Thursday, June 1, 2017

Early June Update - Part 1


With all the rain we’ve had this spring, things are growing at breakneck speed – not the least of which are the weeds!  Our mild winters in the past couple of years have also been a bit of a curse as I firmly believe that they’ve resulted in weedier and buggier growing seasons.  Even previously well-behaved ornamentals on the north side of our house such as sweet woodruff and lily-of-the-valley have become aggressive in their spread.

As is usually the case each year, I went from being on top of things in the early spring to falling behind - now I'm playing catch up.  There have already been some setbacks in the veg garden but, overall, things are looking good. 

In this post, I'll concentrate on what's happening in Area #1 and first up are the tomatoes.  I’ve reduced the number of tomato plants I'm growing this year from 28 to 24 (which I spoke about HERE) and am spreading them out over 3 beds.  One side of each bed holds tomatoes, while the other is planted up with a different companion (eggplant, basil or beans).

Tomatoes (right) partnered with eggplant

As you can see above, the tomato transplants this year were nothing to write home about.  They grew much more slowly than usual but what made this especially odd was that the eggplant and peppers grew significantly larger than in the past.  My first thought was that this may have to do with the grow lights as tomatoes/eggplants/peppers all grew on different levels of the light stand.  I know you are technically supposed to replace the fluorescent tubes every year or two but, being the frugal person that I am, I haven’t done that so some lights may be significantly weaker than others.  Replacing the tubes is now on the to-do list.

The allium bed in Area #1 is doing quite well.  Thankfully, it didn't have any of the cutworm and/or bird issues that the bed in Area #2 did.

Onions in the foreground with shallots at the back

I attempted an early round of spinach this spring – and it was a bust...again:

Spinach bed just before pulling

I did everything right, as far as timing was concerned, and there were few germination issues.  We did have a coolish spring and, although spinach likes it cool, perhaps it was a bit too cold for it to put on a good amount of growth.  The bed needed to be cleared for the tomatoes so all I ended up getting for my efforts was just over ¾ lb of baby spinach.  Better than nothing, but too much work to be worth the effort.

Total spinach harvest

The spinach would likely have done better if it was grown in a cold frame or poly tunnel, which is something to consider for the future.  One other option would be to grow them in a bed that doesn’t need to be cleared until mid to late June.

Another bed that did poorly this spring was the early brassica bed.  Last year, it was so successful (see this post) and I’m thinking that, once again, our cool spring weather had a lot to do with it.

Everything grew at a snails pace and most of the greens were still tiny in late May when I needed to get the bed cleared:

Spring brassica bed before harvest

The radishes were probably half the size they should have been, but they were still harvestable (middle-right of photo).  The baby choi, on the other hand, was practically microscopic (bottom-right).

Radish harvest
Lots of sluggy nibbles; the result of our very wet spring

The one halfway decent (although by no means stellar) harvest was the rapini:


I tried to salvage some of the other greens by transplanting them to a bed on the hilltop – the arugula didn’t take kindly to the move and quickly bolted but the claytonia and mache are hanging in there.

This year, I wanted to grow more legumes so there are 3 full beds and several half beds dedicated to them.

In bed #2, I’m growing two new varieties of fava, Aquadulce and Witkiem-Monica, as well as a couple of climbers, both of which are also new to the garden - Mammoth Melting snow peas and Queen Anne black-eyed peas.

Favas with snow peas at the top left; the beans are newly sown

The 2nd legume bed is all about bush varieties, primarily dried bush beans  (which were sown this week) but I’ve also included a spot for Oregon Sugar Pod snow peas, which really impressed me last year:

I actually forgot about these initially,
so they are a couple of weeks behind the other peas

The shelling peas occupy half of Bed #6 with cucumbers/tromboncino squash planted down the other side.

Cucumber/squash/pea bed

The cucumber seedlings were a huge failure, as is pretty obvious from the above photo.  We had some very bad winds this spring and a few times I forgot to bring the transplants indoors when they were hardening off.  Out of all the seedlings, the cucumbers suffered the most.  They were just barely hanging in there when I transplanted them and quickly succumbed.  I’ve since pre-germinated some more seeds, which were sown directly into the bed yesterday.

