Saturday, May 31, 2008

First garden problems

My garden is looking really nice. I see a lot of potential as most things are off to a good and healthy start. However, I am encountering some problems that I'm trying to deal with today.

First of all, you may remember that my original cucumber seedlings died when I set them out. So I bought 4 new plants at the nursery and set them out a few weeks ago. Two of those four have now died and the other two look like this. The main stem has turned white and gotten brittle. It looks like it is dying. Oddly, though, the leaves at the top look really healthy. I'm not sure about the problem. It may be "damping off" due to soil that doesn't drain well, lots of water lately, and soil too high in nitrogen. I'm afraid I'll lose my cucumbers again. I could replant them or plant something else there, but I need to figure out the problem and do something about it or I'll just keep having the same problem.

In this bed I have planted a row of onions on the far left and then two rows of bush beans. (Yes, experienced gardeners will point out that beans and onions shouldn't be planted together. I discovered this *after* I'd planted them all. Lesson learned for next time.) So far they don't seem to be disagreeing with each other. However, my bean seedlings do show a few signs that something is nibbling on the leaves. It is small and since we have a fence, I tend to think it is some kind of insect. I couldn't see any when I looked, but the damage could be happening at night time. I'm not sure what to do. I think I may plants some marigolds in the middle of the beans as a first step.

Yesterday I discovered that this grape tomato plant was bent over at a 90 degree angle. Not sure whether to blame wind, birds, or children. Anyway, I used twine to stake it upright. Then last night we had a gulley-washer of a storm. This morning it had fallen over again. I restaked it, tying it higher on the trellis and hoping it'll snap out of it, but I'm not too positive. We went to the farmer's market and bought another grape tomato plant just in case this one doesn't pull through.

But a lot in the garden is looking really good. For example:

My Seeds of Change Sucrine lettuce seedings (second succession planting)

Two zucchini plants

This bed of potato plants (these are Red Norlands and my Irish Cobblers look just as good in the bed opposite these - not pictured)

Our strawberries (this is just one of many plants that are bursting with berries about to ripen)

and blueberries (this is one of four plants full of blueberries that are turning blue).

Today's local weather:
High temp 83 F
Low temp 60 F
Sunny with 30% chance of showers

Monday, May 26, 2008

Guano, fish, and blood

So now that I have just about everything in the ground in my garden, I felt it was time to add fertilizer. Yesterday we drove quite a distance to a store that sells organic gardening supplies. It's far enough away that we can't go there every day or even every week, but it is definitely the place to go to stock up on organic fertilizers and pesticides.

I bought two boxes of this organic tomato and vegetable fertilizer. We also bought one box of the variety for fruit and flowers for the berry garden. I went out and added it as directed to the tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, and sweet potatoes. I'll probably go back and add it to other plants as they get more established.

I also planted my third succession planting of lettuces, spinach, carrots and green onions. I feel renewed hope for these veggies. The first planting of spinach never did come up and I assumed at this point it was too late in the season to count on much. I was ready to give up on the spinach this year. But now I notice that my second planting that I made a couple of weeks ago has come up. So I took that as a sign that I shouldn't give up yet. I also noticed tiny little carrot and green onion sprouts where, a couple of weeks ago, there were none. My lettuces are also looking good. I may have some good salad veggies after all. Now my only hope is that it doesn't get too hot too soon.

Today's local weather:
High temp: 79 F
Low temp: 63 F
Partly cloudy, scattered strong storms this afternoon

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sticking with it

Isn't this a beautiful picture? This is my double shepherd's hook in the perennial bed leading up to my front doorway. It is meant to attract hummingbirds to our home. A sight like this really makes me feel like summer is here. Unfortunately, we haven't seen any hummingbirds yet this year. It seems really strange to us and we can't figure out where they are. They've been visiting us for years. And if this beautiful planter and nectar aren't enough, right behind them along my house are tons of red and yellow columbine plants.

As beautiful as things have been in the front, things in the backyard haven't fared so well. Mother's Day weekend I set out all of my seedlings. Usually that is a safe date around here. This year it has been unusually rainy and cooler than usual. Needless to say, my seedlings didn't do well. Everything I had started from seed died once they were set outside. Either it got too wet/cold for them or I just didn't harden them off long enough.

