MARCH 2016 THE BEGINNING
It doesn’t look like much yet but I have great expectations for it. There are several new things to report. My son, Cam, and I completed the greenhouse construction reported in the last blog and it is filled with plants. I thought that a 12 x 20 space would be enough but I was wrong. We could use twice that. All of the patio plantings spent the winter in their new house but I am most interested in the seedling production for the garden as well as the rooting of cuttings that I have taken.
HOME GROWN TOMATO SEEDLINGS
I have produced over 200 plants of 10 varieties of tomatoes. Sure beats buying them six at a time at Lowes. I have set these out in the garden anticipating that we have seen the last of our cold nights. This year I am trying a new process by which to grow the tomatoes. I have had several friends suggest that I try the straw bale method as they have had good results with it. So this year, I am trying it along with the tried and true method of planting in the raised beds.
STRAW BALE GARDENING
The advantages to straw bale growing is that there are no weeds to worry with as well as the plants are raised 2 1/2 feet above the ground making it easier to work them. The root system stays at the correct temperature and can spread throughout the bale. I have seen ten foot plants loaded with tomatoes. I can only dream. I have planted 60 plants in 10 bales with wire supports. I will install a timed water drip system on each plant. Next year, I will work the bales into the garden soil increasing the organic content and start over with new bales.
I have not been satisfied with our 6 year old asparagus bed which should be producing a lot of spears each spring. The variety is Mary Washington and I get just enough to get a good taste in the garden but none make it to the house. This year I have raised the bed an additional six inches and added a six inch layer of aged horse manure. To this I have added a high nitrogen fertilizer (41-0-0) as the manure is often deficient in nitrogen and I have replaced the Mary Washington variety with 12- 2 year old New Jersey male plants. I hope to get a good crop next spring.
I am still trying to get a good stand of globe artichoke plants going. I planted 10 plants last year to fill in the spaces between an earlier planting (which produced fantastic artichokes – better than anything I have ever tasted from a grocery store) but they did not survive the hot summer in their raised bed which was deficient in organic matter to retain moisture. I have in the past separated the individual plants (usually 4 to a pot) before planting.
This year, I planted the pots undisturbed after I added four wheel barrows of composted horse and chicken manure (again adding the nitrogen fertilizer). I’m crossing my fingers as this is a wonderful homegrown vegetable.
I am looking for where I saved the “Diva” cucumber seeds from last year. They were a wonderful variety but the seeds cost fifty cents each so I wanted to see it they stayed true (or close to it) and plant from my seed stash. Can’t do that if I can find them. I did plant cucumbers from purchased seed but they were an older variety. My sweet pepper selection for this year is a red California bell and a yellow banana pepper. I can’t eat the hot varieties and no one in the garden group wants them either.
Speaking of the garden group – I have lost a couple good workers due to medical reasons. Davis blew out his Achilles Tendon and will be in recovery for six months following surgery. Kathy and Chris are busy doing their yoga and sea turtle projects respectively. That leaves me. I have two couples that are interested in joining the garden and I am hopeful that they will participate soon. There will be a great need for the collection of the small live oak leaves from my access road which we use as weed control between the raised beds the first year and then add the organic remains to the beds the second year.
I will add pole and green beans along with okra as soon as the soil gets warmer (May) and rotate other plantings into the garden as time matures the first crops. I still have to plant the bok choy, carrots, squash, melons and others to the onions, multiple varieties of lettuce and greens, radish, Swiss chard, collards, kale, peas, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, peppers, artichokes, asparagus, cucumber, Malabar spinach and others.
Huge surviving “rape” plant from last years garden – almost 5 feet across – “too big to pull”!
I have order a 3 lb package of bees to fill the new top bar hive I purchased. The top Bar Hive I built several years ago is still empty but I plan to move a swarm into it this spring. I will keep the three square Langstrogh hives but they are so difficult to work requiring the removal of each section (50+ lbs each) so as to get to the honey and then the frames have to be spun to remove the honey. With the top bar hive, the top is removed (one lb) and a single 4 lb top bar filled with honey comb is removed and the honey comb is cut off and the bar replaced so the bees can draw it out again and fill it. My new hive contains 30 bars – 10 of which will be used as the breeding chamber with the rest being allocated to honey storage.
SEVENTH ANNUAL WISTERIA SOIREE
It is that time of the year again. It really surprised me last week when I was reminded that the wisteria are about to bloom. All readers of this blog are invited to attend. Last year we had about 40 who showed up. It was a great gathering and we visited and ate until it got dark. It starts at 2:00 and goes from there. Everyone brings their chair, drink (often a bottle of wine), a covered dish or two and insect spray (often not needed). If it rains we can move to under the shed but I hope it doesn’t because the garden is a great place to sit and let the wisteria blossoms fall onto our plates and into our wine. I usually provide the shrimp either as a Frogmore stew or as a steaming pile. Last year Laura Puccini brought a bushel of blue crabs and someone else brought a couple bushels of oysters. I hope they can do the same this year as we had a wonderful low country bash. I ask that you RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org to insure that I have enough shrimp. I will provide the location, tables, ice, soft drinks, plats and utensils. Any other contributions will be appreciated. It is scheduled for the last Saturday in March – The 26th at 2:00. Put it on your calendar as it is only 18 days away. DON’T FORGET TO RSVP AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.