Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Once Upon a Time I Liked Winter

The first half of December saw reasonably mild weather, although dry. That changed with a swing of 4 weeks of unreasonable cold with no day above freezing or even near 25F and a low of -6F New Year's Eve. We had about 1 day of mild temps and mud and back to the cold business. And if I can complain a little more- all of this would have been better if we'd had snow, but we only got 1/2 inch tops a day ago. I went from planting shallots in the garden (and with garlic on my to-do list), lush green in the greenhouse to frozen earth and mass lettuce death. Ugh. Once upon a time I liked winter.

What to do?
Stratification seemed like the most obvious activity, so after the potting mix thawed I started planting natives in deep cells and bulk item containers. These will go in the frozen greenhouse.

I also decided to try planting other seeds in flats for the greenhouse. My hope with this is for them to germinate much as they would outdoors, when the conditions were ideal for the seed. Their soil is frozen now. If this works I'll get a slight jump on the season and have plants with little hardening off to face. A few annuals that seemed to be ideal for this method include: Larkspur, Cleome and Bachelor Buttons. This could be a game changer for me if it works.

For those seeds that need more heat, like peppers, eggplant and tomatoes I'll still begin inside. Speaking of game changing, I've had pepper seeds germinate in 5 days, which is record for me. I learned why I had poor success with the seed starting mats. They work by raising the ambient air temperature by about 10-15 degrees. Well, when your basement is 50F who cares! That's not warm enough for pepper seeds to germinate. So, I found using my human heat pad, set at level 5 brought the soil top of a roasting pan with lid to 76F. Now that's what I need! Here's proof, planted on 12/31/17:

I brought in 3 pots of carrots and 1 of beets (didn't survive) from the greenhouse. The carrots are small, but sweet.

I decided to collect data on the greenhouse vs outdoor temperature for comparison. That info is here:

I don't fully trust some of the daily readings, but I would generally agree that
the average difference in high temperatures between inside and out is between 20-30 degrees, depending on the amount of sunlight.

My paper journal of seed starting and garden plans/ideas.

What's Up: Lettuces, Frilly Mustard, first signs of broccoli and red chard seedlings, my entire flat of various brassicas. It took a one day warm up to spark their germination. The basement has been colder than normal. 

Last night was another ridiculously cold night (0F) with wind chills -17F and all the local schools called off due to cold. I'm really tired of this and my chilblains and painful hip skin are flaring up. It looks like we have to put up with this for at least one more day. Thursday is suppose to be near 39 and possibly 60 this weekend. This has been my least productive winter break that I can remember. Tomorrow is back to school. I think I'm ready, because I'm bored with this crap.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Greenhouse Modifications Video

This 6 x 8ft kit greenhouse was constructed in August. It is very similar to the Harbor Freight greenhouse and I made a lot of the same improvements or modifications others have done around the web.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Dry, but Mild.

I guess I was too busy to post in June and my May post I was talking about the heat. Well, things have changed. Surprise. Surprise. The last 3 weeks have been relatively cool to mild. We even had a week in the low 80s and even 70s! However, we haven't had rain in about 3 weeks, until today (1/10th this morn). There have been several scatter storms pass through the area over this period, but most have split north and south of us. We had a sprinkle this morning, but we really need more. Finger's crossed we will get more rain today and tonight.

In the Veg Garden
The mater plants are beautiful- big, green, lush and loaded with fruits, alas none are ripe yet. I realized I didn't plant any cherry tomatoes, because I would be eating those by now if I had. I did let some of my favorite white currant tomatoes volunteer, but those are traditionally later anyway. The zucchini plants are huge and have made many fruits, but most have shriveled. I wonder if this is due to poor pollination because I have the plants covered. I need to look that up. The plants have busted out of the cover and I've found Stink Bug eggs on them. Those leaves I removed. I also planted 3 more plants assuming the current ones are gonna get hit soon. I have 1 watermelon seedling, that appears to be doing nothing above ground. The pepper plants are looking good, but not really fruiting yet. The eggplants are already being burdened by fruit. I need to pick those so the plants can grow. The corn looks great. Sweets are doing well. Beans are not producing yet. I harvested a decent crop of early potatoes and planted late zinnias, melon and squash in their place. Now for pics.
White Cucumbers. Zucchini under cover. Row 2.
 Harvesting and enjoying many white cukes. A few per day.
Here with hummus.
 A few volunteer sunflowers. Row 3
 Brandywines. Patiently waiting.
 Row 3. Tomato row. 

First garlic: from late June

 A forgotten heirloom pepper- from Heimos Greenhouse
Row 5 front. 

Potatoes grown from Shop-N-Save potatoes!

Popcorn, Yellow Wax and Burgundy beans. Row 4
Late June photo.

Sweets. Row 5. Late June.

