Archive for the ‘planting’ Category

Fall/spring bulb basics Monday, September 20th, 2010

I’m confused, should bulbs planted in the fall be referred to as “fall bulbs” because of when they are planted or “spring bulbs” because of when they bloom?

Regardless, I just planted mine to welcome the start of autumn on Wednesday. This year I decided to put in a few crocus. These and snowdrops tend to be the earliest bloomers. I love my mother’s sunshiny yellow ones that are the first to greet the warming rays of early spring. I picked up a cheap-O bag of 30 and popped them along the very front of my south and west facing beds along the house. Regardless of what type of fall-planted bulb you choose, there are basic tips for each.

  • Plant them at a depth of 2-3 times their height. In spots that stay bare or get really cold, deeper is better.
  • Plant them with the pointed in facing up and the button (roots) end facing down.
  • For a natural look dig a wide whole and plant several a few inches apart depending on size
  • For a pop of color in the lawn, lift a small chunk of sod, plant bulb and replace sod – use very early bloomers so by the time that first lawn mowing comes around the blooms will be spent and leafs starting to wither
  • Plant alongside later risers – plants that don’t get going until full summer – that way these plants will cover the withering, brown leaves of the spent, spring-blooming plants
  • If your spring-bloomers aren’t as prolific as they once were it usually means they need to be divided. Just dig and space out now and/or share extras with friends
  • There are bulb cages you can get if you have a frisky squirrel or other bulb-munching rodent around
Gardening workshop, Aberdeen SD Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

The Prairie Partners’ Gardening with the Masters fall workshop will be from 2 to 4 p.m. Sept. 25 at Dacotah Prairie Museum, 21 S. Main St.
Within the day will be four individual workshops: starting seeds, growing garlic, hardy roses and raised bed/square foot gardening.
Cost: $5 and payable at the door. Treats and refreshments will be served.

Singing in the rain Friday, June 11th, 2010

Singing in the rain because I don’t have to lug watering cans back and forth through the garden. We have two rain barrels and two broken outdoor faucets so I get to do it the old-school way. It reminds me of hanging out with my paternal grandmother as she toted 5-gallon buckets around the farm to water and feed chickens, pigs, etc., using a cart on only the longest walks. Good grief she was strong.

I did get a chance to glance about the very muddy garden – I stayed out of it so as not to cause compaction. All my pumpkins, gourds, melon and beans have sprouted. They will need to be thinned a bit but I’m never sure how many to keep for good crop insurance vs. having my entire yard engulfed in vines. 2-3 maybe? At least until they start producing flowers.

My nasturtiums and cilantro that I planted weeks ago and almost gave up on have also shown up. I guess they just needed a few muggy, warm, wet days. Cilantro is always tricky to keep going long enough to pair it with the tomato and pepper harvest. I’m hoping my Slo-Bolt variety and the fact that I planted it in a cooler, shadier pocket of my yard will keep it producing and not bolting (going to seed) so quickly. Other varieties I’ve tried only produce a 1/2 dozen harvestable leaves and then up shoots the flowering seed head.

Can’t wait to hear about ‘Ladybug’s’ tomato taste reviews. Please send me any and all you have!

Garden . . . planted Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

I just got done putting the last of my warm season crops in, all by seed. Vine crops, except for peas, tend to be warm season crops – think melons, squash, cucmbers, etc.

In my last open area I put up a couple ‘trellis’ (the sides of a crib my son had shaken to bits a couple years earlier) and under them planted a Kentucky Pole Bean – one leftover in my collection of seed, and a Dragon Tongue Bean, a Dutch Heirloom variety I got from Baker Creek Seeds. Both can be eaten whole or the latter, shelled. Now that I look closer at the package, these Dragon ones might be a bush crop so I won’t need to trellis them. I could’ve also soaked the beans before planting them to speed germination.

Another bush crop I planted is a winter squash, a bush buttercup also from Baker Creek. The next few squash I’ll speak of came from seeds I’d also tried last year. Most of which met their demise via squash borer (think giant maggot – totally gross!) But I’m trying again and going to be on the lookout for the first signs of damage, July on.

I also planted a Hubbard True Green Improved and two edible pumpkins – Winter Luxury Pie and a cheesecake pumpkin with the French name Rouge Vif d’Etampes (now isn’t that just fun to say), it can be harvested when still small. Another pumpkin with a French name that has a dull almost pink shell is Musquee De Provence I’m guessing is not edible but very pretty for arrangements, and maybe carving for Halloween.

The last thing I planted was a Charentais melon – these seeds I got in a swap with a friend. I don’t have much info but I’m thinking it resembles a cantoloupe.

The melon, and squash were all planted about 5 seeds to a hill to ensure 1-2 plants after thinning. Planting in hills allows for quicker soil warm up and quicker drainage as well as more oxygen into the soil. Make a small area at the top of each hill flat so seeds don’t wash away with watering.

