Saturday, May 27, 2023

Cut Short

 The main thing I miss about my desk job now that I'm entering my third year of retirement is my lunch hour, particularly during Greenhouse Season.  I used to spend my time visiting four or five different greenhouses two or three times a week during the main planting season.  This allowed me to search the corners, research items I wasn't sure about, and catch things in their prime as they came off the truck fresh from the growers.  Long ago I learned to have some flexibility in my shopping list.  You just can't count on other people to grow exactly what you want.  The last thing on my annual  plants list this year was a blue flowered spiller for the tall container in front of the garden shed.  I would have loved to find Cobalt Blue Superbena but that was unlikely to happen, so I was happy enough to find Easy Wave Plum Vein Petunia at Home Depot.  I would have preferred a Supertunia with their brilliant colors, but Waves are now an old standby and you can usually find them in a useful range of colors.

They were a little bedraggled.  Wave Petunias are a long trailing, aggressive growing plant and growers are often slow to cut off blooms that will show the consumer the color of the bloom.  It took me awhile to choose the best pack but I knew that as soon as I got them home I was going to give them a major haircut and I wanted plants that were putting out multiple stems at the base.

Its tough enough to disentangle them from their neighbors in the tray and then you have to get them out of the cells.  Once you get them home you can cut the cells off of them to get them out.  It seemed like I was cutting all of the pretty off of them, but when I was done I had some pretty decent looking plants.

I put one in each front corner of this planter.

This left me with extra so I put one in the cement urn in front of the garage, and planted the last three in the landscape where I have enjoyed wave petunias before.  

There are a lot of annuals that really benefit from a good hard trim, and petunias are at the top of the list.  If you want to know more about trimming back petunias and other annuals, I found this video on YouTube to calm my nerves before I started snipping away.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Time to Tidy Up

 I've been reorganizing my cold frame as I get things planted out.  Consolidating trays.  Washing out pots and putting them away.  The first picture is my tomato plants.  The peppers have been planted out.  Tomatoes are next.  The plant under the red arrow is a dwarf.

No really.
It's a Wherokowhai

My first attempt at Coleus went well.  I've already used a couple.

The Marigolds are doing OK.  I'm waiting to plant them out until they are big enough that a slug can't eat one in a single bite.  I use slug bait but the plant needs to be big enough to have a fighting chance.

Snowball Marigolds

The Celosia are transplanted and overseeded.

I had some Snapdragons and Sahara Rudbeckia wintersown in milk jugs.  Its a really simple, low maintenance way to get some seeds started.  I transplanted them into cells to grow on a bit.  When they look a little less bedraggled I will post another photo.

My grow thru grids saved the life of this Cheyenne Spirit Echinacea.  A deer tried to take a bite out of the side of it during the rainy night and found it too much trouble.  It also tasted bad because it had been sprayed before the rain.  The rain had washed the repellent off enough to make it seem appetizing but it stuck well enough that they spat out most of the leaves on the ground.  I use both covers and repellent to deter the deer.

I have been very diligent with spraying and I think this is the first year they have not gone ahead and mown down my woods hyacinths.

The Hosta get sprayed about every other evening.

These Hosta are both second year divisions from existing plants.

Today I finished planting out the Dahlias and weeding after the rain.  We are having another warm, sunny stretch and everything is growing like gangbusters.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Annual Container Day

 Yesterday was annual container day.  The weatherman promised warm night time temps for at least a week which will put us thru to Memorial Day weekend and we should be OK for frost.  I am happy to report that there is no major damage from the frost.  I had pepper plants in the cold frame and sweet potato vine under frost cloth.  Both have very soft, velvety leaves and they pouted all morning and looked droopy but by afternoon the sun had changed their attitude.  We will see if the peony buds were shocked too much to bloom, and of course, the apple trees were unprotected.  The temperature in the morning on the garden thermometer was 27F which is pretty darn cold.

