Thursday, April 9, 2009

Nice Weather Again

We have had a string of cold or rainy days where it is too unpleasant to be in the garden. Today it was sunny and warmed up some.
It is still basically cleaning up and preparing time. I did get the cold frame out of the shed so that some of the seedlings can spend a little time beginning to harden off. They are otherwise ready to plant out. I did plant six little broccoli seedlings today and put small tables over them to keep the sun off until they get established. If they don't survive it would be no tragedy as I have more than enough to replace them. I usually use as many little pots as I want plants but put a number of seeds in each and end up with two to three times as many plants as I need.

For several years we have had the water level in the pond drop faster than it used to. We thought this was related to the amount of vegetation which has become established and which is transpiring water vapor into the air. But this year the loss of water was noticeable from the time we started the pump (March 27th) and could not have been because of the vegetation. The loss seemed to be more than last year so we began the search to find the problem. Clearly it wasn't in the pond itself because when the pump was off the water level there remained steady. The obvious first place to look was the "bog", which is a small area below the first falls where we arranged for some water to go off to the side and form a wet area, but still within the liner. Robins like that spot to gather mud for their nests. I looked around that area and didn't see any problem. I don't recall whether the pond pump was running at the time or not. But later events show that my search must not have been thorough. Next was to check where the pipe from the pump connected to the skimmer and to the bio-falls. It was easy to see that there was no problem at the skimmer end but the pipe to the bio-falls was a foot and a half below the surface so that took some digging. No problem there. Next was to uncover the entire length of the pipe. That also took some digging at the bio-falls end but not far from there the pipe was only a couple of inches below the surface. When we made the pond the pipe was laid on the surface of the ground and covered with some sod that we removed to make the pond and stream. There was no visible leak along the pipe. That left the stream that started at the bio-falls and went to the pond. I covered this with two large pieces of plastic so that the water (mostly) would run over the plastic and not the stream. My intention was to remove the lower piece of plastic later in order to see if the leak was in the upper part or the lower part. The problem was that having the water run over the plastic didn't seem to significantly reduce the loss of water. It was at about that time that Janet took a careful look at the bog and noticed that water seemed to be oozing over the liner along one edge of the bog. Turns out that was the problem. It has been three or four days since I pulled the liner higher and the water level is not dropping. Now why didn't I notice that when I looked at the bog? Would have saved a lot of work. Embarrassing.

So far what is actually in the garden are the lettuces and greens that I planted in the glass covered frame. With the exception of one row of lettuce everything there is coming along nicely. I planted spinach and peas and the spinach is coming up but no sign of the peas yet. It has been a while since I grew peas so I don't know how long it takes them to germinate. I did see one seed that was on the surface of the soil and was just beginning to germinate. I have been freezing some of last year's garlic and some of them had begun to sprout so I have planted those in the garden. They won't grow very large (the ones planted in October are growing quite nicely) and I have scattered them around the garden partly to help repel pests. I need to make a note to freeze the garlic a little earlier than April. Then today I set out the six broccoli. Most of the rest of the beds are covered with straw. I am working on sifting some compost out of my compost pile and dig in small amounts of that just before I plant.

Inside, the tomatoes are just beginning to germinate. Chinese cabbage and pak choi (both of which I have had trouble growing by starting in the garden) are up and growing under the lights. A lot of my indoor space is currently occupied with milkweed seedlings being grown for Monarch butterfly gardens.

The three rain barrels in the garden area are set up and full and with the pond not needing so much water this year I should not lack for water for the garden.