This month has been busy with getting the tomatoes staked and harvesting beans, potatoes, garlic, onions and squash – the zucchini is going rampant! It would be fair to say that I over-planted zucchini and each and every one is producing very well. Within a few days of the first flowers, which were male flowers, the female flowers started. Some of the male flowers are huge!
Male squash flowers
This will be a female flower which will likely open tomorrow morning
Last month I saw an interesting way to stake tomatoes which I am trying – not before time as the tomatoes are also way to big to not be staked. The idea was from the turn of the last century and the tomatoes were supported by a grid of wood. The two foot grid is horizontal at a height of about 2 ft. The tomatoes are supported here but not trussed upright. This gives shade to the roots and still allows for easy harvesting. I have a bunch of plastic pipe in the garage to make the structure later today or maybe the weekend There are lots of tomatoes but they are still green right now.
The depressingly long winter morphed into a cool spring and very few signs of summer which has made for a poor start for the warm weather guys but a great year for the peas and lettuce! I think this is the first year that the lettuce has been still edible and not bolting in June, but the real prize goes to the peas. I planted a lot of peas because usually you only get one or two harvests – by the time they put out flowers, and pods the weather is already turning to warm nights and hot days which the vines do not like. This year we are still cool to warm and no hot weather yet so the peas kept going and the harvests are still great. I am trying two new ones this year – a purple podded pea and a yellow podded pea. Both are shelling peas and are a little later than the main crop that I put out but the pods are filling out nicely and they will be ready in a few days. The peas inside the colorful pods are standard green.
Alas the peas have had such a good season that they are reaching out past the support and crawling over the edge of the raised bed!
On America’s Home Grown Veggie Show March 29th we are going to talk to Tammi Hartung about Wildlife Vegetable Gardening. This great book talks about how to coexist with wildlife in the garden! Everything from lavender to distract deer to multi variety hedges that provide shelter and berries for birds all help to minimize the destruction of your vegetable garden by animals.
We are also giving away 2 books on March 29th so listen to the show and check the Facebook page to see how to win one of the books.
After a long a tedious winter, we have a few mild days on tap and no sign of another arctic blast (thought it is still too early to say they will not arrive). While all the weather was going on outside, I was growing indoors. The first seedlings were set in mid January and transplanted to individual pots by mid February. This past few days they have been placed outside for a few hours to get them used to wind and natural sunshine. They are now big enough to go into the garden!!
Last week I spent making raised beds and filling them with compost and one of the beds are just 4 foot square and is intended to be used as a cold frame for early and late vegetables. This is where the first graduating seedlings are going to be set.
So the weather went from halfway decent to downright yuk in just 24 hours. Before the storm though I was at a local nursery picking up a magnolia, a daphne and an edgeworthia. The edgeworthia is a stunning shrub that blooms early in the year and will give the witch hazel a run for its money for winter interest. They were in cold hoop houses but with the bitterly cold weather they are resting in the little sun porch area. Even with close to zero last night, this area was still just above freezing so great for seedlings and dormant plants.
The edgeworthia in budlittle seedlings enjoying the sunshine without the cold temps.
There is some concern about the coldness but as we have 10 inches of snow covering the ground I think everything will be insulated from the cold. Of course everyone would like spring to arrive quickly!
The porch yesterday evening
America’s Home Grown Veggies is entering another year, and this year we are starting a project segment which kicks off this Saturday , Jan 18th at 10am eastern on www.americaswebradio.com The show airs 52 weeks a year and talks about growing healthy vegetables and other edibles.
The four project cover a variety of topics:
Gardening Jones is launching a new raised bed system for gardeners. The sides of he raised bed have an insert which rotates upward to support screens. The screens can change from ones to protect from frost, to animal and insect protection.
Then we talked to author Rebecca Sweet who is working on getting more texture and color into her front garden. Suggested edibles that she uses are rosemary, salvias and artichokes.
The third project is from Jacqueline Soule who lives in Tuscon where the climate is very dry. She plans on planting a herb garden based on the plants that Father Kino used (late 17th century). These include natives as well as some traditional herbs like sage, which has to be kept on the north of the home to survive.
Finally we talk to Gardenchat host Brenda Haas who is aiming to get kids into the garden. A mother of two teens and caretaker of a 2 yr old, she has lots of experience getting children into the garden and making it fun for them to learn where their food comes from.
