Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Label that plant!

I often times chuckle at my husband when he professes great pleasure at having or using some inexpensive simple item that performs its task just perfectly, like that perfect cheese knife that we bought while picnicking in Napa years ago, no other cheese knife in his oversized collection can compare.

So, in that vein I have to confess that I take great pleasure in having had the wisdom to spend  $37.87 (that included shipping) on a box of 1000 5-inch plastic plant labels seven years ago. Are you kidding, you ask, nearly 40 bucks for a box of plant labels? Well, that's only 3.8 cents per label, and it's been seven years since I bought them, I still have 135 virgin labels in the box, and 343 used ones that I've rounded up recently, plus I don't know how many that are still in service in the garden. Most of the losses are either from breakage, they snap when clumsy gardeners step on them, or have accompanied various plants that I've given away over the years.

Yeah, so what's so great about labels? Well, I don't know about you, but I like to know what is growing in my garden. How many times have you sown a bunch of seeds in various pots, not labeled them because of course you will remember what you sowed in which pot, right? Ah, the frustration, and trust me, my memory has not improved over the years! I've lost track of what's what too many times for lack of having a label handy. Thus my purchase of 1000 labels so that I could have labels to hand at all times because if they ain't handy I won't use 'em.

I really believe that keeping track of what you do when in the garden will help you to become a better gardener, thus my love of labels and of blogging. If you remember to put the date on the label you will have a handy record of when you sowed the seeds. I try to keep a planting chart that a) shows when I should be sowing seeds and planting transplants and b) when I actually get around to doing it. The chart also shows the variety names and where the seeds came from. I don't always get around to filling out the chart, but I am 99% good about filling out a plant label, which is so easy when you've got hundreds of them. When I cleaned out a couple of my beds this spring I rounded up all the labels that I could find and was able to use them to fill in some of the blanks in my planting chart. One of these days I'm going to use the information from my planting charts and my harvest records to figure out the time from sowing to harvest, but that's a project and post for another day.

Now, I am a bit fussy about my labels. They shouldn't be too large or too small. Flimsy is bad. Special writing implements get lost. And they must be reusable. This is one product where I definitely prefer plastic. The labels that I found are sturdy, they don't bend or warp, and if you don't step on them they will last for a few years in the garden before they get brittle. They are 5/8-inch wide and 5 inches long, just big enough to be able to write a couple of lines along the length, I can record the date, the type of vegetable and the variety name on one side of the label. Sometimes I'll use the reverse side of the label to record additional information as well. What I really like about them is that all you need is a #2 pencil (or softer) to write on them and the writing stays, it doesn't fade or rub off (unlike those so-called indelible markers) until you choose to remove it with an ordinary pencil eraser. Rub, rub, you've got a blank marker. I've been using my labels over and over and over. They may get soil stained and yellow with age but that doesn't affect their usefulness.

So, in preparation for my spring seed sowing I got out the collection of old labels and a sturdy eraser this morning. It is a bit nostalgic going through the old labels, they are like little messengers from gardens past. But ah, the blank marker, time to dream of new goodies in the garden, like Kamo eggplant and Apollo Broccoli...

What about you, are you a faithful labeler? What's your favorite type of label?

Oh, by the way, that box of labels that I spent $37.87 for 7 years ago (31.09 plus 6.78 shipping) will set you back $44.50 plus shipping today. I'm really feeling good about my label stash now.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

One Woman, One Shovel

(Or why there's been nothing new to read here in a while)

And a whole lotta dirt, uh soil (they really tried to pound that into us in that SOILS class that I took at Foothill College eons ago). See that nice new block wall over on the left (look below, the only blocks above are in the head behind the shovel), the stuff behind that wall is DIRT, really just dirt. I've tried growing vegetables in that stuff and it's hopeless. That's why I spent a small fortune four years ago to build my current vegetable garden. That dirt had a bad habit of crumbling into my garden when it rains so I hired a really nice landscape contracter to install that block wall to keep the dirt in its place. When I showed my husband the bid for the wall he said "is that all, do it". On the other hand, when I got the bid for the raised beds - "how much? are you kidding?? no way, we already spent $$$ on that garden!" So, I worked up plan B, which involved a lot less expensive Redwood and a lot more free labor, meaning, my labor. (Not my husband's, he's a sharp witted lawyer with soft skinned hands and he manages to spend the bulk of his time at work instead of in the garden - poor guy). So, before the new beds can be built the crew (me) has to clear out the soil so the space can be leveled and the old crappy gopher proofing (what a joke) can be pulled up. The contractor asked me, I could not believe this, if I would like him to haul away the old soil - I think my jaw dropped - all that fancy expensive soil that I had hauled in just four years ago and that I've been lovingly tending and amending ever since. Ah, no, I'll move it - and last Friday afternoon the work began...

So, even if I had something to blog about in the garden, which I really don't since I've not planted anything since last November in anticipation of the remodel so the harvest are slowing down in a big way, I haven't had the time (or the energy) since this one woman crew has been working on this:

Let me tell you girls, when you put in a hard day's work shoveling all that, um, soil, you can EAT WHATEVER YOU WANT! and not gain an ounce. At last, the final holiday pounds are disappearing... But, actually, it only took me a couple of hours on Friday, most of Monday, and a couple of hours this morning to get the job done. (Oh yeah, job done, who am I kidding - I still have to shift the soil back once the new bed is built and then I get to do the whole process THREE MORE TIMES.) Not to mention hauling some new soil 'cause the new beds will hold more. I think I'll indulge in a pint or two of Ben and Jerry's over the next few weeks...

Crappy gopher proofing

Now I have to get out there and pull up all that twisted and torn chicken wire, push a bit more dirt around and then call Daniel to build bed # 1.

But first, while I'm at it, here's a look at what is left in the rest of the garden.

Behind curtain #1, spinach and chard.
Bolting kale and broccoli feeding the good bugs in the background.

And the Purple Sprouting Broccoli that won't sprout. Just a few more weeks kiddo and out you go, sprouts or no.

 A few more sprouts on the other Purple Sprouting Broccoli plant - good girl!

Various radicchios just starting to show signs of forming heads - hurry up, hurry up.

The frisee plants that the gophers left me. Gotcha, you little booger!

Stay tuned for updates on the remodel!