2018 Garden Planner

The weather of early June has ranged from seasonably warm to mild without excessively oppressive heat. It has remained rainy, though. The wet weather has been broken up by short stretches of breezy and less humid days to air out the gardens and has been definitely favorable to plant growth if not for weeding or harvesting.

At the beginning of June, hurricane Alberto went right up into the Ohio valley and into the Midwest, shearing off many anti-clockwise moving arms of thunderstorms which caused localized flooding in the Des Plaines river area. The following weekend was punctuated by more traditional, eastward-moving thunderstorm activity [1].

After all that rain, the strawberry garden has become a savage jungle. I understand now why commercially grown strawberries are a pesticide intensive crop. Once those berries get ripe, everything wants to get their feed on. Slug and insect damage is widespread. It is like Vietnam in there! Hostiles have breached my fences and have gotten inside of the wire: rabbits and some other varmint with really stinky poop (probably a small opossum or a skunk). I found the severed arm of a toad!

Making matters more gruesome, the continuously wet weather and high humidity makes insufficient opportunity for the beds to dry out. I made a grave error last year by letting runners grow and allowing new stolons to take root between the rows. The June bearing plants are now one massive bed, the foliage of which is dense inhibiting any hope of proper airflow. The result is that while there is a great bounty of berries, many of them have been damaged by pests and many more lie in the damp canopy and rot. Once the June bearing plants have stopped producing fruit, I will renovate the beds by thinning out the plants into more manageable rows and cutting off the leaves to the base of the crown on the remaining plants. [2]

Out in the new garden, I have been taking care of the weeding when soil conditions allow while I stay on top of the sweet pea harvest. I have had four pickings of sweet peas. Pea shoots are very delicate and adverse to hoeing. As such, the bed had become quite thick with weed grasses and ladyfingers. Following the fourth and final picking, the pea shoots begining to fade and yellow, I hoed and chopped up the entire bed. A few stands of marigolds that grew in the same bed as a companion plant with the eggplants last year have also reseeded and germinated. I left these to grow. Several weeks ago, I sowed brussels sprouts seeds in nine groups amidst these sweet pea plants. I cut off the bottoms of little plastic cocktail cups and forced these into the soil, sowing the seeds within the rims. These have germinated successfully. I have applied diatomaceous earth generously within the rims of the cups which shall pose a significant barrier to hungry slugs.

For the first time in the new garden I have fertilized several of the crops with an organic fertilizer containing "bat guano, kelp meal, alfalfa meal, fish meal and naturally occurring organic material," which was on clearance at Blaine's Farm And Fleet. I fertilized the onion beds, tomato plants, kale plants, broccoli plants, potato plants and summer squash plants according to the manufacturer's directions [3] .

I have meticulously hand weeded my onion rows which are growing tall and healthy. I have begun to take in green onions, with which I have been making stir fry with the sweet peas and the last of the spinach I picked earlier which I have been hoarding in the fridge.

The main tomato plants are growing very well and have all flowered. The Fourth-of-July and Sweet Million plants are starting to bear fruit. The main shoot of the Chocolate Cherry plant was damaged by a boring larvae of some sort but the remaining plant seems to be recovering. The Sun Gold is still not very happy in the relative shade but is reluctantly producing a few flowers.

Cucumber plants are finally starting to show real growth and I am coaxing them to grow up the chicken wire of the fence.

The summer squash seems to be reacting positively to the fertilizer and/or heat and have grown moderately despite being in the relative shade.

Sunflower plants are growing quickly and even while still less than three feet tall have big leaves which has started to make a nice canopy under which weeds will not thrive. The popcorn plants have also grown modestly but nothing like the commercial fields of corn have.

The garlic plants have begun to produce little flower heads, also known as scapes. It is recommended to remove the scapes so that the plant will put more energy into growing bulbs. However, I read of one gardener who recommends letting the scapes on a few plants mature to produce little bulbettes which can be resewn in the late summer. I believe that I will follow this advice and attempt this. [4]

The potato plants are tall and should be producing flowers very soon, at which point tubers should start to form on the roots. I have read that phosphorous fertilizer will boost tuber formation, which begins around the time that flowers emerge, while an excess of nitrogen will cause the a lot of plant growth but will inhibit tuber formation. [5]

Aside the potatoes and garlic, vetch and rye is growing. The vetch has flowered which has attracted fat bumblebees to feed. The rye heads are starting to fill out with seed.

The Jade green bean plants are tall, upright and healthy and have begun to flower. the Asian type pole beans have exhibited more modest growth, as they did last year.

The spinach plants have grown tall and have produced spires full of tiny little flowers. In between the rows, the Yellow Eye bean plants have germinated well and are quickly thriving.

Okra plant growth has been modest to underwhelming and a few of the plants have spotty leaves. I shall have to keep an eye on that.

Father's Day weekend and here and with it oppressive heat and humidy is in the forecast. Then the summer solistice will be upon us, and slowly and nearly imperceptively, the rigorous growth of June will begin to slow into the hot, lazy days of Summer.

P.S.: I laid down another layer of chicken wire where the varmints are getting in and then took a nice long soak in the pond where the goldfish pecked at my body hair. They tickle.


[1] http://k1025.com/alberto-over-indiana/
[2] http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/time_to_renovate_strawberries
[3] https://foxfarmfertilizer.com/item/happy-frog-tomato-and-vegetable-fertilizer.html
[4] http://yougrowgirl.com/growing-garlic-breaking-rules/
[5] https://www.bettervegetablegardening.com/fertilizing-potatoes.html