Friday, May 20, 2022

What a Difference A Day Makes

On one of the Facebook gardening pages, a person posted that she had gotten everything planted but she had a lot of anxiety over whether or not anything would even sprout.  Was that a newbie gardener thing?  No - that is an every year gardener thing.  Because every year no matter how careful you are, something will fail.  We spend all this time making plans, imagining lush plants, abundant flowers and bountiful harvests.  We put a lot of work into planting everything.
And then we wait.

This week was the point when my garden turned the corner.  Yes, things are going to grow.  There are some frustrations but they can be replaced with things that are exceeding expectations.  Its going to be OK.

 The potatoes are sprouting.

The broccoli and cauliflowers are thriving.

The pepper plants survived transplanting.  

The mail order spice bushes are going to break dormancy after all. (whew!)

The pear tree will need some serious thinning.

This Sorbet peony is chest high and has more than thirty buds on it.

My Marigolds from seed are looking great.  It was really tough at the nursery this week to pass up ten inch high flowering Marigolds.  I had to remind myself that if I were to plant a ten inch high Marigold in May I would pinch it back anyway.  Which put things into perspective.  These will be set out next week.

I finished buying all of my annuals and put together the five planters on the entrance side of our house.  I had to make changes as I went along.  I found enough ivy, but not enough euphorbia.  I decided to try some Prince Tut papyrus which meant I had to rearrange the geraniums.  The caladium bulbs I bought have shown no signs of life at. all. so I planted that planter to match the deck planters.  The dahlias I bought to put in the landscape where I usually have geraniums are just now sprouting so I've decided to use Marigolds in the most visible flower bed and plant the dahlias somewhere else.  Its not always easy to put the annual plan into action because you have to roll with the punches.

Of course not everything is great.  I am still going around taking stock in what did not survive the winter: half a dozen grasses (mostly new plantings from last fall), at least two butterfly bushes, my favorite heuchera...  These things happen.  Some I will replace and others I will not.

My strawberries are looking a little peaked compared to last year.  They've finally started to bloom but I am not happy with the variety and this is the third year for them.  They have not sent out enough runners to replace themselves so I am going back to Honeoyes.  I ordered two dozen from Stark Bros. half price and stuck them in where the tulips were.  I'll move them to the berry bed come August.  It is fascinating what a change 24 hours and half an inch of rain can effect on bareroot strawberry plants.

Little green leaves appear overnight

Today I planted the first bed of sweet corn and the first row of bush beans.  This coming week I will be planting the pole beans and tomatoes and seeding cucumbers, summer squash and cantaloupes.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Patience and Self Control

I will not plant cucumbers before June.  I will not plant cucumbers before June.  I will not plant cucumbers before June.  I will not plant cucumbers before June.  I will not plant cucumbers before June.  I will not plant cucumbers before June.  I will not plant.....

Maybe I'll plant the beans...

One of my general rules is to wait until June before planting cucumbers, summer squash and beans.  That way the soil is warm and dry, night temps are high enough, and I don't have to deal with the wild fluctuations of May.  And most importantly the cucumber beetles hatch and there is nothing out there to eat.   The past week has had daytime temps in the eighties and night time temps in the sixties and it is getting harder and harder to wait. Yesterday I was sitting near the garden and the table next to me looked like it had been sprinkled with black pepper.  It was flea beetles!  I haven't planted anything that they will want to eat this year but it was a good reminder.  There are pests out there ready to devour my garden.  

Peas and Lettuce

Broccoli, Cauliflower and Cabbages
And some annuals seeking refuge from the blistering sun

Three plantings of Carrots

To distract myself from planting seeds, I worked on my sweet potato slips.  The past few years I have grown Mahon Yam from Johnny's Seeds.  It is a variety exclusive to them and it has been excellent.  Last year's harvest wasn't the greatest as far as quantity.  The grower had trouble producing slips due to weather and they came late and dilapidated.  I experimented with my soil mixture because by the time they arrived I was out of potting mix and I was cheap - and the end result was a very small harvest.  

