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2015: a new season

After the snowiest winter in Boston history, this spring, so far, has been a typical one. I’ve started nothing as far as seeds go. Some life changes coming up this year will make gardening, alas, a limited endeavor. But I’ll do what I can, taking pleasure where I find it. One cool thing…the garlic that I planted last fall, and which spend the winter under a deep mantle of snow, appears healthy and happy.

 

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2014: Beginnings

2014 is looking a lot like 2013…a late start, seedling purchased mostly from a garden center. I actually tried to start seeds at work and while some did OK most did not. I got brassicas into the ground not too late (early-mid May) but as of now (July 6) they’ve done very little. I got a first batch of tomatoes in last week in June and a second batch just the other day. The soil in the gardens does not look particularly good…I think my failure to add compost the past few years is showing. In addition tomatoes I put in some peppers, also bought at the garden center, but I suspect these will do poorly. I do have some nice heads of lettuce in the back garden although the seeds I planted in the whiskey barrel out front have not produced much.

Weather and garden report: July 1

July 12, 2012Permalink 1 Comment

With the second half of June summer arrived with several heat waves bringing days in the 90s. Lots of sun two although two big storms each brought about an inch of rain. To date I’ve had to do very little watering this year.

Blooms as of 7/1

 

  • Some day lily varieties, tiger lily
  • Daisies
  • Primrose
  • Clematis
  • Marigold

Home garden update

Finally in the past couple weeks I found time to get some things into the house garden. Way behind this year, and not expecting a great crop as a result, but you never know. The poor seed germination in April really hurt, and then all the other duties that kept me from the home garden throughout May made it worse. Anyway, here are some planting dates (reconstructed from memory):

June 17: tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, squash, cauliflower, tomatillo
June 26: cukes, parsley

Still to put in: beans, basil, chard, more lettuce/greens, perhaps some Thai peppers, giant sunflowers, marigolds

Bad Seed

Ugh, the tomato¬† seeds I got from Trade Winds Fruit had THE worst germination rate of any seed I’ve ever bought. For two varieties none of the seeds germinated. Old seed, I’m sure. So that blew three weeks out of the growing season. Now I’ll have no choice but to buy seedlings at the local garden center. So goes the one and only time I’ll buy seeds from TWF. All my pepper seeds, which I was going to start tomorrow, also came from them. Grr. ūüôĀ

The 2012 Garden…First Thoughts

I think the philosophy for this year’s garden will be be simplicity. With the kids and the boat and fishing and work etc. each year it seems I have less time and energy to devote to the garden. Also, the experiments of past years have yielded their results; for my little plot of land, I feel like I know what works, what doesn’t, what’s worth doing and what isn’t. So in this posts I’ll try to lay out some rudimentary goals. I’ll keep it specific to things I’ll be planting, and tackle perennials, shrubs, construction projects et al in other posts.

The winter this year was extremely mild and we got almost no snow. It was the warmest winter I can ever remember and the mild weather has carried into the spring. Normally this time of year the ground would still be frozen for another couple of weeks. But that’s not the case this year.

Seeds

Seeds are expensive this year! Not sure why. Harris and Burpee seeds on their sites are averaging about $4 a pack. Johnny’s all of a sudden are more affordable at $3.50.¬† I’d like to price seedlings at the local places. And also think twice about certain things that take a lot of nurturing to raise up from seed (like tomatoes). I need to be much more dilligent about collecting seeds at the end of the season for next year. Also I have seeds from years past and am wondering about their viability. This web site gives a real range of opinions. Maybe I’ll start some tonight (3/18) as a test and record the results.

On Starting and Planting Dates

I looked at a bunch of online spreadsheets and calculators…all of them called for seed starting and outdoor planting dates that seemed ridiculously early to me (e.g., tomatoes in the ground in late April). The dates in the tables below derive from two sources: Unstarred dates come from the Victory Garden book. Starred dates come from a variety of sources, but ones that jibe with my general sense of what is correct.

