Senior Gardening

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The Old Guy's Garden Record

April 30, 2021


Thursday, April 1, 2021

Our Senior Garden - April 1, 2021
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Our East Garden - April 1, 2021
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April is one of our busier months of gardening. We try to get our raised garden beds completely planted and mulched by the end of the month. At the same time, we're starting transplants for our large East Garden plot.

While I'll hold off transplanting our Earlirouge tomatoes and Earliest Red Sweet peppers into our raised beds until early May, we hope to transplant, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, celery, and supersweet peas into the beds. We'll direct seed carrots, beets, and also some more supersweet peas (in case the transplants don't make it).

While the East Garden will remain mostly idle during April, I'll be replacing some of our corner and halfway marker sage plants that have failed. I started the transplants in early November, so they're already pretty good sized and hardened off from being outside for over a week.

Inside, we'll be starting lots more tomato varieties, paprika peppers, melons, and squash for the East Garden. Towards the end of the month, I'll start our pumpkins. I start them what would seem a bit late, but I don't want pumpkins ripening in August or September.

Japanese Beetles on Green BeansDonors ChooseMissing from our raised bed plans are any beans. In years when corn is grown in the field next to our raised beds, I can plant our beans as a succession crop and harvest them in August or September. When the field is rotated to soybeans, I have to start our green beans really early. Otherwise, hordes of Japanese Beetles migrate from adjacent field to our green beans.

The late Jim Crockett noted in Crockett's Victory Garden that "Bush beans seem to be at their most tender late in the season, so I always plant a crop in July that will be ready for harvest in September."

Besides all of the seed starting, planting, and transplanting this month, we should begin to harvest asparagus from both of our asparagus patches. It's a delicious time of year we always look forward to. We also should be picking some spinach by the end of the month.

Preparing for a Hard Freeze

Plants under cold framePlants on dining room tableTemperatures got down to 28-30° F this morning, depending on what weather source one consults. The plants under our cold frame came through the low temperatures just fine. All of our hanging basket plants and a tray of hardy sage all came inside onto our dining room table. They were joined by the white blooming gloxinia that had outgrown its space in a kitchen window.

While I have the cold frame open at this writing, I'll close it mid-afternoon to allow heat to build up inside it. Later, I'll cover it with tarpaulins, as tonight's forecast calls for a low of 21° F, well below the cold frames ability to protect the plants under it.

If the trays of onions in the photo above left seem a bit scrambled, it's because they are. After our cold frame took flight several days ago, the wind flipped all three trays of our onions. I combined the onions into two trays. Tuesday night, strong winds once again blew the cold frame away and flipped one of the onion trays. We'll be fortunate to get any onions at all this year. And the cold frame broke in two more places, requiring a new roll of Duck Tape to repair it.

Besides the cold frame and dining room table, we still have transplants in our sunroom, egg carton petunias in a kitchen window, and a partially filled plant rack in the basement.

Plants in sunroom Egg carton petunias in kitchen window Plant rack - April 1, 2021

Once the weather evens out, I think we're ready to begin gardening!

Botanical Interests Burpee Gardening Required FTC Disclosure Statement: Botanical Interests, Burpee, Renee's Garden, and True Leaf Market are some of our 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. Renee's Garden True Leaf Market
 
 

Friday, April 2, 2021

Our Senior Garden - April 2, 2021Snow on April 2, 2018We sort of lucked out on the weather this morning. Our morning low temperature was 27° F, mercifully well above the damaging 21-22° F that had been predicted. While cold, that's not enough to harm the plants we have under our cold frame or floating row covers. I did put tarpaulins over the cold frame yesterday and added a layer of floating row cover scraps over the previous floating row cover.

Three years ago on April 2, we had snow and 29° F.

By ten o'clock this morning, it was warm enough to pull the tarps and open the cold frame for the day. With a predicted overnight low of 31° F, the tarps won't be necessary tonight.

Cold frame covered with tarps Cold frame plants after freezing night

I'm hoping that our peas and spinach under floating row covers did as well as the plants under the cold frame. I won't pull the row covers until after tomorrow morning's frost/freeze.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Raised bed of spinach and peasWeather Underground Extended Forecast - April 3, 2021The frost/freeze predicted for this morning never materialized. It only got down to 37° F. So once it began to warm up this morning, I got out and pulled the floating row covers from our bed of spinach and peas. While the peas looked a little mashed down from the wind blowing over the cover, both the spinach and peas came through our recent freezes just fine.

The peas have just begun putting on tendrils, the stringy growths that attach to things for support. I'll need to pound in our T-posts and string nylon trellis netting soon for the peas to climb on. I put a trellis on each side of the peas, spacing the trellises sixteen inches apart. That pretty much keeps the pea vines from blowing off the trellises in the strong winds we experience here.

To see how we grow our peas, consult: A Garden Delicacy: Homegrown Peas.

Our extended weather outlook looks pretty good with some truly warm days without terribly strong winds. I have tons of jobs waiting, especially a new apple tree that arrived in today's mail.

Burpee Fruit Seeds & Plants

Sunday, April 4, 2021 - Easter

New Stayman Winesap apple treeI transplanted a new Stayman Winesap apple tree today. The process started yesterday when I began by using a garden spade to remove the sod where the tree was to grow. The sod went into some ruts left in our yard by the tree service last year. That turned out to be the hardest part of the job.

Today, I began digging a hole for the new tree. The soil dug got mixed with some old potting mix I'd been saving from repottings and such. I usually mix peat moss into the soil mix for new trees, but didn't have any on hand today. Besides digging a deep and wide hole, I followed my usual practice in tree planting of going down a bit deeper with a post hole digger to encourage taproot growth.

