Garden Daybook 5/23/13

wagon with plants small

We left with bags, boxes, and wagons of “new to us” plants after last Thursday’s Spring Plant Swap at Farm and Home Hardware in Wellington, Ohio. The crowd of local gardeners was bigger than expected and every table was packed with plants. Trading was intense as everyone perused the tables and traded “mine for yours”. I took home a good sized blueberry, a smoke plant, a white lilac, a large fern, a few tomatoes, and lots of perennials. The evening moved quickly and trading lasted a fast paced hour. What fun!!

A discussion with friends after the swap turned up a few concerns. Several “swappers” took plants and did not ask who they belonged to or offer anything in return. This happened to me. Someone reached through the crowd and took two of my most interesting plants – a good-sized bloodroot plant and a small rooted piece of “Sweet Kate” Spiderwort. The truth is most of us that attend swaps do not mind if someone takes plants and has nothing to offer in return but we get annoyed if things simply vanish. We want to talk to the person doing the taking. Asking about a plant is common courtesy at a swap. The gardener to gardener connection is important – after all – the evening is a SWAP not a “take”. For our next swap we will print up a sheet with rules for “Plant Swap Etiquette” and hand one to everyone.

May 16 asparagus bedsmall

The days have been in the 70’s and 80’s, the soil in the garden beds is warm workable, and the transplants are ready. So – – to work. I began in the asparagus bed. The 30 foot row of asparagus was swarming with asparagus beetles. I sprayed every spear and frond with Spinosad. Spinosad is a living bacterium suspended in a liquid solution. When the asparagus beetles feed on the plant they ingest the bacterium and die. The next morning very few beetles could be found clinging to the plants. I see lots of tiny black eggs on the stems but I will wipe them down with a soft cloth. Spinosad, an organic chemical, is for post-harvest use so we will have no more asparagus for the kitchen. Spinosad also breaks down in sunlight so, when I finally decided to spray, I sprayed in the evening. I decided to use a spray to treat the beetles to break the cycle of spring hatching. The bed was swarming with the beetles for the second spring in a row and I was at my wits end. I always struggle – spray – don’t spray. This time it was spray. FYI – the small plants throughout the asparagus bed are calendulas.

gold thread ala 1980s small

What the??! It’s dá jà vu 1985! You have got to be kidding me!! I was weeding the asparagus bed and turned up this gold thread. In 1985 we brought home some old gold carpeting to mulch garden paths. Those beds have been moved 30-50 – feet away into our new permanent garden. The gold carpeting was pulled up – at least what we could get loose – and taken to the dump. This gold thread is why you should NEVER use old carpeting on your garden paths. IT NEVER DIES!!! It will haunt you for the rest of your gardening life. The only thing I can think of is that – somehow – soil from the old beds ended up in the compost and thus into the new garden. Gads – it’s been at least 30 – yes I said 30!! years – and small pieces of that carpeting continue to surface in the new garden. Enough already!

sweet potato mounds planted small

Two mounds of Centennial sweet potatoes are planted. The mound on the right is mulched with chopped leaves, the mound on the left was mulched just after I took this picture. The final layer of mulch is deep and the mounds disappear in the mulch. I build mounds about 10 inches high and plant the slips about 14 inches apart. The sweet potatoes will form and hang down in the mound. Centennial is early sweet potato at 90 days to maturity and is particularly good for our northern garden. It has orange colored skin and flesh, stores well through the winter, and seems to get sweeter and sweeter the longer it is stored. We will harvest our sweet potatoes just before frost.

Our main crop paste tomatoes are planted. Greg tilled the bed and put a stake where each tomato was to be planted. Greg always marks rows because my rows never look like rows – they always seem to have a mind of their own and wander about. I plopped a transplant by each stake.

Tomato planting 1small

Watching my father plant tomato seedlings is one of my earliest gardening memories and I still plant my tomatoes the way he showed me. Dig the hole, plop in the transplant so about half of the stem is below the soil level (yes, plant them deeply). Back fill about half way, water the seedling with a saucepan of cool water, and back fill to the original soil level. Tamp the soil firmly around the seedling. Each seedling is surrounded with a staked cage of concrete reinforcing wire and given it’s own label.

tomato planting 4small

Each cage gets its own label because I know for a fact I will NEVER remember what I put where. I make my labels from old horizontal blinds. Cut the slats into 4 inch lengths, punch a hole with a plain old fashioned hole punch, and attach the label to the cage with a small electrical tie. The label will stay in place all summer. FYI use a black sharpie to add the plant name – not blue, not green, not red, use black because it is the least likely to fade in the sun.

label maker 3small

tomato planting 6small

Here is the finished bed. It’s raining as I write this so tomorrow the soil will be ready for a summer mulch of 3 layers of newspaper and 5-6 inches of straw. Done! No weeding!

tomato planting 5small

In the coop we have a broody hen sitting on 7 eggs. “Authorities” tell you to “isolate the broody hen in a quiet space” so we moved our hen, with her 7 eggs, into the back room in a nest box on the floor. OMGoodness she became frantic! She buckawed and cried out until we put her back with the other hens. She fluffed her feathers, settled over her eggs, and looked at us like we were idiots. What a raucous morning! Chickens definitely let you know when they are not happy. We think the eggs should hatch June 6 or 7 and when we see movement we will sneak in under cover of night and move mom and babies into the back room. The back room is cozy and has its own ramp into a private yard away from the other hens. When the chicks are bigger we can bring them into the flock. At this point the other hens are still laying their eggs in the same nest box. We drew a line around the equator of the 7 original eggs and made certain to replace them back into the nest exactly as they were. We carefully check the nest once a day and remove the eggs without the equator line. Gads!

May 16 broody hensmall

Spring is here – in the vegetable garden and in the coop. I hope you can find the time to get outside and soak in the beauty of spring.

May 21 Cerastiumsmall

Hey from the farm,
Fran The Country Cousin

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