Senior Gardening

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The Old Guy's Garden Record

March 31, 2021


Monday, March 1, 2021

Our Senior Garden - March 1, 2021
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We're starting the month of March with a favorable extended weather forecast. It appears we'll have daily high temperatures for the next week or so slightly to well above average. But March weather is fickle. We often experience snow and even a hard freeze towards the end of the month.

As we begin this month, we've already exceeded capacity under the lights of our plant rack in the basement. Sage, hosta, asparagus, and geraniums have been moved to our sunroom windows. I'll soon begin moving gloxinias out from under the lights to our dining room table by some large bay windows. Hanging basket plants will also go there on days and nights too cold for them to be outside.

Some relief from the overcrowding will come about mid-month when I set up our cold frame. Cold hardy transplants such as onions and brassicas are usually the first out under the cold frame.

Counting back on the calendar from May 1, we're six to eight weeks away from when we hope to transplant our first tomato and pepper plants into our raised garden beds. Our frost free date for this area isn't until April 14. We transplanted tomatoes last spring on May 1, only to have them stunted by a late cold snap followed by a dry spell. I may be a bit more cautious about when I start and put out our tomato plants this year. Having the earliest tomatoes hasn't been a goal of mine. I'd much rather have lots of healthy, productive tomato plants later in the season.

Burpee Herb Seeds & Plants

 
 

Tuesday, March 2, 2021 - Hanging Basket Petunias

I moved some petunias to large hanging basket pots this afternoon. With the temperature outside around 50° F, I chose to do the transplanting on the edge of our back porch. I'd left a new bag of potting soil on the porch through our recent cold spell. While the bag of soil had thawed out, I watered it in the pots with some lukewarm water before transplanting.

Transplanting petunias into hanging basket pots

More porch plantsPlant rack - March 2, 2021I used petunias that I'd started in egg cartons just before Christmas. When they outgrew their egg carton cells, they got moved to fourpack inserts. When I moved them to the hanging basket pots this afternoon, the plants had lots of roots showing at the bottom of their soil ball. It was definitely time to get the petunias into their final homes.

I've happily used the Supercascade and Double Cascade petunia varieties for years for our hanging baskets that line our back porch each summer. They produce an abundance of large single and double blooms, respectively, throughout the summer months. They really don't cascade all that much, but they are pretty.

I moved our most recent planting of egg carton petunias to our kitchen windowsill to make room for the hanging baskets under our plant lights. They'll stay there for a few days before being moved to our sunroom or dining room table. Our plant rack is once again full.

A mistake I've made with our hanging basket petunias is to hang the pots in windy weather. While the petunias usually survive, they get damaged by the strong winds that frequently sweep across the fields west of us. I'm going to be a bit more cautious this year in getting our hanging baskets hung as early as possible.

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

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Sometimes the little cheats I do in planting catch up with me. While looking over the plants under our plant lights yesterday, I realized I was way behind in uppotting plants started in communal pots. There are communal pots of celery, snapdragons (2), parsley, impatiens, daisies (2), and milkweed all about ready or way past ready to move to larger quarters. The celery and parsley turned out to be not as far along as I thought, so they didn't get moved. And I forgot to bring the milkweed upstairs for the repotting. It wouldn't have made any difference, as I ran out of potting soil fairly quickly.

Plants to be uppotted

Our painted daisies, snapdragons, and impatiens appear to have handled the transplanting well. Some of our Alaska Shasta Daisies were a bit too large for transplanting and may not make it.

Daisies and snapdragons in deep sixpack inserts

Healthy snapdragons and some weary Shasta Daisies

Impatiens in cocoa basketPlant rack - March 4, 2021I did the transplanting on our back porch, standing off the porch and using it as a table. All but a few impatiens went into deep sixpack inserts. A few impatiens went directly into a cocoa basket hanging planter. It went to the sunny bookshelf in our sunroom, as the cocoa basket had sat outside all winter.

Sorry about the plant rack photo at right. I took it on manual, which is usually just right for photos of stuff under the lights. But the bench holding a flat of plants in front of the plant rack is pretty dark.

You may have noticed the onions in the background of these photos. The onion plants are thriving, but are also ready for their second haircut (trimming). Cutting them back produces sturdier plants and also prevents them from falling over. After a trimming, probably tomorrow, they'll still need one more trimming before getting transplanted into our garden.

