Senior Gardening

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The Old Guy's Garden Record

May 14, 2014


Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Senior Garden - May 1, 2014Weather Channel 10-Day ForecastMay arrived this morning with the promise of sun and warmth. Then things got cloudy, the wind picked up, and it turned out to be a cold, wet, windy day. So I just stayed inside. Our current weather forecast suggests there will be plenty of nice days coming up for good gardening.

When I went to our East Garden plot on Tuesday to recover our walking boards, I had to step off one board to reach one well into the garden plot. My tennis shoe immediately disappeared in the deep mud of the East Garden! While annoying, I've had worse (like boots getting sucked off in the "mud" of hog and cattle pastures). The walking boards later in the day helped prevent soil compaction in our drier main raised bed while I was transplanting pepper plants. When I inadvertently stepped off the boards there, I didn't sink in.

The experience tells about where we are right now on soil conditions in our East Garden. It's very, very wet. With our main garden plots completely planted in April (Yippee!), my attention moves to getting the East Garden planted.

The good news is that our potatoes are already planted in the East Garden, as are some brassicas. We can also "mud in" our melon transplants if necessary and mulch around them with grass clippings to hide the mess made in planting. We can also work from walking boards to get some of our open pollinated tomatoes and peppers transplanted into the patch we use for space hog crops and seed crops that need to be isolated for seed production.

But for direct seeded crops such as sweet corn, kidney beans, and peas, we'll have to wait for the soil to dry out before seeding. In the interim, weeds will sprout, requiring yet another tilling of the unplanted portions of the plot. Last year, rains kept us from planting sweet corn (and potatoes) until mid-June. Miraculously, we got our best crop of sweet corn in years.

Our main garden beds, the raised ones in our back yard, will also require some care this month. Carrots will need to be thinned, brassicas sprayed with BT to prevent cabbage moth worms, and the remaining clear areas mulched with grass clippings. But May also brings the first pickings of spinach and lettuce and possibly even some peas and broccoli.

 
 

Friday, May 2, 2014 - Mowing Day

The Senior Garden - May 2, 2014

Piles of grass clippings for mulch
Hummingbird through kitchen window

I'd put off mowing our lawn last weekend in favor of planting and generally goofing off. With the cold, wet weather that set in early this week, I didn't get to mow until today. The yard would have been a mess, but I windrowed the clippings as I mowed, coming back later with our lawn sweeper to collect some great grass clippings that we'll use to mulch our raised beds...once the clippings cool down a bit.

While mowing I was reminded of one of the drawbacks of using grass clippings as mulch in the garden. Daisy, the youngest of our five dogs, was laying in the grass clipping mulch I put down around our brassicas in the East Garden. I didn't check for plant damage, as the East Garden is still wet enough I might bury my shoes again it its mud.

It appears we now have two males and one female hummingbird visiting our feeder. They've all started fussing with each other for dominance at the feeder. They're also still pretty shy around us. Later in the summer, they'll be zooming past our heads when we sit on the back porch on their way to and from the feeder. But I did get a shot of a rather fat female at the feeder this morning.

Gail Ann Langellotto, Associate Professor of Horticulture at Oregon State University, posted an interesting study she'd done, What Are the Economic Costs and Benefits of Home Vegetable Gardens, on Oregon State's Journal of Extension site. Her summary states, "On average, home vegetable gardens produce $677 worth of fruits and vegetables, beyond the cost of $238 worth of materials and supplies." She notes that labor isn't factored into the values stated.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Spotty garlicTransplanted celeryOur garlic this year has been a disappointment. I may not have planted the garlic cloves deep enough last fall and didn't get the bed mulched. A harsh winter along with our dogs digging in the bed have left us with a poor showing for our planting. Our elephant garlic was especially hard hit.

Knowing early on that we were in trouble with the crop, I went back and plugged in garlic cloves where I could in the bare spots. Some of those cloves have germinated, although they won't produce full heads of garlic this year. I didn't have any elephant garlic left, so those rows remained pretty bare until today.

Since I'd weeded and loosen the soil with a garden claw last week, the garlic bed was ready to be mulched today. I decided to fill the open spaces with celery and beets, transplants I had on hand that I hadn't included in our garden mapping.

The celery will need to be hilled to bleach it out and keep the stalks tender, so I dug a shallow trench to transplant the celery into. The beets just went into open spaces level with the soil surface. Both got a liberal watering with dilute starter fertilizer.

Mulched garlic bed

Before I mulched the bed with grass clippings. I clawed in some 12-12-12 commercial fertilizer around the existing garlic plants. In mulching, I had to be careful to put "cool mulch" beside the garlic leaves, leaving the "hot mulch" for open spaces. I raked the grass clipping mulch on Friday, and some of it is quite hot as it was beginning to decompose. Hot mulch is great for holding back weeds in open spaces and heating up a compost pile, but not so good for tender plants.

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Monday, May 5, 2014 - Planting Melons

Area for melonsOne of the reasons we maintain a large, traditional garden in addition to our raised beds is to have space to grow crops such as melons and sweet corn. About seven years ago, the farmer who rents the farm ground around us generously offered to let us use part of a small field next to our property that he'd decided was too small to be worth planting. Over the years, we've had several good crops of melons and corn, and also have made good use of the area for isolating open pollinated tomatoes, peppers, and peas grown for seed. In return, we've kept the field mowed for the farmer (part of his rent agreement with the landowner).

Getting our melons and corn planted in a timely fashion is always a challenge. The East Garden, as we call it, is made up of heavy clay soil that dries out slowly each spring. A somewhat unusual April dry spell this year allowed us to get it thoroughly tilled. While the soil is now wet from late April rains and has some weed growth starting, it was in good enough shape to begin transplanting melons into today.

Growing good melons on heavy clay soil requires some extra work. We create a deluxe planting hole or hill for each pot of melon transplants we put in. I first dig out a hole about a foot deep and a bit more in diameter, holding the dug soil in my garden cart. Then I backfill the hole with peat moss, a small handful of fertilizer, and a bit of lime and work it all into the native soil. The hole then gets a good watering. Today, that was two or three gallons of water per hole to start with.

Moving down the row, planting and mulchingMelon row planted and mulchedI mix more peat moss, fertilizer, and lime into the soil in the garden cart. I use that mix to fill the hole and make a trough around it, creating a bit of a hill for the transplant to go into. I again water the hole with another gallon of water before mudding the transplant into the soil, drawing loose, dry soil around it. While about four gallons of water per hill sounds like a lot, we've used a lot more in dry years where the soil was powdery.

Note that our transplants are grown in four and four and a half inch pots, two or three plants per pot.

Since I had lots of rather dry grass clippings on hand from mowing and raking over the weekend, I was able to mulch the row of melons that went in today immediately. That step sometimes has to wait until we have enough grass clippings to mulch with.

