Senior Gardening

One of the Joys of Maturity


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The Old Guy's Garden Record

April 15, 2019


Monday, April 1, 2019 - Let's Start Gardening

Our Senior Garden - April 1, 2019
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April and May are two of our busiest months in our garden plots. In April, we try to get all of our raised beds planted and mulched. In May, we plant our large East Garden plot with space hogs such as sweet corn and melons.

We'll begin by transplanting lettuce and our brassicas (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower). Both can stand and even thrive in cool weather. We'll also direct seed carrots and hopefully transplant onions, although our first tray of onion transplants is looking pretty sad these days from our cats laying in the tray.

As the weather warms, we'll move onto direct seeding and transplanting peas. Until this year, I've always waited to plant our short, supersweet peas. The varieties we grow, Eclipse and Encore, require fairly warm soil to germinate well. Instead of waiting until late April to direct seed the varieties, I started transplants inside where I could control the soil temperature before moving the pea plants into the garden. But we'll also direct seed some peas in the same row. One difference from years past is that the seed will be treated with Captan fungicide to prevent seed rot (and possibly discourage moles that strangely seem to like pea seed).

Towards the end of the month, we'll transplant our Earlirouge tomatoes and Earliest Red Sweet peppers into our main raised garden bed with their cages. We grow these varieties far away from the other tomatoes and peppers that will go into our East Garden plot in May, as we want to isolate them for seed saving. In a good year, both the Earlirouge and ERS varieties often supply all the tomatoes and peppers we want for fresh use, canning and/or freezing, and sharing with friends, family, and a local food bank.

I'll be planting lima beans this year, something we rarely grow but are loved by my lovely wife. After a disappointing experience with lima beans several years ago, I'm going to try trellising the limas which tend to runner and overrun surrounding crops. And of course, our tall, early peas will get a double trellis around them to protect them from the strong winds we get here. Our short peas will also get a short, single trellis to keep the pods up off the ground for seed saving.

All month long, we'll be replacing wooden row marker stakes at the end of our garden rows with a variety of flowers. Geraniums usually mark the corners of our three raised vegetable beds. We also like vincas, petunias, and marigolds to add color to our garden plots.

About mid-month, I'll hang our hummingbird feeders. We usually spot our first ruby throated hummingbird sometime late in the month.

If we're really lucky, soil conditions will dry enough so that we can rototill our large, East Garden plot. It mostly sat fallow last season after I tore the meniscus cartilage in both knees.

Inside, I'll continue to care for the transplants we've started. Eventually, they'll go under our cold frame or on our back porch until they go into one of our garden plots. This is also the month when we seed our melons, squash, and pumpkins, timed for transplanting sometime in mid-May.

We also have lots of gloxinia plants. Ones from an October seeding are now coming into bloom. Several of our older plants have broken dormancy and have leaves sprouting from their corms. They'll begin to bloom in a couple of months.

And of course, we anticipate beginning our annual four to six week long harvest of asparagus.

Garden Tower Project

 
 

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Transplants back under cold frameCallie Jo in plant trayOur weather forecast has old song titles running through my head. Phil Collins's One More Night and the Supreme's You Keep Me Hangin' On well describe winter hanging on morning after morning. I'd hoped to do a little transplanting today. With a predicted low for tomorrow morning of just 34° F, I'm going to settle for just moving our transplants back outside under our cold frame. By tomorrow, the last of our possible frosts may be over, and I may be able to begin planting.

With our dining room table cleared of plants other than a hanging basket I transplanted Double Cascade petunias into yesterday, our senior cat, Callie Jo, took over the open section of a plant tray left on the table.

Rain gaugeWhile I chose not to garden today, I did pound in six T-posts that will support a double trellis around our planting of tall, early peas. I also put our rain gauge in a temporary position. When I string the trellis netting, I'll have to pull and then remount the rain gauge.

Champion of England peas emergingThe reason for getting the T-posts in so early is that our Champion of England and Maxigolt peas are really pushing up through the soil now. Seeded on March 11, the peas will quickly put out tendrils that will attach to our trellis (when I get it hung). Our indoor seeding of short, supersweet peas in sixpacks are already putting out tendrils at less than six inches tall.

The short, supersweet Eclipse and Encore peas will get a single trellis, as they are short enough (less than three feet) that they aren't affected by the wind as much as our tall peas. I drove down to the Rural King in Vincennes on Monday to pick up some five foot tall T-posts for the short peas and also for some lima beans I'm going to try trellising. Most of our T-posts are six and seven footers that I use for our tall peas and anchoring our tomato cages that would blow over in the wind when topheavy with fruit.

I also have a whole bunch of snapdragons started that I'll put on the sunny side of each trellis. They'll bloom some and then get overgrown first by the peas for a time and again by a succession crop of cucumbers. The plants that survive that abuse will come into their own in the fall with spectacular displays of blooms. I like to grow snapdragons along our trellises, as the tall ones would get blown over by the strong winds we have here without some support.

Have I mentioned that we get a lot of wind here? grin

I actually did a tiny bit of gardening today. I couldn't resist thinning some of our row of spinach. When I seeded the row, the wet, treated seed clumped. I knew then that I was getting three, four, and possibly five seeds in a spot, but there seemed to be no way to separate the wet seed. So I'll thin the spinach when I think of it, eventually spacing the plants 6-12" inches apart. I can hardly wait for spinach salad, spinach omelets, and shrimp portofino made with fresh spinach from our garden.

Our garlic on April 2, 2019

As I was looking at our garlic in our main raised garden bed today, I realized that parts of the bed were really rough and needed tilling before planting. With the moist soil conditions we now have and rain in the near forecast, I'll have to go old school and loosen the soil with a hoe and rake it smooth before planting or transplanting. Fortunately, some sections of the bed were thoroughly tilled last fall.

With warming weather, I'm beginning to see weeds pop up. Most of them have been weeds that somehow overwintered in our garden beds, but I'm also seeing a few weeds germinate from seed. Taking the time to stop and pull weeds when I see them saves a lot of time and trouble later on.

Also with warming weather, I'm feeling the gardening juices beginning to flow. I'm getting up earlier each day anticipating doing fun gardening stuff. Unfortunately, by around one or two each day, I run out of gas and have to take a nap! I continue to be thankful for each day the Lord grants me to share life with my wife, family, and friends.

Burpee Seed Company

Wednesday, April 3, 2019 - Lettuce

Lettuce transplantedI transplanted fifteen lettuce plants into half of one of our narrow raised garden beds this morning. Transplanting all at one time may lead to a somewhat concentrated harvest. But since there were eleven different varieties planted, their varying days-to-maturity dates will spread things out a bit. We'll also take some plants as baby lettuce in a few weeks.

I also transplanted geraniums at the corners of the bed, three Mavericks and one Pinto.

The transplanting was pretty straightforward. I used a trowel to dig a small hole, poured in some dilute fertilizer solution, popped in the transplant, and firmed the soil around it. One concern I had with the planting was that I hit some mole tunnels when digging a couple of the holes. Moles go after worms and grubs, but they can do a lot of damage to plant roots when tunneling.

A final step in the planting was to spread some Repels All between the plants. It may keep our dogs and cats from digging in the bed.

I quit gardening pretty early today. This was my first test of being able to work while on my knees. I tore the meniscus cartilage in my knees early last gardening season. Today, I wore roofer's kneepadsicon and mostly worked on a foam kneeling pad. So far, I'm not experiencing any pain in the knees!

