Spring has Sprung!

It has been a while since I posted, but I haven’t been lazy. No, no! Just a bit slow on posting. Like a lot of the rest of the country, Maryland was hit hard by the polar vortex. Even this Monday, three days before spring was about to start, we had a snowstorm that dropped 8″ on us. Boo snow! It has made getting ready for spring a bit hard, though I have been doing my best. 

Like I mentioned in my last post, I have been preparing my gardens. I started herbs and tomatoes and sugar snap peas indoors. I replanted the herbs into a new awesome home yesterday (which I will post about later) and built a spur of the moment home for the peas. Last summer, I got an incredible deal on a case of Roma tomatoes when I visited my mother and sister in New York. Fifty-five pounds of tomatoes for $18.99!! How can any self-respecting Sicilian pass that up?! Especially one with a pressure canner?! I got several gallons of sauce out of the tomatoes and had a nice wooden box to do something with. It sat outside on my patio for a while waiting for a new purpose, getting snowed on and generally abused. But yesterday, I finally had an idea of what to do with it. I planted sugar snap peas in it!

Since I am a novice gardener, I did not realize at first that peas are direct-sow plants. I started the peas with my herbs and tomatoes and got two very healthy sprouts that grew really fast. I needed to replant them if they were going to survive, but it was still too cold out. So I got out my box, some wired string, some landscaping fabric and potting soil and went to work.

I rolled out the landscaping fabric and put the box on it and figured out how much fabric I needed by turning the box and marking how tall the sides were (very scientific). I then cut diagonal slits in the fabric and sewed them up to create a cube-ish shape. This worked out okay, but next time I would do it differently. I then took the fabric and put it in the box. Using a normal staple gun, I stapled the fabric to the thin wood of the box so it stayed down. I trimmed the excess fabric so it looked a bit neater than it originally looked. 

Next, I took some wired string and went to tying supports for the pea vines to grow on. I used the wire parts of the box as guides for the string. Once the plants get tall enough, they will also be able to climb the top of the box itself. 

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High hopes for a lowly box.

I then got some good potting soil and filled in the box. The great thing about using landscaping fabric is that it keeps in the soil and allows any excess liquid to seep out, so excess water will not be trapped in the soil and make it too wet. I transplanted the two seedlings I had and also planted about seven or so new seeds as well. Hopefully they will all grow and be happy and produce some yummy sugar snaps. It is too cold to put the box outside, so they are living in plant luxury under the grow light in my back room until they can successfully be moved. 

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Happy little peas!

I can’t wait to start planting outside too! Besides the tomatoes (which are about 2″ tall now) that will be transplanted, I plan to try my hand at cucumbers, pumpkins, beets, sunchokes and dragon carrots. Dragon carrots are purple heirloom carrots. PURPLE CARROTS! My sister ordered them from a heirloom catalogue for me as a birthday present, along with some other awesome seeds and how-to homesteading books. 

I’ve also been working on my pallet patio furniture, which I mentioned in a previous post. I’ve been getting a whole bunch of pallets from an awesome friend and I have been making a lot of stuff out of them. The biggest project is a patio set, which will consist of four love seat-sized chairs and a table to go in the middle. I finished two of the four chairs already, and I am about 3/4 of the way done with the table. While the woodworking was a bit challenging, the more time-consuming part of the project is staining/waterproofing the furniture. Pallets have a lot of nooks and crannies to paint. This is part of what makes them so strong, but makes it a pain in the butt to paint. I’ve been using a all-in-one stain and waterproofer concoction in a nice terra cotta color. It requires two coats to get it to the color I like. I painted them over a week or two period, so I didn’t get bored and sloppy. 

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Yay for upcycling!

The pallets varied a bit in size- one was 42″x42″ and one was 40″x40″. They’re close enough that I can use them together, but different enough that they cause me a bit of a OCD twitch when I look at them together. I hope to get two more of the same sizes so I can pair them up by size and not worry about my craziness.

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From the side…

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…and from a distance.

There are still a lot of leaves that were not taken care of properly during the fall. I know. But they have a purpose! When I till the ground to plant, I am going to run them through my leaf shredder and use them as a layer of organic material at the bottom of my raised bed. I also plan to start a compost pile at the back of my yard. University of Maryland’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources has a wonderful program called the Master Gardener’s program. They provide free classes at local libraries on a plethora of gardening topics all over Maryland through a program called Grow It Eat It. I am taking a composting class in early April through them and I am excited to have a home for all of the leaves and weeds and food scraps that occur in my house. I’ll keep you all posted on what I learn.

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