Our apple treesBeing careful to keep the tree's graft above the soil line, I backfilled the planting hole with the mix of native soil and the old potting mix. I watered it in with dilute Quick Start fertilizer and Serenade biofungicide. I placed our usual mice/rabbit deterrent pepper cage covered with hardware cloth around the tree.

With this planting, we're up to four apple trees. Two are producing fruit, while the other two are way too young to bear fruit. I may not live long enough to pick apples from all of these trees, but getting them started is just what I enjoy doing.

The fourth apple tree in the image at right is a volunteer apple tree hidden somewhat by weeds and bushes around it. It came from dumps of cull apples from our original Stayman Winesap apple tree, and produces small apples with a delicious/winesap flavor.

We're on the cusp of a new gardening season. I've been bold in getting our early peas and spinach started, but rather conservative about other stuff. We could experience some more cold mornings destructive to new plantings, so I'm willing to be a bit patient. But spring is definitely on the way.

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Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Our Senior Garden - April 7, 2021First asparagus of 2021We've had several days of wonderful weather with temperatures getting into the lower 70s some days. I've hustled to get as much done as possible during this time...maybe too much. I just woke up at my computer where I'd dozed off thirty minutes ago.

While there's been lots going on here without pushing ahead to plant and transplant too soon, my big event of an otherwise very busy day was picking our first asparagus of the season. There wasn't enough to cook up for supper tonight, but with a good rain predicted (and already started) for tonight, we should have enough for supper tomorrow night.

I'll try to catch up on what all has been going on here tomorrow.

Hummingbird Feeders

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Our Senior Garden - April 8, 2021MTD TillerWe received a little very welcome rain overnight and may have more coming in yet today. With our raised beds tilled and moistened, they and our lawn look much brighter.

While I've gotten a lot of little jobs out of the way during our stretch of incredibly warm weather, I finally got our raised garden beds tilled yesterday. I felt like I was fighting all the way. I'd tried starting our 27 year old tiller on Tuesday, but it refused to turn over. Knowing its games, I pushed it out of the garage and into the sun for a few hours while I mowed and raked the field next to us. After several hours in the sun, the tiller started on the second pull of the starter cord. But, one tire on the tiller was flat and I couldn't get it to seal. Yesterday, I finally got the tubeless tire to seal after cleaning the rim. When I got to the garden and began to till, the clutch cord for reverse broke! While reverse is important for maneuvering, I was still able to till our raised beds, manhandling the heavy tiller around corners. I also turned over a spot for our Gloriosa and Shasta daisies. Fortunately, Jack's Small Engines still carries parts for ancient rototillers, and a new cable is on its way.

Looking out our west facing kitchen windowPraying mantis egg case hung in laural bushLooking out our kitchen window, I can see where I carefully placed a praying mantis egg case. I actually took a short stepladder out to attach the egg case high on one of our laurel bushes so that I could see it out the window. I hung another egg case in an adjacent bush. While I purchased our egg cases this year, we've had mantises lay their eggs in our laurel bushes in the past (and harvested the cases for the next season).

I've recently read on Facebook that praying mantises may attack humming birds. I actually got a picture of a mantis on one of our hummingbird feeders several years ago, but it wasn't bothering the birds.

I also took a time lapse of mantises hatching, again, many years ago. While cute, the baby mantises don't seem above eating each other shortly after hatching.

I still have three more egg cases stored in the refrigerator. I'll hang them in our garden plot a bit later this spring.

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I've moved more of our transplants outdoors. A tray plus of brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts) went out against the edge of our house on the back porch several days ago. The Brussels sprouts and cabbage were in a different tray than the rest of the brassicas. Their traymates of hosta, sage, and asparagus also went to the porch. Our tray of lettuce went first onto our back porch. After the wind began to beat up the plants a bit, I moved the lettuce under our partially closed cold frame. To make room for the lettuce, I pulled some daisy, impatiens, and dianthus transplants.

Painted daisies between daffodils

The painted daisies and impatiens went into a recently cleaned up flowerbed on the west side of our house. The first of the daisies got spaced between the few daffodils in the bed that have survived my neglect. Some others went further down the row with the impatiens. And yes, we only got two daffodil blooms this year.

Impatiens with a painted daisy

I had held off on moving any geraniums outside to harden off, as we still have a few cold but not freezing nights in our extended weather forecast. But with a bit of space opening up in a tray under our cold frame, I moved four Maverick Reds outside yesterday. Even though I hate hauling non-softened water from our kitchen bypass to the sunroom, I left a tray and a half of geraniums there for the time being. I transplanted our geraniums a bit too early last year. I think the plants suffered all summer from some cold and dry days.

Under our plant lights, our Earlirouge tomato and Earliest Red Sweet pepper transplants are looking good. When I had to re-seed some of the Earlirouges, I seeded one cell with seed saved in 1988. One of those seeds actually came up!

Earliest Red Sweet pepper and Earlirouge tomato starts

And when I was downstairs a few minutes ago checking some laundry, I saw that some Encore supersweet peas had begun to germinate. I started a tray each of Encore and Eclipse peas several days ago. Both varieties, but especially the Eclipses, don't germinate well in cool soil, so they're over soil heating mats.

Encore and Eclipes peas on soil heating mats

We're down to the last of our saved Eclipse and Encore saved seed. I gambled on a large planting of the patented varieties last year and lost big time. The patents on the varieties expire this year, so I'm hoping to re-start our strains of the excellent supersweet varieties.

