Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Spring Garden Record - 2013

It is time to start some plants growing indoors. If you live in the south, you may be able to sow cold crops now, but here in the north, we still have snow on the ground, and several inches of snow in the forecast. But the icy grip of winter is steadily loosening, and there is a hint of spring with day time temps above freezing, and some of the early spring flower heads poking through the snow.

March 1, 2013 - The glory of spring is coming.

To properly prepare, the gardener will be ready to plant some cold crops indoors, and be ready to transplant these outside in a month or so. For our area, the last frost date is mid May, and I watch the forecast, and sometimes sneak out a few days early. Sometimes we get a surprise frost, but a night cover will keep the plants alive if the frost is not hard.

Now is the time to decide what you will plant where in your garden this year. Make up a garden plot plan, and remember rotations if you are able to get two or three cycles of growth into your season.

March 8, 2013 - 5 flats of early starter plants. Some are 3" tall. I put a fan on them some this afternoon to strengthen their stems.

April 19, 2013 - Our indoor tomatoes and pepper plants are getting big even for the gallon containers they have been transplanted into! We are close to flowering stage on the tomatoes, and we are seeing some lower leaf wilt and death. This seems different than we have seen before, and is most pronounced in the carbon black tomatoes. Perhaps just a weakness of the heirloom variety, and the challenges of growing under lights and house temps. We had some snow fly today, but it did not stick. Lows predicted down to 31 degrees for the next two nights. Spring will come, but it is taking its time this year!

In our area we are now about 4 to 5 weeks till our last frost date, and this next week I plan to start tomatoes, peppers, egg plant and beans.

Note our Fava Beans have seemed slow to come up, but today they are poking their bean leaves above the soil!

Also a side note, we expect honey bee packages to arrive May 7, to enlarge our honey bee hives. Lots of rain the past few days, and our water catchment tank is almost full.

April 22, 2013 - We planted into the field 10 bundles of onion plants. This averages to 500 onion plants, in 3 rows. Since we bought the local stores out, we may plant another two rows later. I wish we could find a lower cost per bundle. These cost around $3.50 per bundle.

May 9, 2013 - Planted 50# in 5 rows of small Yukon Gold potatoes (1 foot apart, rows 90 feet long), and planted 50# in 2 rows of large Red potatoes. We did not cut the red potatoes this year. Actually our getting red's was a mistake. We found the YG to be a much better keeper than the Red potatoes. It started to rain as we were covering the potatoes, and it was nice to get all wet out in the rain.

Plants are growing well in the greenhouse. It does get quite hot in there when sunny. I will keep you posted how that goes. We may need to use some shade cloth.

Chitting some seeds this evening for planting tomorrow. Purchased 12 new pullets. (We have lost several laying chickens to a local fox, who has been visiting and collecting rather regularly. More on that soon, as we have to figure out how to make the run as secure as the coup.)

May 22, 2013 - Planted 8 hills of watermelon from among the fruit trees. This area of the garden is heavily mulched, so we pulled back the mulch and made a hill for the two plants each hill. Planted 90 ft of sweet potatoes under 3' wide black plastic. We obtained two varieties of sweet potatoes: 50 slips of Beauregard, and 50 of O'Henry, and planted them about 10" apart along the row. Packages of honey bees arrive tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


2013 is the year of the legume for our micro farm. We have a large planting of fava beans which are now starting to flower. In addition, we have planted a large number of other legumes for experimentation this year. Our varieties include:

  • Corn Bean
  • Cherokee Trail of Tears
  • Hidatsa Red Indian
  • Rattlesnake Pole
  • Tarbias Pole

  • Blue Lake
  • Fava
  • Purple Hull Speakled
  • Purple Hull Pinkeye Cowpea
  • Six Week Purple Hull Cowpea
  • Soya Bean Envy
  • White Rice
  • White Whippoorwill Cowpea

Legumes are excellent sources of protein. They are the primary source of protein for vegetarians like our family. They also have the wonderful ability to associate with bacteria and fix nitrogen into the soil. You can use legumes as a cover crop to increase nitrogen content and build humus matter in the soil.

As we harvest the legume crop, I will add to this article a more "complete" variety description, and confirm or update what others have written. I will also add images and try to give an idea of yield per foot row of planting.

These legume seeds were obtained through Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Freeze Protection

On Monday morning, May 13, 2013, we likely had our last hard frost of this spring. To celebrate, we brought out all our laundry to cover the sensitive perennials and fruit trees. At one point, one of the boys said, Hey! This sheet was on my bed!

Late spring frost is a concern for fruit trees (ours were in full bloom), blooming strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and grapes.

Small plants can often be sheltered with an overturned 5 gallon bucket. The strawberries are low to the ground, and we just placed a tarp over the row/bed and secured the corners with buckets filled with water.

Our temps dropped from 31 degrees F at 6 am when I went out to check on things to 28 degrees F just before the sun hit the earth to warm it around 8:30 am. The sky was clear and wind calm. We had the classic radiation frost conditions.

A thin sheet is often enough to prevent frost formation on tender plant tissues, and preserve the harvest. This is possible with several hours of work on a micro farm like ours, but impractical for large farms. Local strawberry fields started irrigation the evening prior, and had an inch of protective ice on the plants by the time the temps rose.

Our 10 day forecast now stretches to May 24, with no danger of frost. The charts show our 10% probability frost date at the end of May, so I think we are fairly safe to set things out of the greenhouse into the field. If I am wrong, then we will have even more things to cover next time ;)


Thursday, May 9, 2013


I see one of my draft articles has come of age - and published itself without my ever finishing it! (Sorry for those of you who came and saw it in its rather raw form!)

Now that most areas of the USA are warm enough for planting, we need to think some about getting the crops to grow. I do not suggest adding a lot of fertilizer at the time you plant so your new plants will not be burned by intense amount of fertilizer. What is perfect is to add manures long in advance of planting. Even better, you could allow the manures age in a compost pile where they will break down and then be ready for use in the garden.

Fertilizers generally focus on adding nitrogen to plants during the growing season, but could address the addition of any needed substance for growth. For now, let''s focus on the addition of nitrogen to your garden plot.

A garden generally needs around 60 lbs of available nitrogen per acre over a growing season. Nitrogen can come from a variety of sources, generally of plant origin, or bacteria fixing nitrogen in conjunction with plants (legumes for example). I have started Fava beans this year, and look forward to this plant adding nitrogen to the soil for subsequent crops to use. There are so many good things to say about Fava, and I still wonder why I have not grown them before!

There are three ways to add nitrogen to your garden:
  1. Cover crops, especially nitrogen fixing crops
  2. Adding compost and manures
  3. Chemical fertilizers (ammonia compounds)

The first option seems to be the best. There are a lot of nice things to be said about manuers, but you may introduce new weed seeds to your garden. The least favorite of the three I put last. If not done properly, chemical fertilizers can sterilize your soil. The organic gardener wants to feed the micro organisms, which will in turn feed your crops. So take care when adding chemicals to your garden.

Following are some misc notes that for some reason I thought were earth shaking when I started this article some time ago:

There are 16 tablespoons per cup. Many commercial power fertilizers suggest using one tablespoon per gallon of water for fertilizing plants. In a 5 gallon bucket, this would be 5 T per bucket. To get ½ Tablespoon per gallon, put 2.5 T into a 5 gallon bucket.

So, did you do a soil test, and therefore do you know what your garden needs this year? Cheers for a fertile garden!