Monday, May 18, 2015

Garden Update 18 May 2015



The onion plants from Dixondale are now obviously breaking dormancy and starting to grow. These are Super Star sweet white onions, an intermediate day onion I am trying for the first time. These are much larger than plants I have grown from seed, but they are dormant when planted and take several weeks before they establish roots and start growing. I was wondering if you really gain any advantage with the dormancy delay, but comparing these to my seed grown shallots, I would have to say yes. Sometime next week I will add some blood meal to the onions for their first nitrogen feeding.




The Golden Sweet snow peas are about a foot tall and looking for a trellis to climb. That was Sunday's task, to construct and erect 4 new trellises and cover them with netting. Trying to unravel a 50-foot length of trellis netting in the wind was a challenge so I had to enlist the aid of my son. I’m now ready for the peas and the pole beans I will plant next week.




The beets have emerged and are in bad need of a thinning. I plant 16 per square and you can see I got 16 to germinate in this square. I do not usually get such a good germination rate with beets, particularly in dry weather as this has been.




The chard is doing really well and starting to add size. So far they are not bothered by leaf miners. I usually get those later in the season. The unplanted squares on either end of the bed are waiting for the cucumber plants I have started inside in peat strips. When the cucumber plants are ready to set out, I plan to dip them in a Surround clay slurry to see if I can ward off the cucumber beetles and the dreaded bacterial wilt.




The endive is starting to grow, as is the escarole above it. It is time for another dose of Sluggo to deter any slugs looking to make a salad out of my greens before I do.




The kohlrabi are starting to add size. That is Azur Star at the bottom and Winner above it. They weren’t affected by the flea beetles when I looked last week, but the beetles have now discovered them so these got sprayed.




The Tyee spinach is looking good and maybe I will start getting a few leaves next week.




In my other plot, the row of brassicas are doing very well under their Agribon tent. That is Fiesta broccoli on the right, then dinosaur kale and Brussels sprouts on the far left. Notice the leaves are hole and bug free. The challenge is to keep the row cover closed at all edges despite the high winds we are getting.




Next week is going to be a frenzy of planting. All of the above transplants are being hardened off outside and most will go in the garden by the end of the week. The peppers and eggplant are still inside under the lights and they may not go into the garden until June. There is no point in exposing them to possible cold nights, which will just set them back and delay growth.


That’s an update of my garden. To see what other gardeners are harvesting from their gardens, visit Daphne’s Dandelions, our host for Harvest Monday.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Row Cover System




Up to now the garden has been free of pests. Last weekend I noticed the white cabbage moths fluttering around  the garden, so I knew I had to get protection in place soon for the brassicas. So I spent Sunday putting up the hoops and row cover to protect the row of broccoli and kale in my in-ground plot. On Monday I took a look at my turnips and radishes in the raised beds and was amazed at the flea beetle damage done in just a few days. Just a few days ago there was not a hole to be seen, now the plants are crawling with the tiny black beetles.




The Broccoli raab and Soloist Napa cabbages were doing really well and are now just pin cushions. It doesn’t pay to be a pioneer, you just wind up with arrows in your back. There are no brassicas elsewhere in the garden and no wild mustard anywhere near. When you get a hatch of hungry crucifer flea beetles and your garden has the only meal around, expect to be attacked.







Likewise, the radishes and turnips are damaged, while the kohlrabi are untouched The trouble I have is they are small plants that get put here and there in the garden and it is difficult to come up with a system to protect them. These were sprayed heavily with Spinosad on Monday to hopefully knock down the population. Spinosad is effective against flea beetles but is not yet licensed for them. I will alternate the Spinosad with a pyrethrin spray. Both are approved for organic gardens.




For the in-ground plot, I am organizing it by row. The row in the back is the large-rooted brassicas, specifically broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts. I used black plastic mulch to minimize watering and inhibit weeds. Since these plants do not have to flower (in fact, we do not want them to flower), they can remain covered. The hoops you see are 10-foot (3 m) sections of inexpensive 1/2-inch (1.3 cm) plastic electrical conduit, pressed into the soil and bent over. The material is PVC, which is not ideal, but at least it is marked to be UV-resistant. You could use PEX water tubing, but it is not UV-resistant and rapidly breaks down when exposed to sunlight.




