Senior Gardening

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The Old Guy's Garden Record

Our Senior Garden - March 15, 2015


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Crockett's Victory GardenThe late Jim Crockett began his classic, month-by-month gardening book, Crockett's Victory Garden, with March for good reason. It's the month when the pace of gardening rapidly accelerates. Transplants started in January and February are ready to go outside under a cold frame to harden off. More transplants, such as lettuce, tomatoes, and peppers, need to be started indoors or in the greenhouse (if you're lucky enough to have one:-). For those who have the space to grow melons, mid- to late March is the time to start transplants in our area, which produces manageable sized plants to put out around May 1.

Pea seed in trenchPossibly the biggest event of the month is getting some early pea seed into the ground. Since we prepared a bed for our peas in the fall, planting involves pulling back the mulch from the center of the bed and making a furrow with a hoe to plant the seed in. If the ground stays partially frozen, one can spread peas over the soil surface and poke the seed into the ground with a finger (Frostbite alert - your finger will get really cold doing this.). And if the ground remains frozen solid, one can even spread pea seed over the frozen soil and cover it with an inch or so of compost or bagged garden soil to get an early start.

Pea seed seems to "know" when conditions are right for it to germinate. But this is one planting that does require treated seed to prevent the seed from rotting. If your seed doesn't come already treated, slightly wetting the seed and sprinkling a bit of Captan over it should suffice.

Perennials and fall planted bulbs begin to show serious growth in March as well. Crocuses and daffodils begin to bloom, if they didn't already in February! Tulips may also begin to show through the ground. And March is time to rake off the heavy layer of mulch covering our bed of garlic, lest it mat and prevent the garlic shoots from coming up easily.

Picking asparagusWe occasionally have a few spears of asparagus emerge in a warm March. Of course, the last time that happened after the mild winter of 2011-2012, we had the drought of 2012. On balance, I'll be glad to wait until April for asparagus. But whether we pick any asparagus or not in March, I hope to spread a good layer of compost over our asparagus beds, something I missed doing at the end of the 2014 gardening season.

We have another cold frame to put together this month. The new frame we constructed last March using PVC pipe is a good one, but building it revealed a number of improvements we can work into another cold frame. My plan all along was to build two cold frames which together could be used to cover one of our narrow raised beds in either the spring or fall. I've been tripping over the various parts for the new frame for months now, so it will be good to get them put together for something useful.

Cold frame propped openWe begin moving plants under our cold frame in mid-March. Of course, we often have to bring everything inside for a few days when we have our usual, last cold front, often with a good bit of snow, move though in late March. But we also get to begin putting out our hanging baskets of flowers during some of the warm days of March.

And if the weather cooperates, it would be great to be able to till some ground in March, even after the fall tilling we've done. Of course, we're starting this morning with over a foot of new snow on the ground, over what accumulation we already had!

A foot of new snow on March 1!

Fortunately, our year-old truck was able to cut a path to the road...with the 4-wheel drive turned on. Unlike most of the fluffy snow we got in February, this snow is heavy, heart attack snow. I'm guessing that I won't even be allowed to shovel the steps.

Although long out of print, Crockett's Victory Garden, Crockett's Indoor Garden, and Crockett's Flower Garden are still the best reference volumes I have on gardening. Fortunately for others, they're still available used at very reasonable prices (often $4 shipped) through Alibrisicon, Amazon, and Books-A-Million. Many of the things I write about on Senior Gardening, such as intensive gardening and grass clipping mulch, originally came from Crockett's books and/or the old PBS TV show, Crockett's Victory Garden.

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Monday, March 2, 2015

Our Senior Garden - March 2, 2015The folks doing the local TV news last night were laughing about yesterday marking the beginning of what they called meteorological spring. Their humor, of course, was caused by the totally unspringlike conditions much of the nation is currently experiencing. They went on to explain that meteorologists group their seasons by month for ease in record keeping, among other reasons, with the official first day of spring for the rest of us still to come on the vernal equinox, March 20.

AmazonThe spring equinox pretty well marks the point when day length in the northern hemisphere begins to exceed night length, maxing out at the summer solstice on June 21. For gardeners, all that information may be a bit unnecessary, except for those keeping a flock of laying hens. For them, somewhere between the summer solstice and autumnal equinox, day length drops below fourteen hours, about the amount required by light sensitive chickens for laying. So to keep their flocks laying into the fall and winter, some kind of artificial light, often just a 75 watt bulb hung over the hens' roost, is necessary to keep the eggs coming!

For us here at the Senior Garden, a spring thaw appears to be at least a week or so off. I guess I'll be glad about that, as I need to get out and spread alfalfa seed over the snow on our East Garden to establish a cover crop for the summer. With the medical issues I'm facing this year, we plan to let our large (80' x 80') East Garden plot lie fallow for the season. Sadly, that means no home grown melons, squash, or sweet corn for us this summer. But we do hope to put in and harvest a good garden from our raised beds in the back yard before my mid-summer hip replacement surgery.

More Petunias

Seeding petunias in egg cartonsI started more petunias today. Our petunias for hanging baskets started in January are just about ready to be moved to fourpacks, so I started three more egg cartons of petunias to take over growing on a window ledge in our kitchen. The fourpacks of petunias will go back under our plant lights in the basement, as fourpacks won't fit on our windowsill.

Vial of pelletized petunia seedThe petunias started today were Celebrity, Carpet, and Ultra, all varieties better suited for bedding in the garden than for hanging baskets. The tiny petunia seed, fortunately, was all pelletized, making it far easier to get just one or two pellets in each egg cell. (Vial of pelletized petunia seed shown at right at approximate actual size. BTW: Used vials are great for storing gloxinia and other small seed.)

Petunia tray on heating mat under lightsAs usual, I used sterilized soil for the planting to avoid problems with damping off fungus. I very lightly watered the egg cells of soil with warm water before dropping seed on each cell. Rather than try to pat the seed into the soil without it sticking to my fingers or getting buried, I used a syringe to target several drops of warm water on each seed. That helps melt the pelletized seed coating. With petunia seed, one wants the seed in good contact with, but still on top of the soil where it will receive the light it requires to germinate.

The tray got covered with a clear humidome and went under our plant lights with our heating mat under the tray. Most sources recommend a germinating temperature of 75-80° F for petunias, so I set our heating mat thermostat at 80° F. I went with the higher range temperature and also seeded rather heavily because the seed used today was all seed we'd had stored in our freezer for some time. Packet dates for the seed were 2014, 2013, and 2009. I'll be happy with anything over a 60% germination rate, but really expect to get around 80% germination.

