Senior Gardening

One of the Joys of Maturity

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The Old Guy's Garden Record

Our Senior Garden - 4/12/2013

Monday, April 1, 2013 - The Gardening Season Begins

Weather Channel 10-day forecastIt's gardening season again! After what always seems to have been a long winter, spring brings the promise of a glorious vegetable garden once more.

We're beginning April with a forecast for a couple of cold nights, followed by pleasingly warming temperatures for the rest of the week. Our ground is ready (the main raised bed, anyway), and we have brassicas and lettuce under the cold frame ready to transplant. I'll probably need to bring tender plants inside tonight and tomorrow night, but we could begin some real gardening as early as Wednesday!

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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Cold frame and porch plantsWe had another cold night last night, with a morning low of 26o F. The geraniums that had just gone under the cold frame yesterday along with our flats of onions and hanging basket plants from the back porch all had to come inside for the night. The stuff left under the cold frame appears to have escaped any frost damage.

Petunias in egg carton
Flat of petunias

I just realized that all of our petunias this year were started in egg cartons! Our Supercascade petunias were seeded in late December and now fill hanging baskets around our back porch. Our second seeding of petunias, Carpet and Ultra, were seeded on February 15, and were big enough today to transplant into fourpacks. The egg carton deal just sorta happened that way. The December seeding in egg cartons worked well, so I did the second seeding the same way. But I did forget to plant any Prime Time and/or Celebrity petunias, two varieties we like, even though we had seed on hand.

The transplanting was fairly easy. I had bottom watered the egg carton petunias early this morning, allowing me to lift each petunia from its egg cell with most of its rootball intact. The petunias went into fourpacks of potting mix. These plants were well established, so I didn't have to use sterilized planting medium, just some potting soil mixed with peat moss and a touch of lime. And since there was so little damage to rootballs, I went ahead and moved the almost full flat of petunias out under the cold frame.

And if you're wondering, I also got to clean up the kitchen counter and sink, before mopping the floor. Transplanting can be messy business.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

I really intended to do some gardening today. I got started early, opening the cold frame and taking the plants back outside that I'd brought in last night for protection from the overnight freeze. I also did some watering and moved a few plants off the soil heating mats to locations on our plant rack where they'd get more light.

AmazonPart of my game plan for the day was to drive to Terre Haute to pick up some gardening supplies I needed. But as I drove north listening to the radio, I happened upon a broadcast by Dick Estell, NPR's Radio Reader. I immediately knew he was reading a John Grisham novel I'd already read, but was quickly drawn back into the story. In the end, I did get the fertilizer, captan, and alfalfa seed I'm going to need in the next few weeks. But once I got home and put everything away, I became immersed in rereading Grisham's The Racketeer.

After supper, I had plants to bring back inside once again, as we're looking at yet another hard frost tonight. I actually did put a replacement cocoa mat liner in its holder, filled it with soil, and transplanted some Envoy impatiens into it. But after that, I was once again lost in the novel.

One of the great things about being retired is that I can get away with putting stuff off for a day or so, read a great book, and then get back to gardening, which I obviously enjoy immensely.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

This morning was our first day in about a week without an overnight frost. From various weather forecasts, it appears we now need only be vigilant for those occasional, late, freak frosts that can still occur in April. But the predicted change in overnight temperatures gives us a green light to really begin some outdoor gardening at last.

While several small chores got done today, the big one was getting in the first turn of our large East Garden plot. Since I'd slightly expanded the area and also moved it several feet to the south, there was some really rough ground to till, as the new parts had only been turned over once last fall. But our new John Deere tiller made a multiple day job with our old tiller into a four hour job today.

East Garden before tilling East Garden after first tilling
East Garden before first tilling East Garden after first tilling

The ground was just barely dry enough to till. I occasionally would hit wet patches that would leave a little mud clinging to the lawn tractor's tires, but mostly, the ground was surprisingly dry. I gave the entire 80' x 80' plot a single turn and then went back and tilled the back half that is to be seeded to an alfalfa cover crop one more turn. I wasn't tilling very deep today, as I was just trying to break up the grass clumps in the plot and also get the alfalfa area ready for planting. Our next tilling of the remaining ground will be a good bit deeper, something that today would have gotten us into some really nasty, wet clay soil.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Main bed tilledOur fair weather has continued with a high temperature today of 70o. After some fun and games pumping up tires and cajoling our old tiller to start, I tilled our main raised garden bed. It fluffed up nicely and with a bit of raking should be planting ready.

In a tilling mood, I reset our new tiller to go a good bit deeper and went over the area we'll be using for crops this year in our East Garden. It, too, tilled up well, although I did hit a couple of wet spots.

Before all the tilling, I seeded the back half of the East Garden to alfalfa, blowing through enough seed to have seeded a whole acre instead of the 40' x 80' area I set aside for the cover crop.

All the other stuff I had on my list for today will just have to wait, as it's late afternoon now...and I'm a bit sore. But what a great day in the garden!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Some days are a lot more fun than others working in the garden. The funny thing is that sometimes the really hard work ends up being a lot more fun than easier tasks. Such was the case today as I transplanted the first of our broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage into our main raised bed.

Prepping hole for brassica transplantI make this stuff a lot harder than it really has to be at times, simply because I have a way of doing it that I like. With brassicas, I like to get them in as early as possible, often our first crop transplanted into the garden. I dig each transplant a fairly deluxe hole and add a half handful of 12-12-12 commercial fertilizer and a sprinkle of lime. I use my trowel to thoroughly mix the soil with the amendments as deep as I can, often 8-12" deep. Even though the soil in our raised bed is quite fertile, I still like to give our brassicas all the fertility they may need. The lime helps prevent clubroot, a disease most often brought in on infected plants that can totally ruin ones crop.

Brassicas transplantedThen I water the hole and let the moisture seep into the surrounding soil before pulling most of the soil back into the hole. I scrape out a small hole and, get this, place a cut off coffee cup in the depression in the soil. My transplant goes into the bottomless coffee cup. I add a bit of native soil into the coffee cup and firm it around the stem, also firming the soil around the outside of the coffee cup, making sure the top of the cup extends at least an inch above the surrounding soil line.

I'm not totally nuts. The coffee cups function as cutworm collars. Cutworms seem to love our broccoli and cauliflower, and even though we use Milky Spore on the soil to control the cutworms (and possibly more importantly, the moles that pursue them), it doesn't get them all. The raised edge of the coffee cup seems to be a "mountain" the cutworms can't climb. I've used this technique for several years with great success. After the stems of the brassicas have hardened up enough to be unattractive to cutworms, I cut the cups down each side and remove them to allow the plant to grow unrestricted by the cup.

