Category Archives: gardening

Unfulfilled Promises

If you ever have bought a flower or tried to start one from seed you know they are a fragile lot. Flaky, persnickety, obstinate or maybe just they like to mock us supposedly “superior” beings. Above you see the best of the process when I was operating my own greenhouse business called The Potter’s Dream. But unseen is the thousands, yes I typed that correctly, thousands of failed plants.

This post is under construction almost ten full seasons past my greenhouse time. My failed experiments are far fewer, but just as frustrating. As I was out taking my miniature Sheltie for a walk this week I thought about this post and collecting the photographs to support it. When you establish the theme or parameters it is amazing how quickly potential photos come to mind.

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This is a geranium in distress. I am not knowledgeable enough to tell you exactly what the issue is. I just will try to fertilize and overcome the yellowing. If all else fails I will lift this sickly plant and replace it with another.

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In my time as a greenhouse owner I sold thousands of wave petunias. They are so hardy and easy to grow it is a challenge to kill one, but this little guy defied the odds. Again this is one that will be lifted and replaced.

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It is a little difficult to make out this photo, but you should see a full stand of lettuce. All I can figure is our lettuce seed is bad. This is the second year I have not been able to achieve sufficient germination of lettuce. We even tried it in the raised bed this time.

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After a few years of unfulfilling experiences with tulips and daffodils bought at the big box stores we ordered some bulbs from an actual bulb seller through Amazon. Our daffodils came up early due to the warm winter and were gorgeous ahead of time. Our tulips came up on schedule and all bloomed beautifully except for the one picture which was broken when I accidentally stepped on it when trying to mulch around the bed.

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These are the old tulips and daffodils that produce greenery only. It is disappointing after a long winter with no color to see this greenery emerge, but never achieve any kind of blooming. I have consulted with another experienced grower and have a plant o try to rectify the non-blooming habits.

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These two photos should be flats full of tomato seedlings. I will tell you that in the days since I took the top phot I have seen about a dozen seedlings emerge. Being April 17 however, they are seriously delayed. I wanted them to be the size they are now at least a month ago!

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This photo shows a failed cucumber seedling attempt. Actually about five days earlier this [pot was full of about two dozen nice looking seedlings. Then the weather changed and we decided to not take chances, but move the most tender of plants inside for three days. The cucumbers did not adapt well and now we have only three or four living seedlings. Thankfully it does not take long to germinate cucumbers, so I will try again soon.

That is my unfulfilled promise candidates for now. I am sure more will find their way to my lens soon!

 

Spring is Coming – Part 2

Ah spring. The time for projects. I love projects. I love improving our spread as I enjoy spending time in the great outdoors. We also enjoy gardening. As an extension about 17 years ago we built a 12 x 16 foot greenhouse. Within this greenhouse we can initiate an early start to spring by giving our plants an environment where they can grow as if it was June.

One of the favorite ways to provide this head start is to purchase the items we want in our window boxes early and insert them in the window boxes 7-9 weeks ahead of the last frost date when we can actually bring the window boxes out to enjoy. Allowing the plants to grow their roots with this head start means when we bring them out in May they are healthy and thriving.

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You may not think these are growing that much, but if you click Spring is Coming Part 1 you will see there has been some definite growth.

One of our challenges where we live is that I have acres of  farm land on three sides of my property. This is a great thing for many reasons. But one negative is that the wild life is thick and willing to come and take as they please. We have battled rabbits and groundhogs for years as we attempt to raise a garden. Up until the last few years we have been able to win this epic struggle. But lately the critters are the only ones getting fat on our vegetables.

After the success of our new raised bed where we grew tomatoes we decided to expand our alternative growing method with a long raised bed to house our bush beans. Long ago we introduced our family to a type of bush bean called Tenderettes. After nearly two decades of enjoyment my family truly prefers the ones we grow and can. But if you cannot control the rodents there is nothing to enjoy.  Enter the new raised bed.

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Now I will share the complicating factor. As life goes there can be situations that make you rethink your plans. After hauling two loads of ground compost to half fill our raised bed I ran into issues with my truck. Now I am scrambling to work out an alternative way. Thankfully we are up to four weeks away from the safe time as far as last frost before we can plant so I have considerable wiggle room.

You can see there is a black landscape fabric flanking this bed. While I am working out the alternative method to fill the long raised bed I will be using one of my favorite tools, my Kubota tractor to dump wood chips on the fabric to eliminate the need to cut the grass that would grow up around the bed. By taking this out of the equation I don’t have to be concerned about cut grass drifting into the bed and starting weeds.

Another alternative vegetable growing plan we have in progress actually came from a video we enjoyed courtesy of Facebook. We like to grow and enjoy potatoes. Specifically we enjoy the small or “new” potatoes. Aren’t all potatoes new you ask? Well yes, but what I mean is young potatoes with a very thin skin. Basically the idea is to take a pot and cut four openings in it. Then you slip it inside another pot of the same size, fill to about 1/3 depth, place seed potatoes in the soil, cover the seed potatoes, water and let them grow. Then as the green shoots of the potatoes grow you cover them repeatedly until you have filled the pot. After three months you lift the pot with the sections cut out and harvest your crop. I made pictures as I created this for your enjoyment.

