Monday, May 3, 2010
Early Spring Plantings
Snow peas before installing the trellis of branchesIt's no surprise to long-time Gallupians, but snowstorms in May are to be expected. The moisture they provide is a nice respite from the seemingly constant drying winds of April and May, but the cold night-time temperatures that follow these storms are an early spring gardeners nemesis. That phrase, 'early spring gardener,' is almost surely an oxymoron in Gallup. And yet, I've been steadily planting cold season crops since mid-march with pretty encouraging results- fingers are crossed considering there's still more than a month before the average last date for frost in early June. I posted about the snow peas and onions when I planted them and both are doing great. With a light layer of straw mulch over the soil the snow peas are about 6" high and just starting to curl their tendrils around the cut tree branches (great use for pruned elms) that form their trellis.
The onions are 9-10" tall and amazingly haven't been crushed by the plodding footsteps of the neighborhood dogs (my dogs have self-trained themselves to avoid the beds of fluffy soil and straw:), though it's required me to be super vigilant at keeping the fence gates closed. Next to these onions I also planted some long-leafed spinach and radishes that have proven to be self-sufficient in the cold and are a week or two away from harvest size.
Late-afternoon light on the shallots and carrots
Carrots and shallots were planted next in late March. I've had good luck with the latter; shallots certainly share the 'anti-freeze' characteristics, common to the other members of the onion family. The carrots were planted too soon. I covered them with only a light layer of straw and kept the bed moist with daily watering (carrot's tiny seeds are barely covered with soil when seeded and prone to drying out during the relatively long germination period, and like most root-crops they don't like to be transplanted). After a month, the first sprouts have begun to appear, but it seems as if only 10-25% of seeds successfully germinated.
Cole crops before mulching with straw
In mid-April I planted my cole crops in a clay bed in the back that had been heavily amended with manure. Green and red cabbage, brocolli, brussel sprouts, and collard greens filled the 25'x4' bed. These were really well watered in and mulched thickly with straw. They're all doing great. Next to the cole crops are the beds containing garlic, corn and pintos, and then more onions.
The back-garden beds- notice the shiny new tiller
Also in mid-April I planted a large bed (15'x4') split between mixed lettuce and Bloomsdale spinach. This bed is under a large elm that provides mid-day shade in the summer and should provide young sweet greens for a while after the lettuce in my cold-frame bolts in the full-day summer sun. This bed is covered with light blankets and sheets on any night below freezing. Even nights down to 19 degrees have failed to harm this young crop that should be ready for steady harvesting at the start of the Farmers' market season. I also companion planted this bed with summer peas, partly as a back-up against the potential loss of the greens to frost, partly to provide shade, and partly for the nitrogen fixing benefits of the legumes. Now that everything looks like it's coming through, I'll cull many of the peas shoots for dinner.
The long-bed of summer lettuce and spinach
The last bed I've prepared was for beets. After planting them in clay soils amended with lots of peat moss and sand, I covered the beds very thickly with sheets of unseparated straw. The seeds germinated faster than expected and I pulled the straw off a day or too late and many of the sprouts had gotten 'leggy,' reaching for the light blocked by the straw. Then it snowed for two days and got really cold. This bed will probably need to be re-seeded.