April has been an interesting month, with rain, a couple of nights of freezing temperatures, and a few days later a couple of days that reached 90+!
I managed to rent a big tiller and till the current garden and cut in an additional 36‘ X 84’ garden space to the west of the current garden.
With this new space I have close to 6,000 square feet of garden space. I assume this will be much more space than I will need, but it will give me lots of room to try things. I felt very constrained in my garden in San Jose and feel like this size garden will remove that constrained feeling, although I am not sure feeling unconstrained is completely a good thing. I tested the soil in the current garden as well as the new space. As I guessed, the original garden soil was nearly perfect due to the excellent stewardship of the previous owners (Thank you so much!). The new plot is a different story; it is very acidic, low on nutrients, and organic matter. I have some work to do before that is sorted out. I also managed to plumb the depth of the soil in the northwest corner of the new plot. At about 1 ¾ feet down, I found shale gravel. I did not dig into that very much as I had a focus on getting my potatoes planted. Not knowing what the story is there will bug me so I know at some point I will dig a hole big enough and deep enough to sort out what is going on down there. I hit this gravel over an area of about 10 feet by 5 feet in that northwest corner. In the rest of those rows the soil was more than 2 feet deep as that is about as deep as I dug. Even if it is the edge of a gravel shelf, 1 ½ feet of soil is fine for most vegetables and if I plant in raised rows which is my plan there will be more like 3 feet of soil and that is more than enough even for tomatoes. The other interesting discovery in that side of the new garden is a layer of black PVC film. I am guessing that film was put down at some point in past, maybe to heat up the soil or something, and was left there. Over the years it became covered with dirt and grass. The tiller tore it up into small pieces which I expect I will continue to pick up for a while to come. It is not a big problem just an interesting discovery, something to wonder about, and a reminder that what we leave behind always has an impact. We make a lot of choices every day; they all have consequences.
I installed T-tape irrigation and a battery operated timer system in the current garden. The timer came with a three ¾” valve setup so I can use it to control irrigation for both garden spaces and the adjacent orchard. At this time, I am using 0.700 Poly tubing as the main lines just to get things going. Once I am happy with how things are working I plan to convert it to a ¾” PVC pipe system dug into the ground to protect it and provide greater water flow.
I built my grow out tables which provide two decks that extend 16 feet by 3 feet giving me lots of room. I put up a temporary greenhouse structure built with ¾-inch PVC pipe and covered it with 4 mil PVC sheeting (not greenhouse film) held in place with old PVC clips and some mason line used for anti-billowing lines. When the wind got too strong the PVC film blew up, but then new PVC clips arrived in the mail and it has been holding so far. The PVC film is not ideal but seems to work. For next year, I hope to have a more permanent structure and then I will use greenhouse film. To really protect from the frost, I would have to setup a two layer film setup, which would require power. Of course then, I would start to think about wanting to add heat so that it does not freeze during very cold dark periods, and automatic ventilation… .
I transplanted my lettuce, pac choi, mustard, and cabbage in mid-April after the freeze and before the 90+ temps. A couple of the cabbages look sad but that might not have anything to do with the weather as it could just be field shock from the transplanting. I have lots of back up plants ready to transplant to replace any plants that fail. The rest of the plants are looking great.
Potatoes finally got planted at the very end of April. I feel like this was a month later than I would have liked but the garden was not really ready any earlier. I planted 15# of seed potatoes in three 33’ rows. This is tighter than recommended, but I just did not want to commit any more of the garden to potatoes. Next year I need to limit my seed potato order to about 12# for closer to normal spacing.
I started my tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers at least a month too early. The tomatoes are way too leggy and the peppers should have been in the ground a few weeks ago. It is a lot more work planting these leggy plants, but if I am careful they should turn out fine. Both tomatoes and peppers benefit from being planted deep in the soil, but at least the tomatoes are a bit beyond the ideal size. The rest of the plants are all in good shape and ready to plant.
I seeded summer and winter squash, kohlrabi, cucumber, and melons in the greenhouse late in April. They are starting to germinate and will be planted in 3” pots in a few weeks. Any that do not germinate will be direct seeded in the garden at planting time.
Plan: by mid-May.
Transplant plant tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, romanesco, fennel, and eggplants into the garden.
Seed leeks in a garden seed bed for transplant later in the year.
Apply lime and compost to the rows and sweet corn area to the new garden area.
Setup pole bean and cucumber trellises and direct seed pole and bush beans.
Plan: by end of May.
Complete the warm weather garden planting.
Take down the temporary greenhouse structure and move the tables to a better location.
Turn my focus to the orchard, flower beds, and yard.
Start to work on building a walking path around the property.
The soil in the new garden space needs a lot of improvements. My idea at this time is to try to improve to soil in the area where the vegetables are actually planted and will grow and not the entire space as I feel under pressure to get things planted. Then, as those crops finish up this fall, add major amounts of amendments, which can then mellow into the soil during the winter. Then, in very early spring, test the soil again and make minor adjustments before the summer planting starts. I suspect this process will be repeated for years to come.
We have been letting the yard grow out to enjoy the wild flowers that are coming up in the grass. It is an interesting look although a bit wild and un-kempt. We will start to get our arms around that situation in May as well.