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The Old Guy's Garden Record

April 19, 2022


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Friday, April 1, 2022 - Getting Started

Our Senior Garden - April 1, 2022
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Burpee Seed CompanyApril is one of our busiest months of gardening. Once the weather dries and warms a bit, there will be lots of tilling, transplanting, and direct seeding to do. The month also brings another time consuming job of mowing. But for me, mowing is part of gardening, as we sweep up the grass clippings to use for mulch around most of our plantings.

As soon as I can, I want to transplant our onions and lettuce and direct seed carrots. Often, transplanting brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.) is an early April job. But our broccoli has been slow to germinate. Our saved Goliath seed is only germinating at about 40%! So our cauliflower will get transplanted early while our broccoli will probably have to go into our East Garden plot a good bit later.

One of our more unusual early plantings will be of green beans. Since we live way out in the country beside a farm field, the farm rotation influences our bean planting. When the field is planted to corn, we can plant beans at our leisure. This year the field will be planted to soybeans, which draw lots of Japanese beetles. Rather than have to regularly spray our beans with some very non-organic materials, I try get our beans in early so they'll mature before the Japanese beetle population explodes.

Calendar Forecast for April, 2022Of course, all of these plans are dependent on getting some warm, dry weather so tilling can occur, especially for our East Garden. Our raised beds were all fall tilled and are mostly weed free, although I'd like to till them again before planting.

Some Tools

One of the features on the Weather Underground site is their Calendar Forecast. You access it by clicking on "Calendar" on the main page or "View Calendar Forecast" on the extended forecast page. Doing so reveals a fourteen day forecast along with climatic averages for the rest of the month. While a fourteen day forecast isn't all that reliable, it can add some guidance to ones gardening plans.

Another great tool I've regularly mentioned on this site is Johnny's Selected Seeds Seed-Starting Date Calculator. Beyond giving dates for starting transplants, it also suggests dates for setting out transplants or direct seeding based on ones zip code. Their page of interactive tools has several other useful tools. A couple of my favorites are their Succession-Planting Calculator and Fall-Harvest Planting Calculator

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
 
 

Saturday, April 2, 2022 - Garden Plans

Aerial view of our garden plotsPlot B 2022We're blessed to have lots of space for gardening. Our lot is just 1.3 acres, but we have the use of a couple of acres of field adjacent to our property on the east. We repay the landowner and farm renter's generosity by keeping the field and barn lot mowed each summer.

The image at left shows where our garden plots lie. At times, we've used small patches closer to the barn as isolation plots. Raised beds A-1 and A-2 have interior dimensions of about 3' x 15'. Plot B, our main raised bed, measures 16' x 24'. Our asparagus raised bed measures about 3.5' x 15'. Bonnie's Asparagus Patch is just a circle of asparagus with a diameter of about 8'. It was planted well before we moved here twenty-eight years ago. Our East Garden plot has varied in size over the years, but the last few years, it has been standardized at 80' x 80'. We generally use just half of that space each season, sowing the rest to buckwheat and/or hairy vetch turndown crops for soil improvement.

Plot B, our first built and main raised bed, will have an all season planting of our favorite tomato variety, Earlirouge. Early crops will include green beans, supersweet peas, cauliflower, an intensive planting of onions, carrots, beets, and lettuce, and our fall planted garlic. Other than the tomatoes, succession crops will take the place of the early crops by mid-season or so.

Plots A-1&A-2Spinach beside double trellised tall, early peasOne of our two narrow raised beds, plot A-1, will be planted to an all season crop of Earliest Red Sweet bell peppers. We use the peppers for fresh use, freezing, and adding to our paprika peppers for grinding. The other narrow raised bed, plot A-2, is already planted to spinach and early peas. When the early peas come out sometime in late June, Japanese Long Pickling cucumbers will replace the pea vines between the double trellises that prevent the strong winds here from blowing the vines off the trellises.

I hope we'll soon be snapping off asparagus spears from both our raised bed of Viking asparagus and Bonnie's Asparagus Patch, I haven't seen and spears emerging as yet. The last time we had asparagus in March and early April after a warm winter, the drought of 2012 followed. So I'll just be happy to pick asparagus when it comes.

If you're considering building a raised garden bed, here's how we built two very different raised beds.

East Garden Plan 2022Our large East Garden plot remains a big question mark. I totally revised it a week or so ago, cutting down on our melon plantings and increasing out sweet corn areas and added space for broccoli and lettuce for seed saving. But, I'm really not sure I can hold up to the rigors of planting and mulching the area after my neck injury last year. My lovely wife has already engaged the mowing crew that took over last July after I fell off our porch onto my head for Father's Day and birthday presents. I'm guessing that she secretly thinks we may need them again all season.

Getting old is a bummer.

And the East Garden plan isn't final as yet. I'm considering squeezing in a long row of Eclipse supersweet peas. But that planting depends on how much compost we get out of our old compost pile. Peas love compost! An ill-fated planting of a lot of our saved pea seed in the East Garden totally failed several years ago. I direct seeded those peas, but will go with transplants this time if I decide to do it. I'm really hoping there are others out there still working to preserve the excellent Eclipse pea variety.

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Monday, April 4, 2022 - Starting More Tomatoes

Earlirouge tomatoesI started our Earlirouge tomatoes this year on March 22. I used seed I'd grown out last season and hot water treated for disease control, although we didn't have any apparent disease in our Earlirouges last year. Six days later, I had no sprouts and suspected something was wrong. So I started two more deep sixpack inserts of Earlirouge from the same batches as before, only ones that hadn't been hot water treated.

