Archived Monthly Posts

Drought Worsens, Watering Like Crazy

The drought here in Central Indiana continues to get worse.  It feels a lot like the drought of 1988.  Even though I was not gardening then, I remember how dry and hot it was that growing season.  I have been watering at least every 5 days or so.  Parts of the garden I have to water using a hose end sprayer, making sure to get the water down at the base of the plant and into the soil.  Other parts of the garden I have soaker hoses laid out.

Despite the dry conditions, my spring broccoli harvest has been incredible!!  I just finished harvesting all of the first heads, with many side shoots coming on.  I started harvesting my garden peas about one week ago.  Harvest should finish up on them this week.  I will then pull up the pea vines and plant green beans in their place.  The spring planted cabbage is almost ready to harvest.  I harvested the first few hot banana peppers last week.  They should continue to grow and produce as long as they get watered.  The red candy onion tops have just started to fall over (which means that they are about finished growing).  The yellow candy onions are not too far behind.  I hopefully watered the onions for the last time yesterday.   The onion crop looks like it will be decent this year.  I am glad that I got the onions in the ground early this year.  The spring lettuce crop is about finished.  I have more lettuce seedlings started in trays, but it will be a few more weeks before they are ready to be transplanted out into the garden.  The bush green beans and pole lima beans are growing well as well as the cucumbers.  Some of the cucumber vines have reached the top of the cage and I can see small cucumbers forming on some of the plants.  The potatoes vines are starting to die back, so I think they are nearing maturity.  The corn is growing like mad and it already about 5 foot tall and my roma tomato plants have started to flower and small tomatoes have already started to form on the plants.  The celery plants are FINALLY starting to get some size to them.  Bottom line is that despite the lack of rain the garden is growing fairly well (as long as I am able to water). 

I am planning to start my fall crop (that is hard to believe) of broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower around the first week in July (starting seeds in cell packs on the back porch for later transplanting).

June Garden Update, Desert Like Conditions

The weather has been super dry and very hot up until a few days ago, almost like trying to garden in the desert.  Despite the bad weather, the garden is growing fine.  Needless to say, I have been watering.  I harvested my first 2 heads of broccoli on May 30th.  That is about 3 weeks ahead of a normal year!!  The broccoli heads grew and tasted fine, but they developed a condition called “Hollow Stem” where the stem is hollow inside (at least part of the way up the stem).  The very hot and dry weather was probably to blame for this, but they still tasted fine.  The other broccoli plants still out in the garden look fine from the outside, but I bet most of them will have hollow stems as well.  The garden is fully planted now and everything is up and growing.  I have been having major issues with the sparrows eating the leaves off of the pea vines.  I have never seen anything like this in my 18 plus years of gardening.  I finally had to cover both 8 foot sections of the pea fence with row covers.  The sparrows do not seem to be bothering any of the other vegetable plants, which I am very thankful.  I have also struggled this year with the celery seedlings.  The seedlings are still small, but I think most of them might make it to maturity.  Harvest continues on the lettuce, green onions, and radishes.  The cucumbers and pole lima beans have started to climb up the cages and fence.  The potatoes are growing like crazy in the raised beds and are looking really good.  The tomatoes, peppers, and corn are growing nicely.  They like all of this hot weather, as long as the plants are kept watered.  The onions are growing fine despite the heat and desert like conditions.  I have really tried to keep the onions watered since they are now in their critical growth stage (before they start bulbing).  It did rain last night, but only very lightly.  The temperatures have cooled considerably, with highs only in the 50’s today (can the weather get any more goofy).

Nice Head of Broccoli (Variety "Packman") Just Prior to Harvesting

Red Potatoes Growing Like Crazy in 4'x4' Raised Bed

Yellow Sweet Corn (Variety "NK199") Reaching for the Sky

Early May Garden Growing Well, Most of Garden Planted

Wow, what a difference in the garden since my last blog entry of April 21st.  The garden has really taken off.  The potatoes are up and about 8 inches tall and the corn has just poked up through the soil.  The lettuce is really growing fast now, so fast in fact, that it needs harvesting twice a week.  All of the March planted radishes have now been harvested.  Some of these have been nearly 3 inches in diameter (see pic below).  The variety of radish I have been growing over the last several years is “champion.”  It grows really well and I highly recommend it.  All of the pepper, tomato, and cucumber seedlings have been planted out, as I think we are out of the frost potential here in Central Indiana.  I am still waiting a few more days to plant out celery, as the seedlings are still a little small.  The snap beans and lima beans will be planted out probably in the next few days.  I took apart my cold frame a few days ago and stored it away until next spring and I put away the plastic covered hoops until fall.  The weather has cooled off a bit, but my garden did received some much needed rain a few days ago.