The key to this system is the availability of 10-foot wide (3 m.) fabric. I used Agribon 19 which I sourced from Johnnny’s Seed. I bought  the 250 foot roll so it should last me a while. The trick was to get the fabric over the hoops. Of course, as soon as I was ready to raise it over the hoops, a breeze started blowing. I had to have another gardener help me and I had to use large binder clips to hold it in place. So far it has held up to the usual windy conditions we get in the spring and the brassicas underneath are bug free (although they got sprayed with the Spinosad just in case). It’s necessary to seal the edges because the flea beetles are fully capable of getting underneath. Hopefully this will keep the plants beetle and caterpillar free this summer.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Progressing Slowly



The garden seems to be running in slow motion this year. I do not know if it is the temperatures or the many partially cloudy days, but everything except the garlic seems to be growing slowly. The garlic is quite happy and growing strongly, as you can see above. The big, thick-stemmed ones in the middle are the German Red I picked up at a garlic festival in Maine last fall. And the smaller ones on  the far left are the Duganski garlic I was worried about because the skins were falling off and I was planting almost bare cloves. It  seems to have done just fine, as people assured me it would.




I finally got the brassicas into the ground. I’m growing them in-ground in a second plot I rescued from the weeds last year. Besides the extreme weather delaying the planting, the soil is still very mucky despite the lack of rain. The water table has to be very high after the eight feet of snow cover and the clayey soil is just not drying out. I have installed hoops and these will be covered with 10-foot wide Agribon this weekend. No flea beetles yet but the cabbage moths are already fluttering around the garden, so I am in a hurry to get these covered.




The peas are up. These are the Golden Sweet snow peas and will be trained up a trellis this year. I gave up trying to grow shorter varieties in blocks and opted for taller varieties and a trellis. You can see how dry the soil is in the raised beds. Trying to get seeds to germinate in this soil requires constant watering, and the pumps in the garden were only turned on this week.




The spinach I started in 3/4-inch soil blocks is doing just fine, although growing very slowly. Since only half the cubes germinated, I started another batch and will set them out this weekend.




The lettuces are starting to reach planting size but will need hardening off. I opted to keep them inside under the lights to maximize growth rather than put them outside during our many cloudy days. These will go in a container on my deck, which I need to prepare. The prep work on the container is tedious but once done, everything is automatic and weed-free, a salad green machine. And it is just outside the kitchen door rather than 2 miles away in the garden.




The tomatoes are doing well, even the ones I had to salvage by re-planting with seeds pre-sprouted in paper towels in a baggie, and most have been potted up. The Jaune Flamme were acting petite, so they were put in 4 inch pots. The rest went into Solo cups where they could be planted deeper. The two six-packs remaining are a pack of Romas in back which I am growing for a fellow gardener, and Chocolate Pear in front. I used a pinch of Tomato Tone and a sprinkle of mycorrhizae inoculant in each cup.




This is another tray of tomatoes in Solo cups. It is not an experiment to see if tomatoes grow better in the red cups or the blue cups. That said, does anyone know if red or blue is better?

Friday, April 24, 2015

I’m Ready to Garden, Is the Garden Ready for Me?

Holy cow, it’s almost May. Who knew that old saying, April comes in like a lamb and goes out like a lion, is actually true? The 8 feet of snow have melted and left everything kind of boggy. Luckily I garden in raised beds which are workable if still a bit wet. The 2-3 inches of rain Monday-Tuesday didn’t help, but at least it watered in the onions I got planted on Sunday. But now it is cold with high wind gusts and overnight lows near freezing, just like winter weather. We even lit the wood stove today to take the chill off the house.




I did get all but one of my planting beds weeded and prepped, ready for planting season. Peas are in, and Thursday and Friday I planted the rest of my onions and shallots. Above are some of the Red Zeppelin and Candy onions. They look kind of shaggy and pathetic, but that is because they are still dormant. It will take a few days for them to rehydrate and send out new roots. The Red Zeps were the biggest of the onions from Dixondale, almost every one the size of a pencil. The few small ones were tucked in here and there for green onions.




I planted the tub of larger shallots, the ones originally started from seed back on February 26. Due to poor germination, I threw a bunch of seeds on a wet paper towel and pre-germinated them. This produced an additional quantity of seedlings in another pot which are still a little too small to transplant yet. Those will get planted in a week or two.




