Most days, progress in the garden is slow and incremental.  While we were building the planters, we made small steps:  measuring and cutting pieces one day, assembling them another day, and filling the planters over the course of several days.  Sowing the seeds took very little time—an hour or less—and when we were done, there was no visible evidence of our work.  As the seeds germinated and started to send out roots and stems, the garden looked no different from day to day.  And even now that the seedlings have emerged, it is difficult to discern any change from the day before.

That’s most days.  On other days, the garden makes a quantum leap, ending the day completely transformed from its state at the beginning of the day.  This morning, for example, one of our planters was only half-planted and the other was bare.  They evoked a feeling of winter.  But this evening, the first planter is almost full and the other more than half occupied; trellises, cages and soaker hoses have been installed; there are many signs of life.  In just one day, we have made the transition from early spring to late spring and have a lot to show for it.

We started by planting zucchini seeds in southeast quadrant of the first planter.  We scraped two 8”-diameter clearings in the mulch and dug a shallow hole at the center of each one.  We dropped two seeds into each hole, refilled them with soil and were done.

Next, we moved to the second planter.  We had originally planned to divide the front half into thirds for parsley/cilantro, mesclun and basil but when we marked the layout into the soil, the area for the lettuces (two feet by four feet) looked too small, both in absolute size and, especially, in relation to the herbs.  We decided to increase the area devoted to mesclun—call it the salad bar—to six feet in length.  The herbs will occupy three-foot-wide areas to either side of the lettuces.

Starting at the mid-width of the planter, we pressed a shallow furrow (what some would call a drill) into the soil followed by two parallel furrows at a spacing of 6”.  We could have fit a fourth furrow (say that three times fast) but it would have fallen within the shadow cast by the south edge of the planter.  We sowed the seeds into the furrows thinly, as directed by the seed packet, taking care to keep a small space between each adjacent seed.  This was harder than it sounds because the mesclun seeds are quite small.  We repeated the entire process with the parsley seeds (tiny, like the mesclun) and the cilantro seeds (which are small coriander pods).

I thought that that might be it for planting today.  However, as a break, we made a trip to the garden center to get shade-tolerant plants for our patio garden and while there, we decided to see what vegetable plants they had for sale.  Browsing through the seedlings on display (spread over two long tables), we found several varieties of tomatoes and cucumbers that looked too attractive to pass up:

  • Sun Gold cherry tomatoes (Burpee)
  • Supersweet 100 cherry tomatoes (I grew up on Sweet 100s)
  • Red Brandywine heirloom tomatoes (Burpee)
  • Champion II tomatoes (Burpee)
  • Pickalot hybrid pickling cucumbers (Burpee)
  • Slicing cucumbers (basic garden variety)

We also found two types of basil—sweet and a purple variety called Red Rubin—and several other herbs.

Back in the garden, we transplanted the cucumber plants (four stems) into the northwest quadrant of the first planter.  We have room for two more stems and will probably try lemon cucumber plants which we will buy at the farmers’ market.  In the second planter, we transferred the basil plants (14 stems in total) in a neat grid arrangement next to the mesclun.  The north half of this planter will be devoted entirely to tomatoes.  After we transplanted the seedlings we bought today (six stems), half of the space remains.  Later this month, we will buy additional heirloom varieties to fill out the planter.

To support the tomatoes and cucumbers, we re-installed the wire cages that we used last year (we will need to get two more for the second planter).  It will be probably be a few weeks before they are needed.

On the other hand, the pea shoots are starting to send out their tendrils and will soon need something to climb onto.  To accommodate them, we drove three solid plastic rods, each six feet long, into the soil for the full depth of the planter.  With that much embedment—about two feet—the stakes are very firmly anchored.  To brace them laterally, we tied their tops together with a fourth plastic rod (we used nylon cord to make the connections; I’m no Boy Scout and this operation taxed my knot-tying skills).  To complete the trellis, we draped a nylon mesh (with lines at 6” spacing in both directions) across the framework and lashed it to the rods along the perimeter.

Our final task for today was to re-arrange the soaker hoses to make sure that everything has access to water.  In the second planter, the vegetables are planted in parallel east-west rows.  Therefore, we needed only to run the soaker hose up and back—twice—to deliver water to each plant.  In the first planter, running the hose up and back took care of the cucumbers and sugar snap peas but a zig-zag path was needed for the radishes and beets followed by two loop-de-loops for the squash plants.  The resulting hose layout looks like a gigantic black Silly Straw (that works in reverse).

At the end of the day, we took a moment to enjoy the transformation in the garden, keeping in mind that tomorrow it will probably look the same as it does today.

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