Thursday, April 25, 2013

"What's Going On" in the Garden...

Finally, as seen above, our garden is catching up and beginning to take shape. Thankfully, Spring 2013, was a season. For several years, it went from winter to summer (cold to hot) but this Spring has been cool and warm and I am certainly not complaining!

However, garden wise, we tend to remember the failures and successes from a few years past and plant accordingly.

The potatoes are beginning to grow (seen above is a row of red), best for boiling and adding to a pot of green beans or a crab boil. This is a short row, the long row (half red/half white) look just as good.

The leeks on the right, Deberah planted from seed last year can be thinned out and the ones we pull cooked now. On the left is kale, a cool weather green that will be ready soon for sauteing or add to a healthy shake.

Pictured above is a row of carrots, hard to see now, but by fall, they should be big enough to store bunches in the fridge. Jerry and I worked half a day hoeing, fertilizing and mulching last week. Luckily, too, Spring 2013 has provided adequate rain saving us from watering.

Our lettuce is so sweet. You can't buy this in a bag at the grocery store.

The strawberries are blooming and we should be able to enjoy produce in several weeks. I bought a flat at Lowe's last year, but to be honest, I should have researched the varieties. These are not ever bearing and may only produce one season, per year. I'm hoping the flavor makes it worth the time.

Last year the sugar peas were three times this size at the end of April. We used the same fence as last year for the trellis. Just shows the difference in seasons and placement. It's a good idea to rotate crops every year.

Although, not pictured we also have several rows of "Rattlesnake" green beans, twelve tomato plants (so far) and at least six rows of squash coming up. Our two rows of cucumbers haven't sprouted and may need to be replanted.

As Marvin Gaye sang it, so well, that's, "What's Going On" in the garden this week. I'll be hoeing to that song for a while!

Until Next Time......

Happy Gardening 2013!

Posted by Wilma Smith

Friday, April 19, 2013

Raise the Bar -- No Raise the Bed

If you're not inclined to till a garden spot, try building raised beds like Mike and Dianne (my neighbors and fellow gardeners) to grow your veggies and herbs. They are improving their outdoor living space while saving time and money at the grocery store this year, as well as, future seasons.

Although the initial cost of building supplies, soil, seed or plants hit your pocket in the beginning, later benefits kick in and you're glad the investment was made.

Mike and Dianne chose to make four, 2X6' beds, as seen above. The corner posts were approximately a foot in height. Rather than landscape ties or other material wood materials, Mike chose decorative planks that blended more with his new slate table and brick patio.

Lowe's had garden soil on sale the week-end they bought supplies. They bought peat moss and manure to mix into the top layers of their beds. Dianne bought tomato seeds, onion sets and other favorites, grew them inside in February to plant in the beds once completed. 

Their dog Copper (a Redbone-Lab Mix) loved helping Mike every minute in the back yard constructing the beds!

Prior to securing the beds and adding the soil, Mike placed plastic tarp underneath to prevent unwanted weeds. Note, water can drain through the type of protection he used under his beds.

Copper post tops were placed on each corner of their raised beds matching the copper squares in their new slate table, umbrella set.

Copper, worked so hard helping Mike and Dianne, he needed a drink from the bird bath. I think he had a lot of influence on this project (Copper, what do you think?)

Mike and Dianne, raised the bar in their backyard by adding raised beds to their outdoor living space. I can't wait till they ask me over for dinner to include some of those fresh veggies, they cook on the grill.

There are lots of advantages in using this method of gardening:

    *Easier to maintain a planting schedule
    *Easier to weed
    *Less traffic from animals & humans
    *Control soil & fertilizer
    *Saves time
    *Less stress on bones & joints
    *Lots more, especially, if you build one

Until next time.......

Happy Gardening 2013!

Posted by Wilma Smith

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Color "Pops" with Azaleas

If your yard needs some color in spring try adding azaleas or rhododendrons bushes for a "pop!" The photos on today's blog were taken at my mom's and as you can see, the colors are brilliant from her every window.

Azaleas are a member of the "Rhododendron" family, as well as, the  evergreen"Tsutsuji" and deciduous "Pentanthera." families. They are native to Asia, Europe and North America, but amazingly, can be traced back 70 million years ago to the "Ericaceae" family which includes, rhododendrons, blueberries and pieris. Asian monks in Buddhist Monasteries first began to cultivate, grow and develop the hundreds of colors, sizes and species we can buy today at our local garden outlets.

