Sunday, October 11, 2009

So Long for Now

Here is a last glimpse of summer 2009.

I was never very good at keeping up the garden blog. Maybe it's because I wasn't good at keeping up the garden--so many other things came up this year. And everyone else's gardens were so beautiful, I was feeling sort of like the ugly duckling. And I never did get in the habit of carrying my camera with me to capture bits of beauty even amid the thorns.
So, since I don't do much with houseplants, I will take a hiatus from this blog until late winter, when we start making plans and working in the greenhouse.

My youngest daughter just became engaged, and is contemplating having her wedding here at the farm (she also has the gift of seeing the potential in my gardens). So, with family help, the huge satellite dish will disappear, and my ugly beds will likely be cleaned up, and I will have to make a lot of pots for the wedding (probably Labor Day Weekend). Then I will likely resume this site. I will still be following the garden blogs, and surfing for new ones over the winter.

In the meantime, you can follow my other blog if you like. And do pop in here once in a while in case I do have an idea or two.
Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Daylilies--Better Late than Never

I think daylilies are among my favorite flowers. They usually start in July and bloom for the rest of the summer. The varieties of colors and markings is endless. Since many of my picture labels lost resolution, I will label those that I remember. Actually, it's not letting me insert text by the pictures. Everything gets all mixed up. And I can't make the big gaps disappear. The preview showed everything OK. Maybe next time.

Check out my other blog for garden bounty.

It seems I'm not as committed to the garden blog as I am to the other blog. right now it seems as all there are is weeds, and I don't want to share these anymore. I'm glad I found the daylilies. I'll have to practice Linda's philosophy and carry the camera with me, and learn to really see the beautiful things out there.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Pretty Glad

I'm working hard on all the ugly parts of the garden. The hardest thing is choosing the priority. Just for a break, I'll show you my pretty glads.

And the stunning magenta Lychnis Coronaria framed by my Albomarginata hosta.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

the Good, the Bad and the Ugly (and the Very Beautiful)

The Good
The three garden tools that I couldn't do without (besides the common rake, my clippers, and potato-hilling hoe). With the long-handled stirrup hoe I can do the entire garden in about 1 hour, once the garden has been cleaned for the first time.
The little stirrup hoe is for between the plants and the rows. My rows are very close together.
The littlest yellow"Garden Bandit" is for flower beds and flower pots and anywhere I need to precisely get close to plants.
Some More Good

Can't wait to get some of the kale. I have the best Kale soup recipe with Sweet potatoes. Will share later, when I make it.

Remember a previous post with lettuce between the tomato plants? The picture above is the same lettuce, and the same tomato plants.
Great tomatoes (we've eaten lots already) above and below.
The Bad and the Ugly
Notice the quackgrass and clover and lawn grass grown in. This bed can't be round-upped because there are special plants there that deserve to live. They come from special people and have such a survival instinct, I WILL tend to them (after the garden and the sewing and the greenhouse/nursery work).

I can't identify this spot, but it is UGLY. I think it's the raspberries. They're ready. Get the gauntlets out!
Nasty strawberry bed. It was totally clean 3 weeks ago. No word of a lie!
Actually, this is an older -before flowers were planted-picture of the flower patch. Since this picture, it has been dug over, filled with blue petunias and white alyssums, and the weeds look exactly the same.

Another I-don't-know--either a flower bed or the raspberry patch. :0(

Ta-daaaa. And now some Beautiful!!
I think this one is "Gran Cru"


Can't remember.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Hellooo! I'm still Alive

If you follow both blogs, you'll know I'm alive and well (define well!!). On my next post I plan to show you my favorite garden tools, and my ugly flower beds and garden. I will do this for 2 reasons:
1. To show you how ugly my garden and flower beds really are.
2. To make all your really, truly beautiful gardens look even more ravishing.
3. To make you all proud of me when I finally get everything looking spiffy and tidy.
4. To give me even more incentive to get it done, since I have set up an expectation.