The shelling peas had spotty germination, especially the Aladdin.  Take a look at this view - Sabre was sown in the top half of the bed while Aladdin was sown on the bottom.

Big germination difference between Aladdin (bottom) and Sabre (top)

I recall having the same issue last year.  When I looked at my notes, however, it was reversed with Aladdin having better germination.  Strange.

The carrot bed (seen at the top of the 1st cucumber/pea bed photo) is being planted up in two parts this year.  The first section was sown this past week and will be for summer/fall harvest.  The second, larger section will be sown in late June and harvested in October for winter storage.  The newly seeded area is covered with Agribon to keep it moist until the tiny seeds start to germinate.

One change to Area #1 is the herb bed.  It was previously planted up with annual herbs such as basil and dill but also contained a few perennials (thyme, sage, chives).  The problem was that this bed was shallow, being built from only one level of 2x6’s, so I kept having issues with grass invading the bed.  It was impossible to remove from amongst the perennial herbs, so I decided to pull everything up.  This will now become an ornamental bed and I’ve planted it up with numerous annuals that I grew from seed this year:

Transplanted last week:
Calendula, coleus, alyssum, strawflowers, cosmos and tithonia

At the bottom of the bed are some self-seeded calendula from last year which I’ve already thinned a bit.  I'll be doing another round of thinning but otherwise I'm leaving them alone to see how they do.  The only herb that will continue to grace this bed is the parsley; you can just barely make out the two seedlings that I transplanted in the bottom left and top right corner of the bed.

I didn’t have the time to figure out ideal spacing for the annuals so I decided to roughly space them all at 6” apart.  I also tried to place the taller plants in spots where they won’t shade out the shorter ones – or where they will, in the case of coleus which will probably enjoy a bit of shade.

The annual herbs (basil, dill, cilantro) will now be grown in the main veg beds.  As for the perennial herbs, I’ll be starting from scratch with new plants and am planning on incorporating them into an ornamental border that is currently in the works.

Last year, I built a small bed next to the shed and it has also been planted up with ornamentals:

A variety of zinnias, calendula, tithonia, coleus are planted up in this spot

I’m not sure how well this combination of flowers will do here as this bed faces north, but I’m using it as a learning experience.  So long as the pollinators and I end up enjoying a few (or more!) flowers, I'll be happy.

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things” ~~ Robert Brault

20 comments:

  1. Wow, your eggplants look massive. And the allium, peas, and fava bean beds look great. It's too bad you had such a cool spring which put things behind. But I get a feeling everything will jump into action now that it's warmed up. And tomato plants are so vigorous they'll catch up in no time.

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    1. I've never had such big eggplant transplants - almost made up for the tomatoes :) But I totally agree - Even when my tomato transplants do well, they always look a bit sad when I plant them in the bed. But it doesn't take long for them to settle in and go from tiny to massive in no time flat.

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  2. I was forever playing catch up when I had my allotment. You only need to get a little behind and you never seem to be on top of things again all season. The onion bed's looking great. I think I find alliums the most amazing of all veg, seeing how something resembling a blade of grass goes on to produce what it does.

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    1. I always tell myself that this will be THE year that I am caught up all season long. And then something happens or another project gets added to the list and my plans are out the window. Maybe on day :) And I completely agree with you on alliums - people are often surprised that I grow them and wonder why as they are so readily available and inexpensive. I always tell them to try it as I bet they will get hooked if they do.

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  3. I noticed that the things I planted early between the new strawberry plants have lived but hardly grown. I am wondering too if it was not enough warm weather. My radishes were small also. Nancy

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    1. I think the cool weather has set many of our gardens back this spring - hopefully things improve as we move into summer!

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  4. I'm always amazed at your yields and the extent of your edible gardens. They look pretty, too! It's funny: You talk about reducing the number of tomato plants, but I only have four in my limited-sun garden. I'm jealous of your sunny spaces! Overall, though, the perennials are lush and growing fast here, while the warm-weather annuals and veggies are slow to get going with all the cool days and whipping winds. I'm hoping they'll take off now that the temps are more summery.