Our melon hills are spaced about six feet apart in the row. Our two rows of melons, when I get the second row in, will be fifteen feet apart, with twelve and a half feet on the outside of the rows. Until the aisles around the rows are mulched, they'll be tilled for weed control. The wide row spacing is a correction from last year when I only left ten feet between rows and ended up with an untrainable mess of vines that prevented tilling or weeding and made mulching quite difficult.

Today's planting, from south to north, started with a Slick Pik yellow squash. It's a somewhat bush type squash, but needs to be continually planted in succession through the summer, as they produce abundant crops before fading.

Next was a Sugar Cube cantaloupe, a hybrid that produces some of the best tasting, small melons I've tasted. After that was an Athena melon, another delicious cantaloupe that can be quirky in not slipping its stems when ripe.

The rest of the row was devoted to watermelons: Crimson Sweet for pollination purposes and also because they're a great tasting melon; Trillion that produce slightly smaller Crimson Sweet type melons with few mature seeds; and Moon & Stars that can produce huge but seedy melons up to forty pounds each. Moon & Stars is also a good pollinator for our seedless watermelon varieties (Trillion and Farmers Wonderful).

With one row of melons planted and a row to go, I'm already feeling a bit cramped with our melon patch. I have nine or ten transplants left in a seed flat to go into a row that with normal planting distances would only support six to seven plants. We purposely cut down the varieties of melons we started this year to match our rather new crop rotation plan. Giving the melons more space between rows also cut the number of hills we can plant. But the trade-off for all of this is that the soil in the East Garden is finally beginning to improve somewhat with turndown crops of grass and alfalfa and buckwheat loosening and improving the soil. This year's melon patch is on ground that has been rotated out of production for two full seasons. But on the other hand, the patch is very close to the woods with its melon loving raccoons!

Burpee Fruit Seeds & Plants

Tuesday, May 6, 2014 - Planting More Melons

Transplanting melonsWhen I finished transplanting our first row of melons yesterday, I felt every bit of my 65+ years old. A hot bath, ibuprofen, and several Long Island Iced Teas helped ease the pain, but I was pretty sure I'd have to take a day off before planting our second row of melons.

When I awoke today (totally without a hangover), I was refreshed and only mildly gimpy, so I went back at it, planting and mulching our second and final row of melons in our large East Garden plot. While I was a bit cramped for space in the row, decreasing the spacing of the transplants from yesterday's six feet to four feet allowed me to put in all the transplants I had ready to go.

I ended up planting one each of Saffroniconicon (a new-to-us open pollinated yellow squash), Avatar, Roadside Hybrid, and Sugar Cube (all cantaloupes), Crimson Sweet and Farmers Wonderful (watermelons), and Boule d'Or, Passport, and Tam Dew (honeydews).

Last year was our first try at growing Avatar melons. We got several very large cantaloupes from the vines before they succumbed to our annual mini-drought. The results last year were enough to make me want to give the variety another try, especially since we're getting our melons transplanted a week or two earlier than last year.

Roadside Hybrid is an older, heavily ribbed muskmelon that can be an incredible producer of very tasty melons. We've had some disease problems with them in the last few years, but are trying some new things this year in addition to planting on "clean ground" that may improve their performance.

I mentioned Sugar Cube cantaloupes and Crimson Sweet watermelons in yesterday's posting. That with limited space, I planted another hill of each today should tell you how much I like these varieties.

Farmers Wonderful is a triploid (seedless) watermelon variety that has done very well in our past gardens. It produces medium sized melons with some white seeds, but few dark ones. Like all triploids, seed for the variety is terribly expensive. Our pot of Farmers Wonderful only contained one plant, despite my having started four seeds in it. Triploids can be hard to germinate, often requiring far more bottom heat than other melon varieties. Despite that, I put three more seeds in the ground around the one plant, as we like to have two to three plants per hill of melons.

Passport is a standard hybrid honeydew, although seed is getting hard to find. When we exhaust our seed supply, we'll move on to the Diplomat hybrid, which is a shorter season passport type.

Boule d'Or is a highly recommended honeydew that has failed miserably in our trials of it the last two years. We're giving the variety one more try this year. If it fails again for us, that should tell us that it just isn't suited for our growing conditions.

Tam Dew is a honeydew type that has a pleasant, slightly spicy taste. The melons mature with almost white rinds with light green flesh (unless you let them go too long, then it's orange). They seem to like our growing conditions and have become a regular in our East Garden melon patch.

Two rows of melons planted and mulched

When I wrote up yesterday's posting on Senior Gardening, I realized that I hadn't taken the images I needed for a step-by-step how-to on our method of planting melons. So today, I took around 70 images of the process while transplanting (gotta love digital photography). But tonight while writing this posting, I realized that I was probably a day late and a dollar short for posting that tutorial. So, I'll put it up as a feature story or in a new section I'm working on for the site sometime in the future.

In the meantime, if you have the misfortune to be trying to grow melons on heavy clay soil and want to know how we do it (certainly not "THE RIGHT WAY"), drop me a line and I'll describe in detail our procedure.

Light House Mission

Thursday, May 8, 2014

I fell asleep early last night in my easy chair. I awoke at 3 A.M., bright eyed with little to do, other than finish the feature story I'd started on Transplanting Melons into Heavy Clay Soil. Traditional gardening wisdom says we shouldn't be able to grow good melons on our heavy clay soil, but we do so year after year by giving each melon (and squash) transplant a deluxe planting hole.

Once the sun came up, I transplanted and mulched the sweet potato slips that came in the mail yesterday from George's Plant Farm. I also seeded a row of Dark Red Kidney Beans. The sweet potatoes didn't get deluxe planting holes, but they did get a bit of water at transplanting. Since my record with sweet potatoes is poor and with kidney beans, nonexistent, I'll leave those plantings at that.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Jackson, a strayJackson - May 9, 2014A year ago today, I ran the image at left of Jackson, a tall, lovable stray that had shown up at our house over the winter. At that time, we were looking for his owner, trying to find him a good home, and even considering taking him to the local animal shelter.

Jackson obviously didn't go to the shelter, worming his way into our hearts and becoming a permanent member of "our pack." He's turned out to be an extremely affectionate dog, loving to lean into you as you pet him. He's fully housebroken, although he prefers to spend all but the coldest and/or stormiest nights outside.

Considering the huge amounts of dogfood he consumes, one would expect him to have put on a good bit of weight over the past year. While his ribs no longer stand out as they did a year ago, he remains rather trim. That may come from him chasing our car and truck when we leave...at speeds approaching 35 MPH!

Amazon - Off Clip OnBoth photos of Jackson are somewhat marred by the black flies on his nose and face. It's that time of year again, and the insects make working outside miserable without some sort of insect defense. I'd picked up an Off! Clip On Mosquito Repellent dispenser two years ago on a whim, but found it somewhat effective last year in combatting the black flies. I used it again this week when transplanting melons and sweet potatoes, having to hang it from the collar of my shirt to keep the bugs off my face (and out of my mouth - yuck!).