Botanical Interests Burpee Gardening Required Disclosure Statement: Botanical Interests, Burpee, and True Leaf Market are Senior Gardening affiliate advertisers. Clicking through one of our ads or text links and making a purchase will produce a small commission for us from the sale. We're also a consumer member of the Fedco Seeds Cooperative. True Leaf Market Fedco Seeds

Friday, April 5, 2019 - More Peas

Our raised beds are beginning to look a little fuller.

Raised beds (looking south)

With an overnight rain on the way yesterday, I hustled and got our supersweet peas transplanted yesterday. Because the Eclipse and Encore supersweet pea varieties don't germinate well in cool soil, I started a tray of transplants of them on March 12.

Short peas transplanted along short trellisSpinach beside double trellised tall, early peasTo begin preparing the row for the peas, I used a garden fork to loosen the soil down to eleven or twelve inches down. Then as I started to hoe in some granular inoculant, lime, and balanced fertilizer, I realized the soil was just barely dry enough to permit rototilling it. While most of our regular ground is too wet to work, our raised beds tend to dry out a lot quicker than surrounding areas.

Also, our main raised bed has a dry sump I installed smack dab in the center of it. Mid-summer, I often regret putting in the simple drain as our beds can turn bone dry. But in a wet spring, the simple four foot hole filled with sand does help dry out the center of the bed.

I raked the soil fairly smooth after tilling and then pounded in three five foot T-posts. After stringing a short, single trellis, I transplanted pea plants on either side of the trellis. Short pea varieties really don't require a trellis. Since we save seed from these pea varieties, we like to keep the pods up off the ground to prevent rot. With no isolation distance between the two varieties of short peas planted, any resulting saved seed will be a landrace variety with some crossing almost certainly happening.

I also direct seeded some treated Eclipse and Encore seed, in case the ground is warm enough to germinate the seed. And as always, I put in some snapdragon plants at the ends of the trellis.

Trellised short peas with garlic in the background

With my box of clothesline wire and trellis netting out, I also strung a double trellis around our tall early peas. I'd driven in the t-posts a day or two ago. I use plastic coated clothesline wire to hang our nylon trellis netting from. By this morning, the top strands of wire on the double trellis had relaxed enough that I had to go back and tighten them.

I tell more about how we grow our peas in Another Garden Delicacy: Homegrown Peas.

While it's stopped raining, and I have broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower transplants ready to go into the ground, I'm taking today off from gardening. It's cool outside today, a full ten degrees lower than yesterday. The ground is pretty wet, and...six straight hours of serious gardening yesterday have left this pudgy seventy-year-old gardener a bit stiff and sore.

Botannical Interests

Saturday, April 6, 2019 - Your Annual Nag about UV ExposureThe Senior Gardener

Sitting at the kitchen table cutting down old paper coffee cups to use as cutworm collars later today, I thought to check the predicted UV Index for today on my laptop. It's just April 6, but afternoon UV ratings are predicted to reach an 8 out of 10 on the danger scale.

Up until today, I had just been using my sun hat, gloves, and whatever else I had on to keep me warm to block out the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. But with warmer weather arriving, I dug my sun protective shirts out of an upstairs closet and brought them downstairs for another summer of use.

I'm acutely aware of the dangers of sun exposure, as I've had more than a few skin cancers removed over the years and regularly have to use a rather expensive fluorouracil cream product on potential cancers. Being fair skinned, having gotten several severe sunburns during my childhood, and then riding a tractor for eight years with a thin T-shirt on when I was farming, I'm probably experiencing just what I deserve.

Beyond getting appropriate medical care, protecting oneself from UV radiation while still being able to do the outdoor things we gardeners love is a major concern. The CDC notes that the hours between 10 A.M. and 4 P.M. (Daylight Saving Time) are the most hazardous for UV exposure outdoors, with UV rays being greatest during the late spring and early summer in North America. Heavy clouds do filter out some UV, but not as much as you'd think.

The trick for we senior gardeners prone to actinic keratoses and/or skin cancers is to find ways to garden without exposing ourselves to too much UV radiation. Keeping in mind the CDC recommendations and checking UV scales often posted on weather sites can guide one on when it is safest to work outside. But not all jobs can be done in the early or late hours of the day. For me, mowing is one of those jobs where I have to be out in the sun at peak UV hours.

Steve's sun gearI've come to rely on sun protective clothing, and to a lesser extent, sunscreen,icon for protection from the sun when working outside, even in low UV hours. In the early spring, I start wearing one of several sun protective shirts and bucket hats when I'm outside, even when going shopping! Since we live in a windy area, I appreciate the chin strap on some of the hats to keep me from having to chase them across the yard. My "sun gear" hangs just inside the back door to remind me to put it on.

When I get into serious gardening in warm weather, I generally wear a T-shirt with a sun protective shirt over it along with a hat. And since I've had cancers in and on my hands, I wear gloves almost all the time when working outside.

At one time, Coolibar was the only show in town for sun protective garments. With more emphasis on skin cancer in recent years, other entities such as Columbia, the REI Co-op, UV Skinz, and others have entered the market. Hopefully, such competition will eventually reduce the prices on sun protective gear, which until recently has been quite expensive.

Here are some related links about UV radiation and protective clothing:

Transplanting Brassicas

I transplanted our broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower plants today. I'd tilled and pH tested the area to be planted earlier this week. The soil pH was about 6.8, the lower end of the acceptable 6.8-7.0 range for brassicas.

So when I started out this morning, soil prep, other than raking the bed smooth, was all done.

I first staked and strung the two rows to be planted. Then I went down the rows digging planting holes 18" apart for the broccoli and 20" apart for the cauliflower. I sprinkled lime in and around the holes to help ward off clubroot and also added about a half handful of 12-12-12 fertilizer before working it into the bottom of the holes with a hand trowel.

Rows strung, Brussels sprouts in Cutworm collars in place marking planting spots Planting complete

I watered the holes with some starter solution made up of Quick Start and Maxicrop fertilizers. Then I refilled the holes with the loose soil previously dug and positioned a paper cup cutworm collar at each planting site. I added more starter solution to each cup, making the soil in each one quite muddy (on purpose).

The planting was just a matter of carefully removing each plant from its sixpack cell and squishing it into the mud in the cutworm collars and filling the collar cups to the brim with soil. A Brussels sprouts plant went at the west end of each planting row. I've not had much success growing Brussels sprouts in the past, but was growing them in the so-so soil of our East Garden plot. Planted with our broccoli and cauliflower, I may do a better job of spraying with Thuricide to keep cabbage looper and small white cabbage worms off the plants.

Our Brussels sprouts and cauliflower plants were nine weeks old, so they were a little big for transplanting and probably didn't really need cutworm collars. In contrast, our broccoli plants were a bit over five weeks old and a bit frail. I had split the seeding times of the cauliflower and broccoli attempting to get both to mature around the same time. I doubt that I'll try that one again.

The cutworm collars will come off after 5-10 days. It only takes that long for the brassicas' stems to toughen up enough to resist cutworms. Ah, but rabbits will gladly feast on tender young brassicas. So as a final step, I sprinkled Repels All over and around the planting. It does a fair to good job of keeping rabbits (and dogs) away from areas planted.

The varieties transplanted today were:

Our how-to feature story, Growing Great Broccoli and Cauliflower, gives a little more in depth information about growing brassicas from seeding to harvest to storage.

Renee's Garden

Monday, April 8, 2019 - Planting

I'd been considering a late change for one part of our garden plan for several days. Our previous starts of onions aren't doing well and won't be ready to go into the garden for some time, if ever. When we had our transplants on our dining room table on some cold nights, our cats laid on the onions and pretty well did them in.

