Friday, May 23, 2014

Chitting my peas

It sounds like I (Shannon) am doing something naughty to my peas, but I promise everything is perfectly innocent. Chitting is a method of putting seed between two pieces of damp absorbent paper to germinate before planting. I learned about this previously and decided to try it this year because of the cold spring.  I also had old seed that I wasn't sure was still viable. So I placed 30 seeds of each variety of peas on a damp square of paper towel labeled with its name. I then folded the paper towel over the seeds to hold them in place and put it in a zip-lock bag.
Neat packages of peas
Within a week almost all of the peas had germinated. The root, which looks like a little tail, is the first thing to emerge from the seed. I think that I could have planted them sooner than I did as these guys have their cotyledon leaves starting to emerge as well.
Sprouted Peas
 The garden beds were still covered with their winter coat of leaves and it had snowed the week before so the soil was quite cold. Seeds germinate at a temperature range specific to the plant. While the peas would not germinate well in the cold soil and may rot instead, once germinated they will grow in the chilly soil.  One thing to do different this fall is to shred the leaves before spreading on the beds as this would save having to remove them in the spring. This will help them break down faster and not make a matted mess.
Winter Bed
 I planted the peas on the north and south ends of five beds where they can climb the stationary fencing. Since they will be harvested before the other plants in the beds, shading will not be an issue.

Peas in the Bed
Growing Pea Plants

Monday, May 5, 2014

Building Tall Raised Beds

Last year we helped our neighbor replace the planks on their deck. In exchange for our help they gave us what we wanted of the old wood.  One of the projects we used the old wood for was a potting bench, which we talked about in an earlier post.  This spring we used all the remaining wood to construct two new tall raised beds.  The beds are 3 feet wide, 12 feet long and about 28 inches high.

Construction started on April 13.  The first thing to do was cut all the planks to size and assemble the 12 foot long walls. This was done in the garage so the rain was not a factor.  It actually snowed a few days later.
Construction Begins
Deck planks transformed into walls

Next we moved the sides one at a time to the back yard to assemble in place.  It would be too heavy to move the completed bed by hand.  Deck screws were used in the assembly.  We then stapled landscape fabric along the inside of the beds to help keep the soil from seeping out the cracks between planks.
Adding the Ends

Because of mole / vole issues we decided to purchase some hardware cloth to put on the bottom of the beds.  It is much easier to do this before adding the dirt. :)  I rolled the beds over and stapled the hardware cloth to the bottom.  I was grateful that I made the beds 3 feet wide on the outside dimension and not on the inside dimension because then the 36" roll of hardware cloth fit nicely for stapling.  This is something to consider when constructing your own beds.
Stapling on the hardware cloth
Hardware Cloth on bottom, well top at the moment

Next came figuring out how much soil / compost we needed to fill the beds.  I used this website to calculate how many cubic yards I needed.

Because the bins were so high and to cut down on the amount of soil needed, we first filled the bottom with logs we had piled up previously. Some of which was from a tree that had fallen during a storm last winter. We then filled in the cracks with some wood chips we made previously when we borrowed a chipper to chip up some brush and pine trees we cleared to make room for some of the beds.  This wood in the bottom serves a dual purpose. To take up space and add nutrients back into the beds as they break down over time.  This technique is known as:  Hugelkultur.
Logs in the bottom to take up space and add nutrients
Wood-chip Filler

Thanks to IB Compost and our friend Tom who made 4 trips to haul 5.5 yards for us, we then filled the beds, one five gallon bucket at a time until they were full to the top.
Filler Up!

Here is the completed beds (May 4th) with some rainbow Swiss chard transplanted into it.  We plan to add more herbs and flowers soon.  Some nice things about having tall raised beds is not having to bend down as much to tend to them, being out of reach of bunnies, and having plenty of root zone space as compared to other containers.
Small Beginnings