Early Progress in the 2012 Gardening Season

So far things are looking good and all the warm weather has me thinking that spring will be here at any moment, but I know that mother nature can throw a curve ball every now and then.   I’m hoping that in the next two weeks I can start things from seed like radishes, beets, turnips, greens and lettuce.   We’ll see.

Last night I picked up enough lumber to build 3 4×8 garden beds.   I’d like to have those clobbered together within the next two weeks and then start procuring soil/yard debris to fill them in.   Last year I used a ton of sticks and leaves as filler material at the bottom of the beds, which meant that I needed less soil.  It also means that I’ll have more decaying organic material and a store of water, per the principles of hugelkultur.     I’m not sure if I’ll have enough room for a fourth bed (bringing the grand total to eight beds), but if I do I’m sure I’ll put it in.     The beds are fairly easy to construct, so that’s not a big deal.  It’s just a matter of finding the time and decent weather.

While going through my current beds, I found some carrots that appear to have overwintered, as well as a lone onion.    It appears as if my kale, spinach and swiss chard overwintered as well and is beginning to show signs of life again.

In my woodworking class I finished my cold frame – this thing is a beast.    I came into the class with a general plan based off 99% of what’s out there on the internet, which is “clobber together a box, get a window, put some hinges on it and fasten it on”.   That idea wasn’t good enough for the instructor, so he got out the drawing board and designed a plan for it (I’ll post pictures shortly).   As far as posting plans, I’ll have to see if I can come up with something to modify some of the cuts as equipment that is probably not readily available to the average DIYer was used.      Five or six people signed up for the class and for the past two sessions, I was the only one that showed up so the instructor was able to put a lot of time and effort into the plans.    I think this one is definitely sound enough to get some things through the winter.

I put the cold frame out and started some spinach, butterhead lettuce, dill, swiss chard and radishes.   So far nothing has sprouted, but it should be a matter of days before I start seeing things.     It would be nice to start getting a few things from the garden around the first-middle part of April – we’ll see.

The soil cubes are off to a good start and I’m getting some sprouts.   I’m going to start some more shortly to get some herbs going.    Right now we have cabbage, a few Italian broccoli plants, a couple cauliflower seedlings and brussels sprouts as well as a mustard, collard and swiss chard seedling.   I should be looking good there.   In a few weeks I’ll start some tomato and pepper plants.

I haven’t ordered my trees yet, but it’s looking like we’ll have the largest mini-orchard in Central Iowa.    I have about $600 worth of plants in my Raintree Nursery wishlist.   I’ve been sitting on it for a few days to see if I *really* think I need everything, but I think we can handle all of those trees, I think they’ll be worth it, we’ll be able to take them with us when/if we move and it should be fun.     Planting that many trees into large containers will be a chore, but manageable.

I need to get a new rain barrel after last year’s collapsible one broke.   This was my fault – I put it on uneven ground and it filled up during a storm and fell over – the force of the water tore the top off.   I bought a collapsible one because I thought I was going to use it at an offsite garden.   Had it been on level ground, I think it would have actually been a good piece of gear to have, considering you can easily store it away in the off season and it would be good for temporary situations (renters, offsite gardening, etc).  Here is a link to it:   Smart Solar Rain Barrel  .    Iowa Prison Industries was taking reclaimed 55 gallon drums and adding the necessary hardware to them and selling them at a low price ($20 if memory serves me right).

I also need to procure some hardwood logs soon in order to get some mushrooms started.   I totally dropped the ball on this one last year.   Mushrooms do better in wood harvested early in the spring, so I need to start getting serious about this one.    I know of a property I can check out for fallen/about to fall branches and if that doesn’t work, I might contact a park ranger and ask if he knows of any recently fallen trees I can take from.   You never know…

So everything is starting to come together right now.    I think we’re set for a good year in 2012.