Mountain Valley Seeds

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Our Senior Garden - March 5, 2015High Moving Organic Seeds catalog coverAs I write this morning from my rather chilly office, I'm thankful to see that we may be coming to the end of the current cold spell. The sun is shining brightly today. It provided enough contrast that for the first time in days, I didn't have to use manual focus to grab our daily splash shot of the garden. Our extended weather forecast shows a warming trend beginning after tonight's predicted low of 5° F, with a possible high temperature of 62° F a week from now!

Our copy of the High Mowing Organic Seeds catalog arrived in the mail yesterday. The attractive catalog is probably the last of the major seed catalogs we look forward to perusing. It's somewhat tardy arrival was due, I'm sure, from our being lookers instead of buyers in the past.

The first thing that impressed me about the HMOS catalog is their free shipping offer for items not individually weighing 25 pounds or more. Of course, that means that their shipping expenses are included in the price of the seed, but I think that's the way it should be. Even with shipping charges included, seed prices are reasonable.

Another thing they got right is placing a catalog index right inside the back cover of the catalog (where it should be). Vegetable types run alphabetically through the catalog with labels at the edge of the pages for quick reference. I think the High Mowing Organic Seeds catalog is the best organized seed catalog I've seen this year.

Beyond those things, the catalog is absolutely dangerous for gardeners on a budget. Beautiful illustrations of varieties leap out at you when you turn from page to page. There's a good balance of hybrid and open pollinated offerings. Old favorites appear side-by-side with new and sometimes exclusive introductions.

Despite having a good bit of seed already on hand and putting out a smaller garden this year, I still found several items I "had" to order.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Our Senior Garden - March 7, 2015Weather Undeerground 10-day ForecastCompared to our recent weather, our current ten-day weather forecast from the Weather Underground looks almost balmy. Once the heavy snow cover melts, it's going to be pretty muddy for a while, but at least we'll be able to get outside without bundling up like Nanook of the North.

With the warming temperatures, I cleared some space under our plant lights by moving all of our geraniums to the bookshelf in our sunroom. The room gets pretty cold at night, but I've had three trays of gloxinias there for several weeks without them freezing.

Geraniums actually tolerate pretty cold conditions. Greenhouse growers often gradually reduce the temperature for geraniums a few weeks after they germinate. The cooler conditions tend to produce strong, stocky plants. Our standard seed geraniums will need to be moved from their three inch pots to four and/or four and a half inch pots soon, using up most of the shelf space in the sunroom. Our ivy leaf geraniums will get moved directly to their final, ten inch hanging basket pots.

Tray of young seed geraniums

Burpee Fruit Seeds & Plants

Monday, March 9, 2015 - Precipitation

Precipitation (Inches)1
  2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 Ave.2
Jan.
1.29
2.51
6.33
3.20
0.84
2.48
Feb.
1.03
2.05
2.24
1.10
2.28
2.41
March
1.12
1.66
2.28
1.52
3.79
3.44
Totals
3.44
6.22
10.85
5.82
6.91
8.33

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

Our Senior Garden - March 9, 2015As we look towards the 2015 gardening season, I'm beginning to feel just a little concern about our precipitation over the last two months. We had more than adequate rainfall most of 2014. But January and February (2015) have been relatively dry despite some heavy snowfalls. Other than our most recent, relatively wet snowfall, the snow has been light, powdery stuff that doesn't melt down to all that much precipitation. (Annie and the grandkids made snowmen yesterday from the melting, slushy snow.)

It's a little early to really become terribly concerned about this issue for folks in the midwest. I'm admittedly a little overcautious on this issue after the drought of 2012 and several droughty years when I was farming in the 1980's. But it's something to keep an eye on.

Of course, gardeners in the southwest are totally screwed on precipitation, as usual. Without irrigation, I'm not sure how they'd do it.

That made me think to rerun a table provided by the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center drought page. It carries graphic image predictions for the U.S. Drought Monitor, the U.S. Monthly Drought Outlook, and the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook. (Since our taxes pay for such great info and sites, I felt free to borrow their graphics and reproduce them here for you, along with some pertinent links.) But sadly, knowing the predictions won't make it rain out west.

Drought Information
U.S. Drought Monitor
United States Weekly Drought Monitor
U.S. Monthly Drought Outlook
United States Monthly Drought Outlook
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. Monthly Drought Outlook

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

Other links:

Waiting for a Thaw

While our snow cover melts outside, I'm waiting for some potting soil to thaw as well. I'd planned to move our trailing petunias from their egg carton containers today into ten inch hanging basket pots. After cleaning up several of the pots, I went outside to get some potting soil. Silly me! It was still frozen solid! So I broke a big chunk of it off from the rest, bagged it, and brought it inside to thaw. I guess I'll do my transplanting tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Our Senior Garden - March 10, 2015Petunias moved to ten inch potsWe can see our garden raised beds today for the first time in almost a month. Our snow cover is melting rather quickly in a daylong rain.

Our egg carton of Double Cascade petunias was ready today for transplanting. Rather than move the plants into fourpacks for a few weeks, I chose to transplant them directly into the ten inch hanging basket pots they'll remain in all summer.

I used four plants per pot, which should give us a nice mix of colors and a full, bushy pot of foliage.

Our Supercascade trailing petunias are running a bit behind the Double Cascades and will need another week or so before I move them into larger quarters.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Garden at 10:30 A.M.
Garden at 2 P.M.

Removing mulchI was actually able to work outside in our garden for an hour or so today. With the snow melted off our raised bed, I needed to get the heavy cover of grass clipping mulch off our garlic rows. Leaving it in place could kill some of the garlic that wasn't strong enough to push through matted areas of the mulch.

I started working in a rather dense fog, but things cleared as I worked. By the time I got done, the sun was out, and I'd worked up a good sweat.

When I started, a few, strong, elephant garlic shoots had already penetrated the grass clipping mulch. But as I gently removed the mulch, far more garlic plants were revealed. Many were bent a bit, as they hadn't been able to push through the mulch.

I used a garden scratcher and garden rake for some of the mulch removal, although I mostly just rolled the mulch up with my gloved hands. I had to be careful not to injure the garlic plants that were under the mulch.

I stacked the mulch just outside our raised bed. I may reuse it as mulch or just let it decay and add it to the soil as compost later on.