The start dates in the tables below are proposed best start dates. Some of these dates are already passed and I’m still waiting on some seeds. I’ll track actual start dates in this post.

Vegetables

My thoughts on vegetable planting this year.

Plant Notes Need Seeds or Seedlings Start Seeds By In Ground By
Beans (pole) Might try to mix two varieties this year, just to add a little color. Yes June 1
Broccoli Broccoli is another of those crops, so cheap to buy almost makes it not worth growing. Also, once it’s ready it goes to flower so quickly. For now I’ll plan on putting in a few plants. Yes March 15 April 21
Cauliflower Might try a few of these but wondering whether it’s worth it. Need to research. Yes March 7 May 7
Chard This always does well and will be a staple once again. ? Testing April 1 May 1
Cukes (pickling) I’d really like to try making pickles this year so this will be a first. Yes April 15 May 21
Cukes (slicing) I’ve not had good luck with these the last few years. May need to try a different location. Yes April 15 May 21
Lettuce Every year I plan to do great with lettuce yet I rarely do. Try again. A few different varieties. Need some that are regularly robust. Yes March 7 April 7
Mixed Greens I’d like to grown these in the whisky barren out front. Direct seed? Easier but you really have to keep it watered. Yes March 7 April 7
Peppers (frying) Yes April 15 June 1
Peppers (hot) My supply of dried ones is running low. I’d like to find some Tia Dragons which have been tough to locate the past few years for some reason. Yes April 15 June 1
Peppers (bell) Giving up on these. They just don’t produce well enough to make it worth it. No April 15 June 1
Squash Will do a mix of green and yellow. After last year I want to shoot for smaller, higher yieldi varieties with goof disease resistance. Yes April 25 (summer) May 25 (summer)
June 1 (winter)
Tomatillo Grew these a few years ago and they did spectacularly. One plant is plenty. Yes April 1** May 21**
Tomatoes Will do a mix of cherry, slicing, and sauce, like last year. A good candidate for flats. Will try 2-3 slicing varieties and maybe just one of each of the others. Yes April 1 May 21

Herbs

I generally do pretty well with herbs. They’re so fun to grow, pretty and aromatic. I want to make a much better effort this season to harvest and preserve dried herbs for cooking…they come in really handy and quality-wise are on par with or better than the store stuff.

Plant Notes Need Seeds or Seedlings Start Seeds By In Ground By
Basil May go with two varieties–an Italian and a Thai. Also want to try growing new plants from cuttings. For Thai April 15** June 1**
Chives My chive plants are at least five years old and still doing well. But I don’t like their current location on the side of the house. Too shady and dry. I’d like to move them this year. No n/a n/a
Cilantro An issue every year, my cilantro bolts long before any tomatoes are ready. Need to try to find a slow-bolting variety. Yes
Dill Will try some this year to have on hand for pickling. Yes March 15 April 21
Mint Put some of this in by the back fence last year. I assume it will come back strong. Might be a good idea to dig it out and put it in a container before it becomes a proble. No n/a n/a
Oregano Did very well last year. Need to check on the state of last years plants. No March 15 May 7
Parsley My parsley did phenominally last year. Yes March 15 May 7
Sage Need to see if last year’s plants are returning before I buy seeds. Also wondering if it’s better to start from seeds or seedlings. No April 15** May 31**
Thyme ¬†My thyme on the southeast side of the house has done well but at 2-3 years old it’s woody and needs replacing. ? Testing older seed March 25** May 7**

Flowers

Increasingly I try to cut down on the annual flowers I plant, especially those I start from seed. Between them and and vegetables and herbs it’s just too much work. But there are a few annuals I can’t imagine doing with (marigolds for one).

