Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Milk and So On

Extended evening hours and warmer weather certainly are nice!

I applied 8 oz per thousand square feet of whole milk, plus 3 oz per thousand kelp, 3 oz per thousand humic acid, and 3 oz per thousand sodium laureth sufate solution.  Those can sit until the next rainfall, which will probably be Friday.

Milk seems to have an odd effect in the lawn, gently enhancing performance on soils that are already resource-tuned and organic.  I'm not certain that it would do much of anything on a poorer soil, however, so this isn't a step I generally recommend.

Kelp contains minor amounts of growth hormones, useful in developing spring root systems.  It also contains just about every element possible, so any temporary shortfalls can be supplied via foliar input.  The amount of organic matter is minor, but I'll take it.

Humic acid encourages fungal development and may help a bit with water retention.  Since the latter isn't an issue in my soil, it's not a real consideration.

Sodium laureth sulfate flocculates (gathers together) soils, making them softer and allowing water and air to penetrate more easily.  Of all the things I used today, this is the one with the greatest impact.  Rather than purchase SLES online (which you can do), it's just as easy to use 3 ounces per thousand square feet of Suave or White Rain shampoo, or the generic baby shampoo off the shelf.

Application of shampoo can be made monthly until the soil loosens up, and should be combined with organic feeding and a soil test and resource balancing.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Everything's Late

Post the rather severe winter we just had, plus a rather cool and wet early spring, everything in the gardens is delayed.  So is the lawn, which is back but not growing yet this year and still a touch patchy with dormancy.

The next week or so should change that as temperatures rise to a bit above normal.  It's far too early to estimate when the 850 sprouting plants in the cellar will go out to harden off in the north garden, but if the weather is average it should be around May first.

So far, the comment's been made, "It's too bad you can't grow crocus around here."  You can see that fact below, and I think this particular patch started as three or four bulbs several years ago.

As always, click on any image to embiggen it.

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This is the first year in several years that the Siberian iris did well.  And when they do well, they do very, very well.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

And We're Off

Actually, we were off the evening of February 13th, but first sprout is today.

I started the cleome, Easter eggplant, and celosia.  I've found the celosia benefit from a very early sprout and tend to bloom far sooner if they get it instead of waiting for March.

At this rate, by Thursday or so they'll be moving down under the lights and the second batch will be starting.  That will be the red and blue salvia.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Countdown Begins

Sure, we're only ten minutes over the line into February.  Close enough.  Solar spring (the time of fastest daylight change upward in the Northern Hemisphere) starts on Thursday.

The first of my plants, the cleome and the Easter eggplant, start around Valentine's Day.  They've been cold stratifying in the garage since Thanksgiving.  That's far more time than they require, but a little extra never hurts.

Plants such as lisianthus should either start immediately...or you're already late.  Those tend to do best started very early, but fortunately anybody growing those already knows that.  I tried one year and they were difficult enough that I vowed never again.

Everything else except the cleome and Easter eggplant waits until late in February at the earliest. This year, I plan on starting the celosia much earlier as I've found they benefit from a longer season. Those will probably be in the late February batch.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Winter Gardening

Most of this season is pressing your nose against the window and staring out into the bleak winter weather.  Fortunately, that's not always true.

I had transplanted a young marigold indoors in early October just before frost.  That bloomed reliably until about two weeks ago when it finally gave up.  I planted some celosia seeds in a tray pack and those are happily growing on my windowsill now, enhanced by a 6 watt LED bulb an inch away.  It should be ready for transplant into the windowsill pot around the second week of January.

I ordered my gardens for 2015 from Park Seed and Swallowtail Garden Seeds.  Swallowtail is a new company for me, they have Figaro dahlia seeds by color instead of as a mix.  Since the taller dahlia performed so well in the gardens in 2014, I had wanted to expand their usage next year.