Happy August long weekend.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Finally, some Rain: Some long-awaited updates

The weather has finally turned for us. We've had a lot of rain--too late for the crops. Maybe soon enough for one cut of hay. Definitely on time for the gardens and flowers, and for the trees and shrubs.
I didn't finish showing my garden all planted (almost a month ago). This picture shows the lettuce plants neatly tucked in between the tomatoes. The tomatoes will shade the lettuce, so it holds longer before bolting.
This is the first lovely iris to bloom. Everything is very late this year. I think this iris is called "Rock Star".
The deck about 3 weeks ago. Decorating the deck is always second to the garden being finished. View 1: Before
View 2: After
In my 20+ years of gardening in this spot, I have never watered the garden after the initial planting. This year I tried to put it off, and put it off, but then I saw how the plants had stalled, and were struggling. I couldn't see myself hauling hose to my huge garden and standing there watering forever. DH (aka Kubota Man or KM) suggested using the oscillating sprinkler. That's against my principles, too as I think so much water is lost to evaporation. But I followed his advice, put the sprinkler out in the evening (also technically wrong), 1 1/2 hours on each of 2 areas. The next day it started raining, and has rained on and off, then steadily since. So much for principle. And I should have thought of Murphy's Law earlier and both washed the truck and put the sprinkler out--maybe we wouldn't have had the drought.

I'm a firm believer in using bone meal for transplanting. I've never done a blind study to prove if it makes a difference, and this year I found it does. ( With tongue in cheek) It doesn't work on cucumbers. As a matter of fact, it kills cucumbers. I always plant cucumbers from plants: Orient Express, Sweet Slice and Slicemaster--16-18 plants. We eat our fill and give tons away. This year I had some bonemeal left after planting the tomatoes, and decided to put some in with the cucumbers. With the tomatoes, the bonemeal goes into the deep hole. The cucumbers get a shallower hole, so when I covered the root balls, I left some bonemeal exposed. Dogs and Cats love bonemeal. Half of the cucumbers were dug up by dogs and/or cats ( I saw a cat in the act). That'll teach me. :0)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Time to Catch Up

I finally started my garden this week. On Monday it was very nice. Tuesday and Wednesday well into the 70's, but nights still cool. Yesterday and today it was 0 deg. C, (32 deg.F) when I got up. So we can plant anything under the ground. I started by planting some sticks. The picture above shows the sticks that mark off the planting areas and pathways. Maybe you can tell: (2 feet then 4 feet) repeat 11 times to the end of the row. (did you get the knitting pun?) Now I know where everything is going, and I can go plant just 1 row if that's all the time I have.These furrows are for potatoes. I've watered them 3 times, allowing the water to soak away each time. Since my garden is on a gentle slope, and the rows go downhill, I use a rain wand and chase the water spray uphill so it doesn't all pool at the lowest end. There are seed potatoes in these furrows -about 1 foot apart. Later I covered them with dry soil, and made little hills to keep the moisture in. Later on I will hill them big or cover them with straw. Haven't decided.
1. Fact: most annual (grow from seeds, not from roots or rhizomes) seeds need light to germinate. So if you disturb the soil as little as possible, you will expose as few seeds as possible.
2. Fact: pulled or cut weeds, if left lying on the ground have the ability either to re-root or to hurry up and go to seed.
3. Fact: weeds grow better where you walk, because the soil compaction of your footprints brings the seeds in contact with the moist soil.
So for us gardeners this translates into the following:
1. After planting, don't turn your soil over. Use a stirrup hoe type tool (picture on next post of my favorite garden tools). and drag it justs under the soil.
2. Collect the weeds and take them away. Do not put into compost pile (with exceptions to be discussed in next post). I feed mine to the sheep.
3. Always drag a rake in the pathways before you leave the garden.
Which crops absolutely can't stand weed competition?
All crops do better in a weed free garden. But onions (all summer long) , carrots and beets while the plants are small, peas and beans all summer long (because they mildew if crowded) should be totally clean. Also, if there are slugs in your neighborhood, they will hide in the weeds, but you'll hardly see them if the garden is clean.
Lemon Gem or Lulu Marigolds keep aphids away from dill.
Castor Beans keep gophers, moles and voles away.
What am I trying new this year: Edamame (soy beans). We love them, so I found a variety that needs a short growing season.
Today I hope to get planted everything under the ground, since the nights are still close to freezing. That is unusual even for us here in the Great White North.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Some Pest Repellent Hints

