Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Rain

At last it is raining.  The garden needs it and the neighbourhood could use a good wash too.  Despite the cooler temperatures, the rain is a welcome sight.

Perhaps we should have seeded some cold weather crops to take advantage of the rain.  Oh well, next week for sure.

When to plant is a favourite topic of discussion among us gardeners.  The are many people who are adamant that there's no need to rush and to wait until May long weekend (our last average day of frost).  Others follow the phases of the moon and do not plant until the first full moon after the last frost.  Some strictly follow the advice of the Farmer's Almanac.  And some use the life cycle of plants and animals (phenology) to guide their planting - (eg. plant carrots when the first leaves of lilacs come out).

We're not strict followers of any of those practices, we plant when we think it's right and when time permits.  But, we will heed our own advice scribbled in last year's handwritten garden journal -  "don't plant too early!" 

So far, I've held off buying seeds, knowing full well that if they were in our possession right now, I'd be down at the garden plot seeding rather than writing this blog.

The rains will keep us at bay for just a few more days.  But we'll be planting the minute the soil can be worked!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Quack Grass - Another Rival

There are only a few things we can rely on with certainty, unfortunately, taxes, death and quack grass are among them!

Quack grass has made it's appearance in our plot once again.   Thanks to Ed, the previous plot owner, we only have a mild infestation in a small corner of our plot.
It may not look bad up top, but down below there's a huge network of rhizomes growing.

One thing I learned growing up on the farm was to always get the roots of quack grass, even the little pieces.  Quack grass has an extensive network of rhizomes underneath the ground that can produce new shoots very quickly.  If you want to get rid of quack grass, you've got to dig deep and get every single rhizome out of the ground.  Even pieces that are only 1-2 cm long can grow into new plants.
Those tricky rhizomes.
Digging and picking out the roots and letting them dry out has been our tried and true method for controlling quack grass.  It's back breaking work, but it works.
Drying out the roots.

Here are some other non-chemical alternatives.  These techniques require more patience than I have, so I've never tried them, but I've heard that they work.

Mulch - Smother quack grass (and other weeds) with a thick layer of mulch (leaves, straw, newspaper).  Just don't be surprised if you find long rhizomes that travel a long distance to pop out along the edge of your mulch in search of light.

Continual Hoeing - If you're patient, you can continually slice off the green blades of quack grass with a hoe.  Eventually, if you're quicker, more stubborn and more persistent than it, the plant will die.  Quack grass, just like any other green plant, needs its green leaves for photosynthesis in order to make its own food.

Solarization/Cooking - If you have a really bad case of quack grass consider cooking it to death with a process called "solarization".  Cover the area with clear plastic for at least 6 weeks.  The idea is to create a tight seal so that everything under the covered area gets "cooked" by the hot sun beating on the plastic.  It takes a long time to kill off all those rhizomes, so be patient.  You'll have to give up planting in this area to make this technique work effectively.

Partial Cooking - I've also heard of people using black plastic and cutting holes in it so they can still grow some plants.  If it works for them, it might work for you.  Just remember, it gets pretty hot under there, so don't plant any plants that prefer to keep cool (most leafy veggies).

Good luck!

Collars for Garlic

Another 9 cutworms today.  Looks like they're not getting the whole "one row for you, one row for me and one row for Harvest" idea.  Greedy little things!

It's time to implement operation "Collars for Garlic".  Thanks to a tip from fellow community gardener and Executive Director of the Manitoba Eco-Network, Anne Lindsey, I used toilet paper and paper towel rolls for collars instead of my usual large yogurt containers.  I cut the rolls into 2 inch segments and put about 1 inch under the ground and 1/2 inch above the ground.  Let's see if it works.

Collars protect our garlic from cut worms.
And stay out!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Our Nemesis - Cut Worms

It may be too early in the garden for all but the hardiest of plants - but apparently it's not too early for cut worms.

I thought perhaps the strong flavour of garlic might keep our precious first plantings safe - but it is not so. These little cut worms seem to love garlic as much as we do. But not to worry, Aidan is on the case. He squishes them one by one between his fingers while taunting me for requiring two rocks to do the same task.

We have tried putting a protective collar around young seedlings (an old container with bottom cut out pushed 2 inches into the soil around the seedling). This technique seems to work as long as you don't accidentally trap the worms inside the collar! We usually take the collar off later in the season when the cutworms have gone and the plants are hardy.

Another technique is to plant an extra row. We plant one row for us, one row for Winnipeg Harvest and one row for the cut worms. Let's hope they follow the plan and don't destroy our entire crop.

At least they give us something to do while we're waiting to plant some more!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Let the Gardening Begin - Spring 2010

The weather is beautiful. The ground is dry. The garden is ready. We are eager.

But... is it too soon? After all it is only April 24 and this is Winnipeg. We live in Plant Hardiness Zone 2b. Our average first frost free day is May 21. That's almost a month away.

I don't think I can wait. I've already drawn up a plan, planted some garlic, pulled a few weeds and put up our teepee/bean structure. The preliminaries are done.

Perhaps, tomorrow I will plant a few seeds. What could possibly go wrong if I sowed some peas, carrots, lettuce, spinach, beets, swiss chard? (Don't answer that, I don't really want to know!)