For the most part, the plants are the same as last year.  However, the color design calls for decreasing the orange and increasing the red to compensate.  To accomplish that, half a flat of Figaro red dahlia and an extra flat of Magellan scarlet zinnia are called for.

The Profusion zinnia also perform very well, so I've increased their usage in the garden.  I favor the Fire, a very reddish orange, but the yellow were well-received as well.  The orange is very nice, but as I'm cutting back use of orange in the garden next year I'll be using fewer of those.

Purple hues are new for me in 2014, and to work with the Blue Boy dahlia (actually a deep purple), I added Figaro purple dahlia as well.  The colors vary considerably among the plants, but all are more than close enough to accent the Blue Boy.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

2014 Lawn Additions

Lawn additions, like the garden, were very similar to last year.  About the only changes were the addition of a little cracked corn early on to combat a slight case of snow mold I'd had during the winter, and the reduction of the winterizer amount to 0.87 pounds of nitrogen per thousand.

That reduction was also to fight any potential snow mold this winter, as well as to account for the fact that winter descended a little early--and that was all the fertilizer I had left!

Date N P K Iron Organics Other Notes
5/13/2014 1.21 0.21 0.34 0.00 25.0 Soybean Meal, Cracked Corn
8/1/2014 1.05 0.30 0.15 0.00 15.0 Soybean Meal
9/5/2014 1.05 0.30 0.15 0.00 15.0 Soybean Meal
10/1/2014 1.05 0.30 0.15 0.00 15.0 Soybean Meal
11/12/2014 0.87 0.00 0.15 0.00 0.0 Vigoro 29-0-4

Total per K ft:       5.23    1.11    0.94    0.00    70.0    700 active organic total   

2014 Garden Additions

Garden additions were around the same as last year, just somewhat better distributed monthly.  The heavy-hitter was Milorganite, as usual, with only a small boost of ferrous sulfate in July to deepen leaf colors slightly as the calcium I added kicked in.

Date N P K Iron Organics Other Notes
5/5/2014 0.55 0.22 0.00 0.44 11.0 Milorganite
6/1/2014 0.90 0.36 0.00 0.72 18.0 Milorganite
7/1/2014 1.05 0.42 0.00 1.42 21.0 Milo, Ferrous Sulfate
8/1/2014 0.90 0.36 0.00 0.72 18.0 Milorganite

Total per K ft:    3.40    1.36    0.00    2.48    68.0    136.0 active organic total  

Does Milorganite Deter Rabbits?

Another Dear Reader question.

The answer is "no."  I've never noticed that Milorganite did anything to deter rabbits from the lawn or gardens.  For about the first twelve hours or so, it may discourage them a tiny bit, but the initial scent fades quickly and after that there's no impact on rabbit populations.

What will work is a simple spray:

1/2 tbsp Tabasco sauce (or any hot sauce, the hotter the better)
1/2 tsp dish soap, any kind
1/4 tsp Elmer's glue (optional, but helps it stick)
32 ounces water

Spray on plants, only a mist is necessary.  The flavor is distasteful to rabbits and repels them very well.

That formula is very give or take on amounts, and it's about where I am at the present moment via experimentation of what works best to repel the beasts and also has some staying power on the leaves.  This will be good until the next rainfall and even beyond that if the rainfall is light.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Iron on the Lawn

It was a bit of a speed application this afternoon and evening as sunset gets a bit earlier every day, so my coverage was perhaps a bit thin.

However, I managed to spray 4 ounces of ferrous sulfate monohydrate onto the lawn per thousand square feet, mixed with about an ounce and a half of Miracle Gro (I'm out of ammonium sulfate and didn't notice that until too late).  I used sodium laureth sulfate as a surfactant, somewhat under a tenth of an ounce per thousand square feet.

In this case, given the limited time and limited amount of spray I could get down, I went with a somewhat more dense solution than usual.  All of the above per thousand was mixed into slightly under a gallon of water.  That won't be an issue, and temperatures tomorrow are forecast to go no higher than 60°.  Post that, temperatures tumble for the foreseeable future, with highs in the forties or colder.