The first start of Earlirouges produced no sprouts or plants. I dumped them yesterday. I'm guessing that I got the water too hot during the hot water treatment and killed the seed.

The second planting from March 28 had lots of spouts. Being a bit paranoid, I had put lots of seeds in each sixpack cell. So one of my jobs yesterday was to thin the Earlirouges to one plant per cell. With the batch thinned to twelve cells and needing only six transplants, I hope to be able to pick the strongest and most healthy looking plants for transplanting next month.

I started the rest of our tomatoes this morning. I seeded Moira, Quinte, Crimson Sprinter, Bradley, and Red Pearl open pollinated varieties. Our hybrids for this season will be Bella Rosa, Dixie Red, Mountain Fresh Plus, Mountain Merit, and Honey Bunch.

Three MoirasQuinte tomatoesKnowing that I'd killed our Earlirouge seed during hot water treatment, I went back to the seed I started last year for our Moira and Quinte tomato plants. That seed yielded plants that filled our tomato cages with larger than normal, delicious, deep red tomatoes. While I also started some Crimson Sprinters from the 2020 seed, I seeded a communal pot of the variety from the hot water treated seed...hoping that maybe some seed had survived. I also started some Bradley tomatoes that Kentucky gardener Dennis Mohon put me onto. Dennis wrote that Bradleys "are, if not the best, certainly one of the best tasting tomatoes still being grown." They're a nice, large, flavorful, pink tomato.

Of the hybrids started, the Mountain Fresh Plus and Mountain Merit varieties stand out for their good flavor and disease resistance. When I brought anthracnose into our East Garden via some bad seed, those two varieties continued to produce while other varieties faded.

Our grape tomato varieties, Red Pearl and Honey Bunch, are an interesting pair. Red Pearls produce the most flavorful grape tomatoes I've ever grown, but don't produce that many grape tomatoes. The Honey Bunches are flavorful and produce lots of grape tomatoes. While I save seed each year from the Red Pearl variety, I can't share any of it as the variety is PVP patent protected. But Johnny's Selected Seeds always seems to have the variety on sale!

I also started our Earliest Red Sweet bell pepper plants today. The ERS variety produces early peppers and continues to produce heavily late into the season. It's peppers are smaller than most popular hybrids, but the volume of peppers offsets that limitation.

Flat of seeded peppers and tomatoesOur plant rack - April 4, 2022Other than the communal pot of Crimson Sprinters, all of the tomatoes and peppers were started in deep sixpack inserts filled with sterile potting mix. Seeds went on top of the soil and were covered with vermiculite. The tray of seeded tomatoes and peppers is covered with a clear humidity dome and sits over a soil heating mat set to 75° F on our plant rack.

Our how-tos:

I still need to seed paprika peppers, although we had a fantastic crop of them last year that yielded more dried, ground paprika than we probably can use in a year's time.

Uppotting

Broccoli started in egg cartonI've had lots of plantings that needed to be uppotted in the last week or so. Most were things I'd started in communal pots where the sprouts needed to be moved to individual pots or cells. Some dianthus and vinca were among the most recently uppotted plants.

I also moved some Goliath broccoli seedlings from an egg carton I started them in to deep sixpack inserts. The plants were tiny, but were in danger of falling over. I also repotted the rest of our Goliath broccoli that had gotten leggy, moving the plants deeper into the soil of their sixpack inserts.

Planting Still on Hold

Any outdoor planting here is still on hold. We have freezing temperatures predicted for both Saturday and Sunday morning.

Burpee Fruit Seeds & Plants

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Our Senior Garden - April 6, 2022Weather Underground Extended Forecast for April 6 - 15What started out to be a cool, gray, rainy day has turned out to be a rather pleasant, sunny afternoon. I went out this morning during a brief sunny period to clean out the car. Before I was finished, it was raining again. By this afternoon, it was sunny with puffy white clouds.

Our extended weather forecast doesn't look conducive to getting much outdoor gardening done. There are a couple of freezing mornings and lots of rain in the forecast.

One job I will need to get done in breaks from the rain is to erect a double trellis around our planting of early peas. For years, some of our pea vines would blow off a single trellis, bending so that those vines didn't produce many good peas. I finally came upon the idea of putting up two trellises spaced sixteen inches apart. That has cut down of vines blowing off the trellis and also increased our early pea harvest.

The crummy weather outlook actually may work for me a bit. My lovely wife, Annie, fell off our front steps last Thursday night, breaking her hip. The break was in such a place that the surgeon recommended a total hip replacement. She had emergency surgery late Friday night.

I brought her home this afternoon. She's doing quite well, but will need a lot of assistance over the next couple of weeks. It's appropriate that should fall to me, as Annie took time off work to help me when I was recovering and rehabbing from a hip replacement seven years ago.

Dungarees

Carhartt T-shirt Sale through April 17

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Snow on April 8?I wanted to put up our double trellis around our wide row of peas today. When I opened the back door this morning, the wind was howling. It continued all day with rain mixed in at times. Messing with light weight nylon trellis netting in the wind isn't my idea of fun.

So instead, I finally finished and filed our taxes. I also, out of caution, brought our hanging basket plants back inside. We have low temperatures predicted for the next three mornings, one of them a hard freeze of 28° F. And snow on April 8?

Really! It's supposed to be spring! Someone or something has seriously pissed off Mother Nature.