Narrow bed with carrots seeded, celery transplanted, lettuce, and geraniumsCelery transplantedBut it wasn't so much onions I was considering, as I can always buy onion plants or sets. I also started another tray of onions that might go in a bit late. We always grow our spring carrots between double rows of onions. I love the way they look as they mature. I think the onions help ward off carrot weevils. And each fall, we have lots of spring carrots to discard when our fall carrot harvest comes in.

I'd already planned to cut our spring carrot planting back by half. With lots of fall carrots still in our fridge that are quite usable, although a bit hairy, I decided to cut down our carrot planting today and use the extra space for celery.

Six Ventura celery plants went into the raised bed. I planted three of them right at ground level, while the other three were planted in a shallow trench to facilitate using soil and grass clippings to blanch the celery stalks.

I have little experience and even less success at growing celery. The last time I tried growing it, we got one or two nice sets of stalks before the celery turned bitter in the summer heat. So I'll leave it to others to give advice on growing good celery.

Carrots

How We Grow Our CarrotsWhat in the past had been a fifteen foot double row of carrots in the spring got cut down to about a five and a half foot double row today. If all goes well, that should give us plenty of carrots until our fall crop comes in.

I used a piece of scrap lumber to make two shallow furrows for the carrot seed. Then I carefully tried to space the seed in the row leaving an inch or so between seeds. I actually did better than usual in spacing the seed today, as I often get way too much of it in the ground and have to thin a lot.

And writing of thinning, I did a second thinning of our row of Abundant Bloomsdale spinach today. Since I soaked and then treated the seed with Captan, it was a sticky mess when I seeded it into the row. I'd done a rough thinning last week. By today, the plants were putting on their first true leaves and were ready for another thinning. I'll need to thin the spinach at least one more time to get the plants spaced to around 8-12" apart.

Getting back to seeding carrots, I covered the seed very lightly with soil. I firmed the soil first with my hand and then with the same piece of scrap lumber I'd used to make the furrows. I left the board over the planting to hold in soil moisture and also to deny weed seed the light some of it needs to germinate. I'll be watering the carrot seeding once or twice days when it doesn't rain until the carrots germinate and emerge.

The carrot varieties seeded were Laguna, Mokumicon, Napoli, Nelson, Naval, and Yaya. A couple of the varieties came from overseas seed sources. And two of the varieties, Napoli and Naval, are more fall varieties that I wanted to try in the spring anyway.

Our how-to, How We Grow Our Carrots, gives a lot more information on growing, harvesting, and storing carrots.

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Beets

I poked three or four beet seeds in between each of our cauliflower plants today. I'd done so last year, but forgot about them and mulched over them! Beets seem to intercrop well with brassicas, so I hope to get some nice ones this year. I like Harvard beets and love pickled beets, but sadly, no one else in our family likes beets of any kind...even on salads! The beet varieties were Bulls Blood, Merlinicon, and Pacemaker III.

Note that one can also grow beets from transplants. For years, I started a few beets inside and transplanted them along with our carrots and onions. When my family's aversion to beets at dinner became an issue, I gave up starting transplants.

Asparagus

Thin, seedling asparagus upFatter, pickable asparagusWhen walking the garden yesterday with a friend, she noticed some very thin asparagus shoots that my old eyes didn't see at first. Further examination revealed several thicker stalks coming up. I'll leave the thin, seedling stalks alone, as picking them might kill their roots. In a day or two, we'll begin picking the fatter stalks when they get about six inches tall.

I've grown asparagus over forty years at two different locations. It takes time and a bit of work to get a patch started, but it is well worth the effort.

Growing Asparagus is my effort at helping folks grow asparagus.

Hummingbirds

I hung a single hummingbird feeder today on our back porch amongst our hanging basket plants. We saw our first hummingbird last year on April 19, so I don't expect any action at the feeder just yet. But you never know!

Sadly, hummingbirds.net is no longer tracking the ruby throated hummingbird migration. The writer of the site lost the use of the once free, anonymous Google map API which put his site out of business. An alternative mapping source is at:

https://maps.journeynorth.org/map/?year=2019&map=hummingbird-ruby-throated-first.

Comment

It was actually spring today. I had the heat turned off and windows open in the house. Of course, I had to wear my sun protective gear while gardening this morning. But it was a gorgeous day for being outside with temperatures in the 60s with just a little breeze.

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Tuesday, April 9, 2019

I'm backing off on plantings for a few days. I took the temperature of the soil in our raised bed today. It was 58° F, easily in the safe range to direct seed lima beans or transplant tomatoes and peppers. But we have a couple of mornings coming with predicted lows in the mid-30s. I'd rather wait a few days to play it safe. Our Earlirouge tomato and Earliest Red Sweet pepper transplants were started with an anticipated transplanting date around the end of April. Those plants, even though hardening off nicely, aren't quite big enough to go into the ground yet.

AmazonHerb garden weededA pause in planting our raised beds has allowed me to turn my attention to other projects around our home. Yesterday, I used my CobraHead weeder to clear out some nasty grass that was threatening to take over our raised herb bed around our shallow well. Actually, the grass was in the fight of its life on one side of the well where our oregano plants have emerged from dormancy. I have to cut the oregano frequently to keep it from taking over the whole bed.

So far this spring, I've hardly touched the flowerbeds in front and at the side of our house. I have some short daisy transplants about ready to go into the ground at the side of the house and dianthus for the front beds. I have more daisies, tall ones, ready to go into what was once an isolation plot towards the back of our yard. The isolation plot became the gravesite for a beloved dog that passed, so growing veggies on it is out. But Mac, the dog, can be pushing up daisies for years to come. Our previous planting of them didn't take, so I dumped four forty pound bags of commercial topsoil and a bale of peat moss on the site. Once the ground dries enough for me to till it, the Gloriosa and Shasta daisies will go in.

Spinach, snapdragons, and tall peas

SpinachAnother job I hadn't gotten around to also got done yesterday. While I'd put a few snapdragons along our trellises, I still had lots of transplants left. So I liberally transplanted them on the sunny side of our tall pea trellis. The peas and later, cucumbers, will overgrow the snapdragons at timse. But the lovely flowers are hard to kill and usually survive such abuse giving us some blooms over the summer and a wealth of blooms in the fall.

I also did another thinning of our row of Abundant Bloomsdale spinach. The plants are now putting on their first true leaves, and I'm working towards spacing the plants 8-12" apart. I'll still need to thin them at least one more time to achieve that spacing. I'm dreaming of spinach salad, spinach omelets, shrimp portofino (with lots of spinach), and good old boiled spinach.

Mentioning things to come, I snapped off five or six nice asparagus shoots this afternoon. That's certainly not enough to make a meal or even a small sidedish, but it's a start.

Before pruning Mulberry tree after pruning

I got a job done today that I'd been putting off for some time. A volunteer mulberry tree that grew in what was once a tractor tire sandbox has bedeviled me with its low branches when mowing. I'd love to cut the tree down, but my wife would have a fit. So I pruned it today so I could mow around the tire. I may come back and get some other limbs higher up, as the tree is a real pain.

After moving the branches to our burn pile, I came in with numerous scratches and cuts from the nasty limbs I had moved. I thought to myself, "This is work for someone younger."

I wouldn't mind if the weather turned dry for a week to ten days so I could till our East Garden plot. Being April, that's not very likely, which is why we plant our raised beds in April and the East Garden in May (or June in really wet springs).

