Saturday, November 23, 2013

2013 Lawn Additions

Lawn additions dropped this year, as I mentioned in the gardening post from yesterday.  At this point, I'm reaching maintenance mode on the soil and no longer need to apply the level of organics that I used to.

A total of six pounds per thousand square feet of nitrogen isn't exactly anything to sneeze at, however.  It's more than enough to assure that the lawn grew perfectly, spread to repair problems, and was a very nice green all year long.

This chart doesn't include sprayed iron, which I only did once this year, earlier in the week.  I also applied calcium lime, once in spring, once in late summer, at a low rate to adjust the soil pH upward a touch.



Date N P K Iron Organics Other Notes
5/15/2013 0.91 0.26 0.13 0.00 13.0 Soybean Meal
7/26/2013 1.05 0.30 0.15 0.00 15.0 Soybean Meal
8/18/13 0.63 0.25 0.00 0.54 12.6 Milorganite
9/9/13 1.05 0.30 0.15 0.00 15.0 Soybean Meal
10/3/2013 1.05 0.30 0.15 0.00 15.0 Soybean Meal
11/6/2013 0.20 0.00 0.02 0.00 0.00 Vigoro 29-0-4
11/21/2013 1.12 0.00 0.16 0.16 0.00 Vigoro Super Green







Total per K ft: 6.01 1.41 0.86 0.70 70.6 706 active organic total

Thursday, November 21, 2013

2013 Garden Additions

Garden additions went way down from last year (just as the lawn's did).  I also tapped a very small amount of boron in the form of 20 Mule Team Borax into the gardens in May.

The organic material tests now have the gardens at a very good 9.3%.  I didn't add mulch this year as there was enough left from last year to carry through, so that number might drop a little in 2014.

This table doesn't include synthetic additions.  Once per week, I add 1 pound of 24-8-16 across the entire garden, or about 1/4 the recommended rate.  Adding this to the organics brings the gardens up to stellar performance, but does tend to lower the pH.  I corrected that again this year with the dolomite I added in April, plus a small amount of calcium carbonate-based lime in July.


Date N P K Iron Organics Other Notes
4/20/2013 0 0 0 0 0 Dolomite 40 per K
5/9/2013 1.10 0.00 0.44 0.88 22.0 Milorganite
6/5/2013 0.83 0.23 0.10 0.10 12.5 Milorganite, Soybean Meal
7/8/2013 1.55 0.62 0.00 1.24 31.0 Milorganite







Total per K ft: 3.48 1.29 0.10 2.22 65.5 131 active organic total

That's a Wrap!

This week closed out the gardening and lawn season for the year as temperatures are due to plunge into the thirties (for a high) next week.  Tomorrow is the last day we show a high over fifty for quite some time, although we'll undoubtedly flirt with higher temperatures in December.  We usually do, nowadays.

Yesterday I completed spraying 6 oz per thousand square feet of iron on the lawn.  I'm still drawing off the fifty pound bag of ferrous sulfate monohydrate I bought last spring, but I ran out of ammonium sulfate.  I substituted Miracle Gro 24-8-16, which works perfectly well.  The lawn is now finishing up its color change, from a rather anemic green with a slight yellow overtone to a deep green with blue notes.

This evening I dropped my winterizer.  1.12 pounds of nitrogen, from Vigoro Super Green.  That will help add a bit more iron into the mix, plus some slower release nitrogen for the inevitable warmer periods through winter.

With luck--and temperatures that don't dive under fifteen--the lawn won't go dormant this year at all.

I'll release my charts of feedings for both the lawn and garden for the year shortly.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Drip of Nitrogen

Although the organics are still feeding the lawn from October, we're starting to spin into the late fall.  Our long-range forecast implies strongly that growth won't stop on the lawn until early December, if even then.

I dropped 0.20 pounds of nitrogen per thousand square feet this evening to wash in during tomorrow's rain.  And this time, it was synthetic as I happen to be out of grains and would rather not make the 30 minute each way trip to get more just for a small feeding.

That should kick in around the weekend and feed the lawn for the next two weeks or so (nitrogen demands are down due to the slowing growth and lower levels of sunlight).

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Garden Clean Out

It's that time of year!  We're post first frost, the annuals are dying off, and the perennials are shedding their greenery for the season.

I've cleaned out and composted about two thirds of the garden at this point, and I'm waiting for the compost bin to free up to finish the final third.  I always chop up the plants with the mower and bag the remains, then dump that into the bin.  It decreases the size of the particles, and compresses everything into a much smaller space.

Add some water to the bin and there we go--compost in two weeks (if you turn it a lot).  The current temperature is running at 140° and holding, which means I'm not turning it right now as I'd burn my hands.  In four or five days that will drop to a more skin-friendly level.

The "quick" compost I produce is rough, and not good enough to dig into the soil.  It works beautifully as top dressing, however, and decay continues through fall and into spring, enriching the soil.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Apropos to the Season

I've had a resin pumpkin on hand since the clearance sales last year and finally got around to cutting it.  A few hours with a small hand-saw and you get the pumpkin below.

Resin pumpkins can't have candles in them or they'll burn, and light sources need to be under 5 watts.   I pulled out my electronics kit and whipped up a four AA battery power source to run 4 orange LEDs and 2 warm white LEDs.  It's a bit brighter than a candle flame, and far more constant, but the inside of the resin pumpkin is an orange-brown and benefits from brighter light.


As always, click on the image to enlarge it!

 Halloween Pumpkin 10 10 2013

The Last Organic Feeding

Or at least for the year.  I dropped the last load of soybean meal at 15 pounds per thousand on the lawn last weekend.  As of today, it was watered in and it'll continue to be watered in during the next few days.