Burpee Seed Company

25% off SITEWIDE (excludes gift cards). CODE: GROW422. Offer ends 4/10/22

Friday, April 8, 2022 - Starting Herbs and Paprika Peppers

Need Light

Catnip - perennial - 60-70° F - (Johnny's Selected Seeds)

Dill - annual - 60-70o F

Oregano - perennial (zones 3-9) - 70o F

Rosemary - perennial (zones 7-9) - 65° F (one source suggests 55° F night, 70° F day) - (Southern Exposure Seed Exchange)

Sage - perennial or hardy annual - 70o F

  • Common (Johnny's Selected Seeds)

Thyme - perennial - 70o F

Darkness

Basil - annual - 65-70° F

Paprika Peppers - annual 80-90° F

Parsley - annual - 70-80o F

Starting herbs and paprika peppersWe have yet another crappy weather spring day today. It's cold with strong winds and often misting or flat out raining. So...I mostly stayed inside.

After a really slow start this morning, I got busy in the afternoon starting some herbs and paprika peppers. A lot of my seed was old, so I seeded heavily in some small, round, communal plastic pots. I'll have to stay alert to the plants coming up and move them to individual pots or insert cells once they get going.

I seeded basil, dill, rosemary, and thyme. Some of the basil seed and all of the dill seed were seeds we'd saved. I probably didn't need to start any dill, as we often have volunteer plants of it come up in our raised beds. Dill sheds a lot of seeds even when one tries to collect them before they drop.

Since I never seem to be able to remember what herbs need light for germination and what don't, I made a chart several years ago to help me.

I also seeded our paprika peppers. I used some saved seed and Hungarian and Boldog Hungarian Spice seed. Interestingly, I read online that pepper seed might slightly benefit from a little light. I covered the pepper seed lightly with vermiculite as I'd covered the herb seed. The paprika peppers will go into our East Garden. Peppers there struggle to produce in the poor soil. I've been able to get some fairly nice paprika pepper crops there by giving each plant a deluxe planting hole filled with fertilizer, lime, peat moss, and sometimes compost mixed with the native soil.

And of course, we have a how-to on Growing Peppers.

The Pond

There's always been a pond behind the barn on the field we help take care of. While it was never great for fishing, I have enjoyed watching turtles on the banks laying their eggs. Over the years, the dam of the old pond eroded, leaving just a shallow pond.

The New PondTwo or three years ago, the landowner must have dropped some serious bucks having the old pond cleaned out and a new dam installed. He wanted a spot to take his grandchildren fishing. Sadly, he fell ill and hasn't yet been able to do anything with the pond.

It now is a lovely half acre or so pond, but had never been stocked. So a few weeks ago, I invested in some flathead minnows to get things started. They came via UPS and were in good shape on arrival. When I'd normalized the temperature in the bag of minnows, I only saw one dead fish as I dumped the minnows into the pond. Later this summer, I hope to add bluegill and bass to the pond. And eventually, I'll even add some catfish, but not until the other species are well established.

Terracotta Composting 50-Plant Garden Tower by Garden Tower Project

Saturday, April 9, 2022

A nice stand of peasOur first asparagus of the seasonWe have a nice stand of early peas. I still haven't erected the double trellis around them, but the pea plants haven't starting putting out tendrils yet. The row of spinach next to the peas is up, but had just sat still since germinating. Once it warms up a bit, I think the spinach will take off.

I noticed we have our first asparagus spear up. It won't be long until we're feasting on asparagus again. And yes, that's a jumbo dandelion in the photo.

The sun was out when I took these pictures. Then I made a quick trip to town. One purchase was of seed potatoes from our local garden center.

By the time I got home, it had clouded over and the wind picked up. So I chose to be lazy and wait for a warmer day before attacking some outdoor jobs.

Plants under cold frame - April 9, 2022

I closed our cold frame at around four in the afternoon. That's usually a no-no, as a cold frame can really heat up with the sun on it. Since it's mostly cloudy today, I'm hoping to hold in as much heat as possible before a predicted freeze tomorrow morning.

Hanging basket plants back inside

Our hanging basket plants along with some geraniums and sage have been inside for several days. From our extended weather forecast, they may need to remain inside for another week to ten days! One of our cats, Lulu, appears to be guarding the plants.

More

After putting up today's posting, I came across a really interesting article by Barbara Pleasant on Grow Veg, How to Grow Carrots and Parsnips in Toilet Paper Rolls.

Best Buy

Sunday, April 10, 2022

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Our Senior Garden - April 10, 2022Finally, we have a lovely day today! While it's windy, temperatures are approaching seventy degrees. And other than some frost, we escaped the predicted hard freeze for this morning.

I started off my outside work today finishing a job I started weeks ago. I'd let some grass get going in our herb bed and have been fighting it for a couple of years. It's a variety spread by rhizomes, so just pulling the grass doesn't kill it.

Several weeks ago I put a little water and some Roundup in a cat food can, donned latex gloves, and used my gloved fingers to caress each blade of grass I saw with some Roundup. That killed most of the grass, but some survived. So I repeated the process today.

One of my big jobs for today was putting in six, seven foot T-posts to hold three strands of plastic coated clothesline wire on which our nylon trellis netting will hang. It was too windy to try stringing the netting, but I stretched the clothesline wire between the T-posts. It will expand some in the sun.

Adding T-posts around early peas

Some light weeding in the narrow raised bed was necessary. I went on to weed our other raised beds, especially our asparagus bed. I dug out the large dandelion pictured here yesterday with an asparagus shoot. I also paid special attention to some chickweed that was blooming. Letting it set and spread seed could cause a weed nightmare. I also observed a bunch of asparagus shoots just breaking the soil surface.