Flower Gardens and Critters
The 2016 Garden. Most of the perennials are
still behind where I'd like them to be, but better than last year.
 Bombus impatiens on Mountain Mint
 Cabbage Butterfly on Hoary Vervain
 Bea and Urey at the pond. We have tadpolls after only
21 days built!
 Charlie's afternoon sleeping spot
 This lovely new Cosmos selection. 
Buttery yellows.
 Swamp Milkweed with Milkweed Bugs
 Jailbird Ruby
 Shrubby St Johns Wort
 Thread-waisted Wasp on Mountain Mint

Found this sleeping Carpenter Bee early one morn.

I've been fortunate to get to garden a lot this summer due to not working. I'm both excited and sad that it is already July. I'm midway to back-to-work time. : ( I'll try to soak up as much of my free time as possible. 

Happy July Gardening to you.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Good Life

Got some work work done early and was able to hit the garden before the temps hit 90. Yeah, that's not a typo. We've had some upper 80 temps recently. Morning garden chores included weeding, hoeing and planting corn & beans. The tomatoes are almost done being planted. I have 4 cages left and some small plants to tuck in them. I will dedicate an entire garden row (1 of 5) to just tomatoes.

Row 4 planting completed
Potatoes, Eggplant, Beans & Corn

1st row: Royal Burgundy
2nd row: Yellow Wax
2 rows of Indian Berries Popcorn
I don't usually grow corn, but I do like popcorn
so I'm giving this a go. Row 4.

Peppers planted and protected
Row 5
A mix of peppers & chilies
with cardboard collars to protect them from
emerging weeds (smartweed). Planning on 
sweet potatoes after the peppers. 

My latest pole bean trellis (dumpster diving gem).
After the pole beans are 2 Elite Zucchini (plants purchased
as my seed didn't germinate) and
the cucumbers (starting in packs) will go
where the fencing is after the squash. Row 2.
Garden Critters
Carpenter Bee

Native Praying Mantis Eggcases

Tortoise bug on chickweed 

Spittle Bug
on Sea Oats

The heat made me harvest the bulk of the lettuce.
It's just starting to get milky (bitter). 
"New" Bromeliad holders

Found the skull mushroom hunting this spring.

Center & Corner Collections

Funnel of Sedums
More sedums and random wild violets

In Bloom
Ohio Spiderwort
 Serviceberries are getting gobbled by
Robins and at least 3 Catbirds
 Blue Star

Not in or from the Garden, but cool nonetheless
Kiddo saw this Giant Water Bug hurrying across the Home Depot parking lot the other day. Apparently, they are attracted to light, but where or where did this thing come from? There isn't water nearby, unless they can be found in ditches. We brought it home and released it. Not sure if it made it (they do play dead). They are also called Toe Biters, because they have been known to do that and after they pinch (their prey) then also inject them with digestive enzyme that makes them into soup and they suck the guts out. Lovely, eh?

Enjoy this Good Life.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Stemler Cave Woods Nature Preserve Big Burn

Volunteers and state staff burned approximately 75 acres on Saturday March 18th. It was a slow burn, but overall a good one.
Starting at the SE corner of the burn unit
 Along the N border

 Where the two fires met in the middle
of the N border

We saw a Barred Owl flush from the area, as well as a Red Bat. I found a Blackberry Seed Gall for the first time. From "Naturally Curious with Mary Holland" I learned, "Galls, abnormal plants growths caused by many agents including insects, are formed during the growing season on the buds, leaves, roots and branches of plants as a response to chemicals or physical irritation. These galls serve as shelters and a source of food for their inhabitants. Blackberry is host to numerous gall-making insects, including mites, midges and gall wasps, and their temporary homes (galls) are more obvious now that Blackberries have lost their leaves. The Blackberry Seed Gall is caused by a cynipid gall wasp, Diastrophus cuscutaeformis. This wasp gets its species name from the resemblance of the galls it forms to the fruit of Dodder or Cuscuta, a parasitic plant. A cluster of small, globular, seed-like galls within which the gall wasp larvae live are pressed together in a lump surrounding the cane. Each of these 1/10th-inch diameter chambers bears a spine, and together they create a reddish-brown hairy mass."
 Blackberry Seed Gall (Above)
Warty Leaf Beetle (below) mimic caterpillar poop
 One of the many kinds of True Bugs I saw that day.

I saw this plant frequently and while it looked familiar I couldn't place it. Eventually I found the answer and the basal leaves (1st year of growth) are very different looking from the upper growth (year 2), which maybe threw me off. This is a common native species, Stickseed, Hackelia virginiana.

Done with Fire Season for Spring 2017
Wish I could have burned my prairie, but 
the weather wasn't in favor. The plants greened up
early with the warmer than average (record warmth) January/February.