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Monthly Archives: April 2013

Cold-frame.

Patti commented that I should do a cold-frame post.  I’ll tell you about my permanent one and give some tips.  I won’t go into the construction of one because every gardening book I own has directions on how to build a cold-frame and there are 5,342 you tube videos on the same subject.

I made up that number, but there are a lot of videos on cold-frames.

Mine is a bottomless box that is made from 3/4 inch marine plywood and screwed together with outside deck screws.  It was made to fit an old storm window, which died a few years back.  I made the replacement frame and set into it 1/4 inch plexi-glass.  Is everyone wondering where I got the marine plywood??  I ordered it from my plywood wholesaler, I’m a cabinet maker.  I use 3/4 inch marine plywood for toe kick material when there is a water/moisture problem, say in a basement.  I also use it for the 4 inch backsplash sub-strait for a plastic laminate counter top when there is a sink in the counter.  Have you ever seen a plastic laminated vanity top with the backsplash swollen in back of the sink, the laminate falling off and a black mold line where the backsplash sits on the counter?  This is from a particle board sub-strait, marine plywood doesn’t react this way.  I have never painted this cold-frame and it has got to be about 10 years old.  Outside all of the time and buried under snow from the snow-blower because it is right by the driveway.

cold-frame with removable shelves

cold-frame with removable shelves

When the seedling are small I put them on shelves so they are in the sun and not shaded by the box.  As they grow I remove the shelves.  One year my tomato plants were so tall, I had to dig out the dirt in the floor of the frame to lower them enough to close the hinged top.DSCF0002I’ve never lost any plants do to frost in my cold-frame but I have fried most of my tomato plants one year.  I didn’t open the top on a very sunny day and the temperature inside got too hot for the plants.  The outside air temperature wasn’t that high but the sun on the glass topped box was too much.  I prop open the glass top to cool the frame down.  If it is a beautiful day, like today, I just open the frame all the way.  This year, with free-ranging chickens, I have to remember to place a section of wire fencing over the opened frame or the ladies will jump right in and do their thing.  That would not be good.

Potting shed.

Well, I would like to have a potting shed/greenhouse someday.

my potting shed on a really nice day 4/27/13

my potting shed on a really nice day 4/27/13

In my potting shed this afternoon, I was able to thin my lettuce, basil and leek seedlings.  I also potted one sweet potato slip that had roots attached to it, that I cut from my sprouted sweet potato,.  I cut off two more slips that didn’t have any roots and placed them in long-stemmed wine glasses (we are a classy gardener)  till they grow some roots.

thinning seedlings

thinning seedlings

sprouting sweet potato

sprouting sweet potato

slips growing on sweet potato 4/27/13

slips growing on sweet potato 4/27/13

cut off slip with roots

cut off slip with roots

potted slip

potted slip

long stemmed wine glasses with slips

long stemmed wine glasses with slips

And now for the Rabbit.  I have a wild rabbit that calls my back yard home, I think he/she lives under one of my large Rhododendrons.  The chickens and the rabbit seem to tolerate each other pretty well.  Jack will sometimes chase the rabbit off.

chicken watching rabbit from stone wall 4/27/13

chicken watching rabbit from stone wall 4/27/13

as close as it gets

as close as it gets

Does everybody know that if you click on my pictures they should enlarge??

Ed

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This will be the last in this series. Maybe.  In my spot of New England, carpenter ants, come calling every spring and through out the summer.  I have battled them every year I have lived here, which is a few decades.  Everyone worries about termites but I think carpenter ants do more damage in half the time.

Even with a few days that have been warm, I still am using the wood-stove for heat.  I store my kindling in trash barrels outside to keep the wood dry.  When I went to get some from my last barrel, that was against the side of the shed, there were big black carpenter ants in the barrel.  In years past I would have used a couple of bug bombs on them.  Now, I call over the ladies and dump out the kindling.  After kicking the pieces around to reveal the hiding ants I think the ladies got all of them. They will be turning them into my morning breakfast tonight.

They are amazing creatures and so useful.

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searching for carpenter ants 4/25/13

searching for carpenter ants 4/25/13

Tomatoes.  I got a late start with starting my tomato seeds this year, 4/3/13 is when I planted most of them.  Today I transplanted them to two 9-packs.  They look so small.  Will they be ready in 4-5 weeks to go into the garden??  They will be ready, might be small, but they’ll be ready.  I could always go the a garden center and buy a larger plant.  No, I’m too frugal.

Cold-frame 4/25/13

Cold-frame 4/25/13

The tomatoes are in the front tray, the 3 round cookie containers are my original starting pots.  There are more plants in these if I need more.  The back tray has my lettuce and basil on the left, then my leeks and finally my sweet potato slips.  The slips are big enough to be cut off of the potato and potted.  Maybe this weekend.

It is so nice to be playing in the dirt.

Ed

 

After a very nice soaking rain Friday night into Saturday this was on my garage door.  It was 4 inches long.  I didn’t have it for breakfast Saturday morning but after my ladies (chickens) played a round of keep-a-way with it, they turned it into a Sunday morning egg.

