Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Mountain

I realized a short while ago I have never shown any pictures of the mountain mentioned in the title of the blog. 
South Mountain is not particularly high, it tops out at about 1200 feet in this section.  It is a long sprawling affair that actually looks like a few mountains,  but is actually just one.  The mountain is 70 miles long and 12 miles at is widest.  It is the northenmost mountain in the Blue Ridge chain.

View from the deck.

This what I see from the front of the house.  The house is located towards the base on the western side.  From my front door I can see the Washington Monument that is at the summit.  This is actually the first monument in the country that was dedicated to George Washington.  The residents of the town actually crowded into the top of the monument to watch the battle of Antietam (which is the next town over) during the Civil War.  There was also a not well known battle fought on the mountain itself.

View from the front porch, the monument is circled.

Close up of the monument.
Just a little information about the blogs title...

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Freeze: One Day Later... More Damage

I should have known better and remembered that it can take a day or two for hard frost damage to show up. 

It seems that was heavy damage on rapidly growing perennial and bulbs.  It wasn't garden wide, just in certain spots. 

The roses were the hardest hit, they had several inches of growth that is now wilted and crispy looking.  The bleeding heart completely collapsed and my hydrangea is completely brown.  The biggest surprise was that some of my daylilies and Asiatic lillies have MAJOR damage.  I'll know in a few days if they have chance this year.

On a brighter note, I noticed tiny roots on the pepper seeds from Granny that I started pre-sprouting on Sunday!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Surviving the Freeze

Yesterday morning when I left for work it was 28 degrees .  It was very unsettling walking passed frozen tulips.  When I got home the first thing I noticed was that all of the magnolia blossoms had turned into ugly brown blobs.  Hmnn...

When I went out back to check the potager I was able to breathe again.  The only thing that had slight damage was the arugula.  I find this odd since I've had arugula over winter with no damage at all.  I guess it's growth stage determines winter hardiness.

I was hoping that the forest of volunteer tomatoes and morning glories would be history.  Of course not, they all looked hale and hearty and if they had tongues they would have been sticking them out a me!  I may save a volunteer tomato or two, but the morning glories will be gone this weekend.  Even one or two strays will take over like last year.

I'll concede this one to Mother Nature...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Run Between the Raindrops...

Finally, a typical spring day here.  Overcast, light rain off and on, temps in the fifties.
I went out between the showers and got a few more pictures and even got a few more seeds in the ground.  I chitted some old beet seed on Thursday and when I checked them today they had mostly started to send out roots.  I planted a row of mixed 'Detroit Dark Red' and 'Golden Detroit' and half of row of 'Albino Verduro Improved'.

The spinach has settled in and appears to be starting to grow.  The 'Scarlet' spinach is growing like gang busters.

Spinach patch one week after planting.

'Scarlet' spinach.
More peas are sprouting, and the 'Blizzard' snow peas are really taking off.  Can you believe that these were sown last Saturday?

'Blizzard' snow peas.
The arugula is doing nicely.

Arugula and 'Giant Nobel' spinach.

These are volunteer tomatoes.  They are springing up like grass everywhere.

Volunteer tomatoes.

Elsewhere in the garden, I found the first of the 'Grandpa Ott' morning glories have sprouted.

The volunteer bleeding heart are blooming.

My variegated honesty is also starting to bloom.  I have two strains- white and purple.  I love the frosted look of the leaves.

Indoors I began to pre-sprout my peppers and tomatoes.

Now I need to figure out what is eating my radish sprouts...

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Curses, Foiled Again!!!

By Mother Nature, who else?

I knew we were supposed to have a chance of thunder storms all weekend.  When I got up we still had had no rain.  I hoped I get outside and do a bit of planting before the rain, as well as take a few pictures.
Just as I got out side with the camera, there were a few drops of rain.  No problem, I started snapping pictures... within five minutes it was a drenching downpour! 

Oh well, I did get a few good pictures, and I really need to get caught up on my indoor seed starting.  The only problem is I keep hearing chuckling coming from somewhere...

The raised bed, daffodils at their peak with tulips starting.

'Obdam' daffodil.

'Thalia' the "orchid flowering" daffodil.

