Monday, April 30, 2012

April 30, 2012

Bush cherries are ripening already.
The week began with a fost advisory and ended with highs in the 80's F.  Planting weather turned on like a switch Thursday, and that's the day we got 60 ft.  (2 varieties) of green beans, 2 wells of zucchini,  5 wells of honeydew melon, 5 wells of cantaloupe melon, and a row of pickling cucumbers planted; all before a humongous thunderstorm came right over our heads and watered in everything we had just planted.  We love it when that happens!

Herbs thyme, tarragon, oregano, sage, lemon
verbena, and rosemary all grow with roses. 
This critter is eyeing our garden hungrily.

We're enjoying spinach, swiss chard, radishes, and green onions right now, but we will be clearing the greens to make room for pumpkins in May.  Lettuce is just taking off, and we sowed more seed to extend the harvest.  Peas look fantastic; we added bone meal and scratched it in lightly to encourage them to flower and set pods. 

Garlic scapes are forming, meaning stir-fries will take on a new flair; before long we will harvest garlic bulbs that have formed underneath the soil.  Tomato plants started from seed in March are more than a foot high, as are bell peppers, and broccoli plants are setting little button heads.

Early summer fruits have set - raspberries, blueberries, and bush cherries. The cherries are already ripening along with local strawberries.  Our own strawberries are busy setting leaves and runners with an occasional flower; we are picking off the runners and flowers until July.

The big task this week is planting sweet corn.  We divide our 20 x 25 ft. block in half (20 x 12.5) and plant six 20-ft. rows every two feet apart.  This will ensure sufficient pollination when plants mature.  The second half will be planted up to one month later to extend the harvest.  What do we grow in the extra foot of space?  We traditionally line the corn patch with sunflowers.
The vegetable garden.

Monday, April 23, 2012

April 23, 2012

Spring radishes grew the size of beets!
This is the BIG week!  It's time to plant our favorite seeds for the summer garden:  sunflowers, cantaloupe melons, honeydew melons, summer squash, zucchini, green beens, and if we are ambitious enough, the first batch of sweet corn.  Seeds of these veggies tend to rot in cool soil, and though we had six weeks of warm weather March into April, a hard freeze on the 12th would have been a major set-back if we had already planted.  Our highs have averaged only in the upper 60's F since then; but soil also absorbs radiant heat from sunshine and has sufficiently warmed enough to increase germination success.  If we don't have time to plant everything, we'll hold off on sweet corn since our hybrid variety is especially sensitive to soil temperature.
Seeds ready to plant.

We are still ahead of schedule since transplants went into the ground almost three weeks early, and they are doing great.  Bell peppers are already flowering - though we will pick these early buds off until they grow larger.  Tomato plants are ready to have their cages and stakes put on for support.  Broccoli is the big success this Spring.  We've had to water a little extra to supplement natural rainfall, and those big leaves are going to produce some whopping florets.  Maybe we'll see some 16-inchers this year.

Broccoli plants are growing large.
Spinach is still coming strong, though we're eating everything we harvest.  Peas are looking healthy; it's time to supplement with natural bone meal, which will encourage flowers and pod production.  We pulled radishes, which went a little too long in the ground.  Last year's parsley, a biennual, is sending up stalks now to bloom, and we will save these seeds to plant next Spring.  In the meantime, parsley seedlings started this year are still small but quickly gaining size.

Monday, April 16, 2012

April 16, 2012

Tomatoes and peppers protected by tunnel covers.
(click to enlarge)
How many others around Greenville had a freeze or frost last week?  Thursday morning dawned in the 20's F at our place, six weeks after the last local frost!  Instead of water, the garden hose produced icy slush.  Following that hard freeze, we had a good frost on Friday morning.  Our location at 934 ft. elevation almost always gets a frost if area temperatures are forecast to dip below 40 F.  We were warned, however, and prepared by covering our frost-sensitive tomatoes and peppers with tunnel covers Tuesday evening until Saturday morning.  They did a great job keeping damaging temperatures out; plants continued to grow inside their cozy greenhouse as if nothing happened. 

Spring peas after the freeze.
Neither freeze lasted long enough to damage trees or other foliage.  We did see frostbite damage on the dill and peas, but it is limited to leaf edges; they should fully recover.  We'll give them a nitrogen boost from compost tea.  We sure are glad we haven't planted frost-sensitive beans, melons, and cucumbers yet.  The original planting dates we had set on the calendar for those crops is April 26-27, but we may move that up a week since warm temperatures seem to be back. 

