Planting Onions (right side up)

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How lucky we are when we can find a mentor.  Debbie is a Master Gardener and willing teacher.  And since I was not raised on a farm or with any pass down farming knowledge, it has been all trial and error for twenty years!  Mostly error.  Every week that I go to her house and stand in her greenhouse in all its tropical luxury or outdoors among the cattle and rolling hills, I learn so much.  So many things that would seem obvious coming to light.

We planted onions last week.  In a 10×10 bed she stuck the thermometer in and it registered 40 degrees. We gathered up the bags of onions.  Every four inches we punched a little hole a few inches deep with our fingers.  Four inches in every direction went an onion.  She asked me if I knew which way to plant them, what side faces up?  I was so thankful that I did.  Sometimes I feel like a complete kindergartener in the soil but then I am happy in those moments when I can puff out my chest and say, “Yup!”  I have planted my fair share of upside down daffodils, tulips, onions, and garlic over the years.  I think I know better now!  I rather fear that in a month or so she will know which side of the bed I planted.  I imagine her beautifully straight rows on her end and the crooked grid on mine!  Onions every which way!

Roughly 20 minutes of water a day if there is no moisture.  Perhaps doubled that in the heat of summer.  In late summer the green tops will topple and the onions will be complete.  Now I need to know how to cure them and keep them all winter.  Mine turned to water after a month!

We are back from our trip and after redecorating my lair, I am getting out in that garden.  Need to pick up a soil thermometer.  Doug hasn’t had time to put in the drip lines yet so a low sprinkler on the early crops should be sufficient until he has a sunny weekend.

I can already smell the caramelized onions….

Not Killing Cold Crops

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I was going to plant all the cold crops around St. Patrick’s day.  I heard you could.  But then I thought maybe we were moving so I didn’t.  Turns out I would have killed off everything if I had!  I think my friend/teacher/Master Gardener is determined to make a proper farmgirl out of me and help me actually grow stuff.  (As a proper farmgirl should be able to provide food for her family and not just adorable stunted plants that could feed gnomes.) Our lesson last week started with me telling her about my cold crop planting plans and she asked, “Did you take the soil temperature?”  …what?…no.

I have a candy thermometer, a baby thermometer, a root cellar thermometer, no thermometers for the dirt lying around.  That is going to change.

Cold crops can be planted when the soil is 45 degrees.  My cold crops consist of yummy peas, Swiss chard, kale, collards, carrots, potatoes, lettuce, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, potatoes, radishes, and broccoli.

Use milk cartons with their bottoms chopped off for cloches.  Put the screw top lid on at night and off during the day.  If I start my barrel of potatoes, use the trash can lid to cover at night.  Keep all the kids warm and tucked in while the night sky is still chilly.  During the day let them play and take in the sunshine.  In a few weeks I ought to be eating good, fresh spring fare.

She recommended that instead of continuing the soil pattern in the potato barrel (adding 6 inches of dirt every time the leaves stick up) add 6 inches of straw.  We are just trying to keep them in the dark.  Straw is lighter, easier to dig through.

She uses a drip line for 20 minutes daily.  I told her about my absolute loss of any common sense when it comes to watering.  So I am picking up a water level checker thing too.  Just so I know when to water or not.  I have not had any problems overwatering if she is watering 20 minutes a day, more in the summer.  More than 30 seconds of watering would do my garden wonders.

I also learned that you can drill tiny holes in a five gallon bucket and place it at the base of new trees (or old) and fill with water every time you pass with the hose.  It provides a steady drip of water to the thirsty roots.  Don’t my new orchard trees wish I had learned that last year?!

So, here’s the scoop.  We are looking at one last place that we really want after we get back from Santa Fe next week.  If we don’t get it, I will stop looking until fall.  Tis gardening season after all!  I will have Doug install the drip lines here in the crumbling raised beds and grow ridiculous amounts of food from heirloom seeds in riotous colors and hone my farmgirl skills thanks to Debbie.  I have another lesson in the morning!  And I’ll be off to get a dirt thermometer as well.