Given the weather, I tried to get a jump start on the spinach by planting seeds in 3/4 inch soil blocks. I have heard that spinach does not transplant well and is prone to bolting. I figured if I could get quick germination I could whisk them into the garden before they knew they were being transplanted. So why, with fresh seed, did only two germinate quickly? After another week I now have 8 plants out of 40 cubes, almost enough to plant one square of the 4 I planned on.




I adjusted my seed starting schedule to assume that maybe this planting season might be delayed a week or two, given the horrendous winter. Given the weather this week, that is looking like a reasonable decision, except for one vegetable. Peppers. The things are so slow to germinate and so slow to grow, delaying starting them does not pay off. I believe it is better to deal with potting up peppers than wondering if you will get any plants this season. And I believe peppers should be healthy, actively growing plants when set out in the garden. The fact that a runt might improve and actually grow in the garden does not mean you will get any fruit from it, so it is just wasting space. This is particularly true for certain long season peppers, which of course are the interesting ones I want to grow.


So here it is almost May and you can see my peppers above, planted on March 29.  I have enough germination that I should get a couple of plants from each of the 9 varieties planted, so I declare success! But none have a set of true leaves yet and they do not seem to grow at all. Everything seems to be in slow motion this season. The brassicas are progressing but the peppers, the toms, and even the lettuce just seem to sit there. I’m getting tired of babysitting these guys and want them out in the garden, the sooner the better.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Gardening Finally Begins for Me

I have a seasonal tax prep job that is now over, so I can finally concentrate on gardening. A week of 10-12 hour days ended with a 14-hour marathon on April 15. Why do people wait until the last minute? I don’t understand the psychology.  They certainly can not be gardeners, because we have to plan ahead if we want a successful garden. Planning for this garden started last growing season and is now being implemented, albeit a little delayed by the job. Anyway, Spring is here, my daffodils are up, the onions from Dixondale Farms arrived, and gardening is under way.




This is the shady corner of the community garden last week. I met some new gardeners last Sunday before work to show them around. There was still snow in the corner and things looked pretty beak and monochromatic. You have to be an optimist if you are going to garden. I did manage to plant some snow and snap peas while waiting for the new gardeners. This week the snow is completely gone and the ground is a bit drier.




My raised beds are looking good despite the rough winter. The winds and heavy snow have taken down most of the netting on the trellises. Fortunately I planned ahead and added a 60 foot bag of netting to my seed purchases this winter. The kale did not survive. The only sign of life is the garlic poking its way through the straw mulch. But the soil in the beds is dry enough to work, in contrast to the muddy soil you see upper left. That’s good because I need to get the onions planted in the raised beds. That’s bad because I also need to get my Brassicas planted in the soil in my other plot.




The onion beds were prepared by first fluffing up the soil. Doing that is controversial because you disrupt the soil flora and fauna, but it gives me a chance to find and remove any weed rhizomes and wire worms. Then I spread a couple of inches of compost over the top and sprinkled on the amendments and stirred it all in. This year I am with the program! The beds were amended with (purchased) crushed crab shell, (Pioneer Valley basalt) rock dust, kelp meal, Plant Success Granular fungal mycorrhizae and Chickity Doo Doo to provide additional nitrogen for the onions.




This is the first year I purchased onion plants from Dixondale. Purchasing plants means one less thing to do during the  busy winter months. More expensive than a pack of seeds but a lot less trouble. I was very impressed with the plants I received. Above is less than half the bundle of Copra onions I received. They are very large, some bigger than pencil width. There is no way I could grow plants this big myself.  Of course the test will be to see how well they grow.




These are the Rossa Lunga di Tropea onions I have grown for several years. I was impressed that Dixondale offered such an unusual onion, so I had to buy a bunch of these. Again, they are huge for plants, much larger than I could grow myself.