The funniest thing about the late freeze?  Patches of bermuda grass in the yard decided to go dormant again!

Rose and herb border was not affected by the cold.

We pulled some of the crop of raddishes, continue to pick spinach, planted some late-season carrots, and re-tilled the corn patch.  Some of the potatoes we missed last fall are sprouting, as are myriad sunflowers from seeds the birds pecked out.  Gardening the second season is more fun because of bonus plants that sprout from last season's discarded vegetables.

One of many peaches developing on our trees.
Our fruit trees were in their third year last summer and were still growing up.  They have set fruit for the first time this year - at least a dozen or more peaches per tree, and the same with the apples.  At least 10 of the 13 blueberry bushes are fruiting this season; and raspberries in red, purple, and black are flowering now.  Everbearing strawberry plants, set a month ago, are sending out flower stems that need to be picked off until July.

Monday, April 9, 2012

April 9, 2012

The first spinach of 2012.
What a glorious Easter weekend we had!  Tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, and other transplants have jumped into growth after recent rains and agreeable temperatures.  I don't think it's an exaggeration to say we pulled a million weeds over the weekend, however!  This reminds me of an organic gardening tip we haven't really followed this year but will try to follow from now on.  Freshly-tilled soil is a hot bed for weeds.  Tilling, especially in a new garden, turns up millions of weed seeds that rest beneath the surface. If you have the time after tilling, let weeds sprout first, skim them off without disturbing the soil deeply, then plant.  It's so hard to be patient with this technique when days lengthen and temperatures are prime for planting.  Something is always calling to get those hands in the dirt.

This 'Blue Girl' hybrid tea rose bloomed in time for Easter.
There are a hundred chores we could have done, besides weeding, but there was time only to re-till the future corn bed; organic humus from composting clover has made it rich and fertile.  Our first harvest of spinach came due, always a welcome celebration.  I wonder how much longer spinach will last since temperatures have been so unseasonably warm this year; it tends to bolt and turn bitter above 80 degrees F.  Other plants love the heat, and we will soon turn our attention to them.

A recent weather report says 60% of the nation is now in some state of drought, even before we head into the typically dry and hot months of summer.  We haven't had to use our soaker hoses much this spring, but we will be laying them out in the vegetable garden this year in case they are needed.  The first hybrid tea rose on our property bloomed in time for Easter.  We have loads of rose buds just ready to burst open, but a few opened early.

The vegetable garden in April.

Monday, April 2, 2012

April 2, 2012

Vegetable seedlings the week before transplanting.
Until this year, I have never set my transplants out in March.  The weekend was just right - mostly overcast - and we've had four weeks of frost-free weather.  A dozen tomatoes, eight peppers,  nine dill and nine parsley all went into the ground on Saturday.  The tomatoes are protected with milk jug covers - mostly to keep voracious insects away until they grow a little larger.  Thankfully, none of the big hail storms hit us.
Winter beets, lettuce,
and chard.

Planting holes are being prepared for cucumbers, melons, and zucchini.  We will have another try at pumpkins this year, but since we don't want them to ripen until September, it's best to wait until May to plant.  Temperatures are warm enough to plant sweet corn:  our green manure crop of clover reached knee-hight last week; it was time to incorporate it into the soil to enjoy its rich nitrogen benefits.  Tilling it under was just as cumbersome as I remember it was last year, but a double pass in cross-directions took care of the job in about an hour.  Soil will continue to warm over the next three weeks until we're ready to plant.

Apple blossoms.
We added lemon verbena and sage to our perennial herb border, and we decided to add a fig tree to our orchard.  Apple trees are in full bloom now; little marble peaches and pea-sized cherries are set.  Spinach will be ready to pick this week.  The garden is really shaping up for a productive and healthful year!
Meyer lemon tree with blossoms perfumes the deck.

About Me

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Dedicated to the responsible production and preservation of healthy home-grown food to the glory of God. Isaiah 55:10 The rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater. Organic, or not? We try to raise vegetables organically, using compost and manure. The addition of chickens to our hobby farm means plenty of organic nitrogen to compost! This site gives credible reference to planting information contained in the Farmer's Almanac (