Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Garden is Getting Started

Conditions have been pretty good for getting vegetables started. I transplanted kale, parsley and lettuce on the 21st just before a couple of days of nice light rain. Then on the 25th I sowed seed for scallions and more spinach, carrots and beets and it rained the following day. I haven't had to water those seeds since. Except for the spinach they are covered with burlap to keep the soil moist.

The first carrots are coming up and so are the peas (close to three weeks for them to show themselves). The April 9th beets and lettuce have been visible for about a week. No sign of the fava beans (seeded over two weeks ago).

On the grape front I have been checking every other day, searching for some sign of buds beginning to swell. I would think it is hard for Concord grapes not to do well, but today is the first day that both Janet and I see signs that they are beginning to start. I plan to watch them carefully because I have to figure out how to get this year's new growth to go back over the arbor. Grapes develop on the past year's growth, which grew from the previous year's growth, and that from the growth of the year before that. This would seem to mean that the new growth is always farther and farther from the original vine, but there has to be a way to cause new growth closer to the original vine than that.

I recently re-potted the tomatoes and peppers and today re-potted some of the basil. The tomatoes and peppers seem to be growing quiet well and should certainly be ready to transplant by May 20th (assuming there is no frost in the forecast then). We are not supposed to have any frost after May 10th - except, of course, for that 100 year frost - although we used to take May 10th as the average last frost date. Seems to be a small change in the climate.

We have a few days of rain coming up, then some warmer, and hopefully, sunnier weather.

I planted half of the potatoes on the 19th but don't expect to see them coming up for about another week. They, like the carrots, are in a frame filled with compost. I didn't sift that compost because potatoes ought to be able to handle the woody content of the compost. I did buy more finely sifted OCRRA compost for the second carrot frame but still need another couple of cubic feet before I start carrot seed.

We harvested our first produce yesterday - a little less than an ounce of asparagus.

Basically, things are coming along, although slowly.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Seems Like A Slow Start

Maybe I have unjustified expectations, but this gardening year seems off to a really slow start. It has been cold. Today it is in the low 40s at best. Ten days ago I seeded out peas, beets and lettuce but so far there is no visible sign of germination. On two of those days there was snow on the ground again. Not much snow but it was really quite cold - in the low 20s on Wednesday. The poor toads mating in the pond somehow survived being under a layer of ice. They know something is unusual because they arrived, paired up and mated much more quickly than in past years. We usually have a couple of weeks of male frogs singing in the pond. This year was limited to about two days.

The raspberries are clearly budding out but it still is not clear whether the grapes have viable buds. And, despite a couple of days around 70 degrees, there is no sign of asparagus. The rhubarb continues to push its way through the compost that I dropped over the plants last October.

On the 13th I seeded carrots, fava beans and spinach. Except for the peas I have placed burlap over the seeded areas, hoping that the burlap will help keep the soil moist - it has also been pretty dry - and, in the event of a heavy rainfall, keep the soil from washing off the seeds. It also keeps the house sparrows from taking dust baths in those areas.

Saturday, April 12, 2014


I almost never add fertilizer to my vegetable garden, relying almost solely on compost and occasional green manure. I have not noticed any deficiencies in the growing plants.

This year, however, two of my experiments involve using just compost as the growing medium. I will be growing carrots and potatoes in 12 inch deep wooden frames filled with compost. I would expect that the nutrients available to the carrots and potatoes would be limited, especially early in the growing season, since the compost in essentially sterile. To remedy this I will be adding green sand (for potassium), bone meal (for phosphorus) and blood meal (for nitrogen). My supplies are from Lee's Feeds.

The bags do not each provide the exact amount for 100 sq ft, although the bone meal does. I added the recommended amount of green sand and blood meal for 100 sq ft to the bag of bone meal and ended up with a mixture of about 34 cups (presumably 22 1/2 cups of bone meal - I didn't measure but relied on the bags statement that one pound was 2 1/4 cups - 6 2/3 cups of green sand and 4 1/2 cups of blood meal). Since this is the recommended amount for 100 sq ft then I would add the 34 cups to 100 sq ft. For the first carrot frame, which is 1.5 ft by 3.5 ft, or about 5 sq ft, I will add around 1.7 cups of the mixture.

We will see what happens.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Gardening has started

Finally the snow is gone from the garden. Nothing survived the winter and the remains of the leeks, kale, parsley and collards - all things that did overwinter the year before - have been removed and the garden beds raked to an even surface.

Two days ago (April 9) I sowed seeds for lettuce and beets in that part of the garden that gets sun later in the day and also planted peas. The soil temperature was at least 44 degrees Fahrenheit.

There was a report in the newspaper a week or so ago that the very cold winter killed many grape buds and so I am wondering whether our Concord grapes were affected. I think there are buds on what remains after my pruning but won't know until I see buds actually swelling, opening and growing. Perhaps nature did the pruning for me.

I am building frames from old fence slats to fill with compost and use to grow carrots and potatoes. They will be near or on the driveway. I will fill the potato frames with compost from OCRRA but for the carrot frame(s) will first sift the compost through a screen of 1/4 in hardware cloth. It is a tedious process. OCRRA also sells 1/4 inch screened compost through some of the garden centers and I may decide to buy some of that to make the process easier.

We will open the pond today or tomorrow - that is, install the pump and get the system going. After this harsh winter we did not expect any of the frogs to have survived and their bodies have begun to appear. But they did a little better here than in the swimming pool from which they came.

The rhubarb has begun to appear through the gallon bucket of compost that was dumped on top of each plant last fall. Oops! I forgot that there is one rhubarb plant at the end of one of the beds. I just raked that compost into the bed the other day.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Most of the snow is gone. A quick look at the garden beds suggests that almost nothing survived the winter even with the blanket of snow that covered the garden throughout the season.

I was surprised that the leeks didn't survive. They are there but they are very mushy. When I tried to pull one up, even after loosening the soil under it, it just broke apart and left the mushy top in my hand. I did not mulch the leeks and I don't think that I did in prior years. I know that we harvested a lot of leeks after winter last year. I suppose the cold, cold weather just did them in.

A Google search brought this:
In colder areas, extend the harvest season by mulching deeply around plants (up to 1 foot deep) before a hard freeze. You could continue harvesting leeks until they are locked frozen into the ground, but don’t let that happen. Dig them first and store. Freezing would be the method of choice - a minute of blanching first.