Botannical Interests

Friday, April 9, 2021

Garlic before mulchingGarlic fertilized, cultivated, and mulchedI noticed earlier this week some of our garlic leaves were firing. Such yellowing common in field corn is often a sign of a nitrogen deficiency. I'd dumped some leftover starter fertilizer (4-12-4) on the garlic which helped a little, but knew it would need more nitrogen. So today, I sprinkled 12-12-12 fertilizer around the garlic and cultivated it in. Then I mulched the area with grass clippings to hold in soil moisture and prevent weed growth. With rain predicted for tonight and tomorrow, that should activate the fertilizer and cure the firing problem.

I wanted to put up a double trellis around our peas today. But with steady 25 MPH winds gusting well into the thirties, trying to string a trellis would be a nightmare.

Instead, on the advice from a high school friend, I hung a hummingbird feeder. The friend posted on Facebook that folks here in Indiana are seeing hummingbirds already. Our first hummingbird sighting last year came on April 20.

While in the basement getting the feeder, I saw a gloxinia in our dormant area that had put on three or four inches of growth. Checking the rest of the pots, I found two more gloxinias breaking dormancy. So all three got repotted, watered, and moved under our plant lights.

Renee's Garden

Saturday, April 10, 2021 - Trellis Day

Double trellis erectedEnd view of double trellisWe're having rain and some fairly strong winds today, but I was determined to get started on erecting the double trellis our peas, and later, our cucumbers will vine on. I thought that in between showers, I could at least get the six T-posts to support the trellis pounded in. As it turned out, I got the whole job done.

Pounding in the T-posts with a fence-post driver just takes some time, making sure to get the posts on the ends set sixteen inches apart. I've found that to be an ideal spacing for a trellis around our wide row of tall peas. The double trellis is necessary for us due to the high winds we frequently experience here. We try to keep the pea vines growing between the trellises instead of blowing off a single trellis.

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Then I stretched six lengths of plastic coated clothesline wire between the posts to stretch a bit. Next was untangling the nylon trellis netting I'd used last year. I had a brand new package of the excellent Dalen Trellis Netting in my box of clothesline wire and old netting, but being a bit cheap, I opted to use the old netting. It's a bit of a chore untangling the netting, but once done, it strung on the clothesline wire well. I used three support wires on each side. While peas aren't all that heavy, the succession crop of rather heavy Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers will put a good bit of stress on the wires and netting.

Spinach mulchedOnce the trellises were in place, I got to have a little fun. I transplanted six Madame Butterfly snapdragons at the ends and center of the pea planting. The snaps will probably get to bloom before the pea vines cover them up. If they survive that, they'll bloom again when the cucumber vines are small and possibly once more in the fall when the cucumber vines come out.

Eclipse pea plants getting started
Encore peas getting started

I mulched up to the edge of the peas with grass clipping mulch to hold back weeds and hold in soil moisture. Mulching around the adjacent row of Abundant Bloomsdale spinach was a bit more difficult, as the spinach plants are still fairly small.

Speaking of Peas

The trays of Eclipse and Encore supersweet peas I started on Monday are now coming up. I start transplants of these pea varieties inside over soil heating mats as they don't germinate well in cool soil. Of course, pea transplants are pretty fragile, so eventually moving them into our garden is a delicate process. I have found that surrounding the young transplants with compost gives them a real growth boost.

Egg Carton Petunias No More

I moved the last of our egg carton petunias from their egg cartons to fourpack inserts last evening. The Celebrity plants had just about outgrown their egg cells. Our first bunch of egg carton petunias each year are for our hanging basket planters. This later planting is for odd spots in our garden plots that could use a bit of color.

Terracotta Composting 50-Plant Garden Tower by Garden Tower Project

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Our Senior Garden - April 11, 2021After a bunch of nice days, we're getting the other side of the spring weather coin now. I put up our double trellis yesterday, sometimes in light rain. Today, it's cold (relatively, 49° F), rainy, and very windy, not a day one would want to work outside.

Holding seed at 122 degrees for 25 minutes
Seed drying on coffee filter in a paper plate

So instead of gardening outdoors, I hot water treated a packet of tomato seed that had escaped my attention when I last hot water treated seed. I began so treating all the tomato seed we use after getting some seed from a private source that brought anthracnose into our East Garden. Like Great White, "I'm once bitten twice, shy" on seed borne tomato diseases. But normally, hot water treatment of seed isn't really necessary for seed from reliable vendors.

Required FTC Disclosure Statement

Some of our text links go to the sites of our Senior Gardening Advertisers. Clicking through one of our banner ads or text links and making a purchase will produce a small commission for us from the sale.

I describe the process of hot water treating seed in some detail in our Saving Tomato Seed how-to. Basically, you put your seed in 122° F water for 25 minutes to treat it. One new wrinkle in the process today was that the seed hot water treated had been coated with Thiram fungicide. That's good for preventing seed rot, but also made cleanup after the seed treatment a bit more thorough as Thiram is a toxic substance.

Pushing me to get this seed treated is that it's almost time to start our tomato plants for our East Garden. As soon as our supersweet peas are ready to come off our soil heating mats, I'll start tomatoes on the mats.

Doctors without BordersOnce the weather shapes up, I'm looking forward to transplanting onions, lettuce, celery, and brassicas and direct seeding carrots and beets into our main garden bed. I also have a bunch of flower transplants hardening off and almost ready to go into the ground when I'm sure we're past the last of our cold mornings.

Hoss Tools

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Volunteer apple tree in bloom - April 14, 2021Closeup of apple blossomsI slept in this morning and was delighted that we finally had a morning without strong winds. Sadly, I took my time drinking a couple cups of coffee and perusing the news before getting started. As I filled our insecticide sprayer with Fruit Tree Spray plus a bit of Fung-onil fungicide, the wind began to gust. I hustled out and sprayed the three apple trees in our yard.

