Today marks the last onion available from the 2020 harvest. It’s a “Sterling” and only about the size of a golf ball, but it is still useful and has represented its class well. All the other onions grown last year have already been consumed. In a way it’s sad, but in another way I’m very pleased that I grew enough to last until mid-May! That’s the latest since the potager began. It would be nice if enough quantity could be grown to last until July, when the new onions begin to have withered tops and are ready to pull, but in order to do that I’d have to drop another crop to make space. So, most likely about the same number will be grown this year as last.
Fortunately, the old, reliable bunching onions (sometimes called winter onions because they stay alive in the garden all winter) are ready to use and although they aren’t a nice sandwich-type sweet slicing onion, they are certainly good for cooking and chopped into salads, etc. They can pretty well be harvested at any time, being sure to leave a few in each clump to mulitply to provide a continual harvest.
In addition, the onion sets are beginning to grow nicely, and can soon be harvested as scallions and the chives can be snipped now as well, so we aren’t totally without that useful onion flavor that enhances frittatas, soups, salads, salsas, and so much more.
D may choose to purchase a hefty “Vidalia” once in a while between now and July, especially when he grills hamburgers, and that’s fine with me. If the potager can produce all the onions we need from July to May, over ten months out of the year, I’m satisfied. The allium rack sure looks empty though…just lots of net bags of garlic and a few shallots left.
Taking advantage of the good weather Saturday, a lot of little jobs were done and photographs were taken. The forecast was for heavy rain, followed by a string of frosty nights and for once they were exactly correct. So, the berry boxes were put back on the blooming strawberries, the young lettuces were covered, some flats were put back into the greenhouse, and a few other things were covered. I took a few moments to admire the growth on the peas. Here’s the first planting, now 12″ tall.
And then I had to check the second planting of peas, and found that they were germinating, rather unevenly, but they are coming along nicely!
Since they were already 1-2″ tall, I took advantage of the nice weather to plant the third variety of peas, “Penelope” another one that is new to me. It will be interesting to compare the three. The next planting will be “Green Arrow” again, because it’s my favorite, most productive variety to date. More of the auricula primroses planted last year are coming into bloom. Most of them have been a rather dusky purple, bordering on brown, but this one is a bit brighter.
I’ll wait to see what other colors there are, and then mark some. If I have enough of the ones I truly like, I’ll put the red ones in the plant sale next year! Someone will love them! Nearby, I noticed some rabbit damage, so I put little cages around the only two “Mellow Yellow” columbines that survived the winter.
I’ve isolated these columbines far from the ones in the Front Garden and Deck Garden, which are the “American” columbines that the hummingbirds love. Columbines are notorious for crossing, so unexpected colors are constantly popping up in most gardens. I’m hoping the “Mellow Yellow” will self seed, and come true from seed so that I have lots more of that bright foliage for other places. Unfortunately, there’s not a sign of the “Oranges and Lemons” columbines that I added to the Fairy Slope last year. No clue what happened to them! That’s the mystery of gardening, I suppose. Just to the left there’s another cage over the lone “Variegated” lunaria, often called “Honesty” or “Money Plant.” The rabbits ate them all just after they were planted last year, and I didn’t think any survived, but there’s one, and it’s blooming, even though it is spindly and puny…or maybe because it is spindly and puny and is making a last gasp effort to propagate before it succumbs. Unfortunately, the flowers were supposed to be white, but they are the usual purple. I guess I’ll be happy just to have one!
Sunday it did indeed pour, accompanied by thunder and wind. It was the second coldest Mothers’ Day here since 1874, and the fourth wettest. We received over 2 1/2″ of rain. I spent the day indoors making plant sales signs for each variety of plant I’m donating, and cutting up milk jugs for plant labels between phone calls from my children and calling my mother. It was a good day, and very relaxing.