And yes, the coffee cups are all recycled. I've been rinsing out and saving my used coffee cups for several months now to have enough for this planting of brassicas and a later one in our East Garden.

A final step is adding a bit more water in the cup to make sure the freshly transplanted brassica has enough moisture. Oh, I also remove the row marker string. While leaving such a string in place can be helpful for knowing where a row is for direct seeded crops, a string in the wind can cut tender transplants in half.

For those wondering, we spaced our brassicas about as closely as we could, 18" apart in the rows with the rows also 18" apart. I leave a good bit more space, around three feet, on the outside of the brassica bed to allow easy access to the plants when they get big and bushy. Transplanted today were 4 Premium Crop broccoli, 3 Goliath broccoli, 5 Amazing cauliflower, 4 Fremont cauliflower, and one each of Tendersweet, Super Red 80, and Alcosa cabbage.

Garlic unmulchedNext to our brassicas, our fall planted garlic has been struggling to get going. I'd planned to pull the mulch from it a few weeks ago, but left it on because of some late frosts. When I finally pulled the grass clipping mulch this afternoon, I found that it was matted enough to have prevented some garlic shoots from penetrating it. I saw a lot of yellowed and whitish garlic leaves that would have perished in a few days had I not pulled the mulch when I did. Once we begin mowing again, I'll add grass clippings around the plants for weed control and moisture retention.

AsparagusOur recently unmulched asparagus bed had an asparagus tip clearly visible today. I thought I'd seen a tip last week when I raled the mulch off the bed, but apparently covered it up while working the bed. Our other bed of asparagus also had a shoot showing today, so some good eating should be near at hand.

Our peas are just beginning to emerge in our narrow raised bed. I used a garden rake today to break the crust of the soil to allow the peas to emerge more readily. I didn't rake, but used the rake teeth in a downward motion to break up the crust. I also added a bit more seed, just in case.

I'm not sure I could garden without a really good garden rake. My old one lost a foot off the end of its handle a few years ago, but the short handled rake still functions for us. I leave it out all summer by our compost and burn piles so I don't have to bring a frequently used rake out to the area. Our new rake, much like our new hoe (There's a short, funny story about the hoe.), is a quality tool that seems essential to many gardening tasks.

I'd hoped to transplant the colorful half flat of lettuce we have hardening off on the back porch tomorrow. But there are thunderstorms showing on the weather radar west of us, and there's rain in the forecast for the next four or five days. I may yet be able to pop out between showers and transplant the lettuce using walking boards to prevent compacting the soil. But it would be much nicer to have another 60-70o sunny day to do the transplanting.

Lettuce starts

Have a great weekend in the garden!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Lettuce flatsAfter fantasizing yesterday about transplanting lettuce into the garden, a bit of sanity broke out overnight. Realizing that we're still over twenty days away from our frost free date, I chose to transplant our lettuce seedlings into larger fourpacks today and not risk them out in the garden soil just yet. Doing so expanded our half flat of lettuce seedlings to fill a flat and a half, and we should have much healthier seedlings for it. But...I did order a roll of floating row cover material from Johnny's Selected Seeds in case I change my mind again and put the transplants out sometime in the next week. If I do and we don't have a frost this month, I'll already have the row cover material I'll need for our fall garden.

AmazonI moved our failing flat of onion transplants into the garden today. They're clearly dying, probably from a cat using them as a litter box, and at this point, things can't get much worse for them. Maybe they'll perk up, but I also have a backup flat of the same varieties started.

I also did a good bit of indoor seeding today, starting our paprika peppers and some more herbs. We didn't grow paprika peppers last summer, as we still had lots and lots of ground paprika left from the year before. I started Paprika Supreme, Alma, and Feher Ozon. I also started Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme (already have the parsley going), along with some catnip, basil, and dill. If all the herbs come up, I'll need to get the area I've set aside for an herb garden fixed up quickly. The paprikas, however, will be scattered around the property to isolate them for seed production.

Monday, April 8, 2013 - Pea Trellis

Trellis upWith our peas finally emerging, it was time today to erect the first of our pea trellises. This a necessary chore I really don't enjoy much. I usually end up doing it on windy, wet days like today!

Peas emergingThe actual work only involves driving in three T-posts, threading clothesline wire (already cut to length from previous years) through the trellis netting (also already cut to length), and anchoring the wires and trellis netting to the T-posts. But add a bit of rain and wind to the task, and it can become an unpleasant chore. (Of course, compared to heading off to work in an office each day, being retired and stringing trellis is a walk in the park!)

Fortunately, the rain just came and went briefly, and I've done this job enough times to just let the string trellis netting flow in the wind when unwinding it. I did have to cut the end off of the netting, as our tall pea bed this year will be a bit shorter than usual. I'll be adding a tomato cage at either end of the trellis a bit later on this month.

There probably are simpler pea trellis options out there, but we also use our trellis for vining cucumbers once our peas are done. The heavy Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers we grow require strong support. They also produce far straighter cucumbers on a trellis instead of on the ground. And...the ex-farmer in me still likes driving in a few (note I wrote "a few") T-posts each year. If you've ever spent a day building fence and driving in T-posts, you know what I mean.

Sweet potato slipsOne of the Nancy Hall sweet potatoes we have in the kitchen window has begun to put on a lot of green growth. In a few weeks, I'll cut and root the green shoots to make our sweet potato slips for planting this year.

Nylon Trellis NettingGetting back to peas and trellising, let me add that we have ended up using Dalen Gardeneer Trellis Netting exclusively for our peas and cucumbers for some time. After being frustrated a number of years ago with local garden store offerings, I mail ordered a package of the nylon netting and found it to be just what I wanted: strong; reusable; tall enough for tall peas and cucumbers; and affordable. The five foot high netting I used today is going into its fourth, and possibly last, season of use. It's a bit of a pain to hang, but the stuff works. I have one more tall trellis to put up, and will probably cut in half lengthwise the rest of the netting for a row of short, Eclipse peas we'll be growing for seed in the East Garden. For seed crops of peas, it's important to keep the pea pods off the ground to allow them to dry without rotting.

Likewise, Plastic Coated Steel Clothesline Wire lasts a long, long time. We get ours at a local hardware store.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Blustery spring dayAfter a dry period that allowed us to get our garden plots tilled, we finally received a good bit of rainfall this week. The total was just over an inch, but it came slowly over about 30 hours, allowing a good bit of it to soak into the dry ground, rather than running off as rain tends to do in a downpour.

Knowing we probably had rain on the way, I had to break off gardening on Tuesday and deal with our lawn. It only took a few minutes to unmount our new pull behind tiller from the lawn tractor, but several hours to get the mowing deck mounted. John Deere sorta forgot to include in the directions that one needed a lift or floorjack to fit the deck back under the lawn tractor.

