Monday, March 22, 2010

Gardening Weather

I've been a busy kid. The DH hunted down some folks doing pruning in the area, so I got another huge (free!) load of chipped plant material (mostly pine this time) that I'm going to use for more paths. I got two more beds opened up, four more paths opened and mulched, and a bunch of new perennials planted. A good friend of mine donated a bunch of plants and it took a while to get everything in the ground. I also got some more rows of radishes, spinach, lettuce, and pac choi. I also planted New Zealand spinach and two kinds of swiss chard. I'll be putting together my mini-greenhouse soon for my tenders and tropicals. Now that the solstice is behind us, we have that minimum 12 hours of daylight a day that sparks germination in seeds like petunias and helps generate some heat for heat lovers like tomatoes and peppers (though I'll have to supply heat at night.)

It's hard to remember that it's early, really really early, in the growing season. We've had excellent planting weather, though the snow pack is thin and therefore we'll probably have a drought this summer. That puts those of us on a well into kind of a situation if we do, snow pack or no--if the water table drops below the level of my pump, we won't have water. Not for the garden, not for the house, nada. We'll have to buy bottled water, and the plants will have to survive without.

Which brings me to a nifty little fact. The farther apart you plant veggies, the better they'll do in dry conditions. Plants are, for the most part, better survivors than we give them credit for. Overcrowding causes much of our plant problems--we put them close together for aesthetic reasons, as well as convenience and because few people have more property than they know what to do with. But think about the desert. What's the spacing on those plants? Pretty wide. Folk talk about roots going deep in search of water, but roots also go wide and take advantage of surface moisture that occurs at night and in the early morning as much as possible. Also, dry to us is not necessarily dry to a plant. Roots can extract moisture from what is apparently dry soil to us.

If you know watering is going to be an issue, try giving plants half again as much spacing as is recommended, or even double. Then water pretty deeply but not frequently, and see what happens. It may look odd, even silly to see your tomatoes planted four or five feet apart, but later you'll reap the benefits in less water use and some pretty darned sturdy plants. For more details, do some reading on xeriscaping and of course, Gardening West of the Cascades.

It's been raining lately (yay!) so I'm back into full-time writing mode. When the rains go away, the gardener will go out to play.

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