Today my friend Jay and I collected two cars full of llama poop and used it to build our pumpkin patch. Llama poop, also called ‘llama beans’ is great for the garden and doesn’t burn plants. This means that it can be applied directly without composting. Great for people who don’t prepare their soil in advance (me…). We took the bins of llama poop home with us, all 9 of them, and built hills for our pumpkin patch.

Pumpkins like to live on the top of hills. To prepare our hills, we dug 20 holes, evenly spaced about 5 feet apart throughout our mulched patch.

We broke through the cardboard and dug down about a foot, and then mixed the soil (a bit on the clay side) with about 1/2 a bin of llama beans. This formed a little hill, about 1 or 1 1/2 feet wide. We placed some hills towards the edges of the patch with hopes that the vines crawl out into the grass. The preparation of the field was hard. We were trying to get everything finished before the rain, and practically gave ourselves heat stroke. And of course it didn’t even rain here yesterday…I heard that it poured in town, but we only got a few sprinkles.

We collected seeds from pumpkins last fall, and bought a few as well. Jay had jack-o-lantern seeds, and I had some squash seeds leftover. We planted long island cheese, austrian butter, and a few other types of pumpkins as well as two gourds, birdhouse and dinosaur (from Seed Savers). The patch map is on the back of a pizza carton, and shows where we have put everything. We still have openings in a few hills, and are planning on planting some of the giant, state fair-prize-winning pumpkin types…

Our friend Chloe also supplied us with some starts! Blue pumpkins, cinderella pumpkins, and warty gourds (her favorites)! The plants are already quite far along, and living in their own hills.

In each hill we planted about 8 seeds.

The strongest seedlings will be nurtured, and the rest will be pinched off…not sure if I will be up for the pinching off, but I guess that the strongest starts will make the strongest plants, biggest pumpkins, etc..

Here is the finished patch. Lots of hills or bumps in the straw. It looks like a mess of straw and cardboard here, but all I can see is a huge bright pumpkin patch! Super exciting.

I can’t help but be inspired by beautiful vegetables. Tired, hungry, and trundling inside through the rainy mist tonight with a box from my CSA. Unpack chard and basil, and beet greens, zucchini, carrots (straight into my mouth), delicate kale, letuce, cucumber, and three almost ripe, blushing mangoes!?

There is something about combining chard with basil that makes me happy. Especially when I add olive oil, and zucchini. And a few grains of salt.

Mix with pasta, and top with freshly grated cheese.

first pick

April 10, 2010

My mom and I spent the morning having quality time in the garden. We turned under the compost on the surface of our garden boxes, raked, and planted one of the boxes. We found a volunteer lettuce patch, the parsley, thyme, and onions. I love that we already have some hearty plants going strong!

We planted a whole bunch of things. First in line are the beets. We planted chioggia beets that are pink and white striped. They are planted in two widely spread rows. My mom wrote the name and date planted on little markers for each row. We left the seed packages because they looked cute!

Next were the carrots and radishes, planted together. Someone (I can’t remember who…) gave me this tip a few weeks ago. The radishes will grow more quickly, and as they are harvested, the carrots will have more room to grow! I can’t wait to see how it works. Next in line is the arugula, and then another variety of carrots, some chard, and kale. We were ambitious!

As we were planting, my mom spotted the first asparagus of the season! A few little stalks poking up around the leaves and compost.

We immediately stopped what we were doing and ran inside to cook the little batch.

My mom always peels the tougher bottom part of the asparagus. It is delicious, and without the tough part, each stalk is extended an inch or two with this simple trick.

We steamed the asparagus in a little water, and had it on toast with a little parmesan cheese on top and set under the broiler. We then sat on the porch and had our toast, and then went back out to finish our gardening.

We started preparing the pumpkin patch. I have a sneaking suspicion that the entire patch that we staked out won’t be completely covered. It is a huge spot, and we started preparing at the west the corners. In one corner we put some plastic. A sheet of clear plastic, held down by logs, is supposed to “cook” the grass. At the same time, it allows the sunlight in, so the grass continues to grow (unlike with black plastic). The grass and root system then get tired from growing, and fried from overheating. Dead grass. When I write it all out like this, I feel a little bit cruel about the whole thing…After about a week, the plastic can be removed and placed on a new section of field, as the grass should be suitably cooked.

The second method might be a little more humane…killing grass by cardboard. We put a double layer of good quality cardboard over the second corner of the patch, and then covered it with a thick layer of straw. We used cardboard boxes, and took care to remove any plastic tape, so that we wouldn’t have loose strips of plastic floating around in the garden. The straw came along with its own version of life. Mushrooms, sprouts, and a few assorted grasses…hoping that this is ok. The whole thing is weighted down by logs, and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

Last night we had a windy storm, and I was hoping for rain to soak the cardboard and straw, to weight the whole mess down. The wind didn’t blow away the straw, and the cardboard section is now soggy and seems well put. We are going to collect another batch of cardboard, and pick up some more plastic and continue on, bit by bit to take over as much of the field as we can before planting time. We still have a while before the time to plant comes along, so the field might end up rather big!

I am obsessed with pumpkins. So, to convert an entire patch of my front field into prime pumpkin growing territory sounds like a good idea to me…

Last night, my friend (and partner in pumpkin crime) Jay and I went out to stake out the dimensions of the patch. We staked out a very very large patch, and aren’t exactly sure if we will use the whole thing or not…it is huge. Somewhere around 100 feet by 35 feet. I have to say that my eyes tend to be bigger than my stomach, so to speak.

We haven’t exactly figured out how we are going to prepare the bed. I guess it depends on how big we actually make it. We are going to research how to plant pumpkins, and prepare beds, and see what we come up with. We have a little bit of straw, and an endless supply of cardboard for mulch, which will probably come in handy. And lots of pumpkin seeds, rotten pumpkins, and ideas for seeds to get. And we are thinking of adding gourds, maybe some butternut squash, and why not some watermelons…? Oh dear.