The lawn is mowed, although with the rain, I suspect I'll need to mow again in just a few days.

With the rain past, I thought I might get in some gardening this morning. When I went outside to pick asparagus, I was greeted by pretty blue skies, but temperatures in the mid-40s and winds gusting over 30 MPH. By the time I took a few shots, admired this and that in the garden, and picked a bit of asparagus, my hands were about frozen.

Both of our patches of asparagus are beginning to put up shoots. It's not anywhere close to what it will be in a week or two, but that first asparagus is always especially tasty.

Our asparagus Bonnie's asparagus

GarlicPeas with trellisThe garlic that looked pretty sad when I pulled the mulch from around it last week has greened up nicely. There are a few bare patches in the rows, mostly from our own saved garlic sets. What has emerged will give us plenty of garlic. I like growing garlic first for its use, but secondly, because it's such a hardy and dependable crop.

Our tall peas planted mid-March are now really filling out their row. We planted Amish Snap, Champion of England, Mr. Bigicon, and a bit of Spanish Skyscraper on March 10. Since some of the seed came from SSE members, much of it was untreated seed, so I treated it before planting with a bit of captan to prevent seed rot. Then the seed just sat and appeared to do nothing for almost a month.

I checked the seed several times and didn't see any sign of germination. Then a couple of weeks ago, I stuck a trowel deep into the row and lifted, finding lots of germinating seed! Fearing I'd done in some of the seed, I overseeded a bit, but it proved unnecessary, as the original seed came in well. The overseeded peas won't hurt the planting, as one can plant peas thick or sparingly and still get a good crop.

Getting our peas started as early as possible helps insure a good, sweet crop before things get too hot. It also allows us to employ the ground and trellis for a second, full season crop of vining cucumbers, usually decorated with a few snapdragons along the trellis.

There's still time to plant peas, though. We'll be starting some Sugar Snaps on another trellis once I finish getting the ground for them worked up. And short varieties such as Encore and Eclipse don't germinate well in cool soil, so we wait a bit to plant them and still get a pretty good crop even in warming weather. Unfortunately, the supersweet Eclipse variety has disappeared from seed catalogs this year, so we're growing out our saved seed and some we were able to find online as a seed crop.

We have a lot of transplants under our cold frame and lining our back porch that are ready to go into the ground anytime now. We're just waiting for the weather to moderate a bit before putting them to use.

Plants under cold frame Plants on porch

Loaded plant rackI just propped open the cold frame today to give the plants there a bit of protection from the wind. I moved several rather tall melon transplants outside just yesterday. The plants lining the back porch are generally hardier varieties that are now well hardened off and can stand the full sun and wind. Of course, in case of a hard freeze, the stuff on the porch will have to come inside overnight.

Melon transplantsOur plant rack in the basement is still loaded with garden transplants waiting for space under the cold frame and/or putting on enough growth to go outside. Almost three full flats of melons and squash are now putting on their first true leaves, after which they'll be ready to move outdoors. We also still have a lot of slow growing flowers maturing under the plant lights.

Melons and squash can get pretty unruly to handle if left in pots too long before transplanting. We started ours a good deal later than most of our transplants, but will need to move them swiftly under the cold frame for a week and then into the East Garden. Beyond getting stems and leaves tangled, a concentrated group of melon plants is an inviting target for bugs such as cucumber beetles. We had them swarm in on our melon transplants last May. In just one day, they did some pretty serious damage. I think we're early enough this year that the striped (and spotted) cucumber beetles won't be out in force anytime soon.

And we still have to get a few more flowers seeded in the next few days. I don't know where I'll put the starts, but we're behind on getting our snapdragons, alyssum, dusty miller, and marigolds going.

Saturday, April 13, 2013 - Snapdragons

I got our snapdragons started last evening...about a month or two later than I would have liked. We should still have blooms by July or August from this planting. Snapdragon seed is extremely small, so I seeded four pots of different varieties: First Ladies; Burpee Tall; Madame Butterfly; and some seed I'd saved last fall. I just sprinkled the seed across the moistened soil in the flowerpots I used, as they went under a humidome and over our soil heating mat (set at 72o). Once the seed germinates, I'll need to move the plants into individual pots or fourpack cells, but seeding to a pot is far easier than trying to get just one of the dustlike seeds in each plant cell of a fourpack. Note that one seed packet carried an advisory suggesting one freeze snapdragon seed for 48 hours before planting.

Tiny oregano and thymeWhen working with tiny, tiny seeds like snapdragons, the initial plants are also quite small. Some of the tiny seeded herbs I started last week have begun to germinate. I moved two dill plants that were way too tall to individual pots, but the oregano and thyme were just too small to work with right now.

In a "small seed" mood, I also started a couple of pots of gloxinias today. Alcie Maxwell of Shreveport, Louisiana, had sent me two varieties of seed I don't have almost a year ago. Somehow, I never got around to trying them until today. I'm excited to see what the Charles Lawn Hybrids produce!

Even though I'm swamped with plants and gardening chores, now is really a good time for starting gloxinias from seed. Since the plants usually take around six or seven months from seed to bloom, starting them now should produce some nice, late fall blooming plants. One of the varieties Al sent also is known for blooming from seed in a good bit less than the normal period, so again, I'm interested.

Out in the Garden (at last)

Today was a really productive day in the garden. I started off with an easy task, intercropping some beet seed between our broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. In the past, I've planted up to a whole double row of beets in the garden, but found that one son-in-law and I are the only ones in our family fond of beets, especially Harvard Beets. I direct seeded just a few seeds each of Pacemaker III, Merlin, Kestrel, and Chioggia, which should be more than enough beets for Hutch (son-in-law) and I.

I quickly moved on to getting our usual bed of onions and carrots started, only this year we're a bit short on onion plants. We had a disaster with animals peeing on one flat of our onions, which pretty well wiped them out. I've started a replacement flat, but today went with a flat that contained a new-to-us, large, sweet onion (Exhibition), shallots (Ambition), leeks (Blue Solaize), and had contained our celery starts (Conquistador) before I uppotted them.

The onions were transplanted plant-by-plant. Having read somewhere that shallots produce more flavorful bulbs when crowded a bit (and being a bit lazy), I just shoveled the rows of shallots into a furrow, much like heeling in onions. That took care of the first double row.

