30 January 2010

Biding My Time

I bought onions and potatoes last week and I decided I needed to build a few more raised beds to plant them in - quickly. Originally I decided that over the next several days I would buy concrete blocks - I need 16 for a bed and I don't want to load down my car too much - set up the beds over the weekend when I was off and get Robin to pick up Ella from school so I could go get compost after work two or three days next week. I wanted to get everything ready, so I can plant by early-mid February.

I thought that it might be easier if I could get a day off from work next week. I would still work on building the beds, but I would use that one day to make a few trips to the landfill for compost. Work has been a little busy lately and the best I could do for a day off was maybe Tuesday. That meant I had to get the beds laid out this weekend. Well, that's not going to happen now.

It has been raining steadily since last night and the low predicted for tonight is 20 degrees - again on Sunday night - so I'll have to wait until it dries out before I can get out there and work. I've accepted the fact that I have to bide my time until my next day off before I can go get compost and plant. It'll be early-mid February and that's still a good time to get onions and potatoes in the ground.

27 January 2010


I'm gearing up for Spring planting by laying out new beds, trying to maximize our space. I was going to interplant vegetables with other landscape plants, but I came up with a garden plan that I like - separate from other landscaping. I still may plant a few veggies other places, especially those that need room, like pumpkins and watermelons.

I bought onions and potatoes today, and, as usual, I bought more than I have room for - so I'll have to find places for them elsewhere in the yard - maybe. I was out in the yard today and realized I had room for an extra bed or two, and I'll need them if I want to plant all of the potatoes I bought. It also means I need to get moving on building the beds and filling them - so I can hurry up and plant. Looking at my raised beds, I realized the first one I built is different than the second one - the one I'm basing my future beds on. To see the first bed, click here.

The pond has been looking sad lately. It needs to be cleaned out, but also the pumps were slowly getting clogged - causing the waterfall to slow to almost a trickle. I really didn't want to have to stick my hand in there for any length of time. I thought it would only take a few minutes so I decided to brave it this afternoon. I got them cleaned out within about ten minutes, and the waterfall is rushing again. Getting a close look at the pond today made me realize that I need to clean out leaves, dead plants, etc. I remember last winter draining the pond halfway, wading in and cleaning leaves off the bottom, but that will have to wait for a very warm day - today the water temperature was 56 degrees!

24 January 2010

The Citrus Guy and Spring Plant Swap

My friend Darren, a master gardener who specializes in citrus, has started his own blog - The Citrus Guy. He has also scheduled the upcoming Spring Plant Swap for Saturday, April 10th.

Here's an announcement that I updated from last year. Darren may change a few things, but basically this is it:

April 10th, 10am set-up and browse....11am swap...immediately afterwards...LUNCH!
This year we are having it at Park Circle in North Charleston, by the Gazebo. There are picnic tables, bathrooms and LOTS of room for kids to play and even more room for plants, parking and food.
Pretty much everybody in Charleston is familiar with Park Circle....there are numerous ways to get to it, depending on which way you are coming. If you want or need directions you can E-mail me, I will get it and respond ASAP.
The way we swap will be the same... the basic Free For All. I will say go, everybody will grab ONE (1) plant and take it to their hiding area. After everybody has a plant, we repeat the process. Nice and Simple!
We will have plates and napkins and such, Please bring your own drinks and food for as many as you can. We like to do a Pot Luck style picnic and encourage everybody to stick around and participate. The socializing afterwards is as much fun as the swap itself, please try to give yourself enough time to stay and enjoy yourself!
If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.
Tell your friends, neighbors and anybody else you can think of....2010 will be the best Plant Swap YET in Charleston!
Happy Growing Folks! Get those seedlings and cuttings started!