4 inch long slug

4 inch long slug

Sweet potato update;  I have 6 or more slips growing nicely on my sweet potato.  Will probably cut some of the larger ones off this week and either pot them of stand them in water till they grow some roots.

sweet potato slips  4/21/13

sweet potato slips 4/21/13

 

Ed

chickens preparing the coldframe now that the spinach has been transplanted

chickens preparing the coldframe now that the spinach has been transplanted

my magnolia has been filling the yard with perfume all day

 

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chickens on the rock chickens on the rock

 

there is a worm in this pile of wood-chips,  I saw it!!

there is a worm in this pile of wood-chips, I saw it!!

multi-dibbles,  12 inches square

multi-dibbles, 12 inches square

Multi-dibbles are a planting tool for spacing of seeds or seedlings.  They are 12 inches square with 4 short dowels for 6 inch spacing, 9 short dowels for 4 inch spacing and 16 short dowels for 3 inch spacing.  You just press it into the dirt and plant in the holes.  Move it over and press it again.

multi dibble,  freshly sown garden section and wood-chip walkways

multi dibble, freshly sown garden section and wood-chip walkways

I really like the wood-chip walkways.  With defined walk-ways the garden soil doesn’t get compacted so the plants grow better and the walk-ways don’t turn to mud.  It’s cheaper than making raised beds and being a frugal yankee, I like that.

It is so good to be playing in the dirt.  AND I HAVE 2 SHOOTS OF ASPARAGUS POKING THROUGH THE WINTER HORSE MANURE MULCH.  YEAH!!!!   I know, I’ll need more than 2 for a meal but they are late this year and I’m glad they are making an appearance.  There isn’t anything better than tender asparagus fresh from the garden.  I refuse to buy that rubbery thin stuff they call asparagus in the super-market.

Ed

I live about 6 miles from the starting line, in Hopkinton, of the Boston Marathon.  Many times I have gone and watched the masses on their run to Boston. I didn’t go yesterday, I was too busy.  I was out in my garden when my wife came out with tears in her eyes and told me there was a bombing at the finish line in Boston.

I’ve lived in Holliston all of my life, it was a boring town when I was a teenager, but a great place to bring up children of your own as a parent.  Safe, quiet, friendly, insulated from the people that are on the evening news.  Not yesterday.  I was angry, why?  why?? why???  We may never know.

I’m sad today.

Ed

It is official, Spring is here, my Magnolia is blooming.  It is one of the earliest flowering Magnolias that I see in the area so some years it gets zapped by a frosty night and looses its flowers.  I’m hoping  that doesn’t happen this year.  No cold nights are expected for the next week.  We’ll see.

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I’ve gotten into the garden and planted peas.  I don’t plant them in neat rows, I sprinkle them heavily in a foot wide row along my garden fence.  Then I rake them in, tamp them down and water.  Some of the seeds are on the surface, most are under dirt, some have room and some are touching other seeds.  It will be a jungle of vines when it is time to harvest but the yield will be great.  I hope.

The spinach that I planted in my cold frame last fall is starting to grow again.  There are too many plants in too small a space so I dug out over thirty and transplanted them into the west garden about  5 inches apart in all directions.  The picture of the cold frame is after I dug out over thirty seedlings.  I plan to transplant more as time allows.  Probably should be doing that instead of blogging.

spinach in cold frame 4/10/13

spinach in cold frame 4/10/13

transplanted spinach 4/10/13

transplanted spinach 4/10/13

Ed

 

I’m off to a slow start this year with my garden.  I think the chickens are taking up too much time and energy.  Well, that’s my excuse. It could also be the last late snow storms that kind of put all gardening on hold.  I hadn’t even gotten around to ordering seeds for this season.   I did finally order seeds about a week ago, from Fedco Seeds in Maine.  They arrived in the mail Yesterday, kind of like Christmas in April.

I did start some tomato seeds that I had from previous years.  Started them April 3 rd, no signs of life yet.  With old seeds I never know.  I grow a lot of different plants but not a lot of any one plant, so I have 6 recycled cookie containers with a sprinkling of seeds in each one from 6 different varieties of tomatoes.  I will transplant the best seedlings into larger containers, keeping maybe 3 of each.  I had one new variety of tomato seed in my seed order, so I planted them as soon as the mail came.

recycled cookie container with tomato seeds in potting soil

recycled cookie container with tomato seeds in potting soil

cookie container in clear plastic bag & tagged with empty seed pack

cookie container in clear plastic bag & tagged with empty seed pack

I place the started seeds into a clear plastic bag to keep the moisture constant, like their own little green house.  When they start to sprout I will remove the bag.

Tomatoes are one of the few plants that actually do better with transplanting.  I sometimes transplant them a second time into a still larger pot before setting them out into the garden.  Starting my own seeds I get to grow varieties that you can’t find normally at the nursery, like Black Cherry tomatoes, one of my favorites.

I couldn’t stop with just the tomatoes, so I also started basil, 3 different lettuce and leeks.  These I started in individual 12 packs, they will go straight into the garden when ready.

SWEET POTATO.  The sweet potato that I set up to grow slips from ended up rotting in the container of water it was in.  My wonderful wife brought me home a small sweet potato from “Whole Foods” and I set it into a container of water March 15 th.  It is doing great, roots are growing out of the bottom of it and buds are growing from the top section, some of the buds are actually slips already with little leaves.

first try 3/5/13 now rotting

first try started 3/5/13 now rotting 4/2/13

first try

first try picture taken 4/2/13

second try 3/15/13 buds showing

second try started 3/15/13 buds showing 4/2/13

second try with roots and buds

second try with roots and buds picture taken 4/2/13

I need 5 slips and should get at least that many from this one potato.  I will plant them in 5-5gallon buckets and hang them off of my deck.  The sweet potato plant all by itself is very pretty.  Guests are surprised when I tell them what they are, their green leaves and light purple flowers look like an ornamental plant.  They are,  we just get to eat the potatoes at the end of the season.

slips starting picture taken 4/6/13

slips starting picture taken 4/6/13

It is so good to be digging in the dirt again.  I moved some of my compost  (this is from the chicken run) and spread it in the East garden.  The sun was strong and felt good but the air was still cool and the wind made it even chillier.  This is why we live in New England.

Ed

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