Rolling up old mulchWhen done with the garlic area, I moved on to the narrow raised bed where we'll be growing our early peas. Not having to be careful of injuring plants there, I mainly used a garden rake to roll up and remove the mulch from that bed. Getting the mulch off the bed will allow the soil to warm more quickly than it would with the insulating layer of mulch. With our current stretch of warm weather, I hope to seed our early peas sometime next week.

I left the layer of mulch that was on our other, narrow raised bed. That bed will receive broccoli and cauliflower transplants early next month. I may just leave the mulch, pulling it back a bit for the transplanting.

Ground level view of garlic rows Cleared garlic bed

It felt really good to get outside today and begin working in the garden. I was just a bit apprehensive and worked rather slowly and carefully. At one point, I was a bit surprised that I could again feel the last two stents that were placed in my heart last month. But other than that anomaly, the work went well. Possibly the biggest challenge of the day was making sure the mud didn't suck off my work boots when working in low areas outside our raised beds. When in the raised beds, I stood mostly on our walking boards which have been in place since last fall.

Cook's Garden Gourmet Herbs

Friday, March 13, 2015

Our Senior Garden - March 13, 2015
Standing water around raised bed

Garlic bedOn Monday, I'd bemoaned how little precipitation we'd had so far this year. In the category of "Be careful what you wish for," I no longer need be concerned with rainfall, at least for this month. We have received well over an inch of rain today, with more on the way overnight and tomorrow.

Yesterday was an absolutely beautiful day for working outside. Alas, I was in the truck driving to and from a doctor's appointment in Indianapolis, which pretty well shot the day. The good news is that I've now been cleared by the cardiologist and pre-op doctor for hip replacement sometime this spring.

With our snow cover melting off and the rain today, we have lots of standing water in low spots around our property. Creeks are over their banks and local rivers are at flood stage. The ground is thoroughly saturated. The rain should taper off tomorrow, and our extended weather forecast calls for some pretty nice days in the near future.

When I took the splash shot of our garden today, I was surprised to see our grass is showing a bit of green at long last. Our garlic is also looking pretty good, other than one variety that hasn't yet emerged. Many of the garlic shoots that emerged but couldn't break through the mulch layer are damaged, but should recover in the next week or so.

I have a kettle of sterilized planting medium cooling on the stove, and a box of trays and inserts came in this week. So I hope to begin seeding our tomatoes, peppers, and lettuce tomorrow.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Our Senior Garden - March 15, 2015Starting transplantsWe have another gorgeous, springlike day today. I was tempted to start moving transplants out to our cold frame, but remembered the last two years (2013, 2014) when we've had snow and hard freezes about March 24-25. The ground here is still pretty soggy, but I gathered our early pea seed, hoping to be able to get it into the ground in the next few days.

Inside, I finally got some tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, and flowers seeded. I like to have our tomato plants around 6-8 weeks old at transplanting. Having delayed starting them until now, we'll be on the short side of six weeks if we transplant around May 1, our frost free date for this area.

With our downsized garden plans for this year, seeding didn't take long. I did use deep inserts for the tomatoes and peppers today instead of our standard shallow inserts, as that will allow for a little better root development. A ten pack of #606 deep inserts runs around $10 from the Greenhouse Megastore (DGW rating) and should last me for years.

Earlirouge plant and tomatoesI started Earlirouge, Mountain Fresh and Mountain Merit, and Bella Rosa tomatoes. Earlirouge is an old, determinate tomato variety we're helping preserve that is great for both canning and fresh use. All of the other varieties are hybrids we like. We'll only put out five or six tomato plants this year.

Earlliest Red Sweet peppersThe pepper varieties seeded were Earliest Red Sweet, Ace, and Sweet Sunrise. ERS is another old variety we save seed from. Ace is about the all around best hybrid red pepper we've grown. Sweet Sunrise is a newer, yellow-gold pepper that did so-so for us last year. I'm still hunting for a good yellow pepper to replace the discontinued Labrador and Sunray hybrid varieties.

In the past, I've started fifteen or more varieties of lettuce. Again, with a smaller garden this year, I chose just our favorite lettuce types and varieties to start. Our Crispino seed was actually saved seed from a head that bolted last year, although the link here is to Johnny's Selected Seeds. Crispino produces nice, soft iceberg heads that are somewhat heat tolerant. Less heat tolerant, but certainly a pretty butterhead is Skyphos.

We're obviously heavy on cos/romaine varieties, as those are our absolute favorites. I started some Red Romaine, Winter Density, and Defender. Starting this late, it may be a race to get any good lettuce before the summer heat makes the lettuce go to seed. But we can take baby heads of the romaines, and I also hope to save seed from the Winter Density.

I also seeded some Vinca, Impatiens, and Dianthus.

Sam’s Club

Monday, March 16, 2015 - Planting Peas

I planted our early, tall peas today. The raised bed for them had been limed and tilled last fall, so all I had to do today was make a furrow, work in a bit of 12-12-12 fertilizer and granular pea inoculant, and pop in the seed.

The furrow for the seed was about eight inches wide and two or three inches deep. With such an early planting, I wet the pea seed and coated it with Captan fungicide to prevent it from rotting in the cool soil. By working the inoculant under the pea bed, I'm hoping the Captan won't kill the inoculant that helps the peas fix nitrogen on their roots.

Furrow for peas Heavy seeding of peas Row firmed, edges mulched

I planted the row half and half to Champion of England and Maxigolt, varieties that have performed well for us in the past. I raked the soil back over the seed and firmed it just a bit with the rake. The grass clipping mulch I'd pulled off the bed a week ago went back along the unplanted edges of the bed.

The peas should begin to emerge by early next month. When that happens, I'll add a double trellis, one on each side of the pea row, for them to vine on. In late April or early May, I'll add caged tomato plants on the ground I left unplanted at either end of the pea row. The tomato cages get wired to the T-posts that support our trellis to keep the cages from blowing over in the strong winds that sweep across the field to the west of our garden.

This will be our second year using a double trellis to try to keep our pea vines from blowing off their trellis. Last year, I got the trellises too narrow, and we still had some vines grow outside the trellis and then bend in the wind, curtailing their productivity. So I'm going to set the trellises a bit wider this year to try to keep the peas vining inside them. If that fails, we'll just have to grow our tall peas in a more sheltered area, possibly in an isolation plot back by the barn.