With the return of warm weather, my wife, Annie, and I are spending many pleasant minutes sitting on the glider on our back porch enjoying the wonder of God's creation. I still begin and end each day with thanks to Him for the life we live.

Raised beds from south to north - April 9, 2019

Burpee Gardening Supplies & Gifts

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Our Senior Garden - April 10, 2019A2 Web HostingWe've had another wonderful spring day today. It was warm with a moderate breeze. While I didn't get any serious gardening done today, I did do the first mowing of the property we take care of. Our lot is 1.33 acres, but we also care for some ground behind and beside us that pushes our weekly mowing to around 3 acres. I got it all done today and also swept up grass clippings for garden mulch and our compost pile.

Mowing today was easy, as we replaced our old John Deere X570 last summer with a new, what else, John Deer X570.

A note about the ad at right. We switched to A2 Hosting six months ago. So far, we've been pretty happy with their hosting and service.

After riding the mower for four hours, I'm going to go take a nap.

Botanical Interests Burpee Gardening Required Disclosure Statement: A2 Hosting, Botanical Interests, Burpee, and True Leaf Market are Senior Gardening affiliate advertisers. Clicking through one of our ads or text links and making a purchase will produce a small commission for us from the sale. We're also a consumer member of the Fedco Seeds Cooperative. True Leaf Market Fedco Seeds

Thursday, April 11, 2019 - Apple Grafting

Winsap grafted onto Geneva 222 rootstockAnother grafted apple treeAbout four weeks ago I grafted a couple of scions taken from our young Stayman Winesap apple tree onto some rootstock I'd bought last spring. To my pleasant surprise, both grafted sections are showing green growth on them.

An attempt at grafting last spring failed, probably because I tried doing it too late in the spring. But I fortunately had two unused rootstocks that I grew out in nursery tubs. Both were Geneva 222 rootstock. I specifically chose this semi-dwarfing rootstock for its resistance to fire blight which took our original Stayman Winesap tree. As a bonus, I read just today that Geneva 222 is also resistant to Phytophthora root rot which took our Granny Smith tree last summer.

There are obviously lots of things that can go wrong yet with this grafting, but I've already gotten further along in the process than last year. And after having some initial success with our old Stayman Winesap and Granny Smith trees, I'd love to have our own apples again.

Asparagus

Today's asparagusRenee's GardenI didn't pick asparagus yesterday, but found around nine or ten more shoots to snap off today. I rinse the asparagus and save it in the fridge in a green bag until we have enough for a meal. I suspect lots of other gardeners are experiencing the same delight I have at finding good asparagus at this time of year.

Weather

It was quite warm here today (78° F), but with 40-50 mph winds! I put our cold frame down over our transplants to protect them from the strong winds. I propped the frame open a bit with a six inch block so it wouldn't get too hot under the frame in case the sun came out. (It didn't.) Our hanging basket plants all got moved against the house on our back porch.

Hanging basket plants in protected area

After I took the photo above and went to check our grafted apples, I found one hanging basket had blown off the porch but wasn't harmed. I secured it in place with a bag of potting mix.

Things could be worse. The northern midwest is experiencing a late winterish storm that is dropping snow and ice over the region.

The Home Depot

Saturday, April 13, 2019 - Transplanting Onions

Lettuce, celery, onions, and seeded carrotsCloseup of transplanted onionsWith our tray of onion transplants having fallen prey to cat abuse, I bought a small bundle of Walla Walla sweet onions at Walmart yesterday. I transplanted them into one of our narrow raised beds on either side of our seeding of carrots. As usual, I spaced the double rows four to five inches apart and put the onion plants about four to five inches apart in the row. In a good year, Walla Wallas can grow to an enormous size.

Towards the end of one double row after I ran out of Walla Wallas, I put in a sad mix of what was left of our original trays of onions.

Perversely, a late, replacement tray of onion transplants has emerged under our plant lights, and the plants are growing quite well. I have no idea where I'll put these onions, but need to find a space. While Walla Wallas are great, they only store well for a couple of months. The late tray of onions has some good storage varieties in it.

Late tray of onion transplants

Onion Links

Weather Concerns

I'm more than a little bit worried about the potential survival of the lovely lettuce shown above left. While most of what we've put in our garden plots so far are fairly frost hardy, our lettuce (and celery) could take a real hit from a freezing morning predicted for Monday. I've vacillated between doing nothing, covering the lettuce bed with a floating row cover, or using Hot Kaps to protect the lettuce. Obviously, I'll have to decide tomorrow on what to do. And ironically, the predicted frost comes one day after our frost free date!

Other Stuff

Maxigolt and Champion of England tall peas between a double trellisOur early, tall peas are now growing rapidly. I'm often surprised by the vigor of the Champion of England and Maxigolt varieties we grow. After a massive germination failure last year, these peas are a delight to my eyes. In a month or so, they'll provide a delight to the palate.

Baby spinach

Squeezed in beside the pea trellis is a row of Abundant Bloomsdale spinach. The plants are now putting on their first true leaves. Those leaves look like very small baby spinach, which is what they are. We'll soon be picking spinach for fresh use and possibly for canning. Later on, we'll let the plants produce seed to save for future crops. This crop is from seed saved in 2017.

Spinach plants are a little funny. They can be male, female, or both! With a fifteen foot row of Abundant Bloomsdale this year, we should have enough pollinators and receptors to produce another good seed crop of the relatively new Organic Seed Alliance variety. And of course, each year we produce our own seed, it is more adapted to our growing conditions. While we offer our somewhat adapted Abundant Bloomsdale spinach seed via the Grassroots Seed Network and the Seed Savers Exchange, we recommend ordering seed for those outside our region from distributors such as the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and High Mowing Organic Seeds that offered the seed early on.

Commentary

This is a truly exciting time of year for gardeners. I have an interesting job or two to do each day in our garden plots. Today, it was transplanting onions. But when transplanting the onions, I was aware of seedling weeds emerging that will need to be pulled or scratched out in coming days in all of our raised beds.

In full retirement, having something important to do each day is a blessing. It gets one outside and keeps one/me involved and mentally sharp.

Gardening as a senior citizen is a blessing that I need to be eternally thankful for. Having lost a family member this week to Alzheimer's/dementia reminds me to thank the Lord daily for his blessings and sharpness of mind.

Target

Sunday, April 14, 2019 - Hot Kaps

Our Senior Garden - April 14, 2019Hot Kaps on lettuce plantsApril 14 is supposed to be our frost free date for this area. Of course, such data is an average of climatic conditions over many years with last frosts coming earlier and later than that date. Our morning low tomorrow is predicted to be 32° F, easily low enough to produce a damaging frost to our lettuce plants.

So my first gardening job of the day was to dig out my collection of old, used Hot Kaps and the anchor pins to hold them in place. On the way back to the house from the garage, I closed our cold frame and squished its base into the mud to seal in as much heat as possible.

Then it was out to the garden to cover our lettuce. It turned out that I had just enough Hot Kaps to cover all the lettuce. I moved soil over the edges of the hot kaps to seal them down a little better.

Our celery and geranium plants won't get any frost protection. It might not get as cold as predicted, and I have enough geraniums under our cold frame to replace any that get killed by frost. Sadly, I've put out all the celery plants we have, so I'm hoping we'll get lucky, and they'll make it through the cold hours tomorrow morning.

