Sunday, November 4, 2018

Steady growth!

I ventured back into the garden this afternoon to check the progress of the Winter Rye grass growth.  I really didn't expect much improvement given the weather we have been having.  With temps in the upper 50's for the most part, there was some hope that the grass may have had a spurt.  We did have about 3 days of 70 degrees with rain during that time span last week so I was also hoping that would  be the final probable push.  As can be seen in the pictures below, the grass did actually grow quite well.

With the original seeding and the subsequent second patch seeding, the grass seems to have filled in very well.  It also has grown to the point that the roots will crowd out the weeds that will ultimately come in the spring.  That is the primary reason I do this.  The secondary, and not to be ignored, reason for this is for the roots to hold in the nutrients that are in the soil for the next years crops.
So, even though I got a late start and the weather took a cooler turn than normal, I am quite pleased with where the grass is at this time.  It will continue to grow during the winter months but not too much.  Once spring hits, it will revive and begin to grow again.  All bonuses to be sure.
So, now I will concentrate on cleaning up the yards and get them prepped for winter which is right around the corner.
Well, that's all there is to report now.  Happy gardening everyone! 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Preparations for Spring 2019

Fall, having made it's appearance, mandates that I have to begin the process of getting my garden beds ready for the oncoming winter that is right around the corner.  Having let all of my beds rest this year, there isn't any time left for planning or any other activity except to get the much needed Winter Rye seeded into the beds.  I wish it were going to be easy but that just isn't the case here.  See, I intended to do a a lot of work in the gardens this summer but it seems that time just flew by like a migrating bird.  My only question is how was it possible without me noticing?
I could say I was busy here, there and everywhere.  And I could say it was the weathers fault too.  After-all, we did have a very wet and soggy summer.  Seemed like it rained every Saturday and twice as much on Sunday.  But that just isn't how it happened.  See, I was, in point of fact, lazy.  That's right, I am a man and I am admitting to falling prey to laziness.  It happens.  But, I understand that it's real hard to grasp the concept of being lazy about gardening for an ENTIRE summer.  It is what it was.
So now, I am left with the fallout.  When I was taking the pictures below of the state of the gardens as I found them, it struck me that I should be embarrassed.  After some mental flagellation, I decided to accept what it is and move on.  No sense in bemoaning the past as they say.  So, be that as it may, this is the state of my gardens in all their natural beauty.  

Not a pretty site indeed.  As you can notice, the ground is wet.  That is the story of this summer.  It has rained consistently and heavy the entire summer.  I have friends who have gardens and they say their plants/crops were very much affected by the wet soils.  Low yields and yellowing plants were the mainstays of the summer.  Not to mention the tomatoes which were good one day and then broken open the next from excessive rains.  Now, to be frank here, my beds were absolutely overrun with weeds several times.  I had to resort to using my lawnmower to control the weed growth as the soil was just too wet for my Mantis rototiller.  Even using that, I had issues keeping it under control.  
I am under the impression that if I had gardened this year, I would have been very upset with the way I imagine it would have turned out.  So maybe, this was God's way of relieving my stress.  He does, as it is said, work in mysterious ways.     
So, to work I went and with the given wet ground, I had to go the old school route to get the beds drying out.  I can't just throw the seed into the cleared ground.  So I brought out what I consider the mother of all gardening hoes.  See the monster below.
Looks can be deceiving here.  This is a very old hoe that I inherited from my wife's grandfathers' garage.  It's made of heavy iron and is very industrial.  But I will tell you this, it is super effective when it comes to weeding and breaking up tough soils.  
So the hoe and I went to work on the beds.  It took a very concerted effort, but I finally removed what I have to call a very stubborn group of weeds.   After about 4 hours of tilling with the hoe, I was able to clear all of the weeds away from the beds.  After raking them over several days to remove the dead weed debris, I then seeded in the Winter Rye for the cover crop I use each winter.  I use a rotary lawn seeder to broadcast the seeds as best as possible.  And after seeding the beds, I cover the seeds with about an inch of peat moss to dissuade birds from stealing them.  
It's been about a week since I seeded the 3 beds.  After waiting out the rain this afternoon, I went out to check on how the Rye was growing.  All in all, the rye seemed to be doing good.  I used 1 year old seed so I expected a little germination issue.  I have to be honest, there were a few more areas than I anticipated.  It probably had to do with the fact that I was a little late in the season getting it in.  But with that taken into account, I was pleased with what I encountered.

The brown areas are where I seeded in new seeds earlier this month.  There are plants coming up but there were bare spots around them so I decided to experiment to see if I could get thicker coverage.  Again, I should of seeded about mid September but was just not able to get to it.  We shall see how it works out in about a week.  We're supposed to get rains tomorrow and Tuesday morning so that may work in my favor.  As I say, nothing ventured - nothing gained.  
Well, that's all there is for now.  The gardens should keep me busy for about another month so I hope I can get it all done.  Happy gardening to everyone!    

