Sunday, April 22, 2012

Spring Nor'Easter Preparations

The weather has been balmy for a week, but this is New England and it's early spring, so we're prepared for the worst while hoping for the best. Yesterday the skies were sunny and the air was warm. That all changed by the end of the day when cooler air and rain moved into the area. We need rain, so I'm not complaining. But we don't need floods here in south central Vermont, and we don't need WIND.

Tonight's forecast warns of wind gusts near 50 mph plus as much if not more rainfall as yesterday (2.5").

Irene did horrendous damage to Vermont last August. We're hoping and praying this next 48 hours of weather-maker is not destructive.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Spring Veggies: Peas

Peas growing in cold frame.
I planted my peas on St. Patrick's Day so it's been one month since I started my little sowing/growing experiment.

The pea seeds I sprouted indoors and then planted in the cold frame are growing well. The peas I sowed directly into the soil are a little behind the indoor starts, but they're sprouting and catching up. They seem to like growing with the garlic out in the open.  Here's a picture of the transplants in the cold frame, taken today. The transplants I put into the open ground aren't doing so well. I think I may have a soil problem, because the plants look a little pale or bleached. That could also be a bit of shock. We've had hot and cold and warm weather here that's probably confusing those seedlings. It's all part of the experiment, so we'll see if they adjust in the next few weeks.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Spring Gardening Notes

Pink primrose in bloom, April 14
I've been anxiously waiting for flowers in the garden and finally I spotted some color from the kitchen window. The first flower to bloom this year (not counting the snowdrops in bloom I bought and planted a few weeks ago) popped up yesterday in my garden - a pink primrose!  I'm hoping the warm weather forecast for the upcoming week will give the daffodils and tulips I planted last fall the push they need to push up their flower buds and bloom soon.

The day lilies, butterfly bush, raspberries, salvia, echinachea, lamium, sundrops and other perennial plants I moved north from PA to VT all survived our snowless winter without much die-off. I'm not sure the redosier dogwood we planted late in the fall survived, but it's a native plant here that grows in abundance along the brook running through the property so we'll have plenty of replacements if we need them.

Daffodils almost ready to bloom
I was tickled to find lupine seeds sprouting around the new growth from the plants I grew from seed and moved here last summer. I was never able to grow lupines more than 1 season  in Pennsylvania, but they seem to be very happy in this environment. I'll have two year plants plus new plants - both white and purple - in the garden this summer!

The soil around my house in Vermont is heavy clay, hard and compacted. Two previous owners didn't do much to landscape the property since the house was built 17 years ago, except to plant one spreading evergreen at the front left corner and stick in a few perennials near the back steps to help sell the house. The soil needs amending anywhere I plan to garden.  I started work on my long range garden plan last spring by digging along the foundation at the back of the house to lighten the soil with compost and manure and add better drainage. We built a raised bed that doubles as a cold frame/hoop house near the kitchen door, and planted all those perennials from the Pennsylvania garden on the sloping bank out back and in a couple nursery beds near the back door.
Walkway garden below driveway parking area

Yesterday I tackled double-digging the hard-packed soil along the driveway parking area. It took me more than an hour to dig it up with a garden fork, remove rocks and break up the clay clods., the dig it all again and mix up the soils. I also regraded the garden area to remove a bit of slope between the driveway garden  and the front walk, then added rocks to support the leveled section along the stone path leading to the front door. Beyond the path to the right (not visible here) the front yard drops off sharply and will need to be terraced later this spring.

Today I'll be adding Moo-Doo composted cow manure to the planting bed on the right so Bekah, Anya and I can plant veggies along the walkway. In the strip along the driveway to the left I'll plant annuals because eventually that space will be covered by a garage.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

First Spring Spinach!

Organic Spinach April 2012
I just picked the first harvest of fresh spinach from my cold frame here in Vermont. I planted the seeds last fall but they went into the ground a bit late, so the plants languished all winter.

The unusual 80-degree summer weather from a few weeks ago warmed up the soil under the hoops and plastic so the spinach plants took off.

I've got enough fresh green spinach to make a yummy spring salad for supper tonight.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

How to Plant Blueberry Bushes

Dig planting holes twice as deep and wide as the root ball.
I've grown blueberries before, but it's been more than 20 years since I sold the house where I first planted them as foundation shrubs. I'm in a newer home now, and this house has no landscaping,  except what Mother Nature provided (and some green stuff that masquerades as grass along the side of the house and in the steeply sloped front yard).

So, where to begin with this blank canvas garden?

Last spring I dug up a 3 foot wide foundation bed along the back side of the house and amended the soil to see what I could grow. The soil was compacted clay with lots of rocks and about 2 inches of topsoil. After double digging and amending the soild with sand, Moo-Doo and straw, my little test bed produced an amazing crop of pole beans that kept bearing well into October.

This year I have more ambitious garden plans. I want to plant flowering shrubs, I want a big vegetable garden, I want to start perennial beds, and I want to grow blueberries. To get started on these projects, I decided to double dig the foundation bed again, add more manure, more sand and plant blueberry bushes.

Blueberries in this garden will grow into attractive shrubs and we'll get some nice organic fruit in a few years. The location is perfect; the back of the house gets plenty of moisture from the roof. The pine trees we left standing in our yard drop needles in the fall  that tend to collect near the back of the house along this garden, so they'll add beneficial natural acidic mulch to the blueberry bed. The bed faces south, and the sun shines on the section I'm using for the blueberries for several hours a day, but in late afternoon it dips behind the pines in our neighbor's yard, so during the summer it's filtered sun and shade. Blueberries like that exposure. Being on the southerly side near the house protects them from winter winds, too.

To plant blueberry bushes in the bed along the back of the house, all I need to do is dig properly spaced planting holes twice as deep and wide as the root balls of the bushes, mix in manure (Moo-Doo is my favorite) and sand to lighten the heavy clay soil, and then plant each bush with the soil mounded into a slight slope away from the base of the bush. I'll water them well when I plant, and then mulch the entire bed with natural cedar mulch. That's pretty much it except for pruning next winter and side dressing with manure and coffee grounds next spring and summer.

Blueberry bushes ready for planting, 30 March 2012
I found plenty of blueberry plants at the garden center, and chose four plants: 2 each of two different varieties.  Blueberry bushes produce fruit on new wood, so it's best to prune them in February to encourage branching when they begin to grow in Spring. The first year you plant you shouldn't expect a crop of fruit. The plants need to get established and acclimated to their new home. When I bought them, I noticed the young blueberry bushes hadn't been pruned over the winter so I did that when I got them home, while the buds were still tight and not opened up.

The only thing I should need to worry about once I see the bushes have taken root and started to grow is to make sure they get water so they don't dry out, and keeping the birds from eating the berries next year.