I moved on to picking up branches around the yard. Actually, I collected mainly limbs, leaving sticks behind that the mower can handle. I'll need to do our first mow in the next few days which should produce some much needed grass clipping mulch for the pea bed and our garlic.

Plants back outside on the back porch

I wound up my gardening day by moving our hanging basket plants from our dining room table back outside. Joining the flowers and sage were a tray of large geraniums.

I had a glorious time working outside today. But I also was cognizant that overdoing things would be a mistake. I'm still recovering and rehabbing from a severe neck injury last summer. So I'm taking it slow, but totally enjoying the outside work.

I'm going to break one of my rules for this site and re-run an ad that appeared here previously this month. I ordered five Carhartt T-shirts from Dungarees a week ago. They arrived promptly in good shape. If you're into Carhartt clothes, the prices on this sale are excellent.

Dungarees

Carhartt T-shirt Sale through April 17

Monday, April 11, 2022 - Toilet Paper Roll Carrots

Trying toilet paper roll carrotsGrowing carrots in toilet paper rollsWith rain pouring down outside this morning, I decided to give Barbara Pleasant's How to Grow Carrots and Parsnips in Toilet Paper Rolls a try. I had one toilet paper roll and another from a roll of paper towels. I also had plenty of sterile potting mix and our carrot seed in from the garage freezer in hopes of planting some of it soon.

I apparently got one roll too wet and it fell apart. The others have held up so far, but small rubber bands around the rolls seem to be a good idea.

Gloxinias

GloxiniasI have some gloxinia plants that presumably have finished blooming, but simply refuse to go dormant. Four of them are from leaf cuttings I took from a magenta double gloxinia last June. The fifth is a pink double gloxinia that has the largest corm of any gloxinia we've ever grown.

I brought the gloxinia plants down from our sunroom today. I trimmed off dead and damaged leaves and old, dried out bloom buds. Then I broke a rule for gloxinias. As they move towards dormancy, one shouldn't fertilize them. But since just leaving them alone, sparsely watered, hadn't pushed them into dormancy, I decided to give them a bit of liquid fertilizer.

Trellis Netting Up

Two years ago I wrote some Reminders to Myself:

  • Allow at least a half to full day to erect a double trellis.
  • Pick a windless day to install trellis netting.

This year, it took me two days to set up our double trellis. Rain, wind, and age made the process twice as long as usual. And as I installed the trellis netting today, the wind terribly tangled some brand new trellis netting. But I got it untangled, so that part of the job is done.

Trellis netting installed around pea wide row

I use a double trellis to keep our tall peas from blowing off the trellis. Most of the peas grow in a sixteen inch wide row between the two trellises. When the peas play out, Japanese Long Pickling vining cucumbers will benefit from growing between the double trellises.

I use six, seven foot T-posts to hold three strands of plastic coated clothesline wire on which some nylon trellis netting hangs for our trellises.

Pink snapdragons1-800-Flowers Deal of the WeekTwo more steps remain for the narrow bed of peas and spinach. I have three deep sixpack inserts of Rocket Mix snapdragons to transplant around the pea trellis. While the pea vines and later, the cucumber vines will overgrow the snaps, they'll bloom before the peas overtake them, before the cukes get going, and finally, after the peas and cucumbers are done in the fall.

Our how-to feature, Another Garden Delicacy: Homegrown Peas, gives the skinny on how we grow our peas, tall and short, from start to the table.

I moved a couple of deep sixpack inserts of our favorite snapdragon variety, Madame Butterfly, outside today to begin hardening off. They would have been my choice to surround our pea planting, but the seed for them was backordered and came in very late. They'll instead go around a planting of short, supersweet peas.

Botannical Interests

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Weather Underground Extended ForecastOur Senior Garden - April 13, 2022It appears that we're in for some heavy rain today. Our extended weather forecast now suggests that things may dry out enough to permit rototilling our raised beds and possibly even our large East Garden plot sometime next week. We still have several very cool (34° F) mornings in the forecast, so I'll keep our tender flower transplants on the porch or under the cold frame a bit longer.

I brought melon, squash, eclipse and encore pea seed in from the garage freezer today. It's about time to get transplants started for those crops. This always puts a strain on our soil heating mat space. I'll start the melons and squash first and later start our supersweet peas. All require some bottom heat to get going.

Later

I wanted to inspect our apple trees and also check our asparagus beds. But it just keeps raining and raining.

Renee's Garden

Thursday, April 14, 2022 - First Asparagus

Our raised asparagus bed begins to produceA light first picking of asparagusI picked our first asparagus this morning. Both our raised bed and Bonnie's Asparagus Patch had spears just barely fat enough to pick. There may be enough for us to enjoy it at supper. I may check later today for more good spears, as asparagus can grow several inches in just a day.

Apple Trees and Snapdragons

Apple trees and snapdragons wouldn't normally go in a paragraph together. But I'd hoped to spray our apple trees and transplant snapdragons around our early peas today. Steady winds of 20-30 MPH put off those tasks until a less windy time.

FTC Regs

You may have noticed the "Clicking through one of our banner ads or some of our text links and making a purchase will produce a small commission for us from the sale" message at the top of most of the pages on this site. An advisory from an affiliate manager emphasized the Federal Trade Commission requirement. So I've spent considerable time this week attempting to comply. Sadly, the affiliate wants the "disclosure so it appears at the top of every article...per FTC guidelines." That simply isn't going to happen on this site. Top of each page plus the other FTC disclosure notices should be enough.

Yep! A federal reg that is a total pain in the ass. And that's coming from a liberal Democrat!!

