Chilly Start To The Year

The cool weather still continues in Central Illinois.  Last week, it was in the mid-to-upper 40s.  However, this week is going to be different.  Even as I’m making the post today, it is 73 degrees out.  Very nice difference.

It has been very wet and cold.  We had another couple inches of rain last week.  The rain barrels are completely full – all 16 of them!  We don’t need any more rain for a little while – but we do need warm temperatures!

Which is exactly what we’ll get this week.  Tomorrow – they are saying about 84 degrees, 86 on Wednesday – then more rain and cooler temperatures the end of the week.

I managed to get out and get a few things done on Saturday.  Again, I was a little late.  On Saturday, I looked out the window and saw one of the cauliflower plants uprooted.  Upon further investigation, there were some deer tracks around it – and the leaves were completely plucked off.

Never fails.  I am a bit lazy at the beginning of the season to get the netting up around everything. Then when I have my first casualty from deer damage, then I get crackin.

I got the rest of the lettuce transplanted into the patio garden.  That allowed me to turn off another flourescent fixture downstairs and save 80 watts an hour.  I’m now down to only two light fixtures on at the germination station – keeping the tomatoes and pepper plants going.

Lettuce Plants

Over by the carrots – they are starting to pop up.  Because I didn’t painstakingly go through and seed each carrot individually like I have in years past, I will have some thinning to do.  Every year, I would take the end of a pencil and make small indentations in the soil – and drop one seed in each – then cover back up.  It would take at least an hour or more to do.  It was hard on the back – and just took way too long.

This year – again – being lazy – I just took the carrot seed and sprinkled it over the area and covered it up.  How long did it take?  Maybe five minutes.  The bed is a combination of Sugarsnax carrots and Danvers Half Long.

Carrots

Potatoes are coming up!  Yes they are.  Here is a picture of the Kennebec potatoes poking out of the ground.

Kennebec Potatoes

The peas behind the garage are coming up as well – better than those against the house.  That is just the opposite of how it always is.  The peas beside the house are usually always the first to sprout.  Not this time.  It seems there is a much larger percentage of the peas behind the garage are up compared to the house.

Cascadia Snap Peas

And finally making it to the front yard.  As you can see, I did a bit different with the netting this year.  The netting is about seven feet high – but when purchased at the store, it is folded in half.  So this year I am leaving it folded – to make a fence that is about 3.5 feet high.  I also used some of the rebar I had laying around instead of the white PVC pipe – so it isn’t as noticeable in the front yard.

Front Garden

And lastly – the old strawberry pyramids with the Ventura Celery and Easter Egg Radishes.  The radishes are doing very well – and it looks like almost every single one of them sprouted.

Easter Egg Radishes & Ventura Celery

That does it for this week!  Looks like it still will be a few more weeks before I can get the tomatoes and peppers transplanted outside.

Crazy Weather Week

This week was exceptional with the weather.  That is just how it is around Central Illinois during some parts of the season!  The weather last weekend was very nice.  Then, throughout this week, we saw well over three inches of rain.  It seemed to rain almost every single day of the week.

By the end of the week – on Friday – we woke up to very tiny ice pellets or hail.  The temperature was about 42 degrees out in the morning and about 44 degrees out when I got back home.  I took a picture of what it looked like after we had a good 10+ minute downpour of these “ice pellets”.  It was certanly something odd to see.

Ice Pellets

Also this week – the temperatures flirted with the freezing line.  It got down to about 32 degrees Friday night into Saturday morning.  Unfortunately, it did cause some damage to the broccoli and cauliflower plants out front.  Here is a picture of a broccoli plant with a little bit of frost damage on two leaves:

Broccoli with Frost Damage

Another partial casualty of the week was the carrot bed.  There are a few carrots that have managed to sprout – but because of the large amount of rain that we had, it caused some runoff of some of my great, well-screened soil in the carrot bed.  I guess that means I’ll have to add some more screened compost to the bed.

Carrot Bed Runoff

On the brighter side of things, there were some developments in the garden.  One such development is some volunteer Kennebec potatoes that came up in the side garden.  They poked out last week – but they still are going strong.  I just wonder if they’ll make any large potatoes.

Volunteer Kennebec Potato

And right next to that – the Cascadia Snap Peas are beginning to sprout.  Here are two little juniors right next to each other:

Cascadia Snap Pea Sprouts

Over in the lettuce patch, they have been hanging on for life.  One has been trying to battle back from almost complete death.  It is hard to see in the photo below (looks like a leaf almost), but at the bottom right, there is a very small lettuce plant that is trying to come back to life.  With the amount of rain that we got, I certainly thought it was going to drown out the little fella.