I started gathering annuals a few weeks ago so I was really tired of watering.  Each of these pots needed to be checked daily, and watered individually with a narrow spout and that gets very tedious.  I was really pleased with the color variation and texture I assembled this year.  These annuals are for the five containers visible as you approach our main entrance to the house so they need to coordinate.

The Salmon Geraniums did so well last year I decided to go with the same theme.  I usually repeat a theme two or three seasons with little variation before I get tired of it.  Again, my "thriller" is Prince Tut Papyrus.  I have a Euphorbia for a "filler" and sweet potato vine and Creeping Jenny for "spillers".  I still have a little room in the container in front of the chicken coop and will still be on the lookout for a blue spiller.

This asymmetrical planting has a smaller Queen Tut Papyrus "thriller" and an Ivy "spiller"

I also got my sweet corn seeded.  Last year I had a terrible time getting the second planting of corn to come up.  Something kept eating the seeds.  I've covered the bed with medium security measures for starters.  Hopefully I trapped all of the mice last summer and this year won't be such a struggle.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Freeze Warning

 This is why I haven't planted the annual containers, seeded the corn or started the dahlias.  Not frost.  Freeze.  I've covered the pear tree, double covered four trays of annuals and brought the tomato plants into the garden shed.  And I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Another Year Older

 We put this garden in back in 2010.  This year is its 14th year.  Each year we do a little maintenance on it.  The top rails on the fence have been replaced.  The wire that runs around the top to make the deer think the fence is taller has been replaced once or twice.  We've refreshed the gravel two or three times.  Pavers have had to be lifted and reset.  The water tank cover has been replaced.  We're on our third sump pump to draw water from the tank, and the tank itself has been cleaned out three or four times.

After we replaced the railroad tie step the other day, we went on to replace two more ties that hollowed out many years ago.  Ants and bees set up house.  The skunks pull things apart.  Tree roots creep in. There were two more along the bank that needed to be replaced and we walk past them a lot.  They were still doing their work to hold the soil back, and they didn't look too bad but you had to be very careful not to step on them.  My husband figured we could get another year out of them.  Then he realized, that next year he too would be another year older.  And that would make it that much harder.

We can't get the tractor in here so we have to lift the old ties out by hand and carry them out.  Then scrape the surface level and measure to find ties that fit in.  There are some different widths and heights, but we found two to match and only one had to be cut a bit shorter to fit.

Then you have to carry them in by hand.

And mash them into place.

They went in really easily.  I left the mulch pulled back so you can see which tie had been replaced.
The last one on the end and the third one in.
Well, that's done.

Sunday, May 14, 2023

The Waiting Game

 This is the time of year when there is a lot to do, and everything to plant, but you must wait.  We have had some very good weather, but we still have occasional cold nights and so many vegetables and annuals need consistent warm nights to take hold and thrive.  Tomatoes, peppers, dahlias etc should not be transplanted until soil is warm and nights are consistently 55F.

But lettuce and cole crops love this sort of weather.  We have warm sunny days and cool nights in the high 40s or low 50s.  We've had a touch of frost on the roofs, but is is still warm in the corners.  I have begun to pick some outer lettuce leaves for sandwiches and soon the little heads can be cut for salads.

The Cabbage, Broccoli and Cauliflower transplants are doing very well.  Its time to get some fertilizer in there for them.

Peas and Lettuce doing well.

Like I said before, I got terrific germination on the lettuce.  This will need to be trimmed as cut and come again baby greens to keep it from getting too crowded.

Scarlet Nantes Carrots.
First seeding on the left, and newly seeded on the right,

Strawberries blooming very well.

Its time to prepare the Sweet Corn Bed.  I watered it well and weeded.  Raked over the surface to disturb the roots of the tinier weeds, and then placed the Polycarbonate panels over it to cook the weeds and warm the soil.