Possibly a good thing is that going though the 171 blog posts on Senior Gardening, I'm cleaning up expired links to advertisers who are no longer Senior Gardening affiliates. (I'm about half way through the archived blog posts.)

Hummingbirds

It's time for us to hang a hummingbird feeder. The first of the delightful, small birds usually begin to arrive here in late April. I'll also need to begin laying in extra granulated sugar to make nectar for the birds. We mix water and sugar in a 4:1 ratio for the birds.

Hummingbird Hummingbird Hummingbirds at feeder That's not a hummingbird

Hummingbird Feeders

Friday, April 15, 2022 - Good Friday

Our Senior Garden - April 15, 2022Snapdragons around early peasIt was sunny and warm this morning. Annie and I enjoyed a drive to Terre Haute for her first physical therapy session since her hip replacement surgery. She's coming along famously.

Sadly, by the time we got home, the weather had changed. While still warm, it had become cloudy and windy.

Undeterred, I went ahead and transplanted eighteen Rocket Mix snapdragons around our planting of early peas. I tried to transplant the snaps along the trellis line to give them some support when they get tall.

Since I had so many transplants, some of them went on the shady side of the pea row. I've not done that before, so we'll see how they do there.

Raised bed of spinach, early peas, and a few snapdragons

Lasagna Night

Lasagna night usually follows spaghetti night at our house. I make our spaghetti sauce with a quart of canned whole tomatoes and a pint of tomato sauce seasoned with basil, parsley, oregano, garlic, and onion...all from our garden. It also gets some red and black pepper. I slightly sauté the onion and garlic when I brown hamburger to go in the sauce.

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.

Hunts Traditional Pasta SauceThen I cheat. I add a one dollar can of Hunt's Traditional Pasta Sauce to add a bit of flavor and volume to the spaghetti sauce. That makes enough sauce for spaghetti and lasagna.

After cleaning up from a spaghetti dinner, we immediately move on to making the lasagna. Once baked, it goes into the fridge overnight until reheated the next day. Lasagna always seems to taste better when reheated.

I started the spaghetti sauce around eight o'clock yesterday morning. By noon, I'd burnt it as I got busy doing other things while it boiled down. So...I started again, this time being careful not to burn the sauce.

Tonight's lasagna

As you can see, I now make our lasagna in a bread pan. It's deeper for more layers, but also makes for a smaller lasagna that matches our needs with all of our children grown and on their own. Even then, it feeds us for two or more days.

Morgenstern Books

Indiana’s Largest Indie Bookstore - Morgenstern Books

Sunday, April 17, 2022 - Easter - First Mow

I mowed our lawn yesterday for the first time since last June. After my fall in early July (2021), we had to hire out the mowing. So yesterday was a test to see if my neck could handle the bumps in mowing our rough yard. It did, but I still have the field to mow. It's growing a good bit slower than our lawn. Since I mowed a bit high, the mowing didn't produce enough grass clippings to be worth sweeping up to use as mulch.

Starting Melons

Ripe Ali Baba watermelons
Ali Baba watermelon

Cut Sugar Cube cantaloupeIn 2007, the farmer who rents the farm ground around us generously offered to let us use part of a small field next to our property that he'd decided was too small to be worth planting. Our primary need for space and "clean ground" at that time was for sweet corn, as we had serious corn smut problems in our main garden plots. An 80' x 80' area in that field became our East Garden plot where we've grown sweet corn, melons, squash, pumpkins, potatoes, and anything else that didn't fit into our raised garden beds.

I got our melons and yellow squash seeded today for the East Garden. I started Athena, Avatar, Sugar Cube, Sarah's Choice, and Roadside Hybrid (good, but discontinued variety) cantaloupe. For honeydews, I chose Tam Dew and Diplomat. Our watermelon for this year will be Ali Baba, Blacktail Mountain, Congo, Crimson Sweet Virginia Select, Picnic - Farmers Wonderful, Kingman, and Trillion (triploids). And as always, Slick Pik will be our summer yellow squash.

The planting filled two Perma-Nest trays, each with ten four and four and a half inch pots. Using larger pots allows me to put several seeds in each pot and transplant them as a hill from one pot.

Trays seeded to melons on soil heating matsI of course used sterile potting mix, a lot of it, for the planting. The trays are covered with clear humidomes and sit on soil heating mats. The tray with the seedless (triploid) varieties has its thermostat set to 85° F, if the poor old heat mat can generate that much heat. Seedless varieties require more warmth to germinate than regular watermelon.

I'm hoping to begin transplanting these melons in four to five weeks. Any longer, and the vines become somewhat difficult to work with.

Our how-to, Growing Great Melons on Heavy Clay Soil, tells how we grow good melons in some so-so soil.

The Home Depot

Monday, April 18, 2022

First hummingbird feeder upI hung our first hummingbird feeder yesterday afternoon. Defying a prediction of a late frost tomorrow morning, I also hung hanging baskets of blooming petunias on either side of the feeder. Over the last five years, our first hummingbird sightings have been:

  • 2021: April 27
  • 2020: April 20
  • 2019: April 23
  • 2018: April 19
  • 2017: April 21

As usual, the nectar in the hummingbird feeder was a 4:1 ratio mix of water to granulated sugar. We stick with that formula until August when the birds need to put on more weigh for their migration south. Then we mix at about 3.5:1. As the season progresses and especially after the hummingbirds hatch out their first clutch of eggs, we'll hang a second and third feeder for them. Things really get crazy after the birds second clutch of eggs hatch and the baby birds leave their nests.