Both azaleas and rhododendrons do best in moist acidic soil, just like the wood's dirt surrounding my mom's house. They like dappled sunlight, you find in or around the edge of woods.

Coral azaleas are planted at the back of mom's deck. Chinese culture calls it, "thinking of home bush," good name for Merl's yard.

Azaleas are slow-growing and once established take little fertilizer or care, maybe pruning, depending on the location. When planting, always break up the root ball first and insure the hole is several sizes bigger than the initial pot. Plus add peat moss, rich soil and especially some loving care.

This red azalea bush is one of mother's smallest.

Although, azaleas and rhododendrons are in the same family, azaleas blooms and leaves are smaller and usually have only one blossom per stem, however, colors and sizes vary depending on the species. 

The white azalea bushes are the last to bloom. Always wait to prune any blooming bush until after it stops blooming, plus, cuttings are the best method to propagate and add to your azalea collection. 

In the northern hemisphere azaleas bloom in spring while in the southern hemisphere they bloom in winter and especially in the southeastern United States, we celebrate the "Pop"  of their color with lots of festivals.

Valdosta, Ga., Mobile, Ala., Norfolk, Va., Wilmington, N.C. and Palatka, Fla. are the most well known for southeastern "Azalea Festivals" in the late March and April.

Let's don't forget the infamous "Master's" golf tournament (happening this week) in Augusta, Georgia. And of course last but not least, Callaway Gardens.

In 1930, Cason and Virginia Calloway discovered a color "pop" of bright orange-red native azaleas on a picnic that led to a family tourist attraction known as "Calloway Gardens," comprised of 13,000 acres today, anyone can enjoy. A little "pop" of color can go a long way!

Until Next Time.........

Happy Gardening 2013!

Posted by Wilma Smith

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Cool Weather/Rain Delays Planting

Since this March has been a little cooler than normal (who knows what's normal), we had to delay our usual Spring garden time table for planting warmer crops until this week. Added to the delay was the wonderful rain we've experienced, too. I will never complain about rain! If possible, we try to have most summer plants in the ground before or on Good Friday.

But as you can see above, we did break ground this Tuesday, even though our garden spot for my preference needed more sun.

However our leeks from last fall are beginning to grow. Deberah planted these from seed last spring, so we knew it would take a season before any would be ready for the stove (hopefully late summer).

We also ate lettuce all winter. There were volunteers from last spring we transplanted to our fall lettuce bed, plus, we planted more seeds this Spring among the mature plants.

How do you know when the soil is too damp to plant seeds? It's an easy test, take a handful of dirt, make a fist, if it clumps into a ball then let it dry a bit. This simple test can also tell you about your gardens' drainage, condition of your soil like too much clay requiring additives like compost, sand or leaves to correct the problem.

We turned ours to let the sun dry it out, as we really don't have a drainage problem, just eager Spring beavers.

We did plant some cool weather crops in February, as seen above, turnip greens. Sugar peas, beets, red and yellow onions, bok choy, kale, carrots, radish, shallots, red and white potatoes, plus a bag of elephant garlic (bought at the Southeastern Flower Show) are beginning to break the ground and see the sky.

Jerry worked Monday morning tilling rows needed for our warmer crops, but when the soil looked so damp, we let the sun do it's job to dry them out. The next day we got busy, after lunch planting cucumbers, green beans, spinach (cooler weather plant), and six kinds of squash.

I really prefer the soil to be a lot drier before planting seeds. But who am I to question "Mother Nature?" I always think about years past when gardeners used a mule and plow to turn their gardens and especially see TV movies where the dirt looks damp and clumpy in thses plots the harvests always look good. Hey, obviously, we all made it here without the "Troy-Built" and perfect soil!

Don't worry, if the cool weather or rain has delayed your garden or yard plans. There's still plenty of time to plant a vegetable garden, shrubs, trees and flowers in your yard. This week-end looks like a great opportunity with sun and temps in the 70s.

Gardening is an ever changing experiment. What we think is usual is only for that year's season and may change your plans the next season.

Until next time...........

Happy Gardening 2013!

Posted by Wilma Smith