Thursday, May 8, 2014

Spring Nature Study: Getting Ready for Gardening

Our nature study has seemed a little unfocused so far this term. My plan was to switch our focus from birds to garden plants. However, starting sometime at the beginning of April, new birds began to come to our feeder. First the song sparrows, then the red-winged blackbirds came. Robins appeared. Starlings decreased, and common grackles increased. Yesterday and today the chipping sparrows have been visiting the feeder. I think that we will always be interested in birds now that we have focused on them for a season. I wonder if every focus we choose will be like that?

Winter hung on for a very long time this year. About 6 centimeters of snow fell on Monday, though it did not accumulate on the ground. The grass is finally getting green, but I noticed there is still snow on the ground in the woods. I always find that the switch from winter to summer is very late and quick on P.E.I., and I have to make the most of the brief spring to get things done in the garden.

Here are my tomato plants. My brother-in-law started too many, and passed some on to me. I repotted them in larger pots this week because it will still be three weeks before they can be planted outdoors. I have been putting them outdoors in a sheltered area for a few hours every nice day to begin to harden them off. The temperatures (since our snowy Monday) have been around twelve degrees Celcius.

My project this week has been to make a new lasagna bed. It's called lasagna because of the layers of compost used to make it. Some people call it sheet composting. It will be ready to plant in next year. I used layers of old straw, leaves and twigs from the yard, and kitchen compost that has been accumulating in my green bin since last year. The boys really enjoyed this project, especially pushing the wheelbarrow and helping me stack bricks to frame the bed. (I'm not terribly happy with what I've done...the bricks keep falling down! I'll either have to cement them together, or think of something else.)

I have two "square foot garden" boxes from previous years. The far one in the corner is filled with "Mel's Mix," soil made up of 1/3 compost, 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite. After doing that several years ago, I decided that mixing my own soil was a ridiculous expense when regular soil and compost are virtually free. The near box is filled with compost made with the "lasagna" method I mentioned above. (I have found that the box filled with homemade compost tends to have better produce, but since I've never planted the same crops in each, I can't be certain.) Both have been planted with kale, spinach, onions, peas, and lettuce, which are all cold-weather crops. I'm not sure I didn't start a little too early with them, with snow falling this week. If they don't work out, I can always replant. The boys love helping me plant. They also run around finding worms, ants, sowbugs, and other interesting creatures. 

The cardboard between the beds is there to discourage weeds. I would like to put something --wood chips? stones? --on top of the cardboard so the walkways look nicer, but we'll see if I can get something like that for free. On the positive side, the cardboard is great to kneel on as I'm working.

What about you? What stage is your garden at in your part of the world? How do you share gardening with your children?