But I still have a few in storage including some from my 2020 crop (!).  If you cure them properly the storage life is Amazing.  Usually 25 slips are $24.99.  That's expensive enough but this year they were priced at $37.00  I don't think so!  Not for my success rate.  And since I was still on the fence about it when I placed my main order, I would have had to pay the minimum shipping on top of that.  But I still had those tubers so,,,,

I decided to try growing my own slips.

I have two tubers sprouting and I am starting with just the one... since I am new to this.  I snapped off the slips, preserving as many roots as possible, and put them in a jar of water to continue rooting.  I put them back in the cold frame so they are in sun and won't need to be hardened off.  We'll see how this works.  They already look a hundred times better than any slips I ever got in the mail.

I am slowly starting on my annuals.  Celosia in the fire pit planter...

The Charming Beauty tulips are blooming.  These are suppose to deepen in color as they age.  Right now they are a very pale lemon which I'm not crazy about but...

Each bulb is producing two, three and even four blooms each!

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Dahlia Day

The dahlias were sorted and planted today.  Its a lot of work and the thing is - after you get done sorting and cleaning

Dahlia tubers laid out per plan

and dividing and planting, and sifting your vermiculite and putting everything away ....

The sorting area

You cover it up and it looks like you didn't do a darned thing.

and under they go

The weather has been Junelike in the 80s and sunny.  I got the potatoes into their bags on Saturday May 7th.  The panels are on the first corn bed to warm the soil before seeding. I'm half tempted to harden off tomato plants but the cold frame is out of real estate.

Sweet Corn Bed

The peas, lettuce and carrots have been growing nicely but require daily watering to keep them growing.  I reseeded the second row of lettuce because it was at that critical point of germination right when we got that last eight inches of snow which either shut it down or froze whatever came up and it was a bit sparse.

 I have been putting the shade cloth back on the cauliflower broccoli cabbage bed every afternoon because we went from day after day of overcast skies to full intense sun and I don't want to sunburn the larger leaves.  I got my full summer tan in the first three sunny days.  Yesterday after four hours of morning sun and three applications of spf 50 sunscreen I gave up and put a long sleeved sunshirt on because I wasn't burnt but I was red as a beet.  It's HOT out.
And there is no shade to be found anywhere.

First and second planting of peas and lettuce
Carrots in foreground and potato grow bags in background

The tulips are looking spectacular.  The second and third varieties are opening but these big doubles look like red hot peonies.  They just glow.

Gudoshnik Tulips

Smaller are Parrot King tulips and Charming Beauty ready to bloom

The lawn is finally beginning to dry out so we can actually walk across it.  The backyard finally got fully mowed and then the ruts rolled out.  This corner is sometimes standing in water.

I have begun making the greenhouse rounds buying odds and ends for annual planters and herbs and such.  I've had a few things arrive in the mail.  Its about time to get busy planting out but things still have to be protected.  This year it is not from snow and cold but from sun and heat instead.

The Chilly Pear Tree has bloomed on three of the four grafted varieties and I am hoping for a good fruit set.  The new apple tree is breaking dormancy but it doesn't look like it has any blossoms on it so we will hope the pollinators find the wild apple trees in the woods.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Tulips are Poppin'

 They have been ready to go for a couple of days but had the good sense to wait for a sunny day.

These are Gudoshnik doubles

I think I need more of these next year.  
They don't need as much room as I gave them so I can fit about twice as many.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

A Totally Average Day

 Finally the temperatures are back to "normal".  It was cold and snowy all day yesterday, never getting out of the 30s. But this morning dawned bright and clear and the temps have been in the mid-40s which is average for our April.  For a change I didn't have to worry about anything being too hot or too cold.  Everything was just as it should be.

It always amazes me when I plant cole crops out in cold, crappy weather and the next day they are standing up green and eager to grow.  I can tell these have all rooted in well and are already beginning to put on some new growth.

The peas were a little flat after that heavy snow and the second lettuce seeding is still being a bit careful but no harm done. The last row of peas goes in tomorrow. The carrots are looking awesome.

Nantes Half Long Carrots

I potted up my Caladium and Begonia tubers today.