Fortunately, the weather was very humid with dew expected this evening, so the grass should stay damp until well after sunrise.  By tomorrow mid-day, the color will be deepening.  The impact of this iron application will continue right through spring as grass growth is about to stop for the year.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Dahlia and Moles

It turns out I seem to have a few moles in the garden.  They ate the Blue Boy dahlia tubers, except for one clump.  Fortunately, that one clump had six tubers with eyes on it, which means I have two more Blue Boys than I started the season with!

The Color Spectacle came up beautifully, with two tubers dividing initially into six.

Today also marked the evening I finished taking down the gardens, assembling the compost bin, and getting that started.  In the last six hours, it's already risen to 96° in the bin.  By tomorrow, temperatures should be pushing 130°.

The weather looks likely to turn wintery by the end of the week with very little warming through the remainder of November.  I may spray iron and drop winterizer tomorrow and Wednesday.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Lifting Dahlia

The first very heavy frost was the night of October 31st, so an appropriate Hallowe'en occurrence.

Dahlia do best if given five to ten days to harden off after frost, so I delayed lifting them.  We're supposed to get moderate rainfall tomorrow, so I started lifting this evening.  I had enough time to lift the two Sky Angel dahlia and five Sun Lady.

Which are now four Sky Angel dahlia and ten Sun Lady.  The tubers did very well this year in the gardens, with divisions in half required.  Technically I should have divided the tubers further, but I'll do so in spring when the eyes are clearer and beginning to sprout.  It's likely that I'll get another doubling out of this year's tubers.

I still have to lift the Blue Boy and Color Spectacle, but that will have to wait until after this storm system moves through.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Last Soybean Feeding

I forgot to mention it before--the final feeding of soybean meal on the lawn went on September 28th. Since it didn't rain until early October, I'm entirely comfortable calling this the October feeding of the lawn.

As always, I used 15 pounds per thousand square feet, or approximately 7 pounds of protein. That's right around 1 pound of nitrogen equivalent per thousand square feet, or more than sufficient to carry the lawn through the end of the season.

This doesn't quite finalize the lawn feeding.  Winterization with a good synthetic (I chose Vigoro 29-0-5 again this year as it's cheap and effective) will happen when top growth stops.  Normally, that's around Thanksgiving, give or take a few weeks.

Once I winterize, I'll post the charts of all additions to the lawn and garden for the year.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Mid-October Lawn Photos

Plus the gardens, of course.  First frost is most likely tonight as the temperature is 39° and dropping at just before 7 PM.  Today was the last chance to take garden photos for the year, even though a few plants will survive this evening and continue to blossom into November.

First, the lawn photo.  This one isn't quite the typical shot as the sun was lower than usual.  To avoid catching my own shadow in the image, I turned a bit further south than I usually do.  As always, click to embiggen and see how badly the lawn needs mowing (very badly).

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Here are the Color Spectacle dahlia, plus red salvia and a few rather sad-looking late zinnia.  The dahlia will be making an encore appearance next year.

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A more southern face of the garden, featuring yellow Sun Lady dahlia, a few remaining marigolds, and more Color Spectacle.

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The red salvia certainly do hang on well.  So, it seems, do yellow Janie marigolds, which are also planned to appear again next year.  Very few marigolds output flowers like this in October.

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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Early October Photos

Last night wasn't quite first frost, although some of the zinnia in the lower parts of the back beds had their flowers blasted.  Still, it looks like identical weather tonight and Monday, and then we warm up again.

As always, click on a photo to embiggen it.

This is the standard lawn shot, now with extra dogs (which were out at the time the photo was taken). Riley is clearly concerned that the more-distant Casey might be having fun he's being left out of.

