30 October 2009

Yet More Vegetable Gardening

I've been researching vegetable gardening a lot lately. I'm trying to get organized so I can have a year-round garden. I attempted this a year ago, but I had less experience. I've learned a lot since then - like the difference between long-day and short-day onions. I also tended to get sidetracked with other gardening projects) I wanted to plant pumpkins for Halloween, but I missed the early-July planting time), but this year I HAVE A PLAN. It's a vegetable gardening chart I compiled from fact sheets at the Clemson Extension's Home and Garden Information Center. There are charts that tell you when to plant in your region, fertility needs, which varieties do well in South Carolina and which family they belong to, so you can do proper crop rotation. I pared down some of the information to suit my needs. There are many vegetables I don't plan to grow, so I deleted those.

This will give me a schedule to stick to - I've even ordered my first set of seeds from Park Seed tonight - onion seeds I want to try and lettuce and spinach for several plantings through the winter and spring. I've got at least two places I know that I can get onion sets and potatoes from when the time comes, so I feel that I am off to a good start. I hope I can keep up the momentum.

21 October 2009

More Fall Vegetable Gardening

Fall is definitely in the air. We've had some unexpected cold nights in the past week. The first morning I worried about my plants - especially the tender houseplants that have been outside since the Spring, and the plant swap stuff that are still sitting in the driveway. We've had more cool nights - mid to high forties - and everything have been fine, though it has gotten me to think about what I plant to do with these plants during the winter. I even dreamed that the temperature dropped to 20ยบ and all my plants died!

I've collected numerous houseplants and tender succulents since the Spring, and the reckoning is coming soon. Most of these I picked up off the street, their owners having abandoned them, so I wouldn't be losing out financially, but I'd hate to see these plants that I "rescued" die. Last year I had some metal shelves that I wrapped in clear plastic that I bought at Dollar Tree. It was quite thin, but it was large enough to double up, and when it got too cold, like last winter, I threw some old quilts over it at night. I ended up losing a lot of succulents I was propagating for the Spring Plant Swap. This year I'd like to get some thick plastic sheeting and line the garden storage/greenhouse area and possibly wrap shelves again.

Yet another garden injury!

Despite having sliced my toe pretty good Tuesday morning - first my hand, now my foot - I managed to get a lot done around the yard on Wednesday. Robin said she was planning to do laundry on Tuesday and I wanted her to wash my garden gloves - I started wearing gloves since my last accident. I had replied to a post on Craigslist last week - someone wanting help in their yard in exchange for plants. I couldn't pass that up - free plants and something to blog about. So, while I was out in the yard around six in the morning looking for my gloves, I stepped on something that sliced down the side of my big toe. I cleaned it and put a band-aid on it and called work. I really thought I would be fine in a couple of days.

Of course I had to cancel my plans to work in someone else's yard for plants. After getting a good look at her list of plants, it wasn't that disappointing to miss out. Several of the plants I already had - hidden ginger, taro, canna. She had a few varieties of canna that I wanted for a bed I might make over the winter.

I had Wednesday off and I really didn't go back to the doctor - "you again?" I limped around on Tuesday, but after walking the dogs in the evening, it really hurt. We thought we might go to the doctor on Wednesday, but my toe felt pretty good in the morning. Robin was insistent that I be sure I could go to work on Thursday. She suggested I walk around the block and see how I feel. If it hurt after that, then we would go to the doctor, but it felt pretty good.

I planned to try to work in the yard. I had a long list so I started with the easiest stuff and thought I would see how I felt. I ended up doing almost everything on my list. We've got a few stumps that keep sprouting and I keep cutting them back. I've tried various things - salt, vinegar, etc - to kill them but but nothing has worked. The next thing I'm going to try is smothering them with black trash bags - no light and no water will kill them hopefully. We've got oaks and maples in our azalea hedges that I've been meaning to do that to.

I finished planting all the vegetables for the Fall. I planted (more) onions and lettuce in the raised bed and broccoli and garlic in one of the beds out front. I seemed to do ok this past Spring with broccoli, but there just wasn't enough - and the last of it bolted when we were out of town. (Doesn't that sound like it ran away while we were gone?) I have 18 plants this time, so we'll see how much we actually get.

