Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bee on Sedum, Autumn Joy

Bee on Sedum, Autumn Joy, originally uploaded by tpl108.

Saturday, July 05, 2008


Echinacea, originally uploaded by tpl108.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Echinacea Purpurea Magnus

Cone Flower, originally uploaded by tpl108.

About ready to bloom.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Relay Cropping for Small Gardens

A fancy term for a simple concept, relay cropping involves growing a fast and quick-maturing crop alongside one that takes longer to mature. To maximize space, tomatoes and tomatillos -- tall plants that take a long time to mature -- are grown among salad greens that grow and mature quickly. The lettuce growing around the tomato plants keeps the weeds down and moisture in. With a week or two, the tomatoes begin to tower over the lettuce, allowing room for both. When the weather begins to warm up causing the tomatoes to take off, it's time to harvest the last remaining lettuce before it bolts and turns bitter. Picture: Sungold tomato growing among red sails lettuce.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Bleeding Heart

A perennial that's been unloved for a few seasons, it dies back in the summer and reemerges every spring.

Spinach Sprouts in Six Days; Spinach Day 6 (or 1?) (GDD 70)

Perhaps a bit late in the planting to planted, a stretch of warm weather ensured quick germination. We'll see how they do as the heat builds through the month of May.

Peas, Day 35 (GDD 70)

Lettuce, Day 15 (GDD 70)

Mesclun mix, red sails and buttercrunch, enclosed by loving chicken wire.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Forsythia Blossoms

Forsythia, originally uploaded by tpl108.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Protecting Vegetables from Frost

It's been spring for a little while, but it's cold as the dickens out there. Many vegetables, even the frost-hardy ones, can wither if it gets too chilly. An easy, if not exceedingly attractive, way to protect tender plants is by putting old Kahlua bottles, milk cartons, or even cardboard boxes over the top. From experience, I sleep better in cardboard than surrounded by Kahlua (though I do like Kahlua-soaked dreams) and I trust my plants feel the same. Seriously, corrugated cardboard works quite well. According to the experts, it's best to put your covers on before it get too cold and try to water your garden before doing so -- the extra water will prop up the temperature a bit.

Good list of the various frost tolerances for plants here.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Lettuce Planted (GDD 29)

Lettuce Transplants

Around these parts warm weather means shotgunning Miller High Life, moving my weight bench to the front yard, and planting frost-hardy leafy vegetables. Buttercrunch, mesclun, and red sails, one of last year's better performers were planted today.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Rhododenron Leaves & Flower Buds

Rhododenron Leaves & Flower Buds, originally uploaded by tpl108.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Daffodils Bloom (GDD 20)

Daffodil, originally uploaded by tpl108.

The first bloom came about a month after they peeked through the soil and about a week-and-a-half ahead of last year.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Super Snap Peas Sprout in 17 Days (GDD 12)

Pea Sprouts, originally uploaded by tpl108.

Planted on Easter Sunday, the first super sugar snap peas sprouted today. 17 days after planting, peas shoots emerged, which is on par with fellow Massachusetts gardener, Skippy's Vegetable Garden. Peas can be planted, as the expression goes, as soon as the soil can be worked. That's a bit imprecise, but mid-to-late March for Southern New England seems practical. Even though they can be planted early, early sowing is traded for long germination times. This chart illustrates the principle well.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Springtime on the Grange; Peony, Hydrangea, Azalea Break Dormancy (GDD 12)

Crocuses Rhododendron Mucronulatem "Cornell Pink" Hydrangea Macrophyla Leaf Paeonia lactiflora "Bowl of Beauty" Eye Bud Rhododendron Leaf Bud
(top: crocuses; bottom, clockwise: azalea buds, hydrangea leaf, rhododendron leaf bud, peony eyes emerge)

For the past week, spring peepers have provided the season's soundtrack from the pond a few hundred feet from the grange. Spring is in the ear, if not in the air.

The season's first peony eyes were spotted this morning. Purchased from Wal-Mart for a few bucks, Paeonia lactiflora "Bowl of Beauty" was planted in May 2007 after languishing for months in my basement before being rediscovered and planted. An instant malingerer, it never grew more than a few inches tall despite constant prodding, good schools, and the best private tutors. This year, it has put its humble beginnings behind it and has emerged far ahead of its more established counterpart in the other bed, "Sara Bernhardt," which didn't emerge until April 20 last year.

The bigleaf hydrangea macrophyllas, both the "bailmer" remontant and traditional varieties, have broken their winter dormancy. My traditional hydrangea - the kind that blooms on old wood - did not set any flowers last year and only 1 or 2 in 2006, whereas the remonant variety, which blooms on new wood put on a show all summer. This past winter wasn't quite as cold as last year's, allowing the traditional hydrangea to emerge a week sooner this year, so there might be hope for a least a few flowers.