Last year I only left four inches between our onions, carrots, and beets in a planting similar to today and learned that just wasn't enough space. So while the double rows had only four inches between them, I left an eight inch gap between the onions and carrots. I made a shallow (less than an inch deep) furrow for the carrots with an old piece of one inch lumber, seeding three feet each of Alelaide Baby Carrots, Baby Sweet, Luguna, Mokum, and Sweet Baby Jane. (Baby Sweet and Sweet Baby Jane have disappeared from seed catalogs, as hybrids often do.) I overseeded a bit of Cherry Belle radish in the rows to help mark the row and also break any soil crust that might form. The radish will emerge in just a few days, while the carrots may take up to two weeks to come up. After lightly covering the row and firming the soil, I watered the new seed in and covered the rows with my walking boards. The boards hold in moisture and also slow down weed growth. They'll need to come off in just a few days, however, when the radish begin to emerge.

Intercropping beets Transplanting onions Seeding carrots All done
Intercropping beets Transplanting onions Seeding carrots All done!

My garden plan had originally called for a double row of onions, a double row of carrots, and another double row of onions. With our new flat of storage onions not yet ready for transplanting, I used the last row for a few leeks and celery plants. The rest of the row will hopefully go to storage onions. But it was nice to have a place to stick the leeks and celery which I hadn't as yet worked into our garden plan.

I should note that I parked the truck between our raised bed and the field as a windbreak. The wind was blowing the light carrot seed right out of my hand! Also, the reddish stuff on the bed is Shot-Gun Animal Repellent to help dissuade our dogs from digging up the new planting.

I found a bone buried in our asparagus patch last evening!

Two Products I Like

Walmart - Large Kneeling Pad icon
Prepping hole for brassica transplant

Walmart - Comfortable Kneeler Bench iconAnnie got me a couple of dandy gardening accessories for Christmas last year. Just finding gardening items at Christmas time is pretty amazing, but the gardening knee pad and kneeling bench she found have turned out to be great tools. I didn't wait for gardening season to put the Large PVC Kneeling Pad iconto use, protecting my bad knee this winter while kneeling to work on floors and such. Earlier this month, it appeared in use in a photo where I was transplanting brassicas and then again today as I planted.

The other assistive gardening gift hasn't made it outside yet, but has already had a lot of use in our downstairs plant room. I've found the Midwest Kneeler Bench iconto be just about perfect for when I'm filling pots and fourpack inserts with planting medium. I've used it both in its seating and kneeling positions and found it quite comfortable.

I think Annie got the items at Walmarticon. Both must be hits, as I've noticed that most discount stores and Amazon carry them and/or a bunch of similar items of different brands.

Sunday, April 14, 2013 - Transplanting Lettuce

With a pretty good weather forecast for the next ten days, I went ahead and transplanted our lettuce seedlings into our main raised garden bed today. I really don't like doing an all in on one day kind of lettuce planting, but our weather gets so hot so quickly in the summer that succession plantings would just get bitter and bolt before they were ready to be picked. I've tried some supposedly heat tolerant varieties of lettuce in the past, but didn't like them. So for us, we have a bunch of spring lettuce, and later, if we're lucky, a long fall harvest.

One couldn't ask for a much better day than today to work in the garden. It was cloudy (cutting the UV a bit), but fairly bright. The wind wasn't too bad, and temperatures ran in the upper 60s to low 70s.

Lettuce bed readyI'd tilled and raked our raised bed last week, so a quick touch up with a rake had the area ready for planting and transplanting. I put in a row of spinach along the north edge of the lettuce area using America, Melodyicon, and Regal. That job only took a few minutes, and I was ready for the main job of the day: transplanting lettuce.

I'd started fifteen varieties of lettuce in small fourpacks on March 2, transplanting them to larger fourpacks just a week or so ago. The plants had been under the cold frame and then out on the edge of our back porch hardening off for a couple weeks.

Transplanting lettuceWhen I transplant lettuce, I don't do it by variety, but try to make an attractive color balance of the greens, reds, and mixed colors. I dig a shallow hole for each plant, but also use my trowel to loosen the soil as deeply as possible at the bottom of the hole. Each hole gets a good drink of water with a bit of starter fertilizer. Then the plants go in, and I firm the soil around them.

Lettuce patchI spaced three rows about 8-10" apart and left around 18" between plants in the same row. Since I stagger the planting between rows, each plant has at least a foot between it and its nearest neighbor. Even then, that's pretty close spacing for lettuce. I only use a string guide for the first row, using my trowel to measure down for the two succeeding rows as I transplant.

The varieties transplanted today include Barbados and Nevada (summer crisps), Crispino and Sun Devil (icebergs), Nancy and Indiana Amish (butterheads), Winter Density, Defender M10, Colored Romaine Blend, Green Forest, Red Romaine, and Valmaine (all romaine/cos or romaine), Red Lollo (red leaf), Skyphos (Boston softhead), and Baby Star (bibb). Indiana Amish, Green Forest, Red Romaine and Valmaine are all new varieties for us this year, although the Valmaine plant I put in was pretty spindly and may not make it. I still have a half flat of leftover lettuce seedlings to fill in for transplants that don't take.

Getting Ready for Potatoes

A rather heavy box of potatoes from Territorial Seed Company arrived in the mail yesterday. I usually just plant Kennebec and Red Pontiac potatoes I pick up at our local garden store. I did buy five pounds of Kennebecs at the garden store, but also ordered Territorial's Kitchen Garden Collection of potatoes that includes two pounds each of Yukon Gold, Sangre, and Rio Grande for some variety.

I'm looking forward to a lazy afternoon this week of cutting the potatoes into plantable sets and treating the cut sides with captan. While one can cut, treat, and plant in the same day, I like to let the cut sides dry a bit before planting when I can. And of course, one can plant whole potatoes. It's just more economical to cut them into pieces that have two or three eyes on them.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013 - April Showers

Rain gaugeIt rained just enough and often enough yesterday to prevent me from finishing the mowing I'd started on Monday. But late in the evening, powerful thunderstorms rolled in with substantial rainfall, with possibly lots more coming. A weather blog by one of our local TV stations had a comment that pretty well sums up the situation for the next few days, "The unsettled weather pattern continues, but there will be several dry hours [my emphasis] this afternoon with only a chance of isolated rain and thundershowers."

Our rain gauge, jinxed for much of last summer, showed just under 3" of overnight rain! While I'd prefer a gentler, longer lasting rain that might soak in better, there's really not much standing water visible. Tilling and even transplanting using walking boards will be out of the question for several days. And our current weather forecast calls for another inch or two of rain tomorrow night when a cold front moves in.


AsparagusBetween showers, I've been picking a bit of asparagus each day. Our two patches haven't fully come in as yet, but have produced enough that we've had asparagus with supper once already and hauled a big bag of it to the owner of the surrounding property (and of Bonnie's Asparagus Patch).

Pictured at left is what I picked today. It's more than enough for just Annie and I, and I still have what I picked yesterday in the refrigerator. When the crop really comes in, I'm going to need to figure out how to can or freeze some of the stuff.