This morning we woke to heavy frost and 29 degrees F. Although it was chilly, I went out after breakfast with clippers and water buckets in hand to see what the storm had left in terms of flowers. Tomorrow is a brunch for members of a little women’s club in our county that has been meeting for over 100 years and I’m donating the centerpieces. It’s called “Wit and Wisdom” and I was just invited to be a new member a couple of weeks before Covid hit, so this is my first meeting as a true member. The spattered mud had to be removed from a few snowball blooms. The tall gold irises I’d planned to use, as well as the last of the “Ocean Wave” daffodils and some yellow tulips were too badly beaten. But, the shorter purple irises were good, and the hyacinthoides and silver bells in the Blue Garden were still nice, since they are in a protected area. The yellow is kale that has bolted, taken from the potager. I’d hoped for some chive or bunching onion blossoms, but they aren’t ready to open yet. Notice my glamorous workspace, the back of the golf cart parked in the garage. I had to replace a flattened tire this morning before it was level enough to use it as a table, but it’s cool in there and the flowers need to look good through tomorrow. Too muddy to take the golf cart out anyway!
Tonight it will frost again, and then again. Possibly we’ll see some sunshine and hit 60 degrees Thursday and Friday before we get heavy rain again Saturday and Sunday. Not sure when I will be able to get in with a truckload of mulch, because it takes a good while for the back lawn to dry out enough to get my truck through, but that’s the next big job on the list. The poor potager’s paths are nearly bare!
It’s a beautiful Saturday morning with clear skies and crisp, cool air (44 degrees F) after a thunderstorm moved through last evening. We’ve had several brief showers this past week, which has made it perfect for potting up plants for the local garden club’s plant sale later this month, and for setting out hardy plants. There’s so much going on in the gardens, but I’ve picked these SIX for this week: 1) the “Bright Gem” species tulips along the potager’s main path have been blooming brilliantly through snow, hail, rain and strong winds since April 14 but I can see that they are beginning to drop petals. I have learned that they come back strongly along the path that does not have the trellises, which are moved each year. This year the trellises are on the East/West path, so I didn’t plant any “Bright Gem” there this year because the trellises will support melons, cucumbers, etc. which need watering often. That’s the kiss of death for tulips, so many of them rot over the summer. I’m toying with the idea of lifting the ones in the trellis row, but waiting for the foliage to ripen and dry may delay planting too much. We’ll see…
2) I’m trying to do a better job of pairing/repeating colors. If the weather had been just a tad nicer, the last of the orange-ish tulips would have been echoing the color of the native American columbine, with its brick-red, orange, and yellow blooms. Looks like there’s some deadheading in my near future.
3) Once I decided not to plant “Bright Gem” tulips in the E/W border last fall, there were bulbs leftover, so they were planted in the Deck Garden, near the “Old Gold” irises to repeat that soft yellow hue. I’m happy with this pairing.
4. Purple allium bulbs were added to the Front Garden last fall, and I’ve been eager to see how they would pair with the purple irises. These iris are shorter than the tall bearded iris, and bloom a bit earlier, so I was hoping they’d bloom at the same time as the alliums. It worked!
5) The first “new crop” harvest of the year is always exciting as it brings something new to the menu other than the crops that have been overwinter, and thus appearing on the table on a regular basis.
6) and lastly, and not quite so worthy or celebration, the first tick of 2021…acquired while helping a fellow member of the garden club dig and pot up her plants.
That’s my SOS for this week. Happy Mothers’ Day to mothers across the globe. Hoping the Chinese rocket debris does not land in your garden, or mine, and that a good week of gardening lies ahead. For lots more SOS features, visit The Propagator, who dreamed up this idea and oversees it.
A friend noticed that I had forgotten to give the number of plants transplanted from seedling trays into individual pots in April, which was 1,282, bringing the total as of April 30 to 2578. This does not include the plants potted for the plant sale.
Where did April vanish in a flash? What a month of contrasts and confusion. Sunny summer-like days came on the heels of blustery, snow-covered winter blasts, and then vice versa! The daffodils put on quite a show, and began tapering off just as the tulips burst into full color. The main tulips struggled with heavy snow, whipping winds, and even hail pellets, so some didn’t last as long as usual, but they were still worth every penny. The gooseberries, black currants and strawberries bloomed profusely, but we’ll have to wait and see if the blooms were harmed by freezing temps despite being covered.