Seed Production

As I prepared a cover letter last night to accompany some Earlirouge seed I was sending a reader, a thought struck me. We'll be growing our tomatoes and peppers for seed production (and table use), on good ground this season. That hasn't happened in a long time, as we generally grow our seed crops in our East Garden with its heavy clay soil and on various isolation plots whose soil ranges from passing to absolutely lousy.

Our first crop of Earlirouge tomatoes were grown by the barn where there actually is a bit of topsoil. They produced some nice sized tomatoes, a bit bigger than most of the variety descriptions. Our second crop grown last year in our East Garden were disappointing in size. Likewise, I've been disappointed with the size of our Earliest Sweet Peppers that we've grown until this year exclusively in the East Garden.

This time around we'll be growing our Earlirouge tomatoes and our Earliest Sweet Peppers in the lush soil of our raised garden beds. The various hybrids I started yesterday will be cast out from our fertile raised beds, far enough away to prevent them from cross-pollinating our seed crops. We'll also be growing some Encore and Eclipse peas for table use and seed production in the main garden for the first time in several years. Encore and Eclipse peas are related, and a little crossing with them shouldn't hurt...since they're PVP protected and I can only save seed from them for our own use. (I've done that one before with little to no crossing evident.)

So, I'm getting a little excited to see what we get from our open pollinated tomatoes and peppers this year. Our garden will be much smaller this year, but we may see some great things happening with seed production. We'll be growing and saving seed from Earlirouge tomatoes, Earliest Red Sweet peppers, Winter Density lettuce, Eclipse and Encore peas (both no longer available from commercial sources), and our improved Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers. And of course, we grow these varieties because we love them for table use, canning, and freezing.

What we won't be growing and saving seed from this year includes Quinte and Moria (Oh my, a whole year without our favorite tomato!) tomatoes and Feher Ozon, Alma, and Paprika Supreme paprika peppers (We have lots of ground paprika from last year.). I also have a lot of possibly crossed saved seed I'd planned to grow out this year before it became apparent that my hip replacement couldn't wait another year.

So the good Lord willing, we'll have to wait a year to grow out some of our saved seed. I'm especially eager to see how our almost certainly crossed Moon & Stars watermelon seed will do next year. We had a landrace Moon & Stars strain that produced huge watermelons, albeit with lots of seeds, for a number of years. But our saved seed all went bad and we lost the start. So we're starting over on that one, trying to breed a bigger and better Moon & Stars variety.

While Senior Gardening remains a niche site, we continue to try to preserve some possibly endangered vegetable varieties. We also try to select and refine the varieties of seed we save, with all the problems that can entail. Plant breeding and preservation are things that many across the nation and world continue to do. We may not produce an improved variety of any seed we save, but we may also pave the way for others to carry on the preservation and improvement of old seed varieties that may provide for our progeny.

Charity: Water

Tuesday, March 17, 2015 - St. Patrick's Day

Our Senior Garden - March 17, 2015Transplanting ivy leaf geraniumsAfter a high temperature of 74° F yesterday, it's very windy and 50° F outside today. I'm glad I got our pea seed in the ground yesterday. I did get outside a bit this morning to make up some potting mix for our ivy leaf (trailing) geraniums.

I mixed some peat moss and standard potting soil (the kind with fertilizer pellets in it) that had sat outside all winter for the hanging basket pots. Since all manner of bugs, bug eggs, and diseases might have invaded the soil, I doused the pots with boiling water before moving the geraniums from their 3" pots to the 10" hanging basket pots.

Ivy leaf geraniums are something we've not had a lot of luck growing in the past. We've had germination problems with the seed at times, and just plain puny plants other times. This year, we had an excellent germination rate with a packet of Summer Showers seed from Burpee, allowing me to start two hanging basket pots with three plants in each with several plants still in reserve in their 3" pots.

Ivy Leaf GeraniumHanging basket plants on dining room tableDespite our past problems growing the variety, our one success (shown at left) with it several years ago pushed me to try again. A single plant provided some incredibly lovely blooms.

So two more hanging baskets joined our collection of soon-to-be porch plants in front of the bay window on our dining room table. Actually, one Wandering Jew plant had to go to the sunroom to make room for the geraniums. One of our cats had been eating its leaves, anyway.

The wind is supposed to die down a bit tomorrow, so I'm hoping to get outside then and begin moving our standard geraniums from their 3" pots into 4 1/2" pots. The plants aren't quite rootbound yet, but they're definitely close to outgrowing their original pots. Note that we germinated all of our geraniums this year on coffee filters, only moving the seeds to 3" pots after they'd germinated. We started our standard geraniums on January 19, and our ivy leafs on January 29.

Getting back to the weather a bit, I was surprised this morning when I looked at our collection of March splash shots of our garden in Adobe Bridge. These are shots taken out our sunroom window that I string together at the end of each month in an animated GIF.

March in our Senior Garden

Obviously, we had some very cold weather and a good snow cover through the first third of March. How quickly we forget!

Our numbering system for photos is the same one I used in the 1970's when working a few years as a part-time wedding and portrait photographer. The first series of numbers up to the hyphen is the date (year, month, day), the second two number series is the roll number (archaic reference to rolls of film, but it works for batches of shots, too), and the final numbers are the actual image number. (And yes, I've now shot over 26,000 images with my Canon Digital Rebel XSi.) The small letter "c" appended to the number denotes a cropped image.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Our Senior Garden - March 19, 2015
Moving geraniums to larger pots on back porch
Geraniums in three inch pots in sunroom
Geraniums in 4 1/2 inch pots

I moved our Maverick and Orbit series geraniums today into larger pots. We start our geraniums in 3" pots after germinating the seed on paper towels or coffee filters, but those pots become too small for the plants after about four to six weeks. So it's necessary to move them to 4 and/or 4 1/2 inch pots for them to continue developing a strong root system and healthy topgrowth.

For these sturdy plants, it was no longer necessary to use sterilized potting mix to protect them from damping off fungus. I used a mix of standard potting soil and peat moss and even was able to move them to their larger pots working from the edge of our back porch.

Each geranium went about a quarter to a half inch deeper into the new pots, necessitating removing some lower leaf growth. Since the potting soil was fairly cold, I bottom watered the trays with warm water.

The two trays of geraniums (19 plants in all) will spend the next week on our dining room table in front of a bay window. I want them to get a good start on rooting into the new soil before moving them under a cold frame.

To make room for the geraniums, I put hangers on several of our hanging basket pots and moved the plants to hooks under our back porch. With our nightly low temperatures no longer getting down to freezing, they should do well there.

