipsTwenty-seven kinds.  So far, according to the temperatures I have recorded above, I can grow cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, garlic, peas, and leaf lettuce.   
I can grow those-- if it warms up enough to go outside and actually plant the stuff. 
Meantime, about the price of gas....and that election...where's that Farmer's Almanac anyway? 

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.


  1. Are you in the wine business too?

  2. Very interesting! This is quite a twist to your other blogs that I've read.
    hehe.... the world ending on May 21st??? lol... that really got me bursting with laughter. Oh yes, gardening has to go on, nonetheless. What are you waiting for? Get your gardening tools out and get set. Am sure the temperatures are about to change. :)

    And... I am yet to taste apple pie.

  3. Raymond, can we say greenhouse? We need one if we're ever to get gardening on OUR terms. Yes, expecting things to grow when we want them too may be unreasonable but since when are gardeners reasonable??? Supply the apples and I'll make you the pie!

  4. @ John, no, not in the wine business, just growing a few table grapes! Some actually survive here!

    @ Mandy, somebody that knows more than I do suggested the world is coming to an end on Saturday, the 21st. He was wrong before, he can be wrong again, so I 'll plant the garden anyway. The temperatures ARE changing.

    @ Glory, gardeners are stubborn, aren't they, I already have a greenhouse, I just need a bigger one, about 40 acres in size would suffice. Thanks for the apple pie ! ": )

  5. Sir Raymond, I enjoyed your post-- very lyrically written, too! You have motivated me to get off my duff and go take some pics for my blog...but first I will have to put on all my rain gear.....


  6. words jumping off page, like elves in the worm castings...joy to the garden and don't forget the turnips, mustard greens and broccoli..all crucifera--plus New-Zealand spinach and Swiss chards; they like it colder and will poke their heads out by first sun if below the raised bed borders..no tilling, just mulching required..

    have you tried thin apple slices on tart shell, a small amount of alsatian cream on top and bake at 400 degrees till brown..mmm!
    Alsatian custard filling easy way..
    in jar--1 cup milk or half and half cream, i egg (i use 2), 4 tbsp flour, 1/2 cup raw sugar or 1/4 honey..tsp of vanilla, pinch salt--shake-shake-shake...pour in sauce pan, bring to slow boil, stir well. pour on top of thin apple slices couched in circular pattern in pie shell.
    bake away.. bon appetit!

  7. @ Julie, stay dry, and those are great pictures, thank you for sharing.

    @ Nadine, thank you for those gardening tips and that recipe, I've never tasted that one, will try it! Thanks!


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