After this, there may be one more addition of Milorganite, but probably not.  The next planned feeding is winterization towards the end of November (or whenever top growth finally ceases).

The gardens are still in good shape, although not as heavily blooming as they were last month.  If the weather clears Sunday I'll try to get some photos.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Lawn Feeding, Soybean Meal

I dropped the third fall feeding today, fifteen pounds per thousand square feet of soybean meal (the first was also soybean meal, the second Milorganite).

That should kick in around the end of September and supply ample nitrogen through October.

The last organic feeding will be around October first, to release toward the middling-end of October and into November.  The remainder of that final feeding will freeze and release small amounts of nitrogen through spring, sufficient to carry me through May and the first of the major yearly feedings.

The absolute final feeding for the year is synthetic, and done whenever top growth ceases.  That's usually around Thanksgiving, give or take a week.  This year, I chose Vigoro Super Green as it was in stock when I went, and the cheapest thing available.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Easter Eggplant--Collecting Seeds

The Easter Eggplant (featured in earlier posts) is maturing beautifully, with "eggs" turning yellow and then a burnished orange that's the perfect color for September.  I can't recommend these plants highly enough, but do recommend putting them in pots where you can more easily enjoy the eggs.  The flowers are also quite pretty, but small and easier to see if they're somewhere closer to eye level.

With the fully mature orange color, it's time to collect seeds!  Although there are plenty of methods that work well for all eggplant, including the blender method, I chose the glass of water method.

Pick an eggplant (be careful, they have small thorns on the stem).  Fill a glass half full of water.

Cut the top stem portion off the eggplant.  You can cut as deeply as about a quarter way through the eggplant without losing too many seeds.

Then quarter the eggplant.  You can pull apart the seed containing areas by peeling back the yellow-white "meat" and exposing the seeds in layers.  Your thumbnail will be sufficient to free the seeds.  Dip your fingers containing the seeds into the water.

Repeat until you have all the seeds you want (it's best to take seeds from several plants to preserve as much genetic diversity as possible).  You may notice a few seeds float to the top, and all the excess eggplant meat and rind will also float.

Carefully pour off the water down to the seed layer but don't lose the seeds!  Then refill with water again and repeat pouring off.  Do this a third time and the water should be completely clear.

Dump the seeds onto a plastic or china plate (seeds will adhere to paper) and spread them out as well as you can. 

They'll tend to stick to each other, so do your best.  Let dry for a day or so, and spread them again.  Then dry for a week in a location out of direct sunlight and store for the winter.

Eggplant seeds tend to do best if they experience vernalization, or the process of simulating winter and then raising temperatures for spring.  I may do an extended entry on this in the future as I now have two species that benefit from vernalization (the other is cleome).

Storm Damage

We had vicious thunderstorms blow through on Labor Day, including more than 3 1/2" of rain and violent winds.  Parts of the garden took some damage, most notably the tallest and most exposed of the cleome.

Most of the shorter plants, including the marigolds, zinnia, ageratum, and so on came through unscathed, as did all the trees and shrubs.  As a general rule, larger and more spread-out annuals will tend to be damaged most easily by winds.

When this happens, there's very little you can do.  Remove any broken branches, re-seat any plants that have been shifted, and hope for the best.

Damage will tend to occur toward the end of the season, so at the very least you don't have long to look at it.  Early season plants are smaller and more flexible.

In my case, much of the mass was chopped and composted, and the damage wasn't terrible.  One cleome that I couldn't re-seat will simply lean a bit for the remainder of the season.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Milorganite Down!

I hacked down the jungle-like growth out there that a week of intermittent rain set off.  This morning, 13.6 pounds per thousand of Milorganite went down as an interim feeding. I should be noticing increased green from the iron by mid-week as we're getting some rain today.

I'd fed with soybean meal on July 28th, just before an earlier rainy period, and will feed again around September 10th with soybean meal.  The final organic feeding will be around October 1st, with winterization around Thanksgiving using a synthetic.

Yes, fall is the time to feed your lawn.  Synthetics should wait for the temperatures to break downward a bit (we usually say Labor Day).  Organics can start any time from August first through Labor Day and be just fine.

Optimally, you'll want to deliver about three quarters of your lawn's nitrogen in fall as more of it goes into root storage and development than in spring.  Feeding once around Memorial Day is sufficient for the spring lawn.

The other feedings, assuming using an off-the-shelf synthetic, in my area are Labor Day, October first, and whenever the grass stops growing (for me, around Thanksgiving).

That last one is actually the most important as almost all the nitrogen is transformed into carbohydrates and stored for winter.  Winter survivability rises dramatically in lawns that were "winterized," or fed just after cessation of top growth.

Since my area inconsistently freezes, I use Vigoro Super Green with a goodly percentage of slow-release nitrogen.  Areas further north would do better using the cheapest fast-release (no "WIN" listed under nitrogen on the bag's nutrient panel) fertilizer you can lay hands on at bag rate.

Monday, August 12, 2013

What Works Faster: Milorganite or Ironite?

This is another question that showed up in my search results--apparently Milorganite and Ironite are frequently compared head to head.

They really shouldn't be as they're completely different things.  Milorganite is an organic feeding that happens to contain a large percentage of iron.  Ironite contains a large percentage of iron and happens to contain a very tiny amount of nitrogen.

As far as speed of greening, both Milorganite and Ironite will give essentially identical results.  Enough of the iron is water-soluble that it'll reach the roots at about the same speed for each product after watering in (or rainfall).  While Ironite has a bit more iron, it's not significant at bag rate applications.

