A Soggy Spring

April showers continued for much of May.

Consequently, gardening tasks were structured around small breaks in the weather.  On the plus side, the spring flowers and flowering trees were gorgeous this year.  I've been following the La Nina weather pattern and there's a good possibility Zone 5 will see hot, dry weather this summer.  That pattern might have already started.  Over the past few days, we have had unseasonably hot weather with temperatures in the 90s. 
2011 marks my first year for raised bed gardening.  The three raised beds were assembled, placed and filled with compost, peat moss and potting soil in early May.  The first bed was planted with green bush snap beans (Burpee's Tenderpick, 54 day maturity) and Black Beauty eggplant.  The beans sprouted two weeks ago. A small number of sprouts have died due to root rot (from the wet soil condition).  These spots were replanted.  Beans are smooth, straight, 5 1/2" long, and excellent for freezing.  The eggplant plants came from a local garden center.  Maturity is 80 days.  Already, the black flea beetles - the size of a pinhead but very voracious - have found the eggplants.  Considered a bane to eggplant, the beetles makes lattice work out of the leaves. Unfortunately, the damage is not just cosmetic, it can affect yield.  For now, I am picking the beetles off as I see them.
The second bed contains herbs:  sage, dill, chives and basil as well as sweet onion bulbs and two rows of Burpee's Short 'n Sweet carrots.  This carrot variety produces sweet roots approximately 4" long.  In a few days, I will be thinning the carrots.  Carrots mature 68 days after sowing.
The third bed contains three kinds of peppers - red, yellow and green - that I started from seeds.  I also planted two kinds of Burpee loosehead type lettuce:  Green Ice (45 days) and Red Salad Bowl (50 days).  Lettuce grows best in cool weather but I was not able to get the seeds planted as early as I should have.  I am using an umbrella to help shade the tender plants from the hot sun.  Fire 'n Ice radishes round out the third bed.  This Burpee radish is a French Breakfast-type radish.  Its roots are 3-4" long, mild and delicate, colored red and white.  The radish is ready to eat in approximately 25 days.
Getting the Burpee Silver Queen corn - a white normal sugar hybrid variety - into the potting shed garden took some patience.  Again, the rain.  I prepped the ground (weeded and turned over the soil) and it started to rain just as I finished.  When I had a two day window, I turned the soil to a depth of 4 inches to expose and dry it out.  This made the soil workable.  On the second day, the seeds went in late in the day.  It rained that evening. As of this writing, roughly 70 percent of the kernels have sprouted. 
I finally finished planting all of the tomato starts over the Memorial weekend.  Still to get in:  some remaining cabbage and melon starts, pumpkin, cucumber, zucchini and squash seeds.

Dill and Chives


Another Gardening Season Opens

The 2011 planting season is open!

After what seemed like the longest winter ever, I planted five rows of sugar snap peas in the kitchen garden:  Burpee variety Super Snappy with an edible pod.  65 days to harvest.  This seed is tolerant to powdery mildew and needs no support.  Around here, the date to get peas in is St. Patrick's Day.  I have never managed to get the peas in that early for one reason or another.  Today, everything was perfect for working the ground and sowing.  The soil was cool and slightly damp, not clumpy.  The weather mild and sunny. After sowing, I sprinkled some inoculation granules next to the rows to boost production.  What with an early start, and a booster, these just might be super Super Snappy peas!  

The three 3'x6' raised planter beds I ordered from Gardener's Supply arrived late last week.  I'll be putting them together in the next day or so.  Once together and in place, soil will need to be mixed and added to the beds.  The mixture is part potting soil, compost, peat moss, and vermiculite.  The plants that will go into these beds are being grown as starts.  Before planting the peas, I made up two trays of seeds containing Burpee's Super Beefsteak Tomato, Sugar Snack Hybrid (a red cherry) Tomato, Great Stuff Green Pepper, Red Delicious Hybrid Pepper, Sweet Banana (yellow) Pepper, Gold Standard Hybrid (yellow) Pepper, Earliana Cabbage, Breakfast Longkeeper Cantaloupe, Crimson Sweet Watermelon, Sweet Basil, Sage and Alyssum.

Once the tomato and pepper seed starts get bigger, they will be transferred to larger pots.  Uncle Keaks will be losing his bottom rung in a couple of weeks.

Uncle Keaks relaxes on the bottom shelf....for now :)

The southern exposure is a kitty-cat favorite
which they reluctantly have to share
with the seed starts!

Peat pots retain moisture and decompose when planted.
A clear plastic greenhouse dome goes over top of each tray,
creating a humid environment for germination.


On the Naming of Gnomes

Winter is a time for reflection. 
Time to create gardens in the mind.

I have created a new garden, one of raised beds, a stone path, a half circle of roses and a place for a fire pit.  The space was readied in the fall.  Once the weather breaks, the installation of plants and design begins.  In the meantime, I plan.  Three 3' x 6' black raised beds have been ordered.  My seed cache inventoried.  In mid-March, I will start the tomato, pepper and cabbage seeds indoors.

The expansive vegetable garden I have had since 1995 was retired at the end of last year.  The tiller was sold.  Call it aging-in-place, downsizing or conserving human energy, the reality is, it was time for a change.  Spring of 2011, there will be a kitchen garden, the potting shed garden, some containers and a new raised bed garden.

And, there will be a gnome to watch over it.

My girlfriend gave me a gnome for my birthday.  I have always wanted one.  I decided mine needed a name. I wanted to make it unique so I Googled gnome names.  Apparently, I was not just being quirky.  As one site noted, without a proper "gname," a gnome will lead an unhappy life.  Meaning and purpose for a gnome, who would have thought? 

So, I poured over some name generators and found the "gname."  It was European and ancient enough for such a special creature.  Because his shanks are short, I believe his surname must be Shortshanks!  I decreed his duties and they are, as such, an extension of his given name.

So, may I introduce to you
"Turrick Shortshanks"
The Slug-Slayer and Herb Minder of Township Troy. 
 He has much work to do!

You may call him Turrick for short ;)