Friday, April 30, 2010

Good mulching yesterday

Thanks to Noah, Allison, Mike, Nathan, and Alexis for coming by and helping spread a couple inches of mulch over the whole garden.  (And thanks to Donna/99 Kent and the Chavalis for the wheelbarrows.)  The garden looks spiffy and neat now, and the mulch will keep down weeds and help reduce our watering needs.  Normally, I'd prefer salt marsh hay or similar mulch, but since this is so public, it makes sense to use the cedar bark mulch.  And a huge thanks to Donna and the property for giving us the mulch!

(Here's Alexis hard at work.)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tea Party (and we're mulching tomorrow, Thursday, at 5:45pm)

Jeff and I worked in the greenhouse to have a little tea party for the seedlings.  Worm casting (worm poop) tea, actually.  The seedlings are doing the best they can in the tough environment of the greenhouse, but they needed some food (the signs are that their color is off and their leaves are too small).   A cup or two of worm castings in a bucket of water makes for a good organic fertilizer.  I've found that straining the tea is important, to screen out excess cellulose fibers from the newspaper bedding. 

We'll see how it goes, but I predict we'll see them green up a bit in a few days.  If not, we might need to give some more in a few days.

It seems like they've been handling the cool nights pretty well--it got down to 45 in the greenhouse last night (with the heat on). 

Tomorrow, Thursday, we'll be spreading mulch on the garden itself, starting around 5:45pm (I think it'll take an hour or so).  If you're in the area and want to hang out and get a tiny bit of a workout, please stop by.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Peas are up!

I'm back from vacation (the kids were on spring break) and was very happy to see that the snow peas are up. They're just an inch or two high, but they look good.  We were supposed to have rain today, but it's waiting, waiting.  (I'm probably the only person in Boston hoping for rain.)  A little rain will help a lot.  Right now we have four 10-foot blocks of peas.  Once they're done, we can replace them with squash or melons.

The plants are still plugging away in the greenhouse.  The harsh environment has been tough on them, but I think the plants will come around once they get in the ground.  We'll have a planting day on May 8th, for some of the plants (beans and chard).  The tomatoes and peppers and squash will have to wait until later in May.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Successful Repotting Today

Our dedicated crew worked hard in the greenhouse today, repotting several hundred seedlings.  Despite the chilly temps in the greenhouse (about 50), we had Allison, Keff, Jenn, Alexis, Nathan, Tracy, and Noah (when we could get him away from the Ninentdo DS and the piano) working hard to give our seedlings a little growing room.

It looks like we've got another two nights of pretty cold weather, with temps in the 30s, and there are too many plants to move now, so we've just got to hope the heater can keep the temps from dipping too low.  After Monday, I think we should have pretty clear sailing, weather-wise.  I'm going to be gone all week, but our greenhouse team of Keff, Jeff, Allison, and Nathan will have everything under control.

Here are a few photos from today:

You can see we've mostly filled the benches:  (here Alexis, Jenn and Allison are working hard)

It was a gloomy, cold day (even in the greenhouse, but we had fun anyway). Here are Tracy and Keff.  You can see the blue tarp we've got up, now that a big part of the roof blew off.  It kept us dry and seems to be keeping the plants just warm enough.

Nathan hard at work:

Full Benches (we had to leave one patch blank, because there was cold water running off the traps covering the hole in the roof):

Now let's just hope all the plants make it through the next few days of cool weather.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Potting Day tomorrow (Saturday) from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Tomorrow morning, from 9:30am-11:30 am, we'll be working in the greenhouse, putting seedlings in pots.  Our order of 500 4" pots and 50 6" pots arrived on Wednesday.  I also bought four big bags of potting soil, which I hope will be enough.  Some of the seedlings are already too big for even moving to the 4" pots (which, it turns out, are a little shallower than I expected.  Bummer.).  The pole beans are crazy.

The damage to the greenhouse has made for a tricky week.  But we've had some plastic up over part of the roof to keep the rain out, and I put up two blue plastic tarps today that I think will both help keep the rain out--which is important for this next stretch of cool weather, so we can keep the blower for the heat dry--and the warmth in, since it's going to be in the 30s every night for the next four or five nights.  Moving the plants in and out is about to get a lot harder--I think tomorrow we'll repot at least 200 plants, which means we'll double the number trays from 20 to 40, at least.  I'm hoping that the tarps won't block out too much important sunlight, but this week is going to be about tradeoffs.

Anyway, if you'd like to help out tomorrow, we'd love to have you.  The front door to the building will be locked, but you can call up and we'll send someone down to let you in.  (It helps if you e-mail me to let me know you're coming.)