PetuniasOur hanging basket petunias have come into bloom just in time for Mother's Day. I slowed them down a good bit by pinching them back to produce bushier plants. We used Supercascade and Double Cascade for the hanging baskets, although we also have some Celebrity and Carpet petunias that we use in our garden beds. While the double Cascade blooms are pretty, they also look pretty nasty once they're done and need to be pinched off. I think I like the Supercascades a bit better for hanging baskets.

West facing kitchen windowAll of our petunias came from an early January planting in egg cartons! If your interested in trying this method of starting petunias (and other flowers), I described it in detail in a December, 2012, posting. Do note that plants outgrow their egg carton starter homes pretty quickly, but they sure look nice on a windowsill in winter.

Rain

I'm just rambling here today, as we got just enough rain overnight to prevent tilling or mowing. I did work for a while weeding our asparagus patch, but it really hadn't rained enough to make weeding all that easy.

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Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Senior Garden - May 10, 2014Today has turned out to be spray day. I'd put off spraying our blue spruce trees until now because it's been quite windy each day of late. But at times this morning, there was no wind at all.

We use BT (Thuricide) to control bag worms on our blue spruce trees. Applied in a timely fashion from about May 1 on, it gives fairly good control of the insect pests.

Since I was using Thuricide, I first sprayed our brassicas in our main and East Garden for control of cabbage moths. Then I applied about a gallon of the spray to each of our four blue spruce trees. I'll probably need to repeat the spray on the trees at least once or twice more. The brassicas require the spray at weekly intervals to prevent worms in and on our broccoli and cauliflower.

After the last load of BT spray, I refilled my hand sprayer with a not-so-benign product for our apple trees. Last year, we only used dormant oil on the apple trees and had lots of insect problems. So while I did an early application of dormant oil this year, today I used a Fruit Tree Spray that is a mixture of captan fungicide and malathion and carbaryl insecticides. Obviously, I wore a face mask while spraying with this stuff.

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Monday, May 12, 2014

Alfalfa emerging in East Garden
Closeup of emerging alfalfa

I didn't do a lot of gardening yesterday. In the morning when Annie was on the phone with the kids, I thinned some radishes from our carrot rows, mulched our green beans, and put a few more flowers along the edge of our main raised garden bed. After cleaning some pots, inserts, and trays, I turned to just walking around our garden plots and digitally recording things that were going well. And then Annie and I spent the rest of the day together, so this posting didn't get up until early Monday morning.

When I walked out to our East Garden plot, the rotated out section had a bright green glow to it. That was our alfalfa emerging. We've had mixed to simply bad luck growing alfalfa on this ground the last few years, so I was pleased to see that we were off to a good start. Alfalfa can be an excellent cover crop if you can get it to grow on clay soil, as it puts down deep roots that help break up soil compaction. Some of our previous attempts at growing the legume haven't germinated well. Last year, we got a good stand, but grass weeds were overwhelming the alfalfa. I mowed the plot to give the alfalfa a chance...just when a dry spell set it. The alfalfa withered and died. The good news there was that I repeatedly tilled the area for several weeks and then grew the best turndown crop of buckwheat we've ever grown.

Waltham Butternut Squash emergingAn overnight rain Saturday night had made lots of things in our garden look a lot better than they had just a day earlier. The rain had popped up our direct seeded Waltham Butternut Squashicon that grow just outside our East Garden on the site of last year's compost pile. I seeded the squash on April 28, so I was beginning to worry that the seed wasn't good. A good watering by me on Friday plus the rain Saturday night, a bit of time and some patience, was all it took.

Red Pontiacs Coming Up Strong Healthy Row of Brassicas Happy melon plants
Red Pontiac potatoes

40' row of brassicas

Melon plants

After several weeks of intense planting and transplanting, there was lots to like in the East Garden. Our rows of potatoes planted on April 24 were beginning to show some good growth. The Red Pontiacs have emerged a bit quicker and better than the Kennebecs, but things have been pretty dry until recently. I expect the Kennebecs to catch up quickly.

All but one of the brassica plants I put in on April 25 were doing well. While some of the BT I sprayed on them on Saturday certainly washed off in the overnight rain, I was careful when spraying to get good coverage on the underside of the plants' leaves, so we're still somewhat protected against the nasty worms that plague brassicas.

GarlicOur two rows of squash and melons transplanted last Monday and Tuesday look great so far. As I was planting and transplanting other stuff last week, the melons got any leftover water I had, keeping the soil around them moist until the rains came.

When I walked through our raised beds yesterday morning, I was impressed with how much healthier and greener all of our plants looked after a good (5/8") rain. Our garlic that had looked fairly stressed of late especially showed the effects of some needed moisture.

Radish rows Thinning radishes

When I saw our two beautiful rows of radishes...that are supposed to be rows of carrots, I knew I had to start thinning out the maturing radishes right away. We co-plant radishes in the carrot rows to help break up any crusting of the soil that might occur and prevent the carrots from emerging. The idea is that the radishes come out before they crowd out the tiny and later germinating carrot plants.

So far, our carrots look pretty thin. I tried to be careful not to get too much seed in the row, as carrots are a bummer to have to thin out. Once I get all the radishes out of the rows, we'll see if we have a good stand of carrots. From our experience last fall, we know we can always try for another carrot crop yet this season if our spring crop is less than we wanted.

Note: We often store around fifteen pounds of carrots in the refrigerator over the winter. While there are some really "hairy creatures" in the green bags we use to store the carrots, they still peel well and taste great. Like stored potatoes and onions, one does have to sort out rotting carrots from time to time.

Green beansOur green beans, seeded on April 28, are now up and looking good. I took the shot at left before I laid a heavy layer of grass clipping mulch between the two rows of beans. Grass clipping mulch around beans is a bit of a mixed blessing. The mulch holds in soil moisture for the bean plants and helps keep beans growing low on the plants off the ground, preventing some pod rot. The drawback is that when one cleans the picked beans, there are a lot of grass clippings in the picked beans. Obviously, I choose to put up with the grass clippings in the picked beans, as I think you save a lot of beans that might rot from soil contact by using mulch.

I did a lot of pushing and shoving crops around in our garden plan last November to make sure I could get our beans in early. I knew that the farmer who'd grown corn last summer in the field beside our raised bed would rotate to soybeans this year. By getting our green beans in early this year, we avoid a lot of insect problems we would encounter with later planted beans. Japanese Beetles and other pests quickly migrate from the soybeans to any green beans close by. Hopefully, our beans will be in canning jars before such insects become a problem this year.