I had a little trouble with onions in the Spring. The sets were planted all the in the ground, meaning the bulbs were completely covered, and not in a raised bed. We had a few heavy rains in the Spring and some of the onions didn't like all that wet clay soil. Last Summer I sa my neighbor, Mr. Hiers, had his onions planted almost right on top of the soil, so the only thing in the ground were the roots. It looked like he had a pretty good crop. I'm trying it his way this time. I'm sure it will be an improvement over last time, especially in the raised bed.

The last thing I planted was garlic. I've never grown it before, but I thought I would give it a try. I bought three garlic bulbs and peeled them and broke off the cloves. They tell you to plant only the biggest ones, but I figured I would plant all of them and see what happens. I have the 10-12 larger cloves in one area out front and then I put the rest of them behind them. probably 15-20 more. They won't be ready to harvest until summer so it's really an investment of time and space. Robin's excited as well. She's never cooked with garlic cloves before, so we'll both be learning something new.

I have one more thing to mention - I got a free pineapple plant off craigslist today. It was posted a few days ago, but it was crazy trying to get up with this person to actually get it. I finally had to go to her house today and get it. She's been trying to give one to someone else in my neighborhood, so I volunteered to hold it for this guy to pick up at our house. We'll see if he actually comes to get it. I might end up with two.

09 October 2009

Fall Vegetable Garden

I finally started planting my fall vegetable garden. I went a long time without having anything in the ground, so I'm trying to catch up. My raised bed is finished for the most part and full of compost. This past week I bought onion sets - yellow and white - and some broccoli plants. I looked for lettuce plants, but the ones I saw were real leggy. I'll try again this weekend, and I'll also look for lettuce seeds and spinach seeds.

The feed store where I bought the onions, sold them either by the pound or half pound. With a lot of things, a pound doesn't sound like very much to me, but when it comes to onion sets, it is. I think I planted close to fifty onions so far and I haven't even put a dent in them. I looked into storing them until spring, but it seems like a lot of work and they're very cheap.

I wanted to plant something in the holes of the concrete blocks as an experiment. Since I don't know what will happen, I decided to plant onions - since I have so many of them - and hope for the best. I'll let you know how it goes.

When I got compost for the raised bed a couple of weeks ago, I went ahead and filled almost the whole bed. After reading about planting in compost, the consensus is that it is best as an ammendment to the soil. So, before I planted the raised bed, I went around the yard, digging holes, putting that soil in the garden, and putting compost in those holes. I've done that with half the bed, where I planted broccoli, and in the block holes, where I planted white onions. If I can clean out most of the dollar weed in my other beds, I'll be doing the same thing with the other half of the bed.

I feel like I don't have nearly enough room in this bed for everything I'd like to plant. I'm probably going to plant lettuce, spinach and garlic in any space I can out in the flower bed. Wish me luck.

08 October 2009

Plant Swap Review

The plant swap went well, although there seemed to be fewer people and plants this time. Darren said he estimated 40 people and 400 plants. He said he thought the fall swap was a little smaller, because people might be getting ready for colder weather and would not have as many plants to take to a swap.

I was happy with what I got this time. I got a few little cactuses and succulents - hardy aloe I added to the desert garden. I don't think the others are hardy, so I'll have to do something with them when it gets cold. A few weeks before the swap, I picked up some Mexican Petunia. I planned to keep it all for myself, but when it was time, I decided I had more than enough, so I took half to the swap. I'm planning to use it, along with some canna I got at the swap, in a narrow area between the driveway and a low brick wall, where I can plant aggressive species without worrying about them taking over the yard.

My neighbor Joan has had some back problems lately. She called me about an hour before the swap and asked that I take her plants to the swap. I told her I would and asked her if there was anything she was looking for. She didn't have anything specific in mind, but she said it had to be a native species. I thought I was going to have a hard time meeting her criteria, but I lucked out. Darren brought several native Hibiscuses and someone else brought some bog lilies (Crinum americanum). I grabbed a few lilies for Joan, since I have several in my pond, and I got four hibiscuses, two for Joan and two for me. They'll be going in a rain garden I hope to have by spring.

I got a few more things at the swap - a ginger lily, ornamental pepper bush, and something called a "devil's trumpet". It's like the "angel's trumpet", but the flowers are dark and point up instead of down. After the swap, Darrren invited everyone to his house for a tour of his garden. It was a really nice day. For photos of the swap, click here. For photos of Darren's garden, click here.