Archive for March, 2010

Round 3 seed planting – tomatoes Monday, March 29th, 2010

Now, approximately 7 weeks out from the last average frost date, I got my tomato seeds planted.

  • Sioux – touted: In 1947, Oscar H. Will & Co. stated, “It out-yielded all other varieties in South Dakota trials.” This one sounded perfect for our area, duh! It’s sounds like it is going to be a humble but universal tomato lending itself to anything from burgers to canning.
  • Royal Chico – We always like having a bunch of Roma-type tomatoes for quick spaghetti sauces, canning and fresh pico de gallo. This one is touted as being disease resistant and is also becoming rare so I’m glad to contribute to maintaining its use in the home garden.
  • Henderson’s Pink Ponderosa – sounds like it will be a great one for BLTs or a caprese salad (basil, tomato, fresh mozzarella with a little olive oil, salt and pepper). It came as a freebie with my order.

I planted 4 seeds of each in 3 TP roll pots. Then cut up some plastic clam-shell type packaging to make water-resistant labels using a permanent marker. I also labeled each packet with the date I planted them. Hopefully they will germinate a little quicker than the 2-weeks-or-more stubborn peppers.

Tomato seeds planted 3/28/2010

After getting these planted I assessed my peppers and replanted the ones that had little to no germination. Odessa market (a sweet pepper) had only sprouted one seedling after planting 3 pots of 3 seeds each. Then the Chinese 5 color peppers hadn’t had a single seed germinate so I replanted a couple pots of those as well. We’ll see. I have sprouts from the mini-red sweet peppers (notably did the best from a germination standpoint) and a couple each from Craig’s jalapeno and the lemon-yellow habanero. After the re-planting I added a 2nd-planting date on my seed packet.

An afternoon with Prunella Monday, March 29th, 2010

March is the perfect month for pruning and I finally got into my shed and found my tools – though they need a sharpening I set about pruning a couple trees. 1 was my daughter’s maple. I took out a couple competing leaders, some branches that were crossing or bound to rub and took out a few extra branches to allow air movement – much less likely to have severe branch breakage during future windstorms. With the fruit tree, it will also allow for easier picking which won’t be for another 3-5 years (pears don’t bear fruit until about 7 years old).

When pruning you can take up to 1/3 of your branches out – but no more. It’s both easier on you and and your tree if you trim some small branches every year instead of waiting for them to get bigger and then deciding to take them out — you’ll need heavier-duty pruners or a saw and it leaves a much bigger wound on the tree.

An additional school of thought on fruit tree pruning is that you should be able to pick from your knees to as high as you can reach while standing. I debated this but couldn’t bring myself to lop off the top of my tree. Above it the before and after of my pruning of my pear tree – I have another planted at the same time but is double the size. I haven’t tackled that one yet. One thing I didn’t realize about pear trees is that the branches are lined with shorter branch/thorns. These are wicked especially when trying to mow around. I even had one nearly go through my shoe that was on a branch I trimmed – I made sure to pick up all of them and dispose where they couldn’t do any harm.

Sun-scalded maple

My daughter’s maple is showing more wear from sun scald. It’s now going into the main layer of the trunk. This is quite unfortunate – not much can be done I fear. I’ll just have to watch it and we may possibly picking out a new tree in the next 5 years. I’ll do a little more research before writing it off completely.

Pruning her tree I took out two extra competing leaders. These are branches that are surpassing the main lead branch rising straight from the trunk. Competing leaders can put stress on a tree and cause the branches they are on to be too weak to support them. This is how trees end up splitting in a storm. I took off the lowest branch as well. It was getting heavy and a very acute angle. The perfect angle means you can take your finger and run it all the way down to the crook of two branches while still touching both.

Putting down new roots Friday, March 26th, 2010

With our last two children we (The Hub) planted a tree on the day they were born.

Shamrock Linden

Cerelia – Crimson Queen Maple

Quade – Harvest Gold Mongolian Linden

Wanting to continue the tradition I’ve just called a local nursery today to see if they would even have any trees on hand when this child comes. Presumably April 6 (that’s the ‘due’ date but I tend to see due dates come and go). Luckily the nursery said they will be getting bareroot trees on April 5. With our other two summer-born kids we had time to purchase the trees well before planting time, prep the holes, etc. and then once babe

was born, the Hub went home and had to only remove them from the container, back fill and water them. This time I fear he’ll have everything from the purchase to the watering to accomplish in the same day – if I do hang on a while past perhaps we can at least get it purchased, bring it home and keep the root ball soaked until planting.

Now, what to choose . . .

My daughter’s tree is beautiful with its dark purple/burgundy leaves but the bark has shown to be very susceptible to sun scald – a splitting of the outer layers due to cold/warm fluctuations in spring and fall. Not the most Hub City adapted tree.

Swamp White Oak

My son’s tree was touted locally as a very good choice and so far has been lovely and not shown any signs of stress.

