Wednesday, May 26, 2021

May Maintenance and Progress Report

Because of the cabbage moths my cauliflower and cabbage beds are locked down pretty tight with the insect netting, but I open them up at least once a week to check on things.  I can see through the netting pretty well so there are few surprises.  Its been 10 days since I weeded and there were a few started around the edges.  It is a good time to add some mulch to the garden.

I went through the whole bed with a claw, side dressed with Garden-tone, mulched with shredded Maple leaves from last fall and then watered everything well.  The beds with row covers are perfect for leaf mulch because it can't escape!

All ready to be tucked back in

Then on to the second bed...

For some reason the end of the bed with cabbages has zero weeds.
But they got some mulch too

Luscious Cabbages

 Blogger loaded the rest of these photos inside out but I'm too lazy to shuffle them back to my normal order..

Bed #12 Jade Bush beans seeded yesterday 05/25 with Sweet Alyssum for ground cover

Bed #11 Lettuce transplanted and preparing to transplant the cucumbers and Cue Ball summer squash that are just now peeping through the soil.  I've found that starting them in pots with potting mix mere feet from the bed they are destined for saves a lot of frustration.  They just germinate better in pots than in the raise bed soil where they kept getting buried too deeply by rain.

Bed #10 Carminat and Monte Gusto Pole Beans seeded 05/22
with Alaska Nasturtium transplants along the sides for ground cover.
I harvested these Nasturtium seeds in 2019 when I cleaned the tomato bed.

Beds #9 Third and Fourth planting of Penelope Peas
with old lettuce seeds scattered down each side.
seeded 04/10 and 04/17

Beds #7 and #8 are the Cauliflower and Cabbage beds pictured above.

Bed #6 Second and Third planting of Penelope Peas w/ Lettuce
seeded 03/29 and 04/10
I carefully spaced the peas at 2 inches in this bed as an experiment. 
Generally I scatter seeds much more thickly

Bed #5 Northern Yellow Xtra-Sweet Hybrid Sweet Corn (sh2)
67 Days  seeded 05/17 

Bed #4 First and Second planting of Penelope Peas w/Lettuce
seeded 03/15 and 03/29

Bed #3 Fordhook 242 Lima Beans (Butter Beans)
seeded 05/21
These started showing yesterday and today I added leaf mulch

Bed #2 Honey 'n Pearl Hybrid Sweet Corn Seed (sh2)
78 days seeded 05/22
It was just starting to poke through this morning before I added some compost

Bed #1 Home to the potato grow bags
This bed had a serious Purslane invasion last year and I'm hoping to smother it.
Varieties from Maine Potato Lady
Purple Sun
GoldRush Russet
Red Pontiac

The other half of the potatoes back in the original tater patch

Strawberries are appearing

And a baby pear!

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Planting Tomato Plants in Pots

 This is the second year in a row that I am planting my tomatoes in containers instead of the raised beds.  I first used this set up in 2019 and had awesome results.  I have showed you how I handle planting tomatoes in the beds, so I thought I would give you more detail on the container method.

The key to growing just about anything in containers is water reservoirs.  Before self-watering containers became popular and readily available, the answer was to add a reservoir to the containers you already had.  I use the reservoirs from

I add part of the soil and push it down around the reservoirs and water it in so it will settle and not drop later after the plant is potted up.

The tomato ladders need to be secured to the fence with bungees because the potting mix does not hold them firmly like garden soil does.

I fill the pot about halfway and set the plant in to see how deep it will finish at.  I want just the leaves above the surface, and as much stem as possible buried beneath the surface so that all of those little hair-like structures along the stem will become new roots.

I add some starter fertilizer and settle the plant in.

Add the rest of the potting mix.  I use fresh potting mix for the tomatoes and then reuse it next year for perennial transplants or whatever.  I don't want to use it for tomatoes again in case it is harboring any foliar diseases.

Water the plant in well to remove air pockets.  From this point on I will only add water to the reservoir through the fill tube.  This will reduce the amount of water splashing soil up onto the plant which spreads disease to the plant.

When I add the soil I leave three or four inches of room for shredded leaf mulch.  This keeps the soil cool and preserves moisture as well as reducing soil splash up from rain. 

Elsewhere in the garden....

The potatoes are up.  These grow bags get the same treatment as the tomato containers.  I will add more soil when the potatoes would normally be hilled up.  Then finish up with a thick layer of shredded leaf mulch.

The sweet corn I seeded last Monday is coming up.  I learned my lesson last year.  To keep a tidy garden, be prepared to support your corn stalks.  Last year one bed of corn "lodged" during a rainstorm and had to be picked up off the ground.  So this year I've driven T-posts so I can make a grid of twine to support the corn stalks.

The first and second plantings of peas look great and I picked the first lettuce this morning.

I am using the tall expanding pea trellis for my pole beans again.
I planted Nasturtium along each side as "living mulch".

And finally, just look at this Sorbet peony.  In the past the best it has done is a dozen blooms or so.   Back in May 2019 we dug up the area it was planted in.  I stuck it in a fiber pot and put it in a corner out of the way and basically ignored it.  But despite having partial sun and nothing but rainwater, it survived.  Last June we relocated a whiskey barrel planter and I stuck the neglected peony where the planter and been and... voila!

It's HUGE!  And it has TWENTY buds on it!
I can't wait 😍.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Amending Raised Bed Soil

 This is the time of year when I do some work on my raised beds.  No matter what soil you start with, beds will need to be amended because of the intensive nutrient requirements year after year.  If you have an open, old fashioned, in the ground garden you can add virtually unlimited quantities of compost, leaves or aged manure and till it into the soil.  

