Homestead Diary Week Ending April 15th

This week we’re getting a stretch of mostly sunny weather with most of the nights above freezing so I’m hoping to see the peas and carrots finally sprout. Peas are definitely sending out root radicals. Carrots I’ve seen nothing, but it’s hard to say since the seeds are small. I tried carefully digging in one of the rows to no avail. I’ll give them another week or two before resowing.

Monday I began hardening off our broccoli transplants. The weather was cold enough (28F) that night I brought them inside but I should be able to leave them outside night and day for a couple days, then get them in the ground.

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Broccoli hardening off in the spring sunshine. Pretty dramatic difference between starts grown under a HPS growlight (left) and those grown under my new T5HO fluorescent growlight (right).

Tuesday I didn’t do any gardening but had to laugh a little when Jehovah’s Witnesses came to the door. My usual ‘let them down easy’ line is “I’m not interested but hope you have a nice day,” which they typically take well. Funnily enough, we then proceeded to have a 5 minute conversation about my garden. One of the women said that she’s always admired my garden, we talked about how therapeutic gardening can be (so true!), and how it grounds us to the earth and teaches us how to respect creation, etc. I wish more people would realize just how much people can bond over being connected to the earth.

Wednesday it was a cool but heavily overcast day so even though the broccoli haven’t been outside for long I decided to go ahead and transplant them. I crowded them a little in case of failures, and figuring they can flop outside of the beds a little if needed. I ended up with space for 34 plants, from three varieties (Green Magic, Packman, and Arcadia).

The two beds in the rabbit protected area. Foreground is Green Magic, background is Arcadia.

The two beds in the rabbit protected area. Foreground is Green Magic, background is Arcadia.

One of the non-protected beds, in this case in the sidewalk strip. This is Packman.

One of the non-protected beds, in this case in the sidewalk strip. This is Packman, a seed packet I bought last year but don’t recall ever planting. My starts may have been a victim of bunnypocalypse last year.

Every day I check the mail, I hope I won’t see a letter with City of Milwaukee letterhead on it. Last week I mentioned there might be an issue with my sidewalk strip beds. As of Wednesday, it’s been 9 days, so I’m increasingly hoping I’m in the clear. Amazing how it is that how any contact with police or government, our instinctive reaction is to wonder what we did ‘wrong’ and cringe? Aren’t they supposed to serve us?

Thursday I was going to up-pot my Cosmonaut Volkov tomatoes but after a few attempts the root system just weren’t quite developed enough to get them out of plug trays. I’ll give them another week or so. Experiences like this make me want to try soil blockers despite the love-hate opinions gardeners seem to have about them. I did up-pot the remaining broccoli starts that aren’t going to be given away just yet. I’m not sure exactly how long I’ll be hanging on to them so I used some of ~1 gallon pots a neighbor gave me for free.

My order for Peace Seedlings arrived, which made me realize I really should get some more tomatoes started. I sowed Bellstar, Orange Centiflor (PS exclusive), Andean Paste (PS line), Amish Paste (PS line), and Heinz 2653. Depending on germination that may be all the plants I need for the year. I’ll evaluate again in a couple weeks. There’s another few varieties I should probably germinate for trialing even if I end up with absurd numbers of plants.

Friday I decided to make a completely homesteading day, as I had a fair amount to get done, the weather was excellent, and it’s the Alchemist’s birthday tomorrow so I won’t be doing much (if any) gardening then. The kids helped me sow some more carrots. We put boards down to cover them, which helps  to keep the rows moist until they start to sprout. We also sowed an interesting snap pea variety (Opal Creek) I got from Peace Seedlings. If it does well I’ll grow it out this year mainly as a seed increase since it’s pretty expensive seed.IMAG0700

As you can see in the picture, I got the soaker hose irrigation lines laid out. If you let them warm up in the sun it’s very easy to spool them out solo. I only had about 125 feet last year, but I inventoried what I’ll need for this year. Looks like:

  • 2 multi-hose adapters (3 zones is all I need for each hose bib but I think they’re mainly made in either a Y or a 4-way)
  • 3 50 foot soaker hoses
  • 4 75 foot soaker hoses
  • 1 50 foot regular hose
  • some form of watering wand or spray nozzle

I sowed one last tray of tomatoes for trialing purposes. I also sowed a tray of lettuce. Last year all I did was broadcast mesclun mix but a friend sent me some lettuce that’s best as transplants. I should have started them earlier but we’ll see how it goes.

As we were eating lunch, the remaining plants I had ordered showed up. I bought 3 bleeding hearts as a 10th anniversary present for the Alchemist. They’ll go in the ground as soon as she tells me her preferences on location. From a different company we received 3 more raspberries (Caroline) to fill in the raspberry bed and 3 blackberries (Prime Jim).

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Bleeding hearts in the deep shade. One will likely go in this exact spot. I have some potential spots for the others picked out, just want to get her to approve them.

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One of the blackberry canes I planted.

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My tray of already sprouted tomatoes getting some sun instead of sitting under the growlight.

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