Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Getting There

Today was another full gardening day. My feet are dirty and sore and I'm sure I'll wake up tomorrow feeling like I'd run a marathon the night before.

This morning, I went to the city recycling center to pick up a few five gallon buckets full of free compost. As I was slowly shoveling compost into my buckets and removing the many bits of plastic and whoknowswhatelse from each shovelful, I noticed one of the gentlemen nearby using a clever contraption. His vehicle was towing a cart, and on top of the cart he had built a large screen. He would shovel the compost onto the screen and every so often would tip the screen up to dump all those bits of plastic, rocks and other junk onto the ground near the compost pile. Smart!

It's amazing what ends up being composted by the people of Wauwatosa. Today I found part of string of Christmas lights in one shovelful and a small plastic snake in another.

Anyway, my compost-shoveling comrade gave me an idea for my vermicomposter: to build a small screen (maybe 18" by 18") to filter finished worm castings and compost from the worms and partially decomposed kitchen scraps in my vermicomposter.

Later in the day I walked over to Puhl's True Value with my 4-year-old and bought some aluminum screening with 1/8" holes so I could implement this idea, as well as complete some vermicomposters I'm building for friends to try out as part of the composting business I'm in the process of starting (it's called "Gardens, Not Garbage." I'm sure I'll write a separate post about it eventually). Anyway, we came home and my in-laws had arrived for a visit from Illinois, so I had to wait on tinkering with my screen idea so we could make a trip over to West Allis to check out their Tuesday farmers market. My mother-in-law and I ended up purchasing several vegetable plants: broccoli, bell pepper, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and a cool herb called "orangemint," which smells phenomenal. We came home, had dinner, and then I got to work in the backyard, trying to knock a few more chores off my endless list.

Incidentally, as we were driving down National to the "Stallis" market I noticed several raised beds in progress somewhere between 85th and 65th Streets. No idea what this is all about, but I like it!

So here's a summary of today's gardening:

  • I had two more dwarf fruit trees delivered Gurneys: a fig to replace my dead fig and a banana. I planted them both and put them in my southern window. I will move a majority of my houseplants and indoor fruit trees to the yard after Memorial Day.

  • The compost bin is almost done, but Steve only built me two compartments, instead of three, so beside the bin I added another composter with garden stakes and chicken wire. This area will be exclusively for leaf waste that I can dry so I have carbon-rich materials to add to the main compost bin compartments on top of moist, nitrogen rich (stinky) kitchen waste.

  • I took two red mulberries I had purchased in bare root form last year and overwintered in 1 gallon pots and planted them into very large containers on my deck. These are experimental trees -- I hope to keep these large trees small and see if they will happily bear fruit in containers.

  • I have one official square foot garden built and almost completely planted. This garden, like my other raised beds, is actually 5 x 5 instead of 4 x 4, so it is almost too big to qualify as a SFG; however, I did divide it into one square foot sections, and I did add a vertical gardening component at the back -- these are the quintessential parts of the true SFG. Tonight I constructed the vertical garden component with metal conduit pipes, elbow joints, rebar supports, nylon mesh and plenty of twist ties. Now it's ready to support the tomatoes and watermelon I have growing in the back row of my first SFG. 19 of 20 of the square feet are planted with various things. I was able to fit so much in this bed that it almost makes me wonder if I'll be able to use all the space I have in my tiny yard. (Somehow, though, I doubt this will be a problem!)

  • I am a bit late in doing this, but I had bought two bags of potatoes a while back and finally got around to prepping them for planting. I didn't realize that you have to cut the potatoes into pieces, each with one "eye." My eyes were already starting to sprout inside the bag, and they were kind of soft and old, but we'll see how well they do. I also did not know until I read the instructions that came with the potatoes that they not only need to be cut into pieces but they need to be dried for a few days before they are planted. Right now I have many pieces of two kinds of potatoes drying on paper towels in my kitchen. Hopefully this will work!

  • My nightly watering ritual has begun -- I've been using so much water from my two rain barrels that they are almost empty. Hope it rains soon!

  • Happily, I discovered while watering that my red and yellow onions are growing. Yippee!

  • Sadly, I decided to add some of the compost I shoveled earlier today to the two hanging baskets I had converted into upside-down tomato planters. In the process, the weight of the additional soil caused one of the baskets' chains to snap, which broke the poor tomato plant. Now I only have one upside-down tomato. :(

  • On another sad note, I don't think I ever mentioned what happened with that Morel Mushroom. Someone had suggested we put a glass jar over it to protect it from predators and allow it to grow more before we enjoyed it buttered up and sauteed. Well that was a big mistake. The intense afternoon sun burned the poor shroom through the glass and the thing was dead before we could enjoy it. Live and learn!

  • I *still* need to post pictures and promise I will do so soon.

    1 comment:

    1. Sorry to hear of your 'morel' mushroom's demise; however, I still believe it was most likely a 'false morel'.

      More importantly, two additional things were learned for your garden. First, mushrooms prefer cool, humid & dark environments. Second, and more importantly, research every suggestion supplied by us readers. That glass jar (cloche) would have fried nearly any plant during a sunny May afternoon.