Besides getting a late start this morning, I also waited a day or so too long for the perfect day to spray (no wind, no rain, and no frost). Our volunteer apple tree in a field we take care of had burst into beautiful bloom. With its blooms fully open and being visited by bees, that tree got a dilute spray of dormant oil, a substance not toxic to bees.

Having direct seeded carrots and beets on Monday, today was the first day of watering that planting. I'll need to water it every day we don't have rain until the plants emerge.

The area planted had received some Muriate of Potash (0-0-60) before being tilled last fall. A recent tilling and some hand weeding knocked down the few weeds that had germinated.

After some disappointing germination last season, I started with all newly purchased carrot and beet seed. I started Tendersweet, Mokumicon, Scarlet Nantes, Napoli, and Naval carrots and Cylindra and Detroit Dark Red beets. I once again planted a pretty short (7') double row of carrots. I've found planting a full 15' row of them in the spring just has me pitching spring carrots when our fall carrots come in.

Botanical Interests Burpee Gardening Required FTC Disclosure Statement: Botanical Interests, Burpee, Renee's Garden, and True Leaf Market are some of our 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. Renee's Garden True Leaf Market

Transplanting onionsLettuce transplantedI went down one side of the carrot and beet rows transplanting a double row of onions. Since the wind had scrambled our trays of onions, the varieties are mixed in the rows. That may make storage of the onions difficult, as there are sweet onions mixed in that don't store very well.

How We Grow Our Carrots
How We Grow Our Onions

After getting the onions transplanted, I put in two celery and eleven lettuce transplants. I planted them a lot closer than usual, as they went in the unplanted portion of the carrot/beet row. Also, the wind was really howling as I transplanted, beating up the young lettuce transplants a good bit. Fortunately, I have lots more lettuce transplants in case some fail. I'll probably put any leftover lettuce plants not needed as replacements along the edge of what will be our narrow bed of Earlirouge tomato plants.

The celery transplanted was the Ventura variety. The lettuce included Crispino and Sun Devil (icebergs), Nancy and Skyphos (butterheads), Jericho and Coastal Star (romaines), Better Devil (butter-cos-romaine), and Nevada (summer crisp).

I still need to put another double row of onions down the open side of the lettuce/beet/carrot planting.

Only after dinner this evening did I realize that I'd put lettuce very close to where a den of rabbits usually live. I quickly spread some Repels All animal repellent around the lettuce. And for dinner, along with our spaghetti, we enjoyed some steamed asparagus. Both of our patches of asparagus are now producing.

April 14, 2021 asparagus picking

I put the rest of our geranium plants in a protected area of our back porch today to begin hardening off. Even though it's a little early to transplant geraniums into the garden, I stuck Maverick Red plants at either end of our double row of onions.

Dungarees

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Onions, carrots, beets, celery, and lettuce startedIntensive planting of garlicWhat we call a softbed is now planted. Softbeds are areas of our garden that we don't step into during the gardening season to prevent soil compaction. We treat the areas at either end of our 16' x 24' raised bed as softbeds. Both can be worked from three sides without ever stepping into the main raised bed. And of course, we have two 4' x 16' (interior dimensions, 3' x 15') raised beds that can be worked from all sides without stepping into them.

I planted the last double row of onions in a softbed today. As I got to the end of the rows, I was using some pretty sad onion transplants. Besides blowing our cold frame away on three occasions this spring, the wind had flipped our trays of onions, making a real mess of them. This softbed includes transplanted onions, celery, and lettuce and direct seeded carrots and beets.

And yes, there are geraniums at the corners of the raised softbed. When I pull the last two row marker stakes, I'll replace them with petunias or vinca.

Our softbeds are an example of an intensive planting. We grow lots in very little space with intensive gardening methods. Our fall planted garlic is another example of intensive gardening. To give you an idea of the spacings we use, here's a rough diagram of what the softbed planted this week measures.

Softbed diagram

Our planting of early peas in one of our narrow raised beds also qualifies as an intensive planting. I squeezed in a row of spinach along one side of our double trellised wide row of peas.

Early peas and spinach in narrow raised bed

We still use traditional rows for many of our plantings. Beans, brassicas, melons, pumpkins, squash, and sweet corn all get lots of space to grow. But then, we're blessed to live in the country where we have the space to grow such crops.

Alibris: Books, Music, & Movies

Friday, April 16, 2021

Weather Underground Extended ForecastI read online that something really bad had happened in Indy before I went to bed last night. This morning my wife told me at least eight people had died in a mass shooting at the FedEx facility in Indianapolis. While we now live in rural southwestern Indiana, I grew up in Indianapolis.

As I read the news this morning, I came across a New York Times article that emphasized just how bad gun violence has become in our country, A List of Recent Mass Shootings in the United States. While my postings on my personal Facebook account are usually about family and gardening, I posted a link to the article with the statement, "When does this end?"

When I finally mentally put aside the mass shooting, I checked the extended weather forecast on the Weather Underground only to find a couple of morning low temperatures that may change my gardening plans for the next few days. Looking to confirm the forecast, I checked a local TV station's site and found an even lower temperature prediction with the possibility of snow!

WTWO seven day forecast

Most of what we have out in our garden is frost tolerant. The lettuce I transplanted on Wednesday could suffer some damage. And now my decision to put a couple of our precious geranium plants at the corners of our softbed may turn out to be a sacrificial offering to the frost gods. I'm guessing I'll need to break out the floating row covers I previously used to protect our peas to try and save the lettuce and geraniums.

World Food Program USWhile I have lots of jobs waiting to be done, I chose to replace the clutch cable on our walking tiller today. The job took a lot longer than I expected, as the many bolts to be loosened and tightened are in remote locations and had never been loosened before. The only thing that made the job easier was that I've already had to replace the other two control cables on the tiller that attach similarly.