As far as feeding, Ironite will give a tiny boost of nitrogen.  Milorganite will give a much larger one (there's ten times more nitrogen in Milorganite), and about two-thirds of the nitrogen in Milorganite releases over the long term.  Organic nitrogen requires time to decay, process, and become available to the plant roots.

Milorganite will help enhance your soil over time as well, although the process is rather slow--on the order of years, not weeks or months.

If you read my posts from this weekend, Milorganite is the heavy-hitter in my gardens (and often in the lawn, although less so this year).  Ironite...I don't use the stuff, personally, as the unit price is more expensive when comparing both the iron and the feeding capability of Milorganite.  Add in the soil alterations and there's no comparison.  It's Milorganite hands down!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Easter Eggplant

Easter Eggplant is an eggplant that produces fruit the size and shape of Grade A chicken eggs.  The "eggs" start out a creamy off-white, something like eggshells, and turn yellow as they mature.  Colors can range into orange as they get older.

As it turns out, that description of the Easter Eggplant is accurate.  Several of the older eggs on my plants are beginning to turn, and I discovered a set this morning that are now fully yellow.  They're on one of the most beaten-up plants in the corner of the garden that sits in full sun all day long.

As always, click on the photo to embiggen it!


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Watering in Milorganite and Soybean Meal

I noticed a search term rising in my stats report and it's a good question.  How much water does Milorganite need?

Technically, none.  You don't need to water in an organic fertilizer to get it to work.  Natural rainfall will do that for you very nicely, and neither Milorganite nor soybean meal (nor any other organic fertilizer) will burn if you don't water it in.  That assumes you've applied a reasonable amount as large amounts of Milorganite can burn, but bag rate to double bag rate certainly won't be a problem.

Milorganite contains some water-soluble nitrogen, so until it's watered in nothing is happening at all.  Around a quarter inch of rainfall or irrigation is sufficient to move that water-soluble N into the soil to start work.

Soybean meal contains no water soluble nitrogen, so there's no immediate nitrogen release at all when watered in no matter how much water you use.  Other organic fertilizers will vary, but the percentage of water soluble nitrogen will tell you how much effect to expect immediately after watering.

The remaining sixty percent (or 100 percent for soybean meal) of water insoluble nitrogen has to decay and break down in the soil to become available to your plants.  That's dependent on moisture as well, so a constantly slightly to moderately damp environment will feature the fastest nitrogen release.

Too much water tends to expel oxygen from the soil, which is necessary for decay.  Soy and Milorganite will still decay under anaerobic conditions, but the results aren't quite as good.  Too little water will shut down decay and stop nitrogen release until rainfall resumes.

This is actually a good thing.  Soils that are too wet or too dry don't foster large amounts of plant growth to begin with, so reduced nitrogen release is appropriate for what the plants need at that time. 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

My Garden Secret

OK, stop hassling me via e-mail.  You know who you are.  :-)

There are actually several secrets to making your garden bloom like this.

1)  Get A Soil Test.  Just like the lawn, or your vegetables, they're stuck in the soil.  They can't move.  You as the gardener will need to balance the soil appropriately, so get a soil test.  I prefer Logan Labs.

Reading it can be difficult.  For the most part, you want saturation percentages of 60% calcium, 15% magnesium, 10% potassium, 15% everything else.  Give or take some, and it does depend on what you're growing--those numbers are for typical annuals.

As a general rule, 250-500 PPM phosphorus is best for flowering gardens, but I've pushed mine far higher.  You don't really need to do that.

Adjust things appropriately and your gardens will bloom.

2)  Milorganite.  18-36 pounds per thousand square feet, applied monthly.  Milorganite will provide some water-soluble nitrogen, but also adds plenty of organic nitrogen that will take a while to decay into your soil.  At first, those amounts may be too large and you may find that it smells very bad as it decays.  If so, back off for a while until the scent fades and apply at lower levels the next time.  Slowly step it up.

Milorganite is probably the most important feeding I give the gardens.

"I can't get Milorganite!" -- I've also used soybean meal to excellent effect and do occasionally use it instead of Milorganite.

In neither case do you have to specifically water it in.  Both the Milorganite and soybean meal will start work the next time you water or it rains, and neither will burn your plants if it sits on the leaves.

3)  Water.  Wilted, stressed plants won't bloom.  Dead plants definitely won't bloom.  Keep the soil evenly slightly moist at worst all the time.  It's best to water far enough before sunset that the plants have time to dry thoroughly before dark.  That reduces fungus issues and also helps keep slugs down a little bit (not much).

4)  Other feedings.  I have an EZ-FLO hose-end system and use it to inject a quarter-rate feeding once per week into my gardens.  Roughly, over the course of a month, I use the same amount of water soluble food that would be recommended for a week.

A hose-end feeder will work just fine.  If you're following Tip #2, you don't need a great deal, but it's wise to trickle in a little bit often.  Just pass over the plants once, then water in or let the rain carry it in for you.

While I use 15-30-15, I've recently changed to 24-8-16 because my soil tests are coming back with very high phosphorus levels.  There's no need for me to add any more.

Early-ish August Photos

For the last few weeks the gardens have been doing spectacularly well, and with the break from the hot weather the grass has now caught up.  It's time for more photos.

Per request, I'll share my garden secrets with you in a not-too-distant future post (hint: it's a lot less of a secret than you think).

As always, you can click on any photo to embiggen it.

Here's the standard lawn shot. My apologies for catching my shadow in the image, I generally take these a bit earlier in the day.

