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.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Rain, Finally. Maybe.

Typical for summer, we just had a two week dry period.  Lawns around me are going into dormancy and those that are avoiding it are either being irrigated or are more fescue.

My back neighbor has responded by watering twice a day--exactly the wrong response as this encourages lawn diseases, intensifies any diseases you have, and results in very short roots on your lawn.  Additionally, it costs a fortune in terms of water.

I irrigated once during this period, just a few days ago.  Even so, the lawn is dry and we do need rain. There's a 75% chance of it tomorrow, and 90% on Wednesday, and we may get up to two inches.

So from drought to deluge.  I'll take it.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Early August Images

The lawn is probably at its low point for the year, while the gardens are at their high point.  So far, the gardening season has been a little touch and go due to the weather and the rabbit invasion in May and June, but it recovered nicely from both.

First, the standard lawn shot.  You can see some shock on the grass if you look close, and rain isn't expected until Wednesday (and then not terribly much).  This week marks the third time this year I've watered.

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The general garden shot, taken from the side this time.  Yes, it's busy.  I like it that way, as do the bees and hummingbirds.

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This is an orange zinnia that happens to have lots of friends.  Out of focus in the background you can just barely see the yellow carpet (Profusion) zinnia, and some blue salvia.

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There's a ton of very happy Harlequin dahlia in the garden this year.  Harlequin grow 12 to 16 inches tall (mine tend toward 16 inches or a bit taller as I feed well), flower heavily from early summer to frost, and like any dahlia can be lifted and saved for the following year if you wish to do so.  Second year tubers tend to outperform first year plants.

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Cutting dahlia are always nice!  This is a Sky Angel dahlia that grows about four feet tall, and produces copious lavender blossoms on very long stems.  Cutting these dahlia results in even more blooms produced.  I picked this up very cheaply at Home Depot some years ago, and store the tuber over the winter in a paper bag.

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Since the cannas gave up, I planted Blue Boy, Sun Lady, and Color Spectacle dahlia.  The Blue Boy are starting to blossom, and this first flower is just opening.  The color is inaccurate, however, as in person it's almost a perfect violet, but a bit less saturated than the full color.  The open bloom (which I'll photograph), will be about four to five inches across.

Like the Sky Angel, this is an excellent cutting dahlia that can be purchased at Home Depot in late spring.

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Last but sure not least are the Easter Eggplant this year!  The first image is of the plants in pots, the second is of the developing eggs close up.  You'll note I do need to de-shag the plants a little bit and remove the yellowing older leaves.  As the season rolls on, more leaves will yellow, exposing the eggs when I remove them.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Happy Solar Autumn!

Technically, August 5th marked the first day of solar fall (or solar autumn), but I missed that.

Solar Autumn is the twelve week period of the year when the day length (in the northern hemisphere) decreases the fastest.  Between now and November 5th, the Sun's declination (a measure of how far north or south it is of the celestial equator) will change from +16° to -16°, or moving roughly 32 degrees (I rounded the numbers).  Since between June 21st and December 21st, the total change is only 47°, you can see why this period is the fastest change.

Your day length will vary by where you are on the globe.  Mine changes from today's 14 hours (and a bit) to 8 hours and 20 minutes on November 5th.

Depressing as it might be, the upside is that summer certainly isn't over yet!  We still have more than two months of gardening time left, although the last few weeks of that are touch and go.  Lawn season continues for another three months.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Rabbit Protection Working

The Tabasco sauce recipe I started using at the end of June is working perfectly.  I have no additional rabbit damage a month later, and the damaged plants have regrown beautifully.

Rabbit populations seem to have fallen a bit, possibly as they spread out for food sources now that my garden is no longer palatable.

I did observe one rabbit this morning try to nibble on the zinnia.  He or she spit out the leaf immediately and left for the neighbor's clover!