Botannical Interests

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Our Senior Garden - March 6, 2021We're enjoying some lovely weather here. Daily high temperatures have run around 50° F, although it still gets down below freezing each night/morning. I got out and pulled a few early weeds this morning.

Trimming onionsOnions Trimmed Again

I did a second trimming of our three flats of onions yesterday. Some of the onions had grown to 6-8" with several falling over in the flats. I cut them down to around two plus inches.

Seed Libraries

I received an email yesterday from John Fischer of the Normal (IL) Public Library. His title is Adult Services & Circulation Manager. He's also their seed librarian.

From Wikipedia: "A seed library is an institution that lends or shares seed. It is distinguished from a seedbank in that the main purpose is not to store or hold germplasm or seeds against possible destruction, but to disseminate them to the public which preserves the shared plant varieties through propagation and further sharing of seed."

Like the Normal Seed Library, many seed libraries are part of public library systems. They offer free open pollinated seed to gardeners with the hope/expectation that folks will save seed and return some of it to the seed library for others to use. Doing so does help preserve open pollinated vegetable varieties, but also provides folks with free garden seed.

John's email was a request for seed donations to his library. I've contributed seed to them several times over the last five years. While the Normal Seed Library isn't the closest one to us, it is the one that always sends a "Thank you" for seed donated!

John's email:

Good afternoon!

In preparation for this season and our community needs, the Normal Seed Library is issuing this friendly call for donations. Our need is immediate and your generosity is appreciated! Please kindly share this call widely. 

Please consider donating seeds to the Normal Seed Library. We are eager to build our collection of the following (and anything else you would like to donate that you may have saved from last year's harvest): 

  • Endive
  • Kohlrabi
  • Radish
  • Rutabaga
  • Turnip
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Arugula
  • Cauliflower

Donations may be made to the Normal Seed Library at the Normal Public Library, 206 W College Ave, Normal IL 61761. Current library hours are Mon-Thur 9 am-6 pm, Fri-Sat 9 am-5 pm, and Sunday 1-5 pm.

Thank you and kind regards,
John

Abundant Bloomsdale spinachSaved kidney bean seedEven though I hadn't previously offered to share spinach seed via the Grassroots Seed Network or the Seed Savers Member Exchange due to its iffy and difficult germination, I printed up ten spinach seed packets for John's library. In checking for more spinach seed, I ran across a couple of pounds of extra kidney bean seed I'd saved last year. So I printed ten seed envelopes for it, filling each large packet with three handfuls of the seed.

I also refreshed our old listings for Abundant Bloomsdale spinach seed on the Grassroots Seed Network and the Seed Savers Member Exchange. Our seed has had several years to adapt to our regional growing conditions. I still recommend folks not living in the Midwest patronize seed vendors such as the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange or High Mowing Organic Seeds. And of course, our seed needs to be soaked, stratified, and/or scarified before planting to ensure good germination. (How's that for a put off?)

BTW: Mr. Brown Thumb has a good page about Seed Scarification, Seed Stratification & Seed Soaking.

If you're looking for a seed library near you, the Seed Libraries or the Seed Librarian sites may give you some direction. Also, just Googling "seed library" with your state name may help you find one nearby.

Later

I planted a row of the Abundant Bloomsdale spinach seed I'd started priming a week ago. The seed had soaked for 24 hours and then been dried and stored in the refrigerator until today.

Spinach seed in furrow

The seeding took all of about ten minutes! I used a piece of scrap one inch lumber to make a furrow along the edge of the raised bed where we have peas planted. Then it was just a matter of dropping in seed, covering it with soil, and patting the soil to firm things up a bit.

I did make one glaring error, though. As I planted, I wondered if this was the same spot where I grew spinach last year. Upon consulting my records, it was. Hopefully, for a short season crop, the time from spring to spring will be enough that my poor crop rotation won't hurt the spinach...if it even comes up.

I also have lots of Abundant Bloomsdale spinach seed on hand in case I have to re-plant.

The Home Depot

Tuesday, March 9, 2021 - Dormant Oil

Dormant oil spray concentrateDormant oil sprayWith a high temperature of 66° F and despite some strong winds, I sprayed our apple trees with dormant oil spray yesterday. I used the last of a Bonide product, All Seasons Spray Oil, to provide some early spring protection from insects. Dormant oil smothers insects overwintering on the trees. I'd been waiting for a warm day to do the spray, but more importantly, a night following without rain or freezing temperatures. Having emptied the bottle and with another apple tree coming in soon, I ordered another bottle of dormant oil spray that I expect will last several seasons.