Mountain Series of Tomatoes

I found an interesting article this week about the breeder of the Mountain series of tomatoes, Randy Gardner. An online gardening buddy, Mike Williams, clued me into the Mountain Fresh variety a year or so ago. Mike was exploring early tomato varieties that had blight resistance, and he ran across the Mountain series.

We grew Mountain Fresh and Mountain Merit tomatoes last year for the first time on what has to be the worst soil of our various garden plots. Both produced lovely and tasty tomatoes for us. While hybrids, which come and go over the years, we're pretty impressed with what we've grown of the Mountain series.

Burpee Gardening

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Friday, March 20 - First Day of Spring

Our Senior Garden - March 20, 2015

Flat of onions
Trimmed onions

I celebrated the first day of spring today by giving our flat of onion transplants a haircut and moving some plants around a bit. The onions got trimmed back to about three inches in height to prevent them from getting leggy and falling over. They'll recover in a few days and begin putting on new growth.

One more hanging basket of petunias was ready to go outside today, making room on our dining room table for our flat of brassicas. I found a few cells amongst the cabbage, cauliflower, etc., where I hadn't thinned to one plant per cell. With the plants having pretty good root systems now, I didn't pull the extras for fear of damaging the remaining plant. I just cut off the extra stems with a sharp pair of scissors at soil level.

While the broccoli went on the dining room table in front of our bay windows, the trimmed onions went to our less accessible sunroom. Our cats have been known in the past to munch on onion transplants and worse, use the flat as a litter box!

The geraniums I transplanted to larger pots yesterday look great. And while I had the camera out, I snapped a shot of our garlic which has really greened up with the warmer weather.

Hanging baskets under porch Geraniums, ivy leaf geraniums, and brassicas Garlic

New Organic, Open Pollinated, Sugary Enhanced (se) Sweet Corn

I placed a small test order early this month with High Mowing Organic Seeds. They had the alfalfa inoculant I wanted at a good price that included shipping. Of course, I didn't get off with just ordering one item and ended up ordering some more Winter Density romaine lettuce seed and a new sweet corn variety.

I hadn't planned on growing sweet corn this season, as our large East Garden will be sitting fallow (well, growing the alfalfa) while I have and rehab from a hip replacement that can't be put off any longer. But I was able to make space in our plan for our main raised garden bed where I might grow just a little sweet corn.

The new sweet corn has the catchy name Who Gets Kissed? What really caught my attention was that the corn is open pollinated, but still a type of supersweet that germinates well in cool soil. We've exclusively grown sh2 supersweet varieties, mostly from Twilley Seeds, since our farming years in the 1980's when we grew acres of the stuff for roadside sales. While I love the sh2's for their sweetness and tight ear wrap, they don't germinate well in cool soil. So in a year when I'm not worrying about the isolation from other corns the sh2 supersweets require, trying a new variety presents some exciting possibilities.

Several online articles chronicle the collaborative development of the new Who Gets Kissed variety.

Since Who Gets Kissed is open pollinated, one can save seed from it for future crops. That's a good thing, as the seed is currently pretty expensive. But possibly even better is that the development team may continue to introduce more, similar but improved, open pollinated varieties.

Saturday, March 21, 2015 - Cold Frame

Plants under cold frameCold frame propped slightly openWhile not the warmest, we had possibly our nicest day of the spring so far today. With a high temperature of 67° F without the strong winds we often experience, it was a good day to get our cold frame covered with new, clear plastic.

After covering the frame, I remembered that I needed to rototill the spot where the frame rests, as the uneven ground would allow cold air to creep under the frame on cold nights. Our 21 year old senior tiller started after just a few pulls of the starter cord, although I did have to feed it a bit of starting fluid first. After tilling and raking the area, I was able to move a couple of trays of plants under the frame. Since it was fairly warm and sunny today, I left the frame propped slightly open so our transplants wouldn't cook. A closed cold frame on a sunny day can quickly generate temperatures well over 100° F! Once the sun began to set, I closed the frame completely to hold in the day's heat.

Nice, early spring days like today can be a bit dangerous for gardeners. A string of warm days with frost free nights can induce one to ignore the calendar and move things outside or even into the garden a bit too early. Such eagerness is often rewarded by having to bring plants back inside during frosts in March and April and covering plants already in the ground. I only risked onions and brassicas under our cold frame today, as both can withstand a light frost and both will go into the ground rather early next month. Plants such as our geraniums will go under the cold frame in a week or so when there is less chance of a predicted 31-32° night turning into a 26° disaster. (Our cold frame only protects down to around 28° F.)

And I already know from experience that we'll have a few nights between now and May when I'll need to bring in the hanging basket plants from our back porch. But they're pretty easy to move in and out.

Later - Dormant Oil

I took advantage of the warm temperature and somewhat calm wind this evening to get our first coating of dormant oil spray on our apple trees. The organic dormant oil works by smothering insects and insect eggs overwintering on apple trees. With three moderate sized apple trees, a gallon of the dilute spray took care of the job.

I'm hoping for a better apple crop this year than we've had in a while. We lost our standard Stayman Winesap tree years ago to fire blight. Our semi-dwarf Granny Smith tree barely survived the disease with some severe pruning of infected branches and a lot of antibiotic Fire Blight Spray (streptomycin), only to have a major limb ripped off by a wind storm two years ago.

I replaced our standard Stayman Winesap with a dwarf Stayman Winesap several years ago, but it has proved to be a slow grower, not producing any fruit as yet.

Our third apple tree actually sits just off our property at the edge of a field we take care of. It's a volunteer tree that grew where we once dumped cull apples. As apple trees from seed are not predictable in what kind of fruit they'll produce, this tree produces rather small apples that taste like red delicious with a bit of winesap attitude. We rarely get to pick and save apples from the tree, as most of its fruit gets picked and eaten right off the tree, often by a certain senior gardener riding around on a lawn mower.

Photos.com

Sunday, March 22, 2015 - Compost

Digging compost
Spreading compost on an asparagus bed

The weather wienies missed today, and it turned out to be a pretty nice day. I got out in the late afternoon and loaded our garden cart with finished compost. Since this compost was going to our asparagus bed instead of being used for potting mix or enriching soil around established crops, I really didn't have to screen it. Most of the undigested stuff and inorganic matter I could easily remove by hand.

