Monday, April 8, 2013

Glass Half Full

We managed to sow all our cover crops this weekend, blanketing most of the beds with field peas and a couple others with an oat/clover mix once the peas were gone. This is the first year we’ve managed to do this consistently and in a timely fashion; previous attempts have been kind of sporadic. We’re motivated by the visible benefits from limited cover cropping last year. We can see the improvements compared with the beds that weren’t cropped: looser soil with better tilth, less erosion, better water retention.

Of course, it’s not all coming up roses at Chez Markate. Although I try to be meticulous with my seed starting, I’m having all sorts of trouble with some of my seedlings. In the past, I’ve started peppers, tomatoes, and basil in mini soil blocks that heat up quickly to 70 degrees or more. This year is no different, but the results certainly are. Germination has been great, but I’m finding many of the emerging seedlings are failing to take root. The tiny plants have been bowing over and petering out within a day or two of sprouting. The effect is somewhat different from damping off fungus, where the base of the stem withers visibly. Even the seedlings that have survived are anemic and slow growing. I’m pretty sure there’s something wrong with the soil block mix I made for the mini blocks.

We expect to get only about 15 tomato plants and a handful of peppers--a poor showing compared with past years. Fortunately, there are many local sources of live plants for the nightshade family. I just put in an order for 25 pepper plants from Cross Country Nursery and managed to score most of the same varieties we were planning for this year. We also plan on attending the annual Catalpa Ridge plant sale at Lafayette Village in May to augment our tomato stock. We used to do all our tomatoes and peppers from purchased live plants, so in a sense we’ve come full circle. The alliums and brassicas continue to thrive, fortunately, so we’re currently trying on our ‘glass half-full’ hat for size.

It helps that this week truly feels like spring. Look how happy our rhubarb is!

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