With just three apple trees to spray, the job didn't take much product or too long. Two of the trees are in our yard with the third being a volunteer tree just outside our East Garden plot. It grew from Stayman Winesap cull apples we used to dump at that spot! It produces small, red apples with a crisp, sweet taste that's a cross of Winesap and Red Delicious.

I often get a dormant oil application on our trees in February. This year's weather just didn't cooperate until now.

Lettuce

I started some lettuce transplants today. We're now less than six weeks out from our last frost date, so it's high time I got our lettuce going. Our spring lettuce season is always too short, as hot weather quickly sets in and makes the lettuce bitter.

Besides lettuce for salads, I want to let a couple of heads of Crispino head lettuce go to seed this season. My current saved seed from the variety was collected in 2014! Other than our saved seed, most of our lettuce seed comes from Johnny's Selected Seeds. Their seed prices are somewhat higher than other vendors, but we get good, non-peletized seed from them that seems to store forever in our freezer.

Flat of seeded lettuce and some other stuff

This year I mostly went with our favorite lettuce varieties: Crispino and Sun Devil head lettuce from saved seed; Jericho and Coastal Star romaine; Nevada summer crisp; and Nancy and Skyphos butterheads. I added one fairly new to us variety at the last moment to fill a couple of empty cells, Better Devil, a butter-cos-romaine variety that really didn't do too well for us last year, but deserves another try.

Heavily seeded cellsWhen seeding lettuce, I put the seed on top of sterile potting mix and spread a little vermiculite over and around it. When using some old seed, I liberally spread seed on the soil surface.

Some lettuce varieties need light to germinate well. Others don't, but sorting out which is which is beyond my aging mind.

From The Spruce's Seeds That Need Light to Germinate:

There are several seeds that germinate best when they are exposed to light. If these seeds are covered in soil, chances are they will remain dormant and not sprout until conditions improve. It seems counterintuitive not to bury seeds, but these seeds should only be pressed onto the surface of the soil and kept moist to germinate.

Other

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Two pots of petuniasWhen I recorded my planting of Abundant Bloomsdale spinach on our garden map, I saw that I planted it in the wrong spot! I'd appropriately rotated spinach to fresh ground on the map, but just goofed when I seeded it on Saturday. At this point with lots of spinach seed left, I'm not sure if I'll re-plant in the correct area or just go with the mistake.

I also moved four hanging basket pots of petunias first to our back porch for the afternoon and then onto our dining room table. The petunias look great so far, but I kept them close to the house to avoid the strong winds we're experiencing today. I hung our pots of petunias from the back porch too soon last year. Strong winds damaged those plants.

Doctors without BordersA local weatherperson last night said a cold front will move in towards the end of this month. While disappointing, that news isn't a surprise. We often have a hard freeze and sometime snow late in March.

In what turned out to be a busy gardening day, my last gardening chore was doing a first till of our East Garden plot. The soil was just barely dry enough to rototill. When cleaning the tiller, there was more soil caked in the tiller housing than I'd ever seen before. It was a mess to clean out. But getting a first tilling in this early will suppress weed growth in the plot. I'll definitely have to till the area once or twice more before we begin planting melons, squash, sweet corn, kidney beans, tomatoes, and peppers into it.

East Garden plot tilled - March 9, 2021

Having a full gardening day this early in the season is a real blessing. At 72 years of age, who knows if I'll ever pick an apple from a new tree coming in. But starting plants and working the soil thrills my soul.

Terracotta Composting 50-Plant Garden Tower by Garden Tower Project

Friday, March 12, 2021 - Rain

Our Senior Garden - March 12, 2021Garlic up - March 11, 2021A local TV weather person recently noted that we'd gone without any rain so far this month. That changed yesterday with some strong thunderstorms and an inch and a half of rain. While walking around standing water is an annoyance, the rain along with warm daytime temperatures may pop up our early peas and our asparagus. Our garlic already looks great.

I spent several pleasant hours outside today working in the flowerbeds around our house and working our compost pile. I'd pretty much ignored the flowerbeds last summer, and they got overgrown with weeds. Our daffodils, tulips, and one surviving daisy beginning to grow motivated me to begin pulling weeds and adding a little fertilizer around the plants.

