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!         

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Beginning of another year

Here's hoping that you had a wonderful New Years and this year is your most productive one yet.  As we inch into the new gardening season, one has to take stock of where you are in order to guide your efforts to an even more glorious harvest.  For me, this year, that means many things.
First off, I have decided to forego my ususal routine of growing most of my own vegetables from seed.  I have decided to purchase most of my plants from two or three growers in my immediate area.  My reasoning for growing my own plants was that the growers were not offering the plant selections I liked to grow.  There was a paucity of heirloom plants available and an overabundance of the usual hybrid varieties.  For me, there is nothing like the taste of the heirlooms.
After visiting the various plant sellers throughout last year, I noticed that between three of the them, I could find almost all of the varieties I wanted.  And, to make it all the better, they were at very affordable prices.  It appears that the growers have finally caught up to me and other gardeners in regards to the superiority of taste of the heirlooms.
I still do need to take stock of my seed inventory which I will complete this week.  An indirect result of the aforementioned decision to curtailing my growing efforts will be a much smaller seed stock and, of course, less purchasing.  I just need to be sure I have the seeds for the various plants that can be started directly in the garden.
All of this will allow me the luxury, if you will, to concentrate more efforts in building my soils to peak richness.  Last fall I planted winter rye in all three of my beds to overwinter them.  I have written several times last year about the benefits of this which I firmly believe in.  The beds are in great shape given the weather we have had recenlty.  Two weeks ago we had wind chills in the negative 10 degree range and have just entered another colder than normal period this week.  It's supposed to right itself by this coming Friday.
Here are the beds as of last week.  I think they look great and the rye is actually holding up much better than I would have anticipated.
               

I will be waiting until probably late February to cut the rye down to the soil level.  Then I will wait for the cuttings to rot for about a week or two.  Once rotted, I will work them into the soil with either a fork or a light roto-tilling.  The object is not to distrub the roots or the sub soils.  This serves many purposes.  The cuttings will act as an immediate green manure, the roots as nutrients for the plants over the growing season as they break down and the light rototilling will not introduce imbedded weed seeds to the sun and warmth required for them to grow.
After I do this, I will need to add a mix of composted horse manure and compost in order to build the necessary fertility and structure in the soil.  One has to be careful to be sure that the manure does not have wood chips or shavings in it as those are detrimental to vegetable growth.  People sometimes use cow manure but that is courting disaster with pathogens if it is not composted correctly.  My choice is to use the safer horse manure.  I will be researching various local suppliers of this as I like to stay as local as possible.
I also have a new 8X6 greenhouse to place in my gardens.  Not quite sure where but my guess is at the end of my beds at the southernmost end.  This will, by proxy, be a reason to reset my beds.  I am thinking of getting rid of my blocks and do a more intensive planting scheme.  I am still playing with various alternatives so I havent really come to any hard choice although I will need to do so in a short time.
Well, that's all the news in the gardens at this time.  Just begining to piece it all together one step at a time.  So, until next time, Happy Gardening to everyone!       

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Winter Rye seedings.

A true sign that summer is gone is when I begin actually seeding my beds with Winter Rye.  I have been doing this for about 4 years now since I read an article about it on the Rodale Institutes' web site.  October is about the furthest you can push the summer growing season in my area.  In fact, it seems like this year that summer is going to close out early.  Temperatures are leveling off and we have started to see nighttime lows that are beginning to get into the upper 50's.  I don't doubt that we will have a period of Indian summer still to come but, in the final analysis, most of my plants have given their last production at this time. 
I have cleared out all my lettuces, beans and cucumber plants recently.  This week, weather and work permitting, I am going to thin out my non-producing tomatoes and pepper plants.  By the end of next week, all the plants will be removed and thrown in the composters along with my last bag of last years leaves.  Yes, I still had some left.  These will continue to compost through the winter albeit at a slower rate than during the peak summer season.  Once they are all removed, I will seed all the areas with the rye I bought this past weekend from Meyers' Seeds here in Baltimore.
The Rye should continue to grow up until the first hard frost we get.  My experience is that even with a hard frost, they will continue to grow but at a much slower rate.  And, when the weather turns in the spring, they come back to life and begin to grow at their earlier rates.  This gives you excellent green manure when you cut the grass down in the early spring.  You just cut it like grass and let it rot in place.  I will get into more detail on this next year when the time comes.
The goal right now is to get as thick and lush of a seeding in of the rye as possible.  It may take a couple of seedings but if your seed is new, it may take only one time.  I have the other two gardens I help with to seed in for the winter also.  So, it's going to get a bit busy in the next couple weeks but it's all good.    
After these beds are seeded in, I will start to concentrate on growing plants inside my two structures that I have.  I will write about those at length in my next post.  So, for now, that's all there is to report.  Until then, Happy organic gardening everyone!