Your Annual Nag about UV Exposure

WSIU mugOnce or twice a year, I feel compelled to nag my readers to protect themselves from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. With April showers breaking out big time this week, I could say I'm being careful by staying inside to protect myself from the sun's harmful UV radiation. I'm really just staying dry and enjoying my morning coffee, which a CNN report from last year said might actually cut the risk of skin cancer!

I'm acutely aware of the dangers of sun exposure, as I've had quite a few skin cancers removed over the last ten years and regularly have to use a rather expensive fluorouracil cream product on potential cancers. I need to get in to the doctor yet this spring to check out a couple of places. But beyond appropriate medical care, protecting oneself from UV while still being able to do the outdoor things we love is a major concern.

Both the EPA and have good pages about dealing with UV. The latter's The Danger of Ultraviolet Rays has lots of good information, including some I especially try to follow:

  • Sun elevation: As the sun climbs higher into the sky, UV radiation also intensifies. That means UV radiation levels are highest around noontime and in the summer. [My emphasis]
  • Time of the day: According to research, the hours of 10am to 4pm is the most dangerous period for UV radiation- it’s purported that as much as 60% of the day’s radiation comes between those times.
  • Time of the year: In most countries, UV radiation levels are usually many times higher in summer than in winter. When summer is at its peak, you can burn in 15 minutes or less. The months from May to September seem to pose the greatest risk for UV rays. [My note: Snow and water reflection (like out on a boat fishing) can really expose one to lots more UV than you'd think.]
  • Cloud cover: UV rays can penetrate through clouds, and so there is still a need to protect yourself if you are going outside. In fact a lightly cloudy day can contain the same amount of UV radiation as a clear day. Of course, the heavier the clouds, the more UV radiation will be blocked.

Walmart - NO-AD 60Having related all of the above, I do work out in the sun, sometimes at less than ideal times of the day and year, and for far longer than the "one hour a day with maximum sunscreen on" my first cancer surgeon decreed ten years ago. But when I do, I always have some form of protection from the sun. I recently read a review that gave the sunblock brand I use, NO-ADicon, high ratings for protection. It's cheap and works, but like most such creams, is pretty uncomfortable.

Coolibar UV protective hatFor overall protection, I tend to rely more on sun protective garments to allow me to work in the garden and mow the grass when the sun is high. Coolibar has been a leader in sun protective clothing for years, but their stuff can be pretty pricey if you don't catch it on sale. I really like their Featherweight Bucket Hats for head protection, as my hair is thinning and I seem to be getting more and more actinic keratoses there. The hats currently retail for almost $30 each, but I got two in August, 2010, on sale for $19 apiece. I think August is an annual sale period for Coolibar.

I'm to the point where I've worn out most of my original sun protective shirts from Coolibar. While I picked up a nice sport shirt from them two years ago on sale, their shirts have become almost prohibitively expensive. And the last shirt I mail ordered from them turned out to feel like canvas and was simply unwearable in hot weather. So, I've turned to other options until the folks at Coolibar realize that much of their customer base live on fixed incomes and can't pay $80 for a workshirt!

dry vent shirtSun GuardI picked up a couple of Natural Gear Dry Vent River Shirts at Sam's Club last summer. While the shirts lack the SPF/UPF ratings other brands have, the ad for them states, "The Dry Vent River Shirt incorporates specialty yarns and a dense weave to shield you from 95% of the sun's harmful UV rays." They are comfortable and seem durable. Best of all, they ran less than $20 each.

I also have taken to treating heavy t-shirts, all of my Carhartt shirts, a few old sport shirts, and even the newer river shirts with Rit Sun Guard Laundry Treatment UV Protectant. It is supposed to add UPF 30 protection to garments washed with it.

UV RiskIt won't be long before we begin seeing UV Index reports such as the one at right from last July. We've already had some days with "7s" and "8s." So beyond that protective morning shot of caffeine, work early or late when possible, wear protective garments and/or sunscreen, and see your doctor when those nasty, crusty growths appear on ones skin.

Now that I've done my duty with my annual nag, I'm going to refill my coffee cup and move some melon plants out under the cold frame. We still have one 34o morning in the forecast!

A Senior Advantage

I went online this year to renew my rarely used fishing license. When I did so, I got a surprise. Instead of the usual activation and expiration dates, the license read, "Senior Fish-For-Life!"

Senior fishing license

I knew there had to be an upside for all the aches and pains of being a senior.

Friday, April 19, 2013 - Cool, Wet, and Windy

WunderMapTransplants insideA broad band of showers extending from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada brought us two more inches of rainfall, along with much colder temperatures. The front is just about to the East Coast now. Folks in New England probably won't appreciate the chill following the rain, but droughty areas in the southeastern part of the country should get some welcome precipitation. Instead of rain here this afternoon, we actually had tiny ice crystals coming down. They really weren't big enough to call hail, but stung ones face when outside.

We have predictions of an overnight low of 29-34o F, so our most tender plants on the porch had to come inside for the evening. I'm hoping this is the last time I'll have to do this chore, but such temperatures aren't all that unusual for this time of year. Our geraniums actually should benefit from the indoor conditions, as their leaves were getting beaten up pretty badly by the strong winds today. Once on the dining room table for an hour, they seemed to have recovered nicely.

I only gave our asparagus a cursory glance today, just enough to let me know that I could let picking go until tomorrow when it's supposed to be a bit warmer. I'd picked a little over a pound and a half yesterday, so we had plenty for supper tonight. (I actually weighed the picking to make sure I was posting correct info on a Garden Web Forum posting.) As this was our third meal with asparagus this spring, I was pleased that I finally got it steamed just right. I kept using too much lemon juice and/or not enough butter and olive oil. But it was perfect tonight!

Sweet potato plant in glassBrady and KatherineI keep telling myself that I need to trim the sweet potato plant that grows in our west kitchen window and root our sweet potato slips. I still haven't gotten the job done, partly because I was riveted to the TV today watching the goings on in Boston, but also because the plant is really pretty right now.

While the rain was welcome, it's really been a pretty crummy week. The bombs at the Boston Marathon on Monday, shameless senators voting down the universal background checks amendment and all gun control in general (And yes, I am a gun owner.), the Texas fertilizer plant explosion, and the grizzly events in Boston and Watertown today as another police officer lost his life in the hunt for the bombers. There's an awful lot of grief and sadness out there right now.

As I watched two of our grandchildren who are with us this weekend chug down asparagus at supper tonight, I wondered for their future in this world. But I was amused when Katherine, now seven, noted that she was glad I'd already picked asparagus, as it was too cold for her to pick some this evening. She and Brady were really pretty good at picking asparagus last spring. And they're the reason we always try to have grape tomatoes (for Katherine) and Sugar Snap peas (for both) available to pick and eat right off the vine in the garden when we can.