April is always a busy month of seeding, both indoors and out. Indoors the seeding began with variety #119 (Cosmos Sunny Orange) and ended with #161 Squash Sweet Reba, so that’s 42 varieties sown and happily growing in the basement. Most of the earlier sowings have now been moved to the greenhouse, and those that were in the greenhouse moved to the hardening off benches outdoors, or planted into the ground. Of course, there was a bit of scurry and panic, as twice the temperature fell into the 20’s C, and things had to be covered, shoved back into the greenhouse, and even some brought back into the basement or stuffed into the Lady Cottage overnight! I grumble about the trouble storing all the various frost covers 360 days a year, but for those 5 nights or so when they are needed, I have to admit they are worth the trouble.
Outdoors, things progressed, albeit a bit more slowly than in some years. The month began with variety # 9 Kohlrabi Winner going into the potager, along with twenty-two other crops ending with #31 Cabbage Quik Start. Some crops were direct seeded (peas, lettuce, kohlrabi, carrots, beets) but most were transplants that began life in the basement (fava beans, sweet peas, baby napa cabbage, calendula, dwarf snapdragrons, cabbage, broccoli, celery, cauliflowers, and Italian Red scallions.) Normally, the first crop of beans, Royal Burgundy would have been planted toward the end of the month, but the forecast made me hesitate. There’s not a lot to be gained planting beans in poor weather.
A lot of time was spent potting up plants for our little garden club’s plant sale coming in May. So far, there are over 350 pots ready and waiting in the potager, plus I spent a lovely afternoon helping a fellow club member dig and pot 50 of hers. In addition, a replacement raised bed was built, delivered, and installed at my mother’s garden, all of my gardens were weeded, the deadheading was kept up, and 150 narcissus were picked to be used for centerpieces for the “Most improved students” award banquet in our little town. The garlic and roses all got a feeding and a mulch of composted cow manure, and the Lavender Slope got it’s first weeding of the year.
The harvest increased this month, with lots more herbs (cilantro, chives, parsley, garlic chives, oregano, lovage, cutting celery, sage, mints, savory and thymes from the potager, as well as bay, lemon verbena and basil in pots) all available now. We’re still feasting on crops sown last autumn and wintered over: carrots, leeks, kale, spinach, and now some volunteer purple mustard that is large enough to use, and greens foraged from the borders. The big celebration for the first handful of asparagus was held on April 29th, lightly steamed and added to shrimp and pasta.
The total harvest for April, 2021 was 11.25 lbs. up from 6.5 last year.
May’s calendar is fuller than April’s, so I expect it to pass even more quickly, but I’m trying to absorb every sunny moment and make the most of each and every day. I hope your month was filled with blessings…and lots of flowers!
With the recent cooler spell, most planting has come to a halt. However, there are still lots of jobs to do in the potager. This single photograph has a lot to say. First of all, the north half of the potager’s interior border was being taken over by feverfew. I love feverfew for it’s tidy foliage, medicinal qualities, and dainty flowers, but enough is enough and when it crowds it’s neighbors, some need to be relocated. So, several clumps were dug and replanted near the flowering quince at the end of the Lavender Slope, close the the Cutting Garden, where their flowers can be used as filler. The Asiatic lilies and emerging seedlings of cilantro can breathe easier now.
That also made space to bring more color to this edible flower border: calendula, dwarf snapdragons, and tall snapdragons were added earlier in the week, along with a few “Blue Bedder” salvia seedlings to join those that returned. I always grow a few from seed in case we have a hard winter and none survive. Some extra Anise Hyssop plants were dug up and potted for the garden club plant sale, along with volunteer winter savory and “Lemon Mist” thyme plants near the triangle beds. Several clumps of Caraway thyme and golden oregano were also dug and potted for the sale. And the area got a quick weeding, although there were only a few baby dandelions to pull. With raised beds, weeding can always be done despite the weather.