Daisy patch towards back of yard

Area for daisies tilled againWith the clutch fixed, I took the tiller to the back of our yard and tilled up an area where I hope to grow daisies. It was the second tilling for this area this spring, but when done, the ground was still pretty rough. Gloriosa and Shasta daisies are pretty hardy plants, so I may go ahead and transplant them even with a potential frost or two in the offing.

I'm also debating going ahead and transplanting our brassicas this weekend. The cold mornings predicted won't do the plants much good, but there's also the danger of stunting the plants and having them button. Buttoning is the failure of broccoli plants to produce heads or producing small heads prematurely. Stress is listed as the cause of buttoning on most sites, with cold temperatures, poor soil fertility, root bound transplants, dry soil conditions, and excessive salt in the soil all being mentioned.

The Home Depot

Saturday, April 17, 2021 - Starting More Tomatoes

We have a cool, rainy day today. So instead of mowing, I started tomatoes and paprika peppers for our East Garden plot. Our favorite Earlirouge tomatoes started last month are up and looking good. Since our raised beds dry out and are plantable well before our East Garden plot, the Earlirouges get an earlier start than our other tomato varieties.

Today, I started the open pollinated varieties: Moira; Quinte; Crimson Sprinter; Bradley; and Red Pearl (grape). While I hope to save seed from all of these varieties, the Red Pearl variety is a patented (PVP) variety. I can't share any of the seed saved, but I can save and replant the variety each year, hopefully adapting it to our growing conditions.

Starting tomatoes and peppers

I'm excited to see what our Moira and Quinte tomatoes do this year. I hadn't saved seed from the varieties for several years. I did so last season when they produced far larger tomatoes that usual.

I still grow several hybrid varieties each year. This year, our hybrids will be the Bella Rosa, Dixie Red, Mountain Fresh Plus, Mountain Merit, and Honey Bunch (grape). All are tried and true varieties that have some disease resistance built in and produce flavorful tomatoes.

I also started a bunch of paprika pepper varieties today: Hungarian Spice; Boldog Hungarian Spice; and Sweet Paprika Pepper. We're out of saved ground paprika pepper, as our saved paprika got moisture in the jar in the refrigerator and molded. While the Hungarian Spice variety has been our main paprika pepper for years, I'm adding a couple of new varieties this year.

The tray of tomatoes and peppers were planted in sterile potting mix with soil just barely covering the seeds. The tray went under our plant lights and over a soil heating mat to speed germination.

1800Flowers

Sunday, April 18, 2021 - Transplanting Daisies and Milkweed

Area tilled and raked - ready for plantingDaisies transplanted and mulchedAfter a cool, rainy day yesterday, the sun was out for a while today. I got outside fairly early to water our transplants on the porch and under our cold frame. With the light rain we got yesterday, I had skipped watering our newly seeded carrots and beets. I got that job done this morning before the sun got on the planted area.

My next job was to sort out all the tall daisies under our cold frame. We've been trying to get daisies started in a spot at the back of our yard for several years. I have twelve Gloriosa and nearly a whole flat of Shasta daisies ready to go into the ground.

Even though the area had been tilled twice so far this spring, I still wasn't happy with it. So I spread a little lime and 12-12-12 fertilizer over it and tilled it again this morning. It turns out that the third time was a charm. The soil worked up and raked out well.

I clustered the taller Gloriosa daisies in the center of the area, surrounding them with the slightly shorter Shasta (Alaska) daisies. As I dug holes for the transplants, I often turned up old potting mix from previous plantings. The soil ranged from pretty good to heavy clay in various places.

I watered each planting hole with some dilute Quick Start fertilizer with a little Serenade biofungicide (more about Serenade later). I mulched the planting as I went, putting in five or six plants and then mulching them with grass clippings.

Milkweed transplanted and mulchedAction Against Hunger USABy the time I was done, the sun had disappeared and it began to look like rain. I hustled and put in four clumps of milkweed from a communal pot on the site where a tree had come out last summer. The milkweed plants also got mulched. As I took my last photo of the work, rain drops began to fall, cancelling my afternoon plan of mowing. But...I was totally worn out by then. I find at 72, I can't do as much each day as I did just ten or even five years ago.

I'll probably need to cover both of these plantings with floating row cover for the cold mornings predicted for Wednesday and Thursday. Fortunately, both plantings are rather small, so I can use old scraps of row cover for them.

About that Serenade

Serenade quart concentrateSerenade 2.5 gallonThe last quart of Serenade biofungicide I bought cost just under $20. With the pandemic, the price of the product soared to over fifty dollars, sometimes as high as ninety dollars! Disgusted with the price gouging, I held off buying any more of the excellent fungicide until early this month. While prices had slid to just under fifty dollars, two and a half times last year's price, I went another way. I ordered a 2.5 gallon jug of Serenade concentrate for just over $150 shipped. Dividing by 10 (the number of quarts in 2.5 gallons), my price per quart was well under last year's price. Of course, I'll have to use the product over several years, and I don't know how long biologicals like Serenade stay good.

The good news is that I can now be profligate in my use of Serenade. We've lost several trees to root rot (and possibly agricultural drift) in the last few years. A glorious oak tree in our front yard got hit with herbicide drift last year which killed one side of the tree. I put in fertilizer tree spikes last fall and spread gallons of dilute Serenade around it this month. Half of the tree looks normal, while the other side of it not so good.

We also use lots of Serenade as a soil soak for our potatoes and tomatoes. While not so labeled, the fungicide has been quite effective for us in fending off powdery mildew.