11 January 2010

2010 Vegetable Garden Planning

It seems that I am doing more vegetable gardening than anything else these days. I'd like to write about a variety of topics, but this is monopolizing my gardening time lately. It's still at least three weeks before I plant potatoes and onions and maybe more lettuce and spinach, and I'm already planning the vegetables for the summer. It seemed a little early when I was looking through my Park Seed catalog Sunday night, but as I thought about it, some of the vegetables will be transplanted to the garden in late March, after having been started from seed six weeks earlier - around the second week of February. After I realized that, I felt like I was almost late. So, these are my choices from the Park Seed catalog - most of these varieties are recommended for our area by the Clemson Extension and can be found in my vegetable garden chart.

Pole Beans - Kentucky Wonder, Blue Lake, Kentucky Blue
Kentucky Blue looks likes the best, but I've grown the other two, so I might get all three. I'll be able to compare the three and see which ones I want to grow in the future.

Sweet Corn - Early Sunglow, Silver Queen
These are regular sweet varieties, rather than a super sweet or sugar-enhanced hybrid. The Early Sunglow can be planted earlier than normal, so we'll get corn through the whole growing season.

Cucumber - Sweet Slice, Diva, Sweet Success(seedless), Salad Bush
I know we won't eat all these cucumbers, but I thought I might grow one. The Salad Bush variety looks like the one for us. The catalog calls it "a space-saving slicing cuke".

Watermelon - Sweet Beauty Hybrid
I know we might only eat a slice or two of watermelon, It's always good to have one to eat in the summer, and if I have more, I'll give them to neighbors or take one to a fourth of July party.

Peanuts - Gregory
I've never grown peanuts before, but I thought I would give them a try. I have to figure out how many plants I need to get about two pounds of peanuts. I boiled some peanuts a couple of summers ago in the crock pot and they turned out pretty well.

Pumpkin - Autumn Gold, Howden, Big Moon
I don't know if I'll grow all of these varieties. They are very different, so I thought I might try them all. Autumn Gold pumpkins are 7-10 pounds. Howdens will be 20-30 pounds. According to the catalog, Big Moon may produce 150 pound fruit. I think my brother-in-law grew some of these huge pumpkins a couple of years ago and I'm just a little curious.

Squash - Early Summer Crookneck, Enterprise (straightneck)
To the best of my knowledge these are bush type squash and I'd really like a vining type. Squash take up a lot of space and I'd like to grow these on a trellis of some sort if I can. Several years ago, I bought a squash plant from Lowes and it was a vining type. Ever since, I've ended up with bush type, and I'd rather not have that. If I can't find what I'm looking for, I think one of my neighbors grows it and probably has some seeds I can have.

I'm still looking at tomatoes - I haven't decided which variety to grow yet. Everything I read about them, talks about how many diseases they can have, so I don't think I'm planting them in the garden ever again. I'm planning to use five-gallon buckets to grow them in from now on. I can put them anywhere and it'll leave room in the garden for other veggies.

Same goes for the peppers. There's even more variety of peppers than tomatoes, or it seems like. I'm planning to get a few varieties of bell and sweet peppers for Robin.

I'll probably get a mix of sunflowers and stagger plantings through the year, so we'll have them for a long time.

I'm planning to get the four different varieties that Park Seed has.

I've got to learn a little more about strawberries before I buy any. They're sold as plants, so I have some time before I need to order them.

08 January 2010

Recycling Paper

We generate a lot of paper - newspaper and magazine subscriptions, catalogs, Ella's schoolwork, and Robin's decoupage. It eventually it dawned on me that we should recycle as much of this as possible - in order to do this we had to get another bin. Now we're trying to recycle everything paper that is clean - paperboard boxes, toilet tissue rolls, mail. We still use paper plates half the time and I don't think it's a good idea to try to recycle those. If we ever get chickens or do large-scale composting, we'll have a place for them as well as used and greasy paper fast food containers and pizza boxes. It's not very scientific, but in the last couple of months, the amount of paper we recycle has doubled and our trash is probably half of what we usually have.