For the past few years we have selected a specific type of potting soil sold by Miracle Grow. We learned almost a decade and a half ago how important it is to have a base soli for new plants that does not pack down like the garden soil at our home. Tender roots respond so much better to this loose mix. The particular type we choose to employ is called Moisture Control. The selling point is that it is designed to keep the moisture content as close to optimal as possible. Of course that does not mean you can avoid watering, but that if you water frequently the soil will help maximize the effectiveness.

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We have several plantings of daffodils and tulips in our yard that are perennial disappointments. Apparently they are not hardy enough to withstand the wildly varying ups and downs of temperatures here in the mountains of Southwestern end of Virginia. As a result we ordered a new batch of supposedly “hardier” daffodils and tulips and dug out a new bed for them. The daffodils are pictures in Spring is Coming Part 1 and now the tulips are showing their colors.

 

My last addition to this post is in the form of photos of some trees I grafted during a county extension service class last week. At my home place, meaning where I grew up, their is this 4o year old “Early Harvest” apple tree. It is a yellow apple that is ripe at the first of July and cooks down into almost an apple sauce. I have wanted to graft some scions off of it for years and finally accomplished the first part of the process during this class. In all I grafted seven trees: four of the Early Harvest, a Rambo, a Gala and a Cortland. I won’t know for a little bit if any or all of them will successfully graft, but check back here for updates.

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As I said in the beginning of this post I love projects. Even now as I realize the completion of some projects even more are dotting my radar. This past Saturday I enjoyed a day in which the Fitbit strapped to my arm recorded 28,636 steps. Five days a week I am held down to a chair by my job as a computer software tester, so when I get a chance to head outside I always have a plan in mind. I hope you will be looking for Spring is Coming part 3 where I will update you on all these activities and maybe some new ones.

 

 

End of Month View – March 2017

 

Some months ago I found this monthly invitational hosted by The Patient Gardener and it is a monthly chance to show off your garden. Unfortunately my garden is only worthy of show for about 6-7 months each year. Happily this is the beginning of that stretch, so I have pictures to share. YAY!!!! You do not know how much my mood lifts when I begin to see flowers blooming.

When I last posted we had just finished a new bulb bed flanking our 12 x 16 greenhouse. Due to the warmer than usual weather this “winter” (I am bracketing it in quotes because I cannot in good conscience call what we experienced a full-fledged winter), our Daffodils made an unexpected show of blooms in late February.

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In this same planting we included some new tulip bulbs that are holding close to their expected bloom time in April. I am not sure if they will still have color by the end of April to include with the April EOMV, but I may just include a photo so you can see our success.

Things are hopping in the greenhouse now. We have geraniums in our window boxes, having purchased them so we can “push” them toward an early May deployment just in time for our son’s graduation/22nd birthday celebration. The weather may not be amenable to leaving them out full time on May 7th, but we at least hope to have them in place on that day. Trust me, the combination of greenhouse and the feeding regimen we have honed over 15 years will make the final product in May look amazing.

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It is veggie seeding time as well. We have tomatoes seeded as well as cukes and zucchini. These are ear-marked for a new raised bed yet to be built, but guaranteed to provide critter proof growing conditions. Unless the maddening creatures have been doing pole vault training in Salt Lake City, Utah that is!

Another new addition to our gardening facilities is a 32 foot raised bed to try to allow us to grow bush beans. At one time we were able to enjoy enough beans to can 150 quarts for use throughout the year. Of course at that time we had a beagle mix named Louie who feasted on groundhogs and rabbits. Lately the only creatures getting fat on our beans have been the rodents. This year we hope to end that trend.

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Up front we have creeping phlox blooming, although only one color.

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Due to some sagging on our deck we are having to do some repair construction, so the long standing rails that support two Clematis have been removed. While it will not hurt the Clematis, the tendrils will likely seek something on the ground to attach to and may be a pain to re-train after we are done.

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Two others already trained on trellises are also beginning to emerge from dormancy. Hopefully in 5-6 weeks they will share their gorgeous blooms.

Lastly I went out to cut off all the spent daffodils in our new bulb garden to find several tulips beginning to show color. I hadn’t noticed them due to the large number of taller daffodils that were shielding them for view. I look forward to the multiple colors of these spring beauties set to peak just around Easter.

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If you want to check out more End of Moth View posts click here: EOMV

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Can I Start Vegetables for My Garden?

 

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As you can see in the bottom right hand corner of the photo this was of my greenhouse operation that I called Potter’s Dream Greenhouses in May of 2006. By this time 11 years ago, meaning May 9th, I had seeded a few thousand vegetables, including tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, squash, melons and more. You learn very quickly if you want to succeed in the greenhouse business you have to provide the right plant in the desired state of development in the proper time frame.