Weather

Our weather forecast still has a couple of ominous mornings for gardeners. Predictions as low as 26° F for a couple of mornings this week have me holding back on transplanting and also moving stuff like tomatoes, peppers, and peas from the basement to our cold frame. I plan to cover our lettuce, daisies, and milkweed with floating row covers for the cold mornings. And yes, our last frost date for this region is April 14. But those figures are climatic averages, and this spring seems to be a record breaker of climatic averages.

GNRL Click & Grow

Tuesday, April 20, 2021 - Mowing

Our Senior Garden - April 20, 2021Grass clipping piles by raised bedYesterday's big job was mowing and raking our yard. There are now several large piles of grass clippings curing beside our main raised garden bed. They'll go around the brassicas I hope to transplant on Thursday or Friday.

Part of the mowing was dragging our cold frame out of the way and repairing it again. Another joint had been broken by the wind tossing the thing around. With the cold frame out of the way, I moved all the plants under it to the porch and mowed the area.

Our brassica transplants, still in deep sixpack inserts, got a spray of Thuricide. I've already seen several white cabbage moths fluttering around our yard.

Getting Ready

Hanging baskets back insideDepending on what forecast you look at, we're supposed to have low temperatures of 27 to 30° F the next two mornings. While a lot of what we have out in the garden is cold hardy, I'm worried about our lettuce and newly transplanted daisies and milkweed. Also, our transplants under the cold frame may require some extra protection from the frost/freeze. And our hanging basket plants had to come back inside.

About the only transplants that won't need extra protection from the cold are our sage plants. They're quite hardy, but even they will get moved from the edge of our back porch to the side of the house where leaking warm air will protect them. Our garlic should do okay with the frost. And I'm hoping our early peas survive, but I have no way to cover them and their five foot tall double trellis.

Our yard and garden with sections covered with floating row covers

In the past, I've covered our cold frame with tarpaulins for extra protection from the cold. This time around, I decided to try something different. I loosely covered our trays of transplants with a floating row cover before closing the cold frame early in the afternoon.

Cold frame transplants covered with floating row cover

So I think we're as ready as we can be for the coming cold mornings. Hopefully, temperatures won't get too low. But as I write this on Tuesday afternoon, weather radar shows a wide band of snow approaching our area!

Later

Snow on April 20, 2021

Snow on April 20, 2021. Oh my!

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Thursday, April 22, 2021 - After the Frost

We're now past our frost/freeze danger without any serious damage to our garden plants. The temperature Wednesday morning hovered just above and below freezing, depending on the sources I checked. Today's low was well above freezing. And at last, there's no danger of a frost or freeze in our weather forecasts.

When I removed the floating row covers from our plants today, I was pleased to see there was no frost damage. Only the onions, lettuce, and daisies were squished down a bit by the wind blowing over their floating row covers.

Cold frame plants after frost/freeze Onions, lettuce, and geranium uncovered Daisies and our dog, Petra
Early peas Spinach

While I'm glad we didn't suffer any frost damage, I'm not sure my efforts at frost protection were really necessary. Our hardy early peas, spinach, and garlic all did well through the cold mornings. Even one geranium I left unprotected at the far corner of our large raised bed seems to have done well through a frosty morning or two.

Garlic
Geranium survives late frost

Our row of spinach is about ready to be thinned. The thinnings yield baby spinach leaves which are great for spinach salad.

I moved our two flats of supersweet pea plants to our back porch this afternoon. While the plants are small, they'll need a week or so to harden off. While I plan to save seed from both our early and supersweet peas, there's little danger of them crossing. I've isolated them by about a month, so the early peas should be done done blooming by the time the supersweets come into bloom.

New Gardeners

I ran across an interesting article in the Terre Haute Tribune-Star that led me to Better Homes & Garden's 4 Gardening Trends You'll Want to Dig into in 2021. In it, Mackenzie Nichols notes:

In fact, more than 20 million novice growers took up their trowels and pitchforks in response to the pandemic, according to Bonnie Plants CEO Mike Sutterer. We as a nation went from 42 million gardeners to 63 million in the past year.

Those are some pretty impressive numbers of new gardeners. The author of the article suggests the new numbers of gardeners may remain stable or even increase as pandemic isolation measures continue to be necessary. Let's hope and pray "Uncle Joe" is right in suggesting we might approach some normalcy by the Fourth of July.

Possibly a year late, I do have a how-to feature on starting a new garden. I wrote Some Thoughts on Where to Put a Vegetable Garden when one of our daughters was deciding on where to put a garden spot by a new home.

Fired Up - Ready to Go

Borrowing the Obama campaign chant, I'm fired up and ready to go...gardening. After waiting out some bad weather, it really appears that I can go ahead and begin putting some more crops into the ground. Our brassicas are hardened off and ready, possibly overdue, to go into the ground. I have lots of flower transplants ready to transplant at the ends of vegetable rows. The field needs to be mowed and raked for grass clipping mulch for our melon row (yet to be planted). I have lots of sage plants hardened off to replace the corner markers in our East Garden that died out.

Feeding AmericaOur first tomato and pepper transplants are ready to go outside and begin hardening off. However, a great article by Kym Pokorny, Let soil temperature guide you when planting vegetables, adds a caution from Weston Miller about soil temperatures:

Fifty degrees is a good benchmark for cool-season crops. And the soil should be 60 degrees or more for warm-weather plants like tomatoes, peppers and basil. In fact, for tomatoes it should ideally be 65 to 70. 

I had that lesson reinforced for me last season when early May cold snaps and dry spells stunted our Earlirouge tomatoes. Our other tomato varieties planted weeks later in our East Garden plot excelled all season, producing record breaking crops. (Well, that sounded good. But I don't really keep those kinds of records for our tomatoes.grin)

While I wanted to transplant broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage today, I decided to let the transplants have a day without a floating row cover over them before transplanting.