I prefer to use as little chemical pest control as possible in my garden.
Mosquitoes: The plant shown above, is a scented geranium, known as Citrosa, commonly known as mosquito plant. One plant makes a lovely shrub in a 15" pot. Two plants make a more magnificent, effective show. I make 2 pots of 2 plants each. One goes near our seating area on the deck, the other one beside the door, just close enough that the door brushes the leaves, and even sometimes pinches the leaves on opening and closing. This also reduces the number of flies that come into the house.
Just the presence of the plant does not repel mosquitoes--it needs to be rubbed a bit to release the scent. You can also rub the leaves and then rub the hands on exposed skin.
Gophers, moles and voles:
Castor bean plants (Ricinus) planted at the corners of the garden keep these burrowing varmints away. I used to have a problem with voles. Then I planted the castor beans about every20 feet on the long side of the garden. No voles that year. Next year, I forgot--still no voles. The next year they were back, but I still had castor bean plants--planted them, and the intruders left. Some of our customers say they drop castor bean seeds into the gopher holes with the same effect.
Aphids in Dill :
A lady came to our greenhouse today and bought a lot of our "Lemon Gem" Marigolds (also known as "Tagetes". They are strongly scented. She plants them near any plant that is aphid prone, such as Dill, and has no aphids--she travelled 50 miles to our place just for these plants.
Cabbage worms and other pests:
It is said that African marigolds (large-flowered ) keep many pests away from the garden. I believe this is a myth. Marigolds do repel root nematodes, but cabbage butterflies like my garden even with an ocean of marigolds (I plant tons of Crackerjack marigolds everywhere because I like the look of marigolds throughout my garden, and .......just in case).
For cabbage worms I dust with Rotenone powder--I bought an old-fashioned powdering pump so the dust would go farther and I can dust the undersides of the cabbages as well.
I rarely (Only twice in 26 years in this garden) get Colorado Potato Beetles. I hand-pick the beetles and the salmon-colored larvae.
I wish you all a pest-free summer.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Stick-Planting Mystery Revealed!!

Some Non-stop Begonias. Cheer you up on a weather-gloomy day?
You will have to help me reveal the stick-planting mystery, by using your imagination as I describe it. I would show pictures, but I won't really be planting sticks for a while.

Picture my garden, a 80'x60' rectangle, with a sturdy post at each corner. The rectangle orients in an east-west direction.

Picture a long yellow rope, with permanently-marked spots at: 6',( 2', 4') Repeat 12 times, then 2'and 6'. Now See Sigrun tying the rope along the north edge, between the posts. See Sigrun pound sturdy stakes at each spot on the rope. (This is not stick-planting; this is bed-spacing).

See Sigrun repeat the process along the south edge of the garden.