I still need to run our scuffle hoe through the flowerbeds. There were many small weeds I missed pulling.

I ended up with a garden cart full of weeds. So I took the weeds and compost from our kitchen to a corner of our East Garden plot and started a new compost pile. I also forked off a lot of undigested material off our existing compost pile, mostly asparagus stems, and added them to the new pile.

There's still more material to be moved from the old pile to the new one. I'll let that happen when it's time to break open, screen, and use material from the old pile.

Chewy

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Yesterday, I noticed some of the lettuce I seeded on Tuesday was showing signs of germination. By this morning, almost every cell planted had germinated at least one plant. Many cells where I'd used old seed had lots of plants up, necessitating some thinning in a few days. Only our Nancy seed didn't germinate. It was new seed I'd purchased this year. While I turned off the soil heating mat under the lettuce, I spread some old Nancy seed I had left over the ungerminated cells.

Lettuce up

Peas breaking the soil surfaceGloxinias that broke dormancyWhen I got outside this morning, I saw that the rain, warm temperatures, or maybe just time had worked wonders for our February 27 planting of early peas. While not universal down the pea row, there were lots of peas showing a little green above the soil surface. When I looked at them again this afternoon, some of the plants had grown an eighth to a quarter of an inch since this morning.

Note that while we didn't get any rain this month until Thursday, I had thoroughly watered the pea bed with our hose. The soil surface had dried out, but about two inches down, the soil was still somewhat moist. When I brushed soil off down to the germinating pea seed, I usually found swollen seeds that had put down a root, but no topgrowth.

While down in the basement this morning, I found that thirteen of our gloxinia plants had broken dormancy since I last checked them. While I have several days to do it, the plants will need to be re-potted with fresh potting soil. They'll also need to get some good light. To begin making room under our plant lights for the gloxinias, I moved the tray of sage plants from our sunroom to our back porch. A tray of gloxinias, onions, or possibly even brassicas will go to the sunroom. I also drug the frame of our PVC cold frame into our back yard, preparing for covering it with clear plastic and moving hardy plants under it.

Rose in need of trimmingI made a trip to town to pick up a couple of bags of our preferred potting mix for the gloxinias. After unloading the stuff onto our back porch, I pulled the truck around to our one rose plant. It came from one of those miniature roses sold in stores for special occasions. I'd put off trimming the rose until today. I had a plan, and the cuttings went into the truck bed.

Next up was a light pruning of our apple trees. Our young Stayman Winesap just needed a couple of snips. The well established yellow apple tree had lots of inward growing branches and several broken ones that required pruning. I still need to "top" that tree, but didn't feel like putting a stepladder in the bed of the truck to reach the top of the tree with my pole pruner.

Sage plant to be trimmedMy last pruning chore was to trim the sage plants that mark the corners and halfway points of our East Garden plot. Of the eight sage plants, our dogs had dug up one last fall going for a mole. I found two others that had died, and one more that probably won't make it. Fortunately, I have nine replacement sage plants growing.

I trimmed each sage back to about six inches tall, totally removing dead sections while respecting branches showing new growth. I used my CobraHead Weeder and Cultivator to cultivate around the plants and dig out existing weeds. Each living plant got a very light sprinkle of 12-12-12 fertilizer around it. And the CobraHead was invaluable in digging out one recently deceased plant's rootball.

When done, all of the cuttings went onto our burn pile with several cardboard boxes under them. The cuttings would take forever to break down in a compost pile, so they got burnt.

I had lots more I wanted to do today, but simply ran out of energy. But that's part of the joy of gardening as a senior. There's always tomorrow...until there isn't.

A2 Web Hosting

Monday, March 15, 2021

Our Senior Garden - March 15, 2021Early peas emergingAfter several days of really nice spring weather, today is a cold, rainy, gray, typical March Monday. I've resolved to stay inside and warm as much as possible, doing little other than spending some time writing this posting, drinking some good Scotch, and taking a nap! (Ah, the joys of retirement.)

A good watering early last week followed by an inch and a half of rain on Friday and another half inch today has popped up the early peas I seeded on February 27. I worried the whole time it took for them to begin emerging, even though I knew that peas seem to come up when the time is right. For such early seeded peas, fifteen or sixteen days from seeding to emergence isn't all that unusual. As soon as the peas begin putting on tendrils, I'll need to pound in T-posts and string trellis netting for the tall pea varieties to climb on.

