Thursday, April 4, 2019

Deutscher Garten! The Farm Report 04-04-2019

Deutscher Garten!
The Farm Report 04-04-2019

 Ach du liebe Zeit, was ist denn das?!

Deutscher Garten!

So here we go on an international gardening adventure for this year! Joyce and I hosted several AFS foreign exchange students while we lived in Wisconsin. They are all special to us, but one in particular, Carola, from Hamburg, Germany, is a life-long member of our family. Her family and ours have close ties. She has lived in our home(s) in Wisconsin and Iowa. Our family - including my parents (who became another set of grandparents to Carola, I think) have visited them in their home in Hamburg. So we have a special bond. This winter, Carola and I have been planning and planning for the new garden season. It was my idea, but she and her family bought into the idea with joy, and now we are beginning the actual garden. We've had much email discussion of the proper context and grammer for this expression. I like this one, and I think I won't embarrass Carola too much with it. She told me her Grandma Liselotte used this expression a lot. I liked Grandma Lisalotte when we met her, so I'm using her words here!

This is the guy who really started it all. His name is Monty Don. He is the gardening host for a BBC program called Gardener's World. He's really good, he's also really British. (His whole name, I discovered is Monatague Denis Wyatt 'Monty' Don). He presents his program from his own garden at his estate in Longmeadow in Herefordshire. If you haven't seen the program, I highly recommend it. I watch it on Youtube. So what's the connection? He has his gardens divided into themes. He has a Jewel Garden, which is all about color. He has the Writing Garden, which is themed with quiet and peaceful settings. And so on. Well, one winter night as I was watching, the thought came to me, "Why not have an AFS Garden?" It could have plants from all over the world. Well, that seemed a little ambitious the next morning, so I decided to just impose on my German daughter, Carola - and call it the German Garden. Or as Carola is teaching me, 'Deutscher Garten!'

We selected seeds that would be common and typical in a German veggie (and flower?) garden. One day a few weeks ago, lo and behold! a package arrived from Carola, complete with seeds, packing newspapers and a spreadsheet with notes. I'm kinda like a kid sometimes. I thought the newspapers used for packing were very interesting, so I've saved them out to look at and study, too.

I have a little rubber stamp maker, so I've printed off a bunch of Deutscher Garten labels. I like to have each thing marked! With Carola's spreadsheet, I should have no trouble getting the seeds started in order. 

It starts with seeds and dirt. So here we go! 

I like to use a little tool called a 'Soil Blocker' to start my seeds. These tools let me make what they politely call 'Soil Blocks.' They are really just fancy mud balls, but as the Bard said, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet," or something like that. These little blocks are about 1/2-inch cubes. I suppose that would be about 1-cm in the Deutsher Garten.  

You put one seed per block, keep it moist and wait. See the number 12C on the back of the pan? Carola has each seed pack labeled and numbered like this on her spreadsheet for me. I had one semester of middle school German when I was a kid. My German is weak! Maybe I'll tell you more as the summer goes on, but Carola has been schooling me in German while I've been adding tips for her on gardening. She has more chance of being a good gardener than I do of being a good German speaker though. 

After the seeds get a good foothold and prove they are alive, I will transfer their little blocks to bigger blocks. These are Paul Robeson tomatoes. Do you know who Paul Robeson was? Carola's description of the Paul Robeson Tomato says it is dark and sweet. Perfect! If you don't know, he was the man who sang 'Old Man River' in Showboat. He is the definitive voice. Dark and sweet!

Soil blocks date back centuries. They work! They eliminate the need for plastic pots, and the plants do not suffer shock when they are moved into the garden. See how the little root is just wrapping itself down over the edge of the block? Amazing. 

Not sure what these are, but we'll find out together.  

I almost had fried German tomatoes! These little blocks are small - about the size of the tip of your finger. I have them on a heat mat to power-start the seeds. Well, I forgot to check them and water them one day. When I did remember, it was 'Panic City!' They were almost ready to cook. No harm; saved by the bell as they say! It always looks so easy in the magazines....

Here are some marigolds I've already moved up. These blocks are about 1 1/2-inches cubed. I don't know what that is in metric, but these aren't German, so we'll move on. 

The blocking tool has a little nipple in it that makes the hole automatically. It is very efficient. It is also a British tool. The Brits are really serious gardeners.  

The little marigolds popped right into the holes, roots and all, and acted like they'd lived there all their lives. These went from pot to cube - no mini blocks for these girls. 

Gardeners like competition. Here are some Salvia in soil blocks. 

Here are the same plants in regular plastic starter trays. Same plants, same seed, same soil, same ever'thing. We'll see if there is a difference in a few weeks when it is time to put them out. 

These are extra fancy hybrid geraniums.  

This is a whole flat of different things waiting to be potted on into soil blocks. Each cup is something different. 

Monty Don loves to grow Dahlias, and he regularly shows how to make cuttings from leaf slips and propagate them. They are expensive things, so knowing how to propagate from slips has been wonderful. These are dahlias I started from seed. Will they be the same? Will they be different? We'll see. 

Here is the beginnings of the celery crop for this year. Celery is hard to sprout, and the sprouts are tiny. After a few more days, these will go into soil blocks, too. 

The onions are coming along nicely. 

Outdoors, the cereal rye grass cover crop has wintered over well and is turning green - soaking up that nitrogen for us and holding it until the 'real' crops need it later on. 

Inside the greenhouse, we're just getting tables and trays ready to accept the onslaught that will be coming. Soon, it will be so crowded in here there will be Standing Room Only. 

The April Calendar Picture. From now until June or even July, there should almost be a weekly calendar picture. Things will start greening up and changing day by day. It will be an explosion of growth and change. I'm looking forward to it! 

There is life in them thar strawberries!!!! They have already begun sending out new leaves. I need to fertilize, take care of the weeds and mulch. Strawberry shortcake anyone?