This creates 14 "beds"--not raised. The 6' spaces are for flowers, 4' spaces are the vegetable places, the 2' spaces are the walking places. The walking paths are in the same place every year.
Except for the spring rototilling and a bit when I'm harvesting, I never walk on the growing beds. This prevents soil compaction.
The bed farthest to the east gets sunflowers--a 55' row on the eastern edge. My other favorite flowers for this bed are: zinnias, strawflowers, calendula, forget-me-nots (self-seeded), and nigella (no nigella this year, forgot to get seeds). I started 28 gladiolus this year--my first time. They may have to go there.
I also save about 18" at the head and foot of each bed for flowers. The North end gets tall flowers: Cosmos, Cleome, Night-Scented Nicotiana and every 4th bed gets Castor Beans to repel moles, voles and gophers (really works). The south end gets smaller bedding plants.
My garden plan is a 6-year rotation. The veggies are always in the same order, and the following season, move 2 beds to the east. I make sure that no cabbage, onion type plants (prone to root maggots) grow over each other, and I make sure corn always grows over last year's peas and beans, because of the legumes' nitrogen-fixing ability (corn is a heavy feeder of nitrogen).
Back to stick planting.
Vegetable beds #1&2 (from the east) will get corn this year. 2 rows per bed, 2' apart. I plant my corn after the 1st of June, from plants started in the greenhouse, but I measure the rows and mark the ends of the rows with sticks (stick planting). In the middle of each bed of corn I plant pumpkins and spaghetti squash. For about 6' at the south end of the beds I plant 3 rows of White Night-Scented Nicotiana. Our entire yard is scented during the evening.
Bed #3 will get 18 celery plants, 18 clumps of Bright Lights Swiss Chard, 3 rows about 20' long of leeks, and the rest goes into 4 rows of Kohlrabi (white and purple). All these are marked off by sticks.
Bed #4: 5 rows of onions: Kelsea, Walla Walla, Candy, Spanish White, Red Burgermaster. 5 sticks at each end
Bed #5: Tomatoes: 2 rows, 2' apart, plants 18" apart in the row. No flowers since my 50 plants need all the space. Between the tomato rows I plant the lettuce--shaded by the tomatoes it doesn't bolt as early. 2 sticks at each end
Bed #6: Cabbages and Kale, interplanted with Crackerjack marigolds. Golden Acre, Early Jersey Wakefield, Red Cabbage and O.S. Cross for cabbage rolls. At the south end, 2 Zucchini plants. 3 sticks at each end
Beds # 7 & 8: Potatoes: each bed, 2 rows, 2' apart. Yukon Gold, Russet Burbank, Red Norland and Kennebec. I bought some all red and all blue seed this year to try. 2 sticks at each end
Bed #9: 2 rows carrots, 2 rows beets: golden, detroit red, and formanova. 4 sticks at each end
After I seed the carrots in the furrows, I very sparsely ( every 3") scatter radish seeds in the same furrow. The radishes come up very early, breaking the soil for the weaker carrot seedlings; harvesting the radishes (carefully) thins the carrots somewhat. I hardly have any maggots in the radishes since I plant them with carrots.
Bed #10: The center row of this bed gets about 20' of dill; the remainder in snapdragons (increases pollination in the cucumbers).
Then I plant cucmbers from started plants 1' each side of center row: Sweet Slice, Slicemaster, and Orient Express (English). Sometimes I plant a few feet of pickling cucumbers. 3 sticks at each end
Bed #11: Peas 2 rows 2' apart, for the northern 30 ', 3 rows of Peppers in the southern part. 2 sticks, 2 sticks, 3 sticks, 3 sticks
Bed #12: Beans: 4 rows, 10" apart: Royal Burgundy, yellow wax, Yellow Romano, Green Romano. Instead of flowers at the south end, Summer Savory--supposedly makes the beans taste better. 4 sticks at each end
Last 6' space: Anything else I need space for, or flowers, usually lots of Cosmos. This year I started some interesting Italian Pumpkins and some warted pumpkins (Knucklehead). They will likely go there.
Before we had the Greenhouse, and I was teaching (a 50-mile commute), I used to get in the garden very early in the season while it was still too cold to plant, and measure off and plant the sticks, so that, when the weather became suitable for planting, I could go out and plant just a few rows after school. I could plant the early crops early, because I knew exactly where everything belonged. Since my garden is close to the road, the neighbors would comment "Hey, Sigrun, I see that your sticks are planted. Are they growing yet?" Nowadays I'm always late planting the garden, but I start so much in the greenhouse, that in the end the harvest is just right. Last year I finished the garden on June 10th. On July 10th we had red tomatoes and fresh cucumbers.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Water for Gardens and Flowers

Left: Tumbler Tomato. Picture taken on April 24. It is already full of blossoms. This is a hanging basket tomato; one plant produces about 6-10 lbs of tomatoes in the season. Slightly larger than a cherry tomato. Delicious. Produces all summer. We start the seeds on Feb. 15 and transplant them first into 3" pots, then into 14" hanging baskets. First ripe fruit last week of May. This variety should not be planted in the ground as it has no resistance to many soil-borne diseases.

Unless you're lucky and live in a place where it rains gently during the night and the sun shines warmly during each day (Thank Adam and Eve for that), you may need to supply water to your plants.

It is best to water deeply less frequently rather than sprinkling the surface of the soil frequently. The reason is that the roots of plants will follow moisture. If you shallow-water, the roots will stay close to the surface of the soil, and on a hot day they will bake. If you water deeply, even if the surface is dry, there is moisture available for the roots deeper down, causing them to push deeper still. To make deep watering easier, it helps, in the case of individual plants, to build up the soil in a circle a few inches away from the plant, creating a saucer-like effect, which will help the water go deeply rather than running all over the garden. In the case of row crops, I like to plant the seeds into a furrow and don't completely fill the furrow in, leaving a channel for the water to stay (not helpful if the furrows run downhill in a sloped garden).

This is how I plant tomatoes:
I plant tomatoes that have been growing in a 5" pot, they are already 12-18" tall with finger-thick stems, but the principle is the same for all transplants--just the scale is different. I get the overgrown, twisted, ugly plants that are not likely to sell in the greenhouse. I plant 50 plants from which we eat all summer, give tomatoes away, I can about 60 quarts ripened in the garden and another 90-100 quarts as the green tomatoes ripen in the basement (all done by the end of October, when Christmas baking starts).

