Sunday, May 10, 2009

Changing my mind and planting out

In contrast to yesterday's torrential downpours, Toronto enjoyed a beautiful spring day today. Since yesterday (May 9) was the average last frost day here inspired me to look at my planting calendar. It suggested that this was the weekend to plant seeds for sunflowers, nasturtiums, carrots and onions and that I should already have transplanted my lettuces and broccoli...on April 4!

Since frost seems unlikely, I spent a few hours in the garden today. I'd already directly sown my peas (think I see one peeking up today), a few radishes (doing well), arugula (not sure if it's up or if those are just weeds) and fava beans. The fava beans are doing fabulously, as you can see from the photo above.

In that same photo you'll notice a lot of straw. David and Alison, who live upstairs, have two lovely, fluffy rabbits named Emma and Amanda. These wonderful little fertilizer machines have been providing top dressing all winter long. My plan had been to use their bedding as mulch and just open up spaces for planting. Gardening the no-dig way! Yay!

However, weeding through the straw is a pain and there are a lot of plants to go in. Rather than weed everything and shift mulch about nonstop, I decided to just chuck my grand plan out the window and dig it in (except in a couple places where I'd already begun planting, such as around the fava beans and strawberries). The good news is that, in the bed I planted last year, there are tons of big, juicy worms where there were only a few when I made the bed. My soil looks to be very healthy and I have high hopes for my yields.

Today I planted two large beds. The tomatoes, zucchini and corn have yet to go into the ground (a little early yet), but most everything else is in now.

Bed 1, which is by far the biggest, will have most of the tomatoes. Today, in it, I planted marigolds (the workhorse of companion plants), various salad greens, rainbow chard, basil, parsley, spinach and mint.

Bed 2, which gets the most sun, will eventually have some corn and zucchini. Today it got marigolds, chives, a new everbearing strawberry plant (to compliment the two my dad gave me from his patch), some lettuces and spinach, nasturtiums , leeks, carrots and nine rows that alternate between onions, beets and radishes. There's also garlic at the far end, around a little rose bush.

Tomorrow, as weather and work permit, I'll work on beds 3 and 4.

So far, my only disappointment has been the poor germination rate of my marigolds (everything else I ordered from Brother Nature has had a decent germination rate, so this is probably an anomaly). But a little shop on the corner sells them and they're very inexpensive, so no worries. I also bought my tomato plants from them. No rare heirloom tomatoes this year, just sweet 100s and romas. But next year I'll get my act in gear earlier and plant some that will be a bit more fun.

Oh, and the carrot patches should be fun. I mixed three different seeds. Every time I pull up a carrot, who knows what it'll be. Nantes Touchon? Tendersweet long hybrid? Purple haze? (Yes, I planted purple carrots. Part of the goal is to have fun gardening with my six-year-old son.)

In addition to the other two beds, I still have four or five pots and various window boxes. Because the garden has so many veg, I think I'll use all the planters for flowers. After all, a garden shouldn't just be productive, it should also be pretty.

Some gardening posts that might be of use to you:
Vertical gardening
A handy gardening book for apartment-dwellers

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