Hummingbird Feeders

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Hanging baskets back inside (Again!)
Hanging baskets all finally hung

Our hanging basket plants had to come back inside one last time (I hope) last night. It got down to 33° F, but there was no frost that I saw this morning. The plants are now back outside, hanging from hooks on our back porch. Petunias, impatiens, vinca, and tradescantia zebrina (Wandering Jew) now adorn our back porch.

Apple Trees

Yellow apple tree on left, Stayman Winesap on right, and volunteer tree partially hidden by wild rose bush in rearWe have three apple trees. Two are in our yard with another being a volunteer where we used to dump bad apples at the edge of the field next to us. One tree produces yellow apples. It was supposed to be a Stayman Winesap! And we have a small Stayman Winesap that I transplanted last year. Another dwarf Stayman Winesap is supposed to arrive sometime this week. The volunteer tree helps with pollination and produces small, delicious apples every two or three years or so.

To top things off, I have a Geneva 222 rootstock still growing in a tub that miraculously has stayed alive there for several years. I took some cuttings from it this winter. The cuttings are budding, but they are refusing to root despite a couple of generous applications of Clonex Rooting Compound Gel. The Geneva rootstock has good cold hardiness, resistance to fire blight, Phytophthora root rot, and wooly apple aphid. We've lost trees to both fire blight and Phytophthora root rot in the past.

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Since we've lost trees to root rot, I followed a suggestion from Gardening Info Online to treat the area where the new apple tree will go. They suggest applying "a 3% solution of household hydrogen peroxide to your soil" to kill root rot pathogens. To be safe, I'll treat the planting hole with Serenade biofungicide at planting. Serenade has been discontinued, but a similar product, Cease, has approximately the same ingredients.

Apple blossoms about to openWild rose bush encroaching on our volunte er apple treeAll of those trees got a heavy spray of Bonide Fruit Tree Spray this afternoon. I got lucky and the wind died down when I was attempting to spray the highest branches of the trees. I was also lucky to get the spray done before the blooms begin to open, which may happen any day now. Once the blooms open, spraying endangers bees visiting the blossoms. The trees had previously been sprayed with dormant oil.

I tried and failed attempting to spray a wild rose bush with Roundup that is encroaching on the volunteer apple tree today. I tried my Roundup sprayer, but it wouldn't hold any pressure. I tried another sprayer, but it too was defective. I'll have to shop for another sprayer tomorrow.

I keep three different garden sprayers. One is for organic products, another is for non-organic insecticides, and a third is for Roundup. Doing so relieves me of the worry of chemical residue possibly harming our plantings.

Nite Guard Solar Predator Control LightPredator Eye critter repellantWe've used Nite Guard Solar Predator Control Lights for years to deter deer and raccoons from our sweet corn and melons. They're not foolproof, but do seem to somewhat scare off critters. Two of our four original Nite Guard's have failed, so I went looking recently for replacements. The price of Nite Guards has soared over the last few years, but I found some relatively cheap Predator Eye Nite Guard knock offs at a much more reasonable price. I hung them along our pea trellis for now. They'll get moved to our East Garden plot next month, as deer and raccoons are a much more prevalent danger to our crops there through the summer.

Possibly more effective are our homemade Not Tonight Deer and Repels All-Anmal Repellent. Rabbits and deer took all of our lettuce and brassicas last year, so I'm hoping our deterrents this year may be more effective.

Chainsaws from Amazon

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Our Senior Garden - April 20, 2022Cantaloupe and yellow squash upLate yesterday afternoon I went to the basement to check the temperature of the soil heating mats under our melons. I was amazed to see that our cantaloupe had begun to germinate after two days! Interestingly, none of our watermelon were up yet.

I moved the tray of watermelon onto the heat mat that the cantaloupe had been on, figuring that heat mat was doing a better job than the one the watermelon had been on. The tray of cantaloupe had their humidome removed and our lights moved down to just above the young plants.

By this morning, some of the watermelon seeds had begun to germinate, including one triploid variety that usually requires more heat to come up than standard melons. The other two triploids I have seeded haven't come up yet. Note that our watermelon varieties other than the triploids are all open pollinated.

Sage and geraniums on back porchI moved the last of our geraniums from the basement to the back porch this morning. Five late germinating plants had remained under our plant lights while the bulk of our geraniums have been on the back porch or under our cold frame.

Transplants under cold frameWhile geraniums can handle some cold weather, I've resisted putting any of ours in the ground. With the chance of frost now past, I'll begin moving some of the plants to the corners of our raised garden beds and one in a planter on our cistern.

Other than some vinca that got nipped by a frost/freeze, we've not had any weather related damage to our transplants. Our onion transplants suffered from me not getting them watered regularly enough, but now seem to have recovered. I often forget that so many plants concentrated in a tray use up far more water than our other trays of plants.

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Our current extended weather forecast suggests that I won't be able to rototill our raised beds anytime soon. Instead, I'll have to rely on last fall's tilling and hoeing and raking the beds before planting. My goal is to have the raised beds completely planted this month. But soil temperatures will dictate when our Earlirouge tomatoes and Earliest Red Sweet peppers get transplanted. Both varieties can stunt if planted in cold ground.

Our East Garden plot that sat mostly idle last season, other than tomatoes and paprika peppers, must be tilled a couple of times before planting. That could push planting it into late May or early June! Such late plantings have actually worked for us in the past. Our late transplanted tomatoes bear fruit right up until the first frost. And the sh2 supersweet corn we grow germinates far better in warm ground than cold.