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Time to get back into gear

After having spent the last week on a glorious cruise in the Western Carribean, it sure is hard to get oneself back into the swing of things.  But, we must trudge on as the saying goes putting one foot in front of the other.  As you may or may not know, I am not actively gardening this year due to the confluence of various factors.  And that is where I am today - a gardener without a garden.
While I do not have an active garden in my backyard, I am assisting a friend with his.  It's a different feeling working on someone else's yard.  But, at least I get snippets of time working in his garden so I am not totally cut off from the activity - my passion.
His is a traditional garden in that it is layed out in a semi-rectangular space.  He has many tomatoes, asparagus and cucmber plants in the space which do not show up well on this photo. 
We dug a trench system aroungd the bed due to the heavy rains we had in late June.  The water runs from his neighbors fenced yard to the right and runs accross the plot.  It resulted in many plants dying from root rot.  Hopefully the trench will direct some of the heavier rains away from the plants.  I haven't been to the plot in about two weeks due to all the work and vacation activities involved.
I will get some up to date pics this weekend hopefully.
My beds are another story though.  They are what you would call laying dormant or resting this year.  It may turn out to be the best thing though as resting fields is a practice of many gardeners in order to allow the soil to recharge.  I will need to begin to work the plots and I still have a my greenhouse to construct later as fall begins.  Here are the beds in the current state of being.

As I said, they need some tender loving care over the next few months.  My goal is to add store bought amendments (OMNI rated) to the beds along with some home made compost and leaves I gathered last fall.  That should do the trick for right now.  But, before I add the amendments, I will need to till the beds to loosen the tension of the soil surface.  I do this so the the nutrients that are being added are absorbed deeper into the soil.
That's all I have at this time.  When I get up and running in the next few days, I will add more entries into my blog.  So, happy gardening everyone!  Until next time - garden away!   

Monday, June 11, 2018

Changing of the tides

About 2 weeks ago, I was out in my garden trying to decide just how to plant my crops given the unusually wet weather we had been having (and still are!) here in the mid-Atlantic.  And, as I stood there, I decided that rather than do anything that day after the long rain we had just had, I decided to take an inventory of what I needed to get accomplished around my house. 
So, I stood in my garden, my backyard, the driveway area and the front yards for the next hour or so.  I opened the Anydo app on my phone and made lists for each area.  After having surveyed the various areas, I then prioritized the items in each area category.  It was, to be honest, a very numbing feeling to see in color just what there was to do besides gardening.  And on top of this list, is the fact that I still hadn't finished the transfer of all the items back into my unfinished basement where we replaced our furnace, A/C and water heater recently.  It was very overwhelming at that point.  So this list got me to thinking about gardening.  I thought about it for several days in order to give the lists some distance.  And one immutable fact kept pronouncing itself to me.
I needed to give the gardening a rest this year in order to have the time to get these little and not so little projects completed.  So there it is.  I have decided that I won't be gardening this year.  I cannot remember a time when I had a house that I did not have a garden.  This will be foreign to me to say the least.  I mean, I have been gardening for over 47 years - that number certainly sticks out like a sore thumb.  
At first, my family thought I was just frustrated with the weather.  But, after saying it and DOING it, I think they are convinced now.  Granted, some of the projects are garden related such as setting up my year round greenhouse and placing my new water tank.  I also am now looking at rejuvenating my soil with amendments and such over the summer.  So, there will be projects and I will share their progress here along with any other work I do with the garden.  And I think there is plenty to do.
I did go over to one of my friends gardens last Saturday and helped him roto-till and plant 21 tomato plants.  I have free access to the tomatoes so I will have fresh and organic tomatoes this year.  They are my favorite vegetable so there is some consolation in that.   
Sometimes, you just come to a decision point where the answer is obvious and yet you don't want to acknowledge it.  This was one of those times - much to my chagrin.  It will be okay and I do have the knowledge that next year my gardens will be ready for another 47 years - or so I hope!
Until next time, Happy Gardening everyone. 

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Rain,rain go away!!!

Our weather, for what feels like a small part of eternity, has been just dreadful.  Our area has been deluged with one day after another of soaking rains.  When you step out onto the lawns, the ground just chortles at you with a robust squishing sound as your sneakers begin to sink quickly into what should be terra firma.  Such is the plight of most backyard gardeners here in the Mid-Atlantic and beyond.
Today is not starting out too much better either.  It is humid with a grey overcast sky and about 70 degrees.  This is actually an improvement of sorts in that it is not raining at this point.   Here's what our better day looks like.

Yeah, it may be grey, but we'll take it at this point.
The weather has presented quite the issue here as those gardeners who had planted their crops before this stretch of london type weather are trying to keep them alive at this point.  And those who haven't planted them yet - like me - are just biding time and watching their transplants sit in idle.  Neither is a very good situation for the crops.
My hydroponic plants are doing okay but not great.  While they are suffering from a lack of sunlight they are growing adequately as can be seen below.  I've stepped up the nutrient concentrations I've fed them to try to compensate for this with very mixed results.  One cannot replace the sun for an extended period of time like we have had.