Lettuce areaOur lettuce and spinach are tantalizingly close to starting to mature. Annie commented this evening about how good and sweet our lettuce was last spring. Since our lettuce was transplanted on April 20, we're looking forward to several weeks of salad out of our garden. I don't try to grow summer lettuce in our garden, as it usually turns out to be bitter or bolts before it is big enough to use. We often grow both spring and fall crops of lettuce, though. With floating row covers, we've had fresh fall lettuce right up to Thanksgiving!

I transplanted two more lettuce plants into our lettuce softbed yesterday. Our Baby Star and Crispino varieties didn't germinate well, but I babied a couple of transplants and put them in the ground today. They may provide a couple of nice, late, soft heads of lettuce in June. And if they bolt or turn bitter, it only took about ten minutes to transplant them.

While transplanting the lettuce, I also put in some vincas around the edge of our main raised bed. Our vinca didn't germinate well this year, and I had to restart some of it. The new transplants were big enough today to go into the ground. We use geraniums, petunias, and vinca (and often marigolds) to add some color around the edges of our garden plots. As vegetable crops come and go in succession in the garden, the edging flowers remain, providing a feast for the eyes as the season progresses.

I've already shared a number of images of our main raised garden bed this year, but this is the first image that really looks like an actively growing garden plot.

Main raised garden bed

At the far end of the bed, tall pea varieties are now climbing the double trellis I put in. On the right, one can see that the Champion of England variety is a good bit taller than the adjoining Mr. Bigsicon and Maxigolts. Champion of England peas mature a good bit earlier than other tall varieties. I'm surprised that they aren't a more popular pea variety. I do realize, however, that most gardeners now grow short vine pea varieties. We do, too, but prefer the taller varieties that don't require getting on ones knees to pick, something that is problematic for many seniors with knee issues and arthritis.

We exhausted our supply of frozen peas from last year's garden several months ago. Shell peas are an awful lot of work to grow, shell, and freeze, but they also are far superior to what is offered in the frozen food section of grocery stores (although store bought frozen peas have improved tremendously over the last ten years or so). But there are few treats quite like enjoying fresh, incredibly sweet peas for supper that were still on the vine in the morning.

Heirloom seed from Botanical Interests Organic seed from Botanical Interests

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 - Mowing and Mulching

I had repeatedly put off mowing in favor of other yard and garden chores for almost a week. It had been ten days since I last mowed our lawn, and at this time of year, I generally have to mow every 5-6 days to keep things looking nice. I paid the price for my procrastination yesterday. It took five hours to do what normally takes a little less than three hours to do. But I got our lawn mowed, raked, and spread the grass clippings on the open aisles between rows of vegetables in our East Garden. I closely mowed the open aisles between our melons and brassicas before spreading the wet grass clippings. They'll burn down any germinated weeds in the aisles and discourage new weed growth for some time.

Mulch in East Garden

While I like using grass clipping mulch to hold back weeds, I had a teaching buddy in Indianapolis years ago who mowed around his plants for weed control. His garden looked terrible, but produced incredible amounts of produce!

My mowing was made a bit more "interesting" as clouds moved overhead, and at times dropped a fine mist. With rain predicted for the next three or four days, I was glad to get the job done. When the rain stops, it will probably be time to mow again.

Onions, carrots mulchedCloseup of carrot plantsWhile waiting for the grass to dry out in the morning, I finished pulling all the radishes from our carrot rows in our main raised garden bed. The Cherry Belleicon radishes overseeded over our carrot seed were mostly mature, making some of Annie's coworkers very happy. My wife, Annie, doesn't eat radishes, and I only eat a few each year to see how good they are. These were spicy but not too hot, in other words, just about right. Since we grow the radishes to prevent soil crusting over our carrot seed, giving away the mature radishes wasn't a big deal.

Cherry Belles are listed as a 22 days to maturity variety. We picked ours at 25 and 26 days from seeding.

After clearing the radishes from the carrot rows, I was pleased to see that we have a fairly good stand of carrot plants. I added grass clipping mulch around the carrots and between the narrow, four inch rows of onions. With that mulching done, our main raised bed is now fully mulched from end to end. I'll need to go back and pull the few weeds that germinate and penetrate the mulch and add more grass clippings as the mulch decomposes. I obviously find mulching preferable to hand weeding and hoeing (which I still have to do at times).

It's just about at mid-May, and we're into a three or four day rainy spell. I couldn't be happier about the progress of our garden plots so far.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014 - Twenty Wonderful Years

Steve and Anne Wood - May 14, 1994FamilyAnnie and I are celebrating our twentieth wedding anniversary today. Unlike our current cool, wet weather, we had a warm, sunny day for our wedding twenty years ago. The ceremony was conducted in our dining room with just family in attendance, with a reception later for friends and family.

Standing up with us were Samantha, Jennifer, Julia, and Zach. Our two eldest children were absent, with Scott out to sea and Erica living at that time with her dad in California. As with many "second" marriages, our kids signed the wedding papers as witnesses.

Cold and Rainy

The Senior Garden - May 14, 2014Lettuce - May 14, 2014We continue to get some much needed rain today (and probably tomorrow, Friday, and maybe even Saturday!). I emptied 1.1" of rain from our rain gauge this morning, bringing our monthly total to a meager 1.97".

Less welcome is the cold front that followed the rain. Our high temperatures have dropped from 70s and 80s last week to mid-50s this week. But our lawn, lettuce, brassicas, and peas should get a boost from the cool, wet weather. From the look of the lettuce (and spinach), I need to check our stock of croutons and salad dressing, as we should begin picking soon.

When I went out to empty the rain gauge, I also took a bag to hold any asparagus I picked. The bag came back inside empty, as our asparagus is slowing down a bit earlier than in years past. I did, however, find plenty of weeds to pull in both of our asparagus patches. I quickly lost my enthusiasm for the task in the cold rain.

Charity: Water

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Senior Garden - May 17, 2014

After a week of on and off rain, it appears we may have three or four clear, dry days to get some gardening and yard work done. The showers have pushed our monthly rainfall total to a little over three inches.

We'll need to be watchful for seedling weeds pushing through thin areas of mulch or on what unmulched ground we have remaining in the garden. A sunny period following good rains is excellent weather for weeds to get started. And pulling small, seedling weeds is a lot easier than dealing with them when they've gotten well established.

I hope to get our tomatoes transplanted during the good weather. I transplanted two grape tomato plants into our main raised bed some time ago, but still need to get our main season tomatoes transplanted. We also have peas, pole beans, and sweet corn to direct seed in our garden, but they'll have to wait until the ground dries out enough to till again.

Sunday, May 18, 2014 - A Setback

Cucumber beetles on melonsSlightly damaged yellow squash plantI had noticed that a few of our melons in the East Garden looked a little stressed last week. When I finally got around to getting down on my hands and knees to pull back mulch and take a really close look at the problem, it was already too late for some of the plants. We had an infestation of striped cucumber beetles.