Wow, Look at the Size of Those Radishes

Lettuce Really Growing Fast

Cucumbers Planted (top) and Hot Banana and Green Pepper Seedlings Planted

Six Roma Tomato Seedlings Planted and Spaced Out Over an 8' x 4' Area

Peas Growing Up Trellis (left) with Radishes and Green Onions (right)

Cabbage, Broccoli, and Brussels Sprouts are Getting Bigger

Chickens Enjoying Some Roost Time in Their Covered Outdoor Run

April Garden Growing Fine, Weather Has Cooled a Bit

The weather has cooled a bit, but despite a few frosts and one freeze over the last 2 weeks, the garden is doing quite well.  The weather today is cloudy and quite chilly for this time of year (temps in the low 40’s…….brrrrr).  It rained a little yesterday evening, but it is starting to get a little dry.  The lettuce and onions might need watering before too long.  The forecast is calling for a chance of a few more frosty mornings coming up.  I finally planted out my cabbage and broccoli seedlings on April 16th.  So far they are doing well.  The spring planted lettuce is really growing well.  I harvested more of the over wintered lettuce yesterday.  I will probably only harvest from these plants one more time, and then they will have to come out to make room for the brussels sprouts.  The topsetting onions (the ones planted last fall) are starting to form their little topsets from the center of the plants.  The spring planted onion transplants are starting to grow new leaves.  I will be fertilizing them within the next few days.  The peas are growing, albeit slowly, and the potatoes have just started to poke up through the soil.  I planted my cucumber seeds in small pots, about one week ago, and put them in the cold frame.  They should be germinating within the next few days.  See some of my garden pics below.

Cabbage and Broccoli Planted, Notice Radishes and Over Wintered Lettuce to the Left

Spring Planted Lettuce About Ready for First Harvest

Fall Planted Topsetting Onions Left and Spring Planted Onion Transplants Right

Garden Peas (Variety Mr. Big) Starting to Grow, Notice Green Onions Also Growing Near Top of Pic

Patience is a Virtue, Especially in the Spring

It is hard to wait for the right time to plant your vegetables out into your garden, especially if it has been so unseasonably warm like it has been this spring.  With the first few warm days of spring everybody is itching to get out in the garden.  Heck, I cannot blame them.  After months of cold and snow I am also ready to get started, but I know that every plant has its right time.  I have really enjoyed all of the warm weather so far this spring, but I have not deviated from my planting schedule.  We had a light freeze here in Central Indiana a few days ago and are expecting more freezes the next two days.  I am sure glad that I did not plant out my broccoli and cabbage plants yet.  Some of the lettuce is out, but it is protected under the plastic covered hoop.  I did plant onions, but they are super hardy, so they should be fine.  I did plant pea seeds about 2 weeks ago, and they have started to emerge from the soil.  I think they might be okay, but it just depends on how cold it really gets.  The point is stick with your predetermined planting schedule despite what the current weather might be.  You will be glad that you did.

Onions, Lettuce, Peas, and Radishes Planted - Weather Still Very Warm

Wow, the weather continues warm for this time of year.  Had a frost advisory for this area a few days ago, but I did not observe any frost in the garden.  Received my onion plants from Dixondale on March 28th and planted them the same day.  I separated out the really small ones (for green onions) and planted the rest for full sized bulbs.  I ordered 2 bunches of Candy onion plants and 1 bunch of Red Candy onion plants.  I planted around 140 onion plants, in total.  The onions were planted 4 inches apart in small north-south rows, leaving the rows 5 inches apart (notice: this spacing is somewhat further apart than what Mel Bartholomew recommends). On March 29th I transplanted out into the garden some of my lettuce seedlings.  I planted these under a plastic covered hoop which is about 3 foot by 5 foot, making sure to keep the ends opened for now since it is pretty warm.  If a frost or freeze is predicted, I will close both ends at night to protect the plants.  I also planted a few small rows of radishes around the overwintered lettuce plants.  The overwintered lettuce continues to grow pretty fast, so I will start a second harvest on these plants in a few days.  I still have about half of my lettuce seedlings in the cold frame.  I will be planting those out into the garden over the next few weeks.  Peas (variety Mr. Big) were directly seeded out into the garden about one week ago along two 8-foot galvanized pea fences.  These pea fences are great and can be folded up and stored flat when harvest is complete.  Harvest continues on the overwintered top settings onions (for green onions).  Potatoes will be planted in 2 of the raised beds soon (probably within the week).  Happy Spring Gardening!