Getting away from the news, enjoying the garden and grandkids, and a bit of prayer are good tonic for a saddened spirit.

Saturday, April 20, 2013 - Sweet Potato Slips

Sweet potato slip and rooting gelSlips in fourpacksI set aside my beloved procrastination this morning and got our sweet potato slips started. I'd put a couple of sweet potatoes suspended by toothpicks into (old) drinking glasses filled with water in early March. One sweet potato put on a few roots and then rotted. The other put on a spectacular display of lush, green shoots which are ideal for use as slips.

To produce sweet potato plants for the next year, one only needs to trim a bit of the growth from a sweet potato plant and root it. I've successfully gotten the trimmings to put on roots by just dropping them into a glass of water. But this year, I gave the tiny slips some deluxe treatment. After cutting a two to three inch tip from my sweet potato plant and trimming back all but its top leaves, I dipped the "stem" into rooting gel before dropping the slip into sterilized planting medium. Like any cutting, sweet potato slips take a little time to get established and need some humidity protection. The slips went under a humidome to hold in moisture, although I'll need to watch to make sure the leaves don't mold and/or rot. The humidome tray is also on our soil heating mat, as the sweet potatoes are sharing their environment with a late pot of paprika peppers I'm trying to germinate. I've got the heating mat's thermostat cut way down to around 72o, as I don't want to cook the sweet potatoes...just yet, anyway.

Slips under domeTrimmed sweet potato plantIn a week or so, the sweet potato slips will come out from under the humidome and grow under our plant lights for another week. Then we'll put them outside to harden off for a week or so before transplanting them into the East Garden.

Surprisingly, the sweet potato plant in the glass looked pretty good after its trimming. It went back on the windowsill in case some of the slips don't take.

Late Frost

The predictions for an overnight frost turned out to be accurate. Since I'd brought in most of the plants that are normally unprotected on the back porch, we didn't get much damage, other than some droopy geraniums that I'd already transplanted out into the garden. I also noticed that our melons transplants under the cold frame didn't much like the cold night either. If they got nipped, that would be a real disappointment, but we can always direct seed most of them (other than the seedless watermelons) in the garden.

Plants under cold frame

Removing Cutworm Collars

Removing cutworm collarsWalking boards by brassicasI removed the cutworm collars from our brassicas this morning. I pulled the walking boards I had covering our carrot rows and used them to allow me to move across the damp soil in our main raised bed without making a mess or compacting the soil. I made cuts down opposite sides of each coffee cup cutworm collar before gently lifting out the half cups. Then I firmed the soil around each plant, as pulling the cups does disturb the roots some. I think the stems have hardened up enough that the broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower will no longer be attractive to cutworms.

With all the rain we've had this week, outdoor gardening will be pretty limited until things dry out a bit. Using our walking boards allowed me to remove the cutworm collars this morning, but there's only so much one can do while balancing on a couple of boards. Once things dry out enough for me to to begin mowing and raking grass clippings, I hope to begin mulching our garlic, brassicas, and lettuce.

Raised garden beds

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Weather Channel 10-day ForecastAfter a bit of a scare Friday night with some of our transplants under the cold frame, our weather forecast appears to be frost free for the rest of the month, and presumably, for the season. Our melon transplants got a bit droopy after temperatures dropped to around 30o F early Saturday morning, but bounced back nicely later in the day. I also noticed that at least one of our lettuce plants already transplanted into the garden was going to lose a few outer leaves to the frost. But otherwise, it appears we've survived mother nature's last frost of the spring and are ready to go gardening in a big way.

Our main raised garden bed is already pretty well planted. Garlic planted last fall, transplanted brassicas, lettuce, and onions, and direct seeded spinach and carrots take up all but one row of the main bed. That last row, right down the center of the bed, is reserved for sweet peppers. I moved the pepper plants to the cold frame this morning, so they'll need about a week to harden off there before going into the garden. But other than the peppers and possibly some onions still maturing in a flat on the porch, the bed is planted and ready to be mulched.

Main raised garden bed

Peas climbing trellisOur narrow raised bed has peas beginning to climb a trellis. Areas at each end of the bed are reserved for a couple of caged tomato plants. I'll put them in when I have time, but there's no hurry about it. The soil is still pretty cool, and tomatoes like warm ground.

With the main bed almost done, our attention can turn to our large East Garden plot. With the variable of frost out of the picture, planting there now depends on the ground being dry enough to till and seed or walk over to transplant. It's still pretty wet from our recent heavy rains here.

I was able to rototill the plot twice early this month, but a lot of grass clumps still remain that will need to be tilled under before any direct seeding. Fortunately, the only major direct seeded crop to go into it is our supersweet sweet corn. Supersweets require rather warm soil to germinate, so there's plenty of time yet for the garden plot to dry out a bit.

East Garden

The back half of the 80' x 80' plot (not shown here) has already been seeded to alfalfa as a summer long cover crop.

We also have several somewhat remote areas around the property that will need a bit of tilling before we transplant tomatoes and peppers into them that require isolation for seed production.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Sam's Club Membership OfferIt's raining again. I was just finishing up fertilizing and mulching our garlic when it started to sprinkle. I had put down a very light coating of 5-24-24 fertilizer around the garlic plants and worked it into the top inch or so of soil with a three-pronged soil scratcher.

Garlic mulchedThe grass clipping mulch had sat since I mowed and raked on Sunday, so I'm hoping it's cooled down enough not to burn the garlic plants. I covered the 3' x 15' section of our main raised garden bed with about two inches of grass clippings. And by the time I brought my tools in, it was raining quite hard.

I'd put gardening chores aside for a couple of days, spending around seven hours on Sunday mowing and raking! We take care of a lot of ground. Yesterday, I got to do a six hour stint of amateur plumbing, once again replacing our deep well jet pump. The old, brand-x pump from Lowes decided it needed to be manually turned on and off at the breaker box after only three years of service. I'd actually ordered a quality replacement for it last fall from of all places, Amazon, as it was already showing signs of failure then.

New pumpThe job took a good deal longer than necessary, as I really scrutinized the directions even though I've done this task several times previously. Doing so reminded me to drain and repressurize the pressure tank. A trip to the local hardware store also extended the job a bit. I'd checked my parts before starting, but still needed one fitting that I didn't have on hand. Thank goodness for good ole ma and pa local hardware stores!

We generally get about seven years of service out of the Wayne Jet Pumps, so I shouldn't have to do this job again soon, unless I start watering in August and forget to check the pump again.

