April Promises Warmer Days N.W. Indiana Calumet Region Gardeners
The Ice And Snow Of Late March
Here Is What You Will Find In This Edition of Calumet Regional Gardening
- About Planting Potatoes
- Aerating Your Lawn
- Soil Improvement
- Why Compost?
- Conserving Gardener Energy
- Starting Seeds Outside
- Trimming Shrubs By Hand
North West Indiana
Planting Potatoes Was Not Going To Happen This March in My Garden
I always get my potatoes in the hills by the end of March but this year it was not happening. My garden has a very special micro-climate that tends to run a little cooler than some of my friends who live nearby. I think the reason for this is due to the surrounding large trees and shrubbery that belong to my neighbors. My garage also plays a roll in blocking sunshine from the south. My garden plants always,perform just a little slower than everyone around here.The sun does not hit my garden full force until about 11.am.
This is a good thing in the heat of the summer but it gets my garden off to a slow start, in the early spring. I went to see about putting potatoes in the hills and the ground was still mostly frozen. I decided that it was wise to wait until April to try and plant them. It has been very wet and extra cold so there is no, good reason, to try to rush Mother Nature. I will check the Farmers Almanac for the best planting dates in April and take care of potatoes then. I have plenty of other work to attend to just the same.
Bob Ewing posted a hub on growing potatoes that covers most methods of planting and how to handle that job. I recommend this reading if you want to try your hand with potatoes. His hub is full of information and should help you decide what method is best for you.
Aerating Machine Is Heavy Work But Does The Trick
Great Deals on Composting Equipment
Using A Gasoline Powered Aerator To Improve Your Lawn
When we moved here the lawn was mostly weeds and lumpy dirt. It was in very sad shape from a lack of care. The first thing we did was apply fertilizers on a seasonal basis. We also over-seeded a couple of springs, as we were not pleased with the performance of the existing types of grass that were planted.
There seemed to be more cool weather grass in our lawn and it really did not look good in the heat of the summer. I purchased a mix of seed that contained some Kentucky blue grass as it performs good in this area for most of the growing season. The lawn was taking on a better appearance but it was still very lumpy. We decided to rent a thatching machine and remove some of the dead stuff. Then we ran an aerating machine over it to add some fluff to the ground. This helped as the soil contains quite a bit of clay and it seemed to help break it up without messing up what lawn we have.
Late last winter(2006) we put some dirt down in thin layers where the deepest spots in the yard were. The grass grew in fine and, I also added more grass seed. Our lawn looked the best ever, since we have lived here. We still have some unevenness as far as being graded good. That is why we continue to use the aerating machine.
The idea is to plug the ground with the machine and then throughout the year, as you mow, the mower knocks the dirt plugs around. The laws of gravity pitch in and the plugs naturally gravitate to the lowest spots in the yard. The rain also helps to distribute the dirt plugs to the lowest areas. This seemed to help so we will continue to run the machine over our yard very early in the spring. It also helps to loosen the clay and to get the first fertilizer down to the roots before the spring rains can wash it away.
We also added lime and gypsum to the ground the first fall we lived here as additional ways to help improve the soil. Looks like this year will be the best lawn so far. HAPPY SPRING TO EVERYONE.
Soil Improvement and Composting
kerryg, just published a good hub that is full of practical information about improving your lawn and garden soil. I recommend this reading. Here is a link on that info. It does not have to cost you an arm and a leg to make your yard and garden a beauty. I personally feel that it is more of a practice of basic routines in your approach. It takes a little more time to get things looking the way you want but in the long run some very simple habits can make a world of difference. We purchased this property 3.5 years ago. I figured that it would take 3 years to make the place really look like something.The yard was in need of a lot of TLC,And there was no vegetable garden. Most of the work was implementing a good routine and a lot of transplanting.