In the raised bed also shown above, overturned web flats are placed to protect the newly transplanted baby seedlings of purple kohlrabi. The flats help reduce the wind, and also give a little shade until the seedlings recover from being separated and planted outdoors. The peas to the left of the flats are getting big enough to see easily. As soon as they are about 3″ tall, another succession crop of peas will be sown in another bed.
Bags of composted cow manure shown in the foreground are ready to side dress the garlic and strawberries, which can also be done even if the weather is not warm enough for seeding other crops. And, this week some leeks and carrots were dug, cleaned and bagged. The plastic-covered berry box was moved closer to the strawberries, which surprisingly (and much earlier than usual) are beginning to bloom. With frost predicted, those early berry blossoms may need protection again this week.
And a bed of spinach was thinned.
If you look center left, you’ll see the small pile of weeds pulled from the bed and path while I harvested spinach. Amazing how weeds can hid amid the plants. Once I sit down on my little stool, I try to do anything that can be done while I’m there. The harvested spinach was later cleaned and bagged and put in a box along with the carrots, leeks, and a bouquet of daffodils. And then, we took the box, a bottle of wine, bread, and some appetizers and drove to actually see LIVE PEOPLE, friends we haven’t seen for well over a year who haven’t ventured out much at all except for absolute necessities. They are in their upper eighties, and no longer able to garden so they loved receiving our fresh produce. We had a lovely visit IN PERSON! It was terrific to be OUT! Life almost seems normal again!
The 4″ of heavy snow melted almost entirely in one day, but it was followed by a 25 F night. Surprisingly, there was not as much damage as I expected. The Front Garden doesn’t look too bad, although there are a lot of bent over stems, mostly on daffodils so I’ll be doing a lot of bouquet cutting this day. The tulips that were beginning to fade suffered worst, but only a very few had broken or folded stems. A bit of deadheading, and the garden will look fairly decent.
Looking closely, one will notice a lot of tulip petals missing or barely hanging on, making the flower resemble an iris more than a tulip! But, remember these tulips were the first to bloom, so they were on the far end of their cycle when the snow arrived. The hyacinths have turned completely brown, and will need to be removed. Most of the “Geranium” narcissus are laying down, but a closer look reveals that only about 1/3 have actually bent over stems, so the others may recover a bit. Another day will no doubt tell the tale more accurately. The muscari seem unaffected by the snow or cold.
The Potager’s Exterior Border also seem fairly unaffected by the bad weather. Of course, the tulips here were just beginning to open or still in tight bud. Most of the daffodils seem in pretty good shape as well, although several that needed deadheading before the snow still do! The weather just hasn’t been conducive for outdoor work, but some should get done today.
The gooseberry, currants and lilacs seem okay as well. The fruits were covered, but the lilac was not. Everything that was covered in the potager is fine, although I may regret not covering the sweet peas. They look a bit flattened today, but maybe if I put them back on their support twigs they will perk up. The cabbages also look a bit flattened, but the leaves look healthy, so I think they will carry on. Nothing on the Fairy Slope was damaged…the bergenia blooms that were just opening, the daffodils and hellebores look beautiful.
So, next year when we get a Spring snow, I can look back at this post and not worry so much. These spring plants are more resilient than we often think.
The forecasters were correct for once, although we really didn’t get much rain at all before it turned into snow as the temperatures fell. By evening, even the tiny, tiny flakes were beginning to form a thin blanket. I’d been out mid-afternoon to cover the things I could: blooming gooseberries, black currants strawberries. All the flats of young seedlings were moved back into the greenhouse. Frost protection was put on the 2″ peas in both beds.
At 2 a.m. I woke and slipped on a jacket and boots, grabbed the camera and went out to get a photo of the Deck Garden. There’s a “security” light on a pole above the elder which provided enough light to take the picture above. The snow fell so softly, with no wind at all. I measured 4″ on the deck rails.
This morning, the snow still hasn’t moved a bit because it is perfectly still. Every tiny branch, fence wire and leaf is coated. The Front Garden (above) certainly looks different than it did in the photos taken earlier this week for the “Spring is Surging/Tulip Evaluation” post! It’s 23 degrees F at the moment, so the snow won’t be melting for a bit, but maybe that’s a good thing to provide some insulation from the cold. A few tulips couldn’t bear the load, bent and dumped their coating of snow. It will be interesting to see if some varieties survive in better shape than others. And here’s the Deck Garden in daylight.