Tulips, daffodils and 'Woodside' columbines in the front.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Seeds are Sprouting

The first of the seeds planted in the potager have sprouted.

First to sprout was the arugula, on Tuesday.  A record for spring taking only 3 days.

Clumps of arugula.
Today the first of the peas and radishes popped up.

The first of the peas sprouts.

Radish sprouts.

It took the radish and chitted peas only 5 days to sprout.  The warm temps and the 4 drizzly days must be the key. 

On Saturday the temps are supposed to cool down into the 60's for a while, much better temps for the new sprouts.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Today in the Garden- March 18, 2011

Today started out overcast and little cooler.
I did get the hollyhocks transplanted and a few of the extra iris rhizomes (yes, I know it is the wrong season!) that were in the potager.  I then topped of the bark mulch in the paths.  The only planting done was few 'Unwin's Striped Mix' sweet peas that I had pre- sprouted.

The spinach patch is now covered with bird netting.  Last year was a double whammy for spinach.  Germination was very sparse and as soon as the few came up, they were snipped off by birds.  This year will be different!  There are now 42 spinach transplants covered with netting.

Speaking of sweet peas, while going through the stash I found I had quite a collection of heirloom varieties.  I'm starting to pre- sprout them now and hope that I can some of the more interesting ones to germinate.  The seed is between 6 and 4 years old.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Plant Your Peas by St. Patrick's Day

Which is exactly what I did.
The peas were soaked Wednesday night, put into plastic bags wrapped in a damp coffee filter, and the placed in a cool place.  All had a few with tiny root starting except 'Blizzard'.  Every seed from 'Blizzard' had a 1/4" long root.  Six varieties were planted today.  Three shelling- 'Pretty', 'Freezonian' and 'Garden Sweet', two snap- 'Sugar Star' and 'Sugar Anne' and one snow- 'Blizzard'. 
They were planted in the back bed, three wide rows.  In between the rows I put in a few radish seeds.  There were four varieties- gold skinned 'Zlata', red fleshed 'Watermelon', 'Long Scarlet' and 'White Icicle'.

Not much to look at, yet...

The spinach seedlings were planted in their own 3' x 3' bed.  The back row is  'Garden Sweet' pea seedlings.  I potted up the sprouted seeds from the germination test as the seed is 6 years old.

The spinach patch.

Close up of 'Scarlet' the red stemmed, red veined spinach.

The left bed still needs to be worked on.  Tomorrow I will be moving the hollyhock and daylily seedlings and bearded Iris I crammed in last summer.

The left bed will be tomorrows project.

Around the rest of the garden:
One of my favorite features, a 20 ft long by 1 ft wide ribbon of 'Tete a Tete' daffodils.

Hyacinth's that line my front walk. 

A few of the "pink" daffodils.

The petite 'Katie Heath'

Unknown from a pink mix.

The temps today were in the upper 70's again, not much wind.  Tomorrow us supposed to be a bit cooler.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Is it Summer or Winter?

The calendar shows that it is still technically winter.  The thermometer shows that it is summer.  Temps have been in the high 70's all this week and the forecast for next week is the same. 

Everything has grown so much this week it is hard to believe.  The spring bulbs and spring blooming trees and shrubs have exploded into bloom.  One day nothing, the next day a hint of color, the next day full bloom.

If we are having June like temperatures in March, I shutter to think what kind of temperatures we will be having in June!!!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Today in the Garden- March 11, 2012

Today was the day.  It was finally warm enough to get some real work done outdoors.  The temp in the sun was in the low 60's and for once there was NO wind, an extreme rarity here.

First I turned over and amended the beds in the potager.  I thought of changing the orientation of the path, but the rose is right where the path would be, so the path stays as is.  The beds are now ready for the peas and greens which will be planted next week.

The pool bed has been cleaned up.  Now I just have to decide what to plant,

The raised bed is cleaned out, ready to be fertilized.

Daffodils and hyacinths are coming into full bloom.

The long range forecast is calling for highs in the 60-70's and lows in the 40-50's.  Spring just might be here to stay.