Lettuce Bed

Next – over by the old strawberry pyramids, I planted the Ventura Celery – and also seeded in some Easter Egg Radishes.  I was concerned about how deeply I planted the radishes – but to my disbelief, almost every single one of them have sprouted in both pyramid beds!  Below is a photo of one of the celery plants with a few radish seedlings just below it:

Ventura Celery

And for the final picture – it is the germination station.  The tomato plants are getting to be exceptionally too large to stay in their small containers – and under the lights.  Unfortunately the weather is not cooperating – so I cannot plant them outside.  The pepper plants are also doing mighty well – and some lettuce is also inching to get transplanted outside.

Germination Station

One final thought to close out – and that is regarding damping off and how to prevent damping off.  Over the years, I have been trialing some methods to prevent this.  My first year where I was using the germination station (probably back around 2008 or 2009), I was watering all of the seedlines from the top of the containers.  You know – each of the containers that you put the seeds in – whether they be peat pellets, the black six-packs, etc.  I was having such a bad time with some of the plants just dying – and never could find out why.

Well my discovery was something called damping off disease – and it does happen to a lot of gardeners out there.  The solution to the problem – and it has worked very well for the past couple of years – water from the BOTTOM, not the TOP!  I put all of my seed trays in larger black containers – as seen in the above photo on the left.  The tomatoes are sitting in a square planter – and the square planter is then in a larger black container.  I then fill these larger black containers with water.  As the plants need water, they suck the water up through the bottom holes in the planters.  This keeps them very well hydrated – and prevents any water from being done directly to the top.

Since I’ve began using this, damping off has almost been completely eliminated.  This year, I only lost a couple of Copra Onion seeds – somehow a green moss starting growing on the top around the onions – and it did cause a few casualties.  However, I didn’t lose ANY other seedlings this year.  Everything worked well.

The celery also loved the fact that water was always available.  They seemed to suck up a good amount of water every week – and I had to replenish the container with water.  Celery certainly need a lot of water – and that was definitely shown by the amount they were consuming each week compared to the other containers.

Happy gardening!

A Great Spring Week

It was a great week here in Central Illinois this year.  It was a bit on the cool side since we had a cold front come through.  But with that, we got about 1.5 inches of rain last Monday night.  That filled the rain barrels up – so we are all stocked and ready to go!

The germination station down in the basement is still going very well.  However, the tomatoes have almost got to the point where I cannot raise the lights anymore.  This year has been much cooler than usual – at least the spring.

Got several things done this week.  One of the first things that was done earlier in the week was to transplant the Ventura Celery outside.  Since we don’t have strawberries this year, I planted them in the old strawberry pyramids.  That way there is plenty of room for them to grow.

Ventura Celery

Surrounding the celery on the bottom tier are Easter Egg Radish seeds.  None of them have sprouted yet, however.  The radish seed was saved from some plants a few years back – so I’m anxious to see how well they germinate.  I think I may have planted the seeds too deep though – in some cases they were planted an inch or more.  Just will have to see if they sprout.  If not, I’ll re-seed.

I also put a good layer of some mulched-up leaves around the celery to keep the moisture in.  Celery need A LOT of water.  I was surprised to see just how much they were drinking when they were downstairs in the germination station.  I was filling a container up each week to keep them satisfied.

Over down by the flower bed, the daffodils are in full bloom.  Last weekend, I planted some Kennebec potatoes amongst them.

Flower Bed

Also this week – I transplanted six lettuce plants into the patio garden.  On the right side are two Simpson Elite plants.  Down the middle are the Red Salad Bowl – and finally on the left are two New Red Fire.  One of them may not make it – as it doesn’t look like it transplanted very well.

Lettuce

Then lastly – the front garden.  It was populated today with the Varsity Onions in the front.  Then there were six Snow Crown Cauliflower planted down the left side and then three each of Premium Crop Broccoli and Green Goliath Broccoli planted on the right side.

Front Garden

By getting those outside, that allowed me to turn off two of the five fluorescent light fixtures in the germination station.  Any savings on energy is good!

We are to get another full week of rain – according to the weather people.  This past week – they said rain everyday.  That didn’t quite happen – but at least we did get enough to fill the barrels up.

Warming Up in Central Illinois – 4-7-2013

We had a very nice weekend.  Yesterday it was a bit on the windy side, but it still got to over 70 degrees.  Today, I saw the temperature gauge outside hit about 75 degrees.  Very little wind today – and very sunny.