The soil level of our raised asparagus bed has dropped a good bit over the last two years. Taking out asparagus spears and the stalks in the fall, along with normal settling, has the bed down about two to three inches from where I'd like it to be (and inch below the level of the surrounding landscape timbers).

So I started last week moving compost from our finished pile to the bed. One load a day is about all I can currently do, as I still wear out pretty easily after the fun and games with my heart in January and February. But rather than spread the compost thinly over the bed, I put a bunch of it at one end today, raising the soil level there to where I want it.

This task is a bit of a race, as I want the whole bed covered with a new two to three inches of compost before spears begin pushing up. I should have time to get it all done before Annie and I begin feasting on fresh asparagus from the garden early next month.

Growing Geraniums from Seed

Growing Seed GeraniumsIn 2009 and 2010, I decided to share my accumulated "wisdom" on growing seed geraniums in a blog. The experience turned out to be a humbling one, as I made repeated mistakes in germinating the geranium seed, augmented by some really inferior seed. The pages, remarkably, turned out to be some of the most popular on this site! Someone must have been linking to them as a bad example.

Rather than delete or try to hide the blogs, I left both of them in place. Others might learn something from my foolishness. But I also started a more cogent feature story on growing geraniums. As those things go, the article languished unfinished on my hard drive for over a year.

I got busy today and finished the rewrite of our geranium blogs into what I hope is an accurate and helpful how-to on Growing Geraniums from Seed. It didn't hurt any that we had excellent germination of both our old and new seed this year. Also helpful was that I'd snapped some smashing photos of geraniums over the last few years. Of course, it's too early this year to show current images of our geraniums under the cold frame or in the ground. We still have some very cold nights predicted for the rest of this month.

Our geraniums, both standard (now in 4 1/2 inch pots) and the trailing kind (in hanging basket pots) are now growing on our dining room table. Our more frost hardy brassica transplants and a tray of onions are under our cold frame, as they can withstand some pretty cold temperatures...and I want to get both of them in the ground early next month.

Geraniums on dining room table

Below are the links to our various geranium blogs, excerpted from our Features index page.

Growing Geraniums from Seed - I finally refined our previous blogs on growing geraniums from seed into more of a how-to on the subject. (March, 2015) Note that the older blogs remain, goofs and all.

  • Growing Geraniums from Seed - 2010 - If you have the right conditions, growing seed geraniums (geraniums from seed) is relatively easy. (January 22, 2010 - a discontinued, continuing horror story)
  • Growing Geraniums from Seed - 2009 - What should have been an easy "how-to" turned out to be an instructive lesson on nearly everything one can do wrong in starting geraniums from seed! (December 1, 2008 - another discontinued, continuing horror story)

Raised Beds

Tuesday, March 24, 2015 - Cold Weather

Mother Nature always seems to have a few tricks up her sleeve for us late in March. The last two years we've experienced fairly heavy snow and temperatures in the 20s around March 24-25. This morning, temperatures briefly dipped below freezing, although the weather forecasts for this area had said temperatures no lower than 35° F. Fortunately, I was up early and brought our hanging basket petunias inside before they were damaged. And since we live in a leaky, old house, the temperature under our back porch probably never approached freezing (porch thermometer said 39°).

I've been closely watching our weather forecast, as we have several frosty mornings coming with predicted low temperatures ranging from 22°-30° F. It appears that all the plants we've put outside, both those under the cold frame and our hanging basket plants, will get to come inside to keep us company over the weekend.

Gardening Just a Bit

Compost on asparagus bed

Compost piles
Bonnie's Asparagus Patch

I finished covering our raised bed of asparagus with compost yesterday. I spread two to three inches of the black gold, bringing the soil level almost up to the level of the timbers that enclose the bed. We're supposed to get some rain over the next few days, which should help settle the soil level to about an inch below the tops of the surrounding timbers.

Can you tell that I'm really excited about the prospect of picking fresh asparagus in a few weeks? big smile

I still have around 8 cubic feet of finished compost in the pile that will get spread over Bonnie's Asparagus Patch. The patch actually lies on our neighbor's ground, but we mow and take care of the area. Once I'm done shoveling compost from the finished pile, I need to pile up and somewhat turn our working compost pile. It has a winter's worth of only slightly decayed kitchen garbage in it, along with corn stalks, melon vines, tomato plants, etc., from last year's garden.

A couple of our dogs have had a strange, unpleasant odor to them recently. As I worked one compost pile yesterday, I saw two of the dogs taking turns laying on the working compost pile and realized that was where the odor was coming from.

Common (purple) sage in bloom
Sage surrounded with compost

I cut back our sage plants yesterday, a chore I should have done last fall. The oldest of the purple sage plants showed no life at all, but it's still early. The rest all showed signs of breaking dormancy. One sage plant is by our shallow well with the rest serving as corner and halfway markers in our East Garden. While we have all the dried sage we need on hand, I like growing sage around the East Garden, as deer are reported to not like the smell of it. All of the plants got a bit of compost spread around them.

Tomatoes, peppers, and dianthus upOur tomatoes and peppers started on March 15 have been up for several days. The rest of the planting did just so-so, with some of the lettuce requiring reseeding. On a lark, I had planted one insert cell with Earlirouge tomato seed saved in 1988. Amazingly, a plant came up from the seed!

While I was thinning and moving plants around, I also seeded some marigolds and snapdragons, something I'd neglected during the earlier seeding.

Speaking of seeding, one of my chores this morning before it started raining was broadcasting alfalfa seed over our East Garden. Half of the 80' x 80' plot is already in grass and alfalfa, but the part we gardened last year was bare, other than some weeds that had sprouted. Alfalfa really germinates better if lightly covered with soil, but I didn't have much choice in this seeding. The ground won't be dry anytime soon to rototill.

My original idea was to do the seeding over snow, but the snow melted while I was waiting for seed inoculant to arrive in the mail. When I was farming, I once seeded a snowy ten acre field to red clover and got an excellent stand of it. (That was in the days when the farm program paid you to set aside ground and not grow corn or beans on it, only an approved cover crop.) So maybe today's seeding will take. And if it doesn't, we'll just mow the weeds that grow all summer.

Another Experiment

I hadn't cut the stalks on a hosta plant last fall and noticed today that the seed pods still had seed sticking to them. So while clearing the old stalks, I also harvested the seed and later threshed it out. I'll seed it later today and see what happens.