The beetles seemed to prefer our cantaloupe and honeydew over our watermelon and squash plants. All had some damage, but all of our honeydew and several of our cantaloupe hills were pretty well done for. I reseeded the hills of dead plants and sprayed both rows of melons with a strong insecticide. Had I been a bit more vigilant, I might have gotten by with using insecticidal soap or pyrethrin.

Asparagus

With the rain and cool weather we had last week, our harvest of asparagus dropped to almost nothing. I'd noticed some of the spears thinning, a sign one may want to cut back or quit harvesting, as the plant roots weaken.

Raised asparagus bed

AsparagusSo after dealing with the cucumber beetles in the melons today, I finished weeding our raised bed of asparagus. I also used my garden claw to work a bit of 12-12-12 fertilizer into the patch, something I usually do only after we're done harvesting each spring. More than the weather, I'd attribute our short picking season this year to my not getting a good layer of compost on the asparagus last fall. I simply ran out of the black gold before I got to the asparagus and used a light coating of commercial fertilizer instead.

I may pick a few more spears from the raised bed, but it's getting very close to our traditional May 31 end of asparagus picking season. We're also getting some nice asparagus from Bonnie's Asparagus Patch, one we don't own, but maintain. I still need to weed that patch.

"Turn out the lights, the party's over"

Baby gloxiniasSince most readers of this site are likely to be senior citizens, you're probably old enough to remember broadcaster Don Meredith breaking into the song, Turn out the lights, the party's over, on Monday Night Football broadcasts when he thought one team had put the game away. I thought of that song Thursday as I shut off the lights over our basement plant rack. I'd gradually whittled down the plants under the lights to just three flats. Some baby gloxinias went to our sunroom, with the others going to the back porch.

Normally, we run our plant lights all year for our gloxinias. But we were struck with an ailment about a year ago that began killing off our gloxinias, something I'd not experienced in my thirty-some years of growing them. I futility adjusted lighting and temperature and tried all manner of pesticides, fungicides, systemic insecticides, and mineral and fertilizer brews to correct the problems of the plants wilting near maturity. At one point last summer, I cleared the plant racks and disinfected our basement plant area. After pinching the plants back to their corms, some appeared to recover, only to begin failing again as they produced their first blooms.

Dying gloxinias 1 Dying gloxinias 2 Dying gloxinias 3

My best guess at what went wrong came from a GardenWeb posting by Irina that suggested the INSV virus might be the cause. By the time I found her posting, I'd pretty well eliminated all the other possible causes of such a plant collapse. Sadly, there's no cure for INSV, other than turning out the lights...and starting over.

But...I've saved lots of gloxinia seed over the years and kept it in frozen storage. The very oldest of the stored seed, produced when I was still teaching, still germinates well and often better than some purchased commercial seed!

Hopefully, the open pollinated plants I moved to the sunroom (and had kept segregated from the sick plants) will be okay. I also started pots of Empress, Cranberry Tiger, and Charles Lawn Hybrid gloxinias. By the time the new plants require plant lights, I should have our plant room thoroughly cleaned, bug bombed, and disinfected.

Top shelf plant rack

So in time, the gloxinia "party" will begin anew. It's worth the effort.

Night Photos

When I started to go to bed Thursday night, I noticed the glow from the flare stacks of the nearby Marathon Oil Refinery in Robinson, Illinois. I'd not photographed it before, so despite the late hour, I hauled my camera and tripod to the back porch to experiment with a few shots. It was raining just a bit, which I think interfered with the focus on fully zoomed shots. Shots at the shortest focal length of my Canon EF-S 15-85mm Zoom Lensicon came out the best.

Glow from oil refinery Glow from electrical power plant

Shifting the camera about 90o to the east revealed the lights of the even nearer Merom Generating Station through a gap in the trees. In the winter with bare trees, the coal fired electric power plant is much brighter (and noisier).

I ended up exposing the shots manually at f/6.3 for 15 seconds. I set the lens on manual focus at infinity.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

I'd hoped to garden a bit yesterday morning and mow in the afternoon. That plan got changed early in the day when my wife, Annie, woke me and told me that the well pump wouldn't turn off. My first thought was to suggest to her that she knew which circuit breaker to throw, but wisely kept such thoughts to myself.

Asparagus field and irrigation rigI spent most of the day procuring and installing a replacement pump for the previous unit that had lasted only one month beyond its warranty. Even with the new pump online, I could tell I still need to drain the waterlogged pressure tank (job for today).

The upside of my plumbing woes was that on my way to Vincennes to pick up the new pump, I was able to briefly observe a crew in a 30+ acre field of asparagus I'd noticed several years ago, hand picking the crop. Fields of asparagus aren't common in this area. The image at left is from a July, 2011, posting.

After getting the new pump installed, I found the following gem online about asparagus growth in a University of Kentucky Extension Service posting: "Harvesting is sometimes erratic because spears grow very rapidly (up to 1 in./hour) in warm weather and slowly in cool weather." With our weather warming today, maybe we'll get a few more spears of the delicious vegetable from our asparagus patches.

Sadly, I'll need to repeat my plumbing chores again in a week or so. The pump I installed today was a cheapie with little lifting power, but our local hardware stores don't stock quality pumps anymore! I have a good unit on order which I'll install when it comes in, as it provides a lot more water pressure and water volume. Of course, we're getting close to the time of year when there isn't all that much water in the well to pump.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014 - More Asparagus

Bonnie's Asparagus patchRaised bed of asparagusWhile mowing today, I was pleasantly surprised to see that both of our asparagus patches had responded to warmer temperatures (high of 86o F) and produced some nice shoots. Our raised bed of asparagus is about done for picking this year, but the second patch we care for is still putting out lots of thick, delicious asparagus.

I'd mowed over Bonnie's Asparagus (at right) a week ago, as we had some nasty, vining weeds taking over the area, so I was pleased today to see it bounce back. Since I hadn't nipped all the weeds last week, I mowed over the patch again today after picking it back. I wasn't risking much, as this is the hardy patch that sat nearly idle for fifteen years and was mowed to the ground several times each summer. I'll need to hand weed the patch before we let it grow out and add some mulch as well.

Peas

Tall peas beginning to bloomTwo of our three tall pea varieties are beginning to put out blooms. The Champion of England and Maxigolt vines each had a half dozen or so blooms on them this afternoon. Our Mr. Bigicon peas, a slightly later variety, have yet to begin blooming.

It's too early to tell if our double trellis will withstand our windy weather and keep the tall vines from getting blown over. We've had lots of wind this spring, but the real test for the peas and the double trellis will come when the vines are loaded with maturing peas in strong winds. I've noticed that despite my efforts in training the vines between the trellises, the peas want to grow on the outside the trellises, rather than in between them.

The image below is of a Champion of England bloom. The color of the bloom is a bit off, as I took the photo in the warm light of the early evening.

Pea blossom

A Garden in Three Hours

Don Smith's garden and poolDon's pool and deckI received an email today with the subject line of "A garden in 3 hours!" Web buddy and retired educator Don Smith sent along photos of his herbs, two varieties of tomatoes, two of peppers, and lots of basil.

