Now that our gardens are finishing up for the season, the question is what do we do now? The short answer is we plant cover crops. The cover crop which may be used in our garden is clover.
Summer looks to Fall
Onions and Garlic
The rain has been a blessing, but enough already. It looks like we will start drying and warming so the gardens will get into full summer mode. Weeds and all!
By now you should be seeing the onion tops die and the garlic tops yellowing from the bottom up. Get both those crops out of the garden soon. Do not wash either. In both cases the bulbs should be allowed to cure for storage. Spread both crops out in a shady dry location such as the garage and the tops will wither and the bulbs will make skins. Once the tops are withered, trim the roots and the tops and store the bulbs away. Our onions are not long term keepers, but they should last several months. The garlic will last into the winter.
For a garlic crop next season, store away some of the smaller garlic bulbs, or entire bulbs. This will be your planting stock for this fall. Put these into a paper bag, label them as garlic planting stock so you don't eat them. Then in October, we will use our planting stock for a new crop. The great thing about garlic, once you purchase planting stock you can generally grow a crop and your own planting stock perpetually into the future.
With the rain, the garden will respond nicely to another feeding of nitrogen. Sprinkle around some blood meal and work it into the soil.
After a hot weekend and nearly three weeks without rain it looks like we are in for a rainy spell. This will be what a lot of our gardens need. As I was working on a few tasks at the garden last weekend I notice a trend especially among our new gardeners of inadequate watering.
Whenever I plant new crops, whether seeds or transplants, I water those every day until those crops are sprouted or established. Every day! Especially when it's hot. Once the crops are growing, then I back off to a less frequent watering schedule. Every other day. For those of you with the new soil, a more frequent watering schedule will help the soil from getting a hard crust. With a hard crust, the water you apply seems to just run off. Take a trowel or small hoe, scratch the surface of the soil between you plants and seedlings and then water. The water will soak in much better.
With our raised beds, we have no problems with over watering, any excess water will drain out. That's good and bad. Good because you really can't overwater your garden especially in this recent hot dry weather (more of which IS coming). But you don't want to over water constantly, you'll wash away some of our fertilizer. We all have the best water gauge in the world, an index finger. Stick your finger into the soil, if your finger comes out dry, water. If your finger comes out moist, maybe wait. And certainly after you finish watering and your finger comes out of the soil wet the entire length, you've watered correctly. Your plants will be happy and productive.
With 2-3" of rain possible over the next week some of our crops will especially benefit. Our baby potatoes will love this water and really start growing. The fruit will love a good deep soaking rain, blueberries will get plump.
Use the time between showers over the next week to take care of weeding, the moist soil will make those weeds easier to pull.
Planting in full swing
Planting is in full swing and we've got warm temperatures to get seeds and transplants off to a good start. The warm sunny days also dry out our beds so keep your garden watered. Feel free to use liquid plant food as you water, dilute the plant food down by half so you don't overdo it.
Once your tomatoes are well established it is a good idea to mulch them with wheat straw (hay is all we have available right now). Lay a few sheets of newsprint or cardboard on the soil around the tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants then cover the paper with the straw. This will help with multiple issues. First, the mulch layer will keep the soil moist, saves watering. Secondly and most importantly, the mulch layer will help with blight issues.
I hate being the bearer of bad news, but we know that eventually our tomatoes will succumb to blight. Early blight is a soil borne fungus. As water splashes on the lower leaves of our tomato plants it will carry fungal spores from the soil to the leaves, infecting the leaves. Infected leaves turn yellow. As the season progresses, the fungus will move upward on the plant until all the leaves are yellow and our tomato season will be over. To slow the progression of blight, a layer of mulch around the tomatoes helps prevent the spores from infecting the lower leaves of our tomatoes.
Normally, about mid May I'll also start a fungal spray program. Copper fungicides will help with out blight issues but don't go crazy. Spray only to wet the leaves, we don't want the copper spray to drip off the leaves as excess copper is not good for the soil. I'll spray every 10 days depending on the weather.
In the meantime, keep planting all your warm season crops. Happy gardening!
What a difference a week makes in the garden. Although we have one chilly morning coming on Monday, it looks like the weather patterns are turning warmer. Spring is finally here so let's start planting.
This week I'll plant beans, squash, and cucumbers direct seeded in the garden. I'm waiting until next week here on my farm for the warm season transplant of peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes as my place tends colder than the community garden. But certainly you may plant those crops also. Basil will go in now also for those who want a little pesto. I am also waiting on Okra and sweet potatoes, both of those crops like really warm soil.
Summer squash such as Zucchini sprawl, so give them space. you'll do well to plant one hill of zucs now and another in 3-4 weeks. That will extend your season and prevent the dreaded squash overload.
Cucumbers do well growing on a trellis, even something as simple as the wire tomato cages. That will get the cucumber plants up off of the ground and keep them healthier.
