Garden Daybook 6/6/13

This weeks Garden Daybook is a perfect example of how quickly spring weather changes. We experienced our last frost on May 25! We had to drag out our bin of sheets and cover the tomatoes and sweet potatoes. Below you can see our “outside the garden” bed of tomatoes with their over night frost protection in place. Kind of looks like a horde of Halloweeners!!

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The sheets are always wet the following morning so we hang them on the fence to dry. We store them in their bin – ready for fall frosts.

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Five days later daytime temperatures have risen into the 80’s and afternoons are very warm – what am I saying it’s HOT and humid! Greg tilled another bed and we added 22 more tomato plants. We had a good rain last night so we mulched both tomato beds to keep the soil moist. We use newspaper (no glossy paper – only newsprint) and straw – not hay! FYI – Straw is baled stems after the seed heads have been harvested. For us that usually means wheat or oat straw. Hay contains the seed heads and is meant for animal feed and could include alfalfa, timothy and clover, etc. Mulching the tomatoes is a job that takes a few hours but it means that we will have minor weeding in the tomato beds for the rest of the summer. Weeds that manage to push their way through the mulch are easily pulled up because the soil under the paper is moist and loose. Step one: We work as a team. One of us lays down 2-3 layers of paper and the other sprays the paper with a hose to keep it in place. Wind can make laying the paper frustrating so doing this in the morning or evening when the air is usually more still is definitely an advantage.

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Step two: Cover the newspaper with 4-6 inches of straw. We work our way through the bed by finishing the entire process one row at a time. By doing the bed row by row we can cover the paper quickly with straw before it has a chance to dry out and blow up and away.

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Step 3: We surround each tomato with a cage of field fence, anchor it in place with a metal fence post (the electric fence kind), and attach a label with plastic wire ties.

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Done! Planted, watered, mulched, caged, staked, and labeled. Now all we have to do is wait for tomatoes!

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The vegetable garden is still taking all of our time. But – it looks so neat this time of year. I love to sit quietly and just look at everything growing. These three beds hold garlic, onions, parsley, celery, cabbage, a few peppers, and lemon verbena. The garlic and onions will be harvested in July and I will use the beds for our fall broccoli and cauliflower transplants and to seed late beets and carrots.

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Also happening in the gardens:

The hardneck garlic has begun to grow ‘scapes’ – notice the curled stem in the center of the picture. They are so beautiful in the garden AND they are good sliced and stir fried with potatoes or eggs or beans or??? The scape in the picture is young and will grow bigger before it is harvested.

garlic scape June 5 smallThe potatoes are up and have been covered once and are showing leaves again. We will mound them – meaning pull the soil from both sides of the row over the leaves to build a mound – once more and then leave them alone for the rest of the summer. These are the Kennebecs.

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The Blue Lake Pole beans are germinating and Greg and I went out late last evening to put up chicken wire fencing around the row. The rabbits would have their way with the young seedlings it they weren’t protected and we would find ourselves replanting the beans. Look closely, you can barely see the germinating bean plants.

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The 30 foot asparagus bed is edged, weeded, and mulched with last falls chopped leaves. I have spot sprayed it twice with Spinosad to kill the high numbers of Asparagus beetles and their larvae. I have been struggling with these beetles for several years and finally decided that I had to spray or lose the bed. I can already tell that the asparagus looks better. The fronds are not being decimated by hoards of chewing larvae and are growing beautifully. Yay!! Greg also put stakes around the bed and strung them with two rows of cord to contain the 6-7 foot fronds. Having the fronds contained makes mowing the garden paths easier – no fighting your way through flopping fronds.

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A happy find! Greg called me out to the backyard and told me to close my eyes. He led me into the yard and told me to “listen”. Bees! Hundreds of buzzing bees! This is the swarm he found on hanging on a limb of a Maple tree in our yard. When Greg found them they were still gathering and the air was filled with flying bees. By the time I got there they had settled down into a calm swarm. A few hours later they were gone – following their queen to their new home. We wonder if they came out of the hole in the giant Maple next to the tree they were hanging swarming on. The bees also visited our bird bath. They landed on the flat piece of sandstone in the middle of the bird bath and walked to where the sandstone was saturated with water to find moisture.

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The days have suddenly warmed up. The garden is growing gangbusters, the insects and birds are making use of the longer, warmer days. Everything seems to be screaming “Finally!” I agree – “Finally!”

Hey from the farm,
Fran The Country Cousin

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