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I took a photo of the grass from the other side of the property to prove that I actually do work on that. Please note, this is one case where I adjusted the brightness of the photo to compensate for the camera's poor choice of exposure time. I really was trying to photograph the lawn, not the house across the street!

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This is the more or less standard back garden shot. You can see it's matured even in the two weeks since the last set of photos!

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This is roughly the same view, but taken from the other side to show off the central plants nobody ever gets to see in photos.

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Standing on the patio during the evening affords some nice views out as well. There's a row of smaller plants in front of the cleome you don't see in this image, except for a stray volunteer Melampodium and the edges of some zinnia.

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I divided my Sky Angel dahlia last year and the daughter plant is finally starting to bloom. This blossom is young yet and still has the tight center and green interior of an immature flower. Those turn to a pale lavender as the bud ages.

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The Aurora marigold are doing well, but probably won't make the cut for next year. The plants are smaller than I prefer even if the blossoms are a perfect color.

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Beginning Fall Feeding

And happy Solar Fall, which started on the fifth.  I forgot about that!

Early to mid-August is the time to start organically feeding the lawn for fall.  This gives the protein time to break down and begin to work, which generally takes around three weeks.  I'll specify that this is for protein-based feeding only--synthetics can wait until Labor Day, and even Milorganite should be held until the third week of August.

For most of us in the Atlantic region, temperatures break cooler by the third week of August, making any time in the first three weeks of August the correct time to feed.

I went a bit early on July 28th.  Now, not quite 2 weeks later, the lawn is going slightly insane.  Colors have deepened, growth is accelerating, and spreading is filling in a few minor holes left over from spring.  Our very high rate of rainfall doubtless has something to do with that, as do the moderate temperatures.

My personal plan is to feed again towards the end of August with Milorganite, followed by soybean meal in mid-September and again the second week of October.  That pretty much closes the year for organic feeding as temperatures will drop quickly after that.

My final feeding will be whenever top growth stops on the lawn, usually around Thanksgiving, and I'll use a synthetic for that.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Late July Photos

The month has been fairly kind to the lawn and gardens, even with a solid week of 95°+ weather in there.  Burn on the lawn is minimal, and the gardens responded by blooming more!

As always, you can embiggen any photo by clicking on it.

First, the general lawn shot:

Lawn and Gardens 07 30 2013 (14)

And a general around-the-curve shot of the gardens.  The cleome are doing very well, so well that I'm weeding them out and throwing them away.  Colors are drifting a bit as the generations spin on, the ones here are a light pink and a rich pink respectively.


Lawn and Gardens 07 30 2013 (3)


Here's the other garden curve in the back.  The cleome here is a rich magenta, the ultimate goal on color throughout the garden, mixed in with lighter magenta and pink ones.  Unfortunately, controlling the reproduction of cleome is nearly impossible, so I'll have to breed the colors by choosing parents to make sure that the hues are at least carried recessively.


Lawn and Gardens 07 30 2013 (6)


If you noticed the large red shrub above, it's a crepe myrtle.  Which is fairly amazing for Pennsylvania, actually.  Crepe myrtle are more of a southern state plant, but I managed by putting this on life support for several years before planting it in a well-protected and warm microclime in the garden.  This crepe myrtle is just about done with its first bloom, and I'll remove those front-hanging branches once it finishes up.


Lawn and Gardens 07 30 2013 (7)

One of the test plants in the garden this year is an Easter Egg Plant, which is actually an ornamental eggplant.  This one definitely passed the test and will be showing up in following years, although I'll probably move them to pots to show off the eggs better.  At the moment the eggs are white, but they'll turn yellow through August and orange in September.  That top egg isn't flawed, just a little dirty.


Lawn and Gardens 07 30 2013 (1)

Monday, July 8, 2013

Encap Score! And Feeding...

Unfortunately, our local K-Mart store is closing, but fortunately they were having a store closing sale.  I picked up enough Encap fast-acting lime (calcium carbonate) to apply the July liming to the lawn and gardens at 25% off.

I also drained their entire supply of K-Gro Plant Food, but that's another story, as is the rather attractive lacquer pot I bought.

While I was at it, I fed the gardens with 31 pounds per thousand square feet of Milorganite.  That will supply 1.5 pounds of nitrogen per thousand square feet, slowly, and will release through mid-August at a fairly high rate.  At that point, garden feedings tend to be more to restore the resources I've taken out this year, plus put some slow release nitrogen into the soil for the following year so the bulbs have something to eat.

Milorganite won't cause a massive growth flush, so you won't generally notice the effects immediately.  However, over a month or so, plants become larger, darker green, and healthier than they would have been, and the advantages continue to mount if you keep using it.

Some nitrogen is released even a year later, so the feeding I did today will still benefit the garden well into next summer.  And the organic material will stay behind, helping to aerate the soil, retain some extra water, and encourage bacteria and fungi.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Fourth of July Lawn and Gardens

It's traditional for me to take photos on the Fourth of July to hallmark the unofficial "middle of summer" for the lawn and gardens.  Please note, the actual middle of summer isn't until August fifth.

As always, you can click any image to embiggen it!

The lawn is doing very well this year due to the constant and very heavy rainfall we've experienced.  I irrigated it exactly once, and then only enough to carry it through until the next rainfall arrived.  The color is a touch pale, but that's normal for July and normal for heavily overcast conditions that have persisted for more than a month so far.

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I managed to get the hydrangea to bloom mixed blue and pink with a note of purple this year, but that was mostly luck.