This is my first time for these and they look great.  They are all big, healthy tubers and starting to show growth at the eyes.  I'm looking forward to seeing how these turn out.  They are destined for containers which normally have store-bought annuals in them, and I can store them over the winter for next season.

They look like big hairy donuts.
The sprouts are pink and the white stuff is the shavings they were packed in

I transplanted four varieties of Marigolds, two dozen each of Fireball, Strawberry Blonde, Durango Outback Mix and Snowball.  Marigolds are my favorite fill in annual so I always like to have a bunch ready to go.  You can buy a packet of 50 seeds for little more than a 6 pack of plants cost.  This is the first time I've grown them from seed and I was amazed at how quickly they germinated and grew.  If they are this easy then its a no-brainer.

Soon the Tulips will be in bloom

Sunday, April 24, 2022

A Hot Mess

Today's forecasted high was 78 degrees.  It was 53 when I got up this morning and by noon it had hit 83 degrees in the shade and it stayed there all day.  It is currently, at 5pm,  81 on the north wall of the house.  For several days I debated whether to change the broccoli and cauliflowers to the insect mesh but since tomorrow is supposed to return to more reasonable weather, I decided instead to just run their pant legs up.  I didn't want them to cook in their little greenhouse.

The cold frame was another challenge.  I have several trays of young seedlings in there.  I can't just open it up the because the polycarbonate panels do block some of the sun and experience tells me I can easily scorch them.  With one panel down, a 50% shade cloth, and a fan running the air temp was 95 and the soil surface temp was 103.  I think everyone is OK

There was at least a nice stiff breeze today and we got another chunk of the mulching done around the house.  It was actually sort of pleasant because I had already cleaned, raked out and weeded the beds earlier in the week and we just had to cut some edging and do a lot of shoveling of new material.  Then we turned on the fridge in the garden shed and stocked it with water, sweet tea and beer.  Then the lawn was mowed for the first time.

I went around taking photos of daffodils to keep track of where they are for the next time I decide I must need a whole bunch more.  Which I don't.

I might add some yellow with deep orange centers.  They are a real stand out.  Most of mine are the giant mix for naturalizing and over time, the standard all yellow or white with yellow tend to take over.  I have only ever singled out the all white Mount Hood or the white with peach Salome.  But I am seeing a whole lot of the Ice Follies with their wide open pale yellow centers.  I was so sad last week when we got the eight inches of snow because I was afraid they would all have been crushed, but the two cold and lightly snowy days before hand had made all of the flowers close back up so when the heavier snow came on Tuesday they were less vulnerable and very few bent over.

It is a banner year for daffodils

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Rescuing the Broccoli and Cauliflower Transplants

 The broccoli and cauliflower plants are just fine.  

I think that transplanting marigold seedlings can wait until tomorrow.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Typical Easter Morning

 It seems it always does this on Easter morning, no matter how many pretty days we have beforehand.  It's as if Mother Nature has something against little girls in bright bonnets and egg hunts on the lawn.

No gardening planned today

Friday, April 15, 2022

Windy Days and Apple Trees

First thing this morning, before I was willing to admit to actually being awake, (It is the one year anniversary of my retirement afterall) my husband said "let's go to Home Depot early this morning (like before breakfast) and get your apple tree".  
More about that later.

A Beautiful Sunny Spring Morning

This has been a fairly busy week, but I haven't blogged anything because until now I haven't finished anything.  I've been whittling away slowly at things.  The weather hasn't been bad, but it hasn't been good either.  There haven't been any really good "let's do a bunch of projects" type of days.  It has been more a "dash out and work for an hour" type of week.  

We dug a big hole out from under the front pavers that heaved in the winter and filled it back with gravel. We got the new load of beautiful fresh, aromatic mulch. but did not get back to mulching because it has been too wet.  Really freakin' wet. We got a dump truck load of rocks for a creek bed expansion.  The truck got off the edge of the drive and got really stuck.  The load got dumped in the middle of everything just to get the truck out.  My husband spent a whole afternoon sorting that problem out.   I spent two or three partial days preparing planting areas but not actually planting anything.  Things came in the mail.  Thoughts piled up.  Goals finally got accomplished.

My potato shipment came and is on the garden shed counter "chitting"

My spring bulb order came and was inspected but isn't ready to plant yet.