Anyway, I wasn't about to give up for the year, so we headed off to the nursery last weekend to buy new plants. I came home with four more tomato plants (bringing my total to 12), 4 cucumber plants, lots of bell peppers (4 green, 4 red, and 2 yellow), 2 zucchini plants, 1 sweet potato plant, a bag of yellow onion sets and bush green bean seeds, 4 lettuce plants, two large pumpkin plants, 3 miniature pumpkin plants, 4 baby watermelon plants, and 4 muskmelon plants. I put them out into the garden and after 5 days in the ground, they all seem to be doing well. The onion sets are even starting to sprout.

Today's local weather:
Low temp: 47 F
High temp: 69 F

Monday, May 12, 2008

Busy weekend

We started off Saturday morning with a trip to the local nursery. Local gardening wisdom is that you wait until Mother's Day to plant and with this being Mother's Day weekend, the nursery was packed. And it is a fairly large nursery so the amount and variety of plants was a little overwhelming to me. Fortunately, we went there with specific things in mind to help us focus. If we hadn't, we might have been there all day!

Here are two of the eight tomato plants I bought. These two are Romas. We also bought two Cherokee Purples, two Better Boy, and two Beef Hearts.

I also bought five herb plants. In this picture are the basil, chives, and cilantro. I also bought sage and thyme. These are all in the two herb beds that border my back porch. It's close to my kitchen for easy cooking access.

And look at these! These are some of the Red Norland potatoes I planted three weeks ago. I've got tons coming up. A few of my Irish Cobbler potatoes are also coming up although they are a later variety. I need to add some soil to the sides of these plants. That's on today's "to-do" list after I get my errands finished.

I also transplanted 13 bell pepper plant seedlings (yeah, I know it is a lot, but I assume some of them will die). I transplanted two cucumber plants. I also planted my second succession planting of lettuces, spinach, carrots, and green onions.

Jeff added mulch to the walking paths in the garden. It looks so much more attractive now and hopefully the moisture and temperature will be more controlled. We had wanted to use straw instead of a hardwood mulch, but it is almost impossible to find it this time of year. We decided we are probably going to go no-till anyway from now on, so these walking paths will be walking paths in the future. I realize with hardwood mulch there is a risk of it decomposing and leaching nitrogen from the soil, but we'll keep a close eye on it. I'd like to add mulch around the base of some plants, but I'm not sure what to use that won't hurt the plants. And even if I figure it out, I'm not sure where to buy things that are more organic. Most of the stores around here carry only your traditional (i.e. non-organic supplies). I have work to do.

It rained all day yesterday after I got the plants in on Saturday so they should be off to a good start!

Today's local weather:
High temp: 63 F
Low temp: 46 F
Sunny and breezy

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Spring Wildflowers

Over on my main blog I shared that our family went on the first camping trip of the season last weekend. One of the things I love to do most on these trips is go hiking to identify wildlowers. May is an excellent time to find spring wildflowers and this year I hit the motherload. Everything seemed to be in bloom!

What I do is hike along with my National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers (Eastern Edition) and a pencil and my digital camera. Whenever I find a wildflower, I use the book to identify it then pencil into my book where and when I found it. Then I try to get a shot of it with my camera. This year I also picked up a brochure put out by the park. The brochure confirmed most of my ID's and in some cases listed a slightly different variety of the flower than what I'd thought.

Anyway, here's what I found in bloom this year:

This first one is Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum) which grows everywhere!

Another flower that was prolific this year was the Celandine Poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum) which is also known as the Wood Poppy.

Bordering the hiking trail on the hills near the creekbed were hundreds of these flowers. They're called Shooting Star (Dodecatheon meadia). The identification book listed them with the pink flowers, but almost all of the ones I saw were white like this.

This dark purple flower was also popping up everywhere. It's called Spring Larkspur (Delphinium tricorne).

Lots of this Blue Phlox (Phlox divaricata) everywhere.

May in Indiana means it is Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) time. These little table-like green plants carpet the forest floor and in May a little white bloom opens up in the space between the two leaves.

This next one is one of my favorites, but I've had trouble pegging down the name. Based on the info in my identification book, I thought it was called Toadshade (Trillium sessile) or Red Trillium. The brochure I got from the park, however, identifies it as Prairie Trillium (Trillium recurvatum). I guess it is six of one, half a dozen of the other since there is very little difference. At first it is kind of hard to see these as the blooms are fairly dark and can blend into the leaves and other dark plants on the forest floor. But once your eyes get trained, you see them everywhere.

Here's another one that is hard to see because it folds over on itself. The purplish-brown part of the flower is hidden by the green exterior. It's called Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum).

Well, there are a few others, but this post is probably graphics-intensive enough. I apologize to all those on dial-up.