Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Planting by the Moon: 0; Squirrels, Sun, Heat, Drought: 8

Last August I was so excited to try out Tim Miller's planting by the moon schedule. Through no fault of Farmer Miller, the planting schedule has been a dismal failure chez Vert.

The lettuces I seeded back in early September yielded these lonely guys:
I seeded the whole area, about 4' by 3'. I shielded with shade cloth and still ended up with these three plants, which I really should worship right now. I just checked on them, and they are engulfed in ants. Didn't have the heart to try to figure out if they are fire ants.

And then there were the peas: shelling, snow, and snap that I sowed in late September. The shelling peas came up but the snows and snaps--nothing. I guess the squirrels were the ones upending them, and the beets.

For the first time, I actually soaked the beet seeds overnight, which is supposed to help with their germination. Instead, I got nothing. A few beets sprouted but none survived the heat of the last two weeks.

And the radishes, the easiest of the fall vegetables to grow? Zero! Zero germination. It can't just be that I bought bad seeds.

Maybe this summer's heat ruined my soil? I added more compost and a little organic fertilizer, but I just realized last night that I haven't seen a single earthworm in weeks! Where have you gone, my little harbingers of soil fertility?

I had better luck with germination when I had no idea what I was doing.

Last night I decided to throw out the planting with the moon and to reverse my sad fall vegetable mojo.
I wore these pretty new clothes my friend gave me as an early birthday present. (Thanks! They fit great, and I won't at all hold them responsible if I again end up with poor germination. I promise.)
I also brought out the dueling guns to cover my newly planted pea, beet, and radish seeds: that's cayenne pepper on the right, chipotle on the left. Those squirrels might try to get my crop again, but at least they will pay for it.
I also decided to use my German zinc watering can to water in the newbies. Maybe my watering wand on the shower setting was too strong for the little seeds of the last planting that I found pooled in a corner? And maybe the bat embossed on the can will spread some hypothetical guano on my plants.
As an additional line of defense, I placed row cover around the new seeds. And then it rained last night, which overall made me happy but I am afraid it might have been too much for my little ones.
I do, or perhaps did, have backup for some of these purchased starter plants. I have been hardening them off the last few days and then today I may have left them outside too long. They look sad and miserable, a little like I feel right now.

After the summer's disastrous vegetable failure, I was really pinning my hopes on my fall vegetable garden. The newly planted fall garden at Lady Bird Lake is growing well. The gardens I've helped install for others are bringing smiles to their faces.

Is it really too much to ask that I can grow vegetables in my own backyard?

At least, tomorrow is another day.


  1. I've been using floating row cover, too, to try to keep the squirrels out. It's worked partially. But something, squirrels, raccoons, cats, tears at it and manages to dig in the seedbed anyway.

    As for germination, I've had pretty good luck. I plant in furrows. After I make the furrow, I water it a couple of times to make sure the ground beneath is pretty damp. Then I sow my seeds, press them firmly into the damp earth (usually with a board) and depending on type cover them with sand or dirt. Then I gently sprinkle water over them again.

    After that, I just keep them slightly damp with the mister. Our problem is that the ground is just so very, very dry.

  2. If you saw my garden, Vertie, you'd recognize this as hearsay evidence - sometimes people leave the board on top of the seed row for a few days. Have to keep checking and take off fast when they germinate.

    But I don't know if that would work this year.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  3. Vertie,

    Thank you for taking the time to id my mysterious moth...especially when you are busy planting your fall garden! I love knowing that there are wonderfully helpful and thoughtful blogging friends to help me with plant and bug mysteries! My garden hat is off to you!


  4. Hang in there, Vertie. I had no luck on one round of fall veggies but now my cucumbers seem to be fighting back and chard is coming up. We'll see on the spinach.

    That cayenne looks painful!

  5. Vertie,

    I feel a little guilty that I've had good luck so far using Tim Miller's planting schedule when I wouldn't have even known about it had you not posted it.

    I just thought of something that I've been doing that may or may not be making a difference: I give all the newly sown seeds and seedlings an afternoon misting, even if they don't really need the water, just to cool them off a little.

    And I keep the soil overall fairly consistently moist, but not soggy.

    Good luck and thanks for all ongoing the info!

  6. I think that maybe the soil was a little too hot for some of those seeds. Many fall vegs. like a lower soil temperature and this year the cooler temps. are only just arriving. I have found in the past that October and November are a better time to start the seeds. Chard will do OK at any time. The first year I had my raised beds I didn't plant until Nov. and had my best crop ever. I am about to plant garlic this week.

  7. Reading your post and then the comments makes me feel less guilty about being so far behind on my fall veggie garden-- I'm still clearing space so I can build the friggin' raised beds! I think I'm going to stop by Callahan's and see if they have stock tanks narrow enough to fit in a 6' wide side yard. That would save me a lot of work right there. But good luck with the veggies! I'd never heard about some of the germination tricks that people are suggesting, and I'm curious to see what'll work in this weather!

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