Unbelievably Warm Weather, Harvesting Begins

Wow, what unbelievably warm/hot weather weather we have had here in Indiana over the last week.  High temperatures have been in the 70’s and 80’s, which is some 20-30 degrees above normal.  My overwintered lettuce and top setting onions have exploded into growth (see pics below).  I will be harvesting some of the lettuce and onions today.  Interesting to note, all of the overwintered lettuce that survived under the hoop was the variety Sierra.  My onions plants from Dixondale Farms should be arriving within the week.  All of the seedlings in the cold frame are growing well.  Most of the lettuce seedlings might be big enough to transplant out into the garden (under the plastic covered hoop) in another week.  I started green pepper seeds about 6 days ago.  Most of my celery seeds have germinated, but I have not moved them out into the cold frame as of yet, due to all of the hot weather.  I was a little worried that it was too hot in the cold frame for some of the seedlings, but most seemed to handle the heat very well.  The broccoli, cabbage, and brussels sprout seedlings are still somewhat small, but they should start getting bigger over the next few weeks.  I won’t be planting those out into the garden until the 3rd or 4th week of April.  I will be directly sowing 2-8 foot rows of peas within a few days.  I have been letting my chickens work and scratch the soil in most of the empty garden beds.  They love to eat all of the worms and bugs.  Spring gardening activities are “gearing up.”

Overwintered Lettuce Awaiting Harvesting, 3/24/12

Overwintered Topsetting Onions Already Over a Foot Tall, 3/24/12

Barred Rock Hens Pixie and Dixie Enjoying a Little Backyard Free Range Time

Pretty Rhode Island Red Hen "Dolly".....May I Have Some Lettuce Please?

Lettuce Seeds Germinated, Compost Spread, Starting More Seeds Today

Most of my lettuce seeds have germinated and are now happily growing in my outside cold frame.  I will be starting seeds of broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, celery, and fennel today.  I emptied both of my compost bins this last week and top dressed all of my garden beds with this fabulous soil amendment. The weather looks unseasonably warm for the next week or so.  I think spring has finally arrived here in Central Indiana :-)

Onion Planting Time, How to Chose the Right Onion Variety

For those Midwest gardeners like me (zones 5 or 6), March through mid April is the right time to plant onions.  If you want really good sized bulbs, you must get them into the ground early.  I start with good quality transplants and usually like to get them planted no later than the first week of April.  This year my onion transplants will be delivered to me the week of March 26th.  I ordered my onions from Dixondale Farms and have ordered my onions from them for many years now.

For success in growing onions, you must also select the right variety for your area.  I will let Dixondale Farms help you with your selection:  See http://www.dixondalefarms.com/category/onion_plants

I have also added a very informative video below from Dixondale Farms about onions and onion selection.  You can also view it by clicking on the following link: Selecting the Right Onion Variety for your Area

The above video is excellent.  I even learned a few things about onions that I did not know before.

You might also be interested in a step-by-step guide on how to plant onions.  In April of 2010 I published a Guide to Planting Onions on this blog.  To view this see:  A Guide to Planting Onions

Happy Onion Planting!!

Lettuce Seeds Started, Cold Frame

Spring is here (knock on wood).  I seeded 72 lettuce plants yesterday.  I like to germinate all of my seeds in vermiculite under florescent lights and over a seed warmer mat (see firs pic below).  When the seeds germinate, I will move them to the cold frame.  The weather forecast looks decent for the next week or so.  This time of year I am more concerned with the low temperatures and not necessarily the high temperatures.  If the low temps are much below 20 degrees, it might be too cold for the plants in the cold frame.  I posted a picture below of what the inside of my cold frame looks like.  I place used plastic half gallon containers filled with water along the back wall of the cold frame.  The sun heats up the water in the day and releases the heat at night, using the principle of Thermal Mass.  This has worked well for me over the last 10 years or so.  With any luck, most of the lettuce seeds should germinate in 5 to 7 days.  I will be starting broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and celery seeds in another 7 to 10 days.  Happy Early Spring Gardening!

Seeds Awaiting Germination Under Florescent Lights

Inside of Cold Frame with Half Gallon Water Filled Plastic Containers Along Back Wall