Sunday, March 15, 2015

That Time of Year

One of the best things about living in Kansas City is that most years we get really nice and long springs and falls. We are now two weeks into a gorgeous spring. The last couple weeks have had highs in the 60s and lows in the 30s. Again, we spent the entire weekend outside.
Our yard near the house had been professionally landscaped at some time in the past. Unfortunately, the previous owners of our house (all of them) didn't take the upkeep and maintenance portion of the homeowner's class. Everything in back had become so unkempt and overgrown that drastic measures were required. We had several fountain grasses along the back patio, same as the old house. Except these were planted over soaker hoses and had gotten really, really big. One day of digging and cutting later and they are history. I cut apart and replanted some along one of the property lines to remind our next door neighbor about such things. One of the previous owners had also planted some wild, blooming onions. These turned out to be exceptionally prolific and I'm surprised they aren't growing in the house too. The problem is that they are too soft to pull so a hopefully a couple gallons of roundup did the trick.
The garden beds are finished and now contain peas, radishes, and green onions. It's a little early yet but I thought I spied a radish seedling today. I'm still getting used to the idea of a garden getting sun all day. Such a novel concept.
We still have lots of planting to do but the house is loving a little care. Not to brag, but we are enjoying the full southern exposure on the back of the house too. We had a window in our last bathtub. Since it faced the front of the house we never used it. Our tub now faces the rear and opening the window in the shower is a treat in March.
Without a basement it's difficult to start many plants. I've read enough posts from Mark Willis to be convinced into some sort of low-cost plastic greenhouse for the beginning of the season. When Mavis posted one on sale from Amazon I decided to give it a try. I mean this thing cost less than $60. I'm giving it a week trial on the bad porch before moving it behind the garage and into more sun. I repotted the tomatoes into 4" pots and moved them out along with some wildflowers and the citrus. It gets hot enough in the daytime that I have to open the door and the tomatoes aren't showing any stress from the couple 30 degree nights. Since the tomatoes went directly from the grow light out to the greenhouse they did get a little sunburnt but nothing too bad. The nice thing is that in a month I can break it down and stow in the garage.
Winston has been crucial helping in the yard and garden this weekend. He has had a rough week. He took a plastic shovel to the head at daycare and bled like a stuck pig on Thursday. Yesterday he managed to hang a toy dump truck up on the sidewalk when he was going full speed. His face broke his fall. The only saving grace is that he can't see it and seems to be a tough little guy. Needless to say he has gotten a bit more cookies and ice cream the last couple days.
We didn't want to cook this evening and I have been wanting to try Il Lazzarone since it opened Wednesday. After a perfectly awesome lunch at Port Fonda and even better margaritas on Friday with Sam, I was excited to do two great restaurants in one week. Il Lazzarone is one of 12 restaurants in the US to be certified to make authentic Neapolitan pizza. Their wood-fired oven is straight from Naples and pretty spectacular. Winston enjoyed watching the pizzas go in with the long stick. If you are in KC I would highly recommend stopping by. The food is fantastic.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Spring is HERE!

We had a weekend in the 60s and took full advantage of it. Spring has definitely sprung and with the temperatures in the 60s all week, plants will take off this week.
I'm starting some plants using a pretty ghetto grow light setup. Although the 4 bulb t5 seems to really work for the tomatoes, it's supported with a very rough 1x2 frame. I've had the hydrofarm 2ft, 4 bulb t5 setup in my office now for a couple years. I've successfully bloomed lemons and coffee there using it. I moved it home for a time to start vegetable seeds. If I had room I would be buying a 6 or 8 bulb 4 foot setup. There is no comparison of t5 bulbs to t8 and definitely not to t12.
I found out that between not having a garden last year, moving, and random storage conditions, the peppers have a zero percent germination rate this year. Oh well, I will buy some plants to get us through and new seeds next year.
I purchased a bunch of wood for a front door planter at the old house. Since we moved shortly after, that didn't happen and the wood has been in storage. Luckily, the 4 inch cedar boards were just the right size for the new garden. The bed design has changed several times but I've finally settled on a design. The back of the house faces south. Everything from the beds to the house in this picture will end up being a butterfly garden minus space for the cedar of Lebanon to grow.
This is a pretty good shot of our overhang. The lounge has 10 foot windows with no covering. The overhang allows full light at the height of winter and doesn't allow any light through the windows at the height of summer. Pretty neat.
Winston is full on into construction equipment at this point and jumped at the thought of helping me scoop and dump dirt all day.
Since my dirt was delivered in January, it has been more than frozen lately. Today the pile was thawed enough to get all of it to the garden, but some pieces were still frozen. Win had fun smashing the frozen pieces to break them up.
In all I ended up with 8 beds, 3-4ft by 16ft, 1-4ft by 12 ft, and 4-4ft by 4ft. This is represents an 88% increase from the old house. Couple that with a great increase in daylight and we should be in for a huge amount of canning come August. Since the baby is due at the end of June, I guess I'm in for a big canning run. It's ok, I like to can.
 I know they say worms thrive on neglect, but seriously? I pulled 5 gallons of sieved worm casings from the worm inn. During the move the worms just got stuck under a tree out by our hobo camp (see shanty town just beyond the previous picture). They got way too hot and way too dry, and probably way too wet. I gave the worms a big feeding about a year ago and then loaded them up with decomposed leaves somewhere around May. Once the garage went up I moved them there in November. Even yesterday when I checked there was a huge frozen ball in the middle and I figured that was it the worm experiment was coming to a close. Nope, today everything was thawed and I harvested a load of gorgeous casings. Not just that but the inn is crawling with worms of every age. In all the years of having worms I haven't seen so many babies or toddlers (pre-juveniles). I'm going to divert our compost from the nature mill for a while to get things filled back up. Our worms are caffeine addicts and could live on nothing but coffee grounds and cardboard egg cartons. Hey, it seems to work just fine.