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Overall, the gardens are doing tolerably well, but some things are delayed.  The marigold and dahlia don't mind the weather, but the zinnia would prefer more sunlight.

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Here are some closeup shots of a variety of flowers.

A dahlia with a visitor. This particular dahlia is slated to be tagged later on in the season and wintered over in the cellar.

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This is another dahlia that's slated to be saved--as it turns out, most of the bi-color and multi-color ones are.  The flowers on this look brighter in person, with brilliant cherry-red petals centered in a creamy white.

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Here's a zinnia that's actually producing large, scarlet flowers--the color is more saturated than it looks in this photo.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Bunny Bonanza

Either rabbit populations are very high this year (and they don't seem to be) or they particularly like eating Dreamland zinnia.  In either case, none of mine in the back are growing all that well because they keep being eaten back to the stem.

OK, enough of that.  When this happens, there are a few things you can try:

1)  Fence the garden, if possible.  Fencing should go down at least six inches below ground as rabbits are excellent diggers.  This isn't a good solution for me as these are display flower gardens.

2)  Trim your roses, use a machete or any other device to chop the thorny branches into small pieces, and scatter them in the areas where you have rabbit problems.  Rabbits won't pick their way across thorns any more than you would.  This is most useful in smaller areas, and isn't particularly attractive.  However, if this continues, I'll try it.

3)  Chop up anything pungent or hot and scatter it around the plants.  I used three small handfuls of black pepper, chopped fairly rough, and scattered it around the zinnia.

4)  Spray the plants with a repellant.  There are plenty of homemade repellants, most involving a little dish soap, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and fresh garlic.  Refresh this after rainfall.

5)  Spray the plants with an over the counter repellant, like Liquid Fence.  The effectiveness is variable, and it tends to be a bit on the spendy side.

6)  Plant sacrificial plants at the edge of your garden for the rabbits to eat in the hope that they won't go after the others.  It's not terribly effective and can attract rabbits to the edible plant(s).

7)  Ignore it.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

That Lawn Thingy

If you noticed the previous series of photos, the lawn looks...very odd.  For some reason, all the tips have gone brown, but the dead tips don't extend past about an eighth of an inch.  Underneath that, the grass is green and growing.

This is actually a statement on what NOT to do with your lawn.  Don't mow the day before an unseasonable frost.  Then don't follow it up with a mow the day before the temperatures suddenly spike to a very unseasonable 92.

If you do, expect this to happen.  While you can apply copious water to force further growth and then cut off the dead tips, I'm content to let nature take its course.  The next time I mow, the grass will restore itself to the normal color and texture, with no harm done.  It's best to wait until after a good rainfall and a resumption of normal temperatures to do this.  Fortunately, large amounts of rain are expected tomorrow and Monday, followed by a much more normal early June.

The June Gardens

Early June, but June nonetheless!  Garden development has been slow until the last few days when the weather suddenly warmed up.  At the moment, I'd say they're about two weeks behind the average, but they're coming along.

As always, you can click on any photo to embiggen it.  

The rose bloomed a bit late, but made up for lost time by blooming particularly spectacularly:
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The petunia pots on the pedestals tend to do well, but that's a hot, and very sunny, environment.  I chose a deep purple this year:
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The rain lilies are severely delayed, and seem weak this year.  The pots took ages to return.  Still, they're starting to bloom:
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The red zinnia are finally starting to bloom, but they're also very small and slow:
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The overall garden shot is much different than the initial one, but it still looks very underdeveloped to my eye.  The late frost we had definitely cost time on the zinnia and other hot-weather plants, and it'll take some time and some work for those to catch up:
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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Very Slow Recovery

We had a near-frost event last Sunday, and a frost last Monday.  The gardens took some damage, including the loss of around ten plants that were the least protected.  Another twenty or so frost-burned.

I replaced the ten lost plants, but recovery on the twenty burned (but living and otherwise healthy) plants has been very slow.

When this happens to you, inspect the plant closely.  If the leaves under the burned leaves are still green, there's hope.  Remove the damaged leaves (the leaf is rarely damaged back to the stem on a light frost, and you can leave the green part of it if you want).  It may take a day or so until all of the damage is apparent.

Water well the next morning, and don't feed just yet.  Hold feedings until the weather returns to a more-normal pattern, then resume normally.

This frost was severe enough that recovery is quite slow on most of my plants.  Those that were burned still look fairly badly off a week later.  They should recover, but it does delay those sections of the gardens by at least a week.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The First Feeding

This year, I'm performing an experiment.  I didn't feed the lawn at all this spring--normal if you feed synthetically, but all my feedings are organic except the winterization one in late November.

As of a few days ago, the lawn is starting to lose a bit of color, so it was definitely time.  What I put down now won't activate for about three weeks anyway, so I should see an improvement after Memorial Day.

So I trundled off to the local grain mill and bought 300 pounds of soybean meal.  The target was to have half of that down today.

I missed the target by about 20 pounds, which is completely my fault.  However, I'll divert that last 20 pounds to the June garden feeding.

Still, 13 pounds per thousand (130 pounds total on the lawn) gives a bit over 0.9 pounds per thousand square feet of nitrogen, more than enough for a spring feeding.  The next scheduled feed won't be until August first, to take effect in late August just as the temperatures start to drop.

The gardens get fed monthly through the season with at least half a pound of organic nitrogen per thousand per month, and sometimes up to a full pound of N.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Start of (Solar) Summer!

May fifth was the official start of Solar Summer, the twelve weeks of the year with the most sunlight.  Solar fall officially starts on August 5th.