A Few Words On Composting
Living in close proximity to neighbors may be the situation when you are better off to have a compost bin because, some odor that is given off when compost is "ripe". I do not have this problem because my yard is large enough and because I practice a more casual method to create my compost. This is totally a decision that has to be made for each individual gardener. You have to decide what is best in your situation.
You Can Make Your Own Composting Bin
Make it from a small trash can if you do not need a lot of space inside. I use to keep a 10 gallon can when I had a small apt. and only needed compost for some potted plants. That worked out great.
Compost does not require a fancy composting bin. I would love to have one of the nice big bins that will produce compost rapidly, but I am just too practical to spend the money on such an invention. I practice a down to earth approach to mulching and composting. The results are basically the same except my method does not require a lot of handling. I try to conserve as much energy as possible and I try to apply a common sense approach to everything I do.
My Outside Planting System
Starting Seeds Outside
Here is my method for planting and growing cool weather plants like broccoli and cabbage. You can purchase plants in containers that were started in a local nursery but that is fairly expensive. I can not justify paying $1.50 for a broccoli plant that is not going to make me much more than $1.50 worth of broccoli if purchased in the grocery store. Why bother to spend the time invested to grow broccoli at all?
You can start seeds right in the garden and they will do just fine. The fact is, I think they often do better than the potted ones. It does not take much time or energy to use my method. Below is a list of things you might need to get started planting your own seeds for seedlings.
- a sunny spot in the garden that is not going to be used right away
- a hoe, fork or, hand spade
- some kind of clear plastic cover: You can use an old window pane if you have one or plastic milk jugs, 2 liter soda bottles, or heavy plastic stapled to a frame, actually anything that will provide some protection from the cold nights and allow the sun to shine through will work
- something to use as markers for your planted seeds: Popsicle sticks or paint stir sticks work good.
- a waterproof marker pen or dark leaded pencil
- something to make a ring around the seeds you are going to plant; I have used large rocks or a section cut out of the middle of a soda bottle to form a collar. For this hub picture I used a plastic lid with the middle cut out and the paint stir sticks cut in two pieces as my markers. This collar serves to help you identify your seedlings if you are not familiar with what the new sprouts look like
This Is My WAy Of Doing It
What I do is plant the amount of seeds I want to start, in the center of the collar or ring. I put more than I need to make sure that I have the number of plants I will use. Then i put the plastic frame or cover over my seeded collars. Just about anything clear to let the sun in will work. Water the seeds before you cover them. I did not worry with watering because the ground is really wet. The cover will shelter the seeds from extreme cold and warm the ground. The seedlings will germinate pretty quick. I transplant them as soon as they are up and the moon is right for transplanting. I also do not try to make my cover air tight. I actually want to let the air seep in so that it does not get too hot. There you have it. Not rocket science but it always works for me.
Hand Clip The Shrubs and Discard Thorny Branches
Sometimes I Like To Do It By Hand; PRUNING
The shrubs in front of our picture window are full of thorns. They scratch the hell out of your legs when you are trying to wash the windows. I like to trim them by hand so that I have better control of what the finished product looks like. The other reason is so that the trimmings do not fall down into the bed where I will painfully find them when I am cleaning up leaves, later in the spring. They are the first major vegetation you see when you come up to the house. All I use is a pair of good pruning shears. I always where gloves for this job and prefer heavy leather ones.
The top of my shrubs are easy enough to clip across level by using the stone wall as a guide line. I clip and place the debris right into the trash can that I position next to where I am working. This shrub has thorns that seem to grow more fierce as they dry out so I do not care to put them in the compost pile. I put them right in the trash. By using pruning shears the shrubs do not appear to be as boxy looking as they would if I used a pair of electric hedge trimmers. I like a more natural feel. I would never have chosen this Barberry for this spot as the barberry does not grow naturally as a hedge shape. That is what was here when we moved in so I am dealing with it for a while. I am sure to change this entire bed someday. That goes back to my idea that it does not all have to be done at one time. It is better to think the situation through so that you have what you like when it is all said and done.