See Another Garden Delicacy: Homegrown Peas for how we grow, harvest, and store both our early and later pea crops.

PVC cold frameHaving dragged the frame of our PCV cold frame into our back yard on Saturday, I've just let it sit since then. I'll eventually cover it with 6 mil clear plastic. But we have at least one cold morning in our Weather Underground extended forecast (circled in red below right) that runs a degree or so below the covered cold frame's ability to protect the plants under it.

Weather Underground Extended ForecastA bit of good news was that the frame didn't pull apart anywhere this year as it has done the last couple of years. When I set up the cold frame, it's often too cold for PVC cement to be effective in holding the thing together. So you'll notice liberal use of duct tape on the frame all the places where the original PVC cement didn't hold.

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Our original cold frame here was built with treated lumber based on plans from much larger cold frames from my farming years. It lasted about six years before rotting out in places. Determined not to have that happen again, I decided to use PVC pipe for a new frame with greenhouse corner fittings. Sadly, I didn't count on the PVC cement not being that strong. I should note here that I also built the PVC frame too light. It blew away several times in the strong winds we experience here before I filled one bottom pipe with some cement for ballast.

Garlic doing wellTrailing impatiens in cocoa hanging basketI'm really delighted at how well our garlic is doing. Planted last November, some of the plants are six inches tall already. Our elephant garlic hasn't done well the last two years, but nearly every clove in the elephant garlic row (the row at right) has produced a plant. For that matter, there are only a few bare spots where garlics didn't emerge. For us, fall planted garlic is usually ready to dig in July each year.

Inside, we have lots of flower and vegetable plants ready to go outside and/or under our cold frame. Some Super Elfin XP Clear Mix impatiens that I'd ignored in their fourpack insert until they started blooming are doing well now transplanted into our cocoa hanging basket. Seeing how hardy these plants are, I probably need to start another hanging basket of them.

Speaking of hanging basket plants, we have four baskets of petunias and two of Wandering Jews doing well on our dining room table.

Hanging basket plants on dining room table

Wandering Jew, gloxinia, and egg carton petunias in kitchen windowEgg carton petuniasIn our west facing kitchen window, we have a gloxinia almost in bloom, our second round of egg carton petunias, and our usual hanging basket of Wandering Jew.

Our second round of egg carton petunias are just getting started. I had to re-seed one of the varieties that set the whole planting back a bit. These plants are for our garden plots, so they have lots of time to mature before going into the ground. Some of our first planting of egg carton petunias are pictured above, now in hanging basket pots.

Every now and then when taking plant and garden photos, you get one you really like. I grabbed a shot of a gloxinia maturing our first blooms of the season.

White gloxinia blooms ready to open

David's Cookies

Wednesday, March 17, 2021 - St. Patrick's Day

Repotting gloxiniasWhite blooming gloxinia in kitchen windowPossibly encouraged by a gloxinia in bloom in our kitchen window, I repotted thirteen gloxinia plants this morning. All of the plants had broken dormancy over the last week or so. And interestingly, none of the plants required larger pots. They all got fresh soil, but rootballs were left intact. The kitchen window gloxinia now has six blooms open with about twenty more developing on the plant.

I did the repotting along the edge of our back porch. The weather was fairly nice, and the porch is just the right height for me to stand and do the repotting.

The plants went back inside under our plant lights in the basement. It will take several months for the plants to begin producing blooms.

On my way back to the house from checking our asparagus bed (no action there yet), I saw that the spinach I seeded on March 6 had begun to emerge.

Spinach emerging Spinach emerging Spinach and early peas in narrow raised bed

While I planted the spinach seed in the wrong spot, it's going to stay. This is the saved spinach seed I thought wouldn't germinate well.

 

Renee's Garden

Thursday, March 18, 2021

We're having another rainy day here today, but nothing like folks in the South are experiencing. With a dental appointment later this afternoon, I'm just goofing off and taking pictures today. Below are the plants currently on our sunroom bookshelf. There's hostas, brassicas, asparagus, geraniums, and impatiens.

Plants in sunroom

Our sage plants that were upstairs got moved to a sheltered area on our back porch several days ago to begin hardening off. With overnight lows of 29, 26, and 33° F predicted for the next three nights, the sage joined the hanging baskets of petunias and Wandering Jew on our dining room table.