Seed Starting- Trying Something New: Coconut Fiber

I'm trying something new this year with my seed starting.
For years I've used jiffy 7 pellets and had starting seeds in them down to a fine art.  They were cheap and convenient and once i learned how to use them properly, a great success.  Last year I had a hard time locating them, so I decided to go back to seed starting mix and cups etc.  I then found that Home Depot was selling bricks of Coconut fiber.  I had used Coconut fiber years ago as a peat alternative when I was seriously into growing African Violets.  the package of 2 bricks cost only $2.47 so I decided to give it a try. 

The instructions looked very simple, just add water.

One dry Coconut fiber brick.

The brick starting to expand.

Breaking apart the brick while slowly adding water.

The expanded brick broken up.

The results planted with 'Wild Garden Mixed' lettuce seed.

It took only a short time for the brick to absorb the water and expand.  The one thing I had forgotten was the long fiber "whiskers" that I spent at least 20 minutes trying to pluck out.  This fiber is supposed to be greener as it is renewable, and balance the moisture level much better than peat.  It is much more convenient than trying to moisten dry peat based mix and a lot less messy. 

Time will tell if this is a good medium for seed starting and I'll keep you posted on the results.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Seedling Update/ A Shift in Focus

I did not realize how far ahead I was with my indoor seed starting till now.  I needed to look up a germination time from my last years spreadsheet.  This time I also looked at the date sown column.  My first seeds were planted on 3/12/2011 last year.  Today, two days earlier on the calendar, I have 28 different types planted, some ready for the great out doors.  The other big difference is what I've planted.  I have 164 cups of seedlings, there are only 16 cups of flowers, the rest are vegetables.  For me that's an extreme shift as it is usually reversed.

Here is some of what is growing under the lights.

'Primero' cabbage, 'Albino Verduro Improved' beet in the background.

'Full Heart Batavian' escarole, 'Gonzales' cabbage.

'Ambition' shallots.

'Pixie' cabbage, 'Scarlet' spinach and various Swiss chard in the back.

Six varieties of lettuce all sown on the same day.  Interesting how one is leggy and the rest are not!

'America', 'Giant Nobel' and 'Viking' spinach.

Can anyone tell me why one variety of lettuce is so leggy and the rest are very stocky?  Just goes to show how plants will always surprise you...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Another Method of Getting Old Seed to Sprout

Robin has a very interesting tip about germinating old seed using bleach, something I have yet to try.

Now that you've seen my seed stash, you can understand why I am always looking for ways to germinate old seed.  Over the years I have picked up some tips and have had good success.

1,  I soak the seeds in a very weak fertilizer solution that is high in nitrates. They are soaked no longer than 12 hours.  the nitrates help to start the process of breaking down the seed coat.  I don't soak seed that is smaller than carrot seed.

2.  The coffee filters that I place them on are dipped into a solution of week tea with a few drops of hydrogen peroxide.  The tea provides some protection from fungus, and the hydrogen peroxide adds some oxygen to aid germination.

3.  The filters are then placed into a small plastic bag and then placed in warm location.

4.  Once I see the first sign of roots, those seeds are planted and the rest checked twice per day.

5.  Some seeds last much longer than others.  I am still getting good germination from tomato seed purchased in 1999.

I use 9oz styrofaom cups and add 3 to 4 drops of a liquid fertilizer for the initial soaking.  When the filters are soaked I use the same 9oz cup and add a weal tea solution with 5 to 6 drops of hydrogen peroxide.

This method is not fool proof, but I am able to germinate a good amount of seed between 5 and 10 years old. 

This year I've had success with 6 year old spinach, 7 year old Swiss chard and pea and 8 year old beet as well as 13 year old tomato seed.  My seeds are kept in a cool basement room, no special conditions.

If you have some old seed that you want to still grow give this method or Robin's method a try.  I'm going to give Robin's method a try!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Seedy Obession

I swore I would never do this, but when you get a dare from Granny...

Granny posted a picture of her modest seed box.  I don't have a box, I have several, and containers and envelopes and I have more scattered on the light stands.

This is so embarrassing!
This is my obsession.  I have seeds going back over ten years in this group, many I can still coax into sprouting.

Now if Doomsday does come on December 21 and you need a few seeds, I'm your guy.