Garden Log – April 2020

Welcome, dear reader, to this second entry in my Garden Log. First I would like to log each area, noting what is planted in each. Then I shall give a brief description of how each is doing and notes on what things may need to change. Let us begin:

Ex-Ornamental Bed, Above retaining wall:

This bed has been left with roughly 50% ornamental plants, as a visual estimate. I carved two main areas of 3-4 rows each, one in a very sunny spot and one with filtered sun. Behind the filtered sun I planted Currants, which I have read manage well in filtered sun and shade. Only two have been planted for now, as this was a test, but they seem to be doing well. I see a few “baby” berries forming already and their little yellow blooms were quite attractive a few weeks ago. Most have fallen now. I also have several containers in this area along a walkway and at the retaining wall edge. I may eventually put the summer tomatoes at the wall’s base, as it gets fantastic sun all day. I planted Kale, Turnips, Radish, Lettuce, Garlic and Beets. Kale, Lettuce and Garlic are doing well. The radishes and turnips are growing but slowly. The beets didn’t come up at all. Bad seeds perhaps? It is the third attempt to sow them and I have yet to see a single one sprout. The containers have blueberries and strawberries. This was to help control soil pH as ours tends to run 7-8.0, and I know these need to be closer to 6. I’m toying with adding vinegar to their water to bring it down but may just get some proper soil acidifier to try. I just began this and I will have to report on the results later. The blueberries are alive but not growing very fast. The strawberries…. maybe I picked a bad variety, but they only grow tiny berries, about 1cm diameter. They are sweet but not really what I want to grow long-term. I tried a batch from Tractor Supply Co. by DeGroot, which also are alive but only 1 out of the 20 plants is really growing and only 6 of them ever came out of dormancy. Again I will be patient, adjust and leave notes.

Shady beds by the woodpiles:

The shady beds that lie beside our woodpiles are doing well. They are the only beds that were worked last year and have had the most attention. I left one that was previously ornamental as about 20% ornamental, with lots of tiny white/purple/pink flowers that run along the edges. The center is occupied by turnips and kale. This bed has grown well and it has been the source of dinner salads for about two weeks now. We shall try something here for the summer as well, likely, as it receives filtered sun in the summer, perhaps it will do well with spinach as it should stay cooler here. The second bed is occupied by spinach, radishes and a few potatoes. This one is quite shaded, but the spinach and radishes do not seem to mind. They are doing okay here so far. The potato plants are also doing fine and I have noticed all of the spinach and potatoes that are growing near radishes seem to stay pest-free. I have one row here that was supposed to be beets but again.. that pack of seeds seems cursed. The potatoes here are actually voluntary, having somehow managed to survive from our compost bin and now have made their way into a garden bed. I will see how they do here and decide what this bed can manage for future use.

Hillside Bed:

In the back is the old compost pile that I have since removed. We are using an old garbage can to compost clippings and direct burying kitchen scraps as of this month.

My hillside bed is 100% new and has taken a lot of my time. It seems to be doing well with several plants: a grape vine, an azarole bush, a few strawberry plants, broccoli, peas and icicle radish. I tried putting two gooseberry bushes that came from DeGroot here, but both died rather quickly. Also the original purpose for this was a strawberry patch, also from DeGroot, with only 4 survivors out the 19 I placed here, and only 1 of those actually showing growth beyond simply coming out of dormancy. The broccoli, peas, radish and azarole are all growing well, while the grape vine (also DeGroot) is.. well.. at this point with my luck from that company I am glad it is even alive. It doesn’t look particularly healthy but we shall see. This area is the one I would like to expand the most, with the bottom of the hill eventually having more fruit trees. We currently have one very productive Fig tree that I am trying to clone in various ways and two non-productive pear trees. I have tried rooting these fig cuttings and it appears that after five tries I may finally have one taking. I also have one branch that I am attempting to “air layer”, which seems to be doing well so far. I will find out the results of that method by early May, which I will be sure to report. I have noticed that as the trees at the top of the hill filled in that the sun became filtered for part of the day. This leaves the upper part of the hill with about 4-6 hours of full sun and the rest of the day in filtered sun. The lowest row that I have added but have not yet planted – it is prepped for tomatoe transplants that are still growing inside – is the only one that gets full sun for closer to 8 hours. That makes me think that any I add below this point will also be in full sun most of the day. I’ll have to adjust planting accordingly, but so far this area appears promising.

South-side ex-ornamental bed:

The proximity to the water hose has been more helpful than I would have guessed. I don’t water often, thanks to lots of mulch, but when it is necessary the hose is handy. My wife really loves to point out how ugly that old blue bin is, but is sure does grow well..

This bed was originally ornamental, all but one of which have been removed. This pink flowering bush was too pretty to remove and besides, the bugs love it. It is covered in bees and butterflies every time I am back there. This bed is meant to be Mrs. PPG’s herb garden, though we do have a little spinach and kale in as well. We also had a few voluntary tomato and squash come up, though they are a bit early. I have had to cover them a few times just to be safe, as we had night time temperatures dip below 40F a few times. The herbs back here are generally doing well, though I admit I would like to get some more compost back here eventually as the topsoil is only about 5-6cm deep. I tried the new liquid kelp fertilizer on this area and while most of the plants seem to like it the basil absolutely seems to hate it. It appears to have scorched the leaves and they already appeared to be struggling. I will have to read up on basil but it just does not seem to grow well in any area I have tried it. I did have one that did well in a container last year, and that is on the front side retaining wall area, so perhaps they need more shade than they are getting on this south-side. While on the subject of that fertilizer, the radishes appear to love it. They show visible growth spikes each week after I apply it. The peas seem to do well with it too. Other plants I will have to continue observations in order to decide.

Meadow:

Definitely a work in progress.

This is a work in progress, but currently it is home to our two baby apple trees that came from Hidden Springs Nursery in Tennessee, 2 of the surviving ground cherries (we lost one which just never came out of dormancy – DeGroot), loads of potatoes, a few garlic and a few radishes. I plan to add carrots, green beans and onions down here this month. I’m waiting on the final frost date that is only one day away as I write this, but I am hopeful this area will do well as it is the sunniest spot on our entire property. I look ahead to May in hopes to add a pumpkin and watermelon patch as well. I have already begun scouting spots for them. I like the idea of leaving them a spot to sprawl so that they reseed themselves each year.

Also as a general addition, I’ve spread mint and catnip around the front side of the house (north) where Grant’s big swing is, in hopes of cutting down the gnats and mosquitoes this summer. We also added some traps for them as last summer became near-unbearable at times. I put several comfrey root cuttings in the ground as well as a few in containers as well, in hopes of getting some good compost and to get some “help” around the new apple and cherries. I have also created myself a little “rooting station” under the porch in order to work at rooting cuttings from our plants. So far I have tried mint-family vines with modest success, probably 70%, according largely to how careful and patient I am with them. I am trying our fig tree for the second time, and checking recently I did see white roots developing so I am hopeful. I would love to turn our one fig into a row of 4 or 5. I will also try our crape myrtles and roses as well as a really pretty bush that we cannot identify. It is a large shrub, growing in the shade of several oak trees with multicolored leaves. I will get back on that when I conclude what it is, but that would definitely be one I’d like to spread.

I do want to make a note to myself that every single plant I received from Hidden Springs Nursery is alive and doing well. I shall definitely use them again. Thanks to them and their hard work. Conversely, I will likely not use DeGroot products again, as I have lost over 50% of the plants I bought from them. I am thankful for what has survived, but I believe using plants that are grown closer to home would be best as they would more likely tolerate our soil and weather.

As always..

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