Hanging basket plants on porchHanging basket plants on dining room tableI also needed to protect the long row of hanging basket plants that have lined the house along our back porch. I moved those plants there several days ago for protection from the strong winds we've experienced. While our old farmhouse leaks a good bit of heat to the porch, I decided to play it safe and bring all the hanging baskets back inside for the night. I was glad that I'd built up my inventory of Perma-nesticon trays. Besides using them for our transplants, I use them to protect our dining room table from any drippage from the hanging basket pots.

While shopping at Walmart, I couldn't help myself and picked up a couple of hanging basket plants. I wanted a red wax begonia but settled for a regular red blooming begonia and a trailing verbena.

The addition of the two purchased plants takes us to ten hanging basket plants. With fifteen hooks on our back porch, I could still add another plant. Three of the back porch hooks are reserved for hummingbird feeders.

Most of our hanging basket plants are petunias. We also have a couple of wandering jews and one vinca. What I didn't get going this year was a pot of trailing impatiens. Our seed had all gone bad. But with all the plants we have, there will be lots of color on our back porch to please us and attract hummingbirds.

Hummingbird Feeders

Monday, April 15, 2019

Our Senior Garden - April 15, 2019Weather Underground Extended ForecastWe apparently got by last night without a frost. Area weather sites recorded morning lows of 33-34° F. Our frost protection made my first gardening job today to open our cold frame. On a bright, sunny day such as today, temperatures under a closed cold frame can soar. Moving our hanging basket plants from our dining room table to hooks on our back porch and pulling the hot kaps I'd put over our lettuce plants undid the last of our frost protection measures. While the lettuce looked great, the hot kaps looked pretty sad after several uses and had to be pitched.

Starting Melons and Squash

We're at best about four weeks away from being able to transplant melons into our East Garden plot. More than temperature, soil moisture really controls when I can till and plant. And in April and May in west central Indiana, who knows if it's going to be wet or dry? Our current extended weather forecast has lots of rain in it.

Possibly with some false confidence about future soil moisture conditions, I started eight varieties of watermelon, six of cantaloupe, four honeydew, and one variety of yellow squash today. In all, I ended up seeding twenty-two four and four and a half inch pots. I prefer to start multiple plants in pots larger than inserts. Doing so seems to lessen transplant shock and establishes a nice hill of one to three plants. For our butternut squash and pumpkins which I didn't start today, I use six inch pots or ten inch bulb pans to start four or five plants per pot. The downside of using larger pots is that you go through a lot of expensive potting soil with such a planting. I had to sterilize soil twice today, as I kept running out of it.

Seeded potI was so busy with the planting and some other chores, I forgot to take any photos of the seeding. But there's lots of shots of melons from seeding to harvest in our how-to feature story, Growing Great Melons on Heavy Clay Soil.

2011 Melon PatchI planted lots of varieties, mostly one pot of each. For watermelon, it was Ali Baba, Blacktail Mountain, Congo, Crimson Sweet, Farmers Wonderful (triploid), Kleckley Sweets, Moon & Stars, and Trillion (triploid). I had planned to seed some Picnic, but found I was out of seed for the variety. One pot of Moon & Stars started was the Cherokee type, but a second pot was of seed we saved several years ago that may have crossed with who knows what.

Our cantaloupe varieties seeded are Athena, Avatar, Roadside Hybrid, Sarah's Choice, Spear, and Sugar Cube.

Honeydew varieties seeded include Boule d'or, Kazakh, Passport, and Tam Dew. Despite its rave descriptions on the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds site, the Boule d'or variety has always disappointed us. It usually grows well, puts on blooms and sometimes sets fruit, and then dies. I've decided our growing conditions for the variety just aren't right for the variety, but started a pot anyway when I realized that I was out of Picnic watermelon seed.

The one squash variety started was Slick Pik yellow squash. It's been an outstanding producer for us, although the plants wear out pretty fast. I usually start more of the variety when I transplant some into our garden, repeating the process several times to ensure a full summer's supply of the delicious squash.

All of our melon pots went over soil heating mats. The tray with the triploid (seedless) watermelons had its thermostat set to 85° F, although it's struggling to get much above 78° F. Seedless watermelon varieties seem to benefit from strong bottom heat.

Not all the varieties started will germinate well. Some of the seed is getting pretty old despite having been kept in frozen storage. But I've started enough that we should have plenty of transplants when things dry out enough to permit transplanting. I generally don't do a second seeding of back-up plants, resorting to direct seeding hills of melons where the transplants have failed. Such late seedings often give us a nice late crop of melons.

We're not quite done with starting transplants. I need to seed a couple of trays of sweet corn (Silver Queen and Who Gets Kissed?) to give them a head start over our direct seeded sh2 supersweet varieties. Doing so will isolate the transplanted varieties by time from pollinating the sh2 varieties and spoiling their sweetness.

There are a few other transplants to start, but we're mostly ready to go gardening when the weather permits.

Garden Tower Project

Tuesday, April 16, 2019 - Weeding

Fiskars Hand Cultivator
Cobrahead Weeder and Cultivator

My only successful gardening chore today was weeding our asparagus patches. Our raised bed of asparagus has had lots of tiny seedling weeds coming up for a week or two. I've worked at pulling them as I snapped off asparagus shoots, but the bed needed a thorough weeding today. Bonnie's Asparagus Patch, a second patch on adjacent property we don't own but care for, was getting overgrown with small weeds.

So on a gorgeous but windy morning, I got out my two best weeding tools. Our Fiskars Softouch Hand Cultivator came in a set with two trowels, but I'm glad to see that The Home Depot carries the item individually. The L-shaped head of the cultivator is ideal for just scratching the top inch or so of soil to pull out small weeds. I used it almost exclusively in our raised asparagus bed to disturb small weeds while being careful not to damage emerging asparagus shoots.

While I made good use of the Friskars Cultivator in Bonnie's Asparagus Patch, I frequently had to employ our CobraHead Weeder and Cultivator for some stubborn, deeper rooted weeds. While pulling up some wild onion/garlic, I did get into the asparagus roots a couple of times!

After weeding the asparagus, I moved on to lightly fertilizing, cultivating, and mulching our garlic. That effort quickly proved futile, as the strong winds kept blowing the grass clipping mulch everywhere. Since our garlic doesn't have many weeds showing, I left that job for another day.

This kind of weeding for me is an on ones hands and knees job. With my iffy knees, I now only do this kind of work with a sponge kneepad and knee pads on. Wearing the kneepads is a real pain, but allows me to garden without messing up my knees again. And nailing emerging weeds is a whole lot better than having to dig them out when they get some size on them.

Mowing...Briefly

I wanted to mow our grass today, but five minutes into the job I got our mower stuck in the mud. After finding my old log chain, I used our truck to pull the mower out of the weeds. When I resumed mowing, I immediately ran through several wet spots and decided mowing was another job for another day.

REI Outlet

Monday, April 22, 2019

It's been a busy time, so busy that I haven't made a posting here in almost a week. My father-in-law, Charles "Tink" Wyatt, passed away and I spent two days on the road going to and coming home from his funeral. My wife, Annie, stayed in Illinois to help her mom for a week, making things here a bit lonely but very busy. So I'll try to catch up today on what has been going on in our garden.

Daisies

Daisies transplantedDaisies, back yard, and houseI'd previously tried planting daisies first beside our house and later, at the back of our yard in what was once an isolation plot. The soil there is nasty gray clay right up to the soil surface. I had put half a bale of peat moss and four bags of commercial topsoil on the area weeks ago, intending to till it into the clay soil. As things turned out, it's been and apparently will be too wet for any tilling of the soil for some time.