I could cut potato sets or transplant snapdragons this afternoon while it rains outside, but I think I'll just make a sandwich, pretend to watch a movie, and take a nap. Being retired is hard work. big grin

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

It has rained fairly steadily since showers ran me out of the garden at noon yesterday. By 7:30 this morning, our rain gauge was showing 1.75 inches of rain, raising our monthly total to over seven and a half inches. And it's still raining.

Standing water in garden

The standing water in our main raised garden bed will drain away fairly quickly once it stops raining. But the standing water won't do the plants in the bed much good, especially if the sun gets on them. While our transplants have stayed in place fairly well with the recent heavy rains, it remains to be seen if our shallowly planted carrot and spinach seed stayed in place or got washed towards the lower center of the bed.

Folks in low lying areas in this area obviously have far more to worry about than standing water in their garden. We're blessed to be on high ground.

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Thursday, April 25, 2013 - Rainfall

Precipitation (Inches)1
  2013 2012 2011 Ave.
Jan. 6.33 3.20 0.84 2.48
Feb. 2.24 1.10 2.28 2.41
March 2.10 1.52 3.79 3.44
April 7.75 3.80 11.51 3.61
Totals2 18.42 9.62 18.42 11.94
1 2011 & 2012 precipitation data from the Kinmerom2 weather station, Merom, IN. Average precipitation for Indianapolis, IN
2 to date (Jan. - April)

It was really nice this morning to start the day without threatening skies or rain in the forecast. We may have a week or so for things to dry out, with only a slight chance of rain predicted for the next week. While overnight temperatures are still dipping into the upper 30s, it appears we're past any danger of frost for this spring.

Our monthly rainfall is now at 7.75 inches, well above our monthly average and making things look statistically just as wet as they really are outside. I had to do a bit of finagling with our April to date totals, as the local Weather Underground reporting station we were using went offline early this month. The nearest alternative stations are reporting rainfall totals for the month varying from 3" to 10", so adding our rain gauge totals to the last data we had from our old reporting station seemed to be the most accurate alternative I had.

Drought Information

U.S. Drought Monitor
U.S Drought Monitor

U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook
United States Seasonal Drought Outlook

Click on the title or the graphic (above) to access the
U.S. Weekly Drought Monitor

PDF Version of Graphic Adobe PDF Reader
Click on the title or the graphic (above) to access the
U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook

PDF Version of Graphic Adobe PDF Reader

While the weather could still turn bone dry again this summer, it would appear that the drought pattern we experienced last year has broken for our area. I wonder if we'll still see our usual dry spell in July and August, but at least this year it won't be following an incredibly dry spring.

For gardeners in other regions, I've reproduced the table I used in February from the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center, as it links to both the U.S. Drought Monitor and the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook pages. Both still show significant areas of continuing drought. While recent rains have greatly improved things in Florida and the drought status for the southwest has improved some, the outlook for the southwest is still not promising.

Not Quite Yet

It sunny and windy today, great weather for drying things out. That's good, as even well drained areas of our lawn are still swishy to walk on! I took a walk back to our asparagus patches today, but it was clearly too wet to do any gardening, even mulching in our big raised bed that dries out more quickly than surrounding areas. I did notice a double row of radishes up. The radish were overplanted on our carrot seed to break any soil crusting that might develop. I'm hoping the nice, straight rows of radish means that our carrot seed didn't wash out of the row.

I also saw some spinach emerging along the edge of our lettuce area in the main raised bed, and just a few beet plants coming up where they were interplanted between broccoli and cauliflower transplants.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Weedy East GardenWe have melon and squash plants ready to go into our East Garden. Likewise, our second set of brassica transplants are ready to go into the ground. And our seed potatoes are beginning to sprout at the eyes. But our East Garden, even with two early tillings, simply isn't ready. We have way too many grass clumps and seedling weeds in it.

So...out the window go any hopes of remaining somewhat organic in that garden patch. Rather than wait an undetermined amount of time for the soil to dry out enough to be tilled again (with more weed growth in the interval), I sprayed the entire 40' x 80' front half of the East Garden today with Roundup. Hopefully, it will knock out the weeds in the patch without any carryover to our transplants and later direct seeded sweet corn and get us transplanting early next week.

Once we start transplanting, the melons and brassicas will be mulched with grass clippings for moisture retention and weed control. When it does dry out enough, we can till in between the rows.

The back half of the East Garden, seeded to alfalfa early this month, has some weed pressure, but also shows lots of tiny, tiny plants emerging that weren't present in the other half of the East Garden. It appears our alfalfa is going to take and give us a good, summer long ground cover and green manure crop.

And yes, I have read about the recently released study that potentially links heavy use of Roundup and its residues getting into the food chain "to a range of health problems and diseases, including Parkinson's, infertility and cancers."

Sunday, April 28, 2013 - Asparagus

Our asparagus patches are continuing to produce a nice harvest of spears. We pick every other or every third day. Yesterday afternoon, granddaughter Katherine and I picked about a pound and a half of spears! We still haven't canned or frozen any asparagus, as we're still enjoying it fresh with meals and sharing a bit with friends and family. As the harvest increases (and we get tired of asparagus with almost every meal), we'll start putting some up for next winter.

Bonnie's asparagus patch

Of the two patches of asparagus we tend, the older patch, Bonnie's asparagus patch that sat unattended for years, is producing much more than our raised bed of asparagus. I'm not certain why that is. It may be because the older patch got a lot more compost last fall and also wasn't picked very heavily last spring. It could also just be the different varieties of asparagus. And our raised bed may come on and surpass the older patch later in the season.

Another Rainy Day

Mulched brassicasWe received about another inch of rain overnight and into this morning. There's some standing water in the fields around us, but our garden plots have absorbed the moisture without any standing water. As I walked one of our dogs around the yard, there were lots of wet spots and a bit of standing water here and there. The dog, Daisy, has to be walked on a leash, as she was spayed on Thursday and won't be up to running around on her own with our other dogs for another week or so.

Getting back into the garden will be a bit iffy this week. We may see more rain by mid-week. Today, I was able to use walking boards to put a bit of mulch around our existing planting of brassicas in the main raised garden bed. The unplanted center of the bed would have been too wet to work even with walking boards. I ended up running out of grass clippings before getting the job done, but should have plenty more once the lawn dries out enough to mow again.

As I wind up writing this posting in the early afternoon, it's raining pretty steadily once again.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Mower deckIt's a lovely, bright sunny day today with temperatures in the upper 60s. While it sounds like ideal gardening weather, and it is, ground conditions are still far too wet for any normal gardening activities. That may be just as well, as I had a nasty job entirely of my own making to do today.

When I finished mowing and raking last week, I thoughtlessly put the mower in the garage without cleaning the deck. Since I had been mowing in wet conditions, occasionally through standing water, mud mixed with grass clippings were caked on the mower deck.