I grow bush bean varieties, quicker to produce, but the pole varieties will give you a longer season. Once again the pole beans will require a trellis. Bush beans can be seccessionally planted.
Speaking of tomato cages, they work great to prop up your pepper plants. Pepper plants are brittle and you will be surprised when the plants get overloaded late in the season and the stems break. So plant your peppers in a cage.
Don't bother with the tomato cages for your tomatoes, drive a sturdy stake in the ground and tie the growing plants to the stakes.
And of course, continue planting/transplanting lettuce seedlings.
It's such an exciting and optimistic time in the garden. The sprouting of seeds and growth of newly planted transplants certainly puts a spring in our step.
It's Hard to Wait
As much as I want to get started planting the garden, Mother Nature keeps reminding me who is in charge. This week we saw 33 degrees on the back porch Thursday morning with a coating of light frost over the yard. I'm looking for cold temperatures tomorrow morning also. February was abnormally warm but now maybe real spring is coming late.
We are safe with peas, beets, carrots and potatoes. Plant onion sets now for a crop of green onions . And with the green onions, plant more every couple weeks for a longer harvest. Same with radishes. Otherwise, we're in a holding pattern for planting our warm season crops. I'm starting lettuce seeds indoors, they will go in the garden soon. If you like spinach, you can start those indoors or direct seed those seeds in the garden.
If you have onions and garlic, it's time for one last fertilization with a high nitrogen fertilizer such as blood meal. Those crops are starting to make bulbs and a little fertilizer with plenty of moisture will get you big onion bulbs and large garlic cloves. Don't worry that your onions are literally bursting out of the ground, that's what they do. Do not mound soil around the onions to keep them covered, it's not necessary.
From a quick check of my rain gauge, we didn't get as much rain as initially forecast. So keep your plantings moist without overwatering. Watering is more art than science.
Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. Good Friday is the Friday before Easter. Traditionally we plant potatoes on Good Friday. It all has to do with the waning moon, the almanac says to plant root crops in the waning moon. So this week I planted potatoes and I encourage you to do the same.
With warm weather in the near term forecast, tomorrow I'll plant beets and carrots. Some of our gardeners soak beet seeds for a day prior to planting, it seems to aid germination. Carrot seeds look a lot like grass seed and would be difficult to presoak. If you want to help carrot seeds get started, plant the seed as directed, then cover the soil with several layers of newsprint. Keep the newspaper moist and that keeps the soil and seeds moist. After a few days, remove the newspaper and the carrot seedlings will emerge. Otherwise, keep the soil moist to help the carrot seeds sprout.
I'm also planting peas now. Peas also respond nicely to soaking for a day or two prior to planting. Peas like to climb so provide a trellis for them to grow upon.
Like a lot of you, I'm impatient to plant some of the warm season crops. The garden centers are flush with peppers and tomatoes. We are still a few weeks from last normal frost so wait for the warm season crops. Waiting will prevent worry about late frosts but more importantly, the soils will continue to warm. If you watch, tomatoes planted in two weeks will easily catch up with tomatoes planted this weekend.
I'll be at the garden tomorrow, the 31st at 1 pm to talk gardening. Stop in and say hello.
Web Site Update
A few words of explanation are certainly in order concerning our website. Two years ago we started using a new website host not realizing this particular hosted site was still active. Consequently, some of you were still on this hosted website and some of our gardeners migrated to the new hosted website. The sites are nearly identical. We are in the process of closing the other webhosted site and everyone should be back on these pages soon.
To which I say to those of you that stayed here, good to be back with you. And for those of you migrating from the other hose, welcome home. I particularly like this hose, the blog that you are reading is more interactive, if you have questions you can post them here and I can respond.
So I'll keep the gardening blog posts coming and you can write back as you like.
Like most of you I'm impatient to get started planting the garden. After the warm temperatures we had in February I was thinking (wrongly) that maybe, just maybe, we would enjoy an early spring. My broccoli and cabbage seedlings were outgrowing the basement light racks so I staged them in the hoop house to harden off. When I saw a warm 10 day stretch of weather in late February I rolled the dice and put the transplants into the garden. My records show that was the earliest I had ever put those crops in the ground.
The calendar changed and so did the weather. The warmth of February regressed into January temps with 2 mornings this month dawning at 25 degrees. The transplants have survived but put on little to no new growth. And I can see the cold weather indications in the leaves of the broccoli. A definite purple tint indicates a lack of phosphorous, the plants just can't take up phosphorous when the soil is cold. Not to worry, with warm weather the soil will warm and the phosphorous will flow.
I'd be thinking about planting potatoes next week, my seed potatoes arrive next week. Patience is a virtue, I'll wait awhile for the soil to warm before planting potatoes.
Larry Dove, of Two Doves Farm,.