He ended up planting about 30 pots which will eventually be moved to his deck (after it gets stained tomorrow).

I really enjoy seeing how other folks garden with the space they have. We're blessed with lots of space, but I find small gardens and container gardens intriguing. And of course, I may not always have lots of land to garden, so someday I may have to learn the intricacies of container gardening.

After mowing in the heat today, Don's pool sure looks inviting!

Word for the Day: Trepidation

Trepidation pretty well describes my feelings about a well specialist coming tomorrow. Purging our waterlogged pressure tank didn't cure our well problems. From several folks I consulted, it sounds as if the check valve will have to be dug out and replaced! I didn't help the situation any, as I cracked a plastic pipe when wrestling a pipe to the pressure tank back into place. But it's time, past time really, to let the pros do the job right.

Sam’s Club

Thursday, May 22, 2014 - A Little Rain

The Senior Garden - May 22, 2014The Weather Channel 10-Day Garden ForecastWe received three-tenths of an inch of rain overnight. That's certainly not a lot, but any rainfall was welcome for us, although not so much for area farmers who are trying to finish their spring planting. I drove past three farmers yesterday planting into ground that looked to me to be too wet to work or plant.

The showers and front that passed through last night have left us some nice working weather. High temperatures for the next few days will be in the mid- to upper 70s, with overnight lows just about perfect for sleeping with the windows open.

Alfalfa

Closeup of alfalfaSam's Club Membership OfferThe alfalfa cover crop I seeded last month appears to be off to a good start. Of course, that's what I thought last year, only to have grass weeds and dry weather spoil the crop. But we seem to have a good stand of alfalfa so far. If it doesn't take, I'll seed the area to a turndown crop of buckwheat, but I'd prefer to have the alfalfa there putting down deep roots into our heavy clay soil to help break it up a bit.

With our current rotation plan for the East Garden, half of the alfalfa will get turned under this fall or next spring. The other half will still be in a rotated out, or resting, part of the East Garden.

Alfalfa beside East Garden

When a Sale Really Isn't a Sale

Some of you may have received the same promotional email this morning from Johnny's Selected Seeds that graced my inbox. It invited me to "Shop our Spring Seed Liquidation." Seeing that Laguna carrot seed was included in the liquidation, I quickly went to Johnny's site, as I'd run short of that variety this spring and wanted more for our fall planting of carrots. The usual $3.65 packet of seed was offered for just a dollar during the sale. But when I started to check out, I found that none of the free shipping codes offered by various online sites were being accepted by Johnny's. One site noted that the code had worked for "73 People...Today."

Had I ordered the Laguna seed at full price with free shipping yesterday or last week, it would have cost $1.35 less than it does today with the sale price and $4 standard shipping.

That's not much of a sale, Johnny's!

Friday, May 23, 2014 - New Meteor Shower Tonight

This is supposed to be a gardening site, but this one is too good to miss. (Remember, I used to be a teacher, and for several years, a science teacher.)

There may be a new meteor shower visible after about 10:30 P.M. (EDT) tonight. From what I've read, astronomers aren't sure if we might see a meteor shower, a meteor storm, or not much of anything. That's because the gravity field of Jupiter shifted the space dust left by Comet209P/LINEAR into Earth's path around the sun. Predictions of 30 meteors/hour are common, with the possibility of lots, really lots, lots more. The experts just don't know for sure. But if it happens, the peak should occur between 2-4 A.M. Saturday morning.

The meteor shower has been named the May Camelopardalids, as possible meteors will appear to emanate from the constellation Camelopardalis, the Giraffe. It is about halfway between Ursa Major (the Big Dipper) and Cassiopeia, under Polaris, the North Star (part of the Little Dipper).

Night sky - May 23, 2014 - 10:30 PM EDT

I generated the image above in the free, open source software, Stellarium. It's absolutely great for locating things in the night sky. If you don't have it on your hard drive, I really recommend it. I looked up one night this week at a really, really red "star." When I checked it out later in Stellarium, I was pleased to see that I'd correctly identified it as the planet Mars.

While Camelopardalis, the radiant, or source point, of the shower should be low in the northern sky tonight, most articles I read seemed to think that just laying down with your head to the south looking north should give a good view of the shower (if it happens...and if you have clear skies).

Meteor showers and comet sightings are things that can be really hyped, only to prove to be terribly disappointing. But this one sounds as if it's worth a look this evening, if not staying up late for the big show. Yeah, this sounds a lot like Charlie Brown getting sucked in by Lucy in the Peanuts comic strip to try just one more time to kick the football she's holding. But I'm a sucker for meteor showers.

BTW: I ended up reading about eight articles about the meteor shower tonight. One thing that stood out to me after reading the postings was how bad the quality of internet postings has become. The best of the bunch was by Becky Bach, writing for the San Jose Mercury News, 'Giraffe' meteor shower could light up Bay Area skies. And let me note that my old go-to site for astronomy articles, Space.com, needs to get its act back together.


I have no idea where my fondness for astronomy came from, but I do know where it crystallized and became a lifelong joy.

When I was taking my masters degree courses in elementary education at Butler University in the mid-70's, I got to the point where I was pretty well burnt out on teaching and grad classes. My dad was constantly pestering me to leave teaching and get into the insurance and securities business with him. Instead, I chose to drop out of the masters continuum of classes one semester and take a freshman level Astronomy 101 class.

The night class was taught by a local high school teacher, Mr. Ledger. He loved astronomy and infused that love into his students. Besides the regular curriculum, Mr. Ledger regularly took the class to Butler University's planetarium for the class. He also took the whole class at times, and just a few of we older students, to Butler's observatory with its 32" reflector telescope.

Like a pusher saying the first hit is free, Mr. Ledger showed us star clusters and nebulae, invisible to the naked eye, though the massive telescope. And I was hooked for life.

I'll get back to gardening tomorrow.

Saturday, May 24, 2014 - Critter Lights

Nite-Guard on tomato cageNite Guard Solar Predator Control LightDeer nipped the tops off of two broccoli plants in our East Garden this week, so the grandkids and I hung our collection of Nite Guard Solar Predator Control Lights after supper last night. The units charge by day and blink a red light at night. The blinking light is supposed to spook deer, raccoons, and all manner of woodland creatures. The catch is that the units need to be set at the animals' eye level, making one choose to protect from either deer or raccoons, unless you have some very short deer or tall raccoons or a whole lot of the units. We hung two from the tops of tomato cages and two more from lower, pepper cages.

We also spray bad smelling and tasting stuff and dump the contents of our sweeper bag around the East Garden for critter control. Sometimes our efforts seem to work, and other times the deer and raccoons feast.