So today, armed with half a cart of screened compost, I started transplanting daisies into the old isolation plot. I used a shovel at times and a trowel other times to dig holes, backfilling them with compost. Then I watered each hole with transplant solution before squishing a daisy into the mud and firming up the soil around it.

The daisies were Gloriosa Daisies, some of which I'd wintered over inside from last summer, and Alaska Shasta Daisies. Both are tall varieties which I mistakenly planted by our house several years ago only to have them fall all over the sidewalk next to the flowerbed.

When I finished transplanting the daisies, I moved on to using our lawn sweeper to collect grass clippings for mulch. The first load of clippings from yesterday's mowing went around the daisies to conserve soil moisture and hold back weeds.

Most of my afternoon was filled with mowing the field next to us. It took far longer than usual, as the field was really bumpy, making mowing fast impossible. Riding on a relatively new mower on a sunny, 70 degree day with a nice breeze is tough work, but somebody's got to do it.

Other Stuff

I moved our tomato transplants for our East Garden outside last week. Our late tray of onions also went out. Both are doing well under our cold frame which I often have to keep partially closed to protect the plants from some unusually strong winds we've had of late. The seed in all of the pots of cauliflower, squash, and watermelon I seeded last Monday have emerged. Even though some pots only had one sprout, I was pleased with the result, as I was using mostly old seed.

Asparagus

I'm picking asparagus every day or every other day now. When Annie was at her mom's, I had a grilled steak, asparagus, and a spinach salad one night for dinner. While our spinach isn't yet ready for picking, the store bought spinach wasn't bad. I couldn't eat all of the T-bone, but devoured a dozen spears of asparagus smothered in garlic and Parmesan.

Grilling steak and asparagus Spinach salad Dinner

The leftover steak got mixed in with some chicken tonight in a delicious recipe from A Taste of Home, Asparagus Beef Saute. I departed from the recipe a bit by adding some teriyaki sauce.

Pulling Cutworm Collars and Mulching

I pulled the cutworm collars from our brassicas on Saturday. Doing so is a fairly easy, if time consuming job. I use a pair of quality shears to cut down each side of the paper cup cutworm collar, fork my fingers around the plant, and pull the paper cups out of the ground.

I ran into a couple of problems when pulling the collars. One or more of our dogs had dug up a couple of plants while going after moles. Since I caught the problem early on and re-set the plants in the ground, I think they'll be okay.

A second problem was of my own making. When transplanting our broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, I set the top of the cutworm collars about an inch and a half above the surrounding soil level. But I also filled each collar around the plants to the top of the cup. Of course, when I pulled the collars, the plants' soil level was an inch or so above the surrounding soil.

Since our ground was quite wet, I was able to push most of the plants down to the surrounding soil level. In cases where that didn't work, I mounded soil around the plant.

Mulched brassicas and garlic

After pulling the cutworm collars, I sprinkled a little balanced fertilizer on the soil surface before mulching around the plants with an inch or so of grass clippings.

While our paper cup cutworm collars are really effective in preventing cutworm damage, they also limit the plants' lateral root growth. Looking back, I should have pulled these collars several days earlier.

I'd started mulching our garlic last week, only to be defeated by high winds. With the ground really wet on Saturday, I completed the mulching which should smother a lot of emerging seedling weeds. Pushing the grass clippings into the wet soil sort of anchors the mulch. As I did last week, I sprinkled just a little balanced fertilizer around the plants. That should do them for the time being, but they may need some liquid nitrogen a bit later in the season.

Compost

I've just about finished off our compost pile from last year. Undigested material goes onto this year's pile. What little precious compost I have left will probably go around our short peas, Bonnie's Asparagus Patch, and on the sites where we'll grow butternuts and pumpkins this season. I did use about two cubic feet plus of compost to raise the soil level in our raised herb bed around our shallow well.

Getting Old

I'm finding that about four hours of gardening each day is about my current limit. After a winter of relative inactivity, I often have to take a day or two off after a tough day of gardening or travel to let protesting muscles relax and recover. It's a constant battle trying to come to peace with the aging process, but I continue to thank the Lord each day for life, my family, and the ability to be outdoors doing the things I love to do.

A Personal Note

Our girls with Grandma WyattFunerals are often tough occasions. My eyes were frequently wet during Tink's funeral last week. He was a prince of a human being.

But such gatherings are also a source of family joy. After both my mother and father's funerals, family gathered to catch up and rejoice in their lives.

After Tink's funeral, most of the family retired to he and Phyllis Wyatt's house. Phyllis is the mother-in-law every married man should have.

While my two sons from my first marriage hardly knew Tink, all four of my step-daughters were present for their grandfather's funeral. Tink had frequently been a saviour for them and my wife before we met and married. Erica Korak, Jennifer Hutchens, Samantha Eads, and Julia Bachman all made me incredibly proud of the strong women they've become.

While I truly love gardening, our children are our greatest achievement. Annie and I are blessed with six wonderful, successful children that bring constant joy into our lives. We don't see them nearly often enough, but find their current lives enrich our being.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Our Senior Garden - April 24, 2019Burpee GardeningWe're into another rainy period here. Our extended weather forecast predicts rain in eight out of the next ten days.

I had to considerably lighten the image at left in Photoshop to make it usable here. It's that dark outside. That's in contrast to yesterday when I had an eye appointment. The eye doctor evidently went a bit overboard on dilating my pupils. On the drive home, dark asphalt roadways seemed blindingly white! My vision didn't return to normal until almost bedtime.

On a positive note, I finally saw our first hummingbirds at our feeder yesterday. There were only two of them. And of course, they were fighting each other for dominance at the feeder.

The oregano in our herb bed has come back strong once again. It started slow in its first year, but tried to take over the whole bed last year. I plan to cut and begin drying some of it on one of the many rainy mornings to come. The rain will help wash the leaves clean, and picking in the morning is said to be when its flavor is best.

Oregano

Rotting treated timbersEnd view of rotting timbersI worked for several evenings this week improving the photography and correcting minor errors on our how-to feature story, Building a Raised Garden Bed. Other than this page and our Gloxinia blog, it is currently the most read page on this site.

I actually moved everything into a new document to update the page to XHTML format. I also included photos of the treated timbers at one end of our raised asparagus bed rotting out. That bed isn't our oldest raised bed, but it's the only one showing such rot. I guess I shouldn't be too upset, as the timbers have been in the ground for ten years. I've put off replacing the timbers at the end of the bed for a couple of years, but will have to get it fixed this fall after the asparagus dies down.

We continue to feast on asparagus most evenings now. Last night, the asparagus along with some broccoli and spinach went into some chicken and broth thickened with Cream of Chicken soup. I added a jar of Alfredo sauce and it all went over some fettuccine.

A2 Web Hosting

Thursday, April 25, 2019

It's another rainy morning here. We have over an inch of additional precipitation predicted for today that goes on top of the four and a half inches we received earlier this month. While I often modify the extended forecast graphic from The Weather Underground, below is the full extended forecast I see each day.

Full Weather Underground Extended Forecast

I really appreciate the "rainfall mountains" and wind speed graphics provided.

While all the rain makes gardening a bit difficult, our early peas seem to love the weather. I do, however, feel for area farmers who can't get into their fields as yet.

Tall, early peas

Abundant Bloomsdale spinach ready for thinning (and weeding)Growing on the sunny side of our early peas, our row of Abundant Bloomsdale spinach is doing well. The plants are ready for another thinning. This time some of the thinned plants can be used for baby spinach.