At this time, I am just waiting for the weather to turn and am doing as much as I can to be ready when the weather breaks.  Much like most other gardeners I would suspect.  I do believe that when it turns, we will be going directly into summer.  Seems that this has been the pattern of late here in the Mid-Atlantic.  We just do not have the ususal progression from Winter to Spring to Summer anymore. Spring seems to have been shortened and the transistions are much more abrupt.
On another somewhat related note, our area is getting a new neighbor of import.  A company called Gotham Greens has just recently announced that they are going to build a 100,000 square foot hydroponic organic greenhouse.  It will be located in the Tradepoint Atlantic business complex which is near my neighborhood.  This is a redevelopment site of the closed Bethlehem Steel Company Mill which had been active at this site since 1889.  The site for Gotham Greens is supposed to be completed in 2019 and will sell to restaurants and the various grocery food chains in the region.   
Well, that's all there is for now.  Hopefully, on my next report, I will have good news about the weather and thus, more to report on.  Until that time, have a great time gardening in your backyard!  Happy gardening everyone! 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Time to get serious here..

We've had a very beautiful set of weekend days here in the mid-Atlantic and all I can say is - it's about time.  After being way too busy with my job and major renovations being completed on our house, it was certainly glorious to get out of the house and into a mid 60's day today.  Of course, as I sit here, my body is asking what the heck was that?  See, our weather for the last month or so (if you don't live here) has been less than normal and actually quite cold.  Today was a very welcomed relief.  I am sure there will be a lot of tired folks tomorrow but it was worth it as far as I am concerned.
So, having been delayed, I jumped right into the garden with gusto.
Being a firm believer now in cover crops, it was time to cut it down and till it into the ground.  Yesterday, I cut the Winter Rye down so that it could begin to break down into the soil.  I started with the three beds looking as such:

Really nice crops of Rye thanks to the cooler temperatures so there is a plus from the cool spring weather!  After having cut them with my weed whacker, they looked like this at the end of yesterday.

So, as per my normal routine, I left the clippings to dry out.  Usually, I leave them for a couple of days.  But, after checking our long term weather forecast this morning, I decided that given we are to receive rain Tuesday through and including Saturday, I decided it was better to do the tilling today.  So, after a little less than an hour, I had the three beds looking like this:

My plan is to let the rains saturate the beds to allow for the build up of microorganisms and critters to feast off the clippings.  I do have to point out that this tilling was done with a Mantis tiller that would  disturb little more that the clippings from yesterday and the very top of the roots.  I have seen a much more robust soil in terms of plant growth and soil structure each year.  I am anticipating that the same will happen this year too.
I do have some major projects to undertake before summer weather arrives.  I will be installing a greenhouse my wife and son bought me for Christmas.  I have finally mapped out the area I want it located in.  And additionally, I need to install my new water tank.  I cant really call it a rain barrel as that doesn't describe it.  Here is what it looks like.

I have an area for it, I just have to build a base with cement blocks to support it that will make it  higher than my beds so gravity will do the watering.  It has a metal cage around which will support the tank.  It holds 275 gallons of water which allowed it to replace the 4 rains barrels I had from before.  Cost was $75.00 which seemed frugal and it had food in it so all the boxes are checked for safety.   I really need to get this taken care of so I am hoping for the weather forecasters to be wrong so I can get the base built this week.
Well, that's all I have for this installment.  Here's hoping you are making progress in your gardens and are on track for a bountiful harvest to come!  Happy Gardening everyone!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Early Spring?

In what one can only describe as an early spring here, we had unseasonably warm and wet weather here over this past weekend.  It was in the mid to upper 40's here on Saturday.  It began to rain mid day Saturday and really didn't stop from there on.  Sunday was even warmer as the temps went up the the low 60's.
Given this rain was predicted, I went out to my rain barrels and composters on Sunday morning in between downpours to set them up.  I took the lids off of three of my composters to allow the rains to soak the leaves and compost to get them active again.  I then hooked up two rain barrels to give me water to clean them out.  I did this so I wouldn't have to drag hoses out given they are put away for the winter.  Every drop counts as they say!
Not much has been going on with the actual garden as it is still very much winter here.  When I went out to my garden on Sunday morning, my shoes were sinking into the muddy ground.  I wont be venturing out there over the next couple of days to allow the ground to dry out some.  But one certainly can't tell it is winter by the weather we are having.  The long term forecast is for our temps to be about 10-15 degrees warmer than normal for the next 15 days.  This is the same pattern we had last year, and just like last year, I am chomping at the bits to plant some early season crops.  I am on the fence this year as I remember my remorse for not planting aggressively last year.  I still have a little time to ponder that - but not much.
And, speaking of time, I will be starting the construction of my new greenhouse soon enough.  It won't be this weekend as the weather forecast is for rain to start on Friday and probably not end until the following Monday.  Looks like it will be another indoors weekend.
I will most likely begin planting root crops in my hydroponic system sometime this week.  It is located inside a poly greenhouse that I have in my backyard.  It's next to my shed so it is not affected by winds and actually keeps the low temps about 6-10 degrees higher than the actual lows.  The nightime projected temps here are supposed to be in the mid to upper 30's according to the National Weather Service so I should be fine. 
I hope you are beginning to get excited about gardening for another season.  It certainly is time here in the mid-atlantic for it.  Until next time, Happy Gardening everyone!