We celebrated our daughter’s first birthday yesterday – so we were quite busy with having family over.

After everyone left, I got outside and got the Cascadia Snap Peas sowed.  The garden beds don’t look like much right now, but these are the two areas that the Cascadia Snap Peas were sowed – alongside the house and behind the garage.

Side Garden

Back Garden

This year – I am not fully sure what else is going to go in the side garden (first picture above).  I did, however, go out today and plant about seven Kennebec potatoes in that spot – but it still leaves a good area to fill in.  Right near the bottom of the picture – by the garden hose – is another area.  Last year I put Sweet Basil there – but it did terrible.  We did Crimson Sweet Watermelon there the year before and we did get a few 13+ pound watermelons – but they didn’t seem to have a very sugary taste.

Behind the garage this year (just pictured above), the peas are going by the fencing that is right behind the garage.  Tomatoes will then be planted back here this year.  I rotated them between the side garden a couple years back – then to the front garden for the other two years.  Gotta keep a rotation of things.  Just hope that the deer will stay out of them!

Yesterday I also got the rain barrel system hooked back up.  I managed to break a 1/2-inch PVC pipe that comes down from the structure – but got had some spare parts and get it glued back together.

Rain Barrels

A few weekends ago, I got outside and got the grape vines all pruned back.  They were very unruly everywhere – and they got a big haircut.  In the picture below, you almost can’t even see any vines because they were pruned back quite a bit.

Just in front of the grape arbor are two strawberry pyramids.  Well, they lasted a couple of years – and last year saw the demise of all of the Tri-Star strawberries.  I’m not sure what to put in this area this year.  Maybe one broccoli plant in each of them – or something.  Just almost seems a waste to put one plant in each of these spots.

Grape Arbor

The front garden is going to be used for many purposes this year.  It doesn’t look like much now (pictured below) – but it will in a few weeks.  The Ventura Celery is already busting at the seams waiting to be transplanted – and so are the Varsity Onions.  They both wll go in the front garden along with four rows of Bush Blue Lake green beans.  Some California Wonder Peppers, Snow Crown Cauliflower, and Green Goliath Broccoli will also call the front garden home this year.

Front Garden

I really am beginning to miss the old house where we had a huge backyard and I could do anything I wanted – all in one very large garden.  This house – there just isn’t any space in the back at all.  So I had to build garden beds in the front yard.  But, they just don’t look all that great when they become filled with produce during the summer.  I’m really surprised that none of the neighbors have complained or said anything to me.  But, in the sake of respect (and possible resale), I am not going to be building anything more in the front yard.  It is already ‘junked’ up enough.

What else was done today?  Well, I had to do quite a bit of work on the carrot bed that sits on the driveway.  One side was really beginning to bow out towards the driveway.  The carrot bed is either three or four years old – and some of the wood that was holding it together broke loose.

So I had to dig the soil out from one side of the wood and cut some new pices to get it re-aligned.  I then sowed some Sugarsnax carrots and Danvers Half Long carrots.  Every year – up until this year – I used to go through with a pencil head and measure two inches apart in each direction – and sow one seed individually.  That took at least two hours every year.  This year, I decided I wasn’t putting that time into it.  I just sprinkled the seed throughout the bed – and just hope that everything comes up OK.

View from the front of the drivway:

Carrot Bed

View from the back:

Carrot Bed

I then used a light sprayer and sprayed down the area to give some moisture to the seeds.

What did the bed used to look like?  Well, below is a picture from last year.  You can see the difference between the pictures above and this picture – how the one side is bowed out:

Carrot Bed

The above picture doesn’t look terrible – but this year it was BAD.  The bow was at least twice as wide as it is shown above.

The next area is where all of the lettuce will be – and probably some radishes will be planted here very soon.  Looking pretty bare right now without anything in it.  This one is also sitting on the driveway – next to the patio.

Patio Bed

And we come down to the last photo.  This is against the road – our “flower bed” as it once was.  The daffodils are coming up and a few tulip leaves as well.  Today, I just got done planting about 35 – 40 Kennebec potatoes here.  Not great thinking on my part – but I didn’t have any other place to put the potatoes this year.  I’ve put them behind the garage for the past two years – but the tomatoes are going there this year.

When it comes time to digging up the potatoes, unfortunately the daffodil and tulip bulbs are probably going to be dug up too.  So, this is why it wasn’t very good thinking on my part.

Flower Bed

That does it for this week’s edition.  Maybe next week I can get some time to post as well.