Preparing and assessing

I'm waiting anxiously for my safe-to-plant-in-the-ground date and wondering if there's something I'm supposed to be doing out there that I haven't been doing. My outdoor preparations have involved a lot of staring and trying to decide if things are weeds or plants, which I think I'm getting a little better at.

Indoors, I've planted seeds and I must admit I was a little surprised when they actually sprouted. It was like a small miracle on my back porch - tomatoes and cucumbers rising up into the world. I tend to them by talking to them softly and checking to see if the soil is light brown, which would mean it is time for me to add water to the tray.

I was surprised at how miniscule the foxglove seeds were and indeed, the foxglove sprouts are thin and wispy little things, almost invisible. The cucumbers, on the other hand, look strong and tenacious.

Outdoors, we've had two frosts since things have begun to sprout and grow. Both times, I covered my beds and that seemed to keep everything safe. There was one crinkly looking leaf on my butterfly bush, but a lot of new growth has sprouted since then, so she's fine.

I've noticed that something has been digging in the flower beds. The holes remind me of the time I planted tulip bulbs one morning and came back that afternoon to find them every one dug up and spirited away. This time, I don't know what the digger was looking for - no harm done, but I don't like the way this is starting out.

It's led me to consider building an ugly wire contraption around my tomatoes. I'd prefer not to do that, but the squirrels and I need to come to some sort of an agreement. I like them just fine and I realize they need to eat like everybody else, but I don't want them to think of me as the proprietress of their very own late-night, all-you-can-eat buffet.

The time is coming to figure it out because last weekend we built the raised vegetable beds. Tracy made some measurements and drew up a plan, but when we got to the store, they didn’t have lumber in the size we needed. We improvised and ended up with larger, squarer beds than we’d imagined, but I think that’s just fine, especially since I’m going to be growing melons.

After the building process which, I confess, involved a lot of me just standing there while Tracy swung the hammer, we set out to look for dirt. Last year, when I grew tomatoes in a planter, I filled it with a few bags of organic potting soil. Having no concept of the price of such things, we happily returned to the garden store to buy what we knew would be a large number of bags of the same soil to fill our beds.

"Wait," Tracy said as I reached for the first bag. He pulled out his handy calculator and informed me that enough soil to fill our beds would cost roughly $500.

Bags of organic topsoil were noticeably cheaper, so we agreed to do a little research and left without making a purchase. Fortunately, we have plenty of gravel at our construction project next door, so we can put that in the bottom of the beds for drainage, and a gardening neighbor is going to send us some information about soil mixes. We should have them filled by the end of this weekend.


Joshua McNichols said...

Those are nice raised beds!

Lori-Lyn said...


Marilyn said...

Nice work on the beds, Tracy! We have corn coming up (I'm beyond excited)...but it looks like our 'pet' squirrel (or something may have gotten to some shoots of other stuff... Must keep an eye out...might have to go the wire route here, too.

Leeanthro said...

The raised beds look great!

Do you have a local landscape recycling center? Our city does and it's where we buy compost and mulch by the truckful. They also deliver. I plan on putting in raised beds this spring (well, I'm going to have my husband do it) and I plan on mixing compost and top soil. Buying at a landscape recycling center is very cheap. And also local. The bags of soil, compost, and mulch that one buys at the store are shipped in from all over the place and you pay for that.

Tinker said...

Nice - your planter boxes look so neat and square! We just used some leftover lumber K. had stashed away for ages - and it kind of shows :) but they've worked out fine, nonetheless. The SquareFoot Gardener mentions using 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat moss and 1/3 of a variety of bagged compost (or your own, if you have enough of it). I couldn't find straight vermiculite anywhere, but I did use a variety of composts (which tend to be a little cheaper than potting soil), peat moss, perlite, and some jiffymix 'seed starter' which has vermiculite and peat moss. Oh, and a bag of worm castings - that was under $3 at walmart, and is worth its weight in gold, I think. Anyway, to fill one 4x4 raised bed, and one 4x6 raised bed, it came to about $35 - though I did use two extra bags of compost I had leftover from last year, so I guess it would have come out closer to $50 if I include their cost. I only filled the beds 3-4 inches (they're actually 6" deep) - I had prepared the ground beneath them as well somewhat, figuring on the plants growing on in, at least some, to the ground below. Sorry to have gone on and on - just thought I would share that.