Light House Mission

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Our Senior Garden - March 26, 2015First robin sighted in 2015After a mostly crummy, cloudy, cold, wet day, the sun came out just before sunset. Considering that we're supposed to get down to 27° F tonight and 17° F tomorrow night, we deserved a bit of sunshine.

All of our transplants are now inside, other than some sage plants that sat out all winter. While our cold frame might handle tonight's 27-28° low, it won't protect our plants tomorrow night if it gets down below 20.

I did see my first robin of the year late this afternoon, although my wife, Annie, burst my bubble by saying she'd seen lots of them lately in Terre Haute. My mother used to call seeing our first robin of the season a sign of spring. They are reported, however, to occasionally winter over in our area.

A bit of sunshine on our Senior Garden

Tax Software Troubles

The weather really wasn't totally responsible for making today a crummy day. I'd finished up our income taxes last night and filed them electronically, only to have our submission rejected. The report had something about my wife's PIN number and AGI not being right. Correcting them after Annie had called IRS didn't help, and I began to suspect that the import of our previous year's return by the H&R Block software I was using might be the problem.

Not wanting to fight things any further, I downloaded the familiar (to me) TurboTax Deluxe software and redid our federal and state returns this morning. The improvement financially between the two software programs was amazing. But sadly, the IRS still rejected our electronic filing. When I finally got through to a less-than-enthusiastic IRS agent who didn't even want to open our files, it became apparent that I needed to print and mail in this year's income tax returns.

I had some harsh words for Intuit, maker of TurboTax, in January, and I still think they're a rather greedy bunch. But I suspect that I've now had my last dalliance with H&R Block's tax software for some time.

Saturday, March 28, 2015 - Waiting Out the Cold

Our Senior Garden - March 28, 2015 Habitat for Humanity Web banners: Donate It got down to 22° F here last night. My cheapie max-min thermometer under our cold frame recorded 24° F overnight, not a lot of protection. Cold frames retain heat generated during the daytime to protect plants under them through cold nights. But when you have a rather cold, cloudy day, as we did yesterday, preceding a night with freezing temperatures, not much heat is built up to retain.

With a sunny day like we have today, our cold frame will get warm enough to provide 4-7° F of protection. We have another overnight low predicted to be in the low to mid-20s tonight. That's still too cold to trust our transplants to the cold frame, so they'll just have to spend another night or two indoors.

Garlic

Healthy looking garlic leavesTiny garlic shoots in nearly bare rowOur garlic keeps looking better every day. We had a couple of varieties that have been slow to emerge, but I'm now seeing shoots from them. The apparently bare row down the middle of our garlic patch now shows a few tiny shoots of the late, German Red garlic we planted there.

Once all of our garlic has emerged, I'll begin mulching the rows with grass clippings. The way our lawn looks now, I suspect that I may be able to use freshly cut grass clippings rather than the old, matted clippings I pulled off the garlic early this month.

Our garlic usually is ready to dig in early to mid-July, opening up a space in our main raised garden bed for a succession planting of some sort. Right now, our garden plan calls for kale to go in after the garlic is harvested. But that all depends on the weather and also on whether I'm mobile at that point or still rehabbing from hip surgery.

Producing Gloxinia Seed

Gloxinia bud maturing seed

Gloxinias and garden transplants under lights

Gloxinia bud maturing seed
Healthy stems feeding maturing seed

I hand pollinated some of our gloxinia blooms this winter, and it appears that a few of the blooms are going to mature seed. The seed heads shown above and at right are just about ready to crack open at the base and begin leaking seed. Sometimes hand pollination takes, and sometimes it doesn't. I complicated things this time around by including some hybrid Double Brocade gloxinias in the pollinating. Up until now, I've had no luck getting them to bear seed, but it appears that the pollination took this time. Of course, the plants could yield sterile seed or gloxinias that just aren't pretty. But I won't know until I try to grow out some of the seed produced.

One of the ways one can tell if a plant is maturing gloxinia seed in a bud is to watch the flower stem. If pollination has been successful, the stem will remain alive as it nourishes the maturing seed. And if the stem(s) discolor and get soft, you know that pollination didn't take.

As soon as the seed heads begin to leak seed, it's time to carefully trim the stem and set it aside to dry. I usually put them on white paper plates. Each bud may produce hundreds of seeds, but the seed is tiny, almost dustlike.

I give what I think are petty complete and easy to follow directions for this whole process in our feature story, Saving Gloxinia Seed. Note that one can also propagate gloxinias by leaf cuttings.

Kevin Maciunas, a lecturer at the University of Adelaide, sent me directions and photos last February of how he propagates gloxinias from flower stem cuttings. I tried his method and found that it worked, although I ended up killing my baby gloxinias created with his method. I need to try it again when I want an exact clone of a plant (also possible by leaf cuttings).

Some Tall, Tall Kale

Walking Stick KaleMy copy of the spring edition of The Heritage Farm Companion came in the mail this week. The Seed Savers Organization publication had an interesting article about growing Walking Stick Kale (aka Jersey Cabbage, Walking Stick Cabbage). While not the tastiest kale, the variety can grow to five or six feet in height in a season. If overwintered, it can reach ten to fifteen feet tall according to the Companion. While not something I might want to grow, I found the article an interesting diversion.

Since The Companion rarely gets posted online, let me share that there's an interesting tale about the variety, The Cabbage that is King: Brassica oleracae longata, on the Garden History Girl blog and another on Gardener to Farmer.

Seed for the unusual variety is available from a member of the Seed Savers Exchange, or commercially from Nichols Garden Nursery in the United States and Thompson & Morgan in the United Kingdom.

Note that the image at left isn't mine. It's one listed as a Creative Commons one free to use, but I also can't find any source of attribution. The image has also been widely used in seed catalogs and blogs.

I think that about does it for Senior Gardening for today.

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Sunday, March 29, 2015 - Getting Warmer

Our Senior Garden - March 29, 2015Growing GarlicThe weather is beginning to warm up a bit outside, but the wind is gusting at around 40 MPH today. But we're looking at a mix of warmer, sunny and rainy days in the current extended weather forecast. Considering that early this month we had a foot of snow on the ground and sub-zero temperatures, we're doing pretty well now.

Growing Garlic

For some reason, we didn't grow garlic in our garden until about ten years ago. That's strange, as we like garlic, and it is one of the easiest, most trouble free and productive crops one can grow in a home garden.

Possibly even stranger, I had neglected until today to put up a feature story or how-to about growing garlic. Although this might be the wrong time of year to publish something about growing garlic, as one generally plants it in the fall, I went ahead and put up Growing Garlic today.