I'd rate the units as somewhat effective, but one has to move them around every week or so. The ones we have are several years old, but still work well. (Note: Amazon carries a far cheaper look alike model, but be sure to read the customer ratings before investing in them. They seem to be junk.) I store our four units over the winter in a lighttight box in our garage.

A Bust

The Camelopardalids meteor shower turned out to be a bust for us last night. I saw a few, very short and faint meteors around 11 P.M. (I think.), but didn't see any when I got up at 3, supposedly the peak time for the shower. Both the Washington Post and CNN relate that our experience was like that of a lot of other folks.

Mowing and Mulching

I mowed the field around our East Garden today. When done, I raked the somewhat moist grass clippings and used them to mulch the rest of our melon rows. Since I'd let the grass in the field get pretty high, there was no windrowing the clippings this time. I ended up making two passes over the entire field, one to mow and another to rake. But the field looks nice, and our initial mulching of the melon patch is done.

Melons mulched

Burpee Gardening

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Senior Garden - May 25, 2014

I got an early start on gardening this morning, cultivating and hilling our potatoes under cloudy skies. Our potato rows had a lot of grass in and between them. The weeds were too well established for me to use my scuffle hoe on them, so despite fairly wet soil conditions, I tilled up and down the rows before shoveling soil into the rows. I also tilled around our spotty row of dark red kidney beans.

After picking a little asparagus, I moved on to the next job on my list for this morning, spraying our blue spruce trees and brassicas with BT (Thuricide). I had picked up another inexpensive sprayer a week ago, as I feared that I wasn't getting all the pesticide residue out of our sprayer with my usual triple rinse of it between batches. If any pesticide was left in the sprayer, it could kill off the BT, a biological, in the tank! So the easy answer was to pop for another sprayer, reserved only for biological products.

By the time I got the new sprayer assembled and filled with water, BT, and sticker spreader, it had begun to sprinkle outside (in spite of a weather forecast of clear skies and no chance of rain). I went ahead and sprayed the trees and brassicas in what became just a few occasional drips of precipitation.

Potatoes cultivated and hilled (a bit)

I had my outside work done by 11 A.M., leaving plenty of time to write this posting, get cleaned up, and be in front of the television for the green flag of the Indy 500. (I'm a Hoosier!)

Monday, May 26, 2014 - Memorial Day (U.S.)

The Senior Garden - May 26, 2014The area I'd reserved in our East Garden plot for sweet corn seemed dry enough to till today. At least, the big boys had worked far wetter ground yesterday up the road a ways and moved their equipment to the field beside our house. I took that as a sign for me to switch out our mower deck for the tiller attachment.

Buckwheat in bloomBefore tilling, I did some quick calculations and decided I needed to put down about 44 pounds of 12-12-12 fertilizer for the sweet corn, based on an application rate of 200#/acre. For corn, that's actually a pretty light rate, as one wants at least 90-100#/acre of nitrogen when growing field corn. But I'll be sidedressing our rows of sweet corn with fertilizer when I cultivate, and this ground was in pretty good shape nutrient-wise before I started. It had been planted to melons last year and a lush turndown crop of buckwheat the year before after our sweet corn crop failed in the drought of 2012.

I pulled out a couple of bags of 12-12-12 fertilizericon and got after spreading the stuff with my "high tech" Folgers coffee can spreader. By going over the plot twice at 90o angles, I think I got good coverage over the whole plot. Once the fertilizer was down, there was no going back, as nitrogen fertilizer will vaporize into the air if left on top of the ground in the sun!

I made the equivalent of two passes with the tiller over the area by overlapping each pass, turning half new ground and half that was just tilled. When I was done, the grass weeds had been broken up and/or turned under and no fertilizer was visible on the soil surface. The ground looked just about right for moisture, so I think I guessed well on tilling today.

Corn plot before tilling Corn plot after tilling

I'm on a mid-afternoon break right now, trying to decide what to do next. What grass was left on the soil surface after tilling is getting scorched by the sun, so waiting a bit is a good thing. But we may have rain coming in tonight or tomorrow, and I'd really like to till the plot one more time before seeding our sweet corn.

I also haven't gotten out our fresh sweet corn seed from its cool, dark storage spot in the basement. I have room in the 24' x 40' plot for about seven rows of corn with rows spaced 3' apart. If I go to a 30" row spacing, I could squeeze in another row, possibly at the expense of ear size...and I like big ears of sweet corn.

I have six varieties of sweet corn seed to choose from, all but one variety closely grouped on their days to maturity.

But with bright, hazy skies and 85o F outside, I'm going to till some of our outlying plots we use for isolating seed crops while I make up my mind.

Later

I ended up seeding five sh2 varieties of sweet corn in seven forty foot rows. Four rows went half and half to full season yellow corns, Summer Sweet 7930R and Mirai 002. Both are new varieties for us, as Twilley Seeds dropped our favorite full season sweet corn this year, Summer Sweet 7640R. We've had good luck with the Summer Sweet series, so I decided to try a similar variety plus one from the Mirai line. We've grown Mr. Mini Mirai in the past and liked it.

The other three rows were equally divided between Amaizeicon, a white corn, Summer Sweet 6800R, our standard early corn, and Early Xtra-Sweeticon, another early yellow corn. We've had good luck with Summer Sweet 6800R and Early Xtra-Sweet in the past. Amaize is another new variety for us.

I didn't plant any bicolor sweet corn this year, but will be starting some ACcentuate MRBC in fourpacks tomorrow to transplant into bare spots in the rows. We used it that way last year and ended up with a lot of delicious bicolor sweet corn, as we had serious germination problems and lots of bare spots. Twilley eventually admitted an irregularity with their Summer Sweet 6800R seed and made good on it and another disappointing variety. Even so, we spread our sweet corn seed orders this year between Twilley and Burpee.

All of the corn seed planted today went in pretty shallow, about a inch or an inch and a half deep. I'm counting on getting some rain soon, and our ground was still fairly moist. Had it been dryer, I would have planted the corn a little deeper.

As our sweet corn germinates, we'll have to stay on top of weed control, as the area we planted into seems to have lots of grass seed in it, possibly from our mulching with grass clippings over the years. A second concern is deer damage, as they love tender, young sweet corn plants. As soon as the corn emerges, we'll begin spraying a new bad tasting and smelling product on it to deter the deer. Our favorite such product, Not Tonight, Deer, went out of business and off the market last year!

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Soaking nasturtium seedNasturtium furrowAnnie and I picked a half bushel of spinach and cut some lettuce last evening. While a half bushel sounds like a lot of spinach, if you're boiling it down, it probably isn't enough to justify getting out the pressure canner. At any rate, most of the spinach went to Annie's sister along with some Barbados and Crispino lettuce, as we still had store bought lettuce left in the refrigerator. And of course, since we were on a "garden date," I totally forgot to take the camera out with me and grab images of the spinach and lettuce.

