first i melted drainage holes in the plastic cups with the awl. that took about 15 minutes, putting 5 holes through a stack of 4 cups at a time. next i poured the gravel onto the trays. i then filled the cups with potting soil, all 73 of them. i'm using kellogg's organic organic potting mix (40 quarts, 44.1 liters). i never used them before, the soil has the consistency of fine loam and has a really nice smell to it. it was also clean, no foreign debris.
next i soaked the cups a tray at a time but dunking them into a bucket of warm water and letting them soak from the bottom up. that took about an hour, carefully carrying the trays of gravel and wet potted soil around the kitchen. i typically use miracle-gro potting soil, which has very good drainage. kellogg's soil has a tendency to holds the water a bit more, so that my gravel tray was in danger of flooding at times as the water slowly seeps out from the dirt. after that i started planting my seeds:
|hungarian wax heirloom||6|
|tomato 'summer choice hybrid'||6|
|tomato 'super sweet 100 hybrid'||6|
|tomato heirloom 'rutgers'||6|
|eggplant 'zhikou hybrid'||9|
|basil 'siam queen'||6|
|columbine 'blue star'||4|
i'm growing a lot of the same plants from last season. instead of a dozen japanese eggplants, i cut it down to just 9. i said i wouldn't grow any peppers this year but i just couldn't resist, what's a garden without tomatoes and eggplants and peppers? those are like the holy trinity of garden vegetables. no flowers this year (except the columbines), but i'm substituting that with some more herbs (sweet basil and dill and cilantro). i will also directly sow those same herb seeds directly into the soil once the weather warms up but start them indoors gives me a headstart. as for the columbines, they've been in my fridge for the past 2 seasons and i just wanted to get rid of them. there were enough seeds for just 4 pots (3 seeds per pot), tiny black ones that are nearly invisible. it'd be cool if they germinated, but i'm not holding my breath. in my experience, columbines are very difficult to start from seeds, although i have done it. once they're established though, they're very hardy and seem to last forever.
i finally finished with my plantings by noontime. i grabbed my fuji and left for belmont. don't let the jacket-free warmth of the weekend fool you into thinking that spring is finally here: today was a surprisingly cold day, temperature in the 40's but with a strong wind that made it feel like the 30's.
i had some rice porridge at my parents' place for lunch. i sent a letter to united solar once again, asking my agent if she had any updates, and if she could possibly push her project manager to expedite our request for a replacement inverter. i did not hear back from her the entire day which put me in a worried mood.
around 1:30pm my father and i were outside trying to plant our new trees, starting with the cherry plum "krauter vesuvius". in order to plant that, we first have to prune the pussy willow tree in the southwestern corner of the yard (to allow in more sunlight and better to do it now before we plant the tree to prevent possible fall branch damage). that would be followed by uprooting the dead red bud tree and digging a new hole. only then can we uproot last year's barefoot kwanzan flowering cherry and relocate it to the southwestern corner. in the vacated spot we would finally plant the cherry plum.
we started by pruning the pussy willow. several large branches were not only growing too tall but hanging into our backyard neighbor's garden. it was a bit tricky to prune but we managed to cut down the tallest branch by strategically cutting notches and then finally pulling it down by rope. fortunately the branches of the nearby maple tree caught the heavy branch from falling completely, and the branch also serendipitously caught the ladder. at one point my father dropped the pruning saw into the neighbor's yard and i had to climb the fence to get it. as for the other branches - all of them overhanging the neighbor's property - my father cut them down with the pole saw as i quickly threw the branches over to our yard before climbing back across the fence. didn't want the pussy willow to go to waste, i cut as many good quality branches as i could find, can use them for floral arrangements, or i heard they're easily to propagate from just the branches, developing roots after a few weeks soaked in water and sunshine.
next we dug out the redbud and made a new hole for relocating the bare root kwanzan tree. i was careful in removing the redbud, just in case it was still alive. but when we dug it out of the soil i noticed it didn't even grow any roots. we ran into a problem however while we were digging: the ground was still frozen in places. it's only a layer a few inches below the ground, about a few inches thick. we could easily breaking through this frost layer, but the problem was when it came time for us to dig out the first year kwanzan, will its roots be encased in ice? in that case it'd be better to wait for a complete thaw before transplanting. my father nevertheless went ahead and dug out the hole, so it'd be ready when it came time to swapping out the trees.
my father went back to the planted kwanzan and was lightly digging around the perimeter to test the soil condition. it seemed soft for the first 5-6", but when i poked at the dirt with a garden trowel, parts of the ground was still solid below that depth. digging out this first year kwanzan and relocating it would have to wait. however, we discovered that the soil in the spot where the newer kwanzan would go was already defrosted, since it gets the most amount of sun throughout the day. so we decided to go ahead and plant this kwanzan cherry.
we first dug a hole. this was the spot we'd picked out for planting a tree. in fact, last year we did end up buying a larger (compared to the bare root) kwanzan tree from home depot for $100 and planted it here. that little experiment lasted for a month. the tree wasn't in very good shape to begin with (a remainder tree). it produced a few few leaves but they all shriveled up eventually like they were cooked in the oven. we finally determined that the tree was dead. that gave us the impetus to buy a larger healthier tree this year rather than wait for the bare root kwanzan to grow into a full size tree which may take a few more years. we ended up returning the dead kwanzan (home depot has a generous 1-year return policy on their trees). long story short, the spot had already been picked out, and the soil was easy to work with because it'd already been amended. but we amended it some more, adding half a bag of miracle-gro organic potting mix, half a bag of composted black cow manure, some peat moss, and some plant-tone fertilizer.
next we had to "unbox" the tree from its plastic container. for a smaller tree we could've simply inverted the plant and shake/pull off the container, but this tree was too heavy so we had to cut it off instead. that was easier said than done, as the plastic material was thick, and we used a combination of scissors, box cutter, and loppers.
once the container was finally removed, i used a claw cultivator to break open some of the roots so it wasn't so compacted. when it came time to move the tree into the hole, we had a problem: with the container gone, there were no longer handles to lift the root ball. so after turning the tree to the proper orientation, we simply slid the tree into the hole. we reoriented the tree a bit (i noticed a larger lower branch and made sure it faced west for maximum screening once it flowered and leafed out) before shoveling in the amended soil. while my father created a moat around the tree base, i got the hose from the garage and hooked it up to the spigot so we could water the newly planted tree.
one thing i noticed when i exposed the kwanzan root ball was how much slow release fertilizer was inside the soil in the forms of tiny green balls. maybe that's the secret why the buds on this new tree are so much larger compared to the buds on our 1-year kwanzan.
elsewhere in the garden, the korean red garlics i planted last fall have started to emerge in waves, depending on when i planted them. i was afraid they wouldn't be able to pop up from the thick layer of salt marsh grass i covered them up with to keep them warm over the winter, but it doesn't seem like they have any problems, which means healthy garlics.
we made 46.31 kWh today, the highest production of the year, but somehow it doesn't feel that high knowing we had a production cap.
i raced home after dinner, hoping i could get back before sandy. when i got there, sandy had already taken her back-from-work shower and was making dinner. i didn't see her the rest of the night, seems like she was finishing up some work this being her last week in cambridge.