I actually jumped the gun on Solar Summer by a whole day and started planting my gardens the morning of the fourth.  Seven hundred and fifty annuals later, I'm done (the last hundred and fifty go to my mother for her garden).

Spring isn't quite done for yet.  As always, click on any image below to embiggen.

This is a double daffodil, which blooms rather late.  They're usually the last of the daffodils in the garden, and the patch isn't into full bloom just yet.  They'll finish up in about ten to twelve days or so.

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I can't for the life of me remember what these are offhand.  But they sure are pretty!


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While Spring...er, springs...summer is also coming into play.  The first marigolds, just transplanted a few days ago, are in bloom and should stay that way for most of the summer.
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Ageratum is a garden favorite for me.  Strangely, most people tell me they have some difficulty with it, whereas mine get huge and bloom constantly.
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Red zinnia are another favorite.  Last year's got somewhat hit by fungus, but I'm hopeful that this year will be better.  This particular zinnia is a Giant Scarlet Flame, alone in a very big pot, and should stand about three feet tall at maturity.
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While currently unimpressive--even a little silly!--here's the photo across the back curve of the rear bed.  I'm presenting this one a little larger so you can actually see the plants, but you can click to make it even larger.
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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Spring's Almost Done...Almost!

Today was the day that 12 flats of annuals finally came out of the cellar and went into the most shadowed portion of the garden to begin hardening off (click to embiggen):

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Throughout the next week or so, I'll move the flats outward into the sun.  Right now, the most tolerant plants (marigold and zinnia, mostly) are at the front where they'll receive some late afternoon sunlight.  By the end of next week, all the plants will be in the sun.  Our temperatures at night through the period won't go below forty, and usually stay well above that.  I'll pull them in if there's a frost projected, of course.

While that heralds the start of official garden summer, spring isn't done just yet. The tulips, those that remain, are in bloom.  And you can see I seriously need mulch in this area...

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Bonus photo!  Our new puppy, Riley, rather enjoys the lawn.  This was the lawn just after I chopped up the spring trash for the compost bin, so it's a bit of a mess.  The robot is out mowing it now.

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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Spring's Still Springing

The Cleveland pear tree finally bloomed on Friday.

Pear Tree Blooming 04 19 2013 (1)

If you look closely at the grass, you'll see a fair bit of Poa trivialis, now turning pale and frightened from the Tenacity I sprayed it with.  I'll need to follow up with another spray, but the vast majority will turn ghost-white and then die.

I did get my soil results back--a lower than expected pH from low calcium levels was the worst problem, along with a minor boron shortage.  I started the correction on the calcium levels today with 5 pounds per thousand square feet of Jonathan Green Mir-A-Cal, probably the most effective and fastest calcitic lime on the market.







Sunday, April 14, 2013

Spring has Sprung!

"The first day of spring and the first spring day can be separated by as much as a month."  --common local saying, original author unknown.

It's true, too, although this year didn't take quite a full month to move into the swing of things.  We've already had two rather warm days and several very nice ones, with the upcoming week looking beautiful.

Still, after a long, cold, and rather dreary winter this year, it's nice to see the gardens moving along. As always, click on any image to embiggen it!

The back bed of daffodils are doing well:

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These Scilla siberica are doing very nicely as well!


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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Pre-Emergent Down!

It's a little early in Pennsylvania, but the pre-emergent went down last weekend.  I use generic Barricade (prodiamine), so the pre-emergent duration is very long anyway.  At this point, I'm definitely covered into late October.  I'll add a bit more in September or so to come up to my yearly allowable amount (1.5 oz per acre equivalent) and protect the lawn and gardens through December.

Historically, I've found Barricade to be about 90% effective against the worst weeds that I want to stop--most notably, P. annua and P. trivialis.

While I was at it, six ounces per thousand square feet of whole milk went down.  It seems to enhance performance just a bit, although I wouldn't bother unless you've already had your soil tested and the soil tuned to optimum resources.

I took my soil tests some time ago.  Now I just have to send them off.  I'll get there.

I did find a few P. annua patches in the lawn, and I've since sprayed those with Tenacity (synthesized bottlebrush plant extract).  They should start dying in ten days to two weeks, although a complete kill in spring is difficult.  At the very least it'll control the issue until fall when I can get a reliable kill.

I absolutely must take lawn and garden photos for posting.  The last two warm days have accelerated things here amazingly, and the daffodils are in full bloom.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Great Aphid Attack of 2013

It happened last year as well.  The plants growing in the cellar weren't looking grand, and finally started to fall over dead.  Inspection with a magnifying glass (as my eyes are terrible) showed a massive aphid invasion.

Last year's attack was awful, and not caught until far too late.  I ended up losing an entire flat of red salvia, and replanting them in early April.  Although they ended up doing perfectly well, they were very small when they went outside and blooming was severely delayed.

This year I was expecting them.  And lo and behold, there they were at the end of March.  Although they damaged the Melampodium enough (and the spray I used did enough damage) that I replanted those, the salvia were untouched, as was everything else.

Treatment for aphids is quite simple.  You can use a water spray, as from the sprayer on your kitchen sink, to blast them off.  Most of them will wash down the drain.  Repeat this every four to five days.

With 12 flats, that's a bit unrealistic.  I mixed up 1/2 tsp dishwashing liquid in 1 pint of water and sprayed the plants thoroughly.  Aphids absolutely detest soap, and it kills them.

Repeat four days later, and then keep an eye on it.  Some plants may not handle the soap well, as my Melampodium didn't, so you can also use any indoor-safe insecticide made for a wide spectrum of houseplants.  Remember that your young annuals are very tender, so test before use and monitor after usage very closely.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

More Annual Selections

This gardening thing works better if you can count correctly.  Which, apparently, presented a problem for me this year.  In my defense, it wasn't completely my fault.