With Christmas and the shortest day behind us, I am now concentrating on the future growing season. My immediate focus is on raised beds. One is already made but I need to get a few more sorted before a delivery of dormant bushes and plants arrive. For some reason, Peaceful Valley, which I love ordering from, send their dormant plants in the middle of January. This may be fine for Georgia but for the Mid Atlantic that is a bit optimistic. If the polar vortex that hit 10 days ago where to arrive this week the whole shipment would have to wait to be planted. I am hoping that the mild temperatures that we have this week will stick around long enough for me to finish these new beds.
Right now I have one 12×4 bed for the strawberries and one 4×4 for the garlic – already up and running. Still to go are 1@10×10 for the berries, 1@6×6 for asparagus, 4@12×4 for tomatoes, cabbages, potatoes etc. To fit them in I think I need to move 2 fruit trees which are dormant and planted last fall, and maybe get some more land cleared.
Filling the beds is just as problematic because the big box stores are low on garden material like peat moss and compost. I had to drive 10 miles to get the peat moss and I suspect they will be out soon. Fortunately only 2 beds need to be made this week, the others are for annuals and can wait a week or two. Underneath these there are fall leaves, kitchen scraps and some wood ashes.
In essence there is a lot of work to do before any of the shipment is sent and it probably will not all get done this week but I can try!!
The existing raised bed.
This afternoon I plan to get at least some of the wood and make sure that there is space for everything!
Rainy days are a great time to catch up on a few things, but not much good for garden work but as the rain didn’t really start early I was able to take a few minutes outside and ditch the trough of going-to-seed lettuce and plant the patio tomato in its own container. This was a lesson in read the label!
I purchased the little patio tomato about 2 weeks after we moved in, so that would be mid May. The label mentioned it was good for a container and had a QRC code but I didn’t bother to check that (mistake # 1).
With a new garden it is tough to figure out where the full sun areas are and with this garden, the options for places to plant anything were few, so it went into an area that I thought would be good. Seemed pretty sunny and there were two grafted peppers and a basil nearby that were doing pretty well. There was also an inherited hydrangea (that has not bloomed, so was probably pruned early in the year or something). This, it turns out is not a bad place to plant, but a little patio tomato that is only destined to be 2 ft tall was rather overwhelmed in a short time by the basil and the hydrangea. It also was near the woods and had an interesting little thing on it called a Tortoise Beetle which enjoyed the leaves.
Tortoise Beetle with immature stage seen (white)
So this morning I decided it was time to remedy that situation and gave it its very own container which will be placed in the sun with nothing else around it. Hopefully it will be happier and produce more tomatoes now. Reading the QR code tells me it should get to about 2ft tall and is determinate so should put out a bunch of tomatoes all at one time. I am not totally sure that I would want that in a patio tomato as the beauty of tomatoes is a long season of harvest. Maybe small places though are still limited in varieties.
Patio Tomato in its own container.
So we have done the good in the garden, and then the bad in the garden which just leaves the ugly part! Some of this is because of poor planning, some was from storm damage and some is from overzealous plants competing against less aggressive ones.
The burning bushes from the last post were removed and the effect that they had on the surrounding plants was very evident. The azaleas were lobsided with long bare branches that were reaching for the sun and the yukkas were crushed under the weight of the bushes above.
There is also a holly bush in the front that looks like it was quite large util it had an accident or problem. The right hand side is upright, the left hand side is missing and the whole thing is strung up to a post to stay upright!
Finally there is a poor little Japanese Red maple behind some hydrangeas. The hydrangeas (which should have been included in the positive post at the start but have only just come into bloom). You can see the maple in the first image and it is drowned out in the second one. The whole of the front is filled with foundation plantings which are quite attractive but have been pruned into cubes. I am hiding the hedge clipper as the husband wants to continue to do that!
The rhodies in the last post were the positive of the garden, the rest is less attractive! There are 5 large burning bushes (Euonymous alataus) which dominate the left side of the garden. The only thing that could be said about them is that they obscure the fence! Not only are these very invasive, they were killing other items in the garden. These went as soon as the chainsaw was unpacked!!!
The other major issue is the invasive weeds and vines. The major weed nuisance is the Japanese Knotweed which is growing a mile a minute and looks rather like bamboo. The vines, including honeysuckle, but others too, are running up and killing the trees and anything else along the way. These are a royal pain to control but hopefully I will be able to sever them all over time.
I don’t have an ‘after’ with these things but eventually I hope to look back on this blog and give a sign of relief that they have been removed!!!
The other major headache is the invasive species around the property.