After this bed is ready, the panels will move to the Bean bed, then Cantaloupe and so on and so forth until each crop is planted.  I had the panels on the Dahlia bed below all week.  When I removed the panels first thing yesterday morning, before the sun had even burned through the clouds, the soil temp was 79F.  I raked over the top to break the winter crust and sprinkled Urea for Nitrogen.  I will water that in a couple of times this week.  This Wednesday night is still supposed to get down into the 30s but after that I will be ready to set out Dahlia tubers.

The perennial beds are all weeded and fertilized.  I have most of my annuals for container planting but am also holding off on those.  This week I will be getting frost covers out and direct seeding the empty raised beds with Cosmos, Zinnias, Dill and Parsley.  The frost covers will protect the seedlings as they germinate.  I have Tomato and Pepper transplants growing out in the cold frame but no hurry to pot up.  In another week I will be thinking of seeding Cuccumbers and Cantaloupes in pots.

Saturday, May 6, 2023

Managing Expectations

 This is the time of year when I can get overwhelmed by the enormity of the task of keeping things alive.  All it takes is one bad day.  One bad decision, one lapse in judgement and you have a situation where you have to make significant changes to your plans and gardening expectations.  For the whole year.  Compound that by making commitments to other people.  Then you have to manage their expectations as well.   

Now don't get me wrong.  There have been no gardening catastrophes.  The people I have made promises to wouldn't be terribly upset if things went wrong.  But it troubles my mind and makes me worry more.  I no sooner thought "I hope I don't have any trouble with damping off" than Elsie's tomato seedlings started keeling over.  It was as if I had summoned the negative energy.   And I adjusted quickly.  And now I have a lot of nice little plants.  But this time of year you have to stay on your toes and pay attention.

It was time to start moving things out to the cold frame.  That mess up there ^ in particular.  On the right is a tray of Celosia and sweet peppers.  Growing well.  Need to get out of the way.  To the left are marigolds.  Those were supposed to be germinating out in the cold frame.  But the weather has been too changeable and they were (wisely) biding their time.  So I brought them in to give them a kick.  Now they need to go out.  Unlike the wimpy tomatoes, the Marigolds all had nice roots.

That's what you want to see.  Nice little green leaves right in the center of a tidy cell.  That's not that easy to achieve.  The tomatoes (below) were too leggy.  I missed the best window for transplanting them as I waited for the weather to break so the Peppers, Celosia and Marigolds could go outside, freeing up enough room for a large tray under its own light.

They transplanted OK.  There were no roots to speak of.  In fact, the upper left cell pack in the tray as pictured below had no roots at all!  As I broke seedlings I set them aside and put them all in one cell so I could watch them.  They wilted that day, but its hard to kill a tomato seedling (unless you damp it off then all bets are off) and by the next day they had adjusted and stood back up.

I also had extra of my father's favorite tomato (the Barlow Jap that my PaPaw developed) and two dozen of Elsie's that I seeded the day their brothers damped off.  We all do it.  We plant too many them we can't bear to kill them.  They may as well go out in the cold frame with the Marigolds.  I can keep an eye on two trays as easily as one tray.

These were at the right stage for transplanting.

These were way past time.  But they had good root systems.

May weather has finally straightened around.  Everyone has been complaining that spring is late and Mother Nature is a kook.  As a gardener, I think I have more realistic expectations of April.  I know that a week of summer weather in April does not mean summer is here and the weather will continue to trend upwards.  Anything can happen.  It can freeze in June.  I would don't mind a wet, gloomy April so things can grow and get a good foothold, but when May arrives I want no funny business. I can tolerate some cold nights, but I'm ready to get going.

I spent all day yesterday tidying up after a week of cool, wet weather.  Today I need to go around and apply slug bait and reapply deer repellent.  My perennials arrived from Bluestone Perennials this week and most of those can go in the ground now.  Then I may see about getting my dahlia tubers out of storage and into some trays in the cold frame.