Ms Robin's Garden

  (Caneyville, Kentucky)
Happenings on the Hilltop
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Challenges Of Spring

Gardening in spring is always a challenge, but this year has been especially so. A friend commented I've been working like a rented mule. She's right, at least some days I have been. Other days, I've been cursing the weather and doing other gardening related chores that can be done in the greenhouse or indoors.
I try to work around whatever Mother Nature throws our way, but my patience is wearing thin these days. We had wonderfully beautiful days early on when we able to start breaking ground for the new garden, followed by rain, so had to wait a few more days for the second plowing. I had built up and planted a few raised rows before Al returned home from working out of town, then I became ill and had to spend a week in the hospital. Al took care of all the plants in the greenhouse until I could get back at it. Then there was a 2 day cold snap that delayed planting of some of the less hardy plants. The routine has been that he tills another block of rows and I build up the rows, removing the clumps of weeds and grass that decided to try to root again, then he comes behind me putting up the supports for the tomatoes and beans. Then we got the monsoon rains...6" in 36 hours. Luckily, it was a steady lighter rain, so the plants in the ground didn't get pummeled. I was still afraid to look at garden the following morning. I found all of the nice pretty raised rows of vegetables surrounded by 18" wide moats of water 3-4" deep. By the second morning though, all of that had soaked in and the plants survived the excessive watering. Another day to dry out, then back to tilling, building up rows and planting more transplants from the greenhouse.
Which brings us to this weekend. The wind was bad on Friday, but it was brutal yesterday. I put out a lot of plants Friday, and I spent most of the day yesterday building more rows. Got 11 more done, but I'd have to come inside after every couple of rows for a break. It was 36 when I woke up at 5:30, but we had a heavy fog and it reached 45 by 7:00 AM. There are too many rows to cover them all, so hopefully the fog helped protect the uncovered ones. Another not quite so chilly night is forecast for tonight, then back to normal the rest of the week. Fingers crossed.
Besides the weather issues, the bunnies took a liking to the Swiss Chard last week. They didn't bother it last year, so I didn't cover it when I planted it a few weeks ago. It has a net covering it now. I also had some problems with the birds finding the newly seeded trays of winter squashes, pumpkins and melons in the greenhouse a few days ago. Luckily, a few had germinated beforehand, plus they do germinate pretty quickly, so only lost a week on their growth. I now have a nice little net tent over the once again newly seeded trays. It's not like we don't keep them well fed over by the house.
On the other hand, everything is moving right along. There's still a few more things to plant out, but I was waiting till the middle of May to do those anyway, ie: things that are too sensitive to cooler temperatures or additional rows of things already planted. I'm really pleased with how well we are progressing. This first year of this new garden space has been a long slow progress as we till and build up rows, removing weeds, grass and rocks, but future gardens will be a breeze with the wide row beds already established. By the way, I found a real arrowhead while digging in the dirt. That was really exciting!
So, yes, gardening is a challenge dealing with cold, rain, heat, wind,  birds, wildlife and pest bugs (which thankfully haven't made an appearance yet)  especially when we are committed to growing fresh produce for others. But I wouldn't trade it for anything else.

Happy Mother's Day!

Let the gardening season begin!

I check three weather web sites two or three times a day to see if the forecast is agreeable enough to get some of these plants in the ground. Two of the three sites are usually similar with their predictions, but that's not to say they are accurate. After much thought yesterday, even though it was absolutely beautiful, I decided to wait a bit longer to put out the transplants. Good thing, as it got down to about 30 in the wee hours this morning. I did order floating row covers to protect the plants in case of frost, but it hasn't arrived yet. All of the plants are looking good, with most well past the seedling stage. I haul them outside every day it's warm enough, and then back in about 5:00 PM. A heated greenhouse is definitely on the agenda this summer!

So, I've been piddling around the place. Got a few rows prepared, planted a wide row of onions and another of potatoes. Prepared the bed for the first planting of broccoli, which will go out tomorrow. Watering all the little plants. Doing some projects that are on my list...such as fill in my tire tracks when I got stuck in the van this winter. Yep, had to do that one. It was still holding water from rain early this week.
One project in particular, would have been better to wait till Al was back home. But no, I have watched him enough to have a general idea of how to do things. Besides, I wanted to surprise him. We have this beautiful Butterfly Bush that has the prettiest red blooms all summer. I just didn't know it got as big as it did, since Lucy (the goat we used to have) so kindly kept it pruned each summer. We moved it two years ago close to the goldfish pond. No problem. It sure was pretty and the birds loved it summer and winter. It must have been really happy there, because it sure grew fast. By mid spring, the branches started smacking us in the face every time we walked by it. Not thinking, I trimmed it back, taking way more than I should have, forgetting that they bloom on the previous year's growth. So no pretty blooms last year. I looked at it a couple of days ago and it was still dormant, so I figured I better move it now. This morning I dug about 18" out all around the trunks. Then I went all around it again, scooping out soil by hand, buried up to my elbows, on my knees of course, checking for more roots that may need to be clipped. Give it a shove...nope, it ain't gonna budge. Well! I'll just go take a break then. I've been at this for two hours already. I'm worn out, but I've come too far to turn back. So I take my break and then head back out there. This time, I go around the bush again, pushing the shovel up under the bush, lifting it as high as I could and shoving 2x4s under it. Figured I could stand on the protruding boards and lift it enough to break loose what little roots must still be holding it. That didn't work either. I took my wounded pride over to where I wanted the bush transplanted to and preceded to dig the hole, while I tried to work out in mind exactly how I was going to finish what I started. I finally remembered watching Al remove a couple of small trees last summer. I grabbed a tow strap and drove the garden tractor out of the shed. I wrapped the tow strap around the root ball and hooked the other end to the back of the tractor. I carefully maneuver the tractor around so I can pull the bush 10 feet and hopefully, drop it right into the freshly dug hole. And it worked! Slid across there just like I planned! I was sure patting myself on the back. Only one problem....the hole wasn't quite big enough, nor deep enough! Back on knees again, buried up to my elbows, scooping out cold soil. Finally got it sitting right in the hole, put a lot of the loose soil back in the hole, packed it down and watered well. I did it! Only took me four hours. Didn't hurt myself. Decided I had enough hard labor for one day, and took the rest of the day off. Samson and I went to town for lunch to celebrate my success. Even treated him to chicken strips, since I kind of neglected the ball throwing game we play all day...every day.
And it's a good thing I did take the afternoon off. Our neighbor, who plowed the new garden space, stopped by this evening to make sure it was dry enough to come back and finish it up tomorrow with a tractor-drawn tiller. It will take us a couple of weeks to get the wide rows all marked off and prepped, which will then be about the time to start planting in the garden.
Let the gardening season begin!
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