If you have an enclosed bed there is a limit to the amount of material you can add before the material and water will begin to spill out.  Over time you will lose soil volume through compaction and removal of old plants but this is a slow process. For this reason I start with more nutrient dense additives such as slow release fertilizers, blood meal, bone meal etc.

I am also a firm believer in not turning my soil as you would if you were tilling in large amounts of compost.  I'm not a strict "lasagna" gardener where you layer new material on top of old and never disturb the soil, but I avoid mixing up the layers of microorganisms and destroying earthworm tunnels.  One of the advantages of raised beds is that you do not walk on and compact the soil, but this does not mean the soil does not compact over time.  You do not want your water running off to one side of the bed.  You want it to percolate right down through.  So your soil structure still needs to be loose enough to do that.  And root systems and earth worm tunnels just aren't enough.

The answer to compacted soil is a fork of some kind.  I've done this with a four tine digging fork, but the broad fork is much much quicker.  I go though the bed, driving the fork in about six inches deep and pulling it back to crack the soil base.  How deep I go depends on how compacted I'm finding the soil.  This doesn't have to be done every year.  Every two or three years should be enough.

You end up with a bed full of holes which are perfect for integrating soil amendments into the soil.

  I mix up a batch of whatever materials I think this bed needs based on its most recent performance and the crop that is going into it next.  In this case I am adding worm castings and Garden-tone.  I am planting butter beans in this bed.  I know everyone always says that beans and peas like poor soil.  Well, tolerating poor soil is not the same as preferring poor soil.  I've had great results in the past planting bush beans into worm castings and a balanced fertilizer.  The only crop I have never fertilized is peas.

Using a scoop I spread the mixture over the bed and level everything with a bow rake.  If there is room in the bed, I finish off with a layer of my own compost.  And the bed is ready to plant.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Time to harden off the tomato plants

 Its that time of year again.  Time to harden off the tomato seedlings.  Night time temps will soon be in the 50s.  I should be excited about the milestone but it's a chore.  It takes several days of in and out and constant monitoring. 

 My seed starting setup is in the basement.  Which means this isn't as simple as picking up the flat and walking out the door.  There is a stairway to deal with. I suppose I could rearrange things and make room in the cold frame.  But I think the answer this time is to move my grow light out to the garden shed counter.  That will simplify things a LOT.  I mean they'll be in the way, but at least they will be only 10 level feet from where I can set them out.  And they will be setting out near the garden where I'm working and won't be forgotten over by the house.

These seedlings are growing by leaps and bounds.  They have the fan running on them five hours a day and I am having to adjust the light higher every day. 

Yep, I think this whole set up is moving out to the garden shed today.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

It May be Spring

I've figured out why they call this month "May"  It may be spring. It may be winter. Some days it feels like fall.  Its actually snowing now even though its in the 40s.  It is overcast and raw and the sun only shines every few days but you know its on its way OUT and not IN.  So it is almost tolerable.  You make a little list of outside things that you want done and get those done and then head back inside.  

I wanted to try this neat looking lavender cauliflower but the seeds took forever to arrive.  When the seeds finally came, my cauliflower plants were already transplanted.  But it didn't take them too long to catch up.  They're small but they are out in the big world.  The big cold world.  Luckily they are used to the unheated basement so they are not too coddled.

I didn't want to cover the entire bed with a shade cloth so I used the little wire baskets from the Dollar Store to shelter them from the wind and sun.  If we ever get any.

I made an addition to my row cover system. 
I put these pipe straps at the end to secure the netting.

They will gather the netting on their own for awhile as you make adjustments

Then a clamp secures it.  This keeps the knot from blowing back in against the end plants and also lets you put some pressure on the end hoop to keep it straight.

The Easy Out Earth Staples I use for the floating row covers are too small for the netting but the pipe straps and clamp works well.

I am getting ready to plant potatoes in grow bags.

The peas are doing their thing

The old lettuce seed I scattered as ground cover are doing better than their counterparts in the cold frame.

I have a couple of flats of annuals under cover.  As I make my rounds of the greenhouses if I see a variety I want I grab it whether I am ready for it or not.  They would barely fit in the cold frame if I tried.  These are flats of zinnias, calendula and nasturtium and all are at least germinated.

My pear tree is turning into a pretty happy little tree.  It is putting out a lot of new growth and the Bartlett and Bosc limbs flowered.  The other limbs are Summercrisp and Seckel.  This little pear tree has weathered some challenges.  After its rude introduction to our climate, it had some fire blight on two branches that had to be pruned out.  It looks like it is really going to try.  I hope it does well this year.

The Surecrop strawberries are looking great and flowering well.  I fertilized them with Tomato Tone on the theory that both tomatoes and strawberries are berries and they should need the same N-P-K ratio.  If I come across any Berry Tone I'll pick some up.

Thanks to the world wide trade interruptions due to Covid, some things have been hard to find.  If I can buy something locally instead of shipping it in, I will pay a couple bucks extra.  But the options are pretty limited around here this year.  I've had to ship in gallons of Neptune's Harvest fertilizer and Repels-all deer repellent.  And then I had to order in Milorganite because the only stores around here that carry it are Tractor Supply and they just can't get it.  The one in the next county had it but it sold out fast.  At least, so far, the Espoma fertilizers are available and reasonable.

I've gotten all of the perennials fertilized and sprayed for deer.  Now I have to plant up the whiskey barrels.  I have some shrubs and perennials still shipping in and even though I've filled my allotted space for dahlias, I went and ordered some more on sale.  If push comes to shove I have a lot of pots to use!