I often work days, weeks (off and on), or months on a feature story for this site. Sometimes the words just won't flow, or I lack an image I feel is critical to a story. But this time around, I started writing about growing garlic on Friday, had the piece done late last night, and finished the editing and link checking this morning. Writing about garlic turned out to be as easy as growing it!

Master Gardening

Monday, March 30, 2015 - Filling Our Cold Frame

Hanging basket plants
Transplants under cold frame

Weather Underground 10-Day ForecastIt feels like spring has finally arrived today. It's warm (58° F) and sunny outside without the strong winds we've had of late. I turned off our furnace and opened windows pretty early in the day. Our extended weather forecast from the Weather Underground looks pretty good.

With our freezing nights possibly behind us, I began moving plants under our cold frame again today. Our tray of brassica transplants and a tray of onions had spent a couple of days and nights there earlier this month. Likewise, I'd hung some flowers in hanging basket pots for a few days on the back porch. When a series of cold fronts swept through, everything came back inside for almost a week.

So the trays of brassicas and onions along with a couple of trays of geraniums moved under our propped open cold frame this morning. I also got all of our hanging basket plants hanging from hooks on the porch. With the bright sun today, I'll need to keep an eye on soil moisture and the possibility of plants wilting.

With our brassicas and onions once again hardening officon, I can restart the timer for them toughening up enough to go into the ground in a week or so. Actually, the broccoli and cauliflower look almost ready. The onions, however, had a cat laying in them when I started to bring them down from the sunroom. They may need a few extra days to recover from the abuse.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2015 - Warm but Windy

Cold frame propped slightly openHanging basket plants on inside edge of porchWe're winding up March with another warm, sunny day, although the wind has picked up considerably over yesterday. To protect our plants from the wind, our cold frame is propped open only a few inches. And our hanging basket plants, much more subject to wind damage hanging from the porch, got moved to the inside edge of the back porch. Both the plants in the cold frame and the hanging baskets will still be getting a taste of outdoor weather, but protected a bit from today's strong winds.

Rooting More Cuttings and A Different Way to Sterilize Potting Soil

Cuttings rooted in waterI got carried away rooting cuttings from our Wandering Jew plant in the kitchen. Every time I'd prune it a bit, I'd pop the cutting into a jar of water that still contained cuttings we'd taken weeks ago. Noticing this morning that we had quite a jar of cuttings with water roots, I decided to permanently root the cuttings in hanging basket pots filled with sterile soil. I'm not certain sterile soil was really necessary for this process, as Wandering Jew stems are pretty tough, but I was being careful.

Not wanting to use our lighter soil sterilized for starting seed, I mixed some standard potting soil with peat moss to fill the ten inch pots. To sterilize the soil mix, I used a shortcut I've successfully used before. I simply poured lots of boiling water on the soil! It took two teapots full of boiling water to thoroughly soak the soil in the pots. I kept pouring until water began running out the bottom of the pots.

Boiling water used to sterilize soil Rooting Wandering Jew cuttings in potting mix

Once the soil had cooled, I made deep holes in the potting mix for the rather long cuttings. Each cutting, even though it had water roots, was dipped in Clonex Rooting Compound Gel and even had a bit more applied with a Q-tip at the stem joints to be buried. (Wandering Jew stems seem to put out their roots at the stem joints.) The rooting compound may really be a bit of overkill, as Wandering Jew stems will root pretty much without any rooting hormone.

After firming the soil around each cutting, I moved the tray to our dining room table. The cuttings will get a few days of sunshine with round the clock warmth there. Today's rooting brings us to four new Wandering Jew plants, plus the older plant that hangs in a kitchen window. One of the new plants will serve as a replacement for the beautiful plant in the kitchen, as Wandering Jew plants seem to lose their vigor and wear out after about a year and half.

One of the new plants, once it has filled out nicely, will go to our daughter who gave us our original Wandering Jew plant years ago. That plant is long since gone, but was the start for many annual cuttings that have continued the original plant's beauty and linage.

March Wrap-Up

March, 2015, animated GIFThe old English proverb about March coming in like a lion and going out like a lamb just barely proved true this year. We certainly had all the lion we wanted for most of the month and just barely got to the lamb the last two days. But we'll turn the calendar page from March to April with a couple of warm, sunny days before we get into April showers proverbs.

Precipitation (Inches)1
  2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 Ave.2
Jan.
1.29
2.51
6.33
3.20
0.84
2.48
Feb.
1.03
2.05
2.24
1.10
2.28
2.41
March
4.22
1.66
2.28
1.52
3.79
3.44
Totals3
6.54
6.22
10.85
5.82
6.91
8.33

1Data from Kinmerom2 weather station
2 Average precipitation for Indianapolis, IN
3 year to date

Speaking of showers, our March rainfall picked up to a little above average for the month. We're still a bit behind in yearly average, as January and February were both fairly dry months.

The big outdoor garden events for March for us included getting our early, tall peas in the ground, a first spray of dormant oil on our apple trees, and seeding our East Garden to an alfalfa cover crop. Our raised bed of asparagus got a healthy two to three inch covering of compost, although we have as yet to see our first spear of asparagus. And we got the mulch off our garlic as soon as the snow melted, revealing what may turn out to be our best crop of garlic in years.

Indoors and Under the Cold Frame

We have a gorgeous bunch of geraniums this year, both standard, seeded ones and a trailing variety. The regular geraniums got moved to four and a half inch pots and are now hardening off under our cold frame. They've done so well that I finally rewrote our feature story on Growing Geraniums from Seed. Our ivy leaf trailing geraniums are already in ten inch hanging basket pots hanging from our back porch along with a lots of trailing petunias. I also put up a new piece on Growing Garlic this month.

Our brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, etc.) and the eight varieties of onions we're trying this year are also under the cold frame and just about ready for transplanting in early April. I cleared out most of our stored onions last week, with only a few Copras and Jaune Paille Des Vertus still not sprouted and good enough for retention for table use. All of our remaining stored potatoes got soft, wrinkly, and put on long eyes this month before going to our working compost pile.

Our tomatoes and peppers for this year all germinated well, even one Earlirouge from some seed saved in 1988. The plants are still under our plant lights in the basement, but have put on their first true leaves and are looking very healthy. We also have a variety of flower starts still under our plant lights: more petunias; dianthus; impatiens; daisies; marigolds; snapdragons; and vinca.

February, 2015

April, 2015

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