Hardware World

Friday, April 23, 2021 - Transplanting Brassicas

I transplanted our broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower into our main raised garden bed today. I left our cabbage transplants under our cold frame, as they'll be going into a different area of our garden.

Transplanting brassicas

I put in a full row of Goliath broccoli, spacing seven plants about two feet apart in the row. This broccoli is mainly for seed saving, although I'll take heads that bloom when no other plants are blooming. Broccoli needs to cross with another plant to produce viable seed.

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St. Jude Children's Research HospitalA second row of broccoli for table use and freezing included four plants each of the hybrid Premium Crop and Castle Dome varieties. These plants were spaced about eighteen inches apart in the rows. My rows are spaced three feet apart.

A third row of brassicas included our Amazing, Fremont, and Violet of Sicily cauliflower. I squeezed in a Dagan and an Hestia Brussels sprouts plant at the ends of the latter two rows.

To plant, I dug a hole about eight inches deep for each transplant, working some 12-12-12 fertilizer and ground limestone into the hole. The limestone is important in preventing clubroot. The fertilizer is because brassicas are heavy feeders, even in the rich soil of our raised garden bed.

I watered the planting holes with a mix of Quick Start fertilizer, Sea Magic Seaweed, with a little Serenade biofungicide. I also gave each transplant a paper cup cutworm collar.

Three rows of brassicas in

Two jobs I didn't include today were treating the plants with Thuricide and mulching them with grass clippings. I'd sprayed the plants with Thuricide earlier this week. I started to mulch the rows, but realized with a light rain predicted for tomorrow and our dry soil conditions, I'd rather have the rain on the soil than absorbed by the grass clippings.

For more detail on planting brassicas, see:

Alibris: Books, Music, & Movies

Saturday, April 24, 2021

BrassicasSpinach ready for thinningIt's been raining today, from a sprinkle at times to just a bit more every now and then. We'll probably not get a lot of accumulation. But a warm, rainy day like today is ideal for the brassicas I transplanted yesterday.

I moved our supersweet pea plants from their protective area to the cold frame today. Our Earlirouge tomatoes, Earliest Red Sweet pepper, and some landrace basil plants got moved from under our plant lights to the protected area of our back porch.

With gardening rained out for the day, I did a little shopping in town. I made sure to pick up mandarin oranges, feta cheese, poppyseed dressing, and croutons for spinach salad. Our spinach has seemed to visibly grow since yesterday and is ready for a first thinning. The thinning, of course, will produce true baby spinach leaves for our spinach salads.

Burpee Fruit Seeds & Plants

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Brassicas mulchedToday's first gardening job was to give our brassicas a thorough spraying of the biological, Thuricide. It's a non-toxic product (to pets and people) that gives the worms from cabbage loopers and small white cabbage moths fatal stomach cramps. Having mixed way too much spray, I also gave our early peas a spraying, as I've seen white cabbage moths seem interested in peas before.

The next job was to carefully spread grass clipping mulch around our brassicas. I say carefully, as I had to leave some space around each broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts and their cutworm collars so as not to create grass clipping ramps up to the plants.

We've been enjoying steamed asparagus with our meals for over a week now. It's an early garden treat that lasts for about four or five weeks each spring. We built up so much of it that my wife took seven bunches of it to work with her last week for her co-workers.

I'd skipped picking asparagus for a couple of days, so we got a nice picking today. Sadly, weeds are running rampant in our asparagus beds. For now, I'm pretty much just letting them go, as cultivating could damage emerging asparagus spears. When we stop picking and new shoots stop emerging, I'll weed, cultivate, fertilize, and spread compost around the asparagus plants.

I started to thin our spinach this morning, but found myself a little overly optimistic about the plants' recent growth. I did wash and trim some of the thinnings, but our second annual early season treat, spinach salad, will have to wait a few days.

East Garden tilledBlessed with a glorious spring day, I knew I couldn't waste it. I mowed the one acre plus field next to us. Then I switched out the mower deck for our pull type tiller and tilled our East Garden plot. This was the second tilling this spring of our East Garden. In between tillings, a moderate amount of weeds had appeared to germinate. Upon closer inspection, about half of the green material visible on the soil surface was hairy winter vetch. I'd seeded it a bit to late last fall to get it established, but some came up this spring.

I've cut back our plans for the East Garden this year. We usually use just half of the 80' x 80' plot. Last year, I used the whole area! This year, I'll be using about 35' x 80' of it with the rest sown to buckwheat for soil improvement.

Charity: Water

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

I began using sage plants as corner and halfway markers of our East Garden plot in 2013 and 2014. While sage is a true perennial, the plants only seem to last for three or four years in our East Garden. My neglect, visitors running over them with pickup trucks (actually happened), and dogs digging for moles have all contributed to the turnover.

Mature sage plantNew compost pileWe lost four of the eight sage markers since last season. Yesterday, I got out my stakes and string and long tape measure to accurately mark spots for four replacement plants.

When transplanting stuff into our East Garden that has mostly clay soil, I usually incorporate a good bit of peat moss into the planting holes. Since I haven't picked up any bales of peat yet this season, I broke open our "finished" compost pile to give the plants some improved soil.

Since I'm not big on turning our compost piles, there was a good bit of undigested material towards the top of the pile that got moved to our current, active compost pile. But as I worked my way down the old pile, I found rich compost that had lots of earthworms in it.

Each sage plant got a hole about a foot wide and deep filled with compost, a little fertilizer, and some lime. I worked the mix into the surrounding native soil with a shovel and then watered the hole with starter solution. The plants went in and soil was firmed around them. The extra soil dug formed a trough around each plant to retain rain. A final step was to mulch the sage plants in with lots of grass clipping mulch.