1. Dig a hole with a spade as deep as the soil allows without hitting clay ( my topsoil is more than 12" deep). Fill with water. Let the water seep away as you dig more holes and fill them with water.
2. Add a handful of bonemeal to each hole. Fill with water again. Let it seep away.
3. There will be mud at the bottom of the hole. Eyeball the length of the stem and the top crown of leaves. Pinch off any leaves along the stem that might be buried. Throw these into the hole.

4. I dig a hole in the mud with bare (or gloved) hand and put the root ball as deeply as possible. Fill the hole with water again (3rd time).

5. When the water has drained, fill with dry soil and form the saucer as mentioned above, but no more watering. I do not water again unless there is a prolonged dry spell.
6. Immediately place a strong tomato cage over the determinate (bush) types and a strong stake beside the vine types, careful not to damage roots. I use 5' lenghts of 3/8" rebar, pounded down about 18". Too many broken wooden stakes. As they grow I tie the plants to the rebar with strips of panty-hose ( who wears panty hose any more?) or other soft ties, non-plastic.

Tomatoes have the ability to make roots along the entire buried part of the stem. More roots, more nutrient absorption, more drought tolerance.

The reason I cover with dry soil is because of moisture wicking. If the soil surface in the garden is dry, and there is a wet spot, that wet spot will wick up moisture from beneath the surface as it evaporates. This is what has happened when you see dry, cracked soil around a plant that has been watered, then the soil dried out. This does not happen after a rain because everything is wet all over. If the soil is mulched, this wicking doesn't happen.

If your soil does not percolate well ( the water does not drain away), water as well as possible during planting and for the next few days, then cover with more dry soil or mulch.

Since my garden is so big I rarely water after planting it, unless it is very hot and dry within the first week or so.

How I plant seeds:
1. Open the furrow. I use the corner of a hoe. Fill it with water. After it seeps away, fill with water again. Guess what comes next? Right, do it again if you have time.

2. Place the seeds. Cover the seeds with fine dry soil, approximately as deeply as the diameter of the seeds or a bit more. Do not fill in the entire furrow in case later watering is needed, with the back of a rake, press the soil down so the seeds make contact with the moisture.

For reason mentioned above, I don't water on top of the soil in the furrows.

This procedure works for me. Ask other experienced gardeners and they will have their own pet ideas, and may even contradict each other.

When leaving a part of the garden, always drag a rake behind you. Weeds will germinate better where soil is compacted, yet be harder to pull there. Dragging a rake really reduces weeds in the pathways.

My personal favorite tomato varieties:

Early Cascade (vine), Celebrity (bush), Mamma Mia (bush, early Roma type), Ultra Boy (vine), Supersteak (vine), Big Beef (vine), Ultra Girl (vine), Lemon Boy (yellow, low-acid vine), Hy Beef (bush), Champion (forgot what kind), Sungold/Sunsugar (vine, Peachy-yellow cherry tomato, sweet as fruit), Juliet (vine, tomatoes the size of large grapes). These are all short-season varieties.

For reason mentionedpen

Sunday, April 26, 2009

God Knows What He is Doing

Welcome one and all to the "Green Thumb" blog. Pardon for the cliché that I used for the title of the blog, but it seemed so appropriate.

We're busy as can be in the greenhouse, and being short of space, it seems like we're doing work twice, moving things around to keep organized and make space.

I am starting to want to go into the garden to plant my sticks. (still a surprise).

Yesterday I heard a big commotion on the barley field just outside the greenhouse, and this is what I saw: snow geese. Upon my arrival most of them had already flown away. The hill had been white.

This afternoon I looked outside and this is what I saw--and it's not snow geese.

We're dying to make room in the greenhouse by putting hardy plants such as pansies outside, but we can't take a chance. We've gone from over 70 degrees (in the 20's, Celsius) down to below freezing in the space of a few hours. The cool temperature and snow won't kill the plants, but it can freeze the flower buds off, then it takes longer for them to bloom. If it isn't blooming we have a hard time selling it--even with picture tags.
Green Thumb hints:
1. Freeze seeds of the cucumber family (cucumbers, squash, melons) for a few days before planting--better germination, stronger seedlings.

2. If you start your own cucumber family plants or buy them from a nursery, and there are multiple plants in the pot--DO NOT SEPARATE THEM--If the roots are disturbed at all, they will die.

3. Tomatoes--make sure you know if they are "determinate" (bush type) or "indeterminate" (vine or staking type). If you prune a bush tomato you will reduce yield; if you prune a vine type you will get larger fruit. If you don't know, don't prune. More on tomato know-how later.

I pray for permanent spring all over the Northern Hemisphere!!