07 January 2010

Major Freeze

I was in the process of writing about the life cycles of plants in the landscape - when they bloom, when they die back from the cold, etc. We had some temps near freezing and a few of the plants I expected would be fine, weren't and vice versa. I hadn't gotten around to finishing that post when we got a week of lows around 20 and highs in the 40s.

I brought in a lot of our succulents off the front steps - most of those are tender. I wouldn't worry about them in near-freezing temps, but 20 degrees? I hadn't put up the plastic in the garden area yet, so I grouped a bunch of plants together against the house and draped a quilt over them - they're doing fine. The ferns in our shade garden got pretty fried, except for the hardy ones I got on clearance at Lowes - they look good. I guess the other ones may come back in the spring, but I think I'd rather have the ones that stick around through the winter. A few things that I considered houseplants have managed well. I guess they're something called dragon tree or Dracaena. They look tender, but they've stood up well to the cold. I was told that the garlic I planted in the fall would die back during the winter, but it hasn't happened yet.

There is one plant I forgot about in all my preparations. I've got a citrus plant in the front yard that I didn't protect for several days. I finally went out there and put some plastic over it last night. Since buying a lemon tree from Darren this fall, I have changed my approach to citrus. I think I'm willing to grow them in pots, so I can protect them during the winter by moving them into the garage. I had decided to wait until spring to put it into a container. When we find one, we'll probably get some kind of rolling cart to put plants on, to make it easier to protect them in the winter. I also got a lesson in the need for row covers after seeing the lettuce and broccoli this week. It's all a learning experience and I'll be prepared in the future.

05 January 2010

New Year, New Raised Bed

The past couple of weeks, I've felt very unmotivated to work in the yard. There hasn't been much sun left when I got home from work, and the temperature was starting to drop. When I have been home early, I just haven't felt like going back outside. It's rained some too - enough to make it no fun to work in the mud.

I saw no end in sight, with Ella starting school on Monday - so I had to give myself a big push and tell myself that it was my last best chance to get stuff done. It must have worked, because I got another raised bed almost ready to plant in two afternoons.

Wednesday afternoon, I swung by Lowe's near work and picked up ten cinder blocks. I wasn't sure how many I needed, but they're heavy and I didn't want to load down the car too much. When I got home I discovered I only needed only five more, so I immediately ran to Lowe's near home before traffic got bad. When I got back I laid them out and leveled them. Now they were ready for the compost.

Even though I'm off on New Year's Day, my only chance to get compost from the county landfill was after work on Thursday. I knew it might rain, but as long as it wasn't raining more than a light drizzle, I would still go. When I left work the rain was holding off, so I decided to go. I put plastic down in the back of our hatchback and I was off. When you buy compost by the ton at the landfill, they weigh your vehicle entering and leaving and you pay $10 a ton for the difference. I had been there in the rain before and it wasn't that bad, but today was just extremely muddy. I was having to scoop right on the surface of the pile to get the fluffiest and driest stuff. The deeper I dug, the wetter and more compact it was. It was a slow process - I also suspected that it would weigh more and I'd be paying a little extra because of it.

I loaded the car as full as I dared and then left to be weighed. 520 pounds of compost cost me a whopping $2.60. The landfill and the recycling center sell the same compost for $2 per bag - the bags probably weigh 40 pounds. Going to the landfill may be a little more effort, but it's well worth the price difference.

Once I got home, I backed the car as close to the garden as possible and shoveled it into a wheelbarrow and dumped it into the new raised bed, repeating that process four or five times. So, I'm nearly ready to plant in the new bed - I thought I would plant more lettuce or spinach, but I realized I have only a month before I will need to plant more onions and potatoes, so that bed may sit fallow until February. Our broccoli is close to being over done, so I may pull that out and plant spinach there - we'll see. I've got places to put possibly five more raised beds. As I'm thinking about the warm-season vegetables I want to plant, I may need all of those. I've posted a diagram of my raised beds here.