3 2 1 Acclimate! Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

My babied seedlings of tomatoes and peppers have had a rough go of making it to the garden. For weeks I did really well. Watering when slightly dry, timing their artificial grow lights, repotting when necessary. Then I try to set them outside to acclimate a little and boom! I let them dry out too much, then they get sunburned, the children water them too forcefully and the dog topples all of them over. Good grief! So now I’m attempting some resuscitation to see who will make it out of my 20-some little plants. That would’ve been too many for our garden plot but now I’m hoping I have a 1/2 dozen of pepper and tomato each to put out some time this week.

Seedlings you do at home need time to toughen up to the outdoor conditions: wind, sun, night and day temps, all are much more severe than the conditions in your home, garage and in some instances the greenhouse where you purchased them.

What I should have done to acclimate them:

  • Mimic the sun time they will have with my artificial lights a couple weeks out
  • Start setting them out in a shady spot during the day when the temp is 65 and above
  • Move them to a sunnier location where they will get just a couple hours of sun
  • Slowly increase their time in the sun an hour or two each day until they are staying in the sun for a full 8 hours
  • Plant them in the garden when the nights are only getting down to the high 50s or 60s (right now!)

Oh well, this is the most success I’ve had starting my own seedlings anyway so I’ll chalk this up to another lesson learned the hard way.

Perennials put in place Saturday, May 15th, 2010

I’ve picked up a handful of perennials in the last couple weeks. The first one I won by drawing at a Parkview Nursery event where they were introducing some new species. I let my daughter pick my prize from a variety of perennials. She went with the biggest and pinkest:

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Twist-n-Shout'

  • Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Twist-n-Shout’ is a lace cap hydrangea vs. mophead. It’s blooms are clusters of small and tiny petaled flowers. In more acidic soil a periwinkle color comes through the blooms but in alkaline (which we have) the blooms will undoubtedly be pink. If you want to try for bluer blooms adding aluminum sulphate will change the soils pH to more acidic. this is easier to do if you leave your hydrangea in a container instead of straight it the garden. I planted mine on the east side of my house so it will be protected from the hot afternoon and evening sun. I added a good dose of my home compost to the planting hole. This plant will be a heavier feeder so I’ll probably need to add more until mid-summer.

Lychnis 'Orange Gnome' Maltese Cross

  • Next I picked up Lychnis ‘Orange Gnome’ also known as Maltese Cross. The dark green to burgundy leaves and electric orange flowers will add a lot to my almost completely green perennial bed. Most of my flowers now are purple so I wanted to add some pops of other colors here and there to up the interest. It’s stalks were tall and top heavy so I braced it with a cut-off tomato cage so it doesn’t just flop to the ground. I planted it on the south side of my house between catmint and a perennial grass so it’ll be a mid-height plant in that area. Hopefully it will tolerate a full day’s worth of sun, which is what the tag says. I can also pinch it back if I’d like a more compact growing habit.

Ajuga reptans 'Black Scallop'

  • Another color pop I purchased is an Ajuga with dark purple/black scalloped leaves. It’s brighter dainty purple/blue blooms are very cute. It’s a ground cover that should be highly adaptable to most conditions – as state on the accompanying tag. We’ll see. It also is planted on the southside in the front of my perennial border between some sedums and liatris.
  • I was able to find an Ash Leaf Spirea. I have high hopes for this one. Spirea are highly adaptable shrubs

    Sem Ash Leaf Spirea - Sorbaria sorbifolia.

    that are great for foundation planting and xeriscaping.They are low maintenance and black-thumb proof. This particular one is of interest because of its unique foliage. limey greens and pink tips with a fern-like quality.

Super excited to have these specimens in my garden! Even more excited for a spell of good weather.

Anticipation Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

During a brief time of it not raining, my son and I got some herb seeds planted in a pot. I’ll probably plant more directly into the garden but it’s fun to do with the kidlet when we are both stir-crazy from the wind and rain. Basil, Purple Basil, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemay and Luffa. Yup, Luffa – it’s a gourd that can be picked and eaten when young, but if you leave it on the plant to mature it looks like a bath luffa and can be used as such. I’ve never tried this before but I’ve wanted to so I decided this is the year.

There are also some random boards laying out in my untilled garden. Happy Mother’s Day to me. The Hub and kiddos got some supplies for raised beds. I’m pretty excited but it will be a lot to get accomplished even if I push the date to June 1. This coming weekend marks the last average frost date and is also supposed to show a weather turn-around – from 40s to 70s and 80s next week. So I’ll be more than eager to get my garden planted before the skeeters come and my maternity leave is up.

Resist being the early bird Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

I made my first nursery trip of the year this past weekend. It was wonderful just feeling that greenhouse heat and humidity while the winds whipped up a frenzy of dust and chill outside. I did purchase 3 items which I’ll talk about later but I wanted to use this post as a simple warning. Aside from cold-weather veggie crops, trees, shrubs and very-hardy perennials, please put off any planting for a while longer. We are still more than a week from the last average frost date and even then it won’t wait to hurt a little longer before filling up your flower and garden beds.