The cauliflower transplants got broken up into three tasks.  First the bed was raked and fertilized.  Then I drilled all the holes for the frost cover supports for this bed and another bed.  On the third day I rounded up the right frost cover and the shade cloth and installed that.  Then yesterday I transplanted the ones that were ready.  This freed up a spot under my grow light in the basement so this morning I seeded tomatoes.

This morning the third planting of peas went in with a side dressing of lettuce.

The first peas are looking nice, and the second row is just starting to poke through and will be visible in two or three days, right on schedule.  Those pots have teeny tiny carrots too.  Too small to photograph.

Closeup of peas and lettuce

Now back to that apple tree.  For the past year or so I have known that I needed to plant an apple tree near the garden as a cross pollinator for the two Northern Spy trees.  Away in the corner of the backyard we had three trees that the last owners had planted about 70 years ago.  One, a Yellow Transparent, we cut down a few years ago because we never got any apples from it and as an early, soft apple it was an absolute pest magnet.  Between the crows and the squirrels and the deer it was a feeding frenzy.  Sure its nice to feed the wildlife but I didn't want to draw them into our yard just to eat all those apples and then stay for the next batch too.

This left us with a Macintosh and an Empire.  In a good year we might get a bushel of apples which made really sweet applesauce.  And at least they cross pollinated the Spies. Last year the Empire tree finished dying and we pushed her over and hauled her to the burn pile.  I knew the Mac wouldn't last much longer.  We talked about putting a new tree in the spot where the Empire was but there were two problems with this.  #1 it was too close to the woods so there wasn't enough sun and #2 it was too close to the woods so the squirrels could jump from the woods trees right into the apple trees.  We had trimmed back some of the woods limbs but it was still not a good spot.  We needed to pick a spot in the garden area where we could defend our crop.  Yes, the main reason for planting it would be cross pollination but when you go to the expense and trouble to plant a tree you want to eat the apples too.

We have all of this room, but still there aren't a lot of unused areas.  You have to take into consideration what surface the apples are going to fall on and how it might affect your mowing and if it is in a high traffic area for squirrels and deer so on and so forth.  And it shouldn't be too wet and honestly, just about everywhere is too wet. I decided the only possible spot was along the chicken run where we had planted a triple paperbark birch some years ago.  The birch didn't survive but it is a pretty good place for an apple tree.

We hooked up the trailer and went to HD first thing this morning.  We hit all the lights just right.  The parking lot wasn't crowded.  I picked out my tree, put it on a flat cart and rolled it in to the service desk.  The Garden Center check out isn't open yet this time of year which makes check out of large garden stuff a little but of a hassle.  So I asked them nicely to check me out so I wouldn't have to fiddle with the self check out or wheel it all the way down to the Contractor desk.  Then I wheeled it right back Out the In door.  We wrapped it up and secured it in the trailer and headed home.  The sun was shining.  Everything seemed perfect.  As if it were meant to be.

This Gala apple is a late bloomer like the Northern Spy

After breakfast I planted the tree.  I wanted to get it settled before it breaks dormancy and the weather forecast is cool and rainy which will help too.  At this point, the beautiful sunny, calm morning changed to overcast and windy.  Really, unpleasantly windy.  Gusting 40 mph.  It blew over wheelbarrows and shovels and relocated anything not nailed down including the tarp covers on the mulch and gravel piles.  It was seriously irksome.

I had finished planting the tree and was waiting for the first can of water to soak in before adding another.  I decided I had better put in some T-posts and wire in some supports right away otherwise by morning it would likely be leaning.  I went to the garden shed to get the T-post pounder and I heard sort of a "crack crunch".  I thought "I'll bet we are going to lose some trees in the woods" so I stuck my head out and sort of scanned around and I saw....

This is one of those "I'm not kidding" moments.
The Macintosh.  The last old apple tree the wasn't good for much other than pollination.... was lying on her side.  She held on to the last possible moment and when the new tree was planted and it was OK for her to go.  She went.

I walked out there and gave her a pat and thanked her for her service.
And then I hurried away from the woods and all the other potential falling trees!