I've discontinued most of the cup-based plants, so I picked up half a shelf.  A bit of rearranging and higher counts on the cells in the flats gave me another half shelf total.  So I really have space for 2 extra flats.

Plus the Scarlet Dreamland Zinnia didn't have the best sprout percentages.  That's putting me a quarter of a flat short right there.

So I placed another order with Parks', as there's still plenty of time to wait for delivery and plant the seeds.  I selected the following:

More Scarlet Dreamland Zinnia:  They're a staple, and I'm short on reds anyway.

Profusion Double Hot Cherry Zinnia:  Did I mention I'm short on reds?

Coral Dreamland Zinnia:  A bit off the beaten color trail that I tend to follow, but striking enough to work in a garden with dominant colors.

Night and Day Snapdragons:  About that being short on reds thing...  These are more of a deep scarlet and cream, but very pretty and dramatic enough for where I want them.  I've never seen these before, so here's the link:  Night and Day Snapdragons

Time's a bit short on the snapdragons, so I expect those will be small, will have a limited spring blooming cycle, and should do better in fall.  I have those planned for a mostly-sunny location protected from the worst of the heat, so they should do fine even in summer.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Seeds: The Ides of March

It wasn't the best day for Julius Caesar, but it's a day of some import for northern plant growers.

Today begins the part of the season when your fast-developing plants can be started!  Marigolds, cosmos, zinnia, petunia plugs, and almost anything else are now in play!

You have a wide window, however.  We're now five to six weeks out from the planting dates for most of us in PA, NJ, and southern or coastal NY (it's a bit longer for areas in central New York and the rest of New England, the Midwest states will vary).  Cosmos will develop enough to be planted outside in two to three weeks, although having longer is nice.  Mine went last week--I have to play with the windows a little bit as I have over 1,000 plants to go.

Marigolds will do fine if your seed is planted before about April 10th.  Zinnia and most others, the same.

If you still have work to do, don't despair.  Although technically too late for many things, you can still plant them.  Just realize they'll be smaller than average when placed outside and may require a little more time to develop and bloom for you.  Even salvia will be fine up until the beginning of April, but they will be small.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

March Lawn/Garden Photos

The lawn's returning very quickly this year as the photo below shows. I mowed for the first time to remove the dead tips and expose the green grass underneath.  As with any photo, please click to embiggen it.

The weather looks fairly good for the rest of the month, with lows not going much under 20°.  That should be sufficient to keep it from going to sleep, particularly with daily highs in the forties and fifties through the period.

I took my soil samples today as well, for both the lawn and gardens.  As always, this is an exercise in moving the worms out of the way so I can get the soil!

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Here's the very first blooming flower in the garden this year, a yellow crocus. Both of these popped open today.  They're in one of the most sheltered areas of the garden, so this small patch is usually the first to blossom.  The rest will wait a week or so before opening their blooms.

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Saturday, March 2, 2013

Start More Seeds Now!

For those of us in the northeast, we're eight to ten weeks out from last frost (for me, that's usually around May tenth).  It's time to start some of the middling varieties of seeds, mostly things that require 60-80 days to bloom from seeding.

I started the Cosmos, Texas Bluebonnet, giant Zinnia, and Easter Eggplant last week or this week.  I rounded out with some Dreamland Scarlet Zinnia, which don't require the time but won't be hurt by being a bit pot bound for a few weeks.

If you stagger sunflowers to have blooms through the season (usually done with shorter ones as the very tall sunflowers like Mammoth require a long growth period), starting the first ones now isn't a bad idea.  I usually plant three or four dwarf sunflowers, staggering planting every 2 weeks and finishing up with the last planted around April first.

Most shorter zinnia, marigolds, nasturtium, and petunia can wait a bit yet.  They don't require a great deal of time to bloom.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Seed Starting Success!

First sprout was yesterday on the Melampodium, and very late day yesterday on the dahlia. 

As of this morning, I see the Mimulus (monkey flower) just starting to poke up.

On average, that's about four to five days (I started some on Saturday) for first sprout, and should be another 2 days until sprouting is complete and they're ready to go under the lights downstairs.

That's actually fairly fast, but I find the seedling heating mat I use raises the temperature of the soil to about 80, and that tends to accelerate the sprout.  For non-heated seeds, seven to ten days to first sprout isn't unusual.

Using something like a space heater isn't recommended.  Temperatures will rise too high, and the seed slows sprout.  The fifteen watt seedling mat I use is just about perfect.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Starting Seeds--It's Time (for Some!)

It's just about time to start the seeds for the garden that take a while to develop.

It's actually getting a bit late for some, like Lisianthus.  Those should have started in January or even December.

As of today, Melampodium (butter daisy), the slower dahlia, and Mimulus (monkey flower) got started.  As soon as I clear my office of those and get my warming mat freed up, I'll start the Salvia farinacea (blue salvia).

Red salvia can wait a few weeks yet.  Marigolds, zinnia, and the like can wait until March 15th to April 1st.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Annual Selections

I made my annual seed selections today for the 2013 gardening season.  I noticed last year that cool-season plants did very poorly, and I ended up losing most of the Impatiens in the garden.  While I may repeat them this year, I think I'll include fewer.

I tend to purchase the plants that I use in small numbers.  Those include Impatiens (12 plants or so), petunia (3 or 4), and sometimes a flat of Janie gold marigolds as I can't get the seeds through my preferred suppliers.  I use an overall total of 11 to 12 flats and grow 10 of them in the cellar on a light rack that I constructed (there are posts about that on this blog).