Chewy

Friday, April 22, 2022 - Earth Day 2022

Hole dug and backfilled a bitI'm wondering if I should have my head examined. I planted an apple tree today whose fruit I most likely will never pick. But even at seventy-three years of age, a famous quote is still valuable: “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”

I ordered another Stayman Winesap apple tree from Stark Bro's Nurseries on April 17. Winesaps became my favorite apple variety after an old friend, Mike Wardell, gave Annie and I one for a wedding present. It produced lots of tasty apples before succumbing to fire blight.

The new tree arrived promptly, a little before I was really ready to put it into the ground. It went into the basement for a couple of days. But I got around to planting it this morning.

Over the years, instructions for planting trees has changed a bit. It used to be that you gave a new tree the most deluxe hole you could. In recent years, experts have suggested all native soil was a better option. My planting today came somewhere in between those recommendations. I mixed a good bit of peat moss with the soil I dug creating a planting hole. I also used my post hole digger to dig deeper and possibly encourage some kind of a taproot.

I watered the hole with a couple of gallons of starter solution made up of half strength Quick Start, a bit of Maxicrop Soluble Seaweed Powder, and Serenade biofungicide. A touch of ground limestone was added to help neutralize the acidity of the peat moss, but I omitted any solid fertilizer for this planting. When necessary, tree spikes can supply that nutrition.

Making sure the graft was above soil levelFinished plantingI carefully backfilled the planting hole with the soil I'd mixed with peat moss. I laid a 2x4 across the planting hole to ensure I got the tree graft well above the soil level. Getting the graft into the soil encourages rooting that can turn a dwarf tree such as I planted into a standard.

Once the planting hole was filled, I added an old pepper cage covered with hardware cloth that I've used for years to protect young trees from mice and other critters. I'd originally cut a square hole for the new tree, thinking I'd cover the planting with black landscape fabric. I'd picked up a huge roll of it years ago from an end of the season sale from Johnny's Selected Seeds. I may add that later, but the pepper cage put off that for today.

I'm planning to plant the Geneva 222 rootstock tree I bought in 2019 in the next few days. It probably will never produce much fruit, but I might be able to graft other varieties onto it. The poor tree has sat at the edge of our back porch for three years in a planting tub and deserves a chance to survive.

Apple Blossoms

The supposedly Stayman Winesap tree I received from the Arbor Day Foundation years ago produces yellow apples, but is now in glorious full bloom. At least it's probably a good polinator.

Apple tree in bloom Apple Blossoms 1 Apple Blossoms 2 Apple Blossoms 3

Whether you get any apples or not later on, apple blossoms are one of the true beautiful joys of spring.

Other

Tulips 1
Tulips 2

Volunteer apple tree blooms peaking throughThe volunteer apple tree just off our property has been overgrown with trees, rose bushes, and vining weeds the last few years. I decided to try and clean things up today with a spray of weed killer on the encroaching plants. In its heyday, the volunteer tree produced delicious small apples that tasted of a cross of red delicious and winesap...a sweet apple with a bit of spiciness. I was careful with the spray not to hit the apple tree, but it will take some serious work with a chainsaw, looping shears, and whatever to clean things up.

As I came in today, I grabbed a couple of shots of the tulips in our front flowerbeds. They don't get much care, but have faithfully bloomed each spring for years.

 

Charity: Water

Saturday, April 23, 2022 - First Hummingbird

Hummingbird on far side of feederApple tree in bloom - April 23, 2022A bright, male ruby-throated hummingbird appeared at our feeder today. He might well be a transient headed further north, but the sighting marks the first of what should be lots more of the tiny birds to visit our feeders. Unfortunately, he refused to pose for a photo, only landing on the far side of the feeder!

Apple Tree in Full Bloom

Even though I'm not thrilled with the variety of apples it produces, our one mature apple tree has burst into beautiful full bloom. Our mature volunteer apple tree just off our property is also in bloom, although the plants crowding it out obscure most of the blooms from view. Hopefully, bees will be able to find the blossoms, as the tree has proved to be a good pollinator.

A Day Off

My neck didn't approve of my activities yesterday. Digging and planting a tree in the morning and driving my wife to and from physical therapy in the afternoon aggravated my neck injury. So even though it's sunny and 80° F outside, I'm not doing much gardening, tree planting, or mowing today. I did pick a lot of asparagus and also transplanted six geraniums into our raised beds. But strong winds are really hammering the poor geraniums. Aspirin, BenGay, and some good scotch have taken away a bit of the discomfort.

Sam's Club

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Our Senior Garden - April 24, 2022Lots of asparagusI mowed our lawn today for the second time this spring. Unlike the last mowing, I was able to windrow enough grass clippings to mulch our garlic...once the clippings cure a bit and cool down. I'll need to mow the acre plus field next to us soon. That should produce lots of grass clipping mulch for our planned crops in our East Garden plot.

Our asparagus patches are now producing an abundance of spears. After I picked asparagus, Anne took the shot at right while I mowed. Three pounds of asparagus will go to our local food bank for their food distribution tomorrow evening.

It takes several years to get an asparagus patch started, but it's usually worth the effort and the wait. I tell how I started ours in our how-to, Growing Asparagus. While I started our patch from seed, I definitely recommend starting from the best purchased asparagus crowns you can find.

Burpee Herb Seeds & Plants

Monday, April 25, 2022 - Starting Our Eclipse Peas

Seeding Eclipse PeasOur early peasI started transplants today for the supersweet Eclipse pea variety. I grow the pea from transplants as its seed germinates rather poorly in cool soil. But I have to wait to start the Eclipse peas until our early, tall peas get going, as I don't want any crossing to occur between the varieties.

The Eclipse pea variety was covered by a plant patent (PVP) through last year, although the patent holder no longer produced seed for the variety. Over the years, I've legally saved Eclipse pea seed solely for our own use, but hopefully will have a good enough seed crop this season to share seed with others next year, as Seminis's patent has expired.

I filled two sheets of deep sixpack inserts (72 cells) with sterile potting mix. To further ensure the potting mix had no damping off fungus or such, I also watered the potting mix with boiling water. Even though my seed had germination tested at just 70-80% last year, I placed only one seed in each cell as a bit of a further germination test. I also started a communal pot of nine seeds just in case I ended up with a bunch of empty cells. The seed planted in flats of deep sixpack inserts was saved last season (2021). The seed started in the communal pot was from 2019.

Plant rack with seeded peas over soil heating matsFruit BouquetsI soaked the pea seed for about an hour in room temperature water while the potting mix cooled down. Some sources suggest pre-soaking pea seed for 24-48 hours before planting. In my experience, that only produces seed suited for making split pea soup!

The flats of seeded peas got covered with clear humidomes and went onto our soil heating mats under our plant lights. Cornell University suggests an optimum germination temperature of around 75° F for peas, so that's where I set our thermostats.

Here are links to our pea how-to and our story of trying to save the Eclipse pea variety.

I'll be starting some Encore supersweet peas once I get the Eclipse peas off our soil heating mats. Encore is a parent variety of Eclipse and produces peas that are almost as sweet as Eclipses. Encore was also a plant patented variety that the patent holder chose to stop producing and let the variety become extinct. Shame on Seminis/Monsanto/Bayer.

Toilet Paper Roll Carrots

Toilet Paper Roll CarrotsA2 Web HostingFollowing up on my April 11 posting about Barbara Pleasant's How to Grow Carrots and Parsnips in Toilet Paper Rolls, most of the carrots I started two weeks ago are now up. I'm not sure the toilet paper and paper towel rolls I used are going to hold up. But the carrot seeds, other than one late planted roll, are up. That was good news to me, as one of the varieties seeded was some Luguna seed I'd gotten from an unknown seller.

The Laguna carrot variety has apparently been discontinued, so I was pleased that my stash of the seed for the excellent variety was still good...a sorta weird germination test.

Worried? Maybe a Little

As weather conditions (and my health) continue to put off most serious soil preparation and planting, am I getting worried? Maybe a little, but I can remember several late planted gardens that did really well for us. While our carrots should have been seeded by now, our onions, lettuce, and brassicas transplanted, there's still time to get them in and get good crops. Transplanting tomatoes and peppers right now would be pretty risky, as both can stunt from cool weather. And I've started our melon transplants late enough that our large East Garden plot should surely dry out enough for tilling before they're ready to go into the ground.

Weather

Weather Underground Extended Forecast - April 25-May 4, 2022

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The wind absolutely howled here yesterday, beating some tradescantia zebrina (Wandering Jew) plants I'd potted up and put on the porch to get them out of our sunroom. It rained around an inch or so overnight. And we have morning low temperatures of 37 and 34° F predicted for the next two days! Our extended weather forecast from the Weather Underground suggests I won't be able to rototill our raised beds before planting. That won't help our deep root crops such as carrots, but shouldn't impact our other crops, as I was able to rototill the raised beds late last fall.

Of course, the difficult weather may prove to be a blessing. After mowing our bumpy yard yesterday, my neck is killing me today! Whine, whine! I should count my blessings, as my neurologist son-in-law told me that my fall last July could easily have killed me.

Alibris: Books, Music, & Movies

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Our Senior Garden - April 28, 2022Shasta daisies weeded and mulchedWith rain on the way, I got our garlic mulched and some daisies weeded and mulched. The daisies are the first we've gotten to overwinter in a spot near the back of our yard. I have a bunch more Shasta Daisiesicon under the cold frame to go into the area along with some Painted Daisies for a flowerbed at the side of the house.

Yes, I like daisies.

While out mulching, I did the old Jim Crockett test for soil readiness for tilling. It's to pack a fistful of soil into ones hand and then drop it on the soil. If the soil ball shatters, the soil is dry enough for tilling. My samples shattered, although I took them in the driest parts of our raised beds. But I went ahead and rototilled our main raised bed and a narrow one and raked them smooth.

Main raised bed tilled

With our main raised bed tilled, I can start direct seeding carrots and beets and transplanting onions, lettuce, celery, and cauliflower in the next few days. (Our broccoli transplants are still babies growing under our plant lights.)

Shop Lehman's Now!

Saturday, April 30, 2022 - April Wrap-up

April, 2022, animated GIF of our Senior GardenSpinach and early peas - April 28, 2022It's been a frustrating start to another gardening season. April produced repeated frosts and freezing mornings that put off most plantings. Lots of rain delayed working the soil. Bright spots for the month include some heavy production of asparagus, our early peas and spinach doing well, and lots of transplants thriving on our plant rack and under our cold frame.

The weather has finally warmed. I got out yesterday afternoon and staked the rows for various plantings in our main raised garden bed. I cheerfully staked a 3' x 15' area next to our garlic for our onions, carrots, beets, celery, and lettuce in an intensive planting. Traditional rows were marked for cauliflower, short peas, and a wide row of green beans.

The best news of the month is my wife's rapid recovery from a broken hip that resulted in emergency hip replacement surgery. She spent the first six days of the month in the hospital. The last two weeks she's received some excellent physical therapy from ATI Physical Therapy in Terre Haute. Yesterday's PT was highlighted by a brief shopping trip after therapy! She's healing quickly. Thank you, Lord.

David's Cookies

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