The Deck Garden tulips were beginning to drop petals, so I don’t have high hopes for there being much left once the snow is gone. The “Tang Dynasty” are an earlier flowering collection, but they’ve been gorgeous. And here’s the potager viewed from the deck.
I’m wishing now that I’d covered the sweet peas in the potager. Hopefully they will be okay. The forecasters say it will be mid-40’s today, so the snow will melt, then drop to 23 again tonight. Next week, it will hit 80 degrees!!! The fava beans won’t like that, and the kale will probably bolt. That’s Indiana weather.
It may be the end of the tulips, so I’m savoring the bouquet I picked before the snow began. The “Geranium” narcissus smell heavenly, and the tulips are lovely. I’m glad I had a chance to see all the redbuds, crab apples, magnolias, and other fruit trees in blossom on Monday when I drove to my mother’s, about an hour away. Spring is fleeting, and we must remember to capture some of its beauty in our memories.
Spring seems to be in a rush to get everything underway post haste! The early, mid and some of the late tulips are all blooming at once! Suddenly overnight earlier this week, the white lilac, the pear tree, the gooseberries, several primroses and black currants are all in flower. Before it’s over, I’m trying to take more time to actually enjoy and savor each flower and to do an evaluation of this year’s tulip plantings. Each year, the favorites are ordered (Foxy Foxtrot, Temple’s Favorite, Cretaceous, Dordogne) but usually a new variety catches the eye, or as in the case last fall, a favorite is not available so a replacement candidate must be found.
In looking at this year’s Front Garden tulips, I’m not as happy as in some years. Although shorter tulips, mid-sized tulips, and tall tulips were planted, they all seem to be the same height, although they should range from 12-30″. The photo above was taken this morning, just after the FROST melted. Yes, we had 29 degrees F this morn, which ought to slow things down a bit.
This year I decided to plant in “ribbons” rather than clumps of varieties. I think I’m going back to clumps. A new variety this year is “Prince Armin,” the orange and yellow nicely cupped tulip rather in the center. I like it, and will probably order it again. The “Orange Marmalade” tulip was disappointing, as the colors faded quickly to almost beige. You can see them along the right edge near the hedge. The “Cretaceous” peony-flowered tulip seems to be more yellow and reds this year, rather than the abundant oranges last year. The only variety left to open is at the very back along the wall, the late and taller “Dordogne.” I feel I’m missing the darker orange of King’s Orange from last year, but it wasn’t available. And this stage needs something other than just tulips. There are a few dark blue muscari in the front, but it needs some height until the shrubs grow taller. Maybe some tall frittalaria next year?
Also, the bare soil showing bothers me. Normally, a tidy layer of mulch would already be down. But, “Lauren Grape” poppy seeds were sprinkled weeks ago, and have yet to germinate so I don’t want to put mulch down until they emerge. A little more rain and warmer temps might make that happen. Patience…
I’m happier with the Deck Garden look, which is planted in clumps rather than ribbons. I planted 75 “Tang Dynasty” tulips in 2019, and really liked the mixture of white, bright yellow, and orange tulips but wanted more. So last October, 100 “Tang Dynasty” were planted again. Yesterday, I counted 168 “Tang Dynasty” which means that not only did the 100 newly planted bulbs bloom, but 68 returned from the year before! What a bonus! I generally don’t count on tulips returning well (except those two tulips in the very foreground near the birdbath, which were here when we moved in nearly 30 years ago!) I also like that there are still the “Geranium” narcissus clumps blooming. Between those and the hyacinths, the walk along the sidewalk is very fragrant. I think this planting combination will do again next year.