On Sunday I managed to get the Copra, Tropea, Super Star and Red Candy plants into the ground. I was hoping the rain predicted for Monday would hold off until I could get the rest planted, but it was raining by 8 A.M. so planting will have to wait. The rain is not a bad thing since the pumps at the garden are not yet connected and I would have to haul water from home. Anyway, the gardening season is now officially started for me with plants in the ground.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Next Up, Tomatoes




My attempt to salvage my shallot growing season has somewhat succeeded. With poor germination rate and the suicidal tendencies of my shallot seeds and seedlings, I tried pre-germinating some additional seeds in a damp paper towel in a plastic bag. They were kept warm by placing the baggie on top of one of the lighting units. After about a week, I had seeds sprouting. It was a bit challenging to get the sprouts into soil. The roots grew in a corkscrew pattern, as you can see below. Trying to get the sprout into a planting hole with the root downward was made harder by the shape and the fact the seed head was heavier. Simply dropping the seedling caused the seed to flip around and land in the hole with the root pointing skyward. I finally tried enlarging  the hole and laying the seedling in sideways.




The shallot seedlings did figure out which way is up, with a little help from gravity. These are planted in Lambert’s All-Purpose Potting Mix amended with a little kelp meal, and I am hoping it does not crust as bad as the McEnroe potting soil.



Sunday, March 29, 2015

Seed Starting Begins

The Ambition shallots were sown two weeks ago. I used McEnroe organic potting mix, which has some compost in it, in a plastic tub. I figured the plants would be in the tub for awhile so some extra nutrients would be beneficial. I have about 20 plants germinated from 45 seeds planted, so germination was not terrific. I would have more except for the plants’ tendency to commit suicide. The McEnroe mix formed a crust on top of the pot. Not sure that was the cause but the taproot of some plants elongated and pushed the seedlings out of the soil, where they flopped over and died. Weird, never had that happen before. I have started to pre-germinate some more seed in a wet paper towel in a baggie in hopes of catching up and getting a few more transplants. The top of the plant lights makes a good area to pre-germinate seed since it is slightly warm but not hot enough to kill the seeds.




Last week I sowed the first of the Brassicas, the kale and broccoli. For them I decided to use a standard soilless planting mix, Lambert’s All-Purpose Planting Mix. They spent a few days on the heat mat until germination started and are now off the heat and under the grow lights. Planted on March 22 were:

  • Kale Beedy’s Camden
  • Kale Nero di Toscana
  • Kale Tronchuda Beira
  • Broccoli Fiesta
  • Broccoli Arcadia
  • Broccoli Raab Sorrento




Today I am planting lettuce and peppers. The peppers and Ping Tung eggplant are going into plastic 6-cell flats. I can fit 12 of these flats into a 1040 tray, or 72 plants. I thought about but decided not to try pre-germinating the seeds. I have a heat mat that will accommodate a 1020 tray, and I planted 2 seeds per cell, so with 12 varieties to germinate, this is just much simpler. The one shock was the Stocky Red Roaster pepper, which had just 10 seeds in the packet. Guess I might be collecting seeds from this one if I decide it is a keeper (which is likely given its rave reviews). Planted today were these varieties:

  • Eggplant Ping Tung
  • Pepper Jimmy Nardello
  • Pepper Lemon Drop
  • Pepper Padron
  • Pepper Stocky Red Roaster
  • Pepper Arroz Con Pollo
  • Pepper Hungarian Paprika
  • Pepper Yummy Belles
  • Pepper Aji Dulce
  • Pepper Trinidad Spice/Perfume
  • Pepper Tiburon Ancho Poblano




The pepper flat was placed on my one and only heat mat. An hour after planting, here they are, warm and steamy on the heat mat.




Next I planted a tray of lettuce and greens/herbs. Lettuce seed needs light to germinate so I made a small depression in each cell and sprinkled a pinch of seeds into it. Then  I covered the seed with a little fine vermiculite and watered it in. The lettuce flat has a clear plastic dome to cover it but the heat mat is currently occupied by the peppers. They should be alright at room temperature.




Planted in this tray were the following:

  • Lettuce Green Ice
  • Lettuce Red Sails
  • Lettuce Buttercrumch
  • Lettuce Midnight Ruffles
  • Lettuce Winter Density
  • Lettuce Marshall
  • Ice Lettuce
  • Mustard Green Wave
  • Chinese Cabbage Soloist
  • Cilantro Caribe
  • Endive Dubuisson
  • Escarole Natacha

This was a pretty good start to the season. Next are some Asian greens and then the tomatoes. Hopefully the peppers are prompt because the toms are going to want some space on that heat mat.

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