Soil temperature is a huge factor, especially with warm-weather crops like tomatoes, peppers and melons. You may have good-sized transplants that can weather a few cool days but it can really stunt their progress to have cold ‘feet’. I might wait closer to June before setting my transplants out. Transplants set out earlier can actually be set back weeks when it comes to actual production, so resist until the soil is warmer – 60F if you want to get technical. I had a grandmother that didn’t start her veggies until June and she always seemed to have a bumper crop.

Pots, baskets and raised beds will be more susceptible to temperature changes. Annuals might be in full bloom in the nurseries and garden centers but that doesn’t mean they can weather a night outside yet. If you are eager to get some pops of color outside, plant your annuals in baskets and make sure to bring them in when temps dip below 55-60F. Same goes if you fear your favorites will be picked over at the stores if you wait until they can actually spend the nights outside.

There are a few things you can do to start a little earlier in the garden:

  • Use bottles with bottoms cut off and caps removed to shelter new transplants for a week or two. Make sure to remove them if it does get hot outside or you could risk cooking the baby plant.
  • Mulch heavily
  • On an especially cool night, cover your tender plants or ones that have just set buds with cloth, overturned buckets, plastic bags or blankets.
  • Cover the ground around plants with plastic to make it heat up quicker – cut ‘Xs’ where you want to put your transplants
Tree for Novella Friday, April 9th, 2010

Dad, big sis and big bro plant little sister, Novella's, tree - Tilia cordata 'greenspire'

4-7-2010 was the day our 3rd child was born. Novella Jane Valentine. The Hub set off with the older kids and my mom to pick out a tree later in the day as is tradition with the birth of our children. Menards actually had a few container trees so he picked out a greenspire linden – Tilia cordata ‘greenspire’. I’d been there the day before and scouted out what they had – a couple different lindens, some maples and ton of crabapples and other fruit trees.

The rust-red bark of the greenspire linden (not one of them I’d covered in a previous post but sounds comparative to the other lindens mentioned) had caught my eye and I guess The Hub’s as well. So the tree got planted in our front yard giving space away from our house, the neighbors and a few feet clearance of any sidewalk should any surface roots pose any problems in a couple decades. Having been planted on the West side of the house it will create a much-needed shade during the hot late-summer afternoons and evenings for our house.

Most plants you can read planting instructions and take them at their word. But, when it comes to trees or shrubs and the tag reads to plant the top of the root ball even with the ground I’d encourage you to plant it shallower. Inevitably, once you’ve back-filled and watered a tree or shrub they tend to sink. Keep the top root above ground level and then mound the dirt up just covering the top root. A tree will survive if planted a little too shallow but not necessarily if planted to deep. Roots need the oxygen and this is more important on some species than others.

Tree specs:

  • 60′ tall x 30′ wide
  • pyramidal shape
  • fragrant yellow flowers in the summer
  • good fall color
  • our alkaline soil doesn’t always lend itself to optimum fall color here so I’m not holding my breath but the bark, asymmetrical heart-shaped leaves (most lindens have these) and summer flowers will give 3-seasons of interest.
Good Friday marks potato planting Friday, April 2nd, 2010

Kennebecs harvested in 2008

Good Friday was always the day to plant potatoes – I picked this up from my father who had it passed down to him. It’s nice to get something in the actual ground so early – gives the gardening itch a good scratch. I didn’t exactly get mine planted yet but I got them picked up.

You can get seed potatoes at many places: grocery stores, hardware stores, nurseries, etc. I finally got to Runnings (local ag/hardware store) and picked up some seed potatoes. I chose Norland Red and Yukon Gold. Also available were Kennebec (white) and Pontiac (red). On sale for $o.35/lb. I picked up about 3-4 of each and made sure there were a few good eyes on each one. In past years I’ve used a bag of fingerling potatoes from the grocer that we hadn’t eaten up before the eyes started to sprout and they did well too – potatoes are not the pickiest crop. There are a few things to take note on though:

  • Avoid any seed potatoes that seem soft or moldy.
  • Potatoes are in the same family as tomatoes so can have similar ailments or transfer ailments/pests to each other.
  • Rotate where you plant potatoes every few years and when rotating, also avoid places tomatoes have been planted.
  • Cut the potatoes leaving a couple eyes on each and let the cutting dry for a day or two before planting.
  • Plant cutting level with the ground and mound about 3″ of dirt around them.
  • Once plants emerge you can continue mounding up more dirt just under the top set of leaves.
  • Potatoes will send out roots to make more tubers all the way up their stems – that’s why you can keep mounding the dirt, making a higher and higher hill which also makes digging them up later in the season much easier.
  • Potatoes can be harvested from mid-summer (for fingerling potatoes) up until the tops wither in fall (for larger potatoes).