Plants on dining room table

Daisy and Tux under dining room tableOur plant rack - March 18, 2021Under the dining room table, our beagle cross, Daisy, and our tuxedo cat, Tux, weren't bothered at all by me taking pictures.

Our plant rack in the basement is still filled to capacity. There's one gloxinia, some leftover dianthus, and what's left of our dwarf geranium just outside the plant rack where they all get at least a little light.

Outside, I'm a little worried for our early peas and spinach. Both have come up nicely and probably would survive a light frost. The 26° F morning predicted has me wondering if I should get out in the mud and spread a floating row cover over the raised bed.

Once we get past those cold mornings, it will be time to cover our cold frame with plastic and get some plants outside to harden off.

GNRL Click & Grow

Saturday, March 20, 2021 - Hot Water Treating Tomato Seed

Anthracnose on tomatoesAnthracnose on watermelon leavesTwo years ago I brought anthracnose into our East Garden plot. I got lazy at seeding time and used some seed from a private vendor that I didn't hot water treat. The plants from that seed were the first to show signs of the disease. Even though I pulled and disposed of those plants, the disease had already spread to some of our other tomato plants. Most of our hybrid tomato varieties apparently had some resistance, but the anthracnose hit our open pollinated varieties pretty hard and eventually even spread to some melon plants. Fortunately, I'd already canned tomatoes from our early, open pollinated varieties.

Hot water treating seed can kill some seed borne pathogens. It shouldn't be necessary with seed purchased from reliable seed houses. But after our bad experience, I'm back to treating all of the tomato seeds we start. A lot of the tomato seed we'll use this year was treated last year and won't need to be treated again.

Hot water treating seedWhat I treated today was the seed I'd saved last year from our Earlirouge, Moira, Quinte, and Red Pearl tomato plants. I also somewhat foolishly treated some really old Bella Rosa hybrid seed, not remembering that I'd bought fresh seed for this year.

I describe the process 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. Since I had five varieties of tomato seed to treat, I wrapped the separate varieties in cheesecloth sealed with and identified by colored twist ties and bread clasps.

World Food Program USWhat was driving my zeal for treating tomato seed today was the realization that we're exactly six weeks away from May 1. We often transplant the first of our tomato plants on that date. Of course, such a planting can backfire as it did for us last year. We had a cold snap around May 7-10 followed by a dry spell that stunted our Earlirouge tomatoes. Our tomatoes transplanted a month later in our East Garden plot thrived.

So once done with the hot water treatment, I seeded two deep sixpack inserts to Earlirouge tomatoes. Since I'll only have room for six plants in the narrow raised bed reserved for them, I sparingly put just one seed per cell in this planting. While hot water treatment can decrease seed germination rates, this seed had tested at 100% last fall.

As to the anthracnose that can survive in ones soil, we rotated around the affected area last year and had no disease problems. Our tomatoes in the East Garden this year will all be several feet from where the infected row was in 2019.

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Sunday, March 21, 2021

Steam coming off potting mixDonors ChooseI started our Earliest Red Sweet peppers, some basil, and dill today. All were started from saved seed. The dill seed was pretty old (2016), but was still pleasantly pungent. I ran out of sterile potting mix while filling four deep sixpack inserts, so I finished filling the cells with ProMix. Just in case there might be some damping off in the mix, I watered the soil with boiling water. (Yes, that's steam coming off the potting mix in the photo at left.) Once the soil cooled down, I seeded the cells, covering the pepper and basil seed while just pressing the dill seed into the soil. All of the sixpacks joined yesterday's planting of tomatoes in a tray over a soil heating mat and under our plant lights.

Weather Underground Extended ForecastWith a promising extended weather forecast, I covered our cold frame with 6 mil plastic. There are a couple of cool nights in the forecast, but none at or below freezing. Generally, our cold frame protects plants under it down to about 28° F.

Measuring the plastic
Plants under cold frame
Cold frame propped partially open

Years ago, I bought a 20' x 100' roll of 6 mil clear plastic. When I measured and cut it this year, I remembered that what I cut off was double what was needed. Last year, I used the leftover plastic from the year before to cover the frame. Next year, I'll use this year's leftovers. I wonder if some of the roll will still be left after I'm dead and buried. grin

I moved lots of plants under the cold frame, filling it to capacity. I also put a tray of sage on the edge of our back porch and six hanging basket plants close to the house on the porch. With frost danger pretty much past, the cold frame protects our young plants from the wind.