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The back gardens are doing well, although the cleome seems to be reacting to the colder weather as well.  That can be removed when I have time and ground up for the compost bin.  The dead grass at the garden edge is where I re-imposed the edging that walked inward over the course of the season, and I generally spray it twice a year in July and September.

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The front gardens are doing fairly well, too, although you can see the places where some plants have been removed for the season as they gave up.

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More extensive use of dahlia is new for me this year.  This is a Color Spectacle dahlia, quite cheap at Home Depot in very late spring.  My apologies for the poor photo.  The flowers are huge, so I have to back off enough for you to see the entire thing, but doing so required me to move into a bad spot.

Blossoms are more rare than other dahlia, with both of these plants hosting around 12 blooms at a time.

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This is another dahlia, the much more standard Sun Lady.  Flowers are around 4" across, and erupt copiously on a 40" plant.  This particular dahlia has around 25 blooms on it currently--as do the other four Sun Lady in the garden.  That's after cutting at least twenty for vases and for gifts this week.

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Yet another dahlia, the Blue Boy.  It's a semi-cactus in a fairly pure purple (the color is somewhat darker than pictured here).  Flowers are close to 6" across on 24-30" plants, and the plant blooms copiously (as you can see by the other blooms in the shot).

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Seed Collection Continuing

There hasn't been terribly much to write about for the last few weeks.  The gardens are looking great, and I discontinued feeding two weeks ago.  They can glide through the remainder of the season on what remains.  So far, the season is certain to continue into early October and there's no frost in the forecast.  It's actually been exceptionally warm and dry for September.

Most of the seed collection is complete for the year.  A few plants won't be collected as they reseed themselves so easily they don't need to be (Cleome are almost in this range), or the seeds don't breed true (hybrid zinnia and dahlia).  I order those every year, although I do remove and store dahlia tubers for plants that have performed particularly well.

The varieties I collected are listed below.

Ageratum:  Many people report that this plant doesn't work well for them, but it volunteers easily in my gardens and gets absolutely huge (for a dwarf plant).  This is the first year I tried to save seed for sprouting, so we'll see how that goes.

Celosia:  Descendants of China Red that crossed with my off the shelf red, orange, and gold varieties. I tend to choose the ones that show the characteristics closest to the original China Red, but yellow, orange, and red still volunteer in the garden so the mix stays variable.

Cleome:  While the parents were Sparkler Rose, the granddaughters are firmly split into pink, a pink-purple, and purple, or the normal cleome colors.  I've collected seeds from the darkest of the purple plants to try to bias the selection in that direction a bit.

Easter Eggplant:  So far this one isn't quite done, but I tend not to finish until October here anyway to give the eggplants time to mature on the vine.

Marigold, orange:  Amazingly, these breed very true even with yellow marigolds very close to them. A rare surprise in the color mix certainly isn't a problem.

Marigold, variegated:  These have single to semi-double blossoms, streaked with color.  The daughters are usually a surprise and can show primarily reds, yellows, or even bands of color.

Marigold, yellow:  While these cross with the orange and sometimes produce a surprise, it's amazing how often they breed true (probably 95%).  I always have spares, so a few orange ones in the mix with the yellow flat isn't a problem, and they're always blooming by the time they're ready to go out in spring.

Melampodium:  Also called star daisy (they aren't daisies), these plants reseed themselves freely in most Pennsylvania gardens.  Two or three of the plants in the gardens were volunteers, the rest were grown.  One hundred percent of my mother's plants are volunteers.  Over the years, these seem to be getting a bit larger and a touch more gold than yellow, but I don't mind.  The great-granddaughters of these plants are prettier than the originals.

Salvia splendens:  A nice red saliva, the great-granddaughters of the set I used to have.  They're tending taller over time, with a larger blossom and better, truer reds.  As the generations move on, more are volunteering in the gardens than used to.

Salvia farinacea, Rhea:  Still small and purplish-blue, these have become a staple in the garden. They're petite and very pretty, all season bloomers, and even volunteer fairly freely in the garden.