Growing a spring vegetable garden is uncharted territory for me, even more so in the desert wasteland of eastern Washington. There must be a reason this is the desert…nothing is naturally meant to grow here. Yes, there is a hint of bitterness in my tone. A premature unveiling of the cloches in conjunction with recent days of winds and fluctuating weather are making my spring transplants turn a complete 180. They appeared to have survived throughout the weekend and looked completely fine on Monday morning, but by the end of the day some of the bok choy, kale, and peas were wilting. Even a thorough watering didn’t help. Today, I found half of my peas chomped in half by some parasitic creature, the rest of the unsheltered leafy plants shriveled like raisins and faded in color.
I couldn’t find any useful or detailed information on spring vegetable gardening in the desert online, particularly THIS desert. I made the mistake of removing the plant protection too early, but I also faced the dilemma of the plants growing too big to fit within the plastic drink bottles (some of the leaves that were being pushed up against the walls of the bottles appeared to be yellowing/browning at the edges). So what alternative did I have? It’s too late now to restart these plants. Maybe my best bet would have been to construct hoop houses for the spring garden (however, this is something I don’t think I should invest in yet given that my residence here is temporary). Or, I should just swallow my pride and admit that I can’t grow spring plants in this climate, give it a rest, and just focus on the heat-loving vegetables for the intense summers here. C’est la vie. At least I still have my root crops.
Some of the spring starts have begun to look a bit claustrophobic within their cloches. An unveiling was in order.
Golden Sweet peas:
Progress of the Music and Samarkand Persian Star garlic:
A week of spring warmth, sunshine, and compost tea served them well so far. I started the second batch of summer starts (beans, corn, cucumber, melons, and squash) since the weather has stayed quite warm lately. The eggplant, hot peppers, and big tomatoes haven’t germinated yet, so I started another set of these seeds.
April has arrived! From what I recall last year, it was one (out of two) of the months in which the Tri-Cities experiences excellent weather: temperatures between the 70s-80s, calm, and sunny. I love this time of year not only because it reminds me of the weather in San Diego, but also because plant growth starts to take off under the increased warmth and sunshine.
To give the plants an increased boost, I fed them some home brewed compost tea. This stuff provides a natural high for plants, because it’s teeming with beneficial microorganisms and nutrients, especially when worm compost is used to make the tea. Numerous articles exist detailing the science and benefits behind compost tea, and here’s a good introduction by Fine Gardening to the subject. I started brewing and using compost tea in my gardens a couple years ago and have never been disappointed with the results. However, this stuff is so good that the weeds will also get a piece of the action.
I harvested the rest of the finished worm compost (~ 24 lbs total, 6 months in the making) and used around 2 lbs of it to make the tea.
My home brew setup was modeled from this one with the following modifications:
- used 2 lbs of vermicompost (instead of 1 gal regular compost)
- used a 5 gal paint sifter as a “tea bag”, which eliminated the straining step
- secured the ends of the hoses with a rubber band to an empty jar (i.e. a small glass pill bottle), and immersed the jar in water to weigh the ends of the hoses down to the bottom of the bucket
- brewed the tea for 1 day instead of 3 (vermicompost tea only requires 1 day)