By Roger Erpelding
It is always a relief to get the early crops planted. The longer you wait, the greater the risk of warm and dry weather, which means a reduced crop of these early cold tolerant vegetables.
Although I didn’t plant until Sunday, April 1, the preparations began on Friday night, March 30. I had received 5 packages of Oriental lilies from Dutch Gardens, and I had four Braille tags. I placed each bag of bulbs in a larger bag with a Braille label. Beth read to me, and I did the rest. It was still too wet to plant in the garden, but Saturday morning was the perfect time to plant these lilies–two in the pine tree garden, two in the apple tree garden, and one in the old perennial bed on the west side of the main garden. The “mystery” lily was planted along the east edge of the perennial garden, and is marked by a white tile. The cultivar is called “Cherbourg” and I will be placing the label inside the white tile as soon as possible. The ground was a little wet, but I’ve planted in much worse soil conditions.
Sunday morning dawned clear and dry. I was looking for a dry crust on the garden, and by late that morning I had my wish. I knew that the longer I waited, the dryer the soil would be. However, shortly before Noon I strung two sticks and string in the garden. One was on the east edge where I’d be planting potatoes. The second was placed a few feet east of the old perennial bed. The most easterly row was the easiest, as it was along the east edge of the property, and was well-marked by a fence. The second row had a fence for a while, but it ended as I went south along the apricot tree, to the south fence line. I had no idea how straight or crooked the row was. I know the plants don’t care, but I want to at least start straight. Just before lunch Beth stopped by, proclaimed both rows to be straight, and the planting preparation was done.
I got a little fooled by the soil in various parts of the garden. The soil east of the perennial bed has more clay, and therefore it was deceiving–a dry crust on top, and mud underneath. But, I deemed it dry enough to plant. I took my bundle of early seeds, the hoe without a handle, and made my first row. As I continued west toward the perennial bed, my planting became more challenging. First of all, a pine tree in this area is challenging in keeping my rows straight and uniform in length. Secondly, as I progressed toward the perennial bed, the fact that its eastern edge is not straight became confirmed to me. Good thing the seeds don’t care. It may not look esthetically pleasing, but germination is what I’m after. When I completed a row, and I planted from north to south, I’d move the south stick a foot west using the Braille yardstick. I’d then crawl to the north end of the row, move that stick a foot west, grab my hoe without a handle, and proceed south along the string. And of course leave it to the string. Despite my best efforts, it would sometimes become loose and floppy. When I got to the end of the row, I would correct this problem by wrapping more string around the stick, or moving the stick a fraction north or south at the end of the row; this made the rows a little different in length, but my garden, fortunately, is not an accurate work of art.
My Braille is on the bottom of each seed packet. I open the packet from the top, dip my fingers into the package, and select a few seeds. I place them under the string in the little furrow I’ve made. I cover, tamp down, and move on to the next section, repeating this procedure.
When I was done, I had a bunch of seed packets that were torn and tattered, but their Braille was still intact, which is what I needed. In the east row, I planted Tyee spinach. This was followed by two lettuce types, radishes, and two carrot cultivars.
I waited to plant potatoes last, as I thought that soil would be a bit more shaded, and less prone to develop the dry crust I needed. Sure enough, the crust was not as dry. However, this soil has more organic matter in it, and was more friable than the soil where the vegetables were planted.
My first task was to take the 10 pound bag of seed potatoes and cut them up. This is an easy task. Some of the potatoes were small enough that I planted them whole. Others were cut into 2, 3 or 4 pieces. The sprouts or eyes determined where the cuts would appear. These sprouts were easily felt. Soon the bucket was full, and I was ready to plant. In the bucket I also had a small trowel to dig the potatoes into the ground. Each row is 18 inches apart, and I used the same method as planting the vegetables. I’m not sure how straight the rows were in the end, but I do know this–potatoes will come up above the ground where ever they please. The shape of the rows will be laughable, but again, germination is what I’m after. Because of where they choose to break ground, some plants will be too close together, and others will be spread quite far apart. The ones that are close will only make small potatoes, but they will make tasty meals in July.
My current plans are to purchase Brussels sprouts in the next few days, and place them west of the potatoes. I have one packet of carrots that did not get planted, and I will place these seeds between the plants. This will be a great way to mark the row, as carrots are notoriously slow to germinate.
And here is the best news of all–gardening season is just beginning!