The sage plants used today were started last November.

Digging and screening compostScreened compostHaving broken open the compost pile, I screened another three cubic feet of compost. I use some half inch hardware cloth stretched over our garden cart to screen the compost.

I spread the compost over the soil in the narrow raised bed where our Earlirouge tomatoes will go. I'd been dissatisfied with the soil level of the bed, although the compost hardly raised the soil level. I also spread a little lime, fertilizer, and Milky Spore over the bed before turning it all under with our walking tiller.

With the tiller out, I also turned over the area where our short, supersweet peas and our Earliest Red Sweet peppers will go. I'd like to get the Eclipse and Encore pea transplants in the ground yet this week. But we have rain forecast for tomorrow and Thursday, so we'll see on that one. With thirty-six cells of transplants for each variety, I plan to only transplant and not direct seed the pea row. Having experienced a real disaster with the varieties last year, I don't have a lot of saved seed for them. Even with their plant patents expiring this year, I won't have enough seed to share for at least another year. Hopefully, someone else out there has been silently saving seed for the varieties and has had better luck than I in getting them to germinate in anything other than really warm soil. Our transplants came up great this year, but only over a soil heating mat set to 75° F!

Weather Underground Extended ForecastIt was very windy outside today, but our high temperature reached 80.9° F. Other than hanging onto my hat, it was a pleasant day for outdoor work. Our extended forecast shows us cooling off a bit for the next week or so. Having quoted an article last week that suggests a soil temperature of 65 to 70° F for transplanting tomatoes and peppers, and having a cold snap stunt our Earlirouge tomatoes last season, I'm going to hold off transplanting our Earlirouge tomatoes and Earliest Red Sweet peppers until sometime next month.

Donors ChooseBut I'm incredibly exciting for the coming gardening season. Even though I'll miss my usual goal of having our raised beds planted and mulched in April, we have most of our stuff in. Our carrots and beets, however, are being slow to germinate.

Our East Garden plot is pretty much planting ready. I need to pick up some buckwheat seed, as a little over half of the plot will go to the turn-down crop this season. I'm also considering direct seeding most of our melons, other than the hard to germinate seedless watermelons, using some leftover black landscape fabric I've had in the garage for years. I decided not to grow pumpkins this year and moved our planned area for butternuts to the site of the old compost pile (once I get it cleared) that was originally planned for pumpkins.

Oh, I saw our first hummingbird of the season today visiting our feeder. The poor bird was fighting 30 MPH winds to get to the feeder.

I skipped picking asparagus yesterday. Today, I picked a little over two and a half pounds of it.

Fruit Bouquets

Friday, April 30, 2021

April, 2021, animated GIf of our Senior GardenTransplanted Encore PeasI got our supersweet peas transplanted this morning. I put in 36 cells each of Eclipse and Encore peas. I say cells, as some of the cells had two or three plants growing in them.

Each pea cell went into a narrow, shallow hole that was filled with starter solution. Digging deep wasn't necessary as the area was tilled just a few days ago. Lots of water wasn't necessary as we had a good rain this week.

Although short pea varieties such as Eclipse and Encore don't require support, I'd put up a three foot tall trellis for the pea vines to hook onto. Keeping the peas up off the ground is important for seed saving. Stringing the nylon trellis netting in strong winds yesterday was pretty frustrating.

I also transplanted snapdragons at the ends and center of the pea planting. Snapdragons seem to do pretty well when planted around short peas, especially when they have the support of a trellis. When the short peas come out, I plan to plant lima beans along the trellis. My last experience with growing limas suggested that they might do well with a trellis to climb.

A row of supersweet peas

About eight years ago, I started on a mission to save a couple of supersweet pea varieties, only to later find out that both varieties were protected by plant patents (PVP). I have continued to grow and save seed from the delicious pea varieties. We also freeze some of the peas each season, as they truly are delicious and a bit sweeter even than our tall, early peas. I tell the story in Working to Save a Pea Variety.

Our early peas

Our early peas direct seeded in late February are doing well. The plants are about two feet tall. Some of them will eventually outgrow our five foot tall double trellis. I tell how we grow our peas, tall and short, in Another Garden Delicacy: Homegrown Peas.

April Wrap-up

It's been a good, but unusual April this year. It's been far dryer and colder than usual. We had snow on April 20 plus a couple of hard freezes. But our raised beds are almost all planted. Still to go in are some peppers, tomatoes, and cabbage and some leftover lettuce transplants.

Planted or transplanted this month were onions, carrots, beets, lettuce, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. I also replaced four sage plants in our East Garden plot, although I noticed today that one of the replacement plants didn't make it. Fortunately, I still have half a tray of sage replacement plants on the back porch. I started too many sage, as I feared that our sage in our herb bed might be too old for another year. But both of those plants are now thriving.

Most of our flower transplants are still under our cold frame. I did put in a bunch of tall daisies at the back of our yard and some shorter daisies and a few impatiens in a flowerbed. I have lots of geraniums, petunias, and a few vinca and dianthus still to transplant.

Apple Blossoms on April 14, 2021

Only the volunteer apple tree just off our property bloomed this year. It was gorgeous in bloom, but I'm not sure if it needs a pollinator or not to bear fruit. Two of the apple trees in our yard are too young to bloom, and the yellow apple tree just didn't bloom this year after being filled with apples last season.

We've been picking lots of asparagus for a couple of weeks now. I also had an egg, cheese, and homegrown spinach tortilla this week!

All in all, it's been a pretty good start to our gardening year.

Charity: Water

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