I’d like to get something different, pushing for a diverse landscape so I’m leaning towards oaks, (evergreen was the next

choice but those do not come bareroot and container plants won’t be showing up in stores until later), though another linden (basswood) is not out of the question. I asked the woman at the nursery what would be on hand:

  • Shamrock linden – 40-50′ prefers moist well-drained soil, also attracts bees when in bloom, potentially spreading root system
  • Redmond linden – 60-75′ tall, pyramidal growing to oval, drought-tolerant, yellow flowers attract bees
  • Front yard linden – 60′, pyramidal, more vertical and good for smaller settings, very adaptable
  • American linden – 50-70′, aromatic flowers, adaptable, tolerates alkaline soils
  • Swamp White Oak – 60′, lateral branching, leaves have whitish undersides hence the name. Used to shade large areas
  • Burr Oak – 70-80′, large specimen, highly adaptable and native to our area, long-lived.
  • Northern Oak – (red oak) – 65-75′, adapts well tourban settings, fall color – red.

Not sure what we’ll end up with. All of these are tall shade trees, and we definitely need the shade as the oldest tree in our yard is my daughter’s that was planted 5 1/2 years ago. It’s hard to picture what our yard will look like in 15 years. I think another goal this summer will be to take a survey of our

Frontyard Linden

trees and shrubs. I haven’t mentioned the ones I’ve purchased at city surplus sales (apple, cherry, plum), from the Arbor Day society, and some discount stores (American Larch) or

planted from seed (Catalpa). All of which started much smaller than a container or even bareroot tree purchased from a nursery, those can be anywhere from 5 – 12′ tall.

Burr Oak

How many big shade trees can a regular city lot support? When we were looking at buying

our house there were 5 large Elm trees on it – all were taken by Dutch Elm, does this mean there is room for another big shade tree? Will root systems be a problem with sidewalks, foundation or sewer lines? Will my garden area need to be moved as the trees mature and block out more sun? What is the best placement to provide cooling shade to our house in summer or wind protection in winter?

Well, at the least I have until tomorrow or 3 weeks from now to figure this out – Ha!

Spring has sprung Monday, March 22nd, 2010

The 30F changes are a bit off-putting but hopeful. Also, not knowing what sort of clothes and gear to send my child to school in . . . snowpants? galoshes? boots? hoodie? mittens? Ah, spring in South Dakota.

Now’s the time of year to inspect your trees and shrubs for shape and crossing branches — trim them OUT. It’s the perfect time to prune and any discarded branches can be kept as markers or used for pea and bean tipis if long enough. Using a sharp scissors, pruner or saw — depending on branch size — cut as close to the base of the branch as possible, without cutting into the cuff (the slight bulge at the very base of the branch). This cuff will then heal over quickly and become nearly unnoticed within a couple years. Early spring is a great time because there aren’t leaves getting in the way and trees are just starting to break dormancy.

Cut any branches that:

  • Cross
  • Rub
  • Grow back into the center of the tree or shrub
  • Dead or diseased looking
  • Water sprouts (smaller straight-up growing branches)- some species are more prone to a flush of water sprouts than others
  • Are in the path of or hitting — mowing, driveway views, fences, windows, roof/shingles

** If there are any encroaching on powerlines, call a professional

Swapped Friday, March 19th, 2010

Today the kids and myself went to a lovely mama and fellow gardener’s home to do a seed swap. She has 3 kids so it worked out to be a well-needed playdate for us as well. Nothing like killing two birds.

It’s always fun to see what another person has decided to pick up and try or compare notes on what has and hasn’t worked well for them. I encouraged her towards trying some okra, she provided me with some sweet french melon, beets and a lettuce mix that I hadn’t picked up. We also shared our gloomy trials at the system of 3-sisters planting (corn, bean, squash). She expressed a fascination with permaculture — something I’ve never delved into but my interest is piqued, so that’s sure to be my first internet search after posting this.

Any gardener I know has collected a few seeds over the years so it’s a great idea to get a hold of fellow gardeners and swap some ones you’ve had success with or get ideas from another gardener’s experience.

It’s ALIVE! Friday, March 19th, 2010

My sweet peppers that were planted March 6, finally showed signs of germination exactly 2 weeks later. It took a while, but now I have a little hope. There are about 3 mini red bell pepper sprouts and a couple Odessa Market ones. I’ve watered them every day, just a little to keep the top 1/4 inch of soil damp enough to allow for germination. As these grow I will adjust to heavier waterings so the tender roots don’t dry out. I did space out my TP roll pots to allow for more air circulation as they had been nearly touching and stayed wet enough to produce nice fuzzy coats on the outside. After separating them the fuzz is starting to shed some. As these seedlings grow, I will adjust the light levels to stay approximately 2″ above the top leaves. Luckily I have two side-by-side growing lights on string that can be adjusted as need. My timing of 12 hrs. a day under lights seems to be working well enough.