Feeding AmericaI didn't move our brassicas to the cold frame, as our plants are still a bit too spindly to go outdoors. I also kept our geraniums in the sunroom. I'll begin moving them outdoors as I repot them from their three inch pots to four inch pots.

I prop open the cold frame with an assortment of scrap lumber. That allows some light to reach the plants while somewhat protecting them from strong winds. Sadly, the propped open position is sorta of iffy for the frame, as strong winds have gotten under it and blown it yards away on several occasions, even after I filled a part of one PVC pipe with concrete for ballast.

It appears that our high temperature for today will be around 66° F. It was pretty pleasant working outside today.

Hummingbird Feeders

It's about that time!

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Our Senior Garden - March 23, 2021I love to sleep in. But at this time of year, it's important I drag myself out of bed fairly early to open our cold frame each morning. A closed cold frame in bright sunlight can quickly heat to temperatures that can kill some of the plants under the frame.

St. Jude Children's Research HospitalI grudgingly got up fairly early (for me) to open said cold frame this morning. The sun hadn't reached the frame as yet, and it was still fairly cool outside. Later, our plants under the open cold frame got their first taste of natural rain. I was on my way to and from town on a brief shopping trip, having to regularly adjust my windshield wipers from off to high speed to off and back to high speed. When I got home, the plants looked just fine.

I left our hanging basket plants up against our house, as there was a pretty good breeze that could damage them. I hung our hanging baskets a bit too early last year, and the petunias never recovered from the strong winds that blew their growth all to one side of the pots.

In between rain showers, I uppotted our geraniums from three inch pots to four and four and a half inch pots. This uppotting gives the plants a good growth burst each year just before we begin hardening off the plants. For now, the geraniums went back to our sunroom.

Uppotting geraniums

Like tomatoes and peppers, geraniums will stunt if transplanted into the garden too soon. So I'll wait until things warm up a good bit more before adding geraniums to the corners of our raised garden beds.

Cats take over empty plant trays

While I could have saved lugging two heavy trays of geraniums back to the sunroom by just putting them on our dining room table, our cats have taken over the empty trays and spaces left when I moved plants outside. Even so, we still have at least one freezing morning in our extended weather forecast that will require closing the cold frame and bringing in the plants that are now on the back porch.

Burpee Seed Company

Thursday, March 25, 2021

It's raining again this afternoon. A local weather reporting station shows we've received a little over four inches of precipitation so far this month. Our extended forecast suggests we may get another inch before the end of the month, making this a pretty wet month heading into our growing season.

I lucked out and was able to do a first tilling on our large East Garden plot earlier this month. Our raised beds all got fall tilled. So even if the soil doesn't dry out soon, we should still be in good shape for planting our raised beds and not having weeds go wild in our East Garden plot.

Newly transplanted gloxinia seedlings

Knowing rain was coming, I worked on our back porch this morning transplanting gloxinia seedlings. These plants were started from some very old Empress seed on December 18. Even though we have lots of gloxinia plants up to seven years old, I wanted to start some pure Empress seed to breed back into our landrace gloxinias, hoping to reduce the leaf size of plants grown from future saved seed.

The sixteen gloxinia seedlings transplanted this morning will give us way too many plants come mid-summer and fall. But those are times when we have lots of space available on our dining room table and under our plant lights. And...gloxinias in bloom are an attractive gift for plant loving friends.

While looking up the date when I started this last batch of gloxinias, I came across an ad for one of my favorite coffee mugs.

Gardening...cheaper than therapy...and you get tomatoes Gardening is cheaper than therapy...and you get tomatoes Gardening is cheaper than therapy...and you get tomatoes Gardening is cheaper than therapy...and you get tomatoes

Words to live by. grin

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Friday, March 26, 2021

Cold frame blown into bushesOnion trays flipped by windI'd wondered what I was going to do with three flats of onion transplants. That's about double what we usually plant. But my impatience and slow germination had induced me to start more onions.

The weather and my forgetfulness solved my too many onions problem last night. When I looked out the window this morning, I saw that our cold frame had been blown about twenty yards into some bushes. I'd forgotten to totally close the frame last night and strong winds had gotten under it. The PVC frame was broken in three places.

