Saturday, May 26, 2012

Growing Corn for the First Time

I have never grown corn before. I think it is because I just never seemed to have the room for corn in the garden and it is readily available at farm stands and farmers markets. I acquired a package of Silver Queen Corn, so I decided to give it a try.

Silver Queen Corn

I began with some research and learned that corn germinates best in soil that's warmer than 60°F. Corn seed sown in cool and moist soil is also susceptible to fungal disease. I also learned that starting corn seeds early inside is a challenge because it grows a long taproot and doesn't transplant well unless root disturbance is minimized.

I laid some corn seeds on a wet paper towel on May 10th to pre-sprout while I thought about how to proceed. At the time, our nights were still in the 40s and the 2-inch soil blocks I use for other transplants would not have capacity for a long taproot. But I knew that the corn plants would benefit from getting a head start. Hmmm....

Within 24-hours the corn seed began to sprout! Whoops! I thought I would have several days to mull over my decision. Now I had to act fast and get these seeds into some growing medium. I spotted an empty toilet tissue roll and thought this would be just the right size.

I didn't have enough tissue rolls to plant in, but I used it to quickly make up some newspaper pots and planted the pre-sprouted corn seeds:

Making Newspaper Pots

Within a couple days they were popping up out of the soil and were placed under the lights:

May 15th

I began hardening them off. Days were warm, but nights were still in the 40s°F so the corn seedlings were shuffled inside each evening. Soon the temperatures increased and they were spending nights outside with the other seedlings.

On May 24th, the corn seedlings were transplanted into the garden. The roots were just beginning to break through the bottom of the newspaper pots. 

Corn's Taproot Just Breaking Through the Newspaper Pot

I gently removed the extra paper on the bottom and top of the pots. The newspaper would break down eventually, but I didn't want to restrict the roots in any way. 

Extra Newspaper Removed from Top and Bottom of the Pot

24-corn transplant were block planted in one of the square foot gardens in front of the peas. 

Unfortunately, one was lost the first night to cutworm (I think). The rest are still standing tall. Hopefully I was able to give them a head start. We will see how they do. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Tomatoes and Peppers

I schedule my warm season crops to be transplanted into the garden around Memorial Day. My last frost-free date average is around mid-May, but I have learned that I don't gain anything from trying to transplant tomatoes and peppers any earlier. Even though the days may be warmer, chilly nights cause the plants to sulk and sit there in the cold soil with little growth. 

I started pre-sprouting tomato seeds the second week of April. Most were quick to sprout and were carefully transplanted into waiting soil blocks. These were then potted up as soon as they looked healthy and stable, usually when they begin with their true leaves.

I began hardening off the tomatoes and peppers the second week of May. Luckily, our nights were rather mild so they were soon spending all their time outside. I did cover them up with a row cover on some of the cooler nights but they seemed to take it all in stride.

Starting pepper seeds was a challenge again this year. I began pre-sprouting peppers the last week of March. Some sprouted right away but most either took their sweet time or were duds. I will have to remember to try to get peppers started even earlier next year. 

I was sad to see that my last few Anaheim Pepper seeds failed to germinate. Attempting to source some fresh seeds locally was almost impossible. I finally found some and began pre-sprouting them but like most pepper seeds, they took a while to germinate and are quite a bit behind the others. I hope they catch up. We rely very heavily on Anaheim Peppers for our canned salsa for the year.

This week is a great week to transplant the heat loving plants to the garden. We began with sunshine, then overcast and rainy for the mid part of the week. Then sun returns at the end of the week. Temps are predicted to be 70s during the day and mid-50s at night. Transplanting seedlings during overcast days allows them to settle their roots into the garden without the added stress of the sun. Then they will be more prepared to meet the sun when it returns this weekend.

Plotting out the San Marzano Tomatoes along a trellis.

San Marzano Tomatoes planted.

San Marzano Tomaotes

I began by taking inventory of the transplants and adjusting the garden plan. I agonized over this for a few beds because I was trying to find a way to squeeze in some extra transplants. It seems no matter how much the garden is expanded each year, there is never enough room for everything I want to grow. Some seedlings will be given away. I've been transplanting and seeding a little each day. Soon the garden will be completely planted.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Harvest Mondays: May 21, 20012

Each Monday, Daphne’s Dandelions hosts “Harvest Monday” where everyone can share links to their harvest for the week. It’s fun to see what everyone is harvesting from his or her gardens in different areas.

This week is very similar to last week's harvests. We are enjoying lots of greens here at the Garden Spot. Colorful, simple salads are enjoyed every day.

Mixed Lettuce

Pak Choi


It has been very warm over the last few days and temperatures were in the 80s on Sunday. I was in the garden early morning to harvest the majority of the larger leaves on the spinach before temperatures began to creep up.

