Digging in the Dirt

I got a good workout on Monday. I found myself telling Stanley that I just had to "get the corn in" this weekend, and he laughed to hear me talking like just another Wisconsin farmer.

The corn is Cherokee white flour corn - an heirloom variety bred specifically for making corn meal. It's going to be the base for the cornbread that we'll serve at our wedding in October. My task on Monday was to finish preparing the soil and get it planted at our community garden space, which just two years ago was a highway on ramp to US30.

Even after one year of work, the ground at our plot is heavily compacted and the soil is very low quality. It resembles cement more than anything else.... but there's lots of sun, and if we can build it up it will be a wonderful spot in years to come. There's a part of me that loves the fact that I'm turning a little patch of Earth that would barely grow weeds into a lush garden using just my own (and Stanley's) manpower.

The ground is so hard here that last year we ended up working it a little, but mostly just growing in compost spread on top. This worked wonderfully for a month or so, until the roots hit the hard soil - they plants did miserably after that and we barely got anything at all from it. This year we took a different tact. Stanley did the bulk of the hardest work, turning the soil and loosening it up about a a foot down.

I then trucked about 14 large wheelbarrows full of compost (the city drops is off for free) and worked it in, leveling and breaking up the clods as I went. This was hard work, but quire rewarding in the end. This is actually starting to resemble something that might be called a growing medium!

My plan for this garden is a traditional "three sisters" garden, with corn, beans, and squash. All of it is for the wedding: dry beans for baked beans and pie pumpkins for our cake. Renee's Garden has a nice description of how to do the Three Sisters planting which I followed almost exactly.

The plot is 16' x 25', so I used twine and a measuring tape to measure 3 long rows. It's hard to see in this picture, but I used rocks to mark every 5 feet staggered along the rows. This is where the corn and bean mounds will go.

Here are the completed mounds, with the fence that Stanley built to keep the critters out. I loosened the soil underneath the mounds really well and used a little more compost to build them up. I was careful to incorporate some of the existing soil as well so that the plants aren't shocked when they find out what this garden plot is really made of. Each mound has four corn seeds planted in a square. Once the corn is up, the beans will get planted in the same mounds (they'll grow up the corn), and the pumpkins will be planted in mounds between the corn/bean mounds. Cool, huh?

I realized that I have way more space than I need for the few pie pumpkins we'll use for the wedding, so I ordered four different varieties of pumpkins to use as decoration at the wedding: Cinderella, Velenciano (a white variety), Black Futsu, and Musque de Provence. How fun!

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Flying By

We made it. We're finally to that magical week of the year when things seem to grow overnight... all of sudden we've gone from a gray and brown landscape to a lush green growing flowering one. So what if it's not as warm as I might like?

First, the community garden on Main Street......

The garlic I planted last fall is beautiful, as is the lettuce that Mom put in in April. I don't know if she meant to make a smiley face, but she did. I like it.

No string yet, but I pounded in the posts for the snap peas' trellis on Sunday. Zucchini and cucumbers will go where the weeds currently are, and I'm carving out some space behind the peas for melons. I'm growing HaOgen melons, not too many, but after my melons failures last year I had to give it another shot.

These suckers are ready to grow. I realized after I planted them that these are Nicola potatoes, not the Yellow Finn that I ordered. Oh well, they'll work. These are destined to be roasted for our wedding feast.

Two rows of Mountain Rose (not for the wedding) and five rows of Nicola.

Dave planted a bunch of onion sets - over a hundred onions I think.

The broccoli and cauliflower that I started from seed way back in mid-March is planted and starting to grow. April was a cold, wet month, and the plants took a beating when I took them outside to harden off. They are making up for it now. What doesn't kill them makes them stronger?

OK, now for the home garden.....

I have all but two of the five beds in the side yard planted. Here are the shelling peas, salad mix, and lettuce.

This one is planted in yellow onions (for the wedding!). After I took this picture I filled the back third with statice that I started from seed. Very soon I'll plant globe amaranth seeds as well. I'm growing many more flowers than usual in hopes that I'll have enough for the wedding. Getting married is fun.

The third bed is planted with cilantro and bronze fennel seeds (not up yet), and a few bells of Ireland seedlings that I started way back in March. I didn't have great luck germinating them, but if all goes well I'll have at least a few to dry for the wedding.

The strawberries that I planted in April are starting to leaf out. There are a few blooms starting on a couple of the plants. This year I'll have to pick the flowers off... next year we will have berries. It's hard to plant something and then have to wait a year to see any harvest, but it will be worth it no doubt.

Today I planted a bunch of my strawflower seedlings on the North end of the strawberry bed. I love the semantic connection.

The little bed in the patio is really coming together. So far I have a few ferns that I transplanted from the side of the house (they were nice plants but in a horrible spot right by the trash can), an alchemilla, oregano, two nice hostas, lamb's ear, a delphinium, catnip. I should really stop.

I thought the ferns were molding, but when I looked closer I saw that these are spores. It's fern sex! What's the difference between spores and seeds? Seeds are the result of sexual plant reproduction. Spores have male and female parts inside of them. It's only after they've left the plant and the "conditions are right" that they get together and make baby ferns.

Don't forget our cute little apple tree. This is the dwarf honeycrip that we put in bare root in April. It's going to flower!

My remaining seedlings... strawflowers, cherry tomatoes (Mom has the rest of the tomatoes), asters, a little more statice. Mostly what I have is strawflowers - a lot of them. They will be abundant at our October wedding.

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