Sunday, May 29, 2011

Planting begins

A momentous occasion at Chalupy Acres began on Friday -- putting in the transplants. Then we have the stuff we grow from seed, but that's another post.
The extreme left row (row 0) is the herb bed. It isn't even prepped yet. I ran the tiller over it. Next one going left to right is row 1, and so forth. Today I finished row 2. You will observe the cloches. This is a French word meaning "bell." Around the turn of the 19th century, French market gardeners used bell-shaped covers as portable greenhouses to prolong growing seasons; indeed they grew crops in cloches year-round, since in those days none but the rich could afford greenhouses. My cloches are made from apple juice containers, top and bottom cut off. They protect from a frost, and empirically, they lessen the transplant shock. My transplants, like Louis in Casablanca, have informed me that they are shocked -- shocked! Also, the cloche protects from wind. And wind sucks heat away from your tender seedlings. But I have run out of cloches. Fortunately I have a large number of containers waiting to be transformed to cloches.

So tomorrow we will fire up the bandsaw and make some more cloches. Like money, love, and friends, you can't have enough. Cloching is very labor-intensive. Each plant gets its private cloche. If I were a market gardener I couldn't do it. I would have to spend money on hoops and row covers instead.

Most people in Alaska start planting on Memorial day -- tomorrow. It is always a gamble, of course. So far, the date of last frost is June 5 here at Chalupy, in 2007 I think. But the last two years it has been around May 15. However, not 6 Km away at Corner Farm (as I call it) my friend Don informs me that it froze solid two days ago. It's microclimate stuff.

When one peruses the gardening books, one is advised in great detail on the tools one should have. My advice to gardeners: get a thermometer. Get one that does minimum and maximum temperatures. The electronic ones are cheap. Log min/max every day of the year. Put your thermometer in the shade. If no shade is available, build a coop for it, like a birdhouse, because otherwise it will heat up directly from radiation and not give you air temperature. Drill lots of holes in the coop. Get to know your microclimate. Your thermometer will also advise you of the day of the first frost in fall -- another important number.

And Greenhouse 2.0 is taking shape. But that's another post.

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