When I looked to our plants that had been under the cold frame, all three of our trays of onions were flipped over. Fortunately, none of the other trays had taken flight.

I scooped the onions back into their trays, later trying to get them in rows. With the flipping, the varieties had been scrambled. If the onions survive, I'll not know what is where until the plants begin to bulb.

Some duct tape got the frame back together, although I think this may be the last year for this cold frame. It has more joints held together with duct tape than with PVC cement!

Sunday, March 28, 2021 - March will be March

Hanging basket plants back inside
Cold April mornings

Our Senior Garden - March 28, 2021Annie and I sat on our glider yesterday afternoon in 74° F comfort. Today, I brought our hanging basket plants back inside before a predicted 30° F Monday morning! An April Fool's Day jolt of 27° F is predicted for Thursday morning, followed by a Friday morning low of 24° F! Twenty-four degrees will be enough to make me dig out our tarpaulins to cover and add some extra protection for the plants under our cold frame.

With steady 20-35 MPH winds, I opened our cold frame just a few inches this morning, hoping the thing wouldn't take flight again. After an hour of hearing the howling wind outside, I decided to close the cold frame for the day.

Peas and spinach Floating row cover over peas and spinach

Despite the strong winds, I got out and covered our raised bed of spinach and early peas with an Agribon AG-19 floating row cover. While that thickness of row cover only protects down to 28° F, peas and spinach are hardy enough to survive the cold with the row cover on. And while the link above is to an Amazon page, it wouldn't hurt to check prices at Johnny's Selected Seeds, especially early and late in the season. I picked up an 83" x 250' roll of the stuff in 2014 that I'm still using at quite a savings.

Asparagus upGloxinia in kitchen windowEven though my hands felt like they were freezing, I ventured out to our raised bed of asparagus after installing the row cover. I'd spied a couple of thin asparagus shoots emerging there yesterday. I was rewarded to find several asparagus up, although all were too small for picking. There were also a number of volunteer asparagus up that had apparently germinated from seed the plants dropped last year. It shouldn't be long before we're enjoying our annual spring asparagus feast.

Before our weather forecast included some freezing weather for this week, I'd planned to move the gloxinia in a kitchen window to our dining room table. With the hanging basket plants there for most of this week, the gloxinia will have to compete for space and sunlight in our west facing kitchen window for another week.

Hoss Tools

Wednesday, March 31, 2021 - March Wrap-up

March, 2021, animated GIF of our Senior GardenIt's been a productive month for us getting ready for our gardening season. I've happily watched our early peas planted on February 27 emerge and grow. I direct seeded spinach on March 6 along the edge of the pea's raised bed. It came up well, other than a spot where one of our dogs dug. The pea and spinach raised bed is now hiding under a floating row cover to protect the early crops from some predicted freezes.

Cold mornings aheadOur weather this month has been a mix of warm, sunny days and windy cold days. That's pretty typical for March in our region. One upcoming cold morning has me a bit worried. Twenty degrees is well below both our cold frame and our floating row cover's ability to protect. I set out our tarps in the garage this morning to cover the cold frame on that really cold morning. I'm considering adding a second layer of floating row cover to protect the spinach and peas. While both can handle some frost, a twenty degree freeze is another thing altogether. On a happier note, we got almost five inches of much needed rain this month.

While the peas and spinach are the only crops we've started outside, I've seeded lettuce, some tomatoes, peppers, basil, and dill inside this month. I've already re-seeded the Earlirouge tomatoes, as only three of twelve seeds planted germinated. I fear I may have gotten my water too hot when I hot water treated tomato seed this month. I'm also going to have to re-seed the basil which showed no germination.

Action Against Hunger USAI applied our first spray of the season to our apple trees on March 8. I used dormant oil for the treatment. It's supposed to smother insects and their eggs hiding in the bark of the trees.

On the ninth, I tilled our large East Garden plot. While the area is now showing lots of weeds germinating, the early tilling will make later tillings much easier. It's rare that the soil dries enough in March for any tilling, let along the heavy clay in our East Garden.

I switched out our tiller for the mower deck for our lawn tractor and got the first mowing of the season done yesterday for our lawn. The one plus acre field the East Garden is in still needs to be mowed, but that will have to wait for a sunny, dry day.

Charity: Water

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