In other corners of the garden, the Cornell Pink azalea (rhododendron mucronulatum) has started to leaf out. Crocuses continue to delight.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Useful Link: Growing Degree Day Maps


Faithful readers of this blog, all five of you including two inmates in a Hungarian penitentiary, know that I'm about as big into phenology as one could be. See?

Plants grow best at temperatures above 50 degrees. So, instead of looking at the calendar to see where your plants should be, it's better to see how often it's been above 50 degrees. Enter: the growing degree day, a rough calculation of how much the weather has been above 50. It's a useful indicator for gardeners because plants bloom, insects emerge, and celebrities wither at set phenological times. For instance, dandelions first flower at about 50 growing degree days, lilacs at about 238. (Kiddos - enter your phenological data here. Don't mention it to your friends. You'll surely remain dateless at prom if you do.)

Starting last year, all updates on this here "world wide web log" were keyed to GDDs, setting up comparisons (and fodder) for this year's posts.

The link below generates maps GDD across the county, allowing New Englanders to obtain a graphical representation of some of their poorer horticultural decisions as they covet gardens of warmer climes. GDD Maps.

Sources: U. Mass., U. Wisc. Penn St., Project Bud Burst

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Larkspur, Cornflower, and Poppies Started in Elegant Back of Garage Cutting Garden


It's time to sow seeds in my garden like a sailor on shore leave with just days to live. But, when exactly? The backs of seed packets are vague and often offer little guidance, so below is a bit more guidance gleaned from the internet.

With afternoon temperatures near 48, a new garden bed behind the garage was prepared. Gone are a bunch of hostas that were mere placeholders last season until a better idea was hatched. That idea now is a cutting garden. Larkspur, poppies, and cornflower were sown today as soil temperatures were around 38, but, at that temperature, germination could still be weeks away.

When: After last frost when ground is warm, although one site from Virginia Tech suggested late fall or early spring.
That's Neat: Needs oscillating temperatures of at least ten degrees. Germination is best with 80 degree days and 70 degree nights. Light is necessary for germination.
Sources: Garden Guide, Floridata, Plant Files, Virginia Tech, How Stuff Works, Goldsmith Seeds

Bachelor Button / Cornflower
When: 1 to 2 weeks before last frost.
Sources: Dave's Garden, Garden Guide, Virginia Tech Weed ID Guide

Corn Poppy "American Legion" Papaver rhoeas
When: As soon as soil can be worked.
Light: Full sun to partial shade.
Sources: Ovm-Seed, Dave's Garden, Taunton, Gardening Tips, Suite 101, Texas A & M, Michigan State,Iowa State, Purdue University (fantastic guide to all sorts of flowers), UC Riverside

Celosia Cristata / Celosia argentea "Pampas Plume"
When: Outdoors, when soil temp is about 60 F and all risk of frost has passed.
Sources: Texas A & M, Purdue University, U. of Md., Yankee Harvest, UVM

Larkspur Consolida ajacis
When: As soon as soil can be worked.
Light: Sun to partial shade
That's interesting: Poisonous if ingested, yet the genus, consolida, is a reference to its medicinal ability to heal wounds.
Sources: Garden Guide, U. Maryland, Texas A & M, U. Maryland, Colorado St., Brooklyn Botanic, Calendula and Concrete, Gardener's Network

Zinnia Zinnia elegans
When: After the danger of frost has passed and soil sufficiently warmed.
Sources: Virginia Tech, University of Kentucky, Iowa State, U. Wisconsin, U. Florida

Nasturtium Trapaeolum majus
When: After all danger of frost has passed.
That's neat: An aphid magnet, it's a good decoy to plant in vegetable gardens. Fully edible with a taste akin to watercress.
Sources: U. Kentucky, U. Wisconsin, Garden Guide, Texas A&M

General Sources
Seeds of Change, Seed Database from Hort Net

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Useful Freeze Outlook Maps

Frost on Thyme
Ignoring the snow flurries, frozen lakes, and little dogs swaddled in ridiculous sweaters, northern gardeners have been known to push the boundaries of spring. For those eager folks, here's a useful map from Intellicast that identifies areas subject to freezing and frosty temperatures.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Super Sugar Snap Peas Planted (GDD 6)

Super Sugar Snap Peas, originally uploaded by tpl108.

The soil in the raised bed warmed to 40 degrees, prompting me to plant the first crop of the season - Burpee's Super Sugar Snap Peas. Having great success with plain sugar snaps last year, a full 8' row of peas were planted. Following Jim Crockett's advice -- if you're stingy with your peas, they'll be stingy with you -- seeds were liberally spread. Wise words. Wise man.

Righting last year's improper citing of the raised bed, the bed was moved 30 feet east a bit south to take better advantage of the sun. During the height of summer last year, the bed received as few as four hours of direct sunlight, which lead to less-than-impressive yields.

Also, a quick soil test showed that my soil is slightly alcaline and depleted of nutrients.

Sources: Deirdre's Garden Diary, Growing and Caring for Peas, Capital District Community Gardens