Superstars

Superstar gloxiniaOccasionally, you get a gloxinia plant that outperforms all the other plants in its tray. Such plants are mostly older gloxinias that have had several years to build their corms. I designate such plants with the word "superstar" on their plant labels and accord them some special care. We don't have all that many of them.

It's rare that a first year plant will have a growth habit and volume of blooms to be a superstar, but we got one this year. Seeded in October, the first year gloxinia shown is now carrying ten open red velvet blooms. And I've trimmed a number of spent blooms off of it in the last few weeks. I'm not sure I've had a first year plant perform so well in the past.

Other Stuff

I started communal pots of parsley and sage this morning. I'd simply forgotten to start parsley earlier this year. I thought I was fixed on sage plants with the two we overwintered in our sunroom. But it appears that we may have lost three of the eight sage plants that mark the corners and halfway points of our large East Garden plot.

Petunias hanging from back porch
More porch plants
Labels drying
Dwarf geranium

I spent several days watering all of our hanging basket porch plants this week. I both bottom and top water the plants, placing the pots in large livestock pans for several hours to absorb the bottom water. I actually waited a little to long to water our new trailing verbena. It had totally wilted. Fortunately, a good watering brought most of its foliage back. A bit of trimming of dead foliage and spent blooms made it look pretty good again.

When I started the parsley and sage, I used my last two previously used plant labels. I still have a few new ones. So I cleared out the bleach jar of soaking labels, rinsed them, and now have around seventy of them drying on a bar mop. Bleaching the labels removed the "permanent" marker used on them and also kills bacteria on them. I often get three or four uses out of a labels before they get too brittle to use.

I'd noticed that the dwarf geranium that sits on our kitchen windowsill was due for propagation. The long stems of any geranium become woody after time and cannot transmit water and such. While I've tried taking and rooting regular cuttings from this plant's predecessors, I've had better luck with rooting a section of new growth in a pot beside the "original" plant. I used a lot of powdered rooting hormone in the new pot and also coat the part of the stem buried with rooting gel. Once the newer growth begins to root, I cut it free from its parent that usually goes on to die. This is about the third time I've propagated this plant. And I'm not really sure where we got the original plant.

Gloxinias on dining room table

I moved some gloxinia plants around today, necessitating opening up another tray on our dining room table. Most of our gloxinias reside under plant lights in the basement or in our sunroom until they begin to bloom. A bloomer in the sunroom started the plant movement, replacing one on our kitchen counter which went to the dining room table. I also had to move one blooming plant from the tray at left to the new tray. The Cranberry Tiger gloxinias have such huge leaves that they were crowding out the other smaller Empress type plant in the tray. I'm looking forward to the Cranberry Tigers coming into bloom, as they usually produce large, lovely blooms.

I also need to remember to bring an empty tray up from the basement. Our cats love to lay in the empty trays. Without one present, they'll also crawl into a tray with plants in it.

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Saturday, April 27, 2019 - Lima Beans, Tomatoes, and Peppers

Our Senior Garden - April 27, 2019I got an early start gardening today, as rain was predicted by mid-afternoon. As things turned out, my early start was a good idea. The rain started just after noon. My plan was to transplant and mulch our Earlirouge tomatoes and Earliest Red Sweet peppers.

I had scuffle hoed the unplanted areas of our raised beds yesterday. I'd hoped to transplant tomatoes and peppers then, but high winds discouraged me from putting our precious transplants into the ground. Instead, I seeded a 15' row of lima beans and let it go at that.

Short peas, lima been row along bare T-posts, and garlicI used a garden hoe to open a 6" wide row for the seed, pulling back loose soil with a rake. Then I sprinkled a very light bit of calcitic limestone, a more generous amount of 12-12-12 solid fertilizer, and granular soil inoculant down the furrow and hoed them in. I seeded down the middle of the row, coming back to add seed a bit wider with the last of the quarter pound packet of Fordhook 242icon seed. I covered the seed pulling in soil with the hoe before tamping down the soil with the head of the hoe. Since I plan to string a trellis down the row, I added T-posts at the center and each end of the row for the trellis, but didn't attempt to string it due to the high winds. The last time I tried growing limas, they tried to runner and climb everywhere, nearly crowding out nearby crops. As a last step, I mulched from our mulched garlic rows up to one side of the lima bean planting. I didn't mulch the other side, as it runs up to our row of short, supersweet peas. I want to get a little compost around the peas before I mulch them. The Eclipse and Encore pea varieties, and probably all peas, respond well to well rotted compost.

Geranium, tomato, and pepper transplantsGetting back to tomatoes and peppers, I started gathering all the supplies I'd need around eight in the morning for the transplanting. Tomato cages, T-posts, clothesline wire, eight gallons of starter solution, a wide trowel, tape measure, row marker stakes and a short sledge hammer, lime, solid fertilizer, ground egg shells, crushed egg shells, Quick Start, Maxicrop, Serenade biofungicide, Milky Spore, Epsom Salt, knee pads, kneeling cushion, and of course, tomato, pepper, and geranium transplants. While our ground is a bit soft, I went ahead and used our truck to move the supplies, especially the unwieldy tomato and pepper cages, to our main raised bed.

I first lightly spread Epsom Salt and Milky Spore over the areas to be planted. The Epsom salt adds manganese, an essential mineral. The Milky Spore kills Japanese Beetle larvae and hopefully discourages cutworms, although I'm not too sure about that last one. But I had an old bag of the stuff on the back porch from last summer, so I used some of it.

Pepper cages spaced down rowThe next step was to space my pepper cages down the row. Most of the cages are old tomato cages that had rotted out at the bottom and got cut down and slimmed a bit for peppers. I doubt most folks cage their peppers, but I find that cages help support the plants' brittle limbs and increase our production.

Lime, solid fertilizer, and ground egg shell added to planting holeThen I dug holes one at a time and added some lime, ground egg shell, and 12-12-12 fertilizer to the hole. I worked the mix into the bottom of the hole and the soil surrounding the hole. The lime and ground egg shell provide calcium to the soil to help prevent blossom end rot.

Next, the hole got filled with our standard starter solution. It's a mix of dilute Quick Start, Maxicrop soluble seaweed, and Serenade biofungicide. The Quick Start is a standard 4-12-4 transplanting liquid fertilizer. Maxicrop has been a lifesaver for us with peppers. Our soil lacks something Maxicrop provides, so we use it every year. And the Serenade is more for our tomatoes to help prevent disease.

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Transplanted and caged pepper plantI backfilled each hole with the dug soil and amendments and squished in a pepper plant. While I usually protect our pepper plants with paper cup cutworm collars, I went another way this year. I'd read that crushed egg shells discourage cutworms, so I spread crushed egg shells around each pepper plant. We'll see how well this one works. Note that I have several extra ERS pepper transplants in case the crushed egg shell doesn't work. Also, I made a trough around each plant to hold in rainfall or manual watering.

For our Earlirouge tomatoes, the transplanting was much the same as for the peppers. One difference was that I used far less lime in the planting holes, as tomatoes don't like sweet soil. To provide enough calcium to prevent blossom end rot, I used a lot more ground egg shell in each planting hole.

After finishing the transplanting, including some geraniums at the ends of the rows, I started mulching the plants with grass clipping mulch. I got all the tomatoes mulched, but it began to rain while I was mulching the peppers.