This morning, I had high hopes of getting a lot done in the garden. I soaked a mixture of Whirlybird, Milkmaid, Empress of India, and Night and Day nasturtium seed for a couple hours in an old potato salad container before planting them in a forty foot row along the edge of our sweet corn. Before seeding, I even watered the furrow a bit to give the seed a better chance of germinating if we don't get some rain soon.

From there, things went downhill. I made a mistake while pulling the tiller from our lawn tractor that cost me half an hour. Then after cleaning the mower deck, I found that that the John Deere tech who'd serviced our mower this spring had muscled on two of the three blades. I wasted a lot of time and effort trying to get the retaining bolts to budge before deciding to just let them soak in WD-40 overnight. If that fails, I'll have to put a long pipe wrench with an even longer pipe on its handle to break open the bolts. I may end up sharpening the mower blades on the deck with a grinding bit on my drill until I can get the genius from John Deere back out here who overtightened the bolts. But that way of sharpening a mower blade is far inferior to doing it on a bench grinder.

By the time I got done fighting bolts so I could pull the blades and sharpen them, it was after 4 pm and really hot outside, so I just pulled a few weeds in the East Garden and then called it a day.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Lettuce

One of the things I like about this time of year in the garden is the rich shades of red and green in our lettuce patch. As thunder rumbled to the west of us, I went out after supper to replace the two lettuce we'd harvested with a couple of seedlings I still had on hand. The rain missed us yet again, and with high temperatures predicted to be in the upper 80s for the next week or so, I suspect the transplants may bolt before they mature. But I felt better filling in the gaps in our lettuce rows.

Even with the lack of rain we're experiencing, I was pleased to find pretty good soil moisture under the grass clipping mulch which covers almost the entire raised bed.

Our row of spinach seems to be withstanding the heat fairly well so far. The far end of the row in the image at left looks a bit ragged, as I picked it back pretty severely this week.

As I walked back to the house, I snapped photos of most of the crops growing in our main raised garden bed.

Pea pods Onions and bell pepper plants Onions and carrots Green beans
Pea pods filling out Onions around bell pepper plants Onions and carrots Green beans

Baby gloxinia plantsOpen pollinated gloxiniasThe Empress and Cranberry Tiger gloxinia seed I started earlier this month have germinated nicely and seem comfortable growing in our sunroom while I clean and disinfect our regular plant room. I also have several fourpacks of open pollinated gloxinia plants I started earlier that are doing well. The Charles Lawn Hybrid gloxinia seed I started hasn't germinated as yet.

I wasn't able to free up the bolts on our mower blades that I fought most of yesterday afternoon, so I used a grinding bit on my electric drill to put an edge on the blades before mowing the grass today. The John Deere truck is supposed to come tomorrow to fix the bolt problem.

Some of the grass clipping mulch from today's mowing went to fill in thin spots in our mulch in the East Garden. The rest went to our outlying isolation patches that will be planted to tomatoes, paprika peppers, and possibly some pole beans. I also have to get a row of Eclipse and Encore peas planted along the east edge of our melon patch in the East Garden. Both Eclipse and Encore need warm soil for germination, although I've waited a bit longer to get them into the ground than I intended.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Precipitation (Inches)1
  2014 2013 2012 2011 Ave.2
Jan. 2.51 6.33 3.20 0.84 2.48
Feb. 2.05 2.24 1.10 2.28 2.41
March 1.66 2.28 1.52 3.79 3.44
April 8.88 8.75 3.80 11.51 3.61
May 3.67 10.35 1.19 3.38 4.35
Totals3 18.77 29.95 10.81 21.80 16.29

1Data from Kinmerom2 and MSULI3 weather stations, and our own rain gauge during non-freezing weather
2 Average precipitation for Indianapolis, IN
3 to date

May, 2014, animated GIFWe wind up the month of May in pretty good shape for a great gardening season for 2014. We got most of the crops we wanted to direct seed or transplant into the ground this month. We picked lots of asparagus and even a little spinach and lettuce. But dry weather, with most of our monthly precipitation occurring early in the month, has some of our crops a bit moisture stressed. We really need a good, soaking rain, preferably over several days, to really get our garden going.

Remaining on our "to do" list for spring planting is getting the rest of our open pollinated tomatoes and paprika pepper varieties into the ground. I made a good start on that today, transplanting two more Earlirouge tomato plants into the East Garden at the ends of a long row of Eclipse and Encore peas. I also transplanted two Moira tomato plants and four Paprika Supreme pepper plants into one of our isolation areas away from our other tomatoes and peppers.

Pulling back mulch to tillSince I'd mulched the area where the row of peas was to go, I had to first rake back a lot of grass clippings today before tilling in some 12-12-12 fertilizer and lime. Then I made a 8" wide and 2-3" deep furrow with my hoe and rake and worked some granular pea inoculant into the soil. Before seeding, I also soaked the 36' row with about ten gallons of water. I seeded rather heavily with seed that had soaked in water for a couple of hours. Then I raked an inch or two of soil over the seed and drew the grass clipping mulch up to the edge of the row on either side.

Peas seeded and mulchedWhile I put in T-posts that will eventually hold a trellis for the short pea varieties, I didn't hang the trellis netting today. The end T-posts will also help anchor the cages of the Earlirouge tomatoes I transplanted at the ends of the pea row.

All of the tomatoes and peppers planted today got our usual deluxe planting hole filled with a mixture of peat moss, 12-12-12 fertilizer, lime, and native soil. The holes were liberally watered with dilute starter fertilizer with a bit of liquid seaweed mixed in to provide trace elements that seem necessary to produce good peppers.

Isolation planting of Moira tomatoes and Paprika Supreme peppersThe isolation planting is a bit of an ugly duckling, though. The tilled plot is at the edge of the woods, making the transplants and easy target for rabbits and deer. It also doesn't get full sun until around eleven in the morning. And the soil there is marginal for gardening. The advantage to the plot, about it's only one, is that it's far enough away from our other plots to be fairly sure the tomatoes and peppers planted there won't cross with our other tomato and pepper plants.

The fields around the Senior Garden are now all planted, although no-tilled, to soybeans. They look pretty ugly with lots of corn trash still visible on the soil surface, but will look a lot better once the beans canopy over the field. When corn is planted all around us, we're sorta visually boxed in. With soybeans planted, we can see well into the distance across the fields of beans.

One really scary thing has become apparent to Annie and I this month. We liberally lime our garden plots and even the field our East Garden is in. As a result, we have lots of white Dutch clover growing in the field and in our yard. But what we don't have this year is the standard abundance of honeybees and bumblebees visiting the clover blooms. I'm hoping there's a good source of pollen and nectar closer to the bees' hives, but suspect we may be seeing a manifestation of colony collapse disorder. While tomatoes easily self-pollinate in the wind, there won't be many melons, apples, or cucumbers without the bees.

April, 2014

June, 2014

Contact Steve Wood, the at Senior Gardening

 

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