The plan this year is much the same as last year--a great deal of red, yellow, and orange, offset with blue.  I liked the contrast and colors very much.

This year's list of plants is as follows.  Heirloom plants are non-patented varieties where I collect seeds from the last year's plants and grow the next year from them.

Red Salvia, crossbred, heirloom seeds from the garden.  These tend to get slightly taller and flower more heavily every year.  Eventually I'll need to mix in some smaller varieties to reset the heights.  Right now they're about 30 inches tall, typically have eight or so flower spikes at a time, and flower from May through frost.

Salvia farinacea, crossbred, heirloom.  These don't seem to change much year to year.

Melampodium (butter daisy), crossbred, heirloom.  These also seem to be getting taller and much more heavily blooming.

I purchased Double-Take Cosmos from Burpee this year as per spousal request.  I have the perfect places for them!  They're a gorgeous bi-color cosmos of moderate height.  I've had excellent luck with Burpee seeds in the past.

I buy most of my seeds from Park Seed as I love the high quality and healthy plants I get.

This year, I bought from Park:

Easter Egg Plant:  A neat accent for the garden.  I'll plant six or so.

Harlequin Mix Dahlia:  Another spousal request.  I also love dahlia, so that's not an issue, and they work well in the garden.  Their more nodding flowers and slightly more delicate colors make a nice resting place for the somewhat overwhelmed eye.

Mimulus, Red and Yellow Magic Blotch:  A pretty and striking bi-color.  Monkey Flower (Mimulus) does well in full sun in Pennsylvania but tolerates partial shade very well.

Dreamland Scarlet Zinnia, Dreamland Yellow Zinnia, Profusion Double Fire Zinnia:  Both Dreamland and Profusion are relatively disease resistant.  I had a little trouble with the red Magellan Zinnia, although the yellow did very well in my garden.

Janie Flame Marigold, Janie Primrose Yellow Marigold, and Aurora Gold Marigold:  I've always loved Marigolds for their bold colors and constant bloom.  Yes, they're common.  There's a reason for that!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

2012 Garden Additions

Garden additions didn't change too much from last year.  Just like the lawn, the soil was a bit short of potassium.  "Pot Sulfate" or the like listed below means that many pounds of potassium sulfate were added.  I also tapped a very small amount of boron in the form of 20 Mule Team Borax into the gardens in May.

This table doesn't list the heaviest addition, which is about 3,000 pounds per thousand square feet of hardwood mulch.  Mulch does nothing to feed the plants, so I tend to ignore it.  It does, however, show in the organic material tests, which currently have the gardens at a very respectable 7.4%.


Date N P K Iron Organics Other Notes
3/11/2012 1.80 0.72 0.00 1.44 36.0 Milorganite
4/10/2012 1.35 0.54 3.00 1.08 27.0 Milorganite, Pot Sulfate 6
5/1/2012 1.35 0.54 0.50 1.08 27.0 Milorganite, Boron
6/1/2012 0.90 0.36 0.50 0.72 18.0 Milorganite
7/1/2012 1.80 0.72 0.00 1.44 36.0 Milorganite
8/1/2012 0.90 0.36 0.75 0.72 18.0 Milorganite, Pot Sulfate 1.5
9/1/2012 1.95 0.51 1.12 0.72 33.0 Milo, Soybean, Pot Sul 2
10/1/2012 0.90 0.36 0.00 0.72 18.0 Milorganite
Total per K ft: 10.75 4.11 5.87 7.92 213.0 426 active organic total

2012 Lawn Additions

2012 was a slow-down year for me, with fewer additions.  I needed to adjust potassium levels and iron could use a boost (it'll probably always need one), so both were added.  Organic levels are now at 6.7%, so although there's still room for improvement it's certainly not an emergency.

Pot. Sul. or the like stands for "potassium sulfate," a potassium source.
Fer. Sul or the like stands for "ferrous sulfate," an iron source.
Milo is Milorganite, Milwaukee's finest.


Date N P K Iron Organics Other Notes
3/11/2012 0.99 0.40 0.00 0.79 19.8 Milorganite
4/7/2012 0.33 0.13 0.08 0.00 20.0 Cracked Corn
4/20/2012 0.54 0.21 3.00 0.43 10.8 Milorganite, Pot. Sulfate 6
5/1/2012 1.31 0.32 0.72 1.13 21.9 Soybean Meal, Milorganite
6/1/2012 1.18 0.41 0.58 13.48 20.3 Milorganite, Soybean Meal
7/1/2012 1.24 0.55 0.21 8.18 135.6 Sawdust, Milo, Wheat
8/1/2012 2.14 0.77 0.43 2.63 52.2 Soybean, Milo, Wheat
8/15/2012 0.78 0.22 0.86 0.60 11.1 Soybean meal, Pot. Sul 1.5
9/1/2012 1.19 0.34 1.17 0.00 17.0 Soybean meal, Pot Sul 2
9/15/2012 0.80 0.32 0.00 0.64 16.0 Milorganite
10/1/2012 1.05 0.30 0.65 0.00 15.0 Soybean meal
10/15/2012 0.60 0.24 0.00 0.48 12.0 Milorganite
11/6/2012 0.63 0.25 0.00 2.75 12.6 Milorganite, Fer. Sulfate
11/23/2012 1.16 0.00 0.08 0.00 0.0 Winterizer 29-0-4
Total per K ft: 13.94 4.46 8.13 31.11 364.3 3444 active organic total