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    1. Oh, thank you Beth - you may be jealous of my sun but I'm jealous of all the diversity in your garden! The veg areas are, in all honesty, a bit of a mess, especially the pathways. Too much grass and too many weeds keep popping through. I'm hoping that this will be the year when I finally get them under control. I am expecting a BIG load of mulch next week which should make for a good start.

      Lets keep our fingers crossed for some calmer, warmer weather for both of us in the weeks to come :)

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  5. Your spring weather sounds very similar to ours. We've had a decent amount of rain but when it rains, it pours and is really hard on the plants. I'm impressed with all you are growing! We've got tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and herbs. I still haven't gotten the squash and cucumbers in the ground. That is on the to do list this weekend.

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    1. It seems perfect weather is elusive no matter where you live! I've planted up everything except for the squash and melons that are going in the straw bales. As with everything else, the bales are taking longer to get to a plantable state.

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  6. We seem to see saw between being on top of things and being behind and playing catch up. It all seems to be very weather dependent.
    We sowed Oregon sugar snap peas this year but germination rate has been very poor and as they have germinated seedlings have suffered very badly from weevil damage as they have grown very slowly. The common Onward peas have done well though.

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    1. You are so right - so much of what can and can't be done is based on the weather. But once I fall behind, I find it difficult to catch back up. I'm not exactly sure what the story is with the pea germination as some rows looked ok while others have several plants missing all in a row. I'm wondering if something got to them or the seeds.

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  7. I put off changing my fluorescent light bulbs for a number of years, and it seemed to be affecting my plants too. I changed them out this year before the seedling season began and it really seemed to help. I put in cool white bulbs, which were a bit cheaper than the full spectrum type which came with my light stand and seem to work just fine.

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    1. I'm using cool whites as well as I can't really justify spending a lot more for the proper grow lights. I don't think they would make much of a difference for growing seedlings anyhow.

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  8. Just wanted to mention that I've had good luck with following spinach with winter squash. I leave spots in the bed where the squash will go when I plant spinach in the spring, then plant squash seeds in the spots once it is warmer. The spinach is on its way to bolting at the point the squash starts taking off and needs the room.

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    1. Now I had never thought of that...what a great idea - thanks! I've made a note for the future.

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  9. Gosh, I've never changed my light bulbs! I run T5s and I have no idea if they need to be changed as regularly. I'll have to look that up.
    We had a particularly cold spring as well and everything likewise has grown at a snail's pace. I actually forgot that I have spinach, chard, and radishes because they hardly grew at all.
    I'll have to try the Oregon Sugar Snap peas. Whatever I planted this year haven't tasted that great.

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    1. I tend to second-guess myself when things go wrong, trying to figure out if I did something wrong so it's reassuring when others indicate that the freakishly cool spring is impacting their garden as well.

      I also read somewhere that T5s don't lose their intensity very much over their lifetime compared to regular florescents (which is what I have), so you may be ok. I'm actually hoping to switch out mine to T5s and this may be a good excuse.

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  10. Your garden looks great, even if you are in catch-up mode. I'm thinking that you should run with the baby spinach thing, just plant lots of it and harvest it all young. I got seeds from Renee's for a baby spinach called 'Regiment' for a quick spring crop, but I got way behind also this spring and never got around to sowing it.

    I just pulled out the Aquadulce and Extra Precoce Violetto favas yesterday. The Aquadulce plants got to be as tall as me! It will be interesting to see how big they get in your garden.

    Peas are funny, I have the same issues with germination and survival rates, there doesn't seem to be any consistency from one variety to another. And that's something that I didn't get around to sowing this spring either!

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    1. I am enjoying the baby spinach leaves in sandwiches and salads so I may very well try that next year.

      You had such a wonderful haul of favas this year! I've got my fingers crossed on mine as I've seen black aphids on a few and the ants are busy tending their crop. I'm going to try insecticidal soap to see if that helps.

      What I don't understand about pea germination is that there always seems to be a lot of large gaps in the rows and it's not spread out - very strange.

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