Now I’ll have to wait and see about the hot peppers that were planted 8 days ago. I’ll hold my breath until it’s been two weeks before I try something different. The next veggies to plant I believe will be tomatoes.

** Pardon for the crappy photography, my work camera doesn’t come with macro, I’ll have to get my in-house photographer (The Hub) to help me out with some better photos.

April 23-24, Aberdeen Free Clean-up Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

On April 23 and 24, residents may drop most types of trash at one of three locations — the landfill, the Brown County Highway Shop on Eighth Avenue Northeast in Aberdeen or Jensen’s Rock and Sand on South Fifth Street in Aberdeen.
The landfill will waive fees for most trash from April 23 through May 8. Items that can be dropped off for free include tires, paint, trees, rubble, batteries, furniture, waste oil, antifreeze, appliances, scrap metal, propane tanks, grass and leaves.
As posted in March 17th American News.
Time to get your yard cleaned up!

Pick a peck of peppers Sunday, March 14th, 2010

My last post seemed utterly disjointed so I’ve decided to do a bit of a rewrite.

All peppers were planted inside 8-10 weeks before May 15 (our average last frost date). They get approximately 12 hrs. a day under grow lights. They were planted with little to no soil coverage as per the instructions on the packet.  I water them mostly from our water cooler when the top of the soil is nearly dry. Plants seem to do better with rain water, which I should start collecting, but I’m hoping the next best thing instead of tap is purified water.  I labeled each packet with the date they arrived from Bakers Creek and also with the date of the initial planting so I have a reference to look back on.

The peppers that were planted were:

  • Red Mini sweet bell peppers; planted 3-06-2010
  • Odessa Market sweet peppers (Odessa is a town by the black sea in Ukraine – apparently an area my distant relatives came from); planted 3-06-2010
  • Craig’s Grande Jalapeno; planted 3-11-2010
  • Chinese five color – “screaming hot little peppers in a rainbow of colors, can also be grown inside in containers; planted 3-11-2010
  • Lemon Yellow Habanero; planted 3-11-2010
A peppering of children Thursday, March 11th, 2010

Even though I was unable to attend the canceled children’s gardening workshop, I still wrote a story that will appear in March 14‘s edition of the American News.

One can only fit so much into print so from time to time I’ll elaborate on some kid-friendly projects you can do with children, whether you are a caregiver or parent. I’ve briefly written of terrariums.  Today I planted seeds with the kiddos, and tried my hardest not to add too many, “no,no,no”, “stop,stop,stop”s to the mix. So far the peppers are planted – they were suggested to start by seed 8-10 weeks before the last frost. That puts the time frame to get them in dirt and under light anywhere from last week to next. A lovely friend gave me a couple grow lights for my birthday so I’ve rigged those with some poster brackets and hemp twine so I can raise and lower them on some free-standing wooden shelves. I’ll have to post pictures when I can find one of two cameras. I’ve set a timer on my cell phone for 12 hrs. – from 8am to 8pm to have the lights on. On 3 sides I’ve taped some foil as a lot of light is lost if not reflected back on the seeds. It’s not pretty, but it should be pretty functional. The lights should stay approximately 2 inches above the pots and then the plants once started. This will hopefully ensure that they don’t get too lanky and stay squatter and more robust. I’m also using cut down TP and paper towel rolls as pots. Some already have a little fuzz growing on the outside so I’ll have to watch that.

I just spoke with my mother and she asked if I had bottom heat on my seeds. “Um, nope.” I guess peppers enjoy warmth, so, if I don’t see germination early next week I might have to try adding some warmth. She has a special mat that warms seeds from the bottom so I might borrow that. I’m a little apprehensive to use a heat pad but I suppose that could also be an option. Or, moving the set up closer to a heat vent. We’ll see, I have plenty of seeds leftover so I could try something else completely next week as well. Especially if the TP rolls disintegrate before my seeds even germinate.

I’m using the Miracle Grow seed-starting mix and it isn’t as fine as I’d like plus there seems to be a lot of sticks. I’ll have to look into making my own mix once I run out. I also mix is with water in a bowl right away so it’s a little easier to handle and after the seeds are planting a little watering at the end won’t upheave the seeds.

Workshop canceled Monday, March 1st, 2010

The Children’s Gardening Workshop originally planned for this weekend has been canceled. I’m totally bummed. Granted it opens up my very hectic schedule this week, I was really looking forward to it. Apparently registration was weak so it wasn’t feasible to hold it. I also planned on doing a story for the paper, not strictly on the workshop but on childrens’ gardening in general. I’m still going to try and get that story, one way or another – I’ll look into contacting some of the presenters that were slated for the day and we’ll see where I get. So, check out the 605 Life section in March 14’s edition of the Aberdeen American News.