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If you are seeding vegetables for your own enjoyment your schedule can be a little more loose. I have seeded tomatoes in the end of February or maybe a couple of weeks later during my greenhouse career, because I wanted bigger plants by the time the early birds came looking in mid-April when 70 degree days were the norm in the mountains of Virginia. Of course that did not mean we would not get frost up and through mid-May. In fact, during my first growing season in 2002 a late frost actually benefitted me as most of the known growers were sold out of plants following a third week of May freeze killed a lot of previously purchased plants.

This year we waited until the third week of March to seed our tomatoes. Part of this was just not getting to the task due to some other projects, such as cleaning out the greenhouse for the first time in way to long. So you can see the fruits of our efforts I will share some pics.

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We decided to plant our tomatoes differently this year. Rather than seed then transplant into single cell trays we are just going to grow them all in one mass plant and separate to bigger containers when the time is right. Here you can see the trays we utilized in planting.

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Yes, that is a tree branch in the middle of the left tray, which is actually separating the types of seeds. We chose three varieties originally, Roma, Beefsteak and an heirloom variety called Red-X. Since then I rounded up three more, Better Boy, Celebrity and a Yellow & Red Stripe shared with my father by a friend. I tried something different with these three varieties, adding about a dozen seeds to the bottom of a disposable plastic cup and then adding an ounce or two of water to see if I could accelerate the sprouting process. I will let you know if this works.

We also seeded cucumbers and zucchini on the same day. Tell me what you think about my high tech labeling system.

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The main thing to consider when trying to nail down the date for starting vegetables is to know a few of things:

  1. What is the average germination time of my seeds?
  2. Can I provide a sheltered environment so they have the best germinating situation?
  3. Once germinated how long until I can transplant?
  4. How long from transplant until I can plant outside (i.e. when is the frost/freeze danger over)?

Seeding your own plants can be fun as well as rewarding, you just have to understand all the components to successful seeding. Good luck as you take on this task!

 

 

Spring is Coming – Part 1

Now I am sure spring is coming very soon. It is not just because the calendar says we are officially into the season. For sure the thought that spring should be starting is a big help, but the matter that gives me hope is that we put the first plants in our greenhouse yesterday. Once upon a time, when I operated a full scale greenhouse business this date would be much earlier, but since we are only growing our own plants it has to be a bit later in the winter.

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In case you cannot see the plants they are zonal geraniums. We bought them at a local greenhouse where we always get our plants. Yes, they are young, but by putting them in our window boxes now we can grow them faster and bigger with a specific feeding regimen. Also the 12 x 16 greenhouse we use heats up quick meaning the osil temperature will rise and help with the growing process.

Even though these plants look small they have some nice roots on them. I fished my phone out of my pocket to snap a photo to share with you. Here you can see the roots reaching toward the bottom of the four inch square pot we bought them in.

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We also picked up another couple of plants, a pink Mandevilla.

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And a Non-Stop Begonia.

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We also have two small pots with the left over tulips from our new bulb garden. I had them hanging on the coat rack leading to our basement an noticed they had begun to sprout in mid-January, so I did not want them to go to waste.

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I Intend to share photos of the plants as they grow over the next few weeks and invite you back to check the progress. I also plan to get tomato seeds in the dirt in the next two or three days so they will be ready when the last threat of frost is past. Unfortunately that may be a bit dodgy this year as we had thunder on February 28th. According to legend if you have thunder on a day in February you will see frost on that day in May. Usually we try to plant tomatoes by mid-May. I suppose we will make that determination when we see how the weather arrives.

In Spring is Coming Part 2, I will show you our new 32 foot raised bed intended to grow green beans out of the reach of our vegetable loving rodent neighbors!

 

 

 

 

Resilient Hostas

This is in response to the Weekly Photo Challenge for 12-30-16 asking to show something Resilient.

During this year we had the opportunity to host a couple of big deal occasions at our home. My daughter and her friends were treated to a home cooked meal for their Prom dinner and less than once month later we had a graduation party for four high school seniors. As part of the preparation we re-did several flower beds. One of the flowers we dug up to divide and re-plant was some hostas.

Not long after this we had a late season hard frost. If you have ever had hostas you know while the frost or freeze won’t kill the plant it will significantly stunt it which was not good for our party plans less than two weeks after. So we dug out a bunch of sheets and covered up the tender new growth.

 

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By doing this we had the flowers we desired when party time arrived.

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Daily Prompt: Missing

via Daily Prompt: Missing

It is only 12 days until the start of winter where I live within the mountains of Virginia. But I am already missing the blooms I love to see all year long.

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It will be a long time until I get to enjoy the outside blooms again, but soon I will have orchids blooming so I can enjoy them until the snow has passed.