Spinach Before Harvest

Spinach After Harvest

The spinach has done really well this year but I believe it will bolt soon. Especially if we continue to experience temperature fluctuations like we did this weekend.

Be sure to visit Daphne's Dandelions to see what others are harvesting this week.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Harvest Monday: May 14, 2012

Each Monday, Daphne’s Dandelions hosts “Harvest Monday” where everyone can share links to their harvest for the week. It’s fun to see what everyone is harvesting from his or her gardens in different areas.

There is finally enough growing in the garden for some small harvests:


Pak Choi


Not shown are a few lettuce harvests for salads. It is so nice to enjoy fresh greens again.

Be sure to visit Daphne's Dandelions to see what others are harvesting this week.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Beautiful Saturday and Garden Preparation

Our latest rainy period tapered off to beautiful sunshine and warm temperatures on Saturday. We took full advantage of the nice weather to work in the garden because more wet weather is expected to roll in early in the week.

Some tomatoes and peppers spent their first hours outside hardening off under the protection of a patio umbrella. It was pretty breezy so they endured some abuse before I shuffled them back inside to the safety of the seed starting area in the basement. 

Tomatoes spending some time outside.

Peppers too!

Other happenings in the garden: 

Squash and Melon Bed Cultivated and Plotted Out

Trellis Erected

Soaker Hoses Laid

New growth was acknowledged:


Peas and Snow Peas

Red Baron Onions Growing from Sets

Harvests were had (but you'll have to wait until Harvest Monday's to see).

First Potatoes Emerged form the Soil!

Look what I discovered when I peeked under the mulching hay on the potato bed. 

The first potatoes planted at the end of April have emerged from the soil.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Potato Bed Planted

The rainy period broke over the weekend providing us with a few days of sunshine and warmer temperatures. Once the soil dried out, I began double digging and planted the rest of the potatoes.

I didn't take pictures of the process this time because I was dreading the labor and wanted to finish it quickly. Here is the finished bed mulched lightly with hay:

This bed is 5 ft wide x 19 ft long. A few weeks ago, I planted about 1/3 of the bed with the leftover Kennebec potatoes from last year. The newly purchase seed potatoes were allowed to chit for a few weeks and were planted yesterday.

I used the John Jeavons’ Potato Planting Method that Laura at The Modern Victory Garden introduced me to a few years ago. I documented it last year here.

John Jeavons “Grow Biointensive” gardening method involves double-dug beds, feeding the soil with compost, and planting closely to conserve spacing and create a microclimate. You can learn more here.

For potatoes, this method involves spacing the potato seed on 9-inches centers by 9-inches deep while double digging. The rows are planted in an offset, or hexagonal spacing. The closer spacing helps maximize space and reduce water loss. No hilling is required.

The potato bed is a fairly new garden bed dug last year. It was the first time I double dug this bed and it was obvious that it was part of the garden at one time. I found some plastic plant markers and a spoon deep in the soil. The soil was in really good condition as well.

Once the bed was planted, I leveled off the soil, laid a soaker hose, and mulched with some hay leftover from last year. Today the rain is giving the bed a nice deep watering.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

We Need the Rain

I have to keep reminding myself now dry the ground was, how everyone was talking about drought conditions and the fire danger these conditions posed. It's easy to forget when it has been miserably cold and rainy for several days in a row and the forecast informs you that sun may be seen on Sunday but not today. I want to pull the covers up over my head and stay in bed.

I like gently waking up in the morning with the sun peeking through my bedroom window. The light dances across the walls and slowly brightens the room until I feel I must rise to take on the day. There is so much to do.

That will be another day. Today I rouse slowly and greet the dogs who are always happy no matter if it is sunny or rainy. They both look at me with pleading eyes as I open the door to let them outside. Like it is my fault that it is raining. I shrug and encourage them to go outside. Millie doesn't mind it much and trudges out to do what she has to do, but Bradie hesitates at the door and needs a little nudge to get her going. I breathe in the cold and damp air and stand ready at the door with a dog towel. We have lots of dog towels lately.

It has been mostly cool, raining or drizzling for over a week. Although this morning it feels like it has been forever since we have seen the sun. We have almost caught up to the "normal" rainfall amount for this time of year. The grass is richly green and tall and in great need of another mow. The trees along the edges of the property are ready to unfurl their foliage.

The apple trees are leafing out and budding. I hope the blooms hold off until the rain stops and the temperatures rise a bit. Not many bees or other pollinators around during cold and rainy days. 

Apple Buds

Overall there is not much to look at in the garden yet. But there are signs that current inhabitants seem to be enjoying the cooler and wet weather:

Garden In Progress


Kale and Other Greens

Onion Set Sprouting



Some a little more than I'd like:

Unwanted Guest