The Front Island has had continual bloom since early March, and overall it satisfies me. I don’t plant many tulips or crocus there, because the two black walnut trees are in constant use by squirrels. There are 15 varieties of daffodils, a forsythia, and violets in bloom right now. Here are two of my favorites:
However, there are some tulips there this year, a small clump of “Bright Gem” that should be opening soon that were planted and bloomed a year ago, and another mystery clump, likely moved from the Front Garden and replanted by the squirrels! We’ll just have to wait to see what they selected. I’m just surprised they didn’t just eat the bulbs! Tall white alliums were added here last fall to help cover the gap after the daffodils are finished, so I’m eager to see them bloom later on.
Lastly, the potager’s exterior border, which didn’t get as many tulips as in prior years, partly because I ran out of tulip bulbs, and partly because the irises are taking up more and more space. Tulips bloom a bit later here. The Front Garden and Deck Garden have the benefit of heat gathered from the brick house. The potager is out in the open and unsheltered, which also means it is visited more often by deer and rabbits. So far (knock wood) this year’s tulips have not been nibbled, but I won’t hold my breath. There were 13 deer in the back area a few days ago, until I ran out and clapped my hands to scare them away. Most of the tulips are the late “Dordogne” back along the fence, which haven’t opened yet. But, the border looks full and lush, so I probably won’t make any changes other than to divide some of the daffodils that bloomed earlier and are getting too thick, and maybe move some irises later on.
So, that’s the tulip evaluation for this year. I’ll be re-reading this before I place the bulb order in late summer, and giving it more thought as I look through the catalogs. Have you evaluated your bulbs yet? I encourage you to do so, if only to take a really close look at the beauty of these amazing spring flowers, and to marvel at the wonders of each intricate bloom! Happy Spring!
Welcome to Six on Saturday, where gardeners from about the globe post six things that are happening in their gardens, or plants that make them happy, of just six topics of interest. This idea belongs to The Propagator, so visit his site for the complete offering of “SOS.” Here’s six things happening in my gardens in north central Indiana. 1) The tulips suddenly began to open in the Deck Garden this week, a bit earlier than usual. Photography still perplexes me in that what I see, and what the camera captures is often very different. Here, the hyacinths look absolutely pink, and were they so, they would never be found in MY gardens! They are actually “Gypsy Queen,” a lovely soft orange sherbet color that blend well with the brighter orange, yellow, and white tulips (Tang Dynasty from Colorblends.)
2) I don’t have fancy hellebores (yet!) but I’ve very happy with these PURPLE hellebores than open up a couple of weeks later than the double white ones. The Purple ones are in deeper shade, which may account for the delay.
3) I was gifted a free packet of “Wildflower Mix” which stated it contains 27 different wildflowers. I don’t really have an area prepared for a wildflower bed, so while I was watching basketball in March, I roughly sorted the seeds and more recently seeded them in a flat. Hopefully, I will recognize many of them, and can decided where they might be happy. So far, I see Four O’Clocks, cornflowers, flax, poppies, cosmos, and calendula. The plan is to put most of them in pots until their bloom color is determined, and their identity. I have no interest in adding a lot of rampant self-seeders to some gardens, so many will be gifted to others or put in the garden club plant sale.
4) Remember the much-anticipated first primrose bloom, that then was eaten by some critter before it opened? It is recovering, but will be lucky if it blooms this year. So, by default the primrose shown in the photo wins the prize for first bloom, opening just yesterday. I definitely need lots more primroses!
5) Another suprise awaited in the potager, where I was stunned to see the first strawberry bloom of the season. It’s on a “Seascape” plant (an everbearing variety) and there are several more plants with buds about to open! The earliest I’ve had strawberry blooms before is April 24th, so I’ll be moving at least one of those berry boxes to that bed shortly. And finally,
6) The miniature true iris given to me by my friend Margaret years ago are spreading. These little darlings are only about 3″ tall with a 2″ tall brilliant purple true iris flower. I want to have enough to move some to the Fairy Slope, where I think they will also be happy.
The flowers are opening fast and furious now, as our above normal temperatures continue. We could certainly use a good rain, and a little less wind, but I won’t complain too loudly or Mother Nature might decide to send worse! It’s a lovely Spring here in Indiana, and the farmers are already planting. Feeling blessed! Hope all is well in whatever part of the world you garden.