Here are the seedlings yesterday:

Here's just some of the pots we'll be using:

Should be fun!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Big Bad Blustery Day

Today was one of those weird days where a lot things didn't go quite right.  There was no wheelbarrow at the building for me to spread out mulch after I planted peas.  (Though I did plant four 10-foot rows of peas in the garden today.)  The outside water isn't turned on yet, so I had to get a few watering cans filled from the restroom, which took some extra work.  It was unbearably hot (it hit 90 here today).  The tops all blew off the flats that I'd taken out of the greenhouse, because even with the vent wide open, it was 97 degrees in there at noon today.  I hope the plants didn't get too dried out in the wind.

Ah, the wind.  That was the cause of the really big problem today.  I got a whole series of messages from Jeff and Keff this afternoon when I remembered to turn on my phone, informing me that the panel of windows that opens to vent the greenhouse (20 feet long) blew off today.  Apparently it was hanging on my a few pieces of metal and maintenance had to come get it down.

Luckily no one was hurt.  And it didn't cause any other serious accidents.  But definitely not a good thing.

I got over there around 6 (after getting the peas in) to check out the situation.  The panel is actually in better shape than I expected.  It's not twisted or sheared in any way, so it can probably go back up, if we can figure out a way to make it more secure.  I've looked at the panel a bit, but I'm not quite sure how we're going to reattach it and get it to stay.

In a way, having the panel broken and off is better for the plants than having it screwed completely shut.  We can heat the greenhouse enough, even with the panel off.  But with the panel on, it was impossible to cool the greenhouse enough to keep from cooking the plants, on even a slightly warm day.

Ultimately, we're going to have to figure out a solution that will work to keep a roof on the greenhouse.  Fairly soon, I suppose.  I'm not sure with what money this will happen.  My sense is that there's no budget at the apartment complex for major repairs to the greenhouse.   (So if you're a big donor out there, looking for a project to fund...)

The funny thing is that this morning I ordered 500 4" pots and 50 6" pots, and 35 trays, to prepare for repotting next week.  So I guess we'd better find a way to keep making this work.  (I love the internet.  I got 4" pots for less than a penny each at


(I don't have any photos of the roof or panel, but here are how the seedlings looked this morning:

The pole beans are crazy big already.  We need to get them in pots very soon.  (Note to self:  we need potting soil.)

Great Work Day Monday

Thanks to everyone who showed up to work on Monday for our last-minute digging session.  Nathan, Sarah, Benjamin, Yvonne, Allison, and two BU students, Liz and Amanda, all helped spread compost and turn over the soil one last time.  Tracy worked hard up in the greenhouse taking inventory and replacing seedlings that had died (from the heat) and planting seeds that had gotten missed in the planting frenzy.

In addition, we were able to get the top row of vent windows open on the greenhouse.  That should make a huge difference for temperature control.  The only downside is that I have to get up on the ladder to open it, manually, every sunny morning, and get up there again to close it every night.

I'll have more photos soon.  The seedling mostly look great, though the heat has been tough on them.  Next weeks should give them some gentler, steadier growing conditions.  Keff and Jeff and Allison have been keeping a close eye on the plants and watching the temps and trying to keep everything alive.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Last minute workday today

We've been waiting for a stretch of dry weather to put some finishing touches on the soil of the 200 Foot Garden.  Yesterday, I was able to spread out some lime on the garden, to balance the pH a bit.  Now we need to spread out the rest of the compost (since the extension isn't going to happen) and then dig it and the lime into the soil.  We need to get this done soon, so that we can get the mulch on (and suppress weeds) and get the peas planted.

So, we're going to have quick workday today, from 5:30pm-7pm.  I know the announcement is last minute, but if any of you have the time and want to get a little after work time in the sun and fresh air, I hope you'll stop by.  (Bring a shovel if you have one.)

Thanks!  I hope to see some of you there.  (We can show you the seedlings in the greenhouse, too.)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Game On! (the seeds are sprouting)

So some of what we did last weekend in the greenhouse must have worked, because yesterday morning the seeds started to sprout.  We have chard, cucumbers, thyme, oregano, and even a winter squash, all starting to grow.

Now comes the tricky part, trying to make sure we don't fry them in the greenhouse.  Once the sun is up, it really bakes in there.  The good news is that we have two residents of the apartment complex keeping a close eye on it, and Allison and I both get over there.  But yesterday temps peaked as high as 109, for short while.  We won't be able to have that happen very often.  I think we can pull this off, but it's going to take constant vigilance.

I went over there twice yesterday, because I just couldn't resist seeing the new plants again in the afternoon.  Hard to believe that in about 4-5 weeks, we'll be putting all these in the ground.  I think it'll be both a very short and very long time to wait.

Here are the first chard sprouts: