Thursday, June 19, 2008

Transplanting celeriac, the phoenix rises and other observations

Ah, the season marches on and I notice that farmers keeping blogs are many of them not posting these days. Too busy. As am I.
After what felt like countless hours spent laboring over the soil in our third raised bed, first pick-axing out the large and medium sized rocks, then breaking up the compacted clumps of soil and hand picking and sieving out as many pebbles as we could stand to pick and sieve (to a depth of about 18 inches below soil level), we then began scavenging soil from different areas in the yard, prepping where necessary, so as to raise the soil level in the bed to about 12 inches above garden level with compost added. This phase of the job got a boost with the addition of my eldest son Brian, who had finished up his finals at the University and lacking a summer job, agreed to help (occasionally) in the garden. Based upon my observations of both Brian and Russell at work, I have come to realize that a pick-ace of the right size is a hot item with young men. There's something very masculine about using a heavy implement to prize large rocks from the soil and failing that, bludgeoning them until they (at least in part) are crushed into rock powder. I prefer a mattock myself, although unfortunately I broke mine. Maybe I should have used the pick axe. Anyway, last week we finished bed number three. This was a big deal. It took a great deal of time to complete this one. We had various delays involving such things as rain and big puddles and a wedding to attend.
With 40 square feet of fresh garden bed to play with, I at last unloaded the cramped and rapidly growing celeriac from Hoop house #2, spacing each plant 12 inches apart in staggered rows in the new bed. As fate would have it, the weather immediately got hot- just under 90 degrees the following day, and when I went out to check the transplants under their floating row cover, I was treated to the delicious and ominous scent of cooked celery- finding all the tops of all plants (perhaps 20 of them) lying crisp on top of the mulch of straw I had put down when I planted them. Naturally I panicked somewhat and ran around pirating hoops from other beds and suspending the row cover over the bed to provide shade as best I could (lacking shade cloth) in hopes that the horse was not out of the barn as it appeared the case really was. The weather continued warm, but moderated, and I continued to water everything just in case what we had was a temporary case of transplant shock. After a couple of days of this, I started to notice new leaves sprouting from the center of each plant, and felt enough courage to trim off all the dead leaf stalks. At this point we have some new stalks and leaves standing up and I think that all will survive. My lesson here is that you never know. I am also learning some important lessons about transplanting seedlings when the weather can heat up.
Never transplant in the morning if you have any choice. Plant in the late afternoon when everything is done with the sun for the day. This gives some night time recovery time.
Always provide shade of some sort so as to reduce direct sun exposure the first few days (at least) after transplanting. Shade from above with ventilation from the sides is best I think. Hoops with shade cloth over the top do work well.
Mulch (especially a light colored straw) may be helpful in reducing or moderating soil temperatures and improve chances of recovery.
Don’t give up on what may look hopeless. Wait and see. Especially if you are transplanting plants with reasonable root systems.

Garden changes: Radishes have bolted. I discovered that even when bolting, parts of radishes continue to be tasty. When the radish plants had sent up stalks, the edible parts became stalks and flowers (which taste like radish). Spinach plants are bolting but still good to eat. To stall for time I’m cutting out the flower stalks with leaves and eating them. The Siberian kale is becoming bitter and starting to bolt.. My mom still likes it, but I find it too bitter. The same goes for the turnips and turnip greens. This is with temperatures moving into the mid to upper 80’s and 50’s at night and comes as no surprise. Arugula flowers. I have maturing cauliflower, broccoli and broccoli rabe. Although I have a hard time catching the rabe before the stalks flower, they’re tasty with flowers anyway. Savoy cabbages are starting to form cabbages. Cabbage White butterfly caterpillars are the culprits who have been chewing big holes in the leaves of the Brussels sprout and cabbage plants. Although I want to limit my use of salt in the garden, salt on the leaves is one treatment I can try, so I’ll try making a salt-water spray for the Brassicas being damaged. Potatoes started coming up about 1 ½ weeks ago and although they were initially attacked by flea beetles (I did put a little charcoal ash on the potato plants even though I want to limit ash because it increases alkalinity in the soil and we don’t need more of that here!) Peas are producing for almost a week now and daily Russell goes out and snacks on peas. Not many left for adults so because these are tasty and successful, I think next year we have to find a way to plant more! Chard is producing reasonably well although some leaves have bad patches that I have yet to diagnose. Working on that. The chard is very good though. So is the Red Russian kale which still has excellent flavor without bitterness. I keep harvesting outer leaves of what are now mature plants, when the leaves are no more than 12 inches long. Some of my beets and onions are about 1 ½ inches in diameter.
Other projects:
A trellis out of recycled peeler posts and lumber for Russell's bed.
A folding trellis out of recycled fence posts for the first bed. I found and adapted a plan I found on Mother Earth News.
Initial attempts at setting flattish rocks for garden pathways. Surely you wondered what we might do with some of our lovely rocks?

No comments: