Senior Gardening

One of the Joys of Maturity


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The Old Guy's Garden Record

March 15, 2022


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Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Our Senior Garden - March 1, 2022
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Weather Underground extended forecast
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Wow! We're starting off March with a gloriously sunny 66° F day! And it appears that we'll have some moderate weather for the next week or so.

I'm trying not to get ahead of myself. While this weather is great, we've frequently had a hard freeze or even snow around March 24-25!

Even with some cold mornings in our forecast, I moved four very healthy sage plants from our sunroom to a protected area of our back porch. They should do well hardening off there before being used as corner markers for our large East Garden plot.

Not wanting to waste a nice day, I trimmed a rose bush and worked on cleaning up our flowerbeds this afternoon. While I'd previously noticed daffodils up in one bed, I found some tulips up in another.

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
 
 

Wednesday, March 2, 2022 - Winter Weeds

Pea and spinach bedGarlic emergingWe're about seven weeks out from our last frost date (April 14). In just a few days, I hope to seed our early peas. I began my gardening day by pulling back the mulch from the narrow bed where I hope to soon plant the peas and spinach. I pulled some winter weeds and raked the soil fairly smooth. A final step was to take the soil temperature. It turned out to be 39-40° F, a bit too cool even for pea and spinach seed.

I moved on to our garlic area. It had some holes in it, possibly from a snake, but more likely from moles. I spread some Milky Spore over the bed discourage the moles and some Repels All to discourage our cats and dogs from digging in the bed. While all of our elephant garlic have been up since December, our regular garlic is finally emerging. The rows aren't full as yet, but I'm hopeful.

Getting back to those winter weeds, I pulled a lot of chickweed from our raised beds, possibly some bittercress, and a few henbit. I've linked to several articles about winter weeds. It's important to get those weeds pulled early, as some (chickweed) go to seed pretty quickly.

Compost Pile(s)

Compost pileI like to grow butternut squash on the site of an old compost pile. Whatever has seeped into the ground seems to give our butternuts (and sometimes pumpkins) a real boost. Our compost pile from last fall was huge. At one point, it was over five feet tall. But the zinnia and asparagus stems and oak leaves added to it late last fall hadn't broken down much. So today, I began moving the undigested material to a new compost site just a few yards away from the old one.

In a couple of spots, I got down to what looked like compost. But I had to quit moving the pile, as the arthritis in my back said it was time to stop. I did spread some Jerry Baker Compost Tonic over both the old and new piles.

I'll eventually get down to some finished compost in the old pile. Most of that compost will go to our asparagus patches. But I found last year that our tomato plants in our East Garden plot really benefitted from a shovelful of compost mixed into the soil at planting time.

Petunias for Hanging Baskets

Some of the petunias I started in egg cartons in January got moved to their final pots today. I transplanted three plants each to four ten inch hanging basket pots. Two of the pots went to Double Cascade petunias while another two got Supercascades.

Petunias and sage on back porch

I'd made a trip to our local gardening center, Colonial Landscaping and Garden Shop, to pick up potting soil. Since I had some Miracle Gro Lite potting mix on hand, I made the transplanting a bit of a test. I planted a pot of each variety in Miracle Gro and another in Baccto Lite potting mix.

Sat on the Porch

It's been a long time, but I again sat on our back porch marveling at the view. It got up to almost seventy degrees today, and sitting on the porch in a light breeze felt like heaven. At 73 years of age, I'm thankful for each day and such experiences our good Lord grants me.

Hummingbird Supplies

When I selected an ad for today's posting, hummingbird supplies was a natural choice. We won't hang any of our feeders until next month. The first of "our hummingbirds" usually arrive around April 24-25. But if you're planning on feeding the tiny, interesting birds for the first time, now would be a good time to order a feeder or two.

Do skip the red nectars sold online and in stores. The red food coloring does nothing good for the birds. Instead, mix granulated sugar in water in a 1:4 ratio. The hummingbirds will love it.

Hummingbird Feeders

Thursday, March 3, 2022

After two really nice days with temperatures in the upper 60s, it's a good bit colder outside today. And the overnight/morning low will be below freezing. Even though it stays a bit warmer close to the house than ambient temperatures, I brought the hanging baskets of petunias I transplanted yesterday back inside.

Petunias on dining room table

These plants will undoubtedly be in and out over the next few weeks as our March weather fluctuates.

While the ground is still a bit too cold for planting peas and spinach, I did start soaking some of our saved Abundant Bloomsdale spinach seed today. The spinach seed we save always seems to turn out to be hard seed. But with a good soaking, it should germinate well. I won't soak the pea seed until just a couple of hours before I seed it. While some sources suggest soaking pea seed for up to twenty-four hours before planting, I get split peas when I soak pea seed that long.

Another Seed Library and their Seed Swap

I had a pleasant conversation this afternoon with the Monroe County Public Library's Maggie Hutt. Along with her other duties, I think she's currently functioning as their seed librarian. I'd written offering free seed, and Maggie got back to me yesterday. They're gearing up for a Seed Swap on March 19, 2022, from 2:00 to 5:00 PM at their 303 E. Kirkwood Avenue, Bloomington, Indiana location.

I'll be sharing around forty packets of our favorite seed varieties with them for the library and seed swap. If you live in the area and are interested, the seed is free. Of course, the ask is that folks receiving seed save seed and return some of it to the library for other gardeners.

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 T-shirt

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Canning jars dryingSeeded row of spinachI found some "treasures" in our downstairs pantry this week. There were about eight pint jars of applesauce dated 2017! There were also pints of pickles and relish from the same year. And there were three quarts of Portuguese Kale Soup and a quart of whole tomatoes from 2020. All had to be dumped. My depression era parents would have been aghast at such a waste of food. The upside is that I freed up a bunch of canning jars for this season...and didn't poison anyone with too old canned products.

While I've been working toward getting our early peas planted this week or next, our extended weather forecast has deterred me. We'll have a streak of freezing mornings next week, one predicted as low as 17° F. I checked my records and saw that our early peas didn't get planted last year until March 27, and we still got a great crop. So I'll wait a bit on planting peas.

Since I'd soaked some Abundant Bloomsdale spinach seed, I went ahead and seeded it today. For small seed like spinach, I use an old one inch board to make a shallow furrow for the planting. I went down the row spacing the seeds 1-2" apart. When I reached the end of the row, I still had a few seeds left that had been soaked, so I spread them in the furrow.

With this seeding, contributions to seed libraries, and a couple of orders, I'm now down to just enough 2021 Abundant Bloomsdale seed to re-plant if necessary, or a fall planting. So, I've closed off orders for that variety on the Grassroots Seed Network and the Seed Savers Exchange. I still have lots of seed saved in 2020 and earlier years, just in case I need it.

Burpee Fruit Seeds & Plants

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Onions before trimming
Onions after trimming

Weather Underground Extended Forecast - March 6, 2022With what I'd hoped to be an early spring turning into a bit more winter, my outdoor plans have changed. Although I went ahead and direct seeded spinach yesterday, I'm going to hold off on seeding our early peas. I began saving seed from our Champion of England and Maxigolt peas several years ago. I'll use the saved and somewhat cross pollinated and area adapted seed again this year. I'm hoping for a cross that will make the Champion of Englands a little shorter and the Maxigolts a bit taller with both retaining their vigor and excellent flavor. Trying stuff like this cross is part of the fun in seed saving and plant breeding.

Our trays of onions were ready for their second trimming today. They will probably require one more trimming before they get transplanted early next month.

Cold frame blown into bushesAll the plants we have started will need a protected area to harden off later this month. Since the wind destroyed our old cold frame, blowing it away several times, I'm using that experience to design a new and better weighted PVC cold frame. The old cold frame now sits in the bushes where our mowing crew from last summer threw it.

Broken cold frameI've begun assembling supplies to put together a new one. I already had on hand the PCV pipe necessary and most of the joints to connect the pipes. Missing was the most expensive joint! I ordered them, only to realize that I'd ordered for outside diameter instead of inside diameter. PVC pipe is sized by its inside diameter. So I'll need to cancel one order and re-order the right size tomorrow.

The new cold frame will be our third here at the Senior Garden. The first one I built with a pressure treated wood frame in 2008 rotted out after seven years. So in 2015, I went with a frame made of PVC pipe. It was much lighter to move around, but that proved to be its downfall, as the strong winds we have here got under it and blew it away repeatedly. I kept it together with lots of duct tape, but it's now broken beyond repair.

Hopefully, my past experiences will guide me to engineering a better cold frame. The new one won't be quite as tall as the old PVC frame and I'll better weight the bottom pipes by partially filling them with concrete.

Chewy

Monday, March 7, 2022

Vince, tradescantia zebrina, and petunias on dining room tableVinca rootballI started out today by transplanting Cora Cascade vinca into hanging basket pots. Their rootballs showed that it was time for them to go into larger quarters. The lovely, small vinca plants went three to a pot in ten inch hanging basket pots. Since we're into a cold spell, the pots of vincas went onto our dining room table.

While I like the Cora Cascade variety of vinca for hanging baskets, I started some Pacifica and Pacifica XP to go into our garden. Vincas take a long time to develop, but when they do, they're beautiful in a garden or flowerbed.

Working in our basement plant room, I thinned our cauliflower and lettuce transplants to one plant per cell. I had more plants to uppot from their communal pots, but ran out of sterilized potting mix.

Geraniums in sunroomSome of our geraniums from seed were ready for larger pots today. They got transplanted into four and four and a half inch pots. One tray of the transplanted geraniums went to the cooler confines of our sunroom. Putting geraniums in such an environment (warm days, cold nights) is said to allow them to add root growth while also toughening up a bit.

I still have five or six geraniums under lights in our plant room that were too small for the rigors of life in our sunroom.

Terracotta Composting 50-Plant Garden Tower by Garden Tower Project

Tuesday, March 8, 2022 - Gloxinias Emerging from Dormancy

I'd planned to uppot some parsley, celery, and snapdragons today along with starting broccoli. But I thought to check our dormant gloxinias on a rack in a dark corner of our plant room. Fourteen plants had broken dormancy and put on fresh growth. So...today became gloxinia day.

Gloxinias have to go through a period of dormancy about once a year. The plants fade and begin to do poorly after a blooming cycle or two. When that happens, it's time to quit fertilizing and liberally watering the plants. They begin to have leaves brown and can be cut back to their corm and allowed to rest for several months in a cool, dark area.

After one to four months, the corm will begin to put on new growth. Depending on how quickly one finds it, it may be just a tiny white to pink sprout growing from the corm or possibly a stem with leaves. At that point, it's time to repot the gloxinia corm in fresh soil and bottom water its pot.

Gloxinia corm exiting dormancy Huge gloxinia corm exiting dormancy A superstar, super bloomer, gloxinia
The corm on the left was seeded in 2020. The huge one in the center is a bit older, probably from 2014-5. And the corm on the right bloomed so beautifully it earned a superstar tag.

I invert the pots and usually the gloxinia falls into my hand. I crush off soil from the bottom and sides of the corm that doesn't have roots in it. Typically, our gloxinias don't put roots down over halfway in four or six inch pots.

I refill the pot with potting mix and squish the corm into the soil so its top is level with the sides of the pot. A little more potting mix often has to be added around the corm. The trick is to cover the gloxinia roots without smothering the new growth on the corm.

The repotted gloxinia goes in a tray under out plant lights and gets thoroughly bottom watered. After several months, the plants come into bloom for another season. Sometimes a plant only blooms once for a month or so. Some plants will go through two blooming cycles a year.

Gloxinias in bloom

Renee's Garden

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Our Senior Gsrden - March 9, 2022Brassicas startedI moved parsley, celery, and snapdragons from the communal pots they were started in to deep sixpack inserts this morning. I also started more brassicas. I seeded two deep sixpack inserts to saved Goliath broccoli seed. I also seeded sixpacks with commercial Castle Dome and Premium Crop seed.

I'm working to preserve the old Stokes Seeds strain of Goliath broccoli. That didn't go so well last year, as critters ate all of our brassicas! And I was pleasantly surprised to see several vendors carrying the excellent Premium Crop broccoli variety again. It had disappeared from seed house offerings for several years other than from Reimer Seeds. I'm guessing some entity has begun producing that seed variety again.

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I also started a sixpack of cabbage (Alcosa and Super Red 115) and another of Brussels sprouts (Dagan and Hestia). We haven't had much luck growing Brussels sprouts, but are going to try again.

It appears another hybrid variety has returned from the dead. I noticed a couple of outlets offering Red Zeppelin onion plants this year. That onion variety disappeared from seed houses several years ago. It was our favorite red. Seeing Red Zeppelin plants offered, I did a search for Red Zeppelin seed and found that Hazzard's Seed Company had seed for sale. The seed is a bit expensive, and onion seed doesn't store well for over a year, but I bought some anyway.

Signs of Spring

Gsarlic rows filling inBuds on rose bushIn our garden and around our house, we're beginning to see some signs of spring. Most of the garlic cloves planted last fall have produced a plant. They'd been a little slow filling in, but now it appears we'll again have a good garlic crop.

Our one rose bush now has buds on it. It's a bush from one of those miniature rose plants sold as a novelty in stores. I kept ours going and moved it outside about ten years ago. It has rewarded us with lots of lovely blooms year after year.

Elsewhere, we have daffodils getting ready to bloom along the lee side of the house and some rather sad looking tulips in our front flowerbeds.

While our oak trees are still napping, a maple tree had buds swelling.

Daffodils ready to bloom Tulips up Buds swelling on maple tree

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Friday, March 11, 2022

Plants on dining room table during freezing weatherVinca in bloom on March 11, 2022We've had snow flurries here today, but no accumulation so far. The overnight low is predicted to get down to 12-13° F. While sage is pretty cold hardy stuff, I brought our four sage transplants inside for tonight and tomorrow, just to be safe. I'm hoping to move plants back outside on Sunday or Monday. That's also my new target for planting our early peas. Our extended forecast suggests that may be past the last of our freezing mornings.

All three shelves of our plant rack are now full. There are still a few open spots in the twelve 1020 seed flats the rack holds. A splash of color on the middle shelf caught my eye today. A vinca had opened a bloom.

In contrast to today's weather, we had a fairly warm, sunny day yesterday. I got out and collected fallen branches and even trimmed one of our trees with my new, cordless electric chainsaw. (It's a dandy!) Since it wasn't windy, I was able to burn a bunch of boxes and the limbs I'd collected. Living out in the country, open burning is still allowed.

Chainsaws from Amazon

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Our Senior Garden - March 12, 2022Cold damaged geraniumsDon't be fooled by the pretty blue sky and fluffy white clouds in today's splashshot. It got down to 15° F this morning, and our predicted high temperature for today is still below freezing (27° F). With some 30 MPH wind gusts, it's a day for staying inside.

When I took today's splashshot from our sunroom, the max-min thermometer there said it had gotten down to 41° F in the unheated room. Our tray of geraniums showed that it might have been a bit colder close to the windows. I'm hoping the geraniums will bounce back. If not, we'll have vincas at the corners of our raised garden beds.

We have another cold morning predicted for tomorrow. Beyond that freeze, we should see improving temperatures next week with highs in the 50s and 60s. That should let me get seed for our early peas into the ground.

Botannical Interests

Sunday, March 13, 2022

I took a few minutes late last night/early this morning to run through the seed vendors listed on our Recommended Seed Suppliers page. The last two years, seed houses have been overwhelmed with orders, leading to significant delays in orders getting shipped. It appears that things are a bit better this year...providing all the vendors are playing nice and telling the truth about their shipping times. I did, however, find three sites that had posted warnings of possible delays in shipping.

  • Seed Savers Exchange: "Due to high order volume, we are currently experiencing shipping delays of 1-3 weeks. Your order will be processed in the order it was received. We appreciate your business and your patience."
  • Southern Exposure Seed Exchange: "We’re getting most orders into the mail 7-10 days after they are placed."
  • Fedco Seeds: "Orders take 1-3 business days to process. Due to the delays with the US Postal Service, our seed orders may arrive later than expected."

If you're still planning to place a seed order, it's time to get that job done. This obviously is the busy season for seed houses.

What got me thinking about orders was a surprise that arrived on our porch yesterday. When I started the last of our brassicas last week, I pulled out a whole sheet of deep sixpack inserts. Strangely, there was only one sheet of inserts left in the box. I was sure that I'd ordered more, but forgot all about it when starting the broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts seeds.

A box from the Greenhouse Megastore made me wonder if they hadn't cancelled a bad order I'd placed and cancelled. Instead, it was ten sheets of deep sixpack inserts I'd ordered in December! That's a pretty long backorder. We'll go through several of those sheets when we start our tomatoes and peppers next month.

Other than a braid of softneck garlic, I cleared out all the rest of our saved garlic today. The braid will supply us with enough garlic until I start stealing fresh garlic in early June and doing our main harvest in late June or early July. I had to pitch several garlics that were shriveled and going bad, but had three small bags of good garlic that will go to our local food bank tomorrow.

Our onions haven't stored as well as the garlic. Of the thirty-five pounds of onions harvested last summer, we stored twenty pounds, sharing the rest with the food bank. At this point, I think we only have two yellow onions left in storage!

The Home Depot

Monday, March 14, 2022 - Planting Early Peas

Blanched peas cooling
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New potatoes and peas
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One of the garden crops we especially enjoy at mealtimes are peas. As I wrote in our how-to, Another Garden Delicacy: Homegrown Peas, "Growing peas is a labor of love. If you don't crave the slight improvement in flavor of homegrown peas over what are really pretty good name brand grocery store frozen peas, growing and preserving peas probably isn't worth the effort involved."

Since we like peas so much, we go to a lot of trouble each season growing them. Part of that effort is getting some early peas started in March. After a stretch of freezing mornings, we now appear to be past most of those days, and it's time to get some pea seed in the ground.

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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.

Treating pea seed with CaptanMy first step today was preparing the pea seed for planting. I'm not real big on treated seed, but this is one area where seed treatment is a good idea. I wet the frozen seed with cold water, drained it, and stirred the seed in a bowl of Captan fungicide. It should help reduce seed rot in cold ground. The seed was then spread on a cookie sheet (never used for cooking) to dry while I prepared the seed bed. Note that I wore latex gloves whenever I handled the treated seed, as Captan was once classed as a probable human carcinogen, but was reclassified in 2004.

The bed for the peas had been tilled late last fall. I staked the area for the peas in the narrow raised bed a day or so ago. I plant our peas in a wide, sixteen inch row that eventually is enclosed by trellises on either side.

I used a garden rake to pull back the soil over the area to be planted. The wide furrow was one to two inches deep. Then I spread granular soil inoculant, lime, and 12-12-12 fertilizer and hoed it into the soil. Then, again with latex gloves on, I carefully spread the pea seed down the furrow, trying my best to space the seeds one to two inches apart. I used the rake to pull and inch or so of soil over the seed and tamped it down with the head of the rake to ensure good seed to soil contact.

Lime, fertilizer, and inoculant spread in furrow Pea seed in furrow Row covered with Repels All and Milky Spore

Snapdragons hardening off on back porchFruit BouquetsA last, but important step was to spread Repels All and Milky Spore over the entire raised bed. The Repels All is to discourage our cats and dogs from digging in the bed. The Milky Spore is to kill Japanese beetle larva that moles go after.

While our harvest varies from year to year, we usually have enough peas frozen each year to last well through the winter.

One more step that sort of fits here is that I brought some snapdragon plants to the back porch to begin hardening off. As soon as the pea plants emerge, I'll put up our trellises on either side of the pea row. I like to have snapdragons along the edge of the row, at least on the sunny side.

Prices of Garden Supplies

While writing this piece, I was shocked at what has happened with the price of some gardening products and chemicals. The price of Captan appears to have tripled or more since I last bought some. I ran out of granular soil inoculant, but couldn't afford to order more. Everywhere I looked, either the price was too high or shipping charges were prohibitive.

Best Buy

Thursday, March 17, 2022 - St. Patrick's Day

Trailing impatiens in coco basket planterGarlic looking good - March 17, 2022I started off a beautiful day today by transplanting four Super Elfin XP Clear Mix Impatiens plants into a coco basket planter/hanging basket. Since the seed is a mix, and the plants are young, I have no idea what colors we'll get from the planting.

With a few warm days lately, our garlic is really looking good. It shouldn't require any care for a couple of weeks other than maybe some light weeding. After I do our first lawn mowing, I'll lightly cultivate around the garlics before mulching them with grass clippings. They then shouldn't require any special care until June, when I'll give them a light foliar watering of nitrogen fertilizer.

Even though it's supposed to rain tomorrow, I went ahead and watered the narrow raised bed where I have spinach and peas seeded.

New Cold Frame

Cutting up old cold frameBase of cold frameWith our old cold frame a broken mess, I started on building a new PVC cold frame yesterday. Just getting started, I cut two 1 1/2 inch PVC pipes to 91" each. To prevent the demise of the new frame from blowing away as the old one did, I filled each pipe with a bit of concrete. I used wadded newspaper to hold the concrete near the center of the pipes and poured in dry concrete. I watered the concrete and rammed in more newspaper to hold it in place.

Worried that I might not have enough new PVC pipe for the new cold frame, I harvested lengths of pipe from the old frame. I was going to have to cut it up anyway to put it in the trash. You'll notice from the photos that I worked in the garage. I cleared the clutter from an area of it so I'd have a nice, flat surface to work on.

I put together the base of the new cold frame first. I actually push the parts together, as the corner couplings lift the main pipes a bit and could cause some misalignment. Then I pulled apart the ends, treating both the pipe and fittings with PVC primer and cement. It's important to get the pipe into the fittings quickly, as the cement can grab in just ten seconds or so. Also, a good whop with a rubber mallet helps move the pipe and fittings fully together.

Daffodil in bloom - March 17, 2022Burpee Seed CompanyI stopped at that point to let the cement fully grab and cure. I did set out fittings and some of the pipe for the next level of the frame. It's a bit more complex. And the last level with its angled top is a nightmare to figure out. Fortunately, I have one angled top support left from the last cold frame to use as a guide.

I'm not going to get in a hurry finishing this cold frame. I've made that mistake before, stressing joints before they were fully bonded. I hope to have the frame done and in use by Monday morning when we have a 33° F morning low predicted.

Concerned that I might be overdoing things (working our compost piles), my lovely wife came out to rescue me from my labors. After a wonderful hug, we both were delighted to see that our daffodils had come into bloom.

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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.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Uprights added to frame baseSecond layer of frame addedAfter two lovely, sunny, seventy degree days, it's colder and raining today. And it's likely to rain again tomorrow. An ugly surprise in our weather forecast is an overnight low predicted to be 32° F on Sunday morning. Since our cold frame won't be done by then, the hanging basket plants I have outside will need to come inside to our dining room table again.

Progress on our new PVC cold frame continues, but is slow. I added upright pipe pieces to the cold frame, finished the second layer of pipe using some really expensive 4 Way PVC Connectors, and mounted the second layer on the base. The uprights used were 14" pieces, a good bit shorter than my last cold frame...as it turned out to be a bit too high.

The last step of building the frame is the angled pieces that give the top of the frame some slope to shed water. Finding the right bend connectors is always a bit fun. I have a bunch in a box, but may yet have to run to the hardware store for more.

Once I get the frame completed and covered with 6 mil plastic, I have onions and geraniums that are ready to go under the frame to begin hardening off. Close behind are lettuce, celery, and various flowers. Not nearly ready are our brassicas. They're usually the first or second transplants into our garden, but I got our broccoli started late, and then had to re-seed some of it.

Projects like this one are always interesting, if challenging.

Hummingbird Feeders

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Plants outside - March 18, 2022
Plants back inside - March 19, 2022

Our Senior Garden - March 19, 2022Typical of March weather changes, we've gone from temperatures in the 60s and 70s the last few days to today's 40ish degree weather. Our overnight low is predicted to be 32° F, so all the plants I had outside hardening off are back inside on our dining room table.

My cold frame construction is on hold for now. PVC cement sets and cures better at warmer temperatures. It's supposed to be twenty degrees warmer tomorrow.

That's March in Indiana.

Not really frustrated by the weather, I transplanted eight Crispino and eight Sun Devil lettuce starts to fourpacks this morning. These are plants from seed we've saved. I hope to save seed from both varieties this year, especially the Crispino variety, as our saved seed from it is getting really old (saved in 2014). So I've started enough plants for us to enjoy head lettuce this spring and possibly still save some seed.

I'm not sure how I forgot it, but the image below taken yesterday is a bright spot in our early season gardening.

Abundant Bloomsdale spinach up - March 19, 2022

The Abundant Bloomsdale spinach I direct seeded on March 5 is coming up. With our variable March weather, I'd feared I'd have to re-seed the spinach, but the sprouts I saw yesterday were a relief. I've given away, sold, and planted all but a little of our saved seed from last year. I have just enough seed left for our fall crop. But if you're desperate for Abundant Bloomsdale spinach seed grown in the Midwest, I still have lots of saved seed from 2020.

Alibris: Books, Music, & Movies

Tuesday, March 22, 2022 - Starting Tomatoes

Deep sixpack inserts seeded to Earlirouge tomatoesBotannical InterestsI started the first of our tomato plants this afternoon. I seeded two deep sixpack inserts to the Earlirouge variety, our favorite tomato. Two of the cells got seed from a plant last year grown out from our original 1988 saved seed. The other cells got seed from a mix of all six of our Earlirouge plants from last year.

Six of the plants started today will go into the fertile soil of our main raised garden bed in early May. And since the plants are for both fresh use and seed saving, that bed is about a hundred yards away from any other tomatoes we grow. I'll be starting eight to ten other varieties a bit later that will go into our East Garden plot. The Earlirouges give us early tomatoes and also ones for canning. The East Garden varieties sometimes don't get transplanted until June, but then yield well into the fall.

I filled the deep sixpack inserts with sterile potting mix and thoroughly watered them with warm water. To plant the seed, I just make a shallow depression in the soil with a finger, drop in a seed, and push a little soil over the seed. Of course, I add a few extra seeds at the corners of the sixpack cells, as every seed isn't going to germinate. The batches of seed used today germination tested at 80% late last fall.

The sixpacks of tomatoes went over a soil heating mat set to 75° F. For folks lacking soil heating mats and such, a warm spot (windowsill, top of fridge) should give the seed a little extra heat to speed germination.

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.

While it's possible to get tomatoes going earlier with some heat supports, I find that waiting until the soil warms a bit eliminates the possibility of plants stunting in cold ground. I tell how we grow our tomatoes, start to finish, in our how-to, Growing Tomatoes.

New Cold Frame

I finished putting together a PVC frame for a new cold frame yesterday. While the initial layers of the frame were carefully built with new materials, I sort of cobbled together some parts from our last cold frame plus some new pieces to finish the angled top of the frame. I'm hoping that the concrete I added to the two long base pieces of PVC will keep this frame from blowing away. The last one repeatedly blew away in some of the strong winds we experience here each spring.

Front view - new cold frame New cold frame - side view

Our last two cold frames have lasted seven years each. With the cost of parts for this cold frame, I'm wondering if simply buying a commercial cold frame might be a better idea. Anyway, the frame is ready to be covered with 6 mil plastic to protect our transplants from the wind and cold as they harden off.

Other

New Wandering Jew plant in kitchen windowOld Wandering Jew plant on back porchI swapped out our tradescantia zebrina plant, replacing the year or so old one in our kitchen with a fresh offspring from a stem cutting. These plants are sort of special to us, as they originated from a plant gifted to us by one of our daughters. Since tradescantia zebrina only stay pretty for a little over a year, I take stem cuttings each year to continue the lovely plants in our kitchen window.

Four more of our gloxinias have broken dormancy. I moved the plants into light and watered them today. I'll give them some fresh soil to grow in tomorrow.

We're into some rainy, cooler weather now. That's fine, although a predicted overnight low for Sunday morning of 27-28° F has my attention. We typically have a snow or freeze towards the end of each March, so I'm not surprised. As we get closer to the predicted freeze, I'll move plants to safety when warranted.

Funny!

In this time of rising prices, I had a funny one this week. My lovely wife, Annie, had added Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup to my shopping list. On a whim (from previous experience), I price checked Sam's ClubSam's Club for the item. It turned out they offered a ten pack of the soup for a price far cheaper than any of our local groceries...with free shipping! If you're not a Sam's Club member, Walmart offers the ten pack of the soup for a slightly higher price, again with free shipping.

Sam’s Club

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Onions before trimming
Onions on porch after trimming

Finished cold frameI arrived home this afternoon from a trip to the grocery in time to see my newly built, weighted, and covered cold frame being pushed across the lawn by the wind! I covered the PVC frame with 6 mil plastic this morning. Hoping to hold back weeds a little and also add some warmth to the frame's future contents, I spread black landscape fabric over the area where the frame will go.

The concrete I added to the base PVC pipes actually saved the cold frame. The wind hadn't gotten under the frame. Had it done so, the frame would have flown through the air and probably broken upon landing as the old cold frame did. But I'm going to have to find a way to anchor the frame in place.

Peas emerging
Plants on porch - March 20, 2022

I'd trimmed our onion plants this morning. Fortunately, I'd put them on the edge of the porch to catch a little rain instead of under the cold frame. I cut the onions a bit taller than in previous trimmings, leaving them four to five inches tall. And after the sliding cold frame incident, the trays of onions got shoved under the glider on the porch (where they can't get blown away) and the cold frame is shoved up against the lee side of the house.

A bit of happier news is that I think I saw some pea plants emerging from the soil today. I had to look closely, and the ones coming up are all in one small area. But even that is encouraging.

Not so encouraging is our current weather forecast. It calls for morning lows Saturday, Sunday, and Monday of 32, 27, and 29° F respectively. Our last cold frame protected down to about 28° F. This new one is a bit shorter and should provide a little more protection for plants. But even so, I now think I'll need to bring in everything back inside, possibly other than the onions, for those cold mornings.

I recently found that Hoss Tools had Nature's Aide Granular Soil Inoculant for a reasonable price and fair shipping & handling charges. Ours arrived in today's mail. Only the larger, 8.7 ounce size is in stock. That's okay with me, as I'm pretty liberal in applying the inoculant when seeding beans and peas.

Hoss Tools

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Weather Underground Extended Forecast - March 24It seems that every year we have a cold snap in late March. It appears that this year will be no different with morning lows significantly below freezing for two days. A page from Sundown Farms suggests, "Onions can withstand frosts and moderate freezes, but you must shield them from hard freezes - that is, periods of at least four hours of temperatures below 25 degrees. They can survive temperatures as low as 20 degrees, but not for long."

They go on to recommend:

Before a predicted freeze, water your onion plants and cover them with fabric or mulch to help prevent damage if you can. We recommend hay, mulch, grass clippings, etc. Moist soil, snow, and even ice act as insulation, holding heat in the soil around the bulb and root. Coverings further help by keeping the plants protected from the biting cold and wind.

Plants back insideSince our onion plants are still in trays and not in the ground, I'll be bringing them inside along with all the other plants we now have on our back porch. Tomorrow morning's predicted low of 36° F is enough to scare me into bringing the plants inside a day early...and that 25° F prediction has me glad I didn't fill up our cold frame with plants to begin hardening off.

For those of you champing at the bit to get started gardening this spring, Lindsay Sheehan has an interesting page on Rural Sprout, 15 Vegetable Seeds to Sow Outside Before the Last Spring Frost.

Here are a couple of pieces about growing onions:

A2 Web Hosting

Friday, March 25, 2022

Our extended weather forecast has changed...and not for the better. The forecast image I posted yesterday had three mornings marked for freezing weather. The new forecast, shown below, now has eight out of ten days marked with possible frost/freeze temperatures.

Weather Underground Extended Forecast - March 25 - April 3, 2022

Unless things get worse, I should be able to begin moving plants under our cold frame on Tuesday. But this weather will set back my plans to transplant onions and direct seed carrots and beets.

Shop Lehman's Now!

Saturday, March 26, 2022

I promised myself that I'd stop writing and whining complaining about the weather. A Facebook posting today saved me, as it linked to a Go Solo article, Indiana’s Largest Indie Bookstore - Morgenstern Books, about one of our wonderful daughters. (And yes, we're proud of all six of our children.)

Sam - Morgenstern Books

Samantha seems to be thriving on running the bookstore. We visited just once since it opened, but it was a great experience.

I'll get back to gardening soon. But I had to brag a bit today.

Morgenstern Books

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Plants under cold frameCold frame anchored with cinder blocksIt could be a very pleasant seventy degrees out today. Unfortunately, the wind is howling at 40 MPH or more. Even so, I moved plants to our cold frame this morning (before the wind picked up). This afternoon, the wind blew the cold frame shut. To prevent a disaster like we had last spring, I anchored our new cold frame with a couple of cinder blocks.

Plants under the cold frame include two trays of onions, cauliflower, lettuce, celery, parsley, snapdragons, daisies, milkweed, a couple of geraniums, vinca, and hostas.

Hanging basket flowers and sage on back porchGeraniums on dining room tableThe rest of the plants I'd had on our dining room table went onto the back porch close to the house. Heat leaking from the house should keep these plants above freezing...if we have another freeze. On the porch are petunias. impatiens, vinca. tradescantia zebrina, and sage.

I moved the geraniums I had growing in our sunroom to the dining room table today. While the geraniums would probably get more light in the sunroom, they'll hold down the pretty, but slick tablecloth that our cats and dogs seem to like pulling off the table.

Early peas emergingI've been worrying myself to death about the early peas I planted on March 14. Only a few sprouts had been showing. I wondered if my seed was bad, or if I'd gotten it in too deep, or any number of other things. But today, lots of lots of pea sprouts were visible in the narrow raised bed where I seeded the peas. In a few days, I'll need to erect the double trellises the tall peas climb.

We grow at least two batches of peas each season. Our first peas are tall peas, this year a landrace cross of the Champion of England and Maxigolt varieties. Later, we grow some short, supersweet peas. The Eclipse and Encore supersweet varieties have been held hostage by Monsanto for twenty years under PVP patents. Those patents are expiring, and we hope to be able to share seed from the excellent varieties in a year or so.

Our raised garden beds - March 30, 2022Our raised garden beds look pretty much inactive, other than the garlic in the foreground in the photo at right. But in the next few weeks, they'll spring to life. Since our broccoli transplants are running late, the first things into the raised beds will be onion and lettuce transplants along with direct seeded carrots and beets. Not shown in the photo are our asparagus beds that should awaken sometime in April.

It's an exciting time to be gardening.

David's Cookies

Thursday, March 31, 2022 - March Wrap-up

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March, 2022, animated GIF of our Senior GardenWhen I looked out our kitchen window this morning, I saw our new cold frame...in the bushes. My efforts at anchoring it in some really strong winds had obviously failed. But the weighting of the new frame apparently kept it on the ground. The wind rolled it to the bushes. And amazingly, none of the plants under the cold frame were damaged. With the 40+ MPH winds behind us, the cold frame will hopefully protect our transplants the next two mornings when freezes are predicted. At least there's no snow predicted in our extended forecast.

Our big accomplishments this month, other than constructing a new cold frame that only slides and rolls instead of flying (and breaking), was getting our spinach and peas direct seeded and up in a narrow raised bed. I also got lots of transplants for the garden started.

Dungarees

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