Plant Notes Need Seeds or Seedlings Start Seeds By In Ground By
Sunflower The mammoth sunflowers I planted in front of the hedgelast year did great. This year I’d also like to add some in front of the porch. No ¬†— ¬†June 1**
Marigold Once again last year the snails feasted on my young marigolds. I need to let then get a lot bigger before planting them. I use them in some many places that I need a lot although for some reason seed packs are very stingy in how many they give you. Ideally I’d like to have at least two dozen plants this year and look for varieties that spread well. Yes ¬†April 15** ¬†June 1**

Notes from Last Year (2011)

Some notes from last season, before I start thinking about this one’.

Changes to the Garden Areas

Let’s see. I added a whisky barrel¬† planter to the front of the house last year, planted with herbs and flowers and a cherry tomato. I also enlarged the garden area along the back and side fence, adding perhaps 30 square feet. Planted cherry tomatoes along the porch steps…fun to nibble on as you entered of exited the house.

Things that Worked Well

  • As usual I got decent production from my tomato plants and the nasties stayed away long enough for me to make lots of sauce.
  • Chard produced, as always.
  • The mammoth sunflowers I planted out front did great.
  • The annual flowers–especially iris, day lilies, black eyed susan, clematis, primroses–were all happy.
  • Herbs, with the exception of cilantro that bolted too early, all did well, especially those in front of the house. I put in some mint which I’ll have to keep an eye on.
  • Had my first successful bean crop in three or four years. (w00t!)
  • The ornamental grass I transplanted from Russ’s garden the year before did very well.

Things that Worked Not So Well

  • Last year I planted carrots and radishes for the first time. While the radishes did sort of OK and the carrots less so, I don’t think it was worth devoting the garden space to. Carrots are cheap enough to by and no one was interested in eating the radishes.
  • While I grew some large zucchini, the plants take up so much space and my garden is so small that I really need to shoot for higher producing varieties.Also rot became an issue at some point.
  • Lettuce production was poor last year.
  • My pepper seeds mostly failed so I bought six packs in June but something ate them in short order. Not a good year for peppers.
  • As happens every year, the snails made a feast of marigold seedlings.
  • My slicing cukes along the porch produced poorly and ended early.
  • A timing issue every season…my cilantro matured and then bolted far in advance of any ripe tomatoes.
  • Weeds in the flower beds…grass, crab grass, and this vining thing I need to identify…were very invasive. The sedum in particular is inundated with grass.
  • Every year I try sticking in the odd vegetable plant wherever there’s a hole in the flower bed. Seems like a reasonable idea but it rarely produces anything noteworthy, especially as my flower beds are so shady.

Knights who Say Ni Report

Shrubberies did well last year. An azalea out front which had done poorly in past seasons made a nice comeback. The Rose of Sharon gets out of control every year and is a pain to keep trimmed. Same too of the rhododendron. The forsythia as always was a tangled mess…I just can’t figure out the right way to trim it.

 Lawn Pests

The lawn in the front of¬† the house takes a pounding from the kids. I think I’ll just need to accept that dirt will be its natural state for the foreseeable future. The invasion of that vining weed into the grass on Cindy’s side of the house was a real pain though and I didn’t do much to stop it.

Other Stuff

  • I moved some black eyed susans to the front of the house.
  • A panel on the back fence fell apart and needs fixing still.

First Post: About

I really should have done this a long time ago. Of all the things useful to keep a journal on year to year, gardening (or farming or any other type of husbandry) must be near the top. I did once write a database application in which to store all my gardening data. But the data entry was monotonous and when I migrated to a new laptop one year I accidentally failed to bring the DB with me. So much for that. I think and hope a blog will be better…more accessible, conducive to free form use and yet¬† as structured as you¬† want to make it.

Unlike my Wahoo! blog, I don’t really expect too many people will be interested in reading this. Hence I’ll likely put less effort into polishing the posts or conveying information in a didactic manner. Same goes for the appearance and functionality. This journal is mostly for me. Still…I see no reason not to make it public and if you have comments or suggestions please jump in anytime.