After pulling the belt shields, a bit of scraping, some air pressure, and finally a good cleaning with the hose restored the top of the deck to acceptable condition. Then the mower went up on a jack for a good cleaning of the underside of the deck. Interestingly, there wasn't too much caked material there to be scraped off.

Having spent a couple hours cleaning the deck, I decided to just let the grass grow for another day, as things are almost as wet today as they were when I mowed a week ago.

Transplanting Butternuts

Normal gardening was definitely no-go today, but I was still able to transplant a couple of Waltham Butternut squash plants today. Since butternut vines can quickly overwhelm melon vines, I now grow our butternuts and usually our pumpkins outside our regular tilled garden area. I hit upon using the former sites of compost heaps a few years ago, which seems to give the vining crops a bit of a boost.

Site for butternuts Digging the hole Thin layer of new topsoil

The site for the butternuts was fairly clear other than some residue from the compost pile that had been there up until last fall and a few weeds. I dug a hole around a foot deep, and then used my shovel to loosen the soil at the bottom of the hole another six inches or so down. I'm always amazed at the very thin layer of new topsoil created by the previous compost pile. I also was a bit dismayed that I hadn't raked the area better last fall, as there were still some decomposing vines left that could transfer plant disease to the butternuts.

Peat, lime, fertilizer added Plants set in soil Done, almost

I mix a good bit of peat moss and a bit of 12-12-12 fertilizer and lime in the bottom of the hole and water the hole. I also mix peat, fertilizer, and lime with the soil dug out of the hole before returning it to the hole, making a depression in the soil, watering, and inserting the butternut transplants.

Butternuts and house in distanceAfter firming up the soil around the butternuts, I lay a heavily circle of grass clipping mulch around the hill of butternuts, being careful not to get the decomposing mulch up against the stems of the transplants. I also sprinkled a bit of Shot-Gun Animal Repellent to keep deer from nibbling on the mulch (and smashing the tender, young plants). The repellent also discourages the dogs from napping on the mulch, one of their favorite tricks.

As the butternuts grow, I'll probably need to expand the circle of mulch. When I mow, I'll cut a wide circle around the area, working in blowing more grass clippings to the edge of the mulched circle.

I have several concerns with this planting. I mentioned earlier that there was some vine residue from last year's garden present. Hopefully, the compost heap heated up enough to kill off harmful organisms.

The shot at right shows how far from the East Garden and house the new planting is. That puts it very close to the woods which will shade it some in the mornings. Beyond cutting the plants' growth, vining crops in the shade tend to get powdery mildew far easier than crops grown in full sunlight. I'll need to be ready with fungicide to ward off the mildew.

And close proximity to the woods can frequently lead to critter problems. Deer and raccoons are our primary pests, although we also have our share of possums and skunks. We've not had butternuts bothered by critters in the past, but there's always a first time.

Growing our butternuts outside the regular tilled garden area occurred to me after planting our butternuts one year along with our melons. The butternut vines took over the melon area, greatly decreasing our melon harvest that year until I pulled the butternut vines. No amount of training or pruning seemed to hold back the butternut vines. I hope they're that vigorous this year, as they have plenty of room to spread.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Precipitation (Inches)1
  2013 2012 2011 Ave.
Jan. 6.33 3.20 0.84 2.48
Feb. 2.24 1.10 2.28 2.41
March 2.10 1.52 3.79 3.44
April 8.75 3.80 11.51 3.61
Totals2 19.42 9.62 18.42 11.94
1 2011 & 2012 precipitation data from the Kinmerom2 weather station, Merom, IN. Average precipitation for Indianapolis, IN
2 to date (Jan. - April)

We're winding up the month of April with what promises to be a gorgeous spring day. Clear skies with just moderate winds (10-15 MPH...moderate for us), no rain in the forecast until Thursday, and a high temperature possibly in the low 80s are predicted! Of course, with those conditions, I noticed that the Weather Channel was predicting a UV Index of 8 out of 10, so I'll have to be careful about wearing some sun protection when working outside.

I saw my first hummingbird of the year at the feeder this morning. One had buzzed my head a couple of days ago, but I only caught a glimpse of it. Annie has seen them around, though, for several days. The photo at left is an old one and possibly my best hummingbird shot.

We keep two or three hummingbird feeders hanging from the back porch all summer and enjoy the antics of the tiny birds. At times, our sugar bill has seemed rather high. Fortunately, this year our local Save-A-Lot store has been running a standing sale on four pound bags of sugar for almost a dollar less than the other grocery in town. I have three or four bags of sugar squirrelled away in our pantry just in case someone decides to get greedy and bump up the price. (Note: I think the sugar sale is at least regional, so you might save a few bucks by stocking up at a Save-A-Lot, if you have them in your area.)

April 2013 animated gifOur April rainfall total of 8.75 inches is a promising statistic, even though wet ground has made getting much gardening done of late difficult. Even with all the rain, we have most of our main raised garden bed planted. I still have sweet bell peppers to transplant into it. I noticed yesterday some of the onions I'd heeled into the raised bed are about ready to be spread out a bit. Either dogs or cats had peed on the tray of onions, and that just about did them in. Heeling in the onions while still quite small and rather sickly from all the nitrogen in the urine allowed the heavy rains to leach out some of the over fertilization. I also have another tray of onions to transplant somewhere, but they're still quite small.

With the ground still wet, today's gardening chores will probably be limited to picking (and eating) asparagus and possibly mowing and raking grass clippings.

A Strange One

I had a strange and unsatisfying experience with an affiliated advertiser last weekend. I'd received several promotional emails from FTD Florists promoting sales on some of their flower arrangements for Mother's Day. I took several minutes to construct a combined ad to the specials, but found when I followed the links generated by the affiliated link program, the price displayed was substantially higher than when I followed the link from the promotional email or just went to the site and searched for the product.

Enjoy the content on Senior Gardening?

If so, why not come back to our Senior Gardening List of Affiliated Advertisers the next time you plan to purchase something online. Clicking through one of our ads will produce a small commission for Senior Gardening for any purchase you make, and you won't pay any more than you would have by directly going to the vendor's site.


Our "beg banner" that is always included on our pages states, "Clicking through one of our ads will produce a small commission for Senior Gardening for any purchase you make, and you won't pay any more than you would have by directly going to the vendor's site." Since FTD's behavior obviously contradicts my statement, I wrote the affiliate manager questioning the practice of the FTD site selling the same thing at two widely varying prices.

I received a prompt, polite reply on Monday that contained the following marketspeak: "I assure you, the retail price is the same in all channels shopped but different discounts can be available in various channels." In other words, the price is the same for all, except when they decide to make it different.

FTD is no longer a Senior Gardening affiliated advertiser.

March, 2013

From Steve, the at Senior Gardening


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