Finished pepper and tomato transplanting

Raised beds - April 27, 2019

Carrots emerging
Baby Abundant Bloomsdale spinach

This planting almost finishes our raised bed plantings. I may yet put a row of late onions at the south end of our main raised bed, but the main crops are now in. Eventually, the entire main raised bed will be mulched with grass clippings. As the clippings decay, I'll need to re-mulch from time to time. But that's a whole lot easier than weeding, and the decaying mulch adds organic matter to the soil. I'll ignore the weed seed added by the mulch for now. grin

I noticed today that our double row of carrots have finally germinated. With all the rain we've had this spring, I only had to water the planting a couple of times. But I also noticed that the wet, warmer weather has produced lots of seedling weeds I'll need to deal with.

Our double row of carrots seeded on April 8 have finally emerged. I'd begun to worry about them, but it appears that we'll have full rows of carrots from the six varieties seeded.

A total "Yippee" came today after I thinned our row of spinach again. I threw the thinnings into a galvanized bucket my sweetie gave me, washed them, and trimmed off the usable leaves. The resulting baby spinach leaves filled an old commercial baby spinach leaves container. A big difference, though, was that our baby spinach was actually baby spinach with no leaves longer than two inches long.

Some related and hopefully helpful pages:

Growing Tomatoes
Our Tomato Cages

Comment

I'm a bit elated tonight as one of my annual goals is to get our raised beds totally planted and mulched in April. We're not quite there yet, but are very close. If the weather will just cooperate, we'll move on to planting our large East Garden plot in May.

Target

Tuesday, April 30, 2019 - April Wrap-up

April, 2019, animated GIF of our Senior GardenTargetWe began this month with our raised beds pretty much bare. Only our garlic planted last fall and our tall, early peas and spinach planted in March showed some green.

As we end the month, the raised beds are planted, although everything isn't up yet. I've also mulched most of the beds. One small bare strip may be planted with some late onions I started after our cats laid on and killed our original tray of onion transplants.

When I went outside last evening to pick asparagus, I took along my good camera along with my picking bucket. Rather than review in detail what we've got going, I'll share photos of our garden and stuff with just a few comments.

My first stop on my evening photo walk was of our bed of lettuce, celery, onions, and carrots. So far, this is the best start on lettuce we've had in years. We should begin picking by next week. Our celery still looks good, the onions appear to have taken, and our carrot seed finally germinated. I spent about a half hour yesterday removing weeds from the bed with a soil scratcher. I haven't yet mulched this bed. Grass clippings are a mess to get out of lettuce, and the other stuff isn't big enough to be mulched.

Raised bed of lettuce, celery, onions, and carrots

Our tall, early peas seeded in March have taken off of late. I was a bit worried they might bloom and cross pollinate our short peas from which we save seed. But the short peas which prefer warmer weather haven't grown nearly as much as the tall peas. The tall Champion of England and Maxigolt peas have taken quite a beating with all the high winds we've had this month. While the wind doesn't thrill me, I was certainly glad I used a double trellis around the peas which protected them somewhat from the wind.

Chapion of England and Maxigolt tall, early peas

Spinach row by early peasHiding behind but on the sunny side of our early peas is our row of Abundant Bloomsdale spinach. I thinned the spinach again a couple of days ago, but this time threw the thinnings into my picking bucket. After thoroughly rinsing the spinach, I picked the baby spinach leaves. So far, they've made excellent spinach salad and a cheese and spinach omelette.

Earlirouge tomatoes, Earliest Red Sweet peppers, and Eclipse and Encore peas
Lima row (not up yet), garlic, broccoli, and cauliflower

Getting to our large, main raised bed which someone needs to make a trip around with a weedeater, we have our caged Earlirouge tomatoes, caged Earliest Red Sweet peppers, and our trellised short peas.

The short trellis for our Eclipse and Encore peas is to keep the pea pods up off the ground for seed saving. Bayer/Monsanto/Seminis hold a plant patent on these varieties until 2021. I'm hoping to outlive the patents and share these excellent, supersweet pea varieties with others.

I'm thrilled to get our first tomatoes and peppers into the ground this early. We just got lucky with a very brief break in our rainy weather that permitted tilling this bed this month. While our soil isn't all that warm as yet, we should be off to a good start with the tomatoes and peppers.

Our lima beans aren't up yet, but our garlic, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower are all doing well and mulched. The thin row on the right of the cauliflower may be where our late tray of onions goes.

Our raised asparagus bed is really producing. I dropped off four or five pounds of asparagus to our local food bank on Sunday, as we'd gotten behind on using it.

Raised asparagus bed with garden raised beds in background

Our second area of asparagus, Bonnie's Asparagus Patch, continues to produce a good bit of asparagus along with lots of weeds. I weeded the area a week or so ago, but will have to go after it again soon. The good news is that when the asparagus fills out, its foliage will cut off light to the weeds.

Bonnie's Asparagus Patch

Most of the asparagus produced in this thirty-some year old patch is at the edge of its circle. Shading, rabbits, and dogs laying in the center of the patch have killed out most of the asparagus there. I hope to encourage the roots to grow inward a bit by applying more compost there.

Gloriosa and Shasta daisiesOur houseJust a few feet off Bonnie's Asparagus is our newly replanted area of daisies. Once an isolation plot and later a gravesite for a beloved dog, I heaped lots of compost and commercial topsoil onto this area before replanting it with Gloriosa and Shasta daisies. So far, the plants appear to be taking hold.

As I walked back to our 100+ year-old farmhouse, I stopped and snapped a picture of it. We're incredibly blessed to have such a wonderful home, although maintenance of it is getting a bit beyond me. A couple of our children had the temerity to suggest a few years ago that we should move to a smaller, one story place. Eventually, we will when we have to, but not just yet. We love this place.

Shallow well with herb garden around itOne improvement I added to the property a few years ago was plumbing our shallow well and putting in a small raised bed for herbs around it. Currently, the bed only has perennial sage and oregano in it, along with some dianthus and geraniums. Later, I'll add annual basil, parsley, and dill to it.

We don't grow all of our herbs in this area, though. I have a great start of Hungarian paprika peppers that will go somewhere in the field east of us for both ground paprika and seed saving. Extra basil and parsley will get squeezed in wherever I can find room.

Transplants under our cold frameWe still have lots of transplants under our cold frame. I closed the cold frame a bit to protect some new arrivals from the wind yesterday, using a six inch block to crack the frame open enough to permit some air movement. Totally closing a cold frame on a sunny day can be a death sentence for the plants under it, as temperatures under a closed and sealed cold frame can soar.

Wandering Jew and gloxinias in kitchen windowInside, we continue to enjoy lots of beauty of the gloxinia blooms in our kitchen and on our dining room table.

Downstairs, under our plant lights, we're pressured by a host of melon starts that will soon need to be moved to our cold frame. Incredibly, every pot of melons I started a week or so ago germinated at least one plant. As soon as these plants put on their first true leaves, they'll need to go outside to harden off before going into our East Garden plot.

Melon startsNot intended, but adding to the pressure, I started two flats of sweet corn transplants yesterday. Giving the plants an early start is only a side benefit. Since the Silver Queen and Who Gets Kissed plants could screw up pollination of our sh2 supersweet corn plants, they get an early start so they won't cross with our later supersweet varieties that will be direct seeded next month.

I started the corn in deep sixpack inserts. That means that I planted thirty-six cells each to the Silver Queen and Who Gets Kissed varieties. Both flats of sweet corn went over soil heating mats in our basement plant room.

We're obviously off to a pretty good start this season, despite some really challenging weather conditions. I have no idea when I''